Monday, August 1, 2011

Power outage here, so no update was posted on Sunday. [This is the fourth time in the last two weeks that the power has gone out during this heat wave. It's hot and very humid!]

Doubting Official Assurances, Japanese Find Radioactivity on Their Own - Local officials kept telling a woman that their remote village was safe, even though it was less than 20 miles from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. But her daughter remained dubious, especially since no one from the government had taken radiation readings near their home. So starting in April, she began using her dosimeter ($625) to check nearby forest roads and rice paddies. What she found was startling. Near one sewage ditch, the meter beeped wildly, and the screen read 67 microsieverts per hour, a potentially harmful level. She worked up the courage to confront elected officials, who did not respond, confirming their worry that the government was not doing its job.
With her simple yet bold act, she joined the small but growing number of Japanese who have decided to step in as the government fumbles its reaction to the widespread contamination, which leaders acknowledge is MUCH WORSE THAN ORIGINALLY ANNOUNCED. Some mothers as far away as Tokyo, 150 miles to the south of the plant, have begun testing for radioactive materials. And when radiation specialists recently offered a seminar in Tokyo on using dosimeters, more than 250 people showed up, forcing organizers to turn some people away.
Even some bureaucrats have taken the initiative: officials in several towns in Fukushima Prefecture are cleaning the soil in schoolyards without help from the central government, and a radiation expert with the Health Ministry who quit his job over his bosses’ slow response to the nuclear accident is helping city leaders in Fukushima do their own monitoring. Such activism would barely merit comment in the United States, but it is exceptional in a country where people generally trust their leaders to watch out for them. That faith has been eroded by a sense that government officials have been, at best, overwhelmed by the enormousness of the disaster, and at worst, hiding how bad things are. “What the dosimeter issue reveals is that people are getting more nervous rather than less about radiation dangers.”
The corrosion of trust, at first aimed at faceless bureaucrats and lawmakers in distant Tokyo, now includes governors, mayors and city councils as well, a potentially unsettling trend because it pits neighbors against neighbors. That trust may also be hard to restore: under pressure from concerned citizens, bureaucrats in Tokyo have expanded their monitoring, but many people doubt that the government’s standards are safe or that officials are doing a thorough enough job of testing. It did not help that the government recently had to backtrack on the acceptable exposure levels for schoolchildren after a senior government adviser quit in a tearful news conference, saying he did not want children to be exposed to such levels, and parents protested. The recent discovery that radioactive beef made it into stores raised fresh alarms.
Dosimeter measurements taken by amateurs are considered crude because they measure only one kind of radiation emission and do not account for how long a person may have been exposed to it. But a map of airborne and soil readings made by the United States Department of Energy and the Japanese government showed a patch of bright yellow right over her village of Shidamyo, an indicator of high levels of the radioactive isotopes cesium 134 and cesium 137. Radioactive materials do not always fall in neat patterns; vagaries of wind direction and landscape can mean one area is hit badly, while others nearby are not. Although some areas of Iwaki showed relatively low levels of radioactive materials, soil samples from one farm in Shidamyo show levels of radioactive materials that are as high as those found in the evacuation zone around the Chernobyl nuclear accident site in Ukraine.

**I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Indeed, unless the billboards fall
I'll never see a tree at all.**
Ogden Nash

This morning -

Yesterday -
7/31/11 -

7/30/11 -

7/29/11 -

NEVADA - The unfinished Harmon hotel tower at CityCenter on the Las Vegas Strip would likely collapse in a strong earthquake, a structural engineer told casino operator MGM Resorts International on Monday. The report says it would take at least one year to figure out what kind of repairs would be required to save the tower. "In a code-level earthquake, using either the permitted or current code specified loads, it is likely that critical structural members in the tower will fail and become incapable of supporting gravity loads, leading to a partial or complete collapse of the tower. MGM Resorts is waiting to hear from Clark County to figure out what to do next. The company hired the consultants to analyze the building to respond to a request from county building officials to inspect the building further.
The Harmon is part of the $8.5 billion CityCenter project that opened at the end of 2009. It is jointly owned by MGM Resorts and Dubai World. MGM Resorts has been at legal odds with the builder over the project since last year. It was important to analyze the building's strength further to minimize risks to safety on the Las Vegas Strip and in adjacent buildings. "These deficiencies, in their current state, make the building uninhabitable." The Harmon, originally envisioned as a boutique hotel with condominium units, sits next to the Crystals shopping center on Las Vegas Boulevard.

ARKANSAS - Injection wells banned. After a two-day hearing in El Dorado this week, all members of the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission voted Wednesday to prohibit current and future injection wells in Cleburne, Faulkner, Van Buren, White, and Conway counties. All current wells must be permanently plugged.
The cessation was ordered after hundreds of earthquakes occurred in the Guy and Greenbrier areas of Faulkner County. Many believed the injection wells were the cause. Although research could not definitely determine whether the wells were causing the quakes, when a temporary moratorium was put into place earlier this year, the quake activity slowed significantly. Earthquake reports dropped from dozens a week to three or four a month.
There were four injection wells in Faulkner County. Three well operators volunteered to temporarily cease operation earlier this year. The fourth, along with the three, must permanently stop injecting wastewater from gas well fracking by September 30. Wastewater from gas well fracking is injected deep into the earth. The theory was the fluids added lubrication to previously unknown faults, causing them to slip, thus producing the earthquakes.
A study from the early 60s at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal just outside of Denver, Colo.showed that earthquakes occurred frequently when deep injection wells (injection wells) were used. The Army tested the theory that the injection of wastewater was causing the quakes. They stopped the disposal and the quakes stopped. The Army tested the theory a second time. They started injecting the fluids again to make sure the original study wasn’t a fluke and the quakes started back. The conclusion was the wastewater was causing the quakes and the process was permanently stopped at the location. The quakes stopped as well.

