compiled by Dee Finney

Scientists predict Southwest mega-drought
Climate models indicate region will be as dry as Dust Bowl for decades
The Associated Press
Updated: 11:20 a.m. PT April 5, 2007

WASHINGTON - Changing climate will mean increasing drought in the American Southwest — a region where water already is in tight supply — according to a new study.

“The bottom line message for the average person and also for the states and federal government is that they’d better start planning for a Southwest region in which the water resources are increasingly stretched,” said Richard Seager of Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory.

Seager is lead author of the study published online Thursday by the journal Science.

Researchers studied 19 computer models of the climate, using data dating back to 1860 and projecting into the future, to the year 2100. The same models were used in preparing the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The consensus of the models was that climate in the southwestern United States and parts of northern Mexico began a transition to drier conditions late in the 20th century and is continuing the trend in this century, as climate change alters the movement of storms and moisture in the atmosphere. The models show the drying trend continuing all the way to 2100 — for more than 90 years.

"If these models are correct, the levels of aridity of the recent multiyear drought, or the Dust Bowl and 1950s droughts, will, within the coming years to decades, become the new climatology of the American Southwest," the researchers wrote.

In a telephone interview, Seager said that doesn’t mean there would be dust storms like those of the 1930s Dust Bowl, because conditions at that time were also complicated by poor agricultural practices. But he said the reduction in rainfall could be equivalent to those times when thousands of farmers abandoned their parched land and moved away in search of jobs.

Currently, the majority of water in the Southwest is used in agriculture, but the urban population of the region is growing and so the water needs of people are growing as well, he explained.

So, in a case where there is a reduced water supply, there will have to be some reallocation between the users,” Seager said. “The water available is already fully allocated.”

He said feels that adjustments can be made to deal with the change, perhaps by withdrawing some land from production and by conserving water in urban areas.

“But it’s something that needs to be planned for,” Seager said. “It’s time to start thinking how to deal with that.”

Jonathan T. Overpeck, director of the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth at the University of Arizona, said the finding “agrees with what is already happening in the Southwest, and will be further complicated by the already declining spring snowpack due to warming.”

“These are scary results, but scary in part because they are results of well thought-out scientific work by a large number of strong scientists,” said Overpeck, who was not part of the research team.

In other reports in this week’s issue of Science:

  • Researchers led by Alan Gange of the University of London reported that as a result of warming temperatures some species of mushrooms and toadstools in southern England have begun to fruit twice a year rather than just once. They found that some species that previously only fruited in October now also fruit in April. In addition, the length of the fruiting period has grown over time and in the last decade alone it has more than doubled, they found.
  • Deep waters in the North Atlantic some 125,000 years ago were warmer than they are now and may have helped melt the Antarctic ice sheets, according to researchers led by Jean-Claude Duplessy of the Laboratory of Climate and the Environment of Institute Pierre Simon Laplace outside Paris. Deep North Atlantic water flows south and then rises to the surface near Antarctica. The researchers said that current warming climate trends indicate similar conditions to that period could occur in the next couple of centuries.

    This report was supplemented by information from


    Jan. 26, 2006

    Cold Weather Causes Numerous Deaths

    KIEV: A relentless Arctic weather front wreaked more havoc across a wide swath of eastern Europe yesterday, killing 53 people in Ukraine alone and severely disrupting transport networks in half a dozen countries.

    Intemperate weather has even covered Athens' Acropolis in snow and frozen stretches of the eastern Danube running between Bulgaria and Romania.

    The week-long deep freeze, forecast to last through today, has claimed hundreds of lives from the Baltic nations and Russia in the north all the way down to Turkey and Greece, both semi-paralysed by uninterrupted snowfall.

    The 24-hour toll in Ukraine brings to 130 the number of weather-related deaths there since temperatures plunged into the minus 20s and -30s C.

    The cold snap has also been lethal in Russia, with well over 100 deaths in Moscow alone, as well as Poland, where 14 persons died on Tuesday night and 53 have succumbed since last week.

    At least half of all victims are homeless, according to official statistics, and many deaths are alcohol related. Temporary shelters have been set up in sports gyms, public buildings and hospitals throughout eastern Europe in an effort to get people off the street.

    Northeast snowstorm was ‘Category 3’

    ‘Major’ ranking is in middle of new 1-5 scale

    'Source_Nightly News')">Record snow
    Feb. 13: A snowstorm blanketed the Eastern Seaboard from North Carolina to Maine over the weekend. NBC's Lisa Daniels reports.
    MSNBC staff and news service reports
    Updated: 2:58 p.m. ET Feb. 14, 2006

    NEW YORK - Last weekend’s Northeast snowstorm ranks as a Category 3, or major, storm, the National Climatic Data Center said Tuesday in its first use of a new impact scale.

    The Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale ranked the storm as having the 20th biggest impact out of 32 storms sampled between 1956 and 2006.

    The scale ranks the severity of an East Coast snowstorm based on snowfall amount and the population of the affected areas.

    The five categories are: Notable, Significant, Major, Crippling or Extreme.

    But scientists acknowledged that the rough conditions made measuring the snowfall difficult.

    “Near-blizzard conditions prevailed in the Northeast over the weekend, with winds gusting more than 50 mph along the coastal areas,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a statement. “The strong winds produced snow drifts more than four feet high and made snow measurements difficult.”

    NOAA said the storm was not ranked higher because the record snowfalls reported in some areas were not regionwide. “Other snow storms of the recent past, such as the 1993 Storm of the Century (NESIS Category 5) and the January Blizzard of 1996 covered areas throughout the eastern U.S.,” NOAA said.

    Monday's cleanup
    Cleanup from the storm began in earnest Monday, with road crews clearing highways and air travelers catching new flights.

    Hundreds of schools canceled Monday classes from West Virginia to Massachusetts. Utility crews worked to restore power to thousands of homes and businesses blacked out when wind gusting to 50 mph knocked down power lines.

    “I never want to see snow again,” said stalled traveler Laura Guerra, 27, of Miami, after spending the night on a cot at LaGuardia Airport. She said she hadn’t seen snow since she was 4, “But I got it out of my system.”

    The weekend storm blanketed the Eastern Seaboard and Appalachians from western North Carolina to Maine, dropping 26.9 inches of snow in Central Park — the heaviest since record-keeping was started in 1869, the National Weather Service said. The old record was 26.4 inches in December 1947.

    Children were thrilled to dig out their sleds, little used until now in this unusually mild winter.

    “We’re hoping for 365 days off from school,” said 9-year-old Reagan Manz, playing in Central Park with friends. “We could go sledding the whole time and not get bored.”

