Sunday, December 18, 2011

PLANETARY TREMORS: New Madrid Seismic Zone - New Madrid Fault Study to Prepare for Potential Mega-Quake!

With a little luck, the bicentennial of three of the strongest earthquakes in the history of the continental United States will pass quietly this winter. Two hundred years ago, the center of the United States shook violently as the first of three strong earthquakes — estimated to be of magnitude 7 to 8 — rocked parts of a five-state area in the Mississippi River Valley south of St. Louis.

The New Madrid Earthquakes, named for the southeast Missouri town at the epicenter of the last quake, are considered to be three among the top seven ever recorded in the lower 48 states, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Some sources consider them the strongest earthquakes ever to strike the lower 48 states, even though there were no seismic instruments back then. Still, evidence left by the quakes and accounts by those who experienced them give scientists some idea of their strength. “On the 16th of December 1811, about two o’clock a.m., we were visited by a violent shock of an earthquake, accompanied by a very awful noise resembling loud but distant thunder,” wrote eyewitness Eliza Bryan. In Bryan’s letter, he painted a picture of fear and chaos in the shock’s aftermath. “The screams of the affrighted inhabitants running to and fro, not knowing where to go or what to do — the cries of the fowls and beasts of every species — the cracking of trees falling, and the roaring of the Mississippi — the current of which was retrograde for a few minutes, owing as one is supposed, to an interruption in its bed — formed a scene truly horrible.” Dozens of aftershocks followed, including one on Dec. 16 that was nearly as strong as the first quake. The ground rumbled for the next two months, including two additional quakes that struck Jan. 23 and Feb. 7, 1812.

And that might not be the end of the story. Evidence also points to serious earthquakes in 950 and 1400 A.D. Geologists say the New Madrid Seismic Zone, stretching for 150 miles and covering portions of Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and southern Illinois, still has the potential to produce a major earthquake. Not your coastal earthquake. The New Madrid quakes defy the understanding most people have about earthquakes because they occurred far from any evident fault lines or continental plate boundaries. New Madrid, Mo., is about 165 miles south of St. Louis. The New Madrid Seismic Zone is a failed rift, a place where the North American Plate tried to tear itself apart when the continents drifted apart hundreds of millions of years ago. It’s not one fault, but three — corresponding to three earthquakes in 1811-12. The tears in the Earth’s crust are buried deep underground, covered by millions of years of sediments. “In 1811-12, there were three very large main shocks on each one of those faults,” said Robert Bauer, principal engineering geologist with the Illinois State Geological Survey. “And there were thousands of aftershocks. “When seismic activity is monitored,” he said, “it all lines up, giving you three lines that people believe are the faults that produce 100-200 small earthquakes a year — most not felt by people, but (they) can be picked up by seismographs.” Bauer said tectonic plates continue to move, squeezing the New Madrid faults and allowing them to build up enough energy for future earthquakes. “The plates are moving around, dragged by convection cells underneath,” he said. “Through most of the central United States, we are being squeezed in an east-west direction.”

What could happen. Because the potential for earthquakes remains, scientists have developed sophisticated monitoring networks that will get information in the hands of first responders and government officials as quickly as possible in the event of a serious earthquake. “There have been a number of estimates that have been done throughout the years to determine the impact of a sizable New Madrid event,” Bauer said. “Potential casualties, fatalities, estimates of the number of structures damaged in different categories — and many of these have been run through a computer loss estimation program that FEMA has developed,” he said. Most emergency plans are based on higher-magnitude earthquakes. A FEMA report issued in 1990 estimated a 7.6 magnitude quake would cause $2.8 billion in damage, 260 deaths and 1,060 serious injuries in St. Louis — almost a three-hour drive to the north of New Madrid. In lightly populated areas, deaths are expected to be fewer at night due to children being at home and not in schools. A 1985 study called for Poplar Bluff, in the Missouri Bootheel region, to suffer $693 million in damage and one death if the quake occurs at night or 17 if it happens during the day. The 1811-12 quakes destroyed most of the buildings in New Madrid and Little Prairie, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Earthquakes can occur outside the New Madrid Seismic Zone. “We use the New Madrid Seismic Zone as a forum to prepare for earthquakes,” Bauer said. “We have earthquakes throughout the state. A large event or events in the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone or smaller events near your city could do more damage than a large one far away.” Bauer said earthquake scenarios are useful preparation for all kinds of natural disasters. “There are a couple of professors saying the New Madrid Seismic Zone is dead, and that nobody should be preparing for earthquake damage,” he said. “But these preparations could deal with multiple hazards. “There was a great case in Kentucky where their director of emergency management had gone through an exercise where a New Madrid event knocked out communications,” Bauer said. “In January 2009, an ice storm totally knocked out communication for the western part of the state, so he said, ‘Take down the earthquake plan,’ and they used it to help deploy National Guardsmen to re-establish communications. He called it an ‘icequake.’”

Saint Louis University and the University of Memphis form the two main earthquake-monitoring stations. Robert Hermann, professor of geophysics at SLU’s Earthquake Center, said his work there is two-fold. Hermann’s research interest is to work with engineers to develop a better understanding of what happens to a building when shaking occurs. He is interested in the safe design of buildings, those engineered to the proper level of strength, and re-evaluating existing structures and their safety. First responders are concerned with life safety after an earthquake, Hermann said. “But life safety also is in the preservation of property before you have an earthquake,” he said. “We take this all very seriously, as we must.” The second part is maintaining a network of monitoring equipment that will feed information quickly and accurately to earthquake centers, including SLU and Memphis. “What we do is we ensure the instruments work properly and that the data streams are well-defined,” Hermann said. Thirty-five monitoring sites gather information, helping scientists pinpoint the location, depth and size of an earthquake. Hermann said the whole thing exists almost virtually. Modern instruments contain a sensor connected to a computer in the field, which is connected to a satellite or the Internet. Information flows through to Saint Louis University, and then it is forwarded electronically to the University of Memphis and the U.S. Geological Survey Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo. Information then is distributed to the U.S. Departments of Defense, Energy, FEMA, state emergency management agencies and others. “We want to provide information to the responder, letting them know where the earthquake occurred and an initial estimate of what the problems are,” Hermann said. “Within the first hour you don’t know how bad it was, especially if you are not there,” he said. “You have to gear up the response, get the playbook out and get emergency services there to save lives and help injured people.” - SJ-R.

MYSTERY: Symbols of an Alien Sky, Man-Made or Natural Phenomena - The Latest UFO Sightings And Aerial Anomalies Around the World?!

Here are several of the latest unidentified flying objects (UFOs) seen recently across the globe.

