| May 17, 2013 @ 10:59 am

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.


Category: Alabama's Weather

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