Tuesday, May 21, 2013

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Mother Nature Strikes Back - The Power And Damage Of The Oklahoma Tornado Dwarfs The Hiroshima Bomb; The Most Powerful Tornado Ever; EF-5 Rating As The Highest Speed On The Fujita Scale; Wind Speeds Up To 210mph; 1.3 Miles Wide; 17 Miles Long; Death Count Revised To 24!

May 21, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Everything had to come together just perfectly to create the killer tornado in Moore, Okla.: wind speed, moisture in the air, temperature and timing. And when they did, the awesome energy released over that city dwarfed the power of the atomic bomb that leveled Hiroshima.

On Tuesday, the National Weather Service gave it the top-of-the-scale rating of EF5 for wind speed and breadth, and severity of damage. Wind speeds were estimated at between 200 and 210 mph. The death count is 24 so far, including at least nine children. The United States averages about one EF5 a year, but this was the first in nearly two years.

An aerial view shows Briarwood Elementary with vehicles thrown about after Monday's tornado, Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Moore, Okla. At least 24 people, including nine children, were killed in the massive tornado that flattened homes and a school in Moore, on Monday afternoon. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

To get such an uncommon storm to form is "a bit of a Goldilocks problem," said Pennsylvania State University meteorology professor Paul Markowski. "Everything has to be just right."

For example, there must be humidity for a tornado to form, but too much can cut the storm off. The same goes with the cold air in a downdraft: Too much can be a storm-killer.

But when the ideal conditions do occur, watch out. The power of nature beats out anything man can create.

"Everything was ready for explosive development yesterday," said Colorado State University meteorology professor Russ Schumacher, who was in Oklahoma launching airborne devices that measured the energy, moisture and wind speeds on Monday. "It all just unleashed on that one area."

Storm clouds build in the distance beyond tornado-ravaged homes Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Moore, Okla. A huge tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburb Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods and destroying an elementary school with a direct blow as children and teachers huddled against winds. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Several meteorologists contacted by The Associated Press used real time measurements, some made by Schumacher, to calculate the energy released during the storm's 40-minute life span. Their estimates ranged from 8 times to more than 600 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb, with more experts at the high end. Their calculations were based on energy measured in the air and then multiplied over the size and duration of the storm.

An EF5 tornado has the most violent winds on Earth, more powerful than a hurricane. The strongest winds ever measured were the 302 mph reading, measured by radar, during the EF5 tornado that struck Moore on May 3, 1999, according to Jeff Masters, meteorology director at the Weather Underground.

Still, when it comes to weather events, scientists usually know more about and can better predict hurricanes, winter storms, heat waves and other big events.

That's because even though a tornado like the one that struck Moore was 1.3 miles wide, with a path of 17 miles long, in meteorological terms it was small, hard to track, rare and even harder to study. So tornadoes are still more of a mystery than their hurricane cousins, even though tropical storms form over ocean areas where no one is, while this tornado formed only miles from the very National Weather Service office that specializes in tornadoes.

The rubble of a destroyed neighborhood is strewn about a neighborhood in Moore, Okla., Tuesday, May 21, 2013. Many homes were stripped to their foundations Monday by a tornado which moved through the area. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

"This phenomenon can be so deadly you would think that something that catastrophic, that severe would lend itself to understanding," said Adam Houston, meteorology professor at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. "But we're fighting the inherent unpredictability of these small-scale phenomena."

Unlike hurricanes, which forecasters can fly through in planes and monitor with buoys and weather stations, usually over a period of days, tornadoes form quickly and normally last only a matter of minutes. While meteorologists and television hosts chase tornadoes and try to get readings, it's not usually enough. This storm lasted 40 minutes - long for a regular tornado but not too unusual for such a violent one, said research meteorologist Harold Brooks at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla.

Still, the conditions needed to form such a violent and devastating tornado were there and forecasters knew it, warning five days in advance that something big could happen, Brooks said.

By Monday morning, forecasters at the National Weather Center, home of the storm lab and storm prediction center, knew "that any storm that formed in that environment had the potential to be a strong to violent tornado," he said.

"This is a pretty classic setup," Brooks said.

An aerial view of an entire neighborhood destroyed by Monday's tornado is shown Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Moore, Okla. A huge tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburb Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods and destroying an elementary school with a direct blow as children and teachers huddled against winds. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Tornadoes have two main ingredients: moist energy in the atmosphere and wind shear. Wind shear is the difference between wind at high altitudes and wind near the surface. The more moist energy and the greater the wind shear, the better the chances for tornadoes.

But just because the conditions are right doesn't mean a violent tornado will form, and scientists still don't know why they occur in certain spots in a storm and not others, and why at certain times and not others.

On Monday, the moist energy came up from the Gulf of Mexico, the wind shear from the jet stream plunging from Canada. "Where they met is where the Moore storm got started," Brooks said.

With the third strong storm hitting Moore in 14 years - and following roughly the same path as an EF5 that killed 40 people in 1999 and an EF4 that injured 45 others in 2003 - some people are wondering why Moore?

It's a combination of geography, meteorology and lots of bad luck, experts said.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin looks out the window of a National Guard helicopter as she tours the tornado damage in Moore, Okla., Tuesday, May 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, Pool)

If you look at the climate history of tornadoes in May, you will see they cluster in a spot, maybe 100 miles wide, in central Oklahoma, Houston said. That's where the weather conditions of warm, moist air and strong wind shear needed for tornadoes combine, in just the right balance.

"Central Oklahoma is a hot spot and there's a good reason for it," Houston said. "There's this perfect combination where the jet stream is strong, the instability is large and the typical position for this juxtaposition climatologically is central Oklahoma."

