Archive for March, 2010

New Orleans Avoided Catastrophe in 1973
March 31, 2010

Ice on the Mississippi River At Cape Girardeau

Ice Jam on Mississippi At St. Louis is Not Unprecedented as Evidenced in 1910

This Date in History:  When we hear of  flooding on the Mississippi River, most people think of the recent big events in 1993 and 1997.  They were huge for the plains states…record levels.  But, in 1997, the lower Mississippi River was above flood stage for just 69 days.  I say “just” because  the Lower Mississippi has been flooding since time began.   In 1927, the lower river had been above flood stage for a record 135 days and in 1983 for  115 in a row and third on the list is 99 days and that happened in 1973.  That year the economy of the United States may have been forever altered and the landscape, culture and environment of Louisiana changed such that the Cajuns would have had something new to sing about, there may not have been as many sportsmen in “Sportsmen’s Paradise” and the maps would have had to be changed. 

Well North of Louisiana,  On this date in 1973, the Mississippi River at St. Louis rose above flood stage and stayed above flood stage for 77 days.  No type-o there….77 days.   It would not crest until April 28 at over 43 feet,  a record that was topped by 6 feet in 1993.  It was still many more weeks before it went below flood stage. There were numerous causes. First off, there was a whole bunch of rain in the autumn in the Mississippi sink…or the area that drains into the Mississippi. The area is huge, encompassing much of the Central and Northern plains and parts of the Midwest. So, there was a whole bunch of water that saturated the ground and elevated water levels in all of the tributaries of the Mississippi.  That winter it got very very cold and there was a tremendous amount of snow in the northern plains. If I recall correctly, there were  news reports of the Big Muddy being frozen from St. Louis northward which caused a big problem for the commodities transported up and down the river.    The ice jam broke in the spring and so all of this ice and water from the fall and melting snow  all moved at once.   

Note the River Ice Near St. Louis This Past Winter

Between Baton Rouge, LA and Natchez MS there is a place called Simmesport, LA. at that point, the Mississippi breaks off, with part of the water going down the Atchafalaya River.  The Atchafalaya has a complex history as it once, along with the Red River, flowed separate and parallel to the Mississippi.  Over time, the Mississippi flowed abruptly to the west forming a horseshoe that merged with the Red River.  Someone dug a canal to shorted Big Muddy’s route and all sorts of other changes took place to the point that the Red River now empties into the Mississippi and part of the old river channel connects with the Atchafalaya.  From time to time,  water will either flow into the Atchafalaya east to the Mississippi River or at times of high water on the Mighty Mississip, the flow might be the reverse.   Near Simmesport in 1963, the US Army Corps of Engineers built the Louisiana Old River Control Structure because the old river channel is highly vulnerable to perhaps enticing the Mississippi River to change it’s course permanently and mainly flowing down the Atchafalaya . In 1973, it tried to do just that.  

Old River Flood Control Structure In 1973 Was Almost Submerged

Now, by law, the flood control boys can only release a maximum of 30% of the flow into the Atchafalaya but the river is not bound my man’s laws.  The flood control project in 1973 could have used the old Pittsburgh Steelers Steel Curtain  because the river was relentless with its offensive power.   I was told by a Geologist in Natchez, MS that the Corps of Engineers at Simmesport had dumptrucks dumping huge boulders into crevaces around the structure for 24/7 during a particularly tough week.  He said they came very very close to losing the entire dam as the water was scouring away the substructure from both sides.  If it the scouring below the structure had become fully developed, then there is a fair chance that the structure would have failed, the Mississippi would have altered course and sent most of its water down the Atchafalaya.  The topography around and leading into  the Atchafalaya  is such that there is a real risk that, after the flood, the river would not go back to its old route.  This geologist opined that  its not a matter of if the river takes its course, but when.   He is not alone in that assessment. 

Note Whirlpool Indicating Scouring Breach

Katherine Kemp referred to a study in a posting on a Tulane University web site when she said, “Researcher Raphael Kazmann at LSU suggested that the Mississippi would be the victor in the struggle of man against nature.  In his 1980 study on the possible effects of the Atchafalaya diversion he states, “Probably the most important single conclusion reached by this study is that in the long run the Atchafalaya will become the principal distributary of the Mississippi River and that the current main-stream will become an estuary of the Gulf of Mexico…the final outcome is only  a matter of time”

Illustration Indicating How Scouring Undermines A Flood Control Structure

Had they lost that structure, the Mississippi River would now be flowing between Lafayette, LA and Baton Rouge but the ports of New Orleans and Baton Rouge w0uld not be ghost towns as the might river would not have  left them totally high and dry.  Instead, speculation is that instead of taking 70% of the flow, the current channel would only get 30% and the Atchafalaya would take the remaining 70%.  Morgan City at the mouth of the Atchafalaya would have to be relocated, oyster beds would be destroyed and  fisheries in the Gulf wiped out.  They might be able to more easily dredge the channel between the Gulf and New Orleans and on to Baton Rouge because there would be less sediment build up.  But, New Orleans would have a huge problem because it would have to find a new source for water since the river’s flow would not be sufficient to prevent salt water intrusion from the Gulf.  then there is the petroleum interests that would adversely affected as gas lines and oil pipelines crossing the Atchafalaya basin would be damaged or destroyed and oil service installations would probably suffer catestrophic damage.  Then the roads…all those bridges….the rail road bridges.  All crossing the Atchafalaya Basin would most likely be damaged beyond suitable utility.

Again, if I recall, that 1972/73 winter was toward the end of a series of very very cold winters across the nation and the evening news and the papers were filled with stories about how we were heading back toward an ice age. Amazing how 30 years can change the headlines.  But, more importantly, we know that the river will flood again.  If the experts are correct, at some point in time, New Orleans will suffer a catastrophe and it won’t be from a Hurricane.

Transatlantic Cable Led To Bargain AKA The Alaska Purchase
March 30, 2010

How Did the Transatlantic Cable Lead to the Purchase of Alaska?

Great Eastern Steamship Dwarfed All Other Ships of the Day

On This Date in History:  In Antebellum America of  the mid 19th Century, a message could be sent from New Orleans to Maine in a matter of minutes.  But,  that same message might take two weeks to get to London as it was unthinkable to be able to lay a cable all the way across the Atlantic Ocean.  Unthinkable to everyone but Cyrus Field.  Field was a paper merchant who had been so successful in business that he was able to retire by age 34 when he came up with a plan to lay a transatlantic cable.   He thought that it wasn’t quite a difficult as it sounded because he figured that the cable could rest on an underwater plateau between Newfoundland and Ireland.  He was so certain of success, that in 1856 he formed the Atlantic Telegraph Company after meeting a Canadian from Newfoundland looking for investors for his nearly bankrupt telegraph concern.  Even though he had his own ideas, well-meaning citizens offered their own suggestions.  One suggested have floating call boxes so that passing ships could stop and send a message.  Another suggested suspending a cable by underwater balloons. 

