Archive | Nature & Ecosystems

Fog Leads to 72 Car Accident in Ottawa

OTTAWA, Dec. 15 (UPI) — Insurance adjusters and auto body shops near Ottawa were busy Tuesday, a day after fog and icy road conditions caused a 72-car chain reaction pile-up.

Ontario Provincial Police Constable Guy Prevost told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. despite the mayhem Monday, only six people required hospital treatment for minor injuries

“One of the things that saved us is that we didn’t have any tractor-trailers involved,” he said.

The pile-up happened on the northbound lanes of Highway 416, which were closed for five hours as crews worked to remove vehicles and clean up a wide swath of debris, the Ottawa Sun reported.

Jamie Gaines, 19, told the Sun the sound of vehicles colliding in the heavy fog lasted at least 15 minutes.

“Right when it happened, you could see people slowly coming out of nowhere,” she said. “It was really like something you’d see in a movie.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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USGS Says an Earthquake Warning System is Feasible

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 14 (UPI) — The U.S. Geological Survey says its research has determined an earthquake early warning system for use in California is feasible.

USGS scientists said earthquake early warning systems, already successfully deployed in Mexico, Japan and Taiwan, can detect an earthquake in progress and provide notice of seconds to tens of seconds prior to actual ground shaking.

After a three-year USGS-funded earthquake early warning study was completed in August, a second USGS-funded project was launched to integrate the previously tested methods into a single prototype warning system. When completed, the pilot system — called the California Integrated Seismic Network ShakeAlert System — will provide warning to a small group of test users, including emergency response groups, utilities, and transportation agencies.

While in the testing phase, the system will not provide public alerts.

The USGS said its ShakeAlert system will detect strong shaking at an earthquake’s epicenter and transmit alerts ahead of the damaging earthquake waves. Potential applications include stopping elevators at the nearest floor, slowing or halting trains, monitoring critical systems and alerting people to move to safer locations.

In warning systems deployed abroad, alerts are distributed via TV and radio networks, the Internet, cell phones and pagers.

The research is being presented in San Francisco this week during a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Nature & Ecosystems, People, Transportation0 Comments

Heavy Snow Leaves Dozens of Drivers Stranded on N.Y. Highway

DUNKIRK, N.Y., Dec. 11 (UPI) — Authorities said Friday that as many as 100 stranded individuals had to be rescued from vehicles on the New York State Thruway because of heavy snow.

New York State Police said with snow forcing the closure of the highway Thursday, authorities used snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles to rescue drivers and passengers trapped inside snowbound vehicles, The Buffalo (N.Y.) News reported.

State Police Lt. Eugene Staniszewski said portions of the Thruway had yet to be cleared by plows Friday during the winter storm.

“It’s not expected to open tonight if the weather stays the way it is,” Staniszewski said.

State Police Capt. Michael P. Nigrelli asked for information about stranded drivers who may be facing potential medical emergencies so those individuals could be located immediately.

“If folks have been in touch with stranded loved ones having a medical emergency, they will go to the top of the list. Just try and provide us with a description of the car,” Nigrelli told the Buffalo News. “Anything that we can zero in on them.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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Blizzard Traps Hunters in Northern Arizona

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz., Dec. 11 (UPI) — Rescuers said they likely would resume searches in Conconio County, Ariz., Friday, to find any remaining hunters who hadn’t been contacted after a blizzard.

By Thursday, the sheriff’s office had located nearly 50 elk hunters across the county’s 18,000-plus square miles of rugged terrain, The Arizona Republic reported. The rescue effort included several agencies that mobilized 40 rescuers, helicopters, fixed-wing airplanes and a fleet of snowmobiles.

Officials said they had two open rescue missions Thursday night. They had contacted both hunting parties, and were told they could wait until morning to be rescued.

One firefighter died when a tree snapped in the storm, the newspaper said.

The hunters were socked in by a blizzard that dumped nearly 3 feet of snow in and around Flagstaff, Ariz., Conconio County’s county seat.

“It came in pretty quick. We thought we would be able to get out,” said Colin Piburn, 59, one of the rescued hunters.

Weather forecasters indicated a second storm would move into the area, possibly by early Friday afternoon, making more urgent the need to ensure people are accounted for, officials said.

The areas saw an uptick of hunters because of a week-long elk hunt that ended Thursday, the Republic said. The state Game and Fish Department said elk hunting licenses are issued once a decade.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Fish, Nature & Ecosystems, Office, People0 Comments

Americans Brace for Second Strong Snow Storm on Heels of Last

SACRAMENTO, Dec. 11 (UPI) — As one major storm cleared out of the United States and moved into Canada, another snow event was percolating over the Sierra Nevadas, forecasters said Friday.

The Sierra Nevada storm should last several days, eventually moving east across the nation, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said. The Sierras got more than 3 feet of snow in the last few days.

Officials in several states reported deaths from the storm that created blizzard conditions over much of the nation’s midsection earlier this week.

