C’mon Down! To the Powder Keg Festival, that is….

February 10th, 2011 at 7:01 pm by under 4 Warn Weather

Between the Pond Hockey Tournament, the Powder Keg Festival, and great ski conditions, this should be an active weekend for WNYers who want to hit the outdoors. While temperatures will moderate  some, especially on Sunday, the bigger warmup will hold off until around Wednesday. That should preserve nature’s setting for all these events and activities. At the Powder Keg Festival, the INTERNATIONAL WEATHER EXPERIENCE CENTER will have a real presence this weekend, inside the Kids Pavilion/Family Tent with a fine display and Board staff members to meet the public, and explain our vision for this fantastic waterfront project. In fact, we’ll be looking for volunteers to aid us in accelerating our progress in many facets of this complex project.

I’ll be there, at our display, Saturday afternoon from 1:30 until 5 to chat with folks, so I hope some of you come down.

Here is the link to the expanded Powder Keg Festival, locations, programs, etc:


A Super Win for WNY

February 7th, 2011 at 9:24 pm by under 4 Warn Weather

James Starks (AP Photo)

No, the Bills didn’t win the Super Bowl.  That would really send WNY into an endless celebration.  But area football fans should feel a sense of pride, after watching James Starks and the Packers win the Lombardi Trophy.  It’s the kind of feel-good football story that we’ve lacked around here.

I have to believe that a lot of WNYers were rooting for the Packers, just because of #44.   I know I was.  James is a true representative of us all.  He grew up in Niagara Falls, played college football at UB and still calls this area home.  Unlike other area natives who played college football elsewhere, James never left WNY and WNY never left him.  All during the runup to the game, he talked about how proud he was of the Falls and what it meant to bring some of the spotlight to the people of his hometown.

It also helps that James is one of the nicest, most pleasant, most sincere athletes I’ve ever known.  That’s not just my opinion. Ask anyone who knows him.  For all of his athletic talents and achievements, he never shows an ego, never big-times anyone and never forgets where he came from.  He was like that when helping NFHS win a state basketball championship, like that when helping UB win a MAC Championship, and like that when helping the Packers win an NFL championship.  That sentence is not a coincidence.  Its a tribute to what James brings to every team he’s ever been on.

So hold your heads high, football fans.  While you’re team didn’t win the Super Bowl, one of your own did.  It couldn’t have happend to a better person, and a better town.

Free CO detector giveaway

February 7th, 2011 at 9:19 pm by under 4 Warn Weather

Members of the Amanda Hansen Foundation will be distributing free carbon monoxide detectors on Saturday, February 19th from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Roy’s Plumbing, Heating and Cooling. The facility is located at 140 Cooper Avenue in Tonawanda.

Muzzammil Hassan Offered Me a Job

February 7th, 2011 at 7:54 pm by under Jacquie Walker's Newsroom Notebook

Muzzammil Hassan

Today, Muzzammil Hassan is guilty of stabbing and beheading his wife. About nine years ago I was introduced to Muzzammil Hassan and Aasiya Zubair as a couple who were considering starting a cable TV channel dedicated to Muslim issues. They were taking a tour of WIVB-TV escorted by Promotions Director Carroll Wolter when I met them quite by accident in the newsroom. They wanted to see a fully-equipped station to get an idea of what they might expect as they moved into the television business. I chatted with them for a few minutes and they continued on their tour. Muzzammil was a bank executive in a business suit. Aasiya, in Muslim-style dress, was soft-spoken, reserved, and pregnant.

Shortly after that chance meeting, Muzzammil Hassan called me here at the station, talked to me about his plans, and asked me to be the news director for his new cable venture. I told him I would think it over and call him back. I did think it over and decided I wasn’t ready to give up my career here at News 4. Also, I believed I didn’t know enough about the Muslim culture to be an effective leader at a ground-breaking new channel dedicated to fostering a better understanding of Muslim life in America.

As I recall, Hassan didn’t want to take no for an answer. He may have called me one other time after that, continuing to extend the offer, but I had made up my mind. That was the last time we spoke.

As I watch this case unfold, I rarely think about that encounter so long ago and don’t dwell on the question: “what if?” To me, he appears to be a different person than the ambitious young executive I met here. And, it is extremely sad to think of the tragic fate met by Aasiya…a woman who seemed to have such a promising life ahead of her on the day that we met.

