Thursday, June 03, 2004

And in other news, today The Levee Broke.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: AP - U.S.: Levee breaks in California, floods fields

I guess I have no place to stay. Or something.

Also of interest (but probably only to Angelinos -- aww, who am I kidding, non-Angelinos probably don't care about our water supply too terribly much either*), the origin of "Sig-Alerts."

From the California State Homepage:

"Sig-Alerts" are unique to Southern California. They came about in the 1940s when the L.A.P.D. got in the habit of alerting a local radio reporter, Loyd Sigmun, of bad car wrecks on city streets. These notifications became known as "Sig-Alerts." Later Mr. Sigmon developed an electronic device that authorities could use to alert the media of disasters. Caltrans latched on to the term "Sig-Alert" and it has come to be known as any traffic incident that will tie up two or more lanes of a freeway for two or more hours. And, yes, Mr. Sigmon is still around and very proud of his namesake.
Sadly, the last sentence is no longer true. Mr. Sigmon died today at age 95. Also sad is the State of California's inability to fact-check or be consistent in their spelling.

The Los Angeles Times** gives a more detailed history of the Sig-Alert's early incarnation, matching the brief explanation I heard on NPR:
A SigAlert, issued when one or more lanes will be blocked for at least half an hour, originally warned of other dangers. On Labor Day 1955, the first SigAlert was broadcast by six radio stations warning of a train wreck near Union Station.

Other early bulletins included five warnings of rabid dogs and a ship collision in Los Angeles Harbor.

One time, a pharmacist who made a potentially fatal error in filling a prescription called police, who issued a SigAlert. The customer heard it in time.
I think that last story is great - it inspired me to look up the news story and write about it.

*That came out wrong. It isn't that I don't think you care, just that it isn't that important even to me. I just took advantage of the opportunity to paraphrase Zeppelin.
**Story is here and requires (free) registration.