Category: Storms


Cyclone threatens to disrupt search for missing MH370

April 21, 2014

Australian Navy officer Morgan Macdonald stands in a rigid hull inflatable boat as he observes markers dropped from a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3K Orion, after an object was sighted in the southern Indian Ocean. – Reuters pic, April 21, 2014.Australian Navy officer Morgan Macdonald stands in a rigid hull inflatable boat as he observes markers dropped from a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3K Orion, after an object was sighted in the southern Indian Ocean. – Reuters pic, April 21, 2014.A tropical cyclone was threatening to hamper the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight today, as a submarine drone neared the end of its mission scouring the southern Indian Ocean sea bed with still no sign of wreckage.

The search for flight MH370, which vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board, has narrowed to a 10 sq km patch of sea floor about 2,000 km west of the Australian city of Perth.

Search authorities and the Australian and Malaysian governments have said a series of sonar signals, or “pings”, traced to the area may have emanated from the plane’s “black box” and present the most credible lead as to its whereabouts.

However no pings have been detected in almost two weeks and authorities now fear that, with the flight data recorder’s battery several weeks past its expected expiry date, the black box may not emit further signals.

A US Navy remote controlled submarine, the Bluefin-21, was on its ninth mission scanning the largely unmapped stretch of sea bed where the pings are believed to have come from, with still no trace found, Australian search officials said today.

“Bluefin-21 has searched approximately two-thirds of the focused underwater search area to date. No contacts of interest have been found to date,” the Joint Agency Coordination Centre said in a statement.

 

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Cyclone Ita could be similar in force to Typhoon Haiyan

Nth Qld braces for severe cyclone 1:55

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Cyclone Ita has been upgraded to a category five storm and is expected to hit the Queensland coast shortly.

 

CATEGORY-FIVE Cyclone Ita has been likened in sheer destructive force to Typhoon Haiyan that last year wiped out parts of South East Asia killing thousands in the strongest wind speed ever recorded.

7am: Cooktown locals in far north Queensland are making an early morning dash to their service station as the town braces for its first major cyclone in 65 years.

Category 5 Cyclone Ita was 235km northeast of the town at 6am, as some 28 people spent the night in the local cyclone shelter.

Cooktown, north of the World Heritage-listed Daintree National Park, was last battered by a cyclone in February 1949.

Locals were rushing to the local service station for supplies as strong winds and heavy rain drenched the town of about 2300 people soon after daybreak.

It is understood Cooktown’s main store is closing its doors soon, while most homes in the area are either boarded up or have tape on the windows.

 

Cyclone threat 8:59

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Queensland is on disaster alert as monster storm Tropical Cyclone Ita, now a category five system, bears down on far north Queensland

6am: Cyclone Ita has clocked 300km/h winds as it shapes to slam into the coast about 6pm today.

 

The category 5 cyclone is pushing a wall of water, with “phenomenal” seas in front of its 80km-wide core.

Winds up to 125km/h are expected to batter the far north Queensland coast by late morning.

At 6am, the cyclone was about 235 kilometre a north northeast of Cooktown, moving southwest at 11km/h.

Cyclone Ita is predicted to cross the coast between Cape Melville and Cooktown late afternoon.

Very destructive winds to 300km have been estimated at the core pushing a huge storm surge.

Cyclone warnings are current from Lockhart River to Innisfail, including Cooktown, Port Douglas and Cairns.

And the severe storm is expected to maintain intensity as it smashes the Queensland coast between Cape Melville and Cooktown later today.

A cyclone warning is current for coastal areas from Lockhart River to Innisfail and inland to Kalinga, Palmerville, Mareeba and Chillagoe.

A cyclone watch is current for coastal areas from Innisfail to Cardwell and inland.

 

 

5am: Cyclone Ita was 240km north northeast of Cooktown and 385km north of Cairns, moving southwest at 12 kilometres per hour.

The system near the core is churning winds around 300km/h and gales extending out to 200km from the centre.

Destructive winds with wind gusts in excess of 125km/h could develop between Cape Melville and Cooktown from late morning extending south to Cape Tribulation and possibly Port Douglas later in the day.

Dangerous storm tides, damaging waves, rising sea levels and strong currents are expected between Cape Melville and Cape Tribulation including Cooktown.

Sea level is likely to rise well above normal tides with flooding of low-lying areas extending some way inland.

