Hi Everyone,

I hope this finds you well and enjoying the spring weather and the flowers that are greeting you, reminding you that no matter how hard the winter may be, the spring always comes.

With spring come our April Showers and storms of spring, which is Prime Time for ALERT and the Skywarn Community. I hope you have taken advantage of the training sessions that the NWS has provided for potential storm spotters and have brushed up on your emergency preparedness skills.

There are a few reminders that should be pointed out.

First, being that while the NWS endorses and encourages Storm SPOTTING, they do not endorse or encourage Storm CHASING.

Now, I will be the first one to admit that the dividing line between the two can be blurry.

Spotting with binoculars from the front porch in your bathrobe and bunny slippers is clearly spotting. Prepositioning oneself on a ridge ahead of a storm to report the conditions is spotting. Rushing 95 MPH to reach that ridge is borderline, and running folk off the road in an SUV with blinking lights, a roof sprouting a dozen antennae, anemometers and the sides covered with homemade bogus “National Weather Service Official Storm Chase Vehicle” stickers is definitely over the edge.

There are many valid reasons why the NWS discourages storm chasing. It’s just too dangerous in Alabama to try. Even for those with experience, let alone the eager souls who know just enough to be on the dumb side.

A measure of the danger involved is the fact that neither Jefferson County nor Shelby County “dispatch” storm spotters. This is due to liability reasons. Those who do deploy are doing so “at their own risk”.

The terrain, the roads and the environment all work against storm chasing. Especially in the city, as you have to fight traffic, traffic lights and weirdly shaped streets.

Add to this the fact that most of our tornadoes are rain wrapped, and you run the risk of having to answer the question “Ok I’ve just caught one, now what do I do with it?”

Here are a few Golden Nuggets Of Wisdom to chew on if you intend to get up close and personal with a storm.

1. The best viewing angle for spotting a tornado, assuming the storm is moving in the usual SW to NE axis is from the SE looking NW.


2. Studies indicate that 80% of a tornado’s debris falls on the left side of the storm’s path. That’s not limited to old report cards and record albums either. If you are watching a storm vacuuming up 6th Ave South and you are sitting at 3rd Avenue South, you could be greeted by flying Fridgidaires, sailing Steinways or get hit by a Trane – air conditioner that is.


3. You don’t want to approach a storm from the North, as you will be guilty of “Core Punching” and will drive through the heart of the storm. Unless you like slipping and sliding in blinding rain, being pelted by hail or perhaps being caught by the storm you are chasing, I would avoid doing this. Take it from someone who has done so. (Innocently trying to get to the NWS and managing to have perfect location and speed to have to cut through the heart of every storm in a 30-mile long squall line.)

4. If the streets are flooded don’t assume that there is actually a street still there. Also, don’t assume that just because the Volkswagen in front of you made it across, that you can also. Sitting there three hours waiting for a tow truck to arrive is not fun, especially if you have just come from the NWS & the radio is still spurting “don’t cross waters of unknown depth. Of course, this I learned the hard way.

5. Beware of straight-line winds. Straight-line winds can blow siding, arcing power lines and all sorts of various crap and crud at you in an uncomfortable fashion, if you are in the wrong place at the right time. Yes, I did that too.

“A wise man learns from observation, a fool from experience” – Olde Goat

6. Never be on the right side of a right turning thunderstorm.

7. If you on the road beware that you may encounter a debris field. In addition to nails, broken glass, lumber & siding, there may be live power lines down.

8. If you happen upon a community that has been struck, you will not be prepared for what you will encounter. Remember that all of the pictures you see on TV of tornado damage are taken AFTER the coroner has done his work. At the risk of being completely gross, they don’t show bodies and body parts scattered all over creation. Again, you will not be prepared for the gore you could see. Also, unless you are a trained First Responder and know how to deal with the injured, you may be hurting rather than helping. So you will do all involved a favor by just staying out of the area.

9. If you do enter a disaster zone, remember that the people there have been traumatized. There are certain things you should not be saying, innocent though it may seem.

“I know how you feel”. Unless your barn was once blown to Bogalusa, no you don’t.

“Whoa dude! Look at the devastation! Dude this is TOTALLY EPIC!!! Gotta get this on YouTube!!!”

Some beefy guy whose house was just blown away may not appreciate the enthusiasm and might “thump” you.

