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Extreme Weather Roundup: Severe Flooding To Hit Gulf Coast; Texas On Fire; Earthquakes Hit Alaska & Argentina; Vast Ice Island To Break Off; BP Deepwater Horizon Site Leaking Again

September 3rd, 2011 | Filed under Environment, Feature, Hot List, Video . Follow comments through RSS 2.0 feed. Click here to comment, or trackback.

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By David DeGraw

Tropical storm Lee threatens severe flooding in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi

Tropical Storm Lee now has winds approaching 60 miles per hour. Louisiana has heavy rain, and authorities warn of flooding in Alabama and Mississippi as well. States of emergency have been declared.

A tropical storm moving toward the Gulf Coast is predicated to bring massive flooding to Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi this weekend, particularly in New Orleans where up to 20 inches of rain is expected. Tropical Storm Lee will hit southwest Louisiana by Saturday afternoon. The storm is moving southwest of the Mississippi River with maximum sustained winds approaching 60 miles per hour. Flash flood warnings are in effect, covering Mississippi to Texas. A tropical storm warning is also in effect along the coast, stretching from the Alabama-Florida border to the Sabine Pass in Texas. [read more]

Despite $10 billion effort to rebuild, New Orleans levees get a near-failing grade in new corps rating system

A new Army Corps of Engineers rating system for the nation’s levees is about to deliver a near-failing grade to New Orleans area dikes, despite the internationally acclaimed $10 billion effort to rebuild the system in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, corps officials have confirmed. [read more]

Lee already causes thousands of power outages in Louisiana

Tropical Storm Lee knocked out power early on Saturday for more than 38,000 customers, primarily in the New Orleans area, said a utility company that provides power for most of Louisiana. Outages are expected to increase as the storm moves ashore… [read more]

Repairs Urgently Needed in Vermont

Of all the challenges facing Vermont as it tries to recover from the floods caused by the remnants of Hurricane Irene, there may be none more daunting — or vital to solve — than repairing and reopening the hundreds of roads and dozens of bridges that the storm knocked out. In many spots, the roads must be fixed before equipment can be brought in to repair everything from homes and businesses to the power grid, railroad tracks and water and wastewater systems.

It is a race against time: winter comes early here, and there are just two and a half months before snowfall and frozen ground typically halt the state’s short road-building season. [read more]

Dramatic Aerial Imagery of Irene’s Destruction in Outer Banks

The power of Hurricane Irene was clearly apparent to people in its path, but the extent of the damage may be easier to appreciate when seen from above. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is using aerial photographs like the one above to assess Irene’s destruction. In this image of Hatteras Island in North Carolina taken on Aug. 28, the largest breach of Highway 12, which runs along the Outer Banks, can be seen. Water is flowing between Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean, stranding at least 2,500 residents of the island. [read more]

Vermont’s misery continues as flooding isolates communities

Residents of Vermont know their work is cut out for them as they struggle for normalcy after enduring the wrath of Irene. The landlocked rural state saw fast-moving floods spawned by the storm swarm towns from Brattleboro to Woodstock. "It’s heartbreaking to see your home and home state destroyed — and seeing places and landmarks that you can recognize even from early childhood now destroyed by flooding," said Ryan Ritter who lives in Rutland near the state’s border with New York. There was no way in or out of his town, the 20-year-old Ritter said. [read more]

From Waterbury to Wilmington, Vermonters shocked by Irene’s destruction

Vermonters will need weeks to begin to recover from massive flooding from Tropical Storm Irene that killed at least three people and left a trail of devastation from St. Johnsbury to Bennington. That sentiment is reverberating across Vermont, echoed by everyone from Gov. Peter Shumlin to shell-shocked homeowners victimized by the torrent. "This is the most violent thing I’ve ever seen," said Scott Bradley, director of public safety in flood-ravaged Mendon, seeming to speak for the countless Vermonters who watched roads, houses, bridges and businesses wash away in Sunday’s torrent. [read more]

Power outages, flooding continue in wake of Hurricane Irene

Of the estimated 5.5 million homes and businesses that lost electricity as a result of the storm, one fifth of these—1.1 million—were still without power as of Thursday morning, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Worst affected were Connecticut, with 16 percent of customers without power, and Rhode Island, where 14 percent were still waiting for it to be restored. The nation’s electric grid, with power lines predominantly above ground, is prone to blackouts. Homes often lose power due to thunderstorms or blizzards, let alone major storms. While authorities are well aware that major hurricanes and tornadoes will sooner or later strike, nothing is done to prepare for them because the power grid is controlled by a network of private energy conglomerates. Neither the energy giants nor the government has any interest in spending the money required to upgrade the system to provide reliable delivery of electricity—a basic necessity—to the population. [read more]

