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ALERT Newsletter

Hi everyone and welcome to the October ALERT Newsletter.
Fall has arrived and with it we can look forward to the changing of the fall leaves, the occasional nip in the air, and the Hobgoblins that will visit us at the end of the month.
October is a fun time of the year, being not too hot and not too cold – the “Goldilocks” of seasons.  
It is a time to enjoy fall football, the baseball playoffs and the last outdoor adventures of the year.
Here is hoping that you enjoy the days that this season brings, and the pretty weather October brings.  Letting you rest before the storms of Fall.




Proposed Amendment 6
On September 12, 2017 the ALERT Board of Directors met and following proposed amendment to the ALERT Bylaws was discussed and approved by unanimous vote of those attending: Casey Benefield, NZ20, Ronnie King, WX4RON, Johnnie Knobloch, KJ4OPX, Russell Thomas, KV4S, Dale Chambers, KD4QHZ and Mark Wells, WD4NYL.
In accordance with the Bylaws, notice is hereby given that the following Amendment will be considered and voted upon at the regular membership meeting on November 14th 2017.
Amendment 6 ARTICLE VIIISection 1.  The Fourth Amendment of the ALERT Constitution and Bylaws is hereby repealed.
Section 2.The Board of Directors shall be composed of the President, immediate past President, Trustee of the station and 2 operational “At Large” members appointed by the President.
The “At Large” members shall serve terms of one and two years, the two-year member being chosen every even year.  And, are eligible for reappointment if so desired by the President.
The President shall appoint members to fill any vacancies occurring within the year Section 3.This action shall become effective July 2018.”


Rationale:The 4th Amendment was originally created to compensate for the absence of a permanent member who at the time, had duties in another organization, and was unable to attend the board meetings. Later, that member stepped down, allowing for a new member to take his place.  
By reverting to the original Board makeup it eliminates the possibility of a tie vote.
Section 3 prevents having to change composition of the Board in the current ALERT year.
For reference, current Amendment 4 reads as follows:
Section 2. The Board of Directors shall be composed of the President, immediate past President, Trustee of the station and 3 operational “At Large” members appointed by the President. 
Two “At Large” members shall serve terms of one year and one “At Large” member shall serve for two years. The two-year member will be chosen every even year. Members are eligible for reappointment if so desired by the President. 
The President shall appoint members to fill any vacancies occurring within the year. (Ratified June 9, 2015)

Birmingham NWS Fall 2017 Spotter Courses

The Birmingham NWS office will present several online Basic Spotter Courses and a single Advanced Spotter Course this fall. These online classes allow individuals to complete the course(s) in the comfort of their own home or office with the use of  meeting site.
By attending any course, which runs about 1.5 – 2 hours, individuals or a group of individuals will become SKYWARN Spotters. 
Unless you are in need of or just want to attend a refresher Course, you do not need to attend more than one Basic SKYWARN Course, as the material covered is the same; however it is required you to attend at least one Basic SKYWARN Course before taking the Advanced SKYWARN Course. 
These courses are two-way, meaning you will be able to interact with the meteorologist leading the training. You will be muted while training is in-progress, and unmuted when applicable (e.g., for questions); or, you can use the built-in chat feature.
The current schedule is as follows:
Basic Class            Wednesday, October 4 at 1:00 PM    Online  Use Session Code 337-446-995Basic Class            Tuesday, October 17 at 1:00 PM       Online  Use Session Code 710-382-215Basic Class        Thursday, October 19 at 6:30 PM     Online  Use Session Code 696-520-589Advanced Class    Tuesday, October 24 at 6:30 PM       Online  Use Session Code 495-34-822
Enter the session code at
There will be one live Basic Class this fall:
Basic Class            Tuesday, November 7 at 6:00 PM    Northport/Tuscaloosa Alabama Northport Public Safety Building 3721 26th Avenue, Northport, AL

