Happy Trails Meteorologist David Reese!

Meteorologist David Reese in the CBS19 Weather Center snacking on some raisins during severe weather coverage back in April of 2018. David leaves his post at CBS 19 next month. He heads to a position with the National Weather Service in Brownsville, Texas.

Charlottesville, VA > Brownsville, TX

If I’ve learned anything from my stint of 20 years back in the TV News business, it’s this. You’ll make a lot of great friends, but don’t get used to them hanging around too long. Folks come and go. A lot. They move to other TV markets or totally out of the business. My former weather colleague Meteorologist David Reese is one of those leaving the TV side of the business and headed for the National Weather Service next month. NWS just got damn lucky. Really lucky. David is absolutely one of the best mets I’ve ever met. (see what I did!)

David told me a few weeks ago he’d gotten a position with NWS in Brownsville, TX, but Tuesday he announced it to the Twittersphere and his viewers in the tweet above.

I never got my meteorology degree. I was one of those weather guessers from another era where the emphasis wasn’t so much on the science as it was the presentation. David is the real deal. And he’s never failed to show how well he understands meteorology. He’s brilliant. And though he’s a weather science nerd, he’s absolutely one of the nicest and down to earth people you’ll ever meet.

Me in the foreground alongside former CBS19 Meteorologist Jack Durkin (L) and soon departing CBS19 Meteorologist David Reese. I had to honor and pleasure to work with David and Jack for a number of years when I was a relief weather guesser at CBS19 from March 2014 until December 2019. In this photo we’d just finished up some severe weather coverage in 2019. Jack literally drove back in that day in his flannel from a trip to his home state of NY!

Ironically David and I started at CBS19 about the same time. He already knew the weather systems we were using at the station. He was a tremendous help on coaching me through some newer technology. I’d been away from on air weather for a decade (used to do it some back in Memphis) when I stepped back in to do fill-in at CBS19. David’s patience with me is something I will never forget. And, his excitement to teach and watch an old dog learn new tricks! Between he and Chief Meteorologist Travis Koshko they got me up to speed after being away for so long.

I’m sure I’ll still stay in touch with David once he settles in Brownsville NWS. I continue to stay in touch from others that have left CBS19 and all of my formers stations all the way back to the late 80s and early 90s. But, it will feel a bit different knowing David isn’t looking at the skies and models for the Blue Ridge. He mastered forecasting here in an environment that can be one of the trickiest in the country!

David, happy trails to you. I started this post by saying NWS Brownsville is lucky to get you. And in a few weeks, they will learn just how lucky. Good luck down there and we’ll be looking for your name on a few NWS products in the not too distant future!

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I Think I Know How My Dad May Have Felt When Paul Harvey Died. And Why

There I am as a youngster on the farm. That’s my pinto horse named Apache. This would have been around 1970 ish. To the left is my late father’s blue Chevy pickup that I remember hearing Paul Harvey playing in everyday we would ride around the farm or on my way to school.

Northwestern Tennessee

Growing up on the farm back in rural west Tennessee I always remember Paul Harvey being a mainstay on the AM radio in my dad’s old blue Chevy truck. He’d take me and my brother and sister to school in. We lived out in the county, but my parents made the drive everyday into town to take us to the city schools.

Paul Harvey was a radio icon. He was born in Oklahoma and became one of the most widely listened to commentators on radio between 1951 to 2009. Those who remember him know what The Rest of The Story means and that famous sign off, Good Day! His last broadcast was February 16, 2009. You could hear the shakiness in his voice. He was tired, but still going at it. Just a dozen days later he died.

My dad was still around when Harvey died, Though he was in his twilight years, I know he was saddened by his passing. He probably reflected back all of those hot summer days working on the farm. Putting up fences with the truck door open listen to Paul Harvey. There was a certain comfort in having something routine day in and day out as you go about life. That was Paul Harvey on the radio. For me it was sort of neat to hear it all of the time even as a kid. I can still hear his voice as my dad drove us down that dusty gravel road leading us to the house. The July humidity so thick you could barely breath.

This past week almost 12 years to the exact date another mainstay radio legend passed on. Rush Limbaugh died on February 17, 2021.


Make absolutely no mistake, Harvey & Limbaugh were vastly different in their delivery and approach. But both earned a well deserved position in their broadcasting careers. Say what you want about the man, but having 22 million listeners is nothing to sneeze at. Much like Harvey was the mainstay in the background to my dad, Limbaugh became that to me. When I was piloting tapes back and forth to TV stations I’d tune in an AM station on the non directional beacon received in the airplane with Limbaugh playing as I was making the trip. When I was zigzagging across the mid-south covering tornados, prison breaks or whatever, talk radio stations had Rush on the air.

