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ALERT Newsletter

Hi everyone,
On November 23, 1965 an eclipse of the sun began blotting out the sunlight over Southeast Asia. This was during the peak of the Vietnam War. As the ancient custom of the villagers in that area was to shoot flaming arrows towards the Sun to reignite the Sun’s fading embers, a dilemma was encountered. At a certain South Vietnamese Army base they didn’t any arrows available to shoot, but then it occurred to them that they did have some heavy artillery pieces, and so they began shooting them towards the Sun.  They did indeed successfully reignite the Sun…but, also in the process managed to blow to smithereens a friendly village some miles down the road.
The moral of this true story is this:  When our eclipse occurs on the 21st, don’t go and do likewise.
This month’s newsletter will look at the August 21st eclipse and how you can participate in it come rain or shine.
But, before we begin, I will mention the feedback I received regarding last month’s article discussing the possible format changes in the newsletter.
A faithful follower in Talladega says “please, please, please keep the almanac, for I love it dearly and read it avidly every month.” 
Another devoted Markaholic indicates that he is “OK with the format change if that’s what’s wanted.  It looks like the core of what I love about it is still there.”
An interesting idea for an article was received, as was our first article!
Thank you for your support for the newsletter.  I appreciate that you appreciate it
Remember this is YOUR newsletter.  There is an open invitation for articles, whether from Officers, members or from our readers near and far.  
Officers, you have an open platform available for expressing your ideas, thoughts and concerns.  Readers whether ALERT Members or not, your insights, interests and input concerning amateur radio, emergency communications, preparedness, meteorology and astronomy is welcome.
Articles (which I will proofread and edit) may be submitted to
Lastly, don’t forget our next ALERT meeting Tuesday August 8 at 7PM at the National Weather Service Forecast office at the Shelby County Airport.
I plan on being there, as Mark needs to pay his dues.
Do you need to also? Hint, hint…


July ALERT MeetingBy Justin Glass N0ZO

The July 2017 meeting had 9 (N4PHP, NZ20, N0ZO, KM4KBH, KJ4OPX, KK4OHW, N4GHP, K4FSO, WD4IGK) people attending in person, and 7 (KD4QHZ, WX4RON, KK4UDU, KN4SXE, K4VS, WD4NYl, KQ4JC) via the teleconference. 
There’s a new amateur radio club that has formed in Shelby County, the Central Alabama Amateur Radio Club (CAARC – club www.caarc) which meets on the first Wednesday of the month. 
They offer testing with Laurel VEC, which is the only testing group that offers exams for free. N0ZO is the team leader in charge of testing. CAARC was the first testing site that Laurel had in Alabama. After testing, a typically short club meeting follows. 
For more information on Laurel VEC, visit their website at



Solar Eclipses and Amateur Radio

One sunny spring day near noon, the sky began growing progressively darker and the temperature dropping noticeably.  The day lilies and dandelions began to close and the birds started retreating to their nests.  On the ground the sunlight filtering through the leaves formed dozens of tiny crescents on the ground and overhead the sun was nothing more than a fingernail clipping of a crescent in the sky.
The day was May 10, 1994, and central Alabama was experiencing an Annular Solar Eclipse.  Which is an eclipse where the sun is not completely covered by the moon, because the moon is too far away in its orbit, and therefore slightly too small to cover the entire solar disk.
During the annular solar eclipse of 1994, as an experiment NOAA & NASA requested ham radio operators operate on the MF & lower HF bands to see what effect the sudden loss of sunlight would have on the layers of the ionosphere.   
Propagation in the Medium Wave Frequencies between 300 kHz and 3 MHz and the lower High Frequency or Short Wave Bands from 3 MHz to 10 MHz is much more limited during daylight hours as the D layer of the ionosphere absorbs signals heading for the middle and upper levels of the ionosphere and absorbs any signals that actually penetrate the D layer and are reflected back towards the Earth.  This is why you never hear WWL 870 in New Orleans or WGN 720 in Chicago during daylight hours on the AM broadcast bands.  
As the sun goes down, the D layer, no longer receiving the influx of solar radiation, fades away allowing signals to reach the F layer and gradually distant signals begin coming in.  WSB 750 in Atlanta, WSM 650 in Nashville, along with WWL gradually fades into reception.
As the night progresses the F layer rises in altitude allowing you to hear more distant stations such as KDKA 1020 in Pittsburgh, WGN, WLW 700 in Cincinnati, WBAP 820 in Ft. Worth, KOA 850 in Denver, XERF 1570, Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, KSL 1160 in Salt Lake City, the desert Southwest and then the West Coast, and in the opposite direction, into the Caribbean, with PJB, Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles on 800 kHz.
This effect is gradual.  
But, what happened when the sunlight was suddenly cut off piqued scientist’s curiosity.
Hams were encouraged to begin making contacts a half hour before the beginning of the eclipse and ending a half hour after the end.
The results were interesting.
One station in New Mexico near the center of the shadow reported he “experienced significant enhancement of medium wave reception half an hour before and after annularity (the midpoint of the eclipse).  At its peak the reception resembled that experienced at the time of sunset.  One interesting thing he observed was the shift in the location of the stations he heard.  “As the eclipse progressed, stations to my southwest faded out and stations to the northeast faded in.”
Closer to home, in Birmingham, where the sun was blocked 72%, a friend Marvin, W4WU, now silent key, said “that’s the wildest propagation I’ve heard in 50 years of ham radio.”
Others further from the shadow reported no significant effect.
This brings us to August 21, 2017.  
While I’m hoping we will get decent weather so we can view the eclipse, which will be covered further in the Almanac section, it is the middle of summer and Mother Nature might throw a cloud cover at us, as she did during the March 7, 1970 eclipse, when it was cloudier than used motor oil in Birmingham.
Should this happen, I would urge you, if you can, remembering it is a workday, starting at 11:30 AM & ending at 3:30 PM pick a spot on the radio dial between 525 kHz and 10 MHz and start listening or if in the ham bands, trying to make contacts.  This range includes the AM broadcast band, Medium Wave Shortwave Bands, 160, 80, 60, 40, & 30 Meter Ham Bands and lower Short Wave bands. If you have no HF gear, you could use the AM radio on your stereo or car radio, which unless things have changed, experience has shown me are actually surprisingly good receivers, and see if anything strange happens.    
A few days before the event you should “learn the band.”  
Now realistically speaking you can’t “learn” the quirks and stations over a 10 MHz wide frequency range in just a couple of days.  But, you can pick specific portions to “specialize” in.  For instance most operators on HF have learned the characteristics of specific bands, not the entire radio spectrum.  Though, knowing what’s happening “between the bands” is very useful knowledge to have. 
“Learning the band” involves just tuning up and down the band; let’s say the AM Broadcast Band, during the target time frame for a couple of days and writing down every station you hear.  Not just the strong ones, but, the weak ones also. 
This works for any band during normal operations too, making you in a short time, an “expert” in your little corner of the dial, allowing you to know if the band is really open or not.
During the eclipse tune around and if a station appears where it wasn’t encountered before, you know something “different” is happening.   If you are accustomed to “working HF” you probably already have a decent idea of what should or shouldn’t be happening, and will notice if something unusual is happening. 
Log what you hear or who you contact.  Compare it to other “normal times” as well.
And, if you don’t mind, let me know your experiences at
Along the same line, there will be an on the air event, the “Solar Eclipse QSO Party (SEQP)”.  This is a HamSCI-ARRL sponsored operating event “to generate data to study ionospheric changes during the eclipse.”
This event will occur on August 21 from 14:00 – 22:00 UTC.  Beginning with the first dimming of the partial eclipse at about 16:00 UTC in Oregon through the total eclipse and ending with the last shade of the partial eclipse at about 20:15 UTC in South Carolina.
This will occur on the 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, and 6 meter bands, but, not 60, 30, 17 or 12 meters, as contesting is not allowed on those bands.
For more information go to
As for Mark, I have to work, of course, but, I doubt I will get much work done, with me in the parking lot staring at the sky….or searching for a live feed on YouTube should it rain.
Just don’t tell on me.

