Saturday, May 12, 2012

MASS BIRD DIE-OFF: 2,300 Birds Found Mysteriously Dead Along Chilean Beaches?!

Chilean officials are asking fishermen to help save birds caught in nets after thousands of dead fowl appeared along coastal Chile this week.  At least 2,300 dead birds were found along beaches between Cartagena and Playa de Santo Domingo, Chile, said Jose Luis Britos, and environment professor and director of the Museum of Natural History of San Antonio, Chile. 

Wildlife engineer Guillermo Boigorria, left, and regional prosecutor Lev Castro inspect sea bird in Peru,
which along with Chile has seen a rash of water bird deaths.
Many of the birds, which come from several species, had broken wings and bruising on the outside of their bodies -- injuries consistent with getting trapped in fishing nets, Britos said.  He said bird deaths from fishing nets occur every year, but never at this level. In a typical year, about 15 to 20 dead birds are found, Britos said.   One hypothesis for the increase this year involves climate. As Chilean weather gets colder this time of year, migrating birds that would normally travel north for warmth are instead lingering to feast on an influx of anchovies and sardines that had fled the coast of Peru in search of cooler waters.  Earlier this week, Peruvian authorities say warm waters off that country's coast are to blame for the deaths of more than 5,000 marine birds.  The Peruvian National Center for the Study of El Nino said that since February, the Peruvian coast has had an abundance of warm water as a result of marine currents throughout the world's oceans. The warm water has altered the marine ecosystem, it said. 

The warm water has led fish such as anchovies and other species that live in surface waters to migrate to deeper water toward the south. As a result, pelicans and other birds that feed from the surface of the water died of starvation.  "If these oceanographic conditions persist, it is likely that its impact will spread to other areas of the (Peruvian) coast even during the fall, which could make the numbers increase and affect other marine species," the report stated.  The Peruvian ministry of environment said seafood is still safe to eat, and encouraged everyone to continue to support local fishermen, according to state-run Andina news agency.  Officials in Peru continue to search for the cause of death of almost 900 dolphins since the beginning of the year. The health ministry is awaiting final results from molecular analysis looking for the morbillivirus, which previously has been linked to dolphin deaths.  The Chilean agriculture and livestock ministry and staff from Britos' center have called for a meeting with fishermen for Monday. They are asking fishermen to try to save trapped birds before closing their nets.  Britos said he worries that until Monday, the number of dead birds could rise significantly. - CNN.
WATCH: 7300 Birds Found Mysteriously Dead in Chile and Peru.

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: 5,000 Birds, Mostly Pelicans and Nearly 900 Dolphins Dead Off Peru's North Coast - Authorities Expect the Phenomenon to "Extend to Other Coastal Areas"?!

The Peruvian government said Wednesday that 5,000 birds, mostly pelicans, and nearly 900 dolphins have died off the country's northern coast, possibly due to rising temperatures in Pacific waters.

A dead dead dolphin lies on a beach on the northern coast of Peru, close to Chiclayo, some 750 km
north of Lima, as experts continue taking samples and registering data on April 11, 2012.
The country's northern beaches were earlier this week declared off-limits as scientists scrambled to pin down what was causing such a massive toll, with non-government organizations blaming oil exploration work.  But Peru's deputy environment minister Gabriel Quijandria, disputed this and said warming waters, which disturbs species' food supplies, was a possible cause.  He said that although tests conducted on 877 dolphins found dead on the coast had not been completed, contamination from heavy metals or the presence of bacterial infections was not responsible.  It is probable that the phenomenon "will extend to other coastal areas," Quijandria said, noting that there could be a resulting increase in the numbers of birds and other sea life killed.
A dying pelican crawls away from the surf to die on the beach of Paita, in Tumbes province,
1,100 kilometres north of Lima and close to the border with Ecuador on May 2.
The South American nation's health ministry declared an alert at the weekend, urging the public to stay away from the beaches around Lima and on the northern coast until the cause of death of marine life is known.  One non-government conservation organization, known as ORCA, has blamed the dolphin deaths on oil exploration activities in the area, which it claims produces noises which are having an acoustic impact on the mammals.  A representative from the group, Carlos Yaipen, said Wednesday it had tested 30 dead specimens and found broken ears and damaged organs consistent with the victims suffering "the bends," also known as decompression sickness.  Weather expert Abraham Levy told AFP on Tuesday that the warming of the Pacific waters due to El Nino could be to blame. - Yahoo.

EXTREME WEATHER ANOMALIES: The New Normal - Weird Weather For Six Cities So Far In 2012!

