Friday, March 21, 2014

ELECTRIC UNIVERSE: The Earth's Zebraprint Jacket - NASA Discovers New Giant Striped Structure In The Electrons Of The Planet's Inner Radiation Belt; Mysterious Stripes Caused By The Rotation Of The Earth!

March 21, 2014 - EARTH - Scientists have uncovered a mysterious structure that surround the earth rather like a giant zebraprint jacket.

The stripes that surround Earth: Two giant belts of radiation surround Earth.
The inner belt is dominated by electrons and the outer one by protons.

The strange structure has never been seen before, and initially baffled scientists.

Stripes extend through the inner radiation belt, moving as the Earth rotates.

Scientists discovered the new, persistent structure in one of two radiation belts surrounding Earth.

NASA's twin Van Allen Probes spacecraft spotted the pattern, which that resembles slanted zebra stripes.

The structure is produced by the slow rotation of Earth, previously considered incapable of affecting the motion of radiation belt particles, which have velocities approaching the speed of light.

Scientists had previously believed that increased solar wind activity was the primary force behind any structures in our planet's radiation belts.

The radiation belts are dynamic doughnut-shaped regions around our planet, extending high above the atmosphere, made up of high-energy particles, both electrons and charged particles called ions, which are trapped by Earth's magnetic field.

Radiation levels across the belts are affected by solar activity that causes energy and particles to flow into near-Earth space.

 However, these zebra stripes were shown to be visible even during low solar wind activity, which prompted a new search for how they were generated.

'It is because of the unprecedented resolution of our energetic particle experiment, RBSPICE, that we now understand that the inner belt electrons are, in fact, always organized in zebra patterns,' said Aleksandr Ukhorskiy, lead author of the paper at The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, or APL, in Laurel.

 Because of the tilt in Earth's magnetic field axis, the planet's rotation generates an oscillating, weak electric field that permeates through the entire inner radiation belt.

The stretching and folding process results in the striped pattern observed across the entire inner belt, extending from above Earth's atmosphere, about 500 miles above the planet's surface up to roughly 8,000 miles.

WATCH: Van Allen Probes see Zebra Stripes.

'The RBSPICE instrument has remarkably fine resolution and so it was able to bring into focus a phenomena that we previously didn't even know existed,' said David Sibeck, the mission scientist for the Van Allen Probes at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

'Better yet, we have a great team of scientists to take advantage of these unprecedented observations: We couldn't have interpreted this data without analysis from strong theoreticians.' - Daily Mail.

DISASTER PRECURSORS: The Latest Incidents Of Strange Animal Behavior, Mass Die-Offs, Stranding & Beaching - Two Dead Sperm Whales Wash Up On A Beach In Shetland, Scotland; Death Toll Of Water Birds On Frozen Lake Erie Likely To Number In The Tens Of Thousands; Dead Grey Whale Washes Ashore Near Long Beach, Washington State; Ten-Fold Increase In The Number Of Dying Water Birds Rescued In Toronto Due To Extreme Cold; Man Snaps Photo Of Rare Black Flamingo; Dead Dwarf Sperm Whale Found At Pine Knoll Shores, North Carolina; And 26th Dolphin Found Stranded Along South Carolina's Coast This Year!

March 21, 2014 - EARTH - The following constitutes the latest incidents of mass animal die-offs, stranding, and beaching across the Earth:

Two Dead Sperm Whales Wash Up On A Beach In Shetland, Scotland.
One of the Unst sperm whales. Siobhan Pirie

Scottish Natural Heritage has confirmed that the lower jaw of one of the two dead sperm whales that washed up on a beach in Shetland earlier this month has been sawn off .  The environmental agency has been in discussion with local police about what potentially could be a wildlife crime.  However, they have not officially reported it and police confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that they are not investigating.  SNH advised that it was a crime to possess any artefact from a protected animal be it a sperm whale or a Siberian tiger.  Meanwhile, the council environmental health department is warning people to stay away from the carcasses while plans are being put in place to dispose the two whales, possibly at the weekend.  Ideally, the two 40-tonne carcasses will be towed off Scolla Wick, near Muness, and taken to nearby Sandwick beach where they could be buried.  However it will be a logistical challenge to deploy sufficient manpower and machinery, including a number of vessels, to complete the recovery and disposal within a short weather window forecast for Saturday.  Environmental health officer Patti Dinsdale said notices warning the public to keep away from the Scolla Wick site would be put up on Thursday.  She added: "Please note that while there is no specific health risk known from whales, the carcasses are decomposing and, as such, may present a public health risk.  "There is also a small risk of explosion from the build up of gases in the gut cavity."  She added: "Weather permitting, the whales will hopefully be removed at the weekend, however the area should still be avoided until the gut contents have washed away - which may take a few weeks or perhaps months depending on the weather." - Shetland News.

Death Toll Of Water Birds On Frozen Lake Erie Likely To Number Tens Of Thousands.
Red breasted mergansers and coot on Lake Erie. WKYC

The Great Lakes are the winter home to millions of sea birds and waterfowl that need open water to survive. The frigid weather of the past few months left 92 percent of the lakes covered in ice, and that left diver ducks out in the cold.Jen Brumfield, a naturalist for the Cleveland Metroparks explains, "With the freeze-over, all of these birds are piling into very, very small, open-water outlets where they become stressed. There is limited food for them there, so they starve and die." As the frozen lake thaws, carcasses of the deceased ducks are washing up along the shore by the hundreds. The waterfowl are mostly diver ducks, like greater and lesser scaup, redheads, canvasbacks, and red-breasted mergansers.Prior to dying, many ducks have flown off to look for food. They run out of strength and land in people's yards, driveways or roadways. Some have been rescued and taken to wildlife rehabilitation centers, like the one at the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center in Bay Village.

