Clay’s Corner for February 2012

February 11, 2012
By

On the 11th of January we held our State EAS Committee (SECC) Meeting at the Sand Point at the offices of the National Weather Service.  At some point in the meeting, WCM Ted Buehner mentioned that some weather was coming that we might want to be concerned about.    As predicted we had snow.  Not as much in the Seattle area as the ‘Low’ went inland a bit south of where it was projecting, however south of Olympia received a huge dump of the white stuff. With reportedly 18 inches in some places.   Like all snow fall in the Puget Sound area, it does not last all that long.   The forecast called for warming with the snow changing to rain (like normal) and we were all assured that the weather was about to get back to normal.   What really happened, was it rained (they got that part right) but the temperature failed to increase above freezing resulting in a record setting ice-storm.   Just to add good measure, we got another 2-3 inches of snow on top of the ice.   This time NWS, Cliff Mass and all the TV forecasters got it wrong.

The resulting ice storm caused a huge number of trees to loose limbs that fell into power lines causing about 500,000 to lose power.  The area of major impact was the Eastside through Tacoma and Olympia and south to Chehalis.    In my town, Auburn, 50% of the city was out of power.

Cougar Mt got about a foot of snow, topped with ice and, of course, no power.  Hauling a 4×4 of diesel to the site it became clear why; one phase was lying on the ground.  All together 70 hours of generator use at that site.  Our thanks to Steve and the crew at Don Small Oil for hauling in diesel in a big 4×4 when the usual suppliers said they would not go up there.

At West Tiger, both of the power lines feeding the site went down resulting in some 80 hours of generator time.  As murphy would have it, the road to the site was snowbound.  Not knowing how long it would take for a thaw, or power restoration, the road was plowed out.  If you think that Seacomm does nothing but tower work…Guess again.  John and crew went way over the top in coordinating the plowing of the West Tiger road, cutting a huge number of trees and hauled in some 1000 gallons of diesel.    To add to the problem, the only highway reaching the Tiger Mt Road is SR-18 which was closed from I-90 to Auburn!

From behind the wheel driving to West Tiger Mt.

Some stations were not so lucky and did not have back-up generators.  Others, like KVTI in Lakewood have an antenna that is very sensitive to ice without radomes or heaters. Reportedly the Capital Peak FM’s were off the air as was KSWS in Chehalis was off the air due to lack of access and a snowed in dish, KCKA-TV, at the same site was reportedly off the air, not sure why at this writing.   The ice on STL and Satellite antennas created Ice-fades that are hard to overcome.  In one instance, a station had heaters on their satellite antenna reflector, but the LNB and feed were put out of commission due to a heavy coating of ice. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was closed due to falling ‘Bridgecicles” for several hours.   Then there is PSE that encouraged their customers to report outages via their computer.   Perhaps they fail to understand that most computers don’t operate without power.

Through all of this, a couple of things stand out –

1-    Over the air broadcasting is pretty hard to beat, especially when you are dependent on a system between you and the station you wish to receive.

2-    Reliance on an intermediate carrier for TV, Telephone and Internet can cause you to lose a number of services at the same time.  Something about eggs and baskets.

3-    My windup radio really was put to good use, kudos to KOMO and KIRO-FM.

4-    The Blue/Yellow and Red Jacket guys on the local Channels certainly did a great job of keeping us informed, even though it appeared that they were having difficulty coming up with new material

5-    Power line crews from all over – Working at Cougar Mt was a crew from BC

6-    The sounds of chain-saws and smell of wood smoke.

 

At the homestead, I was lucky in that we only lost power for about 6 hours; however, our cable was out until late on the 22nd.    My normal means of getting email etc. is via DSL and that did not return until the 26th.   I did, however, have POTS so I can see dial-up access to my ISP is going to be a must.    Thankfully we have a gas water heater, range and a great wood stove…fuel for that is laying all over the place.  Jim Dalke lives near me and on one of my drives by his place I could not help but notice that he must have a generator as his was the only house in the area with lights on.

