Monday, August 19, 2013

WEATHER ANOMALIES: 2013 Is A Record Low Year For United States Tornadoes - 716 Reported, 505 Below Yearly Average?!

August 19, 2013 - UNITED STATES - While many climate alarmists still try to tell us that global warming will increase tornadoes, we are in the middle of a tornado drought, and well below normal. Normally we'd see 1221 tornadoes in the USA, so far for 2013, only 716 have been reported.

The map of the USA shows the distribution:

So far, we are about 200 tornadoes below this time last year, and last year was also a low event year.

When looking historically at where we are, we find that 2013 has slipped below the historical minimum, setting a new record for the ~60 years in the tornado database.

What's more, we are well past the time of peak tornado activity, which typically occurs in spring, when we have the most collisions between warm and cold air masses over the USA. While we could certainly see a rebound, it is statistically unlikely.

Sources: NOAA Storm Prediction Center

Storm Prediction Center

Storm Prediction Center WCM Page


DELUGE: United States Southeast Flood Threat Continues This Week - Significant Rainfall And Thunderstorms Could Cause Localized Flash Flooding!

August 19, 2013 - UNITED STATES - The trend of wet weather will persist across the Southeast this week, continuing the flooding threat from Mississippi through the Carolinas.

Over the weekend, tropical moisture fueled round after round of heavy thunderstorms, bringing several inches of rain to Pensacola, Fla., Tallahassee, Fla., Macon, Ga., Mobile, Ala., and Gulfport, Miss.

On Monday afternoon and early evening, heavy rain fell on Charleston, S.C., dumping 1.15 inches of rain on the city in just 18 minutes according to a report by a trained spotter. An hour later, another trained spotter reported that a storm near Tampa International Airport, Fla., caused more than 3 inches of rain to fall in one hour on the city.

Later Monday evening, heavy rain continued to fall on parts of Georgia causing numerous road closures across the state due to flash flooding, according to several 911 call centers.

Tropical moisture will continue to surge into the Southeast, extending the threat of flash flooding through the first part of the week. The areas at greatest risk include the Florida Panhandle and southern parts of Alabama and Georgia.

While these areas are at greatest risk for flooding, showers and thunderstorms across the rest of the Southeast could still cause localized flash flooding.

With the amount of rain that has fallen in the Southeast over recent weeks, the ground has become super saturated with water in many areas.

Any significant rainfall in these areas can quickly lead to flooding as rainwater will run off the ground rather than being absorbed.

This large amount of runoff can cause streams to jump outside of their banks with little to no notice.

This year has been an unusually wet year across the Southeast. Many major cities are several inches above their normal rainfall amount so far in 2013.

Atlanta, Ga., has been one of the wettest cities across the region in 2013, already receiving more rainfall this year than the city typically receives in an entire calendar year.

Columbus, Ga., is another city that has surpassed its yearly rainfall total, receiving over 50 inches of rain as of Aug. 18.

With more rain on the way, more cities are likely to join Atlanta and Columbus. - AccuWeather.

INFRASTRUCTURE & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: One Dead In Massive Plant Explosion In Mercer County, Pennsylvania - Sent Diesel Fuel Tank Into The Air And Into Neighbors Yard; Multiple Injuries!

August 19, 2013 - UNITED STATES - One person died in an explosion at an industrial park that sent a diesel fuel tank flying into the air and landing across the street in a neighbor's yard early Monday evening.

Photo courtesy of Dalton Stanley.

Police and firefighters are working at the scene of the explosion that happened around 5:45 p.m. Monday at Reynolds Industrial Park, about 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh and near the Ohio line.

The person who died has not been identified yet. Emergency crews are investigating the cause of the explosion.

An explosion at Reynolds Industrial Park sent a diesel tank flying into a neighbor's yard.
Andrew Del Greco

A dispatcher at the Mercer County 911 center said the site contains bulk diesel or propane refueling tanks.

Mary Kress, who lives where the airborne tank ended up, said she's lucky it didn't land on top of her house with her inside at the time.

A telephone message left at Brownies Oil Co. hasn't been returned.

This still frame made from NewsChopper 2 video provided by KDKA-TV shows the scene of an explosion at a plant holding fuel tanks at Reynolds Industrial Park in Mercer County, Pa. on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Police and firefighters are responding amid unconfirmed reports of injuries. (AP Photo/KDKA-TV)

The state Department of Environmental Protection is working with the company on cleanup efforts. - WTAE.

GREAT DELUGE: Precursors To A Global Coastal Event - Russia's Far East Hit By Biggest Floods In 120 Years; Over 100,000 To Be Evacuated; TWO BILLION RUBLES IN LOSES!

August 19, 2013 - RUSSIA -  Up to 100,000 people may be evacuated from flood-hit regions in Russia’s Far East. Water levels at local reservoirs have already reached historic highs, and officials say the floods raging in the area are expected to continue rising even further.

Emergency crews search for people and evacuate those affected on the Bolshoy Ussuriysky island
near the city of Khabarovsk (RIA Novosti/Vitaliy Ankov)

Floods are currently affecting over 32,500 locals living in over 5,000 homes. Over 17,000 residents have already left the area over the disaster.

Viktor Ishayev, Russia’s Minister for the Far East, said that "in the worst-case scenario up to 100,000 people could be evacuated" from the Amur, Khabarovsk and Jewish Autonomous Regions. 

The water level in the Amur River near Khabarovsk has risen 17 centimeters in one day and now stands at 657 centimeters, the regional office of the Emergency Ministry reported. Authorities fear that by August 25, the water level will reach the seven-meter mark.

