Thursday, January 19, 2012

2011 REVIEW: The United Nations - Disasters Cost $366 Billion in 2011, 302 Natural Disasters, 29, 782 Deaths!

Natural disasters such as the huge earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan caused a record $366 billion (285 million euros) damage in 2011, the UN disaster risk reduction agency UNISDR said on Wednesday.

A total of 29,782 people were killed in 302 disasters last year, the body said. Storms and floods accounted for up to 70 percent of catastrophes but earthquakes were the biggest killer. Figures released by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) and the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction showed quakes claimed 20,943 lives, most of them in Japan. The earthquake and tsunami that sparked the Fukushima nuclear plant catastrophe in March was also the costliest disaster, causing damage worth $210 billion.

This was followed by the floods that hit Thailand from August to December which cost the country $40 billion. The number of disasters was down on 2010, when 385 occurred, according to CRED figures. However 2011 practically saw a tripling in costs from $123.9 billion recorded in the previous 12 months. CRED director Debarati Guha-Sapir said: "It was notable last year that many of the disasters were in high and middle-income countries which have the resources for better disaster prevention." In addition to the Japan earthquake, the centre cited the floods in Brazil in January, the quake that hit New Zealand in February, and Hurricane Irene in the United States in August and September.

The Brazil floods were the deadliest in the country's history, taking 900 lives. Other major disasters included the October earthquake in Turkey and the tropical storm Sendong that hit the Philippines last month, claiming 1,430 lives. This was the second highest death toll for disasters in 2011 after the 19,846 who died in Japan. "The Japan earthquake and the accompanying tsunami is a reminder to us all that we cannot afford to ignore the lessons of history no matter how forgotton," said UNISDR chief Margareta Wahlstrom.

"The many major cities located in seismic zones need to take seriously the probability of return events even if many years have passed since the last seismic event of major magnitude. "Unless we prepare for the worst, then many earthquake-prone urban areas around the world are destined to see even greater loss of life in the future as more and more people move to cities." In total 206 million people were affected by disasters last year. This includes 106 million hit by floods and 60 million by drought, mainly in the Horn of Africa. Guha-Sapir said droughts and famines were rarely "spectacular" events but caused a massive number of deaths which often went uncounted. "Reliable statistics and data should be a priority for better and more timely preventative action," the expert said. - Terra Daily.

DELUGE: All-out Rescue in Flood-Stricken Limpopo, South Africa - Torrential Rains Submerged Houses; Washed Away Bridge; and Made Roads Impassable! UPDATE: 4 Dead in Mozambique; Over 4,000 Homeless!

Almost 150 people were plucked from the roofs of their submerged houses and others from trees where they'd been trapped after torrential rain in the Hoedspuit area in Limpopo, where up to 300mm of rainfall was measured.

The air force, police, emergency services and private helicopters had been involved in the rescue. Two Oryx helicopters had been used to rescue 60 pupils who'd been trapped at two schools in the Buckbuckridge area, said air force spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton. "The bridge between the air force base and the town has been washed away, and several roads are impassable," air force Paxton said. "There is a lot of water and there are a lot of areas flooded after heavy rainfalls over the past two days, but especially yesterday. "We then embarked on search and rescue operations with helicopters and we rescued people from either islands or treetops, or the roofs of houses and we evacuated them to safety to the air force base in Hoedspruit."

Poor light had grounded the choppers, but he said the rescue operation would resume at first light on Thursday. The SA Weather Service (Weather SA) said  that heavy rainfalls will ease on Thursday in Limpopo. Weather SA's Elizabeth Webster told News24 that there was a 60% chance of rain for Limpopo on Thursday and it was "unlikely" that the heavy rains would persist. Earlier in the day, the Kruger Park issued an urgent warning that gates and roads have been closed as a result of rainfall. "The most important thing is to avoid all gravel roads in the Kruger National Park... We have issued a statement this morning to warn people about the water situation. Crocodile Bridge is closed because the bridge is overflowing.

"We have closed Phalaborwa Gate as well, and bridges leading to Letaba and Mopani camps are overflowing at this stage." Visitors to the park should contact the public relations office to ask about the condition of the roads they intended using. In Mpumalanga, provincial community safety department spokesperson Joseph Mabuza said drivers should be extremely careful. "We received reports that some of the bridges have been affected by rains, so we request all road users to be cautious when using the roads. "We have closed Phalaborwa Gate as well, and bridges leading to Letaba and Mopani camps are overflowing at this stage." Visitors to the park should contact the public relations office to ask about the condition of the roads they intended using. In Mpumalanga, provincial community safety department spokesperson Joseph Mabuza said drivers should be extremely careful. "We received reports that some of the bridges have been affected by rains, so we request all road users to be cautious when using the roads. - News 24.

Four people have died and more than 4,000 others are without shelter after torrential rains in Mozambique.
Three days of storms and high winds have hit water and power supplies and destroyed farm animals and cash crops. The storms have also led neighbouring South Africa to close its famous Kruger National Park, where helicopters have been used to evacuate tourists. Meteorologists warn a stronger weather system is approaching Mozambique, where flooding in 2000 left 700 people dead. It was the worst flooding in Mozambique's living memory and half a million people were also made homeless. The worst affected areas are in the southern Gaza and Maputo provinces, the national relief agency says. According to Dulce Chilundo of the Disaster Management Institute, tents and food are being sent to those who have lost their homes. Two of those who died were electrocuted, while the two others were killed when their homes collapsed - one after a tree hit the house, she told the BBC.

