It has become one of the most feared words of the summer in our state: wildfire.
Thousands of acres of dry Oklahoma landscape have burned the past three months, including the parched vegetation that was destroyed or damaged last weekend. Forecasters say precipitation possibilities don’t look much more favorable — if at all — for the next two or three months.
There may be rain, but don’t expect there to be enough of it to end the severe drought conditions that have turned much of the state into a disaster area, weather officials say.
That’s not good news, and it requires all of us to exercise more caution when handling anything that could spark or accelerate a fire outside.
At least one of three wildfires last weekend likely originated with cigarettes, investigators say. A fire north and east of Edmond that began Thursday and rekindled a couple of times was almost certainly due to discarded smoking materials. That blaze destroyed seven homes and heavily damaged several others, as well as outbuildings and other items.
Fortunately, there were no deaths or serious injuries.
Firefighters also battled blazes near Asher, Mannford and Cleveland, OK, that required assistance from the Oklahoma National Guard, which provided water drops.
The fire near Asher burned several hundred acress, while a large blaze near Mannford spread through more than 2,000 acres.
Drought conditions and excessive heat have combined to put Oklahoma in this danger zone, weather officials said. The National Weather Service on Monday issued a fire weather watch for 47 counties in western, central and easter Oklahoma. This includes four of the state’s most populous counties: Cleveland and Oklahoma (Oklahoma City metro area), Tulsa (Tulsa metro), Comanche (Lawton and surrounding area) and Garfield (Enid area). It also included Jackson (Altus area), Kay (Ponca City area) and Pittsburg (McAlester area).
The weather service says the fire weather watch was issued because southwest winds of 20 mph with gusts of up to 30 mph were possible. These conditions can help a fire spread rapidly. Meanwhile, all of the state remains under a burn ban, barring outdoor burning that is not in a contained fixture.
Many cities and towns also are under water use guidelines, such as those around central Oklahoma that use Oklahoma City water. These locations are on an even-odd system — watering allowed on even days for even-number house addresses; odd days for odd-number addresses.
But fire prevention remains a need for all. A casually discarded cigarette can cause a massive, destructive fire. A spark from an outdoor fire torch or pit can start a large blaze.
We all can help avoid these situations by doing our parts.
See more on the fire problem and Oklahoma’s severe weather situation by going to http://knowit.newsok.com/severe-weather-oklahoma
I’m beginning to think I don’t ever want to retire. Seriously. Life may be more enjoyable — and safer — if I keep working.
I’m heading back to work Monday, and none too soon. This vacation has been anything but relaxing.
It began peaceful enough. At least, for the first seven hours. That ended with a sales call I knew I shouldn’t have answered. But when it’s shortly after dawn and you are still groggy from sleep, you don’t always make the right decision … like picking up the phone.
Oh, well. That got me up and moving. I actually got a few inside chores done that day and the next while trying to limit outside activities to cooler times of the day … or, night, when temperatures dropped to the mid- to high 90s.
But then things began to happen.
Early on day three, I decided to do some trimming outside along the fence and around the walk and driveway. It only took a couple of hours. But that afternoon, whether due to the heat or some bug I picked up, I began feeling bad. And it got worse, and worse.
By nightfall, I was unable to stay up any length of time. Lying or sitting down with glass of iced tea and a good fan was my favorite activity.
That carried into the next day, when I could only get out of bed long enough to get a drink of water or head to the restroom.
Next came a plumbing problem, necessitating a trip to the hardware store to get a new flush kit. Meanwhile, the lid on the toilet tank fell onto the floor and shattered into about five large pieces, with several chips and shards, of course.
We had talked about possibly using some of my time off to visit family, maybe even those in Kansas City. But the high temperatures have been making life miserable there, too. Plus, I’m a firm believer in not spreading your sickness to those you care about.
Scratch one trip.
The next day, while feeling a bit better, I tried to move a couple of things in the garage and strained my back. One of those strains that makes you sick to your stomach, which I already was. Oh, joy.
I gave it until the following day, when I felt like I finally might get a break. I did — a break in the windshield on my pickup. Apparently, it took a small rock that hit it just hard enough to start a crack.
I tried to arrange for a service job, but could do no better than two days later. Time to park it and wait. I wasn’t exactly feeling like going anywhere anyway.