Utility crews in El Dorado County, Calif., near Lake Tahoe, have been working this week to restore power to residents who have been without since Sunday, KXTV, Sacramento, Calif., reported. The county received more than 30 inches of snow.

Most of the nation braced for another day of low temperatures Friday, the National Weather Service said.

“Almost the entire Lower 48 is below normal as far as temperatures. In some cases, 20, 30 degrees,” CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano said.

Western Michigan and the state’s Upper Peninsula were under lake-effect snow warnings and advisories, NWS said.

Wind gusts created near whiteout conditions, as well as tossed snow around, making clearing the white stuff difficult. Gusts reached 50 mph in Omaha, 58 mph in Fort Wayne, Ind; and 60 mph in Toledo, Ohio.

In northern Arizona, deep snow socked in dozens of elk hunters, officials said. The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office said it helped or offered assistance to about 50 hunters Wednesday and Thursday.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Nature & Ecosystems, Office, Wind0 Comments

East Coast Braces for Blizzard that's Dumped Feet of Snow and Cost Lives

CHICAGO, Dec. 9 (UPI) — The first major winter storm of the season to batter large portions of the United States charged toward the East Coast early Wednesday.

The massive storm, which was blamed for at least four deaths, left 4-5 feet of snow in the Sierra and Rockies, then whipped across the Central Plains and Midwest where up to 14 inches of snow was buffeted by 40 mph winds, meteorologists at AccuWeather.com said.

No place registered more snow than South Fork, Colo., where 59 inches fell. Below the mountains, Clay Center, Neb. reported 14 inches, Rockport, Mo. had 12.5 and about a foot was reported in Mankato and Phillipsburg, Kans., and Des Moines, Iowa. Six to 10 inches were reported across parts of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin. Even Eckhart Mines, Md., had 5.4 inches. Accumulations were expected to reach 12-18 inches from northeastern Iowa to northern Lower Michigan by Wednesday evening

The blizzard made for dangerous travel and people across the country’s mid-section were advised against venturing out. Numerous accidents were reporting from Kansas to Iowa, including along Interstates 35 and 80, AccuWeather said.

Visibility was a half mile or less in Madison, Wis., and Omaha.

The storm was forecast to press to the northeast through the night and air travel was expected to be seriously impacted across the Midwest and Northeast Wednesday.

Snow, ice and rain was already hitting the mid-Atlantic and was forecast to spread into the Northeast through Wednesday. Washington, Philadelphia and New York City were expected to get mostly rain, but sleet and snow were reported close by and motorists were expected to encounter treacherous road conditions. Slow going was predicted for Interstates 80, 81, 87, 88, 90, 91 and 95 in the Northeast.

Snow was to begin in Boston before daybreak Wednesday, leaving 1-3 inches in the city before changing to rain by midday. Three to 6 inches was expected in Boston’s northern and western suburbs.

Enough snow to shovel and plow was forecast from the northern tier of Pennsylvania to northern New England.

AccuWeather forecast a “tremendous lake-effect snow event” on the heels of this storm for the second half of the week that it said “will bury some snow belt communities under feet of snow.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Nature & Ecosystems, People, Visibility0 Comments

Early Season Blizzard is Cause for 4 Deaths from California to Indiana

OMAHA, Dec. 8 (UPI) — The first major snowstorm of the season inundated parts of the United States Tuesday and was blamed for at least four deaths, officials said.

Highways from California eastward were closed because of snow, ice and rains, law enforcement agencies told several media outlets.

The early-winter storm has been blamed for four deaths from weather-related accidents, media outlets reported. The first two occurred Sunday in northern California, the area first hit by the weather. The third and fourth happened Monday near Indianapolis and Santa Fe, N.M.

Officials also reported numerous traffic accidents and power outages along the storm’s path that stretched from the Plains states into the Upper Midwest, AccuWeather.com reported.

The first blizzard in at least a decade was declared for Flagstaff, Ariz., the Flagstaff Daily Sun reported Tuesday. The storm was predicted to bring between 12-28 inches of snow to Flagstaff and other northern Arizona areas before it cleared out.

AccuWeather.com reported snow began blanketing an area from Denver to Green Bay, Wis., and disruptive blizzard condition will smack the area later Tuesday into Wednesday.

The storm that already left 1-3 inches of snow in a line from northern Illinois to Iowa and northern Missouri was still ginning up at midday Tuesday, weather forecasters said.

Forty-mph winds whipped up the powdery snow, forecasters said. Portions of Interstates 29, 35, 70, 79, 80, 90 and others were already snow covered and slippery in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport reported flight delays of up to 2 1/2 hours at midday — causing a rippling effect across much of the country.

In the Northeast, residents can expect a mix of snow, ice and rain, again accompanied by the potential for major travel headaches by Wednesday. Forecasters said rain would fall mainly along the coast, transitioning to ice and snow over much of the interior.

