Wednesday, August 09, 2006

NOLA to Baton Rouge, Travel Missive #3

Last week I bought The Birth of Soul, Ray Charles box set. Atlantic Records actually put out the compilation in 1991 while the famed musician was still alive and recording. Cuts like Lonely Avenue make a great accompaniment to the amazing lightning storm we are having in Baton Rouge tonight. There is a flood warning and the locals, utterly galvanized by the real thing, roll on ignoring the EAS alerts interrupting their drive-time programs.

I turned off Ray for a bit to check out the AM side. Between New Orleans and Baton Rouge there is a 50 mile stretch of Route 10 west and there isn't much AM radio audible on it. But the lightning, that's audible. Extremely audible. Lightning doesn't only make light and sound. The discharges also produce radio waves called 'sferics. Airplanes actually have devices designed to detect lightning from these RF waves.

I actually found a website recently that instructs on best use of AM radio to listen to lightning: It includes audio clips.

I quote in part here:
"Sferics can turn any AM radio into a simple lightning detection device. They are easily distinguished from normal static in that they are sudden loud, crackling noises, sounding a little like someone wringing a wad of plastic bubble wrap. They occur simultaneously with any lightning discharge. Especially at night, your AM radio can pick up waves from lightning hundreds of miles away. "
Anyway, I was hoping to catch a little KLSU out here but it seems to be off air or at low power. My hotel is 4 miles from the transmitter and the religious talker on 88.5 bleeds straight across their frequency. There are two local LP stations: 94.9 WTQT a gospel outlet and 96.9 WHYR another christian Contemporary station (possibly satcaster). ... they are inaudible as well.
Amazingly here, KLSU has posted a very detailed history of their stations beginning in the 1960s.