Trying to take it easy and not do anything to cause more problems, I figured a short trip to the store wouldn’t cause any more damage … other than to the bank account.
As we were checking out, my little finger got caught in the metal basket on the grocery cart.
On my last day off, the service man came out to look at the windshield and hopefully stop the crack from advancing. His verdict? Nope. Couldn’t fix it. The crack was now too long. A windshield replacement is ahead.
So, with sore back and stomach, a cracked windshield, a topless toilet tank and a discolored little finger, I’m ending this vacation. I need to get back to work to get some rest.
Little things add up, and those additions can result in a big subtraction. That’s the lesson from financial expert Steve Orr, a registered investment advisor.
Orr says a couple of bucks here and there might not seem like much, but over the long haul, if you’ve made those purchases daily, it could make a big decrease in your retirement. In fact, it could kill it.
In his report “Are impulse buys killing your retirement?” featured in “know it: Money,” Orr tells you just how substantial a difference in your golden years those little items can make.
“It’s the little things,” he says. “It’s the dollar here, two dollars there things that we pick up every day that start to add up.
“The insidious thing is that it still doesn’t add up to so much that we think it could make a difference in our futures, because we only see those expenses in terms of the dollars we spend, but not the dollars – plus the interest – we could be earning on them.”
He notes that pension funds are being wiped out, companies are canceling their matching contributions to employee 401(k) programs (or wiping them out completely) and the future of Social Security seems dimmer than ever.
So, he wants people to realize that some of their little impulse buys are robbing them. Pennies now can translate to millions later for some people.
Then, he gives you examples that jump off the page.
I strongly encourage you to take a look at this story. It’s sound advice from someone who know the formula for avoiding the pitfalls.
See the story at http://knowit.newsok.com/money-oklahoma
There’s more to our “know it” communities than news about Edmond, Midwest City, Norman, Oklahoma City and Yukon, and there’s an open invitation to you to become part of it.
Each of these communities has other cities and towns nearby. Sometimes, it’s hard to distinguish where one ends and another begins, and.or there is overlap. We set up the online communities to include them.
“Why didn’t you just use north, south, east and west?” a reader once asked me.
We needed a focal point, a center for each coverage area. Problem was, we still had some equally (or nearly as) large cities close enough in some areas that it almost required a double-emphasis name. For instance, Edmond and Guthrie; Midwest City and Del City; Norman and Moore; or Yukon and Mustang.
There also are those who believe that Bricktown is almost a city within itself … and within Oklahoma City.
So why didn’t we put together separate “know it” communities for each of them? For now, it’s more manageable, more functional to do it this way. Will that change in the future? We’ll see. Just about anything is possible.
We do have a “play position,” or key story on the page for each community. That allows us to emphasize a story from any of the cities and towns in that area. You might have a big event occurring in Guthrie or Piedmont in the lead position in “know it: Edmond.” Or, it might be a critical city council meeting in Moore that leads “know it: Norman.” The top story for “know it: Yukon” might be something big in Mustang.
You see how it works.
But there’s more. You can contribute to the coverage for your area.
If you’re looking for a way to get the news out about an upcoming event, deliver a word of praise, or perhaps an update or follow-up is needed to those in your community. Here’s a possibility for you. Our “know it” geographical communities can help.
Need some help getting the word out about your upcoming event? Maybe you want to say “thanks” to an individual or group. Or, it could be that you need to send an update or reminder about a community happening.
Our “know it” geographical communities can help.
Readers can use Twitter feeds to get their messages out in the five “know it” online communities — Edmond, Mid-Del, Norman, Oklahoma City and Yukon. These include the surrounding area for each city.
Each community has a specific hashtag, similar to other web tags, that helps add personal messages, or “tweets,” to a category. Hashtags have the “hash” or “pound” sign preceding them.
The specific hashtags for the “know it” communities are:
- Edmond area — #knowedmond
- Mid-Del area — #knowmwc
- Norman area — #knownorman
- Oklahoma City area — #knowokc
- Yukon area — #knowyukon
The tags also can be added to other hash tags, such as #NewsOK or #okpreps.
Each “know it” community features a special area titled “NEWS SUBMITTED BY YOU,” where information such as news releases can be added.
To use that area, the reader creates an e-mail with a document or photo attached, then sends it to the address for the particular community:
Here are some tips for using this feature:
- Add the e-mail address to your list of those who normally receive your news. (The other e-mail addresses will not appear online.)