Thunderstorms will rumble across the South all day Tuesday, forecasters said. Severe weather was expected to be confined to parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, but other Southern cities could expect another round of heavy rain.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Nature & Ecosystems, Other0 Comments

Dangerous American Blizzard Moves to Plains While South Gets Heavy Rains

OMAHA, Dec. 8 (UPI) — A dangerous blizzard, whipped by 40-mph winds and packing lots of snow, headed to the Plains and Upper Midwest of the United States Tuesday, forecasters said.

The winter storm’s combination of plunging temperatures, high winds and more than a foot of snow could leave motorists stranded along Interstates 35, 79, 80 and other roadways, AccuWeather.com warned.

The early-winter storm has been blamed for three deaths from weather-related accidents, CNN reported. The first two occurred Sunday in northern California, the area first hit by the weather. The third happened Monday near Indianapolis.

Law enforcement agencies in states experiencing the storm reported a rash of traffic accidents. Forecasters also warned that the approaching storm could cause power outages through Wednesday, CNN said.

The heaviest band of snow was predicted to fall in a line from Omaha to Des Moines, Iowa, to Madison, Wis., forecasters said. However, other major cities that could get substantial snow or a wintry precipitation mix include Kansas City, Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Chicago.

Traveling by road and air was expected to be difficult, if not delayed, along the storm’s path.

Meanwhile, a storm that dropped up to 3 feet of snow on the Sierra Nevada was pushing inland over the Southwest, dumping heavy rain over Southern California. The heaviest rain and gusty winds will threaten coastal areas from Los Angeles down to San Diego into Tuesday evening, with forecasters predicting up to several inches of rainfall.

In the Northeast, residents can expect a mix of snow, ice and rain, again accompanied by the potential for major travel headaches by Wednesday. Forecasters said rain would fall mainly along the coast, transitioning to ice and snow over much of the interior.

Thunderstorms will rumble across the South all day Tuesday, forecasters said. Severe weather was expected to be confined to parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, but other Southern cities could expect another round of heavy rain.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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Catastrophic Earthquake Risks Lessened by Small Tectonic Plate Faults

GRANADA, Spain, Nov. 30 (UPI) — Spanish scientists say they’ve found smaller tectonic faults close to larger faults in the Baetic mountain range can reduce the risk of major earthquakes.

The researchers studying recent, active deformations in the Baetic mountains, located in southern and eastern Spain, say they have shown the activity of smaller tectonic structures close to larger faults in the Iberian Peninsula partially offsets the risk of earthquakes.

“There are large faults in the eastern part of the Baetic mountain range, which are active and occasionally cause moderate, low magnitude earthquakes,” said Antonio Pedrera, lead author of the study and a researcher at the University of Granada.

“Although we can’t exclude the possibility that these direction faults could cause earthquakes of greater magnitude, we have shown that the formation of small tectonic structures helps to partially relax the energy associated with the convergence of plates, and reduces seismic activity in these larger faults,” Pedrera said.

The research was published recently in the Journal of Quaternary Science.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Earthquakes, Energy, Nature & Ecosystems0 Comments

Very Weak Atlantic Hurricane Season Ends Uneventfully

The 2009 Atlantic hurricane season ended Monday with just three hurricanes, the weakest of which killed the most people and did the most damage.

In all, there were nine named storms and two tropical depressions that didn’t reach the 39 mph threshold for being named.

In May, the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration predicted there would be 9-14 named storms, 4-7 of which would become hurricanes, 1-3 of which would be major. Last week, NOAA said 2009 was the ninth weakest storm season in the past 37 years.

The season that begins June 1 began early with Tropical Depression 1 on May 28, but there was no further activity until August, the busiest month of the season with four named systems. Among them was Hurricane Bill, which reached major Category 4 status on the Saffir-Simpson scale with 135 mph sustained winds.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Bill brushed the Dominican Republic, Bermuda and Nova Scotia as a hurricane, and crossed the southern tip of Newfoundland as a tropical storm. Two seaside drowning deaths were associated with the storm in Florida and Maine.

The second hurricane of the season was Fred, which developed Sept. 7 into a Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds over the Atlantic Ocean and eventually dissipated southwest of Bermuda without making landfall.

The final hurricane was Ida, which was named Nov. 4 east of Nicaragua. While its top winds were 105 mph, a Category 2 hurricane, Ida hit Nicaragua and moved north through Honduras. The storm moved north over the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in Alabama, turned east and buffeted U.S. East Coast with rain and wind as far north as New Jersey.

At least 10 of the season’s 15 storm-related deaths were attributed to Ida, and damages exceeded $2 million, the costliest of all storms this year.

Two deaths were attributed to Tropical Storm Claudette and one to Tropical Storm Danny, both in August.

Various meteorologists said the Pacific El Nino effect this year was responsible for keeping a damper on major storm development. El Nino produces westerly high-level winds across the Caribbean and Atlantic that blows the top off storms in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.

The majority of Atlantic tropical systems begins with large masses of hot, dry air in northern Africa that move eastward and are fueled by warm sea waters that create cyclonic motions.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Nature & Ecosystems, Wind0 Comments

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