I’ve had two relatively close encounters with Three Mile Island. Both were unexpected.
While on vacation in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country in the early 1980s, my sister and I sought out a unique restaurant, Alfred’s Victorian Restaurant, for dinner one night in Middletown. It was only upon arriving that we realized that Middletown was actually the location of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant. We joked about glowing in the dark later that evening, but I know it’s really not a laughing matter.
On a later trip to work on our family’s genealogy, my sister and I flew into the airport in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. On our approach, the plane banked so close to the cooling towers of the power plant, I swear I could have reached out and touched them if the windows had been open!
In retrospect, it’s astounding that a commercial jet was allowed to fly so close to a nuclear power plant, but that was well before 9/11. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to do that.
What happened at Three Mile Island?
Can it be 43 years since this happened? I’m feeling older by the day!
A pressure valve in the Unit-2 nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island near Middletown, Pennsylvania failed to close at 4:00 a.m., March 28, 1979. The result was the worst nuclear power generating facility disaster up until that time.
This cooling malfunction caused part of the core of Unit-2 to melt. The reactor was destroyed, but there were no injuries. A small amount of radioactive gas was released two days after the accident, but it wasn’t enough to cause any adverse health problems.
Personnel operating the facility were unable to tell where the malfunction was in the beginning, which contributed to the emergency. As a result of what happened at Three Mile Island, a raft of changes were made in operating procedures, training, emergency response planning, and other aspects of nuclear power production required by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
According to the NRC, “A combination of equipment malfunctions, design-related problems and worker errors led to the TMI-2’s partial meltdown and very small off-site releases of radioactivity.”
The other nuclear reactor, Unit 1, was shut down on September 20, 2019. The dismantling of the facility and clean-up is estimated to take 60 years and cost more than $1 billion.
The good news?
Many problems were identified due to the accident at Three Mile Island. The resulting regulatory changes have made nuclear power production in the United States and other countries much safer.
Since my last blog post
I continued to work on that old cemetery project I’ve mentioned in a couple of recent blog posts. It’s troubling how much damage the elements have done to some of the grave stones since I took photographs of them in 2006. I continue to try to decipher some of the inscriptions.
I’ve started working my way through Blueprint for a Book: Build Your Novel from the Inside Out, by Jennie Nash as I continue to work out the plot for The Heirloom.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading parts of several.
Watch and listen to the news and read news articles from reputable sources. Stay informed about current events.
Several weeks ago I took a vacation from blogging, writing, and all social media. It was wonderful! I hope you can try it sometime.
My sister and I spent a week in and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina.
For seven days, I didn’t check my blog for comments. I didn’t text. I didn’t call anyone. I didn’t Tweet. It was fabulous!
“The Great Smoky Mountains lay in the middle of the Cherokee Indians’ territory in the mid-1600s when Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto arrived.”
page 69, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, by Janet Morrison.
Since the park was included in my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, I enjoy visiting the park to see what has changed and what has remained the same since my childhood and since my book’s publication in 2014.
Today and next Monday, I’ll share some highlights from my trip, including a few of the pictures I took. I’ll also include photographs of some of the vintage postcards from my book, which is pictured to the right.
Elk were reintroduced into the Great Smoky Mountains in 2001
and 2002. I’d never seen an elk until this recent trip! What a thrill it was to
see a herd of elk, including this buck, in the river that runs behind the
Oconoluftee Visitor Center near the main North Carolina entrance to Great Smoky
Mountains National Park just north of Cherokee, NC! This bull was a
jaw-dropping sight as he surveyed his herd of female elk (cows) cooling off in
this cool mountains stream. (It was late afternoon and in the mid-90s F.)
It is illegal to willingly get within 150 feet of an elk or
black bear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Don’t worry, I was behind a
fence that was guarded by a park ranger, and I used the zoom feature on my cell
One of the most famous construction features on
US-441/Newfound Gap Road, which traverses Great Smoky Mountains National Park
from one side to the other is “The Loop.” The highway tunnels under itself to
form a helix.
Here are pictures of two of the three postcards of “The
Loop” in my vintage postcard book.