On the West Tiger Road – Lowell Kiesow and Nick Winter from KPLU -The reason for the smiles….The road was just plowed and the going was easy.

Spotted something in a recent Issue of Consumer Reports – They did a survey asking which innovations from the past few decades would be the hardest to live without.  26% said Microwave Oven, 19% said home computer, 15% said cellphone and 14% said cable and satellite TV.   No mention of over the air broadcasting.

Another sign of the times is the fierce amount of competition for the automobile dashboard.  Car makers are racing to install the latest whiz-bang toys to the point that radios are now likely to be integrated into a larger package of electronics.   In the view of at least one maker, GM, it’s time for the CD player to go.

According to a recent piece in TV Technology, TV Antenna sales are booming, the main reason cited were cutting costs and video streaming video sites.   During our recent ice-storm those with antennas were probably better off for other reasons.

The FM version of HD radio is spreading a bit in various places in the world.   News reports this month tell of a new HD Radio Station in Dhaka Bangladesh.  The station is using a package of BE equipment.   Interesting how there is so many in this country reluctant to embrace the system while a new station in Bangladesh embraces it.

From the list of – I know where you are from by the way you drive comes this description of someone from Seattle. [One hand on latte, one knee on wheel, cradling cell phone, foot on brake, mind on game]

The 31st annual Mike and Key Amateur Radio Club Electronic Flea Market will be on Saturday March 10th this year at the Puyallup Fair Grounds Pavilion Exhibition Hall.   Been an annual event for me and several friends.

Seems to me that I have been writing about this for a very long time, like 3 years.  They are projecting that Tribune (owner of a couple TV stations in our town) may exit bankruptcy by the 3rd Qtr. this year.    I’m not going to bet on it.

I understand that George Bisso has had additional amputation surgery has a part of his advancing diabetes.  We wish him well.

As I mentioned in the last Chapter Meeting, I was reading the latest QST and was saddened to discover that W7JPH is a Silent Key.   For those of you that don’t follow ham radio call letters, W7JPH was Don Rose.   In years past Don was a regular at our Chapter meetings.  I remember him as the salesman for EEV.

National Public Radio elected to drop the word Radio from their name becoming simply NPR.  Now it’s Clear Channel Radios turn to drop the work ‘Radio’ from their name becoming Clear Channel Media and Entertainment.   So CCR is now CCME.   For the time being the firm will own some 850 Radio Stations….or perhaps Point-Multi-Point Aural Entertainment Facilities?

Some changes in who does what in our market ….Sam Roffe is leaving KBCS going over to KUOW.   Taking his place will be Buzz Anderson.

We may have something new to see during our annual Picnic on Vashon Island over at the 770/1090 Spread.    I’m sure that Arne Skoog or Tom McGinley will be happy to show us the newest 50,000 Watt transmitter at the CBS station, a new Nautel NX50.   Likely the smallest 50Kw transmitter in the area.

The latest radio ratings are out and KWRM came up with some huge number in the 12+ Race…a 12.  It’s been some time since a radio station has been in double digits.  Congrats to Mark Kaye and the crew over in Bellevue.   Some other observations – KING-FM’s ratings are higher since they went non-commercial.   Something you don’t see everyday…but KRWM’s stream showed up at #38.   Two Bellingham Stations had higher ratings than KVI in Seattle and little KNHC operated by Nathan Hale High School beats 50,000 Watt, AM,  KIXI.

For some time NAB, and others, have been pressing to get FM Radio receivers in Cellphones.  One of the first to say OK to the idea is Blackberry with a couple of their models.

The Mobile 500 Alliance previewed a new mobile TV receiver at the recent CES event in L.V.  The device will be tested, here in Seattle, later this year.

A legislator in W.V. is working on legislation that would make certain copper thefts a felony.  The penalty would be 1 to 10 years in prison or a $10,000 fine, or both.   Perhaps the Legislature in our state is more concerned in how to fill the budget hole than worry about copper theft?

