Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 REVIEW: Record-Breaking 99 Federal Natural Disasters in America - $35 Billion in Insured Losses, Second Costliest Year Ever!

This year will go down as the second costliest in the U.S. in terms of insured losses from natural disasters, the Insurance Information Institute said Friday. And it will set the record for number of federal major disaster declarations: 99 issued throughout 2011, up from the previous record of 81 in 2010.

"Catastrophes striking the United States in the first nine months of 2011 caused $32.6 billion in direct insured losses, nearly double the $18.6 billion in catastrophe-caused direct insured losses insurers generally incur over the first nine months of any given year," III President Robert Hartwig said in a statement. "The $32.6 billion figure doesn’t even include the significant insured losses which arose after the pre-Halloween snowstorm, which caused enormous damage to multiple states along the Atlantic seaboard," he added. "Coupled with other events in 2011’s fourth quarter, direct insured losses could exceed $35 billion this year." Total losses, including those not insured, are likely far in excess of $75 billion, the institute said.
The institute said that even with the huge payout by insurers the industry was still healthy, with its net worth of insurers falling by only 4 percent to $538.6 billion. As for disaster declarations, the record 99 is "nearly triple the average of 34 per year dating back to 1953," the insurance group stated. Federal officials earlier this month noted that 2011 saw a record number of billion-dollar disasters. The largest single disaster this year was Hurricane Irene's damage to the East Coast, estimated at $7.3 billion and claiming 45 lives. The head of the National Weather Service on Friday issued a statement of "Goodbye and good riddance" to 2011. The number of weather-related disasters, death and injuries this year "have served as a wakeup call, a jolting realization that our society is increasingly vulnerable to the weather as a result of a growing population and sophisticated infrastructure that continues to expand," NWS Director Jack Hayes said. "And while we witnessed an unmatched succession of extremes in nearly every weather category this year, climate scientists have pointed to the likelihood that such extremes are not an anomaly but may be the new normal." So if 2011 is second, what's first? That title is still held by 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina. Insured losses were $66 billion, with more than $40 billion from Katrina alone. - MSNBC.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: 30-Foot-Wide, 12-Foot-Deep Sinkhole Opens Up in Florida - Swallows Up Car at Rest Area in Orlando!

"There's a couple feet of snow on the ground up there. And there's holes in the ground down here. Doesn't matter where you live there's stuff to deal with," he offered.

In just a matter of minutes, Gigi and Dwight Wilkins' holiday vacation turned bizarre. They were heading home from Disney to their North Port home. They stopped at rest stop on Interstate 4, heading west between State Road 557 and 559. They had both of their cars after shuttling around family in Orlando.

They both went into the restrooms. But when Gigi came out, she was stunned. "I had no words. I just kind of stood there," she said. As she walked down the sidewalk towards their cars, her Ford Escape was slowly sinking. And then? "I heard kind of a crackle noise, a louder crackle noise than usual. And just looked at my car and it's just slowing sinking into the ground. And just kind of stunned for a minute. And then there's a big area that opened up." An estimated 30-foot-wide, 12-foot-deep sinkhole had opened up. Her car sank down into it, and the left tire on her husband's car hung over the edge. The couple moved from Michigan to North Port back in September. They had heard of sinkholes but had no idea they could open so fast.
Dwight took it all in stride, thinking of what they're missing back in their hometown. "There's a couple feet of snow on the ground up there. And there's holes in the ground down here. Doesn't matter where you live there's stuff to deal with," he offered. For at least four hours after the call came in, the dirt was still shifting around the car. Two different tow truck drivers had to come in, each taking one car. One jumped in the hole and steered the car as it was pulled out Meanwhile, a geological team had to bore holes in the asphalt. "They're going to help us decide how stable or unstable the sinkhole is right now. The first thing we want to do is try and get the vehicle out of the hole," explained Cindy Clemmons with the Florida Department of Transportation. Despite the damage, the couple is pretty lucky. "Could have been in it. Could have been a lot worse, so we're OK. Cars are replaceable." - My Fox Tampa Bay.
WATCH: Sinkhole swallows car at rest area.

FUK-U-SHIMA: Japan's Nuclear Dead Zone Spreading Far And Wide - Fukishima Nuclear Cleanup Could Take 30 Years; 200,000 People Directly Affected; As Regulators Allow Radioactive Dumping in Tokyo Bay!

