Thursday, January 27, 2011

SOUTH AFRICA flood death toll rises as government declares 33 disaster zones. Warnings of humanitarian crises after flooding claims more than 100 lives and threatens rest of southern Africa. Flooding in South Africa has forced at least 8,400 from their homes and prompted the government to declare 33 disaster areas. With UNUSUALLY heavy rainfall forecast UNTIL MARCH, ALMOST EVERY COUNTRY IN SOUTHERN AFRICA IS ON ALERT for potentially disastrous flooding.
The costs of damage to the infrastructure in the seven of South Africa's nine provinces affected is estimated at 160bn rand (£14bn). The Johannesburg area and northern and eastern provinces have experienced SOME OF THEIR GREATEST RAINFALL IN 20 YEARS. Flimsy houses in townships, where drainage systems are sometimes poor, are particularly vulnerable to the deluge. 20,000 people, or about 5,000 families, have been affected in provinces that are running out of money for flood relief. The government is in a race against time to avert a humanitarian crisis and the health department was on alert for a possible cholera outbreak. Farms have also been saturated and the country is Africa's biggest food producer, but farmers will not receive government compensation. Heavy rains have disrupted freight rail operations, affecting South Africa's coal and maize exports.
The UN warned last week that flooding poses a threat in most southern African countries. Some of the biggest rivers in the region, the Zambezi and the Okavango, have risen to DOUBLE their normal levels. "We fear flash floods. It's rather common in the region and this time we are seeing heavier rainfall than in previous years. Five countries are on alert for flooding - Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia - and South Africa will now declare a disaster. All neighbouring countries including Madagascar are on alert ... We COULD HAVE AN EXTREMELY MAJOR DISASTER if prevention measures are not stepped up over the next six weeks."
Mozambique has been hit hard, with at least 10 people killed and more than 13,000 people seeing their homes lost or damaged owing to high waters. There are fears of a repeat of the country's devastating floods in 2000 that left 800 people dead. Meteorologists believe the floods are caused by a natural weather cycle known as La NiƱa and the Southern Oscillation mechanism, which has been linked to recent flooding in Australia and the Philippines.

**I am not interested in power for power's sake,
but I'm interested in power that is moral,
that is right and that is good.**
Martin Luther King, Jr.

This morning -

Yesterday -
1/26/11 -


JAPAN - A spectacular volcanic eruption is currently underway. The mountain Kirishima is firing red-hot magma and volcanic bombs into the air. Mount Kirishima, a volcano on the southern island of Kyushu, began erupting on Jan. 26. A giant ash cloud poured from the volcano, prompting the Tokyo VAAC to issue an ash warning for places above 25,000 feet (7.6 kilometers). Volcanic material shot from the crater, triggering pyroclastic flows.
Kirishima ejected volcanic bombs — lava fragments that are rounded as they fly through the air — more than a mile (2 kilometers) high from its vent. Images of the eruption show plumes of glowing material shooting a few hundred feet in the air. A volcanic vent is a gap in the Earth's crust through which lava and volcanic gases can escape. Kirishima technically refers to a larger group of volcanic vents on the island. These vents are quite active but mostly have small explosive eruptions. The latest eruption may be THE LARGEST SINCE 1959.

MEXICO - A series of explosive eruptions has rained ash and rock over the Colima Volcano, Mexico's most dangerous and active volcano. Colima Volcano, Mexico’s most active, has been erupting since 1998. The eruption began with several months of earthquakes beneath the volcano, followed by explosions and rockfalls at the summit lava dome as it began to grow. Dome growth was accompanied months later by a series of lava flows which cascaded down the southwestern flank of the mountain, stretching up to 3,100 meters (10,000 feet) from the summit. Since then dome growth has continued, with a few periods of actively flowing lava. As of March 2010, the dome was growing about 2,000 cubic meters (70,000) cubic feet a day, leading to frequent small rockfalls and occasional ash plumes. In January 2011, local newspapers reported “dust plumes” rising over Colima, likely pulverized lava stirred up by landslides at the summit dome.
To the north of Colima’s summit is the rim of a 4 kilometer (2 mile)-wide caldera, formed about 4,300 years ago in a massive flank collapse: similar to the May 18, 1980, eruption of Mount St. Helens. Modern Colima Volcano rises near the center of this caldera. Recent lava flows (erupted since 1961), cover the upper slopes of the volcano. Older lava flows (erupted in the 1800s and earlier) are covered in green vegetation. (image)