This visual presentation of a seemingly steady rotating wheel UFO was filmed over Sao Paolo, Brazil. The date is not known.

WATCH: UFO over Brazil.

These unknown bright objects were recorded flying in the night skies over Warsaw, Poland on Saturday, the 17th of December, 2011.

WATCH: UFOs over Warsaw, Poland.

This strange unidentified flying object was filmed in the skies above Alanya in Turkey on Friday, the 16th of December, 2011.

WATCH: UFO over Turkey.

This object was seen and recorded in the skies over Cooloongup in Western Australia in December 2011.

WATCH: Strange object in Western Australia.

MUFON Case 34047 of a hovering fireball-type UFO in the skies over Elk Grove Village, Illinois, Chicago. The Log Number for the case is US-12162011-0001 and the video was submitted on the 16th of December, 2011.

WATCH: UFO over Illinois.

View additional media of the capture HERE, HERE and HERE.

The location of the following video capture is unknown, but sometime in the month of December a multi-colored light display was seen in the skies, hovering about 500 metres above the ground.

WATCH: Flashing lights UFO.

A cigar-shaped UFO was seen over Bluehill in New York City on the 14th of December, 2011.

UFO over New York.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Mt. Shasta, Lassen Peak Ready to Erupt? Counties' Plans Provide No Specifics on Evacuations!

While a catastrophic eruption of Mt. Shasta or Lassen Peak could destroy huge swaths of the north state, local counties recently have approved vague disaster plans that assume critical details will be worked out on the spot.

Geologists at the U.S. Geological Survey say there's a one in three or one in four chance Mt. Shasta could erupt in north state residents' lifetimes.

While Shasta and Siskiyou counties' "hazard mitigation plans," drafted this fall, discuss the various risks associated with an eruption and identify key facilities at risk, the documents offer no specifics on how the counties would handle the mass evacuations of entire towns. They don't address how they'd cope with choking clouds of toxic gas and ash, highways buried in volcanic debris or lava flows and threats to power transmission lines or other mass infrastructure failures.

Shasta County's plan has been approved by state officials, although it's awaiting clearance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Siskiyou County's plan, which remains open for public comment through the end of the month, is similarly short on specifics.

Instead, the plans primarily rely on the assumption that federal geologists monitoring the volcanoes would give county officials plenty of warning, enough time for them to decide what to do.

But volcanic experts caution that's not always a given.

When Mt. St. Helens first erupted in 1980, geologists had about a week's notice, said Carolyn Driedger, a hydrologist and outreach director for the U.S. Geological Survey's Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Wash.

"Yes, they do give warning, but it's highly variable how much warning," she said.

She said geologists in Oregon and Washington have met with local governments to develop "coordination plans that spell out precisely what to do if we have volcanic unrest," so "it's not unusual for you to question" why north state disaster planners haven't done the same.

County defends plan

Pat Minturn, Shasta County's public works director, said the county plan intentionally avoids some details. He said recent large-scale urban disasters like the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 proved it's impossible to plan for every scenario.

"It always throws you a left hook out of nowhere," he said.

In interviews, officials say they're primarily counting on systems of interagency aid to bring in help from other counties and state and federal authorities. Once told by geologists an eruption is likely, the groups will sit down and map out an action plan, based on each agency's specialty, officials say.

"I get the sense the trick with a volcano scenario isn't so much the technical disaster response," said Rick Kyle, chief the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's Shasta-Trinity units. "The challenge will be the coordination of players who don't normally play because volcanoes don't happen every day. (The hazard mitigation plans) bring up the awareness of the potential, and they bring up the background, but until you get into a drill and you do tabletop exercises and engage the drill, you're feeling it out as you go along."

Capt. Dave Dean, who heads disaster response for the Shasta County Sheriff's Office, said as far as he knows, no such drills have ever been done, although local counties have performed other types of mock scenarios geared toward disasters they're most likely to encounter like floods and fires.

Meanwhile, the counties' plans primarily call on residents to be ready to flee or hunker down and be self-reliant should an eruption occur, although Kyle acknowledged not every north state resident will be ready.

"Volcanoes are going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event," he said. "Fires are almost annually, and they're still not prepared a lot of the time. I think if you go that model, there are going to be some success cases. There are going to be some cases of failure."

A disaster-prone north state

But local disaster planners say they have something on their side if one of the mountains does erupt: Nearly every year they respond to disasters similar to the effects of a volcanic eruption.

They say almost every summer, forest fires force the evacuations of families, sometimes by the hundreds. Wildfire smoke also chokes valley towns with lung-irritating smoke, not unlike a cloud of volcanic ash.

The disaster planners say snowstorms also are similar to the ways in which an eruption could block roads, stop freeway traffic and shut down power for days in mountain towns.

Floods caused by volcanic mudflows and melting glaciers aren't that different from the floods that sometimes strike the north state, the emergency planners say.

Although volcanic-related floods aren't specifically addressed in Shasta County's hazard plan, officials do discuss at length the scenario of a springtime storm causing Shasta Dam to spill over, something that's never happened in the structure's 66-year history.

While Shasta County's plan doesn't address evacuation routes and centers, officials say they already have such plans in place.

Dean said several years ago the county received a state grant to draft emergency evacuation plans for catastrophic wildfires. He said the plans are as applicable to a volcanic evacuation as they would be for a hazardous materials spill, a flood or a SWAT team standoff with an armed gunman.

"It's all-inclusive, the way we wrote it," he said.

Dean said printed copies of the evacuation plans are in the county's emergency services office and not available online.

Counties' plans call on people to act

A volcanic eruption also provides an advantage over a forest fire, flood or even a snowstorm, county disaster planners say.

Typically, a series of earthquakes and increasing volcanic activity on the mountain would signal a pending eruption, said Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko.

"It could be something that takes place over years before there's anything," Bosenko said. "If there is something developing, you're going to have a lot of lead time before the volcanic activity starts to develop."

Bosenko and others who helped draft Shasta County's emergency plan say after officials receive warnings from geologists about increasing volcanic activity and the likely areas impacted by an eruption, the information would be passed through the media to the public.

Regional emergency telephone notification systems could be activated to notify residents of an evacuation. The region's network of ham radio operators also could be called on to help if more traditional communication systems crash, said Robert Rowley, Siskiyou County's emergency services coordinator.

He said his county also recently received a $250,000 federal grant to install a series of emergency weather radio transmitters in local hospitals, public buildings and evacuation centers to alert those there. Rowley said local residents should consider buying smaller, portable versions of the radios, popular with those living in hurricane country, so they too can hear the alerts.

