Archive for April, 2010

Speed Killed Casey Jones; Speed Will Win the Kentucky Derby
April 30, 2010

John Luther Jones: Man, Myth, Legend

Casey Jones' Legend Etched in Stone

On This Date in History:   John Luther Jones was born on March 14, 1863 in Missouri while the  Civil War was in full swing.  In 1876, the family moved to Cayce, Kentucky.   John Luther  was over 6’4″ tall and had gray eyes and dark hair.  He loved trains since he was a young boy and his fascination with the iron horse only increased as he watched them come and go from the Cayce depot.  He was born during the Civil War and in 1878, at the age of 15, he took a job with the Mobile and Ohio Railroad as a telegrapher and six years later moved to Jackson, TN where he continued with the Mobile and Ohio as a flagman.   

John Luther "Casey" Jones

 

When he moved to Jackson, the men with whom he worked asked where he was from.  Locally, Cayce was pronounced with two syllables so the men started calling him “Casey” Jones.  In 1884, he married Miss Mary Joanna “Janie” Brady who was the daughter of the woman who ran the boarding house in which he resided in Jackson.  The couple settled down in Jackson and had three children together.  Casey was not a drinking man and was thought to have been devoted to his family.  He certainly was devoted to railroading because in fairly short order, he was promoted first to brakeman by the Mobile and Ohio and then to firemen.  His big break came through the misfortune of others.  A yellow fever epidemic struck and the illness took its toll on the crews of the Illinois Central Railroad.  With a shortage of experienced people, the Illinois Central provided a unique opportunity for rapid advancement of firemen to engineers.   So,  Jones left the only company for which he had ever worked and went to the greener pastures of the Illinois Central.  

Sim Webb lived to tell the tale

 

In March 1888 he started work for his new employer and on February 23, 1891 Casey Jones became an engineer for the Illinois Central Railroad.  He developed a reputation for his fierce desire to always be on time.  His reputation for punctuality was so well known it is said that people could set their watch by the passage of his train.  He also developed a distinct style of operating the steam whistle.  Janie Jones said, “he established a sort of trade mark for himself by his inimitable method of blowing a whistle. It was a kind of long-drawn-out note that he created, beginning softly, then rising, then dying away almost to a whisper. People living along the Illinois Central right of way between Jackson and Water Valley would turn over in their beds late at night and say: ‘There goes Casey Jones,’ as he roared by.”   

The Skipper (Alan Hale, Jr) Was Casey Jones in Short Lived 1958 TV Show

 

Now, the Illinois Central had a passenger run from Chicago to New Orleans which involved 4 different trains.  Jones was given engine number 638 for the Memphis to Canton, MS link.  This service came to be known as a “Cannonball Run,” which was a generic term for fast or express passenger and freight trains.  Keep in mind that Jones did not like to be behind schedule and he had already been deemed a hero for his 1895 rescue of a little girl.  Jones had been doing maintenance work on the engine when he saw some kids dart in front of the locomotive.  All crossed the track except the one girl who froze on the tracks as the train approached.  Jones supposedly perched himself atop the cowcatcher and snatched the child from the tracks as the train approached.   

Casey Jones' Illinois Central Engine 638

 

At 10 PM on April 29, 1900, Casey Jones’ pulled his train behind engine 638 into the Canton station and, when he was ready to go home, he heard someone say that engineer Joe Lewis was ill and could not take out the engine 382 for the return trip to Memphis.   Jones volunteered to take on the duty.  By the time they left at 12:50 AM,  he was already more than an hour and a half behind schedule so he had his fireman, Sim Webb, “open it up.”   Casey had a reputation for going too fast and  I suppose that’s how he made sure that he kept his schedule.   This night was no different.   At times that night,  John D’Angelo of virtual railroader says it’s entirely possible that the “Cannonball” reached speeds close to 100 mph.  Jones came upon a freight train on a side track and so Jones reduced his speed to a still rapid 50 mph as he intended to pass.  This particular freight train was long.  So long, in fact, that the rear cars were on the main track.  Casey figured that they would do as normal and that is “sawing.”  As Jones train passed, the freight train would move forward so as to clear the rear cars from the main line prior to Jones’ engine 382 arriving.  The trouble was that the engineer of the freight train did not realize just how fast Casey Jones was moving and they did not move their freight train forward fast enough.   

Casey Jones Wreck Site 1900

 

As they came around a curve, Jones saw the freight cars on the track ahead and he shouted for Webb to jump.  As Webb lept to safety, Jones tooted his whistle and applied the brakes in vain.   Engine 382 of the Illinois Central Railroad plowed into the caboose of the freight train.  It is said that he had managed to slow his train down to 35 mph, thus saving all of the passengers but he was killed.  Sim Webb had landed in some bushes and was not injured.  Later ,he told Janie Jones, “that as I jumped Casey held down the whistle in a long, piercing scream. I think he must have had in mind to warn the freight conductor in the caboose so he could jump.”   The legend is that he was found with one hand clutching the whistle and the other the brake.   Casey Jones’ watch stopped at 3:52 AM  on this date in 1900 and his action is credited with saving the lives of all of the passengers.   In spite of the heroic lore that has followed his name, an investigation concluded that he was largely to blame for driving too fast.  

Saturday (Derby Day) Severe Weather Probability

 

HPC Rain total forecast estimate for Saturday (Derby Day)

 

Weather Bottom Line:  The Lentucky Oaks weather forecast and Kentucky Derby weather forecast could not be more different.  A frontal boundary is slowly plodding its way across the nation.  It will not arrive in Louisville in time to really affect that 136th Kentucky Oaks.  There is a very slight chance for a late afternoon isolated t’storm Friday afternoon but for the most part, it will be warm and breezy.  I think that it will be dry with partly cloudy skies and highs in the low to perhaps the mid 80’s.  The data also suggests that conditions will still be favorable for all of the Kentucky Derby events for Friday night including the Brownstable-Brown Gala.  Previously, the data suggested rain chances increasing around midnight but the last few runs, all models have been holding off the rain until the 5AM to 7AM timeframe.  So, aside from late departures from the parties, it should be a fine night.  An unofficial Derby tradiition is cruising and the police have had issues over the years trying to control that activity.  This year should the cops should get some help from mother nature.  

HPC Sunday Forecast Rainfall Estimate

 

For Derby Day, rain will begin in the morning.  There is some disagreement on how much.  The 6Z NAM only throws out a half inch of rain into Saturday evening with most of that coming in the first half of the day.  The 6Z GFS though has about 2 inches of rain for the daylight hours of Saturday.  The Hydrometeorlogical Prediction Center seems to split the difference and comes up with rain totals of 1.25 to 1.5 inches of rain for Saturday.   There is also a slight risk of severe thunderstorms for Saturday.  My biggest concern with this is that I think the best chance for tornadic activity will be in the same region of Arkansas and Mississippi that got hit with those brutal tornadoes last weekend.  What is going on is that there will be a shortwave moving up along the front through the Ohio Valley on Saturday morning.  Sensible weather wise, that should mean that after it passes, then rain chances diminish Saturday afternoon in Louisville.  While the jet streak moves to the northeast with the shortwave, there may still be sufficient jet stream venting to work with some afternoon heating to the mid to upper 70’s Saturday afternoon to trigger scattered rain and t’storms.  Obviously, the GFS is more bullish on this scenario.  I would not be surprised to see a wet track on Saturday but times of actual rain falling will be sporadic.  

SPC Sunday Severe Weather Outlook

 

Late Saturday, there will be another shortwave with the associated jet stream energy developing in the lower Mississippi Valley.  It should develop in such  a manner that a surface low will probably emerge.  It is in this developing area that the risk of tornadic activity will be its greatest.  As that low moves up along the front Saturday evening toward the Ohio Valley, a tremendous amount of moisture will be drawn up from the Gulf.  This entire system, in fact, is what is also drawing the oil in the Gulf of Mexico onto the Louisiana coast.  Rain chances will increase markedly on Saturday night with the risk of severe weather back in the picture.  My guess is that we would be talking about strong winds as the most likely threat for Sunday morning.  But, it’s the rain that has the attention of officials.  A Flood Watch is in effect for Saturday and Sunday in Louisville and I would not be surprised to see it extended through Monday morning as the NAM takes rain totals to nearly 5 inches by 7AM Monday and the GFS is closer to 4.5 inches.  The HPC is in line with these numbers as it adds another 3 to 3.5 inches for the Sunday AM to Monday AM timeframe.