From record-smashing March warmth, including 80s in northern climes, to a startling lack of snow, to, in one location, record snow leading to a spring snowmelt mess, 2012 so far has thrown a number of curve balls for those looking for a bit of "normalcy." We've picked out six cities for which the weather has been particularly strange through the first four-plus months of 2012, stretching from New England to The Last Frontier. Let's kick off the list with an infamously snowy city that lacked snow this season. In other locations, the phrase, "three feet of snow" may grab your attention, eliciting thoughts of snow days, or open ski slopes. However, in Buffalo, N.Y., 3 feet of snow (36.7" to be precise) was the total snowfall for the entire season, just under 5 feet less than an average season. In essence, a meteorological disappointment. This included an unusual "brown Christmas."

Instead, as in several other locations, temperatures soared in March.  Buffalo had three straight March days with highs in the 80s, including a new March record high of 82 degrees the day after the spring equinox (March 21).  Previously, it had only one other March day in the 80s dating to 1873. As it turned out, March was warmer than April in Buffalo, as in several other cities. That feat is difficult to accomplish.  Just when people may have written off winter, an April "Snowpril" storm, while dumping heavier snow in the hills south of town, managed to bring a slushy inch to the city itself. From not enough to record snow, let's head to The Last Frontier for our next "strange-weather" city.
Anchorage, Alaska What's so strange about snow in Alaska? In Alaska's largest city, it was all about the amount of snow that made the snow season memorable. More than 11 feet of snow (134.5" as of May 8) fell during the season in Anchorage, a full five feet above the long-term average, or roughly 8 feet more than Buffalo received. The weight of all this snow led to some building collapses, and caused cracks in some homes. City snow removal crews hauled more than 2.5 million cubic yards of snow to six snow disposal sites, all near capacity, with a total volume of snow estimated to almost fill the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, according to the Associated Press.  Then, of course, all that snow has to melt, leaving a spring mess of water in basements and crawl spaces. One area all too familiar with spring flood concerns had none in 2012.

Fargo, N.D.
No "Sandbag Central" with volunteers working to fill three million sandbags this spring.  After 3 straight springs of major flooding, including a record 2009 crest, the good people of the Red River Valley finally had a spring free of widespread flood worries.  First, it started with a lack of winter snow. Only 27" fell in Fargo all season, compared to a whopping 88.5" in the 2010-2011 season. It was so dry, in fact, that parts of the Peace Garden State slipped into moderate drought by late November which still persists in spots in spring. When is the last time you heard drought and North Dakota in the same sentence? The topper was the incredible March warmth.  Fargo had four straight days with highs at least 76 degrees from March 16-19.  Yes, that was technically still in winter, just days before the spring equinox! If there had been significant snowcover, a warm spell of that magnitude and duration would've triggered a rapid snowmelt that may have overwhelmed any flood fighting effort. But not in spring 2012. Instead, it was time to break out the T-shirts and shorts and celebrate a much less stressful spring.  Now let's travel east to a city and state that has arguably been the most extreme state the past 2 years.

Hartford, Conn.
I would argue no state in the U.S. has seen more extreme weather since the start of 2011 than Connecticut.  A record wet year for the state in 2011 featured Hurricane Irene, followed two months later by a destructive "Snowtober" snowstorm. These two events broke state records for power outages.  How much more strange could 2012 be? First, "Snowtober" wasn't exactly a precursor to the rest of the season. After an October record 12.3" of snow, only another 14.4" fell the rest of the season! October's snow almost exceeded that of January and February, combined! Contrast that to January 2011, when a whopping 54.3" was measured there.  The first four months of 2012 were, in fact, the second driest such period on record in the state. Then, there's the warmth. January through April 2012 was the record warmest such period on record in Connecticut, as well as 25 other states. Hartford had its warmest March day since 1998 on March 22, reaching 83 degrees. They, then, one-upped themselves in April, peaking at 92 degrees for a high on April 16.  You want truly bizarre warmth? Try heading to the Great Lakes for our next "strange-weather" city of 2012.

Traverse City, Mich. In a sea of warmth records shattered across the Midwest, Northeast and South in March 2012, perhaps no location stood out more than Traverse City, Mich.  In a five-day stretch from March 17-21, 2012, the "Cherry Capital of the World" tied, then broke the previous all-time March record high, topping out at an incredible 87 degrees just one day after the spring equinox, March 21. Dating to 1896, the nearest date with a daily record high of 87 degrees was April 16!  Speaking of April, the thermometer took an abrupt plunge back to reality. Fifteen April mornings had lows in the 20s in Traverse City. Never mind the shorts and suntan lotion...get back out the winter jacket! The annual Tulip Time Festival in nearby Holland, Mich., the first week of May became a "stemfest" thanks to the early March bloom of flowers. Finally, we have a city used to heavy spring snow that was basking in warmth instead.