Shasta's disaster plan urges residents to be ready to act on their own behalf when officials give notice an eruption is imminent.

The plan calls on families to develop an "emergency communication plan," so family members could reunite in case they're separated.

Shasta County's plan says residents need to know community warning systems and emergency plans, and they need to be prepared for mudflows and flash floods, landslides and rockfalls, earthquakes, ashfall and acid rain.

"Residents should make evacuation plans and if living in a known volcanic hazard area, plan a route out and have a backup route in mind," the plan reads.

But the information county residents need to plan such a scenario isn't anywhere to be found on the county's website.

While the Shasta County's website includes the county's "Emergency Operations Plan" that divvies up responsibilities among local governments and provides checklists for the agencies to follow in a disaster, the documents don't include evacuation maps or other information specifically geared toward helping residents. There are no maps of specific volcanic hazard zones.

Siskiyou County's website is similarly lacking volcano-related information.

'Something to think about'

Rowley said local residents are pretty well versed in disaster scenarios, because they're used to being required to evacuate on a moment's notice. They're also used being self-sufficient for long periods of time, he said.

"Pretty much people up here are in tune with their environment," Rowley said.

Mark Ghilarducci, the former chief deputy director of the California Emergency Management Agency and former coordinating officer at FEMA, agreed.

"The more you're faced with those kinds of adverse situations, the better prepared you are to deal with them," said Ghilarducci, who's now employed with a private disaster-planning firm in Folsom.

But many in Mount Shasta haven't given much thought to the fact the scenic peak after which their town's named might soon erupt, said Laura Turner, the owner of Mountain Song, a natural foods store in the town.

She said she's lived for the last 18 years under the mountain's shadow, but never really thought to put a plan in place for when it erupts.

"Most people up here don't think about it as a live volcano," she said. "It's just this big beautiful mountain."

Not everyone in the north state is as unprepared.

Patty Hogan, a 44-year-old Palo Cedro mother of five children, said she and her husband, Eric, have disaster plans, stores of food and emergency kits ready to go. She credits the family's readiness to their Mormon faith, in which church members are encouraged to be self-sufficient should a calamity arise.

She admits, though, most of the planning has revolved around wildfires, not volcanoes.

"I think it's something to think about," she said.

'I hope they can handle it'

In his book "Fire & Ice: The Cascade Volcanoes" and its 2005 revised version "Fire Mountains of the West: The Cascade and Mono Lake Volcanoes," Sacramento State University professor Stephen L. Harris paints a bleak picture of how north state communities would react to a Mt. Shasta eruption.

In a fictional scenario, he describes business leaders fighting evacuation plans because of worries the negative publicity would hurt tourism and the local economy.

Some residents near the mountain have to be forcibly removed from their homes.

When the mountain does erupt in his scenario, it completely obliterates several north state highways including Interstate 5 and Highway 97 and destroys the towns of Weed and Mount Shasta.

Harris' fictional eruption happens in the late summer after most of the snow has already melted off the mountain, yet he says Bureau of Reclamation officials would still be required to open Shasta Dam's flood gates, flooding the Sacramento Valley to prepare for a gush of eruption runoff.

A humanities professor who says he's fascinated by the Cascade geology, Harris based his fictional account on the Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980. He also researched Mt. Lassen's eruptions early last century in which small towns and farmsteads below the mountain were flooded by gushing mudflows.

He said he based the public's response to the pending eruption on the reaction some in Mono County had in the 1980s when geologists began issuing plans on what they'd do if the Long Valley Caldera ever erupted.

"Those in the ski industry were very, very angry with the USGS putting out an evaluation of volcanic hazards in the area," he said. "A friend of mine received a death threat."

He'd hoped his books would "awaken public consciousness."

Harris said that although volcanoes are "wonderful, scenic backdrops," when they do erupt, they could easily destroy the homes and business of people who build near them, particularly down valley.

He said he hopes county officials understand that.

"I hope they're right," Harris said. "I hope they can handle it." - Redding.

EUROZONE CRISIS: Imminent Collapse of the Euro - Rating Agency Fitch Says That a Comprehensive Solution to the Euro Debt Crisis is Technically and Politically 'BEYOND REACH'! UPDATE: British Foreign Office Plans Evacuation of Expatriates in Preparation for a Worst Case Scenario and a Collapse of Banks in the Eurozone!

A leading credit agency says it is considering downgrading the credit worthiness of six countries that use the euro, because a solution to Europe's debt crisis is "beyond reach". Italy and Spain were among the countries identified.

Ratings Agency Fitch has admitted that a solution to the euro debt crisis is “beyond reach.” In a statement the ratings agency said: "Following the EU Summit on 9-10 December, Fitch has concluded that a 'comprehensive solution' to the eurozone crisis is technically and politically beyond reach.” The announcement comes after it confirmed that France will keep its triple-A rating but will have its outlook revised by Fitch to “negative” from “stable”. A negative rating means that a downgrade is possible within the next 12 months. Fitch said that the change in outlook was as a result of the increased risk of government liabilities emerging from the euro debt crisis. Fitch also said it was considering downgrading the credit ratings of six other heavily indebted eurozone countries that have already been given a negative outlook; Spain, Italy, Ireland, Cyprus, Belgium and Slovenia. The six countries credit ratings have now been placed on “credit watch negative”, meaning that a downgrade is possible within three months.

Over the past week, since the end of the European summit in Brussels in which David Cameron used the UK’s veto, there has been a diplomatic row brewing between France and the UK over the relative merits of each economy and which country should be seen as at most risk of losing its triple-A rating. Nick Clegg has attempted to diffuse the row and claimed that comments from senior French politicians were “simply unacceptable.” The head of the French Central Bank, Christian Noyer said that the UK should have its credit rating cut before France. However, it appears that Fitch themselves disagree. Fitch says that out of all the eurozone countries with a triple-A rating, France is most exposed should there be an intensification of the crisis. A statement from Fitch said:"Relative to non-euro area 'AAA' peers, notably the US and the UK, the risk from contingent liabilities from an intensification of the eurozone crisis is greater in light of its commitments to the European Financial Stability Facility and the European Stability Mechanism, as well as indirectly from French banks that are less strong than previously assessed as reflected in recent negative rating actions by Fitch." - My Finances.
WATCH: Eurozone solution is "beyond reach", says credit agency Fitch.

UPDATE: British Foreign Office Plans Evacuation of Expatriates in Preparation for a Worst Case Scenario and a Collapse of Banks in the Eurozone!

