Monday, May 23, 2011

On a personal note, I'm starting to get very nervous - for the second time in a month, a tornado has passed right over my neighborhood; this time it touched down about a mile from my house, and continued on the ground for 5 1/2 miles. 6-8 blocks wide, it devastated North Minneapolis.
Two days of threatening skies turned furious over the Twin Cities on Sunday, unleashing at least three tornado touchdowns in the metro area, killing one person in Minneapolis, injuring at least 30 others, knocking out power to thousands and leading to a curfew and school closings in north Minneapolis.
The massive, slow-moving storm also caused major damage in other metro communities, most significantly St. Louis Park and Fridley.
In the hardest-hit area, Minneapolis' Jordan neighborhood, downed trees, snapped power lines and pieces of roofs littered streets and yards. The smell of natural gas led police to call people out of some homes. Roads were blocked and residents scrambled to find loved ones; close to 200 or so people displaced by the storm made their way to an emergency shelter. A three-day 9 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew was imposed to help emergency workers move around and to prevent looting of damaged homes and businesses. "We don't want any looting. There's property strewn all over. There are wires down. There's not much lighting. It's for people's safety and for the safety of people's property."
Lack of electricity forced the emergency command center to be moved twice. Xcel officials indicated that most power should be restored by midnight Monday but that some customers may not get it back until Tuesday or later because of significant structural damage to that area's electricity system. One man was killed when his car was hit by a tree.
Sunday's tornado was the first to strike within the city of Minneapolis since a minor twister in south Minneapolis on Aug. 19, 2009. [Prior to that a tornado hadn't struck within the city since 1981.] Sunday's damage appeared consistent with tornadoes rated EF2, which carry winds of 111 to 135 miles per hour. Only 10.7 percent of U.S. tornadoes are rated EF2, and only about 4 percent are stronger. The havoc started about 2 p.m. in St. Louis Park, where a suspected tornado tore up a condominium complex, forcing residents from the 35-building property.
In Fridley, the storm tipped over two Burlington Northern rail cars, sheared in half a stand of mature trees and left extensive pockets of damaged homes and businesses. The storm struck with quick fury. Parts of the metro area were covered by five tornado warnings Sunday. Sirens blared as heavy clouds swarmed across the skies for the second day in a row. A National Weather Service meteorologist said an increase in "wind shear" -- the movement of winds in contrasting directions -- along with increased moisture and warmth in the atmosphere Sunday triggered the tornadoes.

**Homer is dead, Dante is dead,
Shakespeare is dead,
and I'm not feeling too well myself.**
Artemus Ward

This morning -

Yesterday -
5/22/11 -
17 quakes in Puerto Rico ranging from 2.5 to 3.9
25 aftershocks in Turkey ranging from 2.7 to 3.4

Japanese superquake moved ocean floor 79 feet sideways and 10 feet up - and new data shows REGION IS UNDER MORE STRAIN. The ocean floor shifted sideways by 79 feet in the Japanese earthquake in March - much further than scientists originally predicted. Under the seabed, the movement may have been even greater - perhaps 160 to 200 feet. And researchers are warning that immense amounts of seismic stress remain stored in the area, putting it at risk of further devastating earthquakes. The jearthquake hot spot is much more complex and potentially dangerous than scientists had ever anticipated.
In another study sure to raise alarm in Japan, scientists from the California Institute of Technology have reconstructed how the Tohuku-Oki earthquake unfolded using GPS data recorded at more than 1,200 sites. Their data showed that - contrary to previous opinion - the area had built up massive amounts of strain prior to the earthquake. Earlier, there had been general agreement among researchers that the 'Miyagi segment' of the fault line was not under the stress of other segments along the Japan plate boundary, where large earthquakes occur at a regular basis. But this assumption was deeply flawed. This raises questions about other sections of the fault line that had previously been considered low risk - including areas further south, closer to Tokyo. This 'Ibaraki segment' of the plate boundary has been thought to behave in similar fashion to that of the Miyagi segment, and it may likewise hold large amounts of seismic stress. In recorded history, this southern area has experienced only one set of quakes larger than magnitude 8 - which means the region could be ripe for its own rupture. The quake may also have destablised nearby areas of fault line, making them even more vulnerable to a catastrophic rupture.


