Archive for February, 2010

Tyler, Getty and Petty
February 28, 2010

Steve Burgin Thinks He Should be King and get all the money

President Tyler Almost Bought the Farm

On This Date In History: On this date in 1844, President John Tyler almost bought the farm. He was cruising on the USS Princeton the Navy’s newest and best warship that featured a 27 inch cannon. Trouble was, the cannon hadn’t been tested. Nevermind, the bigshots in Tyler’s cabinet wanted that sucker fired! So they fired it twice and it worked. The designer of the gun begged them not to tempt fate a third time to no avail. They fired it a third time and it exploded, killing a bunch of people. Now, Tyler had a wife when he took over for William Henry Harrison, whom had died after just several weeks in office. Tyler had 8 kids with the wife. No wonder she died. So, the then single President had taken a fancy to a 20 year old named Julia whom Tyler had asked to marry but she hadn’t answered. When the gun blew up, it killed her father. I don’t know if she wanted a new father or if it was a sign or what, but she then accepted Tyler’s proposal and she promptly delivered for Tyler, another 7 kids. Our most pro-creationist President went on to retire to his home in Virginia which had previously been owned by his former boss, President William Henry Harrison! Today, the home is still owned and lived in by the Tyler family. As of this writing one of Tyler’s grandsons is still alive. Snow White and I visited the home, Sherwood Forest,  several years ago and the only other people there were a nice, attractive couple. The young lady turned to me and said, “aren’t you the weatherman in Louisville?” Small world.

King Richard

On this Date in 1960, Richard Petty won his first Grand National race. It was 50 years ago today and it was the first of 200 NASCAR victories. Eight months earlier, Richard Petty had been declared the winner of the race but he lost after the guy who came in second protested the finish successfully. So his first victory was snatched from him by….Lee Petty…his father! Talk about tough love…While his team hasn’t done well without him at the wheel, he is still deeply involved in NASCAR and his record of victories is one of those standards in sport that is held in a lofty status, like DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak or Gretzky’s 894 career goals.  It’s very unlikely anyone will ever amass 200 career victories, but they certainly will try.

J.Paul Getty

On this date in 1982, the J. Paul Getty Museum was endowed. Getty had made a fortune in the oil business and he had developed a love of art so he left a third of his fortune to the museum when he died in 1976. At that time, J. Paul Getty was estimated to be worth about $700 million and was one of the richest men in the world. By the time the courts got done with all of the legal wrangling involved in big estate cases, the economy was booming and the endowment grew to $1.2 billion. By 2000, the endowment had grown to $5 billion. Three of every 4 years, the law says that the trust must spend 4.25% in order to maintain tax-exempt status. The first year that was $54 million. Today it’s more like $200 million! The trust has a hard time finding places to spend it. They don’t want to look like they are greedily hoarding all of the world’s art but they have to spend it somewhere. Such problems. Steve Burgin thinks they should give it to him since so many people consider him a national treasure.

Weather Bottom Line:  I told you that I was skeptical.  The low clouds did not get worked on enough from the sun to create some breaks so we didn’t get to 40.  The extreme western parts of the area did get some sun and moved to the low 40’s. I’m not too enthused about the clouds breaking in the next 5 days so 40 may be a dream.  Could be sorta kinda on Monday we may get some cloud breaks to get toward 40 but after that, I don’t think we get to that magic number until Friday or Saturday.  At that point, it appears that there will be a pretty decent pattern change for awhile and we get some milder days.  Remember, the average high this time of year is 51 so getting to average will be quite an accomplishment.   Light, mainly insignificant snow showers are possible late Tuesday into Wednesday.  Shouldn’t be a big deal.

Questionable Government Spending Has Long History
February 27, 2010

Uncle Sam Has Funded Pork Barrels for Years

Uncle Sam Has Funded Pork Barrels for Years

1935 Texas Dust Storm, Proof That Droughts are Not New

1935 Texas Dust Storm, Proof That Droughts are Not New

On This Date in History: These days, every time there is a lack of rain in an area of the country, stories start surfacing about some who claim its an example of Global Warming. The truth is that droughts have happened throughout the history of time. It’s funny how when the Global Warming talk comes up, even more recent history is ignored. The Dust Bowl years represented a pretty long time frame of below average rainfall and in conjunction with poor farming techniques, caused a disaster and helped contribute to a long economic depression. So, these periods of dry weather over an extended period are not new. In fact, going back through time, mankind has tried to invent a way to make it rain. Even today, there is research going on in cloud seeding efforts to try and control the rain. The results have been inconclusive.

In the past year, we’ve seen the “stimulus bill” in which there was much criticism over spending on projects that have been labled “pork barrell.” This type of charge is not new and I wonder what the masses thought on this date in 1891, when the United States Department of Agriculture hired and funded a special agent. His job was to make it rain.

19th Century Rain Making Guns

19th Century Rain Making Guns

Now, there was a theory floating about that producing big noises in the sky would make it rain. It was called the “concussion method” and the idea was that gunpowder explosions in the sky would create rain. They called the process “air quakes.” The notion was brought forth by Edward Powers who in 1880 wrote that in wars, often when there was a heavy cannonade, significant rain soon followed. He said that the jarring of the air combined with smoke caused a reaction with “nuclei or mechanical retaining points.” He also suggested that the atmospheric pressure was affected by the concussion and the buoyancy of the gases and heat given off by the explosion forced a rising of the air which caused a disturbance. Somehow, he then deduced that the explosions created electricity and friction “producing polarization of the earth and sky…inducing…other conditions necessary for storm formation, electrical manifestation being a constant forerunner and concomitant of storms…” There were other theories of rain making but General Robert St. George Dyrenforth said he didn’t understand those but, as an old soldier, he too had observed copius amounts of rain following cannon battles. So that’s the one he went along with and got the backing of Illinois Senator Charles B. Farwell. Just like today, all you need to do is convince a politician that you deserve government money and bingo..into the budget you go. As I’ve pointed out many times on these here pages…what we see today is nothing new. I guess no one ever thought that maybe it would have rained whether there was a battle or not. Nope…it had to be the cannon fire! Never mind the times it did not rain after a battle…just like some ignore the droughts of the past today.

This Rain Making Lab Was on Rails
This Rain Making Lab Was on Rails

In 1890, Congress appropriated about $9,000 to test out the theory and hired Dyrenforth to do the deed. Experimentation began in 1891 at c Ranch in Andrews County near Midland, Texas. The experimentation continued throughout 1891 and Governor James Stephen Hogg of Texas was so excited he wrote a letter to Texas politician John Dix announcing his intent to observe the action. When Hogg found out that Dyrenforth had returned to Washington, he added a note at the bottom of the letter suggesting that the experiments continue in the Southwestern part of Texas, which they did through 1892 near San Antonio.

Chinese Used Rain Making Cannon at 2008 Olympics

Chinese Used Rain Making Cannon at 2008 Olympics

Well, Dyrenforth piled up enough munitions to start a small war. He fired cannons into the sky, attached explosive to kites and did anything else he could think of to send ripples through the atmosphere to create a cloud burst. Reportedly, one time it did rain. The rest of the time, he came up dry. One would think that over a long period of time more than once at least a rain shower would show up on its own, but apparently the General wasn’t that lucky. One editor reported that “he attacked front and rear, by the right and left flank. But the sky remained clear as the complexion of a Saxon maid.” Dyrenforth’s official job title at the Department of Agriculture was pluviculturist. That’s the governmental term for rainmaker. The people of Texas came up with their own title for him…General Dryhenceforth.

