Joined: 24 September 2007
Joined: 24 September 2007
BRISBANE, Australia (AFP) - – Australia's third-largest city Brisbane was turned into a "war zone" Thursday with whole suburbs under water and infrastructure smashed as the worst flood in decades hit 30,000 properties.
Shocked evacuees surveyed the damage after floods that have swept eastern Australia peaked about a metre (three feet) below feared levels around dawn, sparing thousands more properties in the besieged river city.
Queensland's tearful state premier Anna Bligh said relief was tinged with despair at the damage to homes and major landmarks, as well as the scale of the "post-war" rebuilding effort ahead in the city of two million people.
"It's a very mixed story here today, there is some relief and I'm grateful Mother Nature hasn't been as terrible as she could have been, but people are waking up to unbearable agony across our city today," Bligh told Sky News.
"We've seen scenes of unbelievable devastation and destruction: entire suburbs where only rooftops can be glimpsed, whole big workplaces... are completely under water.
"Whole industrial parks (and) railway stations under water, bridges, roads all closed," she added. "What I'm seeing looks more like a war zone in some places."
A 24-year-old man became the city's first victim when he was engulfed while checking on his father's property. Fourteen people have now died in the past three days, mostly in flash floods that wrecked hill towns west of Brisbane.
Related article: Houses, restaurants bob through stricken brisbane
The swollen Brisbane River, which runs through the centre of the Queensland state capital, was beginning to slowly recede. But the nervous city was reeling from damage wrought by its worst flooding since 1974.
A massive 300-metre (300-yard) stretch of a popular concrete walkway that was perched above the river was ripped from its moorings and sped down the river, before being halted by the bravery of a quick-thinking tugboat pilot.
A well-known floating restaurant was among dozens of vessels and pontoons also sent speeding down the waterway, while the downtown Suncorp Stadium resembled a giant swimming pool and the XXXX brewery was also flooded.
Central Brisbane remained a ghost town after office buildings ordered workers to stay away and power was cut to more than 100,000 properties in the region, as a safety measure to avoid electrical fires.
Choking back tears, Bligh said Queenslanders were a tough breed who had overcome adversity before.
"We're the ones that they knock down and we get up again. I said earlier this week that this weather may break our hearts... but it will not break our will," she said.
The Brisbane River peaked at 4.46 metres (14 feet, eight inches) at around 5:15 am (1915 GMT Wednesday), below levels that devastated the city in 1974.
Related article: Floods cost to Australia 'higher than Katrina'
Residents breathed a sigh of relief as they woke up to the news that they had dodged the worst-case scenario. However, about 12,000 homes were completely flooded, some up to their roofs, and 13,700 were partly inundated.
Another 5,000 businesses were fully or partly hit, according to official estimates.
"It was worse in '74, a lot worse," said John McLeod, security director of the Stamford Plaza hotel, which lies near the Brisbane River in the city centre and which was forced to close due to flooding.
Meanwhile rescuers made a gruesome and painstaking search of communities shattered by Monday's flash floods, with dozens still unaccounted for.
A total of 24 people have died in floodwaters that have turned an area of northeast Australia twice the size of Texas into a disaster zone, following months of heavy rains blamed on the La Nina weather phenomenon.
Joined: 24 September 2007
The southern Australian town of Horsham has been split in two by water and at least one young boy is feared drowned.
Rains which had laid waste to Queensland are now threatening the state of Victoria where flood waters continue to rise.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she had formed a panel of corporate leaders to support recovery.
The floods have been described as Australia's most expensive natural disaster.
"We know many communities are anxiously waiting as floodwaters rise and many townships across Victoria have already been impacted by floodwaters," Ms Gillard said.
"We also know that a small boy is missing, and so these are very difficult times in Victoria."Sandbags
An eight-year-old boy disappeared in a flooded waterhole near the town of Shepparton on Monday morning and has not been found.
Electricity cuts have occurred as power stations have been flooded. More than 3,500 people have evacuated their homes in the north central part of the state.
Sandbags have been stacked up to try to withstand the waters, which are expected to peak later today.
"You can't control nature totally, but I think to the extent we had about three or four days' warning and we have an experienced emergency team, I think we're going as well as we can," Horsham Mayor Michael Ryan said.
Another official in Horsham, David Eltringham, said the town was expecting "a one-in-a-100-year flood".
"We are expecting to see the peak maximum flood levels today and inundation will come with that," an emergency services spokeswoman said.
"Significant inundation of properties is currently being experienced with water up to a metre [3ft] deep in some areas."
Further north, at least 30 people died in floods in Queensland. Ten people are still missing, and recovery efforts are proving slow and gruesome.
