Tag Archives: hampton roads

A Taste of Winter: Winter Storm Grayson Visits Hampton Roads

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

On December 23rd we went to see the Christmas light displays on the Virginia Beach boardwalk. The weather was so good that we decided to park the car and walk so we could take pictures and enjoy the experience rather than waiting in intolerable traffic. At eight in the evening it was 69 degrees. The next day the bottom fell out and for the past couple of weeks it has been unseasonably cold, and then came Grayson.

Grayson was one big assed nor’easter the wreaked havoc up the entire Atlantic Coast. Meteorologists called it a bomb cyclone because of how fast the barometric pressure dropped over a short period of time. Our area had anywhere between 8 to 12 inches of snow or more with winds between 20 and 50 miles and hour with gusts close to 60 miles an hour. When it was over temperatures fell into the 20s and teens. Needless to say this beach community was hit pretty hard, roads are treacherous with many crashes, military bases shut down, the major ports and airports closed, and central business and restaurant districts shut down. Power outages were numerous and emergency crews were working overtime. But we have made it. It will be a few days before the snow and ice melt away leaving a pile of mud in their wake but it could have been worse.

As for me I was here with two of our three Papillon dogs, Izzy and Pierre as Judy and Minnie took our friend Patty who had been visiting for the holidays back to her home in Huntington West Virginia. The snow started in earnest about 8:00 PM Wednesday and didn’t stop until about 2:00 PM Thursday. In the afternoon I cleared my driveway and front porch and decided to take an Uber to Virginia Beach Town Center, which was shut down. After I took a few pictures I walked about 2 miles home in the snow and ice. When I got back I did more work clearing the driveway while talking with neighbors doing the same thing. I quit when my next door neighbor asked to borrow my shovel so he could clear his driveway to go to work. Tomorrow after the sun comes out I’ll clear what else remains and clear the mounds of snow off of my car.

So until tomorrow I wish you a good day.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Eugene Ely and the Beginnings of Naval Aviations

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

One hundred and seven years ago not far from where I live and work an event marked the beginning of the end of the battleship and the birth of naval aviation.

On a blustery November 14th in the year 1910 a young civilian pilot hailing from Williamsport Iowa became the first man to fly an aircraft off the deck of a ship.  Eugene Ely was just 24 years old and had taught himself to fly barely 7 months before. With the wind whipping about the entrance to Chesapeake Bay, Ely readied himself and his Curtis biplane aboard the Cruiser USS Birmingham anchored just south of Fort Monroe in Hampton Roads.

Ely was there because he was discovered by Navy Captain Washington Irving Chambers.  Chambers had been tasked with exploring how aircraft might become part of Naval Operations. Chambers had no budget or authority for his seemingly thankless task nor any trained Navy aviators. But when he heard that a German steamship might launch and aircraft from a ship Chambers hustled to find a way to stake a claim for the U.S. Navy to be the first in flight.

The weather was bad that day as is so typical for Hampton Roads in November. Between rain squalls Ely decided to launch even though Birmingham did not have steam up to get underway to assist the launch.  Ely gunned the engine and his biplane rumbled down the 57 foot ramp and as he left the deck the aircraft nosed down and actually make contact with the water splintering the propeller. The damage to his aircraft forced Ely to cut the flight short and land on Willoughby Spit about 2 ½ miles away. This is not far from the southern entrance to the modern Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel.

Chambers then talked Ely into making the first landing on a Navy ship the Armored Cruiser USS Pennsylvania in San Francisco Bay on January 18th 1911. In this flight his aircraft was modified and equipped with an arrestor hook, a standard feature on carrier aircraft since the early days of US Navy aviation.

Ely desired employment in the Navy but the Navy Air Arm, but since it had not yet been established he continued his exhibition flying around the country. Sadly, Ely died in a crash while performing at the Georgia State Fairgrounds on October 11th 1911 less than a year after his historic flight off the deck of the Birmingham.

Ely would not be forgotten. Though he was a civilian he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by Congress in 1933. The citation read in part: “for extraordinary achievement as a pioneer civilian aviator and for his significant contribution to the development of aviation in the United States Navy.”