Hundreds evacuated from Nicaraguan volcano area - Nicaraguan authorities have evacuated hundreds of people from the foothills of a volcano because of heightened seismic activity. 600 workers have been moved from a factory near the Telica volcano in western Nicaragua. Women and children who live nearby have also been evacuated. Tremors of up to 3.3-magnitude have shaken the volcano. It has been spewing gas, ash, vapor and water since April.

ICELAND - Ash from a volcanic eruption in Iceland could begin to drift across the UK towards the end of the week, forecasters have said. Aviation officials said there was no effect on UK airspace at present, but they were "monitoring the situation closely". The Grimsvotn volcano is experiencing ITS LARGEST ERUPTION IN 100 YEARS. It comes a year after ash from the Eyjafjallajokull eruption reached Europe, closing much of its airspace. "This is a very different situation to last April. The weather is much more changeable and there's a lot more uncertainty. There's no risk of the ash moving across the UK in the next day or so. But there is a possibility that we'll see some volcanic ash towards the end of the week."
Icelandic air traffic control has created a no-fly zone around the volcano, closed Keflavik airport, the country's main hub, and cancelled all domestic flights. "There's no effect on UK airspace at present. We're just waiting to see which way the ash plume moves." "We are not speculating at all at this stage, we are just watching the situation closely. It's changing all the time." The Grimsvotn volcano, which lies beneath the ice of the uninhabited Vatnajokull glacier in southeast Iceland, began erupting on Saturday. "It is not likely to be anything on the scale that was produced last year when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted. That was an unusual volcano, an unusual ash size distribution and unusual weather pattern, which all conspired together to make life difficult in Europe." The ash particles from this eruption are said to be larger than last year, and as a result fall to the ground more quickly.


Tropical Storm Chedeng (international codename Songda) entered Philippine territory before dawn Monday, even as authorities declared themselves ready to deal with its effects. Models showed Chedeng may get near the Bicol Region Wednesday and make its way toward northeastern Luzon. They expect Chedeng to continue gathering strength and be a major threat in the next 24 hours. PAGASA's 5 a.m. advisory said that as of 4 a.m., Chedeng was 880 km east of Guiuan, Eastern Samar, packing maximum sustained winds of 95 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 120 kph. It was moving west-northwest at 13 kph and is expected to be 620 km east of Guiuan, Eastern Samar. By Wednesday morning, it is expected to be 390 km east northeast of Guiuan, Eastern Samar or 510 km east southeast of Virac, Catanduanes. But it is still possible for Chedeng to change direction and affect other parts of the country, as it is still far from any land mass for now and it is moving slowly. They can expect heavy rains because it will enhance the southwest monsoon.
Just recently, Tropical Storm Bebeng left at least 35 dead and P1.370 billion in damage to property when it pummeled parts of Central and Southern Luzon, Metro Manila, the Bicol Region, and Central and Eastern Visayas.