WATCH: Russia's Far East hit by biggest floods in 120 years.

Dozens of bridges have been swamped by the waters, complicating the evacuation.

The area adjacent to the Amur River is experiencing its highest water level ever. However, observers indicated that the situation remains relatively calm.
“There is no panic like there was in Krymsk,” one observer told, in a reference to the flood in a Krasnodar Region town two years that left nearly 200 dead and thousands homeless. “People are in combative mood. Maybe the locals are more used to the harsh weather conditions here. That’s why they are calm, and are treating the situation with understanding. But of course all is quite horrible here.”

Authorities are dealing with the consequences of the disaster, with over 200 tons of relief cargoes being delivered by aircraft to the affected region.

The water is rising in the streets of Khabarovsk, where local drivers are trying to negotiate the floods: 

 WATCH: Flooding in Khabarovsk.

30,000 people are mobilized to cope with the flood with the help of 5,000 vehicles, boats and aircraft.

Emergency workers are flying over the affected area, monitoring the water level around the clock. They are asking people to leave their homes, but for those who didn’t have time to quit the region, boat evacuation is planned.

Left bank of river Amur during the flooding (RIA Novosti/Vitaliy Ankov)

Modern anti-flood technologies are also being used. Thirty water-filled flood control dams have been delivered to the region, along with humanitarian aid.

Each dam is 25 meters long and can be easily erected on any type of surface, replacing over 1,000 sand bags.

Medics have begun vaccinating to prevent an epidemic of infections such as typhoid fever and hepatitis, while locals have started drinking only boiled water as a precaution.

Flood waters sweep the Bolshoy Ussuriysky island near the city of Khabarovsk
(RIA Novosti/Vitaliy Ankov)

"The damage is extensive, but the most significant achievement is there have been no casualties ... we cannot relax, there is still a lot of work to be done,"
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a televised address. 

The disaster has yet to reach its predicted peak on August 19, meteorologists and emergency workers warned.

The floods have been triggered by a month of heavy rain, and aren’t set to stop until the beginning of September, the head of Russia's hydrometeorology monitoring service told RIA Novosti news agency.

Emergency crews search for people and evacuate those affected on the Bolshoy Ussuriysky island near
the city of Khabarovsk (RIA Novosti/Vitaliy Ankov)

“This zone is unique in terms of its vastness: over 2,000 kilometers from west to east,”
indicated the head of the National Center for Crisis Situations Management of Russia’s Emergency Ministry Vladimir Stepanov.

The disaster has dealt a blow to the area’s budget as well, with the potential losses measuring up to 2 billion rubles ($60 million), President Putin’s envoy to the region said. - RT.

EXTREME WEATHER: Mother Nature Strikes Back - "Angry" Idaho Fire Spreads To 126,000 Acres, Threatens 10,000 Luxury Resort Homes!

August 19, 2013 - UNITED STATES - More than 10,000 homes are threatened by a furious Idaho wildfire, including getaways owned by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis, after an all-out "ground and air attack" failed to stop the blaze from spreading to more than 126,000 acres, according to latest reports from the U.S. Forest Service.

A helicopter makes a drop while battling the Beaver Creek Fire on August 17.

"Take your essentials, belongings and pets and GO NOW," a news release on inciweb warned those in the path of the lightning-sparked Beaver Creek fire.

Despite an army of more than 1,200 firefighters, the blaze continues to spread across parched sagebrush, grasslands and pine forests in the Sun Valley area. The fire now covers an area larger than the city of Denver.

"Every fire has a personality, and this fire has an angry personality," Beth Lund, incident commander with the U.S. Forest Service team managing the blaze, told Reuters.

The fire has displaced occupants of at least 2,250 homes in posh developments outlying the Sun Valley Resort -- an all-season vacation getaway famed for its world-class skiing and rich-and-famous residents -- and the towns of Ketchum and Hailey immediately to the south.

Another 7,700 homes are under what is known as pre-evacuation, giving residents time to pack up essential belongings and get ready to go at a moment's notice if the fire grows closer.

At Sun Valley, workers turned on water cannons usually used to make snow to wet down a mountain whose southeastern face was the scene of a concentrated assault by firefighters.

"We've fired up the snow-making guns," resort spokesman Jack Sibbach, told The Associated Press.

Red-flag conditions, including higher temperatures and wind gusts up to 38 miles per hour, did not help firefighters tackling the blaze.

Kevin Noth, lead meteorologist at, said that conditions Monday and Tuesday -- including temperatures pushing into the 90s -- would continue to “hinder” firefighters.

Firefighters have been unable to corral the blaze that was ignited by a lightning strike on
August 7 northwest of the town of Hailey.

“There’s better news coming,” he added. “It looks like more clouds and higher humidity for midweek. There might also be some thunderstorms, which could bring some rain -- but the possibility of lightning too.”

Retardant was dropped Sunday on the flank of Bald Mountain — the Sun Valley Resort's primary ski hill — to reinforce a fire line, fire spokeswoman Shawna Hartman told KTVB.

Firefighters clear an area burned by the Beaver Creek Fire on August 17. Approximately 1,200 firefighters
are working the blaze, with the help of helicopters, bulldozers and conventional engines.

That meant the famed ski mountain known as "Baldy" and often used in publicity photos would have a red line of retardant visible from Ketchum.

Hartman expressed cautious optimism about their prospects for curtailing the blaze in the next week.

"Today they're very optimistic that we will reinforce those lines in case the fire does flare up as we saw on Thursday and Friday," Hartman told the KTVB.