HPC Likes Idea of Some Snow from Tue eve to Wed Eve

Weather Bottom Line:  I told you that I wasn’t so enthused about a big warm up for the weekend and so far, so good.  We topped out at 34 on Saturday with all of those clouds coming in from the flow around the low that brought all of the snow to the Northeast.  That low was progged to hang around and with vort lobes rotating around, or little waves of low pressure, we’d get clouds and perhaps a little snow from time to time.  And, that is what happened. 

Note the slight trof to the west ahead of the rise in the pink line which represents the 5400 m thickness line

Now, there is a big fat low coming out of the Southwest,  in response to that low, the general long wave pattern will flutter.  The jetstream will lift up somewhat bringing the 5400m 500mb-1000mb thickness line north close to Louisville.  That is the general rule of thumb for freezing surface temperatures but that rule sorta gets thrown out to some degree when you get to the springtime.  So, on Sunday, our thicknesses increase to about 5370 m.  As this buckle in the jetstream occurs, the low in the Northeast gets dislodged and gets kicked out to sea.  While there are low clouds, the mid and upper levels clear out so afternoon sunshine should break up the low deck and we get sunshine.  Getting to 40 degrees will not be out of the question at all. 

GFS Tues Eve Shows Some Snow over Ohio Valley

That low will traverse along the northern Gulf Coast and so on Monday, as it passes by, the trof will fill back in behind us so we should start to get colder again by Monday afternoon so highs will probably stop somewhere in the upper 30’s.   Tuesday is a question.  I’m guessing that the low will not track inland too far and instead cross Florida from Tallahassee and exit back into the Atlantic near Savannah.  We will get clouds.  The GFS wants to throw out about an inch of snow over 36 hours Tuesday into Wednesday.  If that happens it won’t be too significant.  I suspect that we will see highs in the low to mid 30’s for the balance of the week.

Feb. 26 Death Toll: Volcano 0,Terrorists 6, Corporation 125
February 26, 2010

Mt. Hekla Put On A Spectacular Show in 1970. Is it Showtime Again?

Mt. Hekla Looms Over Iceland

On This Date in History:  Iceland is a rather ironic name for an island-nation that is not only formed from volcanic activity but is also a vulcanologist’s fantasy land.  It is known as the land of Fire and Ice because of Iceland’s climate, that is cold but not as cold as one might think due to the proximity of the Gulf Stream,  and the number of volcanoes that dot the landscape.  One source claims that there is some 200 volcanoes in Iceland, the Global Volcansim Program features 32 volcanoes on Iceland while the Michigan Technological University Volcanoes Page indicates 6 active volcanoes on the island.  I suppose the differences have to do with the parameters one uses to define a volcano and it’s state of activity.  Anyway, one volcano that goes on every list is Mt. Hekla.  From the top, you can take spectacular summit view video from Mt. Hekla.   It is active and has a recent history of erupting about every 10 years.  It hasn’t always been that regular though.   

Hekla's 2000 Plume rose to at least 13 km

A history of Mt. Hekla reveals that it erupted in 1104 and then did so for the 17th time since then in 1991.    The last time Mt. Hekla erupted was on this date in 2000.  And now, University of Iceland Earth Science Professor Freysteinn Sigmundsson says that recent activity suggests that Hekla may be up to no good again.  In December and January 2010, reports were circulating that the top of the big guy was void of snow, which is unusual in the middle of winter and especially since the past several months have been particularly cold.  Apparently, it could be a clue because it may mean the top is heating up.  But, not necessarily…well have to wait and see.  After all February 26 has at least a small history of disasters but the two I’m thinking of had everything to do with man and very little with Mother Nature. 

People Might Not Be Aware of the Extent of 1993 WTC Substructure Damage

Did you Forget that on This date in History… 

 the World Trade Center was bombed? Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing on Sept. 11, 2001…but the first attempt to bring down the towers happened on February 26, 1993. The above photo is from the ATF files of the incident. Nice hole, huh? I suspect the bad guys got closer to undermining the integrity of the substructure than we were led to believe. No matter, they came back again 8 years later after we forgot about their intentions. While everyone remembers Sept. 11, 2001 and the events of the day I sometimes wonder if we remember enough that we take seriously the possibility that they will come back again, just as they did following their near-miss of February 26, 1993. With all of the justified pre-occupation with the economy, how certain are you that the new administration is as vigilante as it can be to thwart any more attacks? Or perhaps, do you think that there will be no more attacks? 

West Virginia Town Wiped Out

West Virginia Town Wiped Out

Now, as I said I suspect that a mega disaster was narrowly avoided at the World Trade Center in 1993 and there is no question that September 2000 was just an catastrophic day on many many levels.  Those were both man made events perpetrated by those whose clear aim was to destroy the buildings, kill many people, severely disrupt the American economy and terrorize it’s citizens.  

But, other man made disasters don’t have to be deliberate.  They can come about do to negligence or just plain stupidity.  There is no way that the Buffalo Mining Company purposely courted disaster.  Even the most cynical opponent to corporate America would agree the financial cost to the company would make such an assertion foolish.  But, it can be said that they were neglegent on safety issues, perhaps in an effort to control costs.  And there is no question that negligence was foolish from a financial perspective, a human perspective and from the viewpoint of a Patriot.   On This Date in 1972 a cascade of water funnelled down Buffalo Creek in Logan County, West Virginia. 4000 homes and buildings in 17 towns were washed away and at least 118 people lost their lives. Marshall Univeristy has a “virtual museum” dedicated to the event. The culprit was a rather ironic foe. The irony lay in that the killer was also the lifeline to many of those who died. (Photo Gallery-Huntington Herald-Dispatch)  

Debris Piled Up on Bridge

The Buffalo Mining Company was one of a number of companies exploiting West Virginia’s greatest natural asset (aside from its beauty) which is coal. Much of the state’s wealth and economy is based on coal. But a problem with coal mining is what to do with the wastes. If you put them on a mountain, you get landslides and if you put them in a valley, you spoil the creek or river. The great idea of the Buffalo group was to build a dam. Actually, it was a series of three dams. Because of the type of dam they were, they weren’t really regulated much. There really wasn’t much of an engineering study done or anything. The waste from coal mining is inherently unstable and makes for a lousy dam. The first dam gave way, putting pressure on the second dam which failed and the huge amount of water spilling down caused the main dam to collapse. 

buffcreek1When you look at the steep terrain of West Virginia, it makes you wonder, “what were they thinking?” It’s one of those things in which it seems so obvious that using unstable material in such an area that a three-year-old could figure it out that it wouldn’t work. To say that its an example of corporate greed is probably a bit over-the-top as I’m sure those with the company didn’t want that to happen. Even if you have cynical view of the corporation, from their fiscal standpoint, it cost them a huge amount of money. However, the company was a subsidiary of the Pittston Mining Company and that company had a history of shabby safety practices. So, it would be fair to say that it appears that the company’s saving money on safety issues was the root cause of the disaster. But, given what it cost them from lawsuits, lost revenues, fines and other costs it seems that a greedy fellow would have prevented that from happening in order that they may keep more of their money. The result was from short sighted, stupid business practices and its a shame that we have to have government watch dogs to force some businesses to do what is not only smart from a corporate standpoint, but the right thing to do from a human perspective and for a business that relies on the efforts of their fellow citizens of the United States of America for their success. 

NAM In Mid to Upper 30's by 1 PM Sunday

GFS Critical Thickness Lines SW of Louisville Sun 1 PM and moving Northeast

Weather Bottom Line

Okay, I get it now, but I’m not sure that I’m buyin’ it.   The models were in a bit of flux but now I’m seeing some consistency and support for the idea of warmer temperatures for the weekend; particularly Sunday.  Not warm, mind you, but something closer to seasonal.  Then we get colder again.  But, I wouldn’t hold your breath.  Yes, the data has some consistency but it’s not making sense.  We’ll see.  I do think though that it’s a certainty that a big old storm should  come up out of the Gulf early in the week.  Snow White and my friend at Apple Hill Farm in the Mountains of North Carolina may get dumped on with snow on Tuesday and Wednesday.    She’s had a very large amount of snow this year.  But, the alpacas are just fine…they’re from the mountains of South America.   The trend has been for the storm to track a bit farther west and if this trend continues and it does track farther west than is progged now, then we may see another round of snow.  But, again, we’ll see.

