Saturday, October 10, 2015

Operations update 2015

A Big move, and new outlook..

I wanted to say thank you again to all the followers of The_Weather_Vane and provide you with an update regarding our voluntary news media operations.

The blog and the Facebook page was founded in 2011 based on my obsession with weather, science and photography.  I started posting publicly based on my personal experience with a dangerous tropical event that I went through when I lived in South America. When I lived down there I found out the hard way that the local news did not have an effective way to issuing a warnings about impending severe weather.  This is why when I moved back to the states I started to watch weather events in the U.S and see how the News handled issuing warnings. I thought that being in a more developed country would automatically mean superior access to news.   Then I started a blog and wrote regularly and took photos.  Originally I was not able to set up a proper weather station to provide direct data. (more about this later).   I have been trying to point out that, how informed is the general public when it comes to severe weather and being prepared.   Here are some statistics that I put together.  The United States has about 280 million internet users.  This does not show  how many people are reading the news 24/7 and would be informed if a severe weather event is unfolding.  We also have to see how we can communicate to a portion of the elderly where they may not be computer literate.

When I started writing I was in a small apartment in Horsham PA where I had several issues where I could not set up much other then a NOAA weather alert radio and a wireless thermometer.  I am grateful that I had cheap rent, decent educational opportunities and the convenience of being close to work and family.

Here is a typical picture taken from my balcony.  I took this pic back in March of 2013 which was a late snowfall day.

After meeting my wife a few years ago we patiently planned to see where we could move to provide us with more space.  We have finally and thankfully had the opportunity to purchase a home.  The good thing is that the News operations of The_Weather_Vane will stay in Montgomery County. We will be moving from Horsham to Collegeville PA.  I know this move is more of a personal decision and may not appear to be one that was to improve blog and my ability to issue weather news (that is really what the experts are out there really for).   I am a dedicated weather enthusiast and a volunteer storm spotter.  I do not issue my own forecasts however I can help by being a social media manager and with this ability I can help the public by spreading the news to more eyes than  professional sources that more often then not ignored.  This is because of peoples perception of priorities.  Ask the average teenager about what the weather forecast is for tomorrow and they would probably shrug their shoulders.  This is sad because I have checked and found that most people that follow me online are over the age of 35.  My work with issuing weather and other information using Social Media might just grab the attention of a few people and help the public.   I spoke to a few experts and some of them did not see that communication via smartphones and social media is the best way.  I disagree because we have to consider that a big portion of our public is not looking for weather alerts.  How else do we get their attention if we try to post a small important message on a cell phone or on FB, etc.?

  In the last year I have been focusing more in providing weather alerts on social media rather then posting stories on the blog.  I hope to start writing again soon and I apologize for the lack of stories.
So now that we are moving I may be able to finally set up a weather station and be able to take more pictures.  Collegeville has a long history of flooding just like the Pennypack creek area between Horsham and Northeast Philly.  I will use the move as an opportunity to reorganize and update the blog and to find new areas in Montgomery County to report about.

I want to thank Kari, my wife for her support and patience and Len Martelli who is a good friend and a great Real Estate Agent.

Thank you,

Pat Saavedra
Social Media Manager

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Hurricane Awareness Tour 2015

For the last two years I have attended Hurricane Awareness workshops and because of this I was asked to call into "Barometer Bob Show"back in 2013.  No matter who or what I read or listen to in these events the common theme is to be prepared and be aware of severe weather.   Everyone on the east coast still talks about Hurricane Sandy and how it impacted the general area.

So to continue my quest to learn, I went to the Hurricane Awareness Tour on May 4th which was located at the William J. Hughes Technical Center next to the Atlantic City Airport.  This tour was a unique experience for all ages.  Not only did you get to see the Hurricane Hunter Aircraft but you got to see equipment, brief presentations and lectures from the experts in tracking Hurricanes. Sadly I learned that this tour only occurs on the east coast every 20+ years (last tour was back in 1991).

In the beginning of the tour our small group was led to a hangar where representatives from different agencies were doing lectures about forecasting and the sciences of tracking tropical storms.

