Phony Northeast Blackout Image?

Right after 9/11, a photo circulated on the Internet showing a man on the observation deck of the World Trade Center, facing a camera. Behind him, a plane flew directly toward the building. It, of course, was a fake.

In fact, tools like PhotoShop make it incredibly easy to turn the unreal…real. Such is the case with a satellite image making its way across the world, mostly through email. It has been resized and had the levels tweaked a bit, but it’s the same image.

So far, I have gotten this from my father, my friend Howard, loads of viewers and other well meaning people. If it were true, it would be a pretty spectacular shot.

The real photo is actually a montage of a number of satellite images from a Defense Department Weather Satellite (DMSP). In order to get a fully clear view, and cover the whole country, the actual time frame of the image is Oct. 1, 1994, to March 31, 1995.

Few people look at visible satellite imagery at night, because all you can see are city lights… and normally that’s not very helpful.

If you really take a good look at the phony image, it’s done in a ham fisted way. The areas of removed light shouldn’t resemble a black hole, but should be shades of dark gray. After all, there was some illumination from the moon. Also, there were pockets of lights still working, even within the blackout area. And, though wire reports implied otherwise, most of Connecticut was powered up and good to go.

When I first saw the photo, I knew it was wrong because I know the original very well. It’s a classic. But, I also knew this satellite doesn’t see the whole country at once, nor is the whole country ever cloud free.

There are before and after images from the blackout, and they are pretty amazing. Unfortunately, fact isn’t quite as glamorous as fiction.

Left hand, meet right hand

It was clear, early on, that Friday had a significant chance for severe weather. I was concerned that the computer models downplayed it somewhat. But Thursday, within a few hours of being run, they had already blown the forecast in Michigan… so the computers weren’t to be totally trusted.

A little activity started on Central New York State toward early afternoon and the Storm Prediction Center threw up a Severe Thunderstorm Watch for the entire state, effective until 8:00 PM.

That was the right call.

A little background. I forecast the weather. The folks I work with forecast the weather. My competitors forecast the weather. But, we all leave watches and warnings to the Weather Service. The idea is to present a coordinated front, so as not to be confusing. In my 20+ years in weather I have heard few dissent from this concept.

After a watch is posted, it is the job of the Taunton, MA National Weather Service Office to put out a ‘redefining’ statement for all of Connecticut (even though they normally only forecast for 3 of the 4 northern counties and none of the shoreline). These are needed because watches are parallelograms and they don’t evenly fit within state or county borders. Without the redefinition, a watch area might include a small sliver of a state or something else equally confusing.

Taunton’s original statement only included their counties.

WWUS61 KBOX 221719

SLSMA

WATCH COUNTY NOTIFICATION FOR WATCH #880

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TAUNTON MA

120 PM EDT FRI AUG 22 2003

CTC003-013-015-MAC005-009-011-013-015-017-021-023-025-027-NHC005-011-

RIC001-003-005-007-009-230000-

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HAS ISSUED SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH

#880 UNTIL 800 PM EDT FRIDAY EVENING FOR THE FOLLOWING AREAS:

IN CONNECTICUT THIS WATCH INCLUDES 3 COUNTIES…

IN NORTHERN CONNECTICUT:

HARTFORD TOLLAND WINDHAM

Then a correction to include the whole state.

WWUS61 KBOX 221744 CCA

SLSMA

BULLETIN – IMMEDIATE BROADCAST REQUESTED

AREAL OUTLINE FOR SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH NUMBER 880

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TAUNTON MA …CORRECTION

143 PM EDT FRI AUG 22 2003

SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH NUMBER 880 IN EFFECT UNTIL 800 PM EDT.

CTC001-003-005-007-009-011-013-015-230000-

IN CONNECTICUT THIS WATCH INCLUDES 8 COUNTIES

FAIRFIELD HARTFORD LITCHFIELD MIDDLESEX

NEW HAVEN NEW LONDON TOLLAND WINDHAM

ADJACENT COASTAL WATERS

But, by then the damage had been done. At the TV station our Weather Warn II computer was confused. It put up a Thunderstorm Watch and then alternated text for a “defined area” and mentioned the three original counties. If we would have aired it, it would have looked like the watch was only for three counties.

