LARGEST QUAKES -
This morning -
5.1 EASTER ISLAND REGION
5.1 SOUTH OF TONGA
5.4 FIJI REGION
5.8 SAKHALIN, RUSSIA
5.0 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.5 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
6.7 OFFSHORE BIO-BIO, CHILE
TROPICAL STORMS -
Cyclone TOMAS was 922 nmi NNE of Auckland, New Zealand.
Cyclone ULUI was 723 nmi ENE of Townsville, Australia.
AUSTRALIA - Swells of up to four metres could pound Queensland's coastline as a severe cyclone edges closer. Tropical Cyclone Ului poses no immediate threat to the Queensland coast as it hovers in the Coral Sea, about 1310km northeast of Mackay. The category four cyclone is moving slowly west-south-west and is expected to remain well offshore for the next few days. It is expected to adopt a more southerly to southeasterly track tonight but it's possible Ului could move closer to Queensland at the end of the week. If it does, huge swells of up to four metres could batter the state's coastline. Cyclone Ului and a high pressure system in the Tasman Sea have been creating rough seas for boats with three to four-metre swells in open waters off Queensland's coast Tuesday.
The South Pacific island nation of Fiji has suffered overwhelming damage from a powerful cyclone that battered its shores for more than three days. Only one death has been reported, but the full extent of the damage has yet to be determined because communications to the hardest hit areas were cut off for days. Cyclone Tomas, packing winds of up to 130 mph (205 kph) at its center and gusts of up to 175 mph (280 kph), started hitting Fiji late Friday. It blasted through the northern Lau and Lomaiviti island groups and the northern coast of the second biggest island, Vanua Levu, before losing strength as it moved out to sea Wednesday. Power, water, sewage and other services were disrupted in many northern areas, with all airstrips and airports closed and storm surges smashing into coastal villages and schools. Sea surges of up to 23 feet (7 meters) were reported in the Lau island group, which was hit head-on by the cyclone, causing major flooding. The surges will take at least 36 hours to subside.
Tropical storm Hubert battered Madagascar on 10 March, cutting off entire communities in the southeast from emergency aid. A limited amount of relief - mainly food items - has been flown in because of damage to infrastructure, and aid agencies are trying to reach people in need of assistance via the river systems. According to the latest estimates, "36 people lost their lives and some 85,000 have been affected", and eight people lost their lives in mudslides on 15 March. We now have a problem with logistics - many roads have been cut off and many communities are now isolated", particularly in the southeastern province of Fianarantsoa. In previous years the BNGRC had managed to store relief items throughout the country in anticipation of the "cyclone season", but this year pre-positioning had not been possible due to drought in the south in early 2009 which depleted stocks. Madagascar lies in the main path of storms crossing the western Indian Ocean and is battered by cyclones every year; five have struck in the last two years, affecting over 463,000 people.
The cyclone season typically runs from November to April, but this year it has been relatively mild and Hubert was the first storm to cause major destruction. However, the Malagasy Meteorological Service has warned that there might be more severe storms before the season ends.
HEAVY RAINS, SEVERE STORMS, FLOODING, LANDSLIDES -
AUSTRALIA - Towns in northwestern NSW are likely to face weeks of isolation due to slow moving floodwaters from Queensland. Following torrential rain that deluged southern parts of Queensland in late February and early March, towns across the northwest are already being cut off by floodwaters. Locals were bracing for major flooding as the floodwaters worked their way down the Darling, Culgoa, Warrego and Paroo rivers, with some towns likely to suffer weeks of isolation. Peaks are expected on several of these rivers from midweek through to early May.
Since the beginning of the year, New South Wale's drought-declared area has halved from 81 to 39.8 per cent of the state - a 25 per cent reduction from last month and the best result in four years. ''We've had over the last two months nearly half of our average rainfall for the year...The situation has not been this good since March, 2006 - exactly four years ago.'' ''There are still some unlucky patches of country. Particularly for those farmers growing wheat - they will still need significant rain in July, August, September to achieve a wheat crop at the end of the year."
