Tuesday, May 8, 2012

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Massive Landslide in Campbell County, Tennessee - Crews Launch Soil Nails to Stabilize 1-75 Mountainside?!

TDOT has shut down all but one northbound lane of Interstate 75 between mile markers 141 and 144 in Campbell County.  The earliest any southbound lanes will reopen is Thursday.

The shut down comes because the embankment that collapsed beneath I-75 South on March 8 has now grown to threaten the median and northbound lanes. TDOT brought in the big gun to defend I-75 North by hiring an emergency repair contractor from Grand Junction, Colorado. "Myself and my crew got a call yesterday [Monday] and we arrived late last night," said Nate Beard, vice president and engineer with Soil Nail Launcher, Inc. Beard's crews will battle a beast of a mountainside with an oversized air gun originally built by the British military.  "It is a big compressed air launcher that would launch nerve gas canisters up to seven miles," said Beard.  "It has been modified to launch soil nails, which is a 20 foot long, 1.5 inch diameter steel tube.  We build that compressed air up to 3000 PSI, pull the trigger, and then it accelerates into the ground at 250 miles per hour." 

In Campbell County, soil nail launcher crews are taking aim at a moving target.  "The big challenge here is it is an actively moving landslide. I walked across this road at midnight and at 2:00 in the morning all of that material had fallen down to the bottom of the slope," said Beard.  "Our top priority is protecting the northbound lanes.  We'll launch around 300 soil nails.  We'll put them in a really tight spacing. It works with the soil particles to confine them and create a beam effect, which then supports the interstate. It takes a lot of those loading and driving forces off the landslide."  Beard said crews should finish nailing the northbound lanes by Wednesday morning.  Then they will hammer away at the southbound lanes with even larger soil nails.  "The south lanes can use nails that are 50 to 60 feet long and two inches in diameter," said Beard.  "You drive along these roads and they are perfect and they are flat, but they are on the edge of a cliff. A lot of people take that for granted, but the fact is there are frequently things like launched soil nails beneath the roads to keep them secure and stable." - WBIR.
WATCH: Massive landslide in Campbell County.

EXTREME WEATHER UNITED KINGDOM: Severe Warning Issued - Britain Sees One Month's Rain in One Night, as "Colder Than the ARCTIC" Conditions Hit Scotland!

Severe weather warnings were issued last night for large swathes of Britain as more torrential downpours are on the way. The soaking, which has seen the soggiest April in 100 years, will ­continue with a month's rain expected to fall ­tomorrow night.