As I drove in, Kirk Varner, our news director (who reads this, I can’t blast him here), saw what was going on and basically shifted to manual. This system is supposed to work on its own, without intervention. At the moment, it can’t be trusted. But, thankfully, we had the right info on the screen.

Throughout the afternoon we saw scattered thunderstorms. They probably didn’t get to the ‘official’ severe limit, but were close enough to justify the watch box.

Thursday night, this same system had quieted down and then, with the watches expired, fired up. It even spawned tornadoes in Michigan on the ‘rebound.’

Tonight, the system again died down. And then a series of awful human judgment errors.

At 7:10 PM:

CTZ002>004-MAZ002>021-026-NHZ011-012-015-RIZ001>008-230000-

SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TAUNTON MA

710 PM EDT FRI AUG 22 2003

…PART OF THE SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT…

THE WATCH IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT FOR SOUTHWEST NEW HAMPSHIRE…

WESTERN…CENTRAL AND NORTHEAST MASSACHUSETTS…OR NORTHERN

CONNECTICUT. THUNDERSTORMS HAVE MOVED EAST OF THESE AREAS AND THE

THREAT OF SEVERE WEATHER HAS ENDED.

THE SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH CONTINUES UNTIL 8 PM FOR RHODE ISLAND.

IT ALSO CONTINUES FOR SUFFOLK…NORFOLK…BRISTOL AND PLYMOUTH

COUNTIES IN EASTERN MASSACHUSETTS.

But, the threat hadn’t ended. All of a sudden, in Southern Windham County, the storms fired up rapidly and ferociously.

CTC015-RIC003-230015-

BULLETIN – EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED

SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TAUNTON MA

751 PM EDT FRI AUG 22 2003

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN TAUNTON HAS ISSUED A

* SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR…

WESTERN KENT COUNTY IN RHODE ISLAND

SOUTHEASTERN WINDHAM COUNTY IN NORTHERN CONNECTICUT

INCLUDING PLAINFIELD

* UNTIL 815 PM.

* AT 747 PM…NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A

SEVERE THUNDERSTORM OVER PLAINFIELD…MOVING EAST AT 25 MPH.

* THE SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WILL BE NEAR…

COVENTRY AROUND 810 PM

WEST GREENWICH AROUND 815 PM.

SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS PRODUCE LARGE HAIL AND/OR WIND STRONG ENOUGH TO

KNOCK DOWN TREES AND POWER LINES. MOVE INDOORS AND STAY AWAY FROM

WINDOWS.

But, in Connecticut, these storms weren’t just over Windham County. They had crossed the border to New London County. In fact, by the time the warning went up, Northern New London County was seeing more action than Windham.

Windham County gets its warnings from Taunton, MA. New London County gets them from Upton, NY. No warning went up for New London County.

If there was reason for warning Windham County, there was reason for a warning to be issued for New London. This lack of coordination is a problem we face a few times a year, at the least.

At 7:51 PM, the watch and warning configuration in Connecticut was out of whack with what was actually happening. This system is supposed prepare and inform. It was confusing.

Thunderstorms continued, though weaker, until sometime past 10:00. Saturday will be a totally different weather animal – cooler and fresher.

I am not happy with what went on Friday. In many ways, I am powerless to change things unless I start ‘buying out’ of the unified watch and warning scenario.

I don’t think I’m ready for that… but I’m close.

——-

By the way, at 4:21 PM the dew point a Meriden, CT (KMMK) reached an unbelievable 79°! I can’t ever remember seeing a dew point that high in Connecticut.

New London Day

Continue reading “New London Day”

Poker, the good and the bad

Both Helaine and I have been playing on Pokerstars.com. Obviously, our inability to win consistently means it must be fixed. It couldn’t have anything to do with skill… could it?

Mostly, we stay in low stakes tournaments. Pokerstars runs a bunch of tournaments. Maybe too many!

With all the tournaments, you often have to wait for a table to fill up. So, you’ll see 3 of 9 seats filled here and 2 of 9 there or 4 of 18 somewhere else. If there were less choices, there would be more filled tables at any given time.

