Why I Want It To Rain On Labor Day

August 25, 2007 at 2:30 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Growing up in New Jersey, I loved Labor Day. Like most fun, young people, I actually preferred Memorial Day or the Fourth Of July; these days marking the beginning or middle of the summer rather than the end. Time is a crazy thing. I can still vividly remember that the time between Memorial Day and Independence Day seemed to stand still when I was growing up. Each day was simply perfect and poetic and full of what you read about in those coming-of-age, Americana novels. Then the firworks end, the fire flies go away and the rest of summer streaks by as you count backward toward Labor Day, anxious, knowing how precious each fleeting moment is, yet longing for those early summer days when you weren’t on the clock and when the calendar was kind and deliberate and compassionate. But a summer holiday is a summer holiday and as I got through college and my twenties, I started to appreciate Labor Day much more. It is the unofficial end of summer, even here is North Texas where you can get a good tan into October; one last chance to get to the beach or the summer house rental or the Jersey Shore nightclubs or just hang out with the family and cook up some burgers and dogs.

In 2000, my life changed. I moved from the NBC station in Richmond, Virginia to WPHL in Philadelphia. For those of you not too familiar with that part of the country, New Jersey is not its own market. Its identity is a hybrid of the two biggest cities on the east coast. North Jersey (where I grew up) is part of the New York City market, while South Jersey (where I lived before I moved to Texas) is part of the Philadelphia market. Places right in the middle, like Rutgers University (where I graduated from) can watch both NY and Philly television and can choose allegiance to any of the 13 professional sports teams in New York, Philadelphia and New Jersey. So, when I moved to Philly, I was essentially moving back home to New Jersey where I would live for the next four years until I moved to North Texas in 2004. I am rambling, but my point is simple: I was home and could enjoy every single holiday with my friends and family just like when I was a kid. Labor Day was one of these holidays.

Then I got hit with the news that WPHL was a Jerry Lewis, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Labor Day Telethon station, and that as long as I was there, I’d have to host the telethon each Labor Day. I was not happy. I was definitely not happy. This was one of the big three summer holidays and these horrible, selfish people were taking it away from me. How could they?

Well, eight years later, I am still hosting the telethon, now for NBC5 here in Dallas/Fort Worth. After the first hour of my first telethon in 2000, I realized that hosting the telethon and hanging out with these wonderful families and being a part of something so special and so important was far more rewarding than a Labor Day beach party. It is simply the most rewarding thing I do each year. Unlike my days in Philly, here at NBC5, nobody makes me do it. It’s my choice. While it is brutal and exhausting, I truly love every minute of it and know that each Labor Day, my end-of-the-summer party will be with my second set of family and friends at Lone Star Park.

So why do I want rain so badly on Labor Day? A cynic would suggest that if it rains and people can’t go outside, I’m not missing out on any fun. But the truth is, rain keeps people at home on Labor Day and that means more people watching the telethon; which means more money to fight Muscular Dystrophy. When the weather is nice, I can’t blame people for going out and enjoying that last “unofficial” summer day, but in my perfect world, people have a great Labor Day Saturday and Sunday, then the skies open up on Monday and people watch the telethon. On a selfish note, rain also keeps it cooler. We broadcast from the grandstand of Lone Star Park. The lights and sun make it incredibly hot and I will never complain if it’s a little bit cooler.

Here are some North Texas Labor Day stats. The hottest was September 4th of 2000. It was 111 degrees. The coldest: 55 degrees on the morning of September 2nd, 1974. On September 5th, 1932, 7.74″ inches of rain fell. Dare I say, had there been a telethon that year we would have broken records for sure! That day was the second wettest single day on record, ever!

At this time of the year, rain is tough to get. Even as I wish for it, the reality is that it most likely will ‘not’ rain on Labor Day, or if it does, it won’t be an all-day washout. It will most likely be humid and partly cloudy. The first hour (5am) will probably be in the lower to mid 70s. The last hour (6pm) will most likely be in the lower to mid 90s.

