Lost, Seeking A Sign
(C) 2014 Luke T. Bush
PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - 10/19/2014
Before you explore an unknown Adirondack backroad make sure you have GPS, a good map, or at least a compass.
My friend Jack invited me to take a drive through the regional hinterlands. It was a rainy day but there was always the chance the clouds would clear, releasing the bright sun. Either way I brought my camera along.
We traveled to Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and then began to return home on the main drag, Route 3 East. Around Vermontville I saw a peak covered with a thick low hanging cloud but couldn't get a good shot over the treeline. We took a sideroad hoping for an open spot to capture the image.
You would think locals such as ourselves would know two basic facts by now:
1. Backroads out in the wild countryside are usually forest corridors, walls of trees on each side, clear views are rare.
2. Backroads are hardly marked with signs. When you encounter an intersection there isn't a signpost indicating the names of the roads or pointing towards the nearest community. You are on your own. Limbo.
So Jack kept driving, thinking that if we just kept going we would end up back on Route 3, a few miles past Vermontville.
There was no way to track the direction of our travel. The sun was reduced to a pale sheet spread across the leaden sky, hardly a useful reference point.
Jack spotted a sign on the side of the road. It was one of those ancient historical markers, rust brown with raised yellow letters. The sign said that we were on an old turnpike that ran between Port Kent and a place called Hopkinton. No details were provided to the present name of the road, even a county road number.
At another point we checked out a "witness post" sign. The white metal plaque stated that a survey marker was nearby, do not disturb, contact Washington, DC, for more info. An indication that we were really in rural limbo. Speculation: if someone removes that marker the area will fade into nothingness.
Later at one intersection I spotted a sign — not an official state one — that simply said PLATTSBURGH with an arrow pointing to the left. The sign looked homemade. I suspect that one of the few people who lived in this area got tired of people pounding on his door, asking for directions back to civilization.
The road took us back to Route 3. Relieved to see the familiar passageway we drove on, only to find ourselves driving once again into Vermontville. Despite the fact it seemed we were traveling eastward, we had backtracked miles to the opposite point. Like I said: Limbo.
But I did get some good photographs on that maze of backroads, including shots of collapsed buildings, forgotten, left to the forces of nature.
My theory: the owner of a pre-buckled structure wanted to maintain his property but couldn't find his way back to it, he kept driving in circles and gave up. Without proper maintenance entropy did its job.
And with Halloween approaching I suspect that the souls of lost travelers unable to reach their final destination will be seen on those twisty, never-ending Adirondack backroads.
But I won't be one.
|One spot did open up during the backroad odyssey so I could capture the low clouds obscuring the mountains.|
Bearing The Olympic Pumpkin?
Octoberfest Marathon, Peru, NY.
Will WPUTZ-TV Cry UNCLE?
PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - 10/6/2014
They've cut Napoleon Solo in half.
|Consternation at UNCLE headquarters over "The Half-Ass Affair."|
No, the evil organization called Thrush wasn't behind this dastardly deed. It's a local TV station that stupidly assumes that people won't mind missing the first half of the superspy's heroics every Sunday night at 10 PM.
Tonight I tuned in to Channel 5.3 (Me TV) to watch The Man From UNCLE and found WPUTZ-TV was running its local newscast until 10:30 PM. Then without any explanation or warning it cut back to the Me TV network feed right in the middle of an UNCLE affair.
For the uniformed The Man From UNCLE is a spy adventure series from the 1960s, TV's answer to James Bond. Compared to some old TV shows (for example, take MASH — please!) it hasn't been seen around rerunland that often.
There's really no good reason for WPUTZ-TV to chop an episode in two because on its other subchannel, 5.2, it's simulcasting the same news program. On that channel (the CW affiliate) an hour of Seinfeld reruns are scheduled but that series is formatted in the 30 minute format. So one episode is blocked but the other can still be seen in its entirety at 10:30 PM.
I don't watch Channel 5 local news. One reason are the incessant ads that run on all three of WPUTZ's channels extolling the greatness of its news team. Every ten minutes it's bragging that its news is the best in the business: the best journalism, the best weather forecasting, the best sports coverage, the best humility.
Also, I live in New York State but Channel 5 panders to the almighty Vermont advertising dollar. Green Mountain State news until you choke. Its competition across the lake, Channel 3/WCAX-TV, is professional, not a dog-and-pony show. Sometimes it does a better job of covering news on this side of Lake Champlain.