And the timing has to be perfect. Earlier in the year, there's not enough warm moist air, but the jet stream is stronger. Later, the jet stream is weaker but the air is moister and warmer.

The hot spot is more than just the city of Moore. Several meteorologists offer the same explanation for why that Oklahoma City suburb seemed to be hit repeatedly by violent tornadoes: Bad luck.

This aerial photo shows the remains of houses in Moore, Okla., following a tornado Monday, May 20, 2013. A tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, flattening entire neighborhoods, setting buildings on fire and landing a direct blow on an elementary school. (AP Photo/Steve Gooch)

Of the 60 EF5 tornadoes since 1950, Oklahoma and Alabama have been struck the most, seven times each. More than half of these top-of-the-scale twisters are in just five states: Oklahoma, Alabama, Texas, Kansas, and Iowa. Less than 1 percent of all U .S. tornadoes are this violent - only about 10 a year, Brooks said.

The United States' Great Plains is the "best place on Earth" for the formation of violent tornadoes because of geography, Markowski said. You need the low pressure systems coming down off the Rocky Mountains colliding with the warm moist unstable air coming north from the Gulf of Mexico.

Scientists know the key ingredients that go into a devastating tornado. But they are struggling to figure out why they develop in some big storms and not others. They also are still trying to determine what effects, if any, global warming has on tornadoes. The jet stream can shift to cause a record number of tornadoes - or an unusually low number of them.

WATCH: Search for survivors of Oklahoma tornado continues.

Early research, much of it by Brooks, predicts that as the world warms, the moist energy - or instability - will increase, and the U.S. will have more thunderstorms. But at the same time, the needed wind shear - the difference between wind speed and direction at different altitudes - will likely decrease.

The two factors go in different directions and it's hard to tell which will win out. Brooks and others think that eventually there may be more thunderstorms and fewer days with tornadoes, but more tornadoes on those days when twisters do strike.

"Tornadoes are perhaps the most difficult things to connect to climate change of any extreme," said NASA climate scientist Tony Del Genio. "Because we still don't understand all the factors required to get a tornado." -  AP News.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: More Sinkholes Keep Popping Up In America - Sinkhole Swallows Man On Forklift In New Jersey Warehouse; Sinkholes Strand Neighbors In Flowery Branch, Georgia; Body Of Drowned Man Recovered From Florida Sinkhole!

May 21, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A FORKLIFT operator is lucky to be alive after an indoor sinkhole opened up and swallowed him inside a warehouse.

Sinkhole Swallows Man On Forklift In New Jersey Warehouse.
Workers prepare to pull a truck from a sinkhole that opened up on a residential street in Chicago in April.
Picture: Getty
Source: Getty Images

The man was working when 2.4-metre deep sinkhole gave way beneath him in a East Rutherford, New Jersey warehouse, reports NBC4 New York.

The man was rescued and taken to hospital with minor injuries. Rescuers said the forklift may have saved his life, preventing him from being crushed by shielding him when he fell.

The entire warehouse was evacuated after the entire floor sank into a 12-metre by 12-metre sinkhole. - Herald Sun.

WATCH: Sinkhole in New Jersey.

A forklift operator narrowly escaped tragedy Monday afternoon as the concrete floor of a warehouse collapsed, swallowing him and his vehicle in a gooey pool of spilled cooking oil and soy sauce, authorities and witnesses said. Witnesses said the man, identified as Danny Rodriguez of The Bronx, was moving pallets with the forklift when the hole opened up in the warehouse space rented by a trucking company, AM Express Freight.

Witnesses described the hole as being 30 to 40 feet wide and six to 10 feet deep. It was filled with a dark, oily liquid that authorities later said was cooking oil and soy sauce that was being stored in the warehouse and fell into the hole when the floor gave way.  Rodriguez managed to get out without serious injury, authorities said.

The sinkhole is seen inside the warehouse.

“Fortunately for the operator, the forklift went straight down and didn’t tip to the side because then he could have really been hurt,” said borough Police Chief Larry Minda.

Rodriguez was taken by ambulance to Hackensack University Medical Center.

Sarah Entena, the administrator for AM Express Freight, said Rodriguez has worked for the Carlstadt-based company for about 30 years — “He’s the best forklift driver we have,” she said.

“The forklift protected him” from drowning or serious physical harm, she added. “And thank God for that.”

Entena said the cooking oil and soy sauce were typical products for the warehouse, which is used for storage of non-perishable foodstuffs.

Steve Garonyi, a trucker who works for neighboring Pioneer Logistics, said he pulled into the warehouse parking lot shortly after the incident and found Rodriguez standing outside and looking “frantic.” - North Jersey.

Sinkholes Strand Neighbors In Flowery Branch, Georgia.

Construction Crews in Flowery Branch and parts of Hall County are working to repair several roads that caved in during the storm on Sunday.

Jim McCrystal and his family live on Cove Creek. He and his neighbors were stranded because the sinkhole blocked the only way in and out of their subdivision.

"The only way in our out! I had to take off work Sunday because I couldn't get out," said McCrystal.

Construction crews made temporary repairs to the road Monday so McCrystal and his neighbors could drive out.
"The main concern we have is that school is still in session. All the kids are trying to get over the sidewalk. We are afraid the sidewalk will collapse," said McCrystal.

The storm also washed away part of Stephens Road between McKenzey Lane and Pipissewa Drive. Theresa Owens said she drove down Stephens before it caved in.

"We didn't' realize it until Sunday night how close it came to me sinking in it," said Owens.

Owens said it was foggy and raining when she drove over that part of Stephens Road on Sunday morning.

