Public Meetings and Weather Wizards

Because there’s been a call for more local content in the paper, I’ve started writing more columns.

There’s not usually space for them, but I write them anyhow. Just in cases. And because my whole heart bleeds from the amount of love I have for writing narrative personal nonfiction like columns.

And essays.

And Facebook posts.

Tuesday morning, I walked into work and Bob called me back.

That’s always a fun moment of anxiety, the publisher yowling your name from his office at the back of the building moments after you walk in.

So far, it’s never been for bad news.

I hope it never is. I don’t think my brain could handle it. He’s a very cool guy. But I’d be terrified if he were mad at me.

Anyhow, he asked me to follow up with a photo of some crazy-ass weather that went down on the western edge of the county Monday night. While there was no official tornado, someone did submit a photo that looked pretty damn tornadoey.

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Worth double checking. Clearly.

So I got to call the guys at the National Weather Service in State College. Who are exciting, awesome dudes.

Who you wouldn’t expect to be exciting, awesome dudes.

So this is my entirely mundane column about weather. And weather men. It didn’t have space in the paper, but as I was talking with another reporter yesterday morning he was recalling that Aaron Tyburski was the first NWS dude he ever got to talk to too, and how he was happy I got Aaron Tuesday morning, and how he was happy Aaron would get the fame.

Haha. Fame. I’m not quite famous but.

Attention, more like it.

You’re picking up what I’m laying down, here.

I have faith in you, dear readers.

Here.

I added some paper-unfriendly cuss words and turned it into a blog element.

By STACEY GROSS
sgross@timesobserver.com
I’ve lived in Warren all my life.
I don’t ever remember hearing about tornadoes.
I mean, that one that took down the Kinzua Bridge, sure. But I was two years out of high school by then. There may have been one or two before I graduated, but they were few and far between.
The last two years, it seems, we’ve been having a lot of tornadoes. I was compelled to satisfy my own latent curiosity on the subject Tuesday morning, after arriving at work, when I was summoned to my publisher’s office.
Someone had submitted a photo that looked awful funnel cloudy, and Bob asked me to follow up with the National Weather Service to make sure that there was no indication of yesterday’s heavy winds and rains in the west of the county being tornado flavored.
I remember when I started here it always seemed really weird that you could just call the national weather service and talk to someone. Weirder, still, was how friendly and familiar the meteorologists always, always were. I had to swallow a huge chunk of my own fear, when I took this job, and get over my abject terror at cold calling people to ask questions about topics for which I had no background. I overcame my hesitation to reach out to the NWS guys after the first call. They’re so easy to talk to, and they give information you don’t even think to ask. They make it so easy. And even though I’ve never really understood how someone could get all jacked up on weather forecasting, I totally feel the energy from them, and it’s entirely catching. They’re so into it you can’t help but be into it too.
I call it the “Cute Ugly Chihuahua Paradox.”
To be clear, I’m calling the science an ugly Chihuahua. Not the weather guys.
They cool.
Anyhow, I got in touch right away, because another thing I like about having to call the NWS: it’s fast and direct. Press six for a human, and BAM! A real, living, authentically chipper person will be on the line posthaste – with meteorologist Aaron Tyburski. I feel like they have to be so happy all the time because they work in an environment much like our newsroom. You are not answering the phone with that little latent, diffuse rage in your voice unless you actually enjoy being there at least a little bit.
“Did we have a tornado in Warren yesterday,” I asked Aaron.
According to Aaron, we did not. But it’s not necessarily that we didn’t have any. Not for sure. It’s that there’s no reason to believe we did. According to his handy dandy storm summary, Aaron said, there was a report in Youngsville of a tree down on a home, trees and wires down in both Youngsville and Cherry Grove, plus various and sundry weather-related shenanigans going down in Garland. Other than that, said Aaron, there was “nothing that we could see here that would indicate any rotational damage.”
Rotational damage is what twists the trees apart when there is a tornado.
Rotational damage, Aaron explained, is a pretty big diagnostic criterion for tornadoes.
But (another fun thing I learned whilst shooting the aforementioned shit with Aaron this morning), the NWS is not Miss Cleo. Aaron has no idea if we have rotational damage here in Warren. And, unless his magic weather machines tell him explicitly that there is one, Aaron has no way of knowing whether we had an actual tornado in Warren County at any given time. The local emergency manager, said Aaron, is who usually hips the NWS to the possibility of some tornado-related violence having happened. The guys from State College basically only show up when they’re summoned.
Like glorious, weather commanding wizards.
It’s amazing.
Aaron also told me that the statistical tornado window here in Warren County tends to be late May to early June each year. So while we’re not entirely out of the woods yet (hahaha, haha, ha shut up I’m hilarious), we’re on the tail (I’ll see myself out) end of it this year. At this point, and through late summer, Aaron assured me that our thunderstorms tend to be pretty basic “heavy rain events.”
How can you not love the way they make rain sound so formal and important? You can’t. You can’t not love that shit. It’s amazeballs.
I heart jargon.
It’s a sickness.
Anyhow, I asked Aaron, I says, “why, Aaron, all of a sudden, in my thirties, is Warren turning into tornado alley?”
It’s not hyperbole. You shut your damn mouth.
Aaron said that it’s probably just a function of public awareness. And also, just, more public in general. There appears to be a positive correlation, Aaron said, between the amount of people in an area and the number of tornadoes reported.
Probably, he said, that doesn’t mean that people make tornadoes.
I mean, we’ll never really know, but…
Aaron felt pretty confident that wasn’t it.
People don’t make tornadoes, he assured me, but the more people there are the more chance that someone is going to encounter a tornado, and tell someone else about it.
Because no one keeps a tornado to themselves.
“There may actually have been more (tornadoes) back in the day,” Aaron said. “They just didn’t get reported, because no one saw them, or if they did, no one told anyone about them.”
So. There you have it.
I know the question was burning deep in your heart, too. It’s okay. You don’t have to say it.
Stick with me, you kids. I got you.

Other than that, it’s been a pretty bland week. Lots of public meetings, the majority of which have been all about shitty houses.

County Redevelopment Authority is all about blight, and that was Tuesday. City Planners had to certify two blighted properties for the Blighted Property Review Committee yesterday. Then, today, I got to hear at County Blight all about how this one house in Tidioute has raw sewerage in the basement and has been involved in three structure fires, to which the local fire department responded, but the house is so wet from the leaky roof that it won’t actually catch on fire.

Jesus Christ, you guys.

Some of the photos at blight meetings will curl your hair.

I walk away from every blight conversation wanting to erase every copy of Hoarders off my DVR and spend the whole weekend deep clean every corner of my house toute de suite.

 

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