The capital, Maputo, is also affected by the heavy rains with drivers having to manoeuvre through water of up to a metre in some areas, the BBC's Jose Tembe reports from the city. Of the 4,000 people who have lost their homes, more than 1,200 are in the capital, where on Tuesday night at the height of the storm, many people were too scared to spend the night in their houses, he says. People who have not yet been assisted have resorted to climbing trees or sitting on the roofs of their houses to avoid being swept away by the flood waters, he says.

The floods have also destroyed more than 160 classrooms, four clinics and more than 600 hectares of farmland, the national disaster agency said. Our reporter says one of Mozambique's main crops, the cashew nut, has also been affected with more than 6,000 cashew tree destroyed. In some areas of Mozambique the water has begun to recede now that the high winds and rains have dissipated, our correspondent says. But meteorologist Sergio Buque said another low pressure system was heading towards the country which might bring heavier downpours. "We expect that the intensity may be greater than this one: We had category one winds of between 80 and 120km/h - the next one, if it develops as the models are showing us, could reach category two, when the winds are stronger," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme. - BBC.

NOTE: Thanks to Samora Eitaniel Ntsebeza for contributing to this post.

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: Scientists Sight 'Dark Dwarf' Galaxy - A Record-Breaking 10 Billion Light Years Away, Lowest-Mass Object Ever Detect at Such a Distance!

A faint 'satellite galaxy' - or dark dwarf - 10 billion light years from Earth is the lowest-mass object ever detected at such a distance.
The galaxy was captured by Hawaii's huge Keck telescope: The galaxy is thought to consist of mysterious
'dark matter', photographed using the effects of its gravity on light passing through the dark galaxy.
The galaxy is thought to consist of mysterious 'dark matter'. It's a useful 'jigsaw piece' that could let astronomers understand how the cosmos pieced itself together. It is only the second such galaxy ever observed outside our local universe, and is by far the most distant. Galaxies such as our own Milky Way are believed to piece themselves together over billions of years from the remains of such smaller galaxies. But they had not previously detected the predicted satellites of more distant galaxies. However, very few of these tiny relic galaxies have been observed, which has led astronomers to conclude that many of them must have very few stars or may be made almost exclusively of dark matter. This discovery, by researchers including an MIT postdoctoral researcher,  seems to confirm that. The dwarf galaxy is a satellite, meaning that it clings to the edges of a larger galaxy.
Scientists think that dark matter makes up a large part of the mass of the universe -
but it's only recently we began to detect it, using 'gravitational lensing' to detect the
otherwise invisible space matter via its distortions on light that passes through it.

'For several reasons, it didn’t manage to form many or any stars, and therefore it stayed dark,' says Simona Vegetti, a Pappalardo Fellow in MIT’s Department of Physics and lead author of a paper on the work, published in the journal Nature. Scientists theorize the existence of dark matter to explain observations that suggest there is far more mass in the universe than can be seen. They believe that dark matter should comprise about 25 percent of the universe; however, because the particles that make up dark matter do not absorb or emit light, they have so far proven impossible to detect and identify. Computer modeling suggests that the Milky Way should have about 10,000 satellite galaxies, but only 30 have been observed. 'It could be that many of the satellite galaxies are made of dark matter, making them elusive to detect, or there may be a problem with the way we think galaxies form,' Vegetti says. 

The Andromeda Galaxy (M31), with satellite galaxies Messier 110 and Messier 32: Galaxies such as our Milky Way are believed to form from smaller 'satellite' galaxies.
The team turned to more distant galaxies to search for dark satellites, using a method called gravitational lensing. To use this technique, researchers find two galaxies aligned with each other, as viewed from Earth. The more distant galaxy emits light rays that are deflected by the closer galaxy (which acts as a lens). By analyzing the patterns of light rays deflected by the foreground lens galaxy, the researchers can determine if there are any satellite galaxies clustered around it and measure how massive they are. The researchers used the Keck Telescope in Hawaii to make their observations, taking advantage of high-end optics to provide sharper images of the sky. They plan to use the same method to look for more satellite galaxies in other regions of the universe, which they believe could help corroborate or challenge predictions of how dark matter behaves. 'Now we have one dark satellite, but suppose that we don’t find enough of them -- then we will have to change the properties of dark matter,' Vegetti says. 'Or, we might find as many satellites as we see in the simulations, and that will tell us that dark matter has the properties we think it has.' - Daily Mail.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Third Shark Attack in Three Weeks in Australia - Second in Two Days?!

An Australian swimmer is recovering in hospital after being attacked by a tiger shark in what is the country's second attack in two days and third this month.

The 26-year-old man was snorkelling in a lagoon in Western Australia's Coral Bay when the 3m (10ft) shark bit into his arm, leaving him with severe wounds. Royal Flying Doctor Service spokeswoman Joanne Hill said a doctor was assessing him, but his injuries were not life threatening and he was in a stable condition. The man, who is a tour operator, was due to be flown to Perth for further treatment. Tiger sharks are one of the most aggressive species and have been responsible for deaths in the past.