About 20 Idaho National Guardsmen arrived in Hailey on Sunday to assist sheriff's deputies with road blocks, the station reported.

A helicopter drops fire retardant to protect homes outside Ketchum, Idaho, from the Beaver Creek Fire
on Sunday, August 18. The fire has forced the evacuation of several neighborhoods.

The West has already suffered a series of destructive wildfires in 2013. Colorado experienced the most destructive wildfire in its history in June, which killed two and destroyed about 500 structures. As that fire burned, 11 other fires plagued the state and more threatened other parts of the Southwest.

The following month, 19 heavily trained Hotshot firefighters were killed in the Yarnell Hill wildfire in Arizona.

WATCH: More than 1200 firefighters are on the ground battling what could possibly be the biggest fire in America. The Beaver Creek fire, which broke out 12 days ago, is rapidly spreading across Idaho, threatening billions of dollars of real estate. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.

Even amid the destruction, 2013 is shaping up to be below average in terms of the number wildfires and their size.

According to the National Fire Information Center and the National Interagency Fire Center, 31,683 fires had burned some 3.3 million acres this season through Sunday. That compares to a 10-year, year-to-date average of 52,700 fires and 5.4 million acres. - NBC News.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Global Volcano Report For August 19, 2013 - Vulcanian Explosion Produces 20,000 Feet High Ash Column At Sakurajima; High Frequency Tremor And Strong Ash Emissions At Popocatépetl; And Surge In Effusive Activity At Fuego!

August 19, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing reports of volcanoes across the globe.

Smoke rises after an eruption of Mount Sakurajima in Kagoshima, southwestern Japan, in this handout photo taken and released by Kagoshima Local Meteorological Observatory August 18, 2013. The eruption on Sunday of the 1,117-metre (3665-feet) high volcano, one of Japan's most active volcanoes, sent up the highest plume in recorded history of about 5,000 metres (16,404 feet). It is also the volcano's 500th eruption this year, according to media reports citing the local meteorological observatory. [Photo/Agencies]

Sakurajima (Kyushu, Japan): A very large vulcanian explosion, one of the largest during this year occurred yesterday morning. It produced a mushroom shaped ash column that rose to about 20,000 ft (6 km) altitude that drifted over the Kagoshima town where ash fall occurred.

WATCH: Japanese volcano spews record smoke cloud - Coats town in ash.

Vulcanian explosions, caused by a solidified plug of magma in the upper conduit expelled when pressure is high enough, are very common at the volcano, in particular during the past few years since a new crater (Showa) has become the focus of activity. The number of counted explosions in 2013 has recently exceeded 500. Along with some eruptions in late July, yesterday's one has been one of the largest. A list of explosions can be found here.

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Activity has not changed much and been relatively calm with 1-2 usually small emissions on average per hour. Glow remains visible at the summit.

View of Popocatépetl this morning.

Accompanied by low-amplitude high frequency tremor, stronger ash emissions on 17 August occurred between 11:20 and 13:30(local time) and produced a plume of 1.5 km height, drifting WSW. Ash fall occurred in Tetela del volcán, Ocuituco, Yecapixtla, Tlayacapan, Cuautla, Ayala and Cuernavaca.

Fuego (Guatemala): A surge in effusive activity has occurred overnight. The two active lava flows towards the Taniluya (western flank) and Ceniza (southern flank) canyons increased to 600 and 800 m length, respectively.

Fuego's active lava flows towards the Taniluya (l) and Ceniza canyon (r) last night.

Numerous incandescent avalanches detach from the flow fronts and glowing blocks reach the vegetation limit... [read more]

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for August 19, 2013.

- Volcano Discovery.

DELUGE: Precursors To A Global Coastal Event - Floods In The Yobe State Of Nigeria Destroy Over 300 Houses!

August 19, 2013 - NIGERIA - LEADERSHIP correspondent reports that the flood destroyed over 300 houses in seven local government areas including Potiskum, Gashu’a, Nguru, Fika, Gaidam, Damagum and Damaturu, the state capital.

It was gathered that the separate incidents occurred weekend following a heavy downpour which resulted in serious flooding in the seven affected local governments.

LEADERSHIP gathered that in Potiskum the heavy rainfall led to the overflow of a drainage destroying about 192 houses and killing many cows and goats.

However, in Gaidam the home town of the state governor, over 40 houses, farmlands and farm produce worth several millions of naira were also washed away by the flood.

In Gashu’a , a total of 134 houses were destroyed by the rainfall while many items were missing.

In a related development, over 50 houses were destroyed by flood in three wards and villages in Nguru local government area, the residents of the area have confirmed to LEADERSHIP.

Our correspondent who visited some of the affected areas, reports that in Fika, Damagum and Damaturu the state capital, many house were affected by the flood. The structures in the villages were however spared by the flood as the houses were intact.

Some of the victims who spoke with LEADERSHIP complained that scores of household items were destroyed by the flood, while countless animals were killed by the flood.

Musa Buba from Nguru said, “We are still assessing the number of animals killed by the flood. But for now we can’t tell you exactly the number of animals that were lost, we will tell you later.” A resident of Potiskum, Mallam Buliya, explained that the heavy rainfall started at about 3pm and lasted till 7pm with flood taking over the whole town. “Our houses started falling down as if they were pushed by caterpillar. So in fact there was pandemonium everywhere.”

As we started shouting for help, no lives were lost during rainfall.

Another victim in Damaturu, who spoke to our correspondent on phone, said that” let me tell you that, we lost virtually everything as most of us could not rescue any of our items. In fact, when the rainfall started out thinking was how to save the lives of our children and wives and the old people whom can’t move. - Leadership.