Cheyenne, Wyo. Some locations along the Front Range of the Rockies typically get their heaviest snowfalls in the spring, not winter.  The key word here is "typically." Wyoming's capital city measured a paltry 0.4" of snow in March and April, 2012, combined, shattering a least snowy March-April record that had stood since 1889 (2.5"). On average, 21.6" of snow falls in Cheyenne in March and April, their two snowiest months of an average year. Instead, Cheyenne had seven March days in the 70s, including two days with a high of 74 degrees. Only a March day in 1879 was warmer, there. In April, the Frontier City stepped up the warmth, with a high of 80 degrees on April 24, 2012. Keep in mind, Cheyenne is 6,067 feet above sea-level, so this warmth is even more incredible. Then, just this past Monday, May 7, wet snow fell in the capital city in the morning, as wind chills plunged into the middle 20s. Only a trace of snow officially fell that day, and May averages 2-3" of snow in Cheyenne. However, it seemed a proper flip-flop to what has been a strange spring in Wyoming. - MSNBC.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Land Subsidence Continues in China - Landslide Kills 24 People, With 37 Others Missing and 36,000 Affected in Gansu Province!

At least 24 people were killed and 37 others remain missing after hail and torrential rains battered a mountainous northwest China region near the site of a devastating mudslide two years ago, authorities reported Friday. 

The natural disaster on Thursday has affected 36,000 people in Minxian county, Gansu province, forcing the area to be evacuated of 2,183 local residents. Roads were blocked, houses collapsed, and farmland was destroyed by the extreme weather, according to state and local disaster relief agencies.  Minxian’s civil affairs bureau put the number of injured locals at 40 in its mid-Friday’s casualty report. The stormy weather lasted only an hour from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., but wreaked havoc in 17 of the county’s 18 townships and villages, it said.  In the worst-hit areas, precipitation measured nearly 70 mm. 

Hail and torrential rain cut power supplies in six townships, damaged homes, several hospitals and schools as well as 7,374 hectares of cropland and disrupted traffic on two interprovincial highways, the county authorities added.  Minxian is a mountainous county in Dingxi city, with a population of 450,000. It is 150 km from Zhouqu county, where a rain-triggered mudslide killed more than 1,500 people in August 2010.  Thursday’s rain also triggered floods in two other counties in Dingxi, parts of Longnan city, and Gannan Tibetan autonomous prefecture where Zhouqu is located, but no casualties were immediately reported.  The national flood control and drought relief headquarters on Friday issued fresh warnings to northwestern provinces, urging them to step up weather monitoring and flood prevention efforts. - The China Times.

EXTREME WEATHER ANOMALIES: Western Canada Flood Risk "Exceptional" - Above-Normal Snowpack and "Elevated" Flood Risk for British Columbia!

Above-normal snowpack has set up an "exceptional" seasonal flood risk in British Columbia, the CBC News website said Wednesday. 

Snow water equivalent by river basin in British Columbia as of May 1, 2012.
The highest water equivalent is found in regions shaded dark blue.
Recent measurements of snowpack water content have showed regional amounts of up to 152 percent of normal in key catch basins, the British Columbia River Forecast Centre indicated in a report early this month.  In the Fraser River Basin, which drains much of central and southern British Columbia, average water amounts are 129 percent of normal, topping at 152 percent in the Upper Fraser Basin of east-central British Columbia.  The Centre spoke of "elevated" flood risk for the full length of the Fraser River mainstream. The lower Fraser River passes through greater Vancouver, the province's most populous region.  One British Columbia forest expert is warning of the "significantly increased" risk of flooding and sediment discharge, owing to forestry practice in the province, the Vancouver Sun website said on Wednesday. 

A vast stand of pine here has been killed off by mountain pine beetles, leading to large-scale salvage logging.  "In my mind, there is no doubt the government decision to aggressively salvage logs will increase the flood risk big time," said Younes Alila, a University of British Columbia associate professor of forest resources management. Alila then added, "we should brace ourselves for the worst."  Alila expressed worry for the lower Fraser River, where "a breach of a dike would cause big economic problems" in "very well populated areas."  The province's flood season is now beginning. "Small to medium sized watersheds in the Interior tend to reach peak flows the earliest in the season (early May through June)," the Centre's report said, cited on the CBC website. The larger rivers tend to peak from mid-May through late-June or July, according to the report.  Flooding has already hit some communities of interior southern British Columbia, following heavy rain combined with snowmelt late last month, the CBC said. - Accu Weather.

DELUGE AND PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: CDC Issues Notice of the Outbreak of Leptospirosis in Peru - Following the Worst Flooding in the Loreto Region in Over 20 Years!

