Watching Dorian

As they say around Christmastime, ’tis the season. We’re watching another candidate for a hurricane in Dorian – and I’m in that little “finger” down and to the left of the “FL” in Florida.

My early hunch at this point is that this track they have Dorian on, hitting the Central Florida east coast and maybe crossing over to the Gulf of Mexico – that probably doesn’t wind up happening, because storms hitting northeast Florida are as rare as a hurricane hitting Tampa Bay. The odds would seem to suggest another path might emerge that’s more common – not that I wish that on Georgia or the Carolinas.

If it were to come across Florida – how fast does it weaken by the time it got just north of me, assuming that’s the path it takes?

Too early to know now. If events warrant, I’ll keep you posted. As for know, I’m a bit skeptical that this winds up being ours.

My Lightning Rules

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It’s one of those afternoons I am writing this blog when I hear distant thunder rolling in the background and the pitter-patter of some rain. In the Florida summer, this happens quite a bit – and it wouldn’t be totally unusual that you can get several days in a row where it rains at last part of the day.

It also isn’t that unusual that the storms get a little loud and rowdy. Having lived in Florida all of my life except two years (I lived in Georgia for about nine months in 1996 and North Carolina for a year in 1999 and 2000), I thought I’d mention my go-to tips for those of you when you get one of those kind of storms.

If you see the power flicker in your home, or you hear thunder within three seconds after you see a flash of lightning – that would be a good time to turn off the more important appliances in the house or apartment. Turn your air conditioner off, and turn your TV off before mother nature turns it off for you. If your landline phone rings or you’re in the middle of a call on one – get off the phone as soon as you can.

I leave a computer on but on battery power – and I usually have some device handy where I can count off 30 minutes which could also be a cell phone for you, alternatively. Most summer storms in my area are over within that much time. However, if you’re still hearing loud thunder or there’s still a three-second or less gap between lightning flashes and hearing thunder, wait it out a bit more.

Finally, it’s also a good time to check on any animals you may have. I usually put my cat Harry in an indoor back area for the evening to get a well-rested sleep, but if there’s a storm making noise after I’ve done that – he comes back in for the time being. I wouldn’t say he’s afraid of storms like a dog would more likely be, but he definitely “thanks” me for taking him in a bit longer.

As this entry concludes, the claps of thunder are still soft enough to be distant – though the rain’s intensity has picked up some. That’s not a bad sign, because the ground will now be damp enough to prevent more ear-splitting thunder claps. Today, turning off the A/C or the TV shouldn’t be an issue, but no two storms are alike.

Just Go Back To The Show

This Monday night past, Jamie Simpson, a weatherman in Dayton, Ohio explains in his own unique way why local TV stations interrupt shows when the potential of severe weather exists. The information given can save lives – that’s why the stations do it.

As we now know – later that night, there was a tornado outbreak in that very area of Dayton, Ohio.

It’s All Fun And Games Until The UPI Wire Breaks Down

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I don’t think I’ve ever told this particular story from my radio days – so stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

I don’t remember the exact date this happened – but it’s sometime in early 1992, and I’m working with the late Stan Major overnights at the Sun Radio Network at their old Feather Sound studios in Clearwater, Florida. For most of the night, the only two people in the building are us – which changed when morning newsman Frank Kinsman came in around 4:00 to 4:30 or so.

Our Sun Radio network feed is being simulcasted on WEND, 760 AM out of Brandon, plus various stations across the country large and small. A few times an hour, I hit a set of buttons in front of my console to trigger something called a “35 Hz” tone – which sends automation to the unmanned stations to play a brief, ten-second recording called a “liner” so that local stations can identify themselves or promote something.

If local news broke during the shift, we didn’t have the means to break whatever that news was. One night, an early-spring squall line is coming through central Florida, setting off various weather advisories such as tornado watches. Stan and I are debating: how do we get the information on our local station with no staff? If I did it, no one could run the board – and if Stan did it, no one would be doing his show. We reached the compromise of Stan giving out the local weather information nationally, apologizing for the awkward setup to everyone outside of Florida.

I have a open-air booth where I run the board, answer the phones, record the current show, and have playback standing up in the case of emergencies. Stan is in a soundproof booth with a window so he and I can communicate with hand gestures and through a private intercom. We’re using an old TRS-80 computer to log the calls Stan works through as the show progresses.

On occasion, news breaks through the night – but what if the news stops coming to you? One night, that happened when the print on the UPI machine – one of the two wire sources we used, the other being AP (though it couldn’t be acknowledged). On this one night, I’m hearing the UPI wire machine making strange noises – and I can’t remember whether or not the machine is jammed or it has run out of paper. Here I am, trying to run a nationally syndicated talk show and also playing a printing repairman – and this was back in 1992 when my computer knowledge is next to nil. It’s not an easily fixable problem back then as it would be today in the era of laser printers and the like.

