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.
Let me start with a story.
Two winters ago, while I still worked as an Air Force meteorologist, I got a call from a high-ranking fighter pilot. I didn’t know him, and he wasn’t part of any flying squadron that I worked for. He told me that he had flown into Lubbock, Texas, and needed to fly to a nearby Air Force base to resupply on oxygen before returning home to Mississippi. He explained to me that he had called two other nearby Air Force meteorology units (“shopping for weather”), but they did not provide him with a favorable enough weather forecast to depart Lubbock.
Familiar with his type of aircraft, I confirmed with him that of largest concern was low-level aircraft icing, which was forecasted over the entire Texas Panhandle at the time.
I replied, Well, sir, it does look pretty socked in over Lubbock, but let’s see what we can figure out to get you out of there.
I explained that a business jet had just landed at LBB a few minutes prior, reporting (PIREP) icing on final decent to validate the forecast. I knew that would keep him grounded for at least two hours. In the end, I still couldn’t get him the weather he needed to leave in the time frame he wanted, and he was forced to delay until the next day.
The next day, he sends an email to my superior officer thanking me for my efforts, blasting the other meteorology units for their inability to assist, and expressing a wish that there were more competent meteorologists in the world, like me.
The irony is that I didn’t get him off the ground any faster than anyone else, and my forecast was basically the same. So why was he angered with other forecasters, and praising me?
I took his side of the playing field and changed his “No” into a [let’s see if we can find a] “Go”.
Sure, the “Go” wasn’t as ideal as he would have liked, but I gave him the confidence that I would get him a wheels-up green-light as soon as possible, and gave him the impression that I was fighting for him, eager for favorable weather, just like he was. I confirmed the poor weather conditions not from my point of view, but by using a PIREP from a fellow experienced pilot, because most pilots often have this sort of confirmation bias. At the end of the day, in his mind, he knew I was invested in him, chomping at the bit to give him a “Go”, not a “No”.
You see – airplane pilots and meteorologists see weather a bit differently. Most meteorologists get excited about inclement weather. It’s fascinating, and it’s likely what perked our interest in meteorology to begin with. In college, we often did case studies on severe weather events. Not much time was spent on atmospheric diagrams of High Pressure. No weather forecaster really looks at endless, pristine, sunny days without getting a sense of boredom. The operational aviation weather forecaster largely exists to keep airplanes out of hazardous weather – so it’s our nature to look for and highlight the hazardous weather (i.e….the “No”), not the good weather (i.e….the “Go”). But really, the good weather is just as important as the bad weather.
Airplane pilots tend to enjoy smooth rides. They don’t want to be limited by weather. Most of the time, they don’t want delays, they want to get from one place to another as simply as possible, and often the only thing stopping that from getting that accomplished is…the weather.
At the end of the day, I’ve seen plenty of pilots completely disregard weather forecasts – even observed weather reports – and try their luck getting through it. Some would even have the audacity to try and PIREP good weather in obviously worse conditions, hoping that a favorable report from a fellow aviator would give other aviators the confidence to “risk it” (and they will!), or perhaps to justify the risk that they just took.
That’s when I learned that in all but the most severe weather cases, I needed to work with the pilot to find a “Go”, or they will simply take my “No”, toss it in the waste bucket, and find a “Go” themselves. One commercial airline pilot blatantly told me that weather forecasts are good for situational awareness, but that the company will send the airplane regardless of the weather, and if, at the last minute, the weather turns ugly, they’ll just divert. At the end of the day, as the weather expert, I’m going to be more confident about my weather “Go” forecast than a pilot’s or air traffic controller’s weather “Go” forecast.
An old boss of mine (also a fighter pilot) used to remind me that meteorologists work in the field of marketing, not production. While that’s true, the production takes a hit when the marketing isn’t working out. When the marketing says “No”, it puts the job of finding “Go” on the production team. If the production team has to find the “Go”, then what is the relevance of the marketing team? There is none. If I’m going to be part of marketing, I have to stay relevant by knowing exactly what the production side of the house needs.
So, how do aviation meteorologists take a “No” and make it a “Go”?
Understanding your customers – your pilots – is vital. I spent about 80% of my time as an aviation meteorologist in the Air Force talking with pilots, not other meteorologists. I learned exactly what my customers were looking for. I knew their impression of meteorologists, who they trusted and who they didn’t. I knew where they went for alternate weather advice and where to find it for myself. I knew their flying regulation, their limitations, and their available alternate airfields. I knew all of the aerodromes, the air traffic patterns, approaches, departures, and NAVAIDs, and what the next question was going to be out of their mouths when I gave them a forecast that might impact them.
