Sunday, 22 October 2017

Surviving the Autumn Storms

It's been a rough few days here on the northwest coast of Wales.  For a populated area, this is one of the most severe locations from which to operate radio anywhere on the planet.

Last weekend, we had ex-hurricane Ophelia bring 85mph (136 km/h) winds over several hours.  This highly unusual path for a hurricane has not happened since 2006.  With warming seas as well as a warming atmosphere, it may not be so long before we see this phenomenon again.

The red sun of ex-hurricane Ophelia over the UK.
A very ominous accompanying phenomenon of Ophelia was a very red sun in the mid-daytime sky - a result of Saharan dust and smoke from Portuguese wildfires being sucked up high into the atmosphere.  For an hour or so, you could actually smell the smoke from Portugal at ground level over large areas of the UK.  With high temperatures as well, it felt  very much like walking around in north Africa!

Ophelia out at sea, on its way to the UK.

For the first time since moving here 9 years ago, I had to tilt the 12m beam and tower over to protect it from the severe gusts, which may have topped 90mph at times.  The tilt-over was prompted not so much by the wind strength, but by a gust managing to slip the antenna on its stub mast by 90 degrees.  Luckily, it stopped turning at that point, allowing time to stabilise matters by luffing.  The retractable tower is, fortunately, easy and quick to bring down in an emergency: it took about 1.5 minutes with the help of the Station Manager.

Luffed over for the first time in many years during ex-hurricane Ophelia.

Just five days later, this weekend saw storm Brian, the autumn's second named deep area of low pressure, which underwent explosive cyclogenesis in the NE Atlantic.  Another increasingly-common phenomenon linked to climate change.  Forecasts for maximum gusts were way off.  Instead of the 54 mph (86 km/h)predicted, we saw hours of gusts topping 75mph (120km/h) as the centre of the low pressure stalled somewhat in the eastern Irish Sea.

Brian brings very rough conditions, almost as bad as Opehelia - and over a longer period.  Image: BBC

Despite Brian's fury, all my antennas, including the fibreglass pole-supported vertical delta loop for 20m, which is quite a big beast (shown below in mere 45mph gusts), stayed up and survived quite easily.  Nicely tightened-up on its stub mast, the 3-element beam remained valiantly flying headlong into the wind for the best part of a day as the storm moved over and away.

1 comment:

  1. Glad your antennas survived the storms. Nice beam and mast for 12m you have. Btw, 12m was wide open today. 73, Bas