The Facts About Hurricanes

Flooding following Hurricane Harvey.

I’ve been seeing many posts on social media lately saying Hurricane Irma will be the first Category 6 storm. They point to seemingly legitimate “news” articles to back the claim. So, to debunk them, here are some actual facts.

There is no need for a category 6 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

The scale, developed in 1971 by Robert Simpson and Herbert Saffir, categorizes storm strength as it relates to wind speed. There are five (and only five) categories. When asked why there were not more, and if any should be added, Dr. Simpson (no relation, by the way) responded, “…[W]hen you get up into winds in excess of 155 miles per hour you have enough… damages that are serious… So I think that it’s immaterial what will happen with winds stronger than 156 miles per hour. That’s the reason why we didn’t try to go any higher than that anyway.” (Mariners Weather Log, April 1999, pp. 10-12)

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

Category

Sustained Winds

Types of Damage Due to Hurricane Winds

1 74-95 mph
64-82 kt
119-153 km/h
Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.
2 96-110 mph
83-95 kt
154-177 km/h
Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.
3
(major)
111-129 mph
96-112 kt
178-208 km/h
Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
4
(major)
130-156 mph
113-136 kt
209-251 km/h
Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
5
(major)
157 mph or higher
137 kt or higher
252 km/h or higher
Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

 

The National Hurricane Center also has a graphic to demonstrate the anticipated damages from the different wind speeds.

The SSHWS applies to any cyclone with 74 MPH or greater winds

Category 5 has no upper limit. Since the scale was developed to describe anticipated damages from different wind speeds, Category 5 means near total destruction. Beyond that point, it doesn’t matter if it’s 155 MPH or 190 MPH as was the case with Hurricane Allen in 1980.

Wind isn’t the only damaging force

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this image of Hurricane Sandy off the southeastern United States.

Remember Hurricane Sandy? It was only a Category 3. Yet it still caused $75 billion in damages. Tropical Storm Allison (2001) did $9 billion in damage, and was never a hurricane. Conversely, Category 5 Hurricane Emily (2005) did slightly over $1 billion in damage. While Hurricane Katrina, the modern standard by which cyclones are measured, cost 1,836 lives as a Category 5, the Category 2 Hurricane Fifi-Orlene in 1974 cost 8,000 lives.

Typically, more damage is caused by flooding, both by direct rain and storm surge. That was the case with Harvey. That was the case with Katrina.

There are scientific reports, journalism reports, and click bait reports

It is very easy now to make a webpage look like it came from a legitimate news site. Sadly, there are people who use fear tactics to drive internet traffic and get more views for the ads on their page. There are many legitimate news organizations that portray the facts as more precarious than they are to increase viewership. There are also plenty of organizations, especially in my local market, which do an AMAZING job of presenting the facts. But, like with most things, if you want the best information, go directly to the source.

The National Hurricane Center has remarkable resources anytime there are active storms. They also post regular updates to their Facebook Page. For live observation reports, the Hurricane Watch Net provides great resources as well as streaming audio when the net is active.

Be alert, but don’t panic

Pay attention to the directions of emergency management officials. They may paint a grim picture, but their number one job is to keep everyone alive. Things can be replaced. People cannot. If you are ordered to evacuate, evacuate. If the evacuation doesn’t apply to your area, be prepared to shelter in place for a while. Have a Ready Kit. Have a Family Emergency Plan. Be prepared and stay alive.

———-

Daniel R. Simpson is an amateur radio operator in central Georgia. He is the Emergency Coordinator for Baldwin County ARES as well as a Public Information Officer and Local Government Liaison for the ARRL Field Organization. He has completed numerous trainings from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Weather Service, and American Radio Relay League. 

The Importance of Training for Emergency Communications

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to present to the Milledgeville Amateur Radio Club (full disclosure, I’m also their vice president) about why we should always be training and learning, especially when it comes to emergency and public service communications.

I have the video, slides, and handout posted on my site for your viewing. Please feel free to send me any feedback!

View Presentation Page

Want information about amateur radio for your school, community, or civic group? Contact me at k4drs@arrl.net.

Collegiate Recruiting: Finding the Next Generation

I had submitted this to QST for review, but apparently SueAnne Griffith’s piece (August 2017) was already in the pipeline ahead of mine. Granted, that assumption also requires that my submission was worthy of publication, but… I’m going to embrace the hubris that it was. 🙂

So, to keep it from going to waste, I am posting it here for your consideration.