Mark’s Almanac
August was originally named “Sextilis”, the sixth Roman month. It was renamed August in honor of Caesar Augustus and lengthened to 31 days, to equal Julius Caesar’s month of July.
August is hot and humid and summer temperatures remain at or near their summer peak.
The rapid vegetation growth of spring is over, and, since conditions are now perfect for the growth of mold, fungi & germs, plants have a “used” look, which is enhanced if rainfall is scarce.  
In August the choir of cicadas whine in the afternoon & towards the end of the month the big Yellow Sulphur Butterflies will begin heading to the South-Southeast, giving hints of their soon upcoming fall migration & cats will begin to hint of growing their winter coats.
Hurricane breeding grounds in August are the Atlantic, with Low Latitude storms forming off of Africa crossing the Ocean and either threatening the Eastern Seaboard or striking the Leeward Islands, entering the Caribbean and then striking the Yucatan, or the Western or Northern Gulf coast.  Breeding grounds also include the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.
August is second only to September in the number of Tropical Storms and Hurricanes.  From 1851 to 2016 there have been 383 Tropical Storms and 241 Hurricanes, the most notable storms being Hurricanes Camille and Katrina in 1969 and 2005, which devastated Mississippi and Louisiana and Hurricane Andrew which ravaged South Florida in 1992.
21% of a year’s Hurricanes occur in August, however, 85 to 95% of land falling Hurricanes have not occurred by August 15.   

Looking skyward, at the beginning of the month, Mercury shining at magnitude 0, is low above the west-northwest horizon 30 or 40 minutes after sunset. 
Venus shines brightly at magnitude –4.1 in the east before and during dawn. Look for the fainter orange star Aldebaran far to her upper right. To Venus’s lower right, another orange star Betelgeuse is rising, as the constellations of Winter begin peeking over the horizon.
Mars is hidden behind the Sun.
Jupiter shines brightly at magnitude –1.9, in Virgo, in the southwest in early evening. The fainter star Spica shining at magnitude +1.0, glitters 8° or 9° left of Jupiter. 
Saturn, drifting in the legs of Ophiuchus, glows steadily at magnitude +0.2 in the south at nightfall. The fiery star Antares, less bright, twinkles 13° to Saturn’s lower right.  Delta Scorpii, the third-brightest object in the area, catches the eye about half that far to the upper right of Antares.
Uranus shining at a borderline naked eye visibility of magnitude 5.8, in Pisces, is high in the southeast before dawn.
Neptune shines faintly at magnitude 7.9, in Aquarius high in the south, before dawn begins. 
August’s Full Moon will occur August 7 at 18:11 UTC or 1:11 PM CDT. August’s Full Moon was called “Fruit Moon” in Cherokee Folklore, “Women’s Moon” among the Choctaw, “Sturgeon Moon” by the Algonquin because the large sturgeon fish of the Great Lakes and other major lakes were more easily caught at this time of year. This moon has also been known as the Green Corn Moon and the Grain Moon and at one time was called “Dog Days Moon” by the Colonial Americans.  
Though not visible from North America, there will be a Partial Lunar Eclipse on August 7. A partial lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the Earth’s partial shadow, or penumbra, and only a portion of it passes through the darkest shadow, or umbra. During this type of eclipse a part of the Moon will darken as it moves through the Earth’s shadow. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of eastern Africa, central Asia, the Indian Ocean, and Australia. 
The Perseid Meteor Shower peaks on the night of August 11 & 12, with 50 to 60 meteors per hour. This shower, produce by debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862, ranks as the best of the best, famous for producing bright meteors.  The shower runs annually from July 17 to August 24. It peaks this year on the night of August 11 and the morning of August 12. The waning gibbous moon will block out many of the fainter meteors this year, but the Perseids are so bright and numerous that it should still be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Perseus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
On August 21 the Moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky, which is known as New Moon. This phase occurs at 18:30 UTC or 1:30 PM CDT. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
As covered in our main article, on this date there will be a Total Solar Eclipse. This is a rare event for observers in the United States. The last total solar eclipse visible in the continental United States occurred in 1979 and the next one will take place in 2024. 
The path of totality will begin in the Pacific Ocean and travel through the center of the United States. The total eclipse will be visible in parts of Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina before ending in the Atlantic Ocean. 
A partial eclipse will be visible in most of North America and parts of northern South America.
NASA Map and Eclipse Information
Detailed Zoomable Map of Eclipse Path
Event times are as follows (note that Alabama will get only a partial eclipse, do not directly look at the Sun):
Beginning      Mid eclipse  Ending CoverageBirmingham 12:00:39pm 1:31:56pm 2:58:23pm    93%Huntsville 12:00:01pm 1:30:43pm 2:56:48pm    97%
If you head North from Birmingham on I-65 and travel through Nashville 225 miles north of Birmingham to Gallatan Tennessee, a 3 hour 30 minute trip, you can join a few thousand intimate friends and enjoy the full 2 minutes 40 seconds of a 100% total solar eclipse
The Gallatan eclipse timing (note only during the total eclipse portion can you safely look directly at the eclipse):
Partial Eclipse Begins 11:59:02 AMTotal Eclipse Begins  1:27:25 PM Midpoint  1:28:45 PM Total Eclipse Ends    1:30:05 PM Partial Eclipse Ends    2:54:14 PM  How do you safely view a solar eclipse?
The way NOT to view an eclipse is by staring at the sun, or even worse looking at the sun with unfiltered binoculars or a telescope.  To do so is to invite a lifetime of blindness.
It is NEVER safe to directly view the partial phases of any solar eclipse, or the maximum phases of an annular solar eclipse (an eclipse where the moon is smaller than the sun, leaving only a bright ring of sunlight) using the unprotected or naked eye. Even when 99% of the Sun’s surface is blocked during the partial phases of a solar eclipse, the remaining crescent is intensely bright and cannot be safely viewed without eye protection. 
NOT recommended is viewing through smoked glass, old photo negatives, exposed x-ray film or stacked sunglasses, as they may very well block the visible light, but, will still allow infrared and ultraviolet light to pass unimpeded to cook what’s left of your retinas.
Some of the safe methods are as follows:
Pinhole Projection
The simplest and most inexpensive method for safely viewing a solar eclipse is called “pinhole projection”. A pinhole or small opening in a piece of cardboard is used to project an image of the eclipsed Sun onto a screen (white piece of cardboard) placed a couple feet behind the pinhole. The white cardboard is moved back and forth until a good focus and size is obtained.  Making a pinhole projection box to safely watch a solar eclipse is a fun project for kids. 
As mentioned in the preceding article, projected images of the eclipsed Sun can be seen on the ground as sunlight passes through leaves or even seen on the ground by loosely interlacing your fingers and allowing sunlight to pass through small openings between your fingers. Another amusing projection method is to use a kitchen straining spoon or a pasta colander. Anything with tiny holes can be used to project the partially eclipsed Sun’s image: a straw hat, a cheese grater, a lawn chair having a loose weave fabric, etc.
Binocular Projection
Any pair of binoculars can be used to project a pair of images of the eclipsed Sun onto a piece of white cardboard. After focusing the binoculars on a distant object, just point the binoculars up at the Sun, but not aiming them with your eyes, and project their images onto a piece of stiff white cardboard placed 1-2 feet behind them. The farther away the screen is from the binoculars, the larger the projected image of the Sun. This takes a bit of practice to get the pointing just right so try it out on a sunny day before the eclipse.  
The same can be done with a tripod mounted telescope.
WARNING: Never look directly through the binoculars at either the Sun or the partially eclipsed Sun. 
Welder’s Glass
Though they give the Sun an unnatural green color, a widely available filter for safe solar eclipse viewing, and endorsed by NASA, is a number 14 welder’s glass. These filters normally protect a welder’s eyes from the intensely bright glare of a welding arc. They come in a variety of shades with number 14 being the darkest – be sure to get a number 14 for eclipse viewing. 
Welder’s glass filters are available through welding supply outlets and through retailers on the Internet. 
Again, only number 14 welder’s glass filters are safe to use for looking directly at the Sun. Stacking two number 7 filters will not duplicate a number 14 filter, get a number 14.  
Also, there is a welder’s filter that has a variable density. It changes darkness depending on the brightness of the welding arc (or light source) that it’s pointed towards. These variable density filters are NOT SAFE for looking at the Sun. 
Eclipse Glasses
Though it may already be too late to obtain, in recent years inexpensive eclipse glasses have become increasingly popular for safely viewing of solar eclipses. They usually consist of specially manufactured filters mounted in a simple cardboard frame. Eclipse glasses allow you to look directly at the eclipsed Sun since the filters safely protect your eyes from any harmful rays.
However, this method I would approach with the greatest of caution, as many sources are selling counterfeit “eclipse glasses”.   NASA has issue a warning about these fake glasses, and named a few companies that are trustworthy providers of lenses or glasses. 
Here’s what you need to look for:
• The glasses should have certification information, with a designated ISO 12312-2 international standard.• The actual manufacturer’s name and address should be printed somewhere on the glasses.• Don’t use glasses that are wrinkled, scratched, or more than three years old.• Don’t use regular sunglasses, no matter how dark they are.
NASA recommends buying glasses from one of five manufacturers:
• American Paper Optics
• Baader Planetarium (AstroSolar Silver/Gold film only)
• Rainbow Symphony which is featured in Astronomy Magazine
• Thousand Oaks Optical
• TSE 17
Unfortunately, just looking for those five names on Amazon isn’t enough, since the counterfeiters are using names of the approved companies.
When you put them on you should see complete darkness unless you’re looking into the sun. You can also check the back for a safety seal.
The following are some tips to safely use eclipse glasses and filters. 
Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or filter before looking up at the bright Sun. After glancing at the Sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the Sun. 
If you travel to an area where you can view the total eclipse, within the path of totality, remove your solar filter only when the Moon completely covers the Sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets quite dark, to experience totality. But as soon as the bright Sun begins to reappear, replace your solar viewer to glance at the remaining partial phases.
I have resisted the temptation to say, as the news media gleefully assures, that “this is a once in a lifetime event”, especially since there have been 38 total solar eclipses in my lifetime, and the next one, though admittedly not in my backyard, will occur over central North America on April 8, 2024. The shadow will pass over Texas, Arkansas on onward to the Great Lakes and along the Canadian/New England border. 
While I may not be anywhere near Texas or Arkansas in 2024, I DO plan on being somewhere “above the daisies” doing something hopefully fun.
Still, these are rare opportunities, so, even if it is a workday, try to catch a peek of this event!
3502 planets beyond our solar system have now been confirmed as of July 27, per NASA’sExoplanet Archive