Tim Jasinski has been working to get the ducks healthy again and released back to the wild."We received 36 red-breasted mergansers since the beginning of the year. It's been pretty crazy," he said.The weak are nursed back to health on a mixture of commercial duck chow and PediaSure. As they get their strength back, they can switch to their main diet, fish. But fish are expensive."Our budget is slashed through July 31," Jasinski says. "These birds can eat up to a hundred minnows or small goldfish a day. It's very expensive."The nonprofit nature center is looking for donations to get them through. They've had more than 135 ducks brought into the center.

WATCH: Brutal winter causes massive duck die-off.

They usually see 20 over a normal winter.Tragically, some of the ducks are just too weak to survive.Brumfield says, "The Cleveland Museum of Natural History will be taking many of the deceased for study."Waterfowl dieoffs are not new, but this year the numbers are much higher due to the harsh weather."It's survival of the fittest," Brumfield said. "Mother Nature is rough, but there is good that comes from this. It weeds out the old, the sick, and strengthens the gene pool."The dead waterfowl pose no threat to humans, but if you see any, feel free to call the Cleveland Metroparks and file a report. They are tracking numbers of the dead ducks.If you see an injured duck or any injured wildlife or want to offer help, you can contact the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center. - WKYC.

Dead Grey Whale Washes Ashore Near Long Beach, Washington State.

A dead grey whale washed ashore on the Long Beach Peninsula and was observed at about 189th Street in Klipsan Beach on Thursday morning. This is near the start of the grey whales' annual northward migration in the Pacific Ocean. The whale has a visible wound in it abdomen, but this may have been post-mortem. - Chinook Observer.

Ten-Fold Increase In The Number Of Dying Water Birds Rescued In Toronto Due To Extreme Cold.
Calls about dead birds to Toronto Animal Services went up 66 per cent between Jan. 1 and Mar. 12,
compared to the same period last year. Torstar News Service

Toronto's ducks and geese are among the hardest-hit victims of this year's brutal winter weather.  Calls about dead birds - found stuck in the ice or floating lifeless in the water - shot up 66 per cent between Jan. 1 and Mar. 12 compared to the same period last year, according to Toronto Animal Services.  Meanwhile, the city's only wildlife rescue charity has been overwhelmed with dozens of fragile, injured and dying birds, making this the worst winter it has seen in 21 years of operation.  "They're weak and they're starving," said Nathalie Karvonen, executive director of the Toronto Wildlife Centre. "Some of the birds are having traumatic injuries as well because they're in a weakened state."  The centre has rescued about 10 times as many water birds as it does during a normal winter, more than 130 since December. Admissions of wildlife are up 50 per cent overall, said Karvonen.  Many water birds spend the winter on Georgian Bay, which has frozen solid for the first time in 20 years. The mass migration led to an intense food competition this year, as thousands of fish-eating birds compete for a few small pools of water.  The charitable wildlife centre has been running on overdrive, with volunteers and staff working daily overtime.

The cost of specialized food, medical supplies and even orthopedic surgery is skyrocketing, and Karvonen gently urged Toronto residents to donate.  "A lot of the birds that have been coming in . . . are exclusively fish-eaters. It's not like you can get them a bowl of bird feed," she said. "Some days we've been spending over $400 on live fish alone in one day."  Across the province and in upstate New York, water birds are starving to death. Carcasses began piling up in the hundreds in early January in the Niagara River corridor, spanning from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.  In Cobourg, Ont., one man's quest to save dying ducks and geese is taking him all the way to court.  Bill Thompson, a 73-year-old military retiree, began feeding the birds on the harbour near his home after he noticed in January they were starving. The waterfowl were lethargic and barely moving, he said.  "I had to feed them, or just let them die - and I can't do that," he said. "It was very severe.
They were just lying there."  He began visiting the harbour twice a day to feed the birds corn. But he's received two $105 tickets for violating Cobourg's bylaw against feeding wildlife, which he plans to fight in court. "If the judge says, 'Sorry, you have to pay it,' then I'll pay it," Thompson said. "It's a lot more important to keep birds alive than a couple hundred dollars."  Defenders of the bylaws say that feeding birds is illegal because it often results in negative consequences for wildlife. Ducks and geese have survived for thousands of years without handouts, experts point out.  But Thompson said he's lived by the lake since 2007 and has never fed the birds until this year, because the winter has never been this severe. He plans to stop feeding them as soon as the ice melts.  "Because they've been fed, they're starting to act normally . . . they're very active now, whereas before they were very lethargic," he said. "It's like night and day."  The Toronto Wildlife Centre is urging the public to call 416-631-0662 or visit if they see an animal in danger. - Metro News.