U.S. -Tornado kills dozens, leaves 'total devastation' in Missouri town. In Joplin, at least 30 people are reportedly killed and damage is widespread. Officials fear the death toll could climb much higher. A series of turbulent storms swept through the Midwest on Sunday and a powerful tornado slammed into Joplin, ripping the top off a hospital, shearing parts of the roof off a high school and turning major retail stores into heaps of rubble and twisted metal. A coroner's official reported at least 30 people dead in Joplin, but the tornado's rampage through the middle of the southwestern Missouri town of 50,000 left officials concerned that the number could be much higher. "It's total devastation." The National Guard and emergency rescue teams are in a race to find survivors. Search-and-rescue efforts were expected to continue throughout the uneasy night.
Phone service in and out of the city was largely cut off. "Cars were crumpled up like tin cans, businesses were leveled, one of the Wal-Marts is gone, a Lowe's is damaged, and there are still people trapped inside. We've had tornadoes, but this is one of the worst ever here. The swath that cut through town was huge."
There were reports of "a number" of tornados across Missouri. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, a tornado tore through the northern end of the city Sunday afternoon, killing one person and injuring at least 30 others. The same turbulent weather spawned a tornado in Reading, Kansas, Saturday night that killed one person and destroyed about 20 homes as parts of the town were pelted with hail the size of golf balls. Violent thunderstorms, including lighting, hail and powerful winds, were threats throughout the evening Sunday across at least six Midwestern states as a cold front moved in to confront a moisture-rich, low-level air mass.
The outbreak of tornadoes that ravaged the southern US last month was THE LARGEST IN US RECORDED HISTORY. The three-day period from 25-28 April saw 362 tornadoes strike, including some 312 in a single 24-hour period. The previous record was 148 in two days in April 1974. The tornadoes and the storm system that spawned them killed at least 350 people in Alabama and six other states. It was the deadliest outbreak since 1936. The review by US meteorologists came as the southern US states of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Louisiana and Kentucky continued the huge task of digging out from the destruction.
In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a university town that was the worst-hit single location, officials estimated debris removal alone would cost $70m (£42m) to $100m (£60m). The storm tore down century-old trees, flattened farm buildings and downed power lines, leaving as many as one million people without electricity in Alabama alone. The most destructive tornado struck Tuscaloosa, killing at least 65 people between there and the city of Birmingham. That was the deadliest single tornado since 1955, when a twister in Kansas killed 80.

MALAYSIA - 16 killed in landslide at orphanage. A landslide caused by heavy rains hit an orphanage in Malaysia, and authorities are investigating the rural town for fear another disaster could hit the slip-prone region. 10 were hospitalised in the tragedy at Hulu Langat town just outside the capital Kuala Lumpur. The boys were attending a drum rehearsal held in a tent when an avalanche of rocks, sand and mud came crashing down on Saturday after days of heavy rain. Teams from the Public Works Department and geologists from a university institute are surveying hillside developments in the town, where clusters of traditional ethnic Malay-style houses line the country road next to a river. The orphanage was situated near a hill that had been sliced off and left without any support system such as a retaining wall.
"If people were aware of the signs of a landslide, they will know that this slope is unstable, and it's only a matter of time that this slope will fail. For this particular slope, we know for sure that the cutting of the slope was the cause. There are many, many houses built close to the slope. The community, villagers, they seldom put any support system so all this cutting the hill at the bottom of the slope has some risk of slope failure." An official from the Public Works Department could not say what remedies would be taken if any more buildings are deemed unsafe. The orphanage is believed to have been built a decade ago without official approval.
Malaysia has suffered a series of landslide disasters over past decades. In one of the worst incidents, a huge mudslide brought on by heavy rain led to the collapse of a 12-storey residential building in suburban Kuala Lumpur in December 1993, killing 48 people.


Super Storm on Saturn - The RARE storm started in December 2010 and has been wreaking havoc for months, shooting plumes of gas high into the planet's atmosphere. The storm has had a major effect on the atmosphere - creating meandering jet streams and forming giant vortices - and disrupting Saturn's seasonal weather patterns. [Climate change - Sound familiar? ]
The growth of the giant early-spring storm in Saturn's northern hemisphere is so powerful that it stretches around the entire planet. "A storm like this is rare. This is only the sixth one to be recorded since 1876, and the last was way back in 1990." Cassini's radio and plasma wave science instrument first detected the large disturbance in December 2010. As it rapidly expanded, the storm's core developed into a giant, powerful thunderstorm, producing a 3,000-mile-wide (5,000-kilometer-wide) dark vortex possibly similar to Jupiter's Great Red Spot.
"Our new observations show that the storm had a major effect on the atmosphere, transporting energy and material over great distances." The violence of the storm - THE STRONGEST DISTURBANCES EVER DETECTED IN SATURN'S STRATOSPHERE - took researchers by surprise. What started as an ordinary disturbance deep in Saturn's atmosphere punched through the planet's serene cloud cover to roil the high layer known as the stratosphere. The storm is very violent, dredging up deep material in volumes several times larger than previous storms. (photos)