June 26, 2009

Train Derailment, One Week After


Last Friday, Duckford had a Bad Day, culminating in the derailment of a freight train hauling 78 tanker cars full of ethanol.  Some of the cars exploded, resulting in an evacuation of the surrounding area, though thankfully not of Pond Central, which is very near the accident location.

Now, a week further on, cleanup has begun and some interesting news has been coming out regarding the events of that day.

The Pond would be out of shot to the lower right-hand corner of this picture.
The biggest news is that this entire incident, which claimed one life and injured nine, could easily have been avoided.  About a half-hour prior to the incident, four calls were placed to the local 911 center, warning of the high amount of water on the tracks.  The 911 center then contacted Canadian National Railway, the operator of the train, to let them know of the hazardous conditions a full 20 minutes before the accident.  Considering the communications equipment between rail operators and their trains are as complex as that between airlines and their planes, it would seem that there would have been plenty of time for CN to have contacted their crew about the conditions.  The NTSB investigation of the incident has begun, and may take up to a year to release its final conclusions.

Meanwhile, the stretch of Mulford Road where the accident occurred remains closed, but is expected to reopen sometime next week.  However, authorities appear to have opened part of it near The Pond as there are some businesses nearby, so I may be able to get some photographs.  The rail line is going to require some major repairs, so may be closed for some time.

Finally, there has been a mysterious fish die-off in a small river downstream from the accident site.  The EPA has said that they did not detect any substantial amounts of ethanol in the water, but they can't say for sure what the reason is.

I'll write about this event as more information becomes available in the coming days.

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June 20, 2009

Bad Day In Duckford (THIRD UPDATE)

So, the day started out with a severe thunderstorm here in Duckford.  Well, sure, you have to expect that here in the Midwest at this time of year, right?  Not like this.  I made it about halfway to work before I came to a length of road between two hills... which had flooded high enough to be above the tires of cars stupid enough to give it a shot.

In 15 minutes.  On one of the city's major streets.

Hm.  This is different.  So, I turn around, backtrack and cross to another street, called Mulford Road.  On the way to Mulford, a lighting strike occurs about two blocks ahead of me, hitting a streetlight and blowing a transformer right in front of my eyes.  Flash.  Bang.  Poof!  Eventually, I make it to the parking lot at Duck U., break out my trusty umbrella (none of this "water off a duck's back" for me!), and hurry to the main entry for the building the Bookstore is in.

A maintainance guy is there, waving people around to the back entry.  Seemed the front way is flooded, with water in the building.  I still manage to open the store on time.

A half hour later, the power goes out, and stays out.  Fer the luvva...

After closing the store and kibitzing in the dark with some of the Duck U. staff, I drive home on Mulford.  Fast-forward to 7pm.  A third severe thunderstorm comes through, and dumps four inches of rain in just over an hour on us.

Sheesh.

Around 830pm, I'm working on the previous post, when the power goes out.  Lost it all, but I wasn't surprised by the power outage.  Enough storms around here today, after all.

Turns out it wasn't (directly) because of the storms, though.  It was because of this:

A Canadian National train, pulling 70-some-odd tanker cars and 40 other cars derailed at a road crossing.  Twelve tanker cars carrying ethanol had tumbled and exploded, sending a fireball some 300 feet into the air.  This picture was taken from the front lawn of a house, part of a 500-home residental neighborhood.  Everybody within a half-mile of the crash site has been evacuated.  Three casualties, people in cars waiting for the train to pass, have been reported, all with serious burns.  One has been flown to a hospital in Chicago that's better equipped to deal with extensive burns.

Oh, that street?  That's Mulford.  I crossed those very tracks twice today.  In fact, the site of the accident is only a mile or so from Pond Central, and I can see the fire's glow from my parking lot easily, and the smoke plume from the stairwell up to the third floor.

The cause of the derailment is currently unknown, seeing how there's a huge fire burning on top of the accident site.  However, those particular tracks sit at the bottom of two gentle rises, and I've often seen water pooling there after decent rains.  Four inches of rain, an hour before the train got there, is not just "decent."  I'm guessing there was quite a lake there, or the rain had done serious harm to the roadbed nearby.

The authorities are letting it burn out, saying it should be done by tomorrow sometime... if the other 60 ethanol-laden cars don't ignite, that is.  Fortunately, the engines on the train didn't derail, so they've already pulled many of the cars away.

A bad day in Duckford.

UPDATE @ 930am, June 20th:  The fire is still burning, though its down to just two or three cars now.  There's one confirmed fatality, but the cause of death is as yet undetermined because the body is too close to the fire.  Authorities seem to confirm the washout theory; reports from witnesses said that the train cars were actually bouncing up and down on the tracks just before the derailment.