Man Snaps Photo Of Rare Black Flamingo.
This photograph, taken by Don Presser of Carmel, shows what could be
the world's only "documented" black flamingo, in a salt pond in Eilat, Israel.
Other photos have been taken in the Middle East of what is believed
to be the same bird. Dan Presser/Contributed Photo
When he couldn't find any snakes on a desert plain, a Carmel man turned his camera lens to a salt pond and captured an even rarer sight - a black-feathered flamingo.  Don Presser, 70, photographed what he said could be the "one and only black flamingo in the world" on a trip to Eilat, Israel, in February. Presser sent the image to Monterey County bird experts who identified it as a rare melanistic Greater Flamingo.  Other photographs of a darkly-hued flamingo in Eilat first appeared on birding websites last spring, and some sites also claimed the bird is one of a kind. It's unclear if what Presser saw is the same bird.  "I think there's only one, but there might be more," he said. "Let's put it this way: it's very rare."  Bird experts at the San Diego Zoo have heard reports of the melanistic - or darkly colored - flamingo, although none was familiar enough with the case to comment on it further, said Christina Simmons, a public relations officer at the zoo.  Tim Fitzer of the Sacramento Audubon Society said he hasn't heard of the bird, but he isn't surprised by it. The odds of a flamingo being born melanistic are very low, he said, but there are lots of flamingos out there.  "Anything can happen, you know?" Fitzer said. 

Presser, who owns FourWinds Travel in Carmel, traveled to Eilat in the southern deserts of Israel hoping to photograph snakes, but cold, rainy weather ruined any chance of that, he said. But he loves taking pictures of all critters, he said, and noticed a stand of flamingos wading in a salt pond. The black-feathered beauty stood out and Presser asked his tour guide about the animal.  "He said, 'That can't be a flamingo. There's no such thing as a black flamingo,'" Presser recalled. While the guide went on with the tour, Presser got to a better a vantage point and snapped a few photos. "It looks like a duck. It quacks like a duck. It might be a black flamingo," he reasoned.  Flamingos are famously pink, but they can have a genetic irregularity that causes them to produce extra amounts of a pigment called melanin. When a flamingo has this condition, it appears unusually brown or black and is called melanistic, said Don Roberson, author of the book Monterey Birds.  Albino animals have a similar condition, except their melanin is in short supply or absent. Leucism is another related condition and a white, leucistic hummingbird has been fluttering around Hatton Valley in Carmel, Roberson said. The hummingbird may appear albino at first glance, but it doesn't have the pink eyes and feet of albino birds.  Melanistic animals are thought to be less common than albino animals, according to information provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University. It could be, however, that albino animals are simply easier to spot, Roberson said.  "That's just an educated guess," he said. In any case, he said, the dark-feathered flamingo "is quite rare." - Monterey Herald.

Dead Dwarf Sperm Whale Found At Pine Knoll Shores, North Carolina.
A whale that washed up onshore in Pine Knoll Shores has been identified as a Dwarf Sperm Whale. This is the smallest species of whale in the world and rarely spotted at sea.  Scientist Keith Rittmaster of the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort says most everything scientists know about the Dwarf Sperm Whale has been found out by studying ones that have washed ashore, like the one from this past weekend.  Rittmaster says it is hard to even determine how many Dwarf Sperms there are in the world, since they are hard to spot and definitively identify at sea. Dwarf Sperm Whales look very similar to Pygmy Sperm Whales, which are more common.  The whale that washed up near the Trinity Center off of Salter Path Road was 452 pounds and about 7.5 ft. Scientists quickly identified it as a fully grown adult male. 

Rittmaster says the Dwarf Sperm live in deep water dozens of miles off the coast. He says scientists puzzle over how Sperm Whales, so recently dead, can make it all the way to shore.  The whale was necropsied, which is an autopsy performed on an animal. The cause of death is still unknown but will hopefully be determined when the results come in.  Scientists and volunteers from the NC Maritime Museum, Trinity Center, NC State University's Center for Marine Sciences and Technology, NC Division of Marine Fisheries, and Carteret Community College, UNC Wilmington participated also and two veterinary residents from NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine all helped with the necropsy.  The skeleton of the whale was buried near the Trinity Center under 3ft of sand. This will naturally decompose the whale.  The excavated bones are hoped to go on display at the Trinity Center, near where the whale was initially found. The center teaches area children about science, nature, and animals.  If you find a stranded animal, call The regional Marine Mammal Stranding Network reporting hotline at 252-241-5119. - WCTI12.

26th Dolphin Found Stranded Along South Carolina's Coast This Year.
Dolphin in Broad Creek. (Hilton Head) Island Packet

A dying bottlenose dolphin washed ashore Monday morning on a southern Hilton Head Island beach, the 26th dolphin stranded along South Carolina's coast this year, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marine biologist.  The dolphin was found alive on the beach between Sea Pines and Marriott's Grande Ocean Resort at about 8 a.m., but it died before marine biologists could reach it, said marine mammal stranding program scientist Wayne McFee.  McFee said no cause of death has been determined, but a necropsy would be performed Tuesday in Charleston.  A likely cause is the morbillivirus strain that has ravaged dolphin populations along the East Coast. McFee said 95 percent of the dolphins tested for the virus have tested positive.  In 2013, there were 112 stranded dolphins in the state, the "highest South Carolina has ever seen," McFee said.  McFee said people who come across dolphins on beaches should leave them alone and call the Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 800-922-5431.  He said people tried repeatedly to push the dolphin found Monday back into the ocean. Pushing it back into the water doesn't help the animal and could result in injury to the person if the dolphin tries to resist, he said.  S.C. Department of Natural Resources Lt. Michael Paul Thomas said people should not handle the dolphins because of the possibility of transmitting diseases. The morbillivirus cannot be transmitted to humans, but infected dolphins could be carrying other diseases or bacteria that can be transmitted, he said. - Slate.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Global Seismic Uptick - Powerful Magnitude 6.7 Earthquake Strikes Off India's Nicobar Islands! [MAPS+ESTIMATES]

March 21, 2014 - INDIA - A powerful 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck off India's Nicobar Islands on Friday, the U.S. Geological Service initially reported at 13:41:07 UTC.