"It was about 7:15 a.m., when I drove across. It was all kinds of trees and leaves and stuff like that but I didn't feel anything," said Owens.

A sink hole developed and washed away part of Trudy Drive. Fortunately neighbors were not stranded.

Flowery Branch and Hall County both declared emergencies so crews can spend the necessary money to start repairing the roadways.

Flowery Branch Mayor Mike Miller said a problem downstream caused all the water to back up during the storm.

"Downstream there was something at the railroad track that stopped the water from going into Lake Lanier. At one point it appeared to be about a 10-foot wall of water higher on our side of the tracks that the lakeside," said Miller.

There is a boil-water notice in effect until 9 p.m. for people who receive water from the City of Flowery Branch. - CBS Atlanta.

WATCH: Sinkhole in Flowery Branch.

Body Of Drowned Man Recovered From Florida Sinkhole.

Leon County deputies have recovered the body of a man they say drowned in a sinkhole.

The body of a man family and friends have identified as Dominique Hollis was found around 9:30 Monday morning.

Deputies say Hollis and some friends were swimming at a sinkhole off of Crawfordville Highway Sunday when Hollis jumped into the water and began struggling to swim.

Deputies say his friends tried to help, but were unsuccessful.

Family and friends of Hollis describe him as a sweet, kind, young man who always had a smile on his face.

They say he enjoyed singing Gospel music, dancing and shopping.

They say he had just started a new job at Applebee's.

An autopsy is being conducted today to determine his official cause of death. - WCTV.

WATCH: Sinkhole in Florida.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Major Solar System Disturbance - Dark And Massive Asteroid To Fly By Earth On May 31st; First Images Of The 1.7-Mile Wide Asteroid 1998 QE2 Seen; Will Come Within 3.6 Million Miles Of Earth; Has The Potential For Total Mass Destruction; Similar In Size To The Asteroid That Killed Off The Dinosaurs!

May 21, 2013 - CANADA Near-Earth asteroid 1998 QE2 is approaching the Earth-Moon system for a flyby on May 31st. There's no danger of a collision; at closest approach the asteroid will be 3.6 million miles away.

Even at that distance, however, the 1.7-mile-wide space rock will be an easy target for mid-sized backyard telescopes. Using a 14-inch Celestron, Alberto Quijano Vodniza of Narino, Colombia took this picture of 1998 QE2 on May 17th:

The sunlit side of the asteroid will turn more squarely toward Earth during the first week of June. At that time it will reach a maximum brightness of 11th magnitude.

NASA radars will be monitoring the flyby, too. "Asteroid 1998 QE2 will be an outstanding radar imaging target at Goldstone and Arecibo and we expect to obtain a series of high-resolution images that could reveal a wealth of surface features," says radar astronomer Lance Benner of JPL.

"Whenever an asteroid approaches this closely, it provides an important scientific opportunity to study it in detail to understand its size, shape, rotation, surface features, and what they can tell us about its origin." - Space Weather.

ICE AGE NOW: A Year Without Spring - Central Newfoundland Digs Out From Freak Snowfall; 58 Centimetres Of Snow Falls In Gander Between Saturday And Sunday?!

May 21, 2013 - CANADA - The Victoria Day long weekend this year has meant shovels, icy roads and a record-breaking snowfall for many residents of central Newfoundland.

Snow fell heavily over the weekend across central Newfoundland, including this
scene in Lewisporte. (Photo by Kay Burns )

In Gander, 58 centimetres of snow fell between Saturday morning and Sunday night, with peak snowfall on Saturday evening.

Environment Canada meteorologist Jody Boyd said the snowfall blew away the prior record.

"Our normal snowfall for the month of May is just 13 centimetres, and the highest monthly total in the past was set in 1972," Boyd said.

"For the whole month, it was 49 centimetres, so we beat that over the span of 36 hours."

Other parts of the province suffered inclement weather, including rain, drizzle and fog in eastern Newfoundland as well as cold temperatures. - CBC.

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Largest Python Ever Caught In Florida - Record-Setting Burmese Python Captured In Miami-Dade County, Measures 18 Feet And 8 Inches!

May 21, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A Miami man has captured, killed, and reported the largest Burmese python ever caught in Florida, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials.

Photo courtesy FWC Facebook.

Jason Leon was driving in a rural section of southwest Miami-Dade on May 11 when he and his passengers spotted a large snake in the road.

Leon pulled over to investigate the reptile, then only sticking out three feet from a bush. As he began to drag the animal out from the foliage, the Burmese python began to wrap itself around Leon's leg.

His friends inside the car then jumped out and used a knife to kill the python, which turned out to be a18-foot, 8-inch female, as later identified by University of Florida experts.

FWC officials says that Leon, whom Local 10 identified as living in Hialeah, once owned a Burmese python himself and knew how to handle the 128-pound snake, which is an invasive species credited with hurting the Everglades ecosystem and its native wildlife.

Leon's snake is a whole foot longer than the previous record-holding snake of 17-feet, 7-inches, captured last August in the Everglades.

Photo courtesy FWC Facebook.

"The FWC is grateful to him both for safely removing such a large Burmese python and for reporting its capture,” said Kristen Sommers, FWC's Exotic Species Coordination Section Leader.

This event highlights how the Exotic Species hotline allows the public to help us obtain more information about Burmese pythons, so we can improve management of this invasive species. It also reflects the cooperative efforts of the FWC and its partners to address python sightings by the public.”

To report sightings of exotic species, visit IveGot1.org or call 888-IveGot1. There is also a free smartphone app: IVEGOT1. - Huffington Post.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Monster 33-Foot Sinkhole Opens Up In Shenzhen, China - Five People Killed!