Motorists have been warned to take care as roads will be battered by gales reaching 50mph. The Environment Agency, which has issued three flood ­warnings and 19 flood alerts, said more floods are expected. The Met Office said heavy overnight rain will hit the East today, with Scotland facing up to an inch of rain. Forecasters also said eight inches of snow will hit mountains across the northern half of Scotland by tonight.  Severe weather alerts have also been issued for the Midlands, the South and Wales for tomorrow night and Thursday morning, when up to two inches of rain will fall - a month's worth of rain in just 24 hours. The North will also be hit by ­showers. The Met Office said: "Persistent heavy rain will spread across the country during Wednesday and Thursday. "Due to the saturated nature of the ground, this may lead to ­disruption from localised ­surface water flooding across south-western Britain. Accompanying strong winds may increase to gale force, especially near the South Coast."  The fresh downpour will follow a grim bank holiday weekend that saw Britain shiver as temperatures plummeted as low as -6C (21F) in the Scottish Highlands - colder than Siberia. Sun lovers would have been better off on in Mirnvy, eastern ­Russia, which hit a sunny 17C while the ­Midlands here had to make do with 9C. Beaches in ­Bournemouth and Brighton were nearly deserted yesterday as visitors stayed indoors away from the blustery winds and drizzle. But one brave girl, Elodie May, two, wrapped up in a thick coat to keep warm as she built sandcastles on ­Bridlington beach, Yorkshire. Forecaster Brian Gaze, of The Weather Outlook, said: "It was a very poor bank holiday - although that's not unusual, unfortunately. "And with massive Wednesday afternoon temperature differences - 1C on higher ground in the North and 18C a couple of ­hundred of miles south - there is potential for very ­significant rainfall. Parts can expect to get very wet." Met Office forecaster Tom Morgan said: "Unfortunately there is no sign of a prolonged dry period in the next two to three weeks." - Daily Express.
Meanwhile, Scotland was colder than the Arctic at the weekend with freezing temperatures and snow. It was - 7.4C on Saturday morning on Cairngorm mountain, near Aviemore, and - 6.2C at Saughall, Ayrshire. But in the Arctic at the most northerly village in Europe - Honningsvag in Norway - it was only 0C.
Yesterday morning was just as bad with temperatures below freezing in many parts. And rain and sleet were threatening to make today's bank holiday a wash-out as a "monsoon" week threatened floods in Scotland. Seaside resorts were deserted at the weekend in bitter temperatures of 5C to 7C - up to 10C colder than normal. Farmers and gardeners were badly hit as crops and plants were killed off by widespread frost.  But it was good news for skiers with hundreds flocking to Cairngorm and Glencoe. The big freeze broke May temperature records and was close to the UK's lowest for that month, - 9.4C at Fort Augustus, Inverness-shire, in 1941. Britain has shivered through the biggest spring temperature plunge since 1938, and the third biggest temperature fall since records began in 1659. It's also been the UK's wettest April since rainfall records began 245 years ago.  A giant 142mm of rain fell, more than treble the normal.  Scotland was not as badly hit as south of the Border, but the east saw many deluges.  Forecasters warned of sleet and snow today and a "monsoon" week ahead with an inch of rain tomorrow, more downpours on Thursday and the threat of flooding.  Met Office forecaster Dan Grey said: "It will be a wet week ahead.  "We're keeping a close eye on forecast rainfall and are liaising with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency." - Daily Record.

THE GREAT DELUGE & THE GREAT DROUGHT: State of Emergency - Cities in the Brazilian Amazon Face Worst Floods in Years, as the Northeast Face Worst Drought in 30 Years!

A swath of the Brazilian Amazon is under a state of emergency as rivers overflow in one of the worst floods on record. 

The floods have been caused by the rising Rio Solimoes, one of the two main branches of the Amazon river, in places like Anama lying west of Manaus.  While the region is experiencing one of the worst floods in history, the country's northeast faces its worst drought in the last 30 years, affecting well over 500 towns and cities.  This is reportedly not the first climatic crises that the country has faced in recent years. In 2011, over 500 people died in floods in south-eastern Brazil.  Heavy rains have lead to massive mudslides hitting several towns, resulting in thousands being made homeless.  The BBC earlier reported that the death toll during the 2011 floods surpassed the devastating 1967 mudslides in Caraguatatuba, Sao Paulo state, in which up to 430 people perished. Some of the main regions affected during the floods were the mountainous regions of Nova Frigurgo, Petropolis and Teresopolis. 

The rains caused all local rivers to overflow in the area during the period resulting in numerous landslides and widespread damage, washing away houses alongside rivers and burying neighbourhoods.  Immediately following the floods and landslides, the president of the Brazilian Red Cross mobilised 16 branches of the National Society and began the coordination of relief efforts from the headquarters. Apart from this, rescue efforts were led by municipal governments, which also provided shelter and amenities for the newly homeless, often in schools.  President Dilma Rousseff announced an emergency 288.7 million pounds budget.  A team of workers in the operation had prior experience with the 2010 Rio de Janeiro floods and the Haiti earthquake.  Besides the 2011 disaster, similar floods and mudslides occurred in the region during 2009 and 2010.  While the 2009 floods affected the north-eastern region of the country, the 2010 floods affected mainly the State of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. - IBT.
WATCH: Brazil faces flooding and drought.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Hawaii Beaches Eroding - Maui, Kauai, Oahu Tourist Sites Are Disappearing!