Ironically, Limbaugh grew up not that far away from me. In nearby Cape Girardeau in Southern Missouri. That was across the Mississippi River from me and up Interstate 55 a couple of hours. Like me he got his start in radio, was fired a few times, but eventually became the conservative radio mogul of the AM airwaves. He essentially saved AM radio from a sure death as FM radio was front and center and direct delivery was gearing up.

That’s me back at WDGS AM 1450 in about 1979. It was a little 1000 watt station where I got my start in far NW-TN. It was best known for it’s county music and Cardinal Baseball. Even talk radio couldn’t save it. A couple of decades later it went dark.

To understand the impact of Limbaugh, you almost had to come from the business. We all knew we were living in our final glory days before Limbaugh was ever known. There were signs AM radio was dying a slow death and Limbaugh pretty much came riding in on a white horse.

Mid-South News legend, mentor & friend the late Doug Viar (L) in this photo with me back in 2007. We were catching up at Neil’s restaurant in Dyersburg, TN about three years after I’d moved to Virginia permanently. Little did I know four years later, Doug would be gone.

His death didn’t hit me anything like that of my friend, mentor, fellow pilot and broadcasting legend Doug Viar. He will have been gone for a decade this April 2021. Doug, too, was a fan of Limbaugh and appreciated the climb he made to success. It wasn’t easy and we all know it, because we’d been there.

I’m not here to discuss Limbaugh’s politics. Heck I’m not even party affiliated anymore. Years ago I was a republican, but I left during Bush II’s second term. The Patriot Act and infringements were too much coming from a party that talked independence and freedom. While certainly not a democrat any day, I can’t say libertarians would be a great fit either, though I have voted for their candidates a couple times in the last 10 years.

I do think the vitriol slung at Limbaugh’s death by some is horrible. It speaks volumes about their personal character and an emptiness in their hearts. But again to each his own and I respect and defend free speech and a person’s right to express that. Always.

I am not sure who can fill the shoes of Limbaugh. I don’t think his wife is the person, but who knows. Maybe. One of the daily guest hosts, perhaps. It maybe someone we don’t even know. I am pretty sure Rush already addressed this before his death. I am betting he did a farewell message as well, but it’s yet to be released.

Regardless, the talk radio airwaves have a strange silence to them these days, no doubt.





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See Ya Facebook!

Leaving Facebook and other forms of social media platforms was long overdue. Over this weekend I will share more as to why I made this decision.

I’ve tried to breakup with Facebook so many times in the past I can’t even remember them all. Today I have. This website, texting, emails, phone calls, and of course most importantly in person, will become my primary format for communicating with friends and others.

I’ve just seen how divisive Facebook has become and how it’s made enemies out of people that used to be friends. I’ll openly admit I’ve seen the sides of people this past year that are pretty ugly. Unattractive and qualities I just don’t share. Sadly, or maybe no so sadly I have distanced myself from those negative types.

I’ll be updating here on my own webpage more in the coming months. It already feels better. Facebook will be deleted this week at some point after I have retrieved some of my photos. Twitter is next.

Until then, remember. Hug your fellow human, kiss. Play and laugh. Don’t let this ridiculous behavior we have all be fed continue. Be human again, live life and love.

Be well.


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Dodging The Bullet. Lesson Learned.

The halls I walked to stay as fit as I could. This was my view for a few days after my initial operation at a local surgery center. I was emergency admitted to Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville after developing a severe infection that was going into sepsis. I cannot sing enough praise to those at MJH who literally figured out, on the fly, what was happening and saved my life. More on their greatness down below.

Albemarle / Nelson County, VA

To say I dodged a bullet would be accurate. For several years I’ve needed to get a nagging hernia repaired. Essentially that’s a torn lower abdominal muscle. It wasn’t big, wasn’t really showing (only really found on ultrasound) and rarely caused any noticeable pain. Most that know me, know I’ve gotten into fitness over the past several years. In August I ran more and more topping 50 miles in a month. For me that was significant. This past summer the hernia would bother me more and more after runs and just the normal lifting and labor I do here on the farm. Then a physical exam in the early fall found I had actually developed another one on the other side. I was likely overcompensating for the torn muscle. The decision was eventually made to fix them both.

