Debby Does the Gulf

– two left clicks will fully enlarge –

For the last few days, weak tropical storm Debbie has been slowly working her way northward keeping residents of the Gulf coastal states on alert.  A huge volume of warm, moist air, some originating all the way from the eastern Pacific (see image above), has been racing northeastward and northward into the storm’s core generating numerous alarming situations conducive to tornadic development.  The environment around her has made it very difficult for forecasters to interpret the numerous computer tracking models because there has been little agreement.

At this moment, (6-25-2012) about 2 pm Eastern time, it looks as though she will extend her stay over the Gulf well into the week and eventually work her way eastward to cross Florida and then enter the Atlantic.  Where I live in Citrus County, Florida that means we could experience the right-hand leading quadrant of the system.  It is that particular quadrant of northern hemisphere tropical systems that usually has the highest wind velocities and the greatest probability for tornadoes and significant sea surges upon the shore.  However, I am optimistic that upwelling of cooler water in the Gulf below the storm will further diminish the strength of the storm.  Typically, when strong winds skim over warm water and push it aside, that which takes its place is cooler water that “wells up” from below.

There are many factors that can cause a tropical system such as Debby to strengthen and/or weaken – the sea surface temperature changes being but one.  However, it is my hope that she does provide us more much-needed rain in a slow and steady manner so that it infiltrates into our groundwater zone instead of  traveling as surface runoff.   I hope she does decide to take that trip across Florida and that she will be sufficiently mild-mannered to be a great benefit to the region.

Enjoy the satellite view above which shows the extent of Debby’s influence this morning (6-25-2012).


Almost all photos in this web-log,

including the five below,

will enlarge to the fullest

with two independent mouse clicks.

I have never been fond of snakes. I know why but that’s a long story for some other time. I do believe that if you happen to sit on a rattlesnake and incur a bite – that’s when you find out who your real friends are!

 I do appreciate the role that snakes play in the whole scheme of things but still have difficulties being at peace with the notion that the eastern diamondback rattlesnake might be declared an endangered species after the conclusion of a year-long study that recently began.  I know a bit about the food chain and environmental niches – but still, that’s a critter I would just as soon not engage in guarded cohabitation.

 But I have been very concerned about the number of snakes that are killed needlessly simply because of the fear that so many of us possess. That concern was accentuated about 4 years ago when a man who lives in my neighborhood called me to come over to his place to identify a snake he had run over with his lawnmower. The dead snake was a yellow rat snake, one of the most beneficial snakes we have here in the Southeast. But they are very unpopular with people who fear snakes because they grow to be very long (the record is 90”) and they are excellent climbers often seen high in trees. To encounter one in a tree at eye level can generate goose-bumps upon goose-bumps and prompt records for the backwards long jump.

 In spite of the fact that the mower-victim snake was dead I was encouraged to see it because it was the first I’d seen in the 3 years I’d lived in my West-Central Florida home. So, I’ve had my eye out for them ever since and have encouraged close neighbors to leave them alone and appreciate them. They are terrific for managing rodent populations; they are natural exterminators. If so many of the snakes were not killed by frightened or misguided humans the pocket gophers that leave holes all over this area would be culled out to a manageable number.

 Well – I’ve been discouraged since then because though I’ve seen little ring-necks, and a few southern racers I haven’t seen a single rat snake, not even the red rat (or corn snake) – in spite of my efforts to create a favorable habitat for them.

 But yesterday was a day of joy because I learned that they are still around here in my neighborhood – that they have not been completely killed off. My wife noticed that our cats were very focused as they looked through the glass of our porch window. A 5′ 6” yellow rat snake had their attention. I went outside and enjoyed the snake from a distance snapping a few pictures as the beauty took a tour around the perimeter of the house. They are egg layers and next week when I do my regularly scheduled gutter cleaning I won’t be surprised if I have to bypass some eggs. By the way, the hatchlings are generally mistaken for different species of snakes, as they look different from adults. They have a dark appearance and are strongly marked with irregularly shaped spots or blotches, against a gray background.  The one pictured here is an adult with its characteristic long-axis stripes.

