Tuesday, March 20, 2012

SEASON OF THE WINDS: Violent Gale Force Winds Leave Thousands Without Power in Northlands, New Zealand!

Thousands are without power tonight as strong winds continue to batter large areas of the North Island.
The storm which flooded parts of Northland with up to two months' of rain in two days has tracked further south and brought winds of up to 100km/h in Taupo and 113km/h in Taranaki. In the worst hit region of Taranaki, which is still recovering from a hammering two weeks ago, about 2500 people are without power tonight.

Powerco Network Operations Manager Phil Marsh said significant damage had been caused to the company's electricity network in Taranaki. "Powerco is advising people who are currently without power to prepare to be off overnight," Marsh said. Dangerous winds and road closures are hampering Powerco's efforts to restore power. "As soon as it's safe, crews will be out in force working to get the power back on as soon as they can. We've brought in staff from outside the region to help restore supply." ONE News reporter John Newton said the "sheer violence of the winds" earlier today through some parts of Taranaki was "absolutely astonishing" .  Newton said trees were ripped from the ground, roofs torn from houses and vehicles rolled over.  Strong winds forced New Plymouth Airport to close for the morning, with gusts recorded at twice the safe speed for aircraft.

Storm beginning to lose momentum
ONE News weatherman Jim Hickey says a reprieve from the gales is on the horizon for Taranaki, Taupo and the Central North Island High Country, Wellington and Horowhenua Kapiti Coast. "The storm is beginning to lose momentum. Severe gails from the high country, to Taranaki, to Wellington are on the cusp of abating," Hickey said. Metservice said heavy rain is on the way for Gisborne, Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa tonight and warned people in these areas to watch out for rapidly rising streams and rivers, slips, surface flooding and hazardous driving conditions. Taupo also took a battering today, suffering power cuts, flying debris and falling trees. High winds and fallen trees have caused the closure of a section of State Highway 5 near Taupo. The New Zealand Transport Agency says the road will remain closed overnight.
Continuing high winds mean trees and branches are still falling so it is too dangerous for contractors to begin clearing the debris. Motorists travelling between Taupo and Rotorua will be diverted onto Broadlands Road.

Flooded north

As the floodwaters recede in Northland, another low will move onto the Far North tomorrow night, Hickey says.  "But don't panic, it's not a storm. It's moving quickly and it's not as deep or as nasty as the current system and it will affect parts of Northland and the Bay of Plenty." Dan Corbett from MetService says some parts of Northland have recorded up to 300 mm of rain since Sunday afternoon, but the main rain band is now fragmenting. Kaeo was hit the worst by the heavy rain with residents having to flee to higher ground while cattle were left stranded. Civil Defence opened evacuation centres for those who had been misplaced. Warnings remain for motorists and residents in Northland, despite the improving forecast. Travellers are being warned to drive with caution as roads that were clear may now be blocked or flooded. Whangarei District Council says rivers have now passed their peaks but levels are expected to fluctuate throughout the day. Crews were out on the roads early this morning checking for damage, slips, fallen trees, flooding and washouts. Residents are being encouraged to check the Whangarei District Council Website or Northland Regional Council website for more information. - TVNZ.
WATCH: Violent winds in Northlands.



EXTREME WEATHER: The Season of the Winds - Severe Sandstorms Engulf Saudi Cities!

The General Presidency for Meteorology and Environment yesterday warned of possible severe sandstorms in the northern and eastern regions and Riyadh. It also warned of below-zero temperatures in the northern areas of Tabuk, Turaif and Al Qurayat in the next few days. PME spokesman Hussein Al-Qahtani said the sandstorms are the result of high winds buffeting the Kingdom. "We are now in transition from one season to another, and the Kingdom is usually affected by different rates of temperature in addition to high wind speeds,” he said.

In this combo image, traffic crawls along street in Jeddah street (left), and Riyadh’s Kingdom Center
(right frame) is hardly visible as severe sandstorms swept across the Kingdom on Sunday.

