Monday, February 22, 2016

Global Disaster Watch - daily natural disaster updates.

**When you relinquish the spectacular, you are rewarded with the quieter joy of the ordinary.**
Eric Weiner

LARGEST QUAKES so far today, 6.0 or larger -

2/21/16 - 2/18/16 -
None 6.0 or larger.

2/17/16 -

2/16/16 -

2/15/16 -

2/14/16 - 2/13/16
None 6.0 or larger.


New Zealand - No damage reported after 'severe' 5.0 quake rattles Wellington. A strong earthquake was felt across the lower North and upper South Islands on the 5 year anniversary of the Canterbury quake in which 185 died.

Japan - Few hospitals ready for post-Nankai Trough quake with support plans. Only 8% of about 600 responding hospitals that are likely to be affected by a predicted massive earthquake in the Nankai Trough running south of Japan’s mainland have created plans that would make it easier to receive outside support in the wake of disasters.
The findings come five years after the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and massive tsunami devastated areas of northeastern Japan in 2011. The quake-tsunami disaster damaged some 300 hospitals, or nearly 80% of the total, in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.

Rare eruption of Iceland's most famous hot spring Geysir - The Great Geysir, Iceland's most famous hot spring, which has given the name to geysers all over the world, erupted yesterday. This rare event was captured on camera.
Earthquakes have been shown to revive the activity of Geysir and records from 1630 show that it erupted violently many times that year. Until 1896 however the hot spring was almost dormant before an earthquake that year caused eruptions to begin again, several times a day. In 1935 a man-made channel was dug through the rim which caused a revival in activity, but gradually the channel became clogged with silica making eruptions once again rare. In 1981 the channel was cleared and eruptions were simulated on special occasions by the additon of soaps, something later discouraged because of environmental concerns.
An earthquake in the year 2000 revived the geyser again and an eruption took place for two days straight, reaching 122 metres in height. In the last decade, eruptions have decreased considerably and it is now considered almost inactive.

Mount Paektu - Scientists say that North Korea’s nuclear program could cause a volcanic eruption of Mount Paektu, the country’s highest mountain.
The underground test site is 115km from the volcano and an explosion could increase pressure in the magma chamber beneath the 2744m mountain, driving molten rock upwards. “An underground nuclear explosion test near an active volcano constitutes a direct threat to the volcano."
North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test last month and although the blast was not as large as would be expected from the bomb that North Korea claimed to have set off, it still produced an earthquake measuring 5.1. The team calculated that an earthquake of 7.0, which has been recorded after nuclear tests in the United States, could create sufficient pressure to cause an eruption. Mount Paektu last erupted in 1903 and its eruption in AD946 was one of the biggest of the past 2,000 years. Between 2002 and 2006, scientists reported an increase in earthquakes and ground swelling around Mount Paektu, suggesting that the magma was shifting.


* In the Southern Pacific -
Tropical cyclone Winston is located approximately 337 nm west of Suva, Fiji.

Cyclone Winston - the Southern Hemisphere's Strongest Storm on Record. Mighty Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Winston smashed through the islands of Fiji Friday night and Saturday morning with top sustained winds estimated at 185 mph. These winds vaulted Winston into a three-way tie as the second strongest landfalling tropical cyclone in world recorded history.
Winston began its march at Category 5 strength through the Fiji Islands beginning at 18 UTC (1 pm EST) Friday. At that time, Winston had 165 mph winds as it moved westwards over the small Fiji island of Vanua Balavu (population 1,200). The island's airport was in the western eyewall of Winston, and at 18 UTC measured 10-minute average winds of 106 mph (roughly equivalent to 120 mph winds using the U.S. 1-minute averaging time.)
Winston continued to intensify, then crashed ashore on the Fiji island of Koro (population 4,500) at peak strength - sustained winds of 185 mph - near 02 UTC Saturday (9 pm EST Friday.) This is the second strongest landfall by any tropical cyclone, globally, in recorded history. Only Super Typhoon Haiyan's 190 mph winds at landfall in 2013 in Samar, Philippines have been rated higher.
After likely demolishing most of Koro with a long period of sustained winds of EF4 tornado strength, Winston weakened slightly, to 180 mph winds, while its northern (weaker) eyewall brushed the south coast of Fiji's second largest island, Vanua Levu. The city of Nambouwalu on the south coast of Vanua Levu reported 10-minute sustained winds of 121 mph at 06 UTC Saturday (roughly equivalent to Category 4 winds of 135 mph using the U.S. 1-minute averaging time.) Winston then wobbled more to the west-southwest, possibly due to interaction with the high terrain of the two largest islands of Fiji.
Maintaining winds of 180 mph, Winston slammed ashore along the northeast coast of Fiji's main island of Viti Levu in Rakiraki, a district of close to 30,000 people, near 07 UTC Saturday. The eye of Winston travelled westwards along the north coast of Viti Levu for two hours, pounding the entire north coast of the island with the strongest part of the storm, the southern eyewall. When Winston finally emerged from the island near 09 UTC Saturday, the storm was slightly weaker, but still had Category 5 winds of 160 mph.
At that time, the edge of Winston's south eyewall moved over the second largest city in Fiji, Lautoka (population 80,000). The top sustained winds at the Lautoka tide station were 83 mph, gusting to 110 mph. These 10-minute average winds imply that at least Category 2 hurricane conditions (95 - 100 mph 1-minute averaged winds) were likely experienced there (thanks go to wunderground member Carnivorous for this link.) Damage to Fiji is going to be severe to catastrophic, but it will be several days before the true scope of the destruction is realized.
Winston will likely weaken to Category 4 strength and head southwards during the remainder of the weekend, with no other islands in its path, thankfully. The cyclone may restrengthen slightly on Monday before a more significant weakening takes hold. (storm video at link)

