Sunday, September 1, 2013

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: The Monster Rim Wildfire Grows To California's Fourth Largest - Nearly 223,000 Acres Burned; Over 100 Structures Destroyed; 40% Contained

September 01, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A large California wildfire that has blackened a swath of Yosemite National Park backcountry grew to the fourth largest in modern state history even as fire crews managed to slow the spread of the flames over the weekend, officials said on Sunday.

The Rim Fire burns at night in this undated United States Forest Service handout photo near Yosemite National Park, California, released to Reuters on August 30, 2013. REUTERS/Mike McMillan/U.S. "Forest Service/Handout.

The Rim Fire had charred nearly 223,000 acres by Sunday, mostly in the Stanislaus National Forest that spreads out from Yosemite's western edge. The blaze has blackened about 6 percent of Yosemite's wilder backcountry.

It edged past the 1932 Matilija wildfire in Ventura County to become the fourth-largest California wildfire on record, according to figures from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Five of the state's seven largest fires in recorded history have occurred since 2007, according to those figures.

The fire, whose footprint now exceeds the area of Dallas, sent heavy smoke on Saturday into the Yosemite Valley, an area famed for towering granite rock formations, waterfalls and pine forests. It obscured views of popular landmarks on a holiday weekend at the end of the summer tourist season.

A firefighter uses a headlamp in this undated United States Forest Service handout photo near Yosemite National Park, California, released to Reuters on August 30, 2013. REUTERS/Mike McMillan/U.S. "Forest Service/Handout.

Monterey firefighters hold the line at the Rim Fire at night in this undated United States Forest Service handout photo near Yosemite National Park, California, released to Reuters on August 30, 2013. REUTERS/Mike McMillan/U.S. "Forest Service/Handout.

Fire officials said smoky conditions in the park had largely cleared after a shift in winds on Sunday afternoon. There were no further road closures within Yosemite and containment lines held steady at 40 percent.

"We have been able to hold the line. It's just trying to figure out how to wrap this thing up and put a bow around it," said fire incident spokeswoman Leslie Auriemmo, adding there were no fresh closures in the park.

Although the cause of the fire remains under investigation, a fire official with knowledge of the containment efforts told a community meeting in nearby Twain Harte last week that the blaze may have been started in an illicit marijuana-growing operation.

The Yosemite Valley has been open to visitors since the fire broke out two weeks ago, but smoke began spreading to the area on Friday, before the Labor Day holiday weekend that in past years has seen the park fill with visitors.

Some 4 million people visit Yosemite each year, most going during the peak months of June through August. Some 620,000 normally visit the park in August alone, but attendance has dropped due to the fire.

A firefighter and his pump rig stops at the Rim Fire in this undated United States Forest Service handout photo near Yosemite National Park, California, released to Reuters on August 30, 2013. REUTERS/Mike McMillan/U.S. "Forest Service/Handout.

A tanker drops retardant on the Rim Fire in this undated United States Forest Service handout photo near Yosemite National Park, California, released to Reuters on August 30, 2013. REUTERS/Mike McMillan/U.S. "Forest Service/Handout.

This map is based on official fire mapping sources that show rough footprints of actively burning wildfires.

Close to 5,000 people are working to put out the fire, including firefighters from across California and nearly 700 specially trained California prison inmates.

More than $60 million in federal and state money has been spent on fighting the blaze, fire officials said on Sunday.

Among the landmarks potentially in the path of the blaze are two groves of the park's famed sequoia trees.

WATCH:Yosemite Rim Fire Time Lapse and Flyover.

"We are working very hard to protect that. All the lines are in place so it doesn't go into those groves," Auriemmo said.

Firefighters have carried out controlled burns around the groves to clear away debris that could otherwise fuel a fire to such an intensity that it threatens the trees.

Lower-intensity fires, on the other hand, play a vital role in the reproductive cycle of the tough-barked sequoia, many of which bear the scars of past wildfires, by releasing the seeds from their cones and clearing the soil in which they germinate.

"Ground fire is a good thing, crown fire is a bad thing in his case," said fire incident spokesman Dennis Godfrey. - Yahoo.

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: 70,000 Sheep And Cattle Killed By Heavy Snowfall Throughout 4 Regions Of Bolivia - Four Farmers Dead; 3,500 Families Affected!