May 21, 2013 - CHINA - Five people died when a 10 metre (33 feet) wide sinkhole opened up at the gates of an industrial estate in Shenzhen, the southern Chinese boom town neighbouring Hong Kong, local authorities said Tuesday.

The Shenzhen Longgang district government said on its verified page on Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter, that five people had died and added that it was investigating the incident.

Chinese rescuers prepare to move a dead body found in a sinkhole in Shenzhen, on May 21, 2013.
© Agence France-Presse

The sinkhole formed just outside the Huamao Industrial Park in Shenzhen on Monday evening, at a time when many factory workers would have been changing shifts, according to the website of Beijing-based newspaper the Guangming Daily.

The state-run Shanghai Daily newspaper said that rescuers saved one man.

Reports said it was unclear how many people had fallen into the hole in total, but the search was continuing on Tuesday.

Sinkholes in China are often blamed on construction works and the country's rapid pace of development.

Surveillance cameras in March captured images of a security guard being swallowed by a sinkhole, also in Shenzhen.

Two months ago a man was killed when his bedroom was swallowed by a eight metre (25 feet) sinkhole in Florida, in the US. - Raw Story.

EXTREME WEATHER: America Under Attack - Texas To New York At Greatest Risk For Severe Storms And Tornadoes!

May 21, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Severe storms, some capable of producing tornadoes, will threaten communities across northeastern Texas, northwestern Louisiana and Arkansas into Tuesday night.

The severe weather will continue to ignite as a storm system over the central Plains slowly crawls to the east. The most violent thunderstorms will erupt during the late afternoon and early evening hours, during peak heating from the day.

Austin, Shreveport, El Dorado and Memphis are among the cities that lie within the area of greatest severe storm and tornado risk.

With plenty of humid air to work with, some of the thunderstorms will develop into long-lived super cell thunderstorms.

These types of storms are notorious for spawning very large hail and long-tracking tornadoes such as the Moore, Okla., tornado that touched down on Monday afternoon.

"The atmosphere is prime for tornadoes from northern Texas to Arkansas," AccuWeather Expert Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity said. "The setup is the same as yesterday [Monday], but just farther south."

Threats with the strongest storms will include golf ball-sized hail and larger and damaging wind gusts of 70 mph and higher. Strong winds can bring down trees and power lines which could lead to power outages.

Severe thunderstorms will also reach portions of the Ohio Valley to western New York state this evening. The greatest concerns with storms in this region is large hail and localized strong wind gusts. - AccuWeather.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Preparing For The Mid-America Mega-Quake - Are We Ready?

May 21, 2013 - UNITED STATES - It’s a bleak scenario. A massive earthquake along the New Madrid fault kills or injures 60,000 people in Tennessee. A quarter of a million people are homeless. The Memphis airport — the country’s biggest air terminal for packages — goes off-line. Major oil and gas pipelines across Tennessee rupture, causing shortages in the Northeast. In Missouri, another 15,000 people are hurt or dead. Cities and towns throughout the central U.S. lose power and water for months. Losses stack up to hundreds of billions of dollars.

Fortunately, this magnitude 7.7 temblor is not real but rather a scenario imagined by the Mid-America Earthquake Center and the Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management at George Washington University. The goal of their 2008 analysis was to plan for a modern recurrence of quakes that happened along the New Madrid fault more than 200 years ago, in 1811 and 1812.

No one alive has experienced a major earthquake in the Midwest, yet geologists say it’s only a matter of time. That puts a lot of uncertainty on disaster officials. Their earthquake precautions — quake-resistant building codes, for example — have never been reality tested. Some question if enough has been done to strengthen existing buildings, schools and other infrastructure. It is difficult to prepare for a geological catastrophe the public cannot see and has never experienced.

A matter of time

“We mostly react to disasters, and it’s been extremely rare that we get ahead of things,” said Claire Rubin, a disaster response specialist in Arlington, Va. “A lot of hard problems don’t get solved. They get moved around and passed along.”

Steven L. Lueker is among disaster response officials who worry about the New Madrid fault and another fault to the north, in the Wabash Valley. He’s the emergency management coordinator for Jefferson County in Southern Illinois, and he rattles off likely impact statistics. One of the most important: The New Madrid fault is expected to generate a large-scale earthquake within the next 50 years.

“I may not be here when it happens,” said Lueker. “Or it may happen while we’re talking. You don’t know.”

When it does happen, Lueker said Mount Vernon, the Jefferson County seat, likely will be a staging area for support flowing into Tennessee and Missouri — unless the Mount Vernon airport itself is too damaged. He doesn’t — can’t — know.

Uncertainty is the maddening aspect of earthquakes. They can’t be predicted, even very big ones. We know they happen frequently along the earth’s tectonic plates. We also know there are no such plates in the central United States, yet that part of the country has had major earthquakes in three zones: the New Madrid fault, which on computer models looks like Harry Potter’s scar slashing across Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee; the Wabash Valley fault in Illinois and Indiana; and the East Tennessee Seismic Zone that runs into Alabama.

These are not like the faults in California, which last had a major earthquake in 1994, when the magnitude 6.7 Northridge temblor killed 57 people and caused $20 billion in damages. The mid-continent faults rupture less often; New Madrid gets the shakes maybe 200 times a year, about a tenth the number in California. And earthquakes in the central United States tend to be smaller. The New Madrid fault appears to have a big rupture every 300 years or so; the Wabash Valley has one perhaps every 500 years.

But when quakes do hit the central United States, geology means they are felt much farther away, because the Earth’s crust in the region does not absorb the shock waves in the way it does in the Western United States. “The Northridge earthquake was barely felt in Las Vegas, 250 miles away,” said Gary Patterson, director of education and outreach at the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis. “Here, a large quake would be felt 1,200 miles away in Canada.”