Federal officials say most beaches on Hawaii's most visited islands are disappearing.

The U.S. Geological Survey said in a study released Monday that 70 percent of beaches on Maui, Kauai and Oahu are going through long-term erosion.

The study says 85 percent of beaches are eroding on Maui, while more than 70 percent are eroding on Kauai.

The study says 60 percent of Oahu's beaches are eroding.

The study's lead author says he hopes the study will help guide developers and local officials as they consider development along the shoreline.

Chip Fletcher of the University of Hawaii says the study looked at more than 12,000 locations.

Beaches are the top attraction for more than 7 million Hawaii visitors each year. Tourists spent $12.6 billion in the state last year. - Huffington Post.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The WIRED Eruption Update - Popocatépetl, Iliamna, Lokon-Empung and Pair of Japanese Volcanoes!

Rounding up some volcano-related news from around the world, courtesy of Erik Klemetti and WIRED:

The plume from Popocatépetl in Mexico seen on May 6, 2012. Webcam capture by Eruptions reader Kirby.
Popocatépetl: The Mexican volcano is still churning away (see above). Thus far, most of the activity has been subplinian plumes from the crater area as the new magma rises and fragments, but Mexican officials are not taking any chances. They will be distributing almost half a million dust masks to people living near the volcano if/when a larger explosive eruption occurs that could drop significant ash across much of the area. You can see what is going on at Popocatépetl on the CENAPRED webcams for the volcano.

We haven’t heard much from Iliamna in the past month or so after the volcano was downgraded to Yellow Alert status by AVO after a period of increased seismicity and degassing. The seismicity was reported to be back on the upswing at the end of last week according to the Alaska Dispatch (who looks to be getting into the game of webicorder watching). However, this blip (if real) didn’t cause AVO to change the status of Iliamna as the latest update just mentions seismicity at the volcano is “slightly above background”. Iliamna has a webcam as well as a webicorder so you can follow along at home.

Another volcano that has been quite active is Lokon-Empung in Indonesia. The volcano had an explosive eruption earlier last week, producing a 2.5 km / 8,200 foot plume. Although evacuations have not been called yet, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has begun to set up evacuation centers in case the activity increases. Seismicity has been increasing at Lokon-Empung since last week’s eruption, but the alert status (Level III) is unchanged.

Slight discoloration of the sea at Fukutoku-Okanoba (bottom right) may suggest eruptive activity.
Image taken April 19, 2012 by the Japanese Coast Guard.
Iwo Jima (Ioto): I haven’t been able to find too much in the news about the activity at Japan’s Iwo Jima (Ioto), however Eruptions reader Sherine did find some images of the activity at Iwo Jima, along with images of potential submarine activity at Fukutoku-Okanoba (see below or the top two rows of images on the previous link). As for descriptions, last week’s Global Volcanism Program Weekly Volcanic Activity Report mentions that a new fumarole has opened at Iwo Jima as well.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Earthquake May Have Caused Ground Subsidence in the Area of Fukushima Plants - Could Collapse Reactor No. 4!

Journalist Ryuichi Kino questions a Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency spokesman during the May 7 press conference, translated by Fukushima Diary:

Images of the the operation floor, the seashore side and upper side of the spent fuel pool at Reactor 4.
Kino: Some people point out that the ground is having uneven settlement around the reactor 4 building. If you have not conducted high and low instrumentation, you don’t even know that?

NISA: Earthquake may have caused ground subsidence in the area of Fukushima plants, but because the building is on the bed rock, the state of the ground is different from the building area and other areas.
Seismic evaluation of the building was conducted in the most severe standard.

But it is rational to think the basement of the building has been damaged underground too. Do you evaluate the basement floor is completely safe?

