Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Oct. 14, 2008, windstorm follow-up

The now-infamous wind storm was a month ago today, and I’ve learned a lot since then. Unfortunately, all the interesting details I learned were spread out over the local media (both print and TV) over the course of that week, and most of it was mentioned only once.

The first detail I learned was that the storm was identical to what happened during Galveston’s Great Storm of 1900. This was mentioned by WXIX’s meteorologist on the 10 p.m. news that Monday, and he was the only one who brought up the subject. He said that after the Great Storm destroyed Galveston, the hurricane moved inland, met up with a cold front coming in from the West, and created horrific winds throughout the Midwest, just like what happened on the 14th. I’ve heard a lot about the Great Storm over the years, but not once did any of the articles ever mention the Midwest. No wonder no one knew that a hurricane could possibly hit the Ohio Valley--it’s not in any history books! No one had ever written about it, and obviously no one who would have been alive then is alive now.

My big question was about the barometric pressures of the Sept. 14 storm, in comparison to other local disastrous storms. Again, no one brought up the subject, and I had to do a lot of research on my own to find these details, and put them all in one place.

April 3, 1974, tornado
wind speed of Sayler Park tornado, 178 mph at the tornado (from http://www.shorstmeyer.com/tornadoes/1974.html)
barometric pressure: 29.43 (from http://www.talkweather.com/forums/lofiversion/index.php?t46170.html)

April 4, 1974, the day after
wind speed: gusts to ?. I remember it was very windy that day, even though the skies were clear. I looked at the April 5 issue of The Enquirer, and the weather box only had temperatures. There were no other details.

Jan. 26, 1978, blizzard
wind speed: gusts to 60 mph (from http://www.enquirer.com/editions/1998/01/26/loc_blizzard.html
barometric pressure: 28.5 (from http://www.enquirer.com/editions/1998/01/26/loc_blizzard.html)

June 10, 1993, microburst
wind speed: gusts to 50 mph (from June 11, 1993, Cincinnati Post)
barometric pressure: I looked at the June 11 issue of The Enquirer, and although there was more information than there had been in 1974, there was still no barometric pressure listed.

Sept. 14, 2008, Hurricane Ike
wind speed: gusts to 75 mph
barometric pressure: 29.43 (from Sept. 15, 2008, Cincinnati Enquirer)

Since I had no electricity until Thursday afternoon, the news I got was sporadic and limited, especially regarding the national news. I did buy two issues of USA Today that week, and looked at the websites for ABC, NBC and CBS every day, and noticed that there was almost no discussion about the huge windstorm and blackout in the Midwest. Apparently the storm and blackout were never mentioned on the nightly national news nor their websites.

Even Cincinnati’s media just focused on the local situation. I looked at websites for Dayton, Columbus and Louisville, and they were suffering too. And they, too, only mentioned their own vicinities.

The storm was far more extensive than just in Greater Cincinnati. Once Ike left Texas, it (he?) got revitalized when meeting up with the cold front, and created destruction from Arkansas to Nova Scotia. Yet the national media just focused on Galveston and Houston. How could you ignore a blackout that affected at least one-fifth of North America? And why were there so few summaries in the local media about what was happening elsewhere?

One detail that I found pretty funny were the similar complaints from city to city. I looked at the discussion groups for the Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus newspapers, and the self-centered self-important complainers all mentioned the same things:
1. They wanted to sue their local power companies because their electricity wasn’t back on yet.
2. They were sure that the fact that the local power companies were moving too slow for their tastes, and because there were always idiot drivers who ignored the four-way stop rule when the stoplights were out, were signs that their own cities were backward and that was why they didn’t get any respect nationally.
3. Folks who never lost power, or got it in within 24 hours, considered the people who complained about not yet having power as crybabies, or as incompetents because they were having trouble coping.
4. Cable TV is more important than electricity. However, whichever cable company the writer uses has horrible customer service and is completely unfair in its policies.

After reading these same comments over and over, I really wanted to smack the persons who wrote them.

The only website I found that had all the writers discussing their personal situations, or others’ situations, with intelligence, decent writing skills, and few or no asinine complaints, was, of all things, an urban legend/paranormal website. I’m sure there are reasons for this, but that’s beyond the scope of this discussion, or it may be just fortuity that those particular posters were smart enough to write objectively. Some of them wrote about serious issues, but they understood that much of what was happening was beyond their control.
This is the link to the website:

The only thing that I wish would have happened but didn’t was that fewer political signs got blown down than should have. They are obviously made more sturdily than houses or trees or telephone wires.

Despite the naysayers, I think many people enjoyed at least some of the aspects of the blackout. My 10-year-old nephew, who was off school on Monday when the weather was perfect, played with all the other boys in the neighborhood, while various people on his street grilled out during the day. My sister said that he said that Monday was the best day he ever had.

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