September 01, 2013 - BOLIVIA - Four farmers were killed and 3500 families were affected by heavy snow that fell in recent days in four of the nine departments of Bolivia, according to official reports published Friday.

"There are more than 3500 families affected across the country, most damage is in Cochabamba, La Paz and Potosi. Has died a person more by snow in the municipality of Colquechaca (Potosí)," he told reporters Oscar Cabrera, Deputy Minister of Civil Defense.

"With that we would be four people that have been killed," said the authority.

A cold front with snow storms hit in recent days to the departments of La Paz (west), Cochabamba (center), Potosi (southwest) and Chuquisaca (southeast).

Cabrera flew on Friday the most affected area comprising the township Cocapata in Cochabamba (center) was where food, provisions, medical relief and animal fodder.

Heavy machinery has cleared snow blocking access to the town, said Mayor Pedro Padilla.

To tell the Deputy Minister of Rural Development, Víctor Hugo Vásquez, the cold weather caused in Cochabamba the loss of at least 2000 head of livestock, including sheep and camels.

The report by the Vice Ministry of Civil Defense said that the snow storms impacted on livestock killing "40 000 head of sheep and 30,000 cattle camel in the departments of Cochabamba, Chuquisaca, Potosí and La Paz".

Precisely attempts to rescue the cattle have caused the death of the peasants. For this factor, several locals were initially reported as missing, although they returned home.

Reuben Colquhoun, director of Area Health Services Ministry, announced sending ten health brigades to affected areas in the Department of La Paz.

There, the area most affected was the mining center Caracoles (400 km from La Paz), where extractive activities were paralyzed as a result of snow and where access is difficult.

"Even doctors left," said one clerk to mine Erbol.

Cinthia Prado, in charge of risk prevention at the state ABC road manager, said that "the trunk routes are passable" as traders proceeded to clean them, but urged caution to drivers as the platform becomes slippery from melting. - HOY. [Translated]

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Close To ONE MILLION Birds Culled In Bhaktapur, Nepal Due To Avian Flu!

September 01, 2013 - NEPAL - The government has culled 9,90,981 fowls and chicks from several farms in Bhaktapur since the bird flu was first confirmed in the district.

According to Bhaktapur District Bird Flu Control Section, 5,23,921 fowls and 1,56,726 chicks have been culled from as many as 439 poultry farms since the government declared Bhaktapur a crisis-hit zone on August 15.

Bird flu was first confirmed in Bhaktapur on July 26. As many as 1,91,063 fowls and 1,19,271 chicks were culled before the district was declared crisis-hit following the flu confirmation.

Chief at the section, senior veterinary Dr Buddhiman Khaling, said 2,89,299 eggs, 49,206 kg chicken feed and 810 kg meat were destroyed as of this evening.

Meanwhile, the government is yet to completely get rid of the disease even 12 days after it targeted to complete its task of ridding Bhaktapur of the flu within the 10 days.

Dr Khaling said some poultry farmers were reluctant to allow culling of their fowls citing inadequate government compensation.

Information officer at the section, Khagendra Raj Bhatta, said they were launching a Sweep Up Operation to destroy homegrown chickens from Tuesday.

"We are planning to deploy three different teams to destroy homegrown chickens and ducks," he said.

Livestock Department said that the Stamping Out Operation will continue in the district until chickens raised in commercial farms and at household levels are destroyed. - The Himalayan Times.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong 5.8 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Near China's Shangri-La Region - Kills At Least 4; Sparks Landslides; Topples Tens Of Thousands Of Homes!

September 01, 2013 - CHINA - An earthquake hit a remote part of southwest China today near the popular tourist area of Shangri-La, killing four people and injuring several others, state media said.

USGS earthquake location.

The earthquake in Yunnan province on the border with Sichuan province sparked landslides, blocked roads, cut off communications and toppled or damaged tens of thousands of homes in the mountainous area.

One person died as falling rocks smashed into a tourist bus, killing the driver, said the Yunnan government, which put the total at four dead.

At least 10 others were injured, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The 5.8-magnitude quake, which struck at 8:04am (Malaysian time), was centred on Yunnan's Benzilan town, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said. It was about 10 kilometres deep.

The quake toppled 600 homes and damaged more than 55,000 others, forcing over 9,000 local residents to relocate, Xinhua said.

State television showed clouds of dust rising from landslides on green mountains and pieces of broken cement that had fallen from buildings.