For a year or two I’d been researching how to have the hernia surgery done without having mesh put in as a means of fixing it. Few places do it and almost no surgeons locally do. But I managed to find Dr. William McKibben in Fishersville that would consider it. If possible. Though, after lots of discussion,  he and I eventually decided mesh would be the best. As active as I am and as much heavy lifting as I do, not to mention recovery from the surgery, it would be the way to go. It was minimally invasive, it would be done laparoscopically. That’s where small incisions are made and tools can be introduced to make the repairs and then the small cuts are sewn up. Recovery is far less than typical surgery where they cut you open. The next question is where to have the surgery. Generally, all of my healthcare has been through Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital system. But my own search for a “mesh-less” surgeon led me elsewhere. Dr. McKibben was on staff at Augusta Medical Center and also on staff at Monticello Surgery Center in Charlottesville. I was frankly, being frugal as well, since we end up having to pay lots of the costs out of pocket due to the current state of healthcare over the past several years. I’d had surgery in Augusta a decade before and they are a fine facility. No question. But when I went to ask about exact costs for the procedures I couldn’t get an answer. They would not furnish me with the costs of what I was having done. That coupled with knowing that a surgery center would be far less, and they gave me exact costs, led me there.

I want to say up front, Monticello Surgery Center was very professional. These are seasoned nurses, surgeons, etc. You never feel that your care is less than top notch. My surgery was same day in around 12:15 PM for the surgery and on way home by 5 or so that afternoon after recovery. The surgery went flawlessly. One detail in surgery is what set me on the path you are about to read. Since I was on the table for about 2.5 hours, it was decided to place what’s called a foley catheter in my bladder. Yeah, it’s not glamourous. It’s pushed in through the end of your business and up into the bladder. But since you are having IV fluids dripping the entire time the pee has to go somewhere! Thankfully the entrance into said business and for the pull out of said business, I was already put to sleep. A good thing! I was released with a painkiller prescription and sent home to recover.  My wife had it filled, and off we went an hour away back to the farm to settle into recovery for the coming days.

My wonderful wife Yvette picking me up at the door just after surgery at Monticello Surgery Center in Charlottesville. We were headed home for the 45 mile drive to what we though would be a normal recovery in the coming days. She has been my rock through all of this. I simply couldn’t have made it without her.

I had typical post surgical pain, and initially some pain when peeing. But I thought, “Hey they just shoved a hose up my junk, it’s probably gonna be sore.” By the next day it was better and so was the surgery, I was less sore and didn’t require any painkillers about 48 hours out on Friday. I was mobile and things were improving. Until they weren’t …..

So there I am in the ER at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in the early morning hours of Saturday – November 21st. A picture of what was unfolding was becoming clearer. A severe infection most likely introduced by the urinary catheter in surgery was transitioning into early sepsis. That means entering the bloodstream. A serious and life threatening medical emergency.

Just after we’d finished supper on Friday night and were mini-celebrating a good day,  began having some burning in my urinary track. By the hour it worsened, greatly. By 10 to 11 PM it unbearable and I began having severe chills. (Rigors) Something wasn’t right. My wife had briefly nodded off while I was frantically trying to locate an emergency after hours phone number for my surgeon. The one listed on my discharge form from the surgery center was his office. There was no after hours answering service. I left a message, which ironically wasn’t heard until “normal business hours” on Monday. I called the surgery center for emergency info. Nothing there, if it’s an emergency with your surgery call the number your surgeon gave you. Yeah, really? I even tried to reach the anesthesiologist that put me to sleep. Her number was listed but the voice mailbox was full and hadn’t been checked in days. By now my wife was up again and saw what I was doing. I said you know, my surgeon is also on staff at Augusta Health, they didn’t do this surgery but maybe they have a way to reach him. Eventually their own on call surgeon did call us, and really didn’t offer much. It wasn’t his case and it didn’t take place at that hospital. He did say my surgeon would be on call later in the morning and he’d pass the message along. “Thanks.”

With no other options I then called for my own primary care physician at Martha Jefferson. I didn’t actually expect to get my doc but knew I’d get somebody. I did and when I described what was happening he said, do not screw around with this. “Get to the ER. “These things have a way of spiraling out of control very quickly just after surgery.” He was so very right. With roughly an hour drive ahead of us my wife loaded me into the truck and headed toward Martha Jefferson ER from here in Nelson County.

