What was supposed to have been an enjoyable ride on the rail between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth became anything but, and answers are needed.
“Heartland Flyer passengers endured nearly eight hours of delays Saturday night in a series of weather difficulties caused by heavy rain, a downed tree on the track and a lightning strike, which disabled one of the engines,” Business Writer Jennifer Palmer reported Tuesday on the front page of The Oklahoman.
The ride from Fort Worth began on time (5:25 p.m., Jennifer reported) but was 16 miles behind schedule when it reached its first stop in Gainesville, Texas. Amtrak, which operates the flyer, said that was due to heavy rain and flash flooding.
A little past Gene Autry, in southern Oklahoma, the train had to stop because there was a tree on the track. It was apparently at that stop that lightning struck the track or the locomotive, disabling it. This required freight locomotives to be summoned to remove the stricken power source.
The train was able to make its stop in Purcell nearly seven hours late. Passengers were warned at the next stop, in Norman, that there was a possibility of more delays. Several people took the opportunity to get off.
Those factors alone made this trip much less than pleasurable. But there was more. After the Flyer was able to move on, and just past Norman it shut down again.
It seems the crew had completed 12 hours, “the maximum time allowed, Amtrak said.” So “two miles from the station, crossing a live track on foot and navigating a ditch in the dark to find another way home, … ” the passengers were allowed to exit the train.
Eventually, a backup crew arrived to finish the journey. The train arrived in Oklahoma City at 5:34 a.m.
“We want people to know this wasn’t a satisfactory trip for us either,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told Jennifer. “We’re looking at ways we could have handled this differently.”
Here’s a suggestion: look hard. Look very, very hard. This is where contingency plans should come into play.
Unexpected problems, such as weather or mechanical failures, can make things rough. Having an idea of how to handle them avoids an inconvenience to paying customers and an embarrassment. It can help you avoid what, in many circles, is known as a “public relations nightmare.”
How this incident affects future ridership will show how the public feels about it. Here’s hoping the Flyer can get back on track.
I certainly don’t envy anyone who HAS TO be out in this heat. Just the opposite. I feel for them. It’s miserable out there.
It’s also very dangerous. When the heat is this extreme, it can take only a few moments for you to get in trouble.
Forecasters say we MAY see highs of “only” around 100 later this week. But until you see it, just hope for it. Right now, we’re looking at 110-plus.
You’ve most likely seen numerous stories in print, online, or on TV about the dangers of extreme heat and exposure to the sun. I’ve said before that if you have access to a computer, you can go to KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/SEVERE-WEATHER-OKLAHOMA for some vital information and good advice on beating the heat.
As one caller noted today, even his large box fan wasn’t helping all that much because it was just moving the hot air around and blasting him with it. That happens if the fan is in a non-shaded area or where there is no avenue to circulate cooler air.
Pay attention to heat advisory messages you hear on the radio or on TV. All news media are trying to get the word out about how to stay safe, stay hydrated and check on shut-ins and others who have need of assistance.
Meanwhile, the American Red Cross, American Red Cross, Central and Western Oklahoma Region, has put out a list of Cool Zones you can visit to stay cool during the heat.
If you or someone you know needs help, here are places you can go to. Print them off and keep them handy. They could be lifesavers.
In Oklahoma City: http://www.oge.com/community/CommunityPrograms/Documents/OGE%20Cool%20Zones%206%2015%202012.pdf
Outside the metro area: http://www.oge.com/community/CommunityPrograms/Documents/Cool%20Zones%20outside%20OKC%20area.pdf
For more help, call the Red Cross office at 228-9581.
A former neighbor told me one summer he was working hard to have the best-looking lawn on the block. He said he was determined to have a colorful yard.
He was succeeding.
But when others were using everything they could find to make their lawns a nice shade of green, he was fixed on yellow.
It was intentional, he said, and it probably was. He intentionally avoided any and all yard work, so, he allowed his grass to burn up.
He attributed part of his “success” to a mandatory water rationing plan by the city. His neighbors reminded him that on the even-odd system, he still could water. He laughed and said he always had trouble remembering which he was, “even or odd.”
We all agreed “odd” was most fitting, and he never picked up on it. But we did convince him the odd-numbered address on his curb meant he was allowed to use water on odd-numbered days. Still, he let his grass burn.
It only took his young son dropping a lighted match on the grass to finally convince him that his idea wasn’t the best. The next year, he bought a sprinkler.
When the grass is so dry it crinkles under your feet, it’s time to act. It’s amazing how fast a grass fire can spread, threatening more than just a lawn. It could cost you your home.
There have been large several grass fires recently around the state, though none have come close to those west of here that have brought death and destruction.
None have been close to those of the past few years that charred thousands of acres of landscape, took numerous buildings and caused deaths or injuries.