The quake hit at a relatively shallow depth of 6.2 miles  or 10 kilometres and was located at 7.769°N 94.325°.

Magnitude 6.7 earthquake strikes off India's Nicobar Islands
USGS earthquake location map.

Magnitude 6.7 earthquake strikes off India's Nicobar Islands
USGS earthquake shakemap intensity map.

The epicentre was about 68 miles southeast of Misha, Nicobar Islands, in the Indian Ocean, the agency said.

The tremor was later downgraded to a magnitude of 6.5.

An official at the provincial disaster management control room said there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage but the earthquake had been felt by islanders.

Magnitude 6.7 earthquake strikes off India's Nicobar Islands
USGS earthquake uncertainty ratio map.

Magnitude 6.7 earthquake strikes off India's Nicobar Islands
USGS earthquake population exposure map.

The official said there was no tsunami alert.

Neither NOAA's National Tsunami Warning Center or Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning, watch or advisory.

Magnitude 6.7 earthquake strikes off India's Nicobar Islands
USGS earthquake estimates and losses.

Magnitude 6.7 earthquake strikes off India's Nicobar Islands
USGS earthquake estimates and losses.

More details awaited on disaster impact. Watch this space for updates.

Andaman and Nicobar is made up of more than 500 mostly uninhabited islands.  The entire island chain is also susceptible to tsunamis both from large local quakes and also from massive distant shocks.

The map below, shows all historically recorded earthquakes in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Earthquakes having magnitudes greater than 4.0 since 1973 are also shown. Two prominent red triangles visible to the north-east of Port Blair, i.e. in the top half of the map, are the only volcanoes in India.

The northernmost of the two is the Barren Island Volcano. This volcano has erupted in recent times. The other volcano is called Narcondam and is dormant. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are located near the boundary of the Indian plate and the Burmese Microplate.

Magnitude 6.7 earthquake strikes off India's Nicobar Islands
ASC earthquake historical seismicity

The Andaman Trench marks this boundary and lies in the Bay of Bengal to the west of the archipelago. Another prominent feature is the north-south West Andaman fault which is strike-slip in nature and lies in the Andaman Sea, to the east of this island chain. The Andaman Sea, just like the Atlantic Ocean, is presently being widened by a tectonic process called "Sea Floor spreading".

This is taking place along undersea ridges on the seafloor. The Indian plate is diving beneath the Burmese Microplate along the Andaman Trench in a process known as "Subduction". Shallow and occasional intermediate-depth earthquakes delineate the subducted slab under the Andaman-Nicobar islands joining the seismicity trend of the Indo-Burman ranges.

However, it must be stated that proximity to faults does not necessarily translate into a higher hazard as compared to areas located further away, as damage from earthquakes depends on numerous factors such as subsurface geology as well as adherence to the building codes.

SOURCES: Reuters | ASC.

Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of the Sumatra Region
The plate boundary southwest of Sumatra is part of a long tectonic collision zone that extends over 8000 km from Papua in the east to the Himalayan front in the west. The Sumatra-Andaman portion of the collision zone forms a subduction zone megathrust plate boundary, the Sunda-Java trench, which accommodates convergence between the Indo-Australia and Sunda plates. This convergence is responsible for the intense seismicity and volcanism in Sumatra. The Sumatra Fault, a major transform structure that bisects Sumatra, accommodates the northwest-increasing lateral component of relative plate motion.

Relative plate motion between the Indo-Australia and Sunda plates is rapid, decreasing from roughly 63 mm/year near the southern tip of Sumatra (Australia relative to Sunda) to 44 mm/year north of Andaman Islands (India relative to Sunda) and rotating counterclockwise to the northwest, so that relative motion near Jakarta is nearly trench-normal but becomes nearly trench-parallel near Myanmar. As a result of the rotation in relative motion along the strike of the arc and the interaction of multiple tectonic plates, several interrelated tectonic elements compose the Sumatra-Andaman plate boundary. Most strain accumulation and release occurs along the Sunda megathrust of the main subduction zone, where lithosphere of the subducting Indo-Australia plate is in contact with the overlying Sunda plate down to a depth of 60 km. Strain release associated with deformation within the subducting slab is evidenced by deeper earthquakes that extend to depths of less than 300 km on Sumatra and 150 km or less along the Andaman Islands. The increasingly oblique convergence between these two plates moving northwest along the arc is accommodated by crustal seismicity along a series of transform and normal faults. East of the Andaman Islands, back- arc spreading in the Andaman Sea produces a zone of distributed normal and strike-slip faulting. Similar to the Sumatran Fault, the Sagaing Fault near Myanmar also accommodates the strike-slip component of oblique plate motion. Plate-boundary related deformation is also not restricted to the subduction zone and overriding plate: the subducting Indo-Australian plate actually comprises two somewhat independent plates (India and Australia), with small amounts of motion relative to one another, that are joined along a broad, actively-deforming region producing seismicity up to several hundred kilometers west of the trench. This deformation is exemplified by the recent April 2012 earthquake sequence, which includes the April 11 M 8.6 and M 8.2 strike-slip events and their subsequent aftershocks.

USGS earthquake plate tectonics.

