Archive for March, 2007

Enjoy The Games,I’ll Be Watching. Remember Iceage Forecasts in 1973?
March 31, 2007


On Saturday morning, the outlook from the NWS looks as above. We remain on the edge of the “slight risk” area for severe weather. The second image below is the probability of tornadoes and we are near the 2% line. Look, the bottom line hasn’t changed much. There is some concern due to a few of the dynamic indicators….the wind patterns…show some hint of potential to support severe storms. Most, however are marginal. So, we look toward energy supplied by heat and the fact that this event will be overnight, available heat energy is not what it might be on a summer night and certainly not what it would be while the sun is up. But, it will be a relatively warm night. So, while the possibility is enough for us to keep our eyes opened, the probability is not sufficient for you to catch a flight for Tahiti….though that sounds like fun. Just enjoy the games tonight and I will be here monitoring the situation. I promise I will try to limit interruptions and our crawl should not interfere with your viewing. Its still a good idea to review with your family the procedures in your home should a tornado show up some time. John Wooden often said that failure to prepare was preparing for failure. Its an old adage but its true. And failure if a big ole twister plopped down in your yard could mean more than just a bad grade.

This Date in History On this date in 1973, the Mississippi River at St. Louis finally crested after 77 days of flooding. No type-o there….77 days. It was still many more weeks before it went below flood stage. There were numerous causes. First off, there was a whole bunch of rain in the fall in the Mississippi sink…or the area that drains into the Mississippi. The area is huge, encompassing much of the Central and Northern plains and parts of the Midwest. So, there is a whole bunch of water. That winter it got very very cold. If I recall correctly, I remember news reports of the Big Muddy being frozen from St. Louis northward which caused a big problem for the commodities transported up and down the river. The ice jam broke and so all of this ice and water from the fall all moved at once. Between Baton Rouge, LA and Natchez MS there is a place called Simmesport, LA. at that point, the Mississippi breaks off, with part of the water going down the Atchafalaya River. The Atchafalaya is said to be a former channel for the Mississippi. At Simmesport, they have a dam and flood control project designed to prevent the Mississippi from going back its old way. In 1973, it tried to do just that. By law, the flood control boys can only release a maximum of 30% of the flow into the Atchafalaya but the river is not bound my man’s laws. The flood control project could have possibly used the Heavy Hitter in defense because the river was relentless. I was told by an Geologist in Natchez that the Corps of Engineers at Simmesport had dumptrucks dumping huge boulders into crevaces around the structure for 24/7 during a particularly tough week. He said they came very very close to losing the entire dam and that its not a matter of if the river takes its course, but when. Had they lost that structure, the Mississippi River would now be flowing between Lafayette, LA and Baton Rouge and the ports of New Orleans and Baton Rouge w0uld be largely ghost towns as the might river would have left them high and dry. Again, if I recall, that 1972/73 winter was toward the end of a series of very very cold winters across the nation and the evening news and the papers were filled with stories about how we were heading back toward an ice age. Amazing how 30 years can change the headlines.

rsymon@wlky.com

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Where Were You In 1981?
March 30, 2007

What you see here is the official NWS severe probabalistic map for Saturday midday to Sunday midday. A pokey storm system is losing much of its energy as it gets stretched out. A couple of days ago it touched off 63 tornadoes on the front range of the Rockies. Saturday night into Sunday morning will be our best chance for rain and t’storms but the best dynamics, or wind action, will be to our west and the late night/early morning timing will not provide energy from the sun and the heat that is available is also limited. Bottom line, at this point, on early Friday morning, it doesn’t look to fearsome but we’ll keep our nose to the grindstone. Now, last weekend I was talking about highs in the low 50’s for this weekend….well…back that up a few days. We will remain well above seasonal norms this weekend but by the latter half of next week, our tempertures tank and I bet we stay there for several days. Hopefully this nice weather will be back in time for Derby Festival activities.