    More than 30 inches in Connecticut
    Fairfield, Conn., got 30.2 inches of snow, and Rahway, N.J., had 27 inches, according to unofficial observations reported to the weather service. Just west of Philadelphia, 21 inches of snow was recorded in West Caln Township; the average snowfall for an entire winter in Philadelphia is about 21 inches. Wilbraham, Mass., east of Springfield, reported 22 inches, and some areas of the state had 3-foot drifts.

    In the mountains of western North Carolina, Robbinsville got 20 inches of snow and drifts up to 6 feet high closed the Cherohala Skyway, a scenic route through the area to the Tennessee line. Unlike most of the Northeast, light snow continued falling in the area Monday.

    All three major New York-area airports — Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark — had reopened with limited service by Monday morning after hundreds of flights were called off Sunday. A Turkish Airlines flight skidded off a runway at Kennedy when it landed late Sunday, but none of the 198 passengers was injured, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

    Airlines also canceled hundreds of flights Sunday at major airports from Washington’s Reagan National to Boston’s Logan International.

    Travelers stranded across the nation
    The Northeast airport closures and grounded planes stranded travelers across the country. About 7,500 people were stuck at Florida’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, spokesman Steve Belleme said.

    “Our car’s in Newark. We can’t even get close to there,” said Maria Martinez, whose flight from Miami International Airport was canceled. “We can’t even get to Philadelphia or D.C.”

    Some passengers also were stranded on the Long Island Rail Road east of New York City, where trains got stuck on snow-covered tracks, officials said. One train was marooned for five hours. Limited service into Penn Station in Manhattan resumed Monday morning but some branches on Long Island were still out of service.

    “Usually the trains never stop. It’s never been like this,” said Rebecca Karpus, who was waiting to return home Monday morning on the LIRR after being marooned at Penn Station since 6:30 p.m. Sunday. “It’s really paralyzed us.”

    Amtrak said it still had numerous storm-related schedule changes Monday morning.

    Most highways were in good shape for the Monday morning commute, but many city streets and sidewalks were still packed with snow.

    The storm also knocked out power across parts of the Northeast, most severely in Maryland, where more than 150,000 customers were blacked out and utilities said more than 48,000 still had no power Monday.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

    Mud wipes out Philippines village
    A child is carried from the scene of the landslide in Southern Leyte, Philippines
    It was reported people had returned to their homes as rains eased
    An entire village has been buried by a major landslide in the central Philippines following heavy rains.

    Nineteen people are known to have died and 83 have been found alive so far, but rescue officials said between 1,500 and 2,500 might be buried in the mud.

    President Gloria Arroyo ordered the coast guard and navy to the affected area, and a US vessel is on the way.

    However rescuers, struggling waist-deep through thick mud, have called off their search, fearing further slides.

    A school and an estimated 500 houses in the village of Guinsaugon, in the town of St Bernard on the southern part of Leyte, were swamped by the flow of mud.

    Survivor Dario Libatan said: "It sounded like the mountain exploded, and the whole thing crumbled."

    Another spoke of boulders bigger than a house sweeping into the village amid the torrent of mud and earth.

    Television images showed only coconut trees and a few tin roofs emerging from the reddish soil.

    "Everything was buried," survivor Eugene Pilo said.

    "All the people are gone."

    Rescuers sinking

    The mudslide happened after heavy rains dumped about 200cm of rain on the area in the space of 10 days, Eva Tomol, a board member for the Southern Leyte provincial government told the BBC News website.

    She denied that deforestation caused by illegal logging may have contributed to the disaster.

    I pulled out the body of a... child who must have been as young as my own daughter
    Dag Navarette
    Rescue worker

    The BBC's Sarah Toms in Manila says the area lies in the path of several typhoons each year, and that coconut trees common locally have shallow roots which leave it vulnerable to landslides.

    Southern Leyte province Governor Rosette Lerias said many residents had left last week, fearing landslides, but had begun to return as rains eased in the past few days.

    She said the school that was buried had about 250 pupils and teachers.

    "We have been able to rescue only one child and one adult from the school area," she said.

    US offer

    Army Captain Edmund Abella, leading a team of 30 army rescuers, said his soldiers were sinking into the mud. "It's very difficult, we're digging by hand, the place is so vast and the mud is so thick," he said.
    Dec 2004 About 1,800 people killed after a series of storms in north-eastern Philippines
    Dec 2003 Up to 200 people die in landslides in Southern Leyte
    Nov 1991 Typhoon Thelma strikes Leyte causing floods that drown at least 5,000

    President Arroyo urged her compatriots to "pray for those who perished and were affected by this tragedy".

    "I have ordered the Coast Guard and our entire naval force in the Visayas [central Philippines] region to the area," she said in a television address to the nation.

    Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, speaking in Geneva, said it would be some time before the final death toll was known.

    "This could rise to tragic proportions. We're still hoping this is not the case... It's impossible to predict what nature will do."

    The landslide followed reports of a minor earthquake in the area on Friday morning.

    But David Applegate of the US Geological Survey told the BBC News website that the magnitude 5.2 quake off Iwo Jima was "very unlikely" to have been the cause.

    Red Cross estimates 200 are dead, 1,500 missing in Philippine landslide

    Paul Alexander, Canadian Press

    Published: Friday, February 17, 2006

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) - The farming village is gone, swallowed whole by a wall of mud and boulders that swept down with terrifying speed Friday from a mountainside in the eastern Philippines. Officials feared the death toll could climb past 1,500.

    "There are no signs of life, no rooftops, no nothing," Southern Leyte province Gov. Rosette Lerias said. The village of Guinsaugon, once a community of 2,500 people, now looks like a 40-hectare patch of newly plowed land.

    Its 375 homes and elementary school were buried under mud up to 10 metres deep. Only a few small piles of debris hint at the devastation. Only a few jumbles of corrugated steel sheeting indicate Guinsaugon ever existed.

    The official death toll stood at 23 after darkness forced suspension of rescue efforts, hours after the morning landslide. But the Philippine Red Cross estimated at least 200 dead and 1,500 missing. Significantly, only 53 survivors were plucked from the brown morass on Leyte island, 675 kilometres southeast of Manila.

    "Our village is gone, everything was buried in mud," said survivor Eugene Pilo, who lost his family. "All the people are gone."

    "It sounded like the mountain exploded, and the whole thing crumbled," added fellow survivor Dario Libatan, who lost his wife and three children. "I could not see any house standing anymore."

    Rescue workers were hampered by the thick, soft mud that remained unstable, along with flash floods spawned by two weeks of downpours. The heavy rains were blamed on the La Nina weather phenomenon, that dumped 68.5 centimetres of rain on the area.

    The governor asked for people to dig by hand, saying the mud was too soft for heavy equipment.

    "I have a glimmer of hope, based on the rule of thumb. Within 24 hours you can still find survivors," Lerias said. "After that, you move on to the recovery phase, but right now it's still rescue mode."