WCAX's logo: "Vermont's Own Channel 3."
WPUTZ's logo: "Vermont Owns Channel 5."
Before the fall season kicked off the Channel 5 news trio — the two anchorpersons and the weatherman — were seen 24/7 in a promo rhapsodizing that the popular Ellen DeGeneres talk show was moving to their station. Extreme close-ups showed the TV news team lacing up their shoes. Why? Because they were getting ready to dance.
And then the trio danced around, cavorting like coked up clowns, giddy that Ellen was coming to Channel 5. Big smiles and a hearty "Welcome!"
Yes, happy dance = professional journalism.
So will Channel 5 change its mind and run The Man From UNCLE in its entirety on Sunday nights?
I doubt it. From what I've seen the station manager will just dance around the issue. Giddily.
Detail Not Spanking New But Still Fascinating
(C) 2014 Luke T. Bush
PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - Wednesday 9/24/2014
So I'm glancing at the front page of the Press-Republican, the dead tree format dated Saturday 9/20/14, and notice an article about the 75th anniversary of the Elizabethtown, NY Social Center.
The center stands where its founder, Cora Putnam Hale, used to live. She donated both the property and funds to build the facility back in 1939 to serve both local youth and adults.
The article includes a photo of Cora's painted portrait (missing in the online version). Below is copy of the photo and its caption.
If you're unable to read it the caption states:
"This oil portrait of Cora Putnam Hale by Wayman Adams hangs over the fireplace mantel at the Elizabethtown Social Center. Supposedly, this is the location where Mrs. Hale received her first spanking."
The article doesn't mention if there's a plaque accompanying the oil portrait, a bronze marker immortalizing this fascinating historical detail. "On this spot in the Year of Our Lord..."
Getting Hip To Hooping
(C) 2014 Luke T. Bush
PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - Saturday 9/6/2014
Fortunately the rain held off for most of this day for First Weekend events. While the local rock band Lucid played in the background this hooping instructor was giving introductory lessons to some of the younger audience members.
Whistling Past The Graveyard
|NYS Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (right foreground) listens intently during a presentation at the Oil Train Community Forum.|
(C) 2014 Luke T. Bush
PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - 9/9/2014
When I hear an approaching train blow its horn there's a thought in the back of my mind: Will I have to run?
Statistically speaking I shouldn't have to worry. But statistics mean nothing if you are in the vicinity of a major derailment and tanker cars carrying Bakken crude oil, anhydrous ammonia, propane, whatever, spills, leaks, or explodes.
What I heard from a panel of experts at the Oil Train Community Forum doesn't reassure me. The forum, held 8/28/2014 in the City Hall Auditorium, discussed train shipment hazmat issues with the emphasis on Bakken crude oil. Public agency representatives talked about the training given to emergency responders to deal with derailments.
At the start of the forum New York State Assemblywoman Janet Duprey briefly spoke to the SRO audience. She repeated a disturbing fact I had heard before: when it comes to safety the feds usually trump local concerns.
She said: ""I agree wholeheartedly that we need to increase safety standards for oil tanker transport. Unfortunately the federal government controls a lot of these regulations."
"The governor," Janet continued, "did issue earlier in the year an executive order directing the assessment of safety procedures and emergency response preparedness related to crude oil shipments. But that doesn't stop the problem."
My take: what corporations want, corporations get — even if means citizens are being endangered for the sake of maximum profits.
If the feds want to allow shipments via rail of Bakken crude oil in DOT-111 tank cars with substandard safety standards, so be it.
Last year a derailment of Bakken crude oil devastated the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Tanker cars exploded, fiery blasts. 45 confirmed dead with five reported missing, presumed dead. (Those reported missing were most likely reduced to carbon smudge.)
The risk is still there, up to 120 cars of Bakken crude per train passing through the North Country. So how does a CEO or government official responsible for such shipments sleep at night?
Probably soundly. Why worry when you don't live near the tracks?
Anyway, Lac-Megantic, the CEO or guv official probably justifies to himself, was bad luck, a fluke. It won't happen again. The unconcerned CEO or official just whistles while he works.
After all, good emergency plans are in place.