"During the earthquake this morning, the swaying the county felt was relatively severe," the official Xinhua news agency quoted Liao Wencai, deputy party secretary of Deqin, as saying.

Benzilan is in Deqin county, roughly 60 kilometres from Shangri-La county, which is named after the fictional mountain paradise in the James Hilton novel "Lost Horizon".

USGS earthquake shakemap intensity.

Local officials borrowed the name to attract more tourists to the area, which hosted around 7.6 million travellers last year.

Shangri-La itself was little affected, residents said.

"The building just shook a little bit and returned to normal fairly fast," an employee at a local hotel told AFP.

The earthquake was the second in the area in four days after a 5.1-magnitude quake on Wednesday.

In July, twin quakes killed at least 95 people in China's western Gansu province.

A magnitude 6.6 earthquake in Sichuan province killed about 200 people earlier this year, five years after almost 90,000 people were killed by a huge tremor in the same province. - AFP, August 31, 2013. - The Malaysian Insider.

Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of the Himalaya and Vicinity.
Seismicity in the Himalaya dominantly results from the continental collision of the India and Eurasia plates, which are converging at a relative rate of 40-50 mm/yr. Northward underthrusting of India beneath Eurasia generates numerous earthquakes and consequently makes this area one of the most seismically hazardous regions on Earth. The surface expression of the plate boundary is marked by the foothills of the north-south trending Sulaiman Range in the west, the Indo-Burmese Arc in the east and the east-west trending Himalaya Front in the north of India.

The India-Eurasia plate boundary is a diffuse boundary, which in the region near the north of India, lies within the limits of the Indus-Tsangpo (also called the Yarlung-Zangbo) Suture to the north and the Main Frontal Thrust to the south. The Indus-Tsangpo Suture Zone is located roughly 200 km north of the Himalaya Front and is defined by an exposed ophiolite chain along its southern margin. The narrow (less than 200km) Himalaya Front includes numerous east-west trending, parallel structures. This region has the highest rates of seismicity and largest earthquakes in the Himalaya region, caused mainly by movement on thrust faults. Examples of significant earthquakes, in this densely populated region, caused by reverse slip movement include the 1934 M8.1 Bihar, the 1905 M7.5 Kangra and the 2005 M7.6 Kashmir earthquakes. The latter two resulted in the highest death tolls for Himalaya earthquakes seen to date, together killing over 100,000 people and leaving millions homeless. The largest instrumentally recorded Himalaya earthquake occurred on 15th August 1950 in Assam, eastern India. This M8.6 right-lateral, strike-slip, earthquake was widely felt over a broad area of central Asia, causing extensive damage to villages in the epicentral region.

USGS plate tectonics for the region.

The Tibetan Plateau is situated north of the Himalaya, stretching approximately 1000km north-south and 2500km east-west, and is geologically and tectonically complex with several sutures which are hundreds of kilometer-long and generally trend east-west. The Tibetan Plateau is cut by a number of large (greater than 1000km) east-west trending, left-lateral, strike-slip faults, including the long Kunlun, Haiyuan, and the Altyn Tagh. Right-lateral, strike-slip faults (comparable in size to the left-lateral faults), in this region include the Karakorum, Red River, and Sagaing. Secondary north-south trending normal faults also cut the Tibetan Plateau. Thrust faults are found towards the north and south of the Tibetan Plateau. Collectively, these faults accommodate crustal shortening associated with the ongoing collision of the India and Eurasia plates, with thrust faults accommodating north south compression, and normal and strike-slip accommodating east-west extension.

Along the western margin of the Tibetan Plateau, in the vicinity of south-eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan, the India plate translates obliquely relative to the Eurasia plate, resulting in a complex fold-and-thrust belt known as the Sulaiman Range. Faulting in this region includes strike-slip, reverse-slip and oblique-slip motion and often results in shallow, destructive earthquakes. The active, left-lateral, strike-slip Chaman fault is the fastest moving fault in the region. In 1505, a segment of the Chaman fault near Kabul, Afghanistan, ruptured causing widespread destruction. In the same region the more recent 30 May 1935, M7.6 Quetta earthquake, which occurred in the Sulaiman Range in Pakistan, killed between 30,000 and 60,000 people.

