If you have orders to Laughlin AFB in Del Rio, Texas, chances are that unless you personally requested them, you may be a tad disappointed. Don't worry, most folks don't have the greatest enthusiasm right off the bat, either.
My biggest piece of advice - don't listen to anyone, or anything - that hasn't lived here. I can't tell you the number of people that gave me weird looks when I said my family was moving to Del Rio, and how many people remarked "eww" and "who did you piss off?". But these people had never experienced Del Rio - they simply ignorantly classified the town with all other cartel-infested border towns that politics, the media, and Hollywood would like you to believe is the case. But, it's not true.
The Del Rio area is home to several state parks (Seminole Canyon, Devils River, Devils Sinkhole, Kickapoo Caverns, Lost Maples, Garner, and more), a National Recreation Area (basically, just like a National Park) known as Lake Amistad and known for its bass fishing, several rivers (Rio Grande, Devils River, Pecos River, and nearby Nueces & Frio Rivers, among others), a city creek with several swimming holes, a waterfall, and rope swings, historic Fort Clark (in nearby Brackettville), the world famous Super-Bull George Paul Memorial bull riding event, and more.
In short, Del Rio isn't short on attractions or things to do, nor is it a pit of doom, like some folks - who have never lived here - will say.
Del Rio's crime rate puts it at one of the safest in the State of Texas. In fact, even witnessing a crime is rare. Most people are generally honest, and live a slower pace of life than folks that are used to the hustle and bustle. The amount of law enforcement in Del Rio, between local, state, and federal agencies, makes it a good chance that your neighbor is probably an officer of the law, especially on the north side of town.
Del Rio has several neighborhoods, with the Alta Vista, Buena Vista, Reservation, and Ceniza Hills being the most popular among military and federal employees. You can find a very nice house in these parts of town, and not have to worry about your kids playing in the streets. Lake Amistad living is also available, outside of the city limits, and more expensive.
South Del Rio is more historic, with large mansions and lots of trees, and many of the original Del Rio families still live there. Central Del Rio (basically the numbered and lettered streets) is modest living, with both older and newer homes and a higher concentration of long-term Del Rio locals.
The San Felipe neighborhood, which constitutes just about everything south and east of San Felipe Creek, used to be it's own town before it was annexed by Del Rio years ago. Many of the original San Felipe natives still live there and take pride in their neighborhood legacy and culture, which is almost entirely Hispanic.
Del Rio does have a commercial airport, serviced affordably by American Airlines twice per day. Amtrak is also available a couple days each week. Both San Antonio and San Angelo are about a two-and-a-half hour drive away, which becomes a "drive down the street" after so many times of doing it.
Del Rio has a hospital, a Walmart, an H-E-B (grocery store), and several home furnishing stores, hardware stores, and auto parts stores. There are plenty of restaurants, too, from typical Mexican food, to Tex-Mex, to barbecue and steak houses, pizza, and even Asian food. Nightlife isn't a big thing in Del Rio, but there are a few places to go for late-night drinks and a social atmosphere. In Acuña (Mexico), the nightlife is more abundant.
There are also several social clubs in town - everything from Rotary, VFW, Lions, and Boy Scouts to Bible study groups, Chamber of Commerce, Library book clubs, Dance clubs, STEM clubs, a Wine club, Art clubs, Karate clubs, and more.
If school is an issue, don't let it be. Between the public school system, several private, alternative, and Christian schools, and a large homeschooling group as well as a community college, most families do not run into issues regarding school choices.
So, don't fret. I always encourage newcomers to explore the area with an open mind upon arrival. Unfortunately, many families do not come with open minds, and they barricade themselves and their families on Laughlin AFB. Do yourself a favor, don't do this! You'll be miss out on a great experience.
Weather information is everywhere these days. From your phone to your TV, to the internet, and even on signage as you drive through town. Weather-on-demand has resulted in many more people becoming aware of hazardous forecasts, but there's one thing that all these sources of information can't provide adequately: Years of Expertise.
