Monday, October 15, 2018

Great Moments in Airport Security

Airport security in Rome October 2 closed the airport because of ... coconuts. Geez.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

From a Review of "Warnings"

The readers speak!

Reader review at Amazon. You can read that review and many more here.
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather 

1. Written like a great engaging novel, but it's all real!
2. Great science writing! Bravo!
3. An educational treat.
4. The history of meteorology in elegant, page-turning prose from a first person account.
5. Meteorological terms well defined and illustrated.
6. The evolution of the Weather Bureau culture, fascinating stuff.
7. Mr. Smith knows his science and does a better job of conveying it to the masses.
8. Supercell thunderstorms, truly enlightening.
9. Tornadoes, tornadoes, tornadoes.
10. Interesting facts throughout the book.
11. How weather radars work.
12. The most important storm chase ever and why it is so.
13. Weather detective extraordinaire, Ted Fujita.
14. Find out when the first tornado was broadcast live.
15. Downbursts and microbursts!
16. The crash of Delta 191 in detail and its impact.
17. Doppler radars and its interesting history.
18. So many splendid examples of the progression of meteorology. Excellent!
19. The impact of Mr. Smith's Weatherdata business...
20. The evolution of the creation of various weather agencies.
21. A fascinating look at hurricanes. A better understanding of wind forces.
22. Hurricane Katrina analyzed to complete satisfaction and what we hopefully learned from it.
23. The terrible tornado that struck Greensburg, Kansas.
24. The advantages of precise forecasting.
25. Great use of illustrations!
26. Enjoyable read from cover to cover!

1. No references to speak of.
2. Having to buy extra copies for friends and family.
3. Having to wait for Mr. Smith's next book!

Sunday Fun: Kodachrome

Paul Simon singing: Koda-chro-o-me, it brings you to nice bright colors...

Before digital photography, it was generally believed to produce the best color reproduction of any kind of film. However, it was inconvenient because it required special processing that Ektachome and the others didn't. Finally, Kodak, its maker, stopped processing it.

But, there was one Kodachrome processor left, in Parsons, Kansas. Bob Dotson, one of America's great storytellers, has details.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Please Help With Disaster Recovery! Kathleen and I Just Gave The Salvation Army Another $100

Ms. Sweat is writing about the inland areas of the Florida Panhandle. 
Please read the above plea for help from ~2pm via Twitter. Hurricane Michael caused massive destruction that was, at first, underestimated by some. 

Even though we donated to the Salvation Army's hurricane relief fund earlier this month, Kathleen and I just made another donation. Florence and Michael were monsters. If you are safe in your home enjoying football you are very blessed at the moment. So, please help the people who are struggling for survival from Hurricane Michael. To donate, please click here.

What It Is Like to Be Caught in a Hailstorm

From Australia, a woman caught in a hailstorm received incredible bruising shielding her baby.
On rare occasions, hailstorms kill.

Please heed severe thunderstorm warnings in the United States so this does not happen to you.

Some Politically Incorrect Comments About Hurricane Michael's Aftermath

Before I make my comments I urge you to offer prayers and donations for the survivors. Even if you have given to the Florence survivors, give again. If we are safe in our homes that is a sufficient blessing to justify reaching into our pockets again. I recommend the Salvation Army disaster relief funds. I am not a fan of the Red Cross for disaster relief.

The following comments assume that media reporting is correct:
  • As of this morning, there are still areas with no cell service. Where are the cell companies with the mobile cells they brag about during television commercials?
  • Since there are no utilities, there are "desperate" people who have run out of food and water with no sanitation. This is part of the reason we meteorologists urge you to evacuate. It isn't just to save your life in the first place. If the survivors were in the shelters, which are pre-stocked with food, water, beds and bedding, etc., they would be far more comfortable than they are now. 
  • Where are the helicopters? There are reports that some people have not been reached because roads are blocked. Understandable with this level of destruction. But, surely, local/state governments can use police helicopters to at least check on people and make sure there are not critically injured people who have not been reached. 
I give insurance companies a lot of credit these days. We worked with some of them when I was at WeatherData/AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions and they used our service to get their catastrophe teams  pre-positioned in the closest possible safe locations. In many cases, they've arrived even before the Red Cross or other disaster agencies. 

I am not criticizing FEMA at this point. They've always said, "we need three days" before they can completely deploy and this is day two. 

Global Warming: Is There Anything It Can't Do?

Details here.

Friday, October 12, 2018

My Books on Hurricanes, Tornadoes and Storms

Weather science achieved another remarkable result with the warnings pertaining to Hurricane Michael.  But, how did the warning system that saves so many lives come to be? My first book, Warnings, answers that question.

Yesterday morning, I received a call from an accountant (person who lives in our neighborhood) who was nearly finished reading Warnings and couldn't say enough good things about it. It is easy-to-read and, while 100% factual, it is written in the form of a suspense novel. 

Based on the reviews, both books are well worth your time.
You can read all of the Amazon reviews here. Here are a couple:
Click to read in its entirety

And, my book about the Joplin tornado and how the warning system 
tragically failed that Sunday.
From one of the survivors:
Mr. Smith's timeline and reporting of the warnings received is spot-on. 
The book is a short read but it makes his points clearly 
understandable. My son and I are alive because of my own gut instinct 
that came from living in Joplin since I was nine. Neither the Joplin 
emergency management nor the NWS played any role...

