Monday, September 24, 2012

Great Lake Erie Waterspout/Cold Air Funnel Photos from Lake Erie

Another burst of colder air (25-30 degrees at 5000 feet) this past weekend which interacted with the warmer Lake Erie (65-70 degrees) created the sharp temperature difference necessary to facilitate some very wild variations of weather. Hail producing thunderstorms and of course waterspouts or as they are technically known as "COLD AIR FUNNELS". But whose counting.

Here are the photos that I received in no particular order either through FACEBOOK, TWITTER OR EMAIL. 

I didn't have the chance to include everyone's name below each photo. So thank you ALL for submitting these great pictures. Your hard work never goes without notice.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Evolution and Devolution of Facebook Comments

I love doing Facebook experiments. 

The feeling of getting people fired up after posting a hot-button topic is second to none! For me, its like election day sitting at home when the polls close. I just sit and watch the results, or in this case comments, come pouring in.

Why do I do this? I guess its the sarcastic, chaotic side of me merging with the scientific side which loves witnessing the human condition in action.

Social Networking represents a cultural paradigm shift that's very strange if you're not used to it. The vale of anonymity the internet provides creates an environment where the degradation of responsibility becomes the norm.  Behavior becomes more primal; comment threats are driven by impulse and emotion.  Best of all, its totally predictable.

Before I start a FB experiment, I chose a topic or subject. It doesn't have to be specific as long as it has the staying power of more than a few hours. These days, my post usually points to an article or less frequently, a blanket question. I try to avoid asking a question because its like shaking hornets nest. You know what you'll get and its not good.  So my tried and tested approach of posting neutral statements with an attached article as a reference usually presumptively extinguishes the fire of some of the hot headed commentors.

Remember that this is an experiment so the aim is to create a post that by itself is neutral but can spawn comments both pro and con yet objective. Except in many instances, it doesn't work out this way. Most Facebook comment threads usually degrade into either one and/or several thought patterns.

Enter into the ring:  Human Nature.

Comment 1 through 9 are by in large objective and directly related to the post. Unbiased, thought provoking responses that are worth reading. I find myself responding to these the most. Very engaging, rational people for the most part.

By comment 10, somehow the topic gets spun from its original subject matter into a rant about religion or race or both. One person will relate the topic or another comment to a greater religious ideal. This fuels more theologically based comments.  Since this an election year, comment 11 through 20 take on a political tone which begins with taxes, debt, government and rich people. 

By comment 30, most comments either have a blend of religion, politics and a few expletives for reinforcement. Can you get more incendiary? Someone will try the rational approach in quieting the sharp comments of the others but will have little effect. The toxic blend of religion and politics is too hard to overcome.

If you comments reach the magic number of 40, the comments continue their rapid downward spiral into the world of comments about the commentor or what I like to call "commenter vs commenter crime". Instead of comments relating to the topic or the unrelated topics mentioned in comment 10 through 39, the comments now attack one or many of the various people commenting. These can be flat out assaults of the person's manliness or intelligence. 

After a while, most people have lost interest as the comment threat now 50 plus deep permanently resides in an abyss where the laws of rational thinking no longer apply.

Many scientists believe that the universe trillions of years from now will be filled with random particles fighting for existence in a cosmos void of anything substantive. The Facebook comment thread past 50 resembles this theoretical late stage universe in that only a few stubborn commentors will be left.  While the original post has run its course these few commentors continue to fight for Facebook post supremacy by themselves while everyone else has moved on.

Facebook comments are akin to a clockwork machine. At first, the components move real smooth. After a time, the machine needs to be cleaned and lubricated. If not, it runs rough, gets a bit squeaky and might begin to rust and possibly seize up. Most Facebook comment threads are no different. Not all Facebook comments follow this path but many do. Beautiful photos of your family or pet, sunrises or sunsets are the notable exceptions.  

Watch my posts on my Facebook Fanpage. Sometimes I will "conduct" an experiment to see where the comments go. Check out this phenomena for yourself. How many times has the Facebook comment machine seized up? 

More often than not I'm afraid.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Are We Done With 80 Degree Temps This Year?

It happens each year.

The first cool snap and everyone is rushing to prematurely proclaim the end of summer, an early start to fall and snow by Halloween. I see the posts on Facebook and I just shake my head. Sure, sometimes it works out this way but often times, their is still some summer warmth left in the tank in October.