"Wind speeds reached 60 km per hour yesterday and have been affected by the climate of the northern, eastern and central regions of the Kingdom, but God willing the storm will finish on Tuesday evening,” he said. Al-Qahtani said he would keep the public updated on what precautions to take. With regard to air traffic controllers and schools, he said: "We send our reports to all parties and they respond accordingly." Dust storms hit Jeddah yesterday, leading to visibility levels of less than two kilometers. Some schools closed for the day. The Civil Defense is on high alert, it said. Officials also ordered the suspension of classes in many cities and provinces starting Monday. The Civil Defense office advised teachers, students and other school staff to stay home to avoid getting caught in the storm. The Traffic Department advised motorists to exercise caution and not drive fast and use headlights. In addition, a sandstorm yesterday morning engulfed villages in Taif and reduced visibility on the road to less than a kilometer.Some parents of students complained about schools that continued to teach despite the hazardous conditions, while media spokesman for Health Affairs in the province of Taif Siraj Al-Humaidan confirmed health centers as well as hospitals were on high alert and prepared to receive emergency cases of children and the elderly who suffer allergic reactions. The PME in Jeddah said dust storms would limit horizontal vision to 1 km especially in the southern part of the Eastern Province, Riyadh province, Najran and parts of the western provinces especially in the eastern part of Makkah and Madinah today. Deputy Director of General Administration for Analysis and Forecast at PME Hassan Mirah told Arab News that the dust storms would continue and restrict horizontal vision in Makkah province and coastal governorates including Jeddah and regions sitting between Makkah and Madinah to less than 1km today.


The visibility will be minimum in open areas including express roads in those regions and also in parts of Hail and Tabuk, he said. The temperature will fall below 0 degree Celsius in northern parts of the Kingdom especially in areas such as Turaif and Al-Qarayyat. He did not rule out snowfall in some northern regions today. "The currently experienced dust storms are rare in the Kingdom in general and particularly in Jeddah and other parts of Makkah province. The weather condition experienced in most of the Kingdom since last Saturday, hit Jeddah on yesterday morning. The visibility is expected to improve in most of the regions including Jeddah on Tuesday,” he said. The Eastern Province was in the eye of a severe sandstorm yesterday. Visibility was reduced to zero and a sharp wind, laden with sand, whipped down streets in Dammam, Dhahran, Alkhobar, Al-Hasa, Hafr Al-Batin, Ras Tanura and Jubail. The storm started blanketing the region at 8 p.m. on Saturday as sand-laden winds made life difficult for motorists who drove with hazard lights on as they negotiated their way through the thick balls of yellow and orange dust. The spokesman of the Civil Aviation Khaled Al-Khaibary said the sandstorm did not affect the functioning of the airports in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam. “Flights were on schedule and the visibility at all three airports is enough for safe takeoff and landings,” he said. But there were reports of flights being rescheduled to avoid flying into areas with poor visibility. Airlines, as a precaution, either rescheduled the flights or canceled. The Jeddah Seaport General Manager Sahir Tahlawi said that the sandstorm did not affect ship movements for the day. “The ship movements were as usual and the effect of the sandstorm was not felt at the port as the storm was not accompanied by heavy winds,” he said. The emergency rooms in the hospitals at the storm-affected cities were packed with citizens and residents suffering from asthma attacks, allergies and respiratory illness. Over 800 cases in Riyadh, and about 500 cases in Dammam and Jeddah respectively were reported. - Arab News.


EXTREME WEATHER: Mile-Wide Avalanche Sweeps Five to Their Deaths in Norway!

Five skiers have been killed after being engulfed in an avalanche nearly a mile wide in northern Norway.

The survivor is now being treated at Tromso's hospital.
One person was dug out alive from under 20ft of snow and taken to hospital after the snowslide yesterday near Tromsoe, on Norway's Arctic coast. The six tourists, five Swiss and one French national, were part of a group of 12 people skiing in the area when the avalanche struck near Sorbmegaisa mountain, an area near the Lyngen fjord surrounded by high peaks and popular with off-piste skiers and snowboarders. The party had apparently reached the area by boat. The avalanche was triggered about 1,100 metres up, according to police. The victims were wearing avalanche transceivers which guided about 30 rescuers digging through the snow. Police and military helicopters were also sent to the site.

"It was a demanding search," said Tor Indrevold, of the local Red Cross team, adding rescuers were "digging down two storeys" of snow. The Swiss foreign ministry confirmed four of its citizens had been killed and one injured. They were not named. The northern tip of Norway is popular with tourists who go to experience the Arctic wilderness or see the Northern Lights. The region also offers cross-country skiing, reindeer sledging, ice fishing and snowmobile rides. Avalanches are common in Norway at this time of year as blocks of snow and ice begin crumbling under the first rays of spring sun. Two Norwegian skiers were killed by an snowslide on the island of Kvaloeya, just outside Tromsoe, last month. Yesterday, the local avalanche risk, measured on a five-point scale, was three. - Scotsman.


EXTREME WEATHER: Baseball-Sized Hail, Heavy Rains, Damaging Winds and Tornadoes in Forecast for Oklahoma and Texas!

