Crozet Weather Almanac: April 2016

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One in 108 Billion Odds

By Heidi Sonen and Roscoe Shaw

April 2016
April 2016

What is the chance of being hit by a meteorite falling from the sky? That is impossible to say for sure, but only one person in human history is a “confirmed hit.” Ann Hodges of Sylacauga, Alabama was minding her own business, taking a nap in her home in 1954, when a space rock crashed through her ceiling and ricocheted into her hip.  She was hospitalized, but was not seriously wounded.

An estimated 108 billion people have been born on earth throughout history and 7.4 billion are still alive today.  But Ms. Hodges is the only person we are sure that has been hit.  There, of course, have been many close calls.  In 2013, a Russian meteorite had a sonic boom that damaged buildings and injured more than a thousand people, but no one was actually hit.

In the late 1980s, a blue, slimy, meteorite crashed through the ceiling of a house in Portland, Oregon.  Scientists and news crews were summoned but the space rock melted.  The blue rock was actually frozen septic sludge that had leaked from a jet airliner.  When the plane came down for a landing, the temperature got warmer and the frozen sludge broke off the plane and fell through the house.  Ooops.

But wait a minute.  Heidi and I are meteorologists.  We know almost nothing about meteorites or any astronomy for that matter.  So why is atmospheric science called “meteorology” if it doesn’t involve meteors?

The word meteoris derived from the Greek word meteoron, meaning “in the sky”. The word was used by ancient Greeks to describe anything in the atmosphere.  That included what we now think of as weather or astronomy.

Astronomer comes from the Greek words astron, which means “star”. The word meteor is now used for any particles or debris within the Solar System that enter the earth’s atmosphere.

The Hodges meteorite weighs about 8½ pounds and is on permanent display at the Alabama Museum of Natural History at the University of Alabama.  Ms. Hodges was a private person and never welcomed the huge publicity from the meteorite.  She died 18 years later at just age 54, and her friends and family all said she never quite recovered from the events of that strange day.

April Recap

Almost nothing fell from the sky in early April, neither rain nor meteorite.  People actually skipped mowing their yard.  But that changed in late April and May has started off wet.  Now we have the perfect combination of ideal temperature and plenty of rain.  Grass is growing at the fastest rate of the year…about four inches a week.  That will keep you plenty busy mowing.

April temperatures were a bit crazy.  April 6 dropped to a damaging 24 degrees followed by another hard freeze on the 10th.  A week later, we hit 90.  Welcome to spring in Virginia.

Rainfall

  • Crozet Mint Springs   2.39”
  • Crozet Elementary School   2.59”
  • Yancey Mills  2.80”
  • White Hall  2.89”
  • Nellysford  1.20”
  • Waynesboro  1.70”
  • CHO Airport  3.37”
  • Univ. of VA  2.57”C

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