Staff from the local emergency offices such as FEMA, The American Red Cross, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes and the Mt. Holly National Weather Service office were there to answer questions.  (all were great in answering questions)

After leaving the hanger, our guide directed us outside to where there were several aircraft that are actually being used to track hurricanes to keep the public safe.

The first aircraft I went to was the large WC-130J flown by the USAF Reserve 53rd Reconnaissance Squadron.  There was a long line to board the aircraft and I could not pass up an opportunity like this.  I waited in the line on a nice spring day. The weather was perfect for this event and there was a nice breeze that at one point knocked my hat off my head.

As I moved forward in the line, I was able to see the shear size of this aircraft. 

After some time I was able to see the banner at the back entrance of the aircraft.

I briefly met Weather Officer Leesa Froelich who was there earlier in the day to give a tour to school students.

 Image above (I believe) is equipment used to measure storms while flying through a hurricane.

A view inside the aircraft.

Next I walked around the NOAA G-IV jet aircraft.

Outside there was a display with members of the crew explaining the missions and equipment used on board.  One instrument is a Dropsonde (see graphic below)

"Dropsonde" by NASA - modified in PNG. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
"Dropsonde U.S. Air Force" by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman of the US Air Force - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
The crew member of the NOAA G-IV answered my questions about the Dropsonde and let me hold one.  He said they drop roughly 20 of these probes when flying above a hurricane. The data is streamed live (by satellite). The device measures pressure, temperature, dewpoint, wind speed and wind direction of the tropopause (an outer layer of our atmosphere where weather changes occur).  It also has a GPS sensor so it measure its location as well as the time of the drop.  I was told that each of these probes cost roughly $700 and they simply fall into the ocean.  The discussion about this instrument was very interesting.

This was really the end of the tour however as a bonus the USAF and US Coast Guard kindly had their aircraft on display.  This is a must see tour and a great educational experience and I recommend to everyone.

Credit for this blog story must go to.  NOAA/NWS office at Mt. Holly New Jersey WFO for NJ, PA, DE and MD.  Wikipedia, 

I also read from the National Hurricane Center website and their twitter feed about the tour.

Thank you to the National Weather Service.
Photographs by Pat Saavedra, author of this blog except for the Dropsonde images as noted above.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Being "Ready" for a Winter Storm

.. coldest season of the year, between autumn and spring; the name comes from an old Germanic word that means “time of water” and refers to the rain and snow of winter in middle and high latitudes. In the Northern Hemisphere it is commonly regarded as extending from the winter solstice (year’s shortest day), December 21 or 22, to the vernal equinox (day and night equal in length), March 20 or 21, and in the Southern Hemisphere from June 21 or 22 to September 22 or 23. The low temperatures associated with winter occur only in middle and high latitudes; in equatorial regions, temperatures are almost uniformly high throughout the year.  - per the Encyclopedia Britannica

Except for the unfortunate and deadly freezing rain event that caught many by surprise in the Philly area, Winter 2015 has not been that much of a challenge when compared to the deep snowfall we saw last year.  Being prepared makes a big difference between life and death situations.  The average person may not pay attention to the news to know what storm is headed our way, or have the proper basic gear in their car.  This could be a problem if you venture out into a big snowstorm and end up stranded on a major highway where you could be miles from a gas station or even an exit ramp to find water, medication, fuel or even food. Highway "Shut Downs' do occur more than we think.

Former PA governor Rendell had to investigate what happened on I78 during a snow storm that left many motorists stranded for days (back in 2007).  Please read this story by the NY Times: story I78

So this all being said I wanted readers to pay attention to the news, please do not take the weather reports for granted and do make sure your family and friends are safe this winter.

What can you do to be prepared for a winter storm?
Here is a Great list by the CDC   (original website here: Supply list by the CDC )

Winter Checklist:

Stock up on emergency supplies for communication, food, safety, heating, and vehicles in case a storm hits.

