The National Weather Service in Birmingham requests ALERT activation at midnight (CST).
Tomorrow night, Tuesday December the 14th will feature the ALERT Christmas Party!
Come join us, bringing your families & perspective members!
If we haven’t been able to reach you concerning what food/goodies to bring, bring what you can. We also need serving utensils.
If you can’t bring food you can help us with the clean up so the forecast office doesn’t disappear under napkins, plates and various kinds flotsam, jetsam & other "party debris".
See you there!
President of ALERT
I hope you had a good Thanksgiving & overate to a shameful degree, as I did. It’s ok to try to be the fat of the land this time of year. I know I’m doing my part.
Before we start with the news I want to again thank Alex Davies W4AVD & Ed Manley W4AGA for responding to K4NWS for the ALERT callout of November 30, 2010. I appreciate you manning the fort, especially considering the ungodly hours that this event chose to choose.
Headlining our news there are changes occurring with the NOAA Weather radio coverage for Jefferson and Tuscaloosa Counties.
The reasons for these changes are that it addresses two problems.
One being that listeners in western Jefferson County often have better reception with the Tuscaloosa transmitter than with the Birmingham transmitter, but the Tuscaloosa transmitter didn’t carry Birmingham Warnings.
The other situation being that Birmingham’s transmitter did not carry Tuscaloosa’s Warnings. This kept Jefferson County from having a “heads up” that something might be visiting us VERY SOON.
This situation presented a problem in that traditionally the Jefferson County Emergency Net would be activated for Tuscaloosa warnings, so Jefferson County could have a head start on mobilizing. But, we couldn’t do this if we didn’t know a warning had been issued.
There were times we would go ahead and activate based on TV coverage warning us & us verifying that a situation was indeed in progress. To me it this was kosher, as tower cams seldom lie, to me it WAS verified and potentially our “heads up” would be saving lives.
However some vocal local “experts’, whose only contribution to Amateur Radio is to gripe and complain, would act horrified about us “spreading media reports” and “broadcasting” and would deal us misery. “Someone ought to report them to the FC&C”.
The best or worst example of this would be one Sunny Sunday afternoon when Hurricane Rita visited the Gulf Coast.
Rita made landfall near the Texas/Louisiana border on September 25, 2005. One feeder band came training up West Alabama. Tuscaloosa went under warning, but most Jefferson County listeners did not know it, since the Weather radio didn’t sound. The gent who activated the 88 net happened to find out about the warning, as I recall via the computer, since he had a real-time feed of NWS products and so duly activated the net.
Tuscaloosa went under warning and then warning after warning as the county was hit by 10 tornadoes – 3 F1’s and 7 F0’s. Twice tornadoes struck the county simultaneously. One striking the southern part of the county, while another was striking to the north, which called for separate simultaneous tornado warnings. Pickens, Greene, Winston, Sumter, Lamar, Fayette & Marion counties were also hit as 21 tornadoes raked the area.
For five hours report after report streamed in on 88, in what proved to be the second largest Alabama tornado outbreak on record.
The situation was handled that bright sunshiny day; SKYWARN, ARES and ALERT did their jobs. Well done, Old Chap….right?
Well, maybe not.
One very vocal gentleman was highly offended, the next day loudly complaining on 88 to an “amen corner” about the NCS tying up the repeater hour after hour “broadcasting”, “spreading media reports”, “repeating the same warning over and over and over” & so forth. He felt someone should bring the NCS’s “improper behavior” to the BARC Club for discipline. Which he actually did attempt, but was quickly told “not a chance” by the BARC leadership.
The above tale illustrates the prime point that our neighboring county could be being clawed and Jefferson County might not even be aware of it. The second point being that there are some nuts out there with ham licenses. Or, perhaps I should diplomatically rephrase that and say that not every one out there understands and appreciates our good faith efforts & noble motives.
Wonder who the “bucket mouth NCS” was? Oh, I’ll never confess that it was me.
So, without further ado, I’m very pleased to announce that effective immediately, the NWS is beginning a test phase that will add Tuscaloosa County warnings to the Birmingham transmitter, and Jefferson County warnings to the Tuscaloosa transmitter.
