Archive for the ‘National Disasters’ Category

Three Tornadoes in Virginia

We were very fortunate this time in our little town. Not too far away the areas of Suffolk and Colonial Heights, and Driver, VA were hit pretty hard when three tornadoes touched down in Virginia. Apparently there was also a water spout by Portsmouth that crossed a bridge too that I read about last night.

Storm front brings severe weather to NC – WAVY10 – the news channel we generally watch for local free to air antenna weather reports

Associated Press – April 28, 2008 9:25 PM ET
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A severe weather system swept across North Carolina today and sparked tornado warnings and watches, but caused little damage.

The same system later injured hundreds when it spun out tornados in Virginia from Suffolk to Colonial Heights.

North Carolina officials said several mobile homes in Gaston County near Kings Mountain were damaged.

As the storm system spread, the weather service put up and took down tornado warnings in counties generally along the North Carolina-Virginia border.

VAEmergency.com:

RICHMOND, Va. — Governor Timothy M. Kaine today declared a state of emergency in the Commonwealth of Virginia, directing state agencies to take all necessary actions to aid in the response to widespread damage from this afternoon’s severe weather.

A declaration of emergency allows the Governor to immediately deploy state personnel, equipment and other emergency response resources, and to coordinate state and local response to the event.

Strong winds and possible tornadoes caused damage in multiple localities. The cities of Colonial Heights and Suffolk were two areas that were severely affected.

Agencies assisting include the Virginia departments of Emergency Management, Marine Resources and Transportation and the Virginia State Police. Other agencies are on standby if needed.

Bloomberg said,

April 29 (Bloomberg) — Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine declared a state of emergency yesterday after tornadoes injured about 200 people and caused damage in the cities of Colonial Heights and Suffolk.

Volunteer agencies including the American Red Cross set up shelters and police closed several roads during the storms. Sentara Obici Hospital in Suffolk was damaged by the tornadoes and is still receiving patients, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management said on its Web site.

Some images of some of the areas at MSNBC’s Photos area here.

Two hardest hit areas reported on so far:

Suffolk: Twister injures about 100 people, damages Sentara Obici Hospital, leaves town of Driver in shambles – Rich.com

Colonial Heights: Businesses near Southpark sustain damage – Rich.com

History of area tornadoes (in Virginia) – WAVY10:

The following information is from VAEmergency.com, which has tracked tornadoes throughout Virginia.

Nationally, the US. averages over 800 tornadoes per year. Tornadoes can strike anywhere in the US. during any month and any time of day. Virginia has seen as few as one tornado in a year (1982) to as many as 29 tornadoes (1993). Tornadoes have occurred during every month and every hour of the day. It can happen here. It could happen to you. Be prepared by knowing what to do when a tornado threatens.

Quite the history of tornadoes for an area that doesn’t ‘generally’ get hit often by them….and many were rated F2.

So how much of our National Guard personnel and resources are still overseas? How many can do what they were trained to do here in the USA? And how many National Guard personnel have lost their lives in the ‘War on Terror” so far.

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GasBuddyGasPrices Feed Map

Just left click any where on the map to move around the map. Right click on any area’s color to get gas price info for that area.

Read it and weep.

Gasbuddy Gas Prices provided by GasBuddy.com
Click here to add this map to your website.

You think you got it bad in your area? And yes, you are right! No matter where you go in the United States, “gas prices suck” (as Jeff Dunham so comedically stated).

But scroll on over and take a peak at California! It’s on fire — in more ways than one it seems.

Hey, just noticed something else that may or may not be significant. Do you see a corridor that is green all the way from the border with Mexico all the way to the border with Canada? Reminds me of another map (direct link to the map).

EDIT: 4/26/2008 – Sorry Texas. Looks like you are now mostly yellow since I did this posting.

Rural America roadkill on the information superhighway

Dendron, Virginia appears to be one of the unsung parts of Verizon’s Rural America roadkill on the information superhighway.