The attack comes a day after a surfer was bitten by a shark at a beach near Newcastle on the east coast, in scenes witnesses said were "like Jaws". Tattoo artist Glen Folkard, 44, was catching waves off Redhead Beach when a 2m (6.5ft) shark, thought to be a bull shark, attacked him in front of dozens of stunned swimmers. Witnesses said the animal took a large chunk out of Mr Folkard's thigh as well as his board before dragging him under the water.

Witnesses said the animal took a large chunk out of Mr Folkard's thigh as well as his board before dragging him under the water. He managed to shake himself free and, with the help of fellow surfers, paddled back to shore trailing blood as the shark circled. He was then taken to hospital where he is said to be stable after surgery. Even though Redhead Beach is "netted", lifeguards have not confirmed whether there were shark nets in the water at the time of the attack. "It was kind of like Jaws, you know, the scene at the start... where everybody's pulled out of the water and it's a hot day and the water's inviting," a witness, named only as Peter, told the Sydney Morning Herald. "His (Folkard's) skin was really grey, he obviously lost quite a lot of blood." Another witness, Tony James, added: "It's just hit him and took him under for a bit. He's managed to get to the surface but I saw it start to follow him."

Bull sharks are a medium-sized species known for their aggression and tendency to attack humans. Around 500 people were on the popular family beach at the time, with about 100 in the water, according to reports. Rescue helicopters conducting air patrols spotted several large groups of sharks nearby and beaches in the area were closed. They reopened less than 24 hours later. But they reopened less than 24 hours later, although jet ski and helicopter patrols were continuing, as the schools of baitfish that are thought to have drawn the sharks close to shore moved further out to sea. On January 3 another surfer was bitten on the arm by a shark off North Avoca beach, also on the east coast. Fatal attacks are rare in Australia, with just 27 people killed in the past 22 years. - Sky News.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: New Alert at the Turrialba Volcano in Costa Rica - Experts Confirm Expulsion of Ash and Debris!

The alert for the Turrialba Volcano is back following Wednesday's activity that included the expulsion of ash and a slight tremor. The activity was confirmed by the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico Nacional (Ovsicori) that constantly monitors the volcano.

The spewing of ash and debris and the tremor was confirmed by areas residents.

OVSICORI experts are on site analyzing the causes of this new outpouring of ash that lasted some 20 minutes. In addition, the experts are involved in flyovers of the area.

The Comisión Nacional de Emergencias (CNE) - national emergency commission - is keeping a "green" alert for the area surrounding the volcano, waiting on word of the OVISCORI experts and those of the Red Sismológica Nacional before upgrading the alert.

Click HERE for a report on the state of Costa Rica's volcanos.

The OVISCORI, is an interdisciplinary research institute of the Universidad Nacional (UNA) - National University. Its mission is volcanic and seismic monitoring to document, analyze and interpret these processes and to disseminate this knowledge to contribute to society to risk prevention and mitigation of disasters they create. - Inside Costa Rica.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Volcanic Deformation and Geochemistry - Increased Activity Reported at the Cerro Machin Volcano in Colombia!

A slight increase in seismic activity on January 15 between 3:30 and 4:30 local time at the Cerro Machin volcano in Colombia. These seismic events were located in the main dome and the south-east of it, at depths ranging between 2 and 12 km.

This was confirmed by the Colombian Geological Survey, which indicated that in the last week Cerro Machin volcano seismicity continued to show volcano-tectonic type, which is associated with rock fracturing within the volcanic edifice.

The earthquake of greatest magnitude during the week was 0.73 on the Richter scale, which corresponds to an event recorded on 15 January at 3:21 pm (Local Time). Other parameters monitored, as the volcanic deformation and geochemistry have not undergone significant changes.

The Colombian Geological Survey continues monitoring the evolution of volcanic phenomena in a timely manner and report changes that may occur. - La Tarde [Translated].

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Widespread Snowstorm Wallops Pacific Northwest - Unusual Sub-Freezing Temperatures and Snow, Warning From the National Weather Service, Thousands Without Power!

A winter storm that packed winds of 100 mph and dumped more than a foot of snow in the Pacific Northwest could soon give way to another threat: warmer weather and the potential for flooding.

However, an icy Thursday morning commute was the next challenge likely to face Western Washington drivers, local emergency management officials warned. Sub-freezing temperatures were the rule late Wednesday with Bellingham forecast to dip as low as 15 degrees with wind gusts to 25 mph. Light freezing drizzle fell in Seattle and Tacoma. More than 40,000 electrical customers lost power at least temporarily late Wednesday, in many cases as icy, snow-laden tree limbs drooped or fell onto power lines. Many of the outages were quickly restored. Some residents in Washington state's capital tried to find a way to enjoy the abundance of snow Wednesday in a region not used to huge snowfalls.

"I love it," said teenager Emily Hansen, who had the day off from high school and spent the morning with her mother taking photos of the growing piles of snow outside the Capitol. Her mother, however, was more measured, mindful of what the days ahead could bring. "A day or two it's fun, but after a while you start looking at accidents and slush and flooding," Pat Hansen said. From Olympia to the Oregon coast, the storm closed schools, caused dozens of flight cancellations and clogged roads with snow and hundreds of accidents. Olympia had nearly a foot of new snow on the ground. Eleven inches was measured at the airport Wednesday. The record is 14.2 inches on Jan. 24, 1972. Lewis County, south of Olympia, had the highest snowfall amounts, ranging from 12 to 17 inches. "It's unusual to get this much snow for western Washington, especially in this amount," said Dennis D'Amico, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Seattle.