One of the speakers at the forum, Claire Barnett of the Healthy Schools Network, talked about a derailment drill that was held at the Saratoga Springs Middle School, using the standard evacuation plan.
|Claire Barnett, Healthy Schools Network, speaks at the Oil Train Community Forum.|
She explained: "The children were marched under the [railroad overpass] to the fire department. If there had been a derailment you wouldn't want to go under the rail pass and you wouldn't want to go to the fire department because that's where all the equipment is in motion [to deal with the derailment]."
Time to dust off those old plans and take another look.
During the comment part of the forum people in the audience vented some of their frustration and anger. They wanted prevention of, not preparation for, a disaster. Ban the shipments until safety standards are improved, they declared.
At the forum's end Dan Plumley, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, said nothing will be done by NYS DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) unless Governor Andrew Cuomo was behind it.
He said: "We have a de facto moratorium on potential fracking in New York that the governor has supported, all the while this threat is rumbling through our towns, over our watershed, aquifers. Today he kicked the can to the federal government in the press, saying basically his hands were tied. We need to tell the governor that he has to take action."
Sure. Like fighting Albany corruption with the Moreland Commission.
In the meantime I keep my ears open, not just for a train horn, but for any crash and boom that might follow.
Luge On The Loose Downtown
(C) 2014 Luke T. Bush
PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - Saturday 9/6/2014
So how do you luge in September with the temps way above freezing?
Substitute a sloping dry city street for an icy run and slap wheels on the sleds.
As part of the First Weekend events a Slider Search was held on Bridge Street for young tyros from 9 to 12 years old. The street was blocked to traffic from mid-afternoon to evening, a ramp set up near Margaret Street intersection. Straw safety bales lined both sides of the street; orange and yellow traffic cones served as markers for the course.
USA Luge was in town looking for future Olympian lugers. Only one of the competitors had training so it was a real challenge for most participants to steer the sleds downhill between the cones.
Trophy shirts were awarded after the event wrapped up.
(Click on each image to enlarge view.)
Pick Your Poison? Not Really
(C) 2014 Luke T. Bush
|People for Positive Action held a rally in Trinity Park before the Oil Train Community Forum. Darlene Waldron [L] and John Andrus pose with a PFPA banner while in the background tank cars pass over the Saranac River trestle. (Click on image to enlarge.)|
PLATTSBURGH, NY - 9/6/2014
It's not just flaming Bakken crude oil burning people alive we should worry about.
The Oil Train Community Forum held in the City Hall Auditorium Thursday evening, 8/28/2014, focused mainly on the potential dangers of Bakken crude oil being transported via rail through the North Country. And for good reason. The explosive substance is being shipped in tank cars — up to 120 at a time — not intended when built to safely haul such material.
On 6/6/2013 a runaway train derailed in the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, its shipment of Bakken crude exploding with fiery blasts. 45 people were confirmed dead with five missing, presumably dead.
After the forum wrapped up I spoke with one of the panelists, Eric Day, the Director of Clinton County Office of Emergency Services, about other hazardous materials being shipped via the Canadian Pacific (CP) rail lines. He is involved with the training of emergency responders to deal with hazmat events.
Eric explained: "Crude oil — although there are a lot of cars of it in a train — there is a lot of other bad stuff that moves through here everyday and has for years."
On the list:
-- Chlorine. Eric: "Chlorine gas is moved through here now and then, not too often. We got training on those wrecks, kits to seal leaks on chlorine cars."
One incident that shows the great danger with a chlorine tanker accident occurred in Graniteville, South Carolina on 1/6/2005. According to the accident report published by the National Transportation Safety Board chlorine gas was released after the chlorine tanker was breached. Nine people including the engineer died from inhalation of the lethal gas.
-- Ethanol. Eric said that as a burn hazard it is probably the same as Bakken crude, also having a low flash point. "It burns invisibly, you can't see the smoke, you don't see the flames because it is an alcohol." On the environmental side if there is a spill ethanol floats on water and will evaporate. It's not as damaging as a crude oil spill.
But ethanol still can be explosive and deadly. An Associated Press article published 6/20/2009 reported on a derailment involving a Canadian National Railway Company (CNRC) train in Rockford, Illinois that resulted in a fiery blast that killed one woman who had been just sitting in her car at a crossing, waiting for the train to pass. She died while running away. Three people who also fled from the car were hospitalized after being burned from flaming ethanol.
