Weather Radio Listeners Newsletter for August 1st 2020
Hello and welcome to the second issue of the newsletter for 2020. Did you have a great Christmas and holiday season? Oh… I already asked that in the previous and full-length issue. I will talk about why I haven’t numbered this one in a moment and I thought I would start off, by wishing everyone all the best and that we are all healthy and staying safe.
I have decided not to number this issue because it is abbreviated, due to the lack there of anything Weather Radio related to talk about. There are some things but, the pandemic has stalled any new work on Weatheradio Canada, which requires travel to various sites. Also, physical distancing does not help either and this is true of other situations, for some people but, that’s another story altogether and not one meant for this blog.
Anyway, I hope we all can enjoy the rest of the summer as much as we can and you will notice that a lot of things which are missing from this issue. For example: there will be no list of websites or manufacturers and, no CANWARN and SKYWARN section, except for what and how to report severe weather. However, I will have the list of weather, Weather Radio and weather/ Weather Radio related apps (such as they are) available here too. This is because I will be talking about a couple of apps… one of which is accessible to everyone and the other one is not so much. Anyway, enjoy reading and if you have any questions or feedback, you know how to contact me.
This is something which you may not have even thought of, before the pandemic but, your WX radio can let you know whether your area has a COVID-19 outbreak. At least, if you live in the US. Unfortunately, in Canada we are stil running the older software and only alerts in the news and on our smart phones will let us know. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7xxjKrJ6C70&feature=youtu.be
Instant Weather App
This is an app which was a couple of years in the making and in my own opinion, its main focus is on weather radar. Sure, it has the ability to push severe weather alerts to our phones and provide weather and weather forecast information. However, any talk on social media has been mainly on how the radar looks. As a result of this, it is not accessible to those who can not see and even with a screen reader like VoiceOver on iOS devices, it is nearly unusable, unless you have sight, or enough sight to see what’s going on on radar. Also, when the app came out, it was the top raded app on the Canadian App Store, when it was finally ready for launch in February 2020.
I like that it pushes both issued and updated weather alerts to my iPhone and well… that’s all I can use with this app. Everything else is impossible to navigate for those who use a screen reading software. I’m sorry to trash the app but, if all you are going to be chatting up is radar, it should have been obvious to those who are blind, that this would not be one which could be easy to use. However, I’m glad that the app is here and hopefully, as a result of this newsletter and those in the blind and visually impaired community who are reading this, any necessary changes can be made, to make it much more user-friendly to everyone. It is simply impossible to navigate properly right now and I hope that things will be improved upon and other visually impaired users (besides myself) will chime in with their ideas. Especially, those who may be a developer and therefore, have more experience with making applications accessible to everybody. So, if you have any knowledge of how apps work on the inside, please help with improving it by opining on social media outlets. We need more apps with more opportunities for everyone, to be able to use them.
On the other hand, Weather Gods started out as an app which was meant for the sighted and had become a favourite among those who are blind and visually impaired. The main reason is because of how accessible it is, because of its use of weather related sounds, to indicate current weather conditions and itss easy to follow, menus. For example: setting up the notifications, tapping on the various “gods” in the app and as mentioned before… the weather sounds make things easier and more entertaining. For more on the app, check this out, from November 2016. https://www.applevis.com/sites/default/files/podcasts/AppleVisPodcast1028_2.mp3
The only Criticism I half of the app is the lateness of severe weather alerts, compared to other weather apps, which push weather alerts to iPhones. It is an iPhone only app but, it has weather for all around the world and it even gives instructions, when severe weather alerts are issued, for what to do when a life-threatening storm pops up out of the blue, or arrives after sufficient notice.
There is a lot to love about this app and there could be more improvements to make it better. For example: we may see and hear how far lightning is striking from our current location and this is helpful, especially to those of us who are either CANWARN or SKYWARN weather spotters. If lightning is striking 17 km away, it’s time to get inside and stay in the shelter, until 30 minutes after the last strike has occurred. One of the other weather apps I currently use does this but I hope that Weather Gods may take this and run with it, along with issuing lightning alerts.