- Send your information and/or photos as a SINGLE ATTACHMENT to your e-mail. (PLEASE NOTE: Text from the e-mail will not appear online. An attachment may be a WORD document [.doc], a text file [.txt], a portable document [.pdf], or a jpeg picture [.jpg].)
- The subject line will be your headline, so be specific about what is most important that you want to emphasize. Example: Cross Timbers Elementary plans open house on Tuesday.
- Avoid punctuation and ALL CAPS in your subject line, but do capitalize the first letter of the first word and all formal titles.
- Remember to tell others about this service!
All sites can be accessed by going to http://knowit.newsok.com.
Editors and reporters consider information submitted for possible use in other sections.
Each community link is a “window” into that city and area, its offerings, its people. These are living, growing communities online, just as they are in real life. We continuously look for new information to add to them, in addition to the items that flow there from The Oklahoman reports.
The design is such that readers can glean a wealth of information about their community, quickly and efficiently, by simply clicking on the topic, ranging from stories to facts and figures on people, services and locations.
It’s all here for you.
A photo, a name, a memory. I looked at the group again on the computer screen.
In all, there were 24 young, smiling faces. They were shown as soon-to-be high school graduates, with hopes and dreams of successes and happiness ahead of them.
Some had big plans and often talked about them. I remember one who was planning on eventually taking over his father’s business, a successful construction operation. Another also was in line to inherit the family store. One was intent on following his parents, brothers and sisters into agricultural enterprises.
There were others who were planning to attend college, then venture into business or scientific endeavors. Some were inclined to use strong backs and minds to build homes or highways. Others were just hoping to have happy families and live normal lives, staying relatively close to the home where they grew up.
Now, some 40 years after those photos were made, every member of that group is gone. But they won’t be forgotten. In fact, those attending the high school reunion this weekend in Ponca City will honor their memory.
They were members of a class of more than 500 (555. as I recall). Not everyone was close friends with everyone else. It would be rare for that to happen in a class of that size, even though many schools today have much larger groups. But, all things considered, I remember there was a feeling of unity because we saw or interacted with most of our class during any given week, particularly during the school year.
Losing 24 of 555 in four decades might not seem like that high a number (4 percent, by my figures) to most people. But these were individuals we knew well, people we shared many experiences with, dated, or had as teammates.
As I glanced again at the screen, I thought about what the photos didn’t show, but that some — many — of us knew. Some of those classmates already were facing major challenges when those photos were taken. For example, at least two were fighting serious health issues and both eventually died of their illnesses.
At least two others faced life issues they could not overcome. Some were lost to accidents, some were victims of violence. There are others I have no idea about, yet.
The group included athletes, dancers, singers. There were those who were skilled with their hands, those who were skilled with their minds.
I can remember some thing, some event relating to most all of them. Some were close friends; some were just friends. But all were our classmates.
We will remember them.
We’re well into the tornado season, that time of year when superstorms, often producing tornadoes, strike. Even with the most advanced forecast and warning systems, cities and communities experience death and destruction when these monsters form.
There are those who believe that some day in may be possible for man to have more control over weather. But for now, it’s best to respect it and be aware of its potential. Learn how to survive it.
The damage resulting from Sunday’s tornado in southwest Missouri and the surrounding area resembles a war zone, a common description when an area sustains such a hit from a powerful storm. The death toll continues to rise as rescue and other emergency personnel find victims under the debris left by the tornado. Local officials estimate as much as 40 percent of the city of 50,000 had damage.
It wasn’t that there was no warning. The Joplin city manager said storm sirens sounded at least 20 minutes before the twister touched down on the west side, then tore a six-mile-long, half-mile-wide slice through the center of town. Among the buildings in its direct path: a hospital.
Some witnesses have said the Joplin tornado was “wrapped in rain” and hard to see. This is not unusual. It’s also not unusual that a tornado can be almost transparent until it picks up debris.
Tornadoes can have winds of up to 300 mph and can destroy everything in their path for 50 miles or so. They strike quickly, sometimes with little warning. So how can you prepare to survive one?
Have a plan, don’t panic.
If the sky is dark, often greenish; if there is large hail; if you see a large, dark, low-lying cloudy; and if you hear a loud roar (often described as similar to a freight train), you are witnessing conditions that may accompany a tornado.