Quickly, I checked the October highs over the last 30 years (since 1982) to see how often we reached 80+ degrees. It doesn't happen very often. Try only 3% of the time! Only 9 times did we reach 80+ twice in one year (Last year, 2007 and 2005 were the last instances)

What does the pattern say? It is strongly hinting at a longer surge of cooler air not only across northern Ohio but across the eastern half of the country! Take a look at the current upper level steering currents. Notice the trough (dip) in the flow.

This is NOT the pattern we saw this past summer. Remember the heat around the 4th of July? Look at where the trough was back then. Obviously no where near the eastern US and Ohio.
By the middle of August, the ridge was breaking down and the trough started to build weakly in the east cooling temperatures off allowing a series of rain producing systems to alleviate drought conditions a bit.
The strength and duration of the cooler pattern is determined by the characteristics of the trough. If the trough's amplitude and wavelength are very high, the pattern becomes more difficult to change once its established. This diagram of a sound wave works well in describing the upper level wave that governs our weather.

Check out the computer model projections for late next week. The trough is deep and very wide on just about all of them.

All of these projections tell me a few things:

1) The cool down will be sharp and long lasting (3-5 days or more)

2) 80 degree high temperatures will be very hard to come by if this pattern becomes stagnant late in the month. Remember that 3% chance statistically in October earlier

3) Even if the trough ends up not being as deep and wide as indicated above, the chances of temperatures being below normal are very high.

3) The frequency of rain producing fronts will be much higher in the the next 10 days

As always, stay tuned to the latest forecast. The specific details will be in better focus as we start next week.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Hard to Believe Its Been 11 Years...

The power of the images and videos from 9/11 can still be felt. We relived that day last year at the 10 year mark.  YouTube is filled with graphic videos of that morning. I still find it difficult to scroll through them.

I would imagine at 20 years (2021), the day will still bring up the same emotions.  But like other traumatic events of the past like Pearl Harbor, the raw 9/11 memories are gradually fading--though never completely--into the background of our national consciousness as historical distance gives us some temporal separation.  Healing takes time.

Below is my post which recounts my 9/11 experience in the studio and newsroom as the events unfolded.  I'll never forget it.


My memory of 9/11 actually begins the night before. My wife and I were--let the cold shivers begin--planning a trip to visit her friend in New York City. We were on the web looking at maps of the city familiarizing ourselves with the locations of the tourist attractions in relation to where my wife's friend lived in Queens. At that time, never having traveled to New York City, the NYC street grid was as foreign to me as a city grid of Moscow.

I distinctly remember pointing to several spots on the map of Manhattan and Long Island that I wanted to check out on our trip. Queens, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Yankee Stadium, Greenwich Village and the World Trade Center. As we studied the map, I made mental snapshots of the region remembering how far Yankee Stadium was from the subway stop, etc. It was getting late that night. I had to get up to go to work at the local NBC affiliate the next day. I was the morning meteorologist at WSAZ in Huntington, West Virginia back then so I needed to get up at 3AM.

The morning of 9/11 started out as normal as any other day. Our morning show started at 5AM. The news was fairly typically. No outlandish stories. I remember a story about a shark attack if memory serves. The weather was quiet. Blue skies.  Comfortable temperatures. I remember a powerful hurricane off of the New England coast named Erin but that was heading away from land. This monster hurricane would be lost in the events of the day.

Notice the Smoke from the Twin Towers...Erin Offshore

We had just finished our 8:35AM news cut-in before we "tossed" our morning news to The Today Show. About 8:40AM, The Today Show interrupted their segment for breaking news. They took a quick commercial to get more information. In our studio, we punched up the LIVE New York City NBC off-air camera feed into our in-studio monitors. It showed a fire engulfing multiple floors of The World Trade Center. The fire was big. It captured our attention. But at the time, not one of us watching EVER thought this was linked to something bigger, more global and temporally far-reaching.

One of our camera operators and I commented that it looked like someone hit the building with a rocket launcher from a nearby rooftop. Our conversation was purely speculative, half contrived for the sake of conversation and at the time not a bit realistic. We went back and forth, as news people do, debating how a rocket launcher blast into the 100th floor of a skyscraper was more a subplot of a movie than a plausible real-life event. How could someone get a weapon through a building undetected we both said almost simultaneously? In the span of 15 seconds, we quickly dismissed it.