If you're reading this, chances are that you are either intrigued by the job title "Forensic Meteorologist", or you are pondering whether hiring one is worthwhile.
Forensic meteorology, like other sciences, involves investigating historical weather events that generally have resulted in an emergency or caused damage, injury, or death. In other cases, forensic meteorology can be used to combat fraud, convict (or acquit) suspected criminals, aid in safety investigations, and even solve cold-case mysteries. Basically, if it is possible that weather could be a factor - or was claimed to be a factor - forensic meteorology can be used to assist in sorting out the unknown.
A recent Pew Research Study revealed that 70% of Americans found that a local news weather forecast is important for everyday life, with another 20% believing it to be important, but to a lesser extent.
If 70-90% of Americans believe that weather forecasts are important - and therefore have an impact on activities - then it's a safe bet that a large chunk of property damage claims, personal injuries and wrongful death lawsuits, motor vehicle accidents, and even criminal actions may have been influenced by the weather, or the weather forecast. In many cases, weather only played a small role, but it's often the small details that have big consequences.
Reason #1) You Need Weather Information For An Exact Location At An Exact Time
The National Weather Service, among other weather websites, can generally provide you with daily weather summaries at many locations across the country. These summaries, however, are not always representative of an incident location, and they rarely have detailed information or timing of particular weather events.
Weather can be highly volatile, and many weather events will impact different parts of a neighborhood differently. A daily summary of high and low temperatures, along with a rainfall total, may be useful for a high school research paper, but probably not when you're battling for your insurance company to pay out, or you're up against a lawsuit for wrongful death.
Even storm reports from severe weather can be useful, but require review by an investigative meteorologist to ensure they reflect the correct location and weather intensity.
Forensic meteorologists can pinpoint your location, analyze weather maps, weather radar, satellite imagery, run calculations and modelling software from the exact location, and develop an expert opinion on all the relevant weather conditions in question.
Reason #2) Your Insurance Tells You That They Won't Pay For Your Weather Damage
First, be sure that what you are claiming really did happen, and that you're supposed to be covered for it. Assuming that there truly is some bad faith going on, then a forensic meteorologist - usually in tandem with a public adjuster or building engineer - may be your best bet.
Just like in Reason #1 above, a forensic meteorologist can determine what sort of weather that your property was subject to on a particular date - or over a period of time. DO NOT assume that the insurance company, the public adjuster, or the building engineer has sufficient knowledge in meteorology to give you an opinion on the weather conditions - they are experts on insurance and damage, not meteorology. Call in the meteorology expert.
Reason #3) You Are Part Of A Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Lawsuit, and Weather Was Hazardous During The Incident
Whether you represent the plaintiff or the defense, a forensic meteorologist may be your big break. Here's why:
In addition to Reason #1 above, when poor weather is occurring, there are generally numerous alerts for this weather, which are all-too-often ignored. Ignoring or failing to take proper precautions for a weather warning may support a claim of negligence. On the other hand, some weather, even when planned adequately for, can be considered an "Act of God", potentially taking some liability away. Either way, a forensic meteorologist can help you sort out all the information for the numerous situations where these issues can arise.
Reason #4) Someone's Story Isn't Adding Up, and Weather May Have Been an Issue
To tell you the truth, an experienced meteorologist is extremely attentive to fine details - especially when they may involve something meteorological. Suspected insurance fraud, for example, can be easily assessed with the help of a forensic meteorologist. Again - don't rely on an engineer or property adjuster for weather expertise.
Questionable witness statements can also be disputed with the help of a sharp forensic meteorologist. Remember, 70-90% of Americans feel as though weather information is important for daily living. Could a witness have forgotten (whether intentionally or not) about certain weather conditions as they are recalling an incident? It has happened!
Wrapping It All Up
If you think you may need a forensic meteorologist, call one. Many will offer free consultations, while some will even briefly look into your case for a nominal fee (or even at no charge) to see if they can truly help before setting up a contract.
