Monday, June 28, 2010

The Best Week of Summer?

Hurricane Warning. "Alex" is heading for the south coast of Texas, where watches have been upgraded to warnings - the evacuations are well underway. The storm may arrive as early as Wednesday as a category 1 storm, sustained winds of 75-90 mph. The only good news: the hurricane will avoid the worst of the oil spill, currently concentrated over the central and eastern Gulf.

Recipe for Trouble. The National Weather Service office in Chanhassen has a good explanation for why severe weather spiked so dramatically between June 17-26. An unusually strong jet stream swirling 4-8 miles overhead, coupled with ample low-level moisture and extreme instability whipped up the conditions necessary for rotating "supercell" thunderstorms, able to translate strong wind shear around a vertical axis, a tornado.

The numbers are mind-boggling: 109 warnings over a 10 day period, 42% of them tornado warnings, in addition to 7 flash flood warnings. By the time it was all over the local NWS office reported a total of 199 severe weather reports across central and southern Minnesota - in 10 days! More information here.

Monday Memories. After a gray start yesterday mellowed into a beautiful day, more typical of early September than late June. Dew points dipped into the 40s, even some upper 30s, incredibly dry for this time of year, the result of gusty winds howling out of central Canada. Highs ranged from 67 at International falls to 74 in St Cloud, 75 in the Twin Cities.

Hey, is it me or is "Flo" from the Progressive insurance ads EVERYWHERE!! They are carpet-bombing the TV airwaves. My random thought for the day.

These are tough times for a lot of people - too many good people looking for work, I get a handful of e-mails or phone calls every day from (talented) people who are searching for anything, I can hear the desperation in their voices. In the last few years business has changed - fundamentally - between outsourcing overseas and the rise of the pervasive Internet Society many jobs have disappeared, and unlike in the past, many of them won't come back. The middleman has been (what's the kind word?) - disintermediated. Made obsolete, virtually overnight. People are going direct to the source in this new "efficient, streamlined, always-on economy." Right.

We've all become our own "news directors", grazing on news all day, between e-mail alerts, Twitter updates, Facebook, favorite web sites, and now a new generation of apps on our smart phones. We're swimming in a sea of information, drowning in data. The statisticians tell us that "productivity is up," meaning with the 'net many of us are now doing the jobs that 2-4 people did 20 years ago. I'm afraid to turn on the news, between shrill oil spill updates and commentators squawking about a double-dip recession (the "d-word" has been thrown around in recent days, just what we want to hear) - I shudder to think what "business as usual" will need for my kids, for our kids. Keep in mind I'm a naive optimist. But this has been no ordinary downturn. This is nothing less than a total restructuring of business, forget the scalpel, we're talking amputations here. A lot of my 50-something friends are dazed, in a state of perpetual shock. What now - retraining for a new business? Work from home? Consulting? 20-somethings are prepared for rapid change and new challenges, but people who have been in the workforce for 30+ years are expected to turn on a dime and learn a new profession, overnight?

I know these are trying times for many of us - I've just gone through the toughest 2 1/2 years of my life - I feel like I was pushed out of a speeding 737 with a toddler-size parachute. Thank God I've always had a perpetual itch to start companies, to never (totally) trust an employer, to always have "something on the side." I tell all my friends, and anyone else who will listen, to always have a Plan B, C and D. No matter how secure you THINK your job is, assume a worst-case scenario and plant some seeds elsewhere that you may need (badly) down the road.

I still love weather, still feel richly blessed to be able to research and launch meteorology-related companies, banding together with (very) smart people to turn a vision into a reality, but it's gotten tougher than ever out there to stay ahead of the curve, to "add value", to avoid entering into a commodity business that Google (or another Internet beast) will make irrelevant overnight. Some days it seems like all of us are treading water, waiting, wondering, hoping for better days ahead. They'll come - eventually - but I fear it will take a major catastrophe, another 9/11, for us to (quoting good 'ol Abe Lincoln) "find our better angels", band together, and put our petty differences and squabbles aside - and truly unite as one nation.

Not sure where that came from, but the weather is quiet (really non-existent) and the current (tortuous) state of business has been on my mind. Hedge your bets, think up a viable Plan B, save for a rainy day, prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. In the end, that's all we can do. That, and learn a foreign language, pick up HTML, start a blog (get your name out there!) and see if you can't turn something you truly love, something you're passionate about, into a business. Give it away (at first) if you have to, just to get it out there. If you set out to serve people, really help people, the profits will come, if you're patient, diligent, and able to turn on a dime. The one thing I've learned in 30 years of starting companies: the truly flexible, adaptable businesses survive. If you build flexibility into your DNA, if you're constantly trying to reinvent your company, you'll find a way through the (current) minefield. The Internet is a threat - and the biggest business opportunity ever invented. Find a way to tame the web and profit from the breathtaking changes taking place right now.

Sorry for the rant - I know, "break the tablet in half, Paul." Got it. Don't mean to be Debby Downer - just acknowledging the pain out there right now. It's getting increasingly hard to ignore.

There is no weather - sweatshirts and light jackets early this morning give way to lukewarm sun by afternoon, highs in the low to mid 70s (with considerably less wind than the last 2 days). Can't get outside today? No worries - our sunny streak should last all week long as a bubble of Canadian high pressure stalls out nearby. During the latter half of the week winds increase from the south, temperatures return to July-like levels, highs poking up into the 80s with a return of the "stickies" by Friday.

Saturday Storms. Dry weather should hold through Friday and at least the first half of Saturday. An approaching cool front pushes bands of showers and (potentially heavy) T-storms into the Red River Valley by midday Saturday, spreading across much of northern and central MN as the afternoon goes on. The chance of rain increases later in the day Saturday, one GFS model prints out nearly .70" of rain late Saturday and Saturday night for the area.

Mostly-Dry 4th? This NAM/WRF map is valid Sunday evening, showing accumulated rainfall amounts from midday through the evening Sunday - hinting that the most widespread T-storms will be over far southeastern MN, Wisconsin and Iowa. A passing shower or T-storm can't be ruled out anywhere in the state, but right now it appears the vast majority of Sunday will be dry, highs in the low to mid 80s, skies sunnier/drier the farther north/west you drive, away from the metro area.

Paul's Conservation MN Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota

Today: Bright sun, less wind than yesterday, cool & comfortable. Winds: N 10-15. High: 74

Tuesday night: Clear and comfortably cool. Low: 55

Wednesday: Sunny and beautiful. High: 78

Thursday: Plenty of sun, still dry - noticeably warmer. High: 84

Friday: Partly sunny, sticky and very warm. High: 87

Saturday: Sunshine giving way to increasing clouds, best chance of PM T-storms up north. High: 84

4th of July: Partly sunny, slightly less humid, risk of a brief, passing shower or T-storm. High: 85

Monday: Sunny start - PM clouds and scattered T-storms. High: 83

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