So…Go out and enjoy you last holiday weekend of the summer. Have a drink for me and be with the ones you love. If it rains on Labor Day, watch the telethon. It’s a great show and it will move you to open up your hearts and your wallets. If it does not rain on Labor Day then do me this one small favor: Have fun, enjoy the outdoors, eat and be with the people you love. Just take one or two hours out of the day to watch the telethon. Not because I am giving up ‘my’ holiday; I am actually giving up nothing and getting so much in return. But for all the families who are affected by neuromuscular disease. This is their day. It’s their day to celebrate all the wonderful things in their lives. It’s a day of hope and a day of love. It’s a day when amazing people will ask for your help. Just think: It could be ‘your’ dollar that is the ‘one’ that leads to the cure. And with the cure, we put an end to the telethon. That means all the families that spend Labor Day at Lone Star Park can go out and do what you do on Labor Day; what I did for so many years. Labor Day. We take it for granted. Let’s make sure people affected by muscular dystrophy and their families get to experience a Labor Day away from the telethon real soon. We all deserve to make the most of one of the great American holidays.

Summer Update

August 24, 2007 at 2:12 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Summer officially ends in less than a month, but meteorologically speaking, the summer months here in North Texas are June, July and August. That give us less than a week’s worth of stats in a very memorable, but not necessarily historic season.

Early on, this looked like it would be a record-breaking summer, for sure. It rained and rained, then rained some more. After only six weeks, we were on pace to be the wettest summer ever by several inches. Things slowed down and as of today, DFW Airport has 17 inches of rain which is incredible. That makes this the fifth wettest summer on record. It’s possible rain this week could add a little bit to the total, but breaking the record seems unlikely. Had Erin’s rain shifted just a few miles east last week, there’s no doubt we would have broken the all-time summer record.

A normal summer at DFW Airport has 7.38″ of rain; 3.23″ in June, 2.12″ in July and 2.03″ in August. This year we more than doubled that. But the wettest summer ever remains only three years ago. 2004 had 18.89″ of rain in June, July and August. The rain and clouds also kept the temperature down; we only hit 100 degrees once.

For the year, we now stand at 37.98″. While we are on pace to be the wettest year ever, we will have to wait a few more months to approach the all-time record for North Texas. Right now we have 37.98″ which already exceeds an entire year’s normal rainfall of 34.73″. The wettest year ever occured in 1991 when we saw 53.54″. What makes these stats even more remarkable is the eighteen month drought that preceded the rainy winter, spring and summer of 2007.

One note about the precipitation totals: DFW Aiport is the official climate site for North Texas, but many surrounding areas have seen rainfall totals that trump the DFW totals. Unofficially, many areas have, indeed, seen their wettest summers ever which came after one of the wildest springs ever.

Now on to the temperatures. With all that rain, we enjoyed an extended period of sub-triple-digit heat. When the rain stopped, summer arrived right on cue. The first 100 degree day was August 11th. Four days above 100 followed with the hottest, 104, happening twice and the highest heat index topping out at 112 on the 13th. One year ago today we hit the triple-digits for the 43rd and final time in 2006.

It could be worse. 1980 had 13 June days, 21 August days and every single July day at or above 100 degrees. That year ended up with 69 triple-digit days.

The average year has 16 days at or above 100 degrees at DFW Airport with August having the greatest average number at 7.5 days.

And finally…This year so far has seen 4 records for either highest afternoon high or highest overnight low temperature. Last year, thru August 26th, we tied or broke an astounding 26 records at DFW.

Funny Reactions to my Blogs

August 23, 2007 at 8:41 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

I want to thank all of my regular viewers who have had to put up with my rasping voice and frequent coughs the past few weeks. It has been nice to use this Weather Blog to share a little of what I have been going through. And it’s even nicer to see the caring comments I have received in turn to each of my blogs.

What you haven’t seen is the dozens of emails and phone calls I also receive each day. One reader, Kay Harris, got a laugh about what I wrote yesterday about the winner of this week’s America’s Got Talent program. Here’s what she had to say:

“I got a laugh out of your thinking Terry Fator had several voices for the doctor to care for, and I am very glad he won.
I know you’re anxious to get back to telling the weather, and that the rest of your team is highly qualified but it takes a little more than qualifications to make it in my books. I actually considered contacting your boss to see if you could have someone speak as you stood up to give your forecast (now I wonder if Terry Fator would do it for you, hee-hee). You are the one that needs to be in front of the camera so we know it’s your work. You just don’t have to be the one saying the words.”

That would indeed be fun if we could get him to come in and let me be his venriloquist’s dummy! But I’m afraid Terry Fator is pretty busy headlining in Las Vegas these days.

