The Amateur Amateur: Barking Up a Storm
By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
I relaxed the grip on my transceiver. "Weird cloud" wouldn't
mean much to the net control operator.
June 24, 2004
In June 2001 the first The Amateur Amateur
Spotting--the Hard Way
," appeared here on the
ARRL Web site. It was about checking into my local SKYWARN
net during a severe thunderstorm. Three years later I once again
found myself on the front porch of my house looking up at a
threatening sky. I was clutching the same handheld transceiver. My
wife Nancy, N0NJ, was inside the house watching
. The chatter on the SKYWARN
frequency indicated that really bad stuff was headed our way. I had
an overwhelming sense of having done all this before.
"Please, no hail this time," I muttered under my breath.
"Pea-sized hail in Maryland Heights," someone said over the radio.
is southwest of my home in Florissant. Here in the Midwest, most of
the nasty weather comes out of the southwest. That was ominous. But I
could handle pea-sized hail. Three years ago it had been the size of
rains. Branches down, two inches in diameter," said the radio.
When storm spotting from my porch, I use a special feed line to connect to
the rooftop antenna.
Again, no sweat.
While broken branches are not a good sign, two- inch diameter
branches don't worry me too much. I was more concerned about the
long, thin cloud that was streaming overhead like a railroad train.
I'd never seen anything like it before. I considered calling it in,
but I didn't know what it was. It didn't exactly fit any of the
reporting criteria. Besides, I've lived in the Midwest for more than
30 years, and there is always
some new and weird weather
phenomenon. I relaxed the grip on my transceiver. Weird cloud
wouldn't mean much to the net control operator.
rains. Branches down, five inches in diameter," someone said.
had changed since the storm three years earlier. Now, I can send in
reports from my porch. Previously, I had been unable to reach the
SKYWARN repeater using the handheld transceiver's rubber duck antenna
and had to run inside to connect to my rooftop antenna whenever I
needed to make a report. Thanks to a suggestion from Robert
Woodworth, KG6ATH, I now have a feed line running out to the porch.
rains. Branches down, eight inches in diameter," a new voice
And, I noted, the
wind speed he gave was higher as well. I wasn't convinced that all
the reports coming in were completely accurate. Most of the SKYWARN
spotters were pretty good, but a small minority seemed to feel that
they had to get on the air no matter what the actual weather
conditions were at their locations. It was possible that they were
exaggerating just a tad.
rains. Branches down, 18 inches in diameter," said someone else.
Ariel. We were literally talking about aerials when we named her.
large?" asked the dubious net controller.
inches, the whole tree trunk," replied the spotter.
From just inside
the house I could hear our new puppy barking like crazy. Thor, our
inappropriately named Labrador retriever, had been terrified of
thunder. It sounded like Ariel wasn't handling it very well either. I
stuck my head in the door to check on her.
Nancy was holding the squirming black puppy in her arms.
to go outside with you," said Nancy.
was different. I went back outside.
About that time
the rain started coming down. Or up. I couldn't really tell. It
seemed to be coming from every direction at once. The porch is
covered by the roof of the house, but it was no protection at all. I
fumbled for the door handle and staggered backward into the house.
About 400 gallons of rain water came in with me.
Nancy ran to get
me a towel.
Then the power failed. Fortunately, I used to collect lanterns as a hobby.
Yap!" barked Ariel, jumping around in the puddles on the floor.
rains . . ." I sputtered. At least they got that
Then the power failed.
It was off for five and a half hours.
I never did make
a SKYWARN report. I didn't personally see any tree limbs down. Power
outages, torrential rain, and barking dogs weren't worth reporting.
Thankfully we'd received no hail.
Driving to work
the next day I noticed several trees had
been blown down. I'll
be darned, I thought. Some of them were easily 18 inches in diameter.
I guess those spotters weren't exaggerating after all.
note: ARRL member Gary Hoffman, KB0H, lives in Florissant,
Missouri. He's been a ham since 1995. Hoffman says his column's name
-- "The Amateur Amateur" -- suggests the explorations of a
rank amateur, not those of an experienced or knowledgeable ham. His
wife, Nancy, is N0NJ. Hoffman has a ham-related
Web page,. Readers are invited to contact the
author via email.
© 2004 American Radio Relay League