    A second, minor landslide added to volunteers' jitters, and a helicopter pilot said the ground near the top of the mountain was still moving in late afternoon.

    "You could see a patch of green, then mud where it was," Leo Dimaala said, estimating that half the mountain had collapsed.

    Education officials said 250 pupils and teachers were believed to have been at the elementary school. Only one girl and a woman were rescued alive nearby.

    Two other villages also were affected, and about 3,000 evacuees huddled at a municipal hall.

    "We did not find injured people," said Ricky Estela, a crewman on a helicopter that flew a politician to the scene. "Most of them are dead and beneath the mud."

    Aerial TV footage showed a wide swath of mud alongside stretches of green rice paddies at the foothills of the scarred mountain.

    Survivors and others blamed illegal logging for contributing to the disaster.

    Pat Vendetti, a London-based campaigner with the Greenpeace environmental action group, said illegal logging may prove to have contributed to the mudslide.

    "There were similar landslides at the end of 2004 and the end of 2003, both directly linked to illegal logging on land above villages, and both in the Philippines," said Vendetti.

    The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies blamed a combination of the weather and the type of trees prevalent in the area.

    "The remote coastal area of Southern Leyte . . . is heavily forested with coconut trees," the Red Cross said from Geneva. "They have shallow roots, which can be easily dislodged after heavy rains, causing the land to become unstable.

    Lerias said that even before the landslide, "trees were sliding down upright with the mud."

    A small earthquake also shook the area, but scientists said it took place after the landslide and probably was unrelated.

    Rescue workers dug with shovels for signs of survivors, and put a child on a stretcher, with little more than the girl's eyes showing through a covering of mud.

    "Help is on the way," President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said in televised remarks. "It will come from land, sea and air."

    The Philippine Red Cross had 14 people on the ground dealing with rescue efforts and the recovery of bodies. More staff and trained volunteers were being sent to the region, along with dog rescue teams.

    A relief plane was flying from Manila carrying 1,000 body bags, emergency trauma kits to help 1,000 people, rubber boots, ropes, clothing, flashlights and medicine.

    The international Red Cross launched an emergency appeal for $1.5 million US for relief operations. The funds will be used for buying temporary shelter materials and other emergency health and cooking items.

    Lerias said many residents evacuated the area last week because of the threat of landslides or flooding, but had started returning home during increasingly sunny days, with the rains limited to evening downpours.

    Last weekend, seven road construction workers died in a landslide after falling into a 45-metre-deep ravine in the mountain town of Sogod on Leyte.

    In 1991, about 6,000 people were killed on Leyte in floods and landslides triggered by a tropical storm. Another 133 people died in floods and mudslides there in 2003.

    © The Canadian Press 2006
    Rescuers pull bodies from Philippine school
    Mon Feb 20, 2006 1:40 PM GMT

    By Bobby Ranoco and Pedro Uchi

    GUINSAUGON, Philippines (Reuters) - Rescue workers pulled five bodies on Monday from a Philippine school buried under a mudslide, dashing reports of a miraculous recovery of 50 people three days after their village was obliterated.

    "We have yet to find any survivors," Captain Burrell Parmer, a spokesman for U.S. Marines taking part in the rescue operation, told the ABS-CBN television channel.

    "Our troops have found dead bodies," he said. "They dig with their bare hands and place them in body bags."

    Parmer's sombre news contradicted an earlier report from a Philippine government official that U.S. forces had brought out about 50 survivors from under metres of mud in the school in Guinsaugon, a remote farming community about 675 km (420 miles) southeast of Manila.

    Friday's devastating landslide, triggered by two weeks of heavy rain, obliterated the village of 1,800 people. So far, 84 bodies have been recovered. Relatives have reported 1,371 people still missing.

    But rescuers, including U.S. Marines dispatched from annual Philippine military exercises, focussed efforts on the elementary school after unconfirmed reports that some of the 253 people trapped inside had sent desperate text messages on Friday.


    Colonel Raul Farnacio, head of a Philippine army rescue team, said U.S. and Filipino military had halted operations for the night because geologists had warned that the ground around the school was unstable. Rain was sheeting down.

    Farnacio said he was still hopeful that survivors could be pulled from the school, saying that the likelihood that some of those trapped could be alive had risen, "from one percent to 50 percent".

    Based on field reports, he said there was "increasing positive sign of life" because of the rhythmic sounds some of the rescue teams were hearing close to the school.

    Rescuers, including teams from Taiwan and Malaysia, are battling deep, shifting mud and have been told to tread softly for fear of drowning in the soupy earth.

    In hospital, survivors told of jumping from roofs to escape the torrent of mud. One six-year-old girl survived by clinging to a coconut tree.

    Bloated and decomposing, 50 recovered bodies were buried on Sunday in mass graves sprinkled with holy water and lime powder -- a measure Health Secretary Francisco Duque said was necessary to prevent disease from spreading in the hot, fetid conditions.


    Former first lady Imelda Marcos told the anti-graft court on Monday she had cancelled her plan to go to Hong Kong to seek alternative medicine for her ailing knees and would instead go to Guinsaugon on Tuesday.

    "The Leyte people are a priority over my health," the widow of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos said, adding that she intended to donate to the survivors the 630,000 pesos ($12,138) that she had deposited with the court as travel bond.

    Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo plans to visit the scene on Wednesday or Thursday.

    International agencies have also sent supplies, but many of the emergency goods must be trucked to the area on bad roads and around washed-out bridges.

    On Monday, about 500 U.S. troops rushed to Guinsaugon. Brigadier-General Mastin Robeson said Washington planned to divert to Leyte up to 3,000 of the 5,000 U.S, soldiers and sailors taking part in annual war games in the southern Philippines.

    The Philippines is usually hit by about 20 typhoons each year, with residents and environmental groups often blaming illegal logging or mining for compounding the damage.

    But in a country where most of the 86 million people are Roman Catholic, commentators, officials and even survivors also said the landslide was God's will.

    Leyte island itself is no stranger to disaster. In 1991, more than 5,000 people died in floods triggered by a typhoon.

    (With reporting by Manny Mogato, Dolly Aglay and Carmel Crimmins in Manila)
    © Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

    People run away from huge waves crashing onto San Sebastian's seafront
    17 Feb 2006
    Source: Reuters

    People run away from huge waves crashing onto San Sebastian's seafront February 17, 2006. A combination of several circumstances such as the full moon season, a squall over the Cantabrian Sea and heavy wind gusts reaching speeds of 110 km (68 miles) per hour contributed to create sea tides to levels not seen in the area for the past 3 years, with waves as high as 10 meters (33 feet).

