It could be a great week for the East Coast

My niece in Virginia Beach, said a short while ago on Facebook: “Earthquake on Tuesday, hurricane on Saturday…this is shaping up to be a stellar week!” I’m glad of course that she is doing well as is her family and she can maintain her sense of humor.

The East Coast earthquake seems to be the topic of the afternoon. A fellow who works on my floor — our conversations have never ventured beyond small talk in the past couple of years I’ve known him — mentioned how weird the quake was. A man passing time listening to NPR while waiting on someone at the grocery store also made some mention of it. This fellow said he had lived in California and studied quakes. He said that when cool temperatures come up suddenly there tend to be more shaking.

Compared to the 80-degree nights we have been having in Southeast Texas, the last couple of nights in the area of the quake’s epicenter has been cool — in the upper 50s and 60s for lows, we’d take it — but hardly earth-shaking cold. Nonetheless, it was an interesting theory to listen to while putting the groceries in my auto.

This was the most powerful earthquake in the Eastern U.S. area in 100 years, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That is significant enough. But the fact that the quake was felt in Washington, New York City and Boston — the Megapolis (BosWash) — is another reason that this is such a big event even though the quake was nothing as severe as the 9.0 quake and tsunami that hit eastern Japan in March.

The fact is earthquakes happen all the time and all around the world. An earthquake can strike any location at any time, the USGS says. The last earthquake in Texas was 11:30 p.m., Aug. 6, about 6 miles west southwest of Dallas, this according to the “Last Earthquake in … “ page on the USGS Website. Pretty neat site, actually, as is individual state earthquake histories by that same agency. Included in the Texas earthquake history was a blurb of the series of shocks that hit in the mid-1960s in the area just north of where I was raised:

 “A series of moderate earthquakes in the Texas – Louisiana border region near Hemphill started on April 23, 1964. Epicenters were determined on April 23, 24, 27, and 28. There were numerous additional shocks reported felt at Pineland, Hemphill, and Milam. The only damage reported was from the magnitude 4.4 earthquake on April 28 – wall paper and plaster cracked at Hemphill (V). The magnitude of the other epicenters changed from 3.4 to 3.7. Shocks were also felt at Pineland on April 30 and May 7. On June 2, three more shocks were reported in the same area. The strongest was measured at magnitude 4.2; intensities did not exceed IV. Another moderate earthquake on August 16 awakened several people at Hemphill and there were some reports of cracked plaster (V). The shock was also felt at Bronson, Geneva, Milam, and Pineland.”

There was a lot of local interest in these shocks in my area, not because it was spread over the news or the Internet. It wasn’t. This was, after all, 1964 in the Pineywoods of East Texas.. All the talk, as I can remember, was by word of mouth. Much of the concern centered around Toledo Bend Reservoir, which spans the Texas-Louisiana border for 65 miles and is the largest man-made water body in the southern U.S. Toledo Bend was being built during that time so some dismissed the shaking as dynamite charges, used for what in building the huge lake I have no idea. Others still, worried about building a large dam holding almost 4.5 million acre feet of water — think 4.5 million x 1 acre of water that is 1 foot deep — being built on faults capable of producing seismic eruptions as those in 1964. But just as suddenly as the quakes came did they leave.

Everyone, it seems or at least in the U.S., has some sort of violent natural aspect for which to be concerned. Where I live it’s hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes (not recently though), lightning, forest fires, marsh fires, extreme heat and humidity,  disease-ridden mosquitoes, alligators, snakes, flesh-eating bacteria from the Gulf waters, and if you believe some, Bigfoot. Those are just some of the natural threats. Oh and earthquakes, we don’t have a big risk but remember what the USGS said. At least we don’t have mudslides, like California.

Hopefully, my niece and her family and my friends on the East Coast will escape Hurricane Irene. It is bad enough just surviving everyday life without earthquakes and tropical cyclones to worry about. If my loved ones can get through that storm and the earthquake with little or no problems, then perhaps those folks might just really have a stellar week. Let’s all hope they do.

Aides “Newtloose” so where does this leave Rick and Dog on Man?

