Saturday, August 10, 2013

DELUGE: The Latest Round Of Heavy Rainfalll In The United States - Deadly Floods Strike States Of Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas And Oklahoma Killing 4; And Raging Flood Waters Rip Through Manitou Springs, In Colorado, Shocking Residents, Washing Cars Away, And Killing 1 With 3 Missing!

August 10, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Water-weary residents of Missouri, Kansas and nearby states saw more rain Friday night into Saturday after a week of intermittent downpours dumped as much as 17 inches of rain and caused several deaths.

Jordann Lamborn and Jonathan Enriquez cross flooded Valley Rd. in Waynesville, Mo., on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013.

This latest round of heavy rain led to more localized flooding with water rescues reported in Conway, Mo. on early Saturday morning.

A front that arrived on Aug. 2 and stalled over the Plains has hit Missouri's Ozarks region the hardest, with parts of Arkansas, Tennessee and Oklahoma also experiencing persistent rain and spotty flooding, leading to at least four fatalities.

Authorities in southwest Missouri identified 69-year-old Helen Pendergraft of Noel as the woman who died before dawn Thursday as she attempted to drive across a flooded creek near the town of Jane. Early Tuesday, a 4-year-old boy and his 23-year-old mother died when their car was swept up in a flash flood in the south-central Missouri town of Waynesville.

"We had significant flash flooding three mornings in a row in some part of southern Missouri," said senior meteorologist Jon Erdman. "Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common in mid-late summer. Light winds aloft, deep moisture and stalled fronts spell flooding rainfall."

Missouri has gotten the worst of it. Some gauges near Waynesville recorded 15 inches of rain in a two-day period. One-day totals of 6 inches or more were common across the width of the southern part of the Show-Me State.

The area near the tourist boom town of Branson, Mo., was hit especially hard early Thursday. At least 100 homes and businesses in Hollister, Mo., right next to Branson, were damaged when Turkey Creek flooded. Taney County's assistant emergency management director, Melissa Duckworth, said 26 people had to be rescued by boat, mostly from two mobile home parks. Another 50 evacuated on their own.

Boats also were brought in to rescue 15 campers who were spending the night on an island in the Elk River near the McDonald County, Mo., town of Noel. In fact, the county boat rescuing them broke down, and the rescuers themselves had to be saved by a boat from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Sweeten said.

Other states had plenty of problems, too.

Soggy south-central Kansas was under a flood warning after up to 6 inches of rain fell early Thursday in the center of the state. Since the storms began Sunday, hundreds of Kansas homes have been damaged, mostly by water in basements and sewage backups, said Megan Hammersmith, director of the Central Kansas Chapter of the American Red Cross.

An estimated 10 inches of rain fell overnight in parts of Benton County, Ark., prompting the county to declare an emergency. Benton County Emergency Management director Robert McGowen said crews have performed 15 water rescues. More than three dozen roads and bridges were closed, but no injuries were reported.

Heavy rain in Tennessee also triggered flash flooding that required several water rescues. Nashville firefighters waded into waist-deep water to lead residents of one apartment complex to higher ground. Others in the region had to be rescued from balconies and rooftops. High water even stopped traffic near the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.

And in Oklahoma City, a 60-year-old man drowned early Friday while trying to rescue a relative who was stranded by floodwaters. Police say the man was swept into a drainage canal and his body was found several blocks away. The relative, who was stranded in a car, escaped without injury.

"There's not much we can do, sit and wait," Morgan said. "We've warned everybody to be careful. When you're in low-lying areas use that old adage, 'turn around, don't drown." - TWC.

Raging Floodwaters Rip Through Colorado Town, Leaving 1 Dead, 3 Missing.
Roads ripped to rubble by floodwaters up to 10 feet deep, rushing up to 30 mph. Shattered homes near others still standing upright. One person dead, three others missing.

That's the harsh reality police, firefighters and residents were dealing with Saturday in Manitou Springs, a mountain community of about 5,000 people just west of Colorado Springs, after sudden, raging waters tore through the area.

