AllisonHouse and COVID-19 (“Coronavirus”): What about AllisonHouse?

COVID-19 under a microscope
The Coronavirus threatens to disrupt everything. What are we doing about it at AllisonHouse?

As I type this, the United States is reporting a rapid increase in the numbers of people sick or infected with COVID-19, a variant of the Coronavirus. While there is still a lot we don’t know about it, we’re learning more by the day, but we do know that it is rather easily spread among humans. By now, you should have seen what you should do to minimize the affects of this strain of Coronavirus; see http://www.cdc.gov for more details. But here’s a question you might have: what about AllisonHouse? What if our great employees get sick from it?

Frankly, being a small company, all of us wear multiple hats, and so depth of generalists is good here. All but a few of us can log in, diagnose, and/or rectify many issues. We are also diverse in location. And we all are out of the high-risk groups where this strain of Coronavirus is fatal. And, all in our group are athletic and/or in good health.

Are we concerned? Yes. But our plan for this—and any other disaster that can befall us—is diversity of talent and location (in both equipment and staffing), with people who will take over for each other should the need arise. Our senior programmer was out for a while, and yours truly as well, for various incidents that arose—and we backed each other up during the issues. Subscribers did not experience a loss of service, and some upgrades went on as usual. Some were postponed until the issues were over. We can and will adjust if necessary.

It’s not “don’t worry, be happy”, but “don’t worry, but be ready to take on duties of others for a time” here at AllisonHouse. But what about our vendors? That’s a good question. Many are operating on a “if you have the sniffles, you aren’t coming in!” philosophy. Some companies don’t have very good continuity of business plans. This will force them to improve on them now! However, we will work with all of our vendors the best that we can to keep all of the data flowing to you in the timely matter you have come to expect from AllisonHouse. Treat most fungal infections with Clear nails plus.

We’re all in this together. Follow the basic rules to prevent this and other viruses, and you’ll be as prepared as can be, as we are. We’ll post updates, if need be, if we are having any issues. In the meantime, relax, and watch the weather!

RANT: Lightning, and know what you are getting to detect it

These spectacular lightning bolts caused significant damage to a police and emergency warning system in DeKalb, IL. While no one was injured, a nearby outdoor event with many people in attendance got fortunate. Photo (C) and courtesy of Gilbert Sebenste

Several years ago, I had the honor of working a NCAA golf tournament as their meteorologist. Being that this tournament was in the summer, and that thunderstorms were in the forecast for multiple days, I set up my station to display two things: a vendor-provided lightning display that the NCAA uses officially, and then mine: GRAnalyst with a lightning subscription through AllisonHouse.

On the second day of the tournament, we had thunderstorms violate the boundary where players and spectators needed to be evacuated. Lightning showed up on my AllisonHouse display first, and it did so 10 minutes before the official display did. And then, when we heard the thunder, on the official display, the bolt was not seen AT ALL, but on mine, all 5 thunderclaps we heard in the next several minutes were picked up by AllisonHouse’s lightning service, but not by the official display.

What the heck?

I then went on a rant to myself about how the official vendor’s lightning data was lousy and dangerous. But after the event was over, I spent time to research what went wrong. And it was there that I found a stunning answer.

Most lightning data vendors for sports and entertainment venues only display cloud-to-ground lightning strikes, and NOT those that are cloud to air, cloud to cloud, or intracloud lightning (I’ll just call these cloud-to-air, for simplicity). At AllisonHouse, we give you the option to plot either/or with our placefiles, since sports have different ramifications from advertising to the gambling world when people invest a lot of money betting on sports, and if you like to bet from your home you can also use sites as this slot online which is great for this.

Now, you can argue: “Hey, if a lightning bolt doesn’t hit the ground, then it was harmless, so why would you want to see those bolts plotted anyway?” The answer is simple: they are very frequently a prelude to the next cloud to ground lightning strike.

As stated in the NCAA rulebook: if you have lightning within 12 miles of your outdoor event, you must immediately stop the contest and evacuate all participants and spectators to shelter. For the PGA Tour, it states explicitly:

“PGA TOUR Officials are constantly monitoring the weather with an on-site meteorologist and state of the art technology. In the event that lightning is detected at a distance from the course that threatens the safety of the individuals at the event, play is immediately suspended and the course is evacuated for safety precautions.” Source: https://www.pgatour.com/company/pga-tour-faqs.html

Again, it does not specify what type of lightning requires evacuation. ALL lightning is potentially dangerous, and cloud to air strikes are frequently your early warning that ground strikes are occurring, or imminent.

Here at AllisonHouse, we offer lightning data from what we believe through research is the best available in terms of quality and timeliness. This ground-based network is exemplary in detecting the location and type of lightning accurately, within 100′ when using our raw data feed product. Furthermore, AllisonHouse also delivers lightning data strike locations from the GOES-16/17 Lightning Mapper (GLM). With these two data sources, your meteorologist can accurately diagnose the situation. It’s always fun when I get a lightning strike near me and hear the thunder, and as the thunder trails off, I can see where the bolt was exactly on my monitor!