This Date In History On this date in 1962, my friend Andrew Knox was born…and on this date several years before that, my sister was enjoying her first full day on the planet and my dad began the first day of seeing his hair fall out. However, on this date in 1981, John Hinkley, Jr. became a household name when he took potshots and President Reagan. Other assassins have had other reasons. The guy who shot McKinley was an anarchist, the guy who shot Garfield was a disgruntled…not sure if they used that term in the 19th century… office seeker and Boothe shot Lincoln in some “south’s gonna rise again” scheme. I’m not sure why Lynettte Squeaky Fromme or later her fellow Charles Manson follower took a shot a good guy President Gerald Ford. I think he may have talked to the bullits about his WIN buttons as each approached and they lost interest, like the rest of the nation did…as well as the history books. But whatever the reasons, they could not have been as goofy as that of Hinkley, who shot the President of the United States to try an win the affections of a teenage actress named Jodie Foster, who was either in her first or second year at Yale University. I’ve always wondered how he thought that would work. “Hey, Jodie, I shot the President…you wanna go on a date?”…”gee…wow…sure!” Thankfully for the nation, President Reagan survived and was back on the job in less than two weeks. One of the bullits lodged right near the President’s heart. It was a small caliber bullitt. But this particular type of .22 bullitt was designed to fragment so as to cause maximum damage, but this one by the heart remained in tact. Thus, one might say that Divine Providence had a hand in the Gipper beating Tecumseh’s curse. If you don’t know what that is, go back in the archives…I think it was probably March 4. I’m not explaining it again.

I will conclude with something to give you hope in these days of such pessimism. See, on this date in 1867, many Americans were chiding the Johnson Administration for being stupid. In particular, the Secretary of State William Seward who in the wee hours of the morning of March 30, 1867 signed a treaty with czarist Russia for the purchase of Alaska. Czar Alexander II had been trying to unload it on the US since the Buchannon administration but the US got sidetracked by the Civil War. After the war, Seward really went after it and he ended up increasing the size of the country by about 20% for around two cents and acre. But the people of the time ridiculed the deal. They called it most famously “Seward’s Folly” and also “Seward’s Ice Box” and “Johnsons’s Polar Bear Garden.” The treaty passed in Congress by one vote a few weeks later but funding wasn’t provided by Congress for another year. Seems a bunch of really wise men with great vision of possibility in the future decided the pursestrings were the way they could reign in such a imbecilic President. Fortunately, their foolishness did not prevail, for if it did, the US would have had the Soviet Union as a neighbor and we would have been without all of the resources and beauty of our 49th state. Quite often, what is thought of as truth and fact by a majority of people and politicians later is proven to be false. Thankfully, sometimes history does repeat itself and dire predictions do not always come true. If you read the Memoirs of US Grant, you will find that he felt his biggest failure was not in annexing Santo Domingo. I think today we would call that the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Had he been allowe to do that, its plausible that the US might have also acquired Cuba….and think how history later might have been different. BTW…Grant’s memoirs are considered the greatest Presidential memoir ever. It was published by Mark Twain.

The Day Louisville Was Visited By A Demon
March 28, 2007

On This Date In History Headline Louisville 1890…

Tornado: Louisville Visited By Storm Demon This Evening


Main street between 11th and 12th street after 1890 tornado…UL special collection…note railroad bridge over river in background.

Everyone knows about the tornado outbreak on April 3, 1974 that produced the tornado that ripped up Louisville that afternoon. But, very few people are familiar with an arguably more devastating and certainly more deadly tornado on this date in 1890. The tornado started in the Parkland area of Louisville and basically traveled right through downtown, terminating near the end of present day Zorn Avenue and the water tower. The present day water tower is a replacement for the one destroyed in 1890. Remember, we are talking about 1890 and that water tower was needed to be able to get the water for the city up the hill to the resevoir. The city only had enough water for 6 days and water rationing was called on. I suppose it wasn’t all that dramatic given there is a big river right next to the city, but usage in the plumbing system would not be possible and folks would have to use a whole lot of buckets. Just think what would happen today if the water system was shut down. Anyway, death toll estimates vary but most put it at upwards of 120. It probably would have been worse had it not hit between 8 and 9 pm since most of the businesses downtown were shuttered for the night. I am told by folks at Cave Hill that funerals were held every hour for a week. I first learned of the date of the tornado when I wandered about Cave Hill and found a section with numerous headstones with the same date of death. I knew then that something catastrophic had happened and recalled the 1890 tornado. You can learn a lot from wandering around a cemetery.