CNRC was nailed with a lawsuit, ordered to pay a total sum of $36 million in damages, according to an article dated 8/18/2011 at WIFR.com. CNRC was found negligent because it had been warned by the Winnebago County (Rockford) 911 center of a washout on the tracks 20 minutes before the derailment. The engineer ignored water conditions and sped up instead of slowing down.
|Eric Day, Director of CC Office of Emergency Services, shares information on hazmat issues during the Oil Train Community Forum.|
-- Anhydrous ammonia. Eric said that this substance moves through in small quantities compared to Bakken crude so the potential for an accident and disaster is not as great. "When it escapes it becomes gaseous, there is a potential for a plume." Depending upon factors such as wind and temperature anhydrous ammonia could affect an area up to a quarter mile.
The site Anhydrous Ammonia Health Information reveals that a high dose exposure can result in coughing and choking — and even death from chemical burns to the lungs.
-- Propane. This one is could be really scary, said Eric. "There are propane cars rolling through here all the time." He continued: "From watching trains [as a train buff/railfan] it's not uncommon to see ten to twelve propane cars hooked together in a train. That's not a 120 of them [like the Bakken crude trains] but I can tell you if one of those babies blows up it leaves a crater and depending on how the whole incident occurs a car might become a missile, it might fly a ways."
On 2/12/1974 there was a derailment near Oneonta, NY in which one propane car split open, the escaping gas igniting. According to the Railroad Accident Report published by the National Transportation Safety Board: "Four of the remaining tank cars ruptured about 30 minutes after the derailment. The ensuing explosions and fire injured 54 firemen and members of the press."
So what should I do, I asked Eric, if I hear a derailment on the railroad tracks less than 40 feet away from my back door?
He replied: "Don't go out to see what happened. Go the other way... Don't stop to collect $200." (OK, so Eric's easygoing and likes to joke a bit.) He added there was no time to gather a lot of personal possessions, just grab your car keys and wallet if they're readily available. If your wallet is upstairs, forget it, just run.
Of course, maybe running away would be just fanning the flames.
Free Newspaper, Free Donut
Gee, it seems that the weekly alternative newspaper from Vermont, Seven Days, was running a special offer on this side of the lake the other day. What goes better with a free newspaper than a free donut? By the time I got to the newsbox there was only one left. Where else would you see something like this except Plattsburgh, NY (AKA Dogtown)?
Mystery Booms Explained
(C) 2014 Luke T. Bush
PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - 9/1/14
The other day I was speaking with a woman who was wondering what was causing the loud booms heard in her area. I speculated it could be meteors suddenly breaking up high in the sky.
Actually the source behind the booms is down to earth. Too down to earth.
It's someone who likes to have a real blast at his parties.
It wasn't the local mainstream media who uncovered the story but Press-Republican columnist and Home Town Cable TV host Gordie Little who shared his investigations into the matter via his Facebook page. He's been waiting for the real (as such) news outlets to pick up the story.
The booms disturbing the Schuyler Falls - Morrisonville area are created by Tannerite targets. Tannerite is the brand name for a patented binary explosive, i.e., an explosive created by mixing in two substances before use.
Tannerite is a combination of ammonium nitrate and aluminum powders. The mix is relatively stable until set off from a detonator like a high velocity bullet. Standing a (hopefully) safe distance away a shooter can create a loud explosion depending upon how much Tannerite is packed into his target.
The bigger the Tannerite package the greater the sound — and destruction.
You encounter interesting hits by Googling "Tannerite targets" under the video search option. All sorts of things have been blown up from cars to houses to hogs. Parts and pieces flying through the air.
After 9/11 you would think that Tannerite would be under strict control. The explosive is somewhat regulated. It's illegal to transport Tannerite in its final mixed state but not the two substances used to create it. Loophole: each substance by itself is not an explosive, ergo, they can be legally purchased under present ATF regulations when sold separately.
Gordie Little has been listing the booms he has heard by time and date at his Facebook page. He says that both State Police and the Sheriff's offices are aware of the Tannerite fan. This wouldn't be allowed in the Town of Plattsburgh, he notes, but so far the township from where the booms are originating hasn't done anything about the disturbances.
Maybe it's another legal loophole. It could be the Town of Schuyler Falls has no noise ordinance to address the problem.
I just hope we don't see a YouTube video of an overconfident Tannerite fan transforming himself into flying bits.