Ivan The Terrible

Just when you thought it was safe to be a state near the water, Hurricane Ivan approaches. Word on the street is that Ivan will make Hurricane Frances look like a cakewalk. Someplace on the north side of the Gulf is going to get clobbered, and clobbered bad.

Right now it ain’t looking good for the area between Panama City and Tallahassee.

Power Outage

Yesterday’s power outage in the Northeast is the topic of all news now. Fifty million people were affected. Makes you wonder if all those interconnected power grids were really such a good idea, eh?

In the office here, we were swapping stories about Hurricane Fran’s power outage. Greg and I were both impressed at the number of stars that could be seen in the night sky. All that light pollution was gone. It was amazing. I guess its good to get knocked out of our comfortable world every now and then. Puts things in perspective.

Meanwhile, I’m checking the State Surplus website for used generators, ’cause you never know. 🙂
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Highlights of 2011: the tornado

Worn out but happy!

In a year full of big events, the biggest one for me was the tornado of April 16th, 2011. While the damage to our home was a 6-inch shingle, the damage to our neighborhood was significant. It also gave me a chance to really help my neighbors when they needed it.

I vividly remember growing up in Atlanta and my siblings and I being awakened by my parents and piled under a mattress in our home’s hallway as a tornado warning. The winds would howl, the rain would pound, but the tornado would remain more of an idea – an after-bedtime reason to play with my brothers and sister in the hallway – rather than a real threat. That is, until April’s tornado rolled around.

I’ve already blogged about the tornado and the cleanup efforts I participated in. Looking around the neighborhood now I see only a few homes still covered with blue tarps. Some damaged trees still abruptly end 30 feet from the ground. A ride on the Millbank section of the Crabtree Creek greenway still shocks me when I reach the path of the tornado. I dubbed that portion “Tornado Trail” and it will likely live up to that name for many years.
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The peculiar siren song of coffee

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with coffee. During my Navy days I would drink multiple cups a day, which usually led to my being agitated. I often point to my coffee-drinking friends’ near-homicidal behavior during Hurricane Fran as reason enough to give up coffee.

I’ve mostly given up drinking caffeinated coffee. I’ve speculated to myself that the years of drinking coffee have carved canyons through my brain which can only be filled by the next cup of Joe. As with any addiction, each cup never seems to reach the level the prior one did.
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Letters to Grandma: 17 May 1990

[Note: Read this post first for an introduction.]

This is an interesting letter in many regards. It shows my growing appreciation for world affairs.

It was interesting back then to read the intelligence reports that were coming in as India and Pakistan nearly went to war. At one point there was talk about being diverted to Mumbai for a week or two to help calm the situation down. Things calmed down before we could get there, however.

I cringed at reading the Bhopal reference. At the time, though, I was angry at both for nearly blowing themselves (and possibly other countries) up.

I also was quite prescient on Iraq, noting its aggressiveness three months before the Iraqi army invaded Kuwait.

As for returning with a “war hero” look, fuggedaboutit! Out of all the medals and ribbons I mentioned we wound up earning only the Sea Service ribbon. While we didn’t earn a Navy Expeditionary Medal, we did earn an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (which, as you’ll note from its Wikipedia page, prevented us from earning the Humanitarian Service Award).

My ship never did earn the coveted “Battle E,” even with a skipper who went on to become a vice admiral.
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Letters from Grandma: 5 Nov 1989

[Note: Read this post first for an introduction.]

This letter to Grandma came near the tail end of my 3 month deployment for PACEX 89. That was the first of my three deployments and included Japan as the sole port visit. Long after that deployment I marveled at how my ship seemed to leave a series of major earthquakes in its wake as it sailed counter-clockwise around the Northern Pacific.

The visit to Nagasaki, where the world’s second atomic bomb was used in anger, was heartbreaking. More recently I’ve come to understand just how fanatical many Japanese were during the war and that the invasion of the Japanese mainland surely would’ve resulted in a million or more deaths. There is no doubt in my mind about the insanity of nuclear war, but I don’t know if I were President Truman that I would not have made the same choice.

This deployment gave me a really good taste of sea life and I think I took to it. I would have two, six-month WestPac deployments ahead of me before I left the Navy.

Oh, and fortunately my shipmates were wrong about me being UNC or Duke material!
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Emergency Management’s pCom unit

At tonight’s Rise Up Raleigh benefit concert there was a number of emergency vehicles parked out for the public to see. I spent some time talking with Raleigh Fire Department Battalion Chief Frank McLaurin about the state’s new mobile command post for disaster communications. The unit consists of a truck with desks, video, computers, and phone, towing a pCom satellite communications trailer.

Frank told me the pCom can provide 16 VoIP channels off of its self-aiming satellite dish. The trailer also provides 10kw of generator power, air-conditioned racks for networking gear and radio repeaters, and a 41 foot pneumatic tower for radio antennas, lights, or cameras. Oh, and an air compressor is included to raise the tower and also to provide compressed air for tools. It’s a pretty sweet setup!

Frank told me the state has owned it since August and has been building out the truck since then. He says the truck worked its first disaster during the April tornado, where it provided electricity and communications at the city’s Keeter fire training center in south Raleigh: one of the areas hit hard by the tornado.
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