When In Doubt, Blame The Weatherman… Again

georgia snow

When in doubt, blame the weatherman! Maybe there was a time that worked. It doesn’t anymore. The governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, understands that better today than yesterday.

Tuesday at 10:00 AM, as a crippling snow and ice storm was moving through the south, Governor Deal said,

“At that time it was still, in most of the forecasts, anticipated that the city of Atlanta would only have a mild dusting or a very small accumulation if any, and that the majority of the effects of the storm would be south of here. Preparations were made for those predictions.”

Except those weren’t the predictions.

Here’s a segment of the NWS Area Forecast Discussion from Tuesday at 4:11 AM:



The governor has now been taken to task by pretty much everyone who knows the definition of the isobar!

Marshall Shepherd, a meteorologist with the University of Georgia and president of the American Meteorological Society, said neither meteorologists nor the forecast for the Atlanta area was to blame.

“The buses had a tough time getting kids home, but meteorologists should not be thrown under the bus,” he said.

At 3:39 a.m. Tuesday, Marshall said the weather service issued a winter storm warning for the entire Atlanta metro area, expecting 1-2 inches of snow. “Overall, the Atlanta event was a well-forecasted and well-warned event,” he said. – USAToday

This reminds me of Connecticut’s Halloween snowstorm of 2011. You remember Jeff Butler, the president of CL&P.

“But I will assure you, when we had the weather forecast and everything we looked at in preparation for this storm, the amount of snow, which ended up being the problem, was far more significant than what had been forecast,” he said.”This event as it came in Saturday started earlier and lasted longer, with more snow accumulation–and remember, all the trees still had their foliage on them.” Butler’s comments stood in stark contrast to the dire warnings issued by local television meteorologists and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Friday, more than 24 hours before the first flakes fell. “If we get the amount of snow that’s being forecast, a lot of people are going to lose power, and power is going to be out for an extended period of time,” Malloy told reporters at a news conference at the Legislative Office Building late Friday morning. – Hartford Courant

I don’t think so. Here’s what I wrote in my blog a few days before that storm hit.

Whatever falls will be heavier inch-for-inch than a typical storm. The snow to water ratio will be low. It’s the kind of snow that’s good for snowballs and extra slippery for drivers!

There’s one more element of this storm which is worrisome. Sustained 20-30 mph northeasterly wind with higher gusts is likely. If this wet snow clings to trees and leaves we’ll have enough wind to bring down limbs and power lines. – My Permanent Record

I wasn’t alone. NBC30’s Ryan Hanrahan’s early take:

“One of the reasons I’m unusually concerned about this storm is that the amount of leaves on the trees make them particularly vulnerable to damage. If the snow is of the heavy and wet variety we could have major and widespread power outages. We’re in uncharted territory here in terms of this type of storm this early in the season.” – Ryan Hanrahan

This same excuse was trotted out after Hurricane Sandy left Long Island powerless! Are we that easy a target?

What happened in Georgia is truly a tragedy. It would have been nice to get a really long lead on this forecast, but sometimes science doesn’t cooperate. However, once the forecast is there you can’t stick your head in the sand and you can’t blame the weatherman.

Well, you can, but we’ll call you on it in a hurry.

Halloween In Irvine

“It’s the one night of the year I don’t hate little children.” – Stefanie Fox 2013

My wife and daughter love Halloween. Seriously. Love is not too strong a word.

We were prepared. A spider web was hung in front of our house. Pumpkins were placed strategically near the door. We stocked enough candy to open an all-night convenience store next to a marijuana dispensary!

I expected the first of the little ones around 4:00 PM. Nothing.

As the afternoon continued, I tweeted:

5:50 PM PDT. No trick or treaters yet. I am crushed. We have candy. Come on down.

And then, just as the Sun was setting, they arrived in clusters of two, three and four. Their parents stood safely nearby, letting the kids approach the house on their own.

It was perfect. Most of them were young–under five. All of them were adorable. The costumes were sweet.

In our neighborhood, loaded with recent immigrants from Asia, we had some kids trick or treating for the first time. At least one girl knew how to say, “Thank you,” but no other English words. Her father said she’d only arrived this month.

Through it all Doppler and Roxie entertained in their Halloween costumes. Though they both barked and Roxie was often defensive toward the kids, they kept their costumes on and didn’t make a fuss.

Halloween in Irvine was a success.

