Sunday, October 19, 2008

Another month goes by in Baton Rouge

We are still at Red Cross relief headquarters in Baton Rouge; today marks one full month since we arrived here. At least we can see the light at the end of the tunnel -- from well over a thousand volunteers at the peak of the operation, we are down to less than 25 at this writing. Today is the second Sunday in a row that headquarters is actually closed for the day.

I'm feeling a bit guilty that I did not post here last Sunday, but the backlog of chores got the better of me. That included repairing the satellite system, which is a story unto itself. Back in Mercedes, Texas, on the Hurricane Dolly operation, we noticed (on the rare occasions that we were home mid-day) that our Internet satellite signal was dropping out a little after noon, and coming back on about an hour later. At first I thought it might be one of the twice-yearly "solar outages" when the sun passes directly behind the satellite and swamps the signal, however a quick check of the tables showed that was not the issue.

We never had a chance to diagnose it further, but the problem either persisted or returned (hard to say which) in Kissimmee, while we were working Fay. Again, we were rarely home mid-day to even notice the problem, let alone diagnose it, but we did notice that the outages were getting longer and longer. It was very wet in Florida, and I convinced myself that we had moisture in the feedhorn, which was fogging out the signal under the right temperature conditions. At one point, I even replaced the feedhorn/drumhead assembly.

That did not solve the problem, and so I disassembled the entire waveguide looking for water, but it was completely dry -- I probably let more moisture in by taking it apart in the Florida humidity. While I had the shroud off, I hit the receive LNB with a blast from a cooling spray (actually an air duster held upside down), and, voila -- the signal came back. Looks like the LNB had just gone bad in such a way that it would crap out above a certain temperature.

To make a long story a tad shorter, I ordered a new LNB on eBay for twenty bucks, and had it shipped here to ARC HQ in Baton Rouge once we knew we were coming here. In the meantime, I managed to break one of the coax connectors off the feed cable while deploying the dish without its shroud, and so I needed time to go up and solder a new connector on as well as replace the LNB. It took me most of the morning, which left the afternoon for all the other chores.

Today is a bit more relaxed, although we have been in this new spot for a full two weeks, and so we will be driving out to dump and fill the tanks in a little while. We ended up spending the first two weeks in a parking lot behind a vacant building across the street, which was fine in the temperate weather here -- we only had to run the genny a couple of hours every other day. Still, fuel is money, and so we moved the bus to a discreet spot behind headquarters once things quieted down enough to do so (there were too many trucks and Emergency Response Vehicles loading and unloading back here for our first two weeks). I grabbed the same 10/3 cord I used in Orlando, ran it through a hole in the building, and tied in to a spare 30 amp, 2-pole breaker, so we've got virtually unlimited power now -- it's been nice to have hot water, A/C, or heat whenever we want it.

It looks like we will be here at least another week, and possibly longer. Ironically, the longest time we have ever spent in any one location since we hit the road four years ago was the ten weeks we spent right here after Katrina/Rita. We are on course to make it an even four months, which is more time than anyone should spend living in a shopping center.

Where we will head from here is an open question. In part it will depend on when, exactly, we are done, and what the weather will be like around the country then. And, while we had established ourselves as "on call" through November, we really need some time off -- we've been working Red Cross operations continuously since July 11 except for the three days we took in Orlando.


  1. Come on kids, time for a break! Sounds like the Red Cross is over working working their best "horses."

  2. Hey thanks for the info about the work you did on your dish, I'll be sure to file that one, as it seems that repairs on our F2 are neverending

    Anonymous is right, you two need a break! Come on, get moving and we'll see you in a sunny spot this winter.

  3. go somewhere nice and sunny and dry and warm



Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!