Friday, May 27, 2011

27 MAY 11: One Call, Off the Wall

The forecast warned strong storms were coming Thursday -- and sure enough, they did. Gusty winds were NOT strong enough to flip over my car. As old as my car is, a small part of me wanted that to happen for the "total loss" payoff.

But the stormy weather brought one surprise around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, as "tornado sirens" sounded across Columbus. A check of the television showed only a severe thunderstorm watch across the area, with a warning in one east Alabama county. This was certainly a bad way to promote that "Stop the Violence" rally....

The local meteorologists noted NO tornado warning was ever issued for Muscogee County. So why did the siren sound? Only WLTZ's Pat Walker had an answer - and he was standing in a studio in Iowa. Of course, that meant he had more free time to make long-distance calls.

Pat Walker explained someone called Columbus 911 and reported seeing a tornado. In response to that, the siren sounded -- even though no tornado warning ever was issued in this area. I'm not sure that's a much better senior prank than unearthing bricks from the sidewalk.

I can't say with full certainty the "tornado siren" went off Thursday, because the Emergency Management office can make the system broadcast several different sounds depending on the situation. But how many people know the difference between a tornado warning noise and a lesser "alert" noise? Both have to be equally scary and annoying.

The line of storms left plenty of damage, anyway. The late-night news showed large limbs blown down around Lakebottom Park -- all the better for morning joggers to test their hurdling skills.

Trouble was, WRBL had no late-night newscast. At least it wasn't on my broadcast-only TV set. I'm not sure if there was a problem at the station tower, with connections between the Columbus studios and master control operations in South Carolina - or if the news department simply ran out of money again.

Speaking of the weather and television: Thursday's Ledger-Enquirer reported Bruce Lee will leave WTVM next week. That means Derek Kinkade can be declared the winner and undisputed champion of Doppler Radar controls....

Meanwhile, former WTVM weathercaster Kurt Schmitz confirmed he's talked with WRBL managers about working there - but said it wouldn't happen before 2012. These contracts with local TV "stars" can be tough. I mean, the newspaper didn't even set up a camera to interview Schmitz.

As it happens, I called Kurt Schmitz's attorney this week about the possibility of legal action against WTVM. Mark Casto told me he "couldn't say anything about it." Stacey Jackson would have called at least one news conference by now....

-> We received something rare at our Thursday night poker tournament. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION on Columbus trash pickup closed Thursday afternoon - and it was almost unanimous. All but one of our 14 voters preferred a reduction to one collection day a week, as opposed to higher monthly fees. Of course, for all I know the poll may have been hacked by prison inmates.

One voter who apparently chose "other" commenting once-a-week garbage collection is fine, IF something is done to keep costs down in the future. I'm not sure how the city would accomplish that. Watching garbage crews pedaling giant bicycles would look a little strange.

(Instant Message to that voter: Yes, you can recycle cardboard in Columbus. There's a big bin for it at the recycling center on 22nd Avenue. If you can "break down" the boxes, maybe you can also break down any resistance to driving across town.)

We've changed the Big Blog Question, to ask whether the Teenage Parenting Center should be closed to save the Muscogee County School District money. School Board Chair Cathy Williams told Thursday's Ledger-Enquirer TAP costs about $35,000 per student -- and teenagers can sell only so many magazine subscriptions in the Internet age.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our look at the proposed Columbus city budget Wednesday raised a question for one reader....


In your blog today you make a comparison of the Columbus Museum and the Naval Museum. You point out that the Columbus Museum is not on the city budget. This may not be a fair comparison - from what I understand, the Columbus Museum receives funding from the Muscogee County School District - well over a million, I believe. Not City, but that's still tax dollars.

Just my $0.02. Cheers,


The museum on Wynnton Road indeed does come under the school district, and has its own board of trustees. The recommended budget for this fiscal year was $1.2 million. As we head toward Memorial Day weekend, it's helpful to know the price of a free museum is not free.

The current school district budget sadly is NOT posted online -- nor is the proposed budget for next fiscal year, so we can see if Columbus Museum funding is being cut. But have you noticed the museum staff hasn't offered any paintings to Port Columbus for a possible fund-raising auction?

Another branch of the school district tops Thursday's other news....

+ The Chattahoochee Valley Library Board approved a budget which will close branch libraries one extra day a week. Please pretend those librarians are following the example of veteran doctors.

+ Attorneys in metro Atlanta revealed Bishop Eddie Long has "resolved" the abuse lawsuits by four young men, before the cases went to trial. Truly the spirit of Michael Jackson is alive and well....

+ The Columbus Lions annihilated Alabama 62-27. The visiting Hammers simply asked for trouble -- by coming to Columbus in uniforms which reminded many people of the University of Oregon.

(The Lions promised to give free team jerseys to the first 1,000 fans through the Civic Center doors. But there was a small problem, because all the jerseys were youth extra-large. Is this some sort of sneaky message against obesity?)

+ Georgia eliminated Auburn from the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament 3-2. The Tigers are 29-29, and are barred from the NCAA tournament because they don't have a winning record. Aw, c'mon - if that rule applied to college football, at least five bowl games would have to be canceled.

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: My own near-death experience in Joplin....

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