Many forensic meteorologists have specialties, or are more familiar with certain geographic locations or particular weather events. For example, a forensic meteorologist who specializes in tropical weather may be best fit when dealing with hurricane damage. A forensic aviation meteorologist will likely be the most helpful in weather-related aviation cases. Winter weather experts may be best for cases involving ice and snow, while a forensic marine meteorologist may be best for cases involving the shipping industry. Many forensic meteorologists have multiple specialties, so be sure to ask when you call.
Dan Schreiber is a forensic and emergency management meteorologist, and has been consulted on numerous cases involving property damage, airplane crashes, wrongful deaths, downed power lines, hurricane destruction, and more. Contact Dan HERE.
Become a Weather Observer, Volunteer With CoCoRaHS! A Great Experience For Young Children & Senior Citizens Alike
Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) is a non-profit weather observing network with thousands of volunteers across the United States, Canada, and The Bahamas. These volunteer weather observers take daily weather reports from their homes and businesses and submit them to the CoCoRaHS database, which is used to help meteorologists create forecasts, publish weather alerts to save lives and property, and assist in the diverse professional meteorology community.
The best part about it – it only takes a few minutes each day, you can do it from home, and the only requirement is to have enthusiasm about watching and reporting the weather, with a desire to learn.
What’s really cool is that CoCoRaHS is utilized in the United States by the National Weather Service and other professional meteorological agencies. If you record an inch of rain at your house and report it to CoCoRaHS via their online platform, the National Weather Service and other meteorologists will use it to assist in forecasting. If you report large hail, flooding, or other dangerous weather – your report will be documented and remain valuable for research, insurance claims, damage surveys, among other professional uses. Weekly condition monitoring reports are also submitted by hundreds to thousands of users to assist in drought monitoring.
Here’s the thing – it’s so easy to become a part of the program, my toddler daughter even does it with me. While I’m a professional meteorologist, it’s an absolute blast walking out each morning with my youngster who is still trying to learn her ABC’s to check the rain gauge. Through the routine, she learns the very basics about weather and its effects, about the responsibility of making accurate reports, about getting work done on time, and – very important – that Dad’s job is pretty cool.
So, how do you start?
It’s easy! Go to CoCoRaHS.org, then click “Join CoCoRaHS” on the left side of the webpage. Volunteering is absolutely free, but you will need to purchase a high-quality rain gauge of certain specifications before you can make rainfall reports to ensure that reports are standardized across the network using the same equipment. I’ve listed some websites below (price may or may not include shipping). There is also online training on the CoCoRaHS website, and a local coordinator will get in touch with you to assist in any questions you may have. That’s it!
It’s so easy, everyone should do it. Become an important part of CoCoRaHS today!
In the military, there’s the dream duty locations – Hawaii, Europe, Florida, and so on, depending on what your taste is. And, there are the locations that most try to avoid – and Laughlin AFB in Del Rio, Texas is one of those.
It’s been said many times by military folks here, Laughlin is the Air Force’s best force-shaping tool. In layman’s terms, “force-shaping” is synonymous with “trim the fat” or “to weed out”. In other words, the statement is really suggesting that the Air Force powers-that-be, in an effort to discharge the folks it doesn’t want anymore, simply would threaten to relocate them to Del Rio in hopes that they would leave the Air Force voluntarily. True or not, I’ve seen many families chose to leave the Air Force instead of relocate to Del Rio.
Who did you piss off? That was what one coworker (who had never been to Del Rio personally) asked when he heard that’s where I was headed before my family arrived over three years ago, implying that perhaps I drew the short stick in the bureaucratic game of duty location assignments – and that the Air Force was simply trying to weed me out. While Laughlin AFB doesn’t have the most glamorous mission of undergraduate flight training while other military bases actively train for warfighting, the surrounding community of Del Rio is what would make or break the deal for me. Assignment accepted.
After three years in Del Rio, the Air Force certainly did weed me and my family out, voluntarily. Not to avoid Del Rio, but instead rather to embrace the town further. We were ready to leave the military, but not Del Rio.