We hear about the 1974 “outbreak”. Well this was a big outbreak as well. Twenty-four significant tornadoes were reported that day across. The Louisville tornado is estimated to have been an F-4 tornado. It destroyed some 766 buildings including 5 churches, 7 railroad depots, 2 public halls, 3 schools, 10 tobacco warehouses, 32 manufacturing plants and 532 dwellings were destroyed by the tornado.

Here is a link to photos from the UL Library

http://www.library.louisville.edu/depts/sc/index-stereo.asp

Here is a link from the NWS with the path and information on 5 tornadoes that day in Kentucky

http://www.crh.noaa.gov/lmk/?n=tornado_climatology_1890

Here is an article from the Filson Club

http://www.filsonhistorical.org/news_v5n2_cyclone.html

I would invite you to visit these websites. I cherry picked much of the information from the Filson society and the NWS sites. Also, I have this stuff in my head from the research I did for my thesis regarding 19th Century Louisville as well as other work I did as a graduate student. I think in all liklihood, local historian George Yater should be given some credit and I would encourage you to check out his work at the LFPL or the Louisville Encycolopedia if you want more information.

One thing I found rather interesting was that apparently the precursor to the National Weather Service, the US Weather Bureau, actually issued a statement saying that very nasty weather could be in the picture. I did not know they were issuing what we would call a watch that early in our history. I know it seems like that with all of our technology and mass communications today that severe potential gets screamed out so much by some people that it seems like overload. Fatalities and injuries are actually going up annually in this country the past several years after many years of falling rates. One might argue its from the “cry wolf” syndrome…tv foofs who try to make a name for themselves by scaring you into watching them. Well, I can tell you in my 20 years of doing tv weather, I’ve never been associated with more responsible and thorough meteorologists as we have in Jay and the rest of the team. If we tell you something is amuck, you can bet there is something there and we’re not just making it up. Does that mean that every time we say there is a threat that we are doomed? No. But it does mean that you should stay tuned to WLKY 32 or check out our website for the latest. Or just check out my blog….I’ll usually tell you several days in advance if I think Mother Nature is up to no good. In 1890, the Courier Journal called it the “the whirling tiger of the air.” Lets hope that doesnt happen again, but it could…and in fact, I’d say someday it will…we all need to pay attention and don’t think “oh it can’t happen here”. Phooey. It can so wise up….but I’m not too concerned about it any time soon..I’ll let you know.

Potential "Mammoth" Day
March 26, 2007

Been pretty warm around here. No records or anything…but today may be a potential record breaker. In 1907 we reached 84 degrees and today that will be in jeopardy. Now, one might insert a Global Warming comment here because the record has been standing for 100 years. One might say that supports global warming then again, one might say the opposite since if the earth was getting warmer, the record would have been broken. Both notions, I think, would be incorrect. See, much of the evidence for global warming would be defined by overnight temperatures, not so much high temperatures. However, in Louisville, an interesting aspect in March regarding temperatures shows up when looking at basic record temperatures. Six of the all time lowest high March temperatures have occured in Louisville since 1970. Nine of the all time highest low temperatures have occured since 1970. One might say that is significant but again, that means that 22 days have record high low temperatures for a long time. Eleven days in March have been Louisville’s warmest afternoons since 1970. On this date in 1955, Louisvillians woke up to 12 degrees though 38 years prior, it got to 84. We shall see if the record book gets re-written today.

Basketball pool…lots of people have the final four. I wasnt one of them. Told you the Aggies wouldn’t be there. That sure didn’t sound like a “no” from Billy Donovan regarding the UK job, did it?