Earlier today, Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow even wrote an article about my coughing fits. You can find it here: www.dallasnews.com/steveblow

And after that column ran, Steve Blow wrote back to me telling me about a comment he received about the story from one of his viewers: Dilbert from the comics page. Well, actually, it was from Dilbert’s creator Scott Adams. Like Diane Rehm from National Public Radio, Scott said that he suffered from a serious throat ailment called spasmodic dysphonia. Here’s how he described it:

“I couldn’t speak above a whisper for more than a year. Talking is one of those things you take for granted until it’s gone. It didn’t hurt physically, but the loneliness was almost unbearable. It turns out that listening doesn’t cure loneliness, only talking.”

Here is a recent story that MSNBC did on Scott Adam’s illness:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15446515/

Scott also watched the linked video of me coughing on one of my earlier blogs. And he said that spasmodic dysphonia doesn’t appear to be my problem.

The main point I wanted to make is that there are a lot of people with voice problems, and it’s interesting that Dilbert puts a human(?) face on the problem.

Slow but Steady Progress

August 22, 2007 at 8:45 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Over the past few weeks, I have gotten to know Dr. Wayne Kirkham, who is an Ear, Nose & Throat specialist at Medical City-Dallas, but who also runs the Artistic Voice Institute there. He has worked over the years with a large number of vocal performing artists, both local and national.

I visited him again Tuesday afternoon, and his examination showed that the “tightness” of my vocal cords was reduced maybe 50% over what he saw two weeks ago. I will continue the nightly muscle relaxants to take care of the last 50%. I take my last dose of the yeast medication next Saturday, just to make sure that the yeast infection in my throat is knocked out.

I have discovered (and the doctor confirmed) that breathing deeply from the diaphragm, rather than shallowly in the upper chest reduces the urge to cough significantly. And with the yeast infection in my throat under control, and the hyperkinetic vocal cords continuing to loosen up, I really do plan to be back on the air next Monday.

One funny note… Dr. Kirkham told me yesterday that he was anxious to race home from work to watch the finals of America’s Got Talent on NBC. It turns out that Terry Fator, the ventriloquist from Mesquite, has been a long time patient/client of Dr. Kirkham’s. And as it turned out, he won the million dollar grand prize! You can read more about Terry Fator and see some of his amazing ventriloquist act here:
http://www.nbc.com/Americas_Got_Talent/contestants/bio_terry_fator.shtml

I’m just glad that I only have one voice to take care of. I imagine when Terry Fator visits Dr. Kirkham, he has to work on dozens of different voice problems!

What’s Wrong With David Finfrock Now?

August 20, 2007 at 9:12 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

Last winter I caught a bad cold, which then went into a sinus infection. And at the same time, I was fighting allergies from the peak of mountain cedar pollen season. After the first few days, the cold symptoms improved, but I fought a lingering cough for six weeks. We had so many calls and emails from worried viewers, we even decided to run a “What’s Wrong with David Finfrock” story on our newscast. Finally, after three courses of antibiotics to fight a sinus infection, and beginning a course of weekly allergy injections, the cough subsided.

February Video: What’s Wrong With David Finfrock

My voice gave me no problems for months. I have been continuing my weekly allergy injections. In fact, I had one earlier today.
But in mid July, I came down with a summer cold. Within days, the runny nose and sore throat were gone. But ominously, I noticed an increase in sinus drainage, and the return of the dreaded cough. So it wasn’t just allergy-induced. I immediately called my doctor, and suspecting another sinus infection, went back on antibiotics.

But when the cough continued for several weeks, I got a referral to a specialist. The new doctor, an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist is well regarded as an authority on voice problems. (On the walls of his office are autographed photos of some of his other patients, including LeAnn Rimes, Mick Jagger, Celine Dion, Bette Midler and the Dallas Opera)! He sent me for a CAT scan of my sinuses. But the results showed no sign of infection, suggesting that we had been treating the wrong problem. He says that his examination showed “hyperkinetic” vocal cords. Basically, they are stretched too tightly, perhaps a result of the cold virus I caught last month settling in the vocal cords. So I then started an inhaler, and a muscle relaxant, to relax, and reduce the stress on the vocal cords.

But the inhaler itself caused a secondary problem. Last week, in addition to the irritating cough, my voice began to sound weaker and hoarser by the day. I called the doctor and he confirmed that sometimes those inhalers can cause yeast infections in the throat which can cause hoarseness. So he sent out a new prescription. And I got rather a shock when I opened it and read the instructions for curing a “vaginal yeast infection”! No, I promise that we are not planning to do a new “What’s Wrong with David Finfrock” story featuring a sex change! It just turns out that both yeast infections have the same treatment. And the treatment worked. The hoarseness is gone and my voice sounds much stronger today than it did last week.