When the magnitude-9.3 earthquake hit Japan on March 11, it set off a nuclear disaster that will leave Japan suffering for decades from the consequences of meltdowns and radiation exposure.
Japan's nuclear disaster is far from over.
March's magnitude 9.3-earthquake was as strong as hundreds of thousands of the explosions caused by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. It triggered a tsunami that covered 470 square kilometers (181 square miles) with rubble and water, while more than 19,000 people died in the flooding or are still missing. Water levels were as high as 16 meters (52 feet) – as high as a four story building. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, one of the biggest nuclear power plants in Japan and only 240 km northeast of Tokyo, was not built for this kind of catastrophe. The reactor's walls were only designed to sustain tsunami waves of 5.7 meters. When the 13-meter wave hit the plant, it was completely flooded. Even a late scramble could not stop the catastrophe. Since emergency power supplies were flooded and seawater pumps were destroyed, the plant's cooling technology failed. In the aftermath of the earthquake, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) was not able to reactivate the cooling systems. To compound matters, the surrounding streets were impassable and the necessary equipment could not reach Fukushima fast enough.

Of the plant's six reactors, reactors 1 to 4 were hit the hardest. They were covered in water as high as five meters, whereas reactor blocks 5 and 6 only had to cope with a flooding of one meter. This is where the only generator that survived the tsunami was located and later served as a power supply. After the cooling system went offline, the reactor cores overheated in the first three blocks. Plant operator Tepco had to reduce the pressure on the valves by opening them, which is how the first radioactive plumes were discharged. Within the first four days after the tsunami hit, meltdowns in reactors as well as hydrogen explosions destroyed the reactor buildings. Block 4 was not running when the earthquake hit, but nuclear fuel was stored in a cooling pond. After the water had evaporated due to the plant's lack of cooling, this fuel was partly exposed, and the heat caused a fire and further hydrogen explosions. Technicians measuring the neutron radiation were worried critical fission reactions had started to occur in some reactors. That's why they decided to add boric acid to the reactor cores. The 10-bor isotope is able to capture neutrons and prevent further meltdowns. South Korea and France delivered 150 tonnes of boric to Fukushima.
Block four was severely damaged after the hydrogen explosion.
Luckily most of the radioactive plumes were blown out to the sea. Wind coming from the north-west would have endangered the densely populated area around Tokyo. Even though the wind direction was favorable, vast areas around Fukushima were contaminated. In the following weeks and months, radioactivity continued to emerge from the plant, in the form of water and steam. That's why the plant operator thought it necessary to cool down the reactor cores with water from the sea. They used water cannon and concrete pumps on cranes to get close to the cores. The radioactive waste water accumulated in the plant's turbine building. Until April, some 60,000 tonnes of highly contaminated water accumulated, forcing Tepco to discharge more than 10,000 tonnes into the sea. In June, engineers were able to start up several water decontamination plants which can clean up to 1,000 tonnes of water per day. The resulting radioactive sludge is currently stored on site. In November, Tepco allowed the first journalists to visit the power plant in order to demonstrate the now "stable" situation. Working conditions were said to have drastically improved. The cooling system is up and running. Still, in one area a reporter's dosimeter recorded radiation at 50 microsieverts per hour – as much as an x-ray. Japan's threshold value for evacuating people from their homes is 20 millisieverts (20,000 microsievert) per year.

Because of the radioactive contamination, Japanese authorities evacuated an area of 30 kilometers around the nuclear power plant. Initially, some 200,000 people were affected. In the fall, the evacuation zone around the damaged plant was reduced to 20 kilometers, still leaving about 100,000 people who cannot return to their homes. Authorities issued a ban on vegetables, meat and diary products from five prefectures of the power plant's region. Since the summer, the ban is limited to products that have been produced within 20 kilometers. Even though some workers have been exposed to very high radiation, no one has died from it so far. The cleanup on site will still take at least 30 years. The Japanese nuclear safety agency estimates the amount of radioactivity that was released in all four affected reactors to be one fifth to one tenth the amount exposed in the 1986-Chernobyl disaster. Yet the International Atomic Energy Agency classified the Fukushima meltdown as a level-7 incident – the most serious level in its ranking – and therefore described it as a "major accident" with a "major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures." - Deutsche Welle.

Is the Japanese government and the IAEA protecting the nuclear industry and not the people of Japan by claiming that Fukushima is stable when it is not? Fairewinds’ chief engineer Arnie Gundersen outlines major inconsistencies and double-speak by the IAEA, Japanese Government, and TEPCO claiming that the Fukushima accident is over. Dynamic versus static equilibrium, escalated dose exposures to the Japanese children and nuclear workers, and the blending of radioactive materials with non-contaminated material and spreading this contaminated ash throughout Japan are only a small part of this ongoing nuclear tragedy.

WATCH: Arnie Gundersen on situation at Fukushima.

PLANETARY TREMORS: 4.0 Earthquake Strikes in Northeast Ohio - Loud Boom, Shaking and Rumbling Rattle Residents!