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We Need Lucky Luciano In Charge of Kentucky Derby Weather
April 29, 2010

We Could Use His Help For Derby Day

Tony Soprano Tale Based on True Story?

Tony Soprano Tale Based on True Story?

On This Date In History: Remember how in the Sopranos that the FBI guys were trying to get Tony to help them out to catch terrorists? Well, in real life that sort of thing has happened in war-time. In WWII it has been said that the underworld controlled the docks in New York and that the government turned to the criminal element for national security help to prevent sabotage and capture spies. Though the veracity of the claim is unclear, US Navy Lieutenant Commander Charles Radcliffe Haffenden was put in charge of New York dock security and said:

Lansky American Patriot?

Lansky American Patriot?

“I’ll talk to anybody, a priest, a bank manager, a gangster, the devil himself, if I can get the information I need. This is a war. American lives are at stake. ”

When the government approached the mobsters to help out Uncle Sam with domestic dockside security, bigshot Meyer Lansky, recalled not being too impressed. He said, “Everybody in New York was laughing at the way those naive Navy agents were going around the docks. They went up to men working in the area and talked out of the side of their mouths, like they had seen in the movies, asking about spies.” Now, the USS Normadie had been converted to a troop ship (aka USS Lafayette) and on Feb. 9, 1942 it mysteriously burned (video) while at the New York docks. The suspicion was sabotage and the event spurred both the mob and the Feds to get together for the good of the country and the story is that the government stayed out of the activities of organized crime on the docks in return for security.

Luciano Happy To Help?

Luciano Happy To Help?

While he never actually acknowledged that he and his cohorts helped out in the war effort stateside, it is notable though that Lansky never denied helping the government. Anyway, the real boss in the New York syndicate was Charles “Lucky” Luciano who had risen through the ranks of organized crime after arriving in the US as a poor immigrant from Sicily earlier in the century. He earned the “Lucky” moniker by numerous escapes from “hits” put out on him by his competition. In 1943, Luciano was serving a 30-50 year prison sentence. The allies were planning on invading Sicily but didn’t have much intel. Luciano is portrayed as having an allegiance to the United States but he also had a vendetta against Benito Mussolini who had cracked down on the mafia in Italy in the 1920’s. So, on this date in 1942 US Naval intelligence asked for Luciano’s help as the Allies attempted to invade Italy. Lucky eventually agreed and the results were spectacular. With the hundreds of informants attracted with Luciano’s help,

Luciano Deported 1946

Luciano Deported 1946

United States intelligence officers were able to infiltrate Italy’s naval headquarters and get all sorts of maps and documents. It is said that Luciano’s helpers were even able to convince some Italian soldiers not to fight…but they weren’t doing much of that anyway as the German army did most of the heavy lifting. Of course, the invasion was successful and the rest, as they say, is history.

The US Navy tried to cover its trail regarding the work with the underworld but eventually it came out with perhaps the greatest evidence being the inexplicable release of Luciano from prison in 1946 after serving just 10 years of his sentence. Luciano was deported to Sicily continuing his fame as being Lucky Luciano.

SPC Severe Weather Probability 7AM Derby Day to 7 AM Sunday

HPC Forecast in line with NAM with 1.25" for Derby DayKentucky Derby Weather Forecast: We’re going to need a lot of luck for Derby Day because,  if you want good weather for the Kentucky Derby, come back next year. Now, Oaks Day looks great.  But the story that I’ve been eyeballing all week is really getting lots of data supporting it.  In general, it would seem to me that we get a cold front coming close to us and it stalls.  It gets parallel to the Southwest to Northeast Jetstream flow and stays oriented from around Gary, IN to east of St. Louis to Texarkana and on through San Antonio.  At low levels, there will be lots of moisture converging up the Lower Mississippi and Ohio Valleys.   I think we’ll have two time frames of maximum rain as two separate jet streaks comes through associated with an upper low. 

GFS Over 2 inches on Derby Day

Oaks Day will be fine..in fact it will be great.  Oaks Day weather looks to be in the low to mid 80’s, breezy and partly cloudy.  Then the first disturbance and strong upper energy comes through bringing heavy rain from say 6 AM to Noon.  Then, I would think that we’d see more scattered activity on Saturday afternoon during most of the races and the condition of the track will be a function of how well the track drains.  The NAM follows what makes sense to me and is most likely as it has an inch of rain from 7AM to 1 Pm and then a tenth of an inch in the afternoon.  Then, the second wave comes through Saturday night with the strong upper jet winds as it may even develop into a surface feature.  If we get severe weather, it seems that this would be the most likely time and high winds would be the biggest bugaboo. But, the story will be rain.  The NAM concludes at 7PM on Sunday with a 36 hour total of about 4 inches.  I’m referring to the 12Z Thur run so it doesnt’ go beyond 7 PM on Sunday but I bet it would have slightly more rain in the offing.  This scenario seems most sensible  to me.

By Sunday Evening GFS dumps over 5 inches of rain for 36 hour total

HOWEVER….the GFS…has a similar solution except that it has heavy rain all day on Saturday and carries it through Sunday night.  By early Monday morning, the GFS has over 5.1″ of rain in less than 36 hours.  The biggest difference is that the GFS has substantially more rain during the races on Derby Day than the other models.  The GFS solution has been closest to what is now the consensus all week and it makes the least sense should we have two seperate jet streaks.  With two different streaks it would call for something less in between.  However, we are going to stay in a jet stream flow over the top of us and, if there is no confluence aloft to limit rain, then we would get persistent rain. 

The Derby will be wet one way or another.  The degree of wetness is the question.  For we locals, make sure that drains are clear because, unlike the South, our geology is  not conducive to supporting such rainfall….not to mention the pumps  of which I might remind the authorities only work properly if you turn them on!

Peace Conference, Kentucky Derby Forecast Look All Wet
April 28, 2010

This Outfit for Man and Horse Was Required for World War I But You May Need Something Else For Kentucky Derby 136

Click Image to See If There is Anyone You Know

On This Date In History:  Ever noticed how there are some people who feel like that effort or intent is  more important than actual results?  Symbolism over substance.  Today marks such a day because, if that’s not the case, then it would be largely forgotten.  On this date in 1915 World War I (then known as the Great War) raged and the International Congress of Women convened at The Hague in the Netherlands.  The meeting was one of women’s rights organizations and suffrage groups from around the world. 

Aletta Jacobs

 One of the main organizers, Aletta Jacobs, said in her opening remarks that the group meeting would “have its moral effect upon the belligerent countries,”  The conference lasted 3 days and concluded in part “…we can no longer endure in this twentieth century of civilization that government should tolerate brute force as the only solution of international disputes.”  They outlined specific ways of conflict resolution with continual mediation.   Later, this conference led to the creation of other groups including the Womens’ International League for Peace and Freedom.

This Banner At the Hague Really Made a Difference in 1915

What Did More To Bring an End to America's Involvement in Vietnam? John and Yoko sitting in bed giving peace a chance or Nixon bombing North Vietnam back to the negotation table?

People like these women meant well and their underlying notion has practical merit.  After the 30 Years War, Europeans came up with the Peace of Westphalia which was reached with everyone taking an eye toward balance of power.  The war had taught them that little was accomplished and the weaponry and methods of the day resulted in such destruction to the economy and people that war was becoming too costly to consider as a viable means of settling conflict.  But a condition of mankind seems to be one of violence and so ideals, regardless of their merit, tend to be squashed by reality.  These ladies seemed to think that having a meeting and bringing attention to themselves would do anything when in fact, it did nothing.  Action requires boldness.  

The Great Seal of the United States of America

If you look at the Great Seal of the United States.  You will find that in the talons of the Eagle, there is an olive branch as well as a cluster of 13 arrows.  The most obvious representation is that the 13 arrows is for the 13 original colonies.  But, the cluster of arrows and the olive branch indicates “peace through strength.”  The founding fathers knew that a strong nation was one more likely to live  in peace.  

You Tell'em, Teddy!