12am: Premier Campbell Newman has warned if the colossal tropical cyclone tracks south today it could impact tens of thousands of people in Port Douglas, Mossman and Cairns with the threat of tsunami-like storm surge.

At 10:00pm, Ita was estimated 320km north northeast of Cooktown and 455 km north of Cairns and is projected to cross the coast about 5pm.

The powerful system is travelling southwest at abouty 15km per hour.

A warning has been issued for the coastal areas from Lockhart River to Innisfail.

Cooktown, Port Douglas and Cairns, Kalinga, Palmerville, Mareeba and Chillagoe are included in the threatened area.

Premier Campbell Newman toured Cooktown and Hope Vale as Cyclone Ita last night bore down on the far north Queensland frontier.

 

 

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Earth Watch Report  -  Extreme Weather

 

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March 26 2014 07:00 AM Extreme Weather USA State of Arizona, Phoenix Damage level Details

 

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RSOE EDIS

 

Extreme Weather in USA on Wednesday, 26 March, 2014 at 07:00 (07:00 AM) UTC.

Description
A massive haboob swept through Phoenix on Tuesday, lingering above the Arizona capital for hours and creating an eyesore for residents. The dust storm picked up as a result of the showers and thunderstorms that popped around the state, with gusty outflow winds raising the elements. With another area of low pressure swinging a cold front in tomorrow, weather experts say another storm is likely. Arizona is no stranger to large dust storms, or haboobs, during the summer monsoon period, but meteorologists say Tuesday’s storm is unseasonably early. The National Weather Service says a large cloud of dust was first spotted near Eloy about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

 

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Massive haboob dust cloud blankets Phoenix in thunderstorm aftermath… and ANOTHER is forecast for tomorrow

  • Haboob said to have started in Tucson after first being sighted around 4pm
  • Meteorologists say a dry storm with winds of up to 35 mph kicked up the dust in southern Arizona and the cloud moved north to the Phoenix area
  • The cloud lingered for hours
  • There were at least five car crashes
  • A cold front set to swing in tomorrow will likely bring a similar storm

By Daily Mail Reporter

 

A massive haboob swept through Phoenix on Tuesday, lingering above the Arizona capital for hours and creating an eyesore for residents.

The dust storm picked up as a result of the showers and thunderstorms that popped around the state, with gusty outflow winds raising the elements.

With another area of low pressure swinging a cold front in tomorrow, weather experts say another storm is likely, according to My Fox Phoenix.

It's not summertime yet, but a dust storm imoved through the Phoenix metropolitan area on Tuesday, blanketing the area in thick smoke

It’s not summertime yet, but a dust storm imoved through the Phoenix metropolitan area on Tuesday, blanketing the area in thick smoke

 

The Arizona Department of Public Safety said the storm caused at least five crashes along I-10, with the first storm hitting about 4pm

The Arizona Department of Public Safety said the storm caused at least five crashes along I-10, with the first storm hitting about 4pm

 

Arizona is no stranger to large dust storms, or haboobs, during the summer monsoon period, but meteorologists say Tuesday’s storm is unseasonably early.

The National Weather Service says a large cloud of dust was first spotted near Eloy about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

 Meteorologists say a dry storm with winds of up to 35 mph kicked up the dust in southern Arizona and the cloud moved north to the Phoenix area.

A dust storm warning was first issued for the Interstate 10 corridor between Tucson and Casa Grande, just south of Phoenix.

State Department of Public Safety officials say blowing dust along I-10 north of Picacho Peak resulted in at least five crashes

 

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Dust Storm


 

Published on Mar 25, 2014

A dust storm blew in while on vacation in Gilbert, Az. I flew my DJI Phantom up to get a view of the inbound storm. I didn’t keep it up there long as it started getting quite windy. Filmed on a GoPro 3.

To use this video in a commercial player or in broadcasts, please email licensing@storyful.com

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Earth Watch Report  -  Extreme Weather

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Extreme Weather Philippines Zamboanga del Sur, Tabina [Zamboanga Peninsula] Damage level Details

 

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RSOE EDIS

Extreme Weather in Philippines on Tuesday, 18 March, 2014 at 09:17 (09:17 AM) UTC.