The latest in a series of minor earthquakes in northeast Ohio hit on Saturday, sending some stunned residents running for cover as bookshelves shook and pictures and lamps fell from tables.

The 4.0 magnitude quake struck Saturday afternoon in McDonald, outside of Youngstown, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Area residents said a loud boom accompanied the shaking, but sheriff's dispatchers from several counties in the area said there were no immediate reports of damage. A few miles from the epicenter, Charles Kihm said he was preparing food in his kitchen when he heard a noise and thought a vehicle had hit his Austintown home. "It really shook, and it rumbled, like there was a sound," said Kihm, 82. "It was loud. It didn't last long. But it really scared me." The area has experienced at least 10 minor quakes in 2011, though Saturday's temblor appeared to be stronger than others, which generally had a magnitude of 2.7 or lower. This time, some residents reported feeling trembling farther south into Columbiana County and east into western Pennsylvania.

Many of the quakes have struck near an injection well used to dispose of brine water that's a byproduct of oil and gas drilling. Thousands of gallons of brine are injected into the well daily, and much of it is shipped in from out of state. Its owner, Northstar Disposal Services LLC, has agreed to stop injecting brine into the earth as a precaution while authorities assess any potential links to the quakes. The head of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said research hadn't led to a direct correlation with the injections but officials wouldn't gamble with public safety. There are 177 similar injection wells around the state, and the Youngtown-area well has been the only site with seismic activity, the department said. Patti Gorcheff, who lives about 15 miles from the epicenter, said her dogs started barking inexplicably Saturday and the ornaments on her Christmas tree began to shake. Her husband thought he heard the sound of some sort of blast. "This is the biggest one we've had so far," said Gorcheff, a North Lima resident who has raised concerns about quakes and drilling-related activity in the region. "I hope this is a wake-up call." - USA Today.

According to the USGS, the Northeast Ohio seismic zone has had moderately frequent earthquakes at least since the first one was reported in 1823. The largest earthquake (magnitude 4.8) caused damage in 1986 in northeasternmost Ohio, and the most recent damaging shock (magnitude 4.5) occurred in 1998 at the seismic zone's eastern edge in northwestern Pennsylvania. Earthquakes too small to cause damage are felt two or three times per decade. Earthquakes in the central and eastern U.S., although less frequent than in the western U.S., are typically felt over a much broader region. East of the Rockies, an earthquake can be felt over an area as much as ten times larger than a similar magnitude earthquake on the west coast. A magnitude 4.0 eastern U.S. earthquake typically can be felt at many places as far as 100 km (60 mi) from where it occurred, and it infrequently causes damage near its source. A magnitude 5.5 eastern U.S. earthquake usually can be felt as far as 500 km (300 mi) from where it occurred, and sometimes causes damage as far away as 40 km (25 mi).

Earthquakes everywhere occur on faults within bedrock, usually miles deep. Most of the seismic zone's bedrock was formed as several generations of mountains rose and were eroded down again over the last billion or more years. At well-studied plate boundaries like the San Andreas fault system in California, often scientists can determine the name of the specific fault that is responsible for an earthquake. In contrast, east of the Rocky Mountains this is rarely the case. The Northeast Ohio seismic zone is far from the nearest plate boundaries, which are in the center of the Atlantic Ocean and in the Caribbean Sea. The seismic zone is laced with known faults but numerous smaller or deeply buried faults remain undetected. Even the known faults are poorly located at earthquake depths. Accordingly, few, if any, earthquakes in the seismic zone can be linked to named faults. It is difficult to determine if a known fault is still active and could slip and cause an earthquake. As in most other areas east of the Rockies, the best guide to earthquake hazards in the Northeast Ohio seismic zone is the earthquakes themselves.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Pennsylvania Sinkhole Threatens Graves at Historic Cemetery - Unstable and Volatile Depressions in the Ground as Much as Two Feet!

Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim's office normally responds to calls of motor vehicle accidents, homicides or other incidents in Allentown, that require determination of a cause of death. Thursday brought something totally unexpected.

A large sinkhole spread into a historic cemetery in Allentown, Pennsylvania, prompting officials to get a court order to allow exhumations of graves if Grim deems such action necessary. About 60 graves in Union and West End Cemetery are threatened and were roped off, Grim told CNN. Many of the burials were in the 1880s, with at least one as far back as 1858. "If we go back there tomorrow and see a shift or collapse in soil or ground, or if any sites are in jeopardy, than we are going to have to make that decision to excavate," the coroner said. A dozen homes on nearby 10th Street were vacated and 25 people evacuated because of the sinkhole, said Allentown Fire Chief Robert C. Scheirer. The sinkhole was likely caused by a water main break. A judge gave officials a conditional go-ahead to do the exhumations. "It's a very sensitive issue. You are dealing with a cemetery," Grim told CNN. "You are laid to rest and now it is being disturbed."