Pragmatism and reality doesn’t seem to dissuade or convince folks though because, today there are many associations like International Congress of Women that think they are doing something, that tell people they are doing something and have people tell them they are doing something when, in fact, they accomplish nothing except headlines.  Martin Luther King achieved success through action.  The US achieved freedom through action.  Peace is ultimately achieved through action.   The Spirit and words of President Roosevelt do well here: 

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” 

I Told You So! (at least I think so)

Kentucky Derby 2010 Forecast: For several days I’ve been telling you about the potential for some interesting weather for Derby Day. I saw some local TV guys have a 30% chance for rain and I said how I wasn’t sold on that. Often when there are big events, forecasters tend to “wish cast” which would be making a forecast based on what they want it to be instead of what the data suggests. In this case, some models had the system slow and another fast. The slow model would result in a better Derby Day forecast and so many people chose that. Better to be the bearer of good news. I had surmised that the truth would probably be in between with rain likely on Saturday and strong storms possible. For now, it may be worth bringing out Colonel Klink and also for you to prepare for rain, though I do not think Churchill Downs allows umbrellas. But, you can place your bet on your favorite mudder. See details below.

SPC Outline of Area for Severe Storm Potential on Derby Day

GFS Has Heaviest Rain (1.5") Early Saturday Morning

Weather Bottom Line:  After a chilly Wednesday start, we get into a warming trend starting today as high pressure in Louisiana moves to the east.  That will result in a SSW flow set up and create warm air advection as well as increase moisture from the Gulf.   The European model had been holding everything back such that it was possible that the next storm system didn’t get here until Sunday or even Monday.  But the GFS consistently brought it out much faster.  The GFS solution would have messed up both the 136th Kentucky Oaks on Friday and possibly the 136th Kentucky Derby on Saturday.  I had been looking for an ultimate outcome of something in between, meaning that I expected that Oaks Day would be partly cloudy, warm and breezy with a fair amount of rain on Derby Day with t’storms. I kept looking for severe weather on Saturday but the models weren’t all that committed.  At this time, the data is supporting my hypothesis except that now the models are more bullish on the severe potential and the Storm Prediction Center has jumped on board.  

NAM Initializes Rain Event Saturday morning

Yesterday, I mentioned that all we needed was a “kicker” to ignite the unstable atmosphere and we’d have an increased potential for severe weather on Saturday.  The GFS was throwing out about 2 inches of rain for Derby Day.  It would seem that now we do indeed have all the ingredients for not only excessive rain but also strong storms.  Basically, the main low makes its way to the Great Lakes but another low comes out of Northern Mexico into S0uth Texas.  That sets up a long frontal boundary from North to South with the boundary just to our west.  There will be ample southerly flow providing an influx of moisture into the Lower Mississippi Valley and Ohio Valley.  The low to the south will tend to slow the front down.  It will also tend to throw off pieces of energy.  

Canadian Advertises over an inch of rain Saturday Afternoon

So, we have a set up with a stalled front that will result in consistent rain and then a low tossing out energy that will run up along the front and produce a risk for severe weather as it moves NE along the boundary.  The GFS has backed off its rain plans on Friday though the NAM does want to try to increase chances.  I still think that Oaks Day will generally be fine unless a stray shower or t’shower moves over Churchill Downs.   Saturday though looks tough.  I also think that the rain chances will stay pretty high through Sunday.  Of course, this is Wednesday and things could change with regard to timing but so far, the data is generally coming more in line with what I had thought would be a likely scenario which was the one that made the most sense to me, regardless of what the models were saying.  And you know what…the weather always does what it will do without consulting the computers to find out what its supposed to do.  I would have a concern that the folks that got slammed by twisters last Saturday will be facing the potential for another round.

The Greatest Maritime Disaster in US History: Sultana
April 27, 2010

Steamboat Sultana Looked Overloaded to Everyone but the Captain

Extremely Overcrowded Steamship Sultana April 26, 1865 near Helena, Arkansas

On this Date in History:  When we think of maritime disaster, one immediately thinks of the RMS Titanic.  After all, there have been numerous movies and documentaries that detail and discuss the incident.  When the news of the Titanic hit the papers, any other news of the day was lost to the backpages and buried.  Hence, when Harriet Quimby became the first woman to fly across the English Channel, she had the misfortune of doing so the day after the Titanic sunk.  She died not too long after and so most Americans think of Amelia Earhart as the first lady of flight.  Back in 1865, the news of the killing of John Wilkes Booth on April 26 dominated the media.  So, when the greatest disaster in maritime history took place, it too was left to the backpages and since, like Harriet Quimby, has been largely lost in the conscience of American history.  Timing, they say, is everythying.

 The steamboat Sultana was steaming north on the Mississippi River shortly after the conclusion of the American Civil War when three of its four boilers exploded. The Sultana was rated to carry a maximum 376 passengers. On the fateful journey, it was overloaded with some 2200 to 2500 former prisoners of war returning home on this date in 1865 along with the crew and some civilian passengers.  The incident occured around 2AM about 7 miles north of Memphis, TN as it moved against the strong Mississippi River current. Many of the passengers were wounded Union soldiers. The deaths of at least 1700 souls was brought about by the fact that the boilers catastrophically failed in the middle of the night, the river current was strong and turbulent and extremely hot water and fire rained on surviors.  Unlike the news of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the Sultana disaster was relegated to the back pages of most US newspapers.

Andersonville 1864

What adds to the tragedy is that the vast majority of those on-board were Union prisoners of war who had been held in the infamous Andersonville Confederate prison and other prisons such as Cahaba (aka Cahawba).  These soldiers, many wounded and extremely frail from their time in horrid prison conditions, wanted to get home as quickly as possible.  But, it was not just the desire to get home that resulted in the overloading of the boat.  I mean, the Captain could have simply said that his boat was full and told the rest to wait for the next one.  But, the policy of the government in providing transportation was to pay 5$ for each soldier transported.  Keep in mind that most soldiers received about $15 a month while they were fighting so $5 was a pretty good chunk of change.  It was such a good deal for the steamboats that boat captains regularly paid US Army officers $1.15 for every man that officer directed to a particular steamboat.  Bottom line is that the more people a captain could stuff on his boat, the greater his profit.

Andersonville Survivor-Many on the Sultana Were Very Frail

Now, the soldiers were loaded on board in Vicksburg, MS for a trip to Cairo, IL and the Sultana was just one of many boats providing transportation.  It was the chance of a lifetime for steamboat operators and any delay would result in the potential loss of profits.  So, when one of the boilers on the Sultana sprang a leak while in port at Vicksburg,   the captain ordered a patch be put on the leak.  This was a shortcut and perhaps a fatal mistake.  Most researchers suggest that the bulge in the boiler should have been removed and replaced.  But that would have taken about 4 days so the captain went the 1-day patch route.   If he had waited 4 days, other steamboats would certainly have picked up the precious cargo and there would be no way to make up for the loss as this mass transport would happen just once.   Historians Stephen Ambrose and Douglas Brinkley say that the US Army officers knew of the maintanence issues with the Sultana but were eager to get the $1.15 per man kick-back and loaded the unknowing soldiers on board.

On April 24, 1865 at about 9 pm, the Sultana cast off from Vicksburg.  Captain J. Cass Mason, who is described by the US Naval Institute as “respected” but “reckless,  told an army officer that he’d carried that many men in the past and that the boat was sturdy.  Mason was well aware that his boat was extremely overcrowded but did not consider it overloaded.  He assured the officer that the Sultana was a good ship and the men were in very capable hands.   The officer told Captain Moss, “Take good care of them.  They are deserving of it.”    With that, the ship was on its way to Memphis where on April 26, 1865 it stopped to pick up a load of coal.  At around midnight, it cast off again to continue it’s journey.  The repaired boiler exploded about 2 AM on this date in 1865 and the fact that it was only 7 miles upstream illustrates just how slow it was moving.  Between the load it was carrying and the flow of the river against it, it was only able to muscle 3.5 miles per hour.  The strain on the patch was too much.  It exploded and that caused two others to immediately blow up.  Fire raced through the boat, the two smokestacks fell and crushed many on the deck.  Keep in mind that a steamboat boiled water to create the steam so scalding water no doubt affected numerous passengers, many of whom were unable to move due to their condition and were in great pain from their wounds.