Flooding has caused an outbreak of leptospirosis in Peru, especially in the Loreto region. This is the worst flooding seen in this area for over 20 years. Peru has reported more than 300 cases and 3 deaths associated with leptospirosis thus far in 2012. Health authorities have alerted people to take precautions against the infection.

What Is Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is a disease that is spread by animal urine. People become infected with the disease when they come in contact with body fluids of infected animals or in contact with water, soil, or food contaminated with infected urine. Leptospirosis is a hazard for many people who work outdoors or with animals. The disease has also been associated with swimming, wading, kayaking, and rafting in contaminated lakes and rivers. Symptoms include high fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, jaundice (yellow eyes and skin), red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rash. Some people do not experience symptoms. This disease can cause kidney or liver failure and/or meningitis (swelling of the tissue covering the brain). Without treatment, recovery can take several months.

Leptospirosis occurs throughout the world, especially in regions with flooding. Leptospirosis occurs more often in tropical areas. Urban areas lacking sanitation may also have a higher risk of leptospirosis.

How Can Travelers Protect Themselves?
No vaccine is available to prevent leptospirosis. Travelers to areas with flooding can take the following steps to prevent the disease:

  • Avoid swallowing flood waters or water from lakes, rivers, and swamps. Wear protective clothing, especially footwear, if you are wading in flood waters or other areas that might be contaminated.
  • Avoid wading in flooded areas, especially if you have any cuts or abrasions.
  • Avoid contact with environments contaminated with animal urine.
  • Talk to your health care provider about taking medicine to help prevent leptospirosis. Be sure to tell your health care provider about all your planned activities.
Clinician Information:
Adult travelers who travel to the Loreto region of Peru are at increased risk for leptospirosis and should be advised to consider chemoprophylaxis with doxycycline (200 mg orally, weekly), begun 1–2 days before and continuing through the period of exposure. Indications for prophylactic doxycycline use for children < 8 years of age have not been established. Travelers at increased risk for leptospirosis and in need of malaria chemoprophylaxis should consider using doxycycline for both indications. - CDC.

WATCH: Unprecedented flooding in Peru.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Weather Anomalies - Why The Recent Sumatra Quake Was So Strange?!

The unexpectedly large earthquake that hit Sumatra last month is forcing scientists to rethink common assumptions about earthquake physics, researchers say. The magnitude 8.6 earthquake that struck in the Indian Ocean off the western coast of Sumatra on April 11was one of the 10 largest earthquakes ever recorded, and was felt as far away as Bangladesh and India. However, no quake-related fatalities were reported. Seismologists have done preliminary studies on the earthquake and found that it had some unusual aspects, ones that could help them better understand earthquakes that happen away from the boundaries between tectonic plates and better appreciate how powerful those quakes could potentially be.

The earthquake that struck Sumatra was a big one. Here's how it compares to some record holders.
Odd earthquake
Unusually, this quake apparently occurred in the middle of an oceanic plate. All the other top 10 quakes happened at subduction zones, where one of the tectonic plates making up the Earth's surface is diving beneath another. Also oddly, the Sumatra temblor was a strike-slip earthquake, where two parts of Earth's crust slide past each other. Strike-slip quakes are not typically so powerful — the Sumatra event was "far and away the largest strike-slip earthquake ever recorded," said researcher Gregory Beroza, a seismologist at Stanford University. Its magnitude 8.2 aftershock was also among the largest recorded strike-slip earthquakes. The reason why this quake was surprisingly powerful might lie in how deep the faults that triggered it ran, scientists now suggest. Seismology readings suggest the Sumatra quake and its aftershock originated at depths between 25 to 33 miles (40 to 54 kilometers). At those depths, rock is blazingly hot, about 1,110 to 1,470 degrees Fahrenheit (600 to 800 degrees Celsius). At such temperatures, rock can become viscous at certain points, and in extreme cases, fault zones may even melt, enabling large amounts of energy to be released as parts of the Earth slide past each other.
Mid-plate quakes
Although the Sumatra quake is the only time a temblor in the middle of an oceanic plate was powerful enough to make the top 10 largest known earthquakes, major earthquakes do regularly occur in the middle of oceanic plates. "Oceanic plates cover the majority of the earth, and a lot of magnitude 8 earthquakes have occurred within the interiors of oceanic plates in the last few years," said researcher Jeffrey McGuire, a seismologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. "So while the probabilities are extremely low in any one spot, essentially the majority of the Earth's surface can experience a magnitude 8 earthquake." Still, large earthquakes in the middle of ocean plates likely do not pose much hazard to life or property, since they are well away from populated areas. They also usually only generate small tsunamis, although "there is always a chance that they might set off a submarine landslide — such landslides have the potential to generate large tsunamis," Beroza said. However, these mid-ocean quakes could shed light on the potential power that quakes in the middle of continental plates can achieve.
"The very largest earthquakes that a fault system or plate boundary is capable of might be larger than was previously appreciated," Beroza told OurAmazingPlanet. "That's not to say this is necessarily normal behavior, but it has to be considered as possible." Understanding earthquakes that occur within the interior of oceanic plates is challenging "because we do not have long-term monitoring networks on the seafloor," McGuiretold OurAmazingPlanet. "I think one future direction that will be very interesting is that the National Science Foundation's Cascadia Initiative is in the midst of a multiyear monitoring effort of the Juan de Fuca and Gorda plates, which have significant internal strain. This initiative has the chance to capture a moderate intra-plate earthquake with nearby instruments which might really help us understand the processes that lead to the magnitude 8s that have occurred in more remote locations." McGuire and Beroza detailed their findings online May 10 in the journal Science. - Our Amazing Planet.

