The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Then and Now, Morse/Glenwood

The Apollo Chorus of Chicago annual benefit will take place at 7pm on Friday July 17th. We have to do it online, of course, but the original plan had us at Mayne Stage on April 4th. I had to go up there tonight to take some publicity photos, and I remembered I took this photo in April 1993:

Here's the same scene two hours ago:

Mayne Stage is on the left, in the space that apparently used to be the Cobbler's Mall behind the Poolgogi Steak House.

The neighborhood has changed quite a bit in the last 27 years, though the ethnic diversity still remains. Obviously there are a few new buildings, and the garish signs have come down from the liquor store and Morse Gyros take-out. (Both are still there.) And the Lunt Bus still stops at the Morse El, just as it did when my father was a kid.

Water, water, everywhere, and all is safe to drink

The Midwest has an embarrassment of riches right now as the Lake Michigan-Huron system enters its sixth straight month of record water levels, a mere 12 cm below its all-time high:

The lake is nearly 3 feet higher than usual for early summer and approaching the historical high, set in October 1986, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the official records for all of the Great Lakes.

As Chicagoans return to the lakefront and the 18-mile Lakefront Trail, which officially reopens in most areas Monday, they will notice waves lapping onto flooded pathways, disappearing beaches, submerged breakwaters and stone revetments unable to hold back the pulsating water.

“If people haven’t been back to the beach or their favorite spot in a while, it may be very different with erosion or a lot less beach,” said John Allis, the Army Corps’ chief of the Great Lakes hydraulics and hydrology office, based out of the Detroit District. “Conditions can be very different on the coastline than people may be used to in the past.”

The high water levels can be seen up and down Chicago’s shoreline. Near Belmont Harbor, the path for walkers and joggers that skirts the inner part of the harbor was partially covered with water on Monday. Runners dodged water or splashed gingerly on their way. Nearby, a section of the trail was blocked with barricades and a bright yellow warning sign: “Caution Undermining Erosion.”

The Belmont Harbor Dog Beach was almost entirely submerged, with only a small spit of sand available for dogs and their owners. “It’s gone,” one woman mentioned to her companion as they walked past, “It’s underwater.”

Scientists say a confluence of factors has contributed to the high water: recent record precipitation complete with drenching downpours, milder winters and warming overall temperatures throughout the Midwest.

Heavy rains in the spring and summer of 2019 raised lake levels, setting the table for the record highs of 2020.

Warmer temperatures mean fewer blasts of cold air, less ice cover and less-than-normal evaporation since cool surface water is a driver of evaporation, said Lauren Fry, a physical scientist with NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

“Climate factors,” Fry said, “are the primary drivers of water levels.”

The Lake Michigan-Huron system is already the largest freshwater lake in the world, with an area of 117,400 km² and the largest source of fresh water in the hemisphere. It also used to be a lot bigger: only 8,000 years ago, the lake came all the way up to Clark Street, before the ice dam holding it back gave way in what must have been one of the most spectacular hydrologic events in the planet's history. (If I ever get a time machine, that's one of the things I want to see. That, and the moment the Atlantic Ocean breached the Strait of Gibraltar, creating an epic flow of water that may have filled up the Mediterranean Basin in only two years.)

Then and Now, Lawrence and Broadway

Now that I have a drone, I've been looking for historical aerial photos of Chicago. I found this 1933 photo of Uptown through the Chicago Public Library collection:

Here's approximately the same view about an hour ago:

Some things immediately jump out. First, the trees. My how they've grown! Second, in the distance you can see the construction of Montrose Harbor in 1933 and the completed harbor (by 1937) in 2020. Third, we have a lot more parking lots and a lot less grime on our buildings these days. And what the hell is that huge industrial building billowing smoke at the corner of Montrose and Clarendon (upper-right corner of 1933)?

Since drones can only legally fly 120 m above the ground in the US, I couldn't get exactly the same angle as in the original photo. My best guess from a number of clues is that the top photo was taken from an airplane flying about 250 m (maybe not even that high) AGL shortly after 1pm on a sunny but hazy early-April afternoon. The air quality in Chicago in 2020 is so much better than at any point in the 20th century that almost no aerial photos from that era will have light as sharp and clear as we get today.