DELUGE: Precursors To A Global Coastal Event - A State Of Calamity In The Philippines As Widespread Flooding Paralyses The Capital; Three Dead!

August 19, 2013 - PHILIPPINES - At least three people have died in the Philippines after torrential rain engulfed parts of the main island of Luzon including Manila where neck-deep water swept through homes forcing thousands into emergency shelters. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said mountainous areas to the north of the island were experiencing floods of 1.8 metres (six feet), following persistent rain that began at the weekend.

The monsoon rain, intensified by tropical storm Trami, also led to the closure of the Philippine Stock Exchange,
the Philippine Dealing System foreign exchange platform and the secondary debt market via the Philippine
Dealing and Exchange Corp after government offices suspended their work.

One person was killed in a storm-related car accident in the northern Apayao mountain region while a child was crushed by a collapsing wall and a man drowned in towns just outside the capital. Four other people are missing including three washed away by floods and overflowing rivers and a local female tourist who got lost while exploring a cave in the northern resort town of Sagada.

In the capital Manila, a megacity of 12 million people, schools, government offices and the stock exchange were closed as a red alert was raised in the morning -- the highest level of a warning system in which widespread floods are predicted.

"We are trying to save whatever we can. But it was so sudden," J.R Pascual, a father-of-four, told AFP as he tried to take the most important possessions from his home that was flooded up to his waist.

"My neighbour wasn't even able to get his car out."

The flooding was the worst this rainy season in the Philippines, which is regularly battered
by heavy weather including at least 20 typhoons a year.

Pascual lives in a middle-class district of Cavite, a coastal area that is about 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the heart of Manila.

Roads from Cavite and other southern areas into the city were impassable, while some motorists who tried to get through the flooded streets were forced to abandon their cars.

Footage on ABS-CBN television showed people in nearby shanty town communities standing on their corrugated iron roofs, as fast-moving water swept through the windows of their homes.

By early afternoon, the rain had eased and the red alert was lowered for the capital.

One of President Benigno Aquino's top aides said he did not expect a major disaster.

"Compared to other calamities, this is not of the same gravity as the rest. I hope this will be done by tomorrow," Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa told a nationally televised government disaster briefing.

Nevertheless, thousands of people were believed to be sheltering in evacuation centres or trapped on rooftops while waiting for the water to subside.

Image: Western Pacific Weather.

Weather forecasters also said more rain was expected to hit Manila and regions to its north in the early evening.

The flooding was due to the normal monsoon being exacerbated by Tropical Storm Trami, which was causing problems despite being more than 500 kilometres (300 miles) from the Philippines, weather forecasters said.

The Southeast Asian archipelago endures about 20 major storms or typhoons annually, generally in the second half of the year and many of them are deadly.

In August last year, 51 people died and two million others were affected when more than a month's worth of rain was dumped in and around Manila in 48 hours.

One of the most devastating storms to hit the capital was in 2009, when Tropical Storm Ketsana led to 80 percent of the capital being submerged.

WATCH: Western Pacific Weather Update - Manila Flood Footage.

It was immediately followed by Tropical Storm Parma, and more than 1,100 people died in the back-to-back disasters.

Chaotic urban planning is widely blamed for exacerbating the impacts of storms in Manila and other parts of the country, which has had to deal with massive population growth over the past generation.

Widespread deforestation, the conversion of wetlands to farms or cities, and the clogging up of natural drainage systems with garbage are some of the factors that worsen floods.

The deadliest storm in the world last year occurred in the Philippines, when Typhoon Bopha left more than 1,000 dead and 800 others missing in the south of the country.

The southern areas are usually spared from the typhoons, and communities there were unprepared for Bopha. - Yahoo.

INFRASTRUCTURE & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: High-Speed Train Plows Into Crowd Of Hindu Pilgrims In East India - 37 Dead So Far; Many Wounded; Scene Of Carnage!

August 19, 2013 - INDIA - A high-speed train plowed into a crowd of Hindu pilgrims who were crossing the tracks at a remote station in east India on Monday, killing dozens of people and leaving a scene of carnage.

Of the 37 Hindu pilgrims killed, four were children. Reuters

An enraged crowd dragged out the driver and began beating him, and set parts of the train on fire, sending up a pillar of thick black smoke that could be seen miles away.

The New York Times
The crowd remained so furious that hours passed before firefighters and rescue workers were able to approach the site of the accident, officials said. A train sent to help the wounded was forced to halt on the tracks a mile away.

The disaster stood out even in a season of terrible accidents.

The station was a remote one — inaccessible by road — and the high-speed Rayja Rani Express typically barrels through without stopping at a speed of around 50 miles an hour. Railway officials said the driver had been given clearance to pass through.

But Monday was the last day of a holy month in India, and hundreds of people were disembarking from two stopped passenger trains while on their way to a temple a half-mile away to offer holy water to Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction.

A top official at the railway ministry, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, said the driver had pulled the emergency brake when he saw people on the tracks but was unable to stop the train.

“It was all quite frightening,” said Rohit Kumar, a passenger, who jumped off the train and ran for a quarter-mile to the nearest station when the crowd began to attack. “I’m standing here and watching smoke billowing out from the train. It was nightmarish. So scary.”

S.K. Singh, the deputy magistrate of the Saharsa District, said 37 people were confirmed dead, including several children. India’s railway minister, Mallikarjun Kharge, said 28 had died, and noted that the pilgrims were crossing the tracks illegally. Parliamentary discussion on Monday afternoon deteriorated into a shouting match over whether the government bore responsibility.