Some Russians Were Rather Fond of Alaska

Aside from the hair-brained ideas, even the more rational ones faced some issues.  The cable weighed one ton per mile yet snapped quite easily in the rolling seas.  The North Atlantic is not exactly the calmest weather in the world so there were constant delays.  To help battle the elements and also haul the giant and heavy cable, Fields called on the service of the world’s biggest ship.  The Great Eastern steamship, at 32,000 tons was five times bigger than the next biggest ship.   After two years, a cable was finally laid and the continents were connected.  The great success didn’t last though because after an inaugural message from Queen Victoria to President James Buchanan, the line went dead.  Perry McDonough Collins saw Fields misfortune as an opportunity.  See, Collins had another idea.  He went to Western Union with the proposal to run a cable under the Bering Strait and then across Siberia to Europe.  Work was begun in Alaska but Fields had not given up on the oceanic route.  It took 12 years of effort and failure but on July 27, 1866 the Transatlantic Cable finally reached Newfoundland and this time it worked.  Well, that was the end of the Siberian route but the poor guys working on it didn’t learn they were out of job for a year due to….slow communications.

Collins' Men Didn't Know the Job Was Terminated For a Whole Year

Again, misfortune became a catalyst for unforseen success.  In order to work on his project, Collins had secure diplomatic connections fromboth Russia and the United States.  The efforts involved Secretary of State William H. Seward who, while helping Abraham Lincoln manage the Civil War, had also been involved in Collins Siberian scheme as well as the plans of Field.  While the  Bering Strait cable did not come about, conversations between the US and Russia continued.  Russia had established a presence in Alaska in the early 18th century but had been trying to unload it on the United States since around the time that Field had started his Transatlantic Cable project.  But, President Buchanan had his hands  full with a country heading to Civil War, though I’m not exactly sure what Buchanan was doing because he certainly had not done much to head off that great conflict. 

Cartoon Depicting "Andy" Johnson and "Billy" Seward Trying to Sell Alaska Ice Block to Congress

Seward really liked the idea of grabbing Alaska but the many other Americans weren’t too keen on the idea.  The nation was in debt and trying to rebuild the South after the war.  Alaska was wilderness and in a very inhospitable environment.  Many people thought that the idea was so idiotic that the plan was called “Icebergia,” “Walrussia,”  “Seward’s Ice Box” and, most famously, “Seward’s Folly.”  Nevertheless, on this date in 1867, William H. Seward turned his folly into reality when Russia agreed to sell Alaska to the United States for $7.2 million.  That is less than half of what was paid for Louisiana 64 years earlier.  It came out to about 2 cents per acre.   Seward had no way of knowing it, but the folly turned into literally a gold mine in just 20 years.  Gold was discovered in the 1890’s and the nations wealth increased.  Now, Alaska has oil.  The US has reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties from oil produced on federal land and offshore waters of Alaska.  Then there is also the rich fishing industry in the dangerous but fruitful Alaskan waters. 

Congress Finally Forked Over the Money in August 1868

In the end what originally was a failed venture to connect North America to Europe resulted in the United States acquiring territory that initially increased it’s size by 20%.  The nation not only gained access to the obvious timber natural resources and fishing rights, but unwittingly also gained enormous access to gold.  Then when huge oil fields were discovered and the ability to bring it to market was developed, the benefit of Seward’s Folly became astronomical.  It’s hard to say which was the better deal: The Louisiana Purchase or the Alaskan Purchase.  But, one thing’s for certain, we could probably use another folly today that would bring such a huge return on investment.  But, it almost didnt’ happen.  See…Congress was leary.  The Senate has the power to approve treaties and it voted to ratify the treaty by a 37 to 2 majority.  But, the House of Representatives controls the purse strings and opponents of Seward’s Ice Box threatened to not provide the funds for the purchase.  It took a year but the Alaska Purchase Treaty was ultimately funded a year after the treaty was signed with a 113 to 48 vote.

Great Weather Ahead

Weather Bottom Line:  Enjoy the rest of the week as we move to 80 or so by Thursday and Friday.  It will be interesting to see how a weekend frontal system unfolds.  The SPC has a storm risk in Texas but I’m a bit curious about Saturday evening here.  Might be interesting but the dynamics might not come together.  Forget about it for now. Just enjoy the week.

The Man Who Saved Millions is Now Held in Contempt
March 29, 2010

The Man Most Responsible For Feeding Millions Has Been Cast Aside By America

World War I Poster From the Food Adminstration

On this date in History:  When America entered World War I,  President Woodrow Wilson decided to manage the war effort by creating a bureaucracy of four administrators.  There was the Secretary of War, the War Industries Board, the Committee of Public Information and the Food Administration.    While we can understand the Secretary of War working with the actual war making aspects, the War Industries Board coordinating production of war making material and the Committee of Public Information working the PR end, it’s hard to understand the food angle.  Well, in the early part of the 20th century, United States agricultural production was not what it became by the end of the century and there were other considerations.    The job involved not only the management, raising and distribution of food crops to feed the US Army and the US population, but also to feed  all allied armies.  Beyond that, the administrator of food was expected to help feed civilians in the war zones around the globe and make the credo “Food Will Win the War” come true.  Who would want that job?

Urging Americans to Sacrifice for the Troops

Well, it seems that America had the man for the job and he had already proved himself in Europe.  A young mining engineer had been noted for his ability to organize and, prior to America’s entry into the war, he had managed the difficult job of providing clothing and food to war-scarred Belgium.  So, when Wilson needed a man to head up the herculean effort at home, he called the young engineer home.  As the head of the new agency, the engineer got to come up with his own title.  He had working knowledge from his time in Europe that the position was necessarily not a permanent one.  He also had a strong sense of individualism, liberty and cooperation.  He felt that using the term Czar, Dictator, Controller or Director was not appropriate because each suggested actions based on compulsion. So, he took the title of Administrator.  He had found that it was far more effective and also fit better with his ideal of freedom to persuade people to take action rather than use force.  It was also more pragmatic given the numbers of people and corporations that he had to get to work in harmony with his needs as President Wilson had said that the Allies and America, their soldiers and civilians were “eating at a common table.”

World War I Devastated Europe

This engineer was given the power of law to force cooperation.  Just because one has power doesn’t mean that one has to use it and this engineer chose not to do so.  He could have taken the license away from any business with over $100,000 a year in sales that did not follow regulations or profiteered from the war effort.  Only in extreme cases did he resort to such tactics.  Instead, he simply put them on notice and if they continued  to misbehave, then he fined them in a way that they had to make contributions to the Red Cross, not the government.   Instead of ruling with an iron fist, he held several conferences and outlined the needs of the country, the armed forces and the Allies and he persuaded them to the point of uniformity and cooperation with goodwill.  In other words, he got companies to participate because he convinced them that they needed to and they decided to do so on their own.

As for the public, he did not turn to punitive actions but did ask the nation to make sacrifices.  He used advertisements and speeches to urge 105 million Americans to food conservation.   Mothers were asked to not serve more food than was necessary and children to clean their plates.  Girls planted gardens and boys worked in the fields.  The appeals from the administrator were read from in schools, shown on the big screen in movie theatres and printed in newspapers.  I suppose that the idea of separation of church and state had not gotten so militant because even clergy got involved and read the calls for cooperation from pulpits across the land on Sundays.  Some of those measures included porkless Thursday and Saturday, wheatless Monday and Wednesday and no meat was asked to be consumed on Tuesdays.  Bakers were asked to promote “Victory Bread” which had more wheat grain than ordinary bread.  