 Please don’t kill them. They are not mean to humans.

The only time I’ve ever heard of one being aggressive to humans was when cornered or prodded. If you encounter one don’t expect it to scurry away in fear. They are generally docile and don’t scamper if you remain calm. This one let me talk to it for over half an hour and when I used a garden hose to place water up in the gutter it enjoyed the cascade from the downspout as the last photo illustrates.

Appeal To the Great Spirit – my favorite prayer.

To date, this is my favorite prayer. I first encountered it many years ago in the bulletin of the Church of the Epiphany in South Miami, Florida. I am uncertain as to its author. The church bulletin linked it to the Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.  I have also seen it attributed to Lakota Sioux Chief Yellow Lark who is said to have translated it in 1887.

Every single day when I went to school and returned home from both McKinley Junior High and Muncie Central High (in the 50’s in Muncie, Indiana) I passed and admired a replica of the “Appeal to the Great Spirit” cast in bronze, and erected on a site just east of the Ball family homes on the north side of the White River in Muncie. The original sculpture was created by Cyrus Dallin in Paris in 1909.  The statue in Muncie is one of three full-sized replicas.

 I love this poem for many reasons but mostly because of the emphasis upon our being a part of Nature along with the notion of which I am convinced – our most formidable enemy is seen each time we look in a mirror.

 This is it – from memory. Let’s say, it’s paraphrased. A few words and phrases might be altered a bit from the original.


Oh Great Spirit,

Whose voice I hear in the winds,

And whose breath gives life

To all the universe . . . . PLEASE HEAR ME !


I am small and weak;

I need your strength and wisdom.

Let me walk in beauty.

Make my eyes ever behold your red and purple sunset.


Make my hands respect the things that you have made,

And my ears sharp to hear your voice.

Make me wise so that I might understand

The things that you have taught my people.


Teach me the lessons that you have hidden

In every leaf and rock.

I seek strength and wisdom,

Not to be greater than my brothers and my sisters,

But to fight my greatest enemy, MYSELF.


Help me to be ready to come to you

With clean hands and straight eyes

So that when life fades, as the fading sunset,

My spirit will come to you without shame.



THE KITCHEN TABLE – Gina Toney Lavatai

I am blessed to have four terrific children.  Their birth years are 1962, 1966, 1986, and 1989.  The first three are my daughters and the last is my son.  I’m thrilled to be their daddy and thank the Great Guy In the Sky for the privilege.  1966 daughter, Gina, sent this to me a few days ago.  I thought I’d share it.

Tonie Ansel Toney (Cloudman23)

Oren & Marge Toney farm – 2010 – CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE

The Kitchen Table

Gina Toney Lavatai

Farmland, Indiana is your typical Hometown, USA. The population is small enough where people know you, or know someone who knows you and everyone seems to know the details of your life. Where ice cream socials, street fairs with cake walks and hometown parades still exist. It is here where I spent many summers growing up and here is where my heart calls home.

I miss those summers spent in Indiana on the farm I am often transported back to those summer days with the smell of fresh baked snicker doodle cookies or seeing children catch lightning bugs in a jar. Sometimes its seeing my own children playing outside at night with flashlights or hearing a family story thats been shared time and time again. Whatever the trigger, I love how it always brings me back to the hours spent at the kitchen table.

My Aunt Marge and Uncle Oren are technically my Great Aunt and Uncle on my dad’s side. However, I would consider them to be as close as grandparents to me. They live on a farm and have lived there since the beginning of time. Every summer when we would go home, we would stay on the farm with them. My days were filled with playing outside in the fields, making homemade ice-cream, walking around collecting Queen Ann’s Lace, playing in the barn, visiting cousins or cutting the tons of grass on the riding mower. My evenings were filled with catching fireflies, playing flash light tag in the pines, arm wrestling with my cousins in the front room, and waiting for my uncle to get home from work.

Uncle Oren was a farmer by day and a factory worker at Warner Gear in Muncie at night. When we would visit, he would love to call home on his CB radio and pretend he was racing to cross the tracks before the train came through. Half the time, he would pretend like he didn’t make it and came to a horrible demise! That always caused our hearts to skip a beat!