The Sultana was but 260 feet long with a draft of just 7 feet.  The RMS Titanic was 882 feet long.  The RMS Titanic had 2223 passengers and 700 survived the sinking while 1517 perished.  The much smaller Sultana carried 2200 to 2500 and 1700 to 1800  were killed in the disaster leaving  500 to 800  to survive initially, but 200 more would die later from their wounds.  The survivors of the Titanic were fortunate in that it was a still night with calm seas, but it was extremely cold and the water was freezing.  The weather conditions of the Sultana disaster weren’t nearly as cold, but the river had a very swift and turbulent current due to spring run-off from melting snow and seasonal rains upriver.  Those who escaped the exlosion had to fight the deadly current.  The boat itself was not completely destroyed in the explosion and fire but the hulk of wreckage floated downstream before ultimately sinking at Memphis where today it rests covered in mud and covered by the Mississippi River.

SPC Severe Probability Thurs AM to Fri AM

12Z Tue GFS Very Bullish for Rain Midday Derby Day

Weather Bottom Line:  I’m not convinced that it’s going to be dry for the Kentucky Derby Forecast.  The longer range models still show disagreement in that the European model keeps big storms several hundred miles to the West on Friday while the GFS has  a cold front draped across St. Louis.   Either way, we will get a warming trend ahead of the system beginning on Wednesday.  Moisture levels will also be increasing as we head to the low to mid 80’s. 

12Z Tue NAM Hold Rain Just West for Oaks Day

I still have an eyebrow raised about the prospects of severe weather around here but I don’t see a kicker.  Further, the GFS vertical profile prog doesn’t really present menacing severe indecies.  However, the GFS does throw out a little more than a half inch of rain for Friday afternoon which may mean we have a questionable Oaks Day Forecast.  I tend to think that we will be okay for Oaks Day.  I”m not sure if the progression will be as slow as the Storms Prediction Center seems to be going with, which is the European solution.  My guess is that the timing of this will be something in between the GFS and European.  Any slow down in the GFS solution will result in a pretty good Oaks Day.  But, the GFS throws out 2 inches of rain in Louisville from 1AM Saturday morning until 7 pm Derby Day.  Even if it’s slower, we get rain and t’storms for the afternoon.  Every model right now throws out some amount of rain for Derby Day.   So, if you are picking a horse early, a good mudder will be a wise decision.  However, I think the wisest thing will be to wait to make your wager.  There is such disagreement with the data that its difficult to really pin down a firm forecast.  While all indications are that we will have low level convergent flow and an increasing jet stream intensity, which would support t’storms, the timing is debatable.  Should that scenario play out and some sort of kicker like a shortwave come through the flow, then we’re talking severe potential.  I have a fair amount of confidence that the rain and t’storm chances will be high for Derby Day.  I feel pretty good about the idea that Oaks Day will be warm, breezy and partly cloudy.  But, there is enough uncertainty that its probably not a good idea to hang your derby hat just yet.

John Wilkes Booth’s Assassin: Man of Mystery
April 26, 2010

Booth Wanted Poster

Booth Wanted Poster

On This Date In History:

A new conspiracy theory got started when presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth was killed in a barn on this date in 1865. It’s kinda interesting how infamous he is to this day.   Americans these days generally are pretty poor when it comes to history yet, this guy is probably one of the better known villains known to just about everyone.  Probably not as well known as Colonel Sanders, but still,  most people recognize the name John Wilkes Booth.  That was true in 1865 as well because he was quite famous as an actor.  Today, it would be like a famous, good looking actor like Brad Pitt being an assassin. Or maybe more like Alec Baldwin because Booth’s brothers were also actors and all three followed in the footsteps of their father, Junius.   Anyway, after he murdered President Lincoln, Booth escaped Ford’s Theatre by jumping from the presidential box to the stage.   His spur caught in a curtain or some bunting and he landed awkwardly such that he broke his leg.   The story of Booth’s escape remains so compelling that as recently as 1995, the Washington Post published a story retelling the fugitive’s tale.  

Booth Brothers (L-R) John, Edwin, Junius Jr.

No doubt, the broken leg  complicated his original plan for elusion.   He and co-conspirator David Herold made their way to the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd on April 15, 1865.  In a statement to authorities, Dr. Mudd recounted that he had met Booth previously at St. Mary Catholic Church in Bryantown, MD, where he was introduced by Mudd’s neighbor, J.C. Thompson, as someone looking to purchase some land.  Booth  spent the night at the doctor’s home before purchasing a horse from Mudd’s neighbor.  Suspicion has held that Booth was really recruiting Mudd as an accomplice but the evidence at the time obviously was not too convincing.  Mudd was convicted later for aiding Booth but President Andrew Johnson pardoned Mudd after the doctor served four years in prison.   Mudd set Booth’s leg in a make-shift splint and he and Herold left the next day.  Eventually, they crossed the Potomac River into Virginia where Booth had hoped to gain sancutary.

Artist Conception of Booth Being Dragged From Garrett's Barn

 They came to the farm of Richard H. Garrett south of Port Royal, Virginia.  Garrett’s 11-year-old son grew up to become a Baptist minister and made a little cottage industry of retelling the tale of the final hours of John Wilkes Booth.  According to the then young Garrett, Confederate mail had been halted after Lee’s surrender and the family had no idea that the president had been killed.  However, it must be noted that many historians have been unable to confirm the story of Booth’s visit with the Garretts except that a detachment of men who were hot on the trail of Booth and Herold caught up with the men and found them hiding in Garrett’s barn on the morning on this date in 1865.  Herold surrendered when the order was given for the men to do so, but Booth refused.  

David E. George Claimed on Deathbed in 1903 He Was John Wilkes Booth

Rev. Garrett’s story notwithstanding, the whole Booth episode has been muddled over the years and there are many loose ends, which I suppose is one reason why it remains a relatively popular subject in literary circles.  There is a website that claims that the Ghost of John Wilkes Booth appeared in Chicago and said that he really broke his leg falling off his horse.  Keep in mind that this site thinks there was a Union General “McClennon” and not the proper McClellan, so I’m not sure how much stock to put in it. A more famous story is that of  Finis L. Bates, who wrote in 1907  that Booth really escaped, changed his identity and committed suicide in 1903.  In some association with that story, there has been a rumor that Booth lived as John St. Helen in Texas before moving to Enid, Oklahoma as David E. George and then killed himself. 

Booth's Supposed Mummy

Anyway, the prevailing orders to the pursuers of the assassin were to take Booth alive. With the presumed guilty party trapped in the barn, he had nowhere to run so they could have just waited him out.  Instead, the Union soldiers lit the barn on fire to try and smoke him out. But, before he had a chance to come out, Sergeant Thomas P. “Boston” Corbett stuck his musket through a slit in the barn walls and shot him.  I think the thought is that the bullet severed Booth’s spine. So, the assassin was killed and whenever an assassin is killed before being brought to trial, conspiracy theories begin.   That has certainly been the case with John Wilkes Booth.   

Booth's Escape Route Took Him To Garrett's Barn April 24, 1865

Corbett testified that he fired a carbine, yet the autopsy showed Booth was killed with a pistol bullet. When Booth was dragged from the barn, the officer in charge said, “He shot himself.” Then of course came the claims that Booth really wasn’t killed and that it was all made up or the dead guy was a Booth lookalike.   There is also the theory that Corbett was part of a cover up and that he killed Booth to make sure that the accused couldn’t talk.   That same type of thing came up 100 years later when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald following the assassination of President Kennedy. In the early 20th century, a carnival barker claimed that he had the mummified body of John Wilkes Booth. I’m not sure if anyone has explained how or why the presidential assassin would have been turned into a mummy but I suppose the display was intended as proof that they got their man!

Corbett Could Still Be on the Loose!

Corbett Could Still Be on the Loose!

Corbett went on claiming he shot Booth and had a simple explanation as to why he disobyed orders.   He blamed God!   He said that God told him to do it and that his orders from God were ultimate.   He also said that God once told him to avoid sexual temptation.   To insure that he would  avoid such circumstance, Corbett said that he castrated himself with a pair of scissors in 1858.   If nothing else, it shows he was somewhat of a zealot or perhaps it illustrates that he was a nut.

If Abe Was Still Lurking in the 1870's, then Why Not Corbett Today?

