ETH068 – Are You Weather Aware?


Hello everybody and welcome back to the Everything Ham Radio Podcast! In this episode we are going to talk about how to be Weather Aware, We talk about W5KUB and his Hamvention Marathon at Hamvention next weekend, we talk about some upcoming events/contests and hamfests over the next two weeks and wrap it up with some news from around the hobby!

Facebook Question of the Week:

Are You Going To Hamvention next weekend?

Tech Corner – Are You Weather Aware?

On April 29, 2017, about 100 miles east of me had about 4 tornados touch down. At least one of them went through a fairly decent sized city of about 3600 people called Canton. As of the time of me writing this there is 4 confirmed dead and dozens injured and a massive clean up.

One of the tornadoes was on the ground for nearly 2 hours and covered a distance of about 51 miles!! Several years ago my wife and I were actually looking to move up in that area, I’m glad now that we didn’t.

For the days leading up to this, there was talk with the weather service and the meteorologists in the area saying that we were in for some severe storms, but the threat of Tornadoes was low. They also said that the storms would start up farther west than what they did to. We were actually gearing up at my work and at my home for the potential of storms. Fortunately for us, the storms didn’t fire up over us, but about 40 miles east of us.

This whole event leads me to ask myself and yall, Are You Weather Aware?

Pay Attention to the Sky

Even though we have all the fancy technology like TVs, smart phones, computers, etc that we can look at a radar with, you can’t always take what you see on radar as accurate. You have to remember the way that a radar works to realize that the farther from the radar station you are looking, the less accurate it is.

Think of a radar as a laser beam shooting out in a direction. Even if you are perfectly level with the ground when you shoot that laser beam, the farther away from you that it gets, the higher off the ground it is going to be because of the curvature of the Earth. Now add to that that radars typically have like a 5 degree take off angel(I believe), that that makes it even higher above the ground the farther it goes out.

After about 5 miles from the radar site, a radar can’t see any low level activity. That is why the National Weather Service needs spotters to be spotters. If I remember correctly at 5 miles the radar beam is at like 10,000 feet.

This is why you should be able to look at the clouds and see what could potentially become of the storm. Look for the anvils, the striations, the wall clouds and such. This is why taking a Skywarn class is so important whether you plan on helping your local Skywarn team or not.

NWS - Weather Fatalities



Weather can be a very dangerous thing, as I’m sure that most of you are aware. According to the National Weather Service, the weather that caused the most fatalities is Heat! I wouldn’t really think that heat would be the number one, but as you think about it, the last few years have been incredible hot! In the northern US over the past few years they have had record heat with temperatures in the 100’s during the summer. Down here in Texas, we are more prepared for the 100 degree temperatures, but in the north, not everyone will have an air conditioner or other ways to stay cool.

I also know that over the past few years, I have heard of the power grid being overloaded, especially in the north, which causes your A/C not to work and therefore getting hotter inside and out. So I can see how it is the number one killer on average over the past ten years!

Supercell Thunderstorm

In the picture above, you will see a beautiful picture of a Supercell Thunderstorm. You can see the high tower, the dark ominous look of the clouds, and what is called the rain free base at the bottom left with the rain shaft at the right.

If you see this type of cloud coming you way, you can pretty much bet that you are going to be in for a good storm. The more defined the cloud shaft is, especially if you can see a barber pole look streaks on the tower, then you better be watching for other signs of a tornado as well. The barber pole look formation on the outside of the cloud, means that there is upper level rotation. You need to be looking for a wall cloud, which is a lowering in the cloud base that is trapezoidal in shape with the wider end on the rain side.

If you see a wall cloud, then you need to look for any rotation indicators in the wall cloud part itself, because if you do, I’d wager to bet that there is going to be a funnel forming soon and once it reaches the ground you have a full blown tornado on your hands.


The number two killer is Tornados! As I mentioned early back on April 29, 2017, there was a spawn of multiple tornados that Van Zandt county in East Texas. One of the tornadoes that hit was rated at an EF-4 and it pretty much hit the town of Canton head on. There was massive damage, 4 people killed(last I heard) and injured around 50. Of course after the first couple days after the storms, it no longer makes the news so I don’t know if there was more than that or not.

According to the NWS, there was 110 people killed in tornadoes over the past 10 years! Which if you think about it, is quite astounding being that tornadoes only typically happen during the months of April through June. Add to that there isn’t a whole lot of warning when it comes to tornadoes. Yes, technology has gotten better over the past ten years, and RADARs can see rotation now and have gotten better, but still, there is typically no more than 5-10 minutes of warning before it happens.