These classes will help you provide the NWS the vital “ground truth” information they need to verify radar indications, target their attention and help you relay reports in a clear manner to the NWS, either directly via the ……. number or via chat or amateur radio.  This knowledge helps Skywarn Net Control stations filter reports, by giving them knowledge of what reporting stations are trying to describe.  This way they can tell if the report is a valid report, an invalid report by an overly excited operator or a valid, but, poorly described report, which without this knowledge would be mistakenly dismissed.
For further information on these classes visit:
The following article is based on an actual incident which occurred recently where it was requested that 911 be called, but no further information was given.  By the time the needed information was received so that 911 could dispatch the correct department going to the correct location, the person had recovered to the point that he refused help when the paramedics arrived.  While the situation resolved itself with a happy ending, the potential for a tragedy was very real.
Just two simple missing items, namely the nature of the problem and the actual location within the generalized location froze the EMS response until the 911 operator could reach the person calling, and get the information needed to determine WHO should respond and WHERE they should respond.  This situation was complicated by the fact that the caller had hung up the phone and wandered away to stare at the scene.
In response to this I generated some guidelines and posted them on social media and at work to help people know what to do when they need to call 911.  
Before I begin those guidelines it should be mentioned that if you find yourself needing 911 whether being at the scene of an incident, whether it be an accident, a medical emergency or a disaster, don’t assume that someone has or is calling 911.
As a paramedic recently told us in a CPR class which I attended, “Just because you see a dozen people will cellphones out, don’t assume that anyone is calling 911.  Most are taking pictures so they can post it on social media”.  “If you are the one giving CPR point to a specific person and direct them to call 911.”
Here then are Mark’s Guidelines For Calling 911:
“’CALL 911!’(‘click’ as the caller hangs up) 
That is NOT how to tell someone to call 911, NOR is the similar “SEND HELP” (‘click”) the way to call 911.
If a situation arises where you or someone you ask needs to call 911 there two pieces of information the 911 operator will absolutely need.
1. Nature of the emergency. 
Even if you can only say or text “fire” it will help in getting the correct department heading your way. A lady in labor doesn’t need the SWAT team & the only thing paramedics can do with an active shooter is throw syringes at them like darts and squirt them with IV fluids. 
A wreck and an armed robbery require different responses. The same is true for heart attacks vs a staple in the hand.
2. The exact location of the emergency and the victim. 
If you call from a cell phone the address will not be displayed on the dispatcher’s caller ID, the call will automatically be routed to the nearest 911 center by the cell tower, which may be in a different city or different county. If you are calling form a cell phone or if you are calling from different location than the scene, they will need the correct address of the incident. And, just saying “the mall” doesn’t help at all, WHERE in the mall?  Some malls, for example The Summit, are almost cities within cities.
The same is true of roadways.  They will need the street name, cross street, highway mile marker or some sort of address to pin point the location.  “By the service station on Green Springs” won’t help.  There are seven service stations I can think of on Green Springs and Green Springs itself is at least five miles long.  BE SPECIFIC.
Just these two missing pieces of information will freeze up or slow the EMS response time to a snail’s pace, because they have no idea of the situation they are heading into or even where the situation is actually located.
Also, unless you, for safety sake cannot remain on the phone or are giving CPR, STAY ON OR NEAR THE PHONE so the dispatcher can get any other needed information.
Remember, in an emergency every second counts.”
One item I will throw in is that many parents give their children old cellphones to play with, not knowing that even though the phone may be deactivated, they are by federal requirements still able to call 911. 
Children playing and calling 911 have tied up operators nationwide as they have to deal with Little Timmy’s call.
So, if you give your child a phone to play with, just remove the battery.
This information, is really common sense, but, apparently not as widely known as it should be.So I would urge you to share this information with others, including family members and coworkers.
Just the act of sharing may save lives. 
Maybe even your own.

“Lessons Learned From Irma & Friends”
In last month’s newsletter I discussed emergency preparedness and included a brief section titled “Lessons Learned From Katrina & Friends”.
Since then Irma and Maria have occurred and I feel the list should be updated with some lessons learned from these storms also.
1.  Just as one should be aware of the National press in some cases “over embellishing” situations, one should also beware of “know it all’s” downplaying the situation and ridiculing those showing concern and taking the situation seriously.  
The danger of people who choose to do this is that it causes people to second guess their resolve and actions and leads them to delay in preparing, and then when it is clear they should have already taken action, it is much harder to do so due to gridlocked highways blocking escape, and if riding out the storm, finding massive shortages of needed materials, including time, as the storm is literally knocking on their door.
Critics become unusually silent once this occurs.  Comfortably silent, I might add, as they usually live 600 miles from the affected area, and suffer no consequences from their ill-advised words.
2. As mentioned in last month’s article, if the NWS says “prepare” – you had better prepare.  You first choice for information should always be the local NWS office and meteorologists local to your area.  They will know the local factors and quirks, whether it is the influence of terrain, or unexplained local quirks that help make up the microclimate, which sometimes cause conditions to defy the textbooks, which out of town forecasters, no matter how good they are in their own locale, will not be aware of.  That also applies to major “alternant weather sources” such as The Weather Channel, Accuweather and Intellicast. Though they are good resources, if there is a local weather source, go with them.
3.  Beware of bogus forecasts on social media and “armchair meteorologists”, such as I.  Follow Number 2 above.
4. Gather and store the necessary hardware needed to secure your location from the storm when they skies are blue.  Buying hurricane supplies at Christmas may sound strange, but, it “stacks the deck” in your favor by not having to desperately search items when the sky starts falling in.
5. August’s solar eclipse resulted in the largest peacetime mass migration in history.  Returning eclipse viewers found that even if the major traffic routes were gridlocked, the alternant routes were wide open.  This is good information for evacuations as well.
Get a map, and learn how to use it, and look for backup routes.  Study and learn when no storm is near, and desperation isn’t clawing at your door.  
Understand that smartphone resources such as Google Maps are internet dependent and that if you lose signal, you are navigationally blind.  
There are GPS apps for smartphones that do work, so make sure you have the real thing.  Better yet, get a portable GPS unit also, so you won’t drain your phone battery, and so if one method fails, you still have the other.
Also, be aware that ALL maps, whether paper, Google Maps, MapQuest or GPS systems are out of date by some degree, as roadwork is constantly being done, and it takes time for the manufacturers to update their data.  Also, on occasion, database mistakes are made. 
For instance, unless they have corrected the error, if you put 1 Robert Smith Drive, Birmingham AL in MapQuest, it will direct you to Robert Jemison Drive instead.  As I tell people, “you have to put 1 Robert S Smith Drive. Don’t leave out the ‘S’”.
6. You can extend your cellphone battery life for hours by going into settings and choosing “low power mode”, turning off Wi-Fi if you are not using it and going into “airplane mode”.
7. You can extend your cellphone battery for days by having a “contact person” and having a prearranged contact schedule, where the person knows “I will call you daily around 6PM”, and turning the phone off between those times, until you regain the ability to recharge the battery.
8. When considering preparing, in addition to the need of preparing for the situation approaching, also factor in the need for preparing for those who will be preparing and are clearing out the stores.