A huge mob gathered at the Indian train crash site and beat the driver to death. Reuters

Villagers carried an injured person after the train accident on Monday. Associated Press 

The train stopped a few hundred metres from the crash and the mob pulled out the driver and his assistant and attacked them. The driver was taken to hospital in a critical condition but died from his injuries. Associated Press

The chief minister of Bihar, the state where the disaster occurred, called it “the rarest of rare tragedies.” He pledged 200,000 rupees, or around $3,180, to the victims’ families, and urged the railway ministry to do the same. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released a statement calling for “calm in the area so that the relief and rescue operations can be carried out without any hindrance.”

The station, Dhamara Ghat, was inaccessible by car because of the current flood season, so rescue workers had to walk more than two miles from the nearest road to reach the injured, a regional police spokesman said.

WATCH: Train accident leaves at 37 dead in India.

A series of disasters have befallen pilgrims in India this year. In June, thousands drowned when flash floods struck the northern state of Uttarakhand, and the Indian authorities evacuated more than 100,000 people. In February, dozens were killed in a train-station stampede at the Kumbh Mela, a Hindu religious festival on the banks of the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers. - NY Times.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Earthquakes Continue To Shake Seddon, New Zealand - Overall Quake Damage Estimated At 50 MILLION; Over 4,000 Claims For Property Damage!

August 19, 2013 - NEW ZEALAND - Some workers are being told to stay home today while buildings are checked following Friday's magnitude 6.6 earthquake.

The earthquake hit 10km southeast of Seddon, in Marlborough, damaging the town's roads and buildings.

The majority of the capital will be business as usual - however some buildings in Wellington, Porirua, Petone and Blenheim are still being checked and workers will not be allowed in.

Meanwhile the shakes east of Seddon keep coming there have been 13 registered since midnight.

The three strongest measured 3.7, 3.6 and 3.5 at 2am, just before 3am and at 4.14am, respectively.

Wine makers across Marlborough are in clean up mode with several wineries losing thousands of litres as storage tanks were ruptured.

Yealands Estate is a winery close to Seddon, and spokesman Michael Wentworth says the business is counting the cost.

"We've suffered some minor damage in terms of tanks and some loss of wine so there's a little bit of sauvignon blanc and bit of pinot noir, we are predominantly a sauvignon blanc producer so that’s probably the wine that's been most affected," Mr Wentworth says.

And in Wellington the demolition of a nine-storey lift shaft in the city centre will resume today.

Nearby residents were evacuated and the building on Lukes Lane was closed and braced after last month's quake, but Friday's jolt broke that support.

A crane has been brought up from Christchurch for the demolition.

Meanwhile, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says there should be no difficulty getting claims paid out from the EQC, and he's encouraging those affected by the recent jolts to apply now.

"EQC has sufficient cover to meet these sorts of disasters, at the present time [there's] no difficulty so I would tell people to relax about that," Mr Brownlee says.

Insurance claims should be lodged with EQC as soon as possible.  - 3 NEWS.

Earthquake Claims Could Take Months To Assess.
It could take months for the Earthquake Commission to assess all the properties damaged in the recent earthquakes.

EQC has already received 4000 claims since July's 6.5 magnitude quake struck 25km east of Seddon, and is expecting many more to come as residents return home and find damage from Friday's 6.6 quake that hit the same area.

The commission began assessing damage from July's quakes today.

Anyone with significant property damage is advised to register, even if they contacted EQC after the previous quake, as the two earthquakes are being treated as separate events.

"Obviously people have three months to lodge a claim," said EQC chief executive Ian Simpson.

"So some people do prefer to wait until they've had a chance to look around the whole property and we're fine with that."

Despite paying nearly $6 billion to Christchurch, EQC says there is still money left to pay out new claims.

"Even though all the funds we have are allocated to the Christchurch earthquakes, there's no problem with us having the cash to pay the Seddon claims," said Mr Simpson.

EQC assessors will carry out one inspection per property, looking at contents and building damage simultaneously.

Mr Simpson expects the final claim figure to be significant.

"Very roughly, maybe $50 million from the July earthquakes and possibly $50 million from Friday's earthquake."

Property owners should also be contacting their own insurance companies, he said.

Most schools open

Meanwhile, most schools affected by the quakes have opened as normal today.

Seddon School has returned to its normal activities, after it was transformed into Civil Defence headquarters after Friday's jolt.

"Good to have normality back, but still nerve-racking to have the children here," said mum Maria Ryan.

Principal Nick Raynor said families had a lot of things to deal with at home.

"Hopefully getting back to school and back to routines is what everyone needs."

Marlborough Girls' College, Marlborough Boys' and Ward School were closed today but will reopen tomorrow.

Te Kura a iwi o Whakatupuranga Rua Mano in Otaki was closed today with no running water, but it is not known if this was a quake-related outage.

The Ministry of Education contacted all 537 schools in the central south region, checking on damage and offering support.

Ask for help

It was back to business for Marlborough District Council today as well.

A meeting was held with the agencies involved in the clean up and Marlborough Civil Defence said the potential for residents to develop anxiety issues was discussed.

"The community has been looking after each other very well but we know that, as exhaustion sets in, some people will find it hard to keep positive," Marlborough District Mayor Alistair Sowman said.

"I urge anyone who needs help to ask for that support."

Community support co-ordinator Robet Kirkhan said some people had been severely affected by the shakes.

"It's a horrible feeling having the ground move underneath you all the time."

Residents are encouraged to contact the Community Information Centre in Seddon, which is taking all inquiries and requests for help from the community.