Just One Trick-Or-Treater

“You’re our first,” Helaine said. “We’ve been hearing that a lot,” the princesses father replied. And that was it! No one else came.

Helaine goes to great lengths prepping for Halloween. We have no shortage of candy. If by chance a fully loaded fleet of buses stopped at our door we’d survive.

“It’s my favorite holiday,” she said tonight.

She likes giving. Halloween is a big giving holiday.

This year I had my camera at the ready. My goal was to ask first then photograph the trick-or-treaters and post the results here on my blog.

We went through 4:00, then 5:00, then 6:00 with no kids. Finally the bell rang. Neighbors from a block over were on our steps. Their daughter was dressed as a princess.

“You’re our first,” Helaine said.

“We’ve been hearing that a lot,” the princesses father replied.

And that was it! No one else came.

How sad.

The boys next door have grown too old. Other kids from the block have grown or moved or both. We live in a quiet area of no sidewalks on a street with no streetlights. We’re geographically undesirable!

I’m not sure how we’ll deal with Halloween next year. At our house it’s lost some of its magic.

Surprise The Kids At Halloween With The Weirdest Chocolate Ever!

Save a few bucks. Pass this out and you’re guaranteed fewer visitors next year!

I took a quick trip to Target tonight. A few co-workers were searching for Halloween candy to pass out this weekend.

While in the chocolate aisle (well, one of the many chocolate aisles) I came across the most unusual chocolate I have ever seen. Seriously, was there a call for chili infused chocolate?

Pass this out this weekend and you’re guaranteed fewer visitors next year!

Candy Filled Pre-Halloween Thoughts

I wish they still had UNICEF trick or treating. As a kid my little container full of pennies and nickels made me feel I was doing something good.

Halloween approaches. It’s less than a week away. Helaine has already bought the Halloween candy we’ll hand out. It is secretly hidden. She won’t tell where. I won’t even bother asking.

As it is we always have some candy left over from the last Halloween in the pantry. It’s good to have a pantry! If I eat something late at night and become guilt ridden I bury the wrapper in the trash so it’s less visible. I’m sure Helaine has caught on to this by now.

This stuff isn’t food, it’s food product! It’s manufactured… and manufactured to last. Packing your post apocalyptic survival cellar? Pack Halloween food!

I’m sixty. When I was a kid they were saying the same things about non-packaged food they do now. Did anyone think people were handing out apples even back then? Nothing changes… except collecting for UNICEF.

I wish they still had UNICEF boxes with trick or treating. As a kid my little container full of pennies and nickels made me feel I was doing something good. Hopefully I was.

It’s a little late in the entry to mention, but this whole rant comes about because I spied some candy corn sitting on a paper plate while walking through the newsroom. Candy corn is the only Halloween food I’ve never eaten. It looks like rotten teeth!

I can get past a lot in my quest for empty sugary calories, but rotten teeth? Hand me a Twinkie.

Halloween Observations

Halloween was great for me as a kid. Living at 65-43 Parsons Blvd, Apartment 5E, I just walked to the sixth floor and started knocking on doors. Six apartments per floor. Six floors in the building.

luna-leopard.jpgJose’s wife brought Luna to the TV station this afternoon and, of course, I put her on-the-air.

Is there anything cuter than a baby on Halloween?

As it turns out, Luna is always happy–always. That made a mid-stride hand-off from father to weatherman a whole lot easier.

When Stef was Luna’s age she was “Little Miss Cold Front.” OK–not a major costume stretch. Helaine cut a cold front out of paper and pinned it to her. She was a baby. She couldn’t complain (she has since developed that skill).

Halloween was great for me as a kid. Living at 65-43 Parsons Blvd, Apartment 5E, I just walked to the sixth floor and started knocking on doors. Six apartments per floor. Six floors in the building.

We were connected to 65-45 Parsons Blvd, so a ten second walk and you were set with another 36 apartments. Scores of kids would walk up and down the halls. The building was built for trick or treating.

As far back as fifty years ago–my earliest remembrances of Halloween, there were warnings about ‘altered’ candy being passed out. That is not a recent scare.

For some reason I didn’t want my mother to put make-up on my face. That meant no moustache for a cowboy or whatever I was that year. Of course now I wear make-up on a daily basis. Go figure!

I used to collect for UNICEF. I remember the little milk container with a slot. I felt really proud to be doing something good. It probably came to a few dollars per kid, but we were all collecting. Why don’t kids do that any more?

dd-trackstar.jpgMy best costume spot this afternoon was at Dunkin’ Donuts. One of the servers was wearing a wig and gold medals. It was actually pretty funny. I’m glad DD let him wear his costume and that he let me take his photo.