“The Finger of God has moved mightily through this community, Praise Be”. Folk don’t appreciate having their 5 year old daughter asking “Daddy dat funny looking man said
Jesus blowed Grandma away. Daddy, what for to did Jesus blow Grandma away?”

It may sound silly, I know, but these things do actually happen.

For more information on do’s and don’ts see:

Storm Chaser Ethics by Alan Moller

Storm Chasing With Safety, Courtesy, And Responsibility by Charles A Doswell III, National
Severe Storms Laboratory

All this said and done, remember that ALERT’s main contribution to the Skywarn community is done at K4NWS and with the Spotterchat system.

When you respond to callouts, you are helping save lives. Lives you may never know. But,
by you’re having been there a family may be saved, children will still have parents and a parent will still have their child.

What you do makes a difference.


The Evolution Of The FAA Phonetic Alphabet

Special Thanks To Roger KK4UDU For This Submission!
A phonetic alphabet is a list of words used to identify letters in a message transmitted by radio or telephone. Spoken words from an approved list are substituted for letters. For example, the word “Army” would be “Alfa Romeo Mike Yankee” when spelled in the phonetic alphabet. This practice helps to prevent confusion between similar sounding letters, such as “m” and “n”, and to clarify communications that may be garbled during transmission.

An early version of the phonetic alphabet appears in the 1913 edition of The Bluejackets’ Manual. Found in the Signals section, it was paired with the Alphabetical Code Flags defined in the International Code. Both the meanings of the flags (the letter which they represent) and their names (which make up the phonetic alphabet) were selected by international agreement. Later editions included the Morse code signal as well.

The words chosen to represent some letters have changed since the phonetic alphabet was introduced. When these changes occur, they are made by international agreement. The current phonetic alphabet was adopted in 1957.

Military Phonetic Alphabet

Letter 1957-Present Morse Code 1913 1927 1938 World War II
A Alfa (or Alpha) . _ Able Affirmative Afirm Afirm (Able)
B Bravo _ . . . Boy Baker Baker Baker
C Charlie _ . _ . Cast Cast Cast Charlie
D Delta _ . . Dog Dog Dog Dog
E Echo . Easy Easy Easy Easy
F Foxtrot . . _ . Fox Fox Fox Fox
G Golf _ _ . George George George George
H Hotel . . . . Have Hypo Hypo How
I India . . Item Interrogatory Int Int (Item)
J Juliett . _ _ _ Jig Jig Jig Jig
K Kilo _ . _ King King King King
L Lima . _ . . Love Love Love Love
M Mike _ _ Mike Mike Mike Mike
N November _ . Nan Negative Negat Negat (Nan)
O Oscar _ _ _ Oboe Option Option Option (Oboe)
P Papa . _ _ . Pup Preparatory Prep Prep (Peter)
Q Quebec _ _ . _ Quack Quack Queen Queen
R Romeo . _ . Rush Roger Roger Roger
S Sierra . . . Sail Sail Sail Sugar
T Tango _ Tare Tare Tare Tare
U Uniform . . _ Unit Unit Unit Uncle
V Victor . . . _ Vice Vice Victor Victor
W Whiskey . _ _ Watch William William William
X X-ray _ . . _ X-ray X-ray X-ray X-ray
Y Yankee _ . _ _ Yoke Yoke Yoke Yoke
Z Zulu _ _ . . Zed Zed Zed Zebra

Two other Alphabets of note are:

The ARRL alphabet per the ARRL – The Radio Amateur’s Handbook 25th edition (1948), (which
Cost $2.00):

Adam, Baker, Charlie, David. Edward, Frank, George, Henry, Ida, John, King, Lewis, Mary, Nancy,
Otto, Peter, Queen, Robert, Susan, Thomas, Union, Victor, William, X-ray, Young, Zebra

And the similar Police Phonetic Alphabet from California:

Adam, Boy, Charles, David, Edward, Frank, George, Henry, Ida, John, King, Lincoln, Mary, Nora, Ocean, Paul, Queen, Robert, Sam, Tom, Unit, Victor, William, X-ray, Yellow, Zebra

Of course, we use the ITU Phonetic Alphabet, which is also the 1957 military alphabet given in the table above.