Though a house of any kind rarely can withstand a direct hit from a severe tornado, good construction can help if your home is on the edge of the tornado’s path. A home can get a little extra protection with impact-resistant window; at least three hinges on doors and a deadbolt with a bolt at last an inch long.
Homebuilders may recommend installing permanent wood or metal stiffeners on garage doors. Some temporary supports are available that you can attach and remove easily when weather threatens. It isn’t my preference, but anything might be beneficial.
Weather officials say that if weather conditions are right for a tornado in your area, take precations.
If a tornado warning is issued, get everyone to shelter. If you have a basement, move everyone there. Otherwise, find a closet, a small room or a hallway away from windows. The more walls between you and the outside, the better.
Lean a mattress against the wall of the room you’re in, don’t open windows (you want the wind and rain to stay outside). If you can, turn off your utilities.
If you live in a mobile home, find shelter elsewhere.
Some other tips:
* If you are in a vehicle and a tornado is approaching, get out and try to find shelter inside a sturdy building. If there is nothing nearby, a ditch can provide shelter. Obviously, don’t lie down in water, however.
* Don’t make the mistake of taking shelter under a bridge or overpass. These structures may be destroyed. They also offer very little protection from debris.
If a tornado watch is issued rather than a warning, you should have time to move anything in your yard that may become flying debris inside your house or garage. But if a thunderstorm is in progress, with lightning especially, don’t go out in it.
Have emergency supplies at the ready (flashlights, cell phones, snacks, clean water, blankets … those things that can be used immediately).
Listen to weather reports and be prepared to act.
For more stormy weather safety information, go to http://knowit.newsok.com/severe-weather-oklahoma.
“You’ve just won a new BMW!”
“You have been chosen to receive $1,000,000!”
“We have a check waiting for you!”
“Your name came up … ”
“No strings attached!”
“Free ocean cruise!”
“The world is yours!”
Wait a minute. The whole world? So, what’s the catch?
Never mind. We all know if it sounds too good to be true, it is. Uh, it isn’t. You know what I mean. It’s bunk.
It’s amazing to see what kind of garbage makes it through the filters these days, no matter what we put on our computers (“Spam Busters: Guaranteed to Stop That Spam”), our phone lines (Join the No Call List and Avoid Those Sales Calls), or doors (No Soliciting: “This’ll Stop ‘Em”).
They seem to always find a way to get through.
I believe strongly in advertising, particularly that of the legitimate variety. What I have is a problem with is those such as mentioned at the top of this piece, the items that promise things that simply cannot be true.
Of course, you might say they really DON’T promise anything. There’s always something in the fine print that gives the sender a legal escape.
SPAM or SCAM, it’s still a four-letter word to me.
I got seven emails from individuals claiming to be U.S. military personnel currently stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan who had come across thousands … no, millions of dollars over there and all they needed was a bank account to send it to so we could split it.
“Sure. Would you like my Social Security number, too, so you can make the proper withholding?”
I have had several emails from people saying my name is on an account in another country awaiting my instructions on how to disperse it.
“Great. Here’s where I want you to put that.”
And the sad stories of those in need who only request a few thousand dollars to help them get here, so they can gladly repay me.
“Oh, I will be glad to send you money so you can .. Wait. If you don’t owe me yet, why would I want to … ?”
It’s almost entertaining to see what kind of shill comes next. Almost. Not quite.
But now about the world being mine …
A little help can go a long way when you’re fighting hunger. We all have a prime opportunity to make that come true Saturday, May 14, during the 19th Annual Letter Carriers Food Drive.
It’s easy, it’s inexpensive and it will help our fellow Oklahomans who are struggling to feed their families and/or themselves during difficult economic times by joining in the Stamp Out Hunger effort.
All you need do is put nonperishable food items in the plastic bag your letter carrier leaves at your mailbox this week, and place the bag near that spot by 7 a.m. Saturday. Any plastic bag with a handle will work as well.
The carriers will pick them up and take them to post offices, where the items are sorted and delivered to food pantries and the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma for distribution.
So what kinds of food items are needed? Those like canned meats; rice and beans; vegetables and fruits; even peanut butter.
The goal this year is to get 900,000 pounds (450 tons). That may sound like a lot, but it really isn’t when you consider that thousands of Oklahomans go hungry each day, or barely get by. A few canned items can make a big difference in their lives.