Filing Conservation Pledges at NY Food Conservation Commission

When he was able, he backed off his requests even though it may have been confusing.  On this date in 1918, he declared a suspension of “Meatless Tuesday” for the month of April.  He didn’t ask people not to eat out as that would hurt the economy.  Instead, he asked Americans to follow simple rules of no bread after the first course, a half ounce of butter per person and use only one kind of meat.  He asked people to limit the serving of sugar to cubes in an effort to avoid waste, which was not necessarily the original intent of the Moravian inventor of sugar cubes in the 1840’s.  However, he did ask that only 2 pounds  of sugar be used for every 90 meals served.

The Greatness of Herbert Hoover Buried in American History

These were not unreasonble requests and really, if  you think about it, would be a good idea for any overindulging society.  Life magazine joined in the chorus by suggesting to not let your child “take a bite or two from an apple and throw the rest away, nowadays even children must be taught to be patriotic to the core.”  The rise of the man who convinced America to alter its lifestyle without resorting to governmental coercion, threat of fines, threat of jail or any legislative power was described by journalist Mark Sullivan was a “combination of quality in the man with adventitious circumstance is always a fascinating aspect of history.”  So who was this man?  Why have we not heard of him?  The fact is that you have but a stock market crash and the depression that followed overshadowed his greatness.  Herbert Hoover was called “the biggest man who has emerged on the Allied side during the war” by a London paper.  Herbert Hoover is called the great humanitarian by those who know of his efforts. Hoover is credited with not only organizing America’s war effort but also saving 10 million lives during and after the war and he did it largely without resorting to force or use of law.  He used his power of persuasion to motivate a people known to answer a call to action (in this case it was called “Hooverizing”) when they are asked and convinced it is the right and just.

Weather Bottom Line:  Take the week off.  Monday’s clouds will give way to lots of sun and an area of high pressure will set up along the Gulf Coast and set up a southerly and southwesterly flow as the longwave pattern becomes oriented with a trof in the west and ridge in the east.  That should result in some strong t’storm activity in the plains this week.  Possilbe that we catch some of that action on Sunday or Monday but until then, just enjoy the rising temperatures as I suspect that by Good Friday, we’ll be talking about 80 degrees.

Battle of Glorieta Pass the Gettysburg of the West?
March 28, 2010

Is This Any Place to Have A Civil War Battle?

CSS Shenandoah Fired Last Shot of Civil War Two Months After It Was Over

On This Date in History:  When we speak of the US Civil War, one thinks of great battles in the eastern and southern parts of the country.  There were however battles on the high seas and in areas far from the main battle fields.  The last battle fought on land was the Battle of Palmetto Ranch in South Texas of all places and it came after the war was over in May 1865.  Communications were rather slow and so no one got the message that the south had lost so those who died near the Rio Grande River really did die in vain.  That would suck to fight a battle in a war that was over.  But, it wasn’t the first time.  The Battle of New Orleans was fought after the War of 1812 was complete.   While Palmetto Ranch was the last land battle fought, the last shot fired in the Civil War two months after hostilities had ended on June 22, 1865 when the CSS Shenandoah’s guns finally went silent in a battle in the Bering Strait.

From These Heights It's Easy to Control This Mountain Pass

The State of Texas was marked the farthest western edge of the United States except for California and Oregon.  The region in much of the west were US territories that had not been organized into states.  While the war was largely fought over the expansion of slavery in the new territories, very  little action took place in the West…except for New Mexico.  The Confederates had many grand plans at the outset of the war and one included capturing gold and silver mines in the West.  Success would give the slavocracy some hard currency that might lend legitimacy in international circles as well as permit it to actually pay for war supplies instead of operating on credit.  The first thing that the Confederacy did in 1862 was claim that the southern half of the Arizona Territory and the New Mexico Territory was the Confederate Arizona Territory. 

Out West, Without Your Own Supplies You're Doomed

The supposed capital was Mesilla which is outside of the booming New Mexico metropolis of Las Cruces.    Seems to me that I’ve eaten lunch several times in Las Cruces.  When traveling out west even today, places with adequate supplies are hard to find.  Well, that was true back in the mid 19th century and the Confederates in general were not nearly as well supplied as their Union adversaries.  Back East, Confederate Armies regularly foraged the land and took supplies from the citizenry for support.  Out west, there wasn’t really anything to forage and the Union Army forts were relatively well supplied.  So, Brig. General Henry Hopkins Sibley took his forces from the south and moved North where he ran into Union Colonel Edward Canby’s army.  Canby was defeated and went in retreat to his base at Fort Craig.  Fort Craig was near present day Truth or Consequences and that is well south of Santa Fe.  Instead of doing what he was supposed to do and capture Fort Craig, Sibley bypassed it and moved North to take Santa Fe. If you look closely, you can see that the route taken by the Confederate forces from Mesilla to Fort Craig and then to Santa Fe follows the exact route of the current I-25.  Now,  it’s generally not a good idea to leave a substanative enemy force in your rear and Sibley found out why.  See…from Fort Craig, Canby was able to disrupt the supply and wagon trains to Sibley’s army.

Sibley Looked Good But Should Have Checked His Rear

Sibley sent about 300 Texans to Glorieta Pass with the idea that control of the pass would mean that the Sibley could take a large force through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to attack Fort Union in the northwestern quadrant of modern day New Mexico.  On March 26 there was some initial skirmishing and the timing was good for the Confederates because the 400 Union soldiers at Glorieta Pass had just  gotten there a few hours earlier at the conclusion of a forced march from Denver.  The next day, not much happened except that each side gained reinforcements with the Union Army numbers rising to about 1300 and the Confederates fielding about 1100.  These numbers are way way less those associated with most Civil War Battles. 

Does This Painting Look Anything Like The Battle of Gettysburg?

Nevertheless, the battle took place on this date in 1862.  All told, between fighting in the pass and also in Apache Canyon, casualties were pretty even with the Union suffering 51 deaths and 50 Confederates died.  Casualties for the North numbered 78 to 80  wounded for the South.  As previously mentioned, an army can only go as far as the supplies can last and out west you almost always had to bring your own.  New Mexico volunteer leader for the North, Lt. Colonel Manuel Chaves reported that scouts had  found the Confederate wagon train.  So, Union officer in command Major John M. Chivington who  for some reason decided to observe the activity for an hour or so before ordering an attack.  On the battlefield, the Confederates had pushed the Union out of the pass and controlled the field.  But, because they had lost some 500 mules and horses as well as all of their supplies.  Seems that they forgot to leave enough men in the rear with the gear for defense.  So, even though they won the day, the Confederates lost because they had to retreat back to Santa Fe.  Eventually, CSA had to retreat all the way back to San Antonio, Texas.  Somehow, some historians apparently call the Battle of Glorieta Pass the “Gettysburg of the West” but I think that’s a bit over the top.  But, it is an interesting battle and outcome.