Our eyes were affixed to the monitors at 8:45AM. I was tense, rigid and more alert. So was my co-anchor.  I sat in the weather chair on the right side of the set, he sat to my left. The minutes ticked by with no new information on the fire. Nothing was said but we knew that something wasn't right. We all quietly attempted to persuade ourselves that this was an accident. Some electrical fire. Some gas line rupture. Our hapless action movie-like speculation became seemed inappropriate now. No one was speculating out loud anymore.  Everyone was speculating to themselves.  The jovial studio banter was replaced with an impaired fixation on the main studio monitor. The silence was palpable. It spoke volumes. Keep in mind at this time, we had no official word it was a jet airliner that hit The World Trade Towers. It was just a big fire.  We were still in a commercial break.

A few minutes later, Matt Lauer and Katie Couric came back from the commercial to inform us that the fire was due to a plane impact.  Then another plane hit the second tower. This was all LIVE TV! Eye-witness accounts were all they had. Our fixated stares became jarred twitches.  We all said "a few colorful words" filled with anger, frustration and horror. We were all stunned. We just listened. Total silence in the studio. No one said anything. No speculation.  No talk of Iraq. No commentary on military retaliation. No link to Al-Qaeda. No comparisons to Pearl Harbor. No War in Afghanistan. No WMDs.  No Saddam Hussein. No Bin Laden. Nothing prophetic. We sat, stood and watched as the events--whether we wanted them or not--became forever etched in our permanent memories. In no way did I think that these series of events would pervade our collective national consciousness for a YEAR or a decade or longer. At the time, no one did.

In most breaking news situations in a television studio, your body language changes from being relaxed to a one that conveys rigidity and alertness. Your adrenaline surges in controlled doses. Your ability to disseminate massive amounts of information increases while simultaneously conveying the basics of a story in an intelligible way on camera as if scripted. Time doesn't go by slow or fast. It becomes frozen. There is no "did I do this right?" or "Will the segment look okay?". You perform in the present ONLY. Your instincts take over. Only in hindsight do you fully grasp the story and its complexity.  Your experience becomes the foundation of your on-air instincts. The morning of 9-11 started out the same as another other 5AM show. Yet the tone of our broadcasts soon became dreadfully different than anything we had done before. That morning, all of our collective television experience and instincts served us perfectly.

The newsroom was scrambling to record the national NBC feed along with all other news feeds from other sources that captured the newest video of what was happening. The news alert beeps were non-ending as more video was ready to be recorded. Remember that this was before computer servers stored news clips. Non-linear computer editing was years away so everything was recorded VCR style. You pushed a new tape in and hit the record button. On this day, the clanking of tapes into tape decks was deafening. Forget real-time Youtube clips. There was no cell-phone video. No text messages. No real-time tweets. No Facebook updates. No Instagram posts. No Snapchat. You waited at a tape deck rack for the satellite to "beam" you latest feed.  Nothing was instantaneous. We had time to reflect.  Yet no one said "Al-Qaeda". No one said "Bin Laden". No one said "middle east terrorists".  No one had any opinion on the events unfolding before their eyes. That would change as I went into my boss's office for my 6 month review.

My boss--now a General Manager at another station--sat down with me shortly after 9AM.  We said a few things about my past 6 months work but he was only half paying attention. Ken, my boss--the best multi-tasker I've ever known--was attempting to carry on a meaningful conversation while flipping pages of my file on top of jotting down notes of the coverage on a yellow legal pad balanced on his knee. The ring of his phone every 20 seconds interrupted the chaotic convergence of his tasks. I sat patiently waiting for the whirl of papers above his desk to settle. The phone stopped ringing. His note pad resting on his desk at arm's reach. He paused for a moment, looked out his window into the newsroom then to the bank of TVs on his wall and said, "Its Bin Laden. Its Bin Laden." I said, "Who?". He repeated, "Bin Laden!" In 2001, the name "Osama Bin Laden" for most was unknown. Maybe a few remember him as architect of the USS Cole bombing in 2000. He was certainly not a household name.