Several headstones have tilted and there were some breaks in the cemetery ground. Most of the graves are from the late 1800s to early 1900s, officials said. "We can see depressions where the ground has fallen as much as two feet," said Everette Carr, president of the Union and West End Cemetery Association, which maintains the 157-year old nonprofit burial ground. "It's a very volatile situation," Carr said. "The ground is unstable. There is no question it is moving." There also could be unmarked graves, said Carr. Because of their age, some of the graves may have few remains in place, he added. The cemetery holds about 20,000 graves, including 714 Civil War veterans, whose graves are located across the cemetery. Among them is a Medal of Honor winner, Ignatz Gresser. Carr did not know if any of the threatened graves included soldiers. Grim, whose office photographed the 60 markers, said he saw some belonging to soldiers.

Cemetery volunteers previously did a survey, but there are no detailed historical records of the dead beyond those whose graves have headstones. And some of those are difficult to read, Carr said. The coroner said he was in touch Thursday with a forensic archaeologist and anthropologist to learn more about burial practices of the period. "During that era, people were buried in a wooden casket or some were buried in a brick-type casket," Grim said. None of the graves appeared to be open. The calamity also was affecting the living. At least two residential structures nearby suffered serious damage from the sinkhole. "Once we get the street secured, we will get into these homes and determine whether any have to be razed," Scheirer said. The fire chief estimated the sinkhole to be about 50 feet long and 30 feet wide. "They are pumping concrete into it right now," he said. - CNN.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Alaska's Cleveland Volcano Sends Ash Cloud 15,000 Feet Into the Sky - 39,000 Feet Above Sea Level!

An ash cloud erupted some 15,000 feet into the air from Alaska's Cleveland Volcano, according to satellite images and the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

The last significant eruption of Cleveland occurred in February 2001 and resulted in three ash plumes that reached up to 39,000 feet above sea level and "a rubbly lava flow and hot avalanche that reached the sea." Cleveland, located in the Aleutian Islands about 45 miles west of the community of Nikolski, has been upgraded and downgraded several times over the last few months, flaring up in July and erupting in the form of a growing lava dome in August. Following several weeks of activity, the volcano was downgraded before being upgraded again to an alert level of "watch" and an aviation hazard color-code of "orange" in early September. Two months later, the alert level was again lowered after the volcano seemed to quiet down.

This latest activity comes six days after the most recent update on the AVO website. The AVO said that satellite imagery from about 5 a.m. Thursday confirmed the presence of a detached ash cloud, about 50 miles away from the volcano and moving southeast. Aviators in the area are encouraged to exercise caution, but the AVO said that the eruption may be an isolated event. "Satellite data indicate that this is a single explosion event," the AVO said, "however, more sudden explosions producing ash could occur with plumes exceeding 20,000 feet above sea level. Such explosions and their associated ash clouds may go undetected in satellite imagery for hours." Cleveland volcano lacks any real-time monitoring equipment. - Alaska Dispatch.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Huge Sinkhole in Lower Valley, El Paso, Texas - Neighbors Witness Sinkhole Swallow Police Car!

Customers in a Lower Valley neighborhood have running water again after broken pipe shut off service this morning. That water main break created a giant sink hole, that was big enough to swallow part of a police car.

Neighbors near the intersection of Rusk and Pecos woke up to quite the mess this morning. El Paso Water Utility crews spent the morning pouring dirt into the large sink hole that opened up during this morning's water main break. They had to shut off water to about 40 neighbors to fix it. "That's really been hard,” said April Gerome, who lives nearby. “There's been a lot of racket out here where they've been pumping water because the mud was up to the curb. You couldn't get in or out. It's really been something!" Gerome woke up around 2:15 this morning to a strange sound coming from her front yard. "I heard what sounded like water rushing," she said. She opened her front door and couldn't believe what she was seeing. "To my shock there was just a river of water running though the front yard," she said. She went back inside and picked up the phone. "I called the utility company and for the life of me I couldn't get through. I tried several times but it was a continuous busy signal so I called 911."

NewsChannel 9 asked El Paso Water Utilities spokeswoman Christina Montoya why the customer service line was busy and Gerome couldn't get through. Montoya says the line was probably busy because several people were calling it at the same time to report the gusher. Moments later, Gerome says she saw a police car drive down the street and plunge into the sinkhole. "He went that way and went straight into it. I mean straight into it!" The front end of the police car disappeared into the water. Gerome couldn't believe her eyes! "I was just shocked!" The police officer wasn't hurt and climbed out of the car to safety. "I'm just glad the officer was ok because I'll never forget that ever!" A spokesperson for El Paso Water Utilities says the cause of the water main break is still under investigation. It could have been caused by anything from aging pipes or just too much water pressure. No homes were damaged. - NewsChannel 9.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Ski Resorts Are Now Making Snow - Due to Lack of Major Snowstorms and Consistent Cold Air?!