This Date In History
In 1801, Charles Wilson Peale unearthed a previously un-named prehistoric skeleton. It became known as a Mastadon but, at the time, it got the nickname Mammoth for its size. So, the term mammoth became popular in early 19th century America to describe something very large. In 1802, President Thomas Jefferson received a “mammoth” 1200 pound hunk of cheese from a bunch of Baptist from Massachusettes in appreciation for his advocation of religious tolerance. Remember, the Baptists weren’t always welcome in many corners of early American society, but they had been an effective thorn in the side of the Brits in Colonial America, particularly in places like Williamsburg. In any event, on this date in 1804, Jefferson attended a public party in the Senate that featured a “mammoth loaf” of bread. The big ole loaf of bread was baked to go along with what was left of the two year old cheese….and a giant portion of roast beef….and an ample supply of alcohol. The occasion was to show support for Jefferson’s use of the US Navy to go after the Barbary Pirates. The Barbary Coast was an area of Northern Africa which was supposed to be part of the Ottoman Empire but was really controlled by local powers in Tunis, Algiers and Tripoli. It was a region controlled by Islamists. They had been impairing US commerce so Jefferson sent the US Navy to enforce and, if need be attack, the bad guys. Numerous battles ensued. One note of interest….this military action of the United States against these Islamic states was funded by Congress, but was an undeclared military action by the United States that lasted for some 4 years. Those who think our current situation is unprecedented need to look more at Thomas Jefferson’s presidency. There are differences but the similiarities are worth noting….oh yes..its also worth noting that written observations say that the event with the “mammoth loaf” and the leftover “mammoth cheese” turned into a drunken, noisy affair…something some folks might say has been going on in the Senate ever since.

SPRING HAS SPRUNG…But what time is it?
March 21, 2007

This is the first day of spring. It started Tuesday night just after 8pm. Spring starts on the equinox, which is when the sun is supposedly directly over the equator which is supposed to mean that the earth gets equal sunshine all over, i.e. everywhere is 12 hours daylight and 12 hours night time. But, the day in which Louisville had exactly 12 hours of each was on this past weekend. Go and Figure that one out.

How about this for a question. This year 104 NCAA teams had 20 or more wins. Thats a record. Does that mean there are a bunch of good teams or several crummy teams that everyone else pads their records on.

Speaking of the tournament….there is, or was, a traditional bracket in Staten Island, NY. It started several years ago with a total pot of $800. Well, like a Otto the goldfish, it got bigger and bigger. Recently, the pot grew to a million dollars. Well, the big tradition is over. It seems that a recent big money winner was an honest John and reported his winnings to the IRS.

KELSEY’S PICNIC My wife, Cassie, had a wonderful black lab named Kelsey. Really incredible dog. Not only did she comfort Cassie in bad times (like bad weather while I’m at the station) but also this hunting dog was a friend to other animals. Cassie had trained her to be nice to animals and she used to go up to rabbits, who incredibly would just sit there and not run, and nudge them with her nose. Well, after nearly 15 years wandering this earth, Kelsaroo went to doggie heaven last year so Cassie is hosting her first Kelsey’s picnic at Dog Hill from 5pm to 7pm . She plans on holding it annually each first day of spring. She will be working to increase awareness of pet adoption and to raise money for the Animal Care Society, which is a no-kill agency that finds homes for orphaned animals. Stop by and see Cassie. I’ll be there too but my fat cats will not….they don’t like dogs too much, nor do they do well on leashes. Kim Stevens may bring her boys, Herbie and Henry, who were adopted from the Animal Care Society.

And what a time for a spring fling for Keslaroo….temperatures will be in the mid to upper 70’s and that trend will continue. And you know what…I really don’t see any big severe weather threats anywhere down the road. Pretty boring weather but that is good….unless you want action. Be patient and be aware, we’re just getting started. In the meantime just soak it up and enjoy the first part of the spring.