Mark’s Almanac
“This place gets more rain in 12 months than some places get in a year” – Russell Coight – “All Aussie Adventures” 2001The tenth Month, October is so named because it is the eighth month on the Roman calendar.  To the Slavs of Eastern Europe it is called “yellow month,” from the fading of the leaves, while to the Anglo-Saxons it was known as Winterfylleth, because at this full moon (fylleth) winter was supposed to begin.
By whichever name you call it, October is a mild and dry month, the driest of the year, in fact.  And, it is a sunny month with the amount of possible sunshine reaching the ground in the 60% or greater range.
Weather shifts from autumn pattern to revisiting the summer pattern and back again. The Azores-Bermuda High shifts eastward into the Atlantic, but, leaves weakened high pressure centers over the Virginias, which still try to block out approaching fronts.
October is usually a quite month for tornadoes, with a 40% decrease in activity.  Nationwide an average of 28 tornadoes occur in October and those tornadoes are usually weak.
Our Hurricane threat continues, with hurricane activity increasing during the first half of the month, concentrating in the Caribbean, both from formation in the Caribbean and from the long track Cape Verde hurricanes, which enter the Caribbean.  And, we still have the little “gifts” that the Gulf of Mexico occasionally will provide.  
Florida, due to its low latitude, becomes especially vulnerable to hurricanes.  As Colorado State University researchers note, since 1851, Florida has endured 30 October hurricane landfalls, nearly triple the next highest state — Louisiana, which has had eight. Also, about 60 percent of all U.S. hurricanes that made landfall after September 26 have done so in Florida.  One factor being the cold fronts of Fall penetrating the Gulf and then deflecting storms towards the West coast of Florida.
Luckily after the second half of the month the activity will begin a steady decrease.  
28% of the year’s hurricanes occur in October.
From 1851 – 2015 there have been 338 Tropical Storms and 203 hurricanes, 54 of which made landfall in the United States.  
Some notable October hurricanes are:
The Great Hurricane of 1780, also known as Huracán San Calixto, the Great Hurricane of the Antilles, and the 1780 Disaster, the deadliest Atlantic hurricane, which killed between 20,000 to 22, 000 people in the Lesser Antilles as it passed through from October 10 – 16, 1780.  It is possible that it had winds in excess of 200 MPH when it reached Barbados.  
Hurricane Hazel struck the Carolinas in 1954.  Weather satellite did not yet exist and the Hurricane Hunters were unable to observe the core of the storm until it neared land on October 15.  Hazel made landfall just west of the North Carolina/South Carolina border slightly northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with a Category 4 intensity of 130 mph.
Hurricane Wilma still holds the record as the most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin.  In 24 hours Wilma went from a Category 1 storm on October 18 to a Category 5 storm with 185 MPH Maximum Sustained Winds.  She weakened to Category 4 and struck the Yucatan, then restrengthened and struck Cape Romano Florida as a Category 3 storm on October 24, 2005.
Hurricane Mitch became a Category 1 hurricane on October 24, 1998 and within 48 hours grew to Category 5 intensity, and though he weakened to Category 1 before making landfall, he became the second deadliest hurricane on record killing over 11,000, with nearly that number missing in Central America due to intense rainfall and mudslides.  He would eventually reach the United States making landfall near Naples Florida on November 5.
Beware of October hurricanes, for as Wilma and Mitch have demonstrated, they can experience explosive growth.
October Tropical Cyclone Breeding Grounds