SECOND UPDATE @ 11am, June 20th:  Bringing you they type of hard-hitting eyewitness coverage that you can only expect from The Pond, I took a drive past the accident site, in the guise of going grocery shopping.  Cleverly going to a different grocery store than I usually do, I managed to drive around all four sides of the blocked-off area.  Despite it being a lovely clear day here in Duckford, there's no visible evidence that anything occurred, even though I knew exactly where it happened.  The smoke plume is gone, and other than police cars barricading Mulford, and news trucks sitting in a church parking lot and a few camera crews shooting footage of... well, nothing, there's nothing to indicate that there's a major fire going on.  Lemme put it to you this way: on a day like today, I can easily see the steam clouds rising from the cooling towers of the nuclear plant that's about 30 miles away, so if there was any smoke, I should have seen it.  When I drove downwind of the accident site, about 3/4th of a mile, there was nothing I could smell to make me say "aha, there's something weird going on."  Of course, there were a lot of trees and hills blocking direct line of sight to the location, so I couldn't actually see the incident.  More when more is available.

THIRD UPDATE @ 4pm, June 20th:

Authorities say that there's still two tanker cars on fire. By some miracle and the heavy rain yesterday, the fire didn't spread to the nearby residences.  Some of the evacuees have been allowed to return to their homes.  The toll is one dead, nine injured.

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June 15, 2009

Success!

Ph.Duck's computer is once again running fine!  Thanks go to pxcasey for his tip on making Windows Installer work in Safe Mode, and JP Gibb for his pointer to the Trend Micro Uninstaller Tool.  Combined, the two things allowed me to go rid of the flawed install of TM Antivirus and allowed the laptop to function once again.

An install of the newest version of the antivirus suite works beautifully now.

Ph.Duck has asked me to give all who suggested tips and advice a profound thanks! 

And I thank you all, too... you made me look like a genius for a few minutes there.  Couldn't've done it without you!

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June 14, 2009

By Request


J2F Duck

TBD Devastator

Catgirl Maid.

(blame the Brickmuppet... it was his idea)

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June 13, 2009

Scratching Head

I'm a little overbooked at the moment.  I've got a few ideas in mind, but each of them will take more time than I can devote to blogging at the moment.  On the flip side, I've got absolutely nothing in mind that I can just plop onto the screen either.

So, um... hi!  How are you?  Everybody okay?  Any requests?  Can I refresh your drink?

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June 10, 2009

Tech Help Requested

Okay, so here's the story... Ph.Duck's laptop has something very strange occurring to it.  About two weeks ago, he installed an update to his antivirus program, then shut down the computer.  The next day, he booted up fine, but if he doubleclicked on anything other than the "my computer" icon, nothing happens.  Opening the "my computer" folder works, but he can't do anything in there.

When booted in Safe Mode, programs and folders can be opened (limited, of course, to what safe mode allows), and files can be moved to a flashdrive.

As it stands, the plan is to dump as many of his important files and pictures as we can to a flashdrive or two, then do a full reinstallation.

A Windows system restore to a date before the antivirus update failed to fix the problem.  The sad thing is that if I could get into the antivirus program, I could roll it back easily (we use the same program), but I can't.  The program won't open either.

Anybody have any advice?  He's using XP Media Center, with SP3 installed.

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June 07, 2009

Rubber Duckie Saves Woman's Life

Shirley Madsen, 90, returned home from a night at the casinos and decided to take a bath before bed.  She didn't expect to be too weak to get out when she was done.

Her hands too small to cup enough water to sustain her, she turned to her rubber duckie collection for survival.  "I have this collection of rubber duckies. There is a fireman, a policeman and others," Madsen said. "I jokingly tell my friends that I am going home to take a bath with the boys."  One of her new duckies, a gift from a friend, had a hole in the bottom and couldn't float.  It did make a perfect cup, however, and kept her from dehydration.

Rescued after three days in her bathtub, she had to spend a short time in the hospital recovering from her ordeal. 
"I will never get in another bathtub, ever," Madsen said.

With a laugh, she further advises: "Get a bunch of rubber duckies and make sure one of them can't swim."

(Thanks to insidebayarea.com for original story)

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June 04, 2009

What If #3: Midway... Timing Is Everything

In the previous post, reader Toad asks:
If the American torpedo and dive bombers had managed to make a coordinated attack per doctrine how much difference would it have made if any on the number of Japanese carriers sunk and damaged?

It would, indeed, make a difference, but perhaps not the way you may be expecting.

As in life, love, baseball and comedy, the Battle of Midway is all about timing.  Disrupt the timing of the American attacks, and you disrupt the outcome.  Throughout the morning of June 4th, 1942, American planes ran in on Kido Butai.  At no time during the day, until the famous plunge of the Dauntlesses, were these attacks coordinated or in greater than squadron strength.  Also at no time during the day, until the big attack, were American fighters effectively on the scene (there were Wildcats on the scene when VT-6 made its run, but they were high above the fight waiting for a radio call on a different frequency from a different squadron).