Mark’s Almanac

The Romans called April “Aprilis”, probably from the word “aperire”, which means, “to open”. This time of year being when buds open. It was originally the second month of the Roman calendar, before Roman King Numa Pompilius added January & February in 700 BC.

Freezing weather comes to an end as Birmingham’s average last freeze is April 1, while Tuscaloosa’s was March 26. The record for the latest freeze date is April 21, 1953 for Tuscaloosa and April 23, 1986 for Birmingham.

April is less wet than March & rain becomes more localized and less widespread in nature. The sun heats the lower atmosphere near the ground and since the upper atmosphere is still cold, the warm air rises, reaches the dew point line, forms clouds & then it may rain. April is the first time in the spring season that favors local convective activity, which is why you have “April Showers”.

April is peak tornado month, with wide scale outbreaks possible. There are 2 ½ times the number of tornadoes as in March. 25% of the year’s tornadoes will have occurred by April 28.

From April 1950 to 2012, 8089 tornadoes were reported with causing 1769 deaths and 29,066 injuries.

As of 2011, Alabama ranked fifth in the number of April tornadoes, following Texas, Oklahoma, Illinois & Kansas, all belonging to the “over 400 club” for April since 1950.

Some notable Alabama tornados in past Aprils include:

April 18, 1953 F3 Lee & Russell County 6 dead 195 injured
April 18, 1953 F3 Shelby County 8 dead 495 injured
April 15, 1956 F4 Jefferson County 25 dead 200 injured “McDonald Chapel Tornado”
April 18, 1969 F4 Montgomery, Bullock, Butler & Crenshaw Counties 2 dead 15 injured

April 3 & 4, 1974 “Super Outbreak” produced at least eight tornadoes in Alabama, including four extremely intense and long-lived storms that swept the state killing eighty-six persons and injuring 949. The Huntsville area had an F3, F4 & an F5 tornado. The F4 tornado struck a half mile from where they were still digging out from an F3 tornado that had struck earlier in that day. Guin was literally wiped off the map, as was Xenia Ohio. The entire Eastern US and Southern Canada was affected during “The Day of 100 Tornadoes”, which in total produced 148 tornadoes including 30 F4 and 6 F5 tornadoes, killing 315 people and injuring over 5,000 people.

April 3, 1974 F5 Lamar, Marion, Winston, Lawrence & Morgan Counties 30 dead 230 injured
April 3, 1974 F4 Pickens, Tuscaloosa, Fayette, Walker & Cullman Counties 3 dead 178 injured
April 3, 1974 F5 Limestone-Madison 28 dead 260 injured

April 4, 1977 F5 Jefferson County 22 dead 130 injured “Smithfield Tornado”
April 1, 1998 F3 Russell County 2 dead 23 injured
April 8, 1998 F5 Tuscaloosa & Jefferson County 32 dead 259 Injured “Oak Grove Tornado”

April 25 – 28, 2011 Super outbreak was the largest and deadliest tornado outbreak on record,
with 358 tornadoes in 21 states and southern Canada. April 27 alone had 211 tornadoes. Of 348
people killed, 324 were tornado related, the other 24 being non tornado storm related deaths, such as straight line winds.

Alabama was hit by two distinct waves of tornadoes, the first hitting during the early morning hours resulting in 52 injuries and the second in the afternoon and evening resulting in 238 deaths and
1946 injuries in a total of 62 tornadoes.

April 27, 2011 F5 Marion County 18 dead 100 injured
April 27, 2011 F4 Pickens, Tuscaloosa, Fayette, Walker & Blount Counties 13 dead 54 injured
April 27, 2011 F3 Marion County 7 dead 100 injured
April 27, 2011 F4 Greene, Tuscaloosa & Jefferson counties 65 dead 1500 injured
April 27, 2011 F3 Greene, Hale & Bibb counties 7 dead 50 injured
April 27, 2011 F4 Jefferson, St. Clair, Calhoun, Etowah and Cherokee counties 22 dead 81 injured
April 27, 2011 F4 Elmore, Tallapoosa & Chambers counties 7 dead 30 injured

April 3, 2012 F2 Tallapoosa & Chambers counties 1 dead 2 injured

In April it pays to look upon the sky with a jaundiced eyed.

Except, of course, at night.

Looking skyward, Mercury is very low in the east-southeast a half hour after sunrise, just above the horizon.