    IS AMERICA FACING ANOTHER DUST BOWL? meteorologists are warning that oceanic conditions similar to those that triggered the ruinous "Dust Bowl" drought again appear to be in place. The exceptionally warm Atlantic waters that played a major role in the record-breaking 2005 hurricane season, coupled with cooler-than-normal Pacific waters, are weakening and changing the course of a low-level jet stream that normally channels moisture into the Great Plains. Effects are starting to be felt in "America's breadbasket," as the southern Great Plains region is already suffering from higher temperatures and a prolonged lack of precipitation.

    Why could a new Dust Bowl drought occur?

    The low-level jet stream-a fast-moving current of winds close to the Earth's surface-travels from east to west across the Atlantic, then typically curves northward as it crosses the Gulf of Mexico, bringing moisture to the Great Plains. Abnormal sea-surface temperatures have caused this low-level jet stream to continue westward and to weaken, which is preventing much-needed moisture from reaching the agriculturally critical region. The shift in the jet stream is also allowing a southerly flow from Mexico to bring much drier air northward into the Plains.

    Besides dramatically reducing precipitation for the region, the changes brought about by the abnormal sea-surface temperatures will also result in higher surface temperatures in the Plains. "When surfaces are wet, energy from solar radiation both evaporates moisture and heats the ground," said Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams. "When no moisture is present, all that energy is channeled toward heating the ground, and the warmer ground heats the lower atmosphere. The combination of low moisture and higher temperatures would be a crippling one-two punch for the Great Plains should these conditions persist, much like what occurred during the Dust Bowl drought."

    The Dust Bowl drought
    The Dust Bowl, which lasted from 1931-1939, was a severe drought that struck a wide swath of the Great Plains. It was a catastrophic blow to the U.S. economy, which was already staggering under the weight of the Great Depression. The Dust Bowl was the worst drought in U.S. history, eventually covering more than 75 percent of the country. Solar radiation heating the parched and blighted land caused temperatures in the region to rise to record-breaking levels.

    "1936 was the hottest summer ever recorded across much of the Midwest and East," said Abrams. "Many of the single-day and monthly record-high temperatures across the eastern two-thirds of the country are from that year."

    The Dust Bowl was also noted for the huge dust storms that billowed across the Great Plains and swallowed millions of acres of farmland at a time. While a Dust Bowl-level drought could occur again, it is highly unlikely that the nation will see a return of the dust storms.

    "The dust storms fed off the over-plowed and over-grazed lands of the Great Plains," said Dale Mohler, Expert Senior Meteorologist and a forecaster for the agricultural industry. "The agricultural practices at the time, combined with a long period of drought, caused severe damage to farmland in the region. Eventually the topsoil dried up to the point where it was swept away as great clouds of choking dust that stretched for miles."

    Continued Mohler, "Today's agricultural practices, such as crop rotation and improved irrigation, as well as drought-resistant hybrid crops, would likely prevent the landscape from being as ruined as it was during the 1930s. For example, Illinois endured a terrible drought in 2005, but the state's corn yield was close to normal. However, a multiyear drought in the Great Plains would still be devastating for the nation."

    The hurricane connection

    "It is not a coincidence that the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s were marked by years of tremendous hurricane activity," said Hurricane Center Chief Forecaster Joe Bastardi. "For example, the record-shattering 2005 hurricane season was the first to eclipse 1933 in number of tropical cyclones, and that may only have been because we didn't have satellites in the 1930s to identify the major storms that failed to reach the U.S. coast."

    Hurricanes are fed by warm waters. This year's warm Atlantic waters-which are now setting up a possible major drought in the U.S.-played a major role in the 2005 season's numerous and powerful storms. Conversely, because the Pacific has been relatively cool-another prerequisite for the return of a Dust Bowl-like drought-this year's Pacific hurricane season was tame from historical perspective.

    Added Bastardi, "While we cannot yet tell how long this current pattern will last, if you trust history, then the 2005 hurricane season just may portend the return of a major drought to the Great Plains."

    Read more about the 1930s Dust Bowl drought

    "Is America Facing Another Dust Bowl?"
    Photos and information provided by, Missouri NRCS, and NASA.
    Violent storms kill two in southern states
    Published: Saturday, 11 March, 2006, 09:23 AM Doha Time
    LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas: Storms packing heavy rain and high wind have damaged homes and other buildings in several Southern states and killed at least two people.
    Power failures and wind damage were reported in Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee on Thursday. Wind gusts of up to 80mph were reported and a tornado was confirmed in eastern Arkansas, the National Weather Service said.
    “Some of the trees that made it through Katrina might not make it through this,” said Ceroy Jefferson, assistant superintendent for Mississippi’s Jefferson Davis County Schools, one of many counties that dismissed students early.
    Unusually severe straight-line winds did much of the damage, the National Weather Service said.
    A lightning-sparked house fire killed an 83-year-old man in southwest Arkansas, and heavy rains caused a traffic crash that killed a woman near Memphis, Tennessee, authorities said.
    Residents were assessing damage yesterday in Tennessee.
    A half-dozen people inside the Yorkville Cumberland Presbyterian Church escaped without injury when the building was struck by lighting and caught fire on Thursday afternoon, Fire Chief Carmon Lannom said. The 19th-century, wood-frame church was destroyed.
    A tornado stayed on the ground for nearly 8 miles in eastern Arkansas, the weather service said. The twister on Thursday injured four people and damaged 18 homes, a church and other structures.
    There also were reports of a tornado touching down at an elementary school in Indianola, Mississippi. Children huddled in hallways as the storm passed through. – AP

    Tornadoes rip across U.S. Midwest

    Total of 9 killed

    Associated Press

    Lawrence, Kan. — Tornadoes swept through portions of the U.S. Midwest, killing at least three people in Missouri, blowing roofs off homes in Illinois and Arkansas, and damaging about 60 per cent of the buildings on the University of Kansas campus. A fourth storm death was reported in Indiana.

    Violent storms continued early Monday in Springfield, Ill., where a tornado also struck Sunday night, taking the roof off of a Wal-Mart. Mayor Tim Davlin said he expected “every square inch of Springfield” will have suffered some effect from the storms.

    The storms forced the temporary closing of most major roads into the city. One man was reported missing after his home was destroyed; 19 others were treated at local hospitals for tornado-related injuries, authorities said.

    In Missouri, severe weather was blamed for three deaths, including a woman who was killed Sunday as she tried to seek refuge from a tornado in her mobile home south of Sedalia. Two other people were missing Sunday night and six were injured, officials said.

    Bobby Ritcheson, 23, said he watched as his neighbour was killed.

    “The trailer came down right on top of her,” said Mr. Ritcheson, who talked to the Associated Press at a Sedalia hospital where he had taken his pregnant wife out of concern she might be going into labour.

    Tornado sirens sounded at least three times in Sedalia on Sunday as one storm after another rolled through the city.