Mr Sowman said anyone with nowhere to stay should contact the centre.

Victim Support, Age Concern Marlborough and the Red Cross all have resources available and farmers struggling with finances or stress are urged to contact the Top of the South Rural Support Trust.

Residents expected to return

MDC building inspectors have declared eight houses uninhabitable. Another 11 have had their use restricted due to safety issues.

All unsafe properties have been marked with safety tape.

Many residents fled Seddon over the weekend, seeking respite from the shaking, with door to door checks finding a quarter of locals were not at home.

As residents return this week the MDC emergency manager Dean Heiford said they could be surprised by the extent of the damage to their properties.

Many people still did not have running water and the town had sustained a lot of damage, he said, although the majority of houses were still safe to live in.

Mr Sowman said it had been a "hectic" 48 hours as council officers checked on homes in the area.

"We've had quite a bit of flooding over the weekend and our major concern was to get the houses water tight, get tarpaulins out there, and that was a job in the strong winds," he said.

"We've covered the town and we're in the rural area now where there has been a bit of damage, down towards Seddon and Ward, houses there have been totally ruined."

Wellington assessments

Construction crews were this afternoon putting together a 400-tonne crane to dismantle central Wellington's badly damaged lift shaft.

The huge machine has been brought up from Christchurch to demolish the lift shaft in Lukes Lane, which has been dubbed the most dangerous structure in the capital.

Wellington City Council braced the shaft after it was damaged in the July 6.5 quake, and when it was further damaged after Friday's 6.6 quake the decision was made to remove it.

The crane's operators made the trip to Wellington with it and will be working around the clock to bring down the shaft.

"These guys from Christchurch have done a huge amount of work in the demolition of Christchurch, so we need to get the right experts in," said WCC building control manager Michael Scott.

Council spokesman Richard MacLean said the crane had to be put together in a relatively small space, which was proving challenging, but crews were hoping it would be up and running later today.

Also causing a problem was an electrical substation at the bottom of the shaft, said Mr MacLean.

The substation would need to be assessed to check it is not live.

Contractor Dion Paki was watching the lift from a crane as Friday's quake hit.

"When the quake shook I knew this was an unsafe building ... It was scary just watching."

The lift shaft twisted as the ground moved, he said.

"My job from the crane up there to the right was to yell out to everyone down there to get out of the way, and do you think they moved? They didn't even move."

The complex removal of the shaft is expected to take until Thursday and occupants of surrounding buildings will not be allowed back into the area until work is complete.

While some moved out of the area right away, other tenants initially refused, thinking it was safe to stay. WCC issued them legally binding evacuation notices and has put them up in hotels.

Meanwhile, Wellington's Westpac Stadium has received the all clear to re-open following Friday's 6.6 magnitude earthquake.

The stadium will host the second Bledisloe Cup Test between the All Blacks and Australia on Saturday night.

The stadium was closed as a precautionary measure following the quake and has undergone a detailed engineering assessment. - TVNZ.

INFRASTRUCTURE & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Death Toll Hits 55 In Philippines Ferry Disaster - Another 65 Remain Missing; 750 Rescued So Far!

August 19, 2013 - PHILIPPINES - Philippine navy divers retrieved bodies Monday from inside a ferry that sank last week after colliding with a cargo ship.

 Volunteers search for victims near the damaged cargo ship Sulpicio Express Siete on Saturday, August 17,
a day after it collided with a passenger ferry in Talisay, in the Cebu province of the Philippines. The ferry,
which sank, is thought to have been carrying about 700 passengers.

The discovery of more victims' remains brought the number of people confirmed dead from the disaster in the southern Philippines to 55, the Philippine Coast Guard said. Another 65 people remain missing and 750 have been rescued, it said.

The divers found the body of a child Monday near the hull of MV St. Thomas Aquinas, the sunken ferry, the official Philippines News Agency (PNA) reported.

They then managed to enter compartments of the vessel and recover more bodies, the agency said, citing Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, a navy spokesman.

Philippine Navy personnel lift a victim from one of the floating life rafts during rescue operations on August 17.
The two ships collided around 9 p.m. Friday.

A survivor on a stretcher is taken to a hospital in Cebu City on August 17.

A medic carries 3-month-old Trisia Mae Kumaro as her mother steps out
of an ambulance at the hospital on August 17.

But PNA reported that dive operations were suspended later in the day because of bad weather.
Another team of divers was expected to arrive within the day to help with the search and rescue efforts, Fabic said.

The collision occurred around 9 p.m. Friday in the Mactan Channel about 2 miles northwest of Cebu City, the capital of Cebu province.

Echoes of a past disaste

The St. Thomas Aquinas was coming from nearby Butuan City when the collision occurred. The cargo ship, the Sulpicio, which had about 20 people aboard, was leaving Cebu for Davao, a region on the island of Mindanao.

The passenger ferry sank, but not before sending out a distress call heard by Coast Guard officials.

Crew members from the cargo ship inspect the damage to their ship on August 17.

A cargo vessel is docked at sea after colliding with and sinking a ferry on Friday, August 16.

The cargo vessel involved in the crash -- along with navy, Coast Guard and commercial vessels -- helped in the rescue efforts.

Photos from the scene showed a huge hole torn in the yellow bow of the Sulpicio.

The sinking recalls one of the worst maritime disasters in world history that took place on December 20, 1987, also off the Philippines.

Between 1,700 and more than 4,000 people were killed when the ferry Dona Paz collided with an oil tanker in the Tablas Strait. Reports of the total number of casualties have varied; many claim the Dona Paz was extremely overcrowded. - CNN.