Tonight, Helaine made 3rd place in a single table, fixed limit Hold’em tournament. Entry fee, $5.50. Payoff for 3rd, $9.00.

We can retire!

After walking Ivy the dog, I tried my luck at a 2 table, no limit Hold’em tournament. Entry fee, $11.00

PokerStars Tournament #259015, No Limit Hold’em

Buy-In: $10.00/$1.00

18 players

Total Prize Pool: $180.00

Tournament started – 2003/08/22 – 00:33:24 (EST)

Dear ctwxman,

You finished the tournament in 1st place.

A $72.00 award has been credited to your Real Money account.

Congratulations!

Thank you for participating.

We’re still down $42 since we started around a week and a half ago. Quite honestly, it’s exciting, cheap entertainment. But, it would be more fun if we were currently winning.

Bad Forecasting 101

Whatever the reason, the forecast through the Great Lakes tonight has been atrocious. A strong line of thunderstorms stretched from the Quebec/Ontario border southwestward into the United States.

At least two tornadoes touched down in Michigan. There was NO Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado Watch in effect.

There might have been a Tornado Warning or Severe Thunderstorm Warning for the counties affected, but since those don’t get issued until a storm is sighted, they afford little in the way preparation time.

I’m not at the Storm Prediction Center and certainly don’t know what goes on in their mind(s), but over time, it has seemed to me like they are reticent to issue a watch box once a storm has already gotten going.

I’ve seen it in Connecticut, and tonight in Michigan. It’s wrong.

Certainly issuing a watch while the storm is already in progress signals a blown forecast, but it allows all sorts of secondary actions to take place which will sensitize residents to what is taking place.

I will read, with interest, the Michigan newspaper websites over the next few days.

Am I John Mayer’s stalker?

Click here for more photos from the concert

As of Wednesday morning, I still hadn’t heard from John Mayer’s road manager, Scotty Crowe, as promised. Just a little worried (it is my nature), I sent another email to the management folks and got a reassuring email in return.

By early afternoon there was an upbeat voicemail at work. We were good to go (literally and figuratively). The only surprise was the time. “Meet and greet” is normally a post show event. Not with this show. John would be entertaining at 7:00 PM.

Anticipating Hartford traffic (which we never saw), Steffie and I arrived at The Meadows a bit before 6:00 PM. A line had already begun to form the entrance. People with tickets for the vast expanse of lawn wanted to stake their claim and find a good seat.

Good lawn seating is miles away from the stage. Bad seating is in another time zone.

We hit the “will call” window, looking for our “Meet and Greet” passes. Nada. But, that’s not at all unusual. As it turned out, the clerk was looking in the wrong place, and a turn to the left produced two round adhesive passes and a small Xeroxed set of instructions to the marshaling point.

The gates to The Meadows actually open at 6:30 PM. But the real excitement starts a few minutes earlier as a PA announcement lists what you can and cannot do… can and cannot bring.

Digital cameras were on the forbidden list. I decided to take it anyway and hope for the best. After all, meeting John and having the passes might be enough of a mitigating factor. As it turned out, the ‘frisker’ took a look at he camera, pondered for two seconds, and pronounced it within reason. My guess is, with the lens retracted, he thought it was a non-professional film camera.

My first rock concert was probably 1966 or 1967. I went with my Cousin Michael and Larry Lubetsky to the Village Theater, aka The Fillmore East. We did that often on Friday and Saturday nights. It was pure fun and music (with the Joshua Light Show and the smell of marijuana pungent enough to knock you on your butt).

Things have changed

If there is something that isn’t for sale, or marked with signage, I didn’t see it. I’m surprised a wheelchair company doesn’t sponsor the handicapped ramp.

In the parking lot were four perky post-teens (male and female) wearing red t-shirts. They would be passing out Trojan condoms throughout the evening.

Dodge sponsored this, Comcast that, and Channel 30 something else. Dunkin’ Donuts was passing out Fruit Coolatas, but most everything else was for sale and over priced beyond belief (again, please excuse my naivet´┐Ż. I’m 53 and I’m not in the concert demo anymore).

