Archive for September, 2007

John Smith and Great Weather
September 11, 2007

A second front will ease though on Tuesday taking away the humidity and clouds. Wednesday and Thursday will be wonderful days. But the air will be so dry that a pretty strong front late Friday will be hard pressed to find enough moisture to bring us a whole lot in the rain department. But the good news is that, at this point, the Lanesville Heritage Festival this weekend looks good as does the UL/UK game because behind the front is some great, fall-like air leaving us with afternoons in the mid 70’s and morning temperatures in the mid 50’s. In short, neither team will be able to blame the weather for any failures.
On This Date In History: On September 10, 1608 John Smith was elected as council President of Jamestown in the Virginia Colony. It was the first permanent English settlement in the New World but had not fared too well in the first year. So they turned to the adventurer John Smith. What cracks me up about the above painting is that Smith was but 27 years old when he took the helm. The guy above doesn’t look like a young kid to me. Prior to photographs, it was possible for artists to depict their heroes or villains as the wanted them to appear, but not necessarily as they really did appear. Nevertheless, the settlement continued to struggle even after Smith took charge when a fire wiped out many of the structures. But, Smith had become acquainted with the local Indians and “befriended” one of the chief’s daughters, Pocahontas. Pocahontas visited the settlement often and acted as an emissary between her father and the English. Attacks from local tribes declined and the Indians helped the greenhorn English to learn how to live in the New World.
As I mentioned, John Smith was an adventurer and he mapped much of the Tidewater area. He is credited with discovering Tangier Island, where Snow White and I vacationed late last month. Smith saw the Island with a white beach (which has largely disappeared) and it reminded him of Tangiers…so he called the Island Tangier. Smith was obviously not a very creative fellow because a nearby Island he named after himself. The third island in the group he called Watts Island, after one of his crewmen. The collection of three islands, Tangier, Smith and Watts, he called the Russell Islands….again after one of his crewmen. If Donald Trump had been on board, perhaps we would have the Trump Islands. Good thing Englebert Humperdink wasn’t part of the crew.

Galveston 1900
September 8, 2007

We’ve got a little frontal system that is slowly plodding our direction that has little ripples of energy wandering up along it. The boundary should be slow enough to provide ample chance for much needed scattered showers over the weekend. A second front in the week ahead will bring relief from the summer-like weather and take temperatures to or below seasonal norms for the latter half of the upcoming week. Sub-Tropical Storm Gabrielle will be more or less a nuisance for parts of the East Coast as rapid or significant development is not anticipated.

On This Date in History: On September 8, 1900 Galveston, Texas in many regards ceased to exist. A hurricane slammed into the island and it changed history. It was the greatest disaster in US history as the death toll ranges between 6,000 and 12,000. The exact number will never be known. There are a couple of good books on the subject, the most recent being Isaac’s Storm. It got that moniker because the man in charge of the National Weather Bureau in Galveston was a man named Isaac Cline. The NWB had issued advisories on the storm and said it was moving up the East Coast. But Cline was making observations and taking observations from ships coming into port. From this he concluded that he had a major hurricane heading toward Galveston.

Now much of the history is based on Cline’s later report but it has come under some criticism and scrutiny. Cline reported the weather was great the day before but he rode his white horse in vain up and down the beach warning people of impending doom. This is one of the items that some now question. In any event, the storm did hit at night. Galveston had had storms in the past. They called them a “big blow.” Water began filling the streets but some observers noted the water was salt water. Cline knew the storm surge had covered the island. Houses floated by with people inside. Galveston homes had slate roofs to prevent the spread of fire. The bits of slate chipped off in the high winds and became bullets, cutting down people as they tried to get shelter. It was a terrible situation. The bridges and ferries were long before the height of the storm cut off by the high tide and there was no escape for anyone.

There are many tragic tales, including the death of Cline’s wife, whom he identified weeks later by her wedding ring. Also, the St. Mary’s Orphanage totally collapsed killing almost all of the nuns and children. I think one or two kids survived in a tree. The nuns had tied a rope to the children. The next day in the sand, they found a hand sticking up with a rope around the wrist. As they pulled up the rope, they found a nun with a string of children still attached.

In 1900, Galveston was the “Wall Street of the South.” It was the financial center of the South and the largest city in Texas with about 50,000 inhabitants. Perhaps 1/4 of the population died that night. Galveston was the second busiest port in the country. After the storm, the Houston Ship Channel was built as the first public(Federal)/private financed public works project in the nation, which is now quite common. The Army Corps of Engineers literally raised the entire island up to 15 feet. Structures that remained in tact had their bottom floors filled in or they were lifted. A great 15 foot seawall was built to protect the city and it has done so ever since, though much of the beachfront is lost.

By 1970, Houston had become the largest city in Texas, the 4th largest city in the nation, the second busiest port in the world and one of the financial and corporate centers of the country. Galveston still had 50,000 people. Today it has about 60,000, its glorious past lost to its now sprawling neighbor to the north, all because of the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. Everything Galveston was at the turn of the 20th Century, Houston became and more in just 70 years.

One of the first news reels came out of the storm as Thomas Edison sent a film crew to record the devastation. Here are some links with other pictures that include some of the ones above. Other storms have devastated the US coast, in Florida and New England and most recently with Camille in 1969 and Katrina in 2005. I can tell you, it will happen again and all of the government in the world cannot stop it.

Autumn, McKinley and B.G. Symon
September 6, 2007

The exceedingly dry air that has been over our area will slowly get replaced over the next few days. A front will come through this weekend and bring a chance for showers. But, there is another guy behind it that will hold up the refreshing air. So, be patient. The second front comes through on Tuesday and behind that will be seasonal, even perhaps below seasonal temperatures. It appears we have a long wave pattern change and that should bring an end to this 90’s nonsense. Don’t be surprised because Autumn begins in about 2 weeks so mother nature is getting in tune with the calendar. Snow White and I were rowing today and methinks that this may be another crummy year for fall foliage. We’ve been so hot and dry, I don’t see how we get any good colors. Last year was pretty lousy.
On This Date In History: On this date in 1901, President William McKinley did one of the two most significant things he did as President: He got shot. An anarchist got into the receiving line at the World’s Fair in Buffalo, New York as he concealed a gun in a handkerchief. He shot the President who later died as a result of his wound. This was significant because it elevated the young Theodore Roosevelt to the highest office in the land. Roosevelt went on to become a legend and implement policies that still echo today. The other thing McKinley did was initiate the Spanish American War. This war is largely ignored in public schools except for superfluous details. Had the American public been better educated and the media been more informed, then we Americans would know that the current situation in Iraq has much more in common with the aftermath of the Spanish American War in the Philippines than any comparison with Viet Nam. Oh…McKinley did also have a mountain named after him in Alaska. Mt. McKinley is the tallest peak in the US. I wonder if it would have gained that moniker if he had fulfilled his term and died quietly.
A year prior to McKinley’s demise, Benjamin Goodall Symon was born. He was the second American-born of a family of immigrants from Scotland. He went on to graduate at the top of his Engineering class (like any good Scot) at the University of Missouri. Later, he rose to become an executive with Shell Oil Company. I was so fortunate to have known my grandfather as he had all of the qualities I wish I had. He was like a kind, wise old owl. He died in 1993 and I miss him greatly. I’m almost crying right now just writing this. It’s interesting though because my father has now acquired so many of his fine qualities so I guess I could say he lives on in my father. I can only hope that someday someone can say the same of me. But, I dunno….Steve Burgin thinks I’m beyond all hope.
Two things that were rather interesting about my grandfather always amazed me. One is that when he was born, there was no automobile, no airplane or many of the modern conveniences we take for granted. He saw the roaring 20’s, the depression and participated in WWI. He saw the rise of Hitler, the rise of the US as a world power, the atomic bomb and man walking on the moon. You talk about a change in one lifetime! The list could go on. The other thing is that he retired from Shell in 1959…three years before I was born. He lived for 34 more years. One third of his life was largely in retirement. Remember that when you are making investments and decisions regarding your own retirement. You need to consider that your retirement years may indeed be a large portion of your life and you need to plan accordingly.
By the way….on the day that the Symon family was celebrating the life of their second native born American, Isaac Cline in Galveston, Texas was growing increasingly concerned about a storm in the Atlantic. The US Weather Bureau had forecast a storm going up the East Coast but Cline was becoming increasingly convinced a major hurricane was headed not up the East Coast, but instead directly for Galveston. Little did the Symon’s, Cline or the Weather Bureau know that Galveston, Texas was about to get gobbled up by the Gulf of Mexico and the aftermath would become the greatest disaster in US history. You think Katrina was bad? Wait till you hear about the “Big Blow.” If you look at a historic hurricane map, it simply will say “September 1900.” It literally changed history.

15 Minutes of Fame For Squeaky
September 5, 2007

A few weather chores first….we’ll stay hot the next few days. End of the week the temperatures may not be so extreme but that is due to added moisture in the air which will result in higher humidity and more uncomfortable conditions in spite of temperatures a few degrees lower than the last few afternoons. But, isolated showers will bubble up for the end of the week with scattered stuff Saturday. The best rain chance is Sunday as a front moves through. Cooler air will be behind the front, taking us at or below average for next week. That front will also pick up whatever type of system that is developing in the Atlantic. Its a low along an old front. It’s sat out there so long that it may be developing some tropical characteristics. Some data suggests it turns into a hurricane, other says a tropical storm and a third choice is a sub-tropical storm. Either way, the consensus is that it moves back west and gets picked up by our front and scoots it up the east coast for this weekend or early next week…which should be interesting and will likely get all sorts of national air play, regardless of its intensity. We’ve only had 2 hurricanes so far this year and they’ve both been big boppers… but remember the official forecast was for some 16-20 hurricanes. Then 16, which is the 10 year average now Dr. William Gray has said there will be 6 more hurricanes, which means that is 8 for the year or two less than the 30 year average. I thought global warming was going to doom us all. Back the old drawing board I guess, or perhaps simply ignore previous statements by the “experts.”

On This Date in History: Naturally there were a bunch of things going on September 5, but I found one that is odd. First off, not one, but two people tried to assassinate President Ford in 1975. I mean, what did he do to get shot? Nothing I suppose except to get that attention of Charles Manson’s followers. On this date, the woman shown above, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme raised a loaded gun toward Ford. Secret Service agents intervened before any shots were fired. But, she plead not guilty, saying that since the gun wasn’t cocked…well that proved he had no intent to shoot the President. No one bought that story and off to a life sentence she went…until she escaped in 1987. She was quickly recaptured and, get this, our criminal justice system added five years to her life sentence. I guess her corpse will remain behind bars for 5 years, unless its released for good behaviour.

The second assassination attempt came 17 days later by another woman, Sarah Jane Moore. This time she squeezed a shot off but missed because a former Marine was nearby who grabbed her arm. I’m not sure if the bullet hit anything but I know she went to jail too for life to the same prison as Fromme. In 1989, she too escaped and was later captured.

I’m not sure if she got an extra five years though.

I think they need a new prison.

US Independence Made Official
September 4, 2007

Hurricane Felix is rather interesting as it roared to life up to 165 mph on Sunday. It was headed toward the warmest waters. The hurricane hunter aircraft had to turn around due to extreme turbulence. Then suddenly, the pressure rose and it began to weaken. The only thing I can see is that it appears some dry air may have intruded into its circulation and/or an eyewall replacement cycle is taking place. Either way, it will be trouble for Nicaragua and Honduras. Cancel your plans if you’re headed to Belize….and cancel them if you are headed toward Cabo San Lucas on Baja…a tropical storm is headed there too. Our weather remains status quo. High pressure will move to our east and add humidity to our heat. Late in the week some little disturbances will wander around the high, up from our southwest, and raise the prospects of isolated t’storms. They become a little more scattered on Saturday as a front approaches. When it moves through some time this weekend, we’ll have a chance for general rainfall followed by an end to this 90’s nonsense. Monday was our 53 day of 90 degree heat…we average 33 days. Its not your imagination, it’s been a hot summer.

On This Date In History: On September 3, 1783 the Treaty of Paris was signed by Ben Franklin and his delegation as well as representatives of the English Crown. The Revolutionary War was officially over. In November of that year, the last of the British forces left the US on what is known as “Evacuation Day.” The Brits thought they’d get the last laugh by nailing the Union Jack atop a greased flag pole in New York. Much to their chagrin though, an American put on spiked boots and climbed the pole, replacing the British Flag with an American Flag while the Stars and Stripes were still in clear view of the exiting ships.

Note the painting above by a man named West. It is incomplete because the British delegation refused to pose.

On this date in 1861, perhaps the biggest blunder of the Civil War took place…well at least one of them. Kentucky had declared its neutrality and warned both Union and Confederate governments against putting troops within her borders. President Lincoln, a native Kentuckian, was careful not to agitate his home state. But on September 3, 1861 a General Polk of the Confederate Army took up residence with his troops in Columbus, KY. The Unionist leaning Kentucky legislature then invited the Union Army to come and kick them out. They obliged with the forces of U.S. Grant…and then they stayed and made Louisville the home base for the Army of the Ohio, stationing some 75,000 Union soldiers in our fair city. Though the numbers are different depending on your source, eventually over 100,000 Kentuckians fought for the Union while but 25-35,000 sided up with the Confederates. Yet to this day, there is not a single memorial to Union soldiers in Kentucky but there are several Confederate War memorials, including one in Louisville on 3rd street near UL. For more information about that, look up “lost cause.”

Where Was Bob?
September 3, 2007

For two weeks, Snow White and I have been on an extended journey. It took us from Louisville to Charlotte to Virginia to New York to Virginia and back to Louisville. One of our stops was to Tangier Island in Chesapeake Bay. It takes about 90 minutes by boat to get there. Once there you find an island of roughly 3 square miles. There are 3 bed and breakfasts on the island, one grocery store, two churches 5-10 cars used to haul things and many golf carts. There are only two main roads that parallel one another with a few connector bridges. A third road goes to a remote part of the island. I also can report there are lots and lots and lots of cats…cute kitty cats and none seem to have missed a meal. Its a village of 600 with crabbing the main industry. The beach is small but rather interesting as it narrowly goes to a point that is home to many pelicans and seagulls. The people speak an interesting form of English that is difficult to understand and they seem to like it that way as they switch to a tongue that non-natives can understand and back to their own language when the speak to one another. Very nice and simple life there. We met a couple of nice couples. One was a woman who was a native Hawaiian who teaches dance in Washington, DC. She was accompanied by a neurosurgeon with interests well beyond the mind. The other was Eugene and Christina. Two very fine folks from Pennsylvania. Eugene flies airplanes and Christina selflessly serves the community in a number of ways, including a stint at a local shelter. If we all aspired to live as Eugene and Christina, then perhaps the world would be a better place. There’s not much to do on the island. Snow White and I rented bikes from Ruby and made it around the island in about 15 minutes. But its a great place for peace and quiet….no cell phones, TV is very limited, no newspapers to speak of, no Internet. Really an interesting place.

Discovered in 1608 by John Smith, a settlement began in 1620 and has continued ever since. If your last name is Pruitt, Crockett, Parks or Thomas, you may have relatives on the island.

Here are some sites that may tell you more.
On This Date in History: On September 2, 1789 Congress established the Treasury Department. A rather interesting title given that the new nation was in debt from the get go. War bonds were issued beginning in 1775 and they fell in value as the nation struggled through the war and the pre-constitutional period. So, General Washington appointed his old comrade Alexander Hamilton to straighten out the mess. He eventually did so and the US settled all of its debts. I’m not sure but if they were completely settled, its probably the only time in US history we have not been in debt to someone. So when you hear of today’s national debt, don’t worry, be happy. We were in debt before we ever go started. Either that or look around for the next Alexander Hamilton…..but be careful…Hamilton was later shot dead by the Vice President of the United States, Aaron Burr, in a duel….and unlike today’s VP, Burr didn’t even use a shotgun.