Wednesday, July 25, 2012

E-Skip Opening on July 24, 2012

When I turned on my radio and television receivers on the afternoon of July 24, 2012, I was in for a treat. It was just after 4:00 p.m. local time (2100 UTC), after working a few stations on 6 meters in the Mid-Atlantic states, that I turned on my FM receivers. It was filled with distant signals. My digital TV tuner was lighting up E-skip signals on channels 4 and 6. Although the signal on channel 6 was not strong enough to get even some call letter information, the one on channel 4 did give me call letter information. It was my first TV station of any kind from the Garden State. Here's the pic to prove it.

The opening reached well into the FM the NOAA Weather Radio band. I first logged KHB38 162.400 MHz Atlantic City, NJ on the big opening of July 6, 2004. I relogged the station on that opening. But, the best signal of the opening came on 162.475 MHz from KIH28 in Philadelphia. It was just after 5:00 p.m. St. Louis time (2200 UTC) that I pulled in a severe thunderstorm warning for southern New Jersey. I post a lot of my DX recordings to Box, and here's the link for the audio file:

KIH28 162.475 MHz Philadelphia, PA

I also noted my shortest E-skip on this opening: WFHG-FM 92.9 Bluff City, TN. At 470 miles, this shatters the record of 560 miles, set by WMEZ 94.1 Pensacola, FL in 1994 and KQDS-FM 94.9 Duluth, MN in 2008. 

WFHG-FM 92.9 Bluff City, TN 

I noted several D.C. area stations in this opening; I got a chance to record WMZQ 98.7 and WRQX 107.3.

WMZQ 98.7 Washington, DC WRQX 107.3 Washington, DC 

Even a relay of a D.C. station made it in. American University's WAMU 88.5 has a relay station in Ocean City, MD. 

WRAU 88.3 Ocean City, MD

By the early evening hours, the action shifted to the southwest. Analog channel 2 had at least three stations coming in; one of those that dominated was XEPM-TV in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, TX. Here's a pic:

A few stations did make it from the Southwest. The farthest one on this opening was from KPXK 98.7 Phoenix, AZ.

KPXK 98.7 Phoenix, AZ 

I also had a few Mexicans in; this one is from XHBW 93.3 Chihuahua. This one also identified its AM affiliate, XEBW 1280 kHz.

XHBW 93.3 Chihuahua, CI, Mexico

This E-skip opening is one I'll remember for a long time.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

DXing in Hazelwood vs. Woodstock and Marietta, GA

On June 29, 2012, I reached another milestone; it's been 20 years since I returned to Hazelwood, MO (my present QTH is two blocks away from where I began my DX career back in 1981) after a four-year stay on the Cobb-Cherokee county line in Georgia. From August 1988 to June 1991, I lived on the Cherokee County side of the line in Woodstock. My QTH in Woodstock was on the higher end of an incline down into a cul-de-sac. It would be high enough to pursue FM and TV DXing at that location. From June 1991 to June 1992, I lived on the Cobb County side of the line near Marietta. It was on a high ridge, so it was also conducive to FM and TV DXing.