Considering there is a law in Connecticut preventing a reseller from marking up a concert ticket by too much, you’d think the venue itself would follow that same policy when it came to bottled water or beer or pretzels. They could let you in for free and still make a profit.

A few minutes before 7:00 we met Scotty Crowe. It’s interesting how the Internet can catapult unlikely people into the limelight, and Scotty is one of them. Once I knew I’d be meeting him, I “Googled” him. Not only does he write John Mayer’s Road Journal, he also has some dedicated fans, including a Scotty Crowe bulletin board. Damn!

We went into the hallway that would serve as “Meet and Greet” central, and waited. I tried to make small talk with Scotty, but as is always the case when I do something like that, I came off as a total dork. At least I gave him a good PhotoShop tip (Ctl-L is perfect for enhancing video levels on digital photos).

John came out a few minutes later. I don’t notice these things, but Steffie said he was wearing the same outfit we saw him wear at Oakdale. He’s tall and thin and young and I’m jealous..

After saying hello and posing with the people in front of us, John came over. He was very nice (though after meeting him at KC-101, Oakdale and now here, I can’t help but wonder if he thinks I’m a stalker… or if I actually am a stalker).

As soon as he started to speak to Stefanie, he said, “You’re Stef, right?” I believe that was the magic moment as far as she was concerned. To be remembered by someone in his position, who meets so many people, was very gratifying.

I told John I thought he was smart, and a nice guy. But, I had seen others who had that… and lost it. I told him it was very important he remember to continue to be the kind of person he is now. I seriously think he will. But, as with Scotty a few minutes earlier, I felt like a dork after I said it. I hope he’ll think I was somewhat appropriate.

We had come very early and we found out we would be staying very late. Not only was John Mayer performing, so were the Counting Crows and an opening act before them. There was only so much we could take, so Steffie and I sat outside, people watching, while Stew (or possibly Stu… I wasn’t inside) performed.

We headed inside and found our seats before the Crows hit the stage.

If you have never been to The Meadows (and now that I’ve talked about all the commercialism, you should know, it’s the “ctnow.com Meadows Music Centre). It is a huge, high roofed pavilion with theater seating and a removable rear wall. There is no air conditioning. There are no ceiling fans. It was hot and sticky and uncomfortable.

I had never seen the Counting Crows and I was favorably impressed. Lead singer Adam Duritz, his hair fashioned with somewhat wild dreadlocks, is very talented and (and I always like this in a performance) a commanding presence on stage.

Toward the end of the set, he told a story of going to school in Watertown, CT and flunking a music course. Judging by the description, it is probably The Taft School. A website FAQ confirms it.

The Crows got off after 10:00 PM. The venue had not cooled down. Every once in a while, a brief whisper of air would move by, and you’d think, maybe it’s going to cool down. But the ‘waft’ was short lived; a tease at best.

Not quite 11:00, John Mayer took the stage. As appreciative as the audience was for the Counting Crows, they stepped it up a notch and a half for John. There’s no doubt that a packed house is good for the home team, and he is the home town here.

He is an artist who sounds just like his Cd’s (I wanted to write records, but that would make me very old, wouldn’t it?). That means his artistry is real and not produced into being. Most of the house stood for most of the performance.

He did the hits, and some cuts from the new CD (out in a few weeks) and then a phenomenal guitar solo. As good as he is as a troubadour, John Mayer is a masterful guitarist; as good as I’ve heard

There’s obviously some BB King in his riffs, and probably others I don’t recognize, but mostly it is his ability to make the guitar become its own voice that makes his playing so good. It is my contention that if he weren’t singing, he’d have an amazing career as a guitarist.

At 11:45 PM he said goodnight, only to come back on stage alone to do the first of two encore numbers.

We were out by midnight. As soon as I turned on the car radio, I realized I wasn’t hearing quite as well as I did when I went in! Within ten minutes we had navigated Hartford and gotten onto I-91 southbound.

Though Steffie tried (and she has pre-season field hockey practice tomorrow morning) she had only a few minutes of sleep before we were home.

Great night. I’d do it again.

Click here for more photos from the concert