MASS MAMMAL DIE-OFF: "Unusual Mortality Event" - 6 More Dolphins Found Mysteriously Dead On Southern New Jersey Beaches?!

August 19, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Six more dolphins have been found dead on New Jersey beaches in recent days, bringing the total to 52 since July 9.

From right, Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team members Krystal Rodrique of
Virginia Beach, Va. and intern Liz Schell of Durango, Co. load a deceased male dolphin
onto a metalstretcher on Ocean View Beach in Norfolk, Va. (AP)

Officials say severely decomposed dolphins washed up Saturday in Barnegat Light and Long Beach Township, both in Ocean County, and in Upper Township in Cape May County.

That came one day after dolphins washed up in Seaside Heights in Ocean County, Longport in Atlantic County and Stone Harbor in Cape May County,

(Dorothy Edwards | The Virginian-Pilot)

State officials have been working with the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine to determine why so many dolphins are dying.

WATCH: Cause of mass dolphin death still a mystery.

The federal government has also been investigating the cause of dolphin deaths up and down the Eastern Seaboard this summer, exploring many possible causes such as disease, changes in the environment and human activities. - CBS.

MASS MAMMAL DIE-OFF: Many Thousands Of Seal Pups Died "Mysteriously" During May In California - Deadly Sea Lion Mystery Draws Biologists To Remote Island In Search Of Clues?!

August 19, 2013 - UNITED STATES - It’s late June, and San Miguel Island’s white sand beaches are filled with barking sea lions. More than 100,000 of them. The marine mammals have come to this windy, remote island to breed and give birth – a rowdy, stinky summer extravaganza that last year, enigmatically, ended in disaster.

Sea lions come to Point Bennett each year to breed and birth pups. They’re joined on the island by
northern fur seals, the darker mammals in clumps. (Nadia Drake/WIRED)

When the sea lions converged on this most westerly of southern California’s Channel Islands in May 2012, as they do every spring, there was no hint of anything amiss. A year later, thousands of pups – perhaps as many as 70 percent of the newborns – were dead. The struggle to survive led desperate pups from their sandy nursery into the churning, dangerous sea, long before they were ready.

Between January and June, five rescue centers along the southern California coast, from Santa Barbara to San Diego, took in more than 1,500 stranded pups – five times more than normal.

San Miguel island is the farthest west of the northern Channel
Islands, off the coast of California. (NASA/Mikeetc/Wikimedia)
And those are just the ones that survived the journey of more than 50 miles. Many thousands more died on the islands, or along the way.

What happened is still a mystery, but investigating scientists have come to suspect that an unexpected shift in the sea lions’ food source is to blame. Now, as a new generation of pups are being born here, a different question arises: Has the danger passed, or are this year’s pups in peril too?

I went to San Miguel Island to try to find out.

The conduit between the sea lions and me
is Sharon Melin, a biologist with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. Melin has been studying the San Miguel Island sea lions (Zalophus californianus) for more than two decades, tracking their population trends and health. In the summer, she comes to the island for about three months, working at a sun- and wind-powered research station perched on the bluff above Point Bennett.

It’s here, at the westernmost tip of the island, that the bulk of the island’s sea lions converge, nearly 50,000 of them. The breeding colony is among the largest in the world, and the island’s population accounts for just over half of all sea lions in California. They come here because the waters normally brim with fish, and because San Miguel is remote and undisturbed: Located about 60 miles from Ventura harbor, the island’s nine campsites host fewer than 200 visitors per year.

A sign above the Point Bennett rookery alerts visitors
to the sea lions’ activities. (Nadia Drake/WIRED)
A 7-mile trek separates Point Bennett from the campground at the island’s eastern end, a hike that must be made with a park ranger or naturalist guide (in part because the U.S. Navy can’t guarantee the island is free from unexploded ordinance — leftovers from when the military used San Miguel as a postwar bombing range). On the seaward side, the pristine, white beach is surrounded by deep, blue-green waters that hide dangerous rocks and have sunk many a ship.

In other words, it’s not trivial to get here.

On this briefly sunny day in late June, the sea lions – joined by northern elephant and fur seals – have reached peak pupping season. They’re generating quite a racket on the beach, several hundred feet from where we stand. I’m glad the wind is blowing the smells offshore, as I’ve heard the colony can reek like a dumpster full of funky fish on a warm day.

Despite their aroma, California sea lions are charismatic and intelligent, capable of logical reasoning and dancing to disco tunes. Males can grow to weigh 800 pounds. Pups, who weigh around 16 pounds at birth, stay with their mom for almost a full year, during which they learn to swim and fish on their own, and she begins incubating another pregnancy. By the time a pup is weaned, it should weigh about 60 pounds.

Some of the pups washing ashore last year weighed less than half that.

A sea lion curls up in front of a pile of (molting)
elephant seals. (Nadia Drake/WIRED)
Once, about a century ago, this beach on San Miguel would have been nearly empty: Seal and sea lion populations were driven to near-extinction by an endless appetite for their fur and oil; for the “trimmings” from large bulls (the bits that make a bull a bull, if you follow), which were sold as aphrodisiacs in Asian markets; and for their meat, which often ended up in pet food. Sea lions were, and still are, disliked by fishermen because they interfere with salmon and other fisheries. Just before the Marine Mammal Protection Act was passed in 1972, there were fewer than 12,000 sea lions on the entire island.

Melin tells us to keep a low profile and speak softly, because the sea lions are skittish and will abandon the beach for the surf if they sense us.