‘Astronomical’ High Tide, Typhoon Nanmadol In China Create Massive Waves



Massive waves crashed against the coast of China’s Zhejiang Province as effects from an approaching typhoon coincided with an "astronomical tide." The high tide creates 60-foot waves 10 days during the lunar calendar… Residents and tourists often head to the coast every August to watch the waves, according to China’s Central Television. Winds from Typhoon Nanmadol intensified their force and height. [read more]

6.4 earthquake shakes northern Argentina

A magnitude-6.4 earthquake has struck north-central Argentina, shaking things up enough to make people evacuate some buildings in the capital hundreds of miles away. The U.S. Geological Service says the quake’s epicenter was 80 miles (130 kilometers) southeast of Santiago del Estero, a provincial capital of 250,000 people and the 12th-largest city in Argentina. [read more]

Major 6.8 quake rocks Alaska

A major earthquake measuring a preliminary magnitude of 7.1 has rocked remote portions of Alaska, the U.S. Geological Survey reports. The USGS issued, then canceled, a tsunami warning for Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. It also lowered the magnitude to 6.8. Updated at 11:22 a.m. ET: Alaska Native News has weighed in on the quake, noting that the area "is frequented by earthquakes every day, although a majority of them have a magnitude less than this. [read more]

Earthquake caused massive nuclear storage casks to move

Last week’s central Virginia earthquake caused 25 spent-fuel storage casks — each weighing 115 tons — to move on their concrete pad at Dominion Virginia Power’s North Anna nuclear power plant. The shifting of these massive casks holding used nuclear fuel was the first caused by an earthquake in the U.S., according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. None of the metal cylinders was damaged and no radiation was released, Dominion Virginia Power said. Like hockey pucks on a jostled tray, the 16-foot tall casks shifted from an inch to 4½ inches, utility company spokesman Rick Zuercher said. [read more]

Quake risk to nuclear reactors far higher than realized

The risk that an earthquake would cause a severe accident at a U.S. nuclear plant is greater than previously thought, 24 times as high in one case, according to an AP analysis of preliminary government data. The nation’s nuclear regulator believes a quarter of America’s reactors may need modifications to make them safer. The threat came into sharp focus last week, when shaking from the largest earthquake to hit Virginia in 117 years appeared to exceed what the North Anna nuclear power plant northwest of Richmond was built to sustain. [read more]

Texas fires: 80% of state in ‘exceptional’ drought

The U.S. Drought Monitor has released a new map of drought conditions across the nation, and it’s not a pretty picture for Texas. About 80% of the state is currently experiencing exceptional drought. See what looks like a bloody scab in the bottom center of the country? The brick-red color indicates exceptional drought. The brighter red is considered the not-quite-as-bad extreme drought. And the sunny yellow color? That’s only severe drought. Slightly more than 99% of the state is in severe drought or worse. Here’s a closer view. The U.S. Drought Monitor map is put together by the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb. [read more]

Heat kills more than 124,000 fish in Texas lake

More than 124,000 fish died at Lake Grapevine this week as this summer’s nonstop heat severely depleted oxygen levels, an official with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said. "There were lots of dead fish stacking up at the Silver Lake Marina," said Tom Hungerford, a fisheries biologist for the agency. The marina is at the southeast end of the lake near the dam. Almost all the dead fish were threadfin shad, biologist Melissa Dudley said. [read more]

Expanding Deserts, Falling Water Tables, and Toxic Pollutants Driving People from Their Homes | Lester Brown

People do not normally leave their homes, their families, and their communities unless they have no other option. Yet as environmental stresses mount, we can expect to see a growing number of environmental refugees. Rising seas and increasingly devastating storms grab headlines, but expanding deserts, falling water tables, and toxic waste and radiation are also forcing people from their homes.