Looks like a lot of money will be spent on political advertising this year.   Some estimates put the total at just under $5 Billion.  Almost $3 Billion will be going to broadcast TV.  Washington with now 10 Congressional Seats will become increasingly a target for some of those bucks.

The FCC is out with totals, as of the end of 2011 –

AM STATIONS 4766
FM COMMERCIAL 6542
FM EDUCATIONAL 3644
TOTAL RADIO STATIONS –  14,952

UHF COMMERCIAL TV 1027
VHF COMMERCIAL TV 360
UHF EDUCATIONAL TV 289
VHF EDUCATIONAL TV 107
TOTAL TV STATIONS 1,783

CLASS A UHF STATIONS 413
CLASS A VHF STATIONS 68
TOTAL 481

FM TRANSLATORS & BOOSTERS 6099
UHF TRANSLATORS 2997
VHF TRANSLATORS 1214
TOTAL 10,310

UHF LOW POWER TV 1644
VHF LOW POWER TV 403
TOTAL 2,047

LOW POWER FM 838 838

TOTAL BROADCAST STATIONS 30,411

 

As evidenced by some recent fines, the FCC does not care for stations recruiting policies.  In these cases the stations used only internet postings or word-of-mouth.  The take away from this is when your station has a position to fill – you’d be wise to advertise widely using a variety of means.

Pandora continues to grow as they recently reached the one-million session mark.  Traditional Radio is trying to play catch-up with the major ownerships involved.  Second to Pandora is Clear Channel with their iHeartRadio.  Interestingly the gym I go to is using Pandora over TV or local radio.

It’s not that we did not see this one coming, but the bankruptcy of Kodak certainly leaves a funny feeling to many of us that grew up with a number of Kodak products.   Gee they still say –Film at 11.   Unfortunately for the Rochester NY firm, they were late to see that film was being rapidly replaced with digital everything.  When that light finally went on, others were well down the track.

WOR-AM in NYC recently successfully tested a power saving modulation dependent carrier system on their 50Kw transmitter.   As AM’s struggle to survive in today’s world of radio, it’s likely that many of these high powered stations will be adopting this scheme.  The FCC is, apparently, allowing this use of this technology on a waiver basis.  The makers of high powered transmitters should like this as well as it takes a newer generation transmitter to operate it. My understanding is that Harris and Nautel both are offering it. Come to think about it, aren’t they the only two manufacturers to 50 Kw AM Transmitters?

Our nearest star has been mixing it up lately causing Hams to jump for joy…The impact of moving the MUF higher is felt on broadcasters too with FM stations skipping into markets where they are not licensed.   In one report a station in Florida was heard loud and clear in northern Virginia.    Several years ago I recall watching Channel 4, in Tacoma, get clobbered by a co-channel station from somewhere.   That’s not a problem now, of course, with KOMO, and others, now operating safely on UHF Channels.   Wonder what strong co-channel interference would do to ATSC Digital?

Here’s an invention, just in time for our post winter storm bout with potholes.  It’s a vehicle shock absorber that converts its motion into energy.  The devices, known as Gen-Shocks, look like a standard shock but have an electrical cord.    The rougher the road, the more power is produced.

If your station operates a Part 74 -2-way radio, IFB, ENG, RPU etc. system you probably know about narrow-banding and how this will impact your system.   The SBE as well as EIBASS has filed comments with the FCC dealing with this issue.   If you are not up to speed on this issue, I highly recommend you get that way, quickly.

Those of you that double managing a project will enjoy these definitions –

  • Contractor:    A gambler who never gets to shuffle, cut or deal!
  • Low Bidder:    A contractor who is wondering what he left out.
  • Project Manager:    The conductor of an orchestra in which every musician is in a different union.

 

And finally –

The following was sent to be by Buzz Anderson –

Perhaps one could have been drawn for the TV Remote Control…Before that- The ‘couch potato was forced to actually move to change channels…but then there were very few channels.
Til next month –

Clay Freinwald, K7CR, CPBE

 

Comments are closed.