We arrived around 1:30 AM give or take an hour, I can’t remember. I was taken back within 10 minutes and the staff there immediately jumped on this. Once Dr. Erin Talman of the staff there saw what was up, she said,, “I don’t like your heart rate, and I don’t like your blood.” Mind you I am an active runner with a resting heart rate of 50-55 BPM and resting in the ER I was at 110 BPM. She didn’t like the initial lab work and suspected I had an aggressive infection in the urinary tract that had begun migrating to the blood stream. In fact it had as later tests confirmed. I was admitted. I later learned that my physical fitness probably helped me over this rather than becoming more serious.

For parts of three days this was my view from my hospital bed at MJH as they were giving me IV antibiotics to fight the infection that was in early stages of sepsis. I was able to get up and walk to hospital halls and did as often as I felt like it.

Once I settled in at the hospital on the floor at 3rd Cornell I was placed into the care of the staff physician there. Dr. Nicholas Brandt was a true professional with the bedside manner of any nice relative you might have. He personally called often to check on me, made sure every question and need was met. The nurses there were spectacular. There was Brittany the first fully day, then Susan at night. Marcie and Candi came in on the final day I was. I’ve never had such great care before.

The meals were amazing. I couldn’t believe this was hospital food. I’ve been to nice restaurants where it wasn’t as good. Every single detail from the ER to the discharge was perfect. To be as sick as I was, the experience was absolute the best you could expect!

A rare indulgence. I was able to watch some of my former news and weather colleagues over at CBS19 doing their morning show, For five years I did as needed on air weather there until December of 2019. I’d done TV weather in as part of another career over a decade earlier back in Memphis.

Eventually Dr. Brandt and the entire staff at MJH got the infection under control enough to send me home and finish up on pills by mouth. I was tested to see if I could take one I was mildly allergic to years before and it didn’t show any signs there. I was released!

My beautiful wife Yvette as I was discharged and leaving MJH on Monday afternoon November 23rd.

From here we picked up prescriptions and headed out on the 45 mile drive back to the farm. But, by Tuesday I was starting to have an allergic reaction to my oral antibiotic. The on call doc for MJH said stop it now. I already had a followup appointment with my own MJH doctor the next day. By the time I got to Dr. Steve Schmitz’s office that Wednesday afternoon the bacterial infection was already regaining some of it’s foothold from being off of antibiotics. “Dr. Steve” as we all call him jumped right in as he always does and figured a plan of action. He knew the bacteria was sensitive to the antibiotics I was getting in the hospital, so he needed to duplicate that in the field in his office. Otherwise I was headed back to the hospital. He was able to mix an injectable form of the antibiotic and hit me in my butt to kickstart the treatment. Then we needed to find an oral form of that antibiotic as closely matched as we could.

Me on the table in Dr. Steve Schmitz’s office in Afton, Virginia on November 25, 2020. I’ve been a patient of Dr. Steve’s since he began practice with Dr. Bob Raynor in the early 2000’s. Steve is a total gentleman doc with a thoroughness and gentleness that’s rarely seen these days.

Knowing he would, Dr. Steve found a good match. We got the prescription filled and headed back home, this time just a few minutes away, not an hour. Friends of mine had been praying for my recovery. I was humbled and honestly mentally broken. I’d had very little sleep in a week and the close call earlier in the week had wiped me out.

Over the next few days my condition improved dramatically. It was night and day. My energy returned there was zero pain from surgery and my mobility was back. Other than finishing out a few more days of oral antibiotics, I should be ok and fully recovered.

In the beginning I mentioned a lesson learned. Remember, this is my experience. That doesn’t mean there aren’t just as many great experiences. As a matter of fact, I’d give my surgeon and the surgery itself 5 stars on the procedure. I’d give him a F on followthrough. Ditto the surgery center.

When you have major surgery, you should be able to reach your surgeon when you have a an issue after hours. Being given an office number with an answering machine that isn’t monitored doesn’t cut it. Though the surgery center did make a routine call to check on me the next day, that was it, and it felt more of a formality than anything else. So they could check the box. As far as I know my surgeon never reached out to the docs at MJH to even confer with them about my situation even once he actually knew. Unacceptable. Conversely, the staff, all of them at MJH, were top notch. On top of it from the time I hit the ER to the time I have been at home.

What have I learned from all of this? Next time I have surgery, especially one that’s major, I’ll be having it done at the hospital. While I initially saved money by using a surgery center, that will probably end up costing me thousands more vs just having it done in a hospital outpatient setting. The continuity of care just isn’t there. Had this all been done under the roof at say either Augusta or MJH, there wouldn’t be this question of who was in charge, or where did this happen, it would be theirs to figure out. Period.

