Author Archive: J.B. Elliott

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JB’s Journal (October 23, 2013)

| October 23, 2013 @ 11:29 am

A STORY ABOUT JAMES SPANN:  He has been around a long time and totally immersed in weather. I first met him right after he came to Birmingham to be the meteorologist at one of the TV stations on Red Mountain. It so happened that the National Weather Service Office at that time was located not far away at 11 West Oxmoor Road. Our meteorologist in charge at the time invited him to come down and meet our staff. It was only about a seven minute drive for him and I happened to be on duty. From that moment on we became good friends because we instantly recognized that we were both very interested in severe weather.

But this is about a story many years later. James has spent many years taking almost daily trips to a school to present a weather program. It did not have to be a school, but the majority of them were schools and he especially enjoyed the younger age students.  It could also be a business or church group or anybody. He traveled over much of the state. In fact today he is Calhoun County speaking to a group. He does not let that interfere with him getting back to 33/40 in time to do the afternoon and evening weather segments.

Way back when, I used to ride with him on some of those trips and they were so interesting. He wasted no time getting there or back to the station. Translation: he was a fast driver, but a very careful one. I never heard of him having an accident.  Recently I got to thinking—I wondered how many miles he has traveled over the state doing the programs for the schools or whoever and how many BBQ joints he had stopped at. James is a fanatic about BBQ restaurants and he knows them anywhere in the state. I asked him recently to give me some figures on those and this is what he said.

…”My estimate is that I have traveled over one million miles going to schools and other groups doing weather programs since 1978. “

…James continued, ” No doubt I have enjoyed over 100 BBQ joints in Alabama and maybe more than that.”

This is JB talking now. I believe he has traveled more than one million miles and I believe he knows where every good BBQ place is all over the state. One final note from me: I have been around him many times and I have never heard James say a bad word or even get mad. I wonder if he learned that from all my early years in Havana Junction. Our only main difference is that I am not a huge fan of BBQ.

…I feel like James has saved hundreds and hundreds of lives being on TV during tornado threats. That is the end of my story. He is one fine gentleman.                   –JBE

JB’s Journal: Partly Cloudy vs. Partly Sunny

| September 3, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

What is the difference between the forecast terms “partly cloudy” or “partly sunny.” Well, you tell me. I think it is more or less a personal opinion. However, it became a sticking point between a couple of forecasters at the old National Weather Service Birmingham office at Birmingham Airport. I was involved and I did not want to be.

Back in those days, we would sometimes get an official memorandum from the USWB Regional Office in Ft. Worth or even the national headquarters in Washington. One day this memorandum came in from Ft. Worth suggesting that we try to liven up the wording on our forecasts somewhat to keep it from being so boring from day to day. Our MIC (Meteorologist in Charge) came out of his office and read the memorandum to us and said he thought it was a great idea. It so happened that I was about ready to do the afternoon forecast for Zones 1, 2, 3 and 4 and I asked if it would be okay to go ahead and make the change. He said, “Absolutely.” Back then, the Birmingham area of responsibility was only four zones. I made the forecast and issued it on the Alabama Weather Wire and also on the automatic telephones and several other outlets. Little did I know that the forecaster following me was going to blow his stack when he discovered what I had done. He ripped apart my official forecast that was on a clipboard, he redid the forecast on the statewide Alabama teletype system and rerecorded all of the telephone recordings. He said that he didn’t believe in any such changes. He and I were always good friends, so there were no hard feelings. However, for months on head, several of the guys I work the night shift with got to joking about what we were going to say when we issued forecasts in the middle of the night. One of them suggested, “partly moony” or “mostly moony.” Even then life went on with all the ups and downs.

I hope to have several more stories like this over the next few months. Most of them will eventually wind up in my book, “Scattered Brains and Scattered Showers.”


Weather by the Numbers 7/3/13

| July 3, 2013 @ 9:13 pm

As promised, here is a list of cities that were too hot again today, maybe I should say “way too hot.” This has been a hot weather event to remember forever, not just in the Desert Southwest and other parts of the West, but also in the Midwest and East and even parts of the South.