Under mostly sunny skies, crews spent the day looking for the missing and combing through wreckage wrought by floods triggered by intense rain.

Locals such as Justin Blount, meanwhile, tried to make sense of what happened.

He was in a Manitou Springs cafe, working on its owner's computer, on Friday when water suddenly, perilously started flowing in front of the building. He and others -- one of them wheelchair-bound -- heard the water rushing below them as they finally got in an elevator and crept up to safety.

"It was like a raging river, a black river coming down," Blount told CNN affiliate KUSA, dry after his 2½ hour ordeal the day earlier. "... It was wild. I'm still in a little bit of shock." His central Colorado town, at the foot of Pikes Peak, was one of several nationwide that have been impacted by wet weather and floodwaters in recent days.

Showers and thunderstorms were expected from the Pacific Northwest to the Deep South.

In addition to a pocket of Colorado, flash-flood warnings were in effect Saturday for parts of Washington and Oregon, as well as much of New Mexico. There were flood warnings -- which arise when water levels in rivers and other waterways rise to precarious levels -- in Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri and South Carolina.

WATCH: Raging floodwaters rip through Colorado town, leaving 1 dead, 3 missing.

Some communities bracing for wet weather were coping with the aftermath of earlier devastating floods. A flash flood watch was in effect through 9 p.m. (11 p.m. ET) in Manitou Springs, for instance, given the threat that could be caused by more heavy rains.

The dangers there are exacerbated by last year's mammoth Waldo Canyon wildfire, which -- as Lt. Steve Schopper of the Manitou Springs Fire Department explained -- made the soil saturated, unstable, "kind of waxy" and little help in curbing rushing waters.

"It's like liquid cement," Schopper told KUSA, noting that those caught up in the rocks, trees and other debris have little chance to escape. "... You're not swimming out of this. It will rip your clothes off."

Video of the mudslide showed cars sliding swiftly down an incline while others remained stranded in rushing, gray-colored water.

One man was found dead beneath "significant amounts of debris" left on Colorado Highway 24, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office said.

The search, meanwhile, continued for three others.

One is a petite blonde woman "seen near the creek at one moment hanging in a tree and then not seen the next," Manitou Springs Police Chief Joe Ribeiro said Saturday. Two other men were also reported missing by a family member and a neighbor.

In Oklahoma, floodwaters swept away and killed a man who was trying to save his daughter from a stranded vehicle early Friday. Vincent Brown was attempting to rescue his daughter who had become stranded in high water in her vehicle, Oklahoma City Police spokesperson Sgt. Jennifer Wardlow said.

Wardlow said Brown's daughter was wading toward her father. She turned to retrieve some items in her vehicle, and when she turned back around, he had been swept away by fast-moving floodwater that had rapidly appeared in Oklahoma City overnight.

In South Carolina, Logan Dale Evans was found dead in floodwater on his family property Wednesday night near the town of Central, Pickens County Coroner Kandy Kelley said.

Evans, 23, was found outside his vehicle, which ended up about a mile downstream, said Kelley, who added that Evans is believed to have drowned.

At least two people were reported killed in Missouri this week, including a driver who was caught in rapidly rising water in McDonald County on Thursday, said Gregg Sweeten, the county's emergency management director. The woman, thought to be in her 60s, had been trying to drive over a bridge when the water overwhelmed her vehicle, Sweeten said.

On Monday, Elijah Lee, 4, died after 6 inches of rain fell on Pulaski County, about 140 miles southwest of St. Louis. The boy was found in a vehicle swept up in floodwater that caught the community along Mitchell Creek off guard, said Sgt. Dan Crain, a Missouri Highway Patrol spokesman. - CNN.

EXTREME WEATHER: NOAA - Atlantic Hurricane Season On Track To Be More Active Than Normal!

August 10, 2013 - ATLANTIC OCEAN - The Atlantic hurricane season, just heading into its peak, should be more active than normal, with 13-19 named storms, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in an update Thursday.