    The severe weather followed a powerful storm that ripped through southern Missouri and southern Illinois late Saturday, killing a couple whose car was blown off the road and destroying homes along a path of more than 32 kilometres south of St. Louis, officials said.

    John Gagan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Springfield, Mo., said there would be no way of knowing the scope of the damage until Monday morning.

    “We do not know the extent of this, since it's ongoing and fresh,” he said. “Reports are coming in as we speak, but we won't know how bad it is until the light of day.”

    In Kansas, Provost David Shulenberger said classes were cancelled Monday at the University of Kansas because of safety concerns about debris falling from rooftops. The Lawrence campus was littered with trees, roof tiles and window glass.

    Two trees fell through Rhonda Burns' trailer in the town early Sunday.

    “If the wind had shifted that tree just a few inches, I wouldn't be talking to you,” she said.

    The storm was the first of several that passed through eastern Kansas and across most of Missouri on Sunday. High winds lifted a cargo container off the airfield at Kansas City International Airport and blew it into several vehicles. Hail -- some the size of baseballs -- was reported in several northwest Missouri counties.

    Tornadoes also touched down Sunday in Oklahoma and Arkansas, while heavy rains and flooding swamped roads in Indiana. One storm-related fatality was reported Sunday in Indiana, where a man drowned after falling from a boat, state Department of Homeland Security spokesman Andy Zirkle said.

    In northeastern Oklahoma, a tornado destroyed 25 to 50 homes when it ripped through rural Delaware County near the town of Oaks, said Mike Miller, spokesman for the Cherokee Nation.

    At least 12 people were transported to a hospital, although none appeared to suffer life-threatening injuries, Miller said.

    Meanwhile a tornado that tore through northwestern Arkansas late Sunday heavily damaged several dozen homes.

    Greg Kospar, 41, of Bentonville, Ark., said he was awakened by his wife shortly before the storm hit.

    “It was over before you knew it,” Kospar said. “The house is gone. It sucks, it sucks big time.”

    Ten skiers killed in California since late January

    TAHOE CITY, Calif. Safety is top priority at Lake Tahoe-area ski resorts after officials announced 10 skiers have been killed on the slopes since late January.

    Resort officials and investigators say they haven't seen numbers that high in decades. But there seems to be no common thread among the accidents.

    The national average of 39 deaths on the slopes has remained about the same over the past 10 years. That's according to the National Ski Areas Association.

    But there has been an increase in serious injuries at Sierra ski resorts over the past year. Doctor Myron Gomez is the chief trauma surgeon at the Washoe Medical Center in Reno. That hospital handles all the major injuries from Sierra ski resorts.

    In recent years, the hospital has seen an average of 250 ski and snowboard trauma patients. That jumped to 309 patients during the 2004-05 ski season. Gomez says similar numbers are expected this winter.

    The recent deaths included a 16-year-old boy who fell into a creek, a snowboarder who slid off a ledge into a creek, a snowboarder who smashed into a tree and a skier who was buried in an avalanche.

    The deaths happened at ski resorts and in the back country from Lake Tahoe to Mount Shasta and from Donner Summit to Mammoth Mountain. Those who died included experienced skiers, even an instructor.

    Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

    Bay Area Snow Triggers Fatal 28-Car Pileup

    Snow, Sleet, Hail Make Rare March Bay Area Appearance

    POSTED: 5:27 pm PST March 12, 2006
    Snow, sleet and hail made a rare March appearance in the Bay Area this weekend, closing roads and causing a 28-car pileup that killed two people.

    Forecasters with the National Weather Service predicted the unusually cold weather would continue through Sunday.

    Icy road conditions were blamed for the chain-reaction accident that took place about 2:30 a.m. Saturday on Highway 101 just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, authorities said.

    The crash scattered cars over a 350-foot stretch of highway and left more than a dozen people with minor to moderate injuries, California Highway Patrol Sgt. Wayne Ziese said.
    "They started hitting snow and ice and went out of control," Ziese said.

    Girardo De La Torres, 28 of Petaluma, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of driving under the influence, but he was later released after a blood analysis concluded he was not drunk, Ziese said. He was being treated for injuries at a Marin County hospital.

    Consuelo Garcia, 30, and Adelle Guerrero, 26, who were riding in the car with De La Torres, were killed when their Honda Civic slammed into a Toyota sport utility vehicle, Ziese said. Both women were married, and Garcia had two children, authorities said.

    Northbound lanes were closed for about 11 hours, causing major traffic delays Saturday, as officials investigated the crash and cleared the area of debris.

    A snow advisory for elevations above 1,000 feet remained in effect through noon on Sunday.

    A mass of cold, moist and unstable air from the Gulf of Alaska was expected to bring showers and storms through Sunday afternoon, said Duane Dykema, a NWS forecaster in Monterey.

    "Because it is such a cold air mass, snow is falling at very low elevations, much lower than you would normally expect," Dykema said.

    Dykema predicted the rain, hail and snow - highly unusual for the Bay Area in March - would taper off by late Sunday, giving the region a brief reprieve before another, warmer storm moves in Monday evening.

    Snow and hail fell in elevations as low as 500 feet in the Bay Area on Friday night and Saturday morning, closing roads but causing only minor accidents or injuries, authorities said.

    A stretch of northbound Interstate 280 south of State Road 92 was closed for about three hours Friday night, CHP Officer Scott Cakebread said.

    The weather came as an unexpected treat to some Bay Area residents.

    The Monterey Bay area was treated to a remarkably sparkling morning with the rare sight of several inches of frozen hail on the beaches melting in the sunshine.

    As repair crews worked to fix downed power lines and cleared roads, Steve and Christina Glynn, whose Aptos driveway and road were completely obstructed by downed trees, took a morning walk.

    "We headed through our snowy neighborhood wishing everyone a Merry Christmas," said Steve Glynn.

    Shifting Wind Worries Texas Firefighters
    By BETSY BLANEY , 03.14.2006,

    Firefighters said they were making progress Tuesday against a string of wildfires ravaging the dry Texas grassland, but the good news was tempered by a threat of shifting winds and the distress of evacuees returning to charred homes.

    Wind-blown flames have raced across more than 1,000 square miles since Sunday, killed 11 people and forced about 1,900 others to evacuate.

    On Tuesday, firefighters were bracing for the possibility of a shift in wind direction and dropping humidity as they worked to strengthen the perimeters around the blazes, said Jan Fulkerson, a spokeswoman for the Texas Forest Service. The wind was near 20 mph mid-morning and there was no rain in sight.

    The Department of Public Safety late Monday attributed four new deaths to the fires, bringing the death toll to 11. Nine firefighters have been injured.

    "We share in the grief of those who have lost family members and loved ones, and we offer our prayers," Gov. Rick Perry said. "Throughout this wildfire season, communities in our state have shown strength and resolve that are uniquely Texan."