"A storm that that may drop upward of a foot on Olympia, that's pretty significant," he said. "Whether it's over 12 hours or six hours, it's still a lot of snow to deal with." Thursday's forecast was for a mix of snow and rain, and the National Weather Service warned that urban and small stream flooding was possible Friday, when another storm was expected to hit the state. Rain and temperatures in the 40s would start melting snow on the ground. Also, forecasters warned that heavy rain combined with snow melt could lead to some river flooding, especially in the Chehalis River Basin, an area that has been hit by significant floods in recent years. Officials in Lewis County said they didn't have yet have concerns about flooding in the Chehalis River, but were monitoring the amount of snow they receive. Washington residents had plenty of warning as snow showers started over the weekend. With the heavy snow in sight, Seattle and other school districts canceled Wednesday classes in advance. Alaska Airlines announced late Tuesday that it canceled 38 flights into and out of Seattle and Portland, Ore.

Washington State University announced late Wednesday it was cancelling all classes Thursday at its Pullman campus in southeastern Washington as significant snowfall was expected overnight. Seattle schools were also closed for Thursday, as were schools in Bellingham in northwest Washington, and in southeast Washington's Pasco, Kennewick and Richland. The University of Washington canceled Thursday classes at 3 campuses, including Seattle. Many courts and government offices and libraries closed Wednesday. Garbage collection was postponed. Several Seattle hotels reported all their rooms were booked. Elsewhere, shoppers stocked up on groceries. As of Wednesday night, the Washington State Patrol had responded to 261 collisions in the preceding 21 hours, Trooper Guy Gill said. No fatalities were reported.

"I saw a guy in my rear mirror," Gill said earlier. "I saw headlights and taillights and headlights and taillights again as he spun around off the road." In Oregon, high winds hammered parts of the coast and caused power outages that initially affected tens of thousands of customers, with reports of gusts of 110 mph and more. There were no immediate reports of serious damage. At the Capitol in Washington state, it was business as usual. Some state employees drove into work, but others walked in, and at least one employee was seen cross-country skiing to the campus. The 60-day legislative session began Jan. 9. In Tacoma, which had about 7 inches of snow for the morning rush hour, a kilt-clad, barelegged Charles Hetrick frolicked with his dog in a park. "I've worn nothing but kilts for the last six years, so I didn't even think about it when I put it on this morning," Hetrick said.

In Seattle, a fleet of 30 plows, de-icing trucks and graders were deployed to remove snow from main city streets. It had stopped snowing in Seattle Wednesday afternoon, but several inches of snow were still on the ground. Hundreds of people careened down Queen Anne Hill, one of Seattle's steepest, on skis, sleds and laundry baskets -- narrowly missing cars that crossed the intersection at the bottom. Jake Munson, an 18-year-old student at the Art Institute of Seattle, joined two friends in sliding down on an air mattress covered with a clear plastic bag. "I've done the whole tubing thing, but I had more fun doing this," he said. "It's way faster and riskier. There's fear -- you don't want to run into a pole or something." - FOX News.
Body of child swept away found in Oregon creek.

A monster Pacific Northwest storm coated parts of Washington with freezing rain on Thursday after claiming its first life - a child whose body was pulled from an Oregon creek where a car was swept away from a grocery store parking lot. Another child and a man were rescued Wednesday evening, but rescuers searched Thursday for another adult missing in the creek in the Willamette Valley community of Albany, Ore., about 70 miles south of Portland, Ore., said fire department spokeswoman Wanda Omdahl. The child who escaped was taken to Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland. Omdahl said she didn't know the age or gender of either child. Rising water from recent heavy rains swelled Periwinkle Creek and carried the car from the parking lot of Mega Foods about 7 p.m. Wednesday. "We had a ton of rain," Omdahl said. "I haven't seen that creek like that since '96." "The water just got high so fast," she said. "It's a big tragedy."

People across the Northwest confronted icy roads, power outages and the dangers of flooding from melting snow Thursday after the windy winter storm dropped more than a foot of snow in some places, causing school closures, knocking out electricity to thousands and leaving hundreds of accidents in its wake.  In Washington, ice closed Seattle's Sea-Tac Airport Thursday morning. Spokeswoman Charla Skaggs told KOMO Radio airlines would likely cancel flights because taxiways remain a problem even as runways are deiced. The National Weather Service issued an ice storm warning for the Seattle area and southwest Washington until noon Thursday because freezing rain was creating dangerous conditions. The ice storm warning covers Seattle, Tacoma, Bremerton, the east Puget Sound lowlands, lower Chehalis Valley and central coast, including Hoquiam. The Transportation Department closed Highway 18 near Issaquah because of falling trees.

Forecasters expect up to 0.04 inch of ice before temperatures rise above freezing by afternoon. The weather service forecasts rain to return by afternoon in Western Washington. Snow is still in the forecast for Eastern Washington into Friday. Washington State University in Pullman was closed. The University of Washington also cancelled Thursday classes at three campuses, including Seattle. Seattle schools were also closed again Thursday, as were schools in Bellingham in northwest Washington, and in southeast Washington's Pasco, Kennewick and Richland. The National Weather Service issued flood warnings for several Oregon rivers and several roads were closed because of flooding in Salem. Nearly a foot of new snow fell in Olympia, Wash., where 11 inches was measured at the airport Wednesday. The record is 14.2 inches on Jan. 24, 1972.

