Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lee's remnants bring floods, feed fires - No longer a hurricane, a tropical storm or even a tropical depression, Lee continued to drench the South, causing relatively mild flooding and power outages in flatter areas, and promising greater mischief as it moved over more mountainous terrain this week. Lee also was a factor in another kind of plague: wildfire. Dozens of such blazes swept across drought-stricken Texas. The fires included a fast-moving one in East Texas that killed a woman and her 18-month-old daughter in Gladewater before being extinguished Monday. Another wildfire in central Texas has destroyed nearly 500 houses and forced at least 5,000 people from their homes in Bastrop County, about 25 miles east of Austin. The blaze consumed as much as 25,000 acres along a 16-mile stretch. The fire's velocity and ferocity made it unsafe to fight from the ground. "It's a monster, and it's 0% contained." Instead, the state turned to its firefighting air fleet, including National Guard helicopters and four heavy tankers. Texas is suffering ITS WORST DROUGHT IN MORE THAN HALF A CENTURY, and the wildfire threat has been exacerbated by powerful wind gusts cast off by Lee, hundreds of miles to the east.
Lee claimed its first direct victim when a man in northeastern Mississippi drowned after being swept away by floods when he tried to cross water in a car. They had gotten out and were being rescued when he was swept away. As Lee dumped steady rain across Alabama and Mississippi, forecasters warned that the slow-moving system could cause inland flooding in areas with hills or mountains in the coming days. The storm dumped 8 to 10 inches of rain in central Mississippi before it weakened and pushed to the east. As much as a foot fell in parts of New Orleans, and even more in other areas. Lee's flash-flood threat could be more severe as the rain moves from the Gulf region into the Appalachians. Closer to the Gulf, the water is "just going to sit there a couple of days. Up in the Appalachians you get more threat."
The system was moving sluggishly on a track that would take it up the Tennessee River Valley today. Flash-flood watches were issued for parts of both Tennessee and Kentucky, with stream flooding and mudslides possible. Some of the damage on the Gulf Coast appeared to come from spinoff tornadoes that touched down in southern Mississippi and Alabama. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency said about 100 homes were damaged by suspected twisters in Cherokee County, north of Atlanta.
Texas wasn't the only state hit by wildfires. Southern California was battling at least three wildfires Monday. The largest was burning near Tehachapi in Kern County. It was sparked a day earlier when a single-engine Cessna plane crashed. At least 650 homes in three rugged communities were ordered to evacuate. Hundreds of firefighters, backed by a DC-10 jumbo jet tanker and more than a dozen other aircraft, were battling the blaze. It quickly spread to an area covering more than 7 square miles.

**Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.**

This morning -

Yesterday -
9/5/11 -

A 6.6-magnitude earthquake has hit the northern part of Indonesia's Sumatra island, with local reports saying at least one person has been killed. The quake struck at 12.55am (3.55am AEST) at a depth of 110km, with its epicentre around 400km south-east of Banda Aceh. The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said the quake was too far inland to generate a tsunami. The Jakarta Post quoted the mayor of Subulussalam as saying a 12-year-old boy had died in the city when the building he was in collapsed. It quoted local reports as saying the jolt was also felt by residents in the cities of Aceh and Medan for about 30 seconds, causing panic among residents. Aceh was devastated when the 9.1-magnitude quake off Sumatra in December 2004 triggered a huge tsunami that killed more than 220,000 people around the Indian Ocean.

Tonga And American Samoa Shaken By Strong Earthquake - A powerful subsea earthquake struck near Tonga and American Samoa in the South Pacific on Monday. The 6.4 magnitude quake is the latest in a series of recent massive earthquakes to
be recorded in the region, which is located along the Pacific Ring of Fire. No tsunami warning has been issued. The quake was recorded at a depth 35.4 km (22.0 miles), making it a shallow earthquake.
Vanuatu, also located in the South Pacific, was struck by two large earthquakes during the last 24 hours. A strong earthquake struck off the island nation of Vanuatu on early Monday morning, but there were no reports of damage or casualties. It comes less than a day after a powerful earthquake struck the same area. A 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck at 8.44 a.m. local time Monday (2144 GMT Sunday). It was centred about 73 kilometres (45 miles) northwest of Isangel, a city on the Vanuatu island of Tanna. On Sunday morning, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck about 122 kilometres (75 miles) south-southeast of Isangel. It came two weeks after two powerful earthquakes measuring 7.1 and 7.4 on the Richter scale also struck the region, generating a small tsunami but causing no casualties.
Vanuatu and Tonga are on the so-called ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’, an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin that is prone to frequent and large earthquakes. Volcanic eruptions also occur frequently in the region. (map)

-Category 4 Hurricane Katia was located about 450 mi...725 km S of Bermuda. There are no coastal watches or warnings in effect.