Most military people looked at me sideways when they heard the news of my family staying put in Del Rio after I exited the military. While the vast majority of the exiting force counts the days til they see this part of Texas in the rear-view mirror en-route to larger cities, higher-paying jobs, and cooler weather, they can’t seem to understand why we would stay.
If you’ve ever relocated a few times in your life, you know as well as I do that the people make or break the location, not the other way around. Of all the places I’ve lived, Del Rio – by a long shot – is home to the friendliest people. Texas, by-and-large, is home to nice people, especially in the more rural areas.
Growing up on the West Coast, people aren’t friendly. It’s not uncommon to simply feel like you are just in their way - an inconvenience - and sucked into the rat-race of keeping-up-with-the-Jones’. In Del Rio, no one cares if you drive a $70K SUV (although you might not fit in…) or an old clunker that is one lug nut from not passing inspection this year. You can own a $300K home, or rent a $600 apartment, and your kids can attend the same school. And, vastly different from the beaches of Southern California, you can strike up a conversation with a total stranger – anywhere – they’ll tell you they’re life story, simply for the sake of having a neighborly conversation. Folks are genuine, here.
In Del Rio, I’ve had total strangers at the downtown creek-side park invite me to their barbecues. No hidden agenda, just hospitality. When my daughter was born, every lady in H-E-B (local grocery store) found their way to the aisle I was on to meet her. On her first birthday party, our house was so full we had to move most of it outside with the sprinklers on (it was hot). Her second one we held at the church, a smashing hit. Not because she is all-that (she thinks she is, like all two-year-olds), but because Del Rio is a family where a sense of community is important. If you embrace it, it will embrace you.
Dirty, dusty border town? Sure, it is somewhat of a desert climate – hot and relatively dry – but the area does have its green season most years with plenty of rainfall. It also gets a mild winter from time to time – but rarely snow.
Unlike many desert locations, however, the area also has numerous rivers, Lake Amistad, and Hill Country all within an hour’s drive. Sunrises and sunsets are beautiful, and wide-open spaces are plentiful and filled with wildlife. It’s common to see deer in your front yard in town, and just out of town you can find aoudad (big-horn sheep), numerous types of deer, birds, hogs, varmints, and mountain lions.
Lake Amistad is one of the clearest lakes in Texas and straddles the international border with unlimited gorgeous desert scenery and great fishing and boating. The Devils River is also a paradise with ultra-pure waters. The Pecos River and Rio Grande both make big cuts into the desert plateau and are frequented by kayakers. Many locals float down portions of the Rio, as well as other local Hill Country rivers like the Nueces, Sabinal, and Frio Rivers.
Del Rio is one of the safest cities in Texas. With a crime rate of about half of the national-average according to City-Data.com, Del Rio is an extremely secure town. For a population of about 35,000 residents, law enforcement departments include Del Rio Police Department, San Felipe-Del Rio School District Police Department, Val Verde County Sheriff’s Department, Val Verde County Constable, U.S. Border Patrol and Customs, Texas Highway Patrol, Texas Game Warden, U.S. Park Rangers, FBI, DEA, and U.S. Marshalls. There might be a few I missed, but the point is that criminal activity is highly discouraged due to the shear number of law enforcement officials scattered throughout the town.
I never worry about my wife and daughter out and about anytime during the day or night – crime is so rare, especially violent crime. Even Acuña – Del Rio’s sister-city across the border – is frequented by Del Rioans daily with few problems.
The Cost of Living
Cheap! While the housing rental market is rather inflated due to Laughlin AFB, the rest of the town remains very affordable. Even if you want to buy a house, it’s rather inexpensive, although property taxes and utilities are slightly high in Texas compared to some other states. However, like much of West Texas, you don’t need a high-paying job to live comfortably.
While high-paying jobs outside of federal employment are hard to find, the cost of living allows modest salaries to meet the needs of most families. Some say that it’s only inexpensive because they’re nothing to spend your money on – but that’s far from the truth. My wife and daughter stay busy every day in the community enjoying free – or very inexpensive – entertainment and activities.