This month’s meeting will be on August 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 / WD4NYLEditorALERT


Mark’s Weatherlynx Weather Resource

Hi everyone & an early Happy 4th of July!
With this month’s newsletter I wish to welcome our new President Casey Benefield, NZ20!
Casey, a dedicated ALERT member is one of the most knowledgeable high tech guru’s I have ever known. There are many new technological innovations out there that we can test and possible add to our arsenal of tools and Casey is well versed in these approaches. I can tell you that ALERT is in good hands, and that exciting times are ahead.
So let’s make sure to encourage and support him as he leads ALERT into the future.
Try to attend our July 12 meeting as we welcome Casey!
(And, to pay your dues)


A Brief History of The Sunday Night Net & Submitted Suggestions For The ALERT Newsletter
Amateur Radio Nets have always been a major part of my ham radio “career”, for it was listening to nets that reintroduced me to ham radio.  
My first exposure to ham radio came with K4FHX, a call sign that will always have a special meaning to me and a tender place in my heart, for that was the call sign of my brother “Sonny”,  who gave me my first peak at ham radio, with its mysterious squeaks and squawks at age 5.  He eventually dropped out of the hobby and 5 year old Mark got his equipment to play with and destroy. The only piece which still exists is his old Speed-X Straight key which I still lovingly use to this day.
My reintroduction to ham radio would occur 10 years later in 1973.  I was now a 15-year-old kid interested in meteorology.  There was a tornado warning & my sister Diane called and said “tune around 146 on the dial & you can hear the Civil Defense talking about the storm.”
She was right, as they were indeed talking about the storm on something called the “Alabama Emergency Net X-ray” with a weird call sign W4CUE. 
I remember it was 1973 because they all said “73” at the end of a conversation, and knowing no better, I thought it was just some weird legal requirement to give the year.  Then 1974 came, and they kept saying “73” and I was without a clue as to why.
With every storm you would find me listening in & I learned that instead of it being the Civil Defense, that these were ham radio operators.
It was listening to these hams during severe weather outbreaks and their conversations during “normal” times that inspired me to get my ham license – WD4NYL – which I obtained in 1977.  Though at times I was been tempted to get a new call sign, it was pointed out, that like me or lump me, everyone knows me as WD4NYL.  Plus, remembering that first glance at the FCC envelope, and seeing the call and my name, still seems like a minor miracle even to this day.
One of the first things I did as a new ham was to become active in nets, starting in 1978 with the 3.965 statewide HF sideband traffic net, then known as the Alabama Emergency Net Mike, or AENM, now called the Alabama Traffic Net Mike.  And, the local Alabama Emergency Net X-ray, or AENX now called the Jefferson County ARES Net,
These net designations originated from a time when there was an effort to organize the various county and state nets into a unified system called the “Alabama Emergency Net System”.  The nets involved had unique identifiers, such as “AENX”, “AENN” and so forth.
In the course of 39 years I was Net Control on the AENX, the AENN which is now the Shelby County Net, the AENB also called the Alabama Section Net, which is the fast speed CW traffic net and the now defunct AEND, which was the slow speed CW traffic Section Net, of which I was also Net Manager.  I was the net liaison for the Alabama Section Nets to the RN5 or Fifth Region Net, covering Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. I was the Net Manager of the old West Jefferson County Emergency Net, the old 440 Frontier Net, and the BARC / ALERT Sunday Night Net for 16 years. 
That’s all to say that “I’ve been to a few rodeos in my time” and I’ve obtained a unique perspective and knowledge of the history of local nets and why things evolved as they did, having participated in them for decades and knowing the background information of ham politics, interactions and attempts at diplomacy through the years. With that said, let’s take a look at history of the Sunday Night Net.
In 1995 Glenn Glass, KE4YZK created the BARC Sunday Night Net.  I was not there at the beginning, but, as I understand the goal was to have a net with the social aspects similar to the BARC net, but, with a more “laid back” atmosphere.  But, perhaps not to the point of other net formats which have you check in and wait until each person is called for an “update”, which is a widely used popular format.
“I heard your Grandfather is in the hospital, can we get an update?”
“Paw Paw’s hemorrhoid surgery went fine, though the donut seems to chafe him a bit.” 
I am told, that from the moment of its creation there was resistance to the net’s existence from some, but, most certainly not all, members of BARC who felt that that the Sunday Night Net might be trying to usurp or compete with the AENX or Jefferson County Emergency Net in its role as the emergency and training net.
It is for this reason that the Sunday Night Net adopted and stressed the format of being a “discussion net” not a “training net”, since BARC already had a “training net” meeting every Tuesday night, and so hopefully the Sunday Night Net would not be viewed as competition or a threat.
And, though this distinction was emphasized ad nauseam, for a long time there was the feeling of some that it was some sort of “quasi renegade net”, and only after the process of time, when the benign nature of the net was proven, and some critics became silent key or moved on to other things, that that resentment, for the most part faded away.
As the original BARC Sunday Night Net preamble stated, “This net meets for discussion of any topic of general interest to radio amateurs…
You do not have to be a member of BARC to participate and I invite all properly licensed radio operators to check in.”
Glenn served as Net Manager from 1995 – 1998, Marc Nichols, K7NOA from 1998 – 2001 & myself from 2001 until 2011.  
In September 2011, with due credit being given to Ronnie King WX4RON’s efforts, BARC “donated” the Sunday Night Net to ALERT.  I remained as Net Manager from September 2011 to June 2017, when Ronnie offered to assume the role, and I finally felt confident that I could leave the net and that it would continue on and not just wither away, which was a major concern of mine, and one of the reasons that I stayed on duty for as long as I did.
After the net became ALERT’s property the preamble was modified slightly, but, the nature of the net never really changed.   The current preamble still states: “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.”
At my departure the net was still “officially” a “discussion” net, and not a formal “training net”.  
Yet training has always been a feature of the net.  It was usually done on a “low key” basis, sometimes done subtly, perhaps too subtly as some may have missed it, but, it was there and the feedback I received over the years was that it went over well and was very successful.
How many Net Control Operators over the years have told me “thank you for letting me ‘cut my eyeteeth’ on the Sunday Night Net with its more relaxed approach, where I wasn’t afraid to mess up if I gave it a try”, I have lost count of.  But, there were many.  Many would come, stay a while and then move on to ARES and other organizations, usually ending up in major leadership positions, and winning statewide awards, but, they started, and gave credit to the Sunday Night Net.
Mark was willing to give them a chance, when in many cases other nets, might not.  I believed in giving people a chance, especially young people. I don’t look down upon youth, for youth is the future of our hobby.  The practice of inviting young people into our hobby and then treating them like manure never made sense to me.  So I gave the young a chance, and they thrived.
When people would come with ideas for adding this or that to the preamble, it was usually implemented. When ideas were presented, if not too nutty, they were either tried, adopted or were delayed until a better strategic time came.  All you had to do was ask.  
If someone said “Let’s send some formal traffic so people will see how to do it”…next week, traffic was sent.  Tell them “This is the why we use the ITU phonetics”.  “This is what the NWS is looking for, and this is what they don’t want”. “This is how the National Traffic System works”.  I was always open to these ideas, and they were slipped into the net.  It may not have been present every session; but training was there more often than not, during my 16 years as Net Manager.  
Also many net members became ALERT members having been lured by my invitation “If you have an interest in Skywarn, emergency communications or just want to see what the National Weather Service is about” come to the next ALERT meeting, and by doing so, they came, joined and then continued their training at the NWS.
During those 16 years, if there were complaints about the format of the net, no one ever told me.  
A simple “hey Mark…you and ‘your’ net…you really reek, man”, and then giving the reasons why, suggesting how we could work to improve it, helping me formulate a plan and then helping me execute that plan would have, to paraphrase a saying “got er done.”
Over the years the net gradually grew from 3 to 4 check in’s per session to the 40 to 50 check ins we see today.  We have had stations from Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee and all over central and north Alabama check in. The record, I believe being 72 check ins one night.
Having given this historical overview, we have reached a transition period with changes in net manager ship and new ALERT officers; perhaps the time will come when we will reexamine the nature, purpose and structure of the Sunday Night Net.  
Among possible options in my thinking are:
1. Convert the net into an actual “training net”, the scope and target audience to be determined.2. Update the net structure, but keeping the basic format, with a heavy emphasis on training.3. Modernize the format with a better preamble, instead of the alphabet soup of prefixes we now have, with a less cumbersome check in order, but, basically making no other major changes.4. Since the net is thriving, which took decades to achieve, make no drastic changes which might drive people away, since the old formula clearly works.