This is the month for Alabama’s version of “Indian Summer’s” arrival.  
Technically speaking Indian Summer doesn’t occur until “Squaw Winter” or the first frost arrives, but exact date when Indian Summer arrives varies with latitude.  
We live in Alabama, and while the earliest frosts have been known to occur by October 17, they usually wait until November. So, we, in our milder climate call the first warm up after the first cool down “Indian Summer”.
The Yellow Giant Sulphur Butterflies are very noticeable as they continue to drift South-Southeast on their migration towards Florida.  They prefer red things & if you have red flowers they will zero in on them. 
The Monarchs also will be seen gliding by in their migration towards Central America.
Fall colors will become prominent & by late October & early November the leaves will be reaching their peak fall colors.
Looking towards the sky, Mercury is disappearing into the glow of sunrise, farther to the lower left of bright Venus and faint Mars every morning.
Venus shines at magnitude –3.9 as the brilliant “Morning Star” low due east in the dawn. Every day it’s sinking down lower toward Mars, and farther away from the star Regulus above it.Mars, at magnitude +1.8.0, is low in the dawn, 1/200th as bright as Venus. Use binoculars to look for it below or lower left of Venus. Their separation is only 3° on the September 30th. They’ll closely pass by each other on October 5th.Jupiter, magnitude –1.7 is disappearing into the sunset. Use binoculars and try to spot him just above the west-southwest horizon during bright twilight.Saturn, magnitude +0.5 in Ophiuchus to the right of Sagittarius, glows in the south-southwest at dusk. The star Antares twinkles 13° to Saturn’s lower right. Uranus shining at magnitude 5.7, in Pisces is well up in the east by mid to late evening. The blue-green planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun, when it reaches Opposition October 19. 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 Uranus. However, due to its distance, it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
Neptune shining at magnitude 7.8, in Aquarius is well up in the southeast by mid to late evening.
October’s Full Moon will occur October 5.  The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 18:40 UTC or 1:40 PM CDT. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Hunters Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. This moon has also been known as the Travel Moon and the Blood Moon. 
The Draconid Meteor Shower will peak on October 8. This minor shower is produced by dust grains left behind by Comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner, which was discovered in 1900. This shower, which runs from October 6 – 10, is unusual in that it is best observed in the early evening, instead of the early morning hours as with most other showers.
Unfortunately, the nearly full moon will block all but the brightest meteors this year. If you are extremely patient, you may be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be in the early evening from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Draco, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
New Moon will occur October 19. The Moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 19:12 UTC or 2:12 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 Orionid Meteor Shower peaks on October 21 & 22. The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak This shower, which runs from October 2 to November 7, is produced by the broad debris trail of Halley’s Comet. The crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for what should be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
This is the time of year when the rich star clouds of the Milky Way in Cygnus crosses the zenith, looking like a ghostly band overhead in the hour after nightfall is complete. The Milky Way now rises straight up from the southwest horizon, passed overhead, and runs straight down to the northeast.  Later at midnight, Orion the Hunter and the stars of winter rise over the eastern horizon, reminding us to enjoy the mild weather while it is here, for this season, as all seasons, is but a fleeting moment in the never ending waltz of time.
3513 planets beyond our solar system have now been confirmed as of September 28, per NASA’s Exoplanet Archive

This month’s meeting will be on October 10 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 Newsletter
Mark’s Weatherlynx Weather Resource Database

Hi everyone,

I hope this finds you well after last night’s windy stormy night.

I have been playing with a new toy – NOAA’s GOES 16 satellite. This satellite has the highest resolution I have seen, and has many modes and bandwidths to play with.

The site gives you access to GOES 16 which covers our half of the globe and Japan’s Himawari 8 satellite, which covers the other side of the globe.

If you are a weatherholic such as I am, I urge to give this site a try. It’s addictive!

Our next ALERT meeting will be Tuesday August 12 and I hope to see you there!




Did We Forget?

As I write this newsletter the recovery efforts continue in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. This storm is one of the most destructive storms we have ever seen, both due to the winds which, with the storm moving so very slowly, subjected the area to hour upon hour of hurricane force and greater winds and the unimaginable rain which the storm brought in from the Gulf.

One reoccurring question I see on social media is “Didn’t anyone learn anything from Katrina?”

The answer is of course “yes”.

Realistically speaking even the most prepared community on Earth cannot sustain this type of onslaught and not be expected to be overwhelmed. The thought that any man-made infrastructure should be able to withstand this level of devastation is pure fantasy. But, even with this, the response seems, from this distance at least, considering the utter chaos, a much more united response than was the case with Katrina. I will admit, the distance may be giving us a blurred vision of reality, but, considering the long duration of the event, which wasn’t a “hit one day, start digging out the next” event, it seems to be going as about well as one could be expected, considering that disasters are seldom well organized, nice, neat, reet and petite affairs. They are hellacious and ugly, as with the scenes from Texas we can clearly see.