Death toll from ferocious Fiji cyclone hits 18 as aid sent to islands. Authorities were still having trouble communicating with some islands, including places like Koro Island which suffered some of the worst damage. And more than 6,000 residents across Fiji were staying in emergency shelters after their homes were broken or swamped.
Winds from Cyclone Winston, which tore through Fiji over the weekend, reached 177 miles (285 kilometers) per hour, making it the strongest storm in the Southern Hemisphere since record-keeping began. Getting emergency supplies to the group's far-flung islands and remote communities was the government's top priority. Home to 900,000 people, Fiji has more than 100 inhabited islands. "The logistics of getting supplies and equipment to remote communities is difficult. Some have lost their jetties and it's uncertain if airstrips are able to be landed on."


Winds Gusted to Near-Hurricane Levels in Chicago Area - After Friday's wind storm, the Chicago area is continuing to recover from damage inflicted by the 72 mile-per-hour winds ripped through the city and shredded roofs, windows, trees and fences.

Seattle, Washington, drowned its rain record Friday, setting an all-time high for wettest rainy season ever. They’ve had nearly 2 feet of rain, or 22.97 inches, since Dec. 1, breaking the previous 22.77-inch record set in the same time of year in 1998-99.
The record is for the period from December through February, called meteorological winter because it typically is the coldest stretch of the year. With more rain in the forecast, and more than a week left in the month, the old record is sure to sink even further.
After all the predictions of a monster El Niño this year, expectations were for a warmer, drier winter. Warmer came through in spades, with temperatures in Seattle so far during the month of February running about 5 degrees above normal.

In Colorado, unlike almost every other state in the country, it is illegal to collect the rain that falls from the sky into a rain barrel. Several Denver residents support a bill at the General Assembly that is scheduled to be heard in Committee on Monday. The bill would permit Coloradans to use no more than 2 rain barrels collecting a maximum of 110 gallons of rainwater.
A similar measure was introduced last year but failed after some Republican senators expressed concern that collecting rainwater could deplete the water supply of rivers downstream and for the rural residents who rely on them.


Disruptive snow, rain threaten eastern US, Great Lakes next week - A winter storm is expected to track from the southern Plains, threatening to unleash a large swath of disruptive snow and rain across the eastern United States and Great Lakes this week.
The springlike start to this weekend has not put an end to the risk of wintry weather in a part of the eastern U.S. and Great Lakes when a winter storm arrives this week. Latest indications point toward the worst of the winter storm impacting the eastern-third of the U.S. on Wednesday into Thursday.
Ahead of the main storm, a weaker system with rain will track from the Ohio Valley to the mid- Atlantic to end the weekend. It is not out of the question for the rain grazing places from the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania to far southern New England to end as wet snowflakes.
Another system will spread rain and thunderstorms across the South early in the new week, while the more potent winter storm for the eastern U.S. takes shape in the southern Plains. "[The storm next Wednesday and Thursday] has the potential to be disruptive to travel because it could cover a large area with a wide variety of weather. How strong the storm becomes will determine the amount of wind and extent of coastal flooding. Given the timing of the storm, the highest astronomical tides related to the full moon will occur a couple of days ahead of the storm. Tides, however, will still be higher than average."
Regardless of which scenario pans out this week, colder air will sweep into the eastern U.S. in the storm's wake. An even harsher blast of arctic air may then sweep from the Midwest to Northeast next weekend or early in the following week.


More severe drought is expected to hit Thailand between March and April, as authorities have already declared 11 provinces disaster zones due to water scarcity.


Zika Virus Enabled By Shoddy Water, Sewer Systems - Shoddy water and sewer infrastructure is abetting the spread of the Zika virus, which has exploded throughout Latin America in the past year and is now documented in 20 nations. The virus is largely spread by mosquitos. Related to dengue, yellow fever, and West Nile, it has a foothold in urban areas where decrepit water and sewer systems provide a comfortable breeding ground for mosquitoes.
“The mosquito lays its eggs in containers of water, of a sort that are especially common in the huge slums of Latin American cities. With unreliable access to piped water, people there store water in rooftop cisterns, buckets and the like. Old tires and other debris can also become mosquito habitat. Water storage near homes is commonplace in areas where Zika has spread rapidly, like the cities of Recife and Salvador in northeastern Brazil, and where dengue experienced a surge in 2015, like São Paulo, Brazil’s largest state."
Why is this virus so threatening? “The main fear is that it may cause birth defects if pregnant women contract it. The possibility that the Zika virus causes microcephaly [in babies] — unusually small heads and often damaged brains — emerged only in October, when doctors in northern Brazil noticed a surge in babies with the condition."
Claims have emerged that pesticides, not Zika, are to blame for the rise in birth defects, but scientists and public officials, including U.S. health authorities, debunked that argument this week, according to USA Today. Nevertheless, “Brazil’s southernmost state halted the use of a mosquito larvicide that an Argentine doctors’ group warns could be behind the recent surge of babies born with microcephaly.”

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