The Foreign Office is preparing for the worst case scenario and a collapse of banks in the Eurozone.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Treasury is putting measures in place to help evacuate thousands of expatriates living in Spain and Portugal in case they are stranded no access to their savings. The two countries, which both have sizeable British populations, were among those made vulnerable by the "sustained deterioration" in funding. Spain was warned by credit rating agency Fitch that it was facing a debt downgrade along with Italy, while Ireland, Belgium, Slovenia and Cyprus were also given the warning. Meanwhile, around one million Britons live in Spain with around 50,000 in Portugal. The Foreign Office said it was concerned they could be cut off from their accounts if the countries' banks called in loans.

A source told the Sunday Times (£) the Government was considering chartering planes, ships and coaches to bring expats back to the UK. “The nuclear scenario would be having thousands of Brits stranded at the airports in Spain and Portugal with no way to get money from the cash dispenser and no way to get home. Who would be blamed for this? The Foreign Office," an official said. “We are looking at how we can help evacuate them if the banks in Spain and Portugal collapse, getting people cash, things like that, sending planes. We did similar things in Lebanon in 2006. We are coordinating with the Treasury.” Financial aid could also be sent to expats, many of whom are retired and living on small incomes. A Treasury spokesman said: "Of course we plan for a range of contingencies. We are not going into the specifics of what we are planning for." Last month, it was reported that the Foreign Office had asked embassies and consulates for contingency plans for rioting and social unrest in countries most affected by the eurozone crisis. Diplomats were told to prepare for an evacuation of tens for/of thousands of British citizens as a banking collapse could mean they would be unable to withdraw cash. An FCO spokesperson said: "Officials continue to contingency plan for a range of possible scenarios" - The Telegraph.

WORLD WAR III: Countdown to Armageddon - Syria Deploys Russian Anti-Sea Missiles on Coast, Scuds on Turkish Border; Israel Announces New 'Long Range' Military Command; America Forms Closer Ties With Turkey; and Russia Stands Firm Against America as Iran 'Blinded' a CIA Spy Satellite!

Here are several new developments in the march towards a Middle East conflict and a third World War.

Russian military and diplomatic support for the Assad regime was underscored by the deployment Friday, Dec. 16, of advanced Moscow-supplied Yakhont (SSN-26) shore-to-sea missiles along Syria's Mediterranean shore to fend off a potential Western-Turkish invasion by sea. Last week, Russia airlifted to Syria 3 million face masks against chemical and biological weapons and the Admiral Kutznetsov carrier and strike group was sent on its way to Syria's Mediterranean port of Tartus. Russian naval sources in Moscow stressed that the flotilla is armed with the most advanced weapons against submarines and aerial attack. Upon arrival, the Russian craft will launch a major marine-air maneuver in which Syrian units will take part. Syria has received from Russia 72 Yakhont missiles able to hit marine targets up to a distance of 300 kilometers - i.e., over the horizon, our military sources report. The missile's radar remains inert, making it hard to detect, until it is close to target. It is then switched on to guide its aim. Its high speed – 2,000 kmh – enables the Yakhont to strike before its target has time to activate self-defense systems. Thursday night, in response to the deployment of 21 Syrian Scuds on the Turkish border, including five with chemical warheads, Ankara convened its top military council and declared its armed forces ready for war. Syria also rushed armored reinforcements to the Jordanian border. Debkafile's military and intelligence sources report that the rush of Syrian war moves backed by Russia indicates that both believe a Western-Arab force is on the point of invading Syria. They are keeping an eye especially on Turkey which is suspected of having obtained a NATO marine and air umbrella, including the US Sixth Fleet, for military preparations aimed at ousting Bashar Assad, so repeating the operation against Libya's Muammar Qaddafi. The diplomatic flurry around Syria was accentuated by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's arrival in Ankara Friday morning to find Turkish armed forces on war preparedness, and Syrian Vice President Farouk A-Shara's landing in Moscow for a crisis conference with Russian leaders.