They will also be looking at other overlapping and “fringe” coverage areas and making adjustments. Once they have them all tested, they will begin the formal process of publishing the changes locally, regionally and nationally.
The NWS requests that if you hear of any problems with the testing, or, are aware of similar issues with overlapping coverage or reception problems let our Warning Coordination Meteorologist, the honorable John De Block, Esq., know and they will look into it.
Here are the footprints of the two transmitters:
KIH-60 Tuscaloosa http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/Maps/PHP/site.php?State=AL&Site=KIH60
KIH-54 Birmingham http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/Maps/PHP/site.php?State=AL&Site=KIH54
“BROADCASTING MEDIA REPORTS”
At some point in time if you are an NCS during many emergency nets, it is possible that some kind soul will assure you that you are guilty of the above crime. It goes with the territory. Don’t sweat it.
But, what does the FCC really say?
Per the FCC website http://wireless.fcc.gov/services/index.htm?job=about_1&id=amateur we find these questions and answers.
Q: What is "broadcasting"?
Section 97.3 defines the term "broadcasting," in the context of the amateur service, as a transmission intended for reception by the general public, either direct or delayed.
(Transmission of information on Amateur radio nets, be it Skywarn, NTS, DX, Ragchew or whatever is not for the “general public”, but for the Amateur Radio community. Thus it is not “broadcasting”)
Q: Is broadcasting prohibited?
Yes. Section 97.113 prohibits amateur stations from engaging in any form of broadcasting or in any activity related to program production or newsgathering for broadcasting purposes.
(Are SKYWARN nets engaged in “program production or newsgathering for broadcasting purposes”? No.)
But, even if they were so, in an emergency it would be permissible because, again from the FCC website:
Q: Is there an exception to this prohibition?
Yes, there is one exception: Communications directly related to the immediate safety of human life or the protection of property may be provided by amateur stations to broadcasters for dissemination to the public where no other means of communication is reasonably available before or at the time of the event.
(Do tornadoes threaten “the immediate safety of human life or the protection of property”? “Purt near close”, as they say. And, as they saying goes “when all else fails there’s Amateur Radio”.)
Now here is the quirky nature of the myth of “Broadcasting” & the proponents of that myth. The same folk who will erupt about media reports if an NCS says “James Spann just said there’s a tornado crossing I-59 near Fairfield” (information of which might save a life) will see absolutely nothing wrong with saying “Scott Richards just said Mayor Bell says the city is bankrupt…chalk up another one for the Republicans”.
It’s really the same thing. It’s also a pointless argument since the FCC rules say absolutely nothing about “media reports” & ham radio. Sorry, but, it’s not there. I looked. I Binged, Googled, Yahooed, and I even called the Physic Hotline & “media reports” are nowhere to be found mentioned in the FCC rules. If it’s there, it’s exceedingly well hidden.
What about retransmitting NOAA Weatherradio on the repeater?
Well, everyone knows THAT’s illegal.
Everyone except the FCC perhaps.
Q: May my station retransmit the programs or signals emanating from any other type of radio station?
Section 97.113 provides two exceptions for retransmissions that are for the exclusive use of amateur operators. Your amateur station may retransmit occasionally as an incident of normal amateur radio communications, but not on a regular basis:
- Propagation and weather forecast information intended for use by the general public and originated from United States Government stations; and
- Communications, including incidental music, originating on United States Government frequencies between a space shuttle and its associated Earth stations. You must, however, obtain prior approval for shuttle retransmissions from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Such retransmissions must be for the exclusive use of amateur radio operators. Propagation, weather forecasts, and manned spacecraft communications retransmissions may not be conducted on a regular basis, but only occasionally, as an incident of normal amateur radio communications.
So, just as it is legal for repeater owners to retransmit Space Shuttle audio, if you are a repeater owner & you want to have a NOAA Weather radio set to alarm & retransmit the warnings, it is allowed.
Now since there are so many out there who are convinced that it is illegal, for appearance and ones reputations sake I would refrain from just keying the mic and pointing it at the Weatheradio speaker.