On the north-western side of the Tibetan Plateau, beneath the Pamir-Hindu Kush Mountains of northern Afghanistan, earthquakes occur at depths as great as 200 km as a result of remnant lithospheric subduction. The curved arc of deep earthquakes found in the Hindu Kush Pamir region indicates the presence of a lithospheric body at depth, thought to be remnants of a subducting slab. Cross-sections through the Hindu Kush region suggest a near vertical northerly-dipping subducting slab, whereas cross-sections through the nearby Pamir region to the east indicate a much shallower dipping, southerly subducting slab. Some models suggest the presence of two subduction zones; with the Indian plate being subducted beneath the Hindu Kush region and the Eurasian plate being subducted beneath the Pamir region. However, other models suggest that just one of the two plates is being subducted and that the slab has become contorted and overturned in places.

Shallow crustal earthquakes also occur in this region near the Main Pamir Thrust and other active Quaternary faults. The Main Pamir Thrust, north of the Pamir Mountains, is an active shortening structure. The northern portion of the Main Pamir Thrust produces many shallow earthquakes, whereas its western and eastern borders display a combination of thrust and strike-slip mechanisms. On the 18 February 1911, the M7.4 Sarez earthquake ruptured in the Central Pamir Mountains, killing numerous people and triggering a landside, which blocked the Murghab River.

Further north, the Tian Shan is a seismically active intra-continental mountain belt, which extends 2500 km in an ENE-WNW orientation north of the Tarim Basin. This belt is defined by numerous east-west trending thrust faults, creating a compressional basin and range landscape. It is generally thought that regional stresses associated with the collision of the India and Eurasia plates are responsible for faulting in the region. The region has had three major earthquakes (greater than M7.6) at the start of the 20th Century, including the 1902 Atushi earthquake, which killed an estimated 5,000 people. The range is cut through in the west by the 700-km-long, northwest-southeast striking, Talas-Ferghana active right-lateral, strike-slip fault system. Though the system has produced no major earthquakes in the last 250 years, paleo-seismic studies indicate that it has the potential to produce M7.0+ earthquakes and it is thought to represent a significant hazard.

The northern portion of the Tibetan Plateau itself is largely dominated by the motion on three large left-lateral, strike-slip fault systems; the Altyn Tagh, Kunlun and Haiyuan. The Altyn Tagh fault is the longest of these strike slip faults and it is thought to accommodate a significant portion of plate convergence. However, this system has not experienced significant historical earthquakes, though paleoseismic studies show evidence of prehistoric M7.0-8.0 events. Thrust faults link with the Altyn Tagh at its eastern and western termini. The Kunlun Fault, south of the Altyn Tagh, is seismically active, producing large earthquakes such as the 8th November 1997, M7.6 Manyi earthquake and the 14th November 2001, M7.8 Kokoxili earthquake. The Haiyuan Fault, in the far north-east, generated the 16 December 1920, M7.8 earthquake that killed approximately 200,000 people and the 22 May 1927 M7.6 earthquake that killed 40,912.

The Longmen Shan thrust belt, along the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau, is an important structural feature and forms a transitional zone between the complexly deformed Songpan-Garze Fold Belt and the relatively undeformed Sichuan Basin. On 12 May 2008, the thrust belt produced the reverse slip, M7.9 Wenchuan earthquake, killing over 87,000 people and causing billions of US dollars in damages and landslides which dammed several rivers and lakes.

Southeast of the Tibetan Plateau are the right-lateral, strike-slip Red River and the left-lateral, strike-slip Xiangshuihe-Xiaojiang fault systems. The Red River Fault experienced large scale, left-lateral ductile shear during the Tertiary period before changing to its present day right-lateral slip rate of approximately 5 mm/yr. This fault has produced several earthquakes greater than M6.0 including the 4 January 1970, M7.5 earthquake in Tonghai which killed over 10,000 people. Since the start of the 20th century, the Xiangshuihe-Xiaojiang Fault system has generated several M7.0+ earthquakes including the M7.5 Luhuo earthquake which ruptured on the 22 April 1973. Some studies suggest that due to the high slip rate on this fault, future large earthquakes are highly possible along the 65km stretch between Daofu and Qianning and the 135km stretch that runs through Kangding.

Shallow earthquakes within the Indo-Burmese Arc, predominantly occur on a combination of strike-slip and reverse faults, including the Sagaing, Kabaw and Dauki faults. Between 1930 and 1956, six M7.0+ earthquakes occurred near the right-lateral Sagaing Fault, resulting in severe damage in Myanmar including the generation of landslides, liquefaction and the loss of 610 lives. Deep earthquakes (200km) have also been known to occur in this region, these are thought to be due to the subduction of the eastwards dipping, India plate, though whether subduction is currently active is debated. Within the pre-instrumental period, the large Shillong earthquake occurred on the 12 June 1897, causing widespread destruction. - USGS.

