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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
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