And, though admittedly my good looks certainly had much to do with the nets growth through the years, there were other reasons why people gradually gravitated to the net.  Whatever that reason was, it should be carefully preserved.
This probably won’t be dealt with right away, but, when it is dealt with there are two things I would ask of you:  
1. When the time comes to discuss this, give us your input. Give Ronnie and Casey your ideas, concerns, plans and proposals. Give concrete workable solutions and suggestions and then VOLUNTEER to help carry them out.  Your ideas may get voted down or delayed for a better time, or they may be quickly implemented as the nucleus of a much better approach. 
But, when the opportunity does come if you choose to say nothing, VOLUNTEER for nothing and just end up griping with the usual “could have, would have and should haves” which admittedly is one of amateur radio’s favorite activities, then as my Dad would say “It’s your own durned fault”.
2. Support our new net Manager Ronnie, WX4RON.  Check into the net, offer to help him and help him keep the net, which is YOUR net by the way, and a powerful tool for ALERT, healthy and growing.  
I appreciate him taking the reins of the net.
Let’s help him as much as we can!
Now let discuss the ALERT Newsletter.
I somewhat jokingly say that the newsletter was designed to be “friendly spam” invading peoples email inboxes and gently tapping them on the shoulder and reminding them that “ALERT is still here, don’t forget about us”.  Reverse psychology of the “out of sight, out of mind” principle, and a statement that is largely true.
The newsletter was one of the major goals I had in mind when I began my first of four terms as ALERT President in 2007, along with rewriting and finishing the Bylaws, a project which until then, had been discussed, but never actually achieved.
Besides being a monthly reminder that we were “alive and well”, the newsletter was designed to serve as a “bully pulpit” for the President, to cuss and discuss situations that arose, which included protecting ALERT’s position and existence in the major EMCOMM revolution that was occurring at that time, detailing policies, procedures and hopefully providing some interesting articles to serve as a training tool.
Over the years we dealt with training, various problems, including ham political problems aka “whining”, emergency preparedness and we delved into climatology and astronomy with “Mark’s Almanac”, which feedback tells me is a highly favored section.
The current ALERT Newsletter, is actually the second incarnation of an ALERT newsletter, the first one called “ALERT Update News” having run briefly just after ALERT’s birth in 1996, and has been well received, with very few negative comments. 
Our current newsletter is one of the few newsletters in existence.  Many other newsletters that were once ham radio mainstays are just now fleeting memories.  The usual cause of death being lack of support, with no input or articles being sent or upon hearing about snarky comments concerning the effort, the editor finally gets fed up with having to do it all alone and says “bye, bye” and with no other poor fool being willing to continue with the effort, it just dies on the vine.
That’s not being contemplated; incidentally, as I still have a few more articles left in my dusty cobweb filled brain. 
Over the years there have been suggestions concerning the newsletter. They were really good ideas, some being implemented, but, most weren’t because it required others to write them, and as the years have proved, getting folk motivated is sometimes a challenge, if not nigh unto impossible.
The basic format of the newsletter has always been:
1. Opening comments and major ALERT news.2. The main article, more often than not with a training goal or slant, whether it is operational or down and dirty personal emergency preparedness.3. Mark’s Almanac.
The following are changes in format that have been suggested over the years.  They are really good suggestions, but, never implemented, as it requires active sustained participation of the parties mentioned.
“President’s Comments” – The ALERT President can discuss whatever is on his mind, no time limit, no disqualification.  His opportunity to encourage, inform or open a can of whoop butt on folk. 
“Monthly Meeting Report” – The Secretary writes a brief overview of the previous month’s meeting.  How many attended, welcoming new members who joined and giving program descriptions and overviews. For instance: “John De Block gave an interesting discussion of the recent proposal that troublesome ALERT members might be suspended from weather balloons during thunderstorms to increase VHF range.”
“Training Topics” – The training officer discusses policies, procedures and technical items. Such as:  “How to build an emergency antenna on the fly, when you look at the end of your coax and see just that – the ragged end of coax where the antenna should have been”.
“Callout Overview” – The NWS Liaison describes the nature of recent callouts, who responded, what was experienced, both good and bad and giving ideas about how we can improve our response.
“Membership Update” – The Membership officer informs us of any members who are in the hospital, or any who have passed away.  As Lil Bankston, “The Sunshine Lady” K4DSO did for the BARC Newsletter, back in the 1980’s, which only a few of my fellow fossils would remember.
“Net Reports” – The Net Manager gives a monthly summary of net activity and training tip and coaching.
“ARES & HARC Update” – Activities of our sister organizations are covered.
As I say, all of these suggestions are good suggestions.  But, they all require input and articles from the officers and individuals mentioned.  
Mark can’t do it, as I don’t occupy the positions, and that would be overstepping my bounds.
Not counting times that I helped write items for folk with equipment issues, or a request “could you mention this in the newsletter?” the occasional requests “’I’m doing such & such and thus & so’ could you write an entire article about it?” really isn’t a good idea, this really should come “from the horse’s mouth” so to speak. For you know what’s on your mind and what you’re the vison of the finished goal is.  
Plus I figure that if your wee fingers could type that much of a message then you are probably able to type the rest of it also, even though you don’t want to, and then send it to me so I can proofread and publish it.
It’s sort of like some guy calling you at work saying “hey can you call Phil and see how his dog Angel is doing?  I don’t want to call him, since he will keep me tied up for an hour.”
Well, I’m already busy, so what exactly makes you think I would want to be stuck with motor mouth for an hour also?  I never was close to Phil, and that demon possessed Chihuahua of his should have been “donated” to a Cambodian restaurant five years ago.  So in a word – “no”. 
So, as we move forward, think about the newsletter and if we want to change the format or keep it as it is.  The only untouchable section is the Almanac, which is a major reason why many people read the newsletter, and should be preserved as it is.  In fact, when I do finally write my last ALERT Newsletter, I probably will continue the Almanac in some form for those who appreciate it.
Let me know your thoughts as to whether to keep the current format or to change the format and to VOLUNTEER at
Do remember though, that if the changes mentioned are desired, it does require a commitment by others to contribute the articles on a regular basis.  Also understand that if we do make the changes and then the articles aren’t sent in or quit coming in, the only recourse would be to revert to the old format.
As was true with the net, if you say nothing, I can only assume that you like things as they are.  So speak and VOLUNTEER now or forever hold your peace.
As, always, any contributions in the form of articles and ideas are welcome, needed, encouraged.
As I have always said “this is not ‘Mark’s Newsletter’, it’s YOUR newsletter.
Your help is appreciated. 
Mark’s Almanac
Originally called “Quintilis”, the fifth Roman month, Quintilis was renamed “July” in 44 BC in honor of Julius Caesar.July is miserably hot, as land temperatures reach their peaks in late July through early August – the Dog Days of Summer.  
The Old Farmer’s Almanac lists the traditional period of the Dog Days as the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11.
The Romans on the other hand said that the Dog Days ran from July 24 through August 24, or, alternatively, from July 23 through August 23, coinciding with the Sun and the Dog Star Sirius rising at the same time & their combined heat supposedly adding to the summer misery.
As you endure this heat, remember to drink lots of fluids, hug the shade & avoid the afternoon sun.
Also please resist the temptation to take Fido for a walk during the heat of the day.  Remember that the “official” temperature readings are taken 6 feet above ground level.  It’s much, much hotter on the ground where Fido & Puss have to walk bare paw, where it could easily be 150 degrees.
Before taking Muttley for a walk, place your hand on the pavement and see how hot it is. If it’s miserable to you, it will be miserable to him also.  Just walk him in the morning or wait until the sun is setting and it cools off to a tolerable level and try to stick to grassy areas.  Then go have a good time together.
The last week of July is usually the hottest week of the year.  Tropical conditions are dominant, with conditions similar to that of the Amazon Valley.
This is the time to test the “Brown Grass Theory”.  According to this theory, if the grass remains green the temperature will probably not reach 100, but, if the grass turns brown, get set for triple digits.  This is a local Birmingham rule, which the Old Timers at the Birmingham NWS used for years.  
In July the least rainfall falls in the Northern Hemisphere.
Tornado activity drops sharply, with a 47% decrease nationwide.  July has an average of 103 tornadoes.
Hurricane activity increases, but major hurricanes are not yet frequent.  By months end, one hurricane will have occurred.  Seven percent of a year’s hurricane total occurs in July.
Long track hurricanes are possible, forming off the African coast and crossing the Atlantic, either to threaten the US East Coast, then eventually veering off towards Bermuda. Or in the case of “Low Latitude” storms, cross the Atlantic, strike the Leeward Islands; enter the Caribbean and then striking the Yucatan, or the Western or Northern Gulf coast.