Difference of opinion

Not everyone thinks the New Madrid fault will produce another big earthquake. Seth Stein, a geologist at Northwestern University, has argued that the small quakes occurring along the fault are not the kind that suggest the earth is gathering energy for a large one.

“He’s a smart guy,” said Patterson. “But it’s interesting that you have to go 500 miles away from the fault to find a scientist who disagrees with the consensus” that another New Madrid quake is inevitable.

At the same time, Patterson and others concede it is difficult to explain why the faults in the central United States are active at all.

Disaster preparedness officials — encouraged by the federal and state governments — are getting ready for a large quake anyway. The Federal Emergency Management Agency sponsors events like the Great Shake-Out and Earthquakes Mean Business, instructing communities and businesses the protective mantra of, “Drop, Cover and Hold On.”

Disaster officials also collaborate on regional drills. The Mid-America Earthquake Center’s 2008 scenario is one example. Another is the Central United States Earthquake Consortium, a planning agency that represents eight states, which is scheduling a large-scale exercise next year.

Preparation an issue

Earthquake preparedness is not always widely embraced, however, at least as a matter of policy. Developers in Memphis and Shelby County, Tenn., for example, are engaged in a protracted debate over whether to update the local building code to require tougher material standards such as framing clips that help secure a house’s frame to its foundation. Engineers say the costs of including this hardware in homes would be minimal. The developers think otherwise.

What’s not in dispute is that the region’s building codes are untested. Almost every state that would be affected by a quake on the New Madrid fault has a building code. But building codes have only been earthquake-oriented for 20 years or so. And there hasn’t been a magnitude 6 or greater earthquake in the area since 1895, when a 6.7 hit in Charleston, Mo.

Even people uninitiated in earthquakes are somewhat prepared, according to FEMA, based on experience with other disasters including tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and wildfires.

That may be true, but earthquakes present their own complications, said Amr S. Elnashai, outgoing director of the Mid-America Earthquake Center at the University of Illinois. Earthquakes have aftershocks and cause landslides, for example.

For all its planning, said Elnashai, “the Midwest is more aware but it is not better prepared.” There has not been much work to improve and retrofit pipelines, most buildings, or critical facilities like schools, banks and chemical plants.

The region is also unprepared for the politics of response. A large-scale New Madrid earthquake could devastate portions of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee. These states are members of the consortium that is preparing for a major disaster in the Midwest.

The clear problem will be allocating resources. Would Memphis and St. Louis get most of the attention after a major earthquake, while small towns and vast rural areas are just as badly affected?

“For a small community like Marion, Ill., versus a Bloomington, Ind., versus a Paducah, Ky., who gets those resources? Who makes the decision?” said James M. Wilkinson Jr., the consortium’s executive director. The consortium has started to address those questions.

In the end, preparedness only gets us so far, said Lueker, the emergency management director in Jefferson County, Ill. He noted what happened in 2011 on the northeast coast of earthquake-prone Japan, where some who heard sirens going off after a magnitude 9.0 quake still stood and watched an approaching tsunami.

“They’re the best-trained people in the world, and they still died,” he said. “As well trained as those people are, it makes me wonder how well we can be prepared.” - ENews Courier.

MASS BEES DIE-OFF: Global Food Crisis - Winter Honey Bee Deaths Devastate Keepers, Puzzle Scientists; Nearly Sixty Percent Of Maryland's Bees Succumb, Twice The National Average?!

May 21, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Something is killing the honey bees of Maryland.

Close to 60 percent of the managed hives died last fall and over the winter — about twice the national average, according to the state bee inspector and local keepers.

"I had a healthy hive that produced 50 pounds of honey last year, and we were anticipating another great year," said Stephen Christianson, a Mount Washington beekeeper of three years. "Then, they were just gone. It took my breath away."

Some blame inexperience on the part of the beekeepers, most of whom tend their hives as a hobby, coupled with a bad winter.

But others blame a brew of pesticides and other toxins that threatens to not only wipe out the bees — which are essential to agriculture, from large farms to backyard gardens — but also other pollinators such as butterflies.

"There's no better way to kill every pollinator in the area than to put this on what they eat," said Steve McDaniel, a 35-year beekeeper and retired chemist who lives in Carroll County, holding a can of insecticide meant to protect flowers. "This is a war on bees."

A national report issued today by the Bee Informed Partnership, a collaboration of state and federal agencies, confirms that six of the last seven winters have been particularly deadly for honey bees.

The industry considers a loss rate of 15 percent to be acceptable. Last winter, the mortality rate among all U.S. beekeepers was 31.1 percent, an increase of 42 percent over the previous year. When mostly backyard beekeepers were polled, the mortality rate jumped to 45 percent.

"Losing 30 percent of the bees over the last seven years is pretty alarming if you're a beekeeper," said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a research scientist at the University of Maryland and one of the authors of the report. "Beekeepers can't sustain that kind of loss forever."

In Maryland a robust honey bee population is key to flourishing farms. The agriculture department estimates that crops valued in excess of $40 million — apples, melons, berries and pumpkins — require or benefit from honey bee pollination.

The unexplained death of millions of bees makes government officials and regulators here and abroad uneasy. The European Union voted last week to suspend the use of three pesticides containing neonicotinoids, a nerve agent, on flowering crops for two years.

Bayer CropScience, the German maker of one of the leading pesticides containing neonicotinoids, criticised the E.U. vote as a "set-back for technology, innovation and sustainability" that will result in "crop yield losses, reduced food quality and loss of competitiveness for European agriculture."