Communication Checklist
Make sure you have at least one of the following in case there is a power failure:
Cell phone, portable charger, and extra batteries.
Battery-powered radio, with extra batteries, for listening to local emergency instructions
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio receiver for listening to National Weather Service broadcasts. Learn more about NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards.
Find out how your community warns the public about severe weather:
  • Siren
  • Radio
  • Television
  • Local public health and emergency management websites
  • Listen to emergency broadcasts.
  • Make a Family Communication Plan. Your family may not be together during an extreme winter event, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together, and what you will do during an emergency.
Be sure to check on older neighbors and family members; assist as necessary.
Know what winter storm warning terms mean:
Winter Weather Advisory: Expect winter weather condition (e.g., accumulation of snow, freezing rain, and sleet) that could cause severe inconvenience and life-threatening hazards.
Frost/Freeze Warning: Expect below-freezing temperatures.
Winter Storm Watch: Be alert; a storm is likely.
Winter Storm Warning: Take action; the storm is in or entering the area.
Blizzard Warning: Seek refuge immediately! Snow and strong winds, near-zero visibility, deep snow drifts, and life-threatening wind chill.
Other terms are available from NOAA.
  • Heating Checklist
Turning on the stove for heat is not safe; have at least one of the following heat sources in case the power goes out:
  • Extra blankets, sleeping bags, and warm winter coats
  • Fireplace with plenty of dry firewood or a gas log fireplace
  • Portable space heaters or kerosene heaters
  • Check with your local fire department to make sure that kerosene heaters are legal in your area.
  • Use electric space heaters with automatic shut-off switches and non-glowing elements.
  • Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water.
  • Never leave children unattended near a space heater.
  • Keep heat sources at least 3 feet away from furniture and drapes.
  • Have the following safety equipment:
  • Chemical fire extinguisher
  • Smoke alarm in working order (Check prior to winter storm season and change batteries, if needed.)
  • Carbon monoxide detector (Check prior to winter storm season and change batteries, if needed.)
Never use an electric generator indoors, inside the garage, or near the air intake of your home because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Do not use the generator or appliances if they are wet.
Do not store gasoline indoors where the fumes could ignite.
Use individual heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords to plug in other appliances.

  •  Cooking and Lighting Checklist
Use battery-powered flashlights or lanterns.
Never use charcoal grills or portable gas camp stoves indoors. The fumes are deadly.
Avoid using candles as these can lead to house fires.
If you do use candles, never leave lit candles alone.
  • Food and Safety Checklist
Have a week’s worth of food and safety supplies. If you live far from other people, have more supplies on hand. Make sure you have the following supplies:

  • Drinking water
  • Canned/no-cook food (bread, crackers, dried fruits)
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Baby food and formula (if baby in the household)
  • Prescription drugs and other medicine
  • First-aid kit
  • Rock-salt to melt ice on walkways
  • Supply of cat litter or bag of sand to add traction on walkways
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Battery-powered lamps or lanterns
  • (To prevent the risk of fire, avoid using candles.)
  • Water Checklist
Keep a water supply. Extreme cold can cause water pipes in your home to freeze and sometimes break.

Leave all water taps slightly open so they drip continuously.
Keep the indoor temperature warm.
Allow more heated air near pipes. Open kitchen cabinet doors under the kitchen sink.
If your pipes do freeze, do not thaw them with a torch. Thaw the pipes slowly with warm air from an electric hair dryer.
If you cannot thaw your pipes, or if the pipes have broken open, use bottled water or get water from a neighbor’s home.
Fill the bathtub or have bottled water on hand.
In an emergency, if no other water is available, snow can be melted for water. Bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute will kill most germs but won’t get rid of chemicals sometimes found in snow.
  • Car and Emergency Checklist
Is Your Vehicle Winter Ready? - A bird character near the back of a vehicle with a water bottle, flash light, ice scraper, jumper cables, cell phone, shovel, first aid kit, and blankets.Minimize travel, but if travel is necessary, keep the following in your vehicle:

  • Cell phone, portable charger, and extra batteries
  • Shovel
  • Windshield scraper
  • Battery-powered radio with extra batteries
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Water
  • Snack food
  • Extra hats, coats, and mittens
  • Blankets
  • Chains or rope
  • Tire chains
  • Canned compressed air with sealant for emergency tire repair
  • Road salt and sand
  • Booster cables
  • Emergency flares
  • Bright colored flag or help signs
  • First aid kit
  • Tool kit
  • Road maps
  • Compass
  • Waterproof matches and a can to melt snow for water
  • Paper towels

You should check you local news source for storm updates.
For weather information you can check The National Weather Service

Be Prepared so that you can be safe..