July Tropical Cyclone Breeding Grounds

Looking skyward, Mercury (about magnitude +0.2) is deep in the glow of sunset. The planet reaches his highest point in the morning sky, or Greatest Eastern Elongation of 27.2 degrees from the Sun on July 30.   This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.
Venus (magnitude –4.2) shines brightly in the east before and during dawn.
Mars (magnitude +1.7, in Taurus) is buried deep in the glow of sunset.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.2, in Virgo) shines brightly in the southwest during evening. Jupiter continues to shrink as Earth pulls ahead of it in our faster orbit around the Sun.
Saturn (magnitude 0.0, in southern Ophiuchus) glows pale yellowish in the southeast to south during evening. The fiery star Antares, less bright, is 15° to Saturn’s right or lower right. Delta Scorpii, the third brightest object in the area, catches the eye half that far to the upper right of Antares.
Uranus (magnitude 5.9, in Pisces) is well up in the east before the beginning of dawn.
Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Aquarius) is in the southeast before the first light of dawn.
July’s Full Moon occurs July 8 at 11:07 PM CDT or 04:07 UTC July 9 and is called “Buck Moon” in Native American folklore. This moon gets its name because the male buck deer begin to grow their new antlers at this time of year. It has also been called “Full Thunder Moon” & “Hay Moon”.
On July 23 the Moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will be invisible.  New Moon will occur at 09:46 UTC or 4:46 PM CDT. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
The Delta-Aquariad Meteor shower peaks on the night of July 28th into the morning of the 29th. This shower annually occurs from July 12 through August 23 is made up of debris from Comets Marsden Kracht and produces a ZHR or Zenith Hourly Rate of 20 meteors per hour. The crescent moon will set by midnight, leaving dark skies for what should be a good early morning show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
Also, though it won’t peak until the night and morning of August 12 & 13, the Perseid Meteor Shower begins July 17, and lasts until August 24.  This shower, associated with comet Swift-Tuttle will peak at 60 meteors per hour in August.
Looking further into August, on August 21 a Total Solar Eclipse will be easily visible from the Southeastern United States. 
Stay tuned…
3497 planets beyond our solar system have now been confirmed as of June 22, per NASA’sExoplanet Archive


This month’s meeting will be on July 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 / WD4NYLEditorALERT

Mark’s Weatherlynx Weather Resource

Hi Everyone and welcome to the 120th ALERT Newsletter!

I hope all is going well & that you are finding a nice cool spot out of the pre-summer heat and showers.

The biggest ALERT news of the month concerns our recent elections. At the May 9th meeting the ALERT elections were held for the 2017 – 2018 term.

The Officers for 2017 – 2018 are:

President: Casey Benefield NZ20
Vice-President & Membership: Lloyd Palmer N4GHP
Secretary: Justin Glass N0ZO
Treasurer: Bill Rodgers K4FSO
NWS Liaison: Russell Thomas KV4S

Per the ALERT Bylaws our new Officers will assume their positions at the July 11 meeting.

Thanks to all of our new officers for their service to our organization, and to our outgoing officers for the dedication and leadership you have provided!

Another upcoming change concerns the ALERT Sunday Night Net, which meets 7PM Sundays on 146.88 MHz PL 88.5 hz.

In 2000 or 2001 (I’m not really sure) I became the third Net Manager of what was then known as the BARC Sunday Night Net, succeeding Marc Nichols K7NOA. The Net, originally formed by Glenn Glass KE4YZK was Later “donated” to ALERT by the BARC and it became the net as we know it today.

Over the years we have gone from 3 check ins to the regular 40 – 50 check ins we see today.

After a run of 16 or 17 continuous years I am pleased to announce that effective June 1 Ronnie King WX4RON will be taking the reigns as Net Manager.

I appreciate Ronnie giving me a breather and I hope you will support him as you have supported me.

I’ll still be around and remain an active part of the net. For, as with mold and fungus, I’m always popping up here and there.

One thing which will remain the same is our newsletter. I will continue on as the Editor-In-Chief, and hopefully will be able to provide interesting items for your enjoyment, or at least harmless spam.

Articles are welcome, needed in fact, so send something my way!


For Your Viewing Pleasure – Part 2
(Courtesy of The National Weather Service)

Last month we presented various links for ABC33/40’s storm spotter training seminars. This month we focus on the National Weather Service outreach.

For passing valid reports, and deciphering reports that on the surface may not seem to make any form of sense, I feel all Skywarn and ARES Net Control Stations should obtain storm spotter training. For storm spotters this is an obvious requirement, but, for an NCS on a Skywarn Net this is just as crucial.

It is the NCS’s job to filter reports and pass them on to NWS or to the NWS via ALERT making sure it is information which the NWS can actually use, such as tornadoes, funnel clouds, wall clouds, hail 1 inch in diameter or greater, wind gusts over 58 MPH, flooding and storm damage.

It’s also their job is to filter out reports the NWS cannot use, such as scanner reports, since they are unverified reports, and if verified, the EMA of that county has already passed them to the NWS. Media reports, since the Media, if a verified report, has also already passed the report to the NWS. And obviously useless reports, such as “it’s raining”, “the sky is getting dark”, “we have leaf debris!!!”, along with I what I call “multigenerational reports”, i.e. “my neighbors grandmother’s best friend’s uncle in Warrior says his cousin in Montgomery saw a tornado, a while ago.”

It can be a fine balance between filtering and “over filtering”.

Over the years I have occasionally heard reports get “over filtered” and have seen valid reports missed, and on occasion I have had my reports ignored also, when I knew exactly what I was seeing.

Storm reports can be over filtered for various reasons.

1. The NCS may dismiss an operators report simply because they don’t know the operator personally and don’t know whether he is a reliable source, or someone, well intentioned, but, over exuberant, just wanting to report something, ANYTHING, so they can join in and feel “a part of the action”, or in some instances I have dealt with operators wanting to “showboat” for friends, and disrupting net operations at the worst possible time.

2. In some counties unless you are “part of the group”, whatever that group is, whether it is an official EMA sponsored group or the “You Aint One Of Us” group, your report will be dismissed, and sometimes not too kindly.