Still, I have the cough. The doctor told me that there is no quick fix, but that he thought the muscle relaxant would eventually do the trick. Let’s hope that works.

The good news is that I feel just fine. As long as I don’t talk, you would never guess there was a problem. But since I talk for a living, that is quite a problem indeed.

Although I feel I am doing better, management has decided to let me rest my voice this week. After all that’s why we have a team of professional meteorologists here at NBC5. So James Aydelott and Steve MacLaughlin will fill in the next couple of days while I work on other projects.
I also have another doctor’s appointment tomorrow, and hope to have reports of further progress.

Thanks to all of my loyal viewers who have expressed concern for my health. Really, I feel fine. It’s nothing serious. It’s just frustrating.

Where do the names of Hurricanes come from?

August 18, 2007 at 9:29 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hurricanes and Tropical Storms are named in order to avoid confusion.

Sometimes, a storm will last several days or even a couple of weeks, and sometimes, more than one storm will be active at the same time, so forecasters back in WW II started naming the Pacific storms.

In 1950, the US Weather Bureau (now the National Weather Service) began naming storms in the Atlantic.

In 1953, the Weather Bureau switched to naming the storms with female names. I’m sure there were lots of jokes about that move when it happened, but in 1979, in the interest of fairness, men’s names were added to the list.

The names go from A to W, (Q, U, X, Y and Z aren’t used, because of the few names). The names alternate between male and female names, and after a noteworthy or infamous storm, the name is retired, like Katrina.

The list of names is created by the World Meteorological Organization, and rotates through a six year cycle, so this year’s list will be used again in 2013, minus any names that are retired. Retired names get replaced in the list.

Each year’s list has 21 names on it, and in the rare event that more than 21 tropical storms or hurricanes occur in a year, the list starts using the Greek alphabet, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, etc.

There is a separate list of names for Atlantic storms, Eastern Pacific storms, Western Pacific storms, to avoid confusion.

Here’s the official list of names from the National Weather Service:
http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutnames.shtml

The Tropics are getting active, and Texas will be affected

August 15, 2007 at 3:35 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Newly upgraded Tropical Storm Erin in the gulf will likely still be at tropical storm strength when it makes landfall in South TX on Thursday morning, with heavy rain and 45-55mph wind. It will spread lots of tropical moisture into North TX on Friday and Saturday. We will have showers and thunderstorms scattered around, but the big impact will be the cloud cover. The clouds will likely break the heat wave, with highs only in the upper 80s/lower 90s on Friday and Saturday.

Tropical Storm Dean in the mid-Atlantic will continue to strengthen to hurricane level over the next two days. The long range computer guidance is pointing toward Dean making it just south of Cuba, north of Cancun, and into the gulf. Potential landfall next Thursday/Friday could occur. Too early to pinpoint with any confidence, but certainly the Texas coast may be in the impact area.

Air Pollution Watch

August 13, 2007 at 10:12 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

We had a wet and mild start to our summer. But August has turned out hot and dry. Both Sunday and Monday of this week, our high temperature has hit 104 degrees, the hottest in a year. And with a Heat Index of 112 Monday afternoon, obviously the Heat Advisory will remain in effect.

But there is another problem caused by the sunshine, heat, and light winds. Air Pollution has been building in recent days. And Air Pollution Watches for the Dallas Fort Worth area have advanced from level orange, to the more hazardous level red. But what does that mean? Basically, an orange level pollution watch means that people with existing heart or respiratory problems should stay indoors during the heat of the day. But when it is raised to level red, then everyone should stay indoors, and not exert themselves during the heat of the afternoon.

Here is a link with a complete rundown on what the different pollution terminology means:
http://kxas.weatherplus.com/weathernews/1010804/detail.html

David Finfrock

Sweating Is Your Friend; The Truth About Heat Index

August 8, 2007 at 10:11 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

My first year living and forecasting weather in Texas was 2004. I’ll admit I came in a bit cocky, but learned very quickly to talk less and listen more once my first severe weather season rolled around about three months into my first year. It was a challenge just to move to this part of the country let alone trying to forecast weather in arguably the most complex and important weather market in the country. I got a lot of help from David and Rebecca and learned a new lesson almost every day.

