We’re Not in Kansas…

28 04 2011

In my daily activity, I have to keep in mind two things – I study meteorology, and I can get all the sleep I want when I die. Yesterday was an interesting day, for reasons most folks have probably heard already. Apart from Mother Nature deciding that the Deep South had to be devastated, there was a tornado watch extended into upstate New York. A watch means that the possibility is there for a tornadic cell to develop. Well, when things finally began to be a little more settled last night,
I was working in my office, and my officemate turns to me and says,

“B—, Ithaca was just placed under a tornado warning. You might want to check it out.”

So I did. And over Schuyler County, here’s a cell with a plausible tornado signature (a hook) on radar. The cell was tracking northeast and Ithaca was directly in the warning path.

At that moment, I decided to  make a few phone calls. It ended up being a long night (as previously stated, I’ll get all the sleep I want someday), as three cells bore down on the area, one of which is showing in its prelim reports that a tornado likely touched down in Danby. From NWS BGM (Binghamton):


So, an unusual and rather scary night for the folks back in Tompkins County. Digging into some data, I decided to check the last time a tornado was confirmed within the county.

From the Tornado Project:

AUG 25, 1961    005   1800     0      0    F0    109
JUN 15, 1964    001   1530     0      0    F1    109
JUN 20, 1969    004   0745     0      0    F1    109
JUN 18, 1977    002   1500     0      0    F1    109
AUG 28, 1988    005   1342     0      0    F1    109
AUG 21, 1994    008   0715     0      0    F0    109

Although the project suggests otherwise, conflicting reports suggest a fatality with the August 28, 1988 tornado. That tornado, an F-1 (today we use EF-1, as the Fujita scale as been refined to become the “Enhanced Fujita” scale), may have killed one person. Further analysis suggests this tornado tracked from Schuyler County into Tompkins County, and the fatality was in Schuyler, which might explain the disparity.  I don’t know the ratio of warnings to confirmed touchdowns, but Brotzge et al. (2009) suggest only 1 in 4 warnings result in confirmed tornadoes. EDIT: Actually, that link won’t work for most people unless you have American Meteorological Society connections.

So, events like this are rare indeed. My only regret is that I should’ve saved the radar imau ge from last night. Actually, I have two regrets. My second is that I have a friend who photographed the King Ferry tornado a few years ago from Space Science, and he sent me a copy of the photo back in 2007, which I lost at some point. If I feel really proactive I might email him to ask for another copy.

An Exercise in Mapping

24 04 2011

So, I figured that since I write about Cornell, IC and Ithaca-area construction projects as much as I do, it might be nice to include some form of a map. Depending on time and motivation, I might get around to putting ones together for South Hill and Downtown.

So, Cornell Campus, used here primarily as a test bed (click the image to expand its size).

Under Construction:

1 – Milstein Hall 2- Johnson Art Museum addition 3- Human Ecology Building 4- Stocking Hall Addition


1- Wilson Lab / Synchotron Expansion (CU ERL Project)


1- Gates Hall

Stale Proposals (i.e. been around a while, little notable progress in the past several months-plus)

1- Goldwin Smith Hall Addition 2- Gannett Health Center Addition 3- Holley Center (Soil Lab) Expansion (most likely dead, given federal budget cuts).

Heading south into Collegetown –

Under Construction

1- Coal Yard Apartments Phase II – A 4-story, 25-unit building off of Maple Avenue.


1 – 309 Eddy Street (5 stories, 41 units) 2- Vine Street Cottages (19 house, 10 townhomes) 3- Collegetown Terrace (several buildings, 2-6 stories, 589 units)


1- 307 College Avenue (5 stories, 60 units), Snaith House addition (12 bedrooms)

Mall, Airport and Vicinity –

Under Construction:

1- BJ’s wholesale Club (82,000 sq ft) and 12 senior living units 2- Heights of Lansing (~17/80 units complete).


1- Millcroft Housing Development (~19 lots in phase II).


1- Lansing Reserve Project (65 units) 2-  NRP Group Project (80 units)

Stale Proposal

1- Behind the mall, a mix of additional shops and 40 apartments, in a lifestyle-center setup, were proposed about three years ago. The recession may have killed the project; at the very least, it’s been shelved.


This isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of other projects in the area, I just wanted to experiment with presenting local projects in a different, more visual format.

News Tidbits 4/18/11: Fraternity Seeks Recolonization in Turbulent Times

18 04 2011

Image property of Alpha Phi Delta

Seems a second fraternity is seeking to reestablish itself on Cornell’s campus this year.  According to the Daily Sun, an interest group has been preliminarily approved for recognition of the recolonization of the Alpha Phi Delta fraternity (in other words, the first step to recognition has been taken). Unlike Phi Kappa Sigma, this interest group has taken the route of forming a group first and then seeking the recognition of a national (which is the way it’s traditionally done with fraternities), rather than the national coming in and seeking to revive or start a chapter (more common for sororities, but an increasingly appealing option for large fraternal orgs).

Alpha Phi Delta has existed previously at Cornell’s campus. It was a historically Italian-American fraternity founded at Syracuse in 1911, and still draws most of its chapter membership from colleges in the Northeast. The Cornell chapter (Mu) was founded in 1922 and closed in 1968, three years after the fraternity opened itself up to membership for all men(and not just ones of Italian heritage). From old Cornellian yearbooks, it can be determined that they stayed with one house during their time at Cornell, but I’m having one hell of a time trying to determine its location – I can’t find it anywhere nearby on the 1928 and 1954 Cornell maps, which suggests to me it might have been far from campus.

Anyways, given the closure of Theta Xi and the recent fallout due to the SAE tragedy, I’m unsure as to how successful they will be. But, I wish them the best of luck. Oh, and if they’re still looking for a house, it would make my heart jump if they could move into an unused property that could use some revitalizing, like 722 University Avenue.

Springtime Construction Update

12 04 2011

Long story short, for the first time since about New Year’s, I was able to visit Ithaca this past weekend. Went for a national initiation for the fraternal alma mater and stayed for the day.

Milstein Hall continues towards its late 2011 completion date.

The new Human Ecology Building nears completion.

The Brian Nevin Welcome Center for the Cornell Plantations is open and ready to receive visitors.

Demolition work continues on Stocking Hall’s “new wing”, to make way for the new Food Sciences building.

Concrete pouring is well underway for the Johnson Museum addition.

The site of Gates Hall, looking southeast.

Oh Cornell. Even if you drove me nuts while I was in Ithaca, I do miss you a little bit. Partly because I have to look at this everyday:

Good thing my office is windowless.

News Tidbits 4/8/11: Shopaholics Rejoice

8 04 2011

College Crossing Shopping Center - Image Property of Ithaca Estates Realty

I’ve been locked away in my office recently, so I haven’t had a whole lot of time to devote to anything but being an evil TA and doing research. But there have been a couple of Ithaca developments of note.

The Holochuck project (106 townhomes on West Hill) and the 82,000 sq ft. BJ’s Store next to the Ithaca Mall have both received approvals. Site work on the BJ’s could start as early next week. Neither project was without its drama, however – the BJ’s uses a tax abatement in order to finance the construction of 12 senior housing units, some wetland and a bird sanctuary on the west side of the lot, behind the future store. Since abatements are typically issued for industrial projects and not retail, there was some controversy about it setting a bad precedent. After playing with the construction materials to ask for a smaller abatement, the project finally received approval from the IDA, only to rejected by the school board initially, then accepted at a meeting a few days later. So, that was a mess. Regardless, the company plans on starting work on the approved project this Spring, with a fall opening.  As for the Holochuck project, the big issue there was traffic. By incorporating mandatory bus passes and some other traffic mitigation features, the project received preliminary approval, meaning it jumped the main hurdle. However, some residents have expressed anger and concern that the project and a 70-unit senior apartment building be allowed to move forward, even as the town is making steps towards a moratorium.

As for today’s Ithaca Journal – the College Crossings shopping center has been on the boards for at least five years. The only thing new about it is that it’s finally being marketed and that the developer hopes to start this spring, with a fall opening. For those on East Hill, the new shopping center will be of little use because it’s just south of Ithaca College, and well out of the way for most Cornellians.

So, it looks like there will be some work underway as Ithaca transitions into the warm half of the year. Nothing wrong with that.