But the potential is there. Weather officials note that the drought that has gripped a large part of the country is not letting up. If we’re lucking, we’ll get a break before fall. But it could be there won’t be much relief.
So, we need to do what we can to reduce the risk.
Fire officials advise keeping your lawn cut short and dispose of the clippings.
If you have dead tree limbs or other debris lying around, get rid of it, too.
Don’t leave flammable materials where they can cause of accelerate a fire.
Be careful with your outdoor grill.
And whenever possible, wet down the grass.
There are many other ways you can help avoid a fire problem. See the resources listings in KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/SEVERE-WEATHER-OKLAHOMA for more information.
And consider green rather than yellow as the color for your yard.
By Chuck Mai, AAA, and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
The viral video of a car being launched airborne by a buckled Wisconsin highway may already be old news, but – given that we’re less than three weeks into the summer of 2012 – the conditions that created this dangerous situation hardly are. Many of us have already endured record-breaking heat and powerful storms – and it’s not yet even mid-July.
As we gulp down bottle after bottle of water, head to the pool, crank up the AC, take refuge in movie theaters, and find other ways of beating the heat, it’s important to remember that our vehicles need some TLC to survive these brutal months, too. And when the heat’s this bad, breakdowns can be particularly problematic, as motorists may be stranded in extreme temperatures with insufficient water and shade.
To protect yourself and your car this summer, make sure to check and top off vital fluids to keep your engine running smoothly and avoid overheating. Ensure that your tires are inflated properly, as extreme temperatures exacerbate the risk of a blowout. Keep sufficient fuel in your tank in case power failures or long lines at the pump make it difficult to find accessible gas stations in your area. If storm debris has damaged your windshield, have it replaced or repaired as soon as possible. And always carry some extra water in the trunk, just in case.
Of course, extreme heat and humidity often culminate in severe storms, which can bring down trees and utility lines, and create sudden changes in visibility and roadway conditions. Be on the lookout for fallen branches, and intersections with traffic signals that have lost power (which should be treated as all-way stops). Be patient with changes in traffic patterns, and remember that spending a few extra minutes sitting in your air-conditioned car is probably not such a bad thing after all. Taking these and other precautions can go a long way toward ensuring you – and your car – make it through the summer safely.
And remember: always wear your seatbelt. After all, you never want to encounter a situation in which the roadway is buckled…and you’re not.
I call it “being curious.” Some call it “being snoopy.” But I’ve always been interested in what’s on everyone’s mind. After all, that’s what people in my business are supposed to do: find out what people want to know about and give them as much information as you possibly can.
Sometimes, it’s easy. You can start with weather. Especially in Oklahoma, the weather plays a big part in most everything, from business to pleasure, from life to death. Weather is a factor.
You always can talk politics. This is an election year and, no matter how hard you try, you can’t escape hearing or seeing someone voice an opinion on who is and who is not doing the right thing, who will or who will not win in the November general election, who ought to stay, who ought to go.
One of the most significant freedoms we have it the right to state our opinion, and the right to agree or disagree, whether you do or don’t want to hear it.
Now that the Thunder’s season has ended, there’s a break. Right? To a degree. There are still the Thunder players participating in the Olympics, which, by the way, is another topic that will be even bigger soon.
We’re just a few weeks away from the start of the new football season. The predictions and expectations already are there.
Money always is an important topic, from how to make it to how to spend it, or how to save it. Add to that the cost of anything, which always seems to being heading upward. Who has money, who needs money and how to help those who don’t have enough to adequately survive also get attention.
Vehicles have been popular topics since the first ones were invented. You can expect that to continue until we don’t use them anymore.
Health matters — yours or those of someone else, how to avoid them and how to treat them — are important and often discussed.
Items relating to the military, particularly in a state like Oklahoma where it has such a presence, affect many people.
You also will read, see, or hear about such topics as children, pets, religion, travel, recreation and cultural events.
Plenty, huh? And there are many more.
Each of the topics mentioned above is in at least one of our “know it” topics. It may be a story, it could be a photo, or it might be in a topic’s resource material. Then again, it might be in more than one, sometimes several.
That’s why they are there: To give you information. And you can contribute as well by sending news releases, notes of praise, or other tidbits to the online communities.
Visit HTTP://KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/ and look them over.
I’ve always enjoyed a good fireworks show. I like the high aerial displays, with the wide spread of brilliant streams of color. You know, the kind that fill the sky with bright, multicolored patterns.
I don’t necessarily need the loud boom, but it does serve as a punctuation for the display, so I accept it as just part of it.
In my years, I’ve heard plenty of “oohs” and “ahs” during Independence Day celebrations. I’ve also heard a variety of “ouch” and a few other exclamations. In fact, I’ve issued a few of them myself.