It is hard to believe that Naval Aviation traces its heritage back to this humble beginning. However the next time you see an aircraft taking off and landing from a modern super carrier, remember the brave soul named Eugene Ely who 107 years ago today gunned his frail aircraft down that short ramp aboard the USS Birmingham. Tonight let us raise a glass to Eugene Ely and all the men and women who would follow him as Naval Aviators.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Military, History, US Navy

After the Storm: Hurricane Matthew and Hampton Roads

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Hurricane Matthew made his way past the Hampton Roads area last night and our neighborhood received over 15 inches of rain between about 3PM Saturday and this morning. Flooding has been severe throughout the area. We fought waters coming over the threshold of our back door and the sandbags we had put out for 10 hours. Thankfully we didn’t lose power or we would have lost our living room. I have to thank all that I learned from the Damage Control Technicians on the USS Hue City from whom I learned a lot about fighting water. We got through the storm with no damage, unlike the last storm where one of our cars was totaled and the other damages by the flooding. 

Our neighbors were not as fortunate, one neighbor had several inches of water in her home and one of her cars partially under water. I saw quite a few cars that were flooded in the neighborhood. A number of friends in other parts of the area are without power and will remain so.  Right now the water on the roads is too high to take a chance on driving and I expect they will remain that way through Monday. 

The intensity of the storm took people by surprise including most meteorologists as it took a more northern tack and didn’t head out to sea as was anticipated. Even so the eye of Matthew was over 75 miles from us at its closest. The storm rivaled Hurricane Isabel in the damage that it caused in the area. I am told that such occurrences are 50 to 100 hundred year events. But between Isabel, Matthew, and the remnants of Tropical Storm Julia which dumped 16 inches of rain here just over two weeks ago. 

The Navy is beginning a study to determine how climatic changes in the local communities are going to effect operations of the bases here. One thing noted in regard to this is that the area has experienced a sea rise of over 15 inches since the 1930s, the highest on the east coast and this trend is only going to get worse and the effect of these storms is only going to get worse. This is a matter of national security and denial will not make the problem go away. 

As for us we are looking for ways to mitigate the effects of future storms and already are working on ways to make that happen. But tonight I am going to watch the second Presidential debate. I am not going to talk about the latest remarks or actions of Donald Trump until I watch the debate. I have strong feelings about them and analysis of I what this portends for the race as well as the future of the GOP, but those will wait. 

So have a great night and if you are in the areas effected by Matthew please be safe, take care and you are in my thoughts and prayers. 

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Rainy Days, Floods, and National Security 


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

We have had a lot of rain here in Hampton Roads since Monday. As of about 3:00 PM yesterday our neighborhood in Virginia Beach has received almost 14 inches of rain since Monday when the remnants of former Tropical Storm Julia arrived. The rain was still falling when I went to bed and I imagined that we are well over 15 inches of rain. To give you an idea just how much rain we had, our yearly rainfall average is 46.5 inches of rain, in the summer we average just under 15 inches, in other words we got a third of our yearly average rainfall in three days. 

Today we have about 50% chance of more rain and schools including the Staff College are operating under a delay even while schools in North Carolina just a few miles from us will be closed due to flooding.

That slow moving system came into contact with a weak cold front and pretty much stalled over the area. Hampton Roads is a low lying coastal area with lost of rivers and streams, in fact before civilization arrived it was pretty much a swamp. Since the early settlers arrived the area has been called the Virginia Tidewater, and may I say that Tidewater is a quaint and somewhat romantic synonym for swamp. As such we frequently have flood conditions any time there is a tropical storm or a Nor’easter. That is simply the way it is.


In our swamp, I live in a town home that was built in the 1980s which the builders as they do so often in these parts built in such a way that water sometimes comes over the foundation and into the house. So I spent yesterday morning de-watering our living room, and again about 11:00 PM when another round of really heavy rain came through. Thankfully little damage was done, mainly because I have tile floors and our furniture is high enough not to sustain damage, but this is the third time in less than six months that we have had to do this.


That is what we live in, a swamp, very prone to flooding, in some places if someone flushes their toilet too long. But that is what you get when you build cities in areas that are prone to flooding that is what you get. Sadly, most of us on the coastlines of this and other nations have done just that, even in good times we flood. But just wait, as sea levels rise due to global warming, something that the United States Navy recognizes even if Congress will not, things will only get worse. As sea levels rise the effects of storms like this, and the run of the mill tropical storms and hurricanes that come through will be greater. The Navy requested funding to begin work to deal with the potential loss of its biggest naval base complex as sea levels rise, but this year Congressional Repulicans blocked the request in the DOD budget. The same is true of our other big base in San Diego, although that fair city does not have to deal with the habitual flood conditions that we endure here. The decision of Congress was  a terribly short sighted move based on the denial of science and empirical evidence and a decision that if continued will harm national security. But then when a majority of the GOP representatives are or represent Fundamentalist Christians who believe that we don’t have to plan for the future because Jesus is coming soon it really doesn’t matter. But I digress…

Naval Station Norfolk, rising seas will submerge the Navy’s largest base if measures are not taken to mitigate the effects of Climate Change

The is a huge economic concern as well. The area is home to one of the largest port and shipbuilding complexes in the nation. 