Lewis County, south of Olympia, had the highest snowfall amounts, ranging from 12 to 17 inches. "It's unusual to get this much snow for western Washington," said Dennis D'Amico, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Seattle. Forecasters warned that heavy rain combined with snowmelt could lead to some Washington river flooding, especially in the Chehalis River Basin, an area that has been hit by significant floods in recent years. The storm caused hundreds of accidents but no fatalities. "I saw a guy in my rear mirror," said Washington State Patrol trooper Guy Gill. "I saw headlights and taillights and headlights and taillights again as he spun around off the road." In Oregon, high winds hammered parts of the coast and caused power outages that initially affected tens of thousands of customers, with reports of gusts as high as 113 mph. There were no immediate reports of serious damage. - AJC.

WATCH: Raw Video - Snowstorm Wallops Washington State.

SEVERE WEATHER OUTBREAK: The Season of the Wind - National Weather Service Confirms 9 Tornadoes in Kentucky and Southern Indiana!

The National Weather Service has confirmed nine tornadoes Kentucky and southern Indiana from Tuesday's severe weather outbreak. Two tornadoes touched down in Jefferson County on Tuesday.

One confirmed EF-1 tornado touched down at 11:20 a.m. Tuesday just to the north of the intersection of Stony Brook Drive and Hurstbourne Parkway. Jeffersontown Residents Clean Up After Tornado. The tornado traveled north-northeast along Stony Brook Drive and lifted near Laverne Drive, according to the NWS. Several trees were snapped along the tornado's path. Siding and shingles were blown off several houses in that area. On Michael Edward Drive, a garage door was blown off and the roof was lifted off and shifted a foot. The tornado tore through a path 0.45 miles long and 90 yards wide with wind speeds of 95 mph and 100 mph.

Jeffersontown Damage Raw Aerials.

The NWS confirmed an EF-1 tornado at 11:12 a.m. in northeastern Jefferson County with wind speeds of 95 mph touched down near the intersection of Interstate 264 and Brownsboro Road. The tornado tracked northeast to near the intersection of Hurstbourne Parkway and Brownsboro Road where it briefly lifted. The tornado reformed and crossed Interstate 265. According to the NWS, the path of the tornado was 5.7 miles long and 250 yards wide. The tornado touched down near the intersection of Interstate 264 and Brownsboro Road. The tornado tracked northeast to near the intersection of Hurstbourne Parkway and Brownsboro Road where it lifted briefly. The tornado then reformed and crossed Interstate 265 and continued east northeast through a couple of subdivisions.

Tornado Cleanup Continues In Eastern Jefferson County.

The tornado lifted just northeast of a horse barn near Murphy Lane. Trees, shingle damage, roof and wall damage were reported along the path of the tornado. Isolated wind damage also occurred northeast of where the tornado lifted, into the Windy Willow and Orchard Grass Hills subdivision. An injury occurred as the tornado crossed I-265, where two tractor-trailers were tipped over. The driver of one of these trucks was injured. An EF-1 tornado was also confirmed in Floyds Knobs, Ind. The NWS said the tornado first touched down at 11 a.m. on East Riley Road, where a garage was destroyed, and the continued toward Binford Road. Several trees were knocked down by the storm on Binford Road. From there, the tornado crossed Paoli Pike just north of Interstate 265 and caused roof damage at the Knob Point apartments.

The wind speeds of the Floyds Knobs tornado were 95 mph to 100 mph, the NWS said. The tornado left a path 1.2 miles long and 50 yards wide. In Clark County, an EF-0 tornado was confirmed in the Walmart parking lot on the northwest corner of Veterans Parkway near Interstate 65 at 11:06 a.m. Tuesday. A vehicle on I-65 was tipped over by the tornado. The tornado touched down again in a subdivision to the east, with damage occurring along Belmar and Meadows drives, and the intersection of Kingsfield Street and Crown Court. The National Weather Service said several fences were damaged and the roof was taken off a barn on Armstrong Road. The wind speeds of the tornado reached 75 mph and the path was 1.9 miles long by 30 yards wide. The NWS also confirmed an EF-0 tornado in Jefferson County, Ind. The NWS said a tornado touched down at 10:40 a.m. near the Madison Municipal Airport and the damage was confined to IMS Lane.

The tornado had wind speeds of 85 mph along a path that was 0.3 miles long and 60 yards wide. The NWS said the tornado moved a 500-pound trash bin 35 feet. It also moved a Beechcraft/King Air plane 10 degrees and broke the craft's nose gear. The airport operations building also suffered damage to its awning and a post. Siding and insulation was torn from a hangar and some trees were also snapped along the tornado's path. Another tornado was confirmed Wednesday morning by the NWS in Scott County, Ky. The EF-1 tornado with winds around 90 mph damaged barns and fences in the southern portion of Scott County at 12:12 p.m. Tuesday. NWS officials said the tornado left a path 0.45 miles long by 75 yards wide. An EF-2 tornado was confirmed in Simpson and Allen counties in southern Kentucky.