There are a few tiny pups amidst the big, furry bodies on the beach. It’s warm enough that heat rising from the sand creates a haze that partially blurs the mammals, but it’s still pretty easy to distinguish the sea lion pups from the smaller and darker fur seal pups, and super easy to discern which lumps are the massive, 1-ton gray elephant seals. As we watch, some of the males wrestle and defend their territories, awkwardly charging at and chasing rivals away, while others lazily reach up to scratch an ear with a flipper, or snuggle into the sand (see video, below).

Every now and then, mothers scramble to retrieve little pups that have waddled off. Barks and bellows ring out from the sea lions, while the elephant seals emit deep, rumbling croaks that sound like a drunken uncle belching at the dinner table.

WATCH: San Miguel Island Sea Lions.

The raucous, grunty scene before me looks like an unfiltered glimpse of animals thriving in their natural environment.

You wouldn’t know anything was amiss. - WIRED.

WEATHER PHENOMENON: Colorful Sprites Over Nebraska - Puzzled Researchers Say The Strange Flashes Represent "Transfer Of Energy" And Has "Significant Effect On The Weather And Climate"?!

August 19, 2013 - SPACE -  "August 12th was another successful night in our sprites campaign," reports Jason Ahrns of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. With a team of researchers from NCAR, he has been flying over the midwestern USA onboard a Gulfstream V in search of exotic forms of lightning. As they were photographing a thunderstorm over Nebraska, these six sprites appeared:

These remarkably beautiful discharges were red on top and purple on the bottom. "I really can't explain the color change," says Ahrns. "That's one of the things we hope to investigate with this campaign by capturing high speed spectra."

First documented in 1989 by scientists from the University of Minnesota who photographed strange flashes coming out of the tops of thunderstorms, sprites remain a mystery today. Neither their basic physics nor their effect on the surrounding atmosphere is well understood. "Do sprites have a large scale impact on the middle atmosphere?" asks Ahrns. "Sprites clearly represent some kind of transfer of energy, but is it on a scale that has a significant effect on the weather and climate? We can't answer that without studying them."

The ephemeral nature of sprites (they typically last no more than a few milliseconds) makes them tricky to study. Researchers on the NCAR Gulfstream capture sprites using Phantom cameras running at 10,000 frames per second. "One of the Phantoms has a diffraction grating in front of it to capture high speed spectra, which I don't think has ever been done before," notes Ahrns.

The prettiest pictures, though, come from Arhns' own camera, a dSLR that he mounts in the window of the airplane to capture "beauty shots." The image above is an example. More may be found in Ahrns' personal blog. - Space Weather.

DELUGE: Precursors To A Global Coastal Event - The Worst Flooding In Northeast China In 30 Years KILLS 8 And Impacts Over 4 MILLION!

August 19, 2013 - CHINA - While hot weather has been scorching many provinces in southern China, the worst flood in 30 years has hit in northeastern China's Heilongjiang Province. Since mid-May at least eight people have been confirmed dead in natural disasters in the region - floods and hail storms, and millions have been affected, according to, the website of China News Agency.

A view of flooded cropland in China's northeastern Heilongjiang Province is seen in this photo
posted to the microblog platform Weibo. Continuous rainfall in the region has resulted in the
worst flooding in thirty years. (

Continuous downpours since June in Heilongjiang have caused severe flooding. Thirty two rivers have surpassed their warning levels. The Nen River has continued to rise. That river is the longest tributary of the Songhua River, which is the largest tributary of the Heilongjiang River, also known as the Amur River, which flows from Outer Mongolia and forms the border between China and Russia.

As of 8 a.m. on Tuesday, according to statistics by the Heilongjiang Provincial Department of Civil Affairs, more than 4.33 million people have been affected and about 6 million acres of cropland have been damaged. The crops on over 1.5 million acres have been destroyed, the Chinanews reported.

In addition, more than 2,200 agricultural irrigation systems and flood control barriers have been damaged. Total direct economic losses are estimated at US$1.81 billion (11.1 billion yuan), it said.

An orange alert for severe flooding, the second highest level of warning, was issued at midnight on Aug. 11 by the Heilongjiang Provincial Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, according to the Heilongjiang provincial website Northeast Web

At 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 12, the China Meteorological Administration issued the level IV emergency alert for rainstorms, forecasting heavy rain to continue in northeast China and Inner Mongolia over the next 10

Since July 30, according to the Heilongjiang Daily, the official newspaper of the Heilongjiang provincial Communist Party committee, rainfall over the province is about 55 percent more than the average for the same period in previous years. The total rainfall along the Heilongjiang River is 86 percent higher than before.

A resident in Huma Town, which is downstream where the Huma River joins the Heilongjiang River, told Sound of Hope (SOH) Radio about the flooding situation in the town, "Flood waters are coming to shore now, so most of our crop areas are flooded. Continuous rains for days have drowned our farm crops, basically soybeans and wheat. The homes in this region are all under water, and it's even worse in the countryside."

"The flood damaged the railroads, submerged our houses [in the countryside], and covered most of the farmland. The river bend is completely flooded," SOH quoted a resident in Sunwu Town of Heihe City as saying.

Out of 110 reservoirs in the province, there were 40 whose levels exceeded flood levels. On the night of Aug. 12, the water level of the Heilongjiang River in the city of Harbin, the provincial capital, reached 97.13 meters (318 feet), the highest record since 1985, New Tang Dynasty Television reported.

The flooding has forced at least five entry points, out of 13, between China and Russia to be closed, as it hit far eastern Russia in regions surrounding the Heilongjiang River, according to Chinanews. - TET.