The main question I see asked is “why didn’t they evacuate”? The fact is, with the exception of the usual boneheads who think they can ride the storm out, the coastal areas did for the most part evacuate. With the inland areas the situation becomes more complicated. Though Houston is 40 miles inland the storm surge caused Galveston Bay to swell the San Jacinto and other rivers of the area, then the endless rain and the massive run off set in. It is impossible to predict the effect of 4 feet of water falling from the sky, and the added water from the runoff of nearby areas. Neighborhoods that had never flooded in history, and so logically would not be expected to flood, suddenly were going under water. The authorities attempted to go door by door telling people to get out. Some only had 15 minutes lead time.

I think of my neighborhood. I am on the side of a small hill about a quarter mile from Shades Creek and 1000 feet from a small tributary named Griffin Creek. It has never flooded here, and realistically it should never flood. But, also realistically if I got 4 feet of rain, the run off from Mountain Brook swells Shades Creek far out of its banks, then the storm sewers become overwhelmed causing Green Springs Highway to become Green Springs River, then, I could be in actual flood danger, even though it never has flooded and probably never will. So evacuating due to flooding never would cross my mind. That is until the events of this week made me think about it.

One of the lessons we did learn from Katrina and her sisters is that there are things we can do to make things better and things that make things worse.

One problem we have seen, as with other disasters, is while most people did take the situation seriously, some did not. Some of that blame, in Mark’s opinion, lies squarely with the national news media.

The national news media tends to; either as an attention grabber or I would hope due to genuine concern, over embellishes threats and situations, which eventually cause people to start tuning them out, due to hearing the same dire reports over and over and over again.

For example a major network regularly comes on with the headlines “Severe storms tear through the heartland, 54 million people lay in the danger zone”.

Well, theoretically that is correct, since the entire storm system, consisting of the low pressure system and the associated frontal system, may stretch north to south from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, and will as a whole move eastward over an area which has a population of 54 million.

But, 54 million people will not receive severe thunderstorms; some might, some may get “regular” thunderstorms, some just rain, some may get nothing but blue skies. The unlucky hundred or in severe instances, thousand that may suffer damage is a very small fraction, in the context of 54 million people. For the other 53, 999,000 who receive nothing remarkable it can lead to people developing an attitude of “oh, brother, here they go again….lets cry wolf to milk the ratings a few more times how about it” or “man St. Louis always gets clobbered, doesn’t it? Wonder why? We seem to be protected” This develops an attitude of its “the other guy’s problem” which further dulls people’s interest and reactions.

Another example occurred a couple of years ago when a tropical system struck the Carolinas. News networks dispatched reporters all along the coast. “Evacuations are ordered as the ‘monster storm’ nears the coast.” Well, this “monster storm” was barely a tropical storm. I remarked at that time that using such hyperbole would just serve to dull people’s reactions, and that we would pay the price for it someday when a true “monster storm” such as the next Katrina arrived, and that such terms and descriptions should be reserved for storms that qualified for the title.

Constantly hearing that every storm is a “monster storm” with “200 million in the storm’s path”, would put me to sleep also.

It is for this reason, and the tendency of the national news media in some cases to major in minor issues, while ignoring genuine problems that desperately need attention, that I take national news sources, whatever their bend or trend, with a major grain of salt.

Now if the NWS says “pay attention”, I pay attention. Likewise I trust our local broadcast meteorologists. If James Spann, J.P. Dice or Mark Prater says “something’s brewing”, I keep my already peeled weather eye, peeled even more.

Another problem which contributes to the chaos the fact that, human beings tend to be “reactive” rather than “proactive” creatures. We are very good to prepare for disasters AFTER the disaster has struck. After a Katrina or a major tornado outbreak we learn where and what our vulnerabilities are, begin corrective actions and begin preparing for the next event, by preparing kits, supplies, flooding emergency preparedness classes and such.

But, then as time passes and nothing else major happens, both memories and interest begin to fade.

For those who prepare it’s a three part problem.

The first problem is getting people to make any preparations at all. Some have a fatalistic “what’s the use? I’m gonna die anyway” attitude. Some think its all foolishness, pure and simple – period. Some assume the government or “that crazy old ‘prepper’ dude building that ark up the street will take care of me.” Many people read about preparing, say “that’s a great idea!” and then do nothing. Some assume they can’t afford to make any preparations, because it looks overwhelming and expensive.

The first three groups have willingly doomed themselves already, whether they know it or not. For the other two there is still hope.

For those who have read, gotten motivated, but, never actually began making emergency plans, there is no better time to start than right now, while the sun is shining. The first step is the hardest. So just go buy a candle and a Bic lighter, and it will automatically just keep going on from there.

For the latter group, I will say the trick to preparing affordably is to start slowly. Think “Dollar Tree is my friend.” You don’t have to spend a ton, to get a ton, so to speak. For instance, if you eat a can of beans, buy two or three cans to replace it. This gradually builds your pantry like they did in the “old days”.

My Mom & Dad lived through the Great Depression, when no one could afford anything, since no one was working and World War 2 where you couldn’t buy most anything as things were rationed or unavailable, the sources being in enemy hands. They learned how to value, save and prepare and always had food in the pantry when I was a kid, and I learned from their example.