Most of all I am thankful to everyone at Martha Jefferson Hospital for what you did. And I mean everyone. From housekeeping to dietary, to the medical staff. You got me back home to those that matter most to me. And I to them.

My hat is off to the people of Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville and all of their affiliate staff and doctors. Well done, well done and thank you for getting me back to my family and what matters most!

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It’s Not The Bad Times That Get You It’s The Good Ones!

Just before sunrise on Maple Brook Farm in Nelson County, Virginia : October 2020

Roseland, Virginia 

Years ago in the early 90s I co-hosted a daily morning cable show back in Northwest Tennessee. It was a pretty darn good quality show for its time considering it was local cable and only reached 10-15 thousand viewers at best.

I got the idea from the guys in the story just below. Coy & Cecil had been doing a similar show for years in an adjoining county to a much smaller audience. But they were local celebrities! This was their farewell in a story I did for WMC-TV out of Memphis back in the 90s as they were about to sunset the show.

Since we were in farm country one of our segments was also dedicated to agriculture. We had a local, highly successful farmer, by the name of Eddie Anderson that was my ag correspondent, if you will. Eddie was, and still is, a man of laughter and jokes, but knows agriculture and the business side of it like the back of his hand. A few years later after I moved to real TV News, Eddie was one of my goto farmers I’d interview about farming and farm business.

Northwest Tennessee farmer Eddie Anderson during an interview I did with him about crop flooding in 1995 for WREG-TV in Memphis where I reported for number of years.

Eddie and I talked about a lot of things over the years, but something he said to me one afternoon while riding through flooded cornfields, I’ve never, ever forgotten. “You know Tommy it’s not the bad years like what we are looking at out here now that will get you, it’s the good ones.”

I had to chew on that one for days. I went back to Eddie a few weeks later and asked just what he meant. How can a flooded field of corn where you will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars be better than a year where everything goes right and you rake in the dough? Eddie explained,” Tommy in those good years you end up saying well, since I have all of this extra money, think I’ll get a fancy new combine, and heck what’s another few tens of thousands, let’s put in a pool this year, and another new farm truck while we are at it. Then this kind of year hits and you know what? You’re screwed. The good years got you because you didn’t prepare when you could have. In the bad years, you are smart, buy only what you need. You save, plan for better days to come.”

Like I said earlier, I never forgot that one. Eddie was right then and he’s right for the days we all find ourselves in now. When the government chose to forcefully close businesses, and make no mistake they did, most can’t survive. Why? The good years got them.

I never was very good with money frankly. Payday, back when I was salaried and not in business for myself, meant a new radio or some other fancy device. But as the years went by and threading the needle through the ’07-08′ housing bust, I always remembered what Eddie said.

Good advice indeed Eddie.

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All Plumbers Go To Heaven – R.I.P. My Friend, Jim Purvis

Nelson County, Virginia
By Tommy Stafford

Photo By Tommy Stafford : Jim Purvis in February 2005 during a photoshoot for the charter issue of our magazine that launched in April of that year.

I’d seen Jim Purvis long before I knew Jim Purvis. Around 1999 when visiting Nelson Jim, or JP as I ended up knowing him, would be seated in the old Truslow’s Auto Repair and Restaurant in Nellysford, almost every single morning. It was the hotspot for breakfast back in those days.

The old Truslow’s Auto Repair & Restaurant in Nellysford, Virginia. Photo By Yvette Stafford circa mid to late 90s.

Jim was a longtime licensed electrician and plumber here in the Nelson area. He’d often grab something to eat at Truslow’s before heading out the door to begin jobs for the day. I’d see him in there having breakfast but didn’t know who he was.

I finally met Jim and became acquainted with him around the year 2000. We hadn’t yet moved to Nelson yet but stayed here several times a year at the old Meander Inn B & B. Jim often did plumbing working there and we’d cross paths on our stays. I actually helped JP pull an old well there one afternoon. It was hard work for both of us, about 300 feet deep, but it was a great day hanging out and talking to him. 

Photo By Tommy Stafford : JP in front of Basic Necessities in Nellysford, Virginia. Jim was on the cutting edge of bringing solar into Nelson long before it had become trendy. Here he is October 2008 converting the sign from regular electrical power to solar. It was one of many helped go solar along the way.

Years later JP invented his to-go portable solar boxes that made it possible for anyone to have a quick source of electricity powered by solar energy. In this 2013 story in our magazine (Blue Ridge Life) he demonstrated how the boxes worked.