Paleoseismic studies using coral reefs as a proxy for relative land level changes associated with earthquake displacement suggest that the Sunda arc has repeatedly ruptured during relatively large events in the past, with records extending as far back as the 10th century. In northern Simeulue Island, the southern terminus of the 2004 megathrust earthquake rupture area, a cluster of megathrust earthquakes occurred over a 56 year period between A.D. 1390 and 1455, resulting in uplift substantially greater than that caused by the 2004 event. Studies that look at large sheeted deposits of sand on land interpreted as the transport of debris from a tsunami wave also indicate that this region has experienced significant tsunamis in the past centuries, albeit infrequently.

Prior to 2004, the most recent megathrust earthquakes along the Sumatran-Andaman plate boundary were in 1797 (M 8.7-8.9), 1833 (M 8.9-9.1) and 1861 (M8.5). Since 2004, much of the Sunda megathrust between the northern Andaman Islands and Enggano Island, a distance of more than 2,000 km, has ruptured in a series of large subduction zone earthquakes - most rupturing the plate boundary south of Banda Aceh. The great M 9.1 earthquake of December 26, 2004, which produced a devastating tsunami, ruptured much of the boundary between Myanmar and Simeulue Island offshore Banda Aceh. Immediately to the south of the great 2004 earthquake, the M 8.6 Nias Island earthquake of March 28, 2005 ruptured a 400-km section between Simeulue and the Batu Islands. Farther south in the Mentawai islands, two earthquakes on September 12, 2007 of M 8.5 and M 7.9 occurred in the southern portion of the estimated 1797 and 1833 ruptures zone, which extends from approximately Enggano Island to the northern portion of Siberut Island. Smaller earthquakes have also been locally important: a M 7.6 rupture within the subducting plate caused considerable damage in Padang in 2009, and a M 7.8 rupture on October 25, 2010 occurred on the shallow portion of the megathrust to the west of the Mentawai Islands, and caused a substantial tsunami on the west coast of those islands.

In addition to the current seismic hazards along this portion of the Sunda arc, this region is also recognized as having one of the highest volcanic hazards in the world. One of the most dramatic eruptions in human history was the Krakatau eruption on August 26-27, 1883, a volcano just to the southeast of the island of Sumatra, which resulted in over 35, 000 casualties.

Subduction and seismicity along the plate boundary adjacent to Java is fundamentally different from that of the Sumatran-Andaman section. Relative motion along the Java arc is trench-normal (approximately 65-70 mm/year) and does not exhibit the same strain partitioning and back-arc strike- slip faulting that are observed along the Sumatra margin. Neither has the Java subduction zone hosted similar large magnitude megathrust events to those of its neighbor, at least in documented history. Although this region is not as seismically active as the Sumatra region, the Java arc has hosted low to intermediate-magnitude extensional earthquakes and deep-focus (300-700 km) events and exhibits a similar if not higher volcanic hazard. This arc has also hosted two large, shallow tsunami earthquakes in the recent past which resulted in high tsunami run-ups along the southern Java coast. - USGS.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: More Sinkholes Keep Popping Up Across The United States - A Massive Sinkhole Opens Up On South 14th Street In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Fire Engine Gets Stuck In 8 Feet Deep Sinkhole In Indianapolis; Road Closed By Sinkhole At Intersection In Central Toledo; Sinkhole Shuts Down Several Roads Through Valley Forge National Historical Park, Philadelphia; Large Sinkhole Growing On Alexandrine Street, Detroit; Cemetery Sinkholes Concern Neighbors In Allentown, Philadelphia; And Man Rescued From Sinkhole In Apollo Beach, Tampa!

March 21, 2014 - UNITED STATES - The following stories are the latest reports of sinkholes in the United States over the last few days:

Massive Sinkhole On South 14th Street In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Workers make repairs at the scene of a water main break in the 1400 block of South 14th Street in Harrisburg,
where a resulting sinkhole caused evacuation of seven homes.

Repairs are under way at the scene of a water main break in the 1400 block of South 14th Street in Harrisburg, where a resulting sinkhole caused evacuation of seven homes.

UGI has shut off service for a two-block area, since gas lines were exposed in the sinkholes, said Andrew Bliss, community outreach manager for Capital Region Water (formerly the Harrisburg Authority).

The water shut-off has affected about 45 houses on South 14th Street south of Magnolia Street, Bliss said. Bliss said the sinkhole was caused due to the water main break.

UGI has shut off service for a two-block area, since gas lines were exposed in the sinkhole.

The water shut-off has affected about 45 houses on South 14th Street south of Magnolia Street.

Crews are now assessing how long the repairs may take, Bliss said. UGI and city public works and fire company personnel are also on scene.

Residents have been advised to go to Hall Manor Community Center for bathroom facilities, he said. “As we assess repair time, we will bring in water or work with the Red Cross,” Bliss said.

A shelter has also reportedly been set up nearby at the Mount Olive Baptist Church along the 1300 block of South 14th Street.

Capital Region Water was notified of the water main break around 6:30 a.m., he said. The main broke in the center of the street, but the largest sinkhole is on the sidewalk and yard closest to the break, he said. - Penn Live.

Fire Engine Gets Stuck In 8 Feet Deep Sinkhole In Indianapolis.
Indianapolis Fire Department

An Indianapolis Fire Department engine got stuck in a sinkhole on the city's south side on Monday night.

It happened at Boyd and Finley avenues, near East Raymond Street and Interstate 65.

According to a tweet from IFD, the engine was on its way to a fire when the incident happened. The fire was minimal in an unoccupied residence.

Officials say the sinkhole is 4 feet x 8 feet deep. No one was hurt.

According to IFD, the engine was not damaged. It was taken to the IFD Shops and found to be OK and has remained in service. - WISH TV.