Here we go with today’s list. Actually, the heat has backed off somewhat in some of these cities:

90 Eugene, Oregon and Denver

95 Corpus Christi

91 Dallas/Fort Worth

93 El Paso

98 Great Falls, Montana

95 Helena, Montana

94 Houston

112 Yuma, Arizona and  Las Vegas

100 Salt Lake City

07 San Antonio

108 Fresno, California

106 Tucson

95 Waco, Texas

93 Wichita Falls, Texas

111 Phoenix

USA extremes today included a low this morning of 37 at Silver Bay, Minnesota and Hayward, Wisconsin. Hottest this afternoon was 128 in Death Valley. That famous observation point is where the highest temperature in the USA occurred about 1936 with a high near 136.

In a few days I will write a J.B.’s Journal about our very difficult trip to Fraser, Colorado to check out the little town that was the coldest spot in the nation almost every day until the U.S. Department of Commerce put a stop to it after one of the Chamber of Commerce offices in Denver filed a strong complaint.  I hope everyone has a very pleasant 4th of July. Weather folks have to keep working like any other day, but we don’t mind. Life goes on.


JB’S Journal, 6/25/13

| June 25, 2013 @ 9:39 am

Another reason I often say that, “LIGHTNING IS FRIGHTENING”
Yesterday, a bolt of lightning struck a Boy Scout’s camp in New Hampshire. Nearly two dozen scouts were injured–all of them hospitalized. I have had several close calls with lightning in my life so that is why I try to head for the hills in a big storm. In my case, heading to the hills means moving to the center of my house, away from windows. At 9:30 this morning not a single thunderstorm in progress in Alabama or most of the Southeast. Excuse any misspelled words, have had only three cups of coffee so far this morning–usually have 6 or 7 by this hour!

Weather by the Numbers / 06/10/13

| June 11, 2013 @ 10:24 am

This is another feature I love to do. I hope I am not being overbearing. As I mentioned several weeks ago, I absolutely will not post these when there is heavy weather traffic on this Blog. After all, that is what the ABC 33/40 Weather Blog is all about–to keep everyone posted about changing weather and dangerous weather. But on this clear calm morning, here are a few numbers to throw at you:

* 7.87 inches is how much rain has inundated New York City so far this month. More heavy rain is forecast in a broad area from Michigan to Virginia tomorrow.

* 35.49 inches is how much rain Anniston has received so far this year. That is almost one foot above average. Last year at this time they had received only 18.91.

* 22.84 inches of rain is how much Auburn has received so far this year–almost double the average amount.

* 114 was the hottest temperature in the country yesterday at Bullhead City, Arizona. 34 was the coldest in the country this morning at both Meacham and Redmond, Oregon.

* 1 strong tornado struck in Logan County, Kentucky late yesterday.

* 1,000’s of acres is how much the extreme drought has played havoc with  in the Plains States so far this year.

* Goes 13 is the number of one of our vital satellites we use in our weather forecasting. It will be put back in service Saturday after being disabled back on May 22 by something (I don’t know what that was).

* 112 is the expected high temperature in Phoenix today. It is Arizona’s largest city and it really cooks during summertime.  They expect a high of 110 Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Of course, the humidity is almost non-existent. My wife was raised in Phoenix and I can remember crawling out of my sleeping bag at daybreak on some summer mornings and feel completely comfortable.

That’s all for today. I hope you enjoy this feature. I’ve got many, many stories to tell but I will stretch them out over a 12 to 18 month time frame. Eventually, I hope most of them will show up in my weather book, “Scattered Brains and Scattered Showers.” Sometimes I think my little weather brain is already badly scattered. I have only had one cup of warm coffee this morning, so I have got to scram.

JB’s Journal

| June 11, 2013 @ 10:12 am

As promised, I am going to write a series of stories of some of the off-beat incidents in my 32 years of work at the U.S. Weather Bureau (later named National Weather Service) all in the Birmingham office. We had some good times and trying times and yes a few times of silliness in the few times we got caught up early in our work.

This is the story of Birmingham Bill. Three of us were on the midnight shift one night on Groundhog Day. We got through with our work early and got to wondering why Pennsylvania has the only famous groundhog. So one of my colleagues, forecaster Bill Herrman, sat down at the Alabama Weather Wire and wrote a story about  Birmingham Bill which was to be our official groundhog. The Birmingham News mentioned it and we think later the zoo stole our idea. Later that morning, I decided to add some more names. They went like this:  Bessemer Bessie, Carrolton Carrie, Jasper Joe, Tuscaloosa Lucy, Anniston Annie, Sylacauga Sally, Talladega Teddy, Mobile Molly and Montgomery Mary. Even until this day, Bill’s Birmingham Bill is still used. Doesn’t hurt to be a little bit silly a few times a year, but life goes on.