U.S. - The National Weather Service has issued a coastal flood watch for the eastern Massachusetts coast for the early morning's high tide cycle. A rapidly intensifying nor’easter will pass southeast of Nantucket late Wednesday into early Thursday. Strong northeast winds will cause seas to rapidly build Wednesday night. This will likely yield a 2 to 2.5 foot storm surge during the early Thursday morning high tide.
This will result in minor to pockets of low end moderate coastal flooding during the early Thursday morning high tide cycle across the eastern Massachusetts coast. In addition, there is also the potential for some beach erosion. A coastal flood watch means that the potential exists for moderate or major coastal flooding.
Moderate coastal flooding produces widespread flooding of vulnerable shore roads and/or basements due to the height of storm tide and/or wave action. Numerous road closures are needed. Lives may be at risk for people who put themselves in harms way. Isolated structural damage may be observed.
Major coastal flooding is considered severe enough to cause at least scattered structural damage along with widespread flooding of vulnerable shore roads and/or basements. Some vulnerable homes will be severely damaged or destroyed. Numerous roads are impassable...some with washouts severe enough to be life- threatening if one attempted to cross on foot or by vehicle. Some neighborhoods will be isolated. Evacuation of some neighborhoods may be necessary.

Cyclone BIANCA was 204 nmi W of Port Hedland, Australia.
Cyclone WILMA was 707 nmi N of Auckland, New Zealand.

AUSTRALIA - Some communities remain on red alert as cyclone Bianca intensifies. Severe tropical cyclone Bianca continues moving westerly taking it slowly away from the Pilbara coast. Bianca has been kind to the North West following a westerly course overnight, slowly moving away from the Pilbara coast. Although the danger isn't over, the risk of a damaging impact from Bianca is decreasing. Winds are intensifying but the system is continuing to the west southwest. A RED ALERT remains for people in or near coastal communities between Mardie and Onslow including, Mardie, Onslow, mines and pastoral leases. (map)
Tropical Depression Anthony heading toward Australia. Anthony has now weakened to a tropical depression, but forecasters aren't counting Anthony out yet. Despite its weakened condition Anthony continues to move west toward Queensland, Australia and into a more favorable area for sustaining a tropical cyclone. The infrared imagery showed a well-defined low level circulation center, although dry air is now wrapping into Anthony's northern quadrant. Dry air saps the moisture that creates the thunderstorms that power a tropical cyclone. Generally, the storm's convection (rapidly rising air that creates those thunderstorms) is weak throughout the storm, and only isolated strong areas of convection appear in the southeastern quadrant. That may change in the next day or two, however, as Anthony moves into an area more conducive to maintaining a tropical cyclone. Vertical wind shear (winds that can weaken a tropical cyclone) has lessened and sea surface temperatures are warm enough to sustain and strengthen a tropical cyclone (between 28 and 30 Celsius/82 and 86 Fahrenheit). Computer forecast models have shown forecasters at the Joint Typhoon Warning Center that as the system tracks westward toward Australia, there is a fair chance that Anthony will regenerate or re-strengthen in the next 24-36 hours. Forecasters in Queensland, Australia will be watching Anthony very closely.


AUSTRALIA - Queenslanders have been warned not to drop their guard by thinking the worst of the weather is over. Queensland's wet season continues into April. "Being complacent could risk lives. Knowing what to do in the event of an emergency can make all the difference and the best place to start is with a household emergency plan...All households should review and practise their plan three times a year, taking into account the changing needs of all members of the family."
AUSTRALIA - Almost half the 2.8 million hectare wheat crop has been downgraded to feed quality due to weather damage caused by rain and flooding. The ruined crops mean farmers across the state will earn at least $850 million less for the 2010 harvest. In some places harvesting has been stalled because paddocks are still too wet. A significant proportion of barley and oats had been downgraded, while pulse crops also suffered in the floods, which have affected large swathes of the state since December.
Despite the wet conditions, Industry and Investment NSW forecasted more than 600,000 hectares of summer crops have been sown, excluding rice. This is significantly higher than the estimated 240,000 hectares harvested last season. However, the wet and humid summer has also led to an increase in insects on summer crops, leading to significantly higher production costs for farmers.


AUSTRALIA - If you think Victoria's floodwaters have warded off the spectre of a bushfire season, think again, the Country Fire Authority has warned. Swan Hill residents remain on edge as floodwaters continue to creep slowly towards the Murray River town, while locals in surrounding communities face being isolated for weeks. Several brigades that received help during the Black Saturday bushfires from teams in northern and northwest parts of the state have now returned assistance to affected communities battling floodwaters. But firefighters will soon need to be rested as waters recede and significant fuel loads dry out. "We do have substantial grass fuel loads, particularly in the northern and western parts of the state. We need to start resting our people, making sure our trucks are fixed up, ready to go firefighting again.'' Fuel loads reaching widespread peak dryness before this month's heavy rainfall are now expected to produce green shoots.
But hot weather, particularly hot, dry winds, could see the green shoots dry off ``very quickly''. "We could go from a situation where we're doing floods today to one where we could feasibly be fighting quite aggressive grassfires in two to three weeks' time...We've got still another six to eight weeks of peak summer left."