In the case of the “You Aint One Of Us” groups, this is simply due to ham politics and territorial hissing and spitting between clubs and repeater groups. This is one of the darker shades of hamdom, and one you cannot easily change. Feuding groups can feud to their hearts content, but, they should come together or at least have a truce during an emergency. But sadly, this is often not the case.

The “Closed EMA group” may be “closed” because their group has been specially trained for that counties specific needs, and, you, not having that specific training would just be hindering the process. Learning how to join the group and becoming a valuable active member of the group is the best solution for this.

Sometimes though an EMA group can devolve into or at least on the surface appear to be a quasi “You Aint One Of Us” group, whether intended or not.

This can be best described by a true example which follows.

Before I proceed, I will say that we always need to appreciate that the EMA’s have a very serious, tremendously vital responsibility in maintaining control and accountability during emergencies while dealing with life and death situations. They have to quash unfounded rumors, disseminate needed information at the best and proper strategic time, in order to coordinate the response of multiple agencies and help minimize the utter chaos that occurs after a disaster, and help the media separate fact from fiction. Responding to communities and people who have lost everything dear to them is neither an easy nor a happy task.

Control has to be maintained and should be maintained. And, there is that fine balance between maintaining control, while still welcoming participation.

Occasionally, in MY opinion, and this is My opinion, not necessarily that of ALERT nor the NWS, this control can seem to become a little overzealous at times. If you do want participation you should emphasize that inclusion is welcome, and explain the entry process. Even if this isn’t the case, and you don’t want new members, tact and diplomacy while excluding folk will get you a lot farther than the lack thereof. The old “be nice, for the person you act snottily towards today may be the same one who will be one giving you your root canal six months from now and may remember you” rule applies. Again, this is my personal opinion, not that of ALERT or the NWS. Save the nasty calls to the NWS. They didn’t author this piece, I did, so fuss at me, not them. It’s kind of like chewing out some poor lady at the power company because your water has been turned off. As they say down under “it makes you look a little ‘pixelated’ when you ‘give the treatment’ to the wrong bloke”.

This said, many years ago when I first started this journey, I attended an NWS storm spotter training class given in a county and state which I will not disclose. Remember that the United States has 3,007 counties and 137 county equivalents, such as Parishes and Boroughs, and so theoretically 3144 EMA’s, so I’m not necessarily picking on any one specifically. If you are an EMA official and read this, and begin feeling picked on, remember that the chances of it being YOUR group are 1 in 3144.

As I once heard a minister say “If you start feeling guilty, and start getting ‘nervous in the service’ and think I’m talking about you, just look peaceful and smile gently and no one will ever have a clue that it was you.”

Continuing on, the class was interesting as it always was, and people appeared to be soaking in the information like a thirsty sponge. And at the end there was an excitement in the air.

That excitement lasted for about 1 minute. For in 1 minute the rather portly EMA director stood up, thanked the presenter and then declared in a very condescending tone “Now you might be considering yourselves ‘storm spotters’ now, but, from the Elvis County EMA’s point of view WE WILL NOT consider you one until you have ridden with an experienced spotter two or three times and get some experience under your belt.”, finishing with a rather self-satisfied nod and sitting down.

This is when I learned what the term “buzz kill” meant. The excitement was now total silence. About five people out of the dozens attending quickly rushed to sign up for the EMA. As for the rest, many appeared bewildered, looking at their booklets, notes and each other as if to say “why did I even bother coming here?” Another group looked at the EMA Director with a “who died and made you Pope?” stare. Yet another group was misbehaving, laughing as they whispered “Hey Bill, didn’t I tell you Old Tomboy thar thinks the Weather Bureau works for him? har, har, har”.

This left me with three impressions as I drove away:

A. I was glad I didn’t live in that county, wherever that county may actually be.
B. Wasn’t this contrary to the spirit and purpose of the presentation, namely to recruit and train
ordinary citizens from all walks of life, who have an interest in severe weather, to be the “eyes
and ears of the NWS”? Whether they be a student, a housewife, a trucker, or dentist – just
ordinary people who may never “deploy” with a group, but, just in the process of their normal
lives see something they know the NWS needs to know about. Whether they are interested in
being affiliated with a formal group or not. For if you limit participation to a select few, only
those 5% who are willing or able to deploy and basically say you are discounting the other
95%, what exactly are you accomplishing? Are you part of the solution or part of the problem?
C. If I did live there and I saw the Citgo being sucked up by a tornado, since it’s been clearly
stated that my report isn’t considered worthy of interest if I don’t have the time or the ability to
join the Elvis County EMA, to ride with that’s someone who is supposedly experienced and
maybe just maybe end up at the right place, at the right time to actually see something,
anything, and get that “qualifying experience”, who then would want my report? And, who
said I was going to do this for the EMA anyway? I thought it was doing it for the NWS.

Looking back, I think this was just a poorly expressed recruiting attempt, which perhaps would have been much better stated “We appreciate you attending this training. Having begun this journey I wish to invite you and in fact I urge you to join our EMA spotter program. We want you. We want to team you up with other experienced spotters so you may continue your training and learning experience and help us in our crucial mission of saving lives. The lives you save you may never know, but they are real. So I invite you to come join us in our lifesaving mission today”.

Put that way, instead of a room of downhearted people, the response would probably have been so enthusiastic and heavy that they would have run out of applications.

Shoot, I’m tempted to join, and I just made the sales pitch up…

Where’s an application?

3. In some cases if the NCS has no storm spotter training he may not have a clue as to what the other guy is trying to describe, though it may be a textbook accurate description. The NCS will filter the report being afraid of passing erroneous information.

Having some knowledge of weather and the needs of the National Weather Service will let you better filter out useless “leaf debris” reports from good reports and those reports that sound goofy but, are actually valid reports, the operator just having a hard time describing what they are seeing. Or the opposite, a very valid, very detailed report, that is “over the head” of the NCS and therefore not being understood, is dismissed as garbage.

Example One:

WD4NYL – “I see green flashes, like lightning moving across the horizon from west to east towards Fultondale”.

NCS – “Geeze, please keep the frequency clear. It will lightning and thunder during thunderstorms, that’s why they are called ‘thunderstorms’. I mean really, duh”.

Verdict: WD4NYL was seeing “power flashes” from transformers’ blowing up and power lines being snapped as the power grid was being shredded by some kind of wind circulation moving on the ground. A valid – but, dismissed report of a possible tornado on the ground.

Example Two:

WD4NYL – “I’m in Shelby County looking at the Jefferson County storm. There has been a sharp increase in lightning – almost continuous & the thunderstorm column appears to be becoming twisted or ‘barber polling’.”

NCS – “(frustrated) Sir we are looking for reports from Jefferson County – Jefferson County only, not Shelby County. Please keep the frequency clear.”

Verdict: WD4NYL was seeing evidence that the thunderstorm was rapidly intensifying and seeing visible evidence of possible rotation. A valid – but, again dismissed report of a possible severe storm, exhibiting rotation, which the NWS would want to know about.

This reminds me of one night where we were receiving a similar report at K4NWS, and a forecaster craned his head over and said “I know exactly what he is trying to say”. That report and a quick radar confirmation was the basis of the warning that was soon issued.

In any case, that’s why I have the NWS Severe Storm Reporting Hotline 1-800-856-0758 in my phone. I have used the line before and will again. I’ve used it when in other counties and I’ve used it locally when I’ve realized that I was going to lose crucial lead time trying to convince an NCS that “I really know what I’m looking at…I really do…really”.

And I figure they at the NWS are the best qualified to declare whether my report and I are as nutty as a pecan pie or not.

Just because we emphasize getting reports of tornadoes, funnel clouds, wall clouds, hail 1 inch in diameter or greater, wind gusts over 58 MPH, flooding and storm damage, doesn’t mean that the NWS is not interested when other phenomena taught in the Advanced & Graduate presentations are spotted, Otherwise they wouldn’t bother presenting them in the classes and webinars.

So, with that lengthy introduction, I present the following NWS storm spotter presentations.

These are in chronological order, and many examples are given. That way you have a choice as to location and length. Or you can “immerse” yourself in the training, looking at them all and letting it thoroughly soak into the nooks and crannies of your cranium.

