Get Adobe Flash player

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
  • ALERT covers the BMX county warning area. Presently, this includes: Autauga, Barbour, Bibb, Blount, Bullock, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Dallas, Elmore, Etowah, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Jefferson, Lamar, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Marion, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Randolph, Russell, Shelby, St Clair, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker, Winston
  • Follow us on Twitter
    Find us on Google+
    ALERT Zello Channel