For the last eight years, I have been calling and/or checking frequently to see when Dendron, Virginia will be welcomed by Verizon into their current broadband world — to no avail.

In the last few months, we tried to work up a deal with ATT/Alliance Data Com to maybe get some form of broadband in Dendron, Virginia. Jim Mathis was great and really tried to help. He was able to get a very good deal on a T1 to bring into Dendron, Virginia, but JimmyLee and I just could not afford to pay for it alone. He also checked DSL availability, but Verizon has not updated the CO (Central Office) in our area.

Years ago, Verizon took over GTE Land (my name for our dead zone area that used to be owned by GTE Phone service), but kept the old GTE Land customers separate from the rest of their Verizon service, presumably so they wouldn’t have to count our area as being left in the dirt with only dialup being available.

One day a couple years ago, I stopped to talk to the Verizon technician that was at the CO in our area and asked when we would be getting DSL/broadband in our area. He said dialup isn’t so bad. Right! Let him live with it day in and day out! Butthead! Sure it’s better than nothing, but so are alot of distasteful things in life.

Verizon also has a very bad policy in this area, even if you want to get two phone lines and aggregate them for dialup data to get 128kpbs, it’s not doable. You pay the same price or more for that second line! I called and that’s what they told me! Plus, you still have to pay for your dual-line ISP (Internet Service Provider) as well! That would put us at over $100/mo for less than ISDN since it would be analog and not digital.

ISDN is also out of sight due to the various ongoing charges that would make it even more expensive than the dual phone lines plus Internet access charges!

I have talked about this before, but Dendron is in a very unique dead zone!

Rt 31 that goes through the heart of Dendron also goes between Rt 10 in Surry and Rt 460 in Wakefield. Cox Cable a few years back brought Cable broadband to the Surry Schools, which turns the corner on Rt 31 just about 3 miles shy of Dendron.

In Wakefield/Sussex County, Charter Cable has been there for several years, just 6 miles away, and more recently Verizon brought DSL to Wakefield and backed it down Rt 31 to just about 3-4 miles down Rt 31 away from Dendron.

This effectively creates a dead zone out of Dendron. Dendron is the last town in Surry County off Rt 31 just before it hits Sussex County with three broadband carriers coming within 3-6 miles of Dendron and no closer! They are so close you can almost taste it! But no joy!

AlterNet‘s Steve Early has an article that Tweeny/Kurt sent me entitied Rural America Is Being Left off the Information Superhighway, which shows another side of Verizon’s geed — where they are trying to sell off small (unprofitable? or maintenance intensive?) areas to — not other large broadband carriers who might be able to help — but to small companies (in New England’s case noted in the article, FairPoint Communications) that has even less money due to their small size to upgrade/maintain the areas than Verizon has. All for a tax break!

At the end of the article, AlterNet reports,

CWA has launched a website, SpeedMatters.org, which publicizes telecom reform initiatives around the country and invites users to take a “speed test” — so they can check their own connections against world standards for high-speed access.

Using creative online networking, aggressive legal intervention in state regulatory proceedings, alliances with nonlabor groups and a legislative push for a broadband build-out that would benefit all Americans, telephone unionists hope to thwart the Verizon strategy, which amounts to “dump the lines, dump the customers,” according to CWA president Larry Cohen.

In Virginia, Cohen notes, Verizon just lost a bid to eliminate all state regulatory oversight over the sale of local telephone lines — thanks to union lobbying and a gubernatorial veto. In northern New England, where the tradition of pro-consumer regulation is much stronger, state governments need to go even further — and veto any sale.

Very interesting, huh?

I thought it was pretty funny when I went to SpeedMatters.org website noted above as the page takes forever to load on dialup! Guess they just want to show that speed does in fact matter — as those of us on dialup certainly know.

It’s pretty sad when other countries will go the extra mile to get some sort of broadband – in some cases the fastest broadband available – for their countries’ citizens, and the US sits on its ‘collective’ hands while Rural America becomes roadkill on the information superhighway.

Verizon it appears is giving Capitalism a bad name!