Then the summer rolled around and I learned my next weather lesson. “Hot” is in the eye of the beholder. For someone in New Jersey where I grew up, 90 is hot. For someone in Texas, 90 degrees in the summer is NOT hot, in fact, 96 degrees is the normal high for most of the summer at DFW Airport.

It is my belief (I have no actual evidence, but I feel positive about this theory) that where you grew up determines how well you adjust to weather. Much like your allergies and your immunities, I believe that the weather your body got used to as a kid will be with you for life. It’s why I come back drenched from a midnight run in the Texas summer heat after swearing out loud while I struggle to get to the finish line or why I run for hours in the Texas winter with nothing more than shorts and a sweat shirt. My body is used to the east coast. I’ve gotten a little better each year here and within each year, the end of the summer is better than the beginning for my body; our bodies do adjust each year as the summer goes on.

As far as what “hot” is – I think it’s insulting to say that we can’t use the word “hot” in Texas until it’s 100 degrees. I used to get slammed by viewers who would yell at me for using the word for ONLY double-digit weather. It’s arbitrary and it’s arrogant to tell another human being what hot is. Hot is relative to the season and the person. I learned the difference between hot and cold the first time I grabbed a hot pot on the stove as a kid and my mommy put ice on it. So when someone tells me what hot is and what it is NOT, it’s gets me going. In a Texas WINTER, 70 is hot. In a Texas SUMMER, 70 is COOL. When I would say 90 degrees was hot and it was only May, I would get bombarded with the mantra, “Just wait till August, Steve.”

That brings me to the Heat Index. No matter how long you’ve lived in Texas or how well you have adjusted to the summer heat, when you start adding humidity to the heat, it can be dangerous and deadly.

I travel to Las Vegas frequently and I marvel at how hot it is and how little I sweat. It might be a cliche, but it truly is a “dry” heat and a pleasant one, even at 115 degrees.

The human body is amazing. When it gets cold, it shivers; its teeth chatter, to produce heat. When it gets hot, it sweats. When the sweat evaporates (a cooling process) back into the air, it takes body heat with it and keeps us at that perfect 98.6 degrees.

In Las Vegas, even in the summer heat, I barely sweat because as soon as my body does try to sweat, it’s so dry that it quickly evaporates and cools me down. My body stays efficient, cool and healthy.

In North Texas, on the other hand, there is so much moisture in the air that my body sweats and sweats and then sweats some more, but all of that sweat doesn’t evaporate. As a result, my body is not as efficient. My body thinks it’s hotter. My body doesn’t like it and works extra hard to stay cool. That is the heat index; the combination of the heat and the humidity; the temperature my body thinks it is because of the moisture in the air and the inability to evaporate all the sweat that my body produces.

When our bodies can’t cool down properly, we can get heat exhaustion or even worse, the sometimes deadly heat stroke. The body actually stops sweating and begins shutting down. When you see a “heat advisory,” stay out of the peak afternoon heat. If you must be outdoors, try early mornings or after sunset. And don’t forget about your pets. We always tell you to NEVER leave your pets in cars, but remember a hot house can be dangerous too.

Air conditioning is the best bet. It takes the heat AND MOISTURE out of the air. If you don’t have it at home, got to a library or a mall. Fans sometimes aren’t enough when the heat is on in Texas; they don’t take the moisture out of the air.

One final note: The heat index tends to be the worst from the metroplex and EAST. The reason is the southerly wind bringing up moisture from the Gulf. The actual temperature might not be as high, but the heat index and the danger will be higher. Meanwhile, back to the west, it is generally drier which keeps the heat index lower, but the actual temperature may be slightly higher as the temperature rises and falls more when the humidity is lower. This also accounts for why humid nights are warmer; the temperatures can’t fall as quickly. This also accounts for why our western zones, where the humidity is lower, tend to be slightly cooler in the morning.

Summer is Here

August 4, 2007 at 11:10 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Meteorologists have been looking for signs that the upper level ridge would start building over Texas.

Early last week, we started seeing signs that it was on the way-and sure enough, it’s here.

The upper ridge is basically a big upper high pressure that causes general and slight downward motion in the atmosphere. Downward motion keeps storms from forming, since storms require strong upward motion.

Since drier air is easier to heat than moist air, as our humidity gradually drops, we’ll see those afternoon highs slowly creep upward.

We may very well see the first 100 degree days of the summer over the next week!

Ready or not, summer is here!

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