Storms are expected to sweep through the middle of the country over the next several days, bringing heavy rain and the threat of hail and tornadoes. Flood warnings stretch from southeast Texas, north through western Missouri on Monday, but after a year of drought in much of the region and a largely snowless winter, fears of flooding aren't what they otherwise might be in several states, where the ground is expected to absorb inches of rain with ease.

The forecast for northern Texas and southeast Oklahoma also calls for baseball-sized hail, damaging winds and possibly tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. Two tornadoes damaged homes and rail cars in North Platte, Neb., on Sunday. Eight inches of rain are expected in southeastern Kansas, which has been unusually dry for nearly a year. The area has had less than three-fourths of the precipitation it typically gets since last April, state climatologist Mary Knapp said. "We're looking at maybe a week of rain in that part of the state," she said. "That would be a very, very nice start to our spring season." Emergency management officials said they're keeping an eye on the clouds but feel comfortable southeast Kansas can handle several days of rain. "Right now we are relatively dry, so the first couple inches will probably not be a big deal," said Labette County emergency management director Larry Steeby. "If we did get several more inches on top of that, preliminarily there would be some problems. But we're in as good shape as we could be."

In Arkansas, however, the Department of Emergency Management prepared teams to respond to floods forecasters warn could result from heavy rain. The state has seen more rain than usual in the past two weeks, and vegetation is still dormant. Forecasters say heavy precipitation could run off and cause flash floods. "This time of year, the soil cannot hold as much precipitation as it can later in the spring," meteorologist Chris Buonanno said. Emergency Management spokesman Tommy Jackson said drivers need to be careful because water overflowing from ditches and creeks could sweep their vehicles away. "Turn around and don't drown," Jackson said.  Meanwhile, a heavy snow storm hit northern Arizona and California over the weekend, toppling a 100-foot-tall fir tree that crashed into a house, killing a sleeping 8-year-old girl in Arnold, Calif. - ABC News.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Arizona Cities Buried in Rare Snowstorm as Much of U.S. Enjoys Balmy Weather!

A winter storm and high winds struck parts of Arizona and New Mexico on Sunday, causing hazardous driving conditions, power outages and school cancellations. The fast moving storm forced the National Weather Service to place parts of northern New Mexico under a winter storm warning until midnight Monday as heavy snow and wind from Arizona quickly blanketed the area.

Flagstaff was hit with a late winter storm that dumped more than of foot of snow in the area on March 18.
The electric company PNM reported that around 33,000 customers were out of power at one point Sunday afternoon in the Albuquerque area due to high winds. A spokesman for PNM said emergency crews were working to restore power, and by 9 p.m. the number without electricity was down to 4,500. Heavy winds and blowing dust forced the closure of parts Interstate 10 in southern New Mexico due to low visibility, but the road was back open later in the day. A flight carrying the University of New Mexico men's basketball team home after its loss in the NCAA tournament was delayed due to high winds.  Arizona Department of Transportation crews were fully deployed Sunday after heavy snow in Arizona fell from Flagstaff to the White Mountains. The winter storm forced officials to temporary close Interstate 40 in both directions and parts of Interstate 17. Both highways later reopened Sunday afternoon.  Arizona Snowbowl reported 19 inches of snowfall, and the Flagstaff Nordic Center has measured 12 to 18 inches of fresh snow overnight. Low temperatures also caused a hard freeze on roads, making them extremely slippery. A number of truck drivers were forced off the roads and waited out the storm at travel centers, according to a number of television reports.

The National Weather Service said Flagstaff and surrounding area were under a winter storm warning until midnight Monday. More snow was expected overnight into Monday. Storm totals range from between 12 to 22 inches above 7,000 feet.  In addition, Northern Arizona University, Coconino Community College and the Flagstaff Unified School District canceled classes Monday to allow students an extra day of safer travel to return from spring break. Coconino County offices delayed Monday's opening until 10 a.m. Meanwhile, much of New Mexico remained under a high wind advisory with damaging winds expected to reach up to 60 mph. The New Mexico Environmental Health Department's Air Quality Division issued a fugitive dust/high wind notice until Monday that warned residents who are sensitive to blowing dust, such as those with asthma, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory and heart diseases, to limit outdoor activity. Children and older adults also could be affected by particulate pollution, the agency said. Dan Ware, state forestry spokesman, said high winds were the blame for a fire west of Silver City in the Wind Canyon area. He said crews contained a fire Sunday afternoon. He said burned less than 7 acres, and was not a threat to any structures. - Christian Science Monitor.


WEATHER ANOMALIES: Snow Arrives with Spring in Spain!