Our nightly ritual was to get out the cheddar cheese and saltines and lay them on a plate. Aunt Marge would typically start pulling out some leftovers from our earlier supper too. One of the things Aunt Marge was known for, was never letting you leave her kitchen hungry.

When we heard the gravel spitting from the tires, we knew he was home. The final step was to pull out a cold Michelob for Uncle Oren, or Orenry as I liked to call him.

There we would be, excited as kids would be hoping to see Santa at Christmas, waiting for Uncle Orenry to come through the mud room door. He would sit down, pop his top on his cold beer and we would start talking about his day or just telling family stories as he munched on his cheese and crackers. Uncle Orenry is the best story teller. We would sit there laughing for hours until we had to pull ourselves away and go to bed.

The table in that kitchen is more than a piece of furniture where meals are shared. It is a place were sorrow and loss have been worked through. It is a place were life has been celebrated. It is a place were hard decisions have been made. It is a place where heartfelt laughter and joy have resonated and most of all, it is without a doubt the best definition of LOVE.

I truly miss my summers around the table and being on the farm. I hope my children get the opportunity to experience a piece of life at the Toney Farm Kitchen Table one day soon. It is one place that really reminds you what life is supposed to be about.

2011 Hurricane Season Comments – Tonie Toney (Cloudman23)

left click image to enlarge

Since I began this site on August 24 2008, it’s been averaging about 12 “hits” per hour. So, I’m not setting the Internet world on fire. I’m sure that many of my “followers” are either friends and neighbors, family, or former students.  Of course a number of people reach this site as a consequence of a search term that blends with something I’ve discussed.

 This is my first posting in over three months. That might be strange for a site devoted mostly to tropical meteorology but those who know me understand that I devote most of my tropical weather attention to those systems that cause alarm to folks in Central Florida where I now reside.

The six month long official hurricane season whose last day was November 30 was an active one but not for Central Florida. There were some storms in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf that caused concern but, if you have been following this site you have no doubt noticed that I ignored most of them. I choose to refrain from alarming anyone unnecessarily when I deduce that a storm in question is not likely to bother us.  On the other hand, the National Weather Service errs on the side of caution and consequently the “coverage” was vigorous and reports were easily obtained through the media.  Though I think that the media does a good job, generally speaking, I am inclined to suspect that they are spectacularizing their reports. There were times when it appeared that a storm would be coming our way here in West-Central Florida but my information and gut-level feelings indicated a very low probability.  SPECIAL NOTE: It appears that in using “spectacularizing” I’ve used a word whose acceptance is debatable; it appears to be a mere colloquialism but that fits me well.

This year’s hurricane season was very active! An average northern hemisphere Atlantic/Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico season has 11 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes.

 For the 2011 season there were 19 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 intense hurricanes.

But for the U.S.A. specifically – the season was unusually timid. In his summary of the season, Dr. Jeff Masters (one of my important sources) wrote: “Only two named storms made landfall, Tropical Storm Lee, which hit Louisiana with 60 mph winds, and Hurricane Irene, which hit North Carolina on August 27 with 85 mph winds, and made two additional landfalls in New Jersey and New York the next day.” By the time tropical storm Don reached Texas it had weakened to a tropical depression.  There seems to be general agreement that favorable steering currents were the principle reason for our good fortune in the U.S.

I made no entries concerning Irene, in spite of the scare in New York because we were being flooded with media information and for those with cable or satellite, the Weather Channel was right on top of things. Since it wasn’t threatening our Central Florida region I held back in the wake of such comprehensive coverage.

The way our season luckily turned out has indeed caused me some considerable concern over the tendency that we humans have toward complacency. In the 6+ years I’ve lived in Citrus County, Florida there have been no tropical systems of any severe nature but the year before I arrived, 2004, was a busy one with Jeanne, Ivan, Frances, and Charlie. None of those named storms were strong enough to create a county-wide wake-up call. Some people were without power for a few days but the storms did not create events comparable to those which reverberate in our heads for years to follow – like Andrew, for example, which destroyed my home (in Homestead, Florida) in 1992.

