Thunderstorm Activation at K-1916, Skyway Fishing Pier State Park, St. Petersburg, FL

Skyway Fishing Pier Northern End

Skyway Fishing Pier State Park is the remnants of the approach portion of the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge that collapsed on May 9, 1980 after being hit by the 602-foot freighter Summit Venture. 35 people died in the tragedy. Both the northbound and southbound portions of the old bridge were demolished and a new bridge was constructed. The State of Florida decided to leave the concrete approach portions of the bridge intact as a fishing pier; the only fishing pier designated as a state park.

I am closing in on a Kilo Award at the Skyway Fishing Pier. Business took me to St. Petersburg today, so I decided to attempt an activation. I started on 20 meters but the band was sluggish. Still, I managed 20 DX contacts on CW before switching to SSB. SSB was much different. 20 meters opened at the right time. I had 11 DX contacts on SSB. I worked coast-to-coast with mostly good signal reports. I finished the activation with 143 contacts. There was a significant pile up that I missed when I went QRT but I will get to that in a moment.

I used my Yaesu FT-450D running 70 watts. My antenna was a 213″ telescoping whip into a tri-magnet mount on my roof. I did not use the Chameleon Hybrid Mini today since I was not planning to operate on 30 meters and below. I am not sure if operating nearly a mile out in Tampa Bay helped get my signal out but it did not seem to hurt.

Everything was going well during the activation until a bolt of lightening struck the new Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The strike was about a 1000 feet from my operating position. I quickly went QRT and tried to get my antenna off the roof but the rain started coming down in buckets! I had to take shelter at the nearby restroom pavilion. There was a break in the rain for a few moments which allowed me to get my antenna down and into my car but then it started up again. I waited 30 minutes but the rain did not relent. Sadly, I missed out on a lot more contacts. Still, I was safe, which is the main thing. Thunderstorms in Florida can be deadly, so they are not be trifled with. I have a lightening app that alerts me when strikes are nearby but it did not go off during the activation. Here is a brief video I took during the storm:

Actually, I’m amazed the mag mount didn’t fly off the car along with the antenna. They both live to activate another day.


Published by Bill Brown

Reformed and reforming Baptist. Husband and father. Salesman by trade. Amateur radio operator Mets, Giants, Nets, Devils and Rutgers fan.

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