Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Australia's Cyclone Yasi may destroy even "cyclone proof" homes - Cyclone Yasi has winds of up to 300 km (186 miles) per hour and is so powerful it could blow apart even "cyclone proof" houses. Yasi is headed for major towns and cities along the northeast coast. It is believed to be THE STRONGEST EVER TO HIT AUSTRALIA, surpassing Cyclone Tracy which largely destroyed the northern city of Darwin in 1974. "Once you get to extreme cases, you are in uncharted ground and the test data I have got I would not trust it if I had to live there myself," said a researcher with the government's national scientific research body.
"Of the cyclones up to now since Tracy, you have not really had a direct hit on places with a lot of housing." Building standards have been tightened significantly since Tracy killed 71 people and destroyed about 70 percent of the northern city of Darwin. But they may be no match for cyclones the size of Yasi. Standards are already being reviewed because of worries that cyclones are getting stronger and moving further south. Engineers said that while most modern homes were designed to withstand high wind-speeds, pressures were different during a severe cyclone which could suck walls out and blow roofs off buildings. Structures in the region built before 2002 were designed to withstand winds of 252 kph and those built since then for winds of 265 kph. Smaller building are particularly vulnerable. "It doesn't look particularly good, it is quite scary." But larger steel-reinforced structures such as high-rise buildings and bridges were expected to withstand the cyclone. Ports and refineries were also expected to be undamaged.

**He that takes medicine and neglects diet,
wastes the skill of the physician.**
- Chinese Proverb

This morning -

Yesterday -
2/1/11 -

CHINA - Authorities have evacuated 64,500 people from their homes in a remote region of the country's southwest following a quake that damaged hundreds of houses. The 4.8-magnitude quake rattled a border area of Yunnan province shortly after 3:00 pm (6pm AEDT) on Tuesday. A total of 678 homes were damaged, but only one collapsed. No casualties have been reported in the quake which occurred in Dehong prefecture, a rugged region along China's border with Myanmar. The quake struck as families across the huge nation of 1.3 billion people gathered at their homes to celebrate the Lunar New Year, China's most important holiday.

Rising risk of major quake in Chile - Central Chile faces increased risk of a very large earthquake close to the site of last February's 8.8-magnitude temblor that killed 520 people and cost 30 billion dollars, scientists said on Sunday. The February 27, 2010 quake, which occurred just off the coast 115 kilometres (70 miles) north of Concepcion, unleashed a tsunami that swept away entire villages.
Seismologists looked at a notorious fault which has produced six quakes since 1835, including a world-record 9.5 event in 1960. Pressure along the fault was not eased by last year's quake in the Maule region and in fact has probably increased in a patch located inland to the east and north of the city of Concepcion. "We can conclude that increased stress on the unbroken patch may in turn have increased the probability of another major to great earthquake there in the near future." The quake, if it happens, could have a magnitude of "seven to eight." The study did not attempt to forecast when the quake would occur, a question that is always elusive in seismology.


Japan's Shinmoedake volcano, known by James Bond aficionados as the lair of one of 007's enemies, scattered thick ash over a wide area, toppled trees, and shattered windows in buildings and cars five miles away on Tuesday. Authorities in southern Japan increased alert levels after the volcano produced its most powerful eruption since it exploded back to life almost a week ago. Concern is mounting that the activity could be a prelude to far more destructive eruptions.
.Shinmoedake, part of the Mount Kirishima cluster of volcanoes on the island of Kyushu, scattered thick ash over a wide area, toppled trees, and shattered windows in buildings and cars five miles away. Boulders had landed on roads some distance from the peak, while one woman was reportedly cut by broken glass. No serious injuries have been reported since the volcano erupted last Wednesday, its fist major activity for 52 years. More than 1,000 residents in high-risk areas were advised to seek refuge in evacuation centers, although so far only about 600 have done so. Those who opted to stay at home are protecting themselves from the ash with facemasks and sunglasses. The initial activity forced the cancellation of dozens of flights and disrupted train services. Many local schools were closed and farmers reported ash damage to crops. Yesterday, officials widened the no-access zone to 2-1/2 miles from the peak, amid warnings from the meteorological agency that the area could be engulfed with hot gas and ash. The general alert level was raised from 2 to 3, on a scale of 1 to 5. The latest eruption was five times bigger than the first one recorded last week.
Pressure from below ground has caused a build-up of lava in the crater that has risen dramatically in the past five days. It is not clear whether the ongoing volcanic activity will produce enough lava – which is formed when liquid magma cools – to breach the crater rim and set off large flows down the sides of the mountain. Volcanologists warned that similarities existed between the fresh activity and that produced by Shinmoedake 300 years ago. Those eruptions were 10 times bigger than the recent ones and lasted for about 18 months, killing six people. Satellite images showed that the lava dome had widened from 100 meters across to 500 meters between last Thursday and the weekend.
Japan’s highest mountain, Mount Fuji, is considered at low risk of erupting: its last recorded eruption came in December 1707 and lasted two weeks.