    Eleven fires were burning across an estimated nearly 700,000 acres Monday, up from 663,000 over the weekend. State fire crews fought more than 160 blazes in one 24-hour period.

    The size of the blackened area easily eclipsed the 455,000 acres that burned in December and January, when the governor declared a disaster.

    Fire evacuee Jennifer Orand returned Monday to find her mobile home in the Hutchinson County community of Texroy burned to the ground.

    "I just started crying," said Orand, 27, who lives with her husband, Shannon, about 40 miles northeast of Amarillo. "You hear all the time that people think it will never happen to you. I never thought I'd say that myself."

    A series of rural fires stretching through Collinsworth, Wheeler, Carson, Hutchinson, Donley and Gray counties, charred some 652,000 acres by Monday night, and were still burning early Tuesday, the Texas Forest Service reported.

    Another wildfire in Childress and Cottle counties reached 45,000 acres, the Texas Forest Service said.

    In southeastern New Mexico, authorities contained a 92,000-acre fire that had charred tinder-dry brush, burned the McDonald post office and two homes, and forced about 200 people to evacuate. It appeared to have been started by an emergency flare at a natural gas plant, Lovington fire officials said.

    Texas Department of Public Safety reported seven firefighters suffered minor injuries fighting the blazes in the Panhandle. One was hospitalized in stable condition Monday night after a wreck in his fire truck. A ranch hand assisting firefighters was hospitalized with second-degree burns.

    About 3.5 million acres - 2 percent of Texas land mass - has burned since Dec. 26, said Rachael Novier, a spokeswoman for Perry.

    Associated Press writers Anabelle Garay and Steve Quinn in Dallas, Angela K. Brown in Fort Worth and Liz Austin in Austin contributed to this report.

    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

    Survivors Dig Out From Tornadoes' Devastation

    Residents of the central Mississippi Valley sift debris for relics of their lives after a series of weekend storms killed 10 people in two states.
    By Stephanie Simon and P.J. Huffstutter, Times Staff Writers
    March 14, 2006
    KNOB NOSTER, Mo. — Covered in grime, newlyweds Tina and Roger Werneke began Monday to carefully collect the shards of their lives and place them into garbage bags.

    Picking through the mud where their mobile home once stood amid rural rolling green hills in west-central Missouri, the Wernekes found Tina's communion dress, its white lace still crisp and pristine in a sealed bag. A set of stones the couple had hand-painted with their names and placed in their garden remained untouched, as were their high school rings, boxed with other belongings for a scheduled move.

    But a 30-year-old family collection of Raggedy Ann dolls was mostly gone, and the family cats were missing.

    "It's tough, but we're all safe," said Tina, 27, a receptionist.

    From Kansas to Missouri to Illinois, other victims of the weekend's massive wave of tornadoes spent Monday salvaging what they could from crushed stores and crumpled homes.

    Winds cut about a 400-mile swath across the central Mississippi Valley, and early reports from the national Storm Prediction Center estimated that as many as 110 tornadoes touched down Sunday in the Midwest, the most in a single day in March in 16 years. Ten people in two states were killed.

    Officials at the National Weather Service, however, said that it could take weeks to confirm the actual number of tornadoes that hit Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois over the weekend.

    Some of the tornadoes were a half-mile wide in places, and devoured up to 10-mile stretches of rural landscape, uprooting barns and farmhouses.

    The victims included a 28-year-old man in Indiana, who emergency personnel believe drowned after falling from a boat on Indian Creek near Owensburg in Greene County, and a couple in Missouri who inadvertently drove directly into the path of a tornado.

    Four people were killed in and around Renick, Mo., including Billy Briscoe, 60, and his wife Pennie, 57. Across the couple's neighborhood, mobile homes were peeled apart like tin cans and tree limbs clogged the streets, according to law enforcement officials.

    As tornado sirens howled in the night, the couple ignored the pleas of friends to leave their mobile home. When the storm hit, it sounded like "a train running across the sky — it happened so fast," Jim Doughtery, a neighbor of the Briscoes, told local TV reporters.

    The couple's bodies were found in the crushed remains of their home, said Moberly, Mo., Police Sgt. Kevin Palmatory.

    "The community's in shock over the damage and the fatalities," Palmatory said. "Tornadoes aren't a common thing for us."

    On Monday, heavy rains in Indiana left the rivers swollen and roads swamped; drivers had to be rescued from stalled vehicles. University of Kansas officials shut down the campus in Lawrence after the storms damaged 60% of its buildings. Insurance adjusters fielded calls from policyholders frantic to tally the damage to thousands of homes, businesses and community assets.

    After the storms cut through Illinois' state capital of Springfield, the damage was so severe that public schools were closed and nonessential state employees were told to stay home. About two dozen people were injured in the storm.

    "Around 3 a.m., we were all outside with chain saws, trying to hack our way through the debris," said Harry Stirmell, president of the village of Jerome, a suburb southwest of Springfield where one of the tornadoes touched down. "We've been working nonstop since, and trees and cars and garbage still fill all our streets."

    Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich has declared seven Illinois counties as state disaster areas, and noted in a statement, "We will commit whatever state assistance is needed to help get their city up and running again."

    But Monday, it was clear that Missouri was among the hardest hit. At least 90 of the 110 tornado reports came from Missouri, where the state began observing Severe Weather Awareness Week on Monday. Emergency management and National Weather Service officials were planning to conduct a statewide tornado drill today.

    Missouri averages 26 tornadoes a year, said Andy Foster, a meteorologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service office in Springfield, Mo. In 2003, the state broke its annual record with a total of 84 tornadoes.

    The Wernekes consider themselves lucky: They had recently sold the mobile home that was destroyed and had expected to move into a new double-wide trailer Sunday. But the delivery company couldn't get to their property over the weekend — it was too windy to transport the trailer.

    As the couple and their friends wandered from debris pile to debris pile Monday afternoon just outside Knob Noster (population 2,700), they shivered when a cold wind cut across their devastated home. Yet the impromptu scavenger's hunt unearthed unexpected gems. A wedding ring pillow. Some of the couple's photo albums.

    "Hey, I found another pack of your cigarettes, Roger!" one friend hollered, plucking the intact package from the rubble.

    Tina's uncle John Allen commiserated with the couple. Allen, a 51-year-old school custodian, had fled his home after a newscast warned of the path the storm was taking.

    Desperate to find shelter, he tore out of his driveway, pulled into a nearby grove of trees and hunkered down. Looking out the window, he said, he could see chunks of metal flying overhead. "It only just lasted a few seconds, but it scared me to death."

    When he returned home, there was little left that was salvageable. An overturned toilet. A dresser with yellow sheets. And enough food to fill a cardboard box for a meal of canned mackerel and packaged sausage.