Flash Floods

The third highest weather killer is Flash Floods with 84 people being killed on average over the past ten years! A flash flood is a very powerful thing. Here in Texas there is a massive awareness campaign that has been going on over the past 5-6 years called, Turn Around, Don’t Drown. I’m sure that it has caught on elsewhere as well.

It doesn’t take much rushing water to knock you off your feet, in fact only about 3-4” of water can knock you off your feet and sweep you down river/stream. It only takes about two feet of water to move a car! Once you loose the traction, you will probably never regain it.

The thing is flash floods, is the flash part of it. It can happen in a matter of seconds. One second the roadway or path could be clear, the next it is under two feet of water. The water will erode the ground under a road and the footing under bridges and make them collapse.

Straight Line Winds

While the circulating winds of a tornado is a contributing factor to it being the number two weather killer, straight lines winds come in fourth place with an average of 56 over the past ten years. Many times people will think that damage is done by a tornado when in fact it was caused by straight line winds.

NWS - Straight Lines Winds - Weather

As you can see from this picture, all the trees are laying the same way for the most part and all of them are just laid over. None of the trees are twisted in any way. If this was a tornado that caused all this damage, you would see twisted trees and you would see trees falling in all different directions.


I love sitting and watching the lightning dance across the sky on a nice spring/summer storm. It amazes me the sheer power of friction. Back in episode 56 where we talked about Lightning Protection, we talked about how lightning and thunder is formed and it just amazed me. I always knew that a static charge built up because of ice particles colliding together is what caused the lightning and I knew that Thunder was a byproduct of this, but I was never really told the whole story about it. Here is an excerpt from that episode:

The conditions necessary for an old-fashioned summer afternoon thunderstorm are lots of moist air from ground level to a few thousand feet, cooler air above with little to no wind, and plenty of sun to heat the air mass near the ground. As the warm, moist air is heated, it rises quickly to heights where the temperature is below freezing, eventually forming a thundercloud as shown in Figure 1. Within the thundercloud, the constant collisions among ice particles driven by the rising air causes a static charge to build up. Eventually the static charge becomes sufficiently large to cause the electrical breakdown of the air—a lightning strike

When a lightning strike does occur, the return stroke rapidly deposits several large pulses of energy along the leader channel. That channel is heated by the energy to above 50,000º F in only a microsecond and hence has no time to expand while it is being heated, creating extremely high pressure. The high pressure channel rapidly expands into the surrounding air and compresses it. This disturbance of the air propagates outward in all directions. For the first 10 yards or so it propagates as a shock wave (faster than the speed of sound) and after that as an ordinary sound wave—the thunder we hear.

Excerpt From Ep 56 – Lighting Protection



While hail has been known to cause some injuries and a very large amount of property damage, there hasn’t been very many reports of a hail strike being the cause of death of some very unlucky person. Hail is, however, common in spring and summer storms and is responsible for billions of dollars worth of damages over the past 5-10 years.

In case you don’t know how a hailstone is formed or how they could get so big, I’m going to tell you now. First off, rain drops start falling from the cloud, when a raindrop collides with the updraft of a storm, if that updraft is strong enough, it will blow the raindrop back up into the clouds and into the colder air, air that is below freezing. The raindrop freeze and falls back down to earth and starts to thaw or gathers some more moisture from the storm. When it comes into contact with the updraft again, if it is strong enough, the updraft again blows it back up into the cloud and the ice particle refreezes, this time with more moisture.

This cycle continues until either what is now a hailstone, is either blow away from the updraft or is to heavy for the updraft to blow back up. So the stronger the updraft is, the more this cycle repeats itself and the bigger the hailstone gets. So when you see pictures of baseball or softball or bigger size hailstones, you can only imagine how strong the updraft of the storm was that produced it.

Mammatus Clouds

In the above picture, you will see what is called Mammatus Clouds. These cloud are typically found on the bottom of the anvil of a storm and are a very good indicator of an impending very strong thunderstorm. There are many theories as to how this type of formation in the clouds form, but no one theory is correct all the time, so no one really knows for certain why this type of cloud formations form, but I will say that they are really neat to look at.

If you would like to read about some of the different theories as to how this type of formation is formed, check out the Wikipedia page for Mammatus Clouds.