Villified Corporate Bosses Sometimes Are Great Americans
February 25, 2010

Union Pacific Stock Certificate Artwork Symbolized Innovation and Progress of E.H. Harriman

"Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?"

On This Date in History:  Do you remember the movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?   It starred Robert Redford as Sundance and Paul Newman as Butch.  It had some amusing scenes and some were actually based on some true events, though maybe not events associated with Butch Cassidy.  For instance, there was the great scene in which the Hole in the Wall Gang try to rob a train.  Woodcock was the man inside the car and he had been held up by Butch and Sundance before.   So, the second time, he refuses to open the door of the car and Butch uses dynamite to blow the door only to blow up the entire car.  Sundance asks, “think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?”  Well, I suspect that this type of event really happened only it was an event in the life of whom I called the worst outlaw in the old west, Al Jennings.  Now, part of the comedic aspects of these train robberies was Woodcock’s outspoken loyalty to Mr. E. H. Harriman.  As it turns out, E. H. Harriman was indeed a real person and a very powerful and influencial man.

Union Pacific Fell Hard and Fast After Triumph At Promontory, Utah in 1869

Episcopal minister Orlando Harriman and his wife, Cornelia Neilson, brought Edward H. Harriman into the world in Hempstead, New York on this date in 1848.  Young Edward hated school, dropped out at age 14 and became a broker’s boy.  He amazed the stock brokers at his ability to pick stocks.  By the time he was 21, he had his own seat on the stock exchange.   He got interested in railroads when he tried to revive some distressed rail lines owned by his wife’s relatives.  He apparently was the type of man who dove into his projects because he became very astute when it came to managing rail flow as well as the technological aspects of steam locomotion.  He also seemed to enjoy the challenge of rehabilitating depressed railroads.   So, he moved on to a more ambitious project: saving the Union Pacific Railroad.

Harriman Rebulding the Union Pacific in 1899

The Union Pacific had been one of the railroads that completed the transcontinental railroad.  But, by 1897, it was but a shadow of its former self as its equipment fell into disrepair, the business had become extremely inefficient and in general was behind the times.  In about a decade, E. H. Harriman had turned the Union Pacific into one of best run railroads and companies in the nation.  As part of his revival of the Union Pacific, he gobbled up weaker railroads in the West and Southwest in order to maximize profits and efficiency.  His business created a concentration of power in the transportation business that was vital to the American economy.  That got the attention of the great “trust buster” President Theodore Roosevelt.  He sued Harriman and the Union Pacific for violation of anti-trust laws and the US Supreme Court ordered that Harriman divest in 1904. 

Railroad Was A Wreck Until Harriman

Because Harriman adamently refused to explain his rationale, he is viewed in history as a robber baron who only wanted to make more money for himself at the expense of others.  But, like John D. Rockefeller, Harriman went about his business in an effort to maximize efficiency and a more efficient transportation system was a benefit to the economy and the nation as a whole. He didn’t buy railroads for a quick profit but instead believed that a more efficient operation and improvement to the railroad property would maximize profitability.  It can be argued that monopolies are the most efficient way to bring a product or service to the public but, that is dependent on having an honorable person at the helm.  However, pragmatically, the temptation to take advantage of the opportunities presented by a monopoly is extreme and the risk involved is just  too great to allow that to happen as a matter of  normal business.    Rockefeller defended his position and left a large portion of his enormous fortune to build the University of Chicago and the Rockefeller Institute and also greatly improve education of minorities in the South. 

John Muir Painted A Different Picture of E. H. Harriman

Harriman did not defend himself and, regardless of what he did, is largely remembered as an evil Robber Baron.  Nevertheless, had someone like Harriman not come along and improved the transportation system, the American marketplace and economy may not have evolved as quickly and with such gusto as it did from the late 19th century into the 20th century.  Harriman established standards for locomotives, cars, bridges, structures, signals, and even such items as paint and stationery.  And, he spearheaded an expedition to Alaska in 1899 that brought valuable knowledge to the science community.   He probably should be praised, not buried.  Naturalist John Muir, who founded the Sierra Club, wrote this about Harriman:

“Comparatively few have gained anything like adequate knowledge of the extent and warmth of his sympathies, but none who came nigh him could fail to feel his kindness, especially in his home, radiating a delightful, peaceful atmosphere, the finest domestic weather imaginable. His warm heart it was that endeared him to his friends, but in almost every way he was a man to admire—in apparent repose brooding his work plans, or in grand, overcoming, enthusiastic action shoving them forward, rejoicing and influencing all the country like climate; when silent in company, or at long intervals giving out something striking, saying the commonest things in unforgettable ways and making them seem uncommon in the new light flashed upon them; when severe and rigid as fate; or merry in friendly conversation, eye striking eye, thought clashing against thought making wit sparkles fly.” 

Does that sound like the Robber Baron presented to us in history?  Often, labels given by historians or popular culture do not fit the man.

Early Afternoon Saturday NAM Shows Low to Mid 30's....Dont Look For a Warm Up

NAM Nudges Us Over 32 by early Afternoon Despite less than 5400 thickness

Weather Bottom Line:  Now, yesterday, I told you that I am a bit handicapped by not having access to a Skew-T/Log P diagram, though I may have said Log P/Skew T.  This would be helpful as general rules of thumb come into conflict with reality when we have a change of seasons.  It’s good to be able to analyze what is happening.  So, I often have to rely on experience.  For instance, I saw forecasts for Wednesday that called for highs of 36, 37 or 38 degrees.  Now, a rule of thumb is that freezing conditions can generally be found when there is a 1000mb – 5oomb thickness of 5400 meters or less.  Different times of year and other variables mess that up but, in this case, we are still in winter, the forecast was for cloudy skies and with light snow or flurries all day which would tend to drag cold air down.  The thickness forecast for the models had it going from 5230 mb to 5130 mb.  I could not figure out how in the world we would get above freezing if all of those factors came to pass.  For all practical purposes, we did not.  The high at the almost always warmer than everyone else airport was 33 and that was at 12:39 AM.  The low was 27 at 1:25 pm and we stayed in the upper 20’s for most of the day.  So, its stuff like this that often causes my puzzlement.

Our Adopted "Paintbrush" Fits the Bill

Anyway, I had surmised that we we’d have light snow all day but because it fell over a long period, accumulations would not be an issue and that was correct, though I think most people got more than the trace of snow reported at the airport.  Now, by Wednesday evening, we had some decent light snow bands coming through and the ground became covered in snow and the roads slick in spots.  It was enough for Snow White to go out and cover up our adopted outdoor kitty cat, Paintbrush, though she refrained from using the expensive robe I gave her and instead used fleece blankets.  That has got to be the most pampered stray cat of all time.  He gets all the food he wants, has time to chase birds or the ladies at his leisure and can return to a pampered bed.

Early Sun AM, GFS has freezing line well south and wrap around moisture from Low in New England over Ohio Valley. Doesn't look like the 40's to me.