    "This is the worst weather we've had in years," said Karen Eagleson, director of the emergency management team for Johnson County, Mo. The county, which encompasses Knob Noster, is located about 90 minutes southeast of Kansas City, Mo.

    Seven tornadoes struck the 830-square-mile area Sunday.

    "I hope this isn't a precursor for what's to come," Eagleson said. "I hope we're done with it. But this is just the beginning of our season."

    Hillside resident lost in slide

    Mill Valley rescue called off because of danger to workers.

    By Herbert A. Sample -- Bee San Francisco Bureau
    Published 2:15 am PDT Thursday, April 13, 2006

    MILL VALLEY - Rains that for days have soaked Northern California and kept emergency crews on edge took a lethal turn Wednesday with the disappearance of a 74-year-old man as a hillside above his home gave way and apparently buried him in as much as 14 feet of mud.

    Officials identified the victim as Walter Vaughan Guthrie, who lived on Bolsa Avenue, in this wooded community north of San Francisco.

    Guthrie was trying to clear a debris-choked culvert behind his home, authorities said. As of Wednesday night, workers had not found his body

    "We're officially going into recovery mode," said Mill Valley Fire Department Battalion Chief Greg Moore, as cascades of storm runoff gushed around the side of Guthrie's two-story home and through its rear garage wall. "We never give up hope, but we're in a position where we can't keep people on an unstable slide trying to recover a person who might not have survived."

    About 80 firefighters from Marin County, Mill Valley and neighboring agencies were involved in the rescue effort.

    They were joined by three dozen state Corrections Department prisoners using five-gallon buckets and shovels to remove some of the mud that had slammed into the rear of Guthrie's home.

    The Mill Valley mudslide was the worst of the consequences of another day of rain - heavy at times - throughout Northern California and the Central Valley.

    The parade of storm clouds is expected to shift south today, drenching the Central Coast, and then move toward Los Angeles and possibly the San Joaquin Valley on Friday, forecasters said. That could mean intervals of sunshine around Sacramento.

    But Saturday, another band of wet weather could drench much of the state, according to Kathy Hoxie of the National Weather Service.

    Once that storm clears out, higher temperatures and clearer skies could arrive next week.

    On Wednesday rain filled coastal creeks, triggered Bay Area mudslides, and continued to tumble into Central Valley rivers, where workers were shoring up levees and patrolling for potential leaks.

    In Sacramento County, although both the American and Sacramento rivers were predicted to rise slightly through Saturday, water levels were expected to remain well below their December peaks.

    Placer County declared an emergency because of the rain and slide damage to foothill roads since late March, estimating local government costs at more than $1 million.

    In the farming town of Firebaugh, west of Fresno, crews built sandbag walls 2 to 2½ feet high at low spots along banks of the San Joaquin River, and built dirt berms around a high school and a sewage treatment plant.

    Emergency officials are trying to protect the town of 9,000 from surges that could come if intensifying storms or sudden snowmelt force reservoirs to release more water into the Kings and San Joaquin rivers.

    "The risk is real," and could linger for several weeks, said Tim Casagrande, who runs Fresno County's Office of Emergency Services.

    In San Joaquin County, round-the-clock levee patrols were increased in case the river slips over the "danger stage" of 29.5 feet at Vernalis, said Office of Emergency Services spokesman Rex Osborn.

    Late Wednesday, the Weather Service's River Forecast Center predicted that today the San Joaquin River would peak just under that, at 29.4 feet, before dropping a few inches over several days.

    While levees are holding well for now, "the longer it stays at this level, the less stable it is," Osborn said.

    Crews replaced plastic sheeting that blew off levee slopes in high winds, and investigated several reports of small boils, eruptions of water that can be signs of levee erosion.

    To the north, in Glenn County, water surging down western foothills swamped creek banks, closed roads and crested near flood stage on areas of the Sacramento River on Wednesday morning, officials said.

    Highway 162 is closed to westbound traffic 2.5 miles east of Willows. Highway 99, running parallel to Interstate 5, is closed between County Roads 39 and 48. Most of that section of the historic highway "is definitely deep in water," Glenn County Sheriff's Lt. Phil Revolinsky said.

    The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for Ord Ferry and Butte City on the Sacramento River, the officer said.

    Along California's north coast, steady rains overwhelmed coastal hillsides, causing slides and flooding that closed roads and schools from the Santa Cruz Mountains to the coastal communities near Point Reyes.

    South of San Francisco, mudslides triggered evacuations of three homes in Brisbane in San Mateo County and another three in Mill Valley in Marin County.

    In Mill Valley, rescuers searching for Guthrie were hampered throughout the day by unrelenting rain and the unstable hillside. Mill Valley Fire Department officials called off the search in midafternoon out of caution for the rescue workers.

    Crews had placed plastic sheeting on the hillside above and set up a temporary dam to divert rainwater away from the house.

    But the hillside would not cooperate. It moved slightly several times throughout the day, causing observers to blow air horns, signaling rescuers to evacuate the property below.

    According to battalion chief Moore, Guthrie had ventured into his backyard to check a culvert that runs into a pipe under his home. His wife, Lisa, was in the home, perhaps trying to guide him with a flashlight, Moore said.

    "She knew he was there," Moore added. "She turned away. When she looked back, the slide had come down the hill and hit the house."

    Lisa Guthrie escaped unharmed.

    Moore could not estimate how much mud and debris had moved down the hill, but he said the accumulation had reached the top of the roofline at the rear of the house and entered the second-floor bedroom.

    A contractor who lives on a street above the Guthrie home said he believes the house should not have been built - 30 or 40 years ago - because it sits in a fold of the hillside, which acts as a natural funnel for rainwater into the culvert.

    "You never build a house on a 'swale,' " said Roger Gordon, who is building a new house down Bolsa Avenue from Guthrie.

    Emily Ferraro, who is putting the finishing touches on her purchase of another home nearby, watched the rescuers with some anxiety.

    "I'm a little worried," she said, adding that she nevertheless understood the dangers of living on slopes.

    The Guthrie home was "red-tagged," or condemned, on Wednesday. Three other neighboring homes were "yellow-tagged," or closed to their occupants, as a safety precaution, Moore said, adding that the structures were in no immediate danger.

    About the writers:

    • The Bee's Herbert A. Sample can be reached at (510) 382-1978 or Bee staff writer Carrie Peyton-Dahlberg, Bee correspondent Christine Vovakes and the Associated Press contributed to this report. Sample reported from Mill Valley, Peyton-Dahlberg from Sacramento and Vovakes from Red Bluff.