The government has also warned that the floods in Queensland could be the country's most expensive natural disaster ever.
Ms Gillard said the country needed private industry to help the recovery and reconstruction effort.
"I've decided to bring together 10 Australian leading business people to form a business round-table to assist with corporate support, as Queensland recovers and rebuilds from these devastating floods," she said.
Anna Bligh, Premier of Queensland, said her state needed "business and corporate Australia standing with us" and "community members doing what they're doing out there with mops and buckets, digging into their pockets and putting some money into the relief appeal."
Ms Bligh announced an inquiry into flooding that would look at issues including the operation of dams and would serve as an investment in the state's future.
Joined: 24 September 2007
October 14, 2005 1:36 PM PDT
By Michael Kanellos
Staff Writer, CNET News
More headlines related to "Global warming and rains and temperatures":
Rising temperatures in the world's atmosphere and oceans will lead to more intense storms as the century progresses, according to a new report from the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
Evaporation increases when the surface temperature of the ocean rises and warmer air can hold more moisture. When this soggier-than-normal air moves over land, it results in storms wetter and more intense than those experienced in the past.
The greatest changes will occur over land in the tropics, according to the study, which was released Thursday. Heavier rain or snow, however, will also fall in northwestern and northeastern North America, northern Europe, northern and eastern Asia, southwestern Australia, and parts of South America during the current century.
"The models show most areas around the world will experience more intense precipitation for a given storm during this century," lead author Gerald Meehl said in a statement. "Information on which areas will be most affected could help communities to better manage water resources and anticipate possible flooding."
The Mediterranean and the southwestern U.S., meanwhile, will experience a different pattern. Storms will likely become wetter, particularly in the fall and winter, but dry spells may stretch for longer in the warmer months. A picture of how this pattern might develop was seen in Europe this year: While Germany endured unprecedented floods, Spain and Portugal imposed water rationing because of a lengthy drought.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in April released a report predicting that hurricanes would become more intense over the coming century. It became an oft-cited study after Hurricane Katrina hit.
Climate change has become a hot-button issue for scientists, politicians and the general public. The scientific community now generally agrees that global warming is in fact happening, and most of the future scenarios aren't pretty.
Rising sea levels could lead to more frequent flooding in Bangladesh and other low-lying nations. Food production could also be disrupted. Melting polar ice is expected by some to lead to a sea lane above Siberia in a few years.
While scientists generally agree that the world's climate is changing, there is more disagreement over how much of the change is due to human behavior. Some believe a great deal of the warming is caused by burning fossil fuels, which create greenhouse gases that trap heat. Examination of data from the 20th century implicates humans, Meehl said in a phone interview.
"Probably most of the climate change in the early part of the century was caused by natural events," he said, such as a rebounding of temperatures that ordinarily occurs after volcanoes. "But the change in the latter part of he 20th century was the result of human activity."
Others disagree. Still others assert that, because the stakes are so high, debating whether or not reducing greenhouse gas emissions can help makes no sense.
Joined: 24 September 2007
By Liz Goodwin
A group of more than 100 scientists and experts say in a new report that California faces the risk of a massive "superstorm" that could flood a quarter of the state's homes and cause $300 billion to $400 billion in damage. Researchers point out that the potential scale of destruction in this storm scenario is four or five times the amount of damage that could be wrought by a major earthquake.
It sounds like the plot of an apocalyptic action movie, but scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey warned federal and state emergency officials that California's geological history shows such "superstorms" have happened in the past, and should be added to the long list of natural disasters to worry about in the Golden State.
The threat of a cataclysmic California storm has been dormant for the past 150 years. Geological Survey director Marcia K. McNutt told the New York Times that a 300-mile stretch of the Central Valley was inundated from 1861-62. The floods were so bad that the state capital had to be moved to San Francisco, and Governor Leland Stanford had to take a rowboat to his own inauguration, the report notes. Even larger storms happened in past centuries, over the dates 212, 440, 603, 1029, 1418, and 1605, according to geological evidence.
The risk is gathering momentum now, scientists say, due to rising temperatures in the atmosphere, which has generally made weather patterns more volatile.
The scientists built a model that showed a storm could last for more than 40 days and dump 10 feet of water on the state. The storm would be goaded on by an "atmospheric river" that would move water "at the same rate as 50 Mississippis discharging water into the Gulf of Mexico," according to the AP. Winds could reach 125 miles per hour, and landslides could compound the damage, the report notes.
Such a superstorm is hypothetical but not improbable, climate researchers warn. "We think this event happens once every 100 or 200 years or so, which puts it in the same category as our big San Andreas earthquakes," Geological Survey scientist Lucy Jones said in a press release.