NISA: We reinforced the SFP4 based on the most severe seismic evaluation.

Kino: No, I mean, apart from the reinforcement of the building above the ground, now it can be assumed the basement of the building is damaged, and there may be uneven settlement around the reactor, how can you guarantee the building is not leaning ?

NISA: If the building is leaning, we can tell it by checking the water level of SFP4. Inspector actually entered the building and confirmed the safety visually.

- ENE News.

SEISMIC ALERT: Abnormal Tremor Activity - Civil Defense of Peru Issues Earthquake Warnings!

The Civil Defense in Peru (Indeci) intensified today a prevention drive warning of a potential massive earthquake now preceded of two daily tremors average.

Indeci called on every workplace and home to ready an emergency evacuation plan after a median quake and two replicas were recorded Sunday in Ica (south) and in Lima.  Marco Tantalean, an expert from the institution, said planning must include safe routes and refuges, plus staples like your ID cards, drinkable water, first-aid material, flashlight, non perishable food and saving phone calls for emergencies to prevent the lines from collapsing. 

Other prevention measures include a May 31st tsunami simulation, marking the 1970 massive quake that killed some 70,000 people in Ancash, north Peru. Scientific evidence have proven that after “long periods of rest” big quakes may occur, like those that have especially razed Lima through history; plus, Peru is located in a seismic area, adds Hernando Tavera, director of Seismology at the Institute of Geophysics, reminding of the 66 tremors of 2012 through April, near one daily.  The majority, 39, registered on the Pacific coast, again in Lima, Ica -devastated in 2007- and Arequipa, together occupy more than 1,000km. - Prensa Latina.

JAPAN'S "MATHEMATICAL OMEN": Fears Increase of Big Earthquake Near Tokyo in the Foreseeable Future - Fivefold Increase in Small Tremors Since 2011 Mega-Quake?!

A prominent Japanese seismologist rattled some nerves when he declared there was a 70 percent chance of a major earthquake in or around Tokyo -- in the next four years. Government scientists had proclaimed a similar risk, but over a longer timeframe, 30 years.  Shinichi Sakai points to steady, color-coded lines on a digital monitor. The screen displays real-time readings from Japan's extensive network of seismometers.  This is one of the most seismically active countries in the world, and the flat lines show that all is quiet across the region, at least for the moment. 

University of Tokyo seismologist Shinichi Sakai’s controversial study predicts a
major earthquake is likely to hit Tokyo within the next four years.
Then, as if on cue, two of the lines start to jump violently, splashing the screen with red and yellow pixels. They're tracking a very small earthquake, centered just outside of Tokyo.  Sakai says small quakes like this happen about ten thousand times a year in Japan, and for geologists like him, even the small earthquakes are worth paying attention to. He says there's been a fivefold increase in small tremors around Tokyo since the huge quake off Japan's northeast coast in March last year. And that adds up to a mathematical omen for scientists like him.  In January, Sakai and the University's Earthquake Research Institute crunched the new numbers and came up with a shocking prediction: There's a 70 percent chance a major earthquake will hit Tokyo within the next four years.  Sakai and his colleagues are among the country's leading seismic authorities, so the prediction itself gave the country a jolt. The Japanese government has also predicted a similar chance of a major quake in the Tokyo area, but over a longer time period - sometime in the next 30 years.  Sakai's new four-year timeframe has brought a huge backlash among both scientists and political leaders. Sakai hasn't retracted his prediction, but he now refuses to quote specific timeframes.  "I cannot speak," he said, with an ironic chuckle.  The last major earthquake to hit Tokyo was in 1923. It had an estimated magnitude of 7.9 and killed more than 140,000 people. Since then there's been almost no significant seismic activity here, and Sakai says that means most people have forgotten the risk Japan's capital city still faces.  But not everyone has forgotten.  Yasuji Kamiya, 97, remembers it like it was yesterday.  Kamiya is one of the few remaining survivors of what's known as the Great Kanto quake. He was 7 in 1923, living with his family in what was then a farming area on the outskirts of Tokyo.  He was fishing in a river on a bright sunny day when the quake hit. He said it knocked him over and shook the ground so violently that it emptied the river onto its banks.  Kamiya said it wasn't until nightfall that he realized how serious the situation really was. The sky in the direction of downtown Tokyo glowed red from the fires consuming the city. Evacuees began to stream past his home. Some without shoes, all with stunned, empty looks on their faces.  Of course today Tokyo is a radically different place, a sprawling metropolis of some 35 million people. Every day, millions pack into the city's spotless train network on their way to its forests of glass and steel office towers. 

