April in the Midwest brings thoughts of severe storms and tornado awareness drills. A local Milwaukee television station has partnered with Walgreen’s in Southeast Wisconsin to promote and sell NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather radios at a discount. These weather radios only cost around $30 and sound an alarm whenever the National Weather Service issues severe weather warnings. This is an especially important feature when storms develop overnight while people are sleeping. Battery back-up will keep the radio working even when your power gets knocked out. Having one of these radios is a good idea for everyone, whether they paddle or not.
For canoeists and kayakers, these radios serve another important safety function. I always advise my students to get a weather report before venturing out on any paddling trip. A NOAA weather radio gives you 24-hours of non-stop weather forecasts at the touch of a button. Sea kayakers with VHF radios are probably already familiar with these NOAA broadcasts as most VHF radios include the NOAA weather stations, but most recreational kayakers don’t bother purchasing a VHF radio because they are of no use on inland lakes and rivers.
With a weather radio, there is no excuse for not knowing what the weather forecast is before heading out on the water. You don’t have to boot up your computer and search for a website, and missing the local news broadcasts on TV is no longer a concern. I know that some of you may have smart phone apps that probably allow you to get a quick weather forecast whenever you need it, but I’m not aware that those apps will sound an alarm in the middle of the night if a tornado is bearing down on your community. Besides, I’m sure that there are still others like myself who are walking around with “dumb” phones that don’t have the ability to access the internet. If you are concerned about getting weather reports and alerts when you are away from home, there are also portable weather radios that can be carried with you.
While we wait for spring weather to arrive so we can start paddling, I would strongly urge you to go out and get a weather radio for your home. If you already have one, maybe you can buy one for someone else’s Easter basket.