KTRB's Ham Radio Weather Reports
Editor note: Bill Bates was an avid Amateur Radio (HAM) operator first licensed in 1916 as 6KL in Palo Alto, CA. He used his ham radio equipment at home and in his vehicles to contact ham radio operators all over world. Around 1955, before going on the air with his program on KTRB each morning, Bill would contact ham radio operators in western states, including Hawaii and Alaska and gather real time local weather conditions from them which he then delivered on the air at KTRB during his program. Around 1957 or 1958 KTRB's chief technician Cliff Price, a ham radio operator himself (W6ERE) took over from Bill collecting the ham radio weather reports using his own ham station equipment at his home. He then delivered the reports to Bill when he got to the station. From that small beginning the network, later known at the "Weather Net" grew to included hundreds of ham radio operators throughout the west. They all met around 39.56 kHz on the 75 meter ham radio band. Sometime in the early '60s Bill asked Cliff to build a ham station upstairs in the engineering office at KTRB. The result was a full 1,000 watt station which served as the net control station for many years. Below is a news story written by one of KTRB's news people describing the network and its benefits to the community in the days before weather satellites.
Everybody talks about the weather but nobody ever does anything about it. Well we here at KTRB have done something about it. KTRB being located in the heart of a farming area with our county of Stanislaus ranking 10th in agriculture in the entire United States is naturally interested in the weather, whether it be good or bad. KTRB has been acclaimed many times by farmers, contractors, aviation, and citizens as having the finest weather service available.
In fact, KTRB has initiated an Amateur Weather Network consisting of cooperating 'HAM" operators thorough out California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington who are contacted each morning by our own maintenance engineer Cliff Price who is a "HAM" himself. This contact gives us the actual conditions at the time - temperatures, wind and barometric pressures.
Since the start of our "HAM" Weather Network many years ago there have been three other similar nets that we know of, set up in various areas in the midwest, northwest at and east. The reports compiled by KTRB is also used by the Weather Information Depot of the State of California, the state Water Resources Board, especially rain reports from mountain areas and local Air Force Bases.
We compile and coordinate this weather information, now currently averaging 80 stations, along with teletype weather summaries, and broadcast a weather information summary between 8:15 and 9 A.M. each morning on a program handled by the owner-manager of KTRB, Mr. Bill Bates. Due to the information gathered we are in a position to predict some five to seven hours ahead of existing forecasts. We can usually tell to the hour when inclement weather will hit our area, and on days when unsettled conditions are experienced we continue this summarized weather service throughout the day. In addition to the amateur stations, we also copy the FAA low frequency weather information from Red Bluff, Oakland, Sacramento, Fresno, San Francisco, and Bakersfield.
See a copy of his 1916 ham radio license
Hear a portion of his program with the weather reports.
Collins brand ham radio receiver on the left. Full 1,000 watts AM 75 meter homebrew ham radio transmitter upstairs at KTRB use for the weather net built by Cliff Price, W6ERE.
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