Spring arrives at 6.41am on Tuesday with 21 Spanish provinces on alert for cold, wind, and snow. Several provinces of Andalucía, Castilla-La Mancha, Valencia and Aragón are on alert for snow. 

Cold winds in San Sebastian.
The season will last for 92 days, and 18 hours and ends with the start of summer on June 21. Several provinces of Andalucía, Castilla-La Mancha, Valencia and Aragón are on alert for snow with the snowline between 600 and 900m. Up to 7cms could fall in Almería province in the Almanzora valley and Los Vélez, and similar amounts are expected in Guadix and Baza in Granada province. Jaén and Albacete could see 20cms of snow in the Sierra de Cazorla, and in Hellín and Almansa in Castilla-La Mancha. There are yellow alerts for snow in Teruel, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Alicante, Castellón and Murcia with 4cms of snow expected.

Temperatures will continue their fall since the unseasonably highs seen over recent days, and this will of special note in the south of the mainland and on the Baleares. The temperature on the Sierra de Madrid will fall to aboute -7ºC. Sky watchers are excited about the Spring as Venus will transit before the Sun on June 6, and event which not happen again until 2117. It will also be a good season to spot four planets, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will all be visible from the start of the night during the first half of the season. - Typically Spanish.

EXTREME WEATHER: NASA Sees More Severe Weather Over Eastern Texas, Oklahoma - After Tornado Damaged 50 Homes in San Antonio!

Severe weather hammered the Midwest and South from Minnesota to Texas including a tornado that touched down in San Antonio, where at least 50 homes were damaged or destroyed.

The AIRS instrument onboard NASA's Aqua satellite captured an infrared image that showed
cloud top temperatures in the severe frontal system over Texas and Oklahoma on March 20 at
0753 UTC 34:53 am EST). The strongest thunderstorms, heaviest rainfall and coldest cloud
top temperatures (around 220 Kelvin/ -63.6 F/-53.1 C) appear in purple.
Residents across this broad region were bracing for flooding Tuesday after the severe weather brought heavy rain and hail that is anticipated to continue for the next few days. With the storm system slowing significantly, tornadoes are becoming less likely but flash flooding becomes a major concern, forecasters said. The slow-moving weather pattern will bring thunderstorms with heavy rain as it moves over the same area, according to the National Weather Service, which said that some locations will receive a foot of rain by midweek. The NWS reported that the tornado touched down 25 miles southwest of San Antonio on Monday evening, and that parts of the city and surrounding areas were under a tornado warning. Although some were trapped inside their homes, no fatalities were reported by early Tuesday morning. - ABC News.
A low pressure area is centered over eastern Oklahoma, and its associated cold front drapes south into eastern Texas. The front is stalled over eastern Texas and eastern Oklahoma and is generating severe weather today. NASA's Aqua satellite and NOAA's GOES-13 satellite have been providing infrared, visible and microwave images to forecasters of the stalled frontal system.
On March 20, a flood warning was in effect up and down the eastern sides of Texas and Oklahoma, including Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. The National Weather Service posted a flood warning for the double cities because of heavy rainfall over the last 36 hours. More isolated thunderstorms are expected to develop late afternoon and evening, generating more heavy rainfall, lightning and small hail.  When NASA's Aqua satellite flew over the low pressure area on March 20 at 0753 UTC 34:53 a.m. EST), the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument onboard captured an infrared image that showed cloud top temperatures in the frontal system. The strongest thunderstorms, heaviest rainfall and coldest cloud top temperatures (around 220 Kelvin/ -63.6 F/-53.1 C) appeared as a giant wedge over the region. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. uses data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) GOES-13 satellite's and creates images and animations. NOAA's GOES-13 satellite captured a visible image of the clouds associated with the stalled front over eastern Texas and Oklahoma on March 20, 2012 at 1731 UTC (1:31 p.m. EDT). Ironically, the clouds look almost like a giant funnel. - Eureka Alert.
WATCH: Tornado damage homes in San Antonio.

SEASON OF THE WIND: Indian Kashmir Hit By Deadly Wind Storm - One Dead, Thousands of Homes Damaged, and Trees Uprooted!

An avalanche triggered by recent rains has killed at least one man in the Himalayan territory of Kashmir, while strong winds ripped trees from their roots and damaged thousands of homes, officials said.

State disaster management official Amir Ali said rescuers were searching for two other men missing since the avalanche struck yesterday near the remote mountain town of Gurez. It is on India's side of the militarised ceasefire line that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Avalanches and landslides are common in Kashmir thanks to heavy snowfall and frequent rain.

Meanwhile, low atmospheric pressure over the region yesterday caused unusually strong winds, gusting up to 44 kilometres per hour through the main city of Srinagar. One man died after a tree branch ripped away by the wind fell onto him, and at least 17 others were injured in weather-related incidents as the wind shattered windows, pulled rooftops off homes and uprooted trees. Mr Ali said nearly 7000 homes and 2000 other buildings were damaged in Srinagar and elsewhere. Schools were closed overnight as debris was being cleared, and downed power lines disrupted electricity supplies. - Herald Sun.
WATCH:  Wind storm damage thousands of homes.


PLANETARY TREMORS: Powerful Magnitude 7.9 Quake Rocks Oaxaca, Mexico - Local Tsunami Warning Issued!

A powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck near Acapulco on Mexico's Pacific coast, the U.S. Geological Survey said on Tuesday. Earlier it had been reported at 7.6 magnitude.


The quake hit on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 18:02:48 UTC and was located at  16.662°N, 98.188°W. The epicentre was 25 km (15 miles) east (95°) from Ometepec, Guerrero, Mexico;  42 km (26 miles) northwest (335°) from Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca, Mexico; 87 km (54 miles) southwest (219°) from Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca, Mexico; 162 km (101 miles) WSW (255°) from Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico; and 186 km (115 miles) E (96°) from Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico. Reports from seismological units in Mexico are putting this earthquake at a 8.0 magnitude and over. Eye-witness reports indicate that the tremor lasted as long as 5 minutes. Thousands of people have been evacuated from buildings and homes. 
A 7.6-magnitude earthquake hit Mexico Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The earthquake's epicenter was about 15 miles (25 km) east of Ometepec, Guerrero, the agency said, and its depth was about 11 miles (17 km). The agency earlier reported the magnitude of the quake at 7.9, but later revised that figure. Residents rushed into the streets after feeling the temblor in Mexico City. Tourists and residents also felt the earthquake in the resort city of Acapulco.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon said in a Twitter post that there were no immediate reports of serious damage. In Mexico City, Mayor Marcelo Ebrard sent tweets saying that there was no visible damage in the capital and that the sprawling city's strategic services and water system were functioning. Regardless, he tweeted, numerous buildings were being evacuated. - CNN.

NOAA's National Weather Service has issued the following Tsunami Information Bulletin:

TSUNAMI BULLETIN NUMBER 001... PACIFIC TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER/NOAA/NWS
ISSUED AT 1813Z 20 MAR 2012

THIS BULLETIN APPLIES TO AREAS WITHIN AND BORDERING THE PACIFIC
OCEAN AND ADJACENT SEAS...EXCEPT ALASKA...BRITISH COLUMBIA...
WASHINGTON...OREGON AND CALIFORNIA.

AN EARTHQUAKE HAS OCCURRED WITH THESE PRELIMINARY PARAMETERS

ORIGIN TIME -  1803Z 20 MAR 2012.  COORDINATES -  17.0 NORTH   98.1 WEST
DEPTH       -   10 KM.  LOCATION    -  GUERRERO  MEXICO.  MAGNITUDE   -  7.8

A DESTRUCTIVE WIDESPREAD TSUNAMI WAS NOT GENERATED BASED ON
EARTHQUAKE AND HISTORICAL TSUNAMI DATA. HOWEVER, THERE IS THE
POSSIBILITY OF SOME LOCAL TSUNAMI EFFECTS.  THIS EARTHQUAKE IS
LOCATED INLAND FROM THE COAST.  THIS WILL BE THE ONLY BULLETIN ISSUED FOR THIS EVENT UNLESS. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION BECOMES AVAILABLE. THE WEST COAST/ALASKA TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER WILL ISSUE PRODUCTS FOR ALASKA...BRITISH COLUMBIA...WASHINGTON...OREGON...CALIFORNIA. - NWS NOAA.


PLANETARY TREMORS: Magnitude 6.2 Earthquake Strikes Papua, Indonesia - Seismic Disturbances Along the Pacific Ring of Fire!

A magnitude 6.2 earthquake has struck Papua, Indonesia. The quake hit on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 17:56:19 UTC and was located at 3.830°S, 140.220°E.

The tremor had a depth of 66.9 km (41.6 miles).


The epicentre was  154 km (96 miles) southwest (200°) from Jayapura, Irian Jaya, Indonesia; 175 km (109 miles) southwest (222°) from Vanimo, New Guinea, PNG; 256 km (159 miles) north (358°) from Tanahmerah, Irian Jaya, Indonesia; and 993 km (617 miles) northwest (309°) from Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.


No tsunami warning was issued and there are currently no reports of any damage or injuries at this time.