It was a dark and stormy night

It’s the proverbial dark and stormy night. Your new-to-driving teen is coming home from a friend’s house and, in a dip in the road, they see water flowing right across it. What they do next could mean life or death. And if they’ve never been exposed to basic weather hazard safety, they could make the wrong move.

Here’s the deal. I’ve been teaching a course in weather observation for 15 years, the last 11 at UMPI. I ask each new class the same question, once we have learned about weather hazards: “Did you guys get any of this kind of stuff back in elementary school?” No one has yet said “yes”.

If we teach kids how to be WeatherSmart, they will make smart weather decisions for the rest of their lives, and one day they’ll teach their kids how to be WeatherSmart, too.

So how do we do it? Well, I think I’ve come up with a pretty good idea. I could hold a presentation for elementary school teachers at UMPI, in my classroom. It would be about 75 minutes long.

The talk would be built around a weather hazard acronym that I’ve developed, which I call “FLHIV,” wherein each letter stands for a weather hazard that is common to The County.

F — Flash Floods. Water flowing over a road need only be 1/2 way up the tire of any vehicle to carry that vehicle into a raging creek.

L — Lightning. Many people don’t know that lightning can strike up to 12 miles away from the parent thunderstorm. That means that a thunderstorm in Caribou can generate a bolt of lightning that can strike in Presque Isle.

H — Hypothermia. The human body loses heat 25 times faster in water than in air. Hypothermia claimed three Fort Fairfield men this summer in a tragic accident on Square Lake. People without the right clothing have died above tree line in the White Mountains in summertime. There are even signs at the trailheads warning of summer hypothermia.

I — Ice. Be it black ice, or freezing rain, there is nothing more treacherous in winter than a coating of ice. Everything turns into a skating rink — accidents everywhere, sometimes with injuries, or worse.

V — Visibility (the “underrated” killer). Driving in a white-out, or in extremely dense fog, is just like driving with a blindfold on. Easton lost a young man a few winters ago in white-out conditions, when the vehicle he was in was struck from behind by a truck, which did not see that they had stopped.

FLHIV – There are five words and the acronym sounds like “Five”. FLHIV. Five. Easy to remember, and it is these FLHIV things that a person living in The County is most likely to encounter.

I am not downplaying how deadly hurricanes and tornadoes can be. I’m just saying they are way down on the list of dangerous weather events/situations that are most likely to be encountered here in northern Maine.

While I’ve been focusing on presenting this life-saving material to elementary school teachers, teachers of any grade level would be welcome. I’d love to hear from parents who think that this is an important subject for their kids. Please send me an email to tshapiro@wagmtv.com and have “Weather For Kids” as your subject line.

If you are a teacher, please email me at that same address if you are interested in attending. Have your subject line be “Interested Teacher.”

Time-wise, I’m thinking 7:30 to 8:45 p.m. on any weekday evening, or it could be done on a weekend day, mid- or late afternoon. Please indicate your preference in your email.

I have truly incredible video clips, and all attendees will immediately realize that they have encountered at least three of the FLHIV.

Ted Shapiro holds the Broadcast Seal of Approval from both the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association. An Alexandria, Va. native, he has been chief meteorologist at WAGM-TV since 2006. Email him at tshapiro@wagmtv.com.  

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