Well, it looks like advisers of Newt Gingrich took a vote of no-confidence as most of the aides walked on the former House speaker and current candidate for GOP presidential nomination. Since two of the aides have what The Texas Tribune calls “extensive links” to our good-haired Gov. Rick Perry, the star-powered non-profit Web site puts A + B together to get a capital C, which rhymes with P and that stands for Perry. (With apologies to Meredith Wilson, even though he’s been gone for quite awhile now.)

Just because Newt had a massive ship abandoning and some of those jumping are former Perry guys that adds to the “rampant speculation that Gov. Rick Perry will scoop them up to launch his own White House bid,according to a Tribune story by veteran Austin reporter Jay Root.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Jay Root, former Associated Press and Fort Worth Star-Telegram capitol reporter, is one of the best state government reporters and definitely one of the best writers covering the subject. I just think it’s a little weak to make such speculations.

Maybe Good Hair, after this and perhaps more Special Sessions of the Texas Legislature this year, will decide to throw in his hat. It just musses up that purty coiffure anyway. But I don’t think such a leap as is being made due to the Newt-fection, which Root tags as “speculation” in any event, is warranted at 4:01 p.m. CDT, June 9, 2011. Or 4:02 p.m. CDT, …

It does not take much of a hop, skip or jump to surmise that the mass defection might have had more to do with Newt being a weak, turned weakened and particularly unattractive candidate. That also is not to say Rick Perry would be a stronger or particularly appealing Republican presidential aspirant. As a matter of fact, I can’t think of two more less appealing candidates for president or even dog catcher to represent any party.

So at least for the moment, I would say the tote board shows: Gingrich defection 1, Perry probably < 1. But, I live in Beaumont and not Austin, so what do I know?

Oh, and speaking of another possible GOP hopeful — this one actually makes me feel sorry for the Republican Party — former Sen. Rick “Man on DogSantorum declared today that climate change is “junk science.” That’s not so surprising especially since Rush Limbaugh — on whose show this “great man of science Santorum” made such a proclamation, has a jihad against the scientific notion of climate change. However, GOP candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney told a town hall meeting in New Hampshire last week that he thinks the Earth is warming and as a result of human activity. I suppose the GOP has got that “big tent” thing working.

And, I take it back, I can think of an equally unappealing candidate for president as Rick Santorum. Move over Newt and Good Hair.

 

 

SE Texas ice expected. Watchout for a healthy stork crop this fall.

In the words of someone or another: “It’s a cold mammajamma.”

Actually, the last reading at the airport 15 miles south is 32 degrees F. Not so cold but the rain is coming down and expected to turn to freezing rain and sleet tonight. The National Weather Service calls for an coverage  tonight. Once again, for those who think otherwise, that means there is not an 80 percent chance that we will see freezing rain or sleet. I know the graphic shows ice and snow. That’s from the NWS. So sue me. Here is the formula for Probability of Precipitation (PoP):

“PoP = C x A where “C” = the confidence that precipitation will occur somewhere in the forecast area, and where “A” = the percent of the area that will receive measureable precipitation, if it occurs at all.”

As with all else dealing with math and science, it’s clear as mud.

The forecast in my immediate area calls for about 1/10 of an inch of ice accumulation. That doesn’t sound so bad until you figure there has to be a “fudge factor” somewhere in there meaning the amount of ice might be more or it might be less.

I don’t know how many significant ice storms I have seen. I remember two or three but I am sure I have been through more than that. The last significant one I remember was in January 1997 in Beaumont, Texas, where I now live although I should point out for some reason or other I moved for a seven-year period to Waco the next year before moving back to Beaumont. Why is that important? I don’t know. It isn’t. Or, it is.

A good account of that storm written by Mark David Roth is on the NWS Lake Charles, La., Web site. I have no idea if he is related to David Lee Roth. Maybe they have sisters who are both mothers. Roth, Mark David and not David Lee, talks about the genesis of the storm and how it took shape into the uncomfortable icer that it was. He even goes onto note one of the side effects of the 1997 storm, a baby boom:

“Admissions at local hospitals have been 150% normal during August, September, and October of 1997. One expectant mother was quoted by “The Lake Charles American Press” newspaper on October 11th as saying “everywhere I looked, there was a pregnant woman.”

Watch out down the road during the fall if this storm turns tonight turns out to be much. We could have us one of those “Stork Storms!” Or should I say, watch out in general and maybe we won’t.