Federal and state emergency management officials convened a conference about emergency preparations for possible superstorms last week. You can read the whole report here.
Joined: 24 September 2007
Residents of the southeastern Australian town of Kerang have been told to leave their homes immediately.
Officials said Kerang residents should pack three days of supplies and leave before the waters of the swollen Lodden River rose further.
The latest alert follows floods through parts of the state of Victoria, and the death of a boy near Horsham.
Further north, floods have killed more than 30 people and caused widespread losses in the state of Queensland.
The evacuation warning was issued after the State Emergency Service estimated that homes would be flooded by the Lodden River overflow.
As levees intended to hold back the waters were breached, officials warned the town could be isolated for five days.Go now
"You should ensure you have left your property immediately," the SES said in text message alerts sent about 0520 on Wednesday (1920 GMT on Tuesday) to the town's 2,500 residents.
"We have enough resources and enough high ground for people to still operate within Kerang, but if it becomes totally inundated there will be very few people left in town," Mayor Max Fehring told Sky News.
Spreading waters were surging across the north and east of state, and more than 3,500 people have evacuated their homes.
Power cuts are in force across the state as electricity stations have been submerged.
At least 58 towns across Victoria have now been hit by floods and 22 relief centres are in operation.
Floodwaters split the Victorian town of Horsham in two on Tuesday, as the body of a young boy was found in another flood-hit town, Shepparton.
Further north, in Queensland, the state capital Brisbane and the nearby town of Ipswich were hit by a heavy storm which impeded recovery efforts there.
More than 7,000 lightning strikes were recorded, while falling trees damaged homes and created new fears in an area already badly hit by the recent weeks of flooding.
Residents there have been warned that more heavy weather is to come.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard is to form a panel of corporate leaders to help rebuild devastated infrastructure.
The floods are said to be Australia's most expensive natural disaster.
Joined: 24 September 2007
CHICAGO (AFP) - ' A mammoth storm threatens to dump mounds of fresh snow, sleet and ice on about 100 million already winter-weary people from the US heartland to the east coast, forecasters said Monday.
Blizzard, winter storm and freezing rain warnings were issued for more than 25 states, from North Dakota and Colorado down to New Mexico, then up through Texas, Kansas and Missouri to the Great Lakes region and across Pennsylvania to New England.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urged residents to prepare in earnest for the fury of the storm as it barrels eastward across the country.
"A storm of this size and scope needs to be taken seriously," said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, who warned that "it's critical that the public does its part to get ready."
Fugate urged residents in storm affected regions to "check on your neighbors, especially the elderly and young children -- those who can be most vulnerable during emergencies."
Scores of schools and government offices in US Midwest were closed Monday as freezing rain began to fall, threatening to turn roads into deadly ice rinks and down power lines and trees.
Airlines warned of significant delays and cancellations and offered customers a chance to rebook flights at no fee.
The worst of the storm was expected Tuesday as a large amount of moisture sucked up from the Gulf of Mexico feeds the huge system and is transformed into snow and thunderstorms.
Powerful winds and heavy snow could create white-out conditions and drifts as high as six to eight feet (1.8 to 2.4 meters), making travel impossible.
"Lurking behind this impressive winter storm is a powerful shot of Arctic air as a frigid surface high drops down from central Canada," the National Weather Service warned.
Wind chills were forecast to drop to 30 to 50 below in Colorado, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Kansas, Idaho and even parts of Texas.
Officials warned the public to stay at home rather than try to brave the crippling storm.
"It doesn't take a whole lot to make everything slick and if roads aren't treated they're going to get icy and then it's going to snow on top of that, which is going to make matters worse because you can't see the ice," Pat Slattery, a spokesman for the weather service, told AFP.
"One of the concerns about the freezing precipitation is if it gets heavy and starts taking down power lines and trees because people have no way to keep their homes warm, and a bitter cold will follow right on the heels of the snow and freezing rain."
As much as 18 inches (45 centimeters) of snow was expected in the Chicago area and officials warned that ploughs would not be able keep up, making side streets impassable.
Gusts up to 60 miles per hour could also lead to flooding along the lake shore as waves build up to 25 feet.
Many other areas were predicted to get over a foot (30 centimeters) of snow.
"The east coast will begin to get in on the winter weather action Monday night as the precipitation begins to nose its way over the Appalachians," the weather service warned.
"By Tuesday morning the mid-Atlantic and southern New England states will be in the mix."
The storm arrived just days after a rare thunder-snow storm paralyzed air and ground travel from Washington to Boston.
After building up early Wednesday with ice and freezing rain, last week's storm blindsided the US capital at the height of the evening rush hour Thursday, not even sparing President Barack Obama, who faced travel delays upon returning from a day trip to the US Midwest.