I’ll throw this in that people often joke that the generation that lived through the Great Depression and World War 2 are “hoarders”. To me, if this is done in a controlled manner that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and I know that they valued things more and took better care of their things much better than my generation does. This also is a good thing, a trait to be emulated and a much better approach to life than the “tear it up & throw it away” mentality of today.

Also I don’t call preparing “hoarding”, I call it “the art of useful accumulation”.

If it is “hoarding” the most important commodity you can hoard is KNOWLEDGE. For without it, it doesn’t matter how many kits and supplies you have, you are helpless, because you don’t know what to do with the resources you have gathered, or how to improvise when things don’t exactly work as they should, if at all.

Items to consider when preparing for an emergency are emergency shelter options, such as tarps or tents and blankets to protect you from the elements. Water storage, water procurement and purification, non-perishable food, candles, lighters, matches and batteries, extra fuel for a portable stoves, and the stoves themselves, flashlights, lanterns and the kerosene for them, sanitation and first aid supplies, medicine, various tools for emergency repairs, including hammers, axes, saws, wrenches, nails, duct tape and cordage. Emergency cash in small bills should be kept, but nothing larger than $20s. Many Katrina evacuees had cash, but, it was all in $100 bills, and businesses soon could not make change, as they ran out of the smaller bills. Supplies for kids, including food, clothing and things to keep them occupied. Those with special needs and pets should be considered also.

I know this may sound like a lot, but, as I say, you start small and build slowly. It makes it manageable, affordable and prevents you from ending up either in the poor house or divorce court.

There are many excellent books available on the subject such as Cody Lundin’s books on survival and preparedness: “98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive“ and “When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need to Survive When Disaster Strikes”. Les Stroud’s Book “Survive!” and John “Lofty” Wiseman’s SAS Survival Manual, which is the most comprehensive book I’ve seen.

FEMA recommends a three-day supply of food and water – one gallon per person per day and food that will not spoil. To which I will harp, preferably not bread and milk which has a short shelf life. Why not choose cans of chili, stew, soup and other nutritious food & invest in an inexpensive portable stove for cooking them? Choose food you are used to eating. The familiarity is comforting and your tummy will appreciate it also.
One change of clothing and footwear per person
One blanket or sleeping bag per person
A first aid kit that includes your family’s prescription medications.
Emergency tools including a battery-powered radio, flashlights and plenty of extra batteries.
An extra set of car keys and a credit card, cash in small bills or traveler’s checks.
Sanitation supplies.
Special items for infants, the elderly, disabled family members & pets.
An extra pair of glasses.
Keep important family documents in a waterproof container.

I will add this, along with FEMA; the Red Cross, NOAA and emergency organizations in other countries also stress the 72 hour kit approach. But, as Katrina, Sandy, Harvey and major tornadoes have shown, in a major disaster 72 hours isn’t a drop in the bucket. The old Civil Defense fallout shelter recommendation of 2 weeks supplies seems more realistic. I would say at least a month of supplies is neither an unreasonable nor an unaffordable amount.

The second and third problems that those who do prepare run into, but which is never discussed is the false sense of security & the “what now” feeling that can creep in.

As to the first problem, the attitude is “all right! I’ve got my kit! All my bases are covered!” and then you move on to other things. Your kit is relegated to the closet, then to the garage, and then to the back of the garage, where it is buried behind the remains of that 57 Chevy you have been rebuilding for the last 29 years and then totally forgotten. Meanwhile the food and medicines reach and far exceed their expiration dates, the batteries corrode into bluish green powdery goo and mice eat a hole in the side of the kit making a cozy apartment in the backpack for themselves and the many generations that follow.

Then suddenly you need the kit, because “it” has finally happened. But, you can’t remember where you put the darned thing. Then finally remembering where, you sprout a hernia trying to get to it, an engine block being in the way, only to have the chewed up contents dump out of the rotted bottom of the pack all over creation. Then you break a toe by kicking the Chevy’s transmission, causing you to let loose a variety of colorful words that your six year old who is watching in turn will use with his teacher on Monday.

That’s why it is a good idea to keep the kit where you can reach it and check it regularly for expired contents, corroded batteries, holes, leaks, dust, must, busts, rust, crusts, crud, rot, roaches, mice, lice and mildew. The fun thing is that you will run into items you forgot you even had and which you were about to order on Amazon. So it’s like having a mini Christmas.

The third problem, the “what now” mindset occurs because you have done all the proper things. Everything is set and you are good to go. You are ready for whatever “Big One” comes your way. You don’t want the “Big One” to come, since after all you aren’t really THAT nutty, but you can’t really use any of the garbage you’ve collected either. So you sit waiting, waiting and waiting some more. You have basically become the curator of your own private preparedness museum.