Description
At least 30 houses were destroyed after strong winds and heavy rains struck a surprised village in Tabina, Zamboanga del Sur, the police reported Tuesday. Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, spokesman of Police Regional Office 9 (PRO), said no one was reported hurt in the disaster that hit Barangay New Oroquita. Quoting belated reports, Huesca said that the “sudden storm” struck the village on Friday night. Engr. Rey Rubio of the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said at least 100 residents were forced to leave their homes during the onslaught. He said several coconut trees were also toppled by strong winds. Rubio said that the incident was not immediately reported to authorities because the remote village had not phone signal and that only a few vehicle pass through the area. He said the disaster’s damage was pegged at P500,000.

 

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4 children feared dead in Zamboanga Sibugay landslide

By

 

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Four children were feared dead after they were buried alive in a huge landslide in Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay, police reported Thursday.

Insp. Ariel Huesca, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Police Office, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer via a text message that the children were resting in an abandoned house in Purok 4 in Barangay (village) Sayao around 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday when soil, mud and rocks moved amid heavy rains.

 

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5 killed, 17,000 displaced by Zamboanga flooding

By , , INQUIRER.net Inquirer Mindanao

Contributed Photo by Sarah Lizette

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines— While Zamboanga City has barely moved on from the fighting between government troops and Moro National Liberation Front last month, deaths from the incessant heavy rains spawned by the intertropical convergence zone in the city for the past few days rose to five on Wednesday.

More than 17,000 others displaced when floods caused by continuous heavy rain swept through the city and outlying villages during the past week, the authorities said.

Although much of the floods have receded, some places remain under water as the rains have continued.

ITCZ brings heavy rains

Maribel Enriquez, chief of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration station in Zamboanga City, said the Intertropical Convergence Zone was causing all the rain.

“It’s been there hovering and it is the reason why we have long hours of rain since last week, making our soil saturated with water,” Enriquez said.

“When our soil is saturated with water, definitely, we are going to experience flooding and landslide,” she added.

The five-day incessant rains with occasional strong winds battered the city since Friday last week inundated 6.47 hectares of farmlands and fishponds.

Damage to crops was estimated to cost P57.9 million.

Sheila Covarrubias, the city’s information officer, said records of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Center show that a total of 25 barangays, or city districts and villages, were flooded, affecting 4,802 families or 17,026 individuals.

Five persons were reported to have drowned in the villages of Tugbungan, San Roque, San Jose Gusu and Putik.

Chief Insp. Ariel Huesca, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Regional Police Office, identified two of those killed as Edwina Flores, 58, and her helper Rosanna Fabella, both residents of San Roque.

 

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Published time: February 28, 2014 16:49

Azusa, California (Reuters/David McNew)

Azusa, California (Reuters/David McNew)

Police in two California cities have ordered mandatory evacuations for 1,000 homes due to the threat of mudslides, as a powerful rainstorm prepares to drench the drought-stricken state.

Homeowners in Azusa and Glendora, California – about 25 miles northeast of Los Angeles – were made aware of the orders on Thursday, after one rainstorm had already passed over the cities. No significant damage was done, but with 2,000 acres of mountain slopes near the suburbs denuded by a January wildfire, officials fear a stronger storm could trigger a series of devastating mudslides.

“You’ve got a recently burned hillside here with limited vegetation and a very steep slope. It’s a recipe for what the experts say is potential for a great deal of damage,” Sgt. John Madaloni said to local news outlet KCAL 9.

Prior to the first storm, local communities began preparing for possible damage by lining the streets with wooden barriers and sandbags, hoping to keep any traveling debris on the roads and away from homes. With the National Weather Service warning of a storm powerful enough to drop 1 to 2 inches of rain an hour into Saturday, however, allowing everyone to stay in their homes posed too great a risk for city officials.

 

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Storm lashes California, but not a drought buster

 

Clouds are shown over the iconic Hollywood sign Thursday Feb. 27, 2014 in Los Angeles. Southern California got an overnight soaking Thursday as residents prepared for a second, more powerful storm that could bring heavier rain and prompted fears of mudslides in communities along fire-scarred foothills. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

 

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) – California was lashed Friday by heavy rains that the parched state so desperately needs, though with the soaking came familiar problems: traffic snarls, power outages and the threat of mudslides.

Even with rainfall totals exceeding 8 inches in some Southern California mountains by afternoon, the powerful Pacific storm did not put a major dent in a drought that is among the worst in recent California history.

The first waves of the storm drenched foothill communities east of Los Angeles that just weeks ago were menaced by a wildfire – and now faced potential mudslides. Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for about 1,200 homes in the area. Small debris flows covered one street in Glendora, but no property damage occurred, police said.