There was no word yet on whether the latest storm would impact Groundhog Day on Wednesday, when the nation watches Phil, the weather predicting groundhog in Punxsutawney (Pennsylvania), to see if six more weeks of winter are still to come.
Joined: 24 September 2007
(CNN) -- Oklahoma was under a state of emergency and 600 National Guard troops were mobilized in Missouri as the Plains and the Midwest braced Tuesday to take the brunt of powerful winter storm system.
The National Weather Service forecast blizzard conditions across portions of seven states, from Oklahoma to Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana. Winds gusts of up to 40 mph are expected.
Emergency personnel in Oklahoma City, St. Louis and Chicago, among other locales, vowed they were prepared to weather the storm. The leaders of several states, many of which have already had a difficult winter, also commandeered their forces even as they urged people to stay home.
"Folks should batten down the hatches and hold on," Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said. "The most likely place to get hurt is out on the road."
Teeth-chattering cold will filter in behind the system, plunging temperatures to subzero in the upper Plains states.
The expansive storm will ultimately affect about three-quarters of the United States. The weather service has posted winter storm warnings, watches or advisories in some 30 states.
Heavy snow is predicted along a sweeping 1,500-mile arch, starting in central Texas and ending in Connecticut.
Along with its strength, the system's immense size sets it apart -- spanning more than 2,100 miles from southwestern Arizona to central Maine.
"A storm of this size and scope needs to be taken seriously," said Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Still, some of the biggest concerns Tuesday were in cities like Chicago.
"Combined snow totals ... through Wednesday may exceed a foot and a half across much of northern Illinois and far northwest Indiana," the weather service said.
"This storm could be one of the top 10 biggest snowstorms ever in the city," said CNN meteorologist Sean Morris.
According to the National Weather Service, snowstorms that drop over 15 inches of snow occur about once every 19 years in Chicago. The last time this happened was in January 1999, when 21.6 inches of snow was recorded in the city.
Officials have added 120 garbage trucks with specially attached snow plows to the city's fleet of 274 trucks in expectation of heavy snowfall, said Jose A. Santiago, executive director of the city's Office of Emergency Management.
Snowfall could reach a rate of 2 to 3 inches per hour with northeasterly winds of 25 mph to 40 mph, creating dangerous "white-out" conditions across the entire Chicago metropolitan area, the weather service reported.
Blizzard or near blizzard conditions are expected as far south as Oklahoma City on Tuesday, where snow accumulations there will be measured in feet, not in inches.
Oklahoma's governor, Mary Fallin, released a statement on Monday declaring a state of emergency for all 77 counties in the state.
"This disaster declaration will make sure we can prepare for the winter weather ahead of the storm," Fallin said. "We encourage all Oklahomans to prepare for the storm before it arrives."
The mayor of Oklahoma City told residents to stay off the streets. Mick Cornett noted that most city and state government offices would be closed Tuesday and asked that local businesses do their best to keep their employees home as well.
Oklahoma City officials urged residents to make early provisions -- such as stocking up on water, batteries, medications and canned foods in case power outages occur. The storm is expected to have snowfall rates of up to 3 inches per hour, according to the weather service.
"We're not strangers to weather," said Michelann Ooten with Oklahoma City's emergency management operations. "We've been working on this since last week."
Ooten said her office had already contacted FEMA to secure generators and supplies in case emergency shelters are needed.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay tried to cut short a trip to New Mexico to head home in time for the storm, only to have his flight canceled due to the weather, his chief of staff Jeff Rainford said.
"So he's one of the (thousands) stranded as well," said Rainford.
Other cities likely to be affected during the week include Milwaukee, Cleveland, Providence in Rhode Island and the New York cities of Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany.
Heavy snowfall won't be the only hazard from this major storm system. The subfreezing temperatures could coat trees, power lines and roads in ice from Missouri to southern Illinois and eastward into central Indiana, forecasters said.
Ice accumulations of up to three-quarters of an inch will be possible, and they are likely to combine with gusty winds to cause tree branches to fall on power lines, according to forecasters.
With temperatures expected to drop well below zero by Wednesday, parts of the Texas Panhandle and western Oklahoma will experience some of the coldest air this season, Morris said.
Strong winds will combine with the cold temperatures to create extremely dangerous wind chills, according to forecasts.
But the storm's wrath won't end there.
Severe thunderstorms are likely to develop along a trailing cold front from a main low-pressure area. That sets up a significant potential for tornadoes in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama.
The winter weather is prompting airlines to cancel flights by the hundreds and numerous carriers are letting customers make changes to their itineraries without the typical fees.
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