That’s why I try to make everything I get multipurpose, where I can use it for camping and cookouts, for instance. It lets you practice, have some fun and keeps you a little more balanced mentally, for there are some nuts out there. Also, I keep studying the subject, and participate in mostly non-nutty online groups and forums, which helps keep the subject fresh on my mind.


There are other factors that work against personal and community preparedness. In time, after no further disasters have come near, communities start cutting corners and funding, people move on to other things and new people come on the scene who don’t know the history of the area’s disasters, the lessons learned or the accuracy or inaccuracy of the press/history accounts.

For press reports tend to evolve over time with them spanning the spectrum from the initial reports of survivors being drugged out hooligans in wild free for all’s over looted sneakers to the reports ten years later that cheerfully state that everywhere people were hugging, kissing and joyously singing Kumbayah as they passed out daisies and lotus blossoms, as love was in the air.

This leads to the illusion that “It couldn’t have been as bad the old folk say”, when in fact it was, if not worse.

All these things combine to create a scenario where we basically become doomed to repeat the same cycle of mistakes over and over again.

As an attempt to help break the cycle I will share these “Lessons Learned From Katrina & Friends”.

1. Don’t live in a state of denial. It COULD happen to you, and the “it” can range from a natural or manmade disaster, to you being in a wreck or having a major medical issue. The latter two may never make the news, but, on a personal level they are just as disastrous as any natural disaster.

2. Study and learn. Your supplies may float away, but, your knowledge won’t.

3. Have an emergency plan & emergency supplies. Keep both current. Supplies deteriorate and routes and relationships can change with time. Folk you once could depend on to help you in a time of need and could flee to may change; they becoming, as it were, strangers or they may pass away.

4. Some disasters come with little or no warning. Some are warned well in advance. Have reliable news/alert sources. Have a NOAA weather radio. If you have a smartphone, install apps from local and national media sources. Keep your eyes open and your ears perked.

5. Test equipment, for instance, for instance, emergency crank radios well before an emergency to see how they work, IF they work and how well you can actually depend on them. It is better to find out that they are junk now, than in the middle of a debris field.

6. Keep your cars tank no less than ¾ full. If you have to evacuate you may not be able to tank up, due either to the gas stations being inoperable, or you being in a literal “run for your life” scenario.

7. Know your escape routes from buildings and locations, and have alternate routes both to and from areas should the primary routes fail.

8. Know your local hazards and assets. I am vulnerable to tornadoes, man-made accidents and “incidents”, chemical spills and a low end earthquake danger. What are your dangers? What are your local assets, such as fire stations, hospitals, stores, and possible alternative water sources?

9. Prescriptions, debit cards and checks from local “Mom & Pop” pharmacies and banks could not be honored or verified after Katrina as the businesses were under water or destroyed. The major “Big Name” facilities however had much fewer issues. Cash in small bills was universally accepted.

These are just a few of the lessons learned. But, the most important lesson of all is to maintain a state of readiness so if the day comes that the authorities knock on your door at 2AM telling you to evacuate, you can do so rapidly.

And, do what they say. For your life may depend on it.




Mark’s Almanac

September is the ninth month of the year and the seventh month of the Roman calendar, which is where the month gets its name.

Temperatures are still hot at the beginning of the month, but, by months end, fall will definitely be felt.

Noticeable in September will be the thickening of the cat’s fur, as she begins growing her winter coat & the drift of Yellow Giant Sulphur Butterflies as they migrate towards Florida.

Weather starts shifting from the summer to autumn pattern and then back again. Storm activity resembles the August pattern, but the Bermuda High starts shifting southward and begins weakening, which weakens the blocking effect that has hampered fronts attempting to invade from the northwest.

September is the peak of the hurricane season, the actual peak being on September 10. This peak coincides with the time of “syzygy”, when the combination of the solar and lunar gravity and autumnal equinox combine to provide the highest astronomical tides of the year. Add a hurricane’s storm surge on top of this and you can have incredibly destructive flooding.

From 1851 – 2015 there have been 578 Tropical Storms and 398 hurricanes, 107 of which made landfall in the United States.

Some notable September hurricanes are:

The Galveston Hurricane of 1900, which was a Category 4 Storm whose storm surge overwhelmed Galveston Island, killing 8000 people, and is still the deadliest weather disaster in US history.

The Labor Day Hurricane of 1936, the most intense storm to strike the US, was a Category 5 storm which moved through the Florida Keys and along West Florida, literally sandblasting people to death.

And in my lifetime, Camille, a category 5 storm, and the second most intense storm to hit the US, which devastated Mississippi and Louisiana in 1969.

Andrew was a category 5 storm which devastated South Florida in 1992. The ruins of buildings destroyed are still visible today.

Opal, which weakened to a category 3 storm just before striking near Pensacola and then moving into and maintaining hurricane strength deep into Alabama as it crossed the length of the state in in 1995.