Road Closed By Sinkhole At Intersection In Central Toledo.
This sinkhole by Fernwood and Detroit has caused traffic to reroute.

A sinkhole has closed an intersection in central Toledo until repairs can be made.

The opening was reported Monday near the intersection of Fernwood and Detroit Avenues.

The city says the hole is too deep to be repaired by city crews, so a contractor has been called in. That contractor is expected to begin work on the hole Tuesday. The hole could take a day or two to repair, according to the city.

Toledo is no stranger to sinkholes. Last July, a water main break caused a sinkhole to open near the intersection of Detroit and Bancroft. A car fell in, but the driver made it out alive. - Toledo News Now.

Sinkhole Shuts Down Several Roads Through Valley Forge National Historical Park, Philadelphia.

A sewer main break in Valley Forge National Historical Park has forced the closure of several roads at the site.

Officials say the break in a 30-inch line, under the intersection at Route 252 and Route 23, was reported to state environmental officials shortly before 11 a.m.

Crews from Tredyffrin Township Sewer Authority in Chester County were dispatched as waste water pouring from the rupture, ran across the roadway and into the nearby Valley Creek which feeds into the Schuylkill River.

A sinkhole also developed in the roadway as a result of the break.

WATCH: Sewer leak gives way to sinkhole in Valley Forge Park.

As a result, all roads that run through Valley Forge National Historical Park are closed, including:
- Route 23 eastbound from Davis Road to Rt 252
- Route 23 westbound from N. Gulph Rd to Rt 252
- Route 252 is closed northbound from the PA Turnpike
- North and South Outer Line Drives
- Gulph Rd is closed from Thomas Rd to Rt 23
- Yellow Springs Rd. is closed at the Covered Bridge

PennDOT ordered the closure of Route 252 in the area of the sewer line break and set up road blocks at Route 252 at Yellow Springs Road.

Route 23 between North Gulph Road and Thomas Drive also is closed.

PennDOT is urging motorists to avoid the park.

Meanwhile, township officials say it may be a few days until the line is repaired and the road fixed.

Investigators from the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Pennsylvania Fish Commission and the National Park Service are monitoring the situation.

It is the second break in the same sewer lines in that general area. Crews responded to a similar break on Feb. 6. - CBS Philly.

Large Sinkhole Growing On Alexandrine Street, Detroit.

Those who pass by a growing sinkhole on Alexandrine Street in Detroit are becoming concerned about the condition and safety of the street.

Chris Estham lives nearby and says, at first, he thought the hole was a pothole, but then noticed it was about six feet deep and 20 feet wide when he got a closer look.

The sinkhole is also becoming hazardous for nearby businesses. The parking lot of Slows To Go, a popular restaurant, is right next to the sinkhole, and Ladder 20 uses the alley to back up its trucks into their garage.

Estham says he called the city weeks ago about the problem but has not seen any action, and since then the problem has worsened.

FOX 2 has learned the abandoned manhole was not backfilled, and the cavity beneath it create the sinkhole.

The company Detroit Thermal is responsible for it and put a steel plate on top of the hole Monday morning.

A spokesperson says Detroit Thermal is now checking other abandoned manholes to prevent more sinkholes from emerging. No word on the timetable for the long-term fix, but the company says the sinkhole on Alexandrine will be repaired soon. - MyFOXDetroit.

Cemetery Sinkholes Concern Neighbors In Allentown, Philadelphia.

A historic Allentown cemetery with a history of sinkhole troubles nearby looks like it could be having a case of deja vu. This time, the caving ground is inside the Union and West End Cemetery and the openings caught the attention of neighbors. "My concern is that a kid could be running around here and he could injure himself by falling," said Hector Ortiz. Ricardo Ortiz said, "When I see that, it gets me worried when I have my kids around." Everette Carr, the president of the Union and West End Cemetery Association, said, "Basically it's a sinkhole caused by all the wet moisture, the heavy snows and the fact that the snow melted and ran underground and because we're dealing with limestone, it just gave away." Carr came out Friday evening and put cones in front of one of the openings.

He locked the main gate on North 10th Street but is keeping a pedestrian gate open. "Monday morning I'm going to get in touch with the Allentown Street Department and see if they've got some gravel or other fill that they can bring in here and help fill us in so we have it safe as quick as possible," said Carr. The non-profit cemetery has 22,000 graves, the earliest dating back to 1854. "It's not unusual for graves to sink. Now this is a little unusual in that it doesn't involve a grave but nonetheless it's the same soil throughout so with heavy rains or snow we're inevitably going to have this sort of thing," said Carr. A few years ago a sinkhole opened up right outside the cemetery on North 10th Street. Officials were prepared to move 54 graves but ended up not needing to do so. As for the current issue, Carr said, "We're going to fill it in just as quick as we can." "That's really good," said Hector Ortiz. - WFMZ.

Man Rescued From Sinkhole In Apollo Beach, Tampa.

A man had to be hospitalized after he was freed from a giant hole filled with water and mud.

Rescue crews had to race against time to recover that man who was stuck in the muddy, water-filled hole for almost three hours. According to authorities, the man was working when the ground suddenly collapsed around him in Apollo Beach, near Tampa, Thursday, at around 3 p.m.

In video from the scene, you could see the man stuck in mud up to his waist as rescue crews worked to free him. Reports indicated the hole is approximately 30 feet deep by 30 feet wide.

Rescuers at the scene tried to keep his head above water as the worker used his free hand to push mud and water away. Paramedics put an IV in his arm, giving him water to drink while they worked to get him out.