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

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

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States - 27th of April, 2012.

Vancouver, Canada - 9th of May, 2012.

Madrid, Spain - 8th of May, 2012.

Moscow, Russia - 9th of May, 2012.

Hurst, Texas, United States - 9th of May, 2012.

Netanya, Israel - 8th of May, 2012.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Magnitude 5.3 Earthquake Rocks Israel, Cyprus Region!

An earthquake rocked Israel on Friday evening, shortly before 10:00 p.m. local time, and was felt in areas from northern Israel to central Israel

According to a Channel 10 News report, the police in the Northern, Central and Tel Aviv Districts said they received hundreds of phone calls from citizens who felt the earthquake. Local residents reported feeling objects and buildings move for about 15 to 20 seconds. There were no reports of injuries or damages.  The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake measured 5.3 on the Richter scale and its epicenter was in Cyprus.  More than a 100 calls by concerned citizens were received in the northern city of Tzfat alone, the report said. The quake was felt even in Bat Yam, Kfar Saba, Ramat Hasharon, Ra'anana and other areas in central Israel.   Magen David Adom has sent reinforcements to its stations in northern Israel and is preparing for the possibility of secondary tremors, Channel 10 reported. 

In February, a 3.1 magnitude tremor shook Israel's north. There were no injuries or damage following the earthquake. The epicenter of that earthquake was east of Lake Kinneret, and a number of communities in the area reported having felt the quake.  Experts have warned that Israel is expected to be hit by a major earthquake. Dr. Ephraim Laor, who headed the National Steering Committee for Earthquake Preparedness, told Arutz Sheva recently that each Israeli must prepare himself for a major earthquake that could hit Israel.  In February, school children around the country, from kindergarten age and up, participated in earthquake drills in their schools, practicing safe steps to take when the ground starts shaking. - Israel National News.

EXTREME WEATHER: Rain and Hail Storms Devastate Thousands of Acres of New Mexico Crops - Damages Amount to Millions of Dollars!

Tuesday's heavy rainstorms were a welcome sight for many throughout New Mexico, but residents didn't expect the torrents of pea-sized hail that came with them.

Farmers in Hatch were hit pretty hard as thousands of acres of crops in the area were damaged by the hail. Elephant Butte Irrigation officials told ABC-7 the hail storms were widespread throughout the southern part of the state.  Terry Adams is one of the owners of Adams Produce Incorporated. She said they have farms spread out in different towns in order to avoid them all getting damaged when a storm hits, but that didn't help this week.  "Every farm that we have had hail yesterday. We've never seen that before," Adams said. "My son said there were about 6 inches of hail on top of our chili out there, so it was pretty much buried in ice."  Many crops, like onions, were just weeks away from being harvested, so they were damaged the most. Adams told ABC-7 mature onions could have their growth stunted by this damage, and it could be a total loss in some cases. 

Farmers said losing those crops at this point would be devastating.  "The blood, the sweat and the tears of these farmers, and to have their crop about three weeks from being harvested and see it wiped out in less than 45 minutes, it's not easy to recover from something like this," said EBID spokesman Gary Esslinger.  Esslinger said it will take a few days for farmers to assess the damages and really know how much of their crops are lost. For crops in the early stages of development like chili, farmers said it could take months to see how they were affected by the hail.  "Only time will tell us how much damage is out there and how we can recover from it," Adams said.  Esslinger estimates the damages could amount to millions of dollars.  "Being up there yesterday, witnessing the devastation was like a black day in Hatch. It made your stomach turn," Esslinger said. - KVIA.
WATCH: Hailstorm wrecks havoc for farmers in New Mexico.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Forecasting a Mega-Quake Along the Wasatch Front - Scientists Trying to Pinpoint the "Big One" in Utah!

