Archive for February, 2014

Today the television program Meet The Press had a debate regarding climate change.  The people brought onto the show to discuss this important topic was a children’s program television host (Bill “The Science Guy” Nye) and renown climate expert Congressperson Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee (she also has expertise regarding gender issues – women do not want equal pay laws – very multi-talented).  I am sure it was a very rich deep discussion.

Man, how can they top that?  Well just check out this future schedule:

jon stewart 2stephen colbert 2

What is the state of today’s media?  Two award-winning journalists discuss this Sunday on Meet The Press – February 23 on NBC.

ponchdonald trump

Is the time for immigration reform now?  A Hispanic California police officer and arrogant smug rich New York white guy will debate this Sunday on Meet The Press – March 2 on NBC.

vitamin cpink floyd

This Sunday we will take on education reform.  Some say graduation is a sad but important rite of passage toward flight.  Others say we don’t need no education.  Watch Meet The Press for this most important discussion – March 9 on NBC.

doc mcstuffinscare bears

Obamacare.  Is the most important aspect the medicine?  Or is it “care”?  Watch an improbably young doctor debates this issue with cuddly teddy bears this Sunday on Meet The Press – March 16 on NBC.

Hmm.  Is it me or have things changed a bit since Tim Russert’s passing?

Couldn't we have done the Walking Dead reenactment some time when it wasn't so cold?

Couldn’t we have done the Walking Dead reenactment some time when it wasn’t so cold?

Snowpocalypse is probably more appropriate, but everyone else is using that and, besides, Snowfest sounds more festive, right?  Anyway, I lived through it here in Birmingham.  Everyone heard about Atlanta, right?  Well everything that happened at Atlanta happened here too.  The total and complete gridlock of the greater city’s roads and interstates.  The spending the night in vehicles.  The ditching of vehicles to either walk home, check into hotels, or take shelter wherever somebody would have you.   The spending the night in offices (me!).  The kids stranded overnight in school (this actually may have been more true in Alabama than Georgia, I think I saw a combined number of 15,000 and I know for Alabama it was over 11,000 kids).   And for a “lucky” few, they got to experience this for a couple of nights.

Anyway, this was a unique experience for me, and I definitely learned a lot.   For instance:

  • Yes, it is absolutely necessary to shut the city down for winter weather. Yes, even if it’s just for 2 inches of snow.  So I know the big thing for northerners to do is to make fun of the fact that southerners “can’t drive on snow”.  And it is true that we are not very experienced and that’s no doubt a factor.  However, it’s not like in the north that if it snows that the governments just shrug their shoulders and wish everyone luck.  They get various resources out to pretreat roads before the precipitation hits and then clear roads during and after it hits.   In Birmingham, we have just about jack and squat of those kind of resources.   Let me also tell you too that we also seem to have more tendency to have ice develop on our roads (the roads here were not snow-covered, they were ice-covered), partly again because we don’t pretreat the roads.  I don’t care how good of a driver you claim you are, you can’t drive on ice!   Then add  to that the fact that the Birmingham area has a remarkable number of significant hills.  Even if you somehow are good at driving on ice, trying to go up a long steep hill on ice is a whole ‘nother thing.  Anyway, it is clear that in lieu of buying ice/snow equipment and chemicals here in Birmingham, we have chosen that for the very few times we get this kind of weather, we are going to just shut down.   That’s probably not that unreasonable.   But I now know it absolutely has to be done.
  • There is still improvement that can be made in weather forecasting.  I don’t know the deal for Atlanta.  I heard claims that they had two days warning.   But I do know the forecast for Birmingham was for just a dusting of snow with no travel problems.   To me, it’s not that stunning they missed the forecast.  That happens.  But I can’t believe how long it took for them to figure out they had blown it.  So it’s Tuesday morning of the storm.   My coworker friend who has a window in her office is IM’ing me about how bad it is looking outside.  I check a local weather blog.  A 10:05 am blog post states “the forecast continues to hold” which called for a Birmingham dusting.  Go ahead, click the link, read for yourself.   So while I believe what my friend is saying, I think it has to be only temporary.  After all, these guys are the experts.  Surely they know what’s going to happen in the next couple of hours.  At 10:48 am, there is finally the first uh-oh (though they still won’t come off the ‘dusting’ forecast, it’s just the ‘dusting’ is causing more travel problems than they had anticipated).  At 11:09 am, the message that a Winter Storm Warning had been issued finally went out.  By then, it was too late.  (In fairness, the head meteorologist did later post what seems to be a sincere mea culpa essay.)
  • That said, we need to see if we can come up with a better plan if a forecast is blown again. Obviously closing everything and getting everyone out on the road at once is a recipe for problems even in perfect driving weather.  Doing that with icy roads…well clearly that created a disaster.  Now I don’t know all the solutions.  Can you somehow create an emergency plan where you stagger school closings?  Would mass transit have helped?  But I think while this is fresh on everyone’s mind, we need to see if there are any steps that can be taken to prevent this from ever happening again.
  • I’m too old to sleep on the floor.  I stayed in denial for quite a while.  I couldn’t believe what was happening, but was quite sure that the traffic situation was going to clear up.  Just give it another hour.  Or two. Or three.  Or…uh oh.    I even thought about trying to give it a shot.  Common sense finally kicked in though when I realized there was no reason to think I would do any better than anyone else.   So about 4 or 5 or so, I came to terms that I would be staying the night in the office.  Hey, I had plenty of company.   Anyway, worst night ever!  (Didn’t help that one of the lights that stays on when you turn “off” the lights was right outside my office.  But yes, the floor was mucho hard.)   If there is a next time (and let’s hope not!), I’m either walking to my apartment or buying an air mattress.  I can’t do floors anymore.
  • These situations bring out the worst in people.  So the mayor in Leeds, Alabama decided that the only way to get cars out of the way was to impound them at the owner’s expense.  Somehow other cities were able to figure out how to clear cars out of the way without impounding them.  But I guess it was too tough to figure out for Leeds.  I also saw reports of hotels turning people away from their lobbies and some school principals being a little less understanding than they should have been about parents not being to pick up their children.
  • However, more often than not, these situations bring out the best in people.  As bad as it was, it could have been worse.  But for the most part, when there is a need, we people will pull together and do what needs to be done.  Many businesses and hotels did open up their doors for people to stay (my company did that for strangers that had made their way to our building as well).  If they could, they provided food as well.  School teachers and administrators took care of the stranded children.  You had a brain surgeon WALK SIX MILES so he could get to the hospital to perform emergency surgery.  And he wasn’t the only doctor to do so!  There are actually too many good things to list.  And that’s pretty cool.