...I do remember that I was switched over to a TWC show that I had no 
interest in watching that offered a written scrolling warning at the bottom 
of my TV screen. What I read was that the storm was travelling 
northeast and that Carl junction was in its path. Despite the reassur-
ance from TWS and NWS I did what I always did in bad weather, go 
judge for myself. There were NO sirens when my son and I took shelter 
at our apartment complex at 21st and Connecticut. There was only 
gray skies, weird vibes and the sense of doom.

Another factor that I believe played a role in the number of deaths is 
the simple fact that it was a warm late Sunday afternoon in a small city 
surrounded by smaller communities. People come to Joplin to shop, 
eat, go to the movies, etc. When looking at the long list of obituaries 
well after the storm, I thought it was notable that many of the deaths 
were of people who lived outside of town. I wonder how many were 
killed in businesses they were seeking shelter in.

This is a well-written book and I encourage anyone who is concerned 
about the risks of tornados or who, like myself, is still trying to put 
together the pieces of what happened to us that day to read.

I wrote the book because I wanted to do what I could to help insure 
a failure like the one in Joplin never occurs again. You will find many 
negative reviews of the book by people associated directly 
or indirectly with the National Weather Service. Unfortunately, they have 
yet to come togrips with the failure of their warnings that afternoon. Every one 
of the survivors' reviews (the people who lived through it) are 5-star. 

The paper copies of the book sold out very quickly. I priced the ebook at a
very low price ($2.99) so everyone could read it and judge for themselves.
To read more reviews or purchase a copy, go here

Thursday, October 11, 2018

What It Really Looks Like to Be in a Category 4 Hurricane

Will Weather Science Now Get the Credit it Deserves?

Hundreds, if not thousands, owe their lives 
to the science of meteorology this morning.
There is a very good case to be made that more than 3,000 would have been killed by Hurricane Michael absent weather science. 

Since Hurricane Katrina, when former New Orleans mayor (now inmate) Ray Nagin blamed meteorologists for the huge death toll in Katrina --when weather science actually did superb job -- I have taken up the mantle of obtaining for meteorology the the respect it deserves. We are, by far, the most successful of the predictive sciences and thousands of lives are saved each year by our work.

In spite of that, meteorology is often the "Rodney Dangerfield of Sciences" -- we get no respect. Consider the list below of the most intense hurricanes to strike the United States and the number of fatalities they produced.
  1. Labor Day Hurricane (1938), 423 deaths, quality of warnings: C- 
  2. Hurricane Camille (1969): 254 deaths, B+ warnings
  3. Michael, 11* deaths, A+ warnings
  4. Florida Keys (1919), 772 deaths, F (no warnings)
*Updated as of 8am Friday. 
See a correlation between warning quality and deaths? Of course. Below (courtesy CBS47) is a photo taken this morning of the utter devastation.
Had Hurricane Michael struck without warning, the death toll would have been in the thousands given the population of the area affected.

Consider this: The population of Galveston, Texas, in 1900 was about 42,000. Eight thousand were killed in the hurricane two months after the census was taken. That is 19% of the population. The Great Hurricane of 1900 was a strong Category 4.

In 2018, the population of the City of Panama Beach, plus the people living on down the beaches to Mexico Beach, is about 18,000. Multiply that by 19% = 3,400 deaths from Hurricane Michael. Michael was a strong Category 4.

The forecasts of Michael's future location, like with Florence's, were incredibly good. Incredible. The forecast below was from noon Sunday. 
Note the H = hurricane off the coast of the Florida Panhandle. 

This is Monday at 2:50pm:
Please note: nearly 24 hours before landfall, the forecast said the 120 mph wind speed forecast should be raised. The wind swath forecast was very, very close to the actual path of the highest winds. 

Monday, 11:30pm. "The storm surge will be a killer for those who do not evacuate. It is highly dangerous." Based on the damage photos (above) that was a prophetic statement. 

Here are some preliminary measured wind gusts. Mexico Beach likely received even higher winds.

There is no Nobel or other major prize for meteorology. There is no televised Oscars or other ceremony. Congress is still playing games with the nomination of Barry Myers to head NOAA. His leadership is needed if we are to continue to improve the quality of storm warnings and their effectiveness.

If you are interested in this subject, I immodestly recommend my book . Regardless, it is time to view the science of meteorology in a different light; perhaps the level of esteem should be at least as high as that for economists (I'll put our forecasts against their's anytime, yet they get a Nobel Prize). We save lives routinely; they infrequently do.

The scientists at the National Hurricane Center, the National Weather Service as a whole, and the entire meteorological enterprise (companies like AccuWeather, television meteorologists, etc.) deserve tremendous praise. 

In addition, the meteorologists at the NWS at Tallahassee and people like Ginger Zee who responsibly covered the storm (from inside a concrete building not outside like fools) deserve additional praise for their courage. 

So, I hope you will view weather science in a different light going forward. Thank you.