But more important than knowing the aviators themselves is knowing how to find the exploitable weather window for them to operate in. That’s where aviation meteorologists make our money. We’ve all worked with the “doom and gloom” forecaster. This is the meteorologist that lacks confidence, and forecasts as if they were under the belief that if pilots never fly, they won’t run into bad weather, and therefore the forecaster won’t be held liable. Truly, now as a forensic meteorologist, I know first-hand that weather can be to blame for a lot of aviation mishaps, and no one wants to be that forecaster whose initials were on the weather briefing of the plane that went down. Finding exploitable windows, however, allows forecasters to communicate any weather threats (“No’s”), but also give an alternative (“Go’s”).
Here’s some examples of similar advice I’ve given in the past. Notice how each weather event presented is more than likely a “No”. Then, see how easy it is to take the side of your aviation customer and give a “Go”.
Look, you’ve got moderate to severe turbulence and a 130-knot headwind between MSP and DEN at FL340, but if you drop to FL280 and move your route slightly more northwesterly – say closer to RAP, you’ll only see about a 70-knot headwind and only occasional light to moderate chop as you get closer to the mountains.
I understand that your arrival time is 2345 local time. I must include Low Level Wind Shear (LLWS) in your briefing as it starts within an hour of your arrival – but I will make a note that the start time is midnight, and so long as you are wheels-down at your scheduled arrival time, you should not be impacted.
There’s a brief period of time between the IFR conditions you are trying to avoid and the convective weather moving in – about an hour or less. If you would like to depart, I suggest that time frame to avoid limiting weather and request the east departure to avoid the SIGMET just to our north and west.
Of course, sometimes the “Go” is just going to have to be delayed, as it was with my fighter pilot in Lubbock. The fact that I took interest in his flight, used data that he trusts (confirmation from another pilot), and still held my ground as a professional aviation meteorologist allowed him to feel like he had someone on his side, up at bat for him, that would drive him home as soon as the right pitch came.
Dan Schreiber is a seasoned operational meteorologist with expertise in aviation meteorology from years of experience in the US Air Force. He is the owner of STWX Strategic (Smalltown Weather, LLC), a forensic meteorology and severe weather emergency consulting agency in Del Rio, Texas.
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!
A severe thunderstorm early in the morning on October 9th, 2018 near Del Rio, Texas caused flooding wains, damaging winds, small hail, and even possibly a tornado. While most of Del Rio - especially the north side of town - did not catch the brunt end of the storm - neighborhoods on the east side of town and the Laughlin AFB area took a direct hit of the storm's fury.
Del Rio International Airport received 2.83 inches of rain from the storm - heavy, but not uncommon in severe storms. Laughlin AFB, however, less than 10 miles east of the Del Rio airport, received 5.25 inches from the same storm, causing widespread flooding and halting pilot training for the day due to excessive water on the runways and taxiways.
Additionally, small hail was reported across much of southern and eastern Del Rio as well as Laughlin AFB - mostly pea to marble size - and Laughlin AFB recorded a brief 72 mph wind gust (nearly hurricane force) while Del Rio Airport recorded only 40 mph.
The National Weather Service (NWS) did issue a severe thunderstorm warning for the storm, indicating damaging winds and large hail. A Flash Flood Watch was also valid during the time of the storm, accounting for the heavy rain.
As the storm crossed the border from Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila, the NWS also promptly issued a Tornado Warning indicating that a tornado was imminent or already occurring.
This was likely due the "hook" shape of the storm, similar to the one seen in the image above. This hook shape is a result of strong rotation within the thunderstorm's updraft region and can lead to tornadic activity. Since tornadoes are often too small to be seen by weather radars, special indications from the hook on the weather radar will trigger meteorologists to disseminate a Tornado Warning.
While this storm did show weak signs of rotation as it crossed the border, a much more robust, defined hook presented as the storm positioned itself just east of Laughlin AFB on the Kinney County side of Sycamore Creek that would certainly raise the eyebrows of any meteorologist (the image above).
So, was there a tornado? None confirmed. In order to confirm a tornado, it must be either observed or damage or path carved by the tornado must be observed. Since no definitive path or damage has been reported that could be attributed to tornadic activity, no tornado can be confirmed.
It's unlikely that anywhere within Val Verde County - including Del Rio or Laughlin AFB - experienced a tornado due to somewhat weak rotation of the storm overhead. Just east, however, a much more significant rotational signature was noted along the western reaches of Kinney County near Sycamore Creek and extending to just south of the Foyt Ranch along the Highway 90. If a tornado did occur, it would have most likely been within this region.
For a loop of the entire storm from Del Rio to near Brackettville, see the below video.