Where Ever You Go, There You Are

Common grass in my yard. Multiply this by the thousands of acres grown for seed.
Ambrosia Artemisiifolia Ragweed
Ambrosia Artemisiifolia

In previous columns I have mentioned  some of the places where I have lived and I find it interesting that there is a common thread connecting the various locations. That thread is not the obvious one of moving from place to place because of changing jobs in broadcasting to get better jobs. No, the thread is my problem with allergies.

I grew up in Rochester, NY and after many years of sniffling and sneezing I was diagnosed with “hay fever” when I was a freshman in college. My doctor tested me for what he thought might be my main sensitivities. He did scratch tests for ragweed, grass, and trees. The tiny scratches swelled up to the size of silver dollars. That meant I had a strong allergy for all three. I have been taking allergy medications ever since.

My first moves were to other cities in New York State where all three allergens are present: Geneva, NY, Binghamton, NY, and Elmira, NY. We moved to Eau Claire, WI in 1973 where I didn’t have to worry about the ragweed since I didn’t find it there. I still had to deal with the tree and grass pollen so the runny nose and itchy eyes still made it difficult not to gross people out while doing the weather on television. Austin, TX was the next stop and the tree and grass allergies continued, but added in was “Cedar Fever.” What’s that you might ask? It’s not really a fever, but an allergic response to pollen from the mountain Cedar tree. The pollen is spread by frontal systems that sweep down from the northwest in early Autumn. The pollen can be seen as a thick layer of “dust” on cars and anything outside. I lived there for only one season, but that is more than enough.

Cedrus deodara Deodar Cedar
Cedrus deodara
Deodar Cedar

The next stop for the “Chuey traveling circus” was Spokane, WA where everything but the ragweed kept the sneeze machine running. Pun intended. The pollen from the “Jack Pine”, fir, and spruce trees was enough to keep me sneezing for the entire season. There was such a heavy accumulation of the pollen that we had to sweep it off the porch and brush it off the car like a dusting of snow in Winter. Then add in the ash-fall from Mt. St. Helens first eruption. We wore masks for a month after the ash started fluttering to the ground, in our eyes and nose and into our lungs. The next two locations were Evansville, IN and Spartanburg, SC where pollen was produced and the winds brought more of it from all four of the main points on a compass.

Memphis, TN was a place that I expected to be free of some of my problems, but no that was not the case. I was told when I moved there that pollen would be blown in from the south as warm fronts moved in and from the north on the back side of cold fronts after they moved through.

Pinus banksiana Jack Pine
Pinus banksiana
Jack Pine

Moving to Eugene was the relief I was looking for. There is no ragweed and the frequent rain should have the effect of cleaning the air of what pollen floating around. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My greatest sensitivity is to grass and where did I move? I had to move to the “Grass Seed Capitol of the World.” Not just Oregon or the US, I had to move to the “Grass Seed Capitol of the World!”

I nearly panicked when I first saw the proliferation “Scotch Broom” all over the hills. It looked like it could be related to my other nemesis “Rag Weed” but to my relief it wasn’t and I’m not allergic to it. Thank heaven for that favor. It has taken many doctor’s appointments with very good doctors and many tests to get a handle on what can be done to help ease my symptoms. I’ve even gone through two sinus surgeries which resulted in my being able to breathe better than I have in my entire life.

If there is a “moral” to all of this it is that you can run, but you can’t hide from your allergies, or any problems life hands you for that matter. “Where ever you go, there you are” has more meaning for me now.

On a related subject, since you’ve seen all of the places where I have lived I can tell you that everyone complains about some aspect of the weather where they live. Many people in New York  State always complain about the weather as it is now and what is in the forecast. Some people in Wisconsin complain about the snow and cold weather in the winter and the severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in the warmer months all of which are common to that region. The native Texans didn’t seem to complain much. It was those of us who moved there who did most of the complaining about the very hot summers and very dark winters.

Common grass in my yard. Multiply this by the thousands of acres grown for seed.
Common grass in my yard. Multiply this by the thousands of acres grown for seed.

In Washington people seemed to complain more about how the state’s college football teams were playing. Indiana has the four distinct seasons and I found people there who didn’t like any of them. South Carolinians seemed resigned to the weather no matter what kind. Memphis was made up of a conglomeration of people who were natives and people who were from just about anywhere else. Complaints about the hot summers and tornadoes led their list. Upon arriving in Eugene I found out that most people seemed to go along with whatever happened and wouldn’t let the weather interfere with their morning jog, attending the big track meet, or even attending a Duck game at Autzen Stadium (and we all know “It never rains in Autzen Stadium.”)

Palm Trees bend to accommodate the strong winds even from hurricanes.
Palm Trees bend to accommodate the strong winds even from hurricanes.

After all of my years (37) as a TV Meteorologist I learned that arguing with someone (a viewer) about whether they should like the current weather pattern is a waste of time. I would, and still do, listen intently to what people say and just answer any questions the might have. The only comment that I use when someone is very upset at the current weather is to say:” If you don’t like the weather move, but you’ll never be able to move away from the weather.” That sounds so familiar to me. Didn’t I recently say “Where ever you go, there you are?” Mark Twain said it best “ Everyone talks about the weather, but no one ever does anything about it.” All of my travels have taught me to be like a palm tree. Even strong hurricane winds don’t break them because they bend. It is better to bend with the weather than to break under its weight.

Suggestions for future column topics are welcome. Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can email me at:  [email protected].

Tim Chuey is a Member of the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association and has been Awarded Seals of Approval for television weathercasting from both organizations.

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