Monday, January 10, 2011

AUSTRALIA - Flash floods swept through a northeastern Australian community today, overturning cars and flinging a van against several trees as relentless rains brought more misery to a region battling its WORST FLOODING IN DECADES. Queensland state police said they were trying to determine whether anyone had been swept away in the raging torrent of muddy water that hit the city of Toowoomba, west of the state capital Brisbane. Video taken at the scene shows a man clinging to a tree as the gushing water sweeps down a street, pushing vehicles off the road and into each other. It was the latest drama for the water-weary state, which has been devastated by weeks of pounding rains and overflowing rivers. Ten people have died since late November and about 200,000 have been affected by the floods. Roads and rail lines have been cut, Queensland's big-exporting coal mine industry has virtually shut down, and cattle ranching and farming across a large part of the state are at a standstill. Muddy waters also flowed through the main street in the city of Gympie, the latest of about 40 communities in Queensland state to be drenched by overflowing rivers. Gympie residents were frantically sandbagging buildings, but about a dozen businesses were inundated by Monday morning and dozens more were at risk as the Mary River burst its banks and kept rising.
The latest flooding was not as bad as in recent weeks, when entire towns were submerged beneath an inland sea the size of France and Germany combined. But it was a sign the ground has little capacity left to soak up any more moisture, so any new rain is likely to make matters worse. Queensland officials have said the price of rebuilding homes, businesses and infrastructure, coupled with economic losses, could be as high as $5 billion. Some areas of Queensland have had more than 13 inches (343 millimeters) of rain in the past 24 hours.
Residents of the town of Dalby, west of Brisbane, were evacuated Monday as rising waters threatened to inundate homes that had just begun drying out after another round of flooding two weeks ago. Heavy rains were also leaving low-lying communities along the Brisbane River, which flows through Brisbane, vulnerable to flash flooding. Officials have offered residents sandbags, and suggested they have emergency kits ready. "This is a very uncertain time for Queensland residents and even if you don't experience flooding today, it pays to be prepared for the coming days, weeks and months."
Australia's worst flooding in some 50 years was caused by tropical rains that fell for days, starting just before Christmas. About 1,200 homes were inundated and almost 11,000 more have water damage. Nearly 4,000 people were evacuated, and many are still staying with friends or in relief shelters.

**Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
All things connect.**
Chief Seattle

This morning -

Yesterday -
1/9/11 -

VANUATU - A strong earthquake struck under the sea near the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu. There are no reports of damage or injuries.

No current tropical cyclones.


AUSTRALIA - Flood warnings have been issued for Western Australia's north and west Kimberley regions and the Fitzroy River catchment following heavy rainfalls. Residents were warned to be alert and ready to relocate livestock and equipment. Heavy falls had occurred in the affected regions over the 24 hours to 9am (WST) today. Further falls of 150mm to 200mm were forecast in the north and west Kimberley and the Fitzroy catchment over the next 36 to 48 hours with significant stream rises and local flooding expected
The town of Dalby is preparing for its FIFTH FLOOD SINCE DECEMBER 20, but the town's mayor is urging his residents not to become complacent about the dangers of floodwaters. The Myall Creek in Queensland was at three metres and rising at 8am (AEST) today, after rain began pouring down on the area at 10pm (AEST) yesterday. The floodwaters are threatening 100 homes and businesses and the creek is expected to peak at 3.5 metres by midday today. It is the second time in weeks that about 150 residents of the Darling Downs town have evacuated to the Dalby Agricultural College. The creek last peaked at 3.5 metres on December 27, so the town was well prepared. "I think people have just about had enough of it." It is a huge test of resources, but fortunately there were still four swift water rescue boats in the town, as well as State Emergency Services volunteers from Brisbane and New Zealand.
So far, dams outside Brisbane are being credited with saving the city from widespread flooding. But Brisbane residents are being offered sandbags and warned to prepare for flash flooding as the capital gets a taste of Queensland's flood emergency. A high alert has also been issued to recreational users of all swollen dams and waterways. Low-lying roads near southeast Queensland dams are expected to be shut while opened dam gates try and get rid of huge flows. Overnight rains flooded streets and river crossings. Although the southeast faces rain today and tomorrow, conditions will ease to showers on Wednesday, with a welcome forecast for mostly sunny conditions next weekend. The first glimmer of sunshine is not expected until Saturday.
The state-wide floods are now so large and have hit so many districts that it has reached the stage where there was hardly a person in Queensland who did not know someone who had been impacted personally. "It's an amazing situation." Many roads have become deadly to cross. More than 200,000 people and more than 10,700 properties have been affected in the Christmas-New Year floods. The repair bill stands at $5 billion for the deluge that has seen water sweep through an area the size of France and Germany combined. In Rockhampton, 158 people remained evacuated and 400 homes and 150 businesses were still affected by flooding in some way.
Statewide, nearly 200 main roads are severely damaged.
The risk of Brisbane flooding like it did in 1974 grows higher. Over the Australia Day weekend in 1974 the Brisbane River broke its banks and inundated the city, killing 14 people and flooding almost 6,000 homes. The flood followed months of rain which had filled rivers in the south-east, then when Cyclone Wanda dumped heavy rain over the region these rivers were pushed over the limit, leading to the worst floods of the century. It is a pattern that now seems to be repeating itself.
Swollen creeks and rivers are flooding towns, causing pockets of isolation across south-east Queensland.
The Brisbane River is on flood alert and already residents are being offered sandbags. The La Nina weather pattern, which is currently pushing monsoonal conditions over parts of Australia, is the same as the one experienced in the lead-up to the 1974 floods. "It's the same type of pattern in the Pacific Ocean. That was one of the major La Ninas. We had a similar pattern in 1954 and '55 and also back in 1893 and we've had a few slightly less intense patterns in the meantime - 1988, 2008 and a few intervening years that aren't quite as strong as this." This pattern means the risk Brisbane will experience another flood like that in 1974 is eight times higher. "I know looking at the work we do for the water authorities and other agencies, instead of the risk being about 5 per cent in any year, this year it's about 30 to 40 per cent."
The Wivenhoe Dam was built in the aftermath of 1974 as Brisbane's defence against another major flood. But even this may not be enough to prevent a disaster downstream. SEQ Water has been releasing 170,000 megalitres of water from the dam a day in preparation for flooding. The releases have led to minor flooding in communities below the dam. Many creeks in Brisbane's suburban areas are prone to flash flooding and the weather conditions will test the city's town planning. The success of the Wivenhoe Dam will depend on the type of weather pattern experienced. "It might help in certain circumstances, but it depends exactly on the nature of the rainfall event or the rainfall events because the one we have at the moment may not be the last one - we could have more of these types of events over the next couple of months."
There has been plenty of warning about La Nina and what she could bring. The weather pattern began last May and back then parts of northern Victoria and southern New South Wales fell victim to flooding from intense rain.
There is still a way to go before the risk of flooding from La Nina passes. These types of systems tend to start in May-June of any year and last until the following autumn, so the climate year tends to run autumn to autumn. You'd expect the main hope for this to start to break down to be in about three months' time, so we still have a long way to go yet."
They are yet to see the tropical cyclones usually spawned out of the Coral Sea during these kinds of weather patterns. "Queensland still has a long way to go, and in fact this also applies to parts of New South Wales and to northern Australia. There's still a fair way to go before we see the breakdown of the underlying cause of the whole problem. Sometimes they can go through to a second year, so when we get closer to May-June we'll have a better idea if this will continue on or whether it will do what we hope it will do and start to break down."