I have a couple more of these up my sleeve. Stay tuned.

Another perfect night to fly

The Mini has a service ceiling of 120 m AGL (above ground level) by default. I can jump through some hoops to increase that, but for now, while I'm getting to know how the aircraft handles, that seems just fine.

For example, here are two shots from 110 m half an hour after sunset:

The second one is a dry-run for a before-and-after pair I really can't wait to share. I just want to say, I hope I'm giving historians of the future some good data.

Why didn't I get one of these things years ago?

Beautiful night in Chicago

A combination of crystal-clear air, calm winds, and a setting sun gave me some great shots from the Mini this evening. I visited two locations in Lincoln Square: Welles Park, and the corner of Wilson and Ravenswood. I got this still just a few seconds after taking off:

And here's the highlight reel:

After dinner, I discovered on a third flight that it doesn't shoot great video in low-light conditions. Good to know.

Update: Here's the raw video from my altitude test this morning:

Day 84 of the Year Without a Year

First, some good news: New Zealand has not had a new Covid-19 case in 14 days, making it officially coronavirus-free. Given it's an archipelago of 3 million people more than 2,000 km from its nearest neighbor, they may have had some natural defenses against reinfection.

In other news:

An oddly quiet day, it seems. Probably because it's Monday.

Welp. There goes the neighborhood

A 10-hectare section of Alta, Norway, slipped into the sea on Wednesday, destroying 8 vacation homes and temporarily inconveniencing a dog:

The landslide, which ran 2,133 feet along the shore and went nearly 500 feet inland, was the largest the area has ever seen, according to Anders Bjordal, a Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate senior engineer who was involved in the rescue operation.

“In this municipality, a landslide has not happened in 50 or 60 years, and there has never been one this size,” Mr. Bjordal said on Friday.

Jan Egil Bakkeby, who owned one of the cabins, scrambled out of the building when he heard the landslide begin. “I had just made two slices of bread when I heard it crack in the cabin,” he told the Norwegian newspaper Altaposten. “At first I thought there was someone in the loft, but then I saw out of the window that the power cord was smoking.”

As he moved to higher ground, he filmed the scene as a swath of land under his and others’ properties inched into the water and was soon submerged.

Only one rescue took place: A dog was swept away when the land began to slip, and the animal was carried out to sea, officials said. The dog was able to swim ashore and was rescued by a helicopter that was checking the area for missing people.

The video is surreal:

Shared streets in Chicago

The city has started adding traffic controls to side streets in an effort to encourage outdoor recreation and social distancing:

Earlier this week, officials said at least six streets are expected to be closed to through traffic and opened to the public. The move comes after weeks of transportation advocates asking the city to open up streets to pedestrians, giving them more room to walk, jog and ride bikes so they can safely social distance while outside during the pandemic.

Advocates have long called for streets to be opened to pedestrians during the pandemic. With the lakefront and popular trails like The 606 closed to prevent overcrowding, people have said they need more room to get outside without having to worry about crowds or packed sidewalks.

Other major cities, including New York and Los Angeles, created open streets weeks ago.

One of the streets announced as the first to switch runs right past my block. Unfortunately for my side of the neighborhood, our alderman threw cold water on the city's announcement in an email to constituents he sent last night:

Unfortunately, a web blog errantly [sic] and preemptively posted this information before the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) had finalized their plans.  The portion of Leland in the 46th Ward, from Clark to Sheridan, was never going to be a part of this plan because Leland already has, or will have, significant construction taking place this summer. So, according to CDOT, this portion of Leland is unsafe for promoting a shared streets concept.

For reference, these projects include: MCI utility installation, resurfacing of the 1200 block of Leland and the 4700 block of Malden, water main installation on Racine that will cross Leland, and the ongoing building construction at Sheridan and Leland for the new Sarah's Circle facility. It is because of all of these conflicts that CDOT is not supporting Leland as a shared street at this time.

Safe open space is critically important for everybody's mental and physical health during these Stay at Home orders, and that is why we continue to advocate for the Lakefront trails to reopen. This is a plea my office hears daily from residents, and I agree that the trails should open in a phased and planned way to provide safe, and equitable social distancing for recreation and transportation throughout the city.