That’s one reason I’ve gotten to the point that I actually would rather watch a display than participate in one. Just say I had a few lessons learned.
I’ve seen what happens when someone is careless with fireworks. From burns on the body to burns on the earth to burning houses to glowing auto interiors and other unintentional blazes, I’ve seen, heard, or felt what happens when things don’t go as planned.
I’ve also been involved in reporting on beautiful displays done right, as well as things gone bad, where people and property suffer.
Like most, I enjoyed fireworks from one perspective as a youngster, and have learned to enjoy them from another way as an adult.
Besides, I don’t run as fast these days, so if a projectile comes my way, it takes a little longer to dodge it.
Give me a cool drink, a comfortable chair, friends and family and a great view, and I’m ready to watch the show.
It’s generally safer that way.
Have a great, happy, safe Fourth.
By Chuck Mai, AAA
Motorists: time to get it together…the outrageous heat of summer is here! Time to prepare your vehicles for days and days of soaring temperatures. (Remember last year in Oklahoma?) Without preventive maintenance, summer’s heat increases the likelihood of vehicle failure, leaving you and your passengers unexpectedly, and dangerously, stranded on the side of the road.
Here are my best summer vehicle maintenance tips:
Before hitting the road:
• Make sure your vehicle is in top operating condition before leaving home.
• Most drivers think battery problems occur primarily in winter, but summer heat can negatively impact your car’s battery even more than the bitter cold of winter. Heat and vibration are a battery’s two worst enemies leading to internal breakdown and eventual failure. Rule of thumb: if your vehicle’s battery is more than two years old, have it checked.
• Check all fluids including the coolant level in the overflow tank and top off as needed with a 50-50 mix of antifreeze/coolant and water. If the engine is cool, check the level in the radiator as well. Never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot, you can be seriously scalded.
• Have the cooling system flushed and new coolant installed when recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Depending on the type of coolant used, this is typically necessary every two to five years.
• Inspect your filters, belts and hoses.
• Keep tires at normal pressure. Soft tires generate heat, which can lead to a blowout. Inflate them to the pressure indicated on the sticker inside your glove compartment or on the door jamb. Do not go by the pressure molded into the sidewall of the tire – that is a maximum pressure. And don’t forget the spare.
• Even with proper preventive maintenance, summer breakdowns can still occur, so carry a well-stocked emergency kit in your vehicle. The kit should include water, non-perishable food items, jumper cables, a flashlight with extra batteries, road flares or an emergency beacon, basic hand tools, duct tape and a first aid kit.
Once on the road:
• Keep an eye on your gas, oil and engine temperature gauges.
• Should you overheat, pull off the road, shut the engine off immediately and allow the vehicle to cool.
• Make sure you keep a supply of replacement fluids in your vehicle to top off levels that may drop from the extreme use of your engine. Most important is having coolant and engine oil on hand, because those are the ones you are likely to run low on in the middle of nowhere, 100 miles from the nearest service station.
• If your vehicle does break down, stay with it and wait for help to arrive. This is a great time to have a cell phone with you along with a power cable you can plug into the car’s electrical system.
The extreme heat has set in and forecasters say it’s going to be around a while. So now is a good time to use caution and act appropriately with steps to battle heat-related situations.
EMSA officials have these words of advice:
* Remember, PRE-HYDRATION is key in preventing heat related illness. Drink plenty of water or electrolyte replacement drinks several hours prior to long exposure to the summer heat.
* Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat if working outdoors and take plenty of shade breaks.
Kids in Cars
There is no “safe” amount of time kids can be left in a hot car. How quickly a child becomes ill varies widely based on a number of conditions, including:
* The child’s hydration level to begin with the temperature in the car (which can vary based on car interior, temperature outdoors, whether there is shade, etc.)
* The child’s weight
* The child’s overall health (diabetes and other chronic medical conditions can make a child less able to tolerate the heat), and any medications the child may be taken.
The Centers for Disease Control presents these key points:
A heat advisory or warning has been issued. Now what do you do?
* Stay indoors and avoid extreme temperature changes. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to a shopping mall or public library — even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat.
* If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine.
* Keep your electric fans running.
* Drink cool liquids often, particularly water, even if you do not feel thirsty, to help your body stay cool.
* Avoid alcoholic beverages, which dehydrate the body.
* During heavy exercise in a hot environment, drink two to four glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour.
* Eat small, frequent meals. Avoid foods that are high in protein, which increase metabolic heat.
* Keep pets indoors; refill their water bowls frequently.
* If you must go out, wear lightweight, light-colored clothing to reflect the sun’s energy.
* Slow down, avoid strenuous outdoor activity. If you must engage in strenuous activity, limit exposure during mid-day hours.
* Cover all exposed skin with a high SPF sunscreen, and wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and head.