Weather Bottom Line:  I had to watch part of the UK game in the dark.  Snow White turned out the lights for Earth Hour.  The kitties and I were not amused.  Sunday will feature clouds and rain and perhaps some rumbles of thunder.  Anything worthwhile should stay to our South.  There really wasn’t much action on Saturday except for a few hail reports associated with cold air connected with the upper low.  Otherwise, nothing too earth shattering.  Now, this week will be interesting.  Skies clearing on Monday high mid 50’s.  Then low 60’s then low 70’s on Wednesday and I suspect that we will be pushing 80 on Thursday and in the low 80’s for Friday and Saturday.  A big fat high gets set up along the Gulf Coast.  We will get a nice southerly and then southwesterly flow.  By the end of the week I betcha we have a severe weather outbreak in the plains states.   Could be interesting around here on Sunday…long way out…but we’ll have to see.

The Tornado They Called “A Demon” Is Forgotten By Most
March 27, 2010

Imagine What a Downtown Twister Would Do Today

Imagine What a Downtown Twister Would Do Today

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

Tracks of 4 Kentuckiana Tornadoes Mar 27, 1890

Tracks of 4 Kentuckiana Tornadoes Mar 27, 1890

On This Date in History:

The Courier Journal headline said a Demon visted Louisville.  Snow White and I visited Cave Hill Cemetery yesterday and saw the results of that Demon.  Several years ago, we were wandering around the cemetery and came upon many headstones with the same date of death, yet, the names were all different.  I said to Snow White, “something catastrophic happened on March 27, 1890 because all of these people died at the same time but they don’t appear to be related.”  It was then that I realized it was the Demon that took them and they forever would be in the same brotherhood of victims.

Remnant of Water Tower at foot of Zorn next to River

Everyone knows about the tornado outbreak on April 3, 1974 that produced the tornado that ripped up Louisville that afternoon. But, very few people are familiar with an arguably more devastating and certainly more deadly tornado on this date in 1890. The tornado started in the Parkland area of Louisville and basically traveled right through downtown,  almost right over the water tower at th end of what present day Zorn Ave and then across the river into Clark County, IN before making a right hand turn back across the river before terminating in near the mouth of Harrod’s Creek.  My guesss is that it was a supercell that became so developed that it became what is known as a “right turner.”   The present day water tower is a replacement for the one destroyed in 1890. Remember, we are talking about 1890 and that water tower was needed to be able to get the water for the city up the hill to the resevoir.

Trains Not On Schedule At Old Union Depot

Tobacco Warehouse Wiped Out

Tobacco Warehouse Wiped Out

The city only had enough water for 6 days and water rationing was called on. I suppose it wasn’t all that dramatic given there is a big river right next to the city, but usage in the plumbing system would not be possible and folks would have to use a whole lot of buckets.

Union Depot Rebuilt in 1891

 Just think what would happen today if the water system was shut down. Anyway, death toll estimates vary but most put it at upwards of 120, though I believe the offiicial number is 76. Either way the National Weather Service lists it as part of the top tornado outbreak in Southern Indiana and Central Kentucky…ahead of 1974. It probably would have been worse had it not hit between 8 and 9 pm since most of the businesses downtown were shuttered for the night. I am told by folks at Cave Hill that funerals were held every hour for a week.  As previously mentioned, I first learned of the date of the tornado  several years ago when Snow White and I wandered about Cave Hill.  You can learn a lot from wandering around a cemetery.  There is another section filled with the graves of many small children.  That was about 25 years after the 1890 twister during the Spanish Flu pandemic.  Another thing that you notice is the number of family plots from the 19th century with children who died very young.  We found one today in which 4 of the 5 children died before the age of 12.  Each was born on a different army post as their father was in the US Army.  What is unclear is how the kids bodies got back to Louisville.  For instance, “Lillie” was born on March 15, 1870 in the Wyoming Territory.  She died March 16, 1875 in the Montana Territory.  Yet, she is buried in Louisville.  The other children not only were buried in different places, but they also died in different places.  My only guess is that when the family settled in Louisville, they had the children dug up where they lay and had them reburied in a family plot at Cave Hill.  Yes, you can learn a lot from a cemetery, but what you learn can often open new questions.

Falls City Hall Debris-Original Photo Claimed 75 dead

Falls City Hall Debris-Original Photo Claimed 75 dead

  Anyway,  every year we hear about the 1974 “outbreak”.   Well this was a big outbreak as well. Twenty-four significant tornadoes were reported that day across the midwest. The Louisville tornado is estimated to have been an F-4 tornado. It destroyed some 766 buildings including 5 churches, 7 railroad depots, 2 public halls, 3 schools, 10 tobacco warehouses, 32 manufacturing plants and 532 dwellings were destroyed by the tornado. At least 44 people were killed at the Falls City Hall at 1124 West Market Street where 75 people (presumably men) were at a lodge meeting and 125 children with their mothers were downstairs taking dancing lessons. It is one of the highest number of deaths ever recorded in a single building in US history. The cost of the damage in 1890 dollars was $2.5 million.  Today that would be about $65 million if you take it dollar for dollar.  Seems to me that replacement costs have probably gone up in many areas greater than overall inflation for the time.  Either way, it’s a lot of money and it was a lot of people.  Louisville should have a longer memory. 

Here is a link to photos from the UL Library

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


A new book just came out called The Great Louisville Tornado of 1890 and the Courier just did a book review a few days ago.  Also, the Filson Historical Society story The 1890 Louisville Cyclone and it’s the complete story with photographs.

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

23 Jefferson County Tornadoes

23 Jefferson County Tornadoes

One thing I found rather interesting was that apparently the precursor to the National Weather Service, the US Weather Bureau, actually issued a statement saying that very nasty weather could be in the picture. I did not know they were issuing what we would call a watch that early in our history. I know it seems like that with all of our technology and mass communications today that severe potential gets screamed out so much by some people that it seems like overload. Fatalities and injuries are actually going up annually in this country the past several years after many years of falling rates. One might argue its from the “cry wolf” syndrome…tv foofs who try to make a name for themselves by scaring you into watching them. Just check out my blog….I’ll usually tell you several days in advance if I think Mother Nature is up to no good. In 1890, the Courier Journal called it the “the whirling tiger of the air.” Lets hope that doesnt happen again, but it could…and in fact, I’d say someday it will…we all need to pay attention and don’t think “oh it can’t happen here”. Phooey. It can and actually has many times…so wise up…..and remember, if the “Demon” visited today, it would probably rival or possibly outstrip the carnage of the 1974 tornado, especially if it happened during the middle of a workday.

Spring Tornadoes In Kentuckiana

Spring Tornadoes In Kentuckiana

Weather Bottom Line:   The map to the left is a map of all of the spring tornadoes in Kentuckiana excluding the last few years.  But, they won’t add too many.  In spite of all of the tornado warnings that we seem to have, state statistics show that the average annual tornadoes in Louisville since 1850 is just 8.4.  That should surprise you given all of the reports that come in.  Two things…one is that many reported tornadoes are not verified.  The other is that I suspect that the averages will be climbing since the area is more populated and there are so many ways to communicate and report that tornadoes that may have been missed 50 years ago are reported today.  It’s the old, “if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to see it, did it really fall down?”  Radars make it so we have an idea where a tornado might be and then there are usually people there, either at home or on a road, to report it.