Fourteen scientists are quietly working on a Utah earthquake forecasting project that will provide the most specific estimates ever of when and where major temblors are expected along the Wasatch Front.  "I don’t want to say [these projections] will revolutionize — but they are going to bring a great deal of more focused attention to the earthquake hazard in Utah," said Bill Lund, senior scientist at the Utah Geological Survey.

Seismic Profile near Salt Lake, Base map courtesy of F. Ashland, Utah Geological Survey.
The results, expected to be released next year, "will put some real numbers on" Utah earthquake probabilities within given time frames, as has been done in the past quarter century by California.  For instance, the most recent forecast in the Bay Area (2008) projects a two out of three chance of a 6.7 magnitude or greater quake within 30 years, said Ivan Wong, an Oakland, Calif., seismologist and chairman of the working group on Utah earthquake probability.  "The idea in Utah was that we felt we now had enough data on the Wasatch Fault to do what they do in California ... forecast when the next major quake might hit along the Wasatch." 

Wong is a vice president of URS Corp., an environmental engineering company, and a University of Utah alumnus.  He said the main goal of the project is to motivate people to take serious steps to prepare for the big one.  "If a large earthquake were to hit Salt Lake City right now, people would be surprised about the level of losses we’re going to sustain," Wong said.  "There will be casualties from the collapse of buildings in Salt Lake City, hospitals will be overwhelmed, if not damaged, and we’re concerned about schools," he said. "There are a lot of vulnerable schools along the Wasatch Front."  One of the biggest concerns of those charged with preparing for earthquakes is the large number of older brick buildings (un-reinforced masonry structures) in Utah. - Salt Lake Tribune.
WATCH: Earthquake warnings for Utah.

EXTREME WEATHER: Severe Storm Pummeled Central Trempealeau County - Destroying Thousands of Acres of Crops in Wisconsin!

The severe storm that pummeled central Trempealeau County last week destroyed an estimated 2,000 acres of alfalfa and more than 1,000 acres of corn, county agriculture officials said Tuesday.

Ron Westphal tills a field on his Strum-area farm Monday afternoon. Crops in central Trempealeau County,
south of Strum, were damaged extensively by a severe thunderstorm last week.
The crop damage was most severe between Whitehall and Ettrick, said Steve Okonek, an agriculture agent with the Trempealeau County UW-Extension office.  Travis Armitage, co-owner of Trinity Farms in Blair, said he and his partners still are waiting for fields to dry so they can assess the damage. "It's a little bit early to tell. It's so wet right now it's hard to do a lot of scouting," he said. "It definitely washed a lot of the seed out of the ground."  Armitage said he's hopeful he and his partners won't need to replant more than 5 percent of their crops.  "It looks very bad, but I don't think it's as bad as it looks," he said.  Farmers lost an estimated $500,000 worth of alfalfa, Okonek said.

The full extent of all the damaged crops for the roughly 150 farms in the area affected by the storm is unknown because many of the fields are still quite wet and farmers are busy planting corn, he said.  Okonek said replanting would be expensive, noting seeds can cost $120 to $200 an acre, and re-tilling land costs about $35 an acre.  In addition to heavy rain, the storm, which occurred a week ago today, brought hail and powerful straight-line winds that ripped siding off homes and sheds and uprooted and snapped trees.  "This was a pretty devastating storm," Okonek said, adding that because fields were freshly tilled, they were more susceptible to erosion.  The less severe storms that came through Eau Claire and Chippewa counties last week did not cause extensive damage for farms, officials said. - Leader Telegram.

PLANETARY TREMORS: What's Oklahoma's Earthquake Number - Tornado Alley Is Now Home to Large Number of Earthquakes?!

We're in the heart of tornado alley. But lately, Oklahoma's also been home to a large number of earthquakes. Just about all of us felt Oklahoma's largest ever recorded earthquake in November 2011. But unless you lived near the epicenter in Prague, chances are you didn't have any damage. With so much seismic activity in the sooner state in the past few years, we wanted to know,  what magnitude earthquake would be too much for Oklahoma's red dirt to handle?