Forecasters expected the storm to last through Saturday in California before trundling east into similarly rain-starved neighboring states. Phoenix was expecting its first noticeable precipitation in two months. The storm was projected to head east across the Rockies before petering out in the Northeast in several days.

The threat of mudslides will last at least through Saturday night. Tornadoes and water spouts were possible.

Rainfall totals in parts of California were impressive, especially in areas that typically don’t receive much, but not nearly enough to offer long-term relief from a long-running drought.

Downtown Los Angeles received about 2 inches – doubling its total for the rainy season that began in July, the National Weather Service said. The city remained 7 inches below the normal 11 inches. The last time a storm dumped 2 inches of rain in Los Angeles was March 2011.

 

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NASAno Rains Ash, Rock on Java: Photos

NASA today released this image of the polar vortex, the weird atmospheric twitch that flooded into the United States last month. The purple wavy line above that wanders down from the Arctic shows the below-average temperatures that set cold records in many states.

From NASA’s Facebook page:

“The Big Chill – Blistering cold air from the Arctic plunged southward this winter, breaking U.S. temperature records. A persistent pattern of winds spins high above the Arctic in winter. The winds, known as the polar vortex, typically blow in a fairly tight circular formation. But in late December 2013 and early January 2014, the winds loosened and frigid Arctic air spilled farther south than usual, deep into the continental United States. On Jan. 6, 2014, alone, approximately 50 daily record low temperatures were set, from Colorado to Alabama to New York, according to the National Weather Service. In some places temperatures were 40 degrees Fahrenheit colder than average.”

 

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Wind chill advisory: Check out how cold it will feel in Grand Rapids

By Andrew Krietz | akrietz@mlive.com

on February 27, 2014 at 3:53 PM, updated February 27, 2014 at 4:23 PM

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Don’t let the Thursday afternoon sun fool you.

A wind chill advisory is in effect until 11 a.m. Friday following the National Weather Service canceling a winter weather advisory. With snow showers mostly out of the picture, there’s now a greater focus on how cold it’ll feel when the sun comes up.

“Feels like” temperatures will be at their lowest after 4 a.m. Friday, with some readings approaching minus 25 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids.

Forecasters say there likely will be a bit of a lull in wind speeds late tonight through the early morning hours, but an approaching weather system is positioned to kick them back up again to about 5 to 15 mph. It won’t take much for the wind, coupled with an overnight low of minus 7 degrees, to knock down those readings quickly.

 

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Arctic air makes a comeback, sort of

Freeze will cover two-thirds of country, weather service says

UPDATED 8:35 AM PST Feb 25, 2014
Cold New Yorkers, cold weather

Chad Weisser/iReport

(CNN) —Don’t pack away those winter coats and hats yet!

We’re in for another blast of cold Arctic air, which is gearing up to roll across most of the country this week, but it won’t be as bad as the shocking freeze in January.

The National Weather Service says some places from the central U.S. to the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys could be having some frosty high temperatures, as low 20 to 30 degrees below normal.

If you call it Polar Vortex Part II (or III or IV), meteorologists say you’d be wrong — nor was the first big cold spell of 2014, strictly speaking, a strike of the Polar Vortex.

The Polar Vortex stays anchored over Baffin Bay, to the north of Canada, and doesn’t move, says CNN meteorologist Sean Morris. But its shifting pattern allows cold Arctic air to spill southward into the United States.

“When it weakens, this allows the cold Arctic air that is often mislabeled the “Polar Vortex” to spill southward across the U.S. border and bring us bone-chilling temperatures,” Morris explained.

So from a technical perspective, “if you’re looking to get ‘struck’ by the vortex, you’re out of luck,” he added.

Although this cold snap doesn’t have as menacing a name, the Arctic air blast will cause temperatures to plummet 25 to 35 degrees below average east of the Rocky Mountains, Morris said.

Temperatures will drop Tuesday to 10 to 30 degrees below normal for this time of year in places such as Minnesota and the Dakotas. Then the arctic blast will roll east.

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Brutal Winter Continues as Temps Plummet Again

File Photo
Photo: AP/Nati Harnik

Updated: 02/27/2014 4:50 PM

Created: 02/27/2014 6:10 AM KSTP.com
By: Jennie Olson

Now that the high winds of Wednesday are settling down, our temperatures have taken yet another dive.