The recent cold weather and upcoming arctic blast is just what ski resorts in the Midwest and Northeast need to make snow like crazy.

A lack of major snowstorms and consistent cold air has forced resorts to open late and/or with limited skiing thus far this season.  Snow guns will be running full blast early next week as round-the-clock below-freezing temperatures settle in. Strong winds will be an issue, but key positioning of the guns will allow most of the snow to fall where it is needed... on the trails. Man-made snow is much more dense than natural snow. Although less desirable to ski on, it does weather mild, rainy conditions better than the real stuff.

In addition, most resorts have their trails located on the shady side of the mountain. In certain conditions during the daytime, these areas can run 10 to 20 degrees colder than areas with sun exposure. While the coldest weather has avoided the big-money holiday week spanning Christmas and New Year's Day, the opportunities presented by Mother Nature during the first few days of the new year should make for some decent skiing days into at least Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend, even though mild weather will eventually return. The cold weather will deliver heavy natural snow to western New York, south-central Pennsylvania, West Virginia and other lake-effect snowbelt areas early next week. Most of this snow will not reach needy places like the Catskills and Poconos, but that's where this snowmaking opportunity comes into play. - Accu Weather.

EXTREME WEATHER: Hurricane-Like Winds Wreck Havoc in Nebraska, High Winds Sweep Boulder County and Front Range, Wild Jet Stream Snarl Wyoming Highways - Leading to 1-70 Fatal Accident!

A jet stream brought winds fierce enough to turn driving into a white-knuckle experience today, forcing trucks off Interstate 25 at the Wyoming border and gusting to 102 mph in Colorado.

The high wind warning expired at 5 p.m., but the winds didn't get the message. At about 7:30 p.m., three empty cargo trailers were overturned by wind gusts estimated at 102 mph at Table Mesa Parkway and 45th Drive northeast of Golden, said Fairmount Fire Lt. Chad Bassett. No was injured and nothing spilled, he said. The National Weather Service​ had warned that some high gusts could continue through the evening, especially at higher elevations. Stronger winds could return Friday night and continue through Saturday afternoon, according to the service. At about 4:45 p.m., high winds toppled a semi-truck's trailer and closed an eastbound lane of Interstate 70 near Georgetown for about an hour. There were no injuries, however, according to the Colorado State Patrol. Gusts also topped out at 102 mph southeast of Pinecliffe in Jefferson County at 2:20 a.m., said Eric Thaler, meteorologist with the National Weather Service Boulder.

A peak gust of 79.5 mph was recorded at 9:20 a.m. at the National Wind Technology Center near Boulder. Winds of 60 and 70 mph were common throughout the region, he added. "There is a big jet stream right overhead and it has lots of wind in it. It mixes down to the surface." Blowing snow combined on roads that were wet, icy and snow packed early in the day to make travel difficult on sections of highway throughout the mountains. By late afternoon the ice had turned to slush in most places, though snow continued to blow in Northern Colorado. "The biggest issue is high winds. In much of northeastern Colorado, and on highways like U.S. 285 and Highway 24 and even some areas on (Interstate) 70, gusts of wind are blowing snow and affecting visibility," said Colorado Department of Transportation​ spokeswoman Stacey Stegman. A driver died in a single vehicle crash on I-70 near Loveland Pass late Thursday morning, according to the Colorado State Patrol.

The fatal crash happened before noon in the eastbound lanes of the highway, said state patrol spokeswoman Cpl. Heather Cobler. The vehicle struck an embankment and landed on the roof, killing the driver. Roads were icy on the highway at the time of the crash and visibility was limited by snow and blowing snow, Cobler said. Nearby Loveland Pass closed to traffic because of snow and blowing snow, and strong winds forced trucks off I-25 in Wyoming, just north of the Colorado state line. Winds up to 70 mph pounded southern Wyoming from Cheyenne north to Wheatland and along the Interstate 80 corridor from Sidney, Neb., to Rawlins, Wyo., according to the NWS. A high wind warning is in effect until 5 p.m. and the winds should settle down overnight, Thaler said. "It is not going to completely stop, but it shouldn't be as bad." The wind should rev up again late Friday night in the mountains and foothills and blow hard through Saturday afternoon. The eastern plains could also experience heavy wind beginning Saturday morning and tapering off in the afternoon. - Denver Post.

