Friday, April 29, 2011


The hook brings you back...

"Hook," Blues Traveller.

Bon Voyage, Endeavour UPDATED: Not Yet

The last launch of the space shuttle Endeavour is this afternoon. UPDATED 10:35 AM: Today's launch scrubbed; problem with an auxillary power unit.

You can watch the launch You can still get updates over at Spaceflight Now.

There's only one more shuttle mission after this...

Picking Up The Pieces

As rescue workers and survivors start picking up the pieces, we are starting to get a better idea of the magnitude and severity of last Wednesday's tornadoes in the South.
  • CNN reports the official death toll this morning was 298. 
  • 210 of those were killed in Alabama.
  • has a good summary of the casualties and damage by state.
The Weather Service is also getting initial survey results suggesting that several EF4 tornadoes and at least one EF5 tornado were part of this tornado outbreak. This is one storm complex that meteorologists will be studying for years.

I also really want to point out the excellent work that Birmingham TV station ABC 33/40 is doing: they are posting on Youtube their aerial damage surveys from several different tornadoes.

From the Tuscaloosa/Birmingham tornado
Tuscaloosa Part 1
Tuscaloosa Part 2
Tuscaloosa Part 3
Tuscaloosa Part 4
Birmingham Part 1

From the Cullman, AL tornado

From the Cordova, AL tornado

From Hackleburg, AL (Part 1) (Part 2)

And there's more...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Black Wednesday

We knew going in that yesterday was going to be a bad day, but predictions are just numbers. Now we know the cold hard reality:

  • At least 230 dead; as of now, that total is still rising. (That means more than 280 have been killed in tornadoes in April 2011.)   
  • At least 120 tornadoes, touching down all over the East.
  • A huge tornado touched down in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and apparently stayed on the ground all the way through the northern suburbs of Birmingham. (Possibly farther.) This is probably the deadliest of the tornadoes, due to its intensity, size, and the metropolitan area it tore through, but it is far from clear that it was the biggest or most intense.

The above map is based on reports to the Storm Prediction Center. The official total is going to be lower than the 164 shown above; these are based on reports, and some duplicates and mistakes get swept up in the total. A good rule of thumb is to estimate that the actual total is going to be approximately 75%-80% of the reported total. Still - that means 120 - 130 tornadoes touched down yesterday. (And some were monsters - big, and stayed on the ground for a long time.)

The number, intensity, and extent of yesterday's tornadoes is prompting comparisons to the Super Outbreak of 1974, but we won't really know how April 27, 2011 compares for weeks to come.

More information:

Jesse Ferrell (WeatherMatrix) at Accuweather tries to summarize yesterday's and this month's tornadoes.

Accuweather story on outbreak

CNN story and for latest news, CNN Live Blog

The Weather Channel - Outbreak page

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Today Is Going To Be Worse

Better for Tornado Alley, but far worse for Mississippi and Alabama:

Wow. Extremely high risk for Birmingham and northern Alabama.

Reports of very strong wind shear aloft; that's condusive to tornado generation.

There are already seven (7) tornado reports along the Alabama/Tennessee border, and we're just getting started.

Keep your heads down back there. You're in for a long day.

More information:

Storm Prediction Center

Weather Channel

Severe Studios LiveBlog

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's going to be a rough day in Tornado Alley.

This is about as ugly as one of these maps get. For those of you in the bullseye: Stay close to the radio and be careful out there today.

Even as I finish this post, the watches are going up...

For more info:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

By The Rude Bridge That Arched The Flood

"Don’t fire unless fired upon. But if they want a war let it begin here." 
--Captain John Parker, commander of the militiamen at Lexington, Massachusetts, on sighting British Troops (attributed), 19 April 1775

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fifty Years of Human Spaceflight

Here's to happier anniversaries - fifty years ago today, the first man traveled into space and orbited the Earth. Yuri Gagarin was the first - and poured gas rocket fuel onto the heated Space Race.

It's also the thirtieth anniversary of the first flight of a space shuttle, the Columbia, on April 12, 1981.

Happier days for the US space program.

Fifty years - more than enough time for some unique rituals to develop.

(Thanks to Moe Lane for the reminder.)

Paper Airplane

Alison Krauss and Union Station - Paper Airplane by Rounder_Records

Comes out today! So, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to Target...

The First Gun of The War

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the shelling of Fort Sumter, the first shots of the American Civil War.

The battle itself would only last thirty-two hours; undermanned and out of ammunition, the Union force holding the fort could only mount a brief defense for honor and principle's sake before surrendering the afternoon of April 13th, 1861. They had suffered only a few casualties but were out of ammunition.

It would be a long four years before the guns again fell silent.

Jim Lacey has an excellent piece on the battle over at National Review; this first battle contained some of the quirks that typified the Civil War - opposing commanders knew one another, men had acquaintances and friends on both sides, journeys were made full circle. It would be a hard, heartbreaking, and strange war.