EXTREME WEATHER: Power Restored For Thousands After Powerful Storm Rakes Illinois - Damaging Wind Gusts Knock Down Trees And Limbs; More Storms Expected Sunday Night!

September 01, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Most Commonweath Edison customers in the Chicago area who lost power following a severe thunderstorm Friday have electricity again as of early Sunday, the utility said.

(Bonnie Kreger/Facebook)

(Bonnie Kreger/Facebook)

The powerful storm packed wind gusts of more than 55 miles per hour in some suburbs, knocking down trees and limbs, according to the National Weather Service. Some Chicago area residents saw hail up to an inch in diameter.

As of 2 a.m. Sunday, the "vast majority" of customers have been restored, and only scattered outages remain, ComEd said in a message on its Twitter account.

Anyone still without power should have electricity again later Sunday, the utility said.

The strong winds prompted Metra to stop train service on several lines Friday evening. Some trains were canceled, while other riders saw delays up to two and a half hours.

(Bonnie Kreger/Facebook)

(Bonnie Kreger/Facebook)

As the storm passed over the area, a man was hit by a falling tree on the Northwest Side. He was injured about 8:40 p.m. in the 7200 block of West Howard, according officials. The man was taken to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in critical condition, fire department officials said.

The storm also caused organizers to evacuate the North Coast Music Festival at Union Park for two hours Friday.

The temperature reached 96 degrees at O'Hare Friday, much warmer than the normal 80-degree temperatures for late August, said Ben Deubelbeiss, a meteorologist with the NWS in Romeoville.

(Bonnie Kreger/Facebook)

(Bonnie Kreger/Facebook)

(Bonnie Kreger/Facebook)

The rest of the holiday weekend is expected to be cooler, with highs in the 80s expected Saturday and Sunday.

More storms are possible Sunday night, and Monday is expected to be dry with highs in the mid-to-upper 70s. - My Fox Chicago.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Powerful 6.5 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Off Eastern Indonesia - Strong Shaking In Several Provinces; No Tsunami Warning Issued!

September 01, 2013 - INDONESIA - A powerful 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck off eastern Indonesia on Sunday, the United States Geological Survey said, but no tsunami warning was issued.

USGS earthquake location.

The quake struck in waters near the Barat Daya islands in Maluku province, 411km east of Atambua and 425km south of Ambon. It was at a depth of 132km.

National disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said some people in south-west parts of Maluku province felt strong shaking for about 10 seconds and ran out of their homes.

USGS earthquake shakemap intensity.

But Mr Suharjono, an official from the meteorology, climatology and geophysics agency, added: "We have not received any reports of casualties or damage. I don't think there's going to be any significant impact."  - The Sunday Times.

Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of the New Guinea Region and Vicinity.
The Australia-Pacific plate boundary is over 4000 km long on the northern margin, from the Sunda (Java) trench in the west to the Solomon Islands in the east. The eastern section is over 2300 km long, extending west from northeast of the Australian continent and the Coral Sea until it intersects the east coast of Papua New Guinea. The boundary is dominated by the general northward subduction of the Australia plate.

Along the South Solomon trench, the Australia plate converges with the Pacific plate at a rate of approximately 95 mm/yr towards the east-northeast. Seismicity along the trench is dominantly related to subduction tectonics and large earthquakes are common: there have been 13 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded since 1900. On April 1, 2007, a M8.1 interplate megathrust earthquake occurred at the western end of the trench, generating a tsunami and killing at least 40 people. This was the third M8.1 megathrust event associated with this subduction zone in the past century; the other two occurred in 1939 and 1977.

Further east at the New Britain trench, the relative motions of several microplates surrounding the Australia-Pacific boundary, including north-south oriented seafloor spreading in the Woodlark Basin south of the Solomon Islands, maintain the general northward subduction of Australia-affiliated lithosphere beneath Pacific-affiliated lithosphere. Most of the large and great earthquakes east of New Guinea are related to this subduction; such earthquakes are particularly concentrated at the cusp of the trench south of New Ireland. 33 M7.5+ earthquakes have been recorded since 1900, including three shallow thrust fault M8.1 events in 1906, 1919, and 2007.

