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Advertise on the Tentacle

February 12, 2010

Hot Flashes & More

Norman M. Covert

Pitchers and catchers report in a few days to baseball complexes from Florida to Arizona – it cannot come soon enough. The annual February migration of professional baseball teams, including our Orioles and Nationals, predicts the coming of spring more reliably than Punxsutawney Phil. Frederick County isn’t Florida, as attested by the snow cone threatening visitors on the front stoop.


Among the apropos editorial comments on this latest Gore-A-Thon comes from legendary W. C. Fields, who remarked in “The Fatal Glass of Beer,” “T’ain’t a fit night f’r man, n’r beast (slam)!”


Something has gotten Mother Nature’s Low Pressure System out of control. It certainly isn’t raging hormones. A consensus of international scientists could conclude Momma has suffered ridicule and scorn and may have the right to hurl nor’easters at us.


Ms. Nature reminds us that she is in charge. It has nothing to do with cow flatulence from local Frederick County dairy herds. Our weather and climate today are one and the same.


This is winter, she proclaims, and in winter one should expect it to be cold and often snowy. Ms. Nature’s realities discredit those who repeat claims that this latest blizzard is a valid indicator of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). At the height of Wednesday’s blizzard, an “expert” said we must not believe our lying eyes.


My geography textbook revealed that we live north of the Tropic of Cancer in earth’s northern hemisphere, where the climate is predictably hot in summer and cold in winter.


My history textbooks taught that members of the Virginia Company at Jamestown (1607) and the Pilgrims at Plymouth, MA, (1620) realized this climate reality before the resident natives told them about it. You can look it up!


We also have baseball and Dogwood trees, which bloom spectacularly here in the spring; and who could forget football and falling leaves in the autumn. The concept and reality of the four seasons per annum isn’t difficult to grasp.


Another climate/weather truism is that Frederick always has at least one good ice storm in March. Such catastrophes are a part of life here. Allegheny Power can attest to that.


There have been lots of heroes in this latest storm. Consider the faithful city, county and state crews working multiple shifts, driving trucks rigged to plow thoroughfares and residential streets. Earning equal kudos are the repair teams keeping the equipment operational throughout this ordeal.


Chatter on the scanner revealed the intensity, too, of support provided by brave Allegheny Power crews braving drifted and icy roadways to restore electricity; law enforcement officers, volunteer and professional fire/rescue personnel and private entrepreneurs helping extricate stranded motorists and commercial vehicles at the height of the storm.


Linda Burgee, Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) superintendent, recently compared notes on the challenge of making the closing/delay decisions and communicating it. The FCPS team, she said, is alert from the first inkling of a weather emergency. It uses input from multiple weather services to update the team, including those driving city and county roads to determine threats to student safety.


The challenge of communicating the FCPS message to parents and care givers is a matter of programming the computer, which is linked to all the media and anyone who cares to receive instant notification.


That technology would certainly have simplified my efforts for Fort Detrick so many years ago. The task required driving to the headquarters building to use the official telephone. The call list included radio and television stations in the three-state region.


Even in the early 1980s, it was hands on using the antiquated telephone system, which required my using an operator for long-distance numbers. It was a time-consuming process. The actual commercial phone link to the telephone company then incorporated a cable from the old airport block house across Military Road.


Radio stations typically operated with the DJ alone that early in the morning. There was no satellite link or computer automated broadcast system. It was one operator in a manually operated studio. Among the DJ’s multiple duties was answering the phone and trying to put together the list of closings – and then announcing them. It was compounded by private citizens calling to ask about specific closings.


Everyone’s favorite Marine, Tommy Grunwell, was such a one-man band, capably holding down the morning drive-time slot at WFMD before the coming of talk radio. He sometimes had help answering the crush of calls. The equally legendary “Kemosabe Joe” Johnson (now at a Florida station) manned the “storm center” at the former Z-104 FM/820AM.


The message often was convoluted when we had to assure that “non-essential personnel” should report for duty. There still is confusion and some derision regarding that description of security and emergency services personnel.


A particular challenge 20 years ago was with hearing impaired employees at Fort Detrick. Improvement in the old teletype units gave way to the newer TDDs (Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf), which interfaces a keyboard with the telephone.


It’s a new world of communication technology. Computers talk to each other and feed the closing/delay info to your personal devices and the news crawler on the television screen. I suppose it still requires a phone call to local media and the morning personality, but calls can be made from cell phones and remote computers with the proper usernames and passwords.


 [Editor’s Note: You may receive FCPS notifications of more than just closings by accessing and logging on to:]

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