Went to the St. Mary’s of the Knobs School in Floyd’s Knobs. Great kids. They have a tornado plan at school and I told them to get one for their home as well..you should too.

rsymon@wlky.com

Bryan The Webhog Comes Through!
March 19, 2007

Bryan the Webhog claims he has set this up and as the benevolent dictator, I am accepting his word and I thank him for his efforts as well as those of Sally Albers. I appreciate the positive responses we’ve had but now we can dispense with the suggestions on how to make these here pages more “user friendly.”

I’m trying to get my taxes into my accountant, but we have some pretty good showers moving in and some thunder rumblers embedded. Nothing that appears too menacing but we never leave the weather center unstaffed when there is any remote possibility of something being up to no good. In this case, I seriously doubt it.

I don’t know how many of you have office basketball brakets but one thing I ‘ve noticed over the years is that the “experts” never win. Its usually a quiet person that no one even knew worked for the firm or someone’s 7 year-old child. Remember this, sports fans, the Aggies lost not once, but twice to Texas Tech. Bob Knight did not have that strong of a team so that means the Aggies have some holes. I bet Calipari finds them. If not, the Buckeyes will stop this nonsense from going too far.

This Date in History Here are three items that show how goofy this time of year can be.

In 1924, 11 inches of snow fell in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
In 1948, an F4 tornado swept through Fosterburg, Bunker Hill, and Gillespie, Illinois, killing 33 people and injuring 449.
In 1984, 10 to 20 inches of snow fell across parts of Kansas andNebraska.

So we have nearly a foot of snow in the southern plains, pushing toward 2 feet of snow in the central plains and in between, a big tornado in Illinois. All on March 19. March seems to be so extreme.

The press is all over this being the 4th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Lots of American sorties were flown that day. But no one seems to be interested that on this same date in 1916, the very first sorties were flown by American aircraft. No, it wasn’t in WWI in Europe. The US was still officially neutral at that time. Curtiss “Jenny” aircraft flew into Mexico! That’s right, General John J. Pershing sent combat aircraft into Mexico to scout for the whereabouts of Pancho Villa. They never found him and after 11 months, the Americans gave up because they had bigger fish to fry as in the Axis powers in Europe. The flying missions of the Army Air Corps over Mexico proved to be valuable air time for those who would serve in Europe.

Oh, one other thing….ever wonder why in The Godfather you never hear the term “mafia” or “cosa nostra?” Its because on this date in 1971, the Italian American Civil Rights League convince the producers not to use the term as they thought it increased the perception that all Italian Americans were gangsters. Guess they were impressed with the power of words. They weren’t concerned with the action portrayed on the screen…just don’t call them that name!

Revolutionary Acts and Big Bopper Tornadoes
March 19, 2007

Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day and I didn’t leave you a message. I was too busy yelling at my cats(Nit and Wit) while I did my taxes. Then I was yelling at the TV and the Texas Aggies. And of course, I was dealing with this chilly weather. But you know…even Al Gore has to admit it is still winter. Highs in the mid 40’s in the Ohio Valley and snow storms in the Northeast is really not unusual nor unexpected, unless you ‘ve been caught up in all of the hype in the media lately. Old Man Winter just wanted to make sure we knew he was still alive and well. But the old calendar says that Spring starts in midweek. First part of the week we’ll be like Morris the Cat…kinda finicky. Warm front-Cold Front-Warm Front will be the story for the first few days with the temperatures flopping around and shower activity until Wednesday with the start of spring and the mercury will jump. If you like to plan when you will be using your sick days, try Thursday and Friday this week.

