Hello Winter – Ice & Snow at the K9ZW QTH

— UPDATE a Week Later: Temperatures have remained low enough and the original ice-bond to tree & antennas remains. Will spend some time seeing if there is a safe way to clear the ice & get back on the air. 2-3 Pound ice-chunks from 60-70 feet up can do some serious damage, and even an OSHA Hardhat isn’t going to completely protect against an ice-bomb falling & striking. – Sat 18th Dec —

Well it “had” to come – winter that is!

We’d been living in a bit of “between seasons” weather where it wasn’t all that cold and first snows were light, blowing away with the mild winds.

This weekend that changed with a first winter blast that put a couple inches of ice down before dropping around 14-16 inches of heavy snow.

The sort of first blast that took down the power grid for 10-12 hours, took down several of the local radio stations (including those designated as Emergency Broadcast System), of course dropped the internet and crashed cable-TV wiring to the ground.

My sons saw big blue flashes of power lines going down, or things crashing into them, a few blocks away. I would have slept through the power outage except that our interconnected Smoke, CO2 and Fire Alarm system in our house goes nuts letting us know it is on battery after a couple hours without mains. Six of the units need to have their batteries pulled before the system quiets. Thinking we should replace all fourteen with the latest versions to ride us of this trouble.

Woken at 11:30 PM, 2 AM, 4 AM, 5:40 AM and 6:20 AM by the “beep beep” of the system as it went back on mains and then moments later had the mains fail again did lead to Winston KC9FVR (middle son) and I talking for a while about how wonderful the silence was with EVERYTHING for perhaps miles turned off!

We did turn on our gas fireplace for the glowing light and the spot of better warmth. With our house reinsulated three years ago we didn’t have much of temperature drop after 12 hours – perhaps a few degrees – which well may have been reduced circulation letter the warm air set up high.

Though the gear is in a go-case I didn’t try our 2m repeaters, figuring that we really didn’t have any personal emergency nor could we get out to help anyone if we were even asked to do it. I didn’t even drag out the line-powered “real phones” figuring I could do it in daylight if we needed to.

The Cell-Phone infrastructure did stay up, including 3G for the Droids in our house and my Blackberry.

The Tennadyne T-8 antenna’s longest elements show the weight of the ice. Roughly 2 inch ice on most surfaces.

Here are a couple shots of what a half-sloper looks like with that much ice. Bill W9INN (SK) sure built them well, as the antenna seems to have held together when the weight was enough to pull over the pole at the base!

Not certain if the mast is an illusion or an issue – will have to bring the tower down later in this week to see. A first blush it looks poorly, but in person I am thinking it is OK. An inspection is warranted for sure!

As I type the power has flickered rebooting most everything (I am working on a laptop as the batteries buffer the mains outages) and we’ve learned we’re really not adequately prepared for a couple days or several weeks without power. I have much of the kit, but is on the shelf untested and not “emergency ready.”

Hadn’t realized our stocks of Lithium CR123A – I am a fan of Surefire Flashlights – was near exhaustion, so have ordered a supply of spares. Also a couple other items we should have on hand.

Time to look deeper into the power wiring to let me use my Generator and to make sure I have enough fuel for a few weeks on hand.

I even managed to beach (high-center on rolled snow) my Suburban, made much worse by the several inches of traction-less ice under the snow. A pail of sand and about every scrap of old carpet I had one hand came into play getting the truck out of what looked to be level untouched snow in the street.

On our street an ambulance was called out early in the storm to help one fellow who I hear needs power to keep his medical gear going get to a medical facility with generators, and I heard this morning that it was instantly stuck and had to wait for a snow-plow to come rescue it. We didn’t hear them given the storm, even though they were four-five houses away.

This first blast was quite a reminder that Mother Nature rules our roost, no matter what we think.



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3 thoughts on “Hello Winter – Ice & Snow at the K9ZW QTH

  1. Our lights flickered here in Des Moines, but never went out during the storm, but 1600 other people were without power overnight. The storm could have been a lot worse, that’s for sure. Glad to see you made it out alive.

    • k9zw says:

      Thank you for the kind thoughts Kevin K0KDS. Really figured out some things – even having the right stuff laid in place isn’t much good if I’m not organized and on top of it.

      Risks were pretty small, but as a dress rehearsal to something less “fun” an important lesson.

      BTW when scrambling to find out what was going on, did any (non-ham) family need assistance and making sure we didn’t freeze pipes, Amateur Radio was really pretty far down on the list. At least while we had cell coverage and battery power…..

      Thank again and 73


  2. Kuby N6JSX/8 says:

    Storm 2010 – what storm, nothing in OH?…. Or were you talking of the 01/2005 Ice Storm (in IN/OH/PA)?

    My power went out for 6 days on that one and two antennas came down, I made a quick cheater cable and back-fed my 10KW into my garage 220 line (1st killed the mains)…. The problem was my gen max is 45A and my Geo-thermal compressor needs 66A to kick… When my 1992 compressor goes out it will be replaced with a low energy start type. We got cold but nothing spoiled and we had lights – fire wood does burn nicely! This being my first country home it has been an education and hit to da wallet!

    But Steve you’re a frozen-tundra home-boy and you do not know how to get ready for a blizzard and insure you can get unstuck in your own driveway – tisk-tisk, grandpa is chuckling while stating his famous quote “haste makes waste”!

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