But our area is not alone. These trends will effect most of the costal area of the United States and the world. This is not simply an environmental issue, it is economic, social, and military issue. Over 70% of the earth’s population lives in what we in the Navy call the littorals. Climate change and the rise in sea levels will cause massive social, economic, and security problems and what we in the Tidewater experienced today will be incredibly mild as whole societies are disrupted.



For the United States the answer is to prepare, and thankfully if we use them we have the resources to alleviate the worst effects of global warming and sea rise. But many nations will not, and the turbulence that this change causes will not leave the United States or Europe uneffected.

What happens this week in Hampton Roads was probably not the result of global warming, but in the effects of it will grow in the coming years. Hampton Roads has always suffered from flooding, but even today with much better storm drain systems we still see the same kind of flooding that affected the region 80-100 years ago.  It is time to actually take this seriously. I do, but sadly too many people turn it into a joke.

Have a great day and stay dry.

Peace

Padre Steve

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Filed under Climate change,, Military, national security, News and current events, weather

Snow Days and a New Puppy

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We got hammered with some pretty good winter weather here in Hampton Roads, below freezing temperatures for several days followed by 5-6 inches of snow followed by sleet, ice and freezing rain. While not New England, and believe me I am not complaining this is a bit much for our local resources. VDOT and the local city workers are doing a good job clearing the main roads, but secondary roads as well as business, government and school parking lots are a mess.

The road network on the base where I work dates from when it was built in WWII. It is now the site of a number of Navy, Marine, Joint and NATO  headquarters, along with the Staff College. It takes forever to clear everything as the roads are narrow, developed land at a premium and nowhere to put the snow and ice. As a result, we were shut down yesterday and today. But we are not alone, school districts, colleges, businesses throughout the area are either shut down or running at the bare minimum capacity. Such as life in the coastal mid-Altantic. I would hate to see what would happen if we experienced what Boston and New England are going through.

Tonight, more snow in the forecast followed by extreme cold the next two days before things start warming over the weekend.

But the snow days have allowed me to have some daddy-puppy bonding time with the newest member of our little family, Izzy Bella.

Izzy is a Papillon and she and her breeder flew here yesterday from South Dakota. Izzy has already adapted and our two other girls, Molly our nearly 14 year old Papillon Dachshund mix, and Minnie our three year old Papillon are as well to having a new little sister. By the way, Izzy’s breeder has two boys still unspoken for, and if you want I can help you get in touch with her.

If you don’t know Papillons, they are a wonderful breed. They are in the top ten breeds for intelligence, very smart, very sweet, very playful and funny and great companions or therapy dogs. Molly, though only half-Papillon helped keep me alive during the worst of my PTSD times after Iraq. If either of us are having a bad day it is hard to be depressed as Minnie won’t let that happen.

For little dogs they are great dogs for guys. I am amazed at all the pictures on the Facebook Papillon sites of big brawny men with these dogs. They are playful, funny and tough.

Anyway, I digress. I hope you have a good day wherever you are and look for some more scintillating commentary, hard hitting articles and of course a lot of history on the site in the coming days.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Where Everybody Knows Your Name: The Importance of Community for Military Families

Some years ago the theme song of the television show “Cheers!” struck a chord with people, because it expressed the desire of many people.

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?

We live in an increasingly disconnected world despite the proliferation of devices designed to make communication easier. Our dependence on these devices often serves to disconnect us from community because we use them to accomplish things without any human contact.  I mean really, what percentage of our Facebook “friends” really know us and how many can we go to when the chips are down.

We shop in massive stores, attend mega-churches, exist on fast food bought at a drive through and we don’t know our neighbors. To most organizations we are not real life human beings but statistics whose only value is in profit and market share.  And we wonder why so many people are depressed, lonely and even despair of life.

Sometimes you want to go, Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows Your name.