-Tropical storm 16w (Noru) was located approximately 415 nm east-southeast of Misawa, Japan.

HURRICANE KATIA was upgraded to a category four hurricane today, threatening the US East Coast with dangerous rip currents. Katia, located about 1600km east of Miami, is producing winds of 215km/h and is moving north-west at 16km/h. At its current speed and bearing it would make landfall near the border of North Carolina and Virginia - 1550km away - late on Saturday night. Its general motion is expected to continue at least through until Wednesday. Large swells generated by Katia are expected to affect most of the US East Coast in coming days, with "life-threatening surf and rip current conditions" forecast. No coastal watches or warnings are yet in effect.

Heavy Rain as Lee's Storm System Crosses South - The slow-moving remnants of Tropical Storm Lee brought heavy rain across the South on Monday and whipped up high winds, possibly tornadoes, that damaged dozens of Georgia homes as the system pushed farther inland.

Five good things about a hurricane -
1. Tropical cyclones are important rainmakers, providing 25 percent or more of available rainfall to places like Japan, India, and Southeast Asia — not to mention Texas, which desperately needs a dousing ASAP.
2. Tropical cyclones help maintain the global heat balance by moving warm tropical air away from the equator and towards the poles. Without them, the tropics would get a lot hotter and the poles a lot colder. A typical tropical cyclone releases heat energy of about 50 to 200 exajoules a day. That's equivalent to 70 times our worldwide energy consumption.
3. Paradoxically, fragile barrier islands need hurricanes for their survival — especially now, when sea levels are rising. Although hurricanes erode beaches on the ocean side of barrier islands, they build up the back sides of the same islands by depositing new sediments via winds and waves. This dynamical process keeps barrier islands alive.
4. Tropical cyclones stir up the ocean and drive the process of upwelling, thus playing a part in the thermohaline circulation — another important transport mechanism distributing heat between the equator and the poles and keeping the earth's temperature in better balance.
5. By stirring the ocean, tropical cyclones also cycle nutrients from the seafloor to the surface, boosting ocean productivity and setting the stage for blooms of marine life. (photos & charts)


PAKISTAN - Torrential monsoon rains have in recent days killed at least 88 people and affected millions more in southeastern Pakistan. The recent floods have mostly affected Sindh province where 80 percent of banana, sugar cane and cotton crops have been destroyed and nearly 100,000 cattle heads are dead or missing. Food is being provided to almost FOUR MILLION affected people. The flood waters may take two to three months to dry.
A new spell of heavy rainfall, which started on August 30, continues to pour down causing flash floods. Many local roads which connected different parts of Sindh are completely inaccessible due to flood waters, while scores of small cities and towns have been disconnected from communication systems of the major cities.
In early August, torrential rains also wrecked havoc in most parts of the province of Sindh, killing at least 18 people and leaving dozens more injured. Some areas saw THE WORST RAINFALL SINCE AT LEAST 1936. And in late July 2010, above-average heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan regions killed approximately 2,000 people and affected around 20 million others. It was the country’s WORST FLOODING IN MODERN HISTORY.

BRITAIN is set for a battering this week with gale-force winds, hail storms and lightning expected from today. Met Office forecasters are considering issuing extreme weather warnings and say the whole country will be rocked by the Atlantic storm. The battering – marking the start of autumn weather – comes just days after temperatures soared to 27°C (80°F), hotter than Mexico City and Madrid. Winds of up to 57mph – strong enough to blow roof tiles off – and torrential downpours are set to last from today until Wednesday. It will be "quite a washout. The whole country will see very strong winds and heavy showers which could easily give 5mm to 10mm of rain in an hour. Autumn is certainly starting this week, although summer can always make a return."


