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First Weather Satellite Photo

First Weather Satellite Photo

Fifty years ago, in 1960, I recall the world’s first satellite weather photographs hitting the prime-time news. They revealed a grainy, black and white band of thin clouds shrouding the eastern coast of the United States. There was some detail thrown in there, a mountain ridge or maybe a shoreline?

But most of all, I remember the television interviews afterwards, the ones with incredulous scientists from all over the world discussing the images. Many of these people — like the viewers — were just beginning to grasp the implications of what the new technology they were witnessing could offer the world of the near future: advanced storm tracking, air traffic control, hurricane warnings, crop forecasting, military shenanigans, on and on and on.

Pretty heady stuff.

Long before the satellites came, I remember Grandpa Brandt stepping out the back porch screen door every morning, placing his hands on his hips and gazing along the horizon line and the tips of the trees, testing the Indiana weather. It was a routine he performed every morning. Sometimes he would wet a finger and hold it up to a breeze. Other times he’d lick his lips as if tasting something, or pick up a handful of dirt and crush it between his fingers, feeling the texture as it fell away. “Rain by noon. After that, it will be a hot one.” Done deal: the day’s weather forecast had been proclaimed.

This is NowThis morning, a friend called and suggested I flick on my computer and check the weather; that he had just had 5 inches of rain dumped in his driveway and it was heading my way. Within seconds I called up WunderMap, where I spent about 20 minutes cycling through the video loop options. Never once did I consider the technology I was using.

After a while, I stepped out on my patio, placed my hands on my hips and gazed along the horizon line and the tips of the trees. “Rain by noon. After that, it will be a hot one.”

* * * * *

Tim says: as I was getting ready to publish today’s article, I noticed the advertisement in the lower right corner of the WonderMap screen capture. I wonder what Grampa would have to say about all those hot cuties in the right hand corner vying for my attention?

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Morning.

As I sat in my vehicle at 7:30 AM letting the engine warm up, my hands began to freeze on the steering wheel. Little by little, the defroster overcame the frozen patches of frost on the windshield; my seat warmer began to heat my butt up to driving temperature. It was December 14 and I was beginning my Lamb Quest.

Flaps down. Vehicle trim. Power on. Move from “P“ark to “D“rive.

“Ensign Crusher — engage!

And there I was, walking into my grocery store, eyes straight ahead, la-la-lalling down the coffee aisle, headed straight for the meat coolers where all those day-before-expiration-date-price-reduced legs of lambs were waiting. Man, oh, man, I was psyched. Five of them! I grabbed the first one.

The red REDUCED FOR QUICK SALE price label was missing! I pushed up my trifocals, focusing on the label. The leg of lamb was so close to my face I could smell sheep lanolin and hear the bleating, “Bahhhh, bahhhh, BAH.” But it was not a lamb bleating I heard. It was a MOAN coming from — me. “Last sale Date: December 15.”

I was a day early.

Miserable and dejected, I clutched the steering wheel and began to drive home. The rain changed to snow.

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The feeling is like a bad taste or an unpleasant odor in a confined space. A crowded elevator. A rancid memory, refusing to rise in order to purify itself, instead choosing to fester just below the blister of consciousness. Transparent, like a stealth weapon ninety-nine percent ghost. A vaporous déjà vu that will not leave me alone. This feeling I have is like all of that, this dread that will not go away. This thing called — Irene.

Hurricane Irene — whose name means “peaceful” (I bet some higher-up got a chuckle out of that) — plows a belligerent path northward toward a steamy rendezvous with inevitable landfall. A juggernaut on a mission: a collision with North Carolina and everywhere else.

No. Collision is not a good word to describe this terrible meeting of wind and land mass. The real word should be more subtle. Something akin to convergence or assimilation, or — confluence. Yes. A confluence with North Carolina. I like that. But I still have a very bad feeling about this Hurricane-Irene-whose-name-means-peaceful.

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