LARGEST QUAKES -
This morning -
5.0 SOUTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA
5.8 OAXACA, MEXICO
6.3 SOUTH OF FIJI ISLANDS
5.1 TONGA REGION
5.5 KURIL ISLANDS
5.8 BIO-BIO, CHILE
5.5 NEW IRELAND REGION, P.N.G.
TROPICAL STORMS -
Hurricane ALEX was 223 nmi SE of Brownsville, Texas.
ALEX strengthened into the first hurricane of the 2010 Atlantic season, threatening coastlines in Mexico and the US and disrupting oil cleanup efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. "Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 120km/h [75 mph], with higher gusts. Additional strengthening is forecast prior to landfall," which was expected tonight near the US-Mexico border, separating Texas and Tamaulipas states. The Category One hurricane was tracking westward and not forecast to turn towards the massive BP oil spill along the US Gulf Coast, but its severe winds were churning up large waves that have brought a halt to clean up operations and threaten to push more of the huge slick onto the coastline.
Alex is THE FIRST JUNE ATLANTIC HURRICANE SINCE 1995. Oil and gas companies in the Gulf of Mexico have evacuated offshore workers and prepared for possible storm surges that may affect coastal refineries. "A dangerous storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 3 to 5 feet above ground level along the immediate coast to the north where the center makes landfall. The surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves. Isolated tornadoes are possible over portions of extreme southern Texas on Wednesday."
Valero Energy Corp., the largest U.S. oil refiner, has three South Texas plants that could be disrupted by the storm or inland flooding. The company has set aside emergency water, food and first-aid supplies for those refineries at a distribution center for its retail stores near its San Antonio headquarters. Valero's two Corpus Christi refineries are about 160 miles north of Brownsville. Another refinery in Three Rivers is about 70 miles northwest of Corpus Christi.
Alex is a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir- Simpson scale. A Category 2 storm has winds of at least 96 mph. It's expected to drop as much as 12 inches of rain in northeastern Mexico and southern Texas and some locations may receive as much as 20 inches of rain. The Gulf Coast is home to 43 percent of operable U.S. refining capacity. Gulf Coast refiners in August and September 2008 lost about 20 percent of production capacity due to hurricanes Ike and Gustav. "Refining units themselves are built to withstand heavy winds, but flooding can be a concern." After hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, "we moved a lot of our electrical equipment higher. A refinery can weather a storm but it won't be able to operate if it doesn't have electricity."
The storm's track keeps it away from a direct hit on the oil slick from a damaged BP Plc well. Still, Alex's circulation is so large it will raise tides along the Louisiana coast about two to three feet above normal. Large ocean swells were already heading toward the oil spill. Skimming and burning operations were stopped yesterday because of thunderstorms and rough seas. About 900 workers had been evacuated as of 11 a.m. yesterday in Houston and 630 remained offshore.
Hurricane warnings, earlier issued from Baffin Bay in Texas to La Cruz in Mexico, remained in effect. The storm is being blamed for at least 13 deaths in Central America. Residents and officials in Brownsville and McAllen, Texas, prepared for flooding and widespread power outages similar to those experienced when Hurricane Dolly struck the area. Dolly followed a path similar to Alex in July 2008 and caused about $1.05 billion in damage.
HEAVY SNOW / EXTREME COLD -
AUSTRALIA - Winter is well and truly here with Melbourne shivering through ITS COLDEST DAY IN A DECADE yesterday. And weather experts are warning the cold snap has just started. Tuesday's cool maximum of just 10.3C, reached at 4.15pm, was the coldest day of the year and the coldest in June since 2000. But it was those in Ballarat who suffered the worst with the maximum reaching just 5.1C while Scoresby hit 9.5C and Moorabin reached 10C.
Busselton experienced a RECORD-BREAKING STREAK OF COLD NIGHTS THOUGHOUT JUNE and the chilly weather looks set to continue. A “cold night” is when the temperature drops below five degrees and for five days in a row (June 9-13) Busselton did just that. They recorded 4.1, 2 (their second coldest June night ever), 2.3, 3.9 and 4.3 over the five-day period. “The previous record for consecutive cold nights in Busselton in June was three in 2006, while the record for all months is six days in July 2005." The coldest maximum temperature was a chilly 13.1 on June 15, which WAS A RECORD, and the average temperatures at night were particularly freezing. “Busselton’s mean temperature during the day was 17.8 which is only slightly below the average of 18.5, however the mean temperature at night was two degrees below the average of 8.9. This makes it Busselton’s second coldest June ever, after the 6.5 in 2006.”
But, cold doesn’t necessarily mean wet with the total rainfall for Busselton in June is less than half their monthly average of 171.2mm. Saturday’s downpour did provide a late boost and the 23.6mm that fell made it the wettest day of the month, however it still only lifted Busselton to a total of 83.8mm of rain in June.“This brings Busselton’s six-month total rainfall to 242mm, which is significantly behind the long-term average of 368.5."
HEALTH THREATS -
The US Food and Drug Administration has reported some problems at a CSL Biotherapies facility in Australia that makes influenza vaccine for the US market, including a failure to fully investigate particles found in some vaccine vials. The FDA said further that CSL was still using a certain type of rubber stopper on multi-dose vials containing the preservative thimerosal, although the manufacturer had advised that the stoppers may react with thimerosal. Also, the company did not study possible interactions between the vaccine and the stoppers and vials used in 29 lots of Afluria and H1N1 vaccine that were marketed in the United States. The agency also asserted that the company failed to ensure that samples from vaccine lots were tested at least once a year for evidence of deterioration.
The company said the concerns raised by the FDA are not related to the higher-than-expected rate of fever and convulsions reported recently in young Australian children who received a seasonal flu vaccine made by CSL. The increased adverse events in vaccinated Australian children were first reported in late April. They prompted the company to stop distributing its pediatric flu vaccine and caused Australian authorities to advise providers to stop immunizing children 5 years old and younger, pending an investigation. So far, investigations by the company and Australian authorities have not yielded an explanation.
RECALLS & ALERTS:
-The Procter & Gamble Company is voluntarily recalling its 4-Hour Decongestant Nasal Spray. The product was distributed nationwide in the United States.
-Lancaster Foods is recalling fresh Spinach with the Best Enjoyed By dates of 19 JUN 10 through 27 JUN 10 sold under the brand names Krisp-Pak, Lancaster Fresh, Giant, and America's Choice because they could be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The products were sold in the following states: New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia.