On This Date in History: I told you yesterday how I spent lots of time in Baltimore for the past week and stayed at the Admiral Fell Inn. Now, the Admiral Fell Inn is really made up of parts of some 8 buildings, some dating back to the 18th century. But, the buildings had been redone in the early 20th century. Snow White pointed out to me that there had been a big fire, but I’m not sure how much the property was affected. Well, low and behold, on this date in 1904, the Great Baltimore Fire broke out. It was the first big fire since the Great Chicago Fire in 1872. No cow in this story though but there was wind. This one is thought to have started by a cigarette or cigar in the basement of the Hurst Building, which was a wholesale dry good place on the south side of German Street at Liberty. The fire burned down some 1400 structures over an 80 block area.
A couple of interesting facts show up in this fire. The fire burned for about 31 hours and fire companies from as far away as New York, Philadelphia and Altoona, PA showed up. The companies uncovered a problem that had been urged to be addressed for some time. There is a saying that the people of Venice did nothing about the waste water problem until sewage came into the homes. Same is true in so many instances today and it was true in 1904 when, for years, experts had urged a uniform fire hose couplings. At the time, there were about 600 different sizes in use in the United States. So, when the Washington DC Fire Department showed up to help,
none of their hoses fit. Same was true of other companies from 21 other cities that came to lend aid. But, it wasn’t all bad. The opportunity was presented for Baltimore to upgrade the docks, the electric and gas lines and also new pumping station and vastly improved sewer system. That only served to bolster Baltimore’s position as a shipping and rail center when the automobile age came about a decade later. Baltimore boomed partly because of the fire. Many of the structures destroyed were only insured for their construction value. So, instead of 1400 buildings with an insured value of $13 million, 800 buildings replaced them with a value of $25 million. All told, the fire cost some $150 million…which was a ton of money at the turn of the century….and guess what…Baltimore didn’t ask for a bailout.
Arctic Ice Update: I won’t say too much about the sea ice report from the the NSIDC except to harp on something I’ve said for sometime and that is how it is reported. The story begins by saying that the sea ice for January 2009 was below the 30 year average and was the 6th lowest on record…which I think only goes back 31 years. Then you read down and find that the amount of ice was actually an increase from last year, which was the 3rd lowest ever recorded. So, they could have just as easily said that the sea ice was growing which probably would have made a bigger splash as it goes against conventional wisdom of the arctic ice disappearing. It is interesting when you find that east of Greenland, the ice actually decreased in the last two weeks of the month but elsewhere it increased. That makes sense if you consider that is about the time that the northeastern quadrant of North America got terribly cold during that time. When you get a big dip in the polar jet stream, it gets cold in one place but tends to be warm in the front and back of the trof with ridges building in. In fact, in spite of the fact that we have been very cold for much of the winter, particularly the last 30 days, early data indicates that global temperatures actually were significantly warmer in January.
Weather Bottom Line: Same thing as yesterday’s report. We get to the low to mid 60s with clouds on Saturday. Low 50s with a few showers on Sunday with a weak front then a resurgence of warm air as a storm moves up through the midwest in the early part of the week and drags a warm front through. We push to near 70 on Wednesday but there are still indications that the next storm coming out of the southwest is closer to us than the first and that could bring the prospects of at least t’storms on Wednesday if not severe thunderstorms. Remember, last year in early February we had a pretty good tornado outbreak around here…but I wasn’t here. I was enjoying mid 70s to near 80 in New Orleans for Mardi Gras.