The outlook continues to be cold.  That little warm up we had last weekend was simply an fluke and the pattern shows no signs of changing.  Over the next couple of days, the thicknesses do increase a bit and we get sunshine.   So, even though after lingering snow flurries or light snow early Thursday the thickness only rises to about 5300 meters, we get some sunshine so that should get us to 34 or 35, if the sun does show up.  So, that call has some merit.   After that though, through the weekend, its hard to draw a conclusion to support temperatures much beyond 40.  I mean….maybe some of the forecasts that I see of 43 or 44 come about, but I don’t get it.  In fact, there is a big fat snow snowstorm that you will hear about because it bombs out going up the east coast, stops off of New York Harbor and then backtracks into New England where it stays put.  Parts of the Northeast should get buried in a couple of feet of snow and David Letterman will probably be talking about weekend snow on Monday night.  I suspect that storm will help drag down cold air for the weekend, perhaps some clouds and maybe even some flurries or weak light snow bands.  So…I don’t get how we get to 40.  After that, there had been indications of a potential event around here…first it was snow then it looked like maybe a severe outbreak in the southern plains, but now some indications are that the big trof in the east persists and we get nothing like that.  I’m guessing that the longer range models are having a conflict between reality and the climate parameters built into the programming.  For that reason, long range modeling will probably be in flux and the data largely unreliable.  Eric…that is your answer.

Airmail Needed Courage, Determination to Get off the Ground
February 23, 2010

Early Airmail Pilots Faced Great Adversity

Boyle Should've Checked His Map

On This Date in History:  Lt. George Boyle was chosen to pilot the first leg of the first airmail flight from Washington, DC to New York.  Among the spectators who gathered to witness the takeoff  on May 15, 1918 was President Woodrow Wilson.  With the throng watching in anticipation, Boyle sat in the cockpit of the Curtiss JN-4H “Jenny” biplane and shouted, “Contact!”  Nothing happened.  After several embarrassing attempts, it was discovered the plane was out of gas.  After it was gassed up, Boyle took to the sky but instead of flying North toward Philadelphia, he circled the field and went South.  What made this a bit perplexing is that Boyle had a road map strapped to his leg to help him navigate his route.  About an hour later, the coordinator of the new airmail service of the US Post Office got a phone call.  Captain Benjamin Lipsner was surprised to hear Boyle’s voice on the other end of the phone.  Seems Boyle’s compass had “gotten a little mixed up” and Boyle crashed the plane in a Maryland cornfield.  Lipsner summoned a car to pick up three sacks of mail and one shameful pilot.

Lucky Lindy Lept From Several Disabled Aircraft

A few months later, military pilots were replaced by civilians who were crafty fliers.  They had no navigational aids and so made their way by following  landmarks such as railroads, highways and riverbeds to make it to their destinations.  One small Nebraska town lit bonfires to help pilot Jack Knight find his way to deliver the mail to their community.  Knight made his delivery but not all were so lucky.  Thirty-two of the initial 50 pilots died in crashes while attempting to deliver the mail faster.  One pilot twice had to bail out of a mechanically failing plane as he attempted the St. Louis to Chicago route.  That pilot survived both episodes to fly again with the new moniker, “Lucky Lindy.”  That pilot, Charles Lindbergh took a leave of absence from his mail route to make his historic solo flight across the Atlantic in May 1927.   Lindbergh had no idea that his flight would bring him such fame that his life would never be the same.  After he arrived in Paris, he told reporters, ” I am an airmail pilot and expect to fly the mail again.”  

Knight Was an Early United Airlines Pilot

By September 1920, a transcontental airmail service was inaugurated.  However, planes were not allowed to fly at night so the mail was transferred to railcars for night travel.  With all of the stops, the mail still took 78 hours to move across the country which was only 30 hours less time than the railroads alone could provide .  President Warren G. Harding was not impressed.   He thought it was a waste of money and that the little bit of extra time could not counter the fact that more mail could be transferred more cheaply by singular rail service.  He threatened to veto any funding that Congress might provide for additional air service.  See, Postmaster General Albert S. Burleson had convinced Congress to subsidize airmail service because stamps alone would be too expensive for the general public.  So, Burleson and his assistant Otto Praeger had to work quickly.  They decided to try to demonstrate the potential of airmail service by making a cross-country delivery completely by air and thereby show just how much faster airmail could be.  They decided that February 22, 1921 was a great day to start the test since it was George Washington’s Birthday.

Knight Had to Bundle Up For Winter Mail Flights

The idea was to have two pilots take off from New York and two take off from San Francisco.  Along the way, relief pilots would take over in a relay type system reminiscent of the Pony Express.  They would eventually meet in the middle of the country and complete the mission.  Disaster struck right away when one of the two pilots flying the mail from San Francisco crashed and died.  His partner continued on.  Remember, this was February and these guys were flying with an open cockpit, so they were exposed to winter conditions.  They had to fly at night with no navigation so towns along the way lit bonfires.  A huge snowstorm was going on across the Midwest and nearly all of the pilots were grounded; all but Jack Knight.  When Knight left North Platte, Nebraska for Omaha, he did not know that he was the last pilot flying.  The whole experiment and the future of airmail rested with him.  When he got to Omaha, he had no relief pilot as that pilot was grounded in Chicago by the massive storm.  Now, Knight had never flown east of Omaha but he learned that he was the last pilot.  So, he drank coffee, stuffed his flightsuit with newspapers to help insulate against the bitter cold and off he went.   Farmers and even postal service workers lit the prairie with smudge pots and bonfires to light his way.   He made it to Iowa City, Iowa and almost crashed when he landed in a 25 mile per hour arctic blast.  Knight lifted off again at 6:30 AM and landed in Chicago at 8:40 AM after an all-night trek that covered 830 miles in extreme conditions.  Later it was learned that Knight had broken his nose a few days prior ot the flight and the bumpy, cold ride was especially difficult.  Knight was hailed across the nation as a hero.  The final legs of the journey were taken up by other pilots and, on this date in 1921, the first successful transcontental airmail flight was complete. 

Knight Rose to VP of United Airlines

It took seven pilots over 33 hours to fly nearly 2700 miles with actual flight time taking up about 26 hours.  The news created a new buzz in the public for airmail service and Warren G. Harding, a keen politician, quickly embrased the idea and did an abrupt turn to support government subsidized air service.  Money was spent to light routes, navigation aids were developed and on July 1, 1924 regular coast to coast airmail service began.  Railroads began to lose money because so many customers were paying reduced stamp rates for the government subsidized air service.   The 1925 Kelly Act addressed these issues but none of it would have come around if not for the courage and perserverance of Jack Knight who faced down adversity, literally in the face of a wicked wind, to deliver the mail.  Knight took the old mail carrier adage, “nor rain nor snow nor dead of night will prevent us from making our appointed rounds.”   My mailman Tim seems to have the character of Jack Knight. 

Log P Skew T Tutorial

Weather Bottom Line:  I’ll tell you what’s difficult.  I don’t have a Log P/Skew T diagram.  I need that to do mixing schemes.  Now, it’s not that big of a deal during the winter.   But we are coming out of the gloom of the cold and so data that translates easily in January doesn’t work so well in March.  For instance, the thickness numbers showing up for the next 10 days or so would tell me that we don’t get above freezing.  But, are heading into March so conditions aren’t the same.  Without any Log P/Skew T diagrams, I have a hard time comparing what is really going on.  Be that as it may, I find it hard to see how we get to 40 in the next week and Wednesday and Thursday, I think its going to be tough to get above freezing.  Just figure on it being colder than average through about March 10.  We have perhaps some light snow or flurries on Wednesday into Thrusday with the NAM calling on about a half inch while the GFS is going for an inch total.  Really, I don’t think accumulations will be an issue since this snow falls over about 24 hours time, if not a little longer.  Otherwise, I don’t see any major events coming along, though there are some possibilities.  However, there is nothing out there that indicates any real prospects. I want another big snow though I’m wondering if I will have to wait until next year.