After a brief warm up, the never-ending winter of 2013-14 has re-established its run at record territory, Morning Chief Meteorologist Ken Barlow says.

 

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File: The climate-controlled skyway system in Minneapolis provides warmth for people moving from building to building as another polar blast brought sub-zero temperatures with wind chills in the minus-40′s, Monday, Jan. 27.
Photo: AP/Jim Mone, File

 

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Earth Watch Report  -  Tornado

 

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February 26 2014 06:35 PM Tornado New Zealand South Island, [North Canterbury] Damage level Details

 

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Tornado in New Zealand on Wednesday, 26 February, 2014 at 18:35 (06:35 PM) UTC.

Description
A tornado has ripped its way through North Canterbury in New Zealand as rough weather and lightning caused extensive damage. The Civil Defence has arrived at the scene to inspect the damaged properties. According to fire service shift manager Andrew Norris, a group of homes in Amberley have been heavily damaged. The town is 50km north of Christchurch. Based on fire service reports, strong winds from the tornado had lifted the tiles off roofs of homes near the Burnham Military Camp. Southern Fire Communications Shift Manager Karl Patterson said he received reports of one house losing an entire roof. The tornado, barreling its way through South Island, also knocked down trees and caused power poles to catch fire. Mr Patterson said the fire service put out fires in Halsquell Quarry which were caused by lightning. Despite the damages to some homes and power lines, no casualties or injuries were reported. The clean-up continues in tornado-damaged areas, although 30 homes reported having no electricity by the afternoon of Feb 24. A resident from Amberley, Donna Graham, told Radio New Zealand that she and her husband, Geoff, saw the tornado form from hanging black clouds and realised the twister was moving straight to her house. She and her husband began running away from the house. They could hear the noises made by the tornado as it moved. The couple came out when they noticed they could not hear the tornado anymore. Civil Defence inspector Kerry Walsh said the damage caused by the tornado was worse than he expected. He said the clean-up was doing well. South Island’s lines company Mainpower remarked that some of the power poles had to be replaced before electricity will be restored to homes. Aside from the tornado in Amberley, a smaller tornado was spotted in Leeston and was captured on video by “stormchaser” Stephen Burrows. Mr Burrows said the smaller tornado was approximately 100 metres wide but looked weaker in comparison to the one in Amberley. The tornadoes were caused by a severe thunderstorm in parts of Canterbury. The MetService has warned residents in the area to prepare for a storm with torrential rain and large hail. According to weather authorities, the storm had formed near the coast of Timaru and made its way to Christchurch. The storm was classified as a “supercell” because it caused large hailstones and small tornadoes.

 

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The New Zealand Herald

 

Tornado strikes homes as storm lashes town

By Ben Irwin

A damaged building on a plant farm near Amberley, north Canterbury. Photo / Martin Hunter

A damaged building on a plant farm near Amberley, north Canterbury. Photo / Martin Hunter

Rough weather, lightning, and reports of a tornado caused extensive damage in North Canterbury last night.

Video

Fire service shift manager Andrew Norris said a “cluster of houses” in Amberley, 50km north of Christchurch, had been badly damaged about 6.30pm.

Southern fire communications shift manager Karl Patterson said the strong winds lifted tiles off roofs near the Burnham Military Camp area and three houses in Amberley, 50km north of Christchurch, were also affected.

“One house completely lost its roof. Another house had extensive roof damage [and] windows blown in.”

The weather also caused power pole fires and trees to be knocked down,” Mr Patterson said.

“Apparently a tornado of some description sort of went through just near the coast – it caused a little bit of damage, but we did a check of all the houses in the area and they were ok.

“We had a couple of fires started by lightning, we had a fire in Halswell Quarry, out the south-west side of town.

“Also, in Little River we had a tree catch on fire in the middle of a tree plantation of some description.”

There were no reports of injuries, Mr Patterson said.

 

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Earth Watch Report  -  Biological Hazards – Mass Animal Deaths

 

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February 26 2014 05:39 PM Biological Hazard France Brittany Region, [Finistere area] Damage level Details

 

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Biological Hazard in France on Wednesday, 26 February, 2014 at 17:39 (05:39 PM) UTC.