UNITED KINGDOM - A long range weather forecaster is predicting an early start to winter 2011-2012 for many regions of the United Kingdom and Ireland. Exacta Weather says heavy snowfalls are likely in places as soon as late October and early November. Last week, UK-based Positive Weather Solutions also predicted that the winter months will be colder than average everywhere and that some regions will experience significantly colder than average temperatures between December and March. The agency, which has a relatively high success rate in its long range weather predictions, has also given a 36% chance of the Ireland and Britain experiencing a White Christmas.
Bookmakers have also odds of 16/1 that the lowest recorded temperature in England will be beaten (-26.1C, Jan 10 1982, Shropshire), and even odds of 100/1 that Big Ben Fails to chime due to being frozen solid and that the Thames will freeze over between Westminster Bridge and Tower Bridge. The chilly long range forecasts follow the coolest summer since 1986 in many parts of Ireland and since 1962 in parts of the southwest. The highest temperature recorded this summer was 25.5°C at Oak Park, Co. Carlow on the 3rd of June.
They are predicting a notable increase in usual wind strengths for this time of year across many parts, that will result in frequent and potentially damaging gale force winds and strong stormy features throughout autumn and winter. “Although some places further South may see some spells of settled weather at times, the general theme for autumn as a whole looks largely wet and very windy with dominant grey skies. It will be generally unsettled and turn progressively colder with an early start to winter, especially more so in the regions of Scotland, Northern England, and Northern Ireland...The most important factor within our weather forecasting calculations is solar activity and other major natural factors that it influences. Radiant energy from the sun is the primary influence on both the earth’s ocean and atmosphere. Low solar activity and ocean behaviour alter atmospheric circulation and block jet stream patterns that create enhanced moisture in terms of snowfall. The UK and Ireland is hit by prolonged periods of extreme cold and snow from the Arctic regions, as cold easterlies or north-easterlies develop. Huge swirly low pressure systems also offer the potential for widespread disruption from heavy snowfall across many parts of the UK including the South, as they clash with the predominant cold air over the UK. Coupled with other in depth factors such as recent volcanic activity and changes to the Gulf Stream/North Atlantic drift that we consider, this does not bode well for the severity of the UK and Northern European winter of winter 2011-12. Frequent and prolonged cold spells with heavy dumps of snow from blizzard like conditions is likely across many parts of the UK. The areas we expect to be worse hit throughout include the vast majority of Scotland and the Scottish Highlands, Northern England, and Northern Ireland. We have particular concerns as to the huge implications that this may pose to the infrastructure of the UK and Ireland transportation systems/economy.”
Though overall temperatures during the past two winters have been close to or slightly below normal for the season, both Ireland and the UK did experience periods of extreme weather. Late November and December 2010 brought prolonged periods of cold weather leading to significant disruption to traffic and travel. December 2010 also was the coldest December across the UK since the national series began in 1910. The “Big Freeze” of November/December 2010 also saw record low temperatures being broken.


A massive wildfire east of the Texas state capital of Austin has destroyed 476 homes since Sunday. "That's A RECORD IN TEXAS FOR A SINGLE FIRE." It was still burning out of control state officials said on Monday. "I'm still seeing no containment." The Bastrop County Complex Fire has scorched more than 25,000 acres. The Bastrop fire is one of more than sixty fires which have kindled across Texas since Sunday afternoon, fueled by the gusty winds generated as Tropical Storm Lee pushed by in the Gulf of Mexico as it made landfall in Louisiana.
"The winds and the number of fires that are happening around Central Texas has caused a real strain on firefighters around this area. The Bastrop County area about 30 miles east of Austin is no stranger to wildfires, with rural brush common. But THE SPEED THE FIRE SHOWED IN SPREADING TOOK EVERYONE BY SURPRISE, and 19 subdivisions in the county of about 70,000 people saw evacuations in the last 24 hours.
Many people who were evacuated said they left with only the clothes on their backs, while others managed to escape with a handful of family photos. "This fire is nowhere near being under control. More than 250 firefighters were working on the Bastrop fire, which stretches for 16 miles with a breadth of six miles in some spots. Additional mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for various parts of Bastrop and also Travis County, where the city of Austin is located and is the scene of the 150 acre Steiner Ranch Fire, which had destroyed 25 homes by Monday and prompted the evacuation of more than 1000 homes. "This is far from over."