Presentations will be slightly different for each location, because of variations in local climatology, presenter experience level, and if the same presenter, differing recollections coming to mind during different sessions
NWS South Burlington VT SKYWARN Training – May 26, 2011 – 1:35:34

NWS Lubbock SKYWARN Training Introduction – May 15, 2013 Introduction – 0:02:50 Part 1 – 0:04:36 Part 2 – 0:13:33 Part 3 – 0:13:32 Part 4 – 0:15:37 Part 5 – 0:09:06

NWS Birmingham, AL – Severe Weather – What You Need to Know – September 17, 2013 Part 1 – 00:08:42 Part 2 – 00:08:16 Part 3 – 00:12:33

NWS Indianapolis IN Weather 2015 NWS STORM SPOTTER TRAINING March 26, 2015 Full – 1:29:29
NWS Norman OK Advanced Storm Spotter Webinar – April 7, 2015 – Full – 1:35:48

NWS Lubbock Skywarn Advanced Spotter Training – May 5, 2015 – 1:14:49

NWS Northern Indiana – 2015 Skywarn Spotter Training – June 19, 2015 – Part 1 – 00:04:12 – Part 2 – 00:05:40 – Part 3 – 00:03:33 – Part 4 – 00:08:58 – Part 5 – 00:07:38 – Part 6 – 00:14:44

NWS Memphis Skywarn Spotter Training Class – October 29, 2015 – 2:01:34

NWS Amarillo, TX Skywarn – Spotter training Basic – March 3, 2016 – 1:22:33

NWS Amarillo, TX Skywarn – Spotter training Advance – March 3, 2016 – 1:01:34

NWS Indianapolis IN Weather 2016 NWS STORM SPOTTER TRAINING March 4, 2016 – 1:48:19

NWS Memphis Advanced Storm Spotter Class – March 29, 2016 – 02:12:40

NWS Binghamton, NY Basic Skywarn Training – May 11, 2016 – Part 1 – 00:12:39 – Part 2 – 00:07:47 – Part 3 – 00:09:42

NWS Des Moines Storm Spotter Training – June 23, 2016 – Part 1 – 00:35:37 -Part 2 – 00:49:01

So, go get some hot chocolate and “mushmellows”, get cozy, watch, learn and enjoy!


Goofy Reports I’ve Heard Through The Years

“Victims were taken to the hospital by air and some by helicopter” (thank goodness there was a blimp race that weekend)

“Reports of brides with ice and accidents with people sliding off roads” (bride with oversized diamonds, too much booze and zooming Ferrari’s never mix)
“Getting reports of deer seen flying through the air” (Rudolph, perhaps?)
“Nicole size hail near Vicksburg Mall” (Was it Nicole Kidman or Nicole Richie size? There is a difference, after all.)

“Viewer reporting golf balls in Waterproof, LA” (Is it hail or debris from the golf course? And, more importantly, was this before or after Waterproof proved to be leaky and started flooding?)

Marks Almanac

Originally the fourth Roman Month, June at one time had 29 days, until Julius Caesar in a glow of inspiration added the 30th day.

What June was named for is uncertain. Some say it was named for Juno, wife & sister of Jupiter. Juno was the goddess of marriage and a married couple’s household, so some consider it good luck to be married in this month, which is why June has become a month for so many marriages.

The beginning of meteorological Summer is June 1.

Storm activity retains many of the characteristics of spring, but more and more the pattern takes on the summer pattern of pop-up thunderstorms.

Hurricane season begins, June 1, however June hurricanes are usually small and of minor intensity, occurring roughly once every two years.

The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook from the National Hurricane Center is calling for an “above normal” year with 11 – 17 named storms, 5 – 9 hurricanes and 2 – 4 major hurricanes.

The 2017 North Atlantic hurricane names are: Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia, Lee, Maria, Nate, Ophelia, Philippe, Rina, Sean, Tammy, Vince &
Whitney. Arlene has already come and gone, as the first April Tropical Storm since 1851.

The centers for June Tropical Cyclone activity are the extreme Western Caribbean, with the storm tracks striking the Yucatan or veering toward Western Florida & the Southwestern Gulf of Mexico, with other storm tracks aiming toward the Mexican mainland.

The center of maximum tornadic activity shifts northward over Kansas and Iowa. Activity in Texas and Oklahoma dies down. There is a 5% decrease in tornadic activity over the May average & by June 4th 50% of the years tornadoes have occurred.

Looking skyward, Mercury (about magnitude +0.2) is deep in the glow of sunrise.

Venus (magnitude –4.6) reaches her highest point in the morning sky, or Greatest Eastern Elongation on June 3, when she will be 45.9 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Venus since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the bright planet in the eastern sky before sunrise.

Mars (magnitude +1.7, in Taurus) glimmers very low in evening twilight. Look for it just above the west-northwest horizon, 22° (two fists at arm’s length) lower left of the star Capella.

Jupiter (magnitude –2.3, in Virgo) glares high and bright in the southern sky during evening. No other point is nearly so bright. The star Spica, noticeably bluer, glitters 11° lower left of it. In a telescope, Jupiter is starting to shrink as Earth pulls ahead of it in our faster orbit around the Sun.

Saturn (magnitude +0.1, at the Ophiuchus-Sagittarius border) rises around the end of twilight and glows highest in the south in the early-morning hours. Redder star Antares (magnitude +1.0) twinkles 17° to Saturn’s right or lower right. Saturn will reach “Opposition” on the night of June 14th. When the ringed planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than any other time of the year and will be visible all night long. This is the best time to view and photograph Saturn and its moons. A medium-sized or larger telescope will allow you to see Saturn’s rings and a few of its brightest moons.

Uranus (magnitude 5.9, in Pisces) is still hidden in the glow of dawn.

Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Aquarius) is low in the east-southeast before the first light of dawn.

June’s Full Moon is “Strawberry Moon” in Native American folklore. This will occur on June 9 at 8:10 AM CDT. It is called “Strawberry Moon” for it signals the time to start harvesting strawberries, as it is peak strawberry ripening time. Other names are “Rose Moon” & “Honey Moon”.

Summer Solstice will occur at 11:24 PM CDT on June 20. The North Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its northernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer at 23.44 degrees north latitude. This is the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of winter in the Southern Hemisphere.

New Moon will occur June 23 at 9:31 PM CDT. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

Mark June 25 on your calendar and think about Christmas. Why? Because this is how Christmas, which is six months away, feels like in Australia and Brazil on December 25.

The June Bootids Meteor Shower will occur from June 26th until July 2nd. It peaks on June 27th. Normally the shower is very weak, with a Zenith Hourly Rate or ZHR of 1 or 2, but occasional outbursts produce a hundred or more meteors per hour. The source of the June Bootids is Comet 7P/Pons-Winnecke, which orbits the Sun once every 6.37 years.

3488 planets beyond our solar system have now been confirmed as of May 18, per NASA’s
Exoplanet Archive


This month’s meeting will be on June 13 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
ALERT Newsletter

Mark’s Weatherlynx
Weather Resource Database

Hi Everyone,

I hope this finds you doing well & that you have been enjoying these spring days.

Our May 9 ALERT meeting will feature our annual elections.

If you are a paid up Operational or Supporting Member, which is a member interested in Amateur Radio, Skywarn or Emergency Communications, but doesn’t have a ham license (yet), you may vote in the 2017 – 2018 ALERT leadership elections.

The officers will assume their positions at the July meeting.

July is also when ALERT dues are due. Remember, if you wish to respond to ALERT callouts or serve as an officer you MUST be current with your dues.

I hope to see you there!


For Your Viewing Pleasure – Part 1
(Courtesy Of ABC 33/40)

Recently ABC 33/40 presented its one day weather seminar – Storm Alert XTREME. These presentations are one of the best outreach tools for reaching the general public with severe weather information and training, since as everyone knows that “Spann’s The Man”, and that’s
a powerful incentive to attend.

In case you, as I did, happened to miss the event, we are in luck as ABC 33/40 has posted videos of the event on YouTube.

The following are the videos of both the 2016 & 2017 events. They are divided into segments and I included the runtime of each, so you know how manage your viewing time, as the presentations are around four hours long.

ABC 33/40 Storm Spotter Xtreme – April 9, 2016
Part 1 – 1:56:52
Part 2 – 0:30:01
Part 3 – 1:44:52

ABC 33/40 Storm Spotter Xtreme – April 8, 2017
Part 1 – 2:56:56
Part 2 – 0:56:57

Another set of videos I am including are ABC 33/40’s coverage of the April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak, which hit in two major waves.

The first video is wall to wall coverage as the morning wave of storms moved through.