Venus, the blazing “Morning Star”, rises just before the beginning of dawn and moves higher as
the sky lightens.

How long can you track her across the morning sky? I’ve spotted her at 12 noon before, but, easy
to spot, she was not.

Mars rises around nightfall in Virgo and is highest in the south around 2 or 3 a.m. Earth and Mars
are nearing each other and will be at closest approach on April 8, when they will be within walking distance, being a mere 57.4 million miles apart.

Jupiter in Gemini dominates the sky overhead at twilight, and drifts west through the night, setting around 3 a.m.

Saturn in Libra rises around 11 p.m. and is highest in the south around 4 a.m. His rings are tilted a wide 22 degrees to our line of sight.

Uranus and Neptune are hidden behind the Sun.

April’s Full Moon is “Pink Moon” in Native American folklore. This will occur April 14 – 15.

That night, there will be a total lunar eclipse, the first of two occurring in 2014.

The partial eclipse phase begins April 14, at two minutes before midnight. The total eclipse begins at 1:07 a.m. on April 15. Mid-eclipse is at 1:47 a.m. The total eclipse ends at 2:25 a.m. and the last traces of the Earth’s shadow leave the moon at 4:58 a.m.

If you happen to be in the Southern Indian Ocean on April 29, you will be treated to an annular solar eclipse. But, I think I’ll stay home this time.

The second lunar eclipse will be in October, along with a partial solar eclipse, both visible from North

The Lyrid Meteor Shower occurs April 21. This is a minor shower, with 12 to 24 meteors per hour. The gibbous moon will interfere until it sets a couple of hours before dawn, providing a brief window of opportunity for viewing, before the brightening glow of dawn washes out the morning sky.

This shower is produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861.

At this point I should mention that Teresa and I have been called to the mission field in Papua New Guinea and that we will be moving there sometime in July.

We will miss all of you, and we will think of you often.

“April Fool” by the way…


This month’s meeting will be on April 8 at 7PM at the National Weather Service Forecast office at the Shelby County Airport.

If for some reason you cannot attend the meeting in person, you can still participate via telephone. The teleconference number is 1-877-951-0997 & and the participant code is 741083.
Hope to see you there!
Mark / WD4NYL


Hi Everyone,

I hope this finds everyone doing well.

An important event will be coming up Saturday and Sunday. What is it?

Birminghamfest 2014!!!

The Zamora Shrine Temple will host the 2014 Birminghamfest. Dealers, vendors, flea market, testing, and forums they will have it all.

ALERT & The NWS will have a table & there will be an ALERT/NWS Forum at 12 Noon in Room #1.

Come by the ALERT/NWS table & say “hi” & don’t be shy about sitting the table for a little while, as we need some brave souls who will donate an hour or two of their time and help man the table. If you can help, please do so.

This month’s ALERT meeting March 11 will feature the selection of the two person Nominating Committee for the upcoming elections in May.

Please plan on attending this meeting & don’t be shy about volunteering to serve on the Committee or to make yourself available for a leadership role. We need some of our newer members to step up and become active members of ALERT’s leadership. All it takes is a willing heart and once elected a commitment to faithfully fulfill your duties of office to the best of your abilities.

We need you to be actively involved in ALERT’s leadership and to help us build a strong ALERT organization for the future.

Your time has arrived.

Your ALERT needs you.
The ALERT Sunday Night Net

The ALERT Sunday Night Net meets every Sunday at 7PM on 146.880.

This net, originally called the BARC Sunday Night Net was created in 1996 by Glenn Glass, KE4YZK. He served as Net Manager for several years, followed by Mark Nichols, K7NOA. I became Net Manager in 2001 and have served in that position for 13 years.

In 2011 the Birmingham Amateur Radio Club donated the net to ALERT for ALERT promotion and visibility.

It is an unusual net, in that it is a “discussion net”, not an emergency net and not really a training net, per se, though we do try to slip in training into the mix.

Occasionally I am asked if I can provide a copy of the preamble and so here it is:

ALERT Sunday Night Net Preamble

Calling all radio amateurs
This is (call sign) with the ALERT Sunday Night Net.
This net meets each Sunday night at 7 pm local time on 146.88 MHz with a PL of 88.5 Hz
We meet for discussion of any topic of general interest to radio amateurs.
This net is sponsored by ALERT – the Alabama Emergency Response Team.
You don’t have to be a member of ALERT to participate and I invite all
properly licensed amateurs to check in.