Having a place where people know you and care about you matters. It is important to us as individuals and it is important to the people that come to us for their medical care. Cheers was a neighborhood bar where people from all walks of life knew and cared for each other. We miss that a lot and we often suffer because of it, especially those that go to war and their families.

You wanna go where people know, people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows your name.

In our military communities be they Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Air Force we have shared hardships and culture but even with that it is a difficult life. The military does its best to provide a multitude of support services including unit based Family Support Groups, family service centers as well as centers and associations for single servicemen and women.

But even still those support structures often are insufficient due to the transitory nature of military life, changing and sometimes uneven leadership of these organizations. Add to this the unrelenting demands of the wars and deployments and the wounds of war brought home which affect even the most resilient families.  PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, traumatic amputations, substance abuse, domestic violence, high divorce rates and suicide are everyday parts of the military family and community life.

One of the other aspects not directly attributable to the wars is how the communities around the bases treat the military.  In some major metropolitan areas the military simply blends in to the civilian community, even where there are large bases such as in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.  In such places there may be a large military footprint but it is easy to blend in.  In other areas where the military installations are the sole reason that the areas have large populations such as Killeen Texas, the home of Fort Hood, Jacksonville North Carolina the home of Camp LeJeune and Fayetteville the home of Fort Bragg the military presence is loved and loathed. There are many retired military in these areas as well as many veterans and often they are supportive. However in each of these cities there exists a large contingent of individuals and businesses who take advantage of military personnel and their families and some of these are former military personnel. Sometimes people in these communities despite their outward show of support for the troops do all they can to make the military personnel unwelcome.  Now this is not helped by the bad behavior of some military personnel and their family members which is then used to discriminate against good and law abiding military personnel.

But there are good people, organizations and businesses which do their best to help make these “strangers in a strange land” welcome.  For me that welcome has been often linked to people that I know at minor league ballparks such as Harbor Park in Norfolk and Grainger Stadium in Kinston. There is a special church, Saint James Episcopal in Portsmouth Virginia that I enjoy on the rare times that I have to visit it is a place I can call home and my friends at the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant in Virginia Beach.

Community really matters because as Americans we are all in this together.  While I have focused on military communities large numbers of American cities and towns are enduring great hardship, and this disconnect between people, evidenced by the fact that we often don’t even know our neighbors has created a social isolation that only breeds hatred and discontent.  With this true lack of community we should be surprised with increasing crime, violence, discrimination and prejudice.

Community doesn’t happen overnight and sometimes illusion of perpetual prosperity only serves to drive us apart.  However, sometimes communities are reborn when facing crisis, people begin to look out for one another again and the welcome sign means that you really are.

But, what is neat is when we do find that special place for ourselves and when we can provide that kind of home to others we can really understand the last stanza of the song from Cheers which never aired on television.

Be glad there’s one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to go where people know,
People are all the same;
You want to go where everybody knows your name.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Zen and the Science of Mountain Bike Maintenance

“I only ride ’em, I don’t know what makes ’em work.” 

I know little of Zen other than it is a Buddhist meditation practice that does not involve shouting “serenity now.” I also know little of Mountain Bike Maintenance but using the “serenity now” technique I am I am learning the science of Mountain Bike Maintenance.

Now I’m sure that those that know more than me about mountain bikes will say that this is an art. But for me art is either something related to baseball or Navy ships that I hand on my wall, something beautiful that Judy produces or something that I hate and wonder just how the hell the artist got paid for it.  Of course none of these categories fit in the paradigm that I call the science of mountain bike maintenance.

I have ridden and destroyed bicycles for decades though until I moved to Emerald Isle I have had few places that I felt safe to ride the Mongoose E303 that I bought just before I deployed to Iraq.  My attitude with bicycles through most of my life was like Donald Sutherland’s character in the movie Kelly’s Heroes named “Oddball” who said in regard to work being done by his men on his tank “I only ride ’em, I don’t know what makes ’em work.”