The next two paragraphs are quotes from the captions I wrote for the three postcards on pages 80-81 of my book:
“Newfound Gap Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
tunnels under itself, forming a helix. The design replaced two dangerous
switchbacks on the old Tennessee Highway 71, which was built in the 1920.”
“These black-and-white glossy real-photo postcards were made
in 1936. The Great Smoky National Park Roads & Bridges portion of the
Historic American Engineering Record of the National Park Service gives many
details about the Loop. Probably designed by Charles Peterson, the Loop was
constructed in 1935 by C.Y. Thomason Company of Greenwood, South Carolina, at a
cost of $77,644. Stone quarried nearby and reinforced concrete were used in the
construction of the bridge portion, which is 95 feet long, 42 feet wide, and 21
feet high in the center of the arch.”
Since its construction in 1935, trees and other natural vegetation has been allowed to grow and flourish. I appreciate that; however, it makes it almost impossible now to fully see and admire this engineering feat. It might still be possible to see the entire Loop from Chimney Tops Mountain nearby, but it’s impossible to get a satisfactory photograph of it from ground level due to the trees. Therefore, I had to settle for the above picture of The Loop signage.
The first time I rode through The Loop was at the age of nine. It’s still a thrill, 57 years later!
One of my favorite features in Great Smoky Mountains
National Park is all the babbling brooks. Little River Road runs parallel to
the Little River for many miles in the park between Sugarlands Visitor Center
and Cades Cove. Little River and the other streams in the park are full of
bounders and rocks of all sizes, indicating the history of these mountains from
the Ice Age.
Since my last blog post
It took much patience and persistence (and some grinding of my teeth), but I eventually worked out a new way of inserting photographs in my blog posts last Tuesday. What a relief, to be able to present today’s post and next Monday’s the way I had envisioned! I hope you enjoy the photographs today.
I had the opportunity to watch and listen to another free webinar about the craft of writing on Monday. It was about Author Accelerator’s “Inside Outline” tool. It piqued my interest. Of course, to use the tool I’d have to pay a fee, so I haven’t made that commitment. If you, like I, are learning to write a book, you might want to look into this tool at https://www.authoraccelerator.com/. The tool was developed by Jennie Nash.
Until my next blog
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Ragged Edge of Night, by Olivia Hawker.
If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.
Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes
doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.
Watch for my blog post next Monday. It is a continuation of today’s post and will feature black bears, the double-peaked mountain called Chimney Tops, damage from the late November 2016 wildfires, babbling brooks, white clouds down in a valley one morning, and why the Great Smoky Mountains have that moniker.
A few words about my book
I hate to “blow my own horn.” I’d be remiss, though, if I didn’t take this opportunity to tell you how you can have your own copy of my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, published by Arcadia Publishing in 2014.
Don’t let the name of the book fool you, it covers all the mountainous counties in western North Carolina and the three counties in eastern Tennessee that are partially in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Electronic and paperback copies are available from Amazon.com at https://www.amazon.com. Paperback copies are available from the publisher at https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/, at quality bookstores, or from me personally.
Let’s continue the
Have you visited the Great Smoky Mountains? If so, what were your impressions of it? What was the highlight of your trip? Did you see any black bears? Did you see elk? Did you hike? Did you go camping? The recreational opportunities in the Great Smoky Mountains are unlimited! I’d love to hear about your experiences there.
Also, please let me know how you usually view my blog. Do you look at it on your desktop computer, on a tablet, or on your phone?
I’m trying to be more cognizant of the fact that a growing number of people are reading blogs on their phones. The layout of the blog translates differently on the various formats.
For instance, what looks good on a cell phone, doesn’t look quite as good on a desktop computer. Today’s blog post falls into that category. I’ve spent a lot of time on it, trying out “spacers” and “separators.” I’ve never used those tools before. Your patience is appreciated as I learn and experiment with some new blogging techniques.
Remember, I’m a writer — not a computer whiz. This is all part of my journey as a writer, which is what my blog is about.
Thank you for sharing my blog with your friends — in person and on social media!