Five Days On – University City April 2014 Tornado (1), University City Trees And Homes (0)

8 Apr


This old tree at the intersection of McKnight Road and Spoon Drive, the epicenter of the tornado destruction in the early morning hours of April 3, 2014, is still laying in its twisted state 5 days later on the western edge of the Ruth Park public golf course.

(All Photography © Rod Milam)

Five days after the rude 5:26am wake up call that the western section of University City, Missouri received in the form of an F1 tornado, there are still visible and raw signs of the power of the relatively “weak” twister.


Street signs, utility poles, and fully toppled old growth trees litter the easements and sidewalks of the recently reopened main drag of McKnight Road.  Demolition teams and tree cutting services also dot the neighborhood and Ruth Park public golf course along with uprooted tree stumps as clean up continues nearly a full week after the series of storms last week that brought a double punch of grape-sized hail and tornadic conditions within the span of 16 hours.


And while there was, thankfully, no loss of life or serious personal injury as a result of the rough start to spring, the trail of crushed cars, shingle-less roofs, and damaged or condemned homes still hurt those that survived the initial touchdown path of the 1/2 mile long trail that the tornado blazed.



Caution indeed….

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April Roars In For The City Of Lions

3 Apr
Comp of hail storm and tornado damage.

(l) A University City neighborhood during a hail storm at about 1:30pm on April 2, 2014, and (r) the aftermath of a probable tornado that passed through U. City in a different section of town at 5:20am on April 3rd.

The weather in March of 2014 in St. Louis/U. City may have come in like a lion and gone out like a lamb, but April has shown that it refuses to be upstaged in the drama department by its predecessor on the calendar.

On Tuesday afternoon, April 2, 2014 at about 1:30 a fairly strong, but typical, thunderstorm was passing over University City.  There didn’t seem to be any excessive wind.  But the large falling rain drops slowly converted into larger, grape-sized hail stones that came pelting down on the middle third of the city and left a layer what looked like snow blobs on every flat surface.  (Click here to see the hail storm in action.)

This hailstorm was part of a series of other storms that hit in the region. The video I posted was interesting enough that both ABC’s and NBC’s evening news programs wanted to use the video for their broadcasts.

ABC Evening News Featured Video

The ABC Evening News With Diane Sawyer used the linked video to talk about this and the other storms that passed through the Midwest on the anniversary of the largest recorded outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded.

Then, as if the dinged cars, bruised tree buds, and gumball (sweetgum) cull wasn’t messy enough as a result of that storm, only 16 hours later at about 5:30am on Thursday, April 3rd while I was working a graveyard shift in Earth City, my father reported hearing the tell-tale “freight train” sound during another round of thunderstorms passing through U. City.  Sure enough, given the path of downed trees, shingle deprived roofs, and toppled power lines, it appears as though a low-grade tornado made its way through town.

Possible Tornado Path

This is the path of the twister that I estimate based on the number of downed trees and level of detritus I observed as dawn broke.

By the time I made my way back east to town, the University City police had shut down McKnight road from one end of Ruth Park to the other because of a number completely uprooted trees and telephone polls.


These city worker trucks are about a block away from the biggest damage, but this street suffered quite a bit as well.

Fortunately, it appears that the initial touchdown hit over the town’s public golf course (Ruth Park) which is only permanently populated by rabbits and squirrels in the pre-dawn hours and was certainly empty of the local duffers that may have been out during daylight hours on a nicer day.


The last thing that these felled old evergreens gave the city was a distinct aroma of pine from their abrupt and harsh last nights sleep on Groby Road.

Moving southeast away from Ruth Park, there was more evidence to be found about the path of the twister.


No one in this house off of Old Bonhomme Road was reported as injured. Certainly they’ll have to be on the phone to both their home and auto insurance companies later on today.

Then even further southeast on Gannon Avenue, a sight that I’ve never seen went by…a Metro (Bi-State) bus was diverted from Delmar Boulevard down this damaged street because a big section of Delmar was shut down because of more downed trees and a broken gas main.


This big bus had to bob and weave its way down this tiny side street since I didn’t fair much better than the main drag that it usually travels.

At the time of this post, I’ve seen no official word of whether or not this was officially a tornado nor any word on what strength the twister may have been.  Having seen much worse post tornado damage in the past, I guess that this was a low-level one at best, maybe an F0 or F1 on the Fujita Scale.  Most importantly, it doesn’t appear as though anyone was hurt.  But even if this wasn’t the strongest tornado to have ever hit this area of St. Louis, it was bad enough for those that it hit directly.  More news will certainly come out in the coming hours.  (Hopefully, most of it benign. )

Reaction to the Egyptian Coup D’État In Astoria, Queens, New York #1

3 Jul

Local NYC Media Comes To The Neighborhood (Too Early)


A picture of the far end of “Little Cairo” on Steinway Street at 25th Avenue in Astoria Queens.

My New York City neighborhood, Astoria, Queens, has had some of its citizens used as subjects of ethic genetic studies. The result of those resolved that the square mile within where I live is the most ethnically diverse square mile on the planet Earth. Given that fact, it’s not remotely unusual to note that there is a significant Egyptian population around the corner from me.

With the overthrow of the elected Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi taking place earlier this afternoon (EDT), I decided to go to Steinway Street between 28th Avenue and Astoria Boulevard to see if there was any outward reaction yet to the news.  This segment of Steinway is home to many Middle Eastern and North African shops, restaurants and a mosque that services not just all of the Astoria area in general, but the people who may be originally from countries in the Mideast and the Maghreb in particular.  When arrived, I saw that all of the local CBS, NBC, ABC, and New York 1 TV trucks were on site as you can see above.  I knew that they were really there too early to see what might really happen later because most of the people that spend time on that part of the block will come out at night.

