Sunday, September 1, 2013

2013: The E-Skip Season That Almost Wasn't

Of course, I can think back to 2002, the last time we had an E-skip season that wasn't. I only heard three new FM stations all that year. The E-skip season of 2013 was one that almost didn't happen.

This year, the first E-skip opening that reached FM didn't happen until June 2. It was mid-morning at my shack in Hazelwood, MO when I logged my first FM from the Mexican state of Veracruz, XHBY 96.7 Tuxpan. On analog TV, I also logged XHGV on Channel 4 from Las Lajas for my first TV station from the state of Veracruz. Prior to June 2, no E-skip openings have gotten past TV Channel 6.

I had to wait over a month for the next E-skip opening on FM, a brief one into the Northeast, which bagged only my eighth FM station from Pennsylvania, WZZO 95.1 Bethlehem. That opening faded fast. Two days later, another opening into the Northeast brought more FM DX. It started in New England, where I was able to hear WBOS 92.9 Brookline, MA. As it turned out, it was the only Boston area station in on this opening. The opening then shifted to the New York area; the first sign of this was hearing WPAT-FM 93.1 Paterson, NJ, across the Hudson from the Big Apple. Another station logged from northern New Jersey was WBGO 88.3 Newark, NJ, serving as New York's only station airing Jazz of any kind. I also had two stations on 92.7 from different sides of New York: WQBU Garden City (Long Island) was noted with Spanish programming, while WRRV Middletown, near West Point, was winning the battle on 92.7. Long Island was also represented by Smithtown's WWSK 94.3, which I have previously noted as WMJC. The action then moved down I-95 to Philadelphia, where a talk show was in progress on WIP-FM 94.1 Philadelphia. I'm sure many of the East Coast DXers have heard the AM on 610 kHz; another station in from the Philly metro was WJBR 99.5 Wilmington, DE. This is one of only three stations I've logged from Delaware; I first noted this in the summer of 2000. A number of stations also made it from the Jersey Shore; one of those was WBBO 98.5 Ocean Acres, near Cape May. By the time this opening faded in the early evening hours, I was able to get my first North Carolina station via E-skip: WZRU 90.1 Garysburg, near Roanoke Rapids. I've logged three North Carolina FM stations via three different modes of propagation. The other two have been logged by meteor scatter (WZKB 94.3 Wallace in November 1998) and tropospheric enhancement (WMIT 106.9 Black Mountain in June 2011). On the TV side, WACP 4 Atlantic City, NJ decoded for the first time, and the signal meter was lighting up on Channel 6 on the digital tuner, but no PSIP information was noted.

The last two openings were to the north and northwest. One on July 8 was very brief, but it allowed me to hear CJHD 93.3 New Battleford, SK. This would be my 18th FM station from the province of Saskatchewan. It is my second most productive Canadian DX province; twice that number have been heard from Quebec. You would expect Ontario, my closest province, to be my most productive province, DX-wise, on FM...but it's my fourth most productive province. Between ON and SK is New Brunswick, with 14 FM stations logged. The next opening would be on July 15, with clips recorded from Montana FM stations. This had the highest maximum usable frequency of the season, with the MUF reaching 101.7 MHz. This is where I heard KWGF Vaughn, located northwest of Great Falls. Another FM noted on this opening was KGGL 93.3 Missoula. This is my first FM from Missoula; co-channel KURL Billings wasn't in. The signal meter on the digital TV tuner lit up on Channels 5 and 6 in that direction, but neither station would be strong enough to even receive PSIP information to identify either one of the Butte low-band DTV stations. However, the highlight of the opening came on analog TV, when CFQC1 Channel 3 in Stranraer, SK (CFQC is in digital format from Saskatoon) was strong enough for me to get this video capture below. This is an ad promoting a barbecue event in Saskatoon.

Only 11 new FM stations and six new analog TV stations were noted this E-skip season. This was an E-skip season that almost wasn't. This summer has been a far better tropo season; I will note the highlights of the tropo season in another entry.

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