While Del Rio doesn’t have a wide variety of shopping choices, prices are low. Movie tickets are between $4-6 a pop. The Whitehead Museum, Del Rio Community Garden, Civic Center, Del Rio Chamber of Commerce, The Dr. Alfredo Gutierrez Amphitheater, the Lake Amistad Recreation Area routinely hold free events. The Paul Poag Theatre also holds regular musicals and other shows at reasonable prices.
Too many people never see Del Rio – they give up the opportunity before they even arrive. Others do relocate with the military or federal service, reluctantly, but come close-minded and ignorant. They stay holed up on on base at Laughlin AFB or in their house in the north part of the city and Del Rio doesn’t even get a fair shot. If my wife and I came to Del Rio with the preconceived notion that we would hate it (like many do), then I probably wouldn’t be writing this right now. But, like the story of a Game Warden’s wife I once met here in Del Rio – she came here kicking and screaming, and left here in tears.
I’ve found that the culture in Del Rio is accepting of newcomers. Not newcomers that want to make Del Rio a big city, but newcomers that want to contribute to the community – those who take pride in their new city and its culture. Many Del Rioans want to see the city grow through new ideas and opportunities. They welcome – with open arms – families that want to help make a positive impact on the community. Because of this, there are an unlimited number of opportunities for community involvement that will help you and your family in transforming this duty location in a home.
We gave it a shot, embraced it, and in turn it embraced us.
130 passengers on American Airlines Flight 1897 from San Antonio to Phoenix on Sunday (June 3rd) had a scary ride as their aircraft slammed head-on into a hail storm at 34,000 feet over South-Central New Mexico. Ultimately, this aircraft decided to make an emergency landing in El Paso - apparently using on-board instrumentation and a cockpit side-window to land since the windshield was shattered by golf-ball to tennis-ball size hail.
A wide swath of thunderstorms - including severe weather - was occurring through West Texas and New Mexico through the afternoon and evening. The normal jet route would take the Airbus A319 airliner along the same route as the Interstate 10 through West Texas - but due to weather, it appears Air Traffic Control routed traffic above just west of Odessa, Texas to Carlsbad, New Mexico, to near Capitan, New Mexico. That's where the real trouble began.
Attempting to avoid the strongest storms, the flight was routed over the Sierra Blanca mountain range north of Ruidoso, New Mexico, where - at first look on the radar - appears to show a decent break in the weather. A slight blip of rainfall on the above image is shown just ahead of the nose of the aircraft, but does not appear to be of much significance. Weather radar on-board the Airbus has not been released, but may have likely showed a different story. Here's what I found when I did some digging...
As you can see, significant weather radar reflectivity is noted in at the same place as the first image - why the difference? This is because the first image (top-down look) showed "Base Reflectivity" - the scan of the radar at the lowest level. The cross-section image shows the entire storm, and is likely to show a bit more of what the on-board weather radar would have shown, although it is possible that the frequency may have been attenuated (degraded by heavy precipitation) at some point - or the angle at which the airplane radar was broadcasted did not solicit correct feedback returns.
From the looks of things based on the top-down view and base-reflectivity imagery, this route appears to be the best way around a long line of storms. However - the atmospheric cross-section above proved that this was one of the worst places to cross.
Unfortunatly, this part of New Mexico is plagued by some radar dead-spots. It's rural, and the nearest radar (Alamogordo) sits on the west side of a mountain while this aircraft was approaching from the east - and the weather was on this east side of the mountain - making it a bit more difficult to "see".
The next nearest radar on the east side of the mountain (Clovis, New Mexico) is about 120 miles from the site of the incident. This is much further away than the Alamogordo radar (only 45 miles away), but due to terrain and the radar scan tilt at that distance, it actually captured a better view of the storm. This base-reflectivity, top-down radar image (above) shows a different story.
Why did Air Traffic route this aircraft into a hail storm? How come the pilots didn't "see" this weather and avoid it? The investigation will likely tell on this one, but it certainly wouldn't have been my advice. Fortunately, a miraculous landing in El Paso with little visibility out of a shattered windshield concluded this flight - nothing less than expert piloting figuring that one out.