I’m not sure what it took in the 19th century to disqualify one for a job because the man who was not at his post guarding the door the night the president was assassinated kept his job in security.  And, in the same way, the self-castrating-order-disobeying Corbett managed to gain employment with the state of Kansas when he was appointed as the doorkeeper of the Kansas legislature.  Corbett was dismissed in 1887 after threatening a lawmaker with a gun.   He was committed to an insane asylum (imagine that) but escaped and was never heard from again. Now, there is a famous photo of Mary Todd Lincoln from between 1870-76 that supposedly revealed the image of her dead husband standing behind her comforting her.  So, perhaps it’s best to be careful.  Thomas P. “Boston” Corbett may still be at large and  running around out there somewhere.  He may even have a pair of scissors in his hand!  But, then again,  there may be nothing to fear as the real fate of Corbett is that God simply told him to just go away.

Weather Bottom Line:  Rain chances hold tough for Tuesday as a shortwave dives down from the northwest through the flow.  Probably nothing overly significant but Monday and Tuesday will be relatively cool with a fairly fast and significant warm up for the rest of the week into the weekend.  Low  80’s by Friday if not Thursday.  Question is the weekend.  The GFS is very fast with its evolution of a storm system and its progression across the US.  If the GFS as the 12Z Monday run is verfied, then we could see some significant storms this weekend, quite possibly around post time for the Derby.  But, the European model has no such thing and keeps the deep trof way out to the west.  Tough to say which one wins out.  I’m betting on something in between….guess is we get storms but not until Sunday.  I say its a guess but maybe its an example of wishcasting.

Remembering Samantha Smith: The Youngest Peace Ambassador
April 25, 2010

On This Date in History:  In late 1982, the Cold War had gotten a bit chillier.  President Reagan had given a speech to the British House of Commons on June 8, 1982 that many mistakenly refer to as the “Evil Empire Speech” when in fact, Reagan never used that term in that particulary speech.  But, he did make reference a couple of times to totalitarianism.  It was not until March 8, 1983 that President Reagan actually made his “Evil Empire Speech” to the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida.  Following the death of Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev, former Director of the KGB, Yuri Andropov was elected as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on November 12 1982.  As the head of the KGB, Andropov had overseen brutal invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the repression of Soviet dissidents and was instrumental in the decision of the Soviet Union to invade Afghanistan.  It was in this atmosphere that a 10 year old girl in Maine asked her mother a question.

The little girl had seen on television numerous reports concerning nuclear weapons and missiles.  She saw a PBS show in which scientists related to the destruction of the earth in the event of a nuclear exchange and said that there were no winners in an all out nuclear war.  I can tell you from experience, that type of thing can bring great fear to a child.  I grew up my whole life just accepting that, when I grew up, I would be fighting a war.  When I saw the fallout shelter signs, I always thought of having to escape an attack by the Soviets.  This little girl felt the same fright that one morning she woke up and wondered if it was going to be the Earth’s last day.  So, she asked her mother if there was going to be a war, who would start it and why.   Her mother answered by getting a news magazine and she thought that it seemed to her that the people of America and the Soviet Union were both fearful of the other attacking.  To this little girl, “it all seemed so dumb.”   She told her mother to write a letter to Andropov to determine who was “causing all the trouble.”  Instead, her mother turned it around and encouraged her to write the letter.

Andropov Finally Answered Samantha's Letter

In December 1982, 10-year-old Samantha Smith from Manchester, Maine wrote a short letter to Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov.  She asked if he was planning on having a war, and if not, what he was going to do to prevent a war.  She concluded by saying, “God made the world for us to live together in peace, not to fight.”   She did not receive a reply.  So, she wrote a letter to the Soviet Embassy wondering why she Andropov did not answer.  The actual dates of the ensuing events are not clear.  She received a phone call from Soviet officials saying that she would be receiving  a reply.  The Soviet press agency, Pravda, published her letter. 

On Nightline With Ted Koppel-Archive Says April 25, 1983

Some sources say that, on this date in history, the letter of Samantha Smith was published in Pravda.  A website dedicated to Samantha Smith says that she received her response from Andropov on April 26, 1983.  However, the archive of ABC’s Nightline program shows an interview by Ted Koppel with Samantha Smith on this date in 1983 which means that she received the letter on this date in 1983.  In the introduction of the interview, Koppel relates the a different order of events.  In any case, the big story is that Samantha got her response from Yuri Andropov.   In it he says that the Soviet Union would never be the first to use nuclear weapons and that the Soviet Union was doing everything to prevent war on Earth.  When the Americans pledged to not be the first to use nuclear weapons, she wondered why both sides needed all of those missiles. 

Samantha with friends Natasha and Vera at Artek Camp

Shortly after she received Andropov’s response,  the Soviet Premier invited her to be his guest in the Soviet Union.  After asking her father’s permission, in early July 1983, the Smiths went to Moscow and Leningrad and visited children at the Artek Camp.  At a Moscow press conference, Smith declared that she found the people of the Soviet Union to be “just like us.”  Not only did she meet with Andropov, but also with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.   Well, the media of the 1980’s was not much different than today, except there was no reality TV yet.  Even so,  the then 11-year-old Smith became a sensation.  She was on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (twice), the Today Show and was featured on and hosted several television shows.  She interviewed a couple of presidents  and was even on co-starred in a sitcom.  She became an international peace activist.  I suspect her story was the inspiration for the movie, Amazing Grace and Chuck.  But that story had a happy ending.

Samantha Smith Soviet Memorial Stamp

On August 25, 1985 Samantha Smith and her father were killed as the small plane they were in crashed on approach to Auburn Airport in Lewiston, Maine.  Her tragic death brought the following condolence letters to her mother Jane from Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and United States President Ronald Reagan:

Samantha Smith Statue Augusta, Maine

 “Everyone in the Soviet Union who has known Samantha Smith will forever remember the image of the American girl who, like millions of Soviet young men and women, dreamt about peace, and about friendship between the peoples of the United States and the Soviet Union.”  — Mikhail Gorbachev

“Perhaps you can take some measure of comfort in the knowledge that millions of Americans, indeed millions of people, share the burdens of your grief.  They also will cherish and remember Samantha, her smile, her idealism and unaffected sweetness of spirit.”  — Ronald Reagan

Weather Bottom Line:  I left for the Kentucky Writers Festival songwriters celebration event in Lebanon,KY at about 4 pm.  As I had expected, a line of thunderstorms were developing west a Owensboro-Paducah line.  About 7:45 pm, it got to Lebanon.  I figured it was the apex of a bowing segment (which it was) but I wasn’t so sure.  The winds just picked up out of nowhere and went howling down the streets, taking street signs with it and magically opening the doors of the Oak Barrel bar and restaurant.  I dutifully retired to an interior room as I wasn’t so sure it was not the inflow into a tornado.  It was not but we got a lot more rain than my rain guage showed in Louisville.  Tragically, the day ended up as I had suspected it would with numerous super-cell thunderstorms in the northern half of the Dixie States and southern Tennessee.  At least ten perished in a long lived wedge tornado that crossed the Mississippi River (rivers like the Mississippi and Ohio do NOT protect you from a tornado) and continued on through Yazoo City, MS  and then acrosss I-55.  Here is a gallery of AP Photos from Yazoo City.   At least ten were killed.  From the damage I saw and the tree damage (some may have been denuded of their bark), my guess is that it will be classified as an EF-4 or, perhaps more likely,  EF-5 on the Enhance Fujita Scale.  Either way, it was a real big bopper and one that the only real way to be safe is to get out of its way.  I betcha it was about a mile wide.

Tree Damage Looks Consistent with At Least EF-4

The dyanmics of low level convergence and upper level divergence has shifted east and is not nearly as pronounced so I suspect the events on Sunday on the Southeast Coast of the US won’t be as spectacular.  The parent low is also lurking back in the Ohio Valley where it will provide cold air aloft that will produce clouds, showers and gusty winds after a sunny morning start on Sunday.  It’s so pokey, showers and clouds will probably be around on Monday followed by a secondary low moving through on Tuesday brining another threat of rain and showers.   It will be cool before we get some sunshine midweek and a warming trend thereafter for the rest of the week.  Next Sunday may be a time of some action, but its too far out to say for certain. Hopefully, if we do see some storms next weekend it will be after Derby.