One of the major differences I noticed between the St. Louis area and metro Atlanta is the ground conductivity values. (Note that there is no such thing as a value of "zero"; the lowest value is 1, up to 30.) In most of metro Atlanta, the ground conductivity is very poor (1). With that in mind, some of the stations you would normally expect to have good signals at 25 miles on groundwave are either very weak or non-existent. The only Atlanta AM to have a consistently strong signal day and night is 50 kW blowtorch WSB 750. WCNN 680 and WQXI 790 beam their night signals southwest; WQXI (1 kW at night), with its transmitter site at the time in midtown Atlanta, had a signal that faded out on I-75 north of Canton Highway in Cobb County; it also has trouble getting into northern Fulton County; on my first visit there, Radio Reloj from Cuba took out WQXI   in Roswell and Sandy Springs. WCNN 680 (10 kW at night), with its transmitter site along the banks of the Chattahoochee River east of Roswell, is inaudible in Cherokee County and parts of Cobb County. Most nights, WPTF Raleigh, NC takes them out. The only other Atlanta AM stations who had audible signals in Woodstock at night were WKHX 590 (now WDWD), WGST 640 (and predecessor WPBD) and WAFS 920 (now WGKA), plus WDUN 550 in Gainesville. One advantage 590 had was that their transmitter site was in Austell, in southern Cobb County. The ground conductivity is poor (2) in Cobb County. WAOK 1380, while inaudible at night on the Cherokee County side of the line, was audible with a fair to poor signal at night on the Cobb County side of the line. None of the stations operating with powers lower than 1 kW at night made it past I-285 or Georgia 120. WNIV 970 (39 watts) was audible in the parking lot of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, but not on either the Cobb or Cherokee County side of the line. At that location, Louisville, KY dominated 970. WNIV's night signal did make it to Hazelwood on one occasion. WGUN 1010 (70 watts) was also audible in the parking lot of RSBC, but not on the Cobb-Cherokee County line, where New York and Toronto ruled the frequency. WGUN has been noted in Hazelwood once at Atlanta sunrise. WYZE 1480 (44 watts) was also audible in the RSBC parking lot, but not on the Cobb-Cherokee County line, where Mobile, AL was dominant. WYZE's night signal has also been heard in Hazelwood on one occasion. Even 500-watt WYNX (now WAZX), with a strong signal near downtown Marietta, was also non-existent on the Cobb-Cherokee County line. In those days, 1550 was dominated by Huntsville, AL. By contrast, the ground conductivity in the St. Louis area is very good (15). At night, the only way DX can be heard through local stations on lower frequencies is in a tight null when conditions are very good. Some of the AM stations on higher frequencies are easier to null at night. For example, only a tight null can be put on KTRS 550 (which beams their night signal in my direction) to pull in KTSA San Antonio, TX. It's a bit easier to put a null on KXFN 1380 or KZQZ 1430. I've pulled in Sperry, OK or Millington, TN through the local on 1380; on 1430, I've pulled in Toronto or Indianapolis with The Krazy Q nulled. The lower power stations are either very easy to null or non-existent at night. For example, KSTL 690 (18 watts) is barely audible; New Orleans usually takes them out. KSIV 1320 (270 watts, beamed toward west St. Louis County) can also be nulled out; I most often hear Houston with the local station nulled. KHOJ 1460 (210 watts), even with my QTH being less than 10 miles from their Boschertown transmitter site, is nullable. I've been hearing Goshen, IN and Buford, GA in recent months. Alton, IL is 15 miles northeast of my QTH, yet, WBGZ 1570 (74 watts) is either equal with Mexico or dominant at night. Going west, the ground conductivity drops to good (8) in Warren County. KWRE 730, when they were broadcasting with 120 watts at night (they're temporarily 1 kW non-directional, daytime only) was dominant for the first 90 minutes after sunset before Mexico or some of the Southern stations take over. KMOX 1120, the local 50 kW blowtorch, cannot be nulled at night. When they're not broadcasting in digital, however, DX can be heard on 1110 and 1130; most often Omaha on 1110 and Shreveport on 1130. When I was in Atlanta, I logged St. Louis metro stations on 550, 590, 630, 690, 770, 850, 1120, 1260, 1380 and 1430. Since returning to Hazelwood, I've logged metro Atlanta stations on 610, 640, 680, 750, 790, 920, 970, 1010, 1080, 1190, 1260, 1380, 1480, 1550, 1570 and 1600, plus a few that either moved to new frequencies, such as 1040 in Conyers (they were on 1050 when I was living in metro Atlanta) or stations that signed on since I left Atlanta (such as 1690 in Avondale Estates).

From the perspective of an FM or TV DXer, even the simplest of antennas can be used to pull in DX! One of the advantages Atlanta has over St. Louis is its height above sea level. When I was living in Woodstock and Marietta, the area was over 1,000 feet above sea level. Hazelwood is about 700 feet above sea level. When I started with TV DX, I used a UHF bow tie or loop on good tropospheric enhancement openings to pull in stations from Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Louisville, Nashville or Kansas City. Fellow metro Atlanta TV DXer John Broomall proved it by using a bow tie UHF antenna to pull in places as diverse as Mobile, AL and Chicago. Before 1994, I had used a pair of rabbit ears for FM DX. My results were good at my original QTH, very good when I lived in metro Atlanta. I pulled in FM DX from throughout the eastern United States and Central America with the setup; after adding a Realistic STA-90 AM/FM/FM Stereo receiver in 1990, I was able to pull in a station on 88.9 from Belize through WMBW. Even a built-in telescoping whip antenna could pull in DX; a radio with VHF-TV audio reception capability was in the kitchen at the Woodstock QTH. Late one afternoon, I pulled in the audio from KENW 3 Portales, NM. I had a boombox with a 4.5-inch black and white TV (a Christmas gift in 1988) at my location, which I took along. On a night in June 1992, DXer Bill Alisauskas in Douglasville informed me about receiving KGAN 2 Cedar Rapids, IA through local WSB-TV. I also pulled in KGAN through WSB-TV on channel 2, and also proceeded to null down WAGA on channel 5 to pull in KFYR-TV Bismarck, ND. While I never logged a St. Louis TV station from metro Atlanta (although KDNL 30 was a possibility after local WPBA signed off, as well as KNLC 24), I did log St. Louis metro stations on 90.7, 92.3, 93.7, 99.1, 102.5, 105.7 and 107.7 (all on one November night in 1988). I've been using an outdoor yagi since returning to Hazelwood (the previous owners of my present QTH) were kind enough to leave a TV antenna mast); I've logged a number of my ex-locals on FM and analog TV (I've yet to log Atlanta on digital TV). On FM, I've logged 90.1, 92.9, 94.1, 96.1, 98.5, 99.7 and 101.5 from metro Atlanta, plus 107.1 from the Rome area. On analog TV, I've logged channels 17, 36, 57 (which came on after I left Atlanta) and 69, plus 18 from Chatsworth (near Dalton). Had I started NOAA Weather Radio DXing back in the late '80s and early '90s, I probably would have logged mainly Southeastern or lower Midwestern states (such as southeast MO, southern IL or southwestern IN).