High winds that pounded western Nebraska on Thursday, causing several accidents, are expected to take a break today before roaring back to life Saturday. High winds toppled a semi truck near Sidney as gusts buffeted traffic. In Nebraska, Highway 71 was also closed near the Harrisburg Spur due to poor visibility and three accidents, including a tractor-trailer roll over. Sustained gusts at Western Nebraska Regional Airport registered at more than 50 mph. As winds gusted to 80-plus mph Thursday, Wyoming highway officials closed Intestate 25 and U.S. 87 to light, high profile vehicles between the Colorado state line and Wheatland, Wyo., due to extreme risk of toppling. After a respite Friday, stronger winds are forecast for Saturday, according to the National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Weiland. "It's really going to pick back up again on Saturday, Weiland said. "It's a combination of several things. There are strong winds in the upper and mid-level atmosphere - the jet stream - over our area. Part of that today and Saturday is the approach and passage of a cold front."

Weiland said the wind can create travel problems and make it difficult to control high-profile vehicles such as vans and semi-trucks. Power lines can be also be knocked out, visibility can be reduced and the wind can whip up grass fires. "The (Saturday) front has colder air associated with it," Weiland said. "The frontal passage is Saturday morning, and temperatures will continue to fall during the day to a low of 10 to 15 degrees with decreased winds." Nebraska State Patrol Lt. Lance Rogers said three wind-related accidents occurred Thursday near the Harrisburg junction on Highway 71 about 15 miles south of Scottsbluff. Rogers said a high gust of wind caused poor visibility because of blowing dirt from a nearby wheat field. A semi overturned on the highway and two other cars were involved in crashes in the same vicinity. "It looks like they are all minor injury accidents," he said. "It was a mess for a little bit. For safety reasons, we closed the roadway for 30 to 45 minutes. We had only one northbound lane open for a period of time while we were waiting for tow trucks to move the semi and cars parked on the side of the road." Rogers said he advised that drivers of high-profile vehicles slow down in high winds and drivers turn on lights and safety flashers. "During the daytime, some people don't think about turning on their lights, but if you turn on your lights, people are more likely to see you." - OMAHA.

Gusts over 100 mph swept the Front Range on Thursday, and high winds are expected to continue through New Year's Eve. The highest gust recorded in the state was 102 mph at Pinecliffe, about 15 miles southwest of Boulder, according to the National Weather Service. In Boulder, a gust of 81 mph was recorded at 6:30 p.m. at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, according to meteorologist Matt Kelsch. Nederland recorded gusts of 70 mph, Kelsch said, while Longmont recorded 66 mph gusts Thursday evening. Unlike in November, when high winds fueled several small brush fires and downed trees and power lines, Thursday's winds caused little significant damage across the county. Kelsch said there were reports of some downed trees on U.S. 36 between Estes Park and Pinewood Springs. The winds are expected to pick back up Friday night, with sustained winds between 32 and 39 mph and gusts as high as 60 mph on Saturday, according to the weather service. Kelsch said the winds Saturday will be colder than Thursday. A high wind watch will go into effect for the Front Range on Saturday morning.
- Colorado Daily.

2011 REVIEW: EXTREME WEATHER IN MISSOURI - Severe Earth changes Covers the Gamut in a Year of Feast or Famine!

If 2012 is the year that civilization ends, it is going to work hard to beat 2011.

Missouri weather in 2011 was anything but boring. From floods and drought to tornados and blizzards, the state saw more than a healthy dose of extreme weather events of every variety.“Missouri saw many extreme weather events from its beginning that continued throughout most of the year,” said Pat Guinan, Missouri’s state climatologist with the University of Missouri Extension Commercial Agriculture Program. “We deserve some quiet time after what we’ve experienced this year.” It began with a cold, harsh winter. Aided by a February blizzard, Columbia, Mo., received 53.4 inches of snow, causing it and many other cities to rank the year among the snowiest on record. “St. Louis, Columbia and Kansas City all had top 10 snowiest winter seasons, with Columbia falling short of its snowiest winter since 1889 by only 1.5 inches,” Guinan said. “Between 1-2 feet of snow fell across a large part of the state during February’s blizzard. That led some communities to experience their first-ever blizzard warning, caused MU to close for three days and closed Interstate 70 from border to border for the first time because of snow.”

As winter thawed, snow turned to rain in Southeast Missouri. Major April flooding resulted at the intersection of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers near Cape Girardeau. “Heavy snow melt set the stage for floods, and rainfall totals in April showed an exceptionally wet month, especially in Southeastern Missouri where 15-20 inches were reported in some communities,” Guinan said. “Thousands of acres flooded, and we saw near-record to record crests established south of Cape Girardeau to New Orleans.” Cape Girardeau and Poplar Bluff received more than 70 inches of precipitation this year – at least 25 inches above normal. That made 2011 the wettest year ever for Cape Girardeau. Extreme weather blew into St. Louis with the Good Friday tornado. Hitting Lambert airport in its 21-mile path, the EF-4 tornado was the strongest twister to hit the city in 44 years.