More Feel Of Fall

“Helaine, do you have any idea of the temperature in the bedroom” I yelled from upstairs? “I’ll give you a hint: it starts with a five!”

It’s that kind of day. It’s cloudy, misty and raw. Fall has definitely taken hold and I have even more proof than I had yesterday.

The sprinkler man came to turn off our system. There’s just too much lawn to pull a hose around. I know it’s a gutsy move, watering on a timer, considering we’re on well water.

The sprinkler guy comes every fall to blow air through the lines. Otherwise they’d freeze and crack the pipes. As it is, every year when he comes to turn the system back on, he miraculously finds broken sprinkler heads.

How does that work? It’s one of the most consistent parts of our life.

Helaine pointed me downstairs. A mouse had found its way into our basement and either eaten some bait I’d left there or committed suicide on the slab floor.

Part of my job as husband is being in charge of wildlife. I kill bugs and spiders and dispose of the dearly departed. There’s a pair of work gloves in the garage just for this purpose.

Living in the country, a few mice from time-to-time are to be expected. I’ve probably carried out a half dozen in the seventeen years we’ve been here. I’ve never seen one while he was still alive.

Oh – before I showered, I did turn on the heat briefly. It really hurts to do that before Halloween.

Oh, who’s kidding who? It just hurts to do it at all.

Hooked On Consumerist

When it comes to customer/retailer disputes, the customer isn’t always right. Unfortunately, often times he is, after the sale, when consumers have almost no leverage.

Maybe that’s why I’ve become hooked on reading consumerist.com. It’s a guilty pleasure, like reading about Paris Hilton or sneaking a candy bar from the bag left over from Halloween (you think this is a surprise to anyone in the Fox house?).

I am often amazed by the reported (not verified) outlandishly bad behavior of America’s big merchants. And believe me, some of this is pretty mean.

On the other hand, I also see consumer weasels trying to game the system and then getting upset when they don’t succeed. Reading their letters of complaint makes my blood boil. Consumerist often treats them as legitimate complainers, though I wouldn’t.

Business weasels seem to outnumber consumer weasels. Again, remember where the leverage is after the sale.

I am curious how big business looks at sites like this? All of a sudden, the Internet has made one person’s word-of-mouth louder and opened up publishing to nearly anyone. Bad customer experiences trying to cancel AOL’s service, get a cable TV problem fixed, or expose customer neglect by airlines have been well documented with pictures and sound.

Do big businesses weigh the cost of this bad publicity and if so, how much weight is given to sites like this? Is someone from Cingular or Home Depot or any one of the sites often mentioned reading Consumerist as part of their job?

I can tell you from experience, no official has ever responded when I’ve written about a product or service I was dissatisfied with – but this blog gets minimal traffic.

‘Buzz’ has created today’s celebrities. It’s also responsible for web hits like YouTube, Craigslist and MySpace, which seemingly grew without organized promotion (at best with minimal promotion). Can buzz injure established brick and mortar companies too?

Read at your own peril. The site is addictive.

Halloween – Too Dark Too Early

I took this picture at 5:00 PM. It’s dark outside. Sure, the sky has some color left, but it’s fading fast and it’s certainly not enough to illuminate anything you might want to do outside.

We’ve left Daylight Saving Time for Standard Time. We’ve crested the hill on the roller coaster to winter. When it’s dark in the afternoon, it’s depressing.

We thought trick or treaters would be here early, this being Sunday and all. So far, none! This is not a good sign.

We live on a very quiet street. It’s a street without a streetlight, what used to be called a dead end, but now is quaintly labeled a cul de sac (my dictionary shows the words are synonyms). There will be lots of leftover candy. There will be few trick or treaters.

Squirrel Versus Pumpkin Revisited

Monday, I wrote about the squirrel who was attacking our Halloween pumpkin.

If you get over the fact that these are little furry rats who carry disease and are generally pains in the butt, the pictures were cute. The pumpkin was ruined for this Halloween.

Since our trash pickup isn’t until Friday and not wanting this pumpkin to rot in the house, we left it on our front step. Of course to the squirrel, this meant open season on pumpkins continued. He has not let us down.

Here’s a look at the pumpkin taken a few minutes ago. I guess the squirrel is more interested in the outer meat of the pumpkin than the seeds inside. Or, maybe, he understands how sticky and matted he’d get if he made it to the gooey stuff!