I always had a habit of riding my bikes hard and though I learned to do a few rudimentary tasks I really had no clue what made them work. I remember doing an “Evil Knievil” jump over a wide construction ditch with my Schwinn Stingray which came up just short wiping out my bike and leaving me with a broken arm.  Then there was the 10 speed touring bike with dual headlights that my dad brought me back from Japan in 1972. That bike was a heavy duty warhorse that I used in games of bike to bike chicken against other neighborhood kids in Stockton California.  That bike was like the “Deathmobile” in Animal House, it was not aluminum but steel and its tires were heavier duty than most American bikes.  Those were good times, maintenance other than to patch flat tires was not a priority.  That bike got me through Junior High School but I gave it up like a broken down stead when I got my first car, a 1966 Buick LeSabre 400 with a 287 V-8 and 4 barrel carburetor.  I had a bike when I was a student at Cal State Northridge and nearly ran over Joni Erickson Tada as she motored about in her motorized wheelchair and nearly drove into a filming set of Dynasty to get almost up close and personal with Heather Locklear. Both were unintentional but a product of my rather reckless riding.  Once again maintenance was a secondary concern and I drive that 10 speed into the dirt as well.

The next time that I used a bicycle was when I was deployed to Würzburg Germany to support the Bosnia operation.  I had the use of a used 18 speed road bike which I would ride down the big hill from my apartment to the city center on almost every decent day for weather. I also took it on longer rides around the countryside.  But that was pretty much the last time that I rode a bike until this year. I bought the Mongoose in 2006 as I was recovering from an IT Band injury while overtraining for the Marine Corps Marathon having just completed the Virginia Beach Rock and Roll Half-Marathon.  Back then I was even more stupid than I am now and would run 12-20 miles 4-5 times a week.  It was great for the endorphin rush but hell on my legs.  Unfortunately there were no interesting places to ride in Virginia Beach unless I wanted to pack my bike on my car to get to the Oceanfront or a rural area.  I hate being bored and feeling like a target for any typical Hampton Roads driver.

So finally I get stationed at Camp LeJeune and bring down my nearly new bike, 5 years old but no wear and tear.  I got it tuned up and then started to ride around the roads and trails near the Island Hermitage which is rapidly becoming the Island Heritage of the Church of Baseball.  I have permission of my land lady to paint outfield walls in the living room to match the baseball décor.  Since I plan to keep it as a place of refuge for Judy and I whenever I am stationed back in Virginia Beach I should not have to paint over it for a while.  But I digress….

I finally have a place where I enjoy riding again even a couple of places to go off road and actually use the bike as it was intended to be used.  I also discovered that hard riding also requires maintenance and that maintenance on a mountain bike is a lot more intensive than the bikes that I rode in times past. It is also a lot more expensive to have done by a bike store so I am learning the science of mountain bike maintenance.  The first thing I had happen was a flat rear tire which occurred about a mile into a ride. I had to walk the bike back because I did not have a hand pump and when I tried to fill it at a gas station the tire blew.  The next chance I got I went and purchased a heavy duty inner tube as well as a Trinitarian Allen Wrench, a hand pump to keep with the bike and lights since I tend to ride near dusk in order to get pictures of sunsets and wildlife.

I discovered something. I had to remove the brake pads to change the rear tire. It wasn’t enough to have to take the damned chain off but I had to take the brakes off to get the tire off. That brought me some measure of discontent but I persevered I got the tire off.  I also got some tire levers to help me with getting the very heavy tire off the rim. Back in my previous life when I rode bikes changing a tire was a snap, the tires were thin and came off without difficulty.  Well if you haven’t ridden one a the walls of a mountain bike’s tires are fricking thick and harder than hell to get off the bike, I even broke one of the damned levers trying to get the tire off. But I was successful despite a number of “serenity now” moments. I replaced the inner tube and put the tire back on the bike. I adjusted the chain and put the brake pads on. I thought that I had cracked the code. Sure I was covered in grease and sweaty but I had done it, or so I thought.  I had no idea that the damned tension on the brakes had to be reset.

So I went to the internet for a “Google how too” session. The sites that I found were no help and I had to travel to Virginia the next day so I said the hell with it. When I returned this week I stopped by the bike shop and asked for a demo of how to fix the damned thing so I could get back on the road.  The man at the shop demonstrated on a bike and I locked the information into my brain housing unit.  I ended up having to leave work early today because I have not slept more than three hours in the past three days. After crashing at home I got up, had dinner and decided to do the brake adjustment which went surprisingly well. I then took the bike out for a ride in the evening, got a couple of nice pictures and came home to watch baseball and relax. Hopefully I will sleep well tonight. I noticed that on nights where I got a ride in that I slept better so hopefully that continues.  I will need to do some more adjustments on the bike to get it where I want but I think I am beginning to crack the code on the science of mountain bike maintenance.  So long as it does not rain tomorrow evening I will do the adjustments and take another ride.

So until tomorrow, have a nice night.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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