Words on Weather & Climate—December 23, 2009

December 23, 2009 // 0 Comments

Is weather more severe?  by CRAIG JAMES  Before I get to the main topic of this article, I’d like to point out what an amazing and severe turn to winter there has been across Canada and the United States this month. For the seven-day period of Sunday, Dec. 6 through Saturday, Dec. 12, there were 815 new snowfall records, 304 low temperature records, and 403 lowest maximum temperature records set in just the United States alone. On Sunday, Dec. 13, the temperature hit 51 degrees below zero with a wind chill of 73 below zero at Edmonton, Canada, for the coldest December day on record. On Tuesday, Dec. 14, Jordan, Montana recorded a low temperature of 40 degrees below zero, which was 46 degrees below average. The only warm weather in the country this month has been in Florida. Los Angeles and Phoenix were close to 4 degrees below average for the first two weeks of December, and even Honolulu, Hawaii was nearly 2 degrees below average. It has been very wet in New Orleans. For the first two weeks of the month, over 24 inches of rain were measured in that city, making it the wettest month on record. Valdez, Alaska received 77 inches of snow in four days on Dec. 14 through 17. They are so used to heavy snowfall there that schools stayed open! And that brings me to the main point of this article: Has the weather gotten more severe? Are there stronger storms than in the past due to global warming? My answer to that, at least in regards to tropical storms and tornadoes, is definitely a resounding “NO!” Let’s take a look at tropical storms first. Complete coverage of tropical storm activity across the globe has only been possible since 1979 when satellites began monitoring these storms. Between 1944 and 1978, in order for there to be an estimate of a tropical storm’s strength, a reconnaissance aircraft had to fly into the storm or a ship had to be near the center. Prior to 1944, there were no aircraft flights into storms, so the only reports came from ships or when a storm made landfall. The National Hurricane Center believes many storms were not recorded prior to these aircraft […]

Forty years after service, Vietnam veteran fights again for his life

December 18, 2009 // 0 Comments

“I fought for my life then. I’m fighting for my life now,” said Rockford resident George Thomas. With throat and neck cancer and a 50/50 chance to beat it, according to his doctors, Thomas will be spending the holidays at the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge and is being treated at Lacks Cancer Center in Grand Rapids. Thomas will face 35 sessions of chemotherapy to fight his inoperable cancer. Thomas said he hopes sharing his story might save another Vietnam veteran’s life. He hopes his battle will inspire others to be diligent in doing all they can to detect and fight cancer early on, should it strike. At 19, Thomas joined the U.S. Army and volunteered to go to Vietnam. He was there for 11 months total in 1968 and 1969. “It was what everyone was doing then,” he said. “I was proud to serve my country. I am proud I served my country.” Thomas said he never would have been drafted, because he had a high draft lottery number. He wanted to do what was right. Once in Vietnam, he faced the harsh reality of fighting for his life. He knew he could be killed at any time. He looked forward to returning home to his old life. “I used to lie awake in my bunker and cry. I tried not to cry out loud, because there was another guy in the bunker, but I’m sure he was crying, too,” Thomas said. Then, it didn’t occur to him that the worst danger could be the chemicals the United States was using to keep them safer from enemy fire. He kept his faith by reading a tiny Bible every night and through prayer. Thomas said he and others were routinely exposed to the defoliant Agent Orange—named because of the orange-striped containers in which it was shipped. “One guy was smart. He would strip off all his clothes right in front of us and wash off,” Thomas said. Thomas said there was little he and others in his five-man unit could do to avoid the herbicide, which was sprayed to remove the jungle foliage in which their enemy hid. “We walked through it, we drank it. We sterilized water from the streams, but it still had […]