In a satellite image provided by NASA, Hurricane Sandy churns off the East Coast as it
moves north on Oct. 28 in the Atlantic Ocean.

The update, which is similar to the preseason forecast, says six to nine hurricanes are expected to form, and three to five of those could be major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher with winds of at least 111 mph.

“Our confidence for an above-normal season is still high because the predicted atmospheric and oceanic conditions that are favorable for storm development have materialized," said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

NOAA’s statement said the current conditions are similar to those during other active hurricane seasons since 1995.

The Atlantic hurricane season began June 1, and the peak is mid-August through October. There have been four named storms so far this year.

WATCH: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting that three to five major hurricanes could strike as peak hurricane season approaches. NOAA's lead seasonal hurricane forecaster Gerry Bell discusses what the new seasonal outlook means for residents along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

In May, NOAA said to expect 13-20 named storms, with seven to 11 hurricanes, of which three to six would be major. The 30-year average is 12 named storms, with six hurricanes, three of them major.

The last time a major hurricane made landfall in the U.S. was Wilma, in 2005, according to the Associated Press. The seven-year landfall drought is the longest in the U.S. on record, The AP said.

Hurricane Sandy was downgraded to tropical storm status just before it made landfall in New Jersey last October. Sandy caused $50 billion in damage. - NBC News.

FUK-U-SHIMA: "We're In Uncharted Territory Here" - Water Leaks At Fukushima Could Contaminate Entire Pacific Ocean; Japan Ponders Freezing Fukushima Ground To Prevent Radioactive Leaks?!

August 10, 2013 - JAPAN - Two and a half years after the Fukashima tragedy Japan does not want to admit how serious it is, but it is obvious the drastic environmental implications are to follow, Harvey Wasserman, journalist and advocate for renewable energy, told RT.

This photo taken on August 6, 2013 shows local government officials and nuclear experts inspecting a
construction site to prevent the seepage of contamination water into the sea, at Tokyo Electric
Power's (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture.
(AFP Photo / Jiji Press)

RT: Japanese officials have admitted a leak at Fukushima has been happening for two years and is worse than earlier thought. Why did it take so long to evaluate the actual repercussions of the tragedy and take decisive measures to tackle them?

The Japanese authorities have been covering up the true depth of the disaster because they don’t want to embarrass themselves and the global nuclear industry and they are trying to open up another nuclear plant in Japan. When the Japanese people now find out that the accident is worse than we thought and they have been leaking many tons of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean for almost two and a half years, this is a catastrophe. Tokyo Electric has no idea how to control this accident. This is absolutely terrifying after two and a half years. To find out that these reactors have been out of control, now that they can’t control this they don’t know what’s going on. This is not a primitive backward country; this is Japan with advanced technology. It has very serious implications for nuclear power all over the world.

Why the plant's operator failed to contain the leak?

Because they don’t know what to do. This has never happened before. You have three explosions; you have four nuclear reactors that are severely compromised. No one ever planned for this. This is an apocalyptic event. This is something that could contaminate the entire Pacific Ocean. It is extremely serious. The reality is that Tokyo Electric does not know what is happening and does not know how to control what is going on. Our entire planet is at risk here. This is two and a half years after these explosions and they are still in the dark. It’s terrifying.
RT: An estimated 300 tonnes of contaminated water is spilling daily into the ocean. How come Tepco insists the leaks still pose no big threat to the environment?

They are lying; they can’t face the reality of this situation. When have very serious quantities of radiation going into the Pacific Ocean. There is no medical or epidemiological or scientific basis for estimating how much damage this will cost. We are on entirely new ground here and this cannot go by without a serious impact on the entire human race. This is a terrible tragedy.

RT: The clean-up was previously on Tepco  alone. Why didn't the government step in earlier? Rectifying an accident like the one at Fukushima needs a comprehensive approach, doesn't it?

