Felled In A Flash of Lightning
Posted on 08.29.16 by Danny Glover @ 5:16 pm

One of the most interesting yet tragic stories in the news today happened in Norway, where government wildlife officials found more than 300 dead reindeer on the top of a mountain. Here’s the story as told by NPR:

The Norwegian government says 323 reindeer were apparently struck by lightning last week and died. The animals lived on a mountain plateau in central Norway called the Hardangervidda. The rugged alpine landscape is (usually) a good place for a reindeer — delicious lichens grow on exposed rocks, and the area is protected from development because it falls within a national park.

The Norwegian Nature Inspectorate wrote in a press release that officials discovered a field of carcasses on Friday while they were supervising hunters in the area. The agency estimates about 2,000 reindeer live on the plateau each year. Now, about one-sixth of them are dead, including at least 70 calves.

This catastrophe is interesting in its own right because it raises all kinds of questions in people’s minds. But it was even more compelling to me because it reminded me of another incident in West Virginia on July 2, 1990.

I have a notoriously bad memory, so the fact that I can recall a news story from 26 years ago, one that I didn’t even report myself, should tell you something. This story also involved a lightning strike — but the victims were amateur archers who took shelter under a pavilion during a pop-up thunderstorm. Twenty-four of them ended up injured.

I was a reporter at the Dominion Post in Morgantown at the time, but my beat was covering city, state and federal government and political campaigns. Plus the incident happened on a Sunday, when I wasn’t working. But I remember being enthralled by the story upon reading the details when I got to the newsroom the next day.

The reindeer story triggered that memory, so to get the details, I reached out to the Aull Center, a branch of the Morgantown Public Library System that has old copies of the Dominion Post on microfilm. Librarian Gary Friggens was kind enough to look up the front-page story and send me an electronic copy.

“Victims had been tossed into the air and suffered burns, cuts, contusions and internal injuries,” one of the three stories said.

One father said the lightning strike lifted his son off the ground and knocked him 10-15 feet away. He lost his hearing for a few minutes and heard only the groaning and moaning around him when his hearing returned. Another victim, whose heart stopped temporarily, lost feeling in his legs and had burns on his chest.

“All I could see were blue streaks all around us,” said one victim from the Kingwood Pike Coon Hunters Club. “We were all so close together under there that we were touching shoulders. The lightning just passed right through us. I remember the blue streaks, then everything went black.”

A year later, Keith Dalton recounted his experience that day as part of a broader AP story about people who have been struck by lightning:

“I was hanging from a beam when the next thing I knew the lightning picked up my feet and pulled me up toward the roof,” says Dalton, a 24-year-old welder from Morgantown. “It was all lit up,” he says. “It looked like a spark plug coming off the roof and going through everybody’s heads. Everyone had blue sparks coming from them. It was really something to see.”

After the strike, Dalton thought his companions, most of whom lay moaning on the ground, were dead. “It seemed to take a long time, but it was really only a second,” Dalton says. “One guy was choking on his chewing tobacco and turned black.”

All 24 lived. Only one was admitted to a hospital overnight for observation. “It kind of felt like you were in a microwave,” Dalton says. “You got real warm inside. All I wanted to do was drink water afterward.”

Nightmare scenarios like that, along with tales of golfers being struck by lightning and childhood memories of being stuck outside and by myself during thunderstorms, are the reason I am terrified of lightning to this day.

My storm-watching wife loves to tell people about the time, on our honeymoon no less, that I abandoned her because of my fear of lightning. We were in the parking lot at an Outback Steakhouse in Asheville, N.C. A bright light flashed in the sky, a ground-shaking boom followed, and I high-tailed it to the restaurant without her.

To this day, she insists that I jumped so high and bolted so quickly, I looked like Wile E. Coyote running on the air. I think she embellishes the story a little more each time she tells it, but I can’t dispute the basic facts. My terror, which I’ve unfortunately passed along to our youngest child, is that great.

Now my daughter and I have the memory of 323 dead deer to add to our anxiety.


Filed under: History and Human Interest and Media and News & Politics and Weather and West Virginia and Wildlife
Comments: 1 Comment

Beard Flattery Will Get You Everywhere
Posted on 08.16.16 by Danny Glover @ 7:31 pm

A salesman for an exterminator company visited our home yesterday. He complimented my beard. I bought an annual contract.

The events did not happen in that order — the compliment actually came after I signed the contract, which was a given because we have an ant problem — but they could have. The way to a redneck’s wallet is through flattery of his beard.


Filed under: Culture and Family and Just For Laughs and Rednecks
Comments: None

How Air Force One Got Its Name
Posted on 08.05.16 by Danny Glover @ 7:24 pm

Originally published on the FAA’s internal website and at Medium
By K. Daniel Glover

Piecing together history can be as difficult as solving a complex jigsaw puzzle, and sometimes you never can fill all the slots. So it is with determining the exact role the FAA played in naming the president’s airplane — but the agency definitely was part of the discussion back in 1954.

The origin of the call sign Air Force One became newsworthy this past March when a restored Lockheed Constellation took flight for the first time in more than a decade. The aircraft’s given name is Columbine II, but it was also the first presidential aircraft to be called Air Force One. Now the plane’s new owner, Karl Stoltzfus of Dynamic Aviation in Bridgewater, Va., wants everyone to know the true story behind the name, not the myths floating around the Internet.

“I’m not interested in a ‘better’ story,” said Stoltzfus, who has contacted presidential and Air Force historians and the former personal secretary of Air Force One pilot William Draper. “I’m interested in accurate history.”

Columbine II takes off from Marana, Ariz., in March. (Photo: Ramon Purcell)

Columbine II takes off from Marana, Ariz., in March. (Photo: Ramon Purcell)

The history of Columbine II began at a Lockheed factory in Burbank, Calif., in 1948. It left the plant with the tail number 48–610, a designation that would become important six years later. Lockheed Air Service used the plane for shuttle flights between New York and Iceland for a few months in 1949, but it was converted from military transport to a VIP aircraft in 1950.

This particular Constellation served the U.S. Air Force secretary until Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected president in November 1952. The plane’s first mission for the president-elect fulfilled his campaign promise to personally visit Korea in an effort to end the Korean War. Weeks later the plane officially became Eisenhower’s aircraft, and he named it Columbine II after the flower of wife Mamie Eisenhower’s adopted home state, Colorado.

The transfer of the plane to presidential service set the stage for a momentous air traffic control encounter involving Columbine II and a commercial flight with a similar call sign. But nailing down the details of that incident is a herculean research task.

“There are about six different urban legends out there on the Internet,” said Air Force historian Robert Spiers, who started the legwork in 2007 after numerous queries about how Air Force One got its name. Some stories, like the fanciful tale of a mid-air collision that damaged the undercarriage of Columbine II with Eisenhower on board, are far-fetched.

“If that had actually happened,” Spiers said, “it would have been all over the media.”

Read the rest of the story at Medium.


Filed under: Aviation and Government and History and Human Interest and Military and People
Comments: None

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