As for now..forget about tornadoes.  Saturday looks lovely.  Saturday night perhaps some t’storms following afternoon highs in the mid to upper 60’s.  Sunday we’ll probably just be in the 50’s with rain likely.  By Monday afternoon, the sun will return and carry into Tuesday.  Some time this spring we will be talking tornado, but for now we just look back 120 years ago.

WWF Schedules Earth Hour During NCAA Basketball Tournament
March 26, 2010

If WWF is successful, the US will go black from the East Coast to the West Coast but the NCAA tournament will be on. Which will win out?

Candle Power Used During Earth Hour Even Though Candles Release Carbon Dioxide. These People are Leaving a Carbon Footprint to Mark Earth Hour

Earth Hour?  We’ve all heard of Earth Day as it’s been around for about 40 years.   But now, there is Earth Hour.  This is brought to you by the WWF.  Before you go looking for a picture of Hulk Hogan carrying the earth on his shoulders like Atlas, it’s not the World Wrestling Federation.  Remember a few years ago the wrestlers were sued and so they had to change their name to World Wrestling Entertainment aka WWE.  This would be the World Wildlife Fund and they are encouraging people from around the world to “…come together to make a bold statement about their concern for climate change…”  They claim that millions of people will participate and illustrate their concern by turning off the lights for one hour.  The time is to be March 27, 2010 at 8:30pm local time.  That means that if everyone did it, an observer from space would see the lights go off sequentially from east to west around the globe.   While it is a global effort, for some reason the United States is singled out and the Yanks are encouraged to show the way toward a “cleaner, more secure nation and prosperous America.”

How Thailand Was Supposed to Look Before and After For Earth Hour

This is not the first Earth Hour though as it was launched 3 years ago.  The WWF claims that last year over 1 billion people participated in 87 countries from 7 continents involving over 4100 cities including 80 million Americans in 318 cities.  This year, National Geographic is claiming 121 countries will participate.   On the one hand, it is called a “simple” gesture because all one has to do is to hit the light switch.  Yet, the WWF does direct you to  a “tool kit” to elaborate on how to participate.  This reminds of an Aggie Joke:  How many Aggies does it take to turn off a light?  What would be an event that is supposed to bring global civic awareness without having a promotional edge?  You can buy “Earth Hour Gear” if you want to express yourself by more than just turning off the lights.   I’m not sure if profit is the main motive behind this global effort but, like all good intentions, there can be unintended consequences.

Earth Hour, Earth Day, End of the World...Nothing will Prevent a UK Fan from Watching the 'Cats

Think about cigarettes.  State governments across America are raising cigarette taxes under the notion that it will discourage smoking with higher prices.  But, state budgets have become so reliant on revenue from the cigarette tax, if they were successful in their official motivation and everyone stopped smoking, then state government deficits would be such that sovereign state bankruptcy might be a real issue.  In the case of Earth Hour, if everyone participates, there might be steep consequences.  An official Earth Hour event in Thailand was cancelled due to safety concerns.  A big crowd of people at night whom the bad guys know would be shrouded in darkness?  Sounds pretty enticing or even inviting.  But it apparently was a concern about “Red Shirt” demonstrators.   Then there are technical issues.  When you have a power grid designed for certain power load and their is a sudden change, that can tax the capability of that system.  We normally think of power surges or excessive usage in a heat waver or something that disrupts the system. In this case, Earth Hour can cause complications from a sudden power drop off such that utlities have to take precautions to prevent the dark hour from becoming a dark night.  But, in some parts of the states, it seems to me that the biggest obstacle may be the NCAA.  Those guys went and scheduled the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament during Earth Hour!  They should have checked  the schedule.  I can promise that, in Kentucky, when the University of Kentucky is playing in prime time for a shot at the Final Four, no one will turn off their TV and I doubt if any UK fans will be watching the game in the dark….after all…you need to make it safe for trips to the refrigerator or bathroom.

Cave Hill Cemetery is Beautiful In the Spring

Weather Bottom Line:  Snow White and I took advantage of the fact that the clouds were chased away ahead of my schedule and so we went and fed the ducks at Cave Hill Cemetery.  It was such a nice day, Lee Squires left early and who can blame him?  Several geese and swans are sitting on their eggs which may be hatched for Easter, but we didn’t see any mallards on their nest.  I think that it’s because the mallards are too smart to put their nests where just anyone can find them.  We did have a couple of errant snow reports early this morning but, as I had warned, it was not consequential.  One thing that I did fail to mention was the howling wind overnight.  At one point, I thought that it was raining hard but instead it was just a pressure equalization occuring in rapid fashion.  It will be cool overnight and Saturday still looks to be outstanding with highs back in the mid to upper 60’s.  With that kind of turn around, a cold front must be on the way…and it is. 

SPC T'storm Chances Saturday

Our timing will work out well again as during the heat of day, the storm system will be to our west.  And, like the last system, this one will pass South.  So, if there are stronger or frequent thunderstorms, they will be west and south of the area.  Since this guy is coming through in the evening and with no sun (or lights for Earth Hour) then it will be very difficult to get sufficient lift to either form storms or keep them going.  So, perhaps some rumbles of thunder Saturday night followed by clouds and rain on Sunday.  The sun returns with mild but not too terrible conditions for the first part of the new week.

Two Criminal New York Fires, Justice Served Just Once
March 25, 2010

It Often Takes Tragedy to Bring About Justice and Change

Fire On the Upper Floors Pushed the Capabilites of the NYFD in 1911

On This Date in History:  In the early 20th century, the industrial revolution was in full swing but social and business response natually lagged behind as the rapid growth of industry presented new challenges.  As corporations grew, new accounting and management techniques had to be developed and, in response to those needs, colleges and universities had to expand their curriculum to address the requirements of  advanced business and accounting.  Social and labor practices were also under pressure from change.  In cities like New York, manufacturing utlized labor such that workers had very few rights and were subject to harsh and unsafe working conditions.  Advocates of the workers had tried to address the potential problems and the grievances of the workers largely to no avail.  As is often the case, it took a tragic and monumental event to serve as a catalyst for change.

Typical Garment Factory

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was a good example of what became known as a sweatshop.  New York’s garment district was well known as featuring factories that employed women who gained little pay but had to endure difficult and potentially dangerous working conditions.  Max Blanck and Isaac Harris owned the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, which took up the 8th, 9th and 10th floors of the Asch Building.  The majority of the factory’s 500 workers were young immigrant women who worked 9 hours a day during the week and 7 hours on Saturdays.  Sunday really was a day of rest for the ladies who often lived in conditions not much better than their work environment.  Smoking was banned in the factory but the Fire Marshall concluded that a cigarette butt tossed in a scrap bin on the eighth foor ignited a fire toward the end of the day on this date in 1911.  Other experts drew other conclusions but the result was a fire quickly spread through the eighth floor to the floors above.  Blanck and Harris escaped to the roof but others weren’t as lucky.   Workers on the eighth floor were able to telephone the tenth floor to warn of the danger.  But, there were no alarms and no way to contact the ninth floor.   Within 3 minutes, the interior staircase became unusable and the only exterior fire escape collapsed under the weight of the terrified people crowding onto the structure to make their escape. 

