Pure Fiction

It has been said that I don’t read or write fiction. I’m here tonight to set that assertion straight! It counts as fiction if the names aren’t real, right? If so, then here’s my first stab at imaginary writing.

    Chapter One

Meet Stan Savanne. One of a small, elite set of “head forecasters” at the Nationwide Violent Weather Unit (NVWU), “Stormy Stanley” has been a severe weather fanatic since infanthood, living and breathing violent storms all his life. This guy was born to understand storms, and has fulfilled his destiny as much as anyone could. He’s been learning about them ever since he was slobbering Gerber on his baby bib, staring intently out the window as the dark underbelly of the afternoon seabreeze storms rolled across the Oilburg suburbs for another round of flashes and booms.

From the time he could pronounce the word, Stan announced to all who would listen that he was going to be a meteorologist. No other vocational urge ever entered that one track mind, and by golly, that singular desire never would be deterred. Mr. Savanne worked hard to get his undergrad and graduate meteorology degrees, gaining experience with not only the academic, textbook view of severe weather, but the many kinds of exceptions as witnessed through his very eyeballs. He has seen over 100 tornadoes, countless supercells, a hurricane, and a few tropical storms for good measure, and uncounted many more storms that gusted out or morphed into raging convective complexes. But Stan learned from them all, blending that extensive first hand understanding with rigorous study — both during and after college.

Because of his intensity and devotion to his specialty, Stan has become one of the world’s most respected storm observers, forecasters, and operational researchers. As a lead author or co-author, Stan Savanne’s name is on more scientific papers in severe storms, formal and informal combined, than any other full-time forecaster in the United States, public or private. The only possible exception is one of his co-workers of astoundingly similar construction — scientifically and motivationally, but definitely not physically! — a big, opinionated, storm chasing tornado freak named Armando Robledo. Given their intertwined backgrounds and interests, a large fraction of those papers bear both the Savanne and Robledo names.

A streetwise vato loco from Blue Star City who witnessed plenty of mayhem from the atmosphere as well as within the public schools and back alleys, Armando was Stan’s roommate and classmate in college at Red Dirt University. Armando deployed TITI (Tornado Intercept and Tracking Instrument) in college, and has seen and forecast a great deal of severe weather himself.

Together the two severe storms freaks have chased, studied and predicted atmospheric violence together for over half their lives. Slim, athletic and profusely talkative, with a chiseled and classically telegenic look, Stan makes quite the contrast to his friend and co-worker Armando — a taller, rather hulking, round-faced fellow more inclined toward verbosity in writing than in speaking, and who never met a hot meal he didn’t like. Together these two Red Dirt alumni and former Universal Violent Weather Lab chasers have made quite a mark on the science over the years, with much learning, publishing and forecasting still left to do.

Stan, Armando and each of their colleagues deal with more different kinds of severe weather events, in more different areas of the country, in just two or three years, than any local warning forecaster ever can or will in his or her entire career.

Stan, a real Type-A go-getter with a nonstop motor, is sharper than a diamond razor. Almost no one with whom he coordinates his “Violent Storm Watches” (VSWs) can even come close to matching his combination of knowledge, interest, insight and both tangible and intangible credentials. He also is gifted with prolific and persuasive speaking skills, having given numerous lectures and seminars nationwide on violent storms. Still, VSWs must be collaborated, and hopefully for Stan, not diluted by comparatively feeble severe weather knowledge and background of most of the folks on the other end of these calls.

On several occasions in the past few years, Local Warning Office (LWO) forecasters with only a tiny fraction of Stan’s credentials and background told Stan, and other NVWU head forecasters, that a watch was not needed in a certain county or group of counties, only to later issue warnings and get severe weather in those very same counties. Damaging tornadoes with casualties struck such counties on two occasions, and nontornadic severe weather on several others. As long as the LWO gets the warning out on time, there’s no penalty on their end. So what’s the problem? Stan and the NWVU had no watch out (since the LWO didn’t want one, for any of a wide range of mostly non-meteorological reasons). Yes, the NVWU has final say, but it’s clear that collaboration with the so-called “local expertise” strongly influenced the process in the wrong direction.

In the eyes of the impartial, outside observer, unaware of these dealings, which office looks like the hero, and who seems to be the goat? Should the system of protecting the public from violent weather have such troubles at all, or should it instead roll more smoothly with the deference given to scientific expertise and experience? Those are the questions Stan and his collegues ponder as such events keep occurring on occasion.

One day Stan got frustrated enough with the hypocritical incidents of local watch denial, followed by warnings, that he made a modest but most brilliant proposal: to ask the LWO forecaster to promise not to issue warnings if Stan didn’t issue the watch. It worked! But meteorological realpolitik being as it is, it hasn’t happened since.

His like minded and similarly published colleague, Armando, decided this could be taken a step further, and devised the following statement that a local forecaster can fill out and paste into any e-mail screen, and send within seconds to “Stan” or any other “NVWU” forecaster on duty.

I, _________, forecaster at the ________________ office, hereby promise not to issue warnings at any time during what would have been the duration of the watch I did not want in my counties.

Time only will tell if Stan and Armando are on to something!

    [Chapter Two remains to be written. The book may take a lifetime, and the names may change yet again!]

So…have I composed a viable piece of fiction story? Remember, it’s just imaginary. Any association with any living person or agency is mere coincidence. Now back to surveying those Key Biscayne area sea bottoms…



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