The cameramen and journalists that were just walking around the sidewalks not actually doing any reporting didn’t seem to know that nothing would really happen until after sundown (since none of them even remotely looked like they were from the neighborhood) started to peel off.  NY1 actually looks like it’s going to stay to see if they can talk to some folks later on, but the other stations probably just wanted to get a quick live TV shot or some other immediate reaction for the 6:00 news.

Meanwhile, since these folks are my neighbors and I’ve lived here for years, I just went and asked some of the store and shop owners what they thought.  In general, they seem to think what happened was inevitable and was for the good overall.  They plan on getting more in depth news all at once late tonight when they all get interviewed and the latest news from Egyptian media on the ground.

I’ll see if I can go back later tonight to get some pics and info about the situation. If I can. I’ll update things here.  Pays to know some sources, eh?

You know you’ve lived in New York City a while when you pass by a poster of a super long running show that you’ve thought about seeing since many years before you even moved here more than a decade ago and still haven’t gone to see it, BUT you’ve met and had drinks with more than 2 people that have been in the cast of the show and honestly figure that’s probably as close as you’ll ever get to seeing the program in person. #TheBlueManGroupIsStillRunning?

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In Astoria, Queens, even the dogs do the whole, “I’m gonna look outside my window to watch the world go by,” New York City thing.

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KWMU’s Bob McCabe Leaving The Control Booth After 20+ Years

8 Jun

Bob McCabe looking pensive, knowledgeable, relaxed, and totally at home in “air control” at the University of Missouri St. Louis studios of KWMU in February of 2010.

For morning listeners of public radio in St. Louis over the past 20+ years, this is the face to put to the voice and name of Bob McCabe that you’ve been waking up to and driving to work to while listening to either the news or classical music.  I shot this picture when I was back in St. Louis in 2010 to record and live stream St. Louis local, fellow U. City alum,  and world renowned jazz pianist Peter Martin in his inaugural Peter Martin Music: Live! series with guest Diane Reeves.  Peter was at KWMU to do and interview for Cityscape, and I had a quick bit of time to talk to Bob and catch up with him between breaks in programming.

I had the pleasure to not only work with “Bob” when I was an intern and an employee on the air at KWMU from 1992 through 2000, but I also knew “Mr. McCabe” when he was my home room teacher during my senior year of high school at University City Senior High.  He was an English teacher at the high school for years and my guess is that most radio listeners didn’t know that.

And on top of that, before I re-met Bob as a colleague and not a student, I found out that he spent 11 years working in the Catholic ministry and time singing and recording with the St. Louis Symphony Chorus for two seasons, and working in other areas of St. Louis theater community.  And my guess is that most radio listeners didn’t know that either.

In spite of our completely goofy relationship that we ended up having when the “on-air” light went off in the studio, I always went away impressed with the rich and diverse life that Bob insisted on carving out for himself.  I used him as one of my examples of someone that was not afraid to follow a path that may seem very different and disparate to others, but right for himself.  This is an aspiration I think I have been able to mainly achieve, especially since I can count a full 5 different careers that I’ve had already. (I think I’ve gone a bit overboard on that diversity thing.)

So with a bit of a sad heart and a hat tip for inspiration, I wish both “Bob” and “Mr. McCabe” the best in his retirement from one of his many careers, and I know that I’ll miss hearing his voice from half way across the country in New York City online.  I don’t know what it is about us St. Louisians and our radio hosts, but I have no one I’d rather listen to during morning drive than Bob on my iPhone 1000 miles away.  I still  wish that he wouldn’t leave the air, but he’s going to do what he wants, so that’s going to be good enough for me.

So after the end of June, 90.7FM in St. Louis won’t be the same, and neither shall I.  Thanks, Bob!  Thanks for everything!

Singers from Uptown, Amish from Pennsylvania, or Shoppers from Queens…No Matter. In NYC, You’ll Need The Subway

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It’s a miraculously not-so-disastrous subway weekend here in New York. The remnants of Hurricane Andrea left everything super wet overnight, but now she’s gone and subway buskers, tourists and retail therapy patients alike are out in force at the 49th Street stop on the N/Q/R line in Times Square.


Questionable: Was This The Best Image You Could Have Chosen

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Just another day on the NYC subway: Human Avian Hybrid Edition

4 May

At the uptown/Queens bound 42nd Street – Times Square N/R/Q platform this guy took it upon himself to don a bird feather and push his bike through the station and turn the place into an underground aural bird cage.

He tried out at least 8 different calls at full volume. The performance generally got reviews of shrugs (from NYers) or astonishment (from tourists). But this kid and his sister were enthralled by the whole thing.

Looks like the weather has turned warm and the full-fledged coo coos have come home to roost.

Gotta love it.

The Makeup Counter Is Now On The Underground Level

8 Apr

Two women on a Manhattan bound R train from Queens to Manhattan engage in a little bit of “Makeup Counter Magic” on the subway. Given that they got off at 59th & Lexington Avenue and they’re wearing all black, to be fair, they probably work at a real makeup counter at Bloomingdale’s.

The first place I consistently saw a lot of women putting on their own full makeup on public transportation was in Tokyo in the early 2000s. I didn’t really see much of it here in New York until around 2008-9 or so.

Now it looks like it’s evolving. The woman on the right was putting full makeup on her friend/co-worker on the left for most of my ride on an R train from Queens to Midtown Manhattan.

Is this overly public? The dog in the poster seems to think so…




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