U.S. EAST COAST - While this past weekend’s weather may not be characterized as the “storm of the century,” it was still very significant and caused large scale power outages, tree loss, flooding and inconvenience for residents of the North Shore of Long Island. The strong nor’easter included tidal flooding, tropical storm-like conditions and wind gusts close to hurricane strength. Bayville clocked in with the second highest wind gusts on Long Island at 64 MPH. Only Merrick was higher at 68MPH.
"This weekend's storm has taken a toll on New York. More than a quarter of a million New Yorkers were without power this morning (March 15), including 250,000 on Long Island...Scores of roads are closed or are blocked by downed tree limbs, trees and wires." Nassau County 911 operators received almost 10,000 calls on Saturday alone. An average weekend brings in about 2,000 calls. A resident of Centre Island said that the wind sounded like “a freight train.” With a RECORD RAINFALL of 4.39 inches, scores of trees were down and roads were flooded.
“New York residents should not be left shouldering all of the costs from this storm. The federal government must step in immediately to help residents in New York City, Long Island, and the Lower Hudson Valley. Local utilities have reported that THE WEEKEND NOR'EASTER WAS THE WORST STORM IN 20 YEARS. Thousands of trees are down in communities throughout the region, with dramatic cleanup costs in areas that have already sustained significant losses from previous storms.”
HEAVY SNOW / EXTREME COLD -
RECORD-BREAKING FLOODS may strike U.S. MIDWEST - On Tuesday, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration announced that a huge snowpack from a fierce winter will cause massive flooding this spring in the upper Midwest and in the major corn-producing state of Iowa. "We are looking at potentially historic flooding in some parts of the country this spring." The snowpack in the Midwest is more extensive than in 2009, with preciptation in December up to four lines above average. "It's a terrible case of deja vu, but this time the flooding will likely be more widespread. As the spring then melts the snowpack, saturated and frozen ground in the Midwest will exacerbate the flooding of the flat terrain and feed rising rivers and streams." The Red River Valley in Minnesota may be at particular risk, with NOAA officials explaining that it was UNUSUAL that the region would face the threat of severe floods for a second consecutive year. "The Red River runs north, dividing North Dakota and Minnesota, before running through the flat southern plains of the Canadian province of Manitoba. The U.S. side of the valley is planted for wheat, soybeans and other crops. The Red River area is also the top growing region for sugar beets in the country."
SPACE WEATHER -
A solar wind stream is heading for Earth, and so is a coronal mass ejection (CME). Together, they add up to a geomagnetic storm alert for today and tomorrow (March 17 & 18). The impact of the solar wind plus CME will brighten Arctic skies already alive with Northern Lights.
HEALTH THREATS -
The first outbreak of the deadly H5N1 bird flu in Europe for a year has been identified in a backyard poultry farm in Romania. The outbreak, in Tulcea county, close to the Ukrainian border, prompted immediate security measures. These include the killing of all poultry in the infected farm and the establishment of a three kilometre protection zone and a wider "surveillance zone" around the farm with strict controls on movements in or out. "The presence of the virus was confirmed on two hens that were found dead on a small private farm. No other case has been discovered since."
Romania was hit by massive bird flu outbreaks in 2005 and 2006, when more than a million poultry were slaughtered.
Avian influenza or "bird flu" is a highly contagious viral disease which primarily affects birds, but on rare occasions can also be contracted by humans and other mammals. The strain of avian influenza which is currently causing concern is the highly pathogenic H5N1 responsible for affecting many countries worldwide, including parts of Asia, Africa and Europe. On Monday at least 117,000 chickens were destroyed in northern Bangladesh after an avian flu outbreak on one of the country's largest poultry farms. Around 290 people have died of the human form of avian flu since 2003.