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Friday, October 15, 2010

What I Did on Summer Break

I last blogged in mid-July. A few days later, I was deployed with the state incident management team for two weeks to a flood, and I didn’t get a full night’s sleep until early August.

Naturally, I was just trying to save the state from more calamity. I figured you could thank me later.

My tactic appeared flawed, though. Since I returned to the office in August, a strong storm battered Yuma that caused flooding; the Hobble Fire continued to lazily burn into October as if it’s still on summer break; my best fantasy quarterback and wide receiver were suspended for the first four games of the National Football league season (you’re on your own to search for them) and just last week hail the size of large hail amazed Phoenix commuters and made my day just a pinch longer than it needed to be.

If you’re playing at home, you will also remember that was the same storm system that caused a tornado outbreak in the northern Arizona community of Bellemont. That’s right; the National Weather Service is calling it a “tornado outbreak.” I thought the term "outbreak" seemed a little Hollywood but it turns out it is the correct word.

It also turns out it was a record. As if having a tornado touch down in Arizona isn’t record-breaking enough, eight of those suckers were confirmed by the NWS.

Go to the linked page above for a weather-centric explanation of how the tornadoes developed. I’m not going to lie; every weather map with color looks like a conflagration of flaming hailstone to me.

When I was a reporter in Flagstaff lo these many years ago, we had a photographer who was from New York, a real city kid at that. He was out in the field looking for enterprise art to fill the newshole. (I crack myself up over how much of the journo lingo I still remember. Basically, the photog was taking pictures that would be used to take up space.)

So the photog was dispatched to a local park that had a duck pond with the intention of getting Norman Rockwell shots of kids doing sweet and innocent things. Since it was Flagstaff in the spring, there was wind. There’s typically wind 340 our 365 days in Flag. (I exaggerate, but not much.)

Along comes this dust devil, which I’m guessing was like every other dust devil I saw growing up in Flagstaff: about 6 feet high and lasting all of 10 seconds. As kids, we chased them and never caught them because they dissipated so quickly.

The photog who grew up on the gritty streets of New York did not have the benefit of my misspent youth in Flagstaff chasing vertically oriented rotating columns of air. He did, however, have the heart of a lion, for he dropped his doubtlessly expensive Nikon with what I’m sure was at least a 300mm telephoto Nikkor lens, and threw himself upon two or three kids playing sweetly and innocently at pond’s edge in order to save them from the tornado.

I’m not sure if the kids or their parents disabused him of his need to throw children out of the way of dust devils, but at least the rest of the newsroom and the publisher got a huge kick out of the story. I sure know I did.

Needless to say, I’m not suggesting people should be anything less than painfully aware of their surroundings in different weather situations, and children should most definitely not chase dust devils, especially if newspaper staffers are nowhere in the vicinity.

Now that I've blogged and mentioned at least in passing several signs of the apocalypse, I should be good for another three-month absence, but honestly, I don't want that because that would probably mean we are responding in some fashion to more disasters. And the only disaster I'm mentally prepared for is running out of candy on Halloween.

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