On This Date In History Henry Wells and William Fargo in 1852 started their freight service via stage coach. These guys weren’t California boys or even Western frontiersman. Nope…they were east coast entreprenuers who exploited the fact that all of those 49ers in the gold rush needed supplies. It was a long way around South America by boat and the railroad wouldn’t get there for another couple of decades. Wells & Fargo got rich while most of the miners they sold to went bust. We now know of their little enterprise as a big fat bank. In 1766, the infamous Stamp Act was repealed. The Act went into effect the previous November and the Crown got tired of hearing the American colonists making all sorts of noise for four months. Funny thing is that it wasn’t the first Stamp Act. There had been others in 1689, 1712, 1724 and 1743 but they didn’t help spur a revolution. The folks just got their stamps and went on with their business. However, this Stamp Act was on the heels of the Sugar Act and the Currency Act, both in 1764. Never mind that the reason for the new taxes was to fund the protection of the colonies. I can argue that the reason why this one was such a big deal is because the wealthy, educated colonists were getting more and more restrictions and grief from the British government that threatened their wealth. Men like John Hancock. So, they went to the commoners and told them how a Stamp Act was taxation without representation. The final straw comes in 1774 with the Quebec Act, which threatened the land assets of the wealthiest of colonists, like George Washington. Its no coincidence that the American Revolution began not long after the Quebec Act. As anything else, just claiming the rich and smart guys riled up the commoners for their own desires is way way too simple. For instance, there was also another little act that got folks a bit upset. That was the requirement that citizens put up British soldiers for the night. Hows that for a “guess who’s coming to dinner moment?” This whole paragraph gives rise to another notion which I may deal with on another day which has to do with obfuscation by omission. However, I don’t feel like getting into that right now except to say that if one only mentions the Stamp Act of 1765 as a cause of the Revolution, it would be correct to some degree. But when one presents it in the context with the other acts as well as the personal interests and biographies of the principals involved, then you get a somewhat different picture. Bottom line is things are rarely as simple as they may seem.

Nevertheless, the big story on this date in 1925…the TRI STATE TORNADO. Its called that because it may very well have stayed on the ground over 3 states…Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. Twisters usually are on the ground for a few minutes. This guy supposedly was on the ground for over 3 hours and some 219 miles. It definitely was a big bopper…an F5….and when it was all said an done, 695 people lay dead across those three states. The storm at times got to be a mile wide and it swallowed entire towns. Tragically, many of the dead were school children. Several schools were wiped clean while in session. There is some debate now as to whether it really was a single tornado and not perhaps a series or twisters. There is some thought that if it was one tornado that it may not have really been consistently on the ground that long. But thats a matter for egg head meteorologists and pondersome historians. Bottom line is that it was the worst tornadic storm in American recorded history. And look here…it happened in Mid March. Another example of why we take tornado drills now. In less than a week, the anniversary of Louisville’s worst tornado comes up. But for now, here is a link to the the Tri State Tornado information as well as a list of the Top Ten big tornadoes.

Link here for Top Ten Tornadoes
http://www.tornadoproject.com/toptens/1.htm

Back to the Aggies…told you they’d have a nice run. But, their fans are confused. The ball doesn’t have points on either end and with only 5 men on the court, they don’t know how they can be the “12th man”. So, my fearless forecast is that the Aggies will get lost and not make it to the Final Four. But, be aware that I’m in trouble because I had Wisconsin going to the elite 8 and John Boel’s Badgers let me down. Should’ve known better.

rsymon@wlky.com

Ides of March The End of Knight Caesar
March 19, 2007

Beware the Ides of March. Everyone knows that came from Shakespeare. The Ides of month in the Roman calendar was the 15th of March, May, July and October. The other months the Ides fell on the 13th. Most people know it from Shakespeare’s Julius Caeser. Turns out Bill was using history as a guide for his script. See, the ancient Greek biographer Plutarch tells us that the soothsayer Titus warned the emperer about March 15, 44BC when he said “beware the ides of March.” Caesar ignored him and on that day, a group of Senators ganged up to commit tyrannicide. At least that is what the self described group called themselves instead of murderers as they said they were preventing Caesar from continuing his supposed monarchal dreams.

So, what does that have to do with today? Well, its the Ides of March and the General, Bob Knight, has suffered the same fate as Caesar. I had Texas Tech winning, too. So far, thats my only loss. I end up with UCLA winning it all over Ohio State with Florida, UCLA, Texas and Ohio State in the final four. The only thing more accurate than my fearless weather forecasts is the forecast for my wife’s bracket each year. And this year she did not disappoint. She usually does pretty well until she gets to the end and puts UK vs. UL in the final game. If both teams make it against each other in the finals, I’ll be nice to Matt Milosevich for a whole day and to Steve Burgin for 46 minutes.