After the E.U. vote, the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency released a study that acknowledged the decline of the honey bee population but warned against jumping to conclusions. The report said multiple factors are to blame for colony declines, including parasites and disease, pesticides, poor nutrition and genetics.

Jerry Fischer, the Maryland bee inspector, listed another factor: "management."

The state has 1,782 registered beekeepers who together own more than 13,000 hives, also called colonies. Of that total, 68 percent tend at most two hives.

"It's a hobby. It's not a priority. It's not an income that's going to sustain you. The bees die and you buy some more. That's the mindset," said Fischer, who has been a keeper for more than 60 years. "They don't want to admit they've done something wrong."

McDaniel, who lost 13 of his 20 colonies, bristled at that characterization.

"This is the worst I've seen in 35 years. We didn't all get stupid at once. I don't know what it is, but it isn't our stupidity," said McDaniel, holding part of a hive that was once thriving.

The frame is one of four or five that sit inside a wooden box that constitutes the hive. Dead bees are clustered around their queen at one end of the frame, away from a nourishing glob of honey.

"They were well nourished and cared for, but they couldn't even keep themselves warm," McDaniel said quietly. "They starved and died."

Geneva Miller and her husband, Dennis, have run Miller Bee Supply from their home in Chase for 17 years. She said they have been getting 20 to 30 calls every day from distraught keepers, looking for replacements. The run on bees has been so serious that supply hasn't kept up with demand.

"A lot of people from all across the state have lost their bees this year," she said. "It's scary."

Since 2006-2007, millions of bees across the country have succumbed to colony collapse disorder, in which the colony's worker bees disappear, leaving the queen and young bees that cannot sustain themselves to die. Scientists still are looking for a cause, but signs point to the Varroa mite that sucks the blood from bees.

But Fischer said Maryland has never had a case of colony collapse disorder, "and we don't have one this year, either." - Baltimore Sun.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Global Volcano Report For May 21, 2013 - Eruption Continues At Pavlof Volcano with Less Ash In Plume; Increase In Seismicity At Indonesia's Sangeang Api Volcano; Small Explosions At Popocatépetl!

May 21, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing reports of volcanoes across the globe.

The eruption of Pavlof in Alaska, seen on May 18, 2013. Image: Theo Chesley, via AVO/USGS.

Pavlof (Alaska Peninsula, USA): The eruption that started last week at Pavlof, at the far western end of the Alaska Peninsula, is still going strong. AVO says that the lava flows and fountains are continuing, with steam-and-ash plumes reported to be reaching in 5-6 km (low 20,000s feet). However, they did note that the plume doesn’t seem to be very ash rich as much of the volcanic material is staying closer to the summit of the volcano — but that didn’t stop some ash dusting towns as far away as Sand Point, 88 km (55 miles) to the east.

Some images of the eruption (see above) clearly show the white plume that is likely mostly derived from melting snow and the dark grey plume made of volcanic ash and tephra. The activity is still producing small pyroclastic flows from snow-lava interactions and lahars further downslope as the volcanic debris mixes with melted snow/ice — be sure to check out the image of Pavlof taken May 16 over on the NASA Earth Observatory showing all these features. The seismicity (volcanic tremor) at Pavlof is almost constant, so there don’t seem to be many signs that the eruption is nearing an end — the current level of activity is likely the new normal at Pavlof for the time being, with some potential for explosions that might produce plumes reaching 9 km.

You can check out some impressive video taken from an aircraft flying near Pavlof — they clearly show the fountain of lava and ash at the crater along with the billowing clouds of ash and steam flowing down the slopes. Also, check out this gallery of images put together by the Alaska Dispatch.

Still pretty cloudy on the webcam view from Cold Bay, but keep an eye on it to look for the plume from Pavlof.

Sangeang Api (Indonesia): An increase in seismicity since 26 April triggered VSI to rise the alert status from 2 to 3 on a scale of 1-4 (from "Waspada", "watch" to Siaga", alert). For the moment, only degassing has been observed as surface activity.

A similar increase in seismic activity was observed in Oct 2012, when the alert was raised as well and then reduced again in November.

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Activity has been a bit calmer over the past 2 days, but the number of emissions and small explosions (about 3 per hour) remains elevated.

Glow from Popocatépetl's summit (CENAPRED webcam).

Explosions ejected incandescent fragments to heights of 500 m above the crater. Strong glow is visible at the volcano's summit at night. Intermittent phases of volcanic tremor and volcanic earthquakes of magnitude up to 2.1 have been registered. The volcanic alert level remains at YELLOW Phase 3.

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for May 21, 2013.

SOURCES: WIRED | Volcano Discovery.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: SARS-Like Virus Spreads To Tunisia - 3 Cases Of Coronavirus, 1 Death!

May 21, 2013 - MIDDLE EAST - A 66-year-old Tunisian man has died from the new coronavirus following a visit to Saudi Arabia and two of his adult children were infected with it, the Tunisian Health Ministry reported.

His sons were treated and have since recovered but the rest of the family remains under medical observation, the ministry said in a statement Monday. The World Health Organization confirmed the cases of the children, but said one of them was a daughter who was with her father for part of the trip to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

There was no immediate way to reconcile the differing reports.

The cases are the first for Tunisia and indicate that the virus is slowly trickling out of Saudi Arabia, where more than 30 coronavirus cases have been reported. There have been at least 20 deaths worldwide out of 40 cases.

"These Tunisia cases haven't changed our risk assessment, but they do show the virus is still infecting people," said Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for WHO in Geneva.

