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Hi Everyone and welcome to the 120th ALERT Newsletter!

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

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

The Officers for 2017 – 2018 are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Storm reports can be over filtered for various reasons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This left me with three impressions as I drove away:

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

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

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

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

Where’s an application?

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

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

Example One:

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

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

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

Example Two:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Goofy Reports I’ve Heard Through The Years

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

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

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

Marks Almanac

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

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

The beginning of meteorological Summer is June 1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


This month’s meeting will be on June 13 at 7PM at the National Weather Service Forecast office at the Shelby County Airport.

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

Hope to see you there!

Mark / WD4NYL
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