It’s freaking me out, and Stan notices – saying that I looked like someone who needed his mommy. At this point, I’m just trying to stay off the unemployment line – which is where I think I’m heading, Stan Major or no Stan Major to save me.

I call the staff that would come in ahead of me and alert them to the problem – thinking I’ll get my ass chewed on for doing so. The one thing I can’t do was the one thing I needed to do – fix the printer to avoid a news-gathering catastrophe for our AM news show, American Sunrise. If I’m going to be screwed either way, I figure it’s best to be screwed trying to help people out – which was my intent.

The “crisis” gets solved – but I don’t seem to remember a procedure put in place so that something like that couldn’t happen again. A few months later, American Sunrise was cancelled – management must have figured out the futility of having a skeleton crew putting out these kind of possible fires.

Highway 60

I’ve probably mentioned this before on this blog – but this being my 1,730th blog entry in nearly seven years, it gets a little time-consuming at times to recollect: have I talked about this before?

Our area experienced some colder weather – nay, cooler weather – for the first time this fall. We here in the Tampa Bay area always seems to get that first cool snap sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving.

I have no trouble resting in the summertime, and when it’s cooler in the winter outside – that’s also not a problem. But when the temperature is right at that point where it’s neither too warm or too cold – for me, that’s when it’s about 60 for a low or so, it disturbs my body to where sleeping becomes a problem. 

It’s like there’s a flow chart going on in my head. When I go to lay down, I make an assumption based on the predicted weather for the night whether it’s going to be cold or warm. If it’s warm, I go to sleep with no blanket. If it’s cold, I put a heavy blanket on top of me. I also have a fan nearby to stay cool when needed.

When it’s about 60 out, I go to lay down – and I usually progress to the point where I’m too cold. So when I pull my heavy blanket on top of me, it now gets to the point where I’m too warm below it. Usually, I’ll do some sort of trade-off where I keep the heavy blanket on me, but turn a fan on, thinking I can somehow find a balance – but it often doesn’t work, and I lose hours of sleep in the process.

When it’s warm, I’m happy. When it’s cold, I’m happy. When it’s in between, it’s rough on me.

A Twist In The Wind On A Friday Afternoon

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It was a typical Friday here – until a little after 3pm. I heard the EAS go off on my cell phone for only the second time since I have owned it (the first being throughout Hurricane Irma last year), but this caught my attention instantaneously. My area was under a Tornado Warning.

Even with some strong summertime thunderstorms, we’re lucky to get one such warning a year – although five years ago during a summer storm in June 2013, our neighboorhood had a microburst with no warning. I was aware a front was passing through the Tampa Bay area – I just wasn’t expecting it to be this strong. I turned on the local TV stations, who were already on the air tracking the front.

One of my neighbors was gathering up loose objects from their yard – I counseled the neighbor to cease immediately. Their intentions were good, I suppose – but with tornadoes, every second does count. Better things go flying than the people themselves, right? I knew the front was moving very quickly through the area, and the moments being used up might wind up being moments they didn’t have, so I saw and said something.

During the warning, I get a call from Pinellas County emergency management – warning as of the tornado alert. I did withstand the temptation to pick up the phone and angrily say, “I KNOW!!!” I get that not everyone has a cell phone and could get the EAS signal, but at the same time – they could be calling someone who needs to stay hunkered down, which seems to me as being counterproductive.

The tornado threat passed without damage where I live, though Seminole, a town directly west of here, had a touch down that knocked down trees on the busier roadways and caused a roof of a condo to collapse. Had the tornado stayed on the ground longer, it might have been a close call for us – lucky, it wasn’t.

Michael On The Move

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It was the third strongest hurricane (in terms of barometric pressure) to make landfall in the United States, with 1969’s Camile and 1935’s Labor Day Hurricane stronger. But even a storm that strong can have a saving grace.

For several days, the prediction was that Hurricane Michael was going to hit Panama City dead on, with the eye going right over the spring break mecca. But as it made landfall early this midday, the various satellites and radars tracked the eye of this monster storm. The eye wound up missing Panama City just barely to the east.

It is too early to say how bad the damage will be in Florida and in other states with the eye just making landfall a couple of hours ago. There will no doubt be a rebuilding effort, perhaps some question as to whether or not Michael was a Cat 4 or Cat 5 at landfall. (They thought Andrew was a “4” for many years – but after a decade or so of review, they appended the storm category to a 5.) I doubt President Trump will shirk from the challenge of rebuilding like George W. Bush did with Katrina over a decade ago.

Weather and news reporters are good at telling you with these disasters what goes on at the moment – but they are here today and will be gone sometime after tomorrow. For the residents of north Florida and the other states to be affected, here’s to a speedy recovery.