Thursday night, Dec. 15, debkafile reported: War tensions around Syria rose alarmingly Thursday night, Dec. 15, when Turkey's top military council convened "to review the armed forces' preparedness for war" in response to the deployment of Syrian missiles, some tipped with chemical warheads, on their common border. debkafile's military sources report the meeting was led by Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. The Assad government also rushed armored units in two directions - to the Turkish frontier and also to the Jordanian border opposite the US special operations units from Iraq newly deployed to defend Jordan against a Syrian attack, as debkafile reported on Dec. 13. Our sources report that 21 Syrian missile launchers, five of them Scud D with chemical warheads, are deployed in northern Syria opposite the Turkish Hatai (Alexandretta) district. They were moved up in broad daylight to make sure Western spy satellites and Turkish intelligence surveillance saw them. More are on the way. In Israel, the IDF announced it was reconstituting the special command for operations behind enemy lines under the command of Brig. Gen. Shay Avital. Before the military council convened in Ankara, Turkey placed its border contingents, air force and navy on war preparedness. The official statement said the high military council had "assessed Turkish army needs and necessary steps to address these requirements…" The Turkish press repeated a statement by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in an interview two weeks ago that Turkey does not want to consider a military option for intervention in neighboring Syria as Damascus cracks down on popular protest, but it is ready for any scenario. The Turkish army has prepared operational plans for seizing parts of northern Syria if the situation there continues to deteriorate. Those plans would essentially carve Syria into two entities, with the Turkish army holding the north and protecting opposition and civilian populations, while the Syrian army and Assad loyalists would remain in control of the central and southern regions. - Debka.
In staunch opposition to the Assad regime, the Obama administration has moved to cement ties with Turkey in a strategic move against Syria, Iran and Russia in direct target.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta arrived here today to reinforce the United States’ strong relationship with a critical security partner within the region and NATO. Panetta traveled here after ceremonies in Iraq marking the end of the U.S. Forces Iraq mission, with stops also in Afghanistan and Djibouti. In Ankara, the secretary will meet with President Abdullah Gul and Turkish defense leaders to thank them for their country’s leadership during a period of transition and change within the region. “Turkey represents a key ally in the Middle East,” Panetta told reporters traveling with him. In addition to being a strong NATO ally, Turkey is “extremely important to the ability to try to keep what is happening in the Middle East headed in the right direction,” he said. “They can have an influence on what happens in Egypt, what happens in Iraq, what happens in Iran, what happens in Syria,” the secretary said. Panetta noted that Turkey has taken a strong position in condemning Syria’s violent crackdown on protestors and calling for President Bashar Assad to step down. “Turkey is coming on very strong in recent weeks in full alignment with our efforts and those of our key Arab and European partners,” a senior defense official traveling with Panetta told reporters. The secretary also said he will commend Turkey’s decision to host the forward-based radar for the NATO missile defense system. Panetta also is expected to thank the Turks for their contributions to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Also during the visit, the secretary is expected to express the United States’ solidarity in its fight against the PKK terrorists and ways to continue that support as U.S. forces complete their drawdown in Iraq, the official said. Echoing a theme he raised earlier this month, the secretary is likely to encourage Turkey to strengthen and, where necessary, build relations with key neighbors, including Israel, Armenia and Cyprus, the official said. - U.S. Department of Defense.
In another psychological attempt, to embarrass the west, Ynet News is reporting that Iran has 'blinded' a CIA spy satellite.
Is Iran in possession of satellite jamming technology? A European intelligence source claimed Iran stunned Western intelligence agencies when it managed to "blind a CIA spy satellite by aiming a laser burst quite accurately," in a never before reported incident. According to an article in The Christian Science Monitor, this unreported incident might suggest that the Iranians have successively gained access to jamming technology, allowing them to track unmanned aerial vehicle navigation capabilities. Former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told Fox News on Sunday that such an option is possible. "Some reports have said Russia sold (Iran) a very sophisticated jamming system a short time ago. Now, our military says that is not true, it came down because of a malfunction. I certainly hope that's right because if the Russians have provided Iran with sophisticated jamming equipment it means a lot else is at risk too," said Bolton. He added that Congress should be quite concerned if Iran is in possession of jamming technology that can bring down missiles, planes and communications and guidance systems "for a whole range of our weapon systems." - Ynet News.
For its part, Israel, recently announced new 'depth' command for long-range military operations.
The Israel Defense Forces is forming a command to supervise "depth" operations, actions undertaken by the military far from Israel's borders, the army announced on Thursday. The new authority will be commanded by a military officer at the rank of Major General, and will be headed by the former chief of the elite Sayeret Matkal special forces unit Shai Avital, who will return to military serivce to fill the position. Onoing concerns with Iran's contentious nuclear program serve as the backdrop for the IDF's annoucement, with both U.S. and Israeli officials noting that, while diplomatic efforts were the preferred tool with attempting to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions, no options were "off the table." On Wednesday, diplomatic sources said that Iran could soon launch sensitive atomic activities in an underground facility deep inside a mountain, a development likely to add to tension between Tehran and the West. Iranian experts have carried out the necessary preparations at Fordow near the holy city of Qom, paving the way for the Islamic state to begin higher-grade uranium enrichment at the site on a former military base. The machines, equipment and nuclear material needed have been transferred and installed at Fordow, the sources added, suggesting the work itself - until now conducted above ground at another location - could start when Iran takes the decision. - Haaretz.
Meanwhile, the Russian President made a very serious declaration towards the United States, promising that "if they [U.S.] continue to push us around, we'll push back"
President Dmitry Medvedev has spoken out after a telephone conversation with his US counterpart, saying Obama’s comments on Russia’s recent parliamentary elections were “unacceptable”. Speaking to a number of United Russia MPs, Dmitry Medvedev stated that, correctly delivered, thoughts and comments on a country’s electoral process are acceptable – and welcome. But when they are reminiscent of Cold War-era statements, it is outrageous. “That is not a reset [in relations], and I’ve had to remind my colleague of that”, said the president. Domestic criticism is of course welcome and constitutionally-justified, Medvedev told MPs. “The streets are not the US State Department. The streets reflect the mood of our people.” The Russian leader was referring to a recent comment made by the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who called these past elections “neither free nor fair.” Medvedev summed up his statement by saying that he will not stand for intimidation. Russia will continue to pursue its interest within the international arena. “If they want to push us around, we’ll push back. But if they hear our concerns, then we can work together.” - RT.
WATCH: Medvedev goes ballistic on America, three weeks ago.

THE GREAT DELUGE: Over 650 People Have Been Killed, and Over 800 Others Are Missing After Typhoon Washi Devastates Southern Philippines - Washi Dumped More Than a Month of Average Rain on Mindanao!

The Philippine Red Cross says the death toll from a storm that ravaged a wide swath of the south has risen to 652 with 808 others still missing in the Philippines.

Red Cross Secretary-General Gwendolyn Pang said Sunday that flash floods set off by Tropical Storm Washi killed 346 people in Cagayan de Oro city and 206 in nearby Iligan city. Deaths were also reported in five other southern and central provinces. Pang said more people have reported missing relatives, including 447 in Iligan and 347 in Cagayan de Oro.  As a storm that killed more than 530 in the southern Philippines raged outside the store where she works, Amor Limbago worriedly called home to check on her parents, but their cellphones just kept ringing and later went dead. Limbago, 21, rushed home as soon as the flash floods receded and confirmed her worst fear: Her parents and seven other relatives were gone, swept away from their hut by the river. They had eagerly planned a small Christmas dinner in that hut just days earlier. "I returned and saw that our house was completely gone," a weeping Limbago told The Associated Press from Cagayan de Oro city. "There was nothing but mud all over and knee-deep floodwaters." Tropical Storm Washi blew away Sunday after devastating a wide swath of the mountainous region on Mindanao island, which is unaccustomed to major storms. Most of the victims were asleep Friday night when flash floods cascaded down mountain slopes with logs and uprooted trees, swelling rivers and killing at least 532 people. The late-season tropical storm turned the worst-hit coastal cities of Cagayan de Oro and nearby Iligan into muddy wastelands filled with overturned cars and broken trees.

Most of the dead were children and women, Philippine Red Cross Secretary General Gwendolyn Pang said. With 458 others reported missing, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and top military officials flew to Cagayan de Oro to help oversee search-and-rescue efforts and deal with thousands of displaced villagers. Among the items urgently needed are coffins and body bags, said Benito Ramos, who heads the government's disaster-response agency. "It's overwhelming. We didn't expect these many dead," Ramos said. Although the disaster-prone Philippines is lashed by about 20 typhoons and storms annually, the devastation shocked many, coming close to Christmas — the predominantly Roman Catholic nation's most-awaited time for family reunions. Army officials in the south said they canceled Christmas parties and would donate the food to homeless survivors. Limbago said she and her mother, Jean, 50, and father Amancio, 63, planned to have a simple Christmas dinner of spaghetti. Those plans had evaporated Sunday as she and surviving relatives checked crowded morgues, hospitals and evacuation centers for any sign of her missing parents. Others lost homes and belongings but were happy to have survived. Edmund Rubio, a 44-year-old engineer, said he, his wife and two children scrambled to the second floor of their house in Iligan city as floodwaters engulfed the first floor, destroying his TV set and other appliances and washing away his car and motorcycle. Amid the panic, he heard a loud pounding on his door as neighbors living in nearby one-story houses pleaded with him to allow them up in his second floor. He said he brought 30 neighbors into the safety of the second floor of his house, which later shook when a huge floating log slammed into it.