ABC 33/40 Coverage of the April 27, 2011 Outbreak (3:30am-9:00am)

The second wave of afternoon storms are covered first by four sets of videos, the first three running around 15 minutes each covering from roughly 2:00 PM to 2:45 PM.

ABC 33/40 Coverage of the April 27, 2011 Outbreak (2:00 to 2:15 pm)

ABC 33/40 Coverage of the April 27, 2011 Outbreak (2:15 to 2:30 pm)

ABC 33/40 Coverage of the April 27, 2011 Outbreak (2:30 to 2:45 pm)

*Note that there is an overlap between this source and the next video posted by ABC 33/40, which picks up continuous wall to wall coverage.

ABC 33/40 Coverage of the April 27, 2011 Outbreak (2:45 to 11:30 pm)

These videos are important both from a historical perspective and in the case of the Jefferson County coverage, as a reminder that portions of Jefferson County suffered extreme damage also.

Last year a major network carried a documentary covering the April 27th tornado outbreak. It covered Hackleberg, Phil Campbell and extensively covered the devastation and recovery in Tuscaloosa. I waited anxiously to see their coverage of the damage cause by the same tornado in Jefferson County, but, instead of mentioning anything at all, credits rolled and a sitcom came on instead.

This is not unusual. In most coverage of the April 27th outbreak, Jefferson County is usually only briefly mentioned, if it is mentioned at all.

While I don’t want to sound like I’m in any way downplaying Tuscaloosa’s tragedy, which I most assuredly am not, for they suffered horrific loses both in people and property, it must be remembered that 21 souls were taken in Jefferson County by the same tornado, now evolved from a strangely photogenic storm into a grotesquely unphotogenic 1.5 mile wide mass of destruction, as Concord, parts of Pleasant Grove, McDonald’s Chapel, Pratt City and Smithfield were flattened or swept away. These should not be forgotten.

The NWS in its final storm summary describes the scenario as follows:

“The tornado crossed CR 99 and moved into western Jefferson County, 4 miles north of Abernant.

In the Concord area, the tornado became violent once again with total destruction noted to a few small retail shops along County Road 46. Only piles of debris were left on the foundation. In addition, several cinder block homes were completely destroyed with debris swept away (EF-4). Numerous other homes in the area were destroyed with only a few interior walls left standing.

The tornado continued northeastward out of the Concord area and into the Pleasant Grove community. EF-4 damage was prevalent here, with slabs wiped clean, though the debris from each home had not been removed by the winds. The majority of it remained within a couple of yards of the home. It was here in Pleasant Grove where evidence of vehicles being moved by the winds become obvious, though most were only tossed 10 to 15 yards if they were picked up at all. Additionally, wind rowing of debris was evident throughout the Pleasant Grove community which is characteristic of a storm of this magnitude.

The tornado quickly moved out of the Pleasant Grove area and into the McDonald Chapel community. It was here in McDonald Chapel where evidence of a slight weakening of the tornado became clear. No vehicles were tossed, only pushed slightly from their original position. Many homes in this area were constructed by the method of pier and beam foundation, which led to some of the major destruction, as this construction will not withstand winds of this magnitude. A four-sided brick home in the same area only lost a roof and no exterior walls, which is indicative of EF-2 damage. At least one death occurred here.

After the tornado moved through the McDonald Chapel area, it moved into the area of Smithfield Estates, with significant home damage along Cherry Avenue between Daniel Payne Drive and Veterans Memorial Drive. Numerous homes sustained damage in this area, and a 2-story apartment complex had a large portion of its roof lifted and removed. The Bethel Baptist Church also sustained significant damage to its roof, though the main structure of the building was still intact. The damage sustained in this area is consistent with EF-2 wind damage. Although not a main damage indicator, there was also evidence of vehicles being moved, but only a couple of feet.

By the time the tornado reached Interstate 65, it was evident that the storm was losing its energy. The damage in the Fultondale area included folded highway light poles along the interstate, and roof damage to the Days Inn on U.S. Highway 31. To the east of US-31, the damage quickly diminished from EF-2 intensity to EF-1 and EF-0. The tornado lifted just to the west of Alabama Highway 79, about 2 miles north of the city of Tarrant, though the storm was not done. The storm did regenerate itself and eventually put down the EF-4 tornado in the Ohatchee area.”

Of the 64 people killed by this one massive storm, the 21 from Jefferson County, caused Jefferson County to be ranked fifth in the number people killed that stormy day. Tuscaloosa County was first having lost 43, then Dekalb County 35, Franklin County 26 and Marion County 25.

I watched this storm from Red Mountain knowing I was watching people die.

Let us never forget them.

I know I never will.


Mark’s Almanac

May is the fifth month & third month of the Roman calendar. May is named for the Greek goddess Maia, who was identified with, Bona Dea, the Goddess of Fertility, who was celebrated in May.

Since ancient times the first day of the month, “May Day” has been a time of celebration. In Rome it honored Flora, the goddess of flowers.

On May the fifth Mexican’s celebrate Cinco De Mayo, the celebration Mexico’s 1862 victory over Napoleon III’s forces at Puebla. This is not, as many assume, Mexico’s Independence Day, which is actually on September 16.

Rainfall decreases in May as the Azores-Bermuda High strengthens, expands Westward over the Southeastern US & begins rerouting storm systems northward.

The door opens to the Gulf of Mexico & Gulf moisture spreads northward over the continent.

The center of maximum tornadic activity also shifts northward over the Nation’s Heartland. May is the peak tornado month, with a 42% increase over April’s amount.

Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15, and although the North Atlantic hurricane season has not arrived, occasionally a tropical system will form in the Gulf of Mexico. In 110 years there have been 14 named storms.

Looking towards the sky, Mercury, at the beginning of the month is lost in the glare of the Sun, but, as the month progresses he reemerges in the morning sky and by May 17 will reach his highest point in the sky or “Greatest Western Elongation” of 25.8 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise.

Brilliant Venus, magnitude -4.7 shines low in the east as dawn brightens. In a telescope it’s a crescent, thickening a little every morning. She is climbing in altitude and will read her highest point in the morning sky or “Greatest Western Elongation” on June 3, when she will be 45.9 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Venus since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the bright planet in the eastern sky before sunrise.

Mars, magnitude +1.6 in Taurus glows in the west in late twilight.

Jupiter, shining very brightly at magnitude -2.4 in Virgo, is in the southeast at nightfall. It’s highest in the south by 11 or midnight daylight saving time. The star Spica, just a trace bluer, hangs 9° lower left of it, and 250 light years more distant.

Saturn, magnitude +0.3 in Sagittarius rises around 11 PM or midnight and glows highest in the south before dawn, upper right of the Sagittarius Teapot. 470 light years beyond, super red giant Antares (magnitude +1.0) twinkles 18° to Saturn’s right in the early-morning hours.

This region of the sky has always been one of my favorite places to explore with binoculars, as you are looking into Sagittarius Arm of the Milky Way and toward the center of the galaxy. Give me a dark sky away from the city lights, a pair of binoculars, and I will easily become lost for hours draped on a car hood drifting among the star clouds and nebulae of Sagittarius. It’s almost like really being “up there”.

Uranus is hidden in the glare of the Sun.

Neptune is hidden the glow of dawn.

The Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower, an above average shower, peaks May 6 & 7. It is capable of producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak, but, most of the activity is seen in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, the rate can reach about 30 meteors per hour, which is still a decent shower. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet Halley, due to return in a mere 44 years in the summer of 2061. The shower runs annually from April 19 to May 28. The waxing gibbous moon will block out many of the fainter meteors this year. But if you are patient, you should be able to catch quite a few of the brighter ones. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

Full Moon will occur May 10th at 7:42 AM CDT. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. May’s Moon is “Flower Moon” in Native American folklore, because of the abundance of spring flowers. It has also been called “Corn Planting Moon” & “Milk Moon”.

New Moon will occur May 25 at 2:45 PM CDT. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky This is the best time of the month to observe faint deep sky objects such as galaxies and star clusters, as there will be no moonlight to wash out the evening sky.

3475 planets beyond our solar system have now been confirmed as of April 13, per NASA’s Exoplanet Archive

Last but, not least, World Naked Gardening Day will occur May 7.

Make sure to wear sunscreen, as some places are best not sunburned.


This month’s meeting will be on May 9 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
ALERT Newsletter

Mark’s Weatherlynx
Weather Resource Database

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