July 25, 2014

Conditions at Parkersburg, Mid Ohio Valley Regional Airport, WV
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A Simple Storm Detector

How do you know when a thunderstorm is coming?

When I drive my car into Parkersburg to work, I frequently will be tuned to listen to an oldies station.

It seems weird to say that now, as they play my music from when I was young... not like when I WAS young...and they used to play that darn hip hop/ bee bop/ early doowop rock from the 1950s and early 60s...

Most people I work with will wrinkle up their nose when I leave the radio tuned to the oldies station (Most, but not Todd).

But I have another reason for listening to that AM station in Athens... the one that plays a mix of "the 60s, 70s, 80s and today..."

Most people who have an AM radio realize that lightning produces static on the AM radio band.

And you can use this to aid you in preparing for the day.  The more frequent the static bursts, the stronger the storm...

The distance from the station also has an impact on the strength and quality of the station, and conversely, how much static burst is allowed into the signal as well.

I find that if an afternoon storm is coming, or developing, I'll start to hear it by the time I reach Coolville... possibly because the signal from Athens is weakening, but also because you can usually hear the storm start to crackle.

Now, I know that you can hear thunder within about 5 miles of a storm, but the radio crackle of a developing thunderstorm can be a bit further... say 20 miles in some cases.

When I used to work in radio, we would depend upon this "early warning sign" to keep us informed if we were out on a remote broadcast or in the studio without windows.

So, the next time you want to know if the storm is nearby, and don't have access to your computer or the cable TV weather stations to view radar, just flip on your AM radio.

You'll be surprised how well this works!

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