TASMANIA - Last year was one of extremes for weather. Overall, 2010 was another warm year with temperatures higher than normal across the state in most months. Notable features of the topsy-turvey weather were heavy winter rainfall in the North while the South remained parched, huge waves and snow in September and RECORD WARM warm days for Hobart. Last summer started off hot with temperatures remaining unusually warm into April.
Some record hot days were experienced in January, including January 9 when Devonport reached 33.2C, its HOTTEST TEMPERATURE ON RECORD by several degrees. On January 11, a reading of 40.7C was recorded at Ouse, one of just four days when temperatures that high have ever been recorded in Tasmania.
There was a cool period at the end of April and in mid-May, but milder than usual conditions returned in June and July. And it SEEMED THE SEASONS WERE RUNNING LATE. Not only did balmy weather last into March and April, but the year's coldest days occurred in September with Mt Wellington reaching only -2.2C on September 28 and -2.1C on September 29. This summer started with some chilly and rainy days in December. The first seven months of 2010 were RECORD WARM AND DRY spells for Hobart but for the rest of the year cooler and wetter conditions prevailed.
On May 27, Hobart had achieved the UNPRECEDENTED feat of 100 mild days in a row by that time of year.
Also, Tasmania experienced one of its DRIEST AND WETTEST WINTERS, depending on which end of the state you look at. By the end of July, a line could be drawn across the state through Oatlands, separating the drenched North from the parched South. Record dry conditions developed in the South-East from January to July, with just 409mm falling for the year at Hobart Airport. In contrast, Mt Read on the West Coast was the wettest site with 3955mm for the year and Gray on the East Coast got 202.6mm in just one day.
NEAR-RECORD WAVES were recorded on September 16 generated by a deep low-pressure system, veraging 8m on the West Coast and peaking at 18.4m. The earthquake off Chile on February 27 triggered a tsunami warning and tidal fluctuations on Tasmania's East Coast.


Fourteen killed in Tunisian clashes over food prices and unemployment in the deadliest incidents yet in an UNPRECEDENTED wave of protests in Tunisia.
The clashes marked the biggest unrest to date since protests over rising food prices and rampant youth unemployment erupted in the region in mid-December. Many members of the security forces were injured in Requeb, the ministry said, including two who were in critical condition. Several witnesses said the death toll could rise because of "the great number of seriously injured" in the clashes. Union members who did not want to be identified said today that up to 35 people had been killed. The Government said "this social movement is legitimate ... and citizens' demands for employment have their place". But it said authorities rejected "acts of destruction and vandalism against public property by people who had used Molotov cocktails, stones and sticks".
The Government also accused foreign media of "exaggerating and distorting the facts" about the protests, sparking "irrational reactions". Civil groups say the protests are driven by high unemployment, particularly among well-qualified graduates, and high prices of basic goods including food, mirroring similar unrest in neighbouring Algeria, where at least four people have been killed in riots.

INDONESIA - The government has prepared two million hectares of land to bolster the nation’s food security progam in the face of extreme weather and skyrocketing food prices. The Agriculture Minister on Saturday that the land would located be outside Java Island, in Marauke, Papua. “Out of two million hectares, one million hectares will be for paddy fields, while the rest will be for sugarcane and soy beans." The program will also use land from the Forestry Ministry as well as abandoned land designated by the National Land Agency. The government will also provide 1,000 drying machines to farmers under the program.