This is a controlled net and will be called by prefix.
I am (call sign), my name is (……….) located in (………..) and I will be your net
control station for this evening.

Do we have a station who can act as alternate net control should this station malfunction?

Do we have any emergency of priority traffic?

Do we have any business or announcements for the net tonight?

We will start our check-ins.
When checking in please give the call signs slowly and phonetically
Using standard phonetics

Do we have any portables or mobiles?

Then call K4, KA, KB, KC, KD, KE, KF, KG, KI, KJ & KK calls.
Then call W’s, N’s A’s and then any call any prefix.

(Pass any announcements, swap shop or comments.)

We will standby now for any late stations.
Please give your call slowly & phonetically.
This will be any call or any prefix.

If anyone has comments concerning the net or would like to volunteer
To be a net control station, please contact the Net Manager Mark WD4NYL
He can be contacted on 88, at the ALERT meetings or by email at

Final call for late stations.

Is there anything this net or this station can do for anyone before we close?

(Thank everyone for checking in and invited them to join again next week.)

I’m looking for some brave, adventurous souls to serve as Net Control Stations.

It’s an excellent opportunity for “on the job training” as an emergency NCS, during a non-emergency situation, a good way to become familiar with others in our ham community, and its fun. Otherwise I would have shed the thing a long, long time ago.

So step up, be daring and give it a try.

Just let me know that you are willing, and we will work out the details.

You won’t regret that you did!


Newsletter Help Wanted

In July 2007 as I began the first or my four terms as ALERT President, one of the first things I
wished to accomplish was the implementation of this newsletter. The ALERT newsletter was intended to serve several purposes. Among others, it was intended to be a method of keeping everyone “in the loop” of ALERT happenings and news, and it was to serve as a training tool. It was also intended to be friendly spam to remind everyone the ALERT was still in business and to help keep ALERT in everyone’s mind. A gentle “tap on the shoulder” saying “we’re still here”.

Our newsletter is one of the few newsletters still being published. Many other newsletters that were once ham radio mainstays are just now fleeting memories.

This is the eighty first ALERT Newsletter that I’ve generated, but, this is YOUR newsletter, and as such it needs your contribution and input.

I need articles and ideas for the newsletter.

Examples may include your stories of the times you may have deployed during an emergency, either to K4NWS or with another organization. What you experienced, what you learned. Those of you who are “technically minded” might show us how to make an emergency antenna or power supply. Or you might share why you are involved with emergency preparedness, etc.

Any article is welcome. Naturally, I will reserve the right to edit the submission, but please to send some material for our newsletter.

If you ever get tired of Old Mark harping on why we don’t need to pass “leaf debris reports”, why you really do need an emergency kit and that the Sun is due to rise in the east this month, then I invite and urge you to send me some articles.

You’re infusion of fresh ideas and materials will help me on those occasions when the wellspring of inspiration dries into dust.

Please submit to

Thanks in advance.


IEMBOT Monitor

One of the nice features of the BMXSpotterchat & the ABC3340 Spotterchat is that products issued by
the NWS are relayed “real-time” by the Iowa Environmental Mesonet “IEMBOT”.

These products often arrive seconds to minute or two before they are issued by NOAA Weather radio or EMA sirens are activated. This can provide invaluable lead time, either for emergency responders or for personal preparation.

Not everyone may wish to participate in the chatrooms. Or, perhaps you may not have access to a computer with Pidgin installed.

But, there is good news for you though, in that this information is available online at

On this site you can choose which Forecast Offices you wish to monitor under “Available Rooms”, for instance you can choose “BMXCHAT” and you will see the text field filled with the most recent products issued by the Birmingham office.

These products differ slightly from those issued by the NWSBOT on the BMXEMACHAT. Namely, “Free Text Messages” won’t appear. These usually deal with radar site statuses.

Try the IEMBOT Monitor, I’ll bet you’ll be glad you did!


Mark’s Almanac

Originally called Martius, March is the third month & first month of the Roman calendar. March is named for Mars, the god of war, and was the start of the military campaign season.