The problem is that the company does not want to admit how serious this is and the government of Japan doesn’t want to admit how serious this is. And even if the government of Japan steps in, they don’t know what to do. This particular administration in Japan wants to open the other nuclear plants. 50 nuclear plants have been shut in Japan since the accident and they want to reopen them. This is very political, because if they admit to how bad the things are in Fukushima the public is not going to stand for them re opening other nuclear plants, including some that are owned by Tokyo Electric Power. How do you have a huge utility company on one hand saying that we can’t control all these 300 tons of radioactive liquid going into the Pacific Ocean every day, and on the other hand we want you to let us open these other nuclear reactors? This is a catastrophe for them and that’s why they have been lying about it because they want to open other nuclear plants but they don’t want the public to know how serious the damage is in Fukushima.

According to some estimates it will take 40 years to clean-up the contaminated area. Why so long?

That is not long enough. It will never be cleaned up. We have materials there that are radioactive, that are harmful, and that are dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. They can talk about cleaning it up in 40 years but it will never be cleaned up. You will never be able to go back on that site. The radioactivity will be in the waters forever.

What long-term impact of the radiation leak on Japan and its neighbouring countries we should expect in the future?

There are serious health impacts. People will be harmed. We are seeing 40% rate of thyroid damage among children in the area and this is a huge impact and it will go up, not down. More and more radiation is escaping from the water and tritium into the atmosphere. And radiation to the thyroid is very serious, especially among small children and we are already seeing a 40% rate. People will be suffering for hundreds of years. I interviewed people in central Pennsylvania a year after the accident and discovered tremendous health impacts among the people there. We know that Chernobyl did tremendous damage to people in Belarus and Ukraine and now we are going to see it again in Fukushima. - RT.

Japan Ponders Freezing Fukushima Ground To Prevent Radioactive Leaks.
This aerial view, taken by an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) of the Air Photo Service on March 20, 2011
shows Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant at
Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture. (AFP Photo)

Japan's prime minister Thursday ordered his government to find "multiple, speedy and sure" ways to stop the spread of radioactive groundwater around the meltdown-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, including freezing the surrounding ground.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's directive comes two weeks after the Tokyo Electric Power Company admitted that contaminated water was leaching into the Pacific Ocean from the plant, the site of the worst nuclear accident in a quarter-century.

"This is not an issue where we can let TEPCO take complete responsibility," Abe said at a meeting at the government's nuclear disaster response headquarters. "We have to deal with this at a national level."

Abe said he has told Japan's Ministry of Trade and Industry to "provide multiple, speedy and sure solutions to this issue."

TEPCO has proposed setting up a subterranean barrier around the plant by freezing the ground around it, preventing groundwater from leaking into the damaged plant and carrying radioactive particles with it as it seeps out.

"The public has a strong concern over the contaminated water problem, and this is an urgent issue to solve," Abe said. "We will not leave it only to TEPCO, but will lay out firm measures."

That will mean a still-undetermined amount of direct government spending to aid the ailing utility, Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, told reporters. Building a frozen wall around the plant is "unprecedented," he said.

"To build such a wall, the government should take the lead to promote this kind of project," Suga said. "We have to provide the support to do so."

The plan to freeze the ground presents significant technical challenges. It could involve plunging thousands of tubes carrying a powerful coolant liquid deep into the ground surrounding the stricken reactor buildings.

The technology has been used before in the construction of tunnels, but never on the massive scale that the Fukushima plant would require.

 WATCH: Japan ponders freezing ground.

TEPCO, the country's largest utility, has been grappling with water issues ever since the Fukushima Daiichi plant was hit by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated eastern Japan. Scientists who monitor radiation levels offshore have pointed to persistent high readings as evidence of an ongoing leak for more than a year, but the utility did not publicly admit the problem until late July.

Vast stands of storage tanks have grown up around the plant as TEPCO tries to manage the hundreds of tons of water involved every day, and the company has built an underground barrier to prevent contaminated groundwater from reaching the sea. But it remains a difficult problem, Masayuki Ono, TEPCO's acting nuclear power chief, said earlier this week.