Another aspect of that location was its close proximity to not only Atlanta, but also to Chattanooga, TN (75 miles NW of the Cobb-Cherokee County line). WMBW 88.9, WDYN 89.7, WDEF-FM 92.3, WDOD-FM 96.5 were semi-locals from Chattanooga proper; other semi-locals from Chattanooga were WSMC 90.5 in Collegedale and WUSY 100.7 in Cleveland. WDEF-FM became the station I listened to for Easy Listening music after WPCH 94.9 (now WUBL) flipped to Soft AC in 1990. On the AM side, the best signal out of Chattanooga was WGOW 1150. During the day, I could null out locals on 1260 and 1310 to get Chattanooga stations (WNOO and now-silent WDOD); WDEF 1370 had a decent signal next to WAOK. Even WFLI 1070 from Lookout Mountain was audible next to WFTD on 1080. On the TV side, I most frequently pulled in WRCB 3 or WDSI 61 from Chattanooga. WTVC 9 and WDEF-TV 12 were also regular visitors most days; WFLI-TV 53 was an occasional visitor from Cleveland, TN. The PBS member station in Chattanooga, WTCI 45, would be an occasional visitor, even with WGNX 46 (now WGCL-TV on channel 19) on the air. Since returning to Hazelwood, I've logged Chattanooga AMs on 1150 and 1370, as well as 1570 in Cleveland. On the FM side, Chattanooga stations have been noted in Hazelwood on 88.9 and 89.7, as well as 100.7 in Cleveland. Only WTCI 45 and WDSI 61 were noted in Hazelwood before the digital conversion in 2009. My QTH, by contrast, is in close proximity to Springfield, IL (80 miles NE). I've logged all the AM stations there (970, 1240, 1450), all the FMs except for 88.3, the NOAA Weather Radio station on 162.400, all the full power analog TV stations (20, 49, 55) and their digital successors (13, 42, 44), as well as three LPTV stations (28, 33, 65).

Another contrast is which cities are in tropo range of this particular location. When I was living in metro Atlanta, all of Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas was within tropo range, along with most of Florida, southern Illinois, southern Indiana, southeastern Missouri, northeastern Texas and the non-mountainous parts of South Carolina. The mountains influence tropo range to the east and northeast, thereby limiting FM DX coming from North Carolina and Virginia. My farthest tropo FM DX noted in Georgia was 99.1 in Fort Smith, AR. By contrast, St. Louis is pretty much on flat and open terrain; all of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Arkansas are within tropo range, along with most of Oklahoma, Kansas, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, the lower peninsula of Michigan,  western parts of Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, northwest Georgia, eastern Nebraska, southeastern South Dakota and southern Minnesota are all within tropo range of the St. Louis area. The only influences on tropo reception come from the Ozark Plateau in southwest MO and northwest AR, which explains why I have not heard any tropospheric enhancement propagation from Texas. The Appalachians and Blue Ridge Mountains may have some influence, but I've still pulled in TV DX from western parts of Virginia and West Virginia. Even Buffalo, NY and Toronto, ON has made it via tropo on UHF TV channels.

In the 20 years since I returned to Hazelwood, I've logged a huge chunk of DX. As of July 11, 2012 at 1200 CDT, I've logged 1,319 AM stations, 1,167 FM stations and 567 analog TV stations since June 29, 1992. I started my NOAA Weather Radio log in 2001; I've logged 103 stations. My digital TV logbook started in 2005; that count is now at 145. 

Here's my top ten states on each band:

AM: 1) Illinois (108), 2) Missouri (93), 3) Texas (87), 4) Tennessee (85), 5) Alabama (63), 6) Georgia (52), 7) Wisconsin (49), 8) Iowa (46), 9) Kentucky (44), 10) Arkansas (43)

FM: 1) Illinois (187), 2) Missouri (161), 3) Florida (64), 4) Iowa (59), 5) Indiana (47), 6) Texas (43), 7) Tennessee (37), 8) Kentucky (33), 9) Kansas (29), 10) Michigan (21)

Analog TV: 1) Illinois (62), 2) Indiana (48), 3) Missouri (45), 4) Kentucky (35), 5) Ohio (32), 6) Iowa (26), 7) Michigan (24), 8) Alabama (21), 9) Tennessee (20), 10) Wisconsin (18)

NOAA Weather Radio: 1) Illinois (23), 2) Missouri (22), 3) Iowa (11), 4) Kansas (8), 5) Arkansas (6), tie) Indiana (6), 8) Alabama (5), tie) Tennessee (5). Log began January 6, 2001.

Digital TV: 1) Indiana (36), 2) Illinois (31), 3) Missouri (30), 4) Iowa (14), 5) Kentucky (8), 6) Ohio (7), 7) Tennessee (6), 8) Michigan (4), 9) Kansas (2), 10) Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, New York, South Dakota, Texas (tied with one apiece). Log began September 19, 2005.