Two other co-workers tried to free him earlier, but they wound up in the hospital for exhaustion. The local fire chief spoke to media about their valiant rescue efforts. "The workers who were with him had fashioned an apparatus to try to secure him and that apparatus-- actually secured to a 4x4-- actually sunk down deeper into the mud. Now what we were trying to do was get him free from that wood, initially. Once we did, we were able to get his right leg out. For the last probably half-hour we've been working here. He's been out with the exception of his lower left leg, which we were finally able to get out."

Officials also noted hypothermia was a concern, despite the warm Florida temperatures.

Officials said the location is a site for the construction of new homes. Crews had to call in a specialized rescue team to help remove the man.

The worker was taken to the hospital where his condition remains unknown. We will bring more information on his condition as it becomes available to us. - WSVN.

EXTREME WEATHER: Colorado Neighborhood Overrun With Massive Tumbleweeds - Tornado-Like High Winds Blow Piles Of Weed As High As 10 Feet In Some Places!

March 21, 2014 - COLORADO, UNITED STATES - High winds are to blame for a shockingly large amount of tumbleweeds that have blown into a neighborhood south of Colorado Springs.

Resident Melissa Walker talks with CBS4′s Stan Bush. (credit: CBS)

The tumbleweeds piled up in front of homes in a new development in the town of Fountain, and the piles that covered the road and cars were are as high as 10 feet in some places.

Residents say the tumbleweeds blew in in an instant, and that the winds that brought them in were so strong it felt like a tornado.

The tumbleweeds climbed up the sides of some homes and the bundles of branches blocked driveways, sidewalks and windows.

(credit: CBS)

“My wife got home from work and said she couldn’t get in the garage and I got home shortly after her to find all the tumbleweeds,” said Ben, a homeowner in the neighborhood. He said their house has been invaded by tumbleweeds other times but their’s is usually the only one.

This week’s situation is much different, he said.

Neighbors are now working to clean up the mess. They say representatives from El Paso County and their HOA have told them they won’t help with the cleanup.

(credit: CBS)

“Everybody we’ve called has said it’s up to us. We have to pay to get them removed. We have to deal with it,” said resident Melissa Walker. “Our property, our mess.”

On Tuesday one resident was blindly bulldozing a path through the branches in his pickup truck. Others were out with snow shovels and brooms.

High winds blow piles of tumbleweeds into Colorado Springs.

Most of the tumbleweeds now sit across the street from many of the homes in a rectangular area that’s almost as big as a football field. If a new wind event were to move in, the tumbleweeds would likely just create a big mess in the neighborhood all over again.

Tumbleweeds pose a fire hazard in dry conditions. - CBS Denver.

WORLD WAR III & GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN: The Ukrainian Fallout - Fitch Ratings Agency Cuts Russia's Credit Outlook, As U.S. And EU Widen Sanction Lists!

March 21, 2014 - GLOBAL ECONOMY - Russia’s credit rating outlook was cut to negative by Fitch Ratings, citing the potential impact on a slowing economy of widening U.S. and European Union sanctions imposed as it absorbs Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking at a meeting of the Russian Union of Industrialists and
Entrepreneurs (RSPP) during Russia Business Week in Moscow on March 20, 2014.
Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Fitch followed a similar move by Standard & Poor’s yesterday. Both companies affirmed the former Soviet republic at BBB, the second-lowest investment grade, on par with Brazil. Yields on 10-year sovereign ruble bonds rose to 9.66 percent, within 13 basis points of the five-year high on March 14, while The ruble continued declines.

European Union leaders added 12 names to their list of Russians and Ukrainians hit with asset freezes and travel bans, and U.S. President Barack Obama yesterday ordered financial sanctions against a wider swath of officials and billionaires seen as allies to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Since U.S. and EU banks and investors may well be reluctant to lend to Russia under the current circumstances, the economy may slow further and the private sector may require official support,” Fitch said in a statement.

Sanctions War

Russia and the West are facing spiraling sanctions, with the Foreign Ministry in Moscow saying today it’s preparing to expand a list published yesterday of sanctions against nine U.S. lawmakers and officials. The Kremlin has accused the West of ignoring ultranationalist threats in Ukraine with the ouster of its president last month, while Russia’s intervention in the Crimean peninsula has driven relations with the West to a post-Cold War low.

Even before the U.S. and the EU announced sanctions, the economy was showing signs of “crisis,” Deputy Economy Minister Sergei Belyakov said March 17.

“Growth slowed to 1.3 percent in 2013 and investment is contracting,” Fitch said. It has lowered its forecast for Russia’s economic expansion to less than 1 percent this year, while S&P cut its growth estimate to 1.2 percent in 2014.

With Russia on the verge of annexing Crimea and massing troops near Ukraine’s eastern border, the U.S. and the EU are moving to coordinate responses as they press Putin to back down.

Russian companies have to repay more than $80 billion of debt by the end of the year, according to Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev.

Scrapped Sale

“Global creditors are reluctant to agree to prolong loans, that’s why we have to substitute this credit mass with internal sources,” Ulyukayev said yesterday in Moscow.

The Finance Ministry scrapped its sixth local debt sale of this year on March 18, as borrowing costs soared amid the crisis with Ukraine.

Russian 10-year government ruble bonds fell, pushing the yield up 35 basis points, or 0.35 percentage point, to 9.66 percent. The ruble declined 0.1 percent to 42.6165 against Bank Rossii’s dollar-euro basket by 1:07 p.m. in Moscow, extending this year’s decline to about 10 percent.