Harsh Wintry Pattern Still Looks to Be on the Way Out

February 7th, 2011 at 11:32 am by under 4 Warn Weather

For more than 10 days, there have been signs that our harsh wintry pattern will be breaking up next week, at least for a while. The upper level circulation has favored arctic airmasses being steered into the northern plains, the midwest, the Great Lakes and the NE since December. Extended range computer guidance continues on this Monday morning to point to a flattening of that pattern next week. The flow across the northern tier of the lower 48 will take on more of a “zonal flow” from west to east in which the arctic air stays more in its “zone”, to the north, with more temperate, Pacific airmasses crossing the lower 48. There are the usual caveats to this kind of a prediction: The west to east flow can buckle from time to time when vigorous waves in that flow move through, and these can deliver occasional bouts of stormier weather with warmups ahead of each storm system, and cooldowns behind them.

That is, this is not a prediction of an early spring in which day after day features balmy temperatures. It is, however, a prediction that we will see fewer days with highs in teens and twenties with more 30s and, maybe, occasional 40s.

All that aside, after today/Monday, most of this week will again include harsh, wintry temperatures and winds, so you’ll have to grit your teeth a while longer.

Me and Terry

February 7th, 2011 at 10:42 am by under 4 Warn Weather

It’s one of those “you’re never going to believe this” stories.  But it’s true.  I bumped into incoming Sabres owner Terry Pegula Saturday night, in State College, PA.

I was there for the Penn State-Michigan basketball game on Sunday afternoon.  He was there for the Penn State Hockey Alumni Reunion.  That reunion took place Saturday night in the Nittany Lion Inn, the same hotel where I was staying. 

On a hunch, I deliberately passed by the banquet room when the hockey reunion was taking place in the hotel, and yup–there he was, Terry Pegula at the podium.  I lurked around just outside the banquet and watched Pegula’s speech.  Obviously, he was being honored by the Penn State hockey folks for his $88-million dollar commitment to build their new hockey program.  In the course of his speech to the former Penn State club hockey players, he whipped out his cell phone and announced, “Oh, the Sabres beat the Leafs tonight 6-2, and Vanek got his 19th.”  This guy’s paying attention, I thought.

So I waited around until the banquet broke up.  And then I waited a while longer while Pegula accepted the thanks from the Penn State hockey fans and former players.  And then I introduced myself.

We talked at first about his former home in Orchard Park, right around the corner from my current home.  We had a few mutual acquaintances from the neighborhood, and he talked about riding his bike on my street when he lived here in the early 90s.  Then I introduced myself as the sports director at WIVB and the play by play man for the Bills, and I said, “People in Buffalo are really excited about having you take over the team.”

“That’s good,” he said.  “We’re gonna win a Stanley Cup.  And then you know what we’re gonna do?  We’re gonna win another Stanley Cup.”

I mentioned the Sabres victory over the Leafs, and how it seems like  the Sabres own the Leafs lately.

“Yeah, I know,” Pegula said.  “We gotta own a few other teams also, that’s the problem.”

“When is this deal going to happen?” I asked.   “When do you expect to take over?” 

“It’s going to be right about February 22nd,” he said.  That’s about two weeks away.

We continued to talk for about ten minutes, during which he mentioned how he “loves” Lindy Ruff as coach, and how he plans on maintaining his residence in Boca Raton, Florida, because of his teennage daughter’s tennis career.   We talked briefly about the Bills, and I invited him to attend a game in our radio broadcast booth next season.  Somehow, I don’t think he’ll have any problems finding a good seat for a Bills game.

He finally was pulled away by a Penn State fan who wanted to thank him for his interest in the hockey program and his generosity.  I got the feeling he wanted to talk more about Buffalo and the Sabres, but I handed him my business card and we went our separate ways. 

I walked away shaking my head about our accidental meeting.  It wasn’t an interview,  it was a social encounter.  But I left Pegula feeling very excited about the Sabres and their future.

Pegula was friendly, approachable, enthusiastic and very, very down-to-earth during our 15-minute conversation in the crowded hotel ballroom. 

Just like every other billionaire I’ve met over the years.

A Tribute to a truly Dedicated Meteorologist Who Has Served Us All

February 6th, 2011 at 5:01 pm by under 4 Warn Weather

I know I’m going to embarrass our friend Weather Sage with this, but I have to post a few words about my friend upon his retirement. I knew he had a long career with the NWS, but I didn’t know all the details until I read the biographical handout from the retirement dinner Friday night for Dave Sage and Joe Pace. Dave entered the NWS as a Student Trainee in 1970, while studying at Penn State, where he graduated in 1972. Dave served the NWS and all of us for 40 years and 3 months, the last 24 of which as a Lead Forecaster. In his early years, he was also able to get back to Penn State and complete his Masters coursework.