Description
Weakened and exhausted by successive storms, more than 21,000 dead seabirds washed up on the beaches of the Atlantic coast since late January, an unprecedented “massacre” for at least a century, announced today the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO). Until February 24, 21,341 dead seabirds are registered in the Basque country in southern Finistère and 2,784 sent in rescue centres. Atlantic puffin and guillemot are the most affected species, and to a lesser extent, razorbill.
Biohazard name: Mass. Die-off (birds)
Biohazard level: 1/4 Low
Biohazard desc.: Bacteria and viruses including Bacillus subtilis, canine hepatitis, Escherichia coli, varicella (chicken pox), as well as some cell cultures and non-infectious bacteria. At this level precautions against the biohazardous materials in question are minimal, most likely involving gloves and some sort of facial protection. Usually, contaminated materials are left in open (but separately indicated) waste receptacles. Decontamination procedures for this level are similar in most respects to modern precautions against everyday viruses (i.e.: washing one’s hands with anti-bacterial soap, washing all exposed surfaces of the lab with disinfectants, etc). In a lab environment, all materials used for cell and/or bacteria cultures are decontaminated via autoclave.
Symptoms:
Status: confirmed

 

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 Huffpost Green

 

21,000 Birds Killed In France By Slew Of Storms

Posted: 02/26/2014 2:28 pm EST Updated: 02/26/2014 2:59 pm EST
Main Entry Image
Photo taken on February 10, 2014 shows the bodies of puffins washed up on a beach in Sainte-Marie-de-Re, western France, after heavy storms. The Atlantic storms that have buffeted Europe in recent days have killed at least 5,000 sea birds on the French coast, half of them puffins. Most of the birds whose bodies have been washed up on beaches between the Pyrenees and Brittany died of exhaustion or starvation as a result of days of gale-force winds, which made it impossible for them to fish. | XAVIER LEOTY via Getty Images

Thousands of birds have been killed in France. The culprit? Winter storms.

In a statement, the League for the Protection of Birds said that violent storms in January and February were responsible for the deaths of 21,341 birds. The country has apparently not seen a bird “slaughter” that large since 1900, the Agence France-Presse reports.

An initial estimate released earlier this month put the death toll at 5,000. But once the organization enlisted volunteers to help with the count from the start of the month through Feb. 24, the number rose dramatically.

Of the species of sea birds affected, the Atlantic puffin had the highest numbers of deaths, with more than 12,229 deceased found. Large numbers of the common murre (or black guillemot) and razor-billed auk were also killed. The league expects the overall death toll to rise as it continues to track the bodies through the end of the month.

 

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Storms wash up 500 dead seabirds: Bodies of guillemots and razorbills recovered after they died of exhaustion due to the weather

  • Storms over the past month have made it hard for birds to hunt and feed
  • Majority of dead birds were washed up at Chesil Cove in Dorset
  • But numbers pale in comparison to 15,000 puffins found dead in France

By Daily Mail Reporter

|

 

Hundreds of seabirds have been washed up along the south-west coast after dying of exhaustion in the recent storms.

The bodies of almost 500 birds, mostly guillemots and razorbills, have been recovered from the beaches of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset after they perished at sea.

Experts at the Dorset Wildlife Trust said consistent gale-force storms in the English Channel during the past month had made it very hard for the creatures to hunt and feed.

Devastated: The bodies of almost 500 birds, mostly guillemots - like the one pictured in this stock image - and razorbills, have been recovered from the beaches of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset after they perished at sea

Devastated: The bodies of almost 500 birds, mostly guillemots – like the one pictured in this stock image – and razorbills, have been recovered from the beaches of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset after they perished at sea

 

The malnutrition coupled with flying in ferocious winds meant they became exhausted and died.

Birds fared even worse across the Channel, where 15,000 puffins were found dead on the shores of France.

The French League for the Protection of Birds said the tragedy could have a devastating effect on the coming breeding season.

The majority of the dead birds have washed up at sheltered Chesil Cove in Dorset, having being swept across Lyme Bay by south westerly winds.

Some conservationists have claimed the birds have been killed by a pollutant similar to palm oil but this has been ruled out by the Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT).

 

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GlobalResearchReport.com

On Saturday, a huge sinkhole opened up at the side of a house in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. Swallowing up half of the front lawn, it was 35ft wide and 20ft deep.

Last week, a hole as deep as a double-decker bus is high suddenly opened up in the back-garden of a house in South-East London, almost swallowing a child’s trampoline as the ground collapsed without warning.

Had the poor owner’s daughter been rushing out to play on the trampoline, she could have very easily have been seriously injured or even killed.