"It's the most important thing, that all of us will still be together this Christmas," Rubio told the AP. "There was a nearby shantytown that was smashed by water. I'm afraid many people there may not have been as lucky as us." Army officers reported unidentified bodies piled up in morgues in Cagayan de Oro, where electricity was restored in some areas, although the city of more than 500,000 people remained without tap water. At least 239 died in Cagayan de Oro and 206 in nearby Iligan, the Red Cross said. The death toll was expected to rise because many isolated villages still had not been reached by overwhelmed disaster-response personnel. "Our fear is there may have been whole families that perished so there's nobody to report what happened," Red Cross chief Pang said. Both Iligan, a bustling industrial center about 485 miles (780 kilometers) southeast of Manila, and Cagayan de Oro were filled with scenes of destruction and desperation. A lone worker gingerly embalmed scores of bodies laid side by side in an Iligan city funeral parlor. Outside the embalming room, seven white coffins were placed in a corridor, surrounded by weeping relatives. "Many mothers, fathers were walking from one funeral parlor to another, looking for their children," said army Maj. Eugenio Osias, who led a rescue effort in Cagayan de Oro. Ramos attributed the high casualties "partly to the complacency of people because they are not in the usual path of storms" despite four days of warnings by officials that one was approaching. In just 12 hours, Washi dumped more than a month of average rain on Mindanao. Thousands of soldiers and hundreds of local police, reservists, coast guard officers and civilian volunteers were mobilized for rescue efforts, but were hampered by flooded-out roads and lack of electricity. Rescuers in boats rushed offshore to save people swept out to sea. - AP.
WATCH: Philippines storm triggers deadly floods.

WATCH: Philippines Tropical Storm Washi Kills 652.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: NOAA - 2011 Sets Record for Billion Dollar Weather Disasters in the United States!

2011 has established a new benchmark for extreme weather in the U.S. NOAA reports that the U.S. has experienced the most billion dollar weather disasters on record this year. A dozen such events, including a blizzard, deadly tornado outbreaks, historic heat wave and drought, wildfire, and floods, have occurred, resulting in approximately $52 billion in aggregated damages. 2011 blows by 2008, the previous record owner with 9 billion dollar weather disasters.

The Associated Press' Seth Borenstein notes 2011 has witnessed as many billion dollar disasters as the entire decade of the 1980s. And NOAA's analysis adjusts for inflation. NOAA's billion dollar weather disaster tally may be conservative. Early in November, meteorologist Jeff Masters' had estimated there had been 14 such events. In addition to those disasters documented by NOAA, his list included the Northeast snowstorm of October 29 and three others based on an analysis performed by reinsurer AON Benfield:

* Flood damage from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee on September 7
* Two additional severe thunderstorm/tornado outbreaks, from April 19-21 and June 16-22

NOAA's revised list includes the June severe weather outbreak above but neither the October 29 snowstorm, the April 19-21 severe thunderstorm/tornado outbreak nor the flood damage from Lee. It's possible NOAA's list may grow. The agency says it's still analyzing the damage from some of these events: NOAA contines to collect and assess data regarding several other extreme events that occurred this year including the pre-Halloween winter storm that impacted the Northeast, and the wind/flood damage from Tropical Storm Lee. Currently, these events are not over the $1B threshold using the available data.

Here's NOAA's full list of 2011 billion dollar weather disasters:

Texas, New Mexico, Arizona Wildfires Spring-Fall 2011
Hurricane Irene August 20-29, 2011
Upper Midwest Flooding Summer, 2011
Mississippi River flooding Spring-Summer, 2011
Southern Plains/Southwest Drought and Heatwave Spring-Fall, 2011
Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes and Severe Weather June 18-22, 2011
Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes May 22-27, 2011
Southeast/Ohio Valley/Midwest Tornadoes April 25-28, 2011
Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes April 14-16, 2011
Southeast/Midwest Tornadoes April 8-11, 2011
Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes April 4-5
Groundhog Day Blizzard Jan 29-Feb 3, 201

NOAA's dataset of billion dollar weather events dates back to 1980, so it's a somewhat limited series. Nevertheless, there's no doubting 2011 has distinguished itself as an extraordinary year for extreme weather in at least the last 31 years in the U.S. - Washington Post.
WATCH: 2011 - Record-breaking Year for Extreme Weather.

CELESTIAL CONVERGENCE: The X-RAY "Heartbeat" of the Binary Star System IGR J17091-3624 in our Milky Way - May Contain the Smallest Black Hole Ever Known!

Scientists may have found the smallest black hole yet by listening to its X-ray "heartbeat."

The black hole, if it truly exists, would weigh less than three times the mass of the sun, putting it near the theoretical minimum mass required for a black hole to be stable. The researchers can't directly observe the black hole, but they measured a rise and fall in X-ray light coming from a binary star system in our Milky Way galaxy that they think signals the presence of a black hole. Until now, this X-ray pattern, which is similar to a heartbeat registered on an electrocardiogram, has been seen in only one other black hole system. Until now, this X-ray pattern, which is similar to a heartbeat registered on an electrocardiogram, has been seen in only one other black hole system.

NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) spacecraft measured this X-ray heartbeat in a star system in the direction of the constellation Scorpius, at a distance between 16,000 and 65,000 light-years away (a light-year is the distance light travels in a single year, about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers). Researchers think the system, officially called IGR J17091-3624, includes one normal star with a companion black hole. Mass would stream off this normal star and fall toward the black hole, forming a flattened disk around it. As friction in the disk heats the gas to millions of degrees, the disk would emit high-energy X-rays that can be seen across the galaxy.

As changes occur inside the disk, cyclical variations can be seen in the X-rays streaming from it, which pulse in varied intensity like a heartbeat. "We think that most of these patterns represent cycles of accumulation and ejection in an unstable disk, and we now see seven of them in IGR J17091," researcher Tomaso Belloni of the Brera Observatory in Merate, Italy, said in a statement. "Identifying these signatures in a second black hole system is very exciting." The astronomers recognized the signal from this system because of its similarity to another black hole system called GRS 1915+105 that pulses in much the same way. This other system contains a black hole that weighs about 14 times the sun's mass, which sends out X-rays in highly structured patterns that last between seconds and hours. In comparison, the newly observed system has an X-ray heartbeat that pulses 20 times fainter than GRS 1915 and cycles back to the beginning of the pattern about eight times faster, in as little as 5 seconds. "Just as the heart rate of a mouse is faster than an elephant's, the heartbeat signals from these black holes scale according to their masses," said Diego Altamirano, an astrophysicist at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands and lead author of a paper reporting the findings in the Nov. 4 issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters. - MSNBC.
WATCH: Smallest black hole ever found.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Mount Gamalama is Still Erupting - Villagers Facing Cold Lava Flood in Gamalama!