My boss had the uncanny ability of having 20/20 hindsight vision...IN THE PRESENT. He could see events happen before they happened then project what the effects the event would cause in the future. In the weeks ahead, my boss's prophetic realization became the most pivotal, surreal memory of that morning.

My review faded into the chaos of the morning. The two attacks in New York City at the World Trade Center. The collapse of both Trade Center towers. Another plane attack, this time into the Pentagon. The other foiled attack on The White House resulting in the crash in Shanksville, PA. All were connected.

The rest of the day was a blur.  Normally I take a nap in the afternoon and then work out. I don't think I slept for more than 2 hours at a time in the week that followed. National coverage continued for a week uninterrupted. No commercials. The morning show the following day was all 9/11. The morning show for the next week was all 9/11. Maybe a few basic weather segments of 45 seconds or so to break it up but nothing more  No television shows. No entertainment. The focus was covering the aftermath of 9-11. Somehow at the time, it didn't seem enough.  Everyone knew life would be different from this point forward.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Unseasonably Strong Rain Event Next 24 Hours

Early September is usually not the time we get a huge, mid-latitude cold front pass over Ohio. This evening through Saturday will be one of these rare events.

Current radar is very quiet so far...


We continue to watch north of Illinois for the main line of heavy and rain to develop.  

The majority of the heavy rain and storms should push through late this evening and overnight tonight.

Rainfall amounts overnight tonight and early Saturday will exceed 1"+ in many areas

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Art Modell Passed Away This Morning; Time to Mourn Not Be Angry

I've been a Browns fan since my first game in 1979 when the Browns played the Baltimore Colts.

I had a Brian Sipe poster until it fell apart a few years back.

My Marty Schottenheimer autograph is framed. My 1985 and 1986 team photos are proudly displayed in my basement.

My Cleveland Stadium is sitting at the foot of my basement steps. I always wondered if my grandfather who worked at the stadium in the 1950s wiped this seat down when he worked as a usher.

I watched EVERY playoff game in the 1980s.  My mom bought Browns bread from Stop-N-Shop.  I still have a Browns 1988 towl hanging in my old room at my parents' house. (It never made it into the basement at my house)

For many years, I wished that John Elway would fall flat on his face for Captaining the drives that sunk the Browns' Superbowl appearances. 

I screamed when Byner fumbled, sank when Bernie was released; scoffed when he signed Andre Risen

I was shocked when the team was moved in 1995. It still hurts. I remember that day vividly.

After the move when the city was in the process of tearing down the old stadium, I would drive by the empty shell every day. I knew a guy who was working security when they tore down the old stadium so I had the chance to walk around the field before the wrecking ball.  That day, I was the only person in the stadium! The field was faded. The seats torn out. The ads were gone. It was cloudy and cold.  It was, and still is the eeriest feeling I've ever experienced.

That said, on this day of Art Modell's passing, I do grieve for him and his family.  Make no mistake, The Move really ticked me off! But its been 17 years.  I'm over it.

Maybe if the Indians would have won the World Series in 1995 and 1997, fan sentiments would be less harsh.

Maybe if the Cavs would have made it further into the playoffs in the 1990s, the chip on our collective shoulder would be lighter

Maybe if the Browns since 1999 would have had more than ONE playoff appearance, our incendiary comments about Art Modell's since his death would be more about the good that he brought the city through his philanthropic endeavors.

This chip on our collective shoulder covers all Cleveland fans young and old.    We all carry around alot of powerful feelings about this city's lack of a winner since the early 1960s.  We reach the top of the mountain only to slip off the other side.  Its a chip that will take a generation to completely fall off. Every playoff season, I feel a portion of that chip sink deeper into my soul.

At that time when Gateway was being developed, Modell was left out.  He dumped tons of money in repairing the Old Stadium with no return.  If I was in the same position, maybe I would have done the same.  I don't know.  All that I know is that I am over the move.  Most fans under the age of 25 have no memory of the move.  Its all of us thirty-somethings and older who had our hearts ripped from us!  Yet through all of this, I've learned to put my aggressive emotions aside and compartmentalize the vast scope of the team's operational history since the 1980s.  Once I do that and remove my fan allegiance for a moment,  I understand that the move was a business decision.

Let's all show some proper respect in Art Modell's passing.

The Browns are back and are now entering their 14th season.  Lets focus on the positive. I never said it would be easy