 25' Sinkhole Opens Up On Yorkshire Street

Dangerous: A 50ft-deep hole appeared in the central reservation on a section of the M2 in north Kent last week

Two weeks ago, there was a similarly narrow escape for a family living in High Wycombe, when, overnight, a deep hole appeared  without warning in the driveway just next to the house.

This time the adult daughter’s car did end up buried at the bottom of the hole, thankfully, while there was no one in it.

And in Kent last week, motorists hoping to use the M2 were left fuming by the motorway’s temporary closure, after a substantial hole — 15ft deep — suddenly appeared in the central reservation. Again, no one was hurt but had the hole opened up just a few yards away, it is obvious what a different story it could so easily have been.

All of these holes are what the public call sinkholes and now, after weeks of heavy rain, they seem to be appearing with ever greater regularity. Hard statistics are difficult to find — not least because sinkholes that appear on farmland often go unreported — but having studied them for 35 years, I’d estimate that sinkholes are currently appearing at four-to-five times their normal rate.

 
Gone: A Volkswagen Lupo was swallowed up by this sink hole in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

Gone: A Volkswagen Lupo was swallowed up by this sink hole in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

Brand new: Zoe Smith, 19, was given a replacement after the car was engulfed by the hole which developed outside her home

Brand new: Zoe Smith, 19, was given a replacement after the car was engulfed by the hole which developed outside her home

 

With more heavy rain forecast, I’d be surprised if we’ve seen the last sudden sinkhole of this winter.

Even when the rain does stop and warmer weather returns, for reasons that I’ll come to, there could be a second spate of them.

Strictly speaking — and as I work for the British Geological Survey I do need to be strict about these things — not all the big holes that have been appearing are sinkholes. Technically, a sinkhole is a hole that opens up when the surface layers collapse into a naturally made cavity. When the surface layers collapse into a cavity made by man  — and at least two of the recent holes are in areas where mining has been carried out in the past — then it should be called a dene or crown hole.

But given that both types are caused by a collapse into an underground cavity and the end result — a large, potentially dangerous hole in the ground at the surface — is the same, for the sake of simplicity, let us call them all sinkholes.

Certainly, anyone suffering the tragedy of having their house fall into one won’t be worrying about the difference. Fatalities caused by sinkholes in this country are thankfully very rare, but a homeowner in Florida did die in exactly those circumstances only last year.

Risk: Gretel Davidson feared she would have to pay around £10,000 after a sinkhole twice the height of a double-decker bus appeared in her garden in Banehurst, South-East London

Risk: Gretel Davidson feared she would have to pay around £10,000 after a sinkhole twice the height of a double-decker bus appeared in her garden in Banehurst, South-East London

The sheer size of sinkholes and their sudden appearance without warning does make them extremely hazardous. This explains why in  the superstitious distant past,  their appearance was often linked to misfortune.

Some saw them as a direct route to Hell itself; one near Darlington that collapsed in the 12th century  is called Hell Kettle and the  rising groundwater in it steams in the winter.

Of course, it’s not the Devil but all the heavy rain that lies behind the sudden spate of sinkholes. Rainwater dissolves limestone easily because it gets acidified from  carbon dioxide in the air and by  passing through rotting vegetation or certain types of rock.

The water dissolves rocks such  as chalk, limestone and gypsum, making existing natural underground cavities bigger. It also scours fine material out of existing cavities. In addition, it makes the surface layers of soil composed of such things as clay or gravel heavier as they become waterlogged.

Bit by bit, the cavity becomes a little bigger, the covering layers a little heavier until . . . snap . . . those covering layers no longer have the mechanical strength to span the cavity and suddenly they collapse into it, taking anything unfortunate to have been standing on the surface down with them.

Concern: A 35ft wide hole appeared underneath a home in Hemel Hempstead last week, prompting the surrounding properties to be evacuated

Concern: A 35ft wide hole appeared underneath a home in Hemel Hempstead last week, prompting the surrounding properties to be evacuated

It’s no accident that sinkholes often seem to appear next to a fairly substantial piece of civil engineering, such as a house or road, rather than underneath the piece of civil engineering itself.

As long as we put roofs on houses and impermeable cambers on our roads, rainwater will be thrown off the things being protected. It’s often where that rainwater ends up — by the side of the road, by side  of the house — that becomes  vulnerable to sinkholes.

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