The One American Who Should Never Be Forgotten
February 22, 2010

Gilbert Stuart's Familiar Painting of President Washington

Gilbert Stuart's Familiar Painting of President Washington

On This Date in History: On this date in 1732 George Washington was born. His birthday used to be a National holiday on it’s own.  I had to edit this post though to reflect the number of protestations from people pointing out that Washington’s Birthday is still the holiday, officially. I have to admit that I did not know that.   Back in 1968, apparently the Feds moved the recognition from Feb 22 to the third Monday in February.  It’s cheaper to have a 3 day weekend than it is to close offices in midweek.  A few years ago when it was determined that there needed to be a birthday holiday for Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  While Lincoln’s birthday was never a federal holiday, many states had such a designation. I broke a rule and assumed that it had been a federal holiday since I always got two days off from school.  Anyway,  since they added MLK, state governments did not want to increase the number of holidays so they eliminated the holidays for the birth of President Lincoln.  The third Monday in February is still officially Washington’s birthday, but no one calls it that.  Instead, it is referred to by the media and just about everyone else as President’s Day.  That is utter nonsense. I mean, do we need a day to remember Millard Filmore, Franklin Pierce and Chester A. Arthur? If  states wanted to eliminate a day, it could have been Columbus Day. I suppose they didn’t want so may holidays in January and February. In any event, the point of this piece was not a debate about holidays…it’s about February 22.  Today, I asked the students in my American History class what was significant about today.  One said “we have an exam” another said “it’s Monday” and another reminded me that it was his birthday.   That is the larger issue….for whatever reason, while it may not be official, pragmatically, we have lost Washington’s Birthday in the national lexicon.  The distance between the “Father of the Country” and Americans is growing.   

General Washington Resigning His Commission to Congress.  He Voluntarily Surrendered Absolute Power, Not Once, But Twice.  The Definition of the man, his character and integrity.

General Washington Resigning His Commission to Congress. He Voluntarily Surrendered Absolute Power, Not Once, But Twice. The Definition of the man, his character and integrity.

Recently, they came out with another poll of historians ranking the presidents. Lincoln came out on top followed by Washington. In my mind, General Washington is and always should be at the top of the list. I believe there is no other person who is more important in the history of the United States of America.  In many regards, if it were not for him, there very well may not have been a President Lincoln, or William Henry Harrison or Warren G. Harding. He should be studied more in school and his day should remain. Instead of using my words to put out a  full biography, instead, I am choosing on this day to commemorate his birth and life with some verbiage put out by historian David Hackett Fischer from Washington’s Crossing; (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004) 7-8.

“He was a big man, immaculate in dress, and of such charismatic presence that he filled the street even when he rode alone. A crowd gathered to watch him go by, as if he were a one-man parade. Children bowed and bobbed to him. Soldiers called him ‘Your Excellency,’ a title rare in America. Gentlemen doffed their hats and spoke his name with deep respect: General Washington.”

“As he came closer, his features grew more distinct. In 1776, we would not have recognized him from the Stuart painting that we know too well. At the age of forty-two, he looked young, lean, and very fit-more so than we remember him. He had the sunburned, storm-beaten face of a man who lived much of his life in the open. His hair was a light hazel-brown, thinning around the temples. Beneath a high forehead, a broad Roman nose bore a few small scars of smallpox. People remembered his soft blue-gray eyes, set wide apart and deep in their sockets. The lines around his eyes gave an unexpected hint of laughter. A Cambridge lady remarked on his ‘appearance of good humor.’ A Hessian observed that a ‘slight smile in his expression when he spoke inspired affection and respect.’ Many were impressed by his air of composure and surprised by his modesty.”

Fort Necessity Wasn't Much of a Fort

George Washington wasn’t always wildly successful but his life certainly is marked by perverence and a sense of duty.  In 1754, the Governor of Virginia sent a militia force into the Ohio Valley to challenge French expansion in that area.  A young, inexperienced colonel by the name of George Washington was put in command.  Washington and his men camped at Fort Necessity, which  was but a crude outpost not far from the far more substantial French fortification in what is present day Pittsburgh, or more specifically, about where Three Rivers Stadium housed the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Pirates.   A detachment from the France’s Fort Duquesne was attacked by Washington’s forces but a French counterattack left Washington and his soldiers surrounded.  After 1/3 of the British had died, Washington surrendered .  The British were allowed to leave but this marked the beginning of the French and Indian War.

Washington's Daring Trek To Trenton and Then Princeton

By the spring of 1775, the Continental Congress established and made George Washington the singular commander in chief.  While the Fort Necessity escapade was somewhat of a fiasco, he had more military experience than any other American-born officer who was available.  He had been an early advocate of Independence and that was important since about a third of the colonists remained loyal to the crown, a third was riding the fence and the third that favored independence initially included a portion whose support was soft.   But, above all, the reason the Continential Congress chose the aristicrat-planter from Virginia was that he was admired, respected and trusted by nearly every Patriot.

The theme that runs through the narrative of this man is one of unflinching respect.  He was physically imposing for his time, and even would be today, standing somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 foot 2 inches with an extremely sturdy stature.  We know about crossing the Delaware River on Christmas Eve 1776.  It was a  brilliant plan, but the weather was dangerously awful and it was Christmas Eve for his men too.  So, it took great leadership to be able to get his men to execute the plan at night in sleet, rain and snow on Christmas Eve and do so by crossing a river under conditions that would make it near impossible to cross in daylight.

George Washington Cut an Impressive Figure

Washington’s mere presence was enough to bring the most arrogant of men to attention.  He served as the President of the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention in 1787.   It was a long hot summer and tempers flared to the point that several times, the conventioneer threatened to pack up and go home.  But, when necessary, apparently all George Washington needed to do was rise from his chair and talk of dissovlement abruptly ended.  Washington was the only president to be elected unanimously by the electoral college and he was elected unanimously twice.  He followed the example set by Cincinattus, of Roman lore, and returned to his farm after his service.  (The city of Cincinnati was so named in honor of General Washington)   In fact, it is extremely unusual for someone to give up absolute power voluntarily and George Washington did it not once, but twice, when he surrendered his sword  to Congress after the Revolution and then again refused to stand for a third term.  In many ways, he set the tone that the nation has generally followed in the over two centuries that have followed.

We could use General Washington today. Without him, there may never have been a United States of America and the freedom that has spread around the world in the past two centuries may never have come to pass. May his life always be remembered in the singularity of respect that it deserves and demands.

Weather Bottom Line:  I may update this later but, basically, I told you it would rain, though the weekend warmed up even more than I anticipated. Dont’ get used to it.  Look for falling temperatures by Monday evening and then we’re back well be below average for the foreseeable future..perhaps into mid March.  As it stands,  a second push of decidedly colder air comes down on Wednesday and late Tuesday into Wednesday we may get some light snow squeezed out from the denser, Arctic air.  Perhaps and inch of snow would fall over a 36 hour time frame.  That would come after some insignificant light snow or flurries Tuesday with moisture wrapping around the low as it scoots to the northeast…but that won’t  be much of a big deal. It’s not really coming together much but…if the data changes just a bit, we may have another significant snow event left in us for the first week of March..but, well see.

This Party Went From Donner to Dinner
February 19, 2010

Jim Reed Escaped The Fate of his Leadership..but not his wife

On This Date In History:  My birthday is April 16 and on that day in 1846, 9 covered wagons left the land of Lincoln,  Springfield, Illinois to began a 2500 mile journey to California.  Initially the settlers were led by a reasonably wealthy man, James Reed.  Reed made certain that his family would not suffer any hardship on what was expected to be a 4 month journey.  He built and elaborate 2 story wagon complete with springed cushion seat.   He had read a book that said there was a quicker route to California.  But, when the group got to Ft. Laramie, an old friend saw Reed and strongly advised that he not take the route suggested by the book because it was extremely difficult to walk through and wagons would be impossible.  Undeterred, Reed dismissed the warning.  The folks from Illinois later joined up with another large group of settlers until they came to a fork in the road.  One led to the route prescribed by the book and the other was a longer, proven trail.  Part of the group took the proven trail but nearly 90 settlers  tried the short cut.  Reed was spending time riding ahead to have a planned meeting with the man who wrote the book, so the wagon train elected George Donner as their captain.  From that point on, the group became known as the Donner Party.