I have heard tales of real estate agents in the area boasting that Citrus County possesses some sort of special immunity for whatever reason. I refute that notion absolutely. There is nothing about the environment that affords it the luxury of special protection other than the high sand ridges that minimize storm surge potential for those who live far enough inland from the Gulf. For example, my house sits at an elevation of 55′ above mean sea level so I don’t anticipate storm surge events. However, high water from heavy rains is a distinct possibility.

In any event I urge you who live in my area to NOT ignore the fact that you live in hurricane country. There are so many things about hurricanes that should not be discounted. For example, doubling the wind velocity actually quadruples it’s potential force. So a 60 mph wind has four times the ability to do harm compared to a 30 mph wind. Here is a link to a site which I put together regarding “hurricane misconceptions.”

Coming next:  My Christmas Greeting and Reflections.


Thanks to the National Weather Service Hydrometeorological Prediction Center for this graphic. 

What you see is a 5 day forecast for the total rainfall in inches between 8 AM Eastern Daylight Time Sunday and 8 AM EDT on Friday .  The feared 15″ of rain in the New Orleans area predicted 36 hours earlier seems highly unlikely.  For ease in reading, left click the image two times independently for full enlargement.

Lee Expected To Dump Lots Of Rain In the Next 5 Days!

Thanks to the National Weather Service Hydrometeorological Prediction Center for this graphic. 

What you see is a prediction for the total rainfall in inches between 8 AM Eastern Daylight Time Saturday and 8 AM EDT on Thursday (in other words – a 5 day total forecast).  Already, since this was released, the feared 15″ of rain in the New Orleans area seems highly unlikely due to dry air from Texas being drawn into the system.  For ease in reading, left click the image two times independently for full enlargement.


Shortly before noon Eastern Daylight Time today (8-30-2011) Dr. Jeff Masters published this statement:

“Gulf of Mexico development possible late this week”

“Several of our best computer models for predicting formation of tropical cyclones, the GFS and ECMWF, are predicting that an upper level pressure interacting with a tropical wave now over the the Western Caribbean could combine to spawn a tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico late this week or early next week. The formation location is likely to be off the coast of Louisiana or Texas, but the track of the system is hard to predict at this point.” (end quote) –

 Though this is far too early to tell, here is a six day look into the ECMWF model’s “take” on our tropical weather. It was released at 8 pm EDT, 8-29-2011 and projects out six days (144 hours).

Notice, in addition to the system in the Gulf of Mexico, the position northeast of Puerto Rico of what is currently Tropical Storm Katia.  Some are predicting that she will be of hurricane strength by the time 6 days pass.

 The error 6 days out can be enormous so take this for what it’s worth. I recommend your being mindful that the ECMWF has been doing well for the last couple of years. For instructions on viewing the model in animated form on, please use the following link:

  NOTE: ECMWF = European Center for Medium -Range Weather Forecast

Two left clicks will enlarge to the fullest.

Photo Of Irene From Space – 8-28-2011

The photo below is actually from a scan of the “full disk” of earth from the GOES-13 satellite.  I have cropped the original in order to concentrate upon Tropical Storm Irene.  Tropical Storm Jose also shows up in the image; it is very small.  To find it look for a small blob of clouds, bright white (about half the width of the state of Florida and located off the Carolinas  and next to Bermuda).  More information follows after the image.



TIME OF PHOTO – 2:45 pm Eastern Daylight Time

DATE – Sunday, August 28, 2011

ALTITUDE OF SATELLITE – about 22,300 miles





This is self-explanatory.  If you are anywhere within the cone of uncertainty please do not be careless in your thinking.  Stay alert, keep a clear head, and do not allow that epidemic disease, terminal uniqueness, to cause you to think that “it” always happens to the other guy (or gal).  Do not take any unnecessary chances.  Be patient, use common sense, and remember that this too shall pass.

My thoughts are with you.

For previous reports go to the blog tab near the upper left of the page and then scroll down.