But it seems that all this does nothing to help further our cause for broadband here in Dendron which is just a tiny little town of less than 400 souls at the edge of the world, errr, Surry County, Virginia. Where, even Surry County’s initiative to help bring Wireless to Surry County (government funded) will not be available for some time as they are only in the discovery/planning stages from what I understand.

And the ONLY other alternative is Satellite! Which for those of us who do real time streaming and chatting — ON DIALUP mind you — and FTP for websites we work on, would not be a real option due to the well-known lag at the tune of $70/mo. for that half baked option.

So we sit here with only dialup at home and wait and wait for pages and email to come in — in frustration (and SpeedMatters.org is still loading!!) … sigh…


speedmatters

CHARITY BEGINS at home

My heart goes out to the families in Greensburg, Kansas where 10 people have lost their lives, and the town was decimated by an F5 Tornado that ravaged the area May 4, 2007.

From the article in the Kansas City Star noted above:

The 1.7-mile-wide Category F-5 enhanced tornado, with wind estimated at 205 mph, destroyed about 95 percent of this farming town Friday.

KAKE reports,

The twister was 1.7 miles wide. A storm of this magnitude is the first in 8 years in the US – the last was May 3rd of 1999 in central Oklahoma. The Greensburg tornado was on the ground for 22 miles non-stop and 30 minutes. Maximum winds were estimated at 205 mph. This is the first fatal storm in southwest Kansas since 1967.

Approximately 75 to 90 percent of the buildings in Greensburg are damaged or destroyed. Power outages have been reported throughout Kiowa and surrounding counties. Cell phones and land line communications were also severely impacted.

I know that they are doing all they can for Greensburg, Kansas, but all they can do is not enough. The National Guard across the US is down approx 50-60% from where they should be to be able to meet these types of problems within our own country. Why? Because many valuable members of the National Guard and respective equipment that would have been available to our own people in times of disaster are currently in Iraq.

Forbes reports,

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius says the war in Iraq has exposed holes in domestic disaster response like the one currently under way in tornado-ravaged Kansas.

The governor said about half the state’s National Guard trucks are in Iraq, equipment that would be helpful in removing debris. Sebelius, who asked the Pentagon in December to replenish lost resources, said the state also is missing a number of well-trained personnel.

Sure, FEMA has been there and helping and I sure hope that goes better in Greensburg than it did in New Orleans.

But Charity begins at home! How can the States within our Country meet the needs of their own State’s constituency if the local help system is in large part in Iraq?

Why must the states depend upon FEMA? The Local government and the State’s should be able to do a large part of the work with resources on hand locally. The members of the local and statewide governments will have much more knowledge of resources and know their own people better than the Federal Government would have under those conditions.

FEMA coming in should be a last resort, should it not? But there’s a catch 22… How can the States be autonomous as they should be to a large extent if a large percentage of the local resources are in Iraq?

Certainly, even with full National Guard and other local resources and people, FEMA would likely play a role in Greensburg since the devastation was so great, but not the role they will be required to play under the current conditions due to the shortage of local resources.

The Kansas City Star article first noted in this posting also reports,

The government’s response to the disaster was undermined by ongoing National Guard deployments to the Middle East, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said.

“I don’t think there is any question if you are missing trucks, Humvees and helicopters that the response is going to be slower,” Sebelius said. “The real victims here will be the residents of Greensburg, because the recovery will be at a slower pace.”

I have no argument with the Iraqis who are in a terrible place themselves right now being pushed and pulled from so many directions, but we really need to think about our own too. And that should have come first – not as an afterthought when a disaster strikes.

Just my two cents.

1984. Max Headroom. Brave New World. Time Machine. I Robot.

Why these books? I personally believe there is an element of truth in all science fiction. Maybe not as written, but the concepts upon which they are written.

1984. For those who have not read this rather sick and twisted version of a future no one wants to be a part of. It is a cult classic, science fiction tale of extrapolation of the worst possible scenario that could happen. At least in my humble opinion. I enjoyed reading it as I have many other great piece of literature. It was masterfully written, enveloping, and although I don’t believe we will live to see this happen, I do see some inklings of things that niggle.