Over the years Jim became more than just a professional in our lives. He became a friend. No, we didn’t have supper with one another or go on vacations together, but we developed a mutual friendship where he’d often stop in for coffee at our old home in Greenfield along 151. Years later he’s stop by the farm here in Roseland too for that morning cup on his way to another job. Even when he’d be coming to our house to fix something he would joke, “Make sure my coffee is ready when I get there.”

Jim will always hold a special place in our hearts. He was one of the articles in our very first issue of then, Nelson County Life in April 2005. Few knew about Jim’s fantastic talent as a sketch artist.

Jim died last week after a lengthy battle with cancer. He had his good days, many of them since he was diagnosed years ago, but it ultimately got him. He’s joined by another very dear friend that departed way too soon, Jeff Goff. Jeff was another plumber and close friend that left us back in 2017. 

The late Jeff Goff of Faber, VA on the phone during a story we did on frozen pipes in February 2015. Jeff was another beloved plumber that left us way too soon at the age of 53. Here’s a link to the story we did with Jeff on the frozen pipes 5 years ago.

Jim & Jeff were two different people. Different styles, but a dying breed of what I call gentlemen plumbers, electricians, contractors and the like. I loved them both like family. 

Jim Purvis’ final years weren’t the kindest. He tragically lost his wife Diane in a horrible tractor accident just 2 years ago in August of 2018. I vividly remember him calling my wife Yvette that evening telling her, “Diane is gone.” It was like we were hit by a truck.

The next morning Yvette went over to Jim’s with one of his favorites, sausage and biscuits from Graves Grocery. She just went to be with him, to listen. To walk. To talk. 

Yvette in Jim’s kitchen during our story with him for the April 2005 inaugural issue. The was shot in February of that year.

Jim eventually rebounded and bought a new tractor. He bought a small camper and began getting back out in spite of all of the curve balls life threw at him. He started coming by for coffee again every now and then. Some of the old Jim was returning, as was some new Jim exploring life alone once again. 

I knew something was up several weeks ago. I mentioned to Yvette, “You know I haven’t seen Jim lately and he’s not even on Facebook these days. Wonder if he’s out in that camper somewhere traveling?” Little did I know Jim was in his final days, his final hours. 

Those final hours came last week on October 1, 2020. I found out through a dear friend, Diane Givens, that shared the news. 



I didn’t know Jim as well as some others. But Yvette and I considered Jim a friend. I will miss seeing that Dodge truck pull down the driveway, the knock on the door of the farmhouse here and that voice yelling, “Tommy you got my coffee ready yet?”

Anytime JP, anytime, and tell Jeff I have one for him too 🙂

See you on the other side my friend. 





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Keep The Fire Burning : Why A Hug, A Handshake & Friends Matter Now More Than Ever

Most every creature in nature desires, even craves, companionship. Humans are no different. Yes, we can be introverts or extroverts, but eventually we all enjoy the company of a mate, or close friends gathered around a bonfire. For centuries a handshake has been a welcome to someone new. Or sealing a deal after a long negotiation. Or a way to say let’s forgive and move on. That’s being taken away from you now in front of your very eyes. Why? Because we are allowing it to happen.

Look. I’m not suggesting we go lick the doorknobs on public restrooms at fast food restaurants. But I’m also not suggesting we cower in the corner in fear and toss away everything that makes us human. Creatures of this very earth. Do you think germs just magically started with coronavirues? Of course not. As long as mankind has been on this earth, some germ, some virus, has always been on the prowl to find victims. That was the case before CV-19 and will be the case long after CV-19 has faded and some other crisis takes the headlines.

I’m not debating the existence of a virus or its origin. I am debating the fact we are losing the very humanity we say we are all practicing by distancing. Ratting out neighbors and friends. It’s one of the most inhumane things being done right now. Many people that profess themselves to be good Christians are doing exactly opposite of what Jesus was known for. Washing the feet of others, taking care of the sick and diseased.  Instead we are now running and hiding, leaving a loved one to die alone in a nursing home or hospital. Some think this is the end of times. It is not.

I’m a hugger. Anyone that knows me knows that. These days it’s become such an anomaly that when two friends that are okay with it cross paths it’s another entire celebration of it’s own. High five!

Do you not see what those in power are doing to us as a society? 6 foot distancing. Masks. Don’t get near anyone. Don’t assemble. Don’t go to church. Can you imagine if someone told you this 25 or 30 years ago? You’d laugh in their face.