Advancing deserts are now on the move almost everywhere. The Sahara desert, for example, is expanding in every direction. As it advances northward, it is squeezing the populations of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria against the Mediterranean coast. The Sahelian region of Africa—the vast swath of savannah that separates the southern Sahara desert from the tropical rainforests of central Africa—is shrinking as the desert moves southward. As the desert invades Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, from the north, farmers and herders are forced southward, squeezed into a shrinking area of productive land. A 2006 U.N. conference on desertification in Tunisia projected that by 2020 up to 60 million people could migrate from sub-Saharan Africa to North Africa and Europe. [read more]

Vast ice island set to break off Greenland glacier

New photographs taken of a vast glacier in northern Greenland have revealed the astonishing rate of its breakup, with one scientist saying he was rendered "speechless." In August 2010, part of the Petermann Glacier about four times the size of Manhattan island broke off , prompting a hearing in Congress. Researcher Alun Hubbard, of the Centre for Glaciology at Aberystwyth University, U.K., [said] that another section, about twice the size of Manhattan, appeared close to breaking off. [read more]

Space junk ‘at tipping point’

The amount of debris orbiting the Earth has reached "a tipping point" for collisions, which would in turn generate more of the debris that threatens astronauts and satellites. Nasa needs a new strategic plan for mitigating the hazards posed by spent rocket bodies, discarded satellites and thousands of other pieces of junk flying around the planet at speeds of 28,164km/h, the US National Research Council said in a study published yesterday. [read more]

The return of the BP disaster

Oil has been surfacing all over the northern quadrant of the Gulf of Mexico for several weeks now, according to residents. Reports of slicks that meander for kilometres and huge expanses of oil sheen that look like phantom islands are becoming common again. Fresh oil, only slightly weathered, has been washing ashore in areas hit hardest by last year’s disaster. These areas include Breton Island, Ship Island, the Chandeleur Islands, and northern Barataria Bay, Louisiana. BP has reactivated its Vessels of Opportunity (VOO) Program to handle clean-up operations. [read more]

New leak near Deepwater Horizon site quickly becoming a massive oil slick

Over the past two weeks, I have been closely following reports of renewed leaking in the Macondo oil field, the site of last year’s Deepwater Horizon disaster.

First, New Orleans Lawyer Stuart Smith reported that nearly 40 ships were hired by BP to conduct a boom-laying mission over the August 13th weekend. Next, nonprofit organizations On Wings of Care and Gulf Restoration Network conducted a joint flyover of the spill site, bringing back photographic evidence of fresh oil near the site of the Macondo well. This in turn prompted reporters from the Mobile Press-Register to hire a boat out to the site, where they found massive “globules” of oil rising to the surface, creating a growing sheen on the water. [read more]

Dispersants Used in BP Gulf Oil Spill Linked to Cancer

Five of the 57 ingredients in dispersants approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use on oil spills are linked to cancer, finds a new research report based on data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by environmental groups on the Gulf of Mexico. The report from Earthjustice, an environmental law firm, along with Toxipedia Consulting Services, is based on material released by the U.S. EPA in response to a Freedom of Information Act request made by Earthjustice on behalf of the Gulf Restoration Network and the Florida Wildlife Federation.

Dispersants are used to clean up oil spills and contain chemicals that break up oil into smaller droplets and move the oil from the surface of the water into the water column. Two oil dispersant products were used heavily in the BP oil leak: COREXIT 9500 and 9527, both produced by Nalco/Exxon. BP used over 1.8 million gallons of dispersant during the three-month long oil leak that gushed 4.9 million barrels of crude oil from the Macondo well located about 40 miles southeast of the Louisiana coast. [read more]

Toxicologist: Michigan oil spill far more toxic than admitted

The medical community knows this,” she says. “The public policies have not been adjusted to reflect the new science because the petrochemical lobby is so strong that it is blocking the health consequences of our continued oil use.” Ott says sick people are a problem for oil companies and the government. “It’s not just a simple pipeline break or a rig blow out. It’s America’s energy future, the politicians have no exit strategy off oil,” she says. “So they minimize the costs in sick people, lost babies, it doesn’t matter. That’s what we’re seeing. Battle Creek is a pawn in this giant bid for Alberta tar sands. It doesn’t matter that it happened in Battle Creek … there will be countless communities in the future. What is starting to change is that — after witnessing this over two decades now — this is a decision that is not going to be made by the politicians, our energy policy, it’s going to be the people. Fracking, tar sands, there is a moral obligation for future life and immediate public health that we do something different. That will give enough transformation to bring the politicians along. [read more]

10 Facts About Global Energy Consumption That Will Surprise You

In fact, global energy consumption grew 5.6 percent in 2010, the highest rate since 1973. Discover 10 other fascinating facts about worldwide consumption. [read more]

Cesium leak equal to 168 ’45 A-bombs – NISA compares contamination to Hiroshima blast

The amount of radioactive cesium ejected by the Fukushima reactor meltdowns is about 168 times higher than that emitted in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the government’s nuclear watchdog said….

The report said the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant has released 15,000 terabecquerels of cesium-137, which lingers for decades and can cause cancer, compared with the 89 terabecquerels released by the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima. [read more]


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