The tornado had wind speeds of 120 mph and cut a path 9 miles long and 150 yards wide. Two additional tornadoes were confirmed Wednesday in Dubois County, Ind. An EF-0 tornado touched down at 9:44 a.m. 2.7 miles southwest of Huntingburg with winds at 80 mph and a path 0.1 miles long by 25 yards wide. An outbuilding was damaged in the tornado and debris was scattered for a quarter mile. An EF-1 tornado also touched down 5 miles northeast of Huntingburg. That tornado had winds of 90 mph and a path 1.9 miles long and 100 yards wide. Outbuildings were damaged, a small grain hopper was toppled and dozens of trees were knocked down by the tornado, which lifted 6.9 miles northeast of Huntingburg. No fatalities were reported in any of the tornadoes, according to the National Weather Services. - WLKY.
WATCH: Powerful Winter Storms Spawn January Tornadoes.

EXTREME WEATHER: Heavy Snow Paralyses Most of Turkey - Breaks Gas Record Usage!

Due to the unseasonably chilly winter weather, Turkey broke a natural gas consumption record on Jan. 16, consuming 178 million cubic meters of natural gas.

Energy Ministry officials, however, said an 8 to 10 million cubic meter deficit is not a cause for concern and the deficit stems from the fact that people have consumed more electricity leading to a strain on the natural gas conversion plants, which convert natural gas to electricity. The situation is expected to be resolved by Jan. 21, according to officials.

“This period has not affected residential and industrial natural gas usage and will not affect usage going forward,” the officials said.  Meanwhile, Turkey’s state-run pipeline company Botaş’ Executive Board Director and General Manager Fazıl Şenel said the news regarding Botaş urging citizens in the Marmara and Ege regions to move toward secondary fuel sources was partly true.  “There is missing information though. Our citizens need not be concerned. There is no likelihood of natural gas being shut down in either residential or industrial establishments,” he said, adding that companies which were capable of producing electricity for a three to four-day period with secondary fuel sources like oil had already begun to do so. “It is only for these firms we have applied the natural gas reduction to. This does not affect the average citizen,” said Şenel. - Hurriyet Daily News.
Several days ago, a major power blackout hit Turkey's largest city Saturday afternoon, leaving millions of residents without electricity while shutting down Istanbul's subway and tram systems.

Officials with the Istanbul governor's emergency situation directorate told CNN the massive outage appeared to be caused by a failure on a main power transfer line running from the Western city of Bursa. "There was no power in all of Istanbul," one official said. Another added, "We think there was also no power in Izmit and Adapazari," referring to two other cities in western Turkey. Istanbul is Turkey's cultural and commercial hub, with a population of more than 12 million people. The sparkling lights along Istanbul's main pedestrian thoroughfare, Istiklal Caddesi, went completely dark as snow began falling on the city. In subway stations, lights were on in the tunnels but escalators stopped operating. Meanwhile, a message repeated over the loudspeaker system announcing "due to a technical problem the metro is not running." The blackout reached from the neighborhoods of Istinye to Atakoy, a distance of around 20 kilometers. After at least an hour of darkness, residents reported some power returned to the neighborhood of Kadikoy on the eastern side of Istanbul. - CNN.
Cold weather and snow swept across Turkey, affecting each region differently. While snow was wreaking havoc in the eastern provinces and several other places in the northern parts of the country, the west of Turkey saw lighter snowfall. In the southeastern province of Siirt, Şırnak and Tunceli as well as the northern province of Kastamonu and the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri, hundreds of village roads were closed to traffic due to heavy snowfall. Several village roads were closed in the eastern provinces of Erzurum and Ağrı. Efforts continued during Friday to open the roads. In eastern province of Muş, the closed village roads were cleared by the Special Provincial Administration.

The western provinces of İzmir and Muğla saw a blanket of snow on the mountains on Friday. İzmir’s Karagöl village saw 10 centimeters of snow. The village attracted residents from İzmir who also want to see snow in the city. Meanwhile, Muğla enjoyed winter and spring at the same time. While Bodrum and the Marmaris districts were 13 degrees Celcius throughout Friday, the top of the mountains in the province received 50 centimeters of snow. At the top of Uludağ Mountain in the western province of Bursa, which is a famous skiing destination, the snow thickness reached one-and-a-half meters. In the mean time, İstanbul is forecasted to see snow on Monday. According to data taken from the State Meteorology Bureau, snowfall will begin in the early hours of Monday heavy snow is predicted during the day. - Todays Zaman.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Powerful, Unusual and Freak Snowstorm Slams the Northern Island of Hokkaido in Japan - Breaks All Historical Records!

An unusually powerful storm hit the city of Iwamizawa on Monday, leaving behind mounds of snow nearly two metres deep.

Scientists say they can't confirm exactly how much snow fell because their measuring instruments were damaged in the blizzard. But the island's meteorological agency said this is the most snow Iwamizawa has been hit with since records began in 1946.

Here, the sheer weight of the snow caused the collapse of a wooden roof. The falling structure knocked over several stoves, setting the building ablaze. On Tuesday, many bus and train services remained suspended due to snow on the tracks and roadways. - NTDTV.
WATCH: Record Snow Sweeps Japan.

