Hurricane Info – Where To Go

This time of year, a lot of what I do is follow hurricanes. Many of the tools that are useful the rest of the year fail miserably with tropical systems.

There are a number of problems. Hurricanes… even big ones like Dennis, are often relatively small enough to fall between the cracks of the numerical weather prediction programs. So the computer models I’d normally follow aren’t particularly helpful.

Hurricanes can be very interesting when they’re far from land – away from radar and surface observations. Our government’s NEXRAD network is worthless until the storm is poised to hit land.

Here are some of the secondary sites I follow to try and get more info than would normally be available.

The spinning radar on the left side&#185 is from one of Cuba’s network of weather radars. On any given day, half of them might be out of service. In Cuba, that’s not unusual.

On the other hand, there are seven. That’s a lot for an island of Cuba’s size.

Even though the south coast of Cuba is within range of the Key West radar, there are mountains in the way. I think the Cuban radar does a better job at this position. It’s always surprised me that the Cuban images are on the net. I’ve used their sites for at least three years.

The College of DuPage, a two year college where you wouldn’t expect big time meteorology, has one of the best sites for ‘domestic’ imagery like satellites and radar images. DuPage has the full NIDS suite, meaning you can see the Doppler portion of Doppler radar – winds!

For prediction, I have been paying close attention to the MM5 model being run at Florida State by Bob Hart (originally of North Branford, CT). The MM5 was initially formulated at Penn State and runs on off the shelf hardware (though still beefier than what you’ve got at home).

What makes FSU’s iteration of the MM5 so special is its superior ability to properly see topography, ‘bogused’ data from the actual hurricane (to better set the initial parameters, and sophisticated physics.

Bob is among the smartest people I’ve ever known. It’s no surprise this forecast tool is run under his supervision.

Hurricanes are so difficult to accurately predict, especially using conventional methods. Any improvement in the state of the art becomes a possible life saver! What could be sweeter than doing your job and saving lives?

Finally, I look at the Hurricane Center‘s output. For me, seeing just the Hurricane Center’s work product removes the fun of doing it myself.

I do religiously read their technical forecast discussions. The link, unfortunately, changes each time they issue a new one. Links to NHC products are also on the right side of this webpage and on the Hurricane Center homepage.

&#185 – Because this webpage will live on long after Dennis is gone, this is a captured radar image. The link goes to the real thing.

Raider Of The Lost Archives

My friend Paul, who I’ve known over 35 years, has been a producer in Los Angeles for a long time. As his career evolved he got involved in repackaging older shows to rerun on cable. When the Smothers Brothers went back to E! or Sonny and Cher’s old shows reran, it was Paul who put together the package.

He is called, “Raider of the Lost Archives!” The title fits.

To make these old shows new and attractive, special extra features get added. This is where Paul is a genius.

For each release there is also the pain of getting clearance and making payments to artists and performers who’d worked on these shows decades earlier. Some are tough to find. Some are impossible to find.

Over the past few years Paul has branched out. Now he repackages old shows into DVDs. The medium is different though his work product is similar.

Every few weeks we’ll be on the phone talking and Paul will tell me about some TV star of twenty or thirty years ago who he will be meeting to get guest commentary for a new DVD collection. Usually, these are people who were big stars, but have now retired… or sadly aged out of the roles they used to play.

All this work pays off, because sometimes it’s the special features, the little extras, that make his DVDs so desirable.

I’m not the only one who’s realized that. Just yesterday he scored the top two of the five “Best DVDs” in an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Paul lives in Los Angeles where success is often looked upon with envy. Not here. This is my friend and I couldn’t be more proud.

Here are the five best TV series on DVD, based on the legacy of the show and the inclusion of bountiful and substantive extras. They’re sure to take you to another dimension, a journey not only of sight and sound but of mind.

1. “The Dick Van Dyke Show”

Rob and Laura Petrie never had it so good. Each of the five season sets for the classic sitcom includes a giddy wealth of special features, thanks to DVD producer Paul Brownstein’s uncanny ability to dig them up and — more important — secure the rights to use them. Favorites are the cast’s appearance on the game show “Stump the Stars” and Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore’s in-character commercials for products such as dish soap and — gasp! — cigarettes (the latter a hidden feature). (Image, $69.99 per season; $249.99 for the entire five-season run.)

2. “The Twilight Zone”

Brownstein strikes again with the “Definitive Edition” re-releases of Rod Serling’s sci-fi anthology series, which has two seasons to go after the new third-season set. Goodies include commentary, isolated scores, archival audio interviews and fun bits such as the Sci Fi Channel’s promo spots for its annual “TZ” marathon. And the first-season set comes with the best program notes ever included with a DVD, the 466-page “The Twilight Zone Companion.” (Image, $119.99 for first season, $99.99 for others.)

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