Anyway, if you are intending on getting the app, it is a payed app but there are no in-app purchases so, you just pay to get it and that’s it. I don’t think there is an android version of the app so, for those of you without an iOS device, you are sol.
On a side note, the AppleVis podcast has been around for a number of years and the focus is on the blind community and their use of Apple devices such as: iPhones, iPads, The iPod touch, Apple Watch and even Macs, MacBook pros, etc. For more episodes you can do a search for AppleVis in the podcast app on your iOS device or, you can check out this link. https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/applevis-podcast/id478403062
A major change may be coming to NOAA Weather Radio. For more efficiency, NWS is proposing to split counties into multiple SAME codes, instead of one, via Partial County Alerting (PCA). This would provide more accuracy for counties where a storm could be affecting one part of a county, but not another. The first county that will be tested is Clarke County Nevada. Check this link for more information. https://www.weather.gov/media/notification/pdf2/pns20-55vef_pca.pdf
SPOTTER REPORTING TIPS
For those who are new to the newsletter, this is for those who are either trained as CANWARN or SKYWARN spotters. However, these tips can be useful for anyone to follow, to help report severe weather to someone who is trained, such as myself. Besides, you could help save lives.
How to Report
Amateur radio network (if applicable) – Amateur Radio Condition
Condition Codes: Code Green – Severe Thunderstorm Watch
Code Yellow – Severe Thunderstorm Warning or Tornado Watch
Code Red – Tornado Warning
in Ontario by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter with #onstorm
If you are CANWARN trained you should give the following information to the weather office in order to help them ground truth: Your name, CANWARN ID, contact number, – Where – you are located and the approximate location of what you are reporting, – Describe what you are witnessing/what you witnessed, the time of occurrence of the event and duration, its movement (where the phenomenon came from and where it is going).
In the spring/summer severe weather season, please report the following:
Hail (use coins to describe its size…dime, nickel, quarter, loonie for larger hail…golf ball etc.), Heavy rain that has resulted in local flooding, Damaging winds (damage from tree branches down to more significant tree or structural damage), Large scale rotation in a thunderstorm such as: Wall Cloud – Funnel Cloud, Waterspout and Tornado, Dense fog – visibility less than 1 km
Note: if you are unsure of the rotation or presence of a wall cloud or funnel cloud…watch the area for a few minutes if it is safe to do so to verify the situation.
For the fall/winter, please report the following: Dense fog (visibility less than 1 km), Any occurrence of freezing rain or freezing drizzle, Heavily accumulating snow (2 or more cm/hr), Whiteout conditions in snow/blowing snow (visibility near zero), Rapid freezing of water on road surfaces.
For SKYWARN spotters, you should report: Tornadoes or funnel clouds (be very wary of look-alikes; watch for rotation)
waterspouts, Wall clouds, especially if they are rotating
Hail (Be specific with regard to size; however, YOU SHOULD NOT report MARBLE size)
Winds (40 mph or greater; specify whether they are estimated or recorded), large branches downed (specify the diameter of the branch), Trees/power lines downed, Structural damage to buildings such as roof, windows, etc.
Rainfall (1 inch or greater in an hour) (NOT a 1″/hr. rate for 10 minutes), 2 inches or greater storm total, Flooding — Streams/Rivers — also, when nearing bankful — Coastal — Street (Road Closures/Washouts, Cars Stuck due to flood waters. Minimum of 6″ of water covering an entire roadway or lane of a major route/highway).
For Winter Weather you should report: Precipitation type change (rain to sleet/freezing rain/snow, when the change has “taken hold”), Thunder when it is accompanied by snow, 1/4″ radial ice accretion (from twig outward; not circumference), New Snowfall from the First 2 inches; every 2-3 inches thereafter, 1 inch per hour or greater.
If it is less than 2 inches total, give the final total only Give final total: no partial reports please) Report any snow/sleet/freezing rain if not in NWS forecast.
Please consult your local Amateur Radio club or CANWARN or SKYWARN group for their: email address, Twitter account or Facebook pages.