Speaking of nice. After giving Bryan the Webhog(our webmaster) a good beating with a rubber hose under a bright light, the new real live format is supposedly in the system and will be there soon. To show my benevolence, I will suspend the beatings and give him the benefit of the doubt.

Looks like I’ll be at UL this month giving a presentation and review of safety procedures. If you have any questions, feel free to email. I’ve gotten some pretty good questions and will post some responses this weekend. Keep in mind that when you hear rules and procedures, there are no hard and fast absolutes. I mean, if you want a guarantee, get a toaster. The truth is that people often follow procedures and yet bad things still happen. A couple of years ago in Illinois, a group of folks in a bar knew a tornado was coming. They went to the basement. None of them survived. Is that unusual? Yes. Is is surprising? No? They had winds of over 250 mph come over them bringing a tremendous amount of violent, chaotic energy. Did they do the right thing? Absolutely. It was the only thing to do. But safety precautions and procedures are meant to increase the probability of your safety and survival. That probability does not reach 100%. Often I get questions where people want absolutes and the truth is there are no absolutes. You do the very best you can with what you have to deal with and the information you have.

The Texas Aggies fans are doing the best they can with the information they have, but they will not be able to fully understand what a basketball is or understand the game, regardless of how well their team does. The only absolute there is that they are still Aggies. Hook’em.

rsymon@wlky.com

March 13, 2007
March 19, 2007

You will note quite an absence from my little report here….I had a good reason. Nevertheless, we are back. Thanks for the notes you folks have sent. Either I’m doing something very right or very wrong. No hate mail…hmmm…I will tell you this, the weather has been great. Hope you have had a chance to enjoy it. Ten years ago today, there were some celebrations going on in Louisville….see, this was the last day the Ohio River was above flood stage. Kinda interesting, but the river was above flood stage for less than two weeks. But, when it crested it was about 15 feet above flood stage. That’s still about 15 feet short of the all time record set in 1937, but it was good enough to burn a spot in folk’s memories. See, what the deal was is that the ground was frozen…it had been cold. There was a big pile of snow to the north. Then a whole mess of rain fell at one time. The ground couldn’t absorb it and, on top of that, there was melting snow to the north. Its kinda interesting that the Miscatatuck river in Indiana, that always seems to be out of its banks, was only above flood stage for 2 days. But all of the water goes into the Ohio…and it all did at once. The run-off in combination with the local rains resulted in too much water in what is naturally a pretty shallow river. I can hear some of you now…”shallow?” Yes..shallow he said. The natural state of the river was changed when in 1870, the Federal Government called on the Army Corps of Engineers to develop the canalization of the Ohio River. It was a project designed to maintain navigation…keep water high enough to keep the waterway navigatable. The project was completed over 50 years later with the McAlpine structure. Many people think that the dam and lock structure is for flood control. NYET! It has nothing to do with flood control and everything to do with navigation.

If you want to know more about the 1997 flood, the local NWS office has put up some pretty good stuff at:

http://www.crh.noaa.gov/lmk/?n=flood97

I hate the Texas Aggies…Matt Milosevich and I are both from Houston and we know that the aggies in College Station Texas have no idea what a basketball is..but they may have a pretty good team. I’d probably forecast a good tournament run for them, if I’d allow myself to pick the aggies as successful in anything. BTW…between Houston and College Station is Brenham Texas and that little ole Texas Ice Creamery, Blue Bell. Great ice cream. Going on sale today in Louisville.