Collegiate Recruiting:
Finding the Next Generation

Through the years, I have been involved with many aspects of student organizations, both as member, officer, and now advisor looking to revitalize the club at my alma mater.  Because of this, I have experienced many different styles of recruiting with varying levels of effectiveness. Now, I want to share my experiences in hopes of aiding the growth of other clubs as well.

Becoming known

Every campus has a special place where students gather. For my campus (Go Bobcats!), it was by “the fountain.” For others it may be the quad, student center, or tailgates. But the simple fact is, most institutions will not be willing to allocate a permanent space, and definitely not funding, to a group with only a few members. So recruitment must become a priority.

The Collegiate Amateur Radio Forum at Orlando Hamcation provided some great ideas, but more can be done. Here are some tried and true methods that have been proven effective time and again.

Effective Tabeling

Information tables are a college tradition, but most fall short of perfection. There are elements that will make your effort standout from the crowd. First, it needs to be catchy. Have a well designed banner so people know who you are – they can readily be found online for less than $50.  Have plenty of brochures and handouts as a takeaway item. Many are available from the ARRL, but it is also quite easy to adopt them to your campus.

Approach your local radio club for start-up assistance. See if they can provide go-kits for a demonstration on the table. A portable antenna will certainly be an eyecatcher among other groups who are tabling as well. They may even be willing to provide some funding for handouts and giveaways, which leads to the number one method of getting a college student’s attention: freebies!

Students love free food. It could be pizza, candy, or bags of chips or crackers. The one caveat to this, especially if you are in the south, is to avoid chocolate. It can quickly make a mess if left in sunlight or high temperatures. You can also consider koozies, frisbees, or flash drives (pre-loaded with some club fliers and information, of course).

Have volunteers rotate between talking on the radio and talking to passers by. Some should be in front of the table so it appears friendly and engaging. Be prepared to talk to students in all of the programs offered by the institution, not just STEM. Criminal justice and government majors will likely be attracted to the emergency communication and public service aspects. Journalism, marketing, and communication students will likely be interested in how it ties into the technology used for broadcasting. And yes, STEM students will be interested in the technology and maker aspects.

Keep in mind diversity at your table. Volunteers from your local club are great, but they are just a start. Do your best to also have college age volunteers. Get the YLs involved. If someone’s grandchild is popular in Greek Life or athletics, offer him a lunch to spend an hour with you.

Follow-Up

Outreach is only the first step. You can have a table with dozens of people surrounding it the entire time period, and it still be a failure. Don’t just give out cards, have people sign-up for an email list. You could even include a drawing for a gift card to a local restaurant or the campus bookstore. Then use that information.

Send out an email to everyone who stopped by thanking them for their time and inviting them to follow your club on social media.  Let them know about upcoming events and talks, or license classes. Remember, just because they may not be interested in getting licensed right now, they still may show up for discussions specific to their interest.

Conclusion

Overall, remember to make it fun. College students have enough serious topics to face on a day to day basis. Set up the demonstrations like a mini-Field Day or special event. This is the generation of the smartphone, so instant communication will not impress them. Show them how amateur radio is different, fun, and experiential. It truly is a hobby with something for everyone. It’s just a matter of helping students find something that sparks their interest.

—————–

Daniel R. Simpson, K4DRS was first licensed at 11 years old and was active in amateur radio and other student groups in college and graduate school. He can be reached at P.O. Box 1882, Milledgeville, Georgia 31059 or at k4drs@arrl.net.


 

Wrap-Up: ARRL Field Day 2017

So, this post is WAY overdue, but better late than never, right? This year, Nikki and I were in charge of Field Day for the Milledgeville Amateur Radio Club. In all, it went pretty well. We had to disconnect the antennas due to lightening. We had trouble getting antennas into the trees. But, without those things, is it really even a Field Day?

We ended up making around sixty contacts. That’s not too bad considering we were only on the air about 3 hours. We did get a lot of bonus points, so that makes it better. Judging by last year’s results, we’re in the running for the top 2A-Commercial in the state. Since this is my first year running one, I think that is a monumental success. To top it off, everyone had a blast and we were able to showcase the hobby to served agencies, elected officials, and interested community members.

Now, on to a few special event stations, Winter Field Day, and all the excitement the next year has in store.

Sections worked for Field Day 2017.

13 Colonies Special Event – Wrapup

Well, another big ham radio event has drawn to a close. It was fun, but I fell a little bit short. The 13 Colonies Special Event is each year during the week of Independence Day. Work one, get a certificate. Work all 13 (K2A through K2M) and get a “Clean Sweep” endorsement. I worked 12, being unable to contact South Carolina. That’s the way it goes I guess.