Major Tectonic Boundaries: Subduction Zones -purple, Ridges -red and Transform Faults -green
Seismologist Austin Holland has his theory. "A magnitude 7 earthquake will have widespread damage and quite a bit of catastrophic failure in older buildings," Holland said. The San Francisco bay area is all too familiar with earthquake destruction. I traveled to San Francisco and asked David Schwartz with the U.S. Geological Survey what's done to keep buildings standing. Schwartz said bolts and external bracing are added to some buildings. John Osteraas assesses the safety and damage of buildings after earthquakes all around the world. He was even called to Oklahoma City days after the Murrah bombing. "When they evacuated everybody else, I went in to make sure everything was okay," Osteraas said about his time in Oklahoma City.  But he said if a strong earthquake shook Oklahoma City, he wouldn't want to be inside one of our buildings. "In a strong earthquake, a lot of the unreinforced masonry buildings, perhaps some of the precast buildings, will not perform so well and I would expect to see some failures in those buildings," Osteraas said. But while most of the structures in San Francisco, even the older ones, like the Golden Gate Bridge, were built to withstand earthquakes, those in Oklahoma City weren't.
Oklahoma City plan review supervisor Jeff Heinze said every new building must meet seismic code. But there isn't an inspector to make sure they're earthquake ready. The architect signs and seals the plans, promising they've met code. "When they sign and seal plans, they put their credibility on the line, their license and their liability," Heinze said. Devon officials tell us the Tower exceeds current seismic code and was built that way mostly for our high winds. But most of Oklahoma City's other high rises were built before we knew earthquakes were such a threat. Osteraas said it's not the skyscrapers we should worry about. "For earthquakes in Oklahoma, we'd expect to see the higher frequency vibration, which is going to effect low to mid-rise buildings, maybe 8-10 stories," Osteraas said. "Once you get above that, the building is flexible. It really doesn't feel the vibration." And all our experts believe that magical 7 magnitude quake is a long ways off from the sooner state. "The largest events are very unlikely events," Holland said. "They're much less likely than the threes." Osteraas agreed, "I don't think people in Oklahoma should fret about the big one." Austin Holland said there are several factors that come into play to determine how much damage an earthquake can cause: distance from the epicenter, age and design of structures, and the soil and foundation under a building. - News9.

EXTREME WEATHER: Powerful Storms Break Rainfall Record in Austin, Texas - Flooding Closes Barton Springs Pool, 2.7 Inches of Rain, the Most Since 1943!

The heavy rains and flooding Thursday night forced the city of Austin to temporarily close Barton Springs Pool. 

Stacy Pool will open early on Monday to accommodate Barton Springs Pool patrons.  The rains that soaked much of Central Texas and the Hill Country on Thursday will likely raise the levels in Lake Travis by up to two feet in the coming days, the Lower Colorado River Authority said Friday.  "As of 8 a.m. Friday, Lake Travis had risen almost three-quarters of a foot from the overnight rains," LCRA said in a news release.  "But LCRA cautions residents along the lakes, Colorado River and tributaries to pay attention to weather conditions, as Friday’s forecast calls for a 40 percent chance of rain for the region. With much of the region already saturated, any additional rains could easily turn into dangerous runoff."  After the night of rains, the weather radar was clear by Friday morning, prompting the National Weather Service to cancel the Flash Flood Watch.  The storms, which were moving east, dropped 2.7 inches of rain at Camp Mabry in Central Austin on Thursday. That broke the rainfall record for the day.  The former record was 2.05 inches, set in 1943.  More than 4 inches of rain fell near Harper in Gillespie County. In the metro area, just more than 2.5 inches of rain fell in Pflugerville.

The upper-level, low-pressure system over West Texas will move across North Texas Friday. That will keep a smaller chance for scattered showers and thunderstorms in the forecast.a.m. Friday, all road closures listed by the Austin Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management have been lifted.  Energy outages and road closures  By 3:30 a.m. Friday, all road closures listed by the Austin Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management have been lifted.  As of 11:30 p.m. Thursday, there were about 200 customers without power with repairs needed at about a dozen locations. Power was restored to the majority of customers in the FM 620/Anderson Mill/Hudson Bend areas by 11:15 p.m.  Austin Energy had five repair crews and six tree-trimming crews in service. All power outages should be reported by calling 512-322-9100.  Meanwhile, 450 Pedernales Electric Cooperative customers were without power at the peak of the storm at 10 p.m. Thursday.  The scene in Austin overnight was played out all across much of Texas. The Associated Press reported Friday morning that thousands of homes and businesses have lost electricity as thunderstorms swept through parts of Texas.  CenterPoint Energy reported about 7,300 customers in the Houston area without power Friday. The National Weather Service expected more rain by afternoon.  About 3,000 Austin Energy customers lost electricity overnight during storms, but utility officials say that number had dwindled to a few dozen by Friday morning.  Oncor  reported nearly 1,900 customers without power Friday in the rainy Dallas-Fort Worth area, plus Central Texas and the Midland-Odessa area.  Authorities say an apparent tornado touched down in the Southeast Texas town of Weimar late Thursday. Eight people in a trailer in a school parking lot were slightly hurt. More than two dozen cars of a freight train derailed amid the strong winds. - KXAN.