Lots of folks had tornado questions….Soon I’ll try to print some of my answers and respond to you who have written. Also, I’ve got my rubber mallet out and am bopping our webmaster trying to get him to set this up a little more conventionally….but you are seeing how much influence I have with him. Perhaps I will try the beer and cold cuts route…er…the bribe him with honey approach. In any event, we are working on it.

rbsymon@wlky.com

March 7, 2007
March 19, 2007

Been pretty busy the last few days but as you know, we’ve had tornado drills in both Kentucky and Indiana. The purpose for these drills are to make sure that the system is working. Also, its a good time to remind people of tornado safety procedures. I think most people around here think of our primary tornado season as being in May. Certainly, we have our fair share of tough weather in May. The last big bopper twister was May 28, 1996 in Bullitt County but we’ve had numerous events since then in the same time frame. It was the end of a May a 3 years ago that several twisters plagued the area. However, two of the most tragic tornadoes in Louisville have been in the March/April time frame. The 1890 tornado was on March 24 and killed 120 people. Of course, everyone refers to the “Arpil 3rd tornado” in 1974. Pretty fair to say that had their not been warnings, there would have been greater loss of life. In any event, typically, its more likely to have a strong jetstream in March and early April, which means there is the greater liklihood of a violent tornado with winds in excess of 200 mph. Anyway, its a good time to review your safety tips. But I want to dispel myths.

When I was a kid, “they” said to open the windows in the event of a tornado because it will keep your house from exploding. NONSENSE! Winds from a tornado blow your house away or cause damage from debris before any such thing could occur. Not only do you put yourself at risk by going to a window and possibly get whacked by something flying through air at 150 mph, you also do nothing more than allow in raging winds that can cause damage. A tornado also can go anywhere. They have been reported in all 50 states. A river or a lake is no barrier. I read about a tornado on the Ohio River near Louisville in the 19th century that sank 25 barges. Mountains are also no protections. In the 1980’s, a tornado in Yellowstone National Park slammed into a 10,000 foot mountain. The mountain was wiped clean. And, while people often report a “calm before the storm” or green skies or no rain, there no general rule of thumb that always applies. Many tornadoes are embedded in rain and are difficult to see. Hail often accompanies tornadoes as they are spawned from severe thunderstorms. The green reported in the sky is a result of light refraction and reflection with the ice. But, a green sky does not mean a tornado and a tornado does not necessarily require a green sky. I’m not sure of a “calm” before a tornado. Twisters have inflow winds that quite strong as well as big downdrafts. The tornadoes I have been near had great winds as they went by. Anyway, our tornado peak is from April to June. We are not in Tornado Alley, which is to our west. But we do get tornadoes with some frequency. Nationally, only 2% of all tornadoes have winds in excess of 205 mph but those that do cause 70% of the fatalities.

Should a tornado threaten your location: Get to a basement if possible. If not, get to a small interior room like a closet or bathroom. Try to cover your head. A mobile home is not a good shelter as even a tied down trailer can be tossed by high winds. Its best to abandon the mobile home for a sturdy structure prior to severe weather developing. If in an automobile it is recommended that one should not try to outrun a tornado as you will probably lose or even drive right into its path. A car is not a safe place as it can be tossed. Its best to abandon your vehicle and look for a low spot, like a ditch and lie down. Many people think its a good idea to get to an underpass. However, experts warn that is not safe as there is a high liklihood of being drawn out from under the overpass. If you are in the girders and the winds get funnelled under the bridge, it will tend to want to draw in all things into that funnelled air, including people trying to hold on in the superstructure of the bridge.

Well chat about this more often as severe weather events take place, but feel free to email at any time with any questions.

Oh…I’ve had several reports of people seeing falling stars lately…or at least what sounded like that to me, or perhaps space debris and I think I recall a meteorite story from the Northeast recently. Well, now the folks in Bloomington IN are in on the act. Here’s the story and you can decide for yourself.

Link here for story
http://www.pantagraph.com/articles/2007/03/06/news/doc45ec62e14a6c2722505892.txt

Pondering when someone will come up with an explanation about this increase in meteorite activity. Someone will probably blame someone or something even though its possible that there are just more reports because of the internet and global communications….but lets not ruin a good story.

rsymon@wlky.com