Hastings Looked Credible but Looks Can Deceive and so can Words

On September 19, 1846 it became apparent that the group of  men, women and children had made a huge mistake and the guide that they had used was nothing but the writings of a charlatan.   While the error was apparent, it was too late to do much about it, though they pinned the blame squarely on Reed.  A guy named Lansford Hastings had penned the book that touted a short cut to California for overland travelers. It was known to many as the Hastings’ Cut-off.  What Hastings failed to mention was that he had a vested interest in people coming to the Sacramento Valley and that tough route would deliver any traveler right into his area of prime real estate.    Though they had escaped the wrath of their fellow settlers, Jacob and George Donner had also read the book and also thought it was a good idea.  They very willingly and confidently led their band of 89 emigrants across the plains toward the Sierra Nevada in the summer of 1846.   But, I guess they didn’t read the fine print, if there was a fine print to read.  

George Donner Survived...He does look a bit thin though

While it was true that mileage wise, it was a shorter route to head through a mountain pass near Lake Tahoe, there wasn’t much of a trail to speak.   First, there was a stretch of desert to overcome and then the pass wasn’t much of a pass with huge boulders and tough terrain.  Hastings had claimed that the desert trek would take but two days.  Instead, it took 5 days.  They found the sand to be difficult to traverse and their water ran out after 48 hours.  The settlers were forced to abandon furniture, family heirlooms and livestock as the desert sand gobbled up their strength and possessions.    Reed became angry as a teamster mercilessly whipped his oxen so Gentleman Jim Reed pulled a knife and killed the brute.  Justice was swift as the members of wagon train banished their former leader.  He was last seen riding west with Walter Herron.  The settlers pressed on and, once they reached the mountains, life became even more difficult and after many days of arduous travel, they were running out of food and supplies.   So, they sent two men ahead to California who were to return with more food.   Meanwhile, the supposed “Hastings Pass” proved almost impassible, just as Reed’s friend had told them at Fort Laramie.

Looks Like A Piece of Cake

In mid October, one of the men returned with supplies and a couple of Indian guides but the Hastings short cut had taken so much time that the expedition was doomed. On October 28, they got socked in by a mammoth snowstorm and they got stuck near what is known as Donner Pass.  After that initial big snow, there was no escaping the High Sierra winter.  Donner Pass, about 9 miles west of Lake Tahoe gets over 400 inches of snow annually.  They had no hope of escape when another extreme snow in late November or early December 1846 brought any hope they had for escape to an icy end. For weeks and weeks they remained and the food ran out.  Members of the party began to die but there was no place to bury them, so their corpses remained frozen in the snow.  In an act of desperation, the starving survivors had an idea.  The dead had been preserved in the cold and so their meat wasn’t diseased or rotted.  The Donner Party turned into a dinner party.  

An Artist's Rendering

On this date in 1847, rescuers reached the settlers and found a ghostly, grisely camp filled with people in distress with some showing signs of insanity.   A few days later they began taking survivors out but it was impossible to take them all at once so 23 went in the first group.   The remaining 25 were taken in subsequent rescue missions, though not everyone made it. The final survivors reached civilization in April…5 or 6 months after they had become stranded. Nowadays, if you look at a map, you will find Donner’s Pass, Donner’s Summit and Donner’s Lake to mark the spot of the tragedy. What made this case of human struggle noteworthy was how many of the people survived. Forty-one of the eighty-seven settlers survived. Not all of the survivalists, but many, made it through their horror in the largest case of cannibalism in US history. That is why it is remembered. But, the lessons were not learned.

Southern Pacific Ignored the Lesson of the Donner Party

 The Southern Pacific Railway decided this “shortcut” was a great place for a railroad, in spite of the snow hazard. On January 13, 1952, the Southern Pacific’s “City of San Francisco” train was buried by an avalanche just west of Donner Pass in Yuba Pass. To give an idea of how deep the snow is, in the 20th century, it still took six days to get to the trapped train. Yet, the track stayed in use until 1996, when the Union Pacific took over the Southern Pacific. All traffic was rerouted about a mile south of Donner Pass to a route with a much easier grade and a 10,000 foot tunnel under the mountains. It took 150 years from the lesson of the Donner Party, but someone finally figured out that in the mountains, man is no match for the weather.

Perhaps this is the greatest example of why women should be left to the planning of a trip since men never ask for directions.

12Z NAM Has Rain by Monday Morning (pink line is freezing line...well north)

NAM critical thickness early Monday morning

Weather Bottom Line:  I told you a couple of days ago that the trend in the data had been for more of a rain event. Imagine my surprise when I heard a local tv station claim that the models were trending toward snow and we could have the biggest snow storm of the season.  My sister-in-law had called in a panic when she got back from the UL game because it was apparently the talk of all those sitting around her.  Hmmm….not sure what they were looking at because, you can clearly see that the critical thickness lines on the NAM just after midnight on Monday(sunday night) have the freezing lines of all levels well north of Louisville.  And that has been consistent on other models for several days.  Now that its gotten into the range of the NAM, it’s going along with it.  So, I’m sticking to my story.

GFS Critical Thickness (freezing line at various levels) go back south of Louisville by Mon Evening

We may get a little snow on Friday night or Saturday morning but that system looks to be getting damped out so its not that big of a deal.  Then perhaps some showers on Saturday afternoon with rain developing in a general fashion late Sunday and carrying into Monday.  Now, Monday night, the low should move by our area with wrap around cold making the precipitation turning to snow late.  After that…I suspect that we go back into a relatively prolonged period of cold air to end the month of February, which has been unusually cold.  February 2 was the warmest day when we hit 45 and I think the over all average high for February is probably about 48.  We may get close to 45 on one of the next few days but this not-so-warm up shouldn’t last too long.


Car Ahead of Its Time For All Time
February 17, 2010

1946 Volkswagen

Volkswagen 1975...not much difference after 31 years

On This Date in History:  Back in the early 1930’s, the world was mired in a global depression.  Europe was still reeling from the effects of the First World War.  Consumer consumption of products was low.  So, in 1933, the United States swore in a new president.  Franklin D. Roosevelt went about trying to revive the American economy.  In Europe, the leader of a nation went to a young automobile engineer with a proposal that was in the form of a demand.  Ferdinand Porsche had developed a reputation as an outstanding designer during his tenure at Daimler-Benz and Auto-Union and had developed his own consulting business.  He was asked to come up with a small car that seated four people, had a durable air-cooled engine that got 4o miles per gallon and was priced at less than $250 (1000 German Marks).   The leader of Germany even had a name for the yet-to-be-created car:  The Volkswagen which means “people’s car.”

What was mistaken (by me) as a 1944 Volkswagen Wartime Staff Car Variation Is Really A Mercedez Benz 170 Da OTP(Open Touring Police) as per it's owner, Richard.

Of course, the leader was Adolph Hitler and a few months later, he ordered 3 prototypes to be built and also more or less ordered the nation’s manufacturers to supply the parts.  Porsche was in a fix.  The engineering was not the problem but instead it was the economics.  The man who perfected the mass production of automobiles, Henry Ford, turned out cars at a low cost but even his cars ran about $800.  It was a daunting task to undercut Henry Ford by over 2/3 and still produce a quality car.  Given that the request came from the German Chancellor who was gathering unrivaled political power through both legal and violent means, the pressure must have been enormous.   But, old Ferdinand had a secret.  See, Hitler demanded delivery of the prototypes in just 10 months but Porsche was ahead of the game.   The year before he had designed a rear engine, air-cooled small car on his own.   But, there was the issue of the cost.  So, it was back to the drawing board.

