Saturday, April 20, 2013

Antenna Damage from the Hazelwood Tornado

You never know when a bad storm will happen until it does. On the evening of April 10, 2013, at around 2000 CDT (April 11 0100 UTC), a magnitude EF2 tornado struck the city of Hazelwood. The worst of the storms went to the south of my QTH. Yet, I still sustained antenna damage due to the high winds from the tornado. (All damage pictures were taken on April 14, 2013.)

I'm very lucky that my HF antennas for Amateur Radio and shortwave listening and DX applications are in the attic, along with a backup antenna for 2 Meter FM. Most of my VHF and UHF antennas were, unfortunately, outside. A vent pipe mount supports the Radio Shack discone (purchased in 2004, mounted at 32 feet above ground level) I use for monitoring the VHF and UHF Public Service bands, along with the VHF railroad, aviation and transportation radio communication bands and DXing the NOAA Weather Radio bands. The mount was loosened enough to tilt the 10-foot mast, which also supports a wind sensor for my wireless weather station (which I purchased in 2008) at a 45-degree angle. Here's the picture of that antenna, as taken from the ground:

The other two antenna masts weren't as lucky. A tripod supported the VHF Amateur Radio antenna system. Before the tornado, the mast supported a pair of Diamond five-element beam antennas (one for 2 Meter SSB at 37 feet, the other for 2 Meter FM at 30 feet above ground level) and a Cushcraft three-element beam antenna (for 6 Meter SSB at 34 feet above ground level). The wind was strong enough to bend the bottom mast (five feet high), not to mention the base of the top mast (10 feet high). The first picture was taken from the ground; the other two from the roof. I was able to salvage all three antennas.

I kept the antennas I used for FM and TV DXing on another mast, on the other side of the roof from my Amateur Radio antennas. The antennas sat lower than the other antennas; the TV antenna barely cracked 30 feet above ground level; the FM was at 26 feet above ground level. They were mounted on a chimney mount (which I put up in 2004 to replace a mount that was installed back in 1967). I've used a Radio Shack VU-210XR for my TV DX since 1998, and also used it for FM DX from 1998 to 2004. Since 2004, I've used an Antenna Performance Specialties APS-9B nine-element beam for FM DXing. I've been able to salvage the APS-9B; I'll be doing some work to it before I put it back on the roof. I'm not sure about salvaging the VU-210XR, however. As with the others, one shot was taken at ground level, the other two from the roof.

All of this damage is a testament to the unlimited power of Mother Nature. The worst of the damage took place less than a mile to the south and west of my location, along the 900 blocks of Lynn Haven and Townhouse Lane. I began my DX career a short distance away in the 800 block of Lamplight Lane. My original QTH suffered roof damage in the tornado. It will be a while before my VHF setup is back up to full usage again. I'm thankful that this was the only damage I sustained from the tornado, along with an uprooted apple tree (the last one remaining in the yard). Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. 73.