Police Have Grim Task Confronting Bodies on the Sidewalk

Sixty two people either jumped or fell to their death to the horror of observers from the street.  Louis Waldman, who would later become a New York Assemblyman who subsequently was expelled for his communist leanings,  was in the crowd and wrote that he “looked up at the burning building, saw girl after girl appear at the reddened windows, pause for a terrified moment, and then leap to the pavement below, to land as mangled, bloody pulp. This went on for what seemed a ghastly eternity. Occasionally a girl who had hesitated too long was licked by pursuing flames and, screaming with clothing and hair ablaze, plunged like a living torch to the street. Life nets held by the firemen were torn by the impact of the falling bodies.”  In all, 146 people were killed in what remains one of New York’s worst industrial incidents.

Civil Court Ruled The Dead Were Worth $75 a Piece; Insurance Company Paid $400

The owners were taken to trial but were acquitted from criminal charges as their defense attornies were successful in compromising the integrity of the witnesses.  Blanck and Harris were later both found guilty in a civil lawsuit but they actually came out ahead in the deal.  See, the civil suit awarded just $75 per deceased victim.  I suppose life was pretty cheap to the courts because the insurance company compensated the owners $400 per victim. Around the same time that Blanck was found guilty in the civil trial, he was found guilty of locking the doors in a factory, potentially trapping workers if there was another incident.  This time, Blank really was taught a lesson:  he was fined just $20.   But, the circumstance was not totally without some silver lining.  Aside from the assemblyman in the crowd, another eyewitness was Frances Perkins, who later became the Secretary of Labor under Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  She pushed for stricter safety and compensation legislation and unions gained more support to force management to address the grievances that long had troubled the workers, most of whom were immigrants and relatively poor.  There is a saying that the people of Venice did nothing about the sewage problem until water was flowing into the buildings.  Unfortunately, societies and governments have not learned the lesson even today. 

Confederates Hoped to Find New York City The Same Turmoil As 1863

Confederates Hoped to Find New York City The Same Turmoil As 1863

 Another New York Fire: When you get to late 1864, the prospects of the South in the Civil War were running low. The West was pretty much subdued and General William T. Sherman was making his march to the sea. Now, in a post from  October 2008, I told you about how Confederate raiders in October 1864 made the northernmost attack on the Union in Vermont as they raced into St. Albans, Vermont and robbed several banks before fleeing back to Canada. Well, the Candian plot wasn’t done just yet.

Harper's Weekly Rendition of Arsonist

Harper's Weekly Rendition of Arsonist

The Confederate Canadian agents, perhaps emboldened by their Vermont excursion came up with a bolder plan. They would burn New York City. The agents had been assured that the city was ripe for rebellion. Now, that may have been true earlier in the war when there was the infamous New York Draft Riot against the war, but by late in 1864, it was no longer the case. A case of bad intelligence. Undeterred, the plotters decided that they would bring the horror of war home to New Yorkers and carried out their plan on November 25, 1864. Happy Thanksgiving, right? Here was the plan: An agent would check into a Gotham hotel, concealing a incendiary liquid in glass. Its called a Greek fire in a valise. The perpetrator would set his room ablaze and then leave. After several of these firebugs successfully created several infernos, the city streets were filled with rumors as panic people ran about and firemen ran helter skelter from hotel to hotel. One thing the arsonists didn’t count on was the famed New York Fire Department. Today’s heroes of

Kennedy: Bad Timing

Kennedy: Bad Timing

New York were yesterday’s heroes of New York as well. Twelve fires broke out almost simultaneously but the firemen reacted so quickly the damage was limited and the fires were extinguished. So much for the great Greek fire.  Instead, it turned out to be a Greek tragedy for one of the perpetrators. Two were captured, including Confederate Captain Robert Cobb Kennedy. On this date in 1865, Kennedy was hanged for his failed enterprise and received the distinction of being the last soldier hanged before the end of the Civil War…which effectively came a little more than 2 weeks later with the surrender of Robert E. Lee to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia on April 9, 1865. They say that timing in life is everything, but I’d say this is one of the greatest examples and consequence to bad timing.

This Picture Might Produce Some Snow...don't bet on it and don't break out the snow shoes just yet

Weather Bottom Line:  Just a little wrinkle in the forecast.  See…the GFS suddenly has decided to throw out about a quarter inch of snow on early Friday morning.  The idea is that the southern storm will throw out moisture that will over run a cold front coming in from the northwest.  Okay..I said it.  If you hear about that in the forecast, that’s where it comes from.  But, my guess is that before the lower layers get cold enough the overnight rain will have ended.  I suppose that the rain could drag down cold air to support some snow but,  you know what?  If it does happen it won’t be a big deal except as a conversation piece because the ground is too warm.  Just a note:  The NAM has no snow. 

Any such activity will be over certainly just after sunrise on Friday and clouds will be decreasing as the day goes on but it may be tough to get out of the 40’s.  Saturday still looks great with highs in the lwo to mid 60’s and plenty of sunshine, though clouds will be increasing as the afternoon wears on.  Sunday we’ll have another southern system that will bring rain with a chance of some rumbles of thunder.

The King Should’ve Asked The People First
March 24, 2010

If George Had Only Asked First....

French and Indian War Became Part of A Very Expensive Anglo-French Conflict

On This Date in History:  Following the French and Indian War, Britain was left with a huge war debt.  That particular conflict began in 1754 but got folded into  a larger scale European  war between the French and English that became known as the Seven Years War that concluded in 1763.  Londoners were getting tired paying higher taxes to pay for the war and so the Crown had to look for other sources of income.  King George III had risen to the head of the monarchy at age 22  at the death of his grandfather.  Now, the previous two kings had been rather weak and Parliament had seized the lead in establishing policy in the English government.  With the encouragement of his mother, George removed from power the coalition of Whigs who had been running the government.  He used patronage to establish a new coalition that would allow him to have control over Parliament.  While the old Whig coalition had been quite stable, George’s new coalition created ministries that proved not to last too long with each lasting in office but a couple of years.

Colonists Weren't Too Kind to Agents of the Crown

With the new regime and the end of the war, a new policy was set forth:  the American colonies would start to pay for their defense.  But, the colonists had been pretty much left alone almost from the outset of settlement and so any direction from across the pond was not well received.  This was especially the case since the Crown didn’t ask the assemblies of each colony but instead made decrees.  If you think about it, it really wasn’t too unreasonable for there to be some expectation for the colonies to pay for part of the costs associated with running a colonial system.  And I suspect that the colonists would have agreed.  But,  the British government passsed new laws without the advise or consent of the colonial assemblies and that ran counter to their perceived rights as Englishmen.  No matter what Parliament passed, the colonists were against it.  The Sugar Act of 1764, the Currency Act of 1764 and the odious Stamp Act of 1765 all were resisted by the colonies.  Ben Franklin was  a colonial agent in London and had long argued that the resistance was to internal taxes; taxes and duties from London on products and services that originated in the colonies.  Franklin had differentiated between these internal and external taxes or duties slapped on good imported into the colonies.

