A nugget of EMS organizational wisdom every day. #39 Tune in to your gut’s alert frequency
I’m a weather geek. I’ve been a weather geek since I was a kid. I love watching the clouds, the sky, the horizon, the winds, the dew, the rain, the snow – even the bees to find clues about the weather. Over the years I’ve gathered a fair bit of weather wisdom in these bones. And I’ve learned to pay attention when my gut’s frequency starts broadcasting a weather alert.
Last Friday, June 29th, I went through my usual daily doppler radar checks and read through a series of weather discussions for our area. It was hot, humid & hazy and I was thinking thunderstorms however what really caught my eye was the set-up further to our south for a derecho event that would affect OH, PA, WV, MD, DC, and VA.
My gut frequency was in full-fledged SWTWC [Something Wicked This Way Comes] mode although the ‘this way’ wasn’t in our own backyard.
So I took to Facebook, Twitter and Gmail and began sending out ‘heads-up’ messages to my friends and colleagues in OH, PA, and WV.
“Hey – my Bethany WV, Pittsburgh PA friends – you have very wicked weather inbound…very powerful Tstorms… Would not be surprised to see tornado warnings out of some of these storms. They are inbound now…”
“These are really bad storms. Should be hearing thunder in Wellsburg, Steubenville, Weirton, Wheeling.. these are the kind of storms where seeking shelter would be a good idea.”
“Charleston WV – George – you have severe weather inbound my friend. Gather up and get to shelter…”
I compared notes with an old FD brother in Baltimore County who sent me a note on FB: “Hal, I just looked at the radar , obviously the largest storm I have seen in my lifetime surely this thing will weaken before it hits Baltimore ?? The storm is mostly red with some purple areas not good.”
I replied “No, I don’t think it will weaken, Steve. What’s the current temp in Baltimore? With humidity – in the high 90s low 100s… no I think it’s going to continue cycling until it blows through into the Atlantic… it is a very organized weather event..”
I continued my social media alerting “Wow. This is a darned-near epic derecho wind event, folks affecting multiple states and featuring straight-line winds in the 80-90 mph range. We haven’t seen one like this in several years. We are looking at a major emergency management event. Currently monitoring major damage across large swath of OH and WV with derecho continuing march across PA towards MD.”
“Friends in PA MD DC VA NC… this derecho event is screaming cross country and will impact a huge chunk of the country tonight.. it has a record of generating straight-line winds in the 80-90 mph range.. and as you’ve been reading too many reports of major damage to report on my FB page… Pay careful attention to your local weather.. Monitor severe weather warnings.”
I’m certain a good chunk of my personal social network deleted me from their news feeds amid the constant chatter however my thoughts were with the people in the path of the storms.
I heard from friends throughout the affected area:
“My daughter is in Marietta. OH. She just called and said “I think we’re in a war zone. Power lines are down everywhere.”
“Hal, I was in the middle of it in NW Ohio this afternoon. I have never experienced straight line winds so fast. With no where to go, I pointed my Suburban into the wind and put it in park. The rain stalled the engine and debris flew by like I was speeding down a highway. Trees down Utilities out everywhere. Beautiful calm blue skies in the aftermath.”
A couple of hours later, George resurfaced in Charleston WV “Thanks Hal. I saw the warning just in time. It’s a mess here with power lines down and trees in the roadway. We were lucky. Some of our neighbors, not so lucky. Everyone is OK. Just finished checking on our elderly neighbors.”
In the very early days of the 1998 Ice Storm, I studied the weather maps and the models and then convinced my boss that it would be a great idea to make arrangements for the long-term rental of a huge truck-mounted generator from Panavision. After several years of my weather alerts, I guess he figured the odds were better-than-even that we’d actually need the generator. As the event unfolded, the Panavision truck and its driver/operator became an imbedded part of life in The EMS House.
After the Ice Storm, I was interviewed as part of the Nicolet Commission’s investigation of the impact of the ice storm. The interviewer was fascinated by our little municipality’s ability to gear-up so quickly before the disaster began to unfold. He wanted to know how we were able to anticipate such a large-scale event.
I explained that paying attention to my gut feeling was just another element of our real-time situational awareness process. While the interviewer smiled and took notes, I wondered how he would explain that to the rest of the Commission back in Quebec City.
I suspect ‘Rule #39 Tune in to your gut’s alert frequency’ may have been lost in translation.
Be well. Practice big medicine.