The Tunisian fatality, a diabetic, had been complaining of breathing problems since his return from the trip and died in a hospital in the coastal Tunisian city of Monastir. Many previous coronavirus patients have had underlying medical problems, which WHO said might have made them more susceptible to getting infected. There is no specific treatment for the disease, but the agency has issued guidelines for how doctors might treat patients, like providing oxygen therapy and avoiding strong steroids.

The new virus has been compared to SARS, an unusual pneumonia that surfaced in China then erupted into a deadly international outbreak in early 2003. Ultimately, more than 8,000 SARS cases were reported in about 30 countries and over 770 people died from it.

The new coronavirus is most closely related to a bat virus and is part of a family of viruses that cause the common cold and SARS. Experts suspect it may be jumping directly from animals like camels or goats into people, but there isn't enough proof to narrow down a species yet. The virus can cause acute respiratory disease, kidney failure and heart problems.

"We still do not have a good idea of how people are getting infected and that is a major concern," said Hartl.
Last week, WHO said it was worried about "cases that are not part of larger clusters and who do not have a history of animal contact." WHO said those cases suggest the virus may already be spreading in the community.

The Saudi Arabian cities of Mecca and Medina will receive millions of pilgrims from around the world during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which falls in July and August this year. - Huffington Post.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Hundreds Of Fish Found Mysteriously Dead In Canalside, Buffalo, New York?!

May 21, 2013 - UNITED STATES Canalside is just weeks away from being packed with people attending summer events. But visitors could be met with hundreds of dead fish in the water.

Hundreds of dead fish started washing up from Lake Erie, the Niagara River and their tributaries in March, and News 4 reported after concerned viewers called about the dead fish. And though it's been months, you can still find dozens of them floating in the Commercial Slip.

Donald Zelazny, the DEC's Great Lakes Program Coordinator, said, "This is actually one of the larger die-offs of these fish that we've seen in quite a while."

So it's no surprise that people who see them are worried about disease and pollution. But the DEC now has biological evidence of what it has said all along: these fish, a member of the herring family called "gizzard shad," died of natural causes.

"They're very susceptible to cold temperatures and temperature fluctuations. So we generally see a die-off of this particular type of fish every year," Zelazny explained.

The DEC sent biological samples to labs at Cornell University. All the results came back negative.

The fish are an unsightly nuisance for boaters and other people coming down to the water. But fortunately, nature has a way of cleaning up after itself, which is another good indication that the fish are not diseased.

"In the late 1990s, early 2000s, we were seeing a lot of dead fish, a lot of dead birds along the Lake Erie shoreline; and even a lot of what we call "hellbenders," they're like large salamanders, along the shoreline," Zelazny said. "And we found that that was being caused by a botulism virus."

It's also possible that another naturally-occurring species may have stolen the oxygen these gizzard shad needed to survive: "microcystis" - more commonly known as blue-green algae.

Zelazny said, "What happens is, as these algae die off later in the year, everything settles to the bottom of the lake. And then during the wintertime, it consumes the oxygen."

The DEC relies on residents, especially those who live along Lake Erie, to report dying fish and wildlife. If biologists can get a specimen while it's still somewhat alive, that's what allows them to get samples, run tests, and find out whether we're dealing with disease, toxins or, as in this case, nature just taking its course. - WIVB.

WATCH: What is causing hundreds of fish to die?

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Over 12,000 Birds Killed Due To Avian Flu In Cataluna, Spain!

May 21, 2013 - SPAIN The Spanish veterinary authorities have reported one outbreak of low pathogenic avian influenza (H7N1) at a farm in Cataluna.

The World Organisation for Animal Health received an immediate notification (also a final report) on 20 May 2013. According to the report, the outbreak was first observed on 9 May 2013 and pre-confirmed on 14 May. The affected population comprises breeding hens.

Out of 12,358 susceptible birds, 133 cases and deaths were reported. The remaining 12,225 birds were destroyed.

A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test was conducted on 14 May at the Poultry Health Centre of Catalonia (CESAC) and real-time PCR was conducted at the Central Veterinary Laboratory in Algete on 17 May. Both tests confirmed the presence of the H7N1 virus.

Although the source of the outbreak has not yet been determined, the situation has been contained and no further outbreaks are expected to occur. - The Poultry Site.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Major Solar System Disturbance - Meteor Caught On Camera Over Indonesian Volcano!

May 21, 2013 - INDONESIA Amazing pictures have come out of Indonesia as a photographer snapped a photo of a meteor over a volcano.

In the distance of the picture, you can see Mount Bromo as the meteor streaks above.

WATCH: Meteor Caught On Camera Over Indonesian Volcano.

Mount Bromo is one of just a handful of active volcanoes in Indonesia. - ABC2 News.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Large Fish Kill In The Nanchang Yellow Lake In China?!

May 21, 2013 - CHINA - 19, users in Jiangxi microblogging broke the news that the suburbs of Nanchang Yellow Lake, a large area of ​​dead fish the Dajiang reporters went to verify the true, the person in charge of aquatic products market may be sewage inflows lead to fish Dajiang News reporter Yu Yunliang reports: dead occurrence of such a large area of ​​dead fish, aquatic field down the drain.

Fisheries field staff are to salvage dead fish.

19 afternoon, Dajiang reporter came to the incident appears waters of the dead fish is an aquatic field the aquatic field person in charge told reporters that 16 afternoon, fish pond fish bubbling, followed by oxygen, but .17 to no avail, the fish began a massive die 19, the entire aquatic field foul.

Aquatic field boss, fish ponds million yuan investment in the construction of the Chinese New Year this year was placed in a 50 million fry, 'I did not expect die off, down the drain!' The aquatic field that is heavy rains caused sewage flows Lake in the ultimate cause pending further investigation. - Best News.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: Monster Tornado Wrecks Oklahoma City, Leaving Miles Upon Miles Of Debris - At Least 51 Dead; Homes And Schools Pulverized; Cars And Trees Mangled; Widespread Devastation! UPDATE: President Obama Declares Major Disaster In Oklahoma!