Holy snowdrift!

Those few of you who read this blog every now and then must think I have an obsession with snow. Not so do I have an obsession with snow. But by damn, do I fancy my green eggs and ham. Okay enough Seusseneugen. Hey, I don’t know if that means anything but if it really is a word and it means something really bad, sorry. I don’t Sprechen Sie Deutsch.

My longtime friend Sally, who lives in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, sent me the snow picture right after I woke up this morning and it must have not been long after she woke up. I was watching the Weather Channel and noticed on the map that nothing but snow was on it from Boston to the west. I went to my e-mail and found Sally had by then sent these pictures to her friends, including truly yours or whatever.

Waking in a winter wonderland called Berkshire County, Mass. Photo by Sally McLaughlin

It isn’t I am obsessed with snow. It’s that I am obsessed with wondering how people can live all or most of their lives where it’s cold.  Why???

I know, it’s pretty, the snow is. It’s nice to have seasons. In the region in which Sal lives they have probably the most gorgeous-looking autumn foliage in the United States. There are trade-offs, I know.

Here on the Upper Texas Coast today the wind chill has been in the 30s. We see days once in a blue moon where it stays below freezing all day and sometimes longer than that. We get ice. We get snow. Plus we get rain, lots of it, tornadoes, hurricanes, and steaming freaking hot weather that is humid enough to smother an elephant.

And those who live in the cold all the time don’t do a dance of joy each and every time they see winter storms like the one they had today. I am  not going to repeat what Sally said in a follow up e-mail regarding all of this crazy weather.

You have to admit, though, it is pretty fascinating what it is that draws one to the place they live. It can be a place of family, one gal, or one guy, a place of memories, of having whatever it is in a place that one needs, the world’s best tacos, the list goes on. What about those place near the Arctic Circle that have sun-lit days for 24 hours during the summer? I think I mentioned here before that I had a real homesickness for rain during the seven years I lived in Central Texas where the rainfall averaged only half or so the amount of  rain that falls here in Southeast Texas annually. I guess of what I speak is geographical sociology. I enjoyed the 18 college hours of sociology I took, so maybe that is part of my fascination.

I just can’t help but wonder how people live where they do. In Western Massachusetts during the winter? In Alaska in the summer? In Central Texas during cedar fever season? Anywhere along the Gulf of Mexico during hurricane season? In Beaumont, Texas, in the humiditity. Oh, the latter is where I live.

See what I mean?

The weather is here, I wish you were beautiful*

*With apologies to Jimmy Buffett

It might get cold down here on the Texas Gulf Coast. That is, next week might be kind of chilly.

But I fully expect it. It’s January and we haven’t had a really hard blast of cold weather. It is rather rule of thumb but usually when we get hit with really cold air, to us at least, it comes sometimes around 1) Thanksgiving 2) The week before Christmas or 3) The first couple of weeks of January. Every exception has a rule of course. Nonetheless, the 1997 ice storm that had power out for a week on the Southeastern edge of Texas was within the first two weeks of the new year. To this day many people curse the name “Entergy,” the power company that had bought out the local Gulf States Utilities and let quite a few employees go. Entergy got it’s groove back somewhat during the hurricanes of the last five years, but they also had a lot of help by linesmen from as far away as Minnesota.

The truth is — and I have said it once and will say it again — it doesn’t get really cold all that often here. I rather like that. It is probably one if not the main reason I have lived the majority of my life in Texas. That is not to say there is something kind of magic about the cold in small amounts.

What it is about a freezing night out among the Texas Pineywoods when you look up and can see every star you would just about ever want to see?  I might even go so far to say that it is reminiscent of love in the air, and if not love it sure was something close enough.

I remember the first time I drove in the snow. It was 1973 and I drove my parents’ Dodge pickup out and about the streets of my hometown. I mean, no one or thing was moving except that old “Green Goose” steered fabulously by yours truly. No one had really ever taught me the finer points of driving in the snow. It was just one of those things you had to learn on your on, like swerving into a mimosa tree. I did that a year or two before the snow and remembered what I did wrong. You live, you crash, you learn, providing you live through it.