20 Years Old: Hubble Telescope No Longer a Teenager
April 24, 2010

The Hubble Space Telescope Has Had a Few Makeovers But Is Still Going Strong At 20 years of age

Hubble Has a Unique View of Saturn

On This Date in History:  The Space Shuttle program had its roots in the heads of engineers in the late 1960’s.  By 1975, construction began on Columbia, the first space shuttle to fly in space.  The first flight of Columbia (STS-1) came on April 12, 1981 with veteran astronaut John Young in command and Robert Crippen as pilot.  After 36 orbits, the shuttle returned safely to earth and the age of the “space truck” was upon us.  Part of the mission of the shuttle was to provide a vehicle to ferry cargo to and from space.  Part of its mission was to help in the construction of a space station, which has come to fruition in the form of the International Space Station (ISS).  One of the more noteworthy pieces of luggage taken into space was the Hubble Space Telescope, which was delivered to orbit on this date in 1990 by the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS 31). 

Hubble "Butterfly" Planetary Nebula NGC 6302

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is in an orbit about 380 miles above the earth and has provided spectacular images for both the trained and amateur eye.  That location provides it a huge advantage over earth bound telescopes in that it doesn’t have to deal with the earth’s atmosphere.  The physics of the atmosphere results in diffraction of light and the very nature of the atmosphere is that it is in constant movement.  Between diffraction and an atmosphere in motion, objects in the sky appear to jiggle and the diffraction gives the twinkling affect of stars, which results in blurred images.  The HST is free some such nuisance.  With a clear line of sight and a 94 inch mirror, the HST is able to provide clear images of extremely distant objects.  It also can view ultraviolet and infrared light that is otherwise blocked by the earth’s atmosphere.   Infrared light is a longer wavelength than visible light and is associated with cooler processes such as the formation of stars from dust clouds.  The HST can see it.  Ultraviolet light has a shorter wavelength than visible light and is present with very energetic events, such as exploding stars or the formation of disks around black holes.  The HST can see it.

Hubble "Cats Eye" Nebula NGC 6543

The development of the Hubble Space Telescope is as amazing as it’s namesake’s road to astronomy.  Edwin P. Hubble had been interested in science and astronomy as a kid.  But he was no geek.  He was an accomplished athlete, having broken the Illinois State high jump record.  He continued in basketball and boxing at the University of Chicago, but, as a true student-athlete, found time to get degrees in mathematics and astronomy.  His academics outpaced his athletic prowess and he went on to attend Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.  But, this is where it gets weird.  He didn’t study anything related to science.  Instead, he studied the law.  He returned to the United States in 1913 and set up a law practice in Louisville, Kentucky.  Hubble was young enough to realize that he had made a mistake and was able to do something about it.  He closed down his law practice and returned to study at the Yerkes Observatory where, in 1917, he received a PhD in Astronomy.  However, he chose another route after graduation rather than immediately pursuing his passion.  Instead, he joined the army and served for a tour of duty in World War I. 

Hubble "Sombrero" galaxy M104

Finally, after concluding his service to the nation, Hubble went to the Mount Wilson Observatory near Los Angeles where he went to work developing several ground breaking ideas in astronomy.   He came up with a classification system for galaxies and then created Hubble’s Law,  which helped determine the age of the universe and to conclude that it was expanding.   Albert Einstein had already developed his theory of relativity and had concluded that gravity curved space and, therefore, it could expand or contract.  But, he thought he was wrong and revised his theory.  After Hubble’s work, Einstein had to correct his error and in 1931 visited Hubble for the purpose of thanking him for his work in astronomy.  Hubble’s work in determining the expanding universe is the basis for the Big Bang Theory.   

Hubble Planetary Nebula IC 418

As great as the HST has been, nothing lasts forever.  The HST was designed for servicing and at least 4 service missions from the space shuttle have been undertaken.  Perhaps the most famous was when the Space Shuttle Endeavor (STS-61) came to the rescue with corrections to a flawed mirror that messed up the optics.  In February 1997, Discovery (STS-82) came to do some work and Discovery again returned in late 1999 (STS 103) and replaced the gyroscopes.  A few years later in 2002, the last of the original instruments on the HST was replaced with some new hardware courtesy of Columbia (STS-109).  In May 2009, most likely the final service mission to the Hubble Space Telescope took place with a visit from Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-125).  The crew of Atlantis replaced numerous instruments and parts and put the HST in an orbit that should keep it aloft until sometime between 2019 and 2032.  It was originally designed to be brought back to earth in a shuttle but the program has been cancelled and the shuttle fleet will be retired soon.  So, the HST will be allowed to die a quick and undigified death with an orbital decay that will eventually end with it being burned to a crisp.  Maybe that’s not all bad. It came in a blaze of glory and will go out the same way, when it gives way to the James Webb Space Telescope.  I’m sure that it will be outstanding…but you can never duplicate the first time.

SPC Moderate Risk for Severe Weather For Parts of the Area Sat AM to Sun AM

Damaging Wind Primary Threat

Weather Bottom Line:  I’ve been talking of the risk of severe weather for this weekend and it’s here. I have to admit some of the numbers coming through are showing something potentially a little more formidable than even what I expected.  Every time that I’ve seen a SWEAT index over 500, something exciting happens.  The models are not in full agreement on this issue but they are close.  The RUC at 5Z was coming in with a SWEAT index of about 502 for 6 pm on Saturday.  The NAM has about 424 for around that time and the GFS is at 491.  CAPE for the NAM top out around 905, the RUC at 1521 and the GFS is more subdued at 406.  The Lifted Index is -3.2 for the NAM, -1.4 for the GFS and the RUC goes bananas at -6.1.  Helicity for NAM is 840 and 600 for the RUC while the GFS is negligible but I have to believe that its just crappy data.

Tornadic Activity is Not Out of the Question at all

So, what does this say.  Guarantee for a widespread severe outbreak?  No, but there is a pretty fair chance for numerous reports.  Now, the timing of this with all three models is about 6-8 pm….closer to 6-7 pm.  You’ll note that the SPC has the highest probability (45%) of the type of severe weather in our area for wind.  The best chances for tornadoes will be well to our south in the Heart of Dixie.  But, if this stuff…perhaps a lead super cell…comes moving through the flow in the afternoon during the heat of the day, it’s not out of the question for there to be enough dyamics to produce a twister or two.  Best chance for that still seems to be from say Owensboro to Bowling Green and points to the Southwest.  A concern that I may have would be for areas to the northeast of that…say toward Springfield or Lebanon.  I would think that Lexington will be too far northeast.

Hail not a huge concern but its still possible

I would get yardwork done early in the day.  We’ll probably warm up nicely with breezy conditions.  Isolated t’storms will start to float through in the early afternoon with more numerous cells by the end of the day.   Any storms that show up in the afternoon should be taken note of as it will have the potential for some monkeybusiness.  As we get toward sunset and after, be aware of the potential for strong winds as storms may be collapsing.  Even before then, storms will be racing along and their sheer momentum will produce strong winds in addition to downbursts.  Hail will also be a possibility but straight line winds will be the focus of concern followed by tornadoes.  Typically, when we get to the evening hours, these types of situations evolve into one of line segments.  When/if that happens, then there will be the potential for wind along bow echoes as well as isolated, short lived tornadoes on the edge of the apex of a bow segment.  Actually, I believe this type of situtation is the more common derivation of tornadic activity in our area rather than super cells. 

SPC Sunday Threat to East but rain potential exists

Rain totals are showed to be at about 1.5 inches by early Sunday morning for the NAM, 1.25 inches for the GFS.  The 5Z RUC only goes out to 6pm so it’s inconclusive but my guess is that it will be coincidental with the other two.  The axis of the main low will be just to our east on Sunday as this guy really gets bogged down.  But, we will still be in the influence of the system such that we can expect slightly cooler but still wet conditions on Sunday with passing showers in the picture.  I believe the GFS even wants to hold the rain chances over into Monday.  The threat of severe weather though will have gone by the way side by around Midnight Saturday night.

