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False Sense Of Security

Posted Thursday, June 2, 2011, at 8:27 AM

How many times have you heard that you need a weather radio, especially for possible nighttime severe weather? I've heard about it often, and with the tornado in Joplin as well as all the severe weather we usually get here in Nebraska, I imagine I'm not the only person around here with a weather radio now-a-days.

The new weather radios are cool! Programmable down to the 1/4 of a county it seems. Where we live in extreme NW Furnas county, our weather radio only goes off when severe weather is actually about to hit us, and doesn't alert for every other location around. Nice feature and it wasn't always that way!

Not only do they alert only when a storm is really nearby, they come with battery backup so even if the power goes out, you can still get the National Weather Services emergency alerts... more on that in a minute.

I recently mentioned that we had a power issue, and the power company sent out a tech to change which "phase" of the power our service came from. Things were going along just great until last night when... boom boom, out went the lights.

No problem I think as I look out the picture window. Surveying the surrounding countryside, I noted that the airport lights were out (I'd hate to be landing a plane in the dark and have the power go out), and all of the distant neighbor lights we can see from our place were dark as well.

Not a problem for us, we quickly found the flashlights and was just about to light up our kerosene lamp when I noticed the red "ALERT" light flashing on the weather radio. That's odd I thought, the only time that flashes is when there is an alert here...

So I walk over to the weather radio, hit the button that would activate the radio without an alert, and all I got was static... suddenly, the power came back on... and almost as suddenly, the weather radio static returned to the normal broadcast. Darned if the power failure didn't knock out the weather radio transmitter.

A thoughtful reminder... if the power is out, you may not be able to trust your weather radio. I'll be contacting the NWS to find out about backup power for these transmitters that people have been so encouraged to rely on.

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High-Tech only reduces the chances of being caught unaware of a problem, for sure. Thanks for the info, Brian, as many folk think that the system is fool-proof, and almost is. "Almost" is a very scary word, when people are thinking 'total.'

I do like that quarter county factor. I think my machine is very old, as it seems-like it even alerts to a dust-storm on Mars, on occasion. Ha.

-- Posted by Navyblue on Thu, Jun 2, 2011, at 2:45 PM

And now the response from our NWS!

Brian -

Thanks for the info.

I talked with the technician who handles this site and most of our 7 sites. He has been doing this forever, at least as long as my 18 year career.

He said, yes there is a back-up generator which should kick in if the power is lost or a surge occurs. He said the transmitter should fire up very quickly and work in that situation.

From your description, it did not fire up last night. Tthe technician said it may have, and the audio into site was down because of a power loss at another point in the system. Basically, somewhere in the process of the getting the signal out from our office to the transmitter itself, there may have been a power loss through the telephone companies which could have impacted the audio feed.

Either way, we don't know for sure if it was the generator or not. The technician said he will confirm generator information with the local provider and the next time he is on site, he will pull the plug and see if the back-up power kicks in.

Hope this helps. Thanks for listening.


-- Posted by Brian Hoag on Thu, Jun 2, 2011, at 11:29 AM

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