Thursday’s Earthquake Prompts Alaskans To Prepare For The Next Big One - It was quite the wake-up call Thursday morning, and not just because a magnitude 5.3 earthquake shook some south central Alaskans out of their beds. Shaking buildings served as a literal wake-up call to prepare Alaskans for the next big one. The Alaska Earthquake Information Center says the magnitude 5.3 quake occurred at 6 a.m. Thursday about eight miles northwest of Skwentna and 74 miles northwest of Anchorage. State officials say there are no immediate reports of damage.
Even though USGS seismologists reported it as a moderate earthquake, it was large enough to open up people’s eyes to the bigger issue. “I think after a while up here you just become programmed to it. You take earthquakes as just a natural thing that happens all the time. Not the big ones, the shakers, but it just becomes a normal part of life.” But after Thursday’s earthquake, something changed. “I look at who is at my house, and what could happen if it really goes bad. Am I going to be able to take care of this group? Until help comes, until we can get back to a natural state of life, we can to a point, for the long haul [but] I don't think I have what I need to last two to three weeks.”


ITALY - Mount Etna volcano on Sicily, in southern Italy, started erupting again at the weekend, sending flames and sparks shooting 250 metres into the air, and flows of lava down its slopes. There were concerns that the ash could block flights out of nearby airports.

New mud volcano discovered on Cheleken peninsula in Turkmenistan - Mud volcanoes are not uncommon in Turkmenistan. The presence of a large high-pressure underground natural gas reserves is a prerequisite for the mud eruption. Almost half of all mud volcanoes in the world are located in the area of the South Caspian Basin and about thirty of them in western Turkmenistan.
"Geologists pay a special attention to the Cheleken peninsula. It records a lot of tectonic fractures. A powerful eruption of mud volcanoes was observed here in the past." The Cheleken Alakel is the largest volcano in western Turkmenistan. The separate blocks of rock ejected from the crater of the volcano from great depths hit 2-3 meters in diameter. The frozen mudflow is observed at a distance of 1.5 kilometers from the volcano. Oil is extracted from the depth of over 2,000 meters in the Alakel volcano area.
A new active mud volcano has recently formed at the foot of the volcano. "It is a small, regularly shaped cone, composed of clay material with a small admixture of rock fragments, sometimes with a film of oil on the surface. The volcano is active. It reached a height of 7 meters by mid 2011. New portions of gas and dust erupt every few seconds, periodically. The cone stands grayish-green on the yellow-brown background of the Neogene rocks. " According to scientists, the appearance of new active mud volcanoes can mean the beginning of "awakening" of the ancient volcano Alakel. (photo)

-Tropical Storm Eugene was located in the Pacific far off the western coast of Mexico.

-Typhoon 11w (Muifa) was located approximately 550 nm south-southeast of Kadena air base, Japan. All mdels indicate a high impact strike on or very close to Okinawa.

They’re calling it Super Typhoon Muifa for a reason. In a span of less than 18 hours, Muifa went from Category I- to Category IV-equivalent status and in relatively short order should become a Cat V-equivalent storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale. The latest Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecast track (noon Sunday local time) calls for Muifa to rumble 26 miles southwest of Kadena Air Base at 8 a.m. Friday, packing sustained 138-mph winds and 167-mph gusts at its center.
This one’s big. "Not since I’ve been doing this on a consistent basis since the fall of 2004 has PST ever – and I mean ever – seen a tropical cyclone forecast to peak at 180-mph sustained winds and 220-mph gusts (between 9 p.m. Monday and 9 a.m. Tuesday, when Muifa will still be quite far from Okinawa)."
What remains most worrisome is how Muifa’s forward speed has slowed to a virtual crawl. Over the last 18 hours, Muifa has slowed from 12 mph to just over 3 mph, and over an area of high ocean heat content, on which tropical cyclones feast. The longer it remains over high OHC areas, the fatter and more monstrous it grows.


Earthquake-ravaged Japan now overwhelmed by rain. Floods claimed their first victim in Japan and nearly 300,000 people were urged to flee their homes as a weather system that killed dozens on the Korean peninsula swept the country. The national weather agency urged citizens to be on maximum alert against more flooding and mudslides. Helicopter footage showed bridges over the Shinano River in Niigata partially submerged, while trees and telephone polls had been knocked down. Kamo City in Niigata was extensively flooded, with roads submerged.
Forecasters warned that the rains could continue to be torrential after reaching 1000 millimetres to date in Sanjo City, Niigata, 250km northwest of Tokyo, since they started on Wednesday. A total of 296,000 people had been asked to evacuate their homes by this afternoon, but no compulsory orders were issued despite muddy swollen rivers, broken dykes and flooded houses.
A man was listed as missing in Fukushima, where the Pacific coast was hit by the massive tsunami on March 11. More than 40 people who had spent a night in cars and buses after being stranded on a road blocked by mudslides and flooding in Fukushima were rescued unhurt. ''I couldn't sleep. I had some food, but couldn't swallow a bite'' out of fear that further mudslides would hit the stranded cars. The weather agency has warned quake-hit regions are more prone to mudslides as the tremors had worsened ground conditions.
The same weather saw RECORD RAINFALL kill at least 59 people in South Korea earlier this week, leaving thousands more homeless.


-H-E-B is encouraging customers to check their refrigerators for 8 oz, 16 oz, 24 oz and 32 oz sizes of H-E-B Brand cottage cheese, dips, yogurt and sour cream sold between June 18 and July 27. The products, sold at H-E-B, Central Market, Mi Tienda and Joe V’s, are being recalled as a precaution due to the possible presence of foreign material.