Cats Saved by Illinois Governor
April 23, 2010

Stevenson Spared Illinois Scenes Like This

Adlai E. Stevenson

On this date in History:  Adlai Stevenson is well known as a two time presidential candidate nominee who lost on both occasions.  He was also the Ambassador to the United Nations during the Kennedy Administration.  Stevenson rose to prominence as the Governor of Illinois and was known for his wit as well as his legislative initiatives in the Land of Lincoln including improving education.   But, Stevenson’s greatest bit of executive prowess may have come with his opposition to Illinois Senate Bill number 93.

Bill Tips His Hat to Adlai

Officially, Senate Bill No. 93 had the title of  “An Act to Provide Protection to Insectivorous Birds by Restraining Cats.”  It became known unofficially as “the cat bill.”  Perhaps this is where Berkely Breathed got the inspiration to name one of his characters, “Bill the Cat.”  The bill called for fines on owners who let thier kitties wander free off their property.  It also allowed for anyone to capture or “imprison” any cats at large and one could call the cops to pick up the fugitive feline.  All across the state, anyone could set traps with the purpose of catching wandering kitties.   The bill had been argued in the legislature several times in the post war years but it eventually passed both houses of the Illinois General Assembly and was presented to the Governor.

Illinois Cats Roared with Approval

Well, Stevenson was an adept politician and he knew that cats could not vote.  But, he knew that catowners certainly had the right to vote.  And the birds in question generally were of the free variety, not any owned by voters.  So, Stevenson determined that it would not be prudent public policy to deem a cat crossing a highway or walking across someone’s property line as a public nuisance.  Stevenson seemed to have a good grasp on the behaviour of cats because he noted that it was the nature of cats to roam unescorted.  He did allow for the fact that many cats resided in the residence of some people but he did not think it was appropriate for the occasional feline foray into the great outdoors to prompt “a small game hunt by zealous citizens — with traps or otherwise.”

Cat Shows It's Enthusiasm

Stevenson also took a pragmatic view as he noted that the legislation would no doubt lead to unrest in the form of recrimanation and enmity as well as the unbridled discord that would surely erupt should a citizen turn a neighbor’s pet over to the cops.  He also added:

“If we attempt to resolve [this problem] by legislation, who knows but what we may be called upon to take sides as well in the age-old problems of dog versus cat, bird versus bird, even bird versus worm. In my opinion, the state of Illinois and its local governing bodies already have enough to do without trying to control feline delinquency.”

Rats No Longer Supported Stevenson

Nowwhere did Stevenson speak of the number of cat-loving, cat-owning members of the electorate but I’m sure he was quite aware that a threat to a citizen’s cat could mean a threat to a potential vote in an future election.  So, on this date in 1949, Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson vetoed the bill that was designed to protect birds from cats.  It did not help him at the presidential polls against President Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956.  Perhaps his loss was a direct result of his veto of the bill adversely affected a certain population that far outnumbered the number of cats in the state and across the nation.  Rats, mice and other rodents were certainly turned-off by Stevenson’s actions.

SPC Moderate Risk Sat AM to Sun AM W. KY

Weather Bottom Line:  I warned a few days about about the severe potential in our area for this weekend.  The Storms Prediction Center has been expanding its outlook each day for the past 3 days and have now expanded the moderate risk for severe weather to include a good chunk of Western Kentucky.  The idea here is that a number of super cellular storms develop along the Texas-Louisiana border.  These storms then would track northeast with more developing with the heat of the day.    My guess is that the extent of the moderate risk area to the northeast has to do with the increasing dynamics associated with a large scale event and the potential of the super cells be relatively long lived, thus being able to make their way into Western Kentucky.  As for Louisville itself, the sun going down before the storms get here is the reason why the Louisville Metro area is under a slight risk and that area is more expansive east than west. 

SPC 30%-45% risk for Severe Weather Sat AM to Sun AM

Tornadoes would be most likely in the Southwestern part of the state and with the loss of afternoon heating, that threat will diminish as the true dynamics will be situated farther south.  However, what happens when you get a big storm falling apart, they tend to simply collapse and when that happens, there is an enormous, short lived down draft which can cause significant damage.  I would speculate that, while tornadoes are possible in the Louisville Metro Area, the greatest risk will be from strong winds and hail.   This system will lurk and so rain chances will carry into Sunday, though I think the risk for severe weather will have shifted south and east.

1st Earth Day Was “Sooner” Than You Think
April 22, 2010

Is The Earth Any Different Now Then When the Crew of Apollo 17 Took This Photo?

Is The Earth Any Different Now Then When the Crew of Apollo 17 Took This Photo?

Trail of Tears Map

Trail of Tears Map

On This Date in History:  In the long, sad history of the United States and its eradication and relocation of the continent’s native (Indian) tribes, the area now known as Oklahoma became somewhat of a clearing house area of the tribes. Andrew Jackson had been a big Indian fighter in Georgia and Florida. His methods were often suggested to be cruel and inhuman. When he was elected President, his first message to Congress in December 1829 made mention of his intention to remove the native tribes from their land. By 1830, he signed the Indian Removal Act and his successor, Martin Van Buren, followed through on Jackson’s policy and enforced the Removal Act and some following treaties by taking the Cherokees and some other tribes to the newly acquire territory north of what was then Mexico. It was probably the only thing Van Buren did of note as president and it pretty much sucked. Thousands of men, women and children died of various causes from the long walk to the newly designated Indian Territory. It was known as the Trail of Tears.

Trail of Tears

Trail of Tears

This land was supposed to be where all of the Indian tribes would be placed and eventually, they were told it would become an Indian State. But, as usual, what the Indians were told is not what Uncle Sam did. The Indians settled in much of the territory except for an area in the center. The railroads started crossing the territory with white men coming in to work and some wished to settle there. Some illegally took over Indian homes and land. Meanwhile, in Texas, the cattle industry boomed and the ranchers needed to get their beef to the East Coast markets. The only way to do that was to get the cattle to the closest railheads which where in Kansas. So, the ranchers illegally drove their mainly Longhorn cattle across the lush plains of the Indian Territory on the trek to Kansas. People who tried to get into the land or coveted the land were known as Boomers. Everyone took notice of the land in the center of the territory that became known as the “Unassigned Land,” but the 1887 Dawes Act was supposed to protect the Indian people. The US Government tried to enforce the laws but eventually just gave in and acquired the “Unassigned Land” with an eye toward opening it to settlement.

At Noon, The Land Rush Was On

At Noon, The Land Rush Was On

On this date in 1889 at noon, the land became officially opened for settlement and thousands of whites rushed in to grab their stake. But, a number of people wanted to cheat…and they were called Sooners, just like the football team. They were people who went into the area to stake a claim sooner than they were supposed to. Some even soaped up their horses to make it look like that they had rushed in that day to stake their claim. By 1890,there were over 100,000 Whites, 18,000 Blacks and 50,000 Indians in what became known to be the Oklahoma Territory. In 1906, the Indians attempted to create their own state, as had been promised, but the effort failed and on November 16, 1907 the Indian Territories and what had been the Unassigned Land to form the new state of Oklahoma. Oklahoma is the Choctaw word for Red People. You don’t suppose those good folks at the Oklahoma University chose their team colors because of that, do you?   Naw…they’re so sensitive which is why they will probably be distraught when the ‘Horns put it too them again in October. Here are additional Oklahoma Land Rush Images.

One might apply the “Sooner” label to the United Nations and Earth Day

April 22, 1970

April 22, 1970

Earth Day has a history that stretches back to 1970.   But, if you read below, you will find that there was a battle between Earth Days at that time, sorta like the battle between Beta and VHS.   The video battle for home use was won by VHS and the Earth Day battle was won by the April 22 crowd and not the United Nations,which had designated the first day of Spring as Earth Day.   Over time, it was determined that giving the Earth just one day was not sufficient so now we have Earth Week.   Apparently, several cities began taking up the time from April 16 to April 22 as an opportunity to promote energy saving ideas, recycling and other stuff that will save the world.  However, it seems that there may be a battle brewing over this as well. Seems that UC Berkley, has designated the calendar week for its activities. Last year,  I heared Oprah promoting Earth Week. Something tells me that Earth Week of the calendar week of April 22 will win out over April 16-April 22.  In recent years, critics as well as environmental groups have opposed the commercialization of Earth Day.   There are also those, like the National Center for Policy Analysis that ridicule Earth Day for past predictions that have not come to fruition.  Not sure where’s the beef.  I mean, its not like our planet couldn’t use some cleaning up.