USGS plate tectonics.

The western end of the Australia-Pacific plate boundary is perhaps the most complex portion of this boundary, extending 2000 km from Indonesia and the Banda Sea to eastern New Guinea. The boundary is dominantly convergent along an arc-continent collision segment spanning the width of New Guinea, but the regions near the edges of the impinging Australia continental margin also include relatively short segments of extensional, strike-slip and convergent deformation. The dominant convergence is accommodated by shortening and uplift across a 250-350 km-wide band of northern New Guinea, as well as by slow southward-verging subduction of the Pacific plate north of New Guinea at the New Guinea trench. Here, the Australia-Pacific plate relative velocity is approximately 110 mm/yr towards the northeast, leading to the 2-8 mm/yr uplift of the New Guinea Highlands.

Whereas the northern band of deformation is relatively diffuse east of the Indonesia-Papua New Guinea border, in western New Guinea there are at least two small (less than 100,000 km²) blocks of relatively undeformed lithosphere. The westernmost of these is the Birds Head Peninsula microplate in Indonesia's West Papua province, bounded on the south by the Seram trench. The Seram trench was originally interpreted as an extreme bend in the Sunda subduction zone, but is now thought to represent a southward-verging subduction zone between Birds Head and the Banda Sea.

There have been 22 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded in the New Guinea region since 1900. The dominant earthquake mechanisms are thrust and strike slip, associated with the arc-continent collision and the relative motions between numerous local microplates. The largest earthquake in the region was a M8.2 shallow thrust fault event in the northern Papua province of Indonesia that killed 166 people in 1996.

The western portion of the northern Australia plate boundary extends approximately 4800 km from New Guinea to Sumatra and primarily separates Australia from the Eurasia plate, including the Sunda block. This portion is dominantly convergent and includes subduction at the Sunda (Java) trench, and a young arc-continent collision.

In the east, this boundary extends from the Kai Islands to Sumba along the Timor trough, offset from the Sunda trench by 250 km south of Sumba. Contrary to earlier tectonic models in which this trough was interpreted as a subduction feature continuous with the Sunda subduction zone, it is now thought to represent a subsiding deformational feature related to the collision of the Australia plate continental margin and the volcanic arc of the Eurasia plate, initiating in the last 5-8 Myr. Before collision began, the Sunda subduction zone extended eastward to at least the Kai Islands, evidenced by the presence of a northward-dipping zone of seismicity beneath Timor Leste. A more detailed examination of the seismic zone along it's eastern segment reveals a gap in intermediate depth seismicity under Timor and seismic mechanisms that indicate an eastward propagating tear in the descending slab as the negatively buoyant oceanic lithosphere detaches from positively buoyant continental lithosphere. On the surface, GPS measurements indicate that the region around Timor is currently no longer connected to the Eurasia plate, but instead is moving at nearly the same velocity as the Australia plate, another consequence of collision.

Large earthquakes in eastern Indonesia occur frequently but interplate megathrust events related to subduction are rare; this is likely due to the disconnection of the descending oceanic slab from the continental margin. There have been 9 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded from the Kai Islands to Sumba since 1900. The largest was the great Banda Sea earthquake of 1938 (M8.5) an intermediate depth thrust faulting event that did not cause significant loss of life. - USGS.

MAJOR ALERT: Drill, Infrastructure Collapse Or False Flag Event - As Worries Over The Power Grid Rise, United States Government Plans Major Drill In November To Simulate A Knockout Blow?!

September 01, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Power grid vulnerabilities are finally garnering some attention by government officials.

An electrical grid joint drill simulation is being planned in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Thousands of utility workers, FBI agents, anti-terrorism experts, governmental agencies, and more than 150 private businesses are involved in the November power grid drill.

The downed power grid simulation will reportedly focus on both physical and cyber attacks. The antiquated electrical system in the United States has been one of the most neglected pieces of integral infrastructure.

The EMP Commission, created by Congress, released a report in 2008 calling for increased planning and testing, and a stockpiling of needed repair items.

The SHIELD Act, which is stalled in Congress, is the first serious piece of legislation in many years to attempt to address the vulnerabilities of the power grid in. As previously reported by Off The Grid News, a recent American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) report gave the power grid a “D+” when grading various pieces of infrastructure and public services in the United States.