Dave worked 26 straight years without a single Sick Day, when he had to take 4 days off for an illness. After that short hiatus, he completed the rest of his service to the U.S. without another single Sick Day! He came to the Buffalo WSFO in 1975, and accrued 4006 hours of unused Sick Leave. I know everyone at the Office feels he is a truly delightful guy, and Dave will still be visiting them, doing some volunteer work for the NWS in between rounds of golf. He’s blessed with a lovely family and great memories of working with terrific people. Although we’re staying in touch, I’ll miss hearing his voice when I call in for an updated snow total from the airport.

I didn’t get to know Joe Pace (31 years service) as well as I know Dave, but he is also a dedicated and kind soul who plans on golfing lots as well and, he says, sometime getting a gig at a winery. More power to him!

Seasonal Temperature Lag

February 5th, 2011 at 8:46 pm by under 4 Warn Weather

Image From: http://www.solstation.com/stars/earth.htm

Q: December 21st is the beginning of winter, and the shortest day of the year. Why are the 60 days following this day so much colder than the 60 days preceding this day?

A: This is known as seasonal temperature lag.  When winter begins the amount of incoming solar radiation is at a minimum, and for the start of summer (late June) at a maximum.  Yet coldest temperatures occur in January and warmest temperatures occur in August.

In Buffalo, temperatures begin to improve during February.  The average coldest high temp is 31 with the average low temp of 17 (occurring in January/early February).  This is because it takes awhile for the atmosphere, or most things for that matter, to cool down and warm up.

The Earth’s bodies of water assist this lag.  Oceans take up 70% of the Earth’s surface.  With a heat capacity three times that of land they can’t just warm up and cool down immediately, they take time.  Think of a swimming pool versus a sidewalk.  The sun hits both all day long but the sidewalk generally gets much hotter. However, by late summer your swimming pool is generally much warmer than at the start of the season.  In WNY, many watch for the lake to freeze.  Even though winter begins in December, it isn’t generally until mid-January when we start to see significant freezing; seasonal temperature lag!

On another note, this is why hurricane season lasts so long, into autumn!  The oceans continue to warm once we pass the start of summer.  Warm water is a key ingredient to these massive storms.

Super Bowl XXVIII Was My Favorite

February 4th, 2011 at 8:49 pm by under Jacquie Walker's Newsroom Notebook

Heading into Super Bowl weekend, I have a pretty good idea what fans can look forward to in Dallas (right down to the cold weather!). I am the only television news (not sports) reporter from Buffalo to have covered all four of the Bills’ Super Bowl appearances. I wasn’t there to cover the game, I was there to follow the fans and report on their Super Bowl experiences. Tampa, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Atlanta: each Super Bowl city presented its own charms, challenges, and memories. For me, Atlanta was the big winner.

The legendary Voice of the Bills, Van Miller, and sportscaster Chuck Howard joined me in a hotel lobby each day for our live reports from Super Bowl XXVIII in Atlanta.

Most of the Super Bowl events were centrally located in downtown Atlanta and walkable! The weather was reasonable, the people were friendly, and the logistics were easy to manage. We found numerous Buffalo connections in the host city, right down to the chef at the Georgia Dome. All the ingredients were there for News 4’s winning coverage of the Bills’ historic fourth consecutive Super Bowl appearance. As you know, the only thing we were missing in the end was the victory!

Lake Erie Ice Cover Map From 2/4/11

February 4th, 2011 at 11:01 am by under 4 Warn Weather

Here is the latest ice cover map of Lake Erie.  The extent of ice cover will reduce the potential for lake effect snow in the days to come, but there can be some factors that can contribute to lake effect snowfall even with the lake being extensively ice covered.  Most notably are sublimation, the process in which water changes state from gas to solid, but also applies to the change from solid to gas (without going through a liquid phase and something called frictional convergence at the eastern end of the lake.  Terrain can also be a big factor in areas to the south of the city.  That aside, there is a difference between the total available moisture input available on a wide open versus an almost ice covered lake.   A couple later season lake effect snow events have been cited in an excellent paper published by researchers at SUNY Albany.