Tornados continued into May, pummeling Joplin in the southwest corner of Missouri. The EF-5 tornado hit the city head-on, leading to 161 fatalities. It was the seventh deadliest U.S. tornado and the deadliest in more than 60 years. “When all was said and done, it was Missouri’s deadliest tornado on record and its costliest natural disaster ever,” Guinan said. “It was the second time since 1930 that a Missouri tornado reached an F5 or EF5 designation, with the only other one occurring in Ruskin Heights near Kansas City in 1957.” Midwest and Southeast tornados cost $27.7 billion in a year that saw the most billion dollar weather disasters on record – 12 of them. These 2011 weather and climate calamities surpassed the record of nine disasters set in 2008, according to the National Climatic Data Center, who estimated the final cost of these events at $52 billion.

Major flooding began in May along the Missouri River, hitting northwestern Missouri hard. An unusually wet spring and the melting of deep winter snow in Montana and the Dakotas quickly filled reservoirs. Those reservoirs released record discharge that contributed to major flooding across Iowa, Nebraska, parts of Kansas and Missouri. “There were major impacts including overtopped levees, breached levees, thousands of acres of farmland under water and flooded communities,” Guinan said. “It was a very bad situation that persisted throughout most of the summer.” Northeast Missouri added to the flooding trend in June. Rivers and streams filled to record levels in Lewis and Clark counties, as areas saw more than 15 inches in a month that typically averages four for the region.

Southern Missouri drought starkly contrasted flooding in a case of feast or famine. Severe Oklahoma and Texas droughts crept into the state as summer progressed, drying up pastures, diminishing yields and hurting herds. Heat and dryness moved north in June and continued unabated into August, logging record temperatures. Guinan said it ranks as the seventh hottest summer on record. “It was Missouri’s hottest July in more than 30 years, and you have to go back to July 1980 to find one that averaged higher temperatures,” Guinan said. “Unrelenting, oppressive temperatures led to heat advisories and impacts on human health, crops and livestock.”

Dryness continued into early fall. September and October saw drier conditions, especially across northern and west central Missouri. “A dry October led to conditions that allowed harvesting to run well ahead of normal,” Guinan said. Late fall showed a change, with wetter conditions in November and December across Missouri. The Bootheel averaged more than 18 inches for the two-month period, making it the wettest November-December since 1957. “These months have been very wet, helping to eliminate drought conditions across northern and western Missouri,” Guinan said. “We round out the year with many significant weather events, and we can only hope that next year’s weather will be less eventful.” - The Lincoln County Journal.
WATCH: Scenes in Joplin, Missouri after tornado devastation.

EXTREME WEATHER: Deadly Cyclone Thane Devastates Southern India - 46 Dead as 125kph Winds and Tidal Surges of 1.5 Metres Brought Down Trees, Walls and Power Lines!

Tropical Cyclone Thane left 46 people dead as it moved over southern India yesterday. 

A day after Cyclone Thane crossed the Tamil Nadu coast, leaving 46 people dead in south India, life was limping back to normal yesterday in the worst affected Cuddalore district. However, people had to usher in the New Year in darkness. At least 46 people have died in the south — 35 in Tamil Nadu, four in Kerala and seven in Puducherry — due to electrocution, falling of trees and collapsing roofs or walls. "Major roads are being cleared of uprooted trees and traffic is being resumed. People are returning to their homes or going to the homes of their relatives from relief camps. Life is coming back to normal," Cuddalore Deputy Superintendent of Police S. Vanitha said. Several trees, street lampposts and electric poles were uprooted on Friday at Cuddalore by the cyclone that packed a wind speed of 140km/h when it crossed the coast. "There is no power in the district which in turn is making supply of water at homes a problem. We are not able to draw water from the wells though supply of milk was there this [Saturday] morning," a housewife in Cuddalore said.