The disaster drill is being described as a crisis practice unlike anything the real power grid has ever experienced. The GridEX II drill Nov. 13-14 will focus primarily on how governments will react if the electrical grid fails and, for instance, the food supply chain collapses.

American utility companies are responsible for running approximately 5,800 power plants and about 450,000 high-voltage transmission lines, controlled by various devices which have been put into place over the past decades. Some of the utility companies which oversee the power grid reportedly use “antique computer protocols” which are “probably” safe from cyber hackers,” The New York Times reported.

The Times said experts call the power grid the nation’s “glass jaw.” Even the military gets 99 percent of its power the same way everyday citizens get it – from commercially run companies

“If an adversary lands a knockout blow, [experts] fear, it could black out vast areas of the continent for weeks; interrupt supplies of water, gasoline, diesel fuel and fresh food; shut down communications; and create disruptions of a scale that was only hinted at by Hurricane Sandy and the attacks of Sept. 11,” The Times said.

Former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Curt Hebert stated that if the nation fails at electricity, “we’re going to fail miserably” at everything else.

Hebert also noted that during prior power grid drills, the scenario assumed the system would be up and running again relatively quickly after an attack. This drill will assume it’s out much longer.

If the power grid fails, a lack of electricity and food delivery are only the first wave of troubles facing the American people. Police could face major problems with civil unrest. Of course, there also would not be any electric heating or cooling, which easily could lead to many deaths depending on the season.

A 2012 report by the National Academy of Science said terrorists could cripple the nation by damaging or destroying hard-to-replace components, some of which aren’t even made in the United States.

“Of particular concern are giant custom-built transformers that increase the voltage of electricity to levels suited for bulk transmission and then reduce voltage for distribution to customers,” The Times said in a summary of the report. “… Replacing them can take many months.”

Said Clark W. Gellings, a researcher at the Electric Power Research Institute, “I don’t think we pay quite enough attention to the technology fixes that would allow us to make the power system more resilient.” - Off The Grid News.

New York City during a blackout in 2003. More than 150 companies and groups will take part
in a drill that will simulate attacks on the power grid.
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

The electric grid, as government and private experts describe it, is the glass jaw of American industry. If an adversary lands a knockout blow, they fear, it could black out vast areas of the continent for weeks; interrupt supplies of water, gasoline, diesel fuel and fresh food; shut down communications; and create disruptions of a scale that was only hinted at by Hurricane Sandy and the attacks of Sept. 11.

This is why thousands of utility workers, business executives, National Guard officers, F.B.I. antiterrorism experts and officials from government agencies in the United States, Canada and Mexico are preparing for an emergency drill in November that will simulate physical attacks and cyberattacks that could take down large sections of the power grid.

They will practice for a crisis unlike anything the real grid has ever seen, and more than 150 companies and organizations have signed up to participate.

“This is different from a hurricane that hits X, Y and Z counties in the Southeast and they have a loss of power for three or four days,” said the official in charge of the drill, Brian M. Harrell of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, known as NERC. “We really want to go beyond that.”

One goal of the drill, called GridEx II, is to explore how governments would react as the loss of the grid crippled the supply chain for everyday necessities.

“If we fail at electricity, we’re going to fail miserably,” Curt Hébert, a former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said at a recent conference held by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Mr. Harrell said that previous exercises were based on the expectation that electricity “would be up and running relatively quick” after an attack.

Now, he said, the goal is to “educate the federal government on what their expectations should or shouldn’t be.” The industry held a smaller exercise two years ago in which 75 utilities, companies and agencies participated, but this one will be vastly expanded and will be carried out in a more anxious mood.

Most of the participants will join the exercise from their workplaces, with NERC, in Washington, announcing successive failures. One example, organizers say, is a substation break-in that officials initially think is an attempt to steal copper. But instead, the intruder uses a USB drive to upload a virus into a computer network.

The drill is part of a give-and-take in the past few years between the government and utilities that has exposed the difficulties of securing the electric system.

The grid is essential for almost everything, but it is mostly controlled by investor-owned companies or municipal or regional agencies. Ninety-nine percent of military facilities rely on commercial power, according to the White House.

The utilities play down their abilities, in comparison with the government’s. “They have the intelligence operation, the standing army, the three-letter agencies,” said Scott Aaronson, senior director of national security policy at the Edison Electric Institute, the trade association of investor-owned utilities. “We have the grid operations expertise.”