Folks there’s more to being true Americans, whatever your race or origin, or how you got to the U.S. There’s more to it than simply standing for the National Anthem at a football game. Or the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s about being human beings. And no, questioning what your government asks of you isn’t Un-American. To the contrary. Why do you think those Pilgrims of long ago broke free from the crown and established here? For freedom. While government is good for a few things, they don’t own you. So don’t let them.

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Doug Viar : Remembering My Friend & News Mentor 9 Years Later

Mid-South News legend, mentor & friend the late Doug Viar (L) in this photo with me back in 2007. We were catching up at Neil’s restaurant in Dyersburg, TN about three years after I’d moved to Virginia permanently. Little did I know four years later, Doug would be gone.

Doug Viar left us on this very day 9 years ago in April of 2011. Just short of a decade. As many of you know Doug was my TV news mentor. He taught me just about everything I know today about reporting, videography, editing and more. He was a true newsman. We conquered more than a few major news stories. But Doug is the legend, he was the pro.

Doug Viar (far left) speaks to then TN Emergency Management Assistant Director, Charlie Bryant during flooding we were covering in NW-TN. Ironically Charlie Bryant just died this past week. In the background are, then WREG Reporters, Doug Johnson and Pam Crittenden. Today they are married and out of the TV news business.

Anyone back in the Mid-South will remember the voice of Doug Viar. He seldom was seen on camera, but was a constant voice on TV and radio across region for decades.

I often think what Doug would have to say about what’s taking place right now in TV news. I probably shouldn’t use the words here, to keep it family rated, but I can tell you he wouldn’t think much of it. He knows it’s theater and show biz now, not truly news. Doug was well respected from the networks, state and federal lawmen, judges, and viewers for getting it right and not pulling any punches. But he was always fair. We were the severe weather go to team in those days. Big snows, tornadoes, floods, we were on it, either by air or ground. Both of us were pilots and often flew to the scene, shot the story, got back and edited and had it on the air before other teams even made the scene. Those were some frontier days by today’s comparisons.

Above one of the dozens of tornadoes Doug and I covered. By the time I covered this tornado in the early 2000s for The Weather Channel, Doug owned his own satellite uplink company. He was manning the truck out of view while I was on air back to Atlanta.

Doug back in 2002 – Cookeville, TN with his first sat truck he purchased. I was covering a snowstorm for The Weather Channel. Doug was my sat truck I’d meet and send our reports back to Atlanta from.

I find it hard to believe Doug has been gone almost 10 years. When the chaos of Coronavirus 2020 started hitting here in the U.S. I can’t tell you the number of times I wanted to reach for the phone and say, “Doug what do you make of all of this?” But realize, I can’t.

Doug Viar on the old news set at CNN in Atlanta a few years before his death. CNN was one of Doug’s major satellite uplink clients back in the day.

I still stay in touch with Doug’s wife Margaret. She’s essentially a second mom to me. I also stay in touch with his daughter Lori. She’s the one that broke the news to me back in 2011 that Doug was gone. A message first, then a phone call that I will never forget. Doug’s other daughter Michelle lives in the UK these days, but I keep up with her from her sister and mom. Ironically Doug’s brother George, who I speak with a few times a year, was my pilot instructor in 1980 when I was licensed to fly.

I made a promise that I’d always remember Doug in writing on this day. 2020 is no different in that respect. There’s lots more pressing issues going on right now, no doubt. But, I wanted to remember a man that shaped and molded my perspective of TV news and how it should be done. He was the best.

Doug we all still miss you, but it’s probably is best you aren’t around right now! 😉

You would know what I mean.

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In The Dark Of The Night : Why NOAA Weather Radio Is Still A Good Bet Against Tornadoes

Photo via THP Cookville District : The aftermath of the tornado that struck Putnam County, TN on March 3, 2020.

A few days ago one of my best friends, Joe Markham,  began a thread on his Facebook page about the tornado deaths in Tennessee. Tennessee is my home state and where I spent most of my time doing TV weather and reporting in the 90s and early 2000’s.

I’ve covered countless major tornadoes and even survived an F5 tornado in May 2003. I was on the on air weathercaster at the time in Jackson, TN as it was bearing down on the downtown district.

After it was over 11 people were dead within a mile or two radius of the station. We were lucky. The station wasn’t damaged miraculously, but several cars on the parking lot were destroyed. In short, I’m very familiar with tornadoes and what they can do.

Via NWS Nashville, TN : A rebroadcast of the tornado warning for the Nashville area on March 3, 2020.