Redcoats Were Not Welcome in New York

  Charles Townsend had ascended to parliamentary power following the incapacitation of William Pitt.  He listened to Franklin and so he issued the Townshend Program that included the Townshend Duties which were taxes put on lead, paint, paper and tea imported into the colonies.  Well, in spite of what Franklin had argued, the colonies didn’t like that either because to the merchants and people taxes proclaimed by any body except for the a colony’s assembly ran counter to the rights of Englishmen.  But, perhaps a more destructive portion of the Townshend Program had nothing to do with taxation but instead actual power.  Townshend had proclaimed that the New York Assembly, the legislative body voted into office by the citizens of New York, was disbanded until it accepted the terms of the Mutiny Act of 1765.   Most people are famliar with the Mutiny Act by a more common term: The Quartering Act of 1765

Working With Colonial Assemblies Instead of Ruling By Decree Might Have Saved the Colonies For George III

During the French and Indian War, British generals had a difficult time getting provisions and quartering  from the colonies for regular Army members.  When requested, most colonies eventually voted to provide for what was requested but the process was difficult.  As part of the effort, Lt. General Thomas Gage had convinced the New York Assembly to provide quartering of British regulars.  That legislative action expired January 1, 1764.  So, instead of getting the colonies to each pass quartering legislation, Parliament just issued the blanket Mutiny Act that included the Quartering Act of 1765 which required colonial governments to not only to provide a place for troops to lay their heads, but also food and supplies.  And, neither the soldiers or the British government would pay for it.  The colonists thought that since the war with the French was over there was no need for permanent British troops since they had never been stationed in America prior to the F&I War and Parliament had no right to compel such servitude without local legislative approval.  The British said that the troops were necessary to defend the borders against Indian attacks and, as subjects, they were bound by Parliamentary Acts.    The Quartering Act was passed on this date in 1765 and when 1500 British troops arrived in New York in 1766, the New York Assembly refused to make appropriations for them in any manner and they were forced to bunk on board the ships.   See, the colonies felt like they had rights of self governance while King George looked at them as subjects to the rule of Parliament.

Tis Easy to Attact a Bear With Honey...Something George Should Have tried

The central government was probably reasonable in many of their requests.  The colonists had in fact been providing for the British troops when the need was brought to their attention by General officers who negotiated with the assemblies.  A large part of the Quartering Act was the fact that the Parliament and the king did not ask but instead imposed thier will on the people.  Was it a good thing? Probably.  Was it just? Probably.  Did the people understand it? No.  Had they simply gone to the assemblies like General Gage had, then there might not have been much of an issue.  It could be argued that same line of thinking might have held with all of the taxation efforts.   But, King George III wanted to show who held the power and so instead of convincing the people that it was in their best interest and necessary to accept these provisions, he instead wished to impose his authority.  The result was a revolution from a bunch of otherwise loyal British subjects who tried to remain Englishmen but eventually felt that they had no voice.  And therefore, they had no choice but to seek their independence.

SPC Thunderstorm Risk For Thursday

Thursday Evening 8 PM

Weather Bottom Line:  The forecast is running along as expected. Wednesday we pushed toward 70 in spite of increasing cloud cover.  There is a southern system running along Dixie that will help trigger rain in our area and perhaps some t’storms on Thursday with temperatures in the 60’s.  But, as I mentioned on Tuesday, the biggest threat for any real thunderstorm activity or even severe weather for that matter will be well to our south.  The SPC got on board and put out an outline suggesting the same thing that I did on Tuesday with the edge of the t-storm activity just on our doorstep but the biggest threat for some action will be South.  There is a cold front running down from the Northwest late Thursday evening that will pick up the system but we could see some shower activity the first part of Friday with improvements as the day progresses.  Saturday looks pretty nice with highs in the low 60’s.    Then Sunday another southern system passes us to the South and again brings rain but not real threatening conditions.  I suspect that we’ll be fine for churchgoers but rain chances increase by the afternoon.

The Cry For Liberty That Echoes For the Ages
March 23, 2010

Patrick Henry 1736-1799

On This Date in History:  When one visits Colonial Williamsburg, a popular and common person you find wandering the streets is Patrick Henry.  Henry was born on May 29, 1736 in Hanover County in the Virginia Colony.   He was home-schooled and later studied the law on his own.   One of the homes that is prominent at Colonial Williamsburg is that of the Randolph family and Patrick Henry took his attorney’s examination before several prominent lawyers including John and Peyton Randolph

Henry Delivers His "Treason Speech"

Henry was a firey orator and was an early advocate of protest against what he saw as unjust oppression by the Court of King George III.  In 1763, he proclaimed that if a king vetoed a local law voted on by a local assembly, then that king was no longer the people’s patriarch, but instead was  “a tyrant who forfeits the allegiance of his subjects.”  When he brought his protest of the Stamp Act to the House of Burgesses on May 30, 1765 his arguments are said to have bordered on treason.  When he called out, “Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third…” calls of treason rang from the gallery but Henry merely continued with his rant to the point that his argument won over the rest of the burgesses.  This is known as the “Treason Speech.”

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!

Words can be powerful weapons but left on their own, they are simply words.  Those words can call for action though and when the call for action is a call to arms, then those words take on a different meaning altogether.  On this date in 1775, not only did Henry issue a appeal to arms, but also an appeal to the Almighty.  Patrick Henry’s speech read in part, ” There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free–if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending–if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained–we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!”  When we hear that the founders intended on a separation of church and state, clearly if that was the case they did not intend for individuals to be separated from God because in the 6 paragraphs of Henry’s speech, he mentions or calls on God 5 times.  In fact, the most famous line of Patrick Henry that is well known to most Americans was preceded by his final call for Divine intervention:  “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Nearly Every Painting of Henry Giving a Speech Shows Him with his Arm Raised

While Patrick Henry is closely associated with Williamsburg, his call to “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” was made at St. John’s Church in Richmond.  Apparently, Henry’s theatrics were so overwhelming that the exact verbiage of his speeches were lost on the listener.  Perhaps that is why the text of Henry’s speech was not published until 1816 and that was done after William Wirt pieced the speech together after interviewing numerous people who had witnessed the event first hand.  Nevertheless, it is difficult to say for certain that all of the words are exactly what Henry said or if there were ommissions.  One thing that is for certain, the conclusion was unforgettable and “give me liberty or give me death” has lasted through the decades and will no doubt continue to do so.  According to Charles Cohen, Thomas Jefferson was impressed with Henry, but also had a difficult time recalling exactly what the emotional orator had said.  “Although it was difficult, when [Henry] had spoken, to tell what he had said, yet, while speaking, it always seemed directly to the point. When he had spoken in opposition to my opinion, had produced a great effect, and I myself had been highly delighted and moved, I have asked myself, when he ceased, ‘What the devil has he said?’ and could never answer the inquiry.”