Modern Japanese buildings are among the sturdiest in world. After the 1995 Kobe earthquake, the country spent billions developing the most advanced technology for protecting structures. Still, the government estimates that a powerful quake in Tokyo today would kill nearly 10,000 people, and leave more than half a million buildings in flames.  But Sakai said accurately predicting potential damage is extremely difficult. That's because it's not just a question of magnitude, which refers to the energy of the quake. The actual intensity on the ground can vary greatly, depending on whether the quake's epicenter is deep or shallow.  New evidence suggests a major fault line under Tokyo is much closer to the surface than previously thought. That means a future earthquake here could cause more damage than the city has been planning for.  After last year's massive quake caught the nation by surprise, the Tokyo government began scrambling to upgrade its disaster plans. So far that means providing more emergency shelter and urging citizens and companies to stockpile emergency supplies.  But these efforts offer little comfort for many people.  "We're not ready for that yet," said Toru Seno. Seno, 43, is an artist and electrician. Every day he navigates Tokyo's labyrinth of elevated highways and corridors of glass towers in his small van.  "If I look up, there's another highway above me, so if something happens, all I can do is just stay here and get crushed," he said.  Seno says not a minute goes by that he's not planning his escape. But with last year's disaster still fresh in everyone's minds, the psychological toll of a major earthquake in Tokyo would be the hardest to recover from, he said.  "Probably the economy or industry somehow can be recovered," Seno said. "But the damage for people would be hard. We would be feeling really weak."  The government's slow response to last year's quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster has left trust in government here at all-time lows. For Seno, that means he's more inclined to believe Sakai's controversial prediction of a major quake in the next four years over the government's longer timeframe.  And after recently visiting the fallout zone around the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, Seno says the most important message to remember here is that people need to protect themselves from earthquake risks, rather than wait for the government to do it for them. - PRI.
 WATCH: Japan Earthquakes 2011 Timeline.

WEATHER ANOMALIES: Rare Type of Storm Sparks Tornado - Unusual "Supercell" Brought Rain, Hailstones and Tornado in the UK?!

A "special" type of storm has swept across the country, bringing with it a tornado to some areas.  The storm, thought to be an unusual "supercell" storm, travelled through the south Midlands, bringing rain, large hailstones, and a tornado in Oxfordshire.  The thunderstorm started in the afternoon in Wiltshire, and moved across Oxfordshire - where a tornado was reported in several places including Bicester, Eynsham, and Kidlington - then moved to Buckinghamshire. 

A storm taken from the A34 heading south at Kidlington, Oxfordshire.
Richard Glazer drove through the tornado with his wife and son on the A34 near Kidlington, Oxfordshire.  "It was very wet, we were just driving on the A34 and looked up and realised one part of the sky was moving in one direction and another in the opposite direction," he said. "I thought, 'that looks like a tornado!' We pretty much drove through it, we were right underneath it. As we drove into it the trees were blowing left to right and as we got through it they were blowing the other way."  The 40-year-old, from nearby Witney, Oxfordshire, added: "It wasn't particularly big but it was amazing to see the change in the environment. It was grey and a bit blurry and then to be hit by something like that. You suddenly realise the force of nature, it's incredible." 

