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Storm season is here - and something new at Radio Shack

Radio for me lately has been reduced to preparing to organize several public service events, taking Skywarn classes and preparing for various NSRC presentations. Occasionally, I turn on the HF rig! Still, this has been a terrific, enriching time. I attended the very popular DuPage Advanced weather seminar last month and found the experience most satisfying. They had several college professors as presenters and offered some top notch topics. Many of the presentations focused on the structure of super cell storm systems, the kind that produce potentially dangerous tornados. The pictures of the storms taken on various storm chasing expeditions were simply spectacular, very dramatic but also quite informative. There has been a tremendous amount of on the ground research done by these brave souls during storm events in recent years. Of course, they said that these storms are not isolated to farmland in Kansas, that big cities can also be hit…and that Chicago is due, if you follow climatological trends.

One very interesting discovery for me - they had data on some of the biggest storms in history…and there was one series of storm tracks over Illinois and Indiana in 1965. It was one of the biggest storm events in recent times. I was a Boy Scout in South Bend and I remember being mobilized by our Troop to help clean up after the tornados hit. The damage was amazing.the ground had scars where the tornados touched the earth. You could follow that path to a demolished building or uprooted tree. It was a very visible display of the power at work there. So, with that as a backdrop, I am boning up my ham gear to support our Skywarn team, now that we are approaching storm season.

In preparing to do my class on kit building, I was absolutely thrilled to discover the new “Radio Shack” now called the Shack, I think. Anyway, I have been very dismissive of them in recent times, but this time I went in to seek out some robotic toys that I thought I could build for my grandson. Of course, the toys were sold out, but I discovered a whole new initiative at my local store to offer electronic building block kits. Most of this is created around the Arduino breadboard projects that enable people to experiment or build all sorts of new devices. The young man who helped me was amazing. His eyes lit up and he got very animated when he talked about all that these little things could do. I don’t think I have ever been in a Radio Shack store where I could make that statement. Of course, before I left, they did try to sell me a cell phone! So I nibbled…seems like the least I could do to accommodate his welcome advice.

Finally, several of us are going to be helping with the Shamrock Shuffle. This is the world’s largest 8K event. Nearly 35,000 runners. I used to run this event myself, but now I am stuck in a cold tent, helping provide radio support to the medical teams in the field. It has been a great partnership for ham radio and fun to be involved with something on this scale. This event is not nearly the size of the Chicago Marathon, so we only have 19 hams helping out…the Marathon requires close to 119. These events have become very good ways for ham radio to be of use to our communities and serve the public good. It has been more difficult to find consistent public service roles with served agencies for ham radio, since so much depends on waiting for events to occur. In the Chicago area, we are blessed with many, many professional service agencies. As a result, it is not an easy sell to offer ham radio operators as a volunteer force. No one wants a volunteer…well, until they need one. One place where there is a connection for hams has been the CERT courses that are being offered. The notion being that you and your neighbors should be prepared to serve as first responders in your neighborhood in the event of a true disaster, since most public service might be overwhelmed. There has been an increase in interest in ham radio among this population and I think it is a welcome trend.

So, see you around the block, if not on the air.