Brandon Boelema joins Rockford Police

December 18, 2009 // 0 Comments

“There aren’t many jobs were you have to wear a bulletproof vest everyday,” said Brandon Boelema. He believes those in law enforcement choose that career because they love it. Monday, December 1, was Boelema’s first day as officer with the Rockford Police Department. Boelema is a 2003 graduate of Northview High School, a 2007 graduate of Grand Valley State University with a bachelor in criminal justice. He is also a graduate of the university’s 16-week police academy. Prior to joining Rockford Police he was an officer with the Bloomfield Township Police Department for two years. “I’m very excited,” said Boelema of his new position. “I’m happy to be back and be around my friends and family and patrol where they live and work.” The new officer said police work is interesting because every day is different. His first day at work was when the department arrested 15 teenagers on various charges. Boelema is a second-generation law enforcement officer in his family. His father retired from the Kent County Sheriff Department the year Boelma graduated. He highly recommends the career to others. “Everyone in law enforcement loves their job or they would get out of it and do something else,” he said. “I get paid to have fun.” Rockford’s Police Chief Dave Jones described Boelema as the strongest candidate he has ever seen. “He served an internship with us while he was in college,” Jones said. “He very quickly integrated himself in the special events we participate in here in Rockford, Youth Night, the Trialthlon, the Expo. He was McGruff the Crime Dog at the Expo.” Jones said all of the officers in the department thought very highly of Boelema. “We didn’t have an opening for him when he graduated.” When Rick Rafferty left the force, Jones said he thought of Boelema. “I hadn’t forgotten him, you keep talented people in mind.” Jones said the department where Boelema was employed is very like Rockford in their philosophy of community policing. That and Boelema’s strong ties to the community, through his internship and because his family lives here, made the decision a clear one. “He is very articulate, very bright, able to clearly express those shared values.” Rockford has ten full-time police officers and three part time […]

Plainfield Fire Department on life-saving streak

December 18, 2009 // 0 Comments

“I am very proud of them. These are the things that keep us going some days, the fact that we do save one.” Plainfield Fire Chief Dave Peterson was commenting on the actions of his firefighters. A 9-1-1 call brought firefighters Jerry Burk and Brian Stevens to a home where a resident was not breathing and didn’t have a pulse. The unconscious subject couldn’t be defibrillated because he had to heart rate. The firemen administered “old-fashioned CPR” and by the time the subject arrived at the hospital was breathing and had a pulse. That was Tuesday, December 8. That effort happened the same day the department received a letter from a woman in the state of Washington. She wanted to thank the department and share her belief that they saved her parent’s lives. A year ago the department installed a fire detector and carbon monoxide (CO) detector in their home. The CO detector sounded an alarm in the middle of the night and it turned out their furnace was leaking the deadly gas. Peterson said a similar incident had happened at a Leisure Village home earlier this year, and an elderly couple was likely saved because of the detector. On Thursday, December 10, Plainfield Fire responded to a medical call for help and found a 39-year-old female without pulse or respiration. Again, because defibrillators work by changing the electronic waves of the heart, one could not be used because the heart was not beating. The firefighters began CPR and the patient responded and is now doing fine. “This was the second save in two days for this shift,” Peterson said. If it has been a controversial year for the department, it has also been one of such milestone events. Earlier the department announced that Peterson had earned a recognition that very few fire chiefs ever receive. Peterson was nominated for, and received, the international professional designation of “Chief Fire Officer.” Peterson was voted to receive this honor by the Commission on Professional Credentialing. The designation makes Chief Peterson one of only 616 Chief Fire Officers worldwide. “This is very prestigious,” said Rebecca VerBeek, administrative assistant to the chief. The process includes an assessment of the applicant’s education, experience, professional development, technical competencies, contributions to the […]

Krause Memorial Library patron wins $1,500 prize

December 18, 2009 // 0 Comments

by ANA OLVERA This year the Kent District Library (KDL) partnered with the Library of Michigan Foundation, the Michigan Education Savings Program and the Michigan Education Trust to provide parents with the opportunity to win $1,500 toward their children’s educational expenses with a “Get Creative at Saving for College” contest. Statewide, six lucky winners were selected, one of which was Lynette Gasper, who frequents the Krause Memorial branch of KDL. The $1,500 award was presented to Gasper at the KDL’s November Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, November 19. For Gasper’s efforts, the Krause Memorial branch also received $1,000 to help fund literacy initiatives for young children. “We’re planning on using the money for activities and supplies for our early literacy area,” said Jennifer German, branch manager at Krause Memorial Library. The contest was in conjunction with Summer Reading Club. When parents signed up their children, they were also able to fill out a form for the contest. Throughout the state, 7,000 people entered the contest and winners were selected through a drawing. The contest ran from June 1 to August 21. Kent District Library is a millage-supported system encompassing 18 branch libraries in 26 governmental units throughout Kent County. KDL serves 362,312 people in all areas of Kent County except the city of Grand Rapids, Cedar Springs, Sparta and Solon Township.

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