Pres. Clinton Gave Nelson The Presidential Medal of Freedom

Pres. Clinton Gave Nelson The Presidential Medal of Freedom

The image from above was from Apollo 17, the final moon mission. I like it because it’s not some doctored up picture and shows the earth as it really is (was). Earth Day is rather interesting because there are two people who get credit for its invention. If you look up International Earth Day, you will find that John McConnell claims to have introduced the idea to the UN in September of 1969. He said that nature provided the perfect day on the Spring Equinox. The first UN sanctioned Earth day was on March 21, 1970. The UN Peace Bell is rung on every UN earth day. Their website says that the purpose of Earth Day is “to celebrate Earth’s life and beauty and to alert earthlings to the need for preserving and renewing the threatened ecological balances upon which all life on Earth depends.”

Peace Bell at United Nations

But, the media has grabbed on to another Earth Day, April 22. This first Earth Day was held on this date in 1970. This was the brainchild of Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson who said, “The objective was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy and, finally, force this issue permanently onto the national political agenda.” I guess he had the most juice because most people think of April 22 as Earth Day and political aims seem to have been met in July of 1970, when President Nixon by Executive Order established the Environmental Protection Agency, which some would find ironic. But there are several ironies regarding Earth Day with one including Nixon himself.

Ironic historical notes about Earth Day:

Happy Earth Day?

Happy Earth Day?

April 22, 1915: The German Army first introduced the use of poison gas on the battlefield as they fired 150 tons of Chlorine into Allied lines. Happy Earth Day.

April 22, 1992: More than 200 people were killed and 1000 buildings damaged when the sewers exploded in Guadalajara, Mexico after natural gas filled the lines. The warning signs were there but

Created EPA

Created EPA

apparently the government nor the government controlled national oil company did anything about it. Happy Earth Day.

April 22, 1994: The guy who was perhaps spurred by the first Earth Day, President Nixon, to create the Environmental Protection Agency….died.

BTW…I still think we should be focusing the attention on water pollution more than climate change…but alas…there doesn’t seem to be any money in that.

SPC: Slight Risk for Severe Weather Sat AM to Sun AM

SPC: Severe Weather Probability Sat AM to Sun AM

Weather Bottom Line:   I’ve been telling you for the past week that things might get interesting.  The reason was that it looked like a big storm would be ejecting from the West.  Yesterday, I showed how the SPC had a fairly bullish assessment of a severe potential for the lower Mississippi Valley for Saturday morning through Sunday morning.  It’s a shade unusual for them to say that a wide spread severe event is likely for a specified area 4 days out.  But, I had suggested that they may ultimately expand that region of concern northward to cover our region and, they have now done so. 

It’s a pretty complex situation because this guy is going to be breaking up. I would surmise that one might suggest that our rain chances Thursday night and Friday are a reflection of small pieces coming through the flow.  As we get to the weekend, the storm comes out from the plains and makes its presence known.  It’s going to be interesting to see how things shake out here.  My suspicion is that Saturday afternoon that there will be storms developing out west and a few of them may hold together to cause some problems Saturday evening and night.  I’m not sold on the idea that there is no risk at all on Sunday, though it seems less likely than Saturday.  Thing is, this guy kinda goes pokey on us and seems to be progged to hang around on Sunday, which means we should at least keep an eye on things.  It does not appear that Saturday’s stuff will be a widespread event as that should be reserved for the lower Mississippi Valley, though the potential for a few troublemakers is there.

Delayed Deliveries Bring Fuel Shortage To Haiti
April 21, 2010

Haitians Crowd Trying to Get Small Supply of Fuel

Louisville Edge Outreach settled down in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and started the groundwork to setting up water purification systems at the Red Cross. Edge group found two large bins that they will be using to purify the water near the Red Cross. (Kylene Lloyd, The Courier-Journal) January 20, 2010

When I was in college studying journalism, there were several practices that were preached.  After entering the real world, I found that the preached practices were often, in fact, not practiced.  One of those was the idea of follow-up.  This is especially true with television.  Back in January, Haiti was rocked by a devasting earthquake.  However, it seems after the body counts were complete the press left.  Now we get an occasional story in which the reporter will do “people stories” relating to the plight of individuals, but, rarely is there a story relating to the overall condition of the country.  I had written about a member of a group called Edge Outreach who moved his entire family to the Dominican Republic (DR) for the purpose of developing wells to bring clean water to remote locations in the DR.   When the earthquake struck, he immediately traveled to Haiti and Edge Outreach began digging wells to bring clean water to Haiti.  

A More Orderly Line of Haitians Trying to Get A few Gallons of Fuel

A couple of days ago, he said that the DR had an earthquake of magnitude 5.1 and said that there had been some deaths.  I have been unable to confirm that report except that, indeed, there was a 5.1 earthquake in the Dominican Republic but that it was centered 86 km below the surface, or about 53 miles, which is so deep that one would not expect any exceptional effects on the surface.  He went to Haiti the next day and, upon his return, found that there was an extreme fuel shortage. 

Haitians Gather Around a Single Gas Pump

There is the old philosophical question, “if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear or see it, did the tree really fall?”  In the case of Haiti, even if there have been no recent stories regarding the relief effort going on in Haiti, it does not mean that nothing is happening.  There is still a massive UN presence and numerous international relief agencies and good samaratins working to help the ailing country.   There was supposed to be elections in  Haiti last February that were cancelled.  Most elected positions in Haiti are slated to expire soon.  So, the Haitian Parliament has voted to basically turn over control of the country’s rebuilding effort to others.  President Bill Clinton will co-chair the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission which will oversee the use of more than $5.3 billion in aid scheduled for dispersement to Haiti over the next 18 months.  Clinton’s co-chair will be Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and the Haitian state of emergency will be extended to cover the 18 month period.  All of this makes the fuel shortage all that more perplexing.

Delivering For Haiti?

It’s a bit difficult to ascertain the underlying cause of the fuel shortage but the basic problem is a delayed shipment of fuel.  One might think with the United States and its refining capacity and transportation ability so close that this would not be an issue.  Just after the quake, there were fuel shortages due to damaged infrastructure that prevented its delivery.  Black markets for fuel sprang up as people bought pirated fuel from barrels off of trucks or from broken fuel tanks.  But, the fuel delivery infrastructure was repaired.  As it turns out, Venezuela had offered a subsidized deal to provide fuel twice a month to Haiti.  But, the most recent shipment was delayed as ships were diverted to Antigua and Barbuda.  I suppose that in Venezuela’s PetroCaribe program, even a nation that gets preferred terms like Haiti has to wait its turn.  In the interim, trucks from Haiti’s next door neighbor, the Dominican Republic, tried to plug the gap by making a delivery.  But, the Miami Herald reports that trucks were turned back at the border after Haiti’s Minister of Finance ordered the shipments halted.   

Crumbled walls and buildings near the Red Cross in Port-au-Prince, Haiti . Louisville Edge Outreach are starting their groudwork for water purification in this area to the thousands of people that have not had clean water since the earthquake. (Kylene Lloyd, The Courier-Journal) January 20, 2010

It’s amazing that a recent survey by Oxfam of 1700 Haitian respondents found that 40% of the Haitian people want foreigners to run the reconstruction project.  With President Clinton teaming with Prime Minister Bellerive, it appears that the efforts for the next 18 months will be a joint venture of local and international leadership.  I think most people have confidence that President Clinton will be able to steer the process in the most efficient direction as possible.  Yet, it will be interesting to see how the commission is able to work through the politics and bureacracy of the region.  

Preliminary SPC Severe Risk Area Sat AM to Sun AM

Weather Bottom Line: Forecast going on just fine.  Scattered t’shower or two may pop up on Friday but this weekend may be interesting. There is a strong disturbance coming out of the west that will be breaking into pieces and it will be difficult to determine how it shakes out until we get closer to the weekend.  But, I’ve been talking about the weekend looking interesting and the SPC has an area in the Lower Mississipppi Valley that they are looking at for a good shot for widespread severe weather including tornadoes.  I would not be surprised if sometime on Saturday and or Sunday that our region will be a potential spot for some troublesome weather…probably not wide spread, but the threat will probably develop.  Lots of “probably” there, so at this point just be aware that there is some potential for some rough spots this weekend.