If you would prefer to make a money donation, you can go online to regionalfoodbank.org, or text “CAN” to 27722 to do a $10 gift. Organizers say each dollar donated provides seven meals to a hungry person, and all donations stay in Oklahoma.
For more information about how you can help our disadvantage residents, go to knowit.newsok.com/charity-oklahoma or to knowit.newsok.com/homless-oklahoma and check the resources locations.
Here’s your opportunity to help and feel good about doing so.
Have you ever thought about how much different things would be if we didn’t have cell phones?
I’m from a generation that can remember how it was before we did. Surprisingly, we made it just fine. I hear that generations before mine handled things just as well.
Of course, those of those eras didn’t know what they were missing, because it hadn’t been invented.
Don’t get me wrong. Technology is a wonderful thing. Development, inovation and invention can make life much easier. They also can entertain us.
Cell phones are among the best technological advancements. They enable us to make contact with others faster and more efficiently than many other forms of communication. The uses of cell phones are increasing daily (if not sooner), as is the number of those using them.
If you want to see just how great cell phone usage is, do as I did.
While sitting inside my vehicle in a pharmacy parking lot, waiting on a family member, I decided to count of vehicles that passed by in which the driver or a passenger was using a cell phone.
With a traffic signal at a major intersection only half a block away, it wasn’t difficult to see them because the vehicles were slowing down for the light, or to turn.
I missed those driving by in the first five minutes or so because I hadn’t intended to count cars. But in the 20 minutes I DID count, there were 27 of 63 vehicles with a cell phone in use inside. Of those, 14 vehicles were being driven by someone using a phone. And four appeared to be texting.
I based that on thumbs moving around the phone that was not near the ear or mouth as it would be if it were a phone conversation.
In three vehicles, both the driver and someone else inside were talking on the phone, presumably not to each other.
Of the “texters,” two were able to proceed on their way without hampering the flow of traffic, but one sat at a dead stop as the signal light turned green, and one changed lanes in front of a pickup and got a reminder horn honk.
Got my attention, for sure, just as it had the pickup driver.
Somehow, I don’t think he was impressed with new technology. I could almost count on that.
Volkswagen’s signature vehicle for 73 years is changing changes. The company has announced the Beetle will have a different look and better features. Hopes are that the changes will spiff up Volkswagen’s sales in the U.S. … triple them, in fact.
These days, a vehicle that can deliver more gas mileage, comfort, an attractive appearance and a reasonable price stands a chance of doing well. That’s the goal.
This will be the first significant modification to the Beetle since the late 1990s, when a former Oklahoma boy, J Mays of the small town of Maysville (named for his distant ancestors), got involved.
Volkswagen sales had fallen in the U.S. after a peak in 1962, some 30 years after the Beetle first was developed by Nazi Germany. In fact, Volkswagen ceased sales of the Beetle here in 1979. But Mays gave the car and the company a rebirth with the New Beetle design and it rolled on.
The effort was successful, as was Mays, who was hired as the youngest chief of design for any U.S. automaker when Ford hired him away and he promptly reached the winner’s circle again with a redesigned Ford Thunderbird.
Now, the Beetle may have another victory in sight.
The new design includes a few cosmetic features that certainly will draw attention. There is a flatter roof, narrower windows, a crease along the side and “a less bulbous shape,” auto design critics say.
Don’t expect the new version to look like Herbie the “Love Bug” of Walt Disney movie fame. This one has a smoother, more modern appearance.
How well will it be received? That’s yet to be seen. But with a navigation system, a larger trunk, better lighting and a fancier interior, it’s sure to get some attention.
The Mays New Beetle was popular with women in their 50s and 60s, car experts noted, but the latest Beetle has been getting good reviews from male focus groups. One reason is that the 170 hp, 2.5-liter engine has been upgraded and there now is a 200 hp, turbocharged gas engine, as well as a diesel engine which has a rating of 40 miles per gallon.
We’ll see how the new Beetle (as opposed to the New Beetle of Mays) sells. It may be a winner, or it may fall in line behind the high-volume sales machine, such as the Toyota Corolla, the Jetta, the Passat, or other sedans.
Now if they had just left that built-in flower base on the dash …
See more on the new Beetle at http://knowit.newsok.com/buying-a-car-oklahoma