A Good Way to Never Shiver Again
It was a quiet day at NWS at 11 West Oxmoor Road. That is until the mailman came by. He delivered us a thick 11×14 brown Kraft envelope.
We opened it and it was about a 10-page document from some gentlemen who said they were local engineers. They had made elaborate line drawings showing a long row of huge windmills lined up across the U.S./Canadian border. They insisted that when they were activated they would blow all of the cold air back into Canada and Alaska. They wanted our approval and then they were going to submit the plan to the U.S. government explaining it would save U.S. citizens millions of dollars in heating bills.
We sat around and discussed it for an hour or two and all of us wound up laughing our heads off. There is no way in the world that could be accomplished. Besides, what would the Canadians say if they started feeling 25 below temperatures coming up from the South.
Our boss decided to repackage it and mail it to our southern regional office in Ft. Worth to see their reaction. Their reaction was absolute zero. We never heard another word.
We got a surprising amount of crank mail in those years. So much so that we had set up a thick file called that.
This is the third in a series of stories about some of my very strange experiences in my 32 years in the U.S.W. B. and National Weather Service—all at the same station.
JB’s JOURNAL / 5/17/13
An Illegal Weather Term Called Severe Clear
This is the strange story of an illegal weather term that was coined by a brave Birmingham pilot who owned his own small airplane and he was only licensed to fly VFR (Visual Flight Rules) instead of IFR (Instrument Flight Rules). He owned a thriving local business and he flew his small plane all over the country to purchase things for his business, most notably all the way to the Pacific Northwest where he bought timber in that prime timber-growing country. He would cross the Rockies in a relatively low elevation area, but he took all kinds of risks.
How am I involved? I am dead certain that I was on duty at the U.S. Weather Bureau at Birmingham Airport when that term was born. He had a habit of calling up our unlisted number that was used for pilots well before daylight. One morning he called up at 4:00 a.m. and wanted a complete briefing to Washington State and back.
He insisted “Don’t shoot any John to me. I have to have severe clear. I don’t want to hear you say it is clear all the way. Instead, I must have you say it is severe clear all the way.” Of course there is not such official weather term as severe clear. I knew that one day he would get in trouble demanding that and sure enough he did. One day flying back from Kentucky and Tennessee to Birmingham, he ran into ceilings so low that he could not see to fly VFR. He had to make a forced landing in a cow pasture in Tennessee. All the other pilots in the Birmingham area that knew him well named that pasture the Jones Airport. Let me insist that his last name was not Jones, but he was known as that for years afterwards. I don’t know if he is still around. He should be around 80 or even 90 years old now. I have another pilot friend that is retired and lives in Oregon. He knows him well. My friend in Oregon was a commercial pilot for a major Birmingham area facility and flew all over the U.S.
P.S. I plan to write as many as 100 of these type stories over the next twelve months and after I have written them all, I plan to publish my long awaited weather book entitled, “Scattered Brains and Scattered Showers.” Numerous interesting things have happened to me in 32 years of weather in the U.S. Weather Bureau and National Weather Service all at the Birmingham office as well as continuing in weather since I retired in 1989 with our local weather group known as the Weather Company and now the Weather Factory. (What a name!) By the way, James Spann likes to use the term severe clear occasionally and I do to. We also occasionally toss around the “illegal showers” term when there are only a few and they were not forecast! Life goes on.
Well, well, I am finally getting around to starting this little project that I had promised months and months ago. Bill Murray has been after me lately to get it underway. This feature will not be every day and I promise to not post it when we have busy weather days and I will also not post if we have any type of severe weather.
However, the items I post about here will be some of the stories that I had already planned to include in my weather book (if I ever write it) about my experiences in 32 years of weather in the U.S.W.B. and National Weather Service–all in the Birmingham office. The first one this morning is just a couple of items:
* Have you ever seen such a mixed up winter and spring? Next time you hear us discuss (cold core upper low) run and hide because forecasting those is almost impossible. There were widespread missed forecasts about the last one from all parts of the country.
* The winter has been so severe across the Plains and Midwest and Canada that the ice build up got so thick on part of Lake Superior and a southern Canadian lake that the ice decided to move. It pressed southward and virtually destroyed a number of homes in Southern Canada and Northern Minnesota.
* A number of homes have been destroyed in the Los Angeles area when the homes just decided to sink. It was not an earthquake but apparently the excessive rain over several months softened the ground enough.
* Numerous cities are reporting excessive rain amounts this winter and spring, including most of Alabama.
* Looking at the fresh weather maps more adverse weather is in store for the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes and New England.
NOTE: This is just a few items to get me started. These will not be in my book, but future posts will be about some of the very strange happenings that I witnessed in 32 years, including writing severe weather warnings with no radar and getting chewed out because I did warn during a super outbreak of tornadoes. Life goes on and I can take the good criticism and the bad. Some of that in those 32 years was unbelievable. Let me know if you think you will like this new feature because I can bail out at a moment’s notice.
12:45 PM NOTES:
…rain increasing across Alabama and Mississippi again
…Moderate rain now between Birmingham and Montgomery and also all across Central Mississippi
…that is one reason the National Weather Service/Birmingham extended the Flash Flood Watch through tomorrow
…no severe thunderstorms mixed in with any of this–in fact none at all
…100,000 homes/business still without power in the Great Blizzard in the Northeast
…small town in extreme south Conn., got 40 inches of snow–one of the heavier amounts
…growing number of negative reactions about The Weather Company naming winter storms/blizzards!
. . .at least not in Alabama. Lots of wintry weather over the Northern USA but lets enjoy our weather a bit with this list of official noon temperatures here in Alabama:
…49 in Haleyville
…56 Calera (NWS at Shelby Country Airport)
While we are at it, and just for fun, (Fun???) lets look in on Mount Washington, New Hampshire and check their 1 pm (EST) weather: Mostly sunny for a change. Temperature 4 below zero, wind chill 48 below, wind northwest 64 mph with gusts to 75 mph! Not a good day to hang out the wash!