Mount Gamalama
in Ternate, Maluku Province, is still erupting.  Residents around the area are now worried about cold lava flood.

“The chance of cold lava flooding is increased because of rising rainfalls,” said Head of Information Data Center and Public Relations of the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, in a written statement, today. Residents are warned to stay away from Disaster-prone Area III and II due to the possible hot clouds.  Cold lava flood threatens Disaster-prone Area I.

“Currently, there are 646 households or 2,731 people evacuated in nine evacuation posts,” said Sutopo.  There are no fatalities from the eruption. Mount Gamalama erupted on December 4 around 10.25 a.m.  It was raining in North Maluku and the power was out when the eruption took place.  However, there were no material losses from the eruption. The eruption had disturbed flights between Manado and Ternate. However, on Sunday, Dec 11, Manado-Ternate flights were reopened. - VIVA News.

DELUGE: Heavy Rains and Widespread Flooding Inundates New Zealand Town - The Worst Rainfall in 40 Years!

A pregnant Australian tourist is among residents of a New Zealand town who will be evacuated as floods inundate the area following the worst rainfall in 40 years.

Supplies are being delivered to residents in Cable Bay, near Nelson at the top of the South Island, who are expected to be isolated by road for weeks, while others in the area are unable to return to their homes as waters rise. Civil Defence says it will take two to three weeks to clear roads to Cable Bay, where power is still out, affecting 45 residents. Supplies are being flown in and the Australian woman, who is six months pregnant, and some residents are expected to be evacuated by helicopter this afternoon, Radio New Zealand reported. The state of emergency is expected to remain in place until next week. Both Prime Minister John Key and the insurance industry moved to reassure residents that resources are available for claims even though insurers are still coping with the cost of the Christchurch earthquakes.

"A top priority is to clear arterial routes and to reach isolated communities," Civil Defence said in a statement today. An aerial inspection of the Maitai pipeline, which supplies water to the city of Nelson, revealed eight slips but they are not disrupting supply and are being monitored. There have been 230 slips in Nelson. An aerial inspection has revealed extensive damage to homes in Ligar Bay, Wainui Bay and Pohara Valley. Access will be restored to Tata Bay on Saturday but there is still no access from Tata Bay to Wainui Bay and beyond to Totaranui. About 90 residents and Department of Conservation staff are stranded in Totaranui but they have water and supplies and access to water taxis. While 4WD vehicles are being used to distribute supplies to Wainui Bay. Building inspectors are visiting homes and are putting red stickers on unsafe houses, as they did after the Christchurch earthquakes. - Herald Sun.
WATCH: Hundreds evacuated in New Zealand floods.

APOCALYPSE 2012: Stocking up for Doomsday - As Economists Predict an Imminent Global Economic Meltdown, Meet the Families Ready for the Worst!

Picture the scene: It’s the end of January 2012 and already it is clear the year to come will make that which has just passed seem something of a picnic. The last strains of Auld Lang Syne had barely faded before Greece defaulted on its debts. Over the next few weeks, Italy and Spain will follow.

Across Britain and the Continent, bank after bank goes down, a domino effect exacerbated by panicking customers desperately withdrawing their savings. Where three years ago the giants of High Street banking were seen as too big too fail, now they are too big and too many for any Government to save. Panic ensues. Within hours, the cashpoints are empty of money and the supermarket shelves stripped bare. To make matters worse the country is hit by freezing weather. As temperatures plummet and snow falls, the road network stalls to a grinding halt, while large swathes of the country are hit by electricity blackouts. The warning by economists that Britain is just ‘nine meals from anarchy’ is brutally borne out. Unlike last summer, the rioters on the streets aren’t looking for trainers and flat-screen TVs — just food. An absurd fantasy? Perhaps so, but in an increasingly uncertain world, such a scenario can no longer be dismissed out of hand. And strange as it may seem, it’s one that many believe is worth preparing for.

Across the country, steps are being taken to cope with such a situation. But not by central or local government. Their contingency planning for such an emergency is focused on the most important and most vulnerable in society. Instead it is ordinary people who are taking action: stockpiling their larders with non-perishable food, buying water-purifying pumps and camping stoves. While five years ago such behaviour might have been dismissed as  the activities of ‘end-of-the-world’ eccentrics, those doing so today are professionals from every walk of life. Companies selling freeze-dried food rations, sealed in giant air-tight multi-serving tins and with a shelf-life of 25 years, have seen sales soar in recent months — increasing ten-fold compared to previous years. Most popular are the packs of instant meals that will keep a family of four going for three months once water is added. At around £1,500 they are not cheap. But many of those buying these emergency rations see them as a wise investment — and they are well-placed to make such a judgment. ‘It is not “crazies” buying this,’  says James Blake, whose company Emergency Food Storage specialises in freeze-dried foods. ‘We get a lot of high-powered business people as customers. Most people buy insurance for their health, their house or their life — this is food insurance.

‘Of course, we hope it never happens, but if there is a major catastrophe, then money is not going to be worth much after a couple of days. It will be food that becomes the most needed thing.’ Dave Hannah and his company B-Prep sell similar products. He says a number of his customers are bankers. Their average spend is £3,000. ‘It makes you think: “What do they know?” ’ says Hannah. ‘When we’ve talked on the phone, they’ve told me: “This whole thing is going to go down.” ’ Of course, that might just be sales talk: stoking paranoia to boost  company profits. But there’s no doubt some families are stocking up in preparation for harsh times ahead. Among them is 51-year-old Lynda Mayall from Poole in Dorset. The divorced mother-of-four — she has 17-year-old twin girls and boys aged 18 and 19 — has suffered since the credit crunch took hold. She was forced to close her domestic cleaning company and now teaches English as a foreign language and helps to train counsellors. Her work is intermittent — while she had a two-month contract in the summer she is currently surviving on a few hours’ work a week. As a result, she has become acutely aware of how important it is to have sufficient food stored to feed her family. As well as buying several hundred pounds worth of freeze-dried ‘survival’ meals, her cupboards contain more than 100 tins of beans, fish, soup and vegetables. She also has stocks of pasta and rice.