The beginning of “Meteorological Spring”, which is based on changes in temperature and precipitation, not the solar angle, is March 1

March is a wet month. Most floods occur in March and rainfall averages around 6 inches.

Tornadic activity sharply increases in March with there being an increase of 2.2 times the number of tornadoes over the February amount. The focal point for this tornadic activity is the Gulf States.

March is the hail maximum for the Deep South. This is due both to the number of thunderstorms & due to the freezing level still being near the surface. This allows hail to form at lower altitudes and reach the ground intact, as opposed to summer months, when the near surface level temperatures are higher and melts the hail into liquid before impact.

Killing frosts are gone and the last average frost is on March 16.

March is a snow month for Alabama & there is a 45% chance of snow up to one inch, and an 8% chance of one inch or more.

The good news is that there is hope on the horizon as Spring will arrive at Vernal Equinox on March 20 at 16:57 UTC or 11:57 A.M. CDT.

Remember to get the eggs out, as it is said that you can stand eggs on their ends at the hour of equinox.

Daylight Savings Time begins at 2AM March 9. So remember to “spring forward”.

Where did Daylight Savings Time originate?

The modern concept of Daylight Savings Time was first proposed in 1895 by entomologist George Vernon Hudson of New Zealand, so it would give him more leisure time to collect insects. He actually proposed a two hour time shift.

It was first implemented during The First World War by Germany and their Austria-Hungarian allies, to conserve coal usage. Britain and her allies eventually adopted the same scheme.

The idea of Daylight Savings Time is both praised and criticized. To its credit, it is said that it benefits retail, sports and other activities. While to its debit it is said to harm evening entertainment, sun related occupations such as farming, not to mention complicating time keeping, travel schedules and sleep patterns.

As to its effect on energy conservation, research has revealed contradictory results. One example being that the energy saved by an hour extra sunlight in the evening is offset by the energy needed to cope with an extra hour of darkness in the morning.

An added complication is that not all countries or parts of all countries observed Daylight Savings Time or even implement it on the same date.

Most of North America and Europe, Chile, parts of Brazil and Eastern Australia observe Daylight Savings Time, while it has been tried and abandoned by Asia, most of South America, North Africa Western & Northern Australia.

Complicating things further is the fact that the beginning and ending dates are roughly reverse in the Southern Hemisphere. An example of this problem is central Brazil, where in 2008 depending on the date it was one, two or three hours ahead of the eastern US. In Chile the time difference between the United Kingdom and mainland Chile may be five hours during the Northern summer, three hours during the Northern winter and four hours a few weeks per year because of mismatch of changing dates.

One fact seldom considered is the population density of the Earth, and the fact that most of the world’s population is concentrated in Asia, which no longer observes Daylight Savings Time. So the minority of nations that do use Daylight Savings Time are out of sync with the most of the world’s population.

As you might have gathered, I don’t particularly like Daylight Savings Time. This is because I occasionally delve into amateur astronomy, which means I have to suffer through another hour of daylight before I can observe anything other than contrails. Night Owl discrimination, it is.

Not to mention that this tinkering with the space-time continuum is “bad mojo”.

You can learn a thing or two watching Star Trek, dog gone it.

Saint Patrick’s Day is March 17, and you better participate by wearing a Touch O’ The Green or you will be plagued by leprechauns and gnomes. Not a pleasant experience, I can assure you.

Looking skyward, Mercury is deep in the glow of sunrise.

Venus dominates the predawn sky as the blazing “Morning Star”.

Mars rises around 10 p.m. in Virgo and is highest in the south around 3 or 4 a.m.

Jupiter in Gemini dominates the south in the evening sky.

Saturn in Libra rises around midnight and is highest in the south at the beginning of dawn.

Uranus in Pisces is low in the west after dusk.

Neptune is hidden behind the Sun.

March’s Full Moon is “Worm Moon” in Native American folklore. So called because the rains disturb the earthworms & they are seen wiggling around after the rains.

They are edible by the way, but I think I’ll let you have my share.


This month’s meeting will be on March 11 at 7PM at the National Weather Service Forecast office at the Shelby County Airport.

If for some reason you cannot attend the meeting in person, you can still participate via telephone. The teleconference number is 1-877-951-0997 & and the participant code is 741083.
Hope to see you there!
Mark / WD4NYL