THE WATCHDOG REPORT
If you hear anything that doesn’t sound right on your local Weather Radio transmitter, there are various ways to report a problem that depend on where you live. If you live in The United States, you can call 1-888-697-7263. You can email NOAA at email@example.com, or on the web at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr. If you live in Canada, you can call 1-877-789-7733. You can email the National Weatheradio Canada Team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, you can report it on the NOAA Weather Radio Weatheradio Canada Facebook Group. You will find the link to it later in this issue and all issues of the newsletter. You can also email the author directly at email@example.com and it will be passed on for you.
Note from the author:
I will mainly include items with a definitive time on their start to finish and ones with unknown starts or endings, I will of course include as well, but with a mention of them being unknown.
On Sunday, February 2, the following was reported on the NOAA Weather Radio and Weatheradio Canada Facebook group.
“Station XLM537 is currently broadcasting a looping “technical difficulties” message. And I already dropped them an email.” The problem was rectified on February 3rd and had also affected either, a select number of WXR’s throughout the Prairie provinces and the Arctic region, as I had called selected telephone ATAD’s and they were all updated, so it was hard to pin down when things had gone wrong. I had checked Winnipeg and it was also in watchdog so, I called the ATAD and it was updating normally. Either way, things must be alright again, in that part of the country.
on Thursday, February 27, the London WXR went into watchdog mode, after the 11:00 AM forecast went through, with the last hourly update being at 10:00 PM, with no further forecasts getting through. It would be fixed, but it is unclear when.
This may have also affected other transmitters, such as Toronto which can be fixed easily due to the upgrade. However, forecast have not gotten through to it either, unless something major is issued like a watch or warning. Thankfully though, it hasn’t gone down and was still working throughout the entire winter weather outbreak during the last days in February 2020. S[Speaking of Toronto, on Sunday, March 1, it had gone into watchdog, most likely as a result of what happened during the week with all those watches and warnings throughout the province. It was not restored until 10:40 AM March 2nd.
On Thursday April 30th around 11:15 AM, all of Ontario had gone into watchdog and had been restored within minutes, thanks to emails from myself and others.
On Saturday, June 13, all of the stations in the prairies and Arctic region went into watchdog at either 10:15 or 11:15 P.m. central time. My guess is that the severe weather may have overloaded the system, or knocked out power to a few transmitters. They had been restored some time during the morning of June 15th.
On June 15th, it was reported that XLM-614 162.400 MHz in St Johns Newfoundland had gone into watchdog. It came back around 2:30 PM NDT.
On Wednesday July 29th at around 7:00 PM, St Catharines VAD 320 went into watchdog and wasn’t restored until Thursday July 30 at 8:09 AM.
Weather or Weather Radio Apps
This is a growing list and it needs more results for future reference. If you have idea’s for weather or Weather Radio apps which should be put into future issues of the newsletter, send an email to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org. Right now these are iPhone apps only, because that is all we have at the moment. Your help is needed to expand it.
Alertable by Public Emergency Alerting Services Inc
Note: for android users there is an android version of this app, which you can find on the Google Play store.
Weather Office Free by X2 Studios
This app provides weather and forecast information for both Canada and the US from Environment Canada and the National Weather Service respectively. In fact nearly all apps mentioned here provide information from one or both sources. There is a version you pay for but to me, it is the same as the free version.
NOAA Weather Radio by Christopher Coudriet
This app allows you to listen to NOAA Weather Radio and receive alerts for your county in the US. It would be nice if it also provided the same feature for Weatheradio Canada and Canadians too, as it provides some Canadian WXR’s as live streams.
Weather Radio by WDT by Weather Decision Technologies, Inc.
This app gives you NWS alerts and also pushes lightning alerts to your iPhone, when lightning is possibly detected in your local area or, in area’s you have selected.
TuneIn Radio – Stream Live Radio by TuneIn
This popular app allows you to listen to conventional, Internet and even some Weather Radio stations when and where available. you can even listen to podcasts of your favourite radio shows if you like and maybe even audiobooks, To help you pass the time in the monotony of a commute or while waiting in the waiting room for an appointment.