"It's a present reality that the contaminated water is seeping out to the bay without us being able to control it," Ono said.

TEPCO is also pumping hundreds of tons of water a day into the plant to cool the crippled reactors two and a half years later, though most of that fluid is recycled.

The 2011 tsunami swamped the plant, located 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, and knocked out power to cooling systems for the three reactors that were operating at the time. The result was the second-worst nuclear accident in history, trailing only the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl, in the former Soviet Union.

Meltdowns and hydrogen explosions spewed radioactive particles across many of the surrounding towns, complicating an already historic disaster. Though no deaths have been directly attributed to the accident, tens of thousands of people from towns as far as 25 miles away have been displaced by the disaster.

In July, TEPCO disclosed that water from test wells around the reactor buildings showed concentrations of radioactive tritium in one well as high as 500,000 bequerels -- a unit of radioactive intensity -- per liter of water. By comparison, Japan's maximum safe level of radioactivity in drinking water for adults is 300 bequerels per liter.

Another reactor byproduct, strontium-90, has been showing up in increasing concentrations as well, said Ken Buesseler, a marine radiochemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in the United States. Strontium-90 mimics calcium in the body, seeking out bone in animal life.

Buesseler said the amount of radioactive material leaking from the plant now is a small fraction -- about one ten-thousandth -- of what poured out of the plant in the weeks following the meltdowns. But while TEPCO's admission was not news to scientists, "What's less clear to me is how much this has changed in the last month," he said. "And I think that's part of the urgency."

Michael Friedlander, a former nuclear plant operator and engineer, told CNN on Tuesday that the current problem may leave TEPCO and the Japanese government with two choices sure to stoke further public anger: "You can either dump it in the ocean, or you can evaporate it."

"At the end of the day, collecting 400 tons of water every single day is not a sustainable solution," he said.

Federal officials allowed the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania, the site of the worst American nuclear accident, to let contaminated water evaporate, Friedlander said -- but TMI was nowhere near the scale of the Fukushima disaster.

"We're in uncharted territory here," he said. - CNN.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Indonesia's Mount Rokatenda Volcano Erupts Violently - Kills 6; Some 2,000 People Evacuate The Island Of Palue!

August 10, 2013 - INDONESIA - A volcano eruption in central Indonesia has spewed hot ash into the sky and unleashed torrents of molten lava that engulfed and killed six people sleeping on a beach, officials say.

The Mount Rokatenda volcano is spewing a huge column of hot ash into the air.

Mount Rokatenda, on the island of Palue, sent huge clouds of red-hot ash and rocks two kilometres into the air on Saturday, vulcanology centre head Surono said.

"There are six victims who were engulfed in hot lava," Johanes Berchmans, head of the disaster management agency in Sikka district, said.

"They were swept away by hot lava when they were asleep on Punge beach."

Three adults aged between 58 and 69 were found dead while three children aged between five and eight were also killed, though their bodies had not yet been recovered, he said.

Surono said rescue efforts were difficult "because the area is still very hot".

Rokatenda has been showing signs of increased volcanic activity since October, with authorities banning people from any activities within three kilometres of its crater.

Some 2,000 people had previously been evacuated from the island due to the volcanic activity leaving around 8,000 before Saturday's eruption, Mr Berchmans said.

"Tomorrow our staff will go from area to area to pick up anyone willing to leave the island."

The volcano began erupting at 4:27am (local time) on Saturday and it continued for nearly four hours, Surono said.

Palue is part of Sikka district, which is part of East Nusa Tenggara province. It is just north of Flores island in the sprawling Indonesian archipelago which is made up of more than 17,000 islands.

Indonesia has dozens of active volcanoes and straddles major tectonic fault lines known as the Ring of Fire between the Pacific and Indian oceans.

The country's most active volcano, Mount Merapi in central Java, killed more than 350 people in a series of violent eruptions in 2010. - ABC News Australia.

EXTREME WEATHER: Wisconsin Storms And Tornadoes Leave Church Crumbled - One Dead As Destructive Winds Cause Widespread Damage!