Several years when I fought fires it got pretty cold. The term “freezing my ass off” comes to mind thinking about riding on the tailboard, or back step, of our fire engine as we headed toward a fire 20 miles out into the county. Another time I remembered the spray from a fire hose leaving icecycles on my mustache, reminding me of photos I had seen of our brethern who lived in the great frozen North and fought fires all the time in such conditions.

Snow itself is pretty great in small amounts. You have to always keep in mind this is being said by one who doesn’t see snow but once every four or five years. It is interesting as well to watch a lot of what nature does and the places where it is done: a blizzard in Colorado, an Easter snow covering the White House lawn in D.C., a good ground cover back here in Southeast Texas.

In two weeks I go to Kansas City, Mo., on business. I’ve looked at extended weather forecasts and have seen one scenario in which I might leave Southeast Texas in upper 70s heat and arrive with snow on the ground and a high in the 20s. That doesn’t sound very appetizing.

Still, no matter what it ends up with I guess I am kind of a weather freak. It is something people talk about but can’t really change. And as much as people talk, and how they really, really talk a bunch of s**t, I think it is rather marvelous that such a natural order is in place.

Here’s hoping a storm doesn’t Richard us around

Everyone who matters in the world of weather in my region seemed to have pretty much said this year’s hurricane season is dead. The best local TV weatherman said so. The second-best local TV weatherman said so. Even the lousiest local TV weatherman said so.

To top it off, even the real professionals from the National Weather Service office in Lake Charles told me so in person just about two weeks ago. A couple of forecasters from the NWS had a little booth set up at the fire festival and Dog-Tober-Fest in downtown Beaumont on Oct.  9. I asked them point blank if you could stick a fork in the hurricane season here and they said yes.

I hope they are right. That does not prevent me from looking at a tropical weather system that is centered about 160 miles southwest of Grand Cayman. The National Hurricane Center gives the low about a  70 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone over the next 48 hours. If named, it would be — sigh — Richard. That would be really unfortunate wouldn’t it, Dick? Why yes, it  would.

The computer “spaghetti” models on Weather Underground have the budding storm going here there and everywhere, even in the general direction of Texas and Louisiana. Let’s hope not. We should hope all our weather guys are right and you can close the barn door on this year’s hurricane season. You see, I’m on vacation and I’ve got, at least, a few plans. I hate to sound selfish, but if not me, then who?

So that's what those big a** planes are for.

The WC-130 aircraft looked frighteningly huge as it ascended over the waters of the Mississippi Sound. How could something that large, flying at what appeared to be such a gradual pace, make it off the Keesler Air Force Base runway and over the beach highway in Biloxi without falling out of the sky, I used to ask myself?

They seem too big and slow to fly but they do and those of us on the Gulf Coast are grateful that they do.

I never really thought that much about what the planes were doing or where they were going. Nor did the fact that I only saw these planes fly so languidly when I hung out on a hot summer day with my friends provide a clue as to the aircrafts’ missions.

It was an Air Force-looking plane and it took off from Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi. I was a 19-year-old sailor stationed with the Seabees some 10 miles away in Gulfport. Since the planes were flying from an Air Force base, I figured they were up to Air Force things.

I knew, back then, that a lot of different activity went on at Keesler. I got my first pair of glasses — black, horn-rimmed ones which several later would look cool if you went for the Elvis Costello look – at Keesler because the dispensary at the Seabee base didn’t have an opthamologist or even an optometrist.

My homeboy, Jonathan, who lived with his first wife and then-baby girl over in Biloxi, attended air traffic control school at Keesler during a hitch in the Air Force. After I got back from Sea duty, one of my office subordinates on the ship transferred to Keesler to attend Chaplain’s Assistant school even though he was in the Navy.

But only years later would I figure out that those huge, slow planes that I saw at some time during summers on the Mississippi Gulf Coast beach were so important to my life when I decided to be a p’ert-near coast resident.

Those planes I saw, but didn’t know or particularly care what they were for back then, were Hurricane Hunters.

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron at Keesler fly the WC-130s, or Lockheed Martin WC-130J Hercules if you want to get technically anal about it, into tropical systems to detect vital information which helps hurricane forecasters determine what a storm might do and where it might go. Often the Air Force Reserve crews manning the aircraft will fly right into the eye of a hurricane. You might think “calm” when talking about the eye until you remember you have the hurricane surrounding you.