Patrick Henry's Speech Helped Spur the Call To Arms

So, what’s the big deal about this speech? I mean, after all, Henry had been making lots of imflammatory speeches.  One has to consider that the Boston Massacre had taken place in March 1770 which had followed the 1765 Stamp Act Crisis.  Then came the Boston Tea Party in 1773.  After all of these events, colonists had tried to reason with the British Parliament and the King.  The crown thought that the colonists were being unreasonable and just plain difficult. Still, the talk of revolution was not all that prevalent.  Then, in 1774, the first Continental Congress  ,led by first Continental Congress President Peyton Randolph, met and determined that crackdowns going on in the Massachusetts Colony represented a threat to the liberty of all the colonies.  The Continental Congress called on continued resistance to the Coercive Acts, a general boycott of British goods and for the establishment of colonial militias.  Naturally, when Parliament heard of this, especially the notion of raising an army of sorts, it declared that the American colonies in rebellion in February 1775.  Massachusetts had worked taking up arms but no other colony acted.  When Patrick Henry made his speech(video of re-enactment) in Richmond, it was at a convention to consider the issue.  When Henry finished, the room sat silent as the audience may have reacted as Thomas Jefferson had described and so they had to take a moment to understand what had been said.  Slowly, it sank in and the room filled with shouts of approval.  The delegates voted to make military preparations and that set the stage for the American Revolution.  It was one thing for the rabble rousers in Boston to take up arms.   But when the Virginia colony made the move it signaled to the others that there was no turning back and it was Patrick Henry who served as the catalyst.

Weather Bottom Line:  Chilly start Tuesday morning led to a seaonally mild afternoon with highs in the low 60’s.   I betcha we get to the upper 60’s on Wednesday.  Clouds will be increasing but it will still be a great day.  Thursday a storm system passes us to the South and will bring a pretty good chance for rain with some t’storms but I think the strongest storms will be well South.  We get a pokey front coming in from the north around the same time so clouds and showers on Friday will be around with Saturday improving and not too cool before another front messes up Sunday a little.   I”m lazy..have an exam to make up for my students and it’s pretty boring so I’m not telling anything more..that’s all you need to know.

Iceland Volcano Not Necessarily Precursor to Global Calamity
March 22, 2010

Click For More On Iceland Volcano Exploding from Ice Cap

Myrdalsjokull Glacier Looms

Several weeks ago, I spoke of the threat of a volcanic eruption in Iceland. Correct headline, correct country, wrong volcano. I was speaking of news regarding Mt. Hekla and how some observations had been made that the summit was absent of snow and that there was speculation that may have indicated an impending eruption. I wonder if there is a connection. It’s purely speculation on my part and I have a very limited background in geology and vulcanology, but I wonder if perhaps magma was coming to the surface at Mt. Hekla while at the same time was rising to the surface elsewhere and the pressure was instead released with the recent eruption at the Eyjafjallajokull (AYA-feeyapla-yurkul) volcano.   Eyjafjallajokull is apparently considered to be a relatively small volcano and there is some concern due to its close proximity to the glacier of the same name.  If you heat up a bunch of ice, it tends to melt and then there is a big flood.  But, there is a larger concern.

Hot Spot Volcanic Island Life Cycle

Now the last time that Eyjafjallajokull erupted was in 1821 and it was boring eruption which oozed lava in a rather slow, pedestrian manner for a couple of days.   Keep in mind that Iceland was settled by the Vikings in the 9th century and is known as the land of fire and ice because its covered in glaciers but is also an island of volcanoes.  Islands such as Iceland are created by thermal plumes in the earth’s crust that create hot spots.  Iceland and island chains like Hawaii are formed by hot spots in which a volcano emerges from the depths and and island forms.  The earth’s crust moves and so the next time a plume develops, a new island forms after the old one has moved on.  Unlike Hawaii which is in the tropical region, Iceland is pretty close to the Arctic Circle so its not the same kind of paradise as Hawaii.  Now, one of the more active volcanoes on Iceland is the previously mentioned Hekla volcano which gained the moniker of the “Gateway to Hell” during the Middle Ages because the locals believed that souls were dragged below.

Mt Katla Has Interesting Ignatius Formations Similar to Devils Post Pile and also areas found in Pacific Northwest

The fear now is not the current eruption, but instead that it could create a larger fissure that would be the catalyst for an eruption of nearby Mount Katla.  Experts say that historical evidence suggests that when Eyjafjallajokull blows, Katla follows. But, they don’t know when. So, it could be tomorrow or years from now.  But, leave it to the media to not miss the chance for a dramatic headline.  NBC goes so far as to say that the volcano that is only speculated to maybe erupt at some distant time could have “world consequences.”     That is because in1783, the Laki volcano erupted, causing scores to die of famine when livestock and crops were destroyed and changing weather patterns across Europe.  Some historians link the climate disruption to the French Revolution and in 1784, the US had one of its coldest winters on record with the Mississippi River supposedly freezing at New Orleans. 

Iceland Glaciers Create Cool Waterfalls...Volcanoes can make waterflow extreme

The Katla volcano, which lies under the thick Myrdalsjokull icecap, has not erupted since 1918. Since Eyjafjallajokull hasn’t erupted since 1821, that would suggest that Katla is not necessarily terminally linked to Eyjafjallajokull.  So, that would seem to me to allow for the possibility that an Eyjafjallajokull eruption does not necessarily mean a Katla eruption.  Now, the idea that these two volcanoes do have some sort of apparent historical link, it makes me wonder if it is so unreasonable for me to speculate whether the Mt. Hekla observations are somehow connected.   Who knows? And who knows if there would be gloom and doom for the world with a Mt. Katla eruption.  No doubt, it would cause a huge flooding problem with the melting of the adjacent glacier.  But, the doomsday scenario that is being trumpeted as a potential since it happened in the late 18th century is a bit misleading.  You can’t necessarily take one incident in history and then say that if that event happened again, the results would be the same 240 years later.  And in this case, they aren’t even talking about the same volcano.  So, here’s the real lowdown:  Eyjafjallajokull eruptions have been known to preceed a larger eruption of Katla but not all Katla eruptions are preceeded by a Eyjafjallajokull eruption and the Laki eruption in 1783 created global consequences and we’re talking about Mt. Katla in 2010, not 1783.  Possible, not necessarily probable and certainly not worthy of scare tactic headlines.

Weather Bottom Line:  Told you we wouldn’t get out of the 40’s on Monday.  Official high was in low 50’s but that was just after midnight.  Doesn’t count unless you are our adopted stray cat, Paintbrush.  But, Snow White has a nice warm bed for him on our front porch so the falling temperatures weren’t a problem.  After a chilly night, Paintbrush and the rest of us will warm up nicely to the low 60’s on Tuesday and then mid 60’s on Wednesday with the sun doing its job.  Low to mid 60’s Thursday will help fuel rain and perhaps a few rumbles of thunder as another cold front swings through.