Emergency Kit

I am not talking about a radio “go kit” here, I’m talking about things that you should have for your family in case your house gets hit by a tornado or other weather event that makes it not livable.

First thing you need to think about is the basic necessities like food and water. Let’s say that you are in your basement or storm shelter and your house collapses on top of you and you can’t get out. You and your family will need something to eat and drink right? I would plan on at least two days worth of food and water. My wife and I found a bucket of dehydrated camping food packets where all your have to do is add water. The bucket had 48 packets in it and it only cost us like $50 or so. The water part is a whole lot easier to find, just get you several gallons of drinking water.

Another thing you need to have in your kit is a first aid kit. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate one, just a basic one will probably work just fine. Things like band aids, antibiotic ointment, bandages, alcohol wipes, things like that.

Some other things you should have are things like a flashlight, lighter, extra batteries, a weather radio, and maybe even a extra set of clothes for each person. You don’t know when a storm will hit, if it’s in the middle of the night, you might only be in your pajamas or less.

Emergency plan

When something happens like a tornado, you often don’t have a lot of warning. It’s a good idea to practice doing an evacuation or bad weather drill regularly. If you have a basement or an outside storm shelter this is especially a good idea because when it is happens for real, there is probably going to be controlled chaos.

Practicing getting your family where they are suppose to go will make it more of a muscle memory when an actual emergency happens. Remember practice makes perfect! It is the same thing with a fire drill. The more you do it, the better you and your family will get at doing it.

Plan on what each person will get and where everyone will go or meet. If you have a storm shelter or basement, plan how to each person will get there. If you have small children that will need help, plan who will make sure they get their safe.

Once you have everything planned out, it is time to practice, practice, practice. Practice with you kids a couple times to make sure they know what to do, where to go and to not panic. For the first month or so, practice once a week or so, then drop it down to once a month or so.

Do You Need Some QSL Cards? Check out KB3IHF QSL Cards. When you place your order make sure you mention that you heard about him on the Everything Ham Radio Podcast. If you do I will get a small commission on your purchase.

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Ham Blog Spotlight

W5KUB Again to Offer Next Best Thing to Being at Hamvention


Tom Medlin, W5KUB, of Amateur Radio Roundtable webcast fame, will offer more than 48 hours of live webcasting for Hamvention®, starting on May 17 and continuing through May 22 (to include the road trips out and back). This will mark his 15th year of live streaming the show, and this year’s webcast will be called “Hamvention 2017 Marathon by Medlin.” Astronaut Douglas Wheelock, KF5BOC, will join Medlin as co-host.

“This live event is structured to make you feel that you are there.” Webcast viewers will be able to communicate with other viewers logged into the chat room and can even chat directly with the webcast team at Hamvention. Medlin also promises nonstop prize giveaways. “You will see many familiar people and celebrities drop by and get on camera and say hello to you,” Medlin said.

Over the course of his Hamvention webcasts, he interviews visitors and offers a view of the show from his particular perch, which will be in booth 5006 at the Greene County Fairgrounds and Expo Center in Xenia, Ohio.


Upcoming Events

Jakarta DX Contest 40m 1000Z-2200Z, May 13
Portuguese Navy Day Contest 1100Z, May 13 to 2300Z, May 20
HPC World Wide DX Contest 1200Z, May 13 to 1159Z, May 14
SKCC Weekend Sprintathon 1200Z, May 13 to 2400Z, May 14
VOLTA WW RTTY Contest 1200Z, May 13 to 1200Z, May 14
CQ-M International DX Contest 1200Z, May 13 to 1159Z, May 14
Arkansas QSO Party 1400Z, May 13 to 0200Z, May 14
MARAC County Hunters Contest 1400Z-2400Z, May 13 and   1400Z-2400Z, May 14
FISTS Spring Unlimited Sprint 1700Z-2100Z, May 13
WAB 7 MHz Phone 1000Z-1400Z, May 14
UA2 QSO Party 1300Z-1659Z, May 14
4 States QRP Group Second Sunday Sprint 0000Z-0200Z, May 15
Aegean RTTY Contest 1200Z, May 20 to 1200Z, May 21
His Maj. King of Spain Contest, CW 1200Z, May 20 to 1200Z, May 21
EU PSK DX Contest 1200Z, May 20 to 1200Z, May 21
Baltic Contest 2100Z, May 20 to 0200Z, May 21


*Information taken from the WA7BNM Contest Calendar






*Information taken from the ARRL Hamfest Calendar

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73 de Curtis, K5CLM

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