VW Kubelwagen 1944-Germany's Answer to the Jeep

But Porsche had other interests as he split time with his efforts to help German racing teams and he was more interested in that than in living up to Hitler’s public announcements that soon there would be an affordable car for all Germans.  And the German Automobile Manufacturers Society wasn’t exactly racing to provide materials because they knew all they were doing was helping create a new competitor in the market.  Porsche though was still pushed so he went to America to take notes on how the Americans mass-produced cars.  He determined that there was no way that the German financial system could support the development of such an endeavor and that the government would have to do it.  As it turns out, before production of the people’s car could get off the ground, Hitler started invading countries all over Europe.  The factory never delivered what has become known as the Beetle.  Instead, the factory was retooled and an stronger, more powerful rear engine  open vehicle was created called the Kubelwagen.  It had similar capabilities of the American Jeep.  It also served as the German Staff Car during the war.  Later, the Kubelwagen variation created by Porsche came back to life as the VW Thing.

1974 VW Thing Looks A Lot Like 1944 Kubelwagen

But, the Thing came about after the Beetle and the Beetle, aka the people’s car, did not come to life until after the end of the Second World War.  The factory fell into the British zone of divided post-war Germany.  The British needed to keep workers busy so, after finding the blueprint of Porsche’s design, the put the factory personnel to work.  By 1948, the British put BMW designer Dr. Ing. Heinz Nordhoff in charge of Volkswagen.  Nordoff remained at the helm when the plant was turned over to the new West German government and by 1955, Beetle number 1,000,000 rolled off the assembly line as the first European car to ever achieve such a production level.  But, they weren’t done.  Americans stationed overseas had first brought the Beetle to the states as a second car.  But, quickly, the car that was dwarfed by the mammoth cars put out by Detroit fulfilled Hitler’s promise to the American people.  While it was slow and quite small, the Volkswagen was very durable, required little maintainance, was very miserly with gas compared to American gas guzzlers and was generally affordable for people who otherwise could not afford cars. 

Porsche: The Real Genius Behind the Beetle

Henry Ford with his Model T had acheived that objective before the Beetle, before Hitler and before anyone else.  But, by the 1950’s Detroit kinda moved away from that business model and the Beetle fit that nitch market quite nicely.  And it continued to do so.  On this date in 1972, Volkswagen put out Beetle number 15,007,034 rolled off the assembly line to surpass Ford’s Model T for the most produced car in all of history.  While Volkswagen became the name of the company instead of the car, and the original Beetle model was eventually discontinued in the United State and replaced by a new, more expensive Beetle with more of the luxuries that Americans demand, the old model Beetle remains in production in Mexico.   Seems that every time I’ve been in Mexico, the cab I rode in was either a Beetle or a Thing…both relics of World War II.  Most people though think that Hitler came up with the Beetle and he didn’t;  it was Ferdinand Porsche.  And what became known as the Beetle wasn’t even offered to the public until after the war.  I think the story of the People’s Car is a good metaphor for Hitler in some regards because he falsely took credit for someone else’s genius and he then made a promise to the people that he never kept.

NWS snowfall depiction through Tue Feb 15 2010

Weather Bottom Line: I don’t have much to add today except that I had about 4.5 inches of snow at my house and the National Weather Service had an official total for the event through early Tuesday of just around 4 inches with the weather service office closer to 5 inches or so.   Yet, the newspaper trumpted in it’s headlines Tuesday morning “6 Inches and Counting.”  It reminds of of the flood in parts of the city in early August when the paper quoted all of these rain totals that were based on rumor and not fact as no measuring device could come close to verifying what city officials and the paper claimed.  But, to be sure, some folks got a little more than 5-6 inches of snow and some got less.  From driving around it seems like Jefferson County got 4-5 inches in general with the 6-8 inch totals falling north of the river or northeast of Louisville.  The NWS made a very general map seen above.  A few flurries on Wednesday and it stays cold.  The next system seems to be falling behind with the models and there is a better than fair chance that we warm up a little and get rain for the second half of the weekend before a little snow on the tail end for Monday.  But, there is no consensus with this solution except that the GFS is starting to show some consistency. We’ll have to see how it shakes out over the next few days but I strongly suspect its more of a rain event than snow.

Pardoned Murderer Receives Justice
February 16, 2010

Famous Photo of John Wesley Hardin

On this date in History:  These days, there are many who are upset with the criminal justice system in that violent offenders get released early or paroled for heinous crimes.  One young man was known to have killed several people.  He had a couple of arrests warrants for murder following him around as he went from state to state before he was apprehended.  However, he escaped from jail.  On his 21st birthday, he got into an altercation with another man who fired a shot at him.  The gunman missed but the birthday boy did not as he shot the man dead.  Afraid of being arrested again, the man fled.  A few years later, the fugitive was finally caught in Florida and brought to trial.  In this case, there was an argument for self defense so when he was sentenced he only received a life term instead of the death penalty.  15 years later, the man was given a pardon.  But, this is not a tale from the 21st Century or even the 20th Century.  No, the criminal justice system has had it’s flaws for a long time because the suspected multiple killer was pardoned on this date in 1894! 

"Gentleman" wanted for killing at least 40 men

John Wesley Hardin has been described by many as the “meanest man in the west.”   It is also said that Hardin was the “archetype of the shootist.” It all began when he was just 15 years old in 1868.  He killed a former slave and became a fugitive from the law.   A couple of years later, he was in Waco Texas when he was arrested for murder.  But, in this case, Hardin didn’t do the deed.  But, he didn’t like his chances with the jury so he escaped.  Of all places, he fled to Abilene, Kansas which was under the charge of the famous lawman Wild Bill Hickok.  As it turns out, Hickok was rather taken in by Hardin so he left him alone.  But, in one of the more famous incidents of the old west, Hardin became so agitated with snoring coming from the hotel room adjacent to his that he fired two shots through the wall.  Yup…he killed a man for snoring.  Well, old John Wesley knew that friendship only went so far and he figured that Wild Bill couldn’t stand for that so he fled before Hickok had a chance to confront him. 

Don't Mess with the Texas Rangers

It was on May 26, 1874 that Hardin celebrated his 21st birthday in Comanche, Texas and shot the man in self defense.  But, it wasn’t just any man.  It was the Brown County deputy sherrif.  And it wasn’t just some flatfoot who tracked him down in Florida.  It was the Texas Rangers who caught him in Pensacola in 1877.  During his 3 year flight, it is thought that Hardin was responsible for the death of 5 other men.  In a very ironic twist, after John Wesley Hardin received his pardon, he turned to the law instead  of running from it.  He became a lawyer.  Perhaps he finally grew up by the age of 41 and decided to follow the lead of his father, who had been a Methodist minister and an attorney.  But a man who is suspected of killing at least 40 men no doubt has a long list of enemies.  Someone finally caught old John Wesley Hardin when he was shot in the back and killed, most likely as revenge for someone he had killed in his short but eventful life.  This account claims that he was shot in the back of the head by a constable who’s son had gotten into an argument with Hardin over a game of dice.