In other words, yes, Leland will become a shared street—right up to the border of my ward and not actually in my ward. Nice to hear he's lobbying the mayor to reopen the lakefront, though Monty and Rose might want to keep it closed.

Also yesterday, the mayor announced that the city will close a few streets to traffic to encourage restaurants to expand outdoor dining. The Tribune said, however, "it was unclear when the program would start."

Another time people ignored dire warnings

On 18 May 1980, forty years ago today, the Washington-state volcano Mt St Helens exploded, killing dozens of people who had been warned to evacuate days earlier:

I was 150 miles away on May 18, 1980, when Mount St. Helens blew, but my bed shook and the windows on my Oregon A-frame rattled.

I rushed to my radio station and its clacking Associated Press wire machine, and pulled up a pile of wire copy from the floor. The reports coming in from southwest Washington state were hard to believe....

Despite two months of earthquakes, ashfall, and a growing bulge on the north side of the mountain, the night before was quiet. That morning was tranquil. The cone-shaped mountain had a white mantle of snow.

U.S. Geological Survey geologist David Johnston was [10 km from the mountain]. He had a car and camper and was calling in reports to the USGS command post in Vancouver, Wash. The day before, he convinced visitors from the University of Washington to leave. They wanted to camp with him overnight. "It's too dangerous," he told them.

The death toll reached 57 and included ham radio operator Gerry Martin and USGS geologist David Johnston. All but three of those killed were outside the "red zone" established by Washington Gov. Dixy Lee Ray. Geologists had pushed for a larger area with mandatory evacuations. But pressure to shrink the danger zone was intense from cabin owners, campers and hikers, and logging companies, including Weyerhaeuser, the timber giant that owned private forests in the area.

National Geographic explains what we've learned since then:

The volcano’s defiant position out of line perches it atop a zone of rock too cold to produce the magma necessary to feed its furious blasts.

“There shouldn’t be a volcano where Mount St. Helens is,” says Seth Moran, scientist-in-charge at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Washington.

Four decades after Mount St. Helens’ eruption, scientists finally are unearthing some clues to its curious position. In one of the most comprehensive efforts to trace a volcano’s roots, the Imaging Magma Under St. Helens project, or iMUSH for short, used a slew of analyses to bring these subterranean secrets to light. Overall, the volcano doesn’t follow the textbook picture of a peak sitting above a chamber of molten rock. Instead, it seems, a diffuse cloud of partially molten blobs lingers deep below the surface, offset to the east of the edifice, toward the neighboring Mount Adams.

Most of the Cascade volcanoes—and others around the world—take shape above the spots where the plunging slab descends to roughly 62 miles deep, where temperatures get high enough for magma to form. But the situation is different at Mount St. Helens. Standing tens of miles to the west of other volcanoes, the infamous peak perches a mere 42 miles above the subducting plate.

Mt St Helens remains active, having erupted most recently in 2008.

Mostly tangential news

Today I'll try to avoid the most depressing stories:

  • The North Shore Channel Trail bridge just north of Lincoln Avenue opened this week, completing an 11 km continuous path from Lincoln Square to Evanston.
  • Experts warn that herd immunity (a) is an economic concept, not a health concept and (b) shouldn't apply to humans because we're not herd animals.
  • Wisconsin remains in total chaos today after the state supreme court terminated Governor Tony Evans' stay-at-home order, approximately two weeks before a predictable, massive uptick in Covid-19 cases.
  • Delta Airlines has decided to retire its fleet of 18 B777 airplanes years ahead of schedule due to an unexpected drop in demand for air travel.
  • The pro-contagion, rabid right-wingers flashing placards saying "Be Like Sweden" clearly have no comprehension of Sweden's efforts to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
  • US retail sales declined 16.4% in April, pushing the total decline since February to nearly 25%, the worst decline in history.
  • Wired has a portrait of Marcus Hutchins, the hacker who stopped the WannaCry virus from killing us all and then went to jail for his previous activities designing and spreading malware.
  • Andrew Sullivan tells the story of Samuel Pepys, "the very first pandemic blogger."

Finally, Vanity Fair has reprinted its 1931 cover article on Al Capone, which seems somehow timely.