August 10, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Gov. Scott Walker is offering his support to storm damage victims in northeastern Wisconsin.

Danielle Shaw of Greenville with her dog, Maggie, calls out to Sherri Shaw, her mother-in-law, describing the
rest of the damage to Danielle and her husband, Randy's horse farm, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013 in
Hortonville, Wis. (AP Photo/The Post-Crescent, Sharon Cekada)

Walker met with Pastor William Sutlief outside Trinity Lutheran Church in New London Thursday morning. The church was nearly flattened by a tornado early Wednesday morning. Walker told Sutlief that he knows there's a lot of work to be done and promised to follow up.

WBAY-TV says members are planning to gather for a service outside the crumbled church Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

Lisa Christie and her daughter, Mackenzie, 9, assess the damage to the garage at their home on Nash
St., Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013 in Hortonville, Wis. (AP Photo/The Post-Crescent, Sharon Cekada)

Friends and family help clean up damage to Kristi Otto and Betsy Sadenwassen's home after last night's
storms, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013 in Hortonville, Wis. (AP Photo/The Post-Crescent, Sharon Cekada)

Zach Hameister hops over a large pine tree that luckily fell away from his sister Carly's home on N. Mill St.,
Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013 in Hortonville, Wis. (AP Photo/The Post-Crescent, Sharon Cekada)

About 25,000 We Energies customers remain without power after two tornadoes and destructive winds caused wide spread damage overnight Tuesday in central and northeastern Wisconsin.

"This was one impressive squall line, stretching from the southern U.P. of Michigan to just north of Madison and Milwaukee," said senior meteorologist Jon Erdman.

"This was one impressive squall line, stretching from the southern U.P. of Michigan to just north of Madison and Milwaukee.

A resident in the apartment building managed by Murphy Development stands on her balcony after the roof
to the complex was damaged on Main St., Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013 in Hortonville, Wis.
(AP Photo/The Post-Crescent, Sharon Cekada)

A team of We Energy workers assess the damage to utility lines near the McDonald's and
Northland Mall on Northland Avenue, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013 in Appleton, Wis.
(AP Photo/The Post-Crescent, Sharon Cekada)

Volunteers, Denise Cummings, left, of New London and Guy Barrington, 14, of New London, Wis., help
clear debris at Trinity Lutheran Evangelical Lutheran Church Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013.
(AP Photo/The Post-Crescent, Dan Powers)

Erdman added that there had been only eight reports of tornadoes in Wisconsin so far this year prior to the two tornadoes that struck on Tuesday. In 2012, there were only four tornadoes in Wisconsin, the fewest in any year since at least 1980.

In Marinette County, a town chairman was killed and another man injured while they were clearing debris from a road and were struck by a vehicle. - TWC.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Weather Anomalies - Unusual And Extreme Heat Kills Thousands Of Fish In Alaska!

August 10, 2013 - ALASKA - Unusually hot, dry weather in Alaska is wreaking havoc on fisheries, as thousands of fish perish in overheated waters.


Last month, 1,100 king salmon died on their way up to the Crystal Lake hatchery due to water temperatures around 80 degrees Fahrenheit and lack of oxygen. That’s the bulk of the 1,800 adult salmon that were expected to return to the hatchery this season.

Earlier in the summer, another hatchery lost hundreds of grayling and rainbow trout in a Fairbanks lake where water temperatures reached 76 degrees. Alaska’s heat wave broke records last week, with 14 days straight above 70 degrees in Anchorage and 31 days of 80 degrees in Fairbanks.

Officials cited a number of factors affecting the fish, but observed that the die-off coincided with the hottest weather of the season. While die-offs are not uncommon, Doug Fleming, a sportfish biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, suggested the magnitude of the die-off was surprising.

“And so, getting through till Wednesday which appeared to be the hottest day, then on Thursday I was conducting an aerial survey just to get a grip on how many fish may have been killed by the warm water, not expecting to see a large die-off but some, and I was shocked to see the numbers of fish that we lost,” he told the Associated Press.