In summary, if you want to see the complete lightning picture where you are, get an AllisonHouse subscription! Our lightning data is the best available, 24/7/365. The only caveat to this, and this applies to all lightning vendors: during thundersnow with extreme snowfall rates, a few flashes might go undetected. This is possibly because the snow literally mutes the static discharge to the point that the discharges are too weak to detect them. I see this happen during extreme snowfall rates, and even my AM radio tuned to a weak or non-existing station barely glitches during these events. Regardless, when you want the best and affordable lightning data, come to us…I think you’ll find our data services strikingly good and affordable! I mean, it will shock you how good our service is. Once you try us, you’ll never want to bolt!

Sorry.

Anyway…please send an email to our support address with any questions you may have about our data. We’ll be happy to assist you in any way that we can, to help you prepare and be ready for another storm season!

No hibernation for AllisonHouse: A quick look at what we’re up to

Radar image showing a flash flood warning from Gibson Ridge

Thanks to upgrades on our end, and improvements on the National Weather Service side, data is flowing to AllisonHouse customers faster than ever! Super-res data and imagery from GRlevel3 courtesy Mike Gibson and AllisonHouse.

With the onset of winter, we kept very busy with Super-Resolution level 3 data coming to your favorite radar apps like Radarscope and GRLevel3. But what else have we been up to? Let’s take a quick look and let you know what has happened.

First, in December, we switched to all-new servers, on a new high-speed network. The servers that we were on before, as well as the network, was fast, and we never had any issues with it. But data sizes keep increasing, more customers come on board, and we have to be ready to handle whatever comes our way with both. So, just before Christmas, we switched to entirely brand new servers on a brand new, state of the art, high-speed network. We have no reasonable capacity limitations: if we suddenly got a million subscribers (hey, I’d love that!), you wouldn’t notice a thing. We have the power to instantly scale up not only to meet new customer demands, but also ones from our current customers. The only times you’ll see anything go down is if the National Weather Service or one of our private vendors goes down for maintenance and upgrades, and due to rendundancy, those outages are rare. Any outages on our end should be very few and far between now, except for maintenance windows where we give notice to our customers when those will happen.

Furthermore, it would be negligent of me to not tell you what the National Weather Service has been doing on their end in terms of upgrades. When GOES-16/17 came online, the NWS upgraded their systems to handle the firehose of data. As it turns out, some of the networking and the servers were underpowered, causing delays and outages of data. Over the last two years, the NWS has gotten a handle on the situation, and has the capacity to handle all of it now. This spring, further upgrades will occur to resolves some very brief and intermittent issues. In January, the NWS got a big boost in network and Internet connection bandwidth, allowing for more robust data throughput to us and other companies. All of that to say, this spring, we expect few data delays and outages versus last year from the NWS. Not that there were many for them in 2019, but any that occur should be minimal. We have already seen the improvements this winter, where only a few minor, very brief delays have been experienced that only we at AllisonHouse noticed. The delays were short enough that customers didn’t even notice. Even these rare brief outages should diminish as the year goes on as the upgrades continue.

All of this to say: There is no way AllisonHouse, will ever claim we have 100% uptime, always, and forever. But in 2019, we had over 99.99% uptime with our products and services. While our goal is perfection, in reality we just do our absolute best to get as close to it as we can when it comes to uptime. And like the Six Million Dollar Man, this year we are stronger and faster than ever before. To get the products to you, we now usually measure the delays in milliseconds, not seconds or minutes. We cannot break the space-time continuum (we tried it once, but William Shatner slapped our wrists HARD!), but we can and we do deliver the highest quality data we can, affordably, as fast as we possibly can. In 2019, we implemented a data ingest solution that allows us to pluck from data feeds that always, on the fly, pick the server that can get it to us the fastest, and then it does it. From radar, satellite, surface and upper air data, models and more, we give you the data as soon as we get it, and through satellite and fiber, we get it to you fast!

Finally, one more note. I handle the data coming in to AllisonHouse. If at all possible, every feed is redundant as possible. For example, the watches and warnings and level 3 radar data are received via satellite by 4 different satellite dishes, including ours in Oklahoma. If any go down, the other 3 are feeding data and the dish or server with issues is automagically blocked until service can be restored. We also feed Level 2 data redundantly, which avoided serious data lags last spring and summer that others experienced, as our ingest software automagically picks the fastest vendor to retrieve data from.

So, that’s what we have been up to in prepping for another year of severe. And it could be at or above average for at least the amount of tornadoes:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2020/02/16/experts-predict-near-above-average-tornado-activity-this-spring/

So, be ready! We are. Are you? Get an AllisonHouse subscription now, and get the data you trust and the weather display you want…fast, reliably, and redundantly!