"Look for me in the whirlwind". - Marcus Garvey.

May 21, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A monster tornado roared through the Oklahoma City suburbs and killed at least 51 people Monday, pulverizing block after block of homes, tearing the walls off an elementary school and leaving behind miles of mangled cars and splintered wood. Crews frantically searched the wreckage and were only beginning to get a sense of the destruction. Hospitals reported several dozen injured. “The whole city looks like a debris field,” said Mayor Glenn Lewis of the city of Moore, which appeared to be hardest hit. At Plaza Towers Elementary School, the tornado tore the roof off, and authorities kept hysterical parents back because it was too loud to hear screams for help. A teacher told NBC affiliate KFOR that she draped herself on top of six children in a bathroom to shelter them.

Overturned cars seen near Oklahoma City on Monday.
Richard Rowe/Reuters
Monster tornado moves through Oklahoma.

It was not clear how many children were trapped. Students in fourth, fifth and sixth grade were evacuated to a church, but students in lower grades had sheltered in place, KFOR reported. More than two hours after the tornado struck, several children were pulled out alive.   The Weather Channel said the twister was a mile wide at its base, and a reporter for KFOR said it kicked up a cloud of debris perhaps two miles wide. The National Weather Service initially classified the storm as an EF4, the second-strongest type, with winds of 166 to 200 mph.  “It seems that our worst fears have happened today,” said Bill Bunting, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Norman, Okla.

Path of the tornado that struck near Oklahoma City.
A television image showing homes flattened outside Moore, Okla., Monday.
KFOR-TV, via Associated Press

For miles, television footage showed a landscape utterly shattered. Emergency workers stepped gingerly around piles of wreckage left on the foundations of homes. Other people simply walked around dazed, marveling that nothing was left of their houses — and in many cases that they themselves were alive.  “I lost everything,” one man said as he walked through the ruins of an obliterated horse farm. “We might have one horse left out of all of them.”  The tornado struck at mid-afternoon and tore a 20-mile path, said Rick Smith, another weather service meteorologist. He said it was on the ground for 40 minutes. Much of the storm’s rampage was captured on live television, perhaps alerting people in its path to seek shelter.  At one hospital in Moore, cars were “piled like Hot Wheels” in the parking lot, and police were searching them one by one and spray-painting X’s to mark them clear of victims, said Kurt Gwartney, news director for radio station KGOU.  An Oklahoma emergency management spokesman said a hospital was being evacuated after sustaining severe damage, and 16 ambulances were being sent to move patients. It was not clear whether it was the same hospital.

An aerial view of some of the destruction caused by Monday's tornado.
 KFOR-TV, via Associated Press
Teachers carried children away from Briarwood Elementary school after a tornado destroyed the school in south Oklahoma City on Monday. Paul Hellstern/The Oklahoman, via Associated Press

President Barack Obama pledged the full help of the federal government. Gov. Mary Fallin asked the people of Oklahoma for patience and promised: “We will bring every single resource out that we can.” Relief efforts sprang up. The Red Cross said it was opening a shelter, and the University of Oklahoma opened some of its housing for displaced families. In addition to Plaza Towers, Briarwood Elementary School was heavily damaged, KFOR reported. Search and rescue teams converged on a staging area at the Warren Theater, which was also damaged, as the tornado churned toward other Oklahoma towns. The storms were expected to continue through the evening.  Grasping for comparisons, some people said it looked like Joplin, the Missouri town virtually wiped off the map two years ago when a tornado — this one an EF5 — blew through and killed 158 people.  For people in Oklahoma, the ferocity was reminiscent of May 3, 1999, when a tornado registered wind of more than 300 mph, left 46 dead and damaged or destroyed more than 8,000 homes.

A television image showing a house fire outside Moore, Okla., Monday.
 KFOR-TV, via Associated Press
A television image showing a tornado in Oklahoma City on Monday.
KWTV, via Associated Press

The tornado Monday also came one day after another cluster of storms in Oklahoma that killed two elderly men in the town of Shawnee. Tens of millions of people from Texas to the Great Lakes — an area covering 55 million people — had been warned to brace for more severe weather Monday. The Sunday storms destroyed mobile homes, flipped trucks and sent people across 100 miles running for cover. In Kansas, a weather forecaster was forced off the air as a tornado bore down on his station. “You can see where there’s absolutely nothing, then there are places where you have mobile home frames on top of each other, debris piled up,” Mike Booth, the sheriff of Pottawatomie County, Okla., told The Associated Press. “It looks like there’s been heavy equipment in there on a demolition tour.” Fallin declared a state of emergency for 16 counties on Sunday and added five Monday. - NBC News.

WATCH: Raw Feed - Monster Tornado On The Ground In Oklahoma.

WATCH: Raw Feed - Witness Describes Scene After Oklahoma Tornado.

WATCH: Monster Tornado Wrecks Through Oklahoma City.

UPDATE: President Obama Declares Major Disaster In Oklahoma.
President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster in Oklahoma as the state recovers from a massive tornado that ripped through the Oklahoma City suburbs Monday, killing dozens and flattening entire neighborhoods.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent a special team to Oklahoma's emergency operations center to help out and dispatch resources.

Obama has ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts. Individuals and business owners affected by the disaster may apply for federal grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs.

The president promised federal assistance in a phone conversation earlier Monday with Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent a special team to Oklahoma's emergency operations center to help out and dispatch resources. - News9.