WeatherCAN by Environment and Climate Change Canada https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/weathercan/id1334221563?mt=8
Météo – Canadian Weather by North Bits Solutions Ltd.
This is another app designed for Canadians and is available in both english and french. It is similar to the Degrees Pro app and some of the others on this list. It is also free, despite that it offers in app purchases.
Atmosphérique Pro – Canadian Weather from EC by Quadrant Newmedia Corp.
This app is rather Self-explanatory, in that it allows us to hear scanner feeds from various police scanners, as well as Weather Radio. In fact, it helped in reporting one of the issues I highlighted in “The Watchdog Report” earlier in this issue.
Instant Weather https://apps.apple.com/ca/app/instant-weather/id1495672013 for iOS or https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ca.instantweather.instantweather
This is what it says in the application’s description. “Our app helps keep you safe, dry, & save you time. Our weather coverage combines top-tier data, instant alerts, custom updates, & your detailed reports in one location. Introducing our new free app. Instant Weather helps keep you safe, keep you dry, and save you time. By combining top-tier weather data, government weather alerts, our custom severe weather updates, and the detailed reports from the most passionate weather community on social media, we’re able to provide you with the best possible forecast. ——————– Free version: – Instant Weather Alerts – Custom Severe Weather Updates – Accurate Current Conditions – 15 Day Forecast – 10 Day Hourly Forecast – 6.5 Hour Minute Forecast – Past & Future Radar (1.5 Hours) – Report Weather – Ads ——————– Remove Ads Subscription ($0.99/month or $5.99/year): – *No ads – *Past & Future Radar (5 Hours) – Custom Severe Weather Updates – Instant Weather Alerts – Accurate Current Conditions – 15 Day Forecast – 10 Day Hourly Forecast – 6.5 Hour Minute Forecast – Report Weather ——————– Remove Ads + 15 Minute Radar ($12.99/year): – *No ads – *Past & Future Radar (5 Hours) – *15 Minute Radar Intervals – Instant Weather Alerts – Accurate Current Conditions – 15 Day Forecast – 10 Day Hourly Forecast – 6.5 Hour Minute Forecast – Report Weather We’ve been developing and testing the app for several years and we’re finally ready to launch it! There is still a lot we want to improve with the app and still the potential for occasional bugs. We have more details about upcoming features, known bugs, tips, etc., on our website at https://InstantWeatherInc.com/app-faq Please join our Facebook tester group at https://Facebook.com/groups/InstantWeatherApp to share bugs and feedback with all testers, and to learn about the latest updates that we’re working on! A huge thanks to all those who have supported us over the years and have made this all possible! If you have any questions or concerns, please email us at help@InstantWeather.ca Thank you, – Adam”
Weather Gods by Weather Gods Ltd
This app is an interesting one, in that it provides weather alerts and plays sound affects too, so a lot of people who are blind appreciate it for its ease of use. However, it pushes weather alerts to the iPhone a few minutes late and that isn’t good, in a potential tornado situation where you may have less than 15 minutes to prepare and get into a safe place, to avoid being struck and killed by flying debris. However, it does push severe weather alerts so, if you wish to give it a try go ahead but I encourage you to use it with another app, like WeatherCAN, which is much faster and pushes alerts in a more timely manner.
My Lightning Tracker & Alerts by JRustonApps B.V.
This is another app which pushes lightning alerts to your iPhone but you have more control over how they are sent out, such as changing the distance and time duration between receiving a push notification from the app. Also, you have an option of changing the sound used to alert you of a lightning strike but it doesn’t notify you that it has been 30 minutes since the last lightning strike within 17 km of your current location. But, it still is a good app.
The official Weather Radio Listeners Newsletter Twitter Account
This has certainly been a different type of issue of the newsletter, as 2020 is turning out to be a radically unusual year for all of us around the world, due to the pandemic. Hopefully, we can get back to normal as soon as possible and until further notice, there will be no new issues of the newsletter until it is safe for all of us to go outside again, socialize and get close to each other, without a second thought. Thanks to all of you, who have helped out over the years and hopefully, you can continue to do so, for as long as the newsletter is around and as long as I am here, to bring it to you.