In any event, he’d better eat quickly. We’ll pack the pumpkin up and leave it with the trash late tomorrow night.

Squirrels Love Pumpkins

As I walked downstairs this morning I told Helaine I had seen a squirrel standing on our front steps next to a pumpkin she had put out. The pumpkin was bought to be carved, though it hasn’t been yet.

It’s not unusual to see squirrels, especially this time of year. Normally, they’re moving around, gathering acorns. This year acorns are in short supply.

A few minutes later, Helaine called to me. “You’ve got to see this!” On the step, the squirrel was eating the pumpkin. He had gnawed in and there was now a hole large enough to stick his face in.

Another squirrel came by and the two fought. It seemed this pumpkin, larger than both of them combined and with plenty of room for more holes, should have been enough. Squirrels must be territorial.

We get pumpkins and sit them out on our front step every year. Usually, I carve them for Halloween. You would think a carved pumpkin with its smell more easily carried on the wind would be a more compelling attraction, but we’ve never seen anything like this before.

Attracting more squirrels is bad. This pumpkin will have to go and I suppose we’ll have to rethink the whole pumpkin thing next year.

Our Own Personal Witch

Helaine asked me to use my (limited) technical prowess to mount a witch on the telephone pole in front of our house (why the utilities aren’t below ground in this fairly recent development, when the houses went in at the same time as the street, is beyond me).

Halloween has become an semi-obsession with the girls of this house, and is tolerated by this curmudgeon. They put up ghosts and gravestones and spiderwebs and this year, a witch.

The idea of a witch, mounted where she crashed through a telephone pole, is only a few years old, but the kit Helaine bought is so well thought out and mature a product that I assume this year, or next, it will pass from cute to overkill. That will put it in the same category as the lit, head bobbing, reindeer and Christmas light icicles hanging from your rain gutter.

My Life in Edumacation

I have just begun my second year at Mississippi State University (These are the Bulldogs, it’s not Ole Miss), studying meteorology.

You might ask, why would someone who has performed the job of meteorologist for the past 20 some odd years now go to school for it… and isn’t the commute to Starkville going to kill me?

It started at my last contract negotiation. Though my boss has a slightly different memory of it that I, the facts are pretty much the same. Our collective boss (The Big WASP Kahuna) thought it would be better, and more promotable if I had the American Meteorological Society Broadcasting Seal of Approval (aka the seal).

At one time, the AMS handed these out like candy on Halloween. That ended about 20 minutes after I entered the weather field when the seal program became the Meteorologists Full Employment Act of 1983. In order to get a seal you would need a core meteorological college level curriculum and then pass a screening.

The station’s offer was, if you invest the time to take the courses (3 years, 17 courses), we will pay your way. So, I’m on a LIN Television scholarship. Interestingly, I will have the seal a few months after the expiration of my current contract.

Mississippi State University developed this distance learning course (what used to be called “correspondence school” ) to scratch an itch. I have recently seen estimates that nearly 30% of all TV meteorologists went through the MSU program.

The lectures are on DVD and videocassette. The textbooks are standard, overpriced, and professor written. Tests and quizzes are given online and are all multiple choice. I guess this opens the program up to cheating, though I have never heard a hint of it.

So far, I’m a straight “A” student. I only mention that because my previous college career (which began in 1968 and is on my permanent record at Mississippi State – and is the reason for the name of this weblog) was a disaster.

I was to college as Gigli was to movies.

This semester my courses are Statistical Climatology and Severe Weather. I actually have enjoyed most of the courses I’ve taken so far, though it is obvious that not every course has the right amount of material for exactly one semester, and not every professor has a flair for lecturing on DVD (It was like chalk on a blackboard to hear one lecturer mispronounce Greenwich, England).

It has been interesting to watch Mississippi State operate. I get lots of emails that are written for students on campus. I found out that cowbells were banned from football games. Who knew? I was invited to seminars to grill perspective administrator candidates.

MSU’s computer system, which is my link to the school, seems rickety. It is constantly down for varying lengths of time. A few semesters ago, during finals, it ran out of space and lost a load of final exams (though not mine). There was no backed up data!

I just went to get an MSU logo to put with this entry… it’s down right now.

A while ago my wife asked, “Have you learned anything?”

The answer is yes.

“But,” she continued, “how important could it be if you haven’t needed it in the last 20 years?”

Good point.