“If corporate financing needs cannot be met in the markets, the authorities could draw on ample foreign-currency reserves to provide foreign-currency liquidity, through the state-owned banks or from the Reserve Fund,” Fitch said.

Russia’s foreign-currency and gold reserves fell to $493.2 billion as of March 14 from $509.6 billion at the start of the year, the central bank said yesterday.

Capital Outflow

S&P said yesterday that about $60 billion has left Russia in the first three months of this year, approaching the total outflow for the whole 2013.

Obama is set to travel next week to Europe, where he’ll consult with European Union officials about coordinated action to increase pressure on Russia. EU leaders meet today to try to formulate a unified position.

Moody’s Investors Service rates Russia as Baa1, the third-lowest investment grade, with a stable outlook, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Yields on government bonds have fallen in half the instances when a rating action by Moody’s and S&P suggests they should climb, according to data compiled by Bloomberg on 314 upgrades, downgrades and outlook changes going back as far as the 1970s. When S&P downgraded the U.S. government in August 2011, bonds rose and pushed Treasury yields to record lows.

“I see no signs that Russia’s ability to service its debt is worsening,” Deputy Finance Minister Alexey Moiseev said by phone. The budget is being carried out without a deficit, he said. Russia had two-month budget surplus of 30.5 billion rubles, or 0.3 percent of gross domestic product, according to Finance Ministry data.  - Bloomberg.

ICE AGE NOW: A Year Without Spring - Snow To Hit Quickly On First Weekend Of Spring In The United States?!

March 21, 2014 - UNITED STATES - There will be two fast-moving areas of snow to watch during the first weekend of spring: One will spread over the northern tier states and the other will hit part of the mid-South.

The areas of snow and the return of colder air will put another damper on outdoor activities. Where the snow falls at night into the morning hours, another round of travel problems are possible.

A stripe of accumulating snow is forecast to reach from parts of North Dakota, northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to upstate New York and northern New England, as well as neighboring areas of Canada.

A few inches of snow can fall in part of this swath as it moves along from west to east spanning Friday and Saturday.

Cities in the path of the spring snowfall include Fargo, N.D.; Duluth, Minn.; Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.; Watertown, N.Y.; Burlington, Vt.; Caribou, Maine; Toronto, Ontario; and Montreal.

A second area that may experience a change to a wintry mix or a period of accumulating snow will reach from parts of northern Arkansas and southern Missouri to portions of Kentucky, northern Tennessee, southwestern Virginia and southern West Virginia.

The timing for this southern wintry precipitation is Saturday night over the Central states to Sunday morning over the Appalachians.

According to Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity, "As long as that southern storm system remains weak, it is likely fail to bring accumulating snow over the I-95 mid-Atlantic on Sunday, but it will have to be watched."

A warm Saturday will precede the snow in the Mississippi and Ohio valley states, as well as the southern Appalachians and mid-Atlantic. High temperatures are forecast to be near 60 F at Cape Girardeau, Mo., in the 60s F around London, Ky., and close to 70 F near Roanoke, Va., on Saturday.

Folks traveling along the I-64, I-77 and I-81 corridors in this area may want to keep an eye on the storm.

As has been the case so many times in recent weeks, the atmosphere is certainly capable of doing a 180-degree flip from one day to the next in terms of temperature and precipitation.

Much colder air will advance to the east and south from the Mississippi River Valley to much of the Atlantic coast Saturday night and Sunday.

The fresh push of cold air could set the stage for another storm and a more broad area of snow Tuesday into Wednesday of next week from portions of the South to the mid-Atlantic and New England. - AccuWeather.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: More Drug-Resistant Infections Seen In U.S. Children - Increase Risk Of Death!

March 21, 2014 - UNITED STATES - A growing number of American children are developing infections caused by a worrisome type of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a new study reports.


While still rare, the bacteria are being found more often in children of all ages, especially those who are 1 to 5 years old, the study found.

Investigators analyzed samples collected from children nationwide between 1999 and 2011 to assess the prevalence of the antibiotic-resistant type of bacteria called Enterobacteriaceae, which produces an enzyme called extended-spectrum beta lactamase (ESBL).

The enzyme defeats many strong antibiotics, the study authors said.

The researchers also measured ESBL prevalence by looking at rates of resistance to third-generation cephalosporins, which are an important class of antibiotics used to treat many infections.

The prevalence of ESBL-producing bacteria rose from 0.28 percent in 1999 to 0.92 percent in 2011. And resistance to third-generation cephalosporins climbed from 1.4 percent to 3 percent, the study found.

ESBL-producing bacteria were found in children of all ages nationwide, but slightly more than half were found in youngsters 1 to 5 years old. About 74 percent of these bacteria were resistant to many types of antibiotics.

The study appears online March 20 in the Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society.

"These antibiotic-resistant bacteria have traditionally been found in health care settings but are increasingly being found in the community, in people who have not had a significant history of health care exposure," study author Dr. Latania Logan, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said in a journal news release.

The rate of these infections in children is still low, but ESBL-producing bacteria can spread rapidly, Logan and colleagues noted.

They added that these bacteria have been linked to longer hospital stays, increased risk of death and higher health care costs.

When treating children with suspected bacterial infections, doctors should obtain cultures to determine which antibiotics would be most effective, the researchers said.

"Some infections in children that have typically been treated with oral antibiotics in the past may now require hospitalization, treatment with intravenous drugs, or both, as there may not be an oral option available," the study authors concluded. - CBS News.