That expertise involves running 5,800 major power plants and 450,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines, monitored and controlled by a staggering mix of devices installed over decades. Some utilities use their own antique computer protocols and are probably safe from hacking — what the industry calls “security through obscurity.”

But others rely on Windows-based control systems that are common to many industries. Some of them run on in-house networks, but computer security experts say they are not confident that all the connections to the public Internet have been discovered and secured. Many may be vulnerable to software — known as malware — that can disable the systems or destroy their ability to communicate, leaving their human operators blind about the positions of switches, the flows of current and other critical parameters. Experts say a sophisticated hacker could also damage hard-to-replace equipment.

In an effort to draw utilities and the government closer, the industry recently established the Electricity Sub-Sector Coordinating Council, made up of high-level executives, to meet with federal officials. The first session is next month.
Preparation for the November drill comes as Congress is debating laws that could impose new standards to protect the grid from cyberattacks, but many in the industry, some of whom would like such rules, doubt that they can pass.

The drill is also being planned as conferences, studies and even works of fiction are raising near-apocalyptic visions of catastrophes involving the grid.

A National Academy of Sciences report last year said that terrorists could cause broad hardship for months with physical attacks on hard-to-replace components. An emerging effort led in part by R. James Woolsey, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is gearing up to pressure state legislatures to force utilities to protect equipment against an electromagnetic pulse, which could come from solar activity or be caused by small nuclear weapons exploded at low altitude, frying crucial components.

An attack using an electromagnetic pulse is laid out in extensive detail in the novel “One Second After,” published in 2009 and endorsed by Newt Gingrich. In another novel, “Gridlock,” published this summer and co-written by Byron L. Dorgan, the former senator from North Dakota, a rogue Russian agent working for Venezuela and Iran helps hackers threaten the grid. In the preface, Mr. Dorgan says such an attack could cause 10,000 times as much devastation as the terrorists’ strikes on Sept. 11, 2001.

Despite the growing anxiety, the government and the private sector have had trouble coordinating their grid protection efforts. The utility industry argues that the government has extensive information on threats but keeps it classified. Government officials concede the problem, and they have suggested that some utility executives get security clearances. But with hundreds of utilities and thousands of executives, it cannot issue such clearances fast enough. And the industry would like to be instantly warned when the government identifies Internet servers that are known to be sources of malware.

Another problem is that the electric system is so tightly integrated that a collapse in one spot, whether by error or intent, can set off a cascade, as happened in August 2003, when a power failure took a few moments to spread from Detroit to New York.

Sometimes utility engineers and law enforcement officials also seem to speak different languages. In his book “Protecting Industrial Control Systems From Electronic Threats,” Joseph Weiss, an engineer and cybersecurity expert, recounted a meeting between electrical engineers and the F.B.I. in 2008. When an F.B.I. official spoke at length about I.E.D.’s, he was referring to improvised explosive devices, but to the engineers the abbreviation meant intelligent electronic devices.

And experts fear government-sponsored hacking. Michael V. Hayden, another former C.I.A. director, speaking at the Bipartisan Policy Center conference, said that the Stuxnet virus, which disabled some of Iran’s centrifuges for enriching uranium, might invite retaliation.

“In a time of peace, someone just used a cyberweapon to destroy another nation’s critical infrastructure,” he said. “Ouch.” - NY Times.

MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: 250,000 Alpacas Found Dead From "Freezing Weather" In Puno, Peru - State Of Emergency Declared In Seven Provinces!

September 01, 2013 - PERU -  President Ollanta Humala announced that seven provinces of Puno will be declared in emergency due to heavy snowfall - which have left hundreds of families isolated and more than 250 000 dead alpacas.

(Photo: Provincial Municipality Carabaya)

The president flew over the areas affected by the low temperatures and falling snow, the worst in a decade .

Then signed the standard state of emergency declared in the provinces of Carabaya, Sandia, Lampa, San Antonio de Putina, Melgar, Puno and El Collao.

Humala, who was accompanied by Minister of Housing René Cornejo , delivered 10,000 blankets, medicines, food and other items.

Also 13 000 bags of oats and medicines for animals.
He also announced that he will return tomorrow to Puno with more help for the affected population.

Earlier, the Civil Defense deputy regional government of Puno, Percy Quispe, said it has ordered the suspension of classes in 16 schools in the province and state of immobility of the hospital staff. - Elcomercio. [Translated]