I grew up in a time when warnings for tornadoes were hard to come by, especially overnight if you are sleeping. In the 60s and early 70s watches and warnings were almost exclusively delivered by television and radio. If you weren’t up to hear the warning, you didn’t get the warning. Consequently, many people died in overnight tornadoes. It’s still a problem today but not as much, and it doesn’t have to be. That said you can still get the warning, do all you should (go to basement, interior room, etc) and a tornado can still kill you. But there’s almost no excuse for not getting a severe weather warning in 2020.

While there are many good smartphone warning apps, auto dialers to alert you by telephone (all very good methods) by far the easiest and reliable method is an inexpensive NOAA weather radio. You are getting the alerts the second the National Weather Service puts it out. Smartphone apps, while good, are all reliant on good cell signals, wifi or such to get a signal to you. In storms that’s often one of the first things to go. Especially west and south of your location where a tornado is hitting. I have many phone apps personally and use them often but I have the redundancy of a weather radio as well.

It’s not like the old days when weather radio first came out. You don’t have to hear every single alert for a wide area that might not affect you. Today it can be targeted.

Make sure you get a weather radio with SAME capability: (Specific Area Message Encoding) https://www.weather.gov/iln/nwr_same – this can specify which counties (or single county) you want alerts for vs a wide area.

Here’s one for about 30 bucks on amazon:

Here’s the SAME code listings for each respective state / county in the U.S.

Locally here in the Virginia Blue Ridge I use the CBS19 Weather Authority App. It can be tailored to give you as much or as little as you want . I used to do fill in weather for these guys until the end of 2019, so I’m admittedly biased, but it really is a good solid app with good notification abilities.

As for other apps, any of the popular ones will give you localized county specific alerts. I have also long used Wunderground.com app (now owned by IBM and weather channel) but you can tailor it to exactly what you want. I’m a weather nerd, so I obviously have more apps that are in depth, but that’s all the average user needs for notifications.

Wunderground weather app for iphone here : https://apps.apple.com/…/weather…/id486154808

Wunderground weather app for droid here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details…

The bottom line, it’s simply inexcusable to not be able to get a notification of an approaching tornado in this day and age. In most cases. Severe Weather season is just a few weeks away here in Virginia and it’s already in play in other parts of the country . So take some time to invest in a weather radio and download a few useful apps to keep you informed long before the storms arrive!

Be safe!


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The Blue Ridge Mountains : A Place To Rest & Why It Should Stay That Way

Looking west from a ridge top of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Central Virginia – December 2019

Central Virginia Blue Ridge
Roseland, Virginia
By Tommy Stafford

Millions of people have come to the Blue Ridge Mountains over the years to get away. They rest in the beauty and peacefulness of the lush covered peaks in the summer and the stunning snow covered valleys and mountaintops in the winter. Many of us have even been fortunate to make our permanent homes here. I laughingly tell my wife, “A trip to the dump here is beautiful.”

For decades that beauty has been preserved. Even the most unreasonable of politicians knew it was something special. Something worth saving. A do not touch zone reserved for quite, nature and reflection. Then came the idea for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. A highly questionable very controversial natural gas pipeline that would cut through the very heart of the Central Virginia Blue Ridge. As a matter of fact the construction would go under the Blue Ridge Parkway near the entrance to Wintergreen Resort and exactly where the treasured Appalachian Trail intersects. On either side of the parkway a huge pipeline would crawl up and down the mountainsides through some of the most steep and rural, yet pristine views on the East Coast. A place where thousands of hikers a year leave the cubical, the concrete, and the noise to be at peace, if only for a few months while they take the historic journey along the trail.

There are few quiet places left in this life where people can go and be with nature. The Blue Ridge Mountains is one of them. Aside from the potential destruction to that beauty, countless family farms and homeowners will be severely impacted. Some of the land has been handed down for hundreds of years from other generations. Today, if the ACP and it’s majority partner, Dominion, get their way, the pipeline will cut right through their properties. They will be forced to live with a massive gas pipeline running through their land. In some cases right by their homes. In exchange their land becomes devalued, they continue to pay taxes on property they will likely never be able to sell. And, they get paid pennies on the dollar to run the pipeline through.

The case has been appealed all the way to the US Supreme Court. Ultimately they decide if the pipeline can cross the AT. There’s a reason it hasn’t happened here before, to allow it would be unprecedented. It would allow a private company to exercise eminent domain to shove the pipeline down the throats of everyone living and visiting the Blue Ridge Mountains and the AT.

Let’s hope the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court let their true conscience be their guide. Preserve the land for their children and generations to come. Rather than a grandchild standing on the AT one day telling stories of their grandparents about a time before the pipeline happened.

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