Regardless of how folks feel about the book itself, there are some amazing quotes from George Orwell’s 1984 that we all should be aware of.

The mantra of INGSOC presented by the “Ministry of Truth”:

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

Two particularly interesting paragraphs at the beginning of the book speak about the signs everywhere with the black-mustachio’d face gazing right into your eyes from everywhere, with the words, “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU” as a caption. He also indicated the police patroled in helicopters peering in homes, but they didn’t matter, it was only the “Thought Police” that mattered.

Winston, the main character, was trying to remain, what he considered to be sane in the midst of insanity around him where truth was lies, and lies were truth, and truth was only what they were told it was.

He began to write his thoughts down in a hidden book, hidden, at least he thought it was hidden, from the “Thought Police.”

There were televisions in each home, but these televisions were two way -receivers and transmitters of both audio and video – and you never knew when they would be ‘tuned’ into your particular television. Something that would be unnerving to anyone.

His first words in his journal was the date April 4th, 1984 and after some thoughts, he began to madly write thoughts down. Then after some ‘normal’ everyday things happened, including strange mind control rallies where everyone was ‘encouraged’ to take part. Winston sat in his little ‘apartment’ and after realizing that “only the “Thought Police” would read what he wrote before they wiped it out of existence and out of memory. He wondered how you could appeal to the future when not a trace of you, not even an anonymous word scribbled on a piece of paper, could physically survive.” He began writing again,

To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone–to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone:
From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of doublethink–greetings!

After some rather morbid contemplation, he wrote again:

Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime was death.

He knew first hand how someone could be wiped out; his job was part of the process of rewriting history to reflect the current needs of ‘the Party.’

It is really a very sad story of a man, driven quite mad by the insane life forced upon him and the insane thinking forced upon him by the ‘Party.’

There was no freedom, no true living, no hope.

One final thought from the book, toward the end of the book in one interview with O’Brien, who apparently is trying to convince Winston of the ‘Party’ truth’…

O’Brien was looking down at him speculatively. More than ever he had the air of a teacher taking pains with a wayward but promising child.

‘There is a Party slogan dealing with the control of the past,’ he said. ‘Repeat it, if you please.’

‘”Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past,”‘ repeated Winston obediently.

‘”Who controls the present controls the past,”‘ said O’Brien, nodding his head with slow approval. ‘Is it your opinion, Winston, that the past has real existence?’

Again the feeling of helplessness descended upon Winston. His eyes flitted towards the dial. He not only did not know whether ‘yes’ or ‘no’ was the answer that would save him from pain; he did not even know which answer he believed to be the true one.

O’Brien smiled faintly. ‘You are no metaphysician, Winston,’ he said. ‘Until this moment you had never considered what is meant by existence. I will put it more precisely. Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects, where the past is still happening?’

‘No.’

‘Then where does the past exist, if at all?’

‘In records. It is written down.’

‘In records. And—-?’

‘In the mind. In human memories.’

‘In memory. Very well, then. We, the Party, control all records, and we control all memories. Then we control the past, do we not?’

In our current world of ‘political correctness’, and the wishing to do away with a past that might bother some folks, where wonderful technologies are being created, and used by, or made use of by, massive companies who in turn make use of agencies to control them, and by association, those who make use of them – Well, that could make something ‘like’ these scifi scenarios, like 1984 and others, or the equally unacceptable future in the Max Headroom scifi television series, actually come to pass some day in the future…

This book along with so many other great scifi books really do have some (hopefully) twisted elements of truth in them, but they are still very interesting. Science Fiction is the mind out to play, searching for a combination of possible future science and social responses…and maybe to in some small way, foresee or forewarn.

I genuinely hope we never live to see anything like this come to pass. But it’s great fiction, and thought provoking, none the less.

NOTE: Originally posted: March 2005 (recreated from my original mangled blogspot.com blog)

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