Rest assured that if you attempt to do this there will be someone who will label you a lid, and others who will heartily agree with them. And, it does invite shenanigans, tomfoolery & well-meant mistakes. So, personally, even though it might be allowed by the FCC rules, I still wouldn’t recommend doing this.
Some things just aren’t worth the trouble. Or as the guy once said:
“The cautious seldom err.”
December, the tenth Roman Month, is the cloudiest month of the year, with only 40 to 60% of possible sunshine poking through the clouds. It is also the stormiest month of the year for the Continental US & the Gulf of Mexico. By “stormy” meaning large-scale storms, not necessarily the tornadic storms that they bring, even though we are still in the Second Tornado Season.
A region of heavy rainfall usually forms from Texas to Northwest Florida to Tennessee and Arkansas. Cold waves bringing rain, snow, ice and occasionally tornadoes, sweep across the region.
Hurricane season is now “officially” over, however Mother Nature sometimes throws a surprise in to make life interesting. In 120 years of records, from 1885 to 2005 there have been 5 December hurricanes. The last being Hurricane Epsilon during the 2005 season, the year in which we ran out of hurricane names.
December can be cloudy and cold, and, then it can swing into Spring like warmth, luring plants to bloom early, only to have the frosts and freezes to return and the plants be “nipped in the bud”.
Snow visits us in December, but we’ve never had a White Christmas.
In over 100 years of weather records, the closest we have gotten was in 1985. Flurries fell on Christmas Eve and early Christmas morning, lightly dusting some areas, but the snow was not measurable.
5.5 inches of snow fell December 22, 1929 & there was still 2.5 inches on the ground Christmas Eve. However, Christmas Day the temperature rose to 51 degrees and the snow mushed and melted away.
As my Granddad once said, “we don’t get the snow, just the cold.” Or as my Uncle said “There’s nothing separating us from the North Pole except an old rickety barbed wire fence”.
Winter begins with Winter Solstice December 21 at 6:38PM CST.
Earlier in the morning, and I do mean EARLY, you will be treated to a total eclipse of the moon. This eclipse, fully visible from North America will begin at 1:40AM CST; midpoint of totality (darkest or mid eclipse) will be at 2:16:56 CST & the event will end at 2:53 CST.
After the eclipse, since you will be frozen anyway, you might as well look for Venus in the east about 2 1/2 hours before dawn, Venus attains its greatest brilliancy during the first week of this month, at a shadow-casting magnitude –4.9.
Later in the month Mercury appears far below and to the left of Venus on the 30th and 31st, while brilliant Jupiter is prominent overhead in the first 5 hours after dusk, setting at around midnight.
If you ever wonder how to tell a planet from a star, just remember that stars twinkle. Planets don’t.
The Geminid Meteor Shower peaks on December 13-14. Geminids are one of the year’s best meteor showers. It’s a consistent and prolific shower, and usually the most satisfying of all the annual showers, even surpassing the more widely recognized Perseids of August.
This shower typically produces 50 or more meteors an hour, or about one every minute. Although some meteors can be seen a couple of days before and after the peak date, you can expect the peak of the Geminid meteors to start flying through the sky around mid-evening.
December’s Full Moon is “Cold Moon” in Native American folklore.
Do you suffer from the discomfort of Lilapsophobia? How’s your astraphobia doing, anyway?
Well, when you call Dr. Phil make sure to tell him if you have Lilapsophobia – a fear of tornadoes and hurricanes. Astraphobia is similar – a fear of thunder and lightning.
Now aren’t you glad you read this junk?
This month’s meeting will be on December 14 at 7PM at the National Weather Service Forecast office at the Shelby County Airport.
This meeting will feature the first ALERT Christmas party!
Come join us, bringing your families and perspective members.
We will need a head count of those planning to attend, so please let me know by Wednesday the 8th.
Also, you may get a "callout" from Teresa for help.
Please do so if you can.
Until then, from Mark & Teresa’s house we wish you all Merry Christmas and 73.
Mark / WD4NYL