Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Weather Radio Story

The weather radio just went off. So that you know how that manifests itself, it is like a siren wailing. Loud, lasting around 15 seconds-- an eternity when there is a piercing noise assaulting the eardrums. A button on the front turns off the siren and the automated voice comes on giving the weather bulletin.

Simple and a possible lifesaver where we live.

Tonight, it seems no weather is coming our way. It is southeast of us and the storm is continuing to move that way.

Our weather radio is old. The newer models are selective about the alert area. Individual counties are programmed in so it only sounds when a storm is close by. Not ours. In the late spring and early summer when severe weather is more common, it goes off five or more times in one episode of severe weather. Usually the alerts are for other areas.

We live a little over a mile, as the crow flies, from the ghost town of Richland. The town was completely demolished because it was in the flood plane in the upper reaches of Clinton Lake. There is another small town about an hour south of us named Richmond. One night the weather radio kept going off but the storm was not moving our direction at that time. Just in case there was a change, I did not want to turn the radio off. I moved it into our bedroom near our bed so I could listen to the weather bulletin if the siren sounded in the middle of the night.

Sure enough, not long after we went to bed, it sounded its obnoxious high pitched siren. I poked the button and it said all those in the area of Richland should take cover as a possible tornado showed on the radar. Anxiously, I shook Dan and said we needed to go to the basement. Jolted awake and slightly miffed by the noise, he said, “We don’t need to worry, they said Richmond.” I said, “No, it was Richland.” He said, “Why would they say Richland when it no longer existed?” Half-asleep, I thought he had a good point. So, we went back to sleep.

The next morning we discovered a tornado was sighted over Lawrence. Yes, the path of such a storm would probably have originated over our nearby ghost town of Richland.

It has been an ongoing joke since. The weather radio goes off and then we say we better check to see if there is a tornado over Richmond. Only, after Greensburg and Chapman, it isn’t quite as funny.

Monday, August 25, 2008

I'm a map person myself

Sherlock Holmes and I have something in common.

A magnifying glass as a tool to solve mysteries.

My mysteries are not literary. Gathering clues from state brochures, welcome center hosts, local residents, friends and of course internet web sites, I then use a magnifying glass on a map. (Does anyone else have trouble seeing a map?) This is my way of solving how to navigate through a state using the best scenic routes.

As much as I love electronics, so far no GPS.

Recently, I read on one of my favorite blog sites, National Park Traveler, in select national parks for $15 a day, you may rent a GPS gadget that you place on the dash. As you reach a certain location, it will present an interpretative of your surroundings. While this might not be much different than CDs available at many National Parks, Kurt Repanshek feels it has the potential to be much more popular perhaps even to the point of eliminating the give and take of human interaction.

Repanshek, a former AP journalist and now freelance writer, writes in a blog post September 27, 2007, “is the relevance of our national parks dangling on the future of where technology takes us?”

National Park Rangers are highly trained and knowledgeable about the area they serve. Their presentations are well prepared. Most importantly, they answer questions. The interaction is invaluable. As far as I am concerned, a visit to a National Park, including our National historic fort sites in Kansas, is not complete without a presentation by a ranger followed by questions and answers.

Repanshek addressed this subject again several days ago when he posted “Another look at those GPS Rangers in National Parks.” He admitted they have proven to be beneficial. Rangers can see where the traffic in the parks is heaviest, directing people to other sites. Many parks are cutting ranger positions and the electronic devices are filling the gap. Importantly, they include tours in American Sign Language.

Kurt Repanshek again hints at his feelings when he ends his most recent post with, “Is this a good move for the National Park System?”

Granted, it appears the interpretative GPS unit is a beneficial tool. On the other hand, I want to listen to a real person who has answers to my questions and stories to tell. I think it would be a mistake for the National Park Service to allow GPS gadgets to replace our National Park Rangers.

I think Sherlock would agree, is always good ask questions to better magnify a mystery.