J. Kannan, another Cuddalore resident, said: "For bachelors like me, life is difficult as hotels have not opened and shopkeepers are charging astronomical prices even for biscuit packets. A litre of milk is sold at Rs50 (Dh 3.36) — more than double the rates charged normally. A candle costing Rs2 is now sold at Rs10. There is no power in the district and the shopkeepers are making hay while the sun shines," he said. Officials said it would take at least two days to restore power supply in the district as most of the electric poles have been uprooted by the wind. Banking operations in the district have also been affected in the absence of power.  "ATMs [Automatic Teller Machines] do not work. Further, as it is the month-end, people will be in need of money," an official of a public sector bank told IANS. "Glass panes were shattered and DTH [direct-to-home] antennas were blown away by the wind. Strong winds blew away tiled and thatched roofs of houses,' he added. Most people said the wind intensity was so terrifying that nobody was able to step out Friday morning. In Tamil Nadu, the coastal Cuddalore district reported 21 deaths while other deaths were from Villupuram (2), Tiruvallur (2) and Chennai (1). Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha on Friday ordered release of Rs1.50 billion towards relief and reconstruction of damaged infrastructure in the state. - Gulf News.
Lashing rains and gale force winds are bearing down on India's southeastern coast, disrupting power supplies and communication lines as Cyclone Thane makes landfall near the industrial city of Chennai, officials said. Packing wind speeds of up to 125kph, and accompanied by tidal surges of up to 1.5m, Thane hit Tamil Nadu state on Friday, killing at least eleven people and causing coastal villagers to move to relief shelters. "Under the influence of this system, rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy falls at a few places and isolated extremely heavy falls would occur," the Indian Meteorological Department said. "Gale wind speed reaching 120kph to 130kph gusting to 145kmph is likely along and off north Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry coasts during next three hours and then decrease gradually." Witnesses in Chennai and Pondicherry said trees had been toppled, there had been power outages throughout the night and disruption to phone and internet services in some areas. Hundreds of people from fishing communities along north Tamil Nadu's coast, and neighbouring Andhra Pradesh state, have moved to schools set up as relief centres until the weather system passes. "Making relief efforts diffuclt, roads are blocked because of heavy rainfall, trains were canceled and international flights also canceled," Al Jazeera's Prerna Suri said. "They had about 24 hours to prepare, unlike with other storms. So evacuation shelters are in place," our correspondent said. "Eight teams from the disaster management force are deployed from New Delhi, with some 15,000 people put on high alert." India's cyclone season generally lasts from April to December, with severe storms often causing dozens of deaths, evacuations of tens of thousands of people from low-lying villages and widespread crop and property damage. In 1999, a "super-cyclone" battered the coast of the eastern state of Orissa for 30 hours with wind speeds reaching 300kph, killing 10,000 people. - Al Jazeera.
WATCH: Cyclone Thane causes major damage.

WATCH: Tracking Cyclone Thane and a new development near the southern parts of the Philippines.

WATCH: Cyclone Thane weakens - relief operations underway.

WATCH: Cyclone hit Southern India.

EARTH CHANGES: New Study - Hurricanes and Typhoons May Trigger Major Earthquakes!

Hurricanes and typhoons could contribute to other natural disasters that occur long after the rain and winds subside. A new study led by University of Miami (UM) scientist Shimon Wdowinski finds a link between earthquakes and tropical storms, and shows that they may have actually initiated some major temblors, including the recent 2010 quakes in Haiti and Taiwan.

"Very wet rain events are the trigger," said Wdowinski, associate research professor at the UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. "The heavy rain induces thousands of landslides and severe erosion, which removes ground material from the Earth's surface, releasing the stress load and encouraging movement along faults ... the reduced load (can) unclamp the faults, which can promote an earthquake."

Wdowinski and a colleague from Florida International University analyzed data from major quakes in Taiwan and Haiti and found commonality between them, with a number of large earthquakes happening within the four years following a very wet tropical cyclone season.

Their research identified a handful of such instances from the past half-century: In Taiwan, the 2009 Morakot typhoon was followed by a magnitude 6.2 quake in 2009 and a 6.4 in 2010; Typhoon Herb in 1996 was followed by a 6.2 in 1998 and a 7.6 in 1999; 1969's Typhoon Flossie was followed by a 6.2 in 1972; the 2010 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti devastated the nation just a year-and-a-half after two hurricanes and two tropical storms drenched the island nation in the span of less than a month.

According to the researchers, earthquakes are only likely to be triggered by tropical cyclones - including hurricanes and typhoons - along so-called inclined faults, where one side is above the other.

A similar study, published in 2009 in the journal Nature, found a link between typhoons in Taiwan and "slow quakes" - less violent temblors that release their built-up pressure over the course of hours or days instead of a few seconds.

Both studies are tied to the theory of hydroseismicity, first put forth in 1987, that suggests a link between localized variations in rainfall and seismic activity. Some supporters of the hypothesis have called for the deployment of more stream gauging stations to one day complement earthquake monitoring and forecasting.

The researchers from the University of Miami and Florida International University say they plan to analyze patterns in other regions that suffer from tropical cyclones and earthquakes, such as the Philippines and Japan. - Gizmag.