PLANETARY TREMORS: 2 Small Earthquakes Rattle SW Indiana – Just North of the New Madrid Seismic Zone!

Two small earthquakes rattled part of southwestern Indiana in the state’s most seismic area.

The U.S. Geological Survey says both of Thursday evening’s earthquakes were centered near the Knox County town of Bicknell about midway between Evansville and Terre Haute. The first quake had a magnitude of 2.7 and the second about an hour later registered 3.1.
County emergency management director John Streeter tells WTHI-TV that no damage was immediately reported. The Knox County area is within the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone, which was shaken by a magnitude 5.2 earthquake in 2008 that was centered in a nearby part of Illinois. - Post Tribune.

EXTREME WEATHER: 8 Injured after Tornado Hits High School and Hospital in Weimar, Texas - Twister Toppled a Train and Cause Widespread Power Outage!

The National Weather Service said the tornado briefly touched down at Weimar High School, 506 West Main Street, at about 5:25 p.m. 

School district officials said some injuries were reported. There was a fundraiser going on at the school at the time of the storm and a Papa John's pizza truck that was in the school parking lot as part of the event was turned over. There were eight people inside the truck who had to be taken to the hospital. Most of their injuries were not serious and many of them have since been released from the hospital. No students were injured.  A scoreboard at the high school was damaged, NWS officials said. School officials said part of the roof was ripped off and the football and softball fields sustained the most damage.  School is canceled for Friday and may reopen on Monday.  About two-thirds of the people in Weimar were without power Thursday night, however crews were working and hoped to have power restored before midnight.  NWS officials said a train was knocked off its tracks in Weimar. 

According to the Fayette County Sheriff's Office, a tornado peeled back the roof of Colorado-Fayette Medical Center, 400 Youens Drive. No injuries were reported there, but the 10 patients there were transferred to Columbus Community Hospital or discharged.  Weimar is about 88 miles west of downtown Houston.  Storms were expected in the Houston area late Thursday night and into Friday.  The National Weather Service office in Houston has issued a flash flood watch beginning at 1 a.m. Friday and continuing into Friday afternoon.   A strong area of low pressure in West Texas will migrate across the state through Saturday, bringing us our best chance for rain in Houston since mid-April.   Showers and severe thunderstorms have been raking the middle part of the state Thursday afternoon and will rotate through Houston beginning Thursday night.  Expect 2 inches to as many as 5 inches of rain in isolated areas by the time all is said and done. Some of the stronger storms will likely produce rain at 1 to 2 inches per hour.   The heavy rain can cause flash flooding, especially along feeder roads and areas where storm drains may be restricted by leaves, branches or trash. If you are driving and approach a flooded roadway, do not try to pass through it. Turn around and find another route.   By Friday night and Saturday, our rain threat will shift from strong thunderstorms to scattered showers. The rain should be gone entirely by Mother's Day. - Click 2 Houston.
WATCH: Tornado hits Weimar, Texas.

DELUGE: Hundreds of Farmers Lose as Floods Ravage Kenya Crops!

Hundred of farmers in Murang’a County are counting losses after floods swept away their crops. Yesterday more than 20,000 acres of maize plantation in Kiharu were destroyed by the floods following heavy rains which have been pounding the area.

     Two men erecting nets in the flooded section of Rurie village in Murang'a as they took advantage
of the flooding to make extra coins.
The rains have continued to cause havoc in the area. Waters from River Sagana have overflowed making residents living near the river to panic. Murang'a East DC George Natembeya who toured the area yesterday, said more than 1,500 families have been affected by the floods and have been evacuated to safer grounds.   "The crops have been destroyed by the water but we are hoping the situation will be contained as soon as possible," said the DC. He said the government has started the evacuating residents from the sloppy areas to avert more disasters.   Natembeya said the government cannot do much to control the flooding as the area is flat and the water cannot be drained. The DC however expressed fear that the farmers might have total crop failure in their farms since their farms have been submerged.   “I am afraid if the rains continue nothing would be salvaged in the farms and the locals risk starvation,“ he added.

He said the government will assist the locals in digging tunnels on their farm and building a water collecting dam to control flooding during the rainy seasons. “Digging tunnels to control the farms from flooding was the only solution to ease the farmer’s agony over crop destruction,” he added.   At the same time the area residents appealed to the government to provide a long lasting solution to their problem claiming that every time there are heavy rains the flooding sweeps away their crops.   A farmer Justus Gacoka, said they have been counting huge looses after the rains wash away all the crops and the investment they had put in the farms is drained.   Gacoka said they rely on the produce from their farms to earn a living by selling them to the market since they don't have any other cash crop to rely on. "This area is very productive but at times we are compelled to rely on relief food when such calamities occur" he said. - The Star.