This is one of those days, today, you might see one of these big slow planes take off and ever so slowly climb up into the sky over the Mississippi Sound and its barrier islands. A National Hurricane Center advisory around noon Central Daylight Time indicated an Air Force reconnaissance plane was approaching a low pressure center between Grand Cayman and Honduras. The NHC has given the system an 80 percent chance for tropical cyclone development.

Of course, the cable news media is all over the possibility of a storm like a gecko on an insurance commercial. That is because of the massive BP oil spill that continues to pour into the Gulf of Mexico and onto land from Louisiana to Florida.

My most not-favorite CNN anchor, Rick Sanchez, was making much ado about this not-even-tropical depression and the hurricane “models” which are already predicting paths for what could become the first named storm of the season. If it be comes a tropical storm it would be named Alex. The weather woman on CNN is at this moment as I write this saying which model would be “preferable” as for where the storm may go. She means what would be the best track for the storm, if there is a storm, as it might affect the oil spill and limit subsequent damage, if there is damage and if there is a storm. That is truly putting the dog before the pony show. The reason is that the models of where this storm might head currently extend from Tampico, Mexico, to Apalachicola, Florida. That’s a lot of ground, uh, water to cover and it includes the area in which I live.

In just the last five years I have been through three hurricanes, a tropical storm and four or five evacuations, if you count all those folks who came to this area from Hurricane Katrina until being chased away by Hurricane Rita. If I left out a storm, I apologize.

Don’t get me wrong. I am concerned about the BP gusher as I have been for awhile and not just for the oil-covered pelicans although I hate to see the environment f**ked up. But I am likewise concerned for my neighbors here on the Upper Texas Coast. That is why I am glad those building-sized, puzzling slow Air Force-looking planes I used to see when I was a young sailor are out there flying with confidence in the Gulf of Mexico hunting hurricanes. The information that those airmen out of Keesler gather is important to a lot of people and probably more folks than usual — because of the BP spill in the Gulf — await what comes from the storms that the Hurricane Hunters risk their lives to investigate.

Here is another look from AccuWeather about possible Alex paths.

My teams sink into the mud yet the World continues to turn

 A  fast-moving snow came through our normally snow-deprived area Friday and left about a 1/4 inch. Unfortunately, there was little left for a photograph as what was left on the ground was in the dark and by the time I got out of bed the next day the snow was long gone. Such are Gulf Coast snows. At least we got to share our snow with my friends up in the Northeast. My friend Sally, in Western Massachusetts told me she enjoyed the first snow of the year which was thanks to the same potent weather system.

 Otherwise the weekend was one of mostly watching all my football teams go down in flames save one. The Longhorns squeaked by Nebraska and thus will play in the National Championship against the Crimson Tide. I have to be almost apologetic in saying that I root for Texas because, as most of my friends are Republicans while I am a proud Democrat, most of my friends and relatives are also Aggies. Many are such Texas A & M fans that they will root for any team but “TU” or what they call The University of Texas (at Austin). That I don’t understand. It seems like we are all Texans and we would support a fellow Texas team fighting for the national title. But not so many Aggies.

 My high school fell in quarterfinals. I wasn’t surprised because Newton played No. 1 Daingerfield. My college alma mater, Stephen F. Austin was destroyed in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs — formerly NCAA Div. I-A — by No. 1 Montana. University of Houston was beaten by Eastern Carolina for the Conference USA championships. Last but certainly least in the NFL, my Texans got whipped by Jacksonville and slipped to 5-7.

 So yes that one-second nail-biter between the Cornhuskers and the Longhorns was my little bright light. Well, the Saints won in overtime but I didn’t get to see that because Fox cut completely the Saints’ exciting OT finish off for the Cowboys miserable loss to the Giants. I mean, I like Wade Phillips and all but give me a break.

 Needless to say it was a disappointing weekend. Not much snow. My favorite teams were mostly left trampled in the mud. My feet continue to hurt including my non-broken toe that feels now like a broken foot. Yet, the world continues to turn. One cannot watch cable TV news without everything being laid down in the context of politics. With every breath that Obama takes a new poll is released. Will his exhales excite the independent white Christian women or will his inhaling raise his numbers with the black male Muslim upper class cross dressers? Stay tuned. I’m sure we will find out eventually.