Tsunami-generating quake possible off Indonesia - A huge wave-generating quake capable of killing as many people as in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami could strike off the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and the city of Padang is in the firing line, a team of seismologists said in January of 2010. The group is led by a prominent scientist who predicted a 2005 Sumatran quake with uncanny accuracy. The peril comes from a relentless buildup of pressure over the last two centuries on a section of the Sunda Trench, one of the world's most notorious earthquake zones, which runs parallel to the western Sumatra coast. This section, named after the Mentawai islands, "is near failure."
"The threat of a great tsunamigenic earthquake with a magnitude of more than 8.5 on the Mentawai patch is unabated. (...) There is potential for loss of life on the scale of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami." They gave no timeframe for this event but warned starkly of the danger for Padang, a city of 850,000 people that lies broadside to the risky segment. "The threat from such an event is clear and the need for urgent mitigating action remains extremely high."
More than 220,000 people lost their lives in the killer wave of December 26 , 2004 when a 9.3-magnitude earthquake, occurring farther north on the Sunda Trench, ruptured the boundary where the Australian plate of Earth's crust plunges beneath the Eurasian plate. Under Siberut, the largest of the Mentawai islands, "the megathrust strain-energy budget remains substantially unchanged" after a massive 2009 quake. "It is imperative that the Indonesian authorities, with the assistance of the international community and non-governmental organisations, ensure that they complete the relief effort and earthquake-resistant reconstruction following this earthquake, and work with the people in Padang to help prepare them for the next one."

Cyclone YASI was 240 nmi E of Cairns, Australia.

Cyclone Yasi is building as a storm of UNPRECEDENTED FEROCITY - the likes of which HASN'T BEEN SEEN SINCE 1918, and rivalling the strength of Hurricane Katrina. Yasi is on track to make landfall between Innisfail and Cardwell about 10pm (AEST) , with authorities confident they have the site within a 30km range of accuracy. At its core, the cyclone already has winds of 295km/h that have knocked out weather monitoring equipment on Willis Island, off Cairns, and was bringing down trees at Ayr, near Townsville, this morning. Yasi will cross the coast on the high tide, meaning a storm surge that will accompany it will be devastating for low-lying areas. At Cardwell it could build to seven metres, and at Townsville up to three metres.
Yasi's size also means there will be effects a long way inland, with the storm to maintain category three force as it passes over Georgetown - some 300km inland - at 9am (AEST) tomorrow. "This impact is likely to be more life threatening than any experienced during recent generations. This is an event that we have no recent experience of." There has been a last-minute rush at evacuation centres from Cairns to Townsville. Evacuation centres in and around Cairns are full, and the council is telling people they must take shelter in homes and accommodation in safe areas. Authorities are assuring Queenslanders the flood-weary state is ready for the disaster, with hundreds of emergency services and defence personnel laying in wait. Authorities have even planned for the possibility they will need offshore bases, with the navy prepared to bring ships to the coast if necessary, as they did during the response to the 2004 Asian tsunami. The Bureau of Meteorology warning could hardly be stronger, with the service reinforcing the cyclone's lethal force. "Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi is a large and very powerful tropical cyclone...This impact is likely to be more life threatening than any experienced in recent generations."
Yasi struck Vanuatu as a tropical storm at about 12:00 GMT on 30 January.