Forecasters said it was almost certainly a tornado, and the storm that caused it was thought to be a supercell storm - more commonly seen in the US than the UK.  Brendan Jones, forecaster at Meteogroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "This particular thunderstorm developed around 3pm over the northern part of Wiltshire, and then gradually over the next three hours that storm tracked through Oxfordshire and into part of Buckinghamshire before eventually dying out before it got to Cambridgeshire. That's quite far for one thunderstorm to track.  There has been more than one report of a tornado beneath this storm. There has also been some quite big hailstones."  He said it was likely the storm was a "supercell" thunderstorm - unlike normal storms, the air in supercell storms is spinning or rotating, he said. - Press Association.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Large Numbers of Fish Found Mysterously Dead in Kuwait Bay - Public Authority Investigating?!

Fish have been dying in large numbers along Kuwait bay. This incident serves as an indicator of pollution or a major imbalance in marine environment, instilling fear of a possible fish kill. According to a local Arabic daily, Salah Al-Mudhi, General Director of Environment Public Authority (EPA) has accused people of spreading rumors most of the time. He said that dead fish could have been dumped into the sea by fishermen because most belonged to the 'Giant Sea Catfish,' species.

Some of the dead fish found near the bay.
To assess the situation better, the EPA has requested the Public Authority for Agriculture Affairs and Fish Resources (PAAAFR) to investigate the cause and supervise the area. "Since last Friday, when EPA sought our assistance, we have begun daily inspection tours in the Kuwait Bay area, noticing that the number of fish have reduced drastically compared to Friday. We are still inspecting to make sure that it is not 'fish kill' and prevent more cases from occurring," Sharik Awadh, PR of PAAAFR told Kuwait Times yesterday. "We aim to limit the problem and prevent fish kill in huge numbers and different kinds of fish. For this purpose, we are conducting daily marine inspection in different areas, not only at the bay. We do not know the reason behind these hundreds of types of dead fish, although we saw red tide twice, which may be the cause of fish kill. There are different reasons for the fish kill besides red tide. It may be pollution or high weather temperature. So, we are observing the sea. I think that the situation is under control even now," he added.

Awadh did not agree with the possibility that the dead fish were dumped by fishermen. "It is not realistic that the fishermen will throw such a huge number of dead fish into the sea. Furthermore, if the fishermen dump them, it would have been near the bay (Niga), a popular fishing spot, not deep inside the sea. So there is definitely another reason. But I'm optimistic and I hope it will not worsen," he concluded.  Khalid Al-Hajiri, Chairman of the Green Line Environment Group - Kuwait (GLEG) noted that the Group will collect information about the phenomenon. "To ascertain the exact reason, we have to do investigate the cause. We know that now one kind of fish has been affected, and we have to go back to history of fish kills in Kuwait, the area, circumstance and other situations. There is weakness in the Kuwait Bay area and in the past years, we have witnessed some fish kills cases which were not announced or published. So we need a few days to arrive at the final answer," he pointed out. - Kuwait Times.

WORLD WAR III: The Syrian Passage to Iran and the Countdown to Armageddon - Syria Seen Moving Hundreds of High-Caliber Missile Launchers to Israel, Turkey Borders!

Jordanian news site Ahbar Baladna reports that western spy satellites have recently spotted movements of Syrian heavy missile launchers northward and southward, toward Syria's borders with Turkey and Israel.

The site says hundreds of high-caliber launchers are being moved, and that these could only be long range Scud missile launchers.
Syria has threatened in the past that in the event of foreign military intervention on its soil, it will not hesitate to fire missiles at Israel and Turkey in order to ignite a large scale regional war.

Turkish and French officials said ten days ago they were mulling a potential military intervention in Syria, where civil war has been raging for 14 months.
“In the face of developments in Syria, we are taking into consideration any kind of possibility in line with our national security and interests,” Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu told parliament during a briefing to lawmakers. - Israel National News.