* Drink plenty of fluids.
* Never leave infants, children, or pets in a parked car.
* Continue drinking plenty of water.
* Never take a cool shower immediately after becoming overheated. You may cool too quickly and become ill, nauseous, or dizzy.
* Know the symptoms of heat disorders and overexposure to the sun, and be ready to give first aid treatment.
These are just some of the ways you can combat extreme heat. For more information, go to KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/SEVERE-WEATHER-OKLAHOMA and click on the INFORMATION area in the header.
If I could have, I would have passed out “good driving” certificates to every driver I encountered during about a 45-minute period Monday night on Interstate 35, southbound between the Stillwater exit and Waterloo Road. Make that Covell Road. Aw heck, let’s say Second Street in Edmond.
You all are to be commended and thanked, from the guys driving the big rigs to those in the compact cars. You made the trip much safer, simply by being smart and considerate of others who negotiated their way through a strong thunderstorm.
My wife and I were returning from a holiday visit to our families, like countless others I bet, when conditions turned treacherous. What began as an incredible electrical display off in the distance rapidly became an Oklahoma thunderboomer like we’ve all come to know and … respect.
By the time we reached the Fir Street exit at Perry, it had become very clear that we weren’t going to slip by without at least a little dance in the rain. By the State Highway 51 (Stillwater/Hennessey) exit, we were feeling the wind, hearing the thunder and starting to see some rain.
I told my wife that the long line of vehicles headed north (nearly bumper to bumper, actually), as compared to the much thinner line heading south, was an indication that there most likely was some heavy rain and more ahead. It was minutes later when we found ourselves smack down in the middle of the worst of it.
With visibility less than a hundred feet or so, slowing down to a near crawl was the only option. But everyone seemed to be of the same mind. And, they were using their flashers as they eased on down the highway, making it much easier to make out what and how far away the vehicle ahead was.
The truckers were doing the same and their huge sizes helped smaller vehicles by becoming somewhat of a windbreak. In addition, they were making a path on what was now a water-covered roadway.
We saw no instances of road rage, no indication that anyone was taking any unnecessary chances, and no attempts at what I call the “me first” mentality, where the driver pushes himself to the head of the pack. It was just plain common sense prevailing.
I’m sure there were several out-of-state drivers in that mix. I couldn’t read tags through the rain, and wouldn’t have anyway. All attention was focused on the road and those on it.
It was great to see everyone doing the right thing and keeping themselves and others safe in the process. Great job by all.
See KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/SEVERE-WEATHER-OKLAHOMA for more on last night’s storms and check out the resources on weather safety. It just might come in handy.
When you grow up in Tornado Alley, you learn at an early age to pay attention to the weather. You also learn how to survive it.
While growing up in Ponca City, I became familiar with the signs of the approach of severe weather.
Things such as:
* Birds changing the volume and amount of their chirping, increasing along with their numbers as they rapidly switched locations.
* Wind speed, direction shifts and temperature drops, often .
* Rolling clouds, that changed color, turning almost black or exhibiting a dark green cast, which indicated hail.
* Rumbling thunder in the distance, then moving into the immediate area.
* Lightning, frequent and often brilliant, especially the nighttime electrical shows.
* That weird, spooky music the local radio station always played when storms were in the forecast.
* The voice of the local radio weather expert, giving updates.
* Sirens bellowing out a warning that a dangerous situation was approaching.
And then … the dash to safety.
Sometimes it was the lower area of the cafeteria in the school building nearby.
Sometimes it was a closet.
If there was time, or if we were on that side of town, a trip to a longtime family friend’s storm shelter, known as “the cellar,” or “the fraidy hole.”
At the school, there were dozens of people, from small children to elderly couples, all who lived within a few blocks of the building. It was loud and generally hot.
In the closet, it was cramped and rather uncomfortable. Luckily, that was a last resort.
The fraidy hole was the place to be. It could hold about a dozen people. Unless things really got nasty outside, however, there were about six to eight women and children inside, playing games or talking about so-and-so’s family, while the men stood outside with their arms crossed and always looking skyward as they talked about more important things … fishing, automobiles, championship wrestling …
I always felt that if we headed to the fraidy hole, it meant the town was in danger. WE were in danger. And it stayed that way until the all-clear from the sirens, the spooky music on the radio stopped, or the clouds rolled away.
If you grew up in Oklahoma, you may have experienced something similar. It all came back to me recently when I read Mary Phillips’ “Early-day tornado shelters known as ‘storm caves’ “ http://tinyurl.com/85k4t22. Very entertaining.
You also can learn more about Oklahoma’s weather by going to KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/SEVERE-WEATHER-OKLAHOMA and following Bryan Painter’s weather blog on NewsOK.com.
Good information to help keep you safe.