WATCH: Western Pacific Weather Update over the last 2 days.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: School Bus Falls Into Sinkhole in Bloomington, Oakland - Sinkhole Was About 8 Foot Long, 4 Foot Wide and 4 Foot Deep; Recent Sinkholes in the Same Area!

A rear wheel of a Bloomington District 87 school bus fell into a 4-foot-deep sinkhole Wednesday afternoon when pavement caved in on West Oakland Avenue, but no one on board was injured.

Officials examine a sinkhole that swallowed the rear wheel of a District 87 school
bus carrying 12 Irving Elementary School students Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. 
 “It just dropped,” said bus driver Rhonda Pondelick, adding she’s never experienced anything like it before in her three years as a bus driver. “They were all screaming,” she said of the children. “I got them all calmed down. They were in shock at first.” The bus was carrying 12 Irving Elementary School students, the driver and the driver’s 6-year-old son, who attends Cedar Ridge Elementary School, when the pavement suddenly gave way about 4:50 p.m. in the 600 block of West Oakland Avenue. Oakland Avenue between Mason and Lee streets already was closed until Jan. 25 so crews could repair two other sinkholes caused by a water main break. Wednesday’s accident occurred in the next block to the west, on the other side of Mason Street.

Reporters at the scene could hear water rushing through the bottom of the sinkhole, which was about 8 feet long and about 4 feet wide. District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly, who was at the scene, said no one was injured. Some of the smaller children were wearing seatbelts. The children were transferred to another bus where Pondelick sat with them. Parents were notified of the accident, and several came to pick up their children. The full-sized bus, owned by District 87’s bus contractor, Illinois Central School Bus, sank up to its frame on the driver’s side as the rear wheel hung in the hole. Two Southtown Wrecker Service tow trucks arrived at the scene to lift the bus out of the hole. One worked in front, the other in the rear. “The road was weak. The bus went into a hole. Nobody was injured though,” said 10-year-old Narin Ware when his father, Van Ware, picked up the fifth-grader at the scene. Melissa Martin also arrived to pick up her daughter. “The bus just fell,” said her 8-year-old daughter, Aubrey, an Irving third-grader.

Several neighbors stood on their porches and near the street to watch what happened. Word of the accident reached the City Council, which was meeting for a work session at City Hall. “Obviously, they have to shut down the street for quite some time,” Assistant Fire Chief Steve Giusti told council members. Deputy City Manager Barb Adkins said late Wednesday night that city workers found a crack down a 4-foot piece of water main pipe in the sinkhole. She said the city does not know whether the cracked pipe and any water that might have leaked from it caused the road to buckle. “We’ll have to wait until the investigation is completed before we’ll know what caused it,” City Manger David Hales said. Adkins said the pipes under Wednesday’s sinkhole are not connected to those related to the other recent sinkholes in the area. Oakland Avenue remained closed late Wednesday night from Lee to Allin streets, and Mason Street was closed one block on either side of Oakland. - Pantagraph.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Mass Stranding and Die-Off - Experts Perplexed by 60 Dolphins Stranded on Cape Cod!

Animal welfare advocates are perplexed by dozens of dolphins swimming onto land along the scenic Cape Cod shores south of Boston beginning late last week, one of the largest cases of dolphins stranding themselves in years.

About 60 animals have been stranded along 25 miles of Cape Cod coastline since Thursday, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). So far, 19 dolphins have been rescued and released, with some of the 27 dolphins stranded alive unable to survive, said Katie Moore, manager for the group's marine mammal rescue and research. She estimated another 32 washed ashore already dead. She said the pattern this year is unlike past years, when just one dolphin or a group would be found on a single beach. "It feels like stranding after stranding after stranding," she said. "It's definitely out of the ordinary." The dolphins began beaching themselves on Thursday, with a single dolphin stranded near the town of Wellfleet, Massachusetts, said Kerry Branon, a spokeswoman for IFAW.

On Saturday, the busiest day for rescuers, at least 37 dolphin were found spanning five towns along Cape Cod, Branon said. January through April is the typical season for multiple beaching of dolphins, Branon said. Cape Cod is among the top locations for the phenomenon worldwide, she said. Beaching of dolphins has been happening for centuries, but researchers are still trying to determine what brings the dolphins to Cape Cod Bay this time of year. The group actions tend to happen, in part, because dolphins operate with a group mentality, where many others may follow one animal toward shallow water, IFAW said.
The animals, which tend to get stuck on the bay side of the hook-shaped Cape Cod, are assessed by rescuers on site and then transported and released in deeper water on the ocean side.  Marine biologists check for signs of stress and body condition, among other factors, and tag the dolphins with an identifier before release. A handful of animals have also been affixed with a tag to track movement and transmit data to researchers, Branon said. Moore said this year's series of dolphins stranded on beaches reminded her of the 2005-2006 winter, when dolphins beached themselves over a 40-day period. The IFAW team of six dedicated staff who respond to marine mammals and more than 300 volunteers will continue to monitor for additional stranded dolphins. - Chicago Tribune.

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: "Potential Extinction Event" of Bats in Progress - White-Nose Fungus Kills 6.7 Million Bats in Six Years!

Federal biologists announced today that up to 6.7 million bats in 16 states and four Canadian provinces may have died from the white-nose fungus since it was detected six years ago, a die-off that a conservationist today called "a potential extinction event," The Washington Post reports.