Ivan, the category 3 storm which struck Alabama & Florida in 2004, caused tremendous damage to Gulf Shores and extensive damage to the state’s electrical grid. At the height of the outages, Alabama Power reported 489,000 subscribers had lost electrical power—roughly half of its subscriber base.

Katrina, which weakened from a category 5 storm to a category 3 storm at landfall near Buras Louisiana in 2005. This storm caused catastrophic damage to Louisiana and Mississippi, parts of which are still being rebuilt to this day.

Rita, a category 3 storm which struck the Texas – Louisiana border in 2005, and, despite the distance, dropped 22 tornadoes over Western Alabama.

Wilma, the strongest Atlantic Basin hurricane with 185 MPH winds, weakened slightly before hitting the Yucatan Peninsula, and then strengthening to a category 3 storm before striking near Cape Romano Florida in 2005. Wilma would be the last major hurricane to strike the US until Harvey 12 years later.



September Tropical Cyclone Breeding Grounds

Looking skyward, at the beginning of the month Mercury is lost deep in the sunrise. As the month progresses he will rise higher and higher in the morning sky until September 12, when he will reach “Greatest Western Elongation” or his highest point above the Eastern horizon, 17.9 degrees from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury. Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise.

Venus shines brightly at magnitude –3.9 in the east before and during dawn. Look for the stars Castor and Pollux an Gemini The Twins, much fainter, above it. Look for Procyon, in the Little Dog, to its right. The triangle that Venus makes with Pollux and Procyon changes each morning.

Mars shines faintly at magnitude +1.8 very deep in the sunrise.

Jupiter shines brightly at magnitude –1.7, in Virgo, very low in the west-southwest during evening twilight. The fainter star Spica in Virgo glitters at magnitude +1.0 just 4° lower left of Jupiter.

Saturn, drifting in the legs of Ophiuchus, glows steadily in the south-southwest at magnitude +0.4 at nightfall. The fiery star Antares, less bright, twinkles 12° to Saturn’s lower right in Scorpius, the Scorpion.

Uranus shining at a borderline naked eye visibility of magnitude 5.7, in Pisces, is well up in the east by late evening.

Neptune shines faintly at magnitude 7.8, in Aquarius well up in the southeast, by late evening. On September 5 Neptune will be at “Opposition” or at its closest approach to Earth. Being fully illuminated by the Sun it will be brighter than any other time of the year. However, due to its extreme distance the giant blue planet will appear as a tiny blue dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.

September’s Full Moon will occur September 6 at 2:03 AM CDT. This month’s moon is “Full Corn Moon” in Native American folklore because corn is harvested this time of year.

This year it is also “Harvest Moon”. Harvest moon get its name because the moon is larger and seems to rise at almost the same time every night, which allowed harvesting to continue on into the night.

Most believe that Harvest Moon is always in September; however this isn’t always the case. Harvest Moon is actually the full moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox, and so occasionally it can occur with October “Hunters Moon”..

New Moon occurs September 20 at 12:30 AM CDT when the Moon will 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 objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

Fall begins at Autumnal Equinox on September 22 at 3:02 PM CDT, when the Sun crosses directly over the equator and night and day is approximately the same length throughout the world. For the Southern Hemisphere it is Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring.

One term that occasionally pops up is “equinoctial storms”. Which are severe storms in North America and the UK that supposedly accompany the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. Where this belief originated is obscure. Some say perhaps from the 1700’s when sailors were greeted by West Indies hurricanes, or due to the coincidence of the first fall severe storms sometimes coming in the latter half of September. At any rate, statistics show no evidence to support the belief.

On this date, if there is sufficient solar activity, and you are away from city lights, the aurora may possibly be seen, as the Equinox dates are the two most favored times of the year for auroral sightings.

High in the Southern night sky an asterism or a group of stars appearing clustered together, but not actually gravitationally bound will be seen that resembles a teapot. This is the Teapot of Sagittarius.

To the naked eye, the Teapot is roughly the size of your fist at arm’s length. Above the spout of the Teapot lies a band of light, the Large Sagittarius Star Cloud. A pair of binoculars will reveal a sea of stars and faint grayish patches, the largest of which is the Lagoon Nebula. When you look upon these nebulae you are seeing stars in the process of being born.

The spout, which is tilting and pouring to the right, also points towards the galactic center of the Milky Way, located just beyond the Large Sagittarius Star cloud, but largely hidden by the dust clouds, which lie along the plane of the Sagittarius arm of the galaxy.

3503 planets beyond our solar system have now been confirmed as of August 24, per NASA’s Exoplanet Archive

Oh…incidentally, according to the ASON – the American Society Of Nutcases, the world is supposed to end either on September 23, or on that date the mythical giant planet Nibiru is supposed to be spotted, which will then crash into Earth in October, spoiling all of our Fall fun.

Remember when the loonies start flooding social media with this that you heard it first here.

See you in October – I think.




This month’s meeting will be on September 12 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,
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

ALERT / National Weather Service Birmingham Coverage Area

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