There were two bonus stations this year as well. I was able to work the one in Philadelphia but was never able to make it through the pileup to get the Great Britain station.

Special Event Log – 13 Colonies

DATE/TIME BAND MODE FREQ CALL STATE
2017-07-02-171706 20m PSK31 14.07179 K2A New York
2017-07-05-170500 40m SSB 7.18000 K2B Virginia
2017-07-01-195100 40m SSB 7.21800 K2B Virginia
2017-07-05-184729 20m PSK31 14.07069 K2C Rhode Island
2017-07-01-201100 20m SSB 14.27600 K2C Rhode Island
2017-07-01-203100 20m SSB 14.28000 K2D Connecticut
2017-07-05-172000 40m SSB 7.23900 K2E Delaware
2017-07-01-202400 40m SSB 7.21200 K2E Delaware
2017-07-01-204600 40m SSB 7.20250 K2F Maryland
2017-07-06-021400 80m SSB 3.83800 K2G Georgia
2017-07-02-170700 17m SSB 18.13800 K2H Maine
2017-07-01-143900 20m SSB 14.29500 K2H Maine
2017-07-02-172300 20m SSB 14.27000 K2I New Jersey
2017-07-05-224200 40m SSB 7.27300 K2J North Carolina
2017-07-05-215000 40m SSB 7.26500 K2J North Carolina
2017-07-01-211300 20m SSB 14.31600 K2K New Hampshire
2017-07-02-171000 40m SSB 7.20500 K2M Pennsylvania
2017-07-05-202500 20m SSB 14.25290 WM3PEN Philadelphia Bonus Station

Just as much fun for me was what happened outside of the event. While everyone was trying to work the 15 special event stations, it was quite easy to work other stations while waiting to be able to contact a K2x. I was able to contact six new DXCC entities, work the Gettysburg special event stations, got my first contacts on 2 new bands, and progressed towards my WAS Award.

General Log – July 1-6, 2017

DATE/TIME BAND MODE FREQ CALL COUNTRY STATE COMMENT
2017-07-01-195928 20m PSK31 14.07244 EA2DDO Spain
2017-07-01-205247 20m PSK31 14.07259 PT8DX Brazil
2017-07-01-205400 40m SSB 7.26500 W1G United States PA 154th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg Special Event Station
2017-07-01-211500 40m SSB 7.25700 K0ATZ United States MO
2017-07-02-172500 20m SSB 14.26500 WM3PEN United States PA
2017-07-05-163200 20m SSB 14.32500 KC1CBQ United States MA POTA: Dighton Rock State Park
2017-07-05-164848 20m PSK31 14.07094 N0VFJ United States FL
2017-07-05-173435 20m PSK31 14.07187 NQ6L United States CA
2017-07-05-190005 20m PSK31 14.07106 K4AWM United States VA
2017-07-05-201800 20m SSB 14.29000 V4/W6NN Saint Kitts & Nevis
2017-07-05-202500 20m SSB 14.25290 WM3PEN United States PA
2017-07-05-214200 40m PSK31 7.07098 KE9CK United States IN
2017-07-05-222900 20m SSB 14.27140 PJ7/NP4U Sint Maarten
2017-07-05-234116 20m PSK31 14.07164 GW0UQT/P Wales Clytha Castle
2017-07-06-021156 40m PSK31 7.07135 RA6ASU European Russia
2017-07-06-021234 40m PSK31 7.07135 TG9NDO Guatemala
2017-07-07-001439 10m SSB 28.43310 K0TT United States MN
2017-07-07-002423 20m SSB 14.32200 K0ATZ United States MO POTA: Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

Unfortunately, the event also highlighted much of what was wrong with this hobby. I invited my mother-in-law into the shack to see what I was working on, then had to awkwardly explain to her that some of the odd noises were intentional interference. Some were operators (albeit excited) jumping into a pileup either ignorant or apathetic to the fact the station was calling by numbers. This, combined with participants who were intent on getting every station with every band and every mode, made the process much more difficult than it could and should have been. Yes, I did contact a few stations more than once. But I made a point of only doing that when they were slow, and I made sure to spot them afterwards to get them more contacts.

I get challenging yourself, but there are only endorsements for CW and QRP. There is no reason to try to complete on all bands except ego. There is no reason to chase all RTTY or PSK31. All that does is add to the chaos, and that is the last thing we need.

The bottom line is I had fun. I will do it again next year. But if amateur radio is to survive as a hobby, we must clean up our behavior. If it comes down to it, we must assist with enforcement as well by not engaging with or acknowledging stations which do not follow (or are even openly hostile to) the proper code of conduct.