Bats in Hailes Cave in New York with white-nose syndrome, a deadly fungus that may have killed
up to 6.7 million hibernating bats in 16 states and four Canadian provinces. The disease was first
documented in February 2006 in a cave about 20 miles from Hailes.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that at least 5.5 million bats are estimated to have died from so-called white-nose syndrome, a disease first documented on bats hibernating in cave near Albany in February 2006. Biologists report mortality rates of 90% to 100% at some sites and expect the disease to keep spreading through several species, including some that are endangered. The cause is a mystery. One theory is that humans may have introduced the fungus while exploring caves. Last May, Fish and Wildlife unveiled a plan to combat the disease, and in October, federal and academic biologists concluded the fungus was in fact killing off bats in caves and mines across North America.

The new die-off figures come just before another hibernation season and are several times greater than a previous estimate. "This startling new information illustrates the severity of the threat that white-nose syndrome poses for bats, as well as the scope of the problem facing our nation. Bats provide tremendous value to the U.S. economy as natural pest control for American farms and forests every year, while playing an essential role in helping to control insects that can spread disease to people," Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said in a news release. He said the agency is working with 140 partners "to understand the spread of this deadly disease and minimize its impacts to affected bat species."
Map shows the extent of the pandemic.
Here's how the Fish and Wildlife Service explains the disease:
 While they are in the hibernacula, affected bats often have white fungus on their muzzles and other parts of their bodies. They may have low body fat. These bats often move to cold parts of the hibernacula, fly during the day and during cold winter weather when the insects they feed upon are not available, and exhibit other uncharacteristic behavior.
In May 2009, Fish and Wildlife ordered thousands of caves and former mines in national forests in 33 states to be closed for up to a year to try to control the fungus. "We're watching a potential extinction event on the order of what we experienced with bison and passenger pigeons for this group of mammals," Mylea Bayless of Bat Conservation International in Austin told the Post. "The difference is we may be seeing the regional extinction of multiple species. Unlike some of the extinction events or population depletion events we've seen in the past, we're looking at a whole group of animals here, not just one species. We don't know what that means, but it could be catastrophic." - USA Today.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Mount Sakurajima Continues Its Record-Breaking Activity - Produces Plumes to Altitudes of 8,000 Feet!

According to the Weekly Volcanic Activity Report from the Smithsonian's Global Volcanism Program and the US Geological Survey's Volcano Hazards Program,  Mount Sakurajima's explosive release of gas, ash or rock continues unabated.

Based on information from JMA, the Tokyo VAAC reported that during 11-17 January explosions from Sakura-jima produced plumes that rose to altitudes of 1.2-2.4 km (4,000-8,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted NE, E, and SE. On 14 January a pilot observed an ash plume that rose to an altitude of 2.4 km (8,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted S.

Geologic Summary. Sakura-jima, one of Japan's most active volcanoes, is a post-caldera cone of the Aira caldera at the northern half of Kagoshima Bay. Eruption of the voluminous Ito pyroclastic flow was associated with the formation of the 17 x 23-km-wide Aira caldera about 22,000 years ago. The construction of Sakura-jima began about 13,000 years ago and built an island that was finally joined to the Osumi Peninsula during the major explosive and effusive eruption of 1914. Activity at the Kita-dake summit cone ended about 4,850 years ago, after which eruptions took place at Minami-dake. Frequent historical eruptions, recorded since the 8th century, have deposited ash on Kagoshima, one of Kyushu's largest cities, located across Kagoshima Bay only 8 km from the summit. The largest historical eruption took place during 1471-76.
WATCH: Live Sakurajima camera.

MASS UFO Sightings: Mystery Lights Over Burnham, Somerset, UK - UFO Sightings or Just Bright Stars?!

Two mysterious UFOs have been spotted over the skies of Burnham-On-Sea.

According to a leading UFO website, two brightly lit objects were sighted over the town on Wednesday evening, 11th January.

The eyewitness, only identified as Rosy, states: "At approximately 5.45pm, there of us observed two bright white lights in the sky."

"They could have been extremely bright stars, but all other stars were dull and twinkled due to the atmospheric conditions."

In 2010, reported on a similiar sighting of an object in the early hours of the morning, as featured HERE. And in May the same year, an 'orb-shaped' object was spotted over the town - as we covered HERE. - BOS.

PLANETARY TREMORS: 6.1 Earthquake Strikes off the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island!

A strong 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the west coast of New Zealand's South Island Thursday, geologists said, but there were no immediate reports of damage and no tsunami warning was issued.

The quake struck at a relatively shallow depth of 18 kilometres (11 miles), 204 kilometres west of Invercargill, New Zealand's southernmost city, at 5:48 pm (0648 GMT), the US Geological Survey said. The epicentre was 293 km (182 miles) southwest of Queenstown, New Zealand; 380 km (236 miles) southwest of Dunedin, New Zealand; and 940 km (584 miles) southwest of Wellington, New Zealand.

Christchurch, New Zealand's second most populous city, which is also on the South Island, was battered by a powerful 6.3-magnitude earthquake in February last year that left 182 people dead and destroyed much of its centre.

New Zealand sits on the so-called "Ring of Fire", the boundary of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, and experiences up to 15,000 tremors a year.A strong earthquake has struck off the coast of New Zealand’s South Island, but there are no reports of damage or injuries and no tsunami warning has been issued.