Ham radio operators gather for national listening event

Jerrie Whiteley, Herald Democrat

An overcast sky and a brisk wind greeted the dozen or so members of the Weather Bunch Amateur Radio Club who turned out for a field day at Loy Park in Denison Saturday. The field day started at 1 p.m. Saturday and will continue for 24 hours.

During the event, each amatuer radio club in the country competes to see which can verify contacts with the largest number of other clubs in the country during the 24-hour period.

“It is an emergency preparedness (event) that is done every year at the same time,” Club President Tim Saffa said.

Saffa said the group was excited to get such good weather for their activities.

“We are using generators and minor antenae strung up in the air,” he said of their methods of getting their signals out to hear and be heard by other groups. Saffa said there is also another group called the Grayson County Amatuer Radio Group that was meeting in Whitesboro for the same 24-hour period.

The club that met at Loy Park consists of about 30 people. Some of them, he said, got interested in the activity because it was something that their parents did before them. For others, it is an extension of a job like being a firefighter.

“We just ham radio operators who are interested in the weather and want keep the county safe,” he said.

Saffa said they help the National Weather Service by confirming or refuting what the weather radar is showing during storm season.

The information on television and the radio can be up to 15 minutes behind what the amature radio operators are reporting on the ground, said group member Kenny Rice.

Rice said it is easy to get involved in the pastime. One can get a start-up radio for about $100.

“It is a fun hobby and you can give back to the community by helping with storms,” Rice said.

He and Saffa pointed out that in large scale weather disasters like hurricanes cell towers can be knocked out and for a period of time after the storm, it might be only the amatuer radio operators who can communicate with area outside of the storm’s path.

Saffa said being an amatuer radio operator does require a license and they give the test for the license each month on the first Friday of the month at their meeting at Grandy’s in Sherman. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and Saffa said interest in amatuer radios is all one needs to attend.

“Anyone is welcomed to come and learn more about it,” Saffa said.

The listening event continues through Sunday at Loy Park and more information on the group can be found at http://www.TheWeatherBunch.com/.

Jerrie Whiteley is an editor for the Herald Democrat. She can be reached at JWhiteley@HeraldDemocrat.com.