‘I think I have about a six-month supply of food in the house,’ she says.  ‘The freeze-dried tins are great because they take up so much less space. It is something we can fall back on if times are tough. It is my security blanket.’ Miss Mayall says her stockpiling instinct has been sharpened by  the way in which the European crisis  is unfolding. ‘I think there is every possibility that we could see problems around the availability of food,’ she says. ‘We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. I’m not totally pessimistic and I do have faith in the Government, but I have more faith in my store cupboard. I know we’ll have food in times of trouble.’ A wise precaution or an over- reaction? Either way, in recent years, a series of events have served to highlight the fragility of the infrastructure of developed First World countries in the 21st century. Take the fuel strikes of 2000. Lorry drivers, fed up with high diesel prices, blockaded the refineries. Almost immediately they exposed the frailties of a society that feeds itself via a just-in-time supply chain. Within days, shelves were bare and supermarket bosses were warning civil servants in Whitehall that there were just three days of food left. Then there was Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Within days, residents of the richest country in the world were looting to feed themselves and their families. Next came the credit crunch and that day in September 2008 when the Royal Bank of Scotland almost folded. It would subsequently emerge that its cash machines were only hours away from running out of money. You may have money in the bank,  but what if you can’t get to it, and  food shops — fearful of a major bank defaulting — refuse to take anything except cash?

And, finally, who can forget the shattering blows suffered by Japan this year? First, an earthquake and tsunami and then a nuclear disaster. Of course, many will dismiss these as freak events that happen once in a blue moon. But they all demonstrate how after decades of plenty, modern man has never been less prepared for the unexpected. With food and oil prices rising, and countries struggling to cope with crippling debt, few predict anything but instability in the years to come. Mr Blake set up Emergency Food Storage in Leeds in 2009. He took his lead from the U.S., where the idea of ‘self-preparedness’ is mainstream. ‘The American attitude is very different and the government there encourages people to be prepared,’ he says. ‘They see that civil unrest could follow a major disaster. If they encourage people to have food and water it will stave off that civil unrest while they put the infrastructure back on line.’ But in Britain, he says, people remain worryingly blasé about the ease  with which they can get food and no longer feel the need to stockpile even basic supplies. ‘Think what’s in your cupboards and imagine if for six weeks you couldn’t get food — it might be due to snow or whatever — how would you survive?’ he says. ‘The vast majority of people will find they have only enough to last a week. Be a little more prepared is what we are saying.’

While the simplest way to do this has been to stock up on canned and  dried produce, freeze-dried foods are increasingly popular. The major player in the industry is a company called Mountain House, a U.S. brand that started manufacturing in Britain five years ago. In the past year alone, sales of its tins of food with a 25-year shelf-life have increased by 350 per cent. The contents of these tins are similar to the sachets of foods that mountaineers and other outward-bounds types might be familiar with. But because they are in cans, rather than packets, they last for 25 years, rather than five. They are created by cooking a normal meal, such as spaghetti bolognaise, and then freezing it rapidly. Finally, the water content is extracted under pressure, a process known as sublimation. Freeze-drying preserves the taste of the food as well as up to 97 per cent of its nutritional value. It also massively reduces its weight and bulk. For example, 1,000kg of strawberries reduces to 100kg of freeze-dried fruit. The meals are returned to near-enough their original state by adding water (preferably hot, but cold will do). But because the process is energy-intensive, the food is not cheap. EFS is selling 72 tins of Mountain House food for £2,199.95. This is billed as a deluxe 12-month survival pack of 450 meals. The pack includes spaghetti bolognaise, chicken tikka with rice, chilli con carne, tinned diced chicken, tinned peas, tinned shrimp and tinned rice. Smaller quantities are available, as is water-purifying equipment.

B-Prep, a London-based company, has experienced similar levels of demand, with orders tripling in the past year. Its founder, Dave Hannah, stresses that he does not foresee some ‘apocalyptic annihilation’ befalling Britain, but that stockpiling enough food for between three days and a month is a sensible way to prepare for a possible crisis. ‘Two generations ago, people would have had that supply in their larders anyway,’ he says. ‘It’s just going back to that. It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.’ That’s certainly the view taken by 54-year-old George Shaw, a company director. He lives in East Sussex with his wife Karen, 47, and their two sons, aged 13 and 11. He estimates he has enough food stored to last a year. ‘I have a large shed and keep different types of canned food,’ says Mr Shaw. ‘We buy baked beans and tinned tomatoes in trays of 24 from a cut-price trade warehouse. I’ve no idea exactly how many cans I have in there, but there must be hundreds. ‘In the kitchen, we have a large freezer that’s full to the brim, and two large fridges. I buy at least four cartons of milk at a time and freeze them. It gives me a feeling of safety to know we could live for a year on our stockpile.’ His instinct to stock up is, in part, inspired by a desire to economise by bulk buying. But, he says, recent world events have also made him more cautious. ‘I think the last recession in 2008 did make many people more aware that the supermarket stocks might not last for ever, though I think it’s more likely that our food supplies would be affected by a terrorist attack,’ he says.

‘After 9/11, I stocked up on water, just in case someone had the bright idea of bombing our reservoirs. I think in the New Year people in general may become more thrifty and buy in bulk, just as we do. It makes economic sense, and it means you won’t be caught out if the economy suddenly shrinks.’ Of course, with the cost of food rising dramatically every year, buying now and storing for later makes financial sense. And at the same time it need not cost a fortune. For the past 18 months, Chris James, a 40-year-old business consultant from Manchester, has bought an extra can of baked beans and one litre of water every time he goes to the supermarket. ‘I think there is a chance, a remote chance, that the supply chain will break down badly,’ he says. ‘For less than £1 a week I’m able to fill my garage with baked beans and water. It’s a tiny outlay for what could be a great benefit. ‘To be honest, I don’t particularly like beans, so I hope I never have to eat them. But they are nutritious and if it comes to the point that I do, I guess I’ll be grateful for anything.’

Having a sense of perspective on the potential risks is something emphasised by Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at City University London. The highly respected academic says that while the danger of widespread food shortages should not be exaggerated, he was not surprised that people are starting to prepare for that eventuality. ‘This is a sign of the times — the tectonic plates of capitalism are wobbling pretty seriously,’ he says. ‘The general attitude in the country is: “Oh my goodness, this is not about others, it is about us, too.” People are feeling agitated and threatened and nervous. ‘There is a mass psychology of insecurity at the moment and I think that is worrying. Quietly,  but inexorably, the problem of food security has entered into the mass consciousness.’ - Daily Mail.
WATCH: 2011 - Record-breaking Year for Extreme Weather.