Shortly after publishing Aaron’s post, Nicholas Pospishil commented (on Facebook) that the US pharmacy chain Walgreens has the Midland WR120 on clearance. In fact, his local Walgreens priced the WR120 at $3.50–a phenomenally low price!
I had to investigate this so I stopped by my local Walgreens and searched for the WR120 on the clearance shelf, but there wasn’t one unit to be found. I flagged down the manager at this store–a fantastic guy who’s helped me in the past–and asked if he could check inventory. He discovered two units tucked away and looked up the clearance price. It was $18.99 in their system. Evidently, store managers have a lot of latitude with clearance pricing and he kindly halved that and set the price to $9.99 each for the two remaining units. I felt like this was a fantastic bargain, so I bought both as Christmas gifts.
If you have a Walgreens near you, I would encourage you to stop by and see if they have any WR120s in stock! These units are only available in Walgreens stores–not on their website. Please report back and comment with pricing!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Aaron Kuhn, who writes:
“Weather radio? I’ll just use my cellphone for alerts.”
If you’ve ever uttered or thought the above words – take heed.
Late last week I awoke at around 12:30 AM to the sound of some incredibly strong winds outdoors. Glancing down at my completely muted phone, I opened up my text messages to reveal a Tornado Warning. In a panic, I threw on some clothes, gathered a dog harness and leash and made my way the pantry closest for shelter.
Then I checked my phone again – and realized that tornado warning was from 30 minutes ago and already expired. Crap. That was too close for comfort. I promptly went on to Amazon and ordered the Midland WR120.
I unboxed and set the radio up yesterday and I’m quite happy with it.
The first thing I suggest doing after initial setup is turning off the button beeps which are incredibly annoying. Past that, I’ve found the radio perfect for my needs of setting it on a window sill and (hopefully) forgetting about it until it alerts me to any nearby danger.
Since SAME Alerts work on a county basis, I was very happy to discover this radio allows you to disable certain kinds of alerts that may not be relevant to you.
By default, the radio doesn’t allow you to turn off 30 some events, including Tornado Warnings among them – this is a good thing in my opinion! However, it is a bit concerning when you first go to setup the radio and realized Tornado Warning is missing in the alert list. The reason for this is because this is one of the 30 some alerts you can’t disable.
Overall I’m happy with the radio, and hoping it’ll never fire off in the middle of the night on me any time soon – but I know it’ll be a lot more reliable than my cellphone prone to being muted.
I view weather radios like smoke alarms now, it’s stupid for you to not have one. I wasn’t expecting Tornadoes in November in Southeastern Pennsylvania, but apparently nature is one to surprise us continuously.
Thank you so much for sharing your story and your WR120 review, Aaron.
I love this quote: “I view weather radios like smoke alarms now, it’s stupid for you to not have one.” I agree completely!
A few weeks ago, there was an alert sent to every phone in the US all at the same time. I received my alert nearly 30 minutes late. Mobile phones and their networks are pretty amazing technology, but they’re not flawless.
We are so lucky to have a robust weather radio broadcasting infrastructure here in the US and Canada. An inexpensive radio like the WR120 will deliver weather alerts reliably and give you a preparedness edge.
And thank you for mentioning the number of events you can edit out of the alert system. No sense in receiving alerts you don’t need.
In addition, some weather alert radios default to receive alerts from counties and regions surrounding your own. I would suggest turning those off–limiting the alert area to your own county–else you could get a lot of alerts that don’t pertain to your location. Using the smoke detector analogy, receiving alerts from surrounding counties is much like putting a smoke detector directly over your stove! You’re just asking for false alarms. 🙂
Thanks again, Aaron, for the important PSA!
Keep in mind as the holiday season approaches: weather radios make for life-saving, affordable gifts.
Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Jim T, who writes with the following inquiry:
Wondering if you can give me some guidance re: NOAA weather radios.
We’re looking to be better prepared for disasters, bad weather etc. and have narrowed our radio candidates to CC Crane, Sangean and Kaito.
AM/FM would be nice, hand cranking and solar as well, but just want to get NOAA alerts should we have an earthquake here in the NW. Willing to spend $50-100 for something quality with relevant features to it. Your thoughts would be appreciated!
Thanks for your message, Jim. There are dozens of inexpensive weather radio models on the market, but I know a few good options based on my personal experience.
If you’re looking for a weather radio to plug in and continuously monitor weather alerts through the S.A.M.E. system, I recommend a dedicated weather radio like theMidland WR120. These radios don’t typically have AM/FM functions, but are entirely devoted to the seven weather radio frequencies in the US and Canada (162.400, 162.425, 162.450, 162.475, 162.500, 162.525, and 162.550 MHz). They plug into mains power and the better ones have battery backup in case of power outages.
I have family that own the Midland WR120. They’ve used it for years and it’s worked flawlessly. Once you set up the radio with your preferred NOAA frequency and SAME alert regions, it will alarm and automatically play NOAA weather radio alerts when they’re issued for your area. My family use this for tornado and storm alerts.
The Midland WR120 uses three AA alkaline cells for emergency power back-up. It’s very much a “set it and forget it” radio and, in my opinion, a bargain at $29.99.
As with any SAME alert radio, be aware that sometimes the alarm can be annoying. Depending on where you live and how the alert system is set up, you might get notifications for isolated weather events on the other side of your county–the S.A.M.E. system cannot pinpoint your neighborhood.
Still, I believe S.A.M.E. notifications are worth any extra inconvenience, especially if you live in an area prone to sudden storms and earthquakes.
C. Crane CC Skywave: A portable shortwave radio with excellent NOAA weather reception
The C.Crane CC Skywave
If you’re looking for a battery powered radio to use during emergencies that has much more than NOAA weather radio, I’d recommend the C.Crane CC Skywave. Not only is it a full-fledged AM/FM/Shortwave and Air band radio, but it has exceptional NOAA weather radio reception with a weather alert function. The CC Skywave is a great radio to take on travels or keep in the home in case of an emergency. It’ll operate for ages on a set of two AA batteries, though I always keep a pack of four on standby just in case.
C. Crane CC Solar Observer: A self-powered AM/FM NOAA weather radio
There are a number of self-powered NOAA weather radios out there, but frankly, many are very cheap and the mechanical action of the hand crank are prone to fail early.
I believe one of the best is the CC Solar Observer by C. Crane. It’s durable, and can also run on three AA cells, and is an overall great radio in terms of sensitivity on AM/FM as well. Unique in the world of self-powered radios, it also has a backlit display (which can be turned off or on)–a fantastic feature if the power is out.
Like other self-powered analog radios, the CC Solar Observer has no S.A.M.E. alert functionality.
The Eton FRX5 sport weather alert, a digital display and futuristic design.
I would also encourage you to check out the wide selection of self-powered weather radios through Eton Corporation.
Many are digital and even have S.A.M.E. weather alerts. I haven’t commented on performance since I haven’t personally tested the 2016 and later models.
Eton typically packs a lot of features in their self-powered radios–having manufactured them for well over a decade, they’ve implemented iterative improvements along the way.
I have tested previous models extensively.
I particularly like the Eton FRX5 although being a digital radio, you get less play time per hand-powered crank–that’s why I prefer analog self-powered radios. The CC Solar Observer, for example, will yield roughly 40 minutes of listening time (at moderate volume levels) on 2-4 minutes of cranking.
Still, if charged fully in advance, I’m sure the FRX5 will play for hours. Note that using S.A.M.E. functionality in standby mode will deplete batteries more quickly.