I hope all is going well with you and yours & that you aren’t melting in this August heat.
We had a great turnout at last months meeting, and if you missed it, rest assured we
did gossip about you.
One of the things we discussed was our antenna situation. I’m happy to say that substantial progress has been made in restoring our RF capabilities. New tri-band antennas are now in place & our range has been greatly increased. We’ve even gained a new band – 6 meters.
More work is going to be done, with another tri-band antenna being mounted. The 220 repeater will soon be back on line & once we have our HF antenna up we will be back at 100% good to go. So things are looking good.
Here is a question for you. What do WX4TOR, WX4MLB, WX4MHX & K4NWS have in common?
Each of these stations are Amateur Stations located at National Weather Service Forecast offices – in this case in Tampa Florida, Melbourne Florida, Newport North Carolina & Birmingham Alabama.
All share the same mission and the same goals. To gather storm reports so that the NWS can issue life saving warnings. Each of these NWS Forecast Offices feels the worth and need for an Amateur Radio presence in their offices. These stations are not alone. I could list dozen’s of stations at WFO’s from Alaska to Hawaii to Chicago to Miami. Some stations more elaborate, than K4NWS, some less so, but all with the same mission and same commitment.
But, K4NWS is “ours” and it is a station to be proud of, and, is second to none.
Often I am asked about K4NWS and suggestions are made. We study these suggestions, implementing some and not choosing others. Usually for logistical reasons, sometimes because we have already tried, “been there done that” and for valid reasons chose another route. Some suggestions are not rejected, but are just waiting for the right time.
Sometimes the ideas may be good, but not within ALERT’s bailiwick. Equipping spotters with APRS for example. It’s not a bad idea, but is something ALERT can’t do, simply because ALERT doesn’t deploy storm spotters. This would be a great idea for county ARES groups & independent Skywarn groups to adopt. They would track their spotters and then report to K4NWS. But, ALERT couldn’t track them and shouldn’t, just as we shouldn’t try to run their nets. That’s their job, not ours. Plus when the weather really is boiling over, are too busy receiving reports to be acting as “Spotter Traffic Control.”
One question asked is “is our physical presence really needed at K4NWS? Can’t we do
the same operations from home?”
The answer is “yes” and “no”.
With our Spotter chat the answer is absolutely “yes”. In fact Spotter chat SHOULD be run at home, so that the operator at K4NWS will be freed to seek out on the air reports.
For RF operations, while many have very well equipped home stations, the very few have a meteorologist sitting in the room to let you know where the areas of interest and concern are.
You really need to be there “on scene” listening to the background chit chat among forecasters to understand the thinking and concerns (or lack thereof if a report comes
in and there is no storm within 75 miles of the reported location) to be able to anticipate their needs.
For, we must remember that our job isn’t to simply to stay parked on 88 or 98 waiting for a warning to be issued & then gather reports that come in. While this is certainly an important facet of our job, it is equally important to try to identify potential trouble areas so we can give the forecasters a head start on issuing warnings.
So if we hear that the forecasters are worried about Coosa County for example, we check for a frequency on our ARES repeater map, and try to seek out reports. Sometimes we find someone, sometimes we don’t. But, when we do, we could be the reason that the warning was issued and the extra time we gained saved additional lives.
So, I look at the radar while I’m at the NWS. But, though I consider myself a fairly decent “Amateur Radar Operator”, having graduated from SPU. (That’s “Spann & Peters University”, by the way), having looked, listened and read for years and years, and picking up things along the way, I make no mistake by realizing that our forecasters know a lot more than I do & I need to be there to understand what they need. Plus I want to be there. There to hear their thoughts, and, there to feed that never ending hunger to learn more about a subject that I love.
Another thing I hear is “I went to a callout – no storms – no reports – bored brainless”.
This I understand completely. There have been times I’ve sat at the NWS looking for hours at what seemed to be Armageddon inbound from Mississippi & then it reaching the border, the entire storm system shriveling and disappearing into that Great Meteorological Black Hole” that seems to drift to the West of us.
I vaguely remember in my hypnotic hazes Mark Rose & Kevin Laws coming over now and then dusting the cobwebs off of me & checking for vital signs.
Then there are the other times when I’ve dealt with multiple warnings been issued, four radios calling me at once, the cell phone ringing & me wishing that my Mom had had triplets instead of just one ME.
But, don’t let that scare you off. I like being “part of the action” & is why I became a Ham.
Just remember what John De Block says: “Callouts are like a box of chawklets. You never know what you are going to get.”
That’s part of the adventure of it.
August was originally named “Sextilis”, the sixth Roman month. It was renamed August in honor of Caesar Augustus & was lengthened to 31 days, to equal Julius Caesars month of July.
August is hot and humid & 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.
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.
Though the Hurricane season has been a dead year so far, don’t discount the late starting seasons or “first letter storms” ferocity. Just think of Hurricanes Andrew in 1992, Betsy in 1965 and Camille in 1969.
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.
21% of a year’s Hurricanes occur in August. 85 to 95% of land falling Hurricanes have not occurred by August 15.
Incidentally, Alabama still leads the nation with a 100 tornadoes. The statistics as of August 1 being:
The Perseid Meteor Shower peaks on August 12, with 50 to 60 meteors per hour (if you can get away from city lights).
Augusts’ full moon is “Fruit Moon” in Cherokee Folklore & “Women’s Moon” among the Choctaw.
When you get a chance, “talk up ALERT”. Let people know who we are, what we do & why they should be involved. For YOU are the best recruitment tool we have.
This month’s meeting will be on August 11 at 7PM at the National Weather Service
Forecast office at the Shelby County Airport.
I hope to see you there.
Mark / WD4NYL