This space of your favorite weekly newspaper contains two topics this week — the previous weekend and our weather:
On Independence Day: John Adams, who died on Independence Day 1826 (the same day as Thomas Jefferson, but you knew that) predicted that Independence Day “will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty; it ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
Most of Platteville’s 4th of July celebration is on that list, starting with the firefighter memorial dedication as one of those “solemn acts of devotion.” No parade, but the morning program in City Park is useful to remind people why July 4 is a holiday. Heritage Day at the museum covered “shows,” “games” were covered by the Legion Park bean bag tournament, and the Woodchucks played, though not in Platteville. “Guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations” clearly describes the annual fireworks show.
Independence Day begins what might as well be called Platteville’s Festivus. (The term, for those who don’t watch too much TV, was from the “Seinfeld” sitcom, a nonreligious holiday the Seinfeld four made up.) The UW–Platteville Heartland Festival is under way, highlighted, in my completely unbiased opinion, by “Shrek, the Musical.” (Check out Doc and Sneezy.) The Rundell–Biddick picnic is this weekend. Next weekend begins Hometown Festival Week, Southwest Wisconsin’s biggest and longest festival, along with the Rockin’ Rewey Fireworks.
The non-regularly-scheduled event was the Culver’s ribbon-cutting Monday morning, an event as highly anticipated as, well, Benvenuto’s grand opening last year. Few things are as uniquely American as entrepreneurship. Culver’s is one of Wisconsin’s great business success stories, and the Platteville Culver’s is a great example of treating employees as they should be treated, and employees treating customers as they should be treated. And any Monday that includes free custard to the ribbon-cutting guests can’t be all bad.
Don’t lose that number: Three thoughts are left over from last week’s compendium of tornado-related observations. In hurricane-prone areas, house numbers are painted on the curb in front of the house, so the lot can be found if the house isn’t there anymore. This might be something municipalities in tornado-prone areas might want to consider. For one thing, it has an additional benefit for emergency services personnel in non-disaster situations, because not all Platteville property owners are diligent in putting and keeping numbers in clear view on their property, as I believe is required under city ordinance.
I also wonder how often we will be getting what appear to be phantom tornado warnings. For at least a decade after the Barneveld tornado, it seemed as though tornado warnings for Dane County were based on sightings of tornadoes near Barneveld. Given the devastation of Barneveld’s 1984 tornado (for which no warning was issued because, again, no one saw it until it was carving up the village), that’s not surprising. As I’ve said here before, the Platteville tornado (which had no warning, but did have a watch) and last week’s tornadoes near Fennimore and Livingston (which had neither tornado watch nor warning) suggest that weather technology still could stand improvement, if in fact Wisconsin’s incredibly changeable weather can in fact be predicted with any degree of certainty.
Related to the previous paragraph is a point I’ve made here before that stands out because of our tornadoes June 16, and all the severe weather since then, which has been something less than perfectly warned about in advance. Grant County is the southernmost county in the National Weather Service La Crosse warning area, while Lafayette and Iowa counties are the westernmost counties in the NWS’ Sullivan warning area. (Sullivan, by the way, is between Madison and Milwaukee for those who didn’t know that.) The warning area of the NWS Quad Cities office starts at the Wisconsin–Illinois state line.
That places us on the border between three NWS offices, and three NWS radars. A radar beam goes straight out from its transmitter. The problem with that is that the Earth curves, so radar sees less the farther from the transmitter you are. Therefore, the farther you are from the radar, the less accurate the radar is. And Platteville is 83 miles from La Crosse, 98 miles from Sullivan, and 84 miles from the Quad Cities, as the radar beam flies. So is the weather radar accurate out here, or not?
School’s out for weather: Along that theme, I noted earlier this year that schools in Platteville were closed, opened late or closed early this past school year due to heat, ice, ridiculous cold, freezing fog and snow. So of course it shouldn’t have surprised anyone when summer school was called off June 17 because of the citywide blackout due to, you guessed it, the tornadoes. As I wrote here before, the only inclement weather unlikely to close schools is flooding, simply because all the Platteville schools are on high ground. If Rountree Branch rises 20 feet, whether summer school takes place will be the least of our concerns.