The easiest way to describe the effect of all these seperate attacks had on the Japanese fleet is to borrow a phrase from land combat: suppressive fire.  The carriers were too busy "keeping their heads down" and tossing the occasional grenade (or Zeros, in the case) at their attackers from behind cover to launch their own attack on the US carriers.

The sequence of events went like this:
Shortly before 6am, the Japanese carriers were spotted by Midway-based PBYs.
*Around 620am, the Japanese strike on Midway Island began.
*At 7am, TF16 (Enterprise, Hornet) began launching their strike against the Japanese.
*Between 705am and 730am, the VT-8 detachment flying from Midway and a handful of B-26s carrying topedoes attack the Japanese carriers.  During this time, Admiral Nagumo, commander of Kido Butai, orders that his reserve force of carrier planes be rearmed for land attack.
*Around 745am, Tone #4, the infamous late scout plane, discovers and reports the presence of American carriers.  Nagumo reverses his rearming order.
*At 755am, two unrelated attacks on the Japanese carriers come in.  First, a flight of B-17s arrive overhead.  At the same time, a green squadron of Dauntless dive bombers from Midway, led by Major Lofton Henderson, begin a glide bombing attack.  This attack is dealt with sternly, and is over by 815am or so.
*At 8am, TF17 (Yorktown), which had been in charge of scouting for the morning, launches its planes.
*At 805am, the Midway strike planes return to Kido Butai and wait for the American attacks to be driven off.
*Around 820am, a second group of dive bombers from Midway, this time SB2U Vindicators, attacks and is beaten off.
*Around 835am, the SB2U and B-17 attacks come to an end.
*Immediately thereafter, recovery of the Midway strike force begins.
*Around 910am, the last planes from the strike force touch down. 
*At 915am, VT-8 attacks.  By 935am, all of the torpedo bombers are shot down.
*At 940am, VT-6 attacks.  This attack is over by 1010am.
*At 1010am, VT-3 is spotted.
*At 1020am, VB-3 and VB-6 attack Kido Butai.
*By 1030am, the Soryu, Kaga and Akagi are mortally wounded.
*Around 1040am, VT-3's survivors make their torpedo attacks and leave the field.

From this timeline, it can be seen that the Japanese carriers had no time to even prepare to launch an attack on the American CVs.  The only open stretch available to them was between 835am and 910am, the time when the Midway strike force was being recovered.  They could have spotted and launched an attack during this stretch of time (even though the re-rearming of the reserve planes wasn't yet complete), but only at the risk of losing many of the Midway strike planes to fuel depravation or pilot injuries.  Japanese doctrine at the time did not allow for, say, Hiryu and Kaga to launch an attack while Soryu and Akagi recovered planes.  Doctrine called for massed airpower using large numbers of planes in a balanced, coordinated attack.  This would swamp the target's defenses and allow for maximum damage to be inflicted while minimizing casualties.  There was never any thought to leaving the Midway strike dangling, because that's not how the Japanese carriers worked.

So, what would have happened if a coordinated American strike had been launched and all the attackers arrived on target at the same time?

The answer, as mentioned before, comes down to timing.

more...

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A Miraculous Day, A Tragic Day

June 4th, 1942.

Midway Island.

John Waldron, Commander of Torpedo 8, takes off from USS Hornet around 7am.

Waldron's Torpedo 8 attacked the Japanese fleet at 920am.  By 940am, all of the men in this picture save for Ensign George Gay (circled) were dead.

Their loss, along with the savaging of Torpedo 6 off the Enterprise and Torpedo 3 from the Yorktown, a total of 36 out of 41 TBD Devastators launched, prevented the four carriers of the Japanese force from launching their own airstrike.   Then the Dauntless dive bombers of the fleet arrived... and the rest is history. 

Japanese carrier Hiryu, pummled by multiple bomb hits, burns later in the day.  She would sink shortly after this picture was taken.

The USN did not escape unscathed, however.  The Yorktown, hastily repaired after the Coral Sea, took multiple hits and went dead in the water.

On June 7th, after being torpedoed by a submarine, she went down.

The Battle of Midway, that "miraculous victory", was over.

The Japanese would not win another strategic victory for the rest of the war.

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June 02, 2009

The World Needed This

They say that, on the Internet, you can find anything.  One thing that you couldn't find, however, was a webcomic starring rubber duckies.  I always hoped that there would come a day, however, when that lack would be addressed.

On Monday, June 1st, 2009, that day arrived.

May I have the pleasure of introducing Quacked Panes, the soon-to-be breakout hit of the summer.  Produced by occasional Pond commenter GreyDuck, I think it deserves to be read.  But don't mind Rusty... he's not known for his sense of humor.


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