Tropical Cyclone Anthony made landfall over the coast of the Australian State of Queensland on Sunday, close to the town of Bowen, and approximately 275 miles (440 kms) southeast of Cairns. The storm was the equivalent of a Category 1 cyclone on the Australian Region Tropical Cyclone Intensity Scale, and a tropical storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. No major damage has been reported from the region, though the cyclone did bring heavy rain, and is reported to have caused localized flooding. “The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has reported rainfall accumulations over 100 mm [3.937 inches] in the past 24 hours, south of where Anthony made landfall, particularly in areas around Mackay. The remnants of Anthony are expected to affect the region through Tuesday, February 1, with a large band of rain stretching around 300 miles [480 kms] inland, which could produce up to 50mm [7.9685 inches] of rainfall. As of Monday, there are no flood warnings in effect for this area of the state.
“According to the Queensland Resources Council, two major coal export terminals in Bowen were closed because of Anthony — further disrupting the mining industry that was significantly affected by the flooding over the past two months.”
On the opposite side of the continent, “Tropical Cyclone Bianca weakened rapidly over the weekend while transitioning to an extra-tropical storm, and before crossing the coast near Perth on Sunday, January 30 as an extra-tropical low pressure system. As of Monday, the system has dissipated. Bianca brought little rain to the southwestern region of Western Australia, which has experienced severe rainfall deficiencies over the past 12 months. Extra-tropical events in this part of the country are known to trigger bushfires due to the strong, dry winds on the left hand side of the storm track, despite the increased fire risk, there are no reports of bushfires igniting as a result of Bianca.”
“On Saturday, a series of severe thunderstorms, most likely unrelated to the cyclone, affected Perth and the surrounding regions as Bianca approached the region offshore. These storms caused torn roofs, downed trees and power lines, as well as localized flooding. Damage was reported in Perth and regional towns to the east, and power was cut to around 55,000 homes.”
While all eyes were focused on Cyclone Bianca, it was a vanguard of damaging thunderstorms that wreaked havoc across the state over the weekend, with a teenager and an elderly lady losing their lives in the severe weather. Damaging storms swept through parts of the metropolitan area and regional towns of Geraldton, Toodyay, Northam, York and Wongan Hills on Saturday afternoon, causing widespread damage to houses, fences and power lines as Bianca hovered off the south-west coast. The destructive thunderstorms in Geraldton brought winds of 104km/h. At the height of the impact, 12,500 properties in the Wheatbelt region were left without power by the storm. In the metropolitan area, power was cut to 22,000 homes on Saturday afternoon after lightning struck the Yokine substation, causing extensive fire damage.
The system dropped below cyclone intensity yesterday morning after weakening steadily on its path towards WA's South-West. Perth was spared the full brunt of Bianca, after the storm system was downgraded before crossing the south-west coast overnight. The ex-tropical cyclone, which was reclassified as a low pressure system, still caused a severe fire danger to be issued in the Perth Hills and the central Wheatbelt, reaching extreme across inland areas south of a line from Geraldton to Leonora to Israelite Bay.
A severe weather warning for ABNORMALLY high tides was also issued for people in the coastal areas from Jurien Bay to Dunsborough, which included the Perth metropolitan area and also Mandurah, Bunbury and Busselton. This was cancelled at 1am after the weakened system had passed through. Perth and the South-West had somewhat dodged a bullet as Bianca's impact could have been a lot worse. "A day ago it was a category three cyclone and at the core of that we would have had wind speeds at over 200km/h. It is VERY UNUSUAL to have a tropical cyclone this far south, west of Perth at that time of the year."


U.S. - Severe weather from Chicago to Boston as monster storm arrives Snow is headed for St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, and Milwaukee. The monster storm could dump up to two-feet of snow and drifts piled up to 10 feet. The storm took aim at one-third of the nation Monday, threatening to lay a potentially deadly path of heavy snow and ice from the Rockies to New England, followed by a wave of bitter, bone-rattling cold that could affect tens of millions of people. Warmer areas were not safe, either. The system could spawn tornadoes in parts of the South. While record snowfalls have pounded the Northeast in one of that region's most brutal winters, the Midwest has been comparatively unscathed, until now.
In St. Louis and much of Missouri, residents braced for a particularly hazardous mix: up to an inch of ice, followed by 3 to 4 inches of sleet, then perhaps a half-foot of snow or more. To the west in Columbia, Missouri, forecasters predicted between 12 inches and 16 inches of snow. In Chicago, forecasters predicted 20 inches of snow. If that holds true, it would be the city's third-biggest snowstorm, overshadowed only by the 21.6 inches in 1999 and the mother of all Chicago snowstorms, the 23 inches of snow that fell in 1967.
Bitterly cold temperatures were forecast in the wake of the storm, with wind chills as cold as 40 degrees below zero possible in parts of North Dakota, South Dakota and other areas. In Arkansas, most communities expected lesser amounts of snow, but the weather service warned of severe thunderstorms that could generate freezing rain, hail and isolated tornadoes. After burying the Midwest, the storm was expected to sweep today into the Northeast, parts of which already are on track for record snowfall this winter.
The monster winter storm stretching from New Mexico to Maine laid down a sheet of ice on the Plains and lower Midwest on Tuesday, turning to snow as it crept north, and forecasters said the worst was yet to come. Airlines canceled more than 6000 flights across the US on Tuesday.


AUSTRALIA - A FIERCE heatwave continued for a third day in New South Wales with temperatures over 40, dozens of people in hospital and bushfires erupting.