John Wesley Hardin's Life Ended Like His 40 Victims

The tale of John Wesley Hardin now lives in the annals of history but he is not remembered for how he died.  Instead, he is known for those he killed.  It’s not a tall tale but a confusing one.  The outline of the story that I’ve provided is true but the order may be wrong.  This story says that he killed the man for snoring in El Paso, not Abilene, and has other different stories.   This one has many discrepencies though it tells of his killing the former slave but says he was a policeman, Hardin was 18 at the time and that his peace with Hickok was after he drew down on the fast draw marshal.   There are many other stories about Hardin but all of them are the narrative of a serial killer and at the end he gets legally released  from prison.  Perhaps the illustration of John Wesley Hardin is not his list of victims, but instead paints a picture of a criminal justice system that has been flawed for a very long time.

Could Fisticuffs in Congress Solve Problems?
February 15, 2010

Is This Any Way To Run Congress?

Is This Any Way To Run Congress?

Jim Traficant Was Known to Stir up the House, but nothing like the 19th century

On This Date in History: I have another in the long line of fisticuffs that have taken place in Congress that makes anything that happens today look pedestrian.  Nowadays, if someone calls a fellow member a name, like “liar” (even if its true) then that member faces censure.  It is more civil to say that the other person was “mistaken” even though whatever the offender said was not a mistake.   No, in the past, our elected representatives were much more combative with  many  physical encounters caming during the mid 19th century over the slavery issue.   But, perhaps the first outbreak of violence in Congress took place on this date in 1798, just a year after George Washington became president. So, the tradition goes a long way back. Turns out, this little fracas was a few weeks in the making.

Better Way To Pass Bills?

Better Way To Pass Bills?

On January 30, 1798 Representative Roger Griswold of Connecticut got upset when Vermont’s Matthew Lyon slighted Griswold’s home state. He also personally insulted the Connecticut Federalist. Griswold retaliated by publically calling Lyon a coward. So, to show that he was no cowardly lion, Lyon thought it best to show his manhood by spitting at Griswold’s face. That act gained Lyon the moniker of “the spitting beast” or “the wild Irishman.”   For the next several days, a discussion was raised to get Lyon expelled from Congress for indecorum. When, the vote to have Lyon tossed out failed, Griswold took matters into his own hands. Vengence must come with a caning of Lyon. So, on the morning of Feb. 15, 1798 while Lyon was writing some sort of correspondence, Griswold walked up to the unsuspecting Vermont Congressman’s desk and began wailing away with his cane. Nearby was Massachusetts Representative and Griswold Federalist ally George Thatcher who recalled the attack:

Lyon Became Known as the Spitting Beast in the halls of Congress

“I was suddenly, and unsuspectedly interrupted by the sound of a violent blow I raised my head, & directly before me stood Mr. Griswald [sic] laying on blows with all his mightupon Mr. Lyon, who seemed to be in the act of rising out of his seat Lyon made an attempt to catch his cane, but failed–he pressed towards Griswald & endeavoured to close with him, but Griswald fell back and continued his blows on the head, shoulder, & arms of Lyon[who] protecting his head & face as well as he could then turned & made for the fire place& took up the [fire] tongs. Griswalddrop[p]ed his stick & seized the tongs with one hand, & the collar of Lyon by the other, in which pos[i]tion they struggled for an instant when Griswald trip[p]ed Lyon & threw him on the floor & gave him one or two blows in the face.”

Do You Like Gladiator Movies? How about Congress?

Do You Like Gladiator Movies? How about Congress?

“Moments after the two grappling combatants were separated, Lyon retreated to the House water table; when Griswold re-approached him, Lyon lunged forward with the fire tongs and initiated a second brawl.Jonathan Mason commented, the central legislative body of the United States of America had been reduced to “an assembly of Gladiators.”   Gladiators! That’s what we need. Maybe we could get more things done right if we dressed up members of the Senate and House in gladiator outfits and have their differences settled in the ring! Let’s pit a tag team of Barney Frank and Harry Reid against Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Boehner!

Van Buren Packed Heat To Control Senate

Van Buren Packed Heat To Control Senate

There are more interesting details of what led to the fight but I think a significant aspect of this event was that it sorta dispelled the notion that the government could function at a high level of 18th century gentlemanly decorum. That is what was expected and the public at the time grew fearful that such activities meant that the fledgling nation would not last such partisanship. George Washington himself was against political parties for this very reason. But, just like kids, it seems impossible for people not to choose up sides and debates can become heated. There has been a continued attempt to maintain some sense of decorum and control in Congress, but partisanship remains alive and well these days. But, its not as bad as it got in the mid 19th century. It grew so problematic at one point that Vice-President Martin Van Buren presided over the Senate in the 1830’s while wearing a side-arm in order maintain control over the supposed deliberative body. While we hear all of this talk of bi-partisanship, the truth is that ideal has never really been a part of the American political context. So fear not…whatever is happening today, is nothing compared with the past.

11pm Sun NWS Louisville snowfall estimate...last one before it gets going

NAM not so snow enthusiastic through Wed AM

Weather Bottom Line:  Well, the big event is here, though this one doesn’t seem to have gotten people as worked up as the one last week even though it will be similar in the snow totals.   For Valentine’s Day, Snow White and I went to the Bristol in Jeffersonville for brunch.  It’s one of our favorite places and the staff there is just wonderful.  We often get Brett but he had the section by the door and we like to look out the window.   And the timing was perfect as I was hoping to have some snow and about 15 minutes after we got there, the snow started to fall.  At one point it was difficult to see the buildings in downtown Louisville but there was no accumulation on the cars.  I kept saying that I didn’t see how we would get above freezing but I had thought perhaps prior to the arrival of this little Alberta Clipper that we may nose above.  Well, it just so happens that about that time the airport claimed 34 degrees but none of the hourly observations were that high.  I think a jet plane must have taxied by and drove the mercury up a degree or two because both at Standiford and at Bowman there was just one hourlyobservation of 33 degrees and the rest were 32 or below.  Anyway, I didn’t think that the snow on Sunday would amount to any accumulation.  But Monday is a different story.

GFS thru Wed AM May To too bullish but illustrates sharp gradient in banding

This low developed in the Alberta province in Canada a few days ago.  See, that’s part of the problem of forecasting as this event was showing up even before the low formed.  So, we based a long term forecast on a feature that didn’t even exist.  But, this guy did form and is really continuing to do so.  A weak surface reflection of the upper storm will dive down over, say Paducah before turning in the flow to the northeast very close to Louisville.  It’s the upper part of the storm that that brings the good snow and it should track north of surface reflection.  The high point of the snowfall should be about 7 or 8 in the morning and carry to about 10 or 11 AM.  It’s a real close call because the band of the heaviest snow will be a narrow  band and really it’s impossible to be pinpoint.  But, it would appear that the heaviest band will be between say Seymour and Charlestown IN.  Then the next best snow from Charlestown to E’town with lesser amounts south of E’town.  I think with a fast moving clipper and no real inflow from the Gulf for there to be 9 or 10 inches of snow, but the some data has consistently advertised it for the heaviest areas.  I would think that 5  inches in Louisville will be pretty close (though for some reason I still like my general 3-5 inch standard)  and 6-8 inches in places north of the river.  South of E’town lets go with 2-4 inches.  The difference in moisture between 4 inches and 8 inches is less than a half inch of water so its really tough to be more specific than that.  The poor TV folks really get into a tough spot because what people ask for is often beyond human capabilities.

GFS adds a little snow Friday Night but its too far away to be seriously considered

Anyway, should be fun.  We will probably get flurried to death on Tuesday and maybe a few flakes on Wednesday as colder air pours in.  Another system comes along for the end of the week and its still a tough call whether or not it will be all snow or rain then snow.  I would prefer the former so I have to be careful to avoid wishcasting…thats where your forecast gets biased for what you wish will happen instead of what the data says.  Right now, it’s all over the place and it would be foolish to say more except that we ain’t warming up much anytime soon and I still don’t see how we get above freezing until perhaps Thursday if the rain to snow scenario unfolds.