Besides the sheer heat, lack of rainfall is also contributing to the die-off. Many streams are too low to accommodate the fish waiting at the mouths, which essentially suffocate as more fish get backed up. The enormous salmon die-off in July was partly because large numbers of fish were trapped at the shallow Blind Slough rapids.

Alaska’s commercial fisheries are among the largest in the world. Salmon is the state’s largest export product after oil and natural gas.

While Alaska’s heat wave is expected to subside soon, the state has warmed up twice as fast as the rest of the nation in the past 50 years, and climate change is worsening extreme weather. Wildfires raged through subarctic forests as late as Friday, consuming more than a million acres and prompting emergency evacuations across the state. Thawing permafrost is also sinking villages, threatening fish stocks and water supplies that the communities rely on to survive. - TP.

MASS MAMMAL DIE-OFF: As Dolphin Deaths Rise, U.S. Declares "Unusual Mortality Event" - Feds Probe Unusually High Number Of Bottlenose Dolphin Die-Offs?!

August 10, 2013 - UNITED STATES - An unusually high number of bottlenose dolphins are dying off the East Coast this summer, the deadliest period for the sea mammals since a virus killed off more than 700 in the late 1980s, federal officials said Thursday.

July. 3, 2013: An Atlantic bottlenose dolphin named Tanner is shown during a demonstration at the
Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key in Marathon, Fla. (AP)

Researchers are investigating what may have killed the 124 dolphins found stranded in coastal areas in the Mid-Atlantic region since July — seven times the historic average, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said. All but seven of the dolphins were already dead when they were discovered, and each of those eventually died or had to be euthanized.

It isn't clear whether an infectious disease is causing the deaths; scientists plan to test blood and tissue for viruses, bacteria, fungi and biotoxins, among other things. But humans and marine mammals do share common pathogens, and anyone who finds a dead dolphin is being urged to stay away from it and contact authorities.

The discoveries have led the federal agency to declare an unusual mortality event for bottlenose dolphins, a significant designation that Congress created in the wake of the in the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and previous dolphin kill-off.

The declaration means scientists will have access to additional research funding. That investigation and analysis by teams of national and international experts could take months or even years to finalize, and officials say there is likely little they can do to stop the deaths unless the root cause is ultimately blamed on humans. And determining a cause is difficult: Of the 60 unusual mortality events declared since 1991, causes have been determined for only 29 of them.

Among dolphins, other strandings have also been caused by trauma, starvation, algal blooms and pollution.

At the top of the suspect list for the deaths is the same disease that led to 740 dolphins dying between New Jersey and Florida in 1987 and 1988, a morbillivirus infection. Morbillivirus is found in a broad range of marine mammals like seals, and its symptoms often involve lesions appearing in the lungs and central nervous tissues. Many of the dolphins have washed up badly decomposed, and lesions have been found in some of them.

One of the washed-up dolphins has already preliminarily tested positive for morbillivirus, but officials say it is too early to tell if that is the culprit for the other deaths. So far, necropsies haven't revealed a unifying cause. The morbillivirus passes from dolphin to dolphin, and bottlenose dolphins are typically found in groups of two to 15.

"We're not saying that this is a morbillivirus outbreak," Teri Rowles, NOAA's National Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator, said in a conference call with reporters. "But because of the size of it right now, everybody's making that link at this point. But that is not a confirmed diagnosis or cause of this event at this point."

Officials say the spike in strandings began in early July, with dead dolphins reported in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. There are two different stocks of dolphins that populate that region, with the northern stock having between 7,000 and 9,000 dolphins, while the southern stock has between 9,900 to 12,000 dolphins, according to federal estimates. Rowles said the population is too large for there to be a plan to vaccinate or otherwise treat the animals.

Virginia has experienced the largest increase in dolphin strandings this year, with most occurring along heavily populated beaches at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Officials say the number of dolphins that have died is likely greater than the number reported, with many more likely dying at sea and not washing up. - FOX News.