    Storms, Floods, Mudslides Tie Up D.C. Area

    The Associated Press
    Monday, June 26, 2006; 1:09 PM

    WASHINGTON -- Flooding from a weekend of heavy rain shut down the Justice Department and other major federal buildings Monday, and created a nightmare for commuters with washed-out roads, mud blocking the Capital Beltway and delays on the area's rail lines.

    The Internal Revenue Service headquarters, the Commerce Department and the National Archives also were closed Monday morning because of flooding, and the National Gallery of Art was closed because of weather-related problems with its steam system.

    Cars are submerged in floodwaters in front of a Wal-Mart store on Sunday, June 25, 2006 in Seaford, Del., after heavy rainfall flooded much of the area. (AP Photo/Matthew S. Gunby) (Matthew S. Gunby - AP)

    District of Columbia officials urged everyone to avoid the downtown area.

    "They need to give us time to make sure everything's OK," said Michelle Pourciau, the acting director of the D.C. Department of Transportation. "We know that more rain is coming ... We're trying to prepare for the additional rain as well."

    The storm dumped more than 7 inches of rain in 24 hours Sunday and Monday at the National Arboretum, and a flash flood watch was in effect for the region, with another 2 inches of rain expected Monday. Rain is in the forecast every day this week because of a stubborn low-pressure system off the coast, the National Weather Service said.

    In the Washington suburbs, emergency crews had to use boats to rescue dozens of people trapped by flood water.

    Firefighters in Chevy Chase, Md., rescued 30 people by boat from a recreation center late Sunday, said Capt. Oscar Garcia, a spokesman for the Montgomery County fire and rescue service. In Hyattsville, Md., crews took 69 people trapped in flooded homes to safety, said Mark Brady, of Prince George's County fire and rescue.

    The high water also shut down Amtrak and commuter rail lines into the capital. Limited service had resumed between Washington and Philadelphia Monday morning but trains were delayed. Even Metro subway service in the city was disrupted until noon because of high water on the electrified rails downtown, said Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.

    "Riders should bring an umbrella and a bucket full of patience," Farbstein said.

    Drivers weren't having much more luck.

    Underpasses were flooded, and on the Capital Beltway, a mud slide piled five feet of debris on the roadway near Alexandria, Va., backing up traffic.

    Maryland State Highway Administration spokesman David Buck said falling trees and flooding were expected to be problems all week."People need to build in a lot of extra time for the next several days," he said. "It's going to be a challenging week."

    At the National Archives _ home to the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and other historic documents _ researchers were told not to come in because the moat surrounding the building on Pennsylvania Avenue had flooded, spokesman Susan Cooper said. Outside the Archives, crews used fire hoses to pump water from the lower level to the city sewers.

    Cooper said a preliminary assessment indicated all records held there were "safe and dry."

    Even President Bush got an up-close look at the damage _ a large elm tree fell on the White House's front lawn overnight, blocking one of the roads.

    On Maryland's Eastern Shore, 10 to 12 inches of rain fell over the weekend in Federalsburg, washing out roads and flooding church basements. Mayor Betty Ballas declared an emergency Sunday for the town of 2,600 residents, 60 miles southeast of Baltimore near the Delaware line. There were no reports of deaths or serious injuries.

    In northeastern Maryland near the Pennsylvania border, Harford County officials Monday issued a mandatory evacuation of cabins along the Broad Creek watershed as the creek began to overflow its banks. Another slide dumped 6 feet of mud on U.S. Route 29 in Silver Spring, Md., closing the six-lane highway for at least a half mile.

    Route 307 in Maryland was completely washed out in a large section, down to the gravel, said Maryland State Police spokesman Russell Newell. The road will have to be completely rebuilt in order to be used again.

    "It is quite a serious situation," Newell said. "There's a lot of roads that have been disabled due to heavy rains and flooding."

    In Seaford, Del., cars were floating in a Wal-Mart parking lot after heavy rain on Sunday. Amy Walls, a spokeswoman for the city, said between 10 and 15 people were evacuated from homes in an area known for flooding.

    Thelma Gillespie said water was waist-high in the family room of her split-level home and three of her vehicles were submerged up to their roofs.

    "It's just a mess. I don't know where to start," Gillespie said. "All my furniture down here was new last year, and I don't have flood insurance. I don't know what we're going to do."

    Associated Press writers Kristen Wyatt in Federalsburg, Md., and Brian Witte and Ben Nuckols in Baltimore contributed to this report.

    Pennsylvania Flooding Forces Evacuations

    Jun 28, 7:01 PM (ET)


    WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) - Up to 200,000 people in the Wilkes-Barre area were ordered to evacuate their homes Wednesday because of rising water on the Susquehanna River, swelled by a record-breaking deluge that has killed at least 12 people across the Northeast.

    Thousands more were ordered to leave their homes in New Jersey, New York and Maryland. Rescue helicopters plucked residents from rooftops as rivers and streams surged over their banks, washed out roads and bridges, and cut off villages in some of the worst flooding in the region in decades, with more rain in the forecast for the rest of the week.

    Wilkes-Barre, a city of 43,000 in northeastern Pennsylvania coal-mining country, was devastated by deadly flooding in 1972 from the remnants of Hurricane Agnes. It is protected by levees, and officials said the Susquehanna was expected to crest just a few feet from the tops of the 41-foot floodwalls.

    But Luzerne County Commissioner Todd Vonderheid said officials were worried about the effects of water pressing against the levees for 48 hours. The floodwalls were completed just three years ago.

    "It is honestly precautionary," Vonderheid said. "We have great faith the levees are going to hold."

    An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people in the county of about 351,000 were told to get out by nightfall. The evacuation order applied to more than half the residents of Wilkes-Barre, as well residents of several outlying towns, all of them flooded by Agnes more than three decades ago.

    Laura Lockman, 42, of Wilkes-Barre packed a car and planned to clear out along with her husband, three kids and a puppy named Pebbles. They were not ordered to evacuate their brick home, a half-mile from the Susquehanna, but were going to nearby Scranton anyway for the children's safety. Their home was inundated in 1972, when water reached the second floor.

    "I just want to get out of here. I just want to be safe, that's all," she said.

    A dozen helicopters from the Pennsylvania National Guard, the state police and the Coast Guard were sent on search-and-rescue missions, plucking stranded residents from rooftops in Bloomsburg, Sayre and New Milford. Hundreds of National Guardsmen prepared to distribute ice, water and meals ready to eat.

    Flooding closed many roads in the Philadelphia area, including the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

    "We lost just about everything - the cars, the clothes, even the baby's crib," said James Adams, who evacuated his family's home near Binghamton, N.Y., after watching their shed float away and their cars get submerged. "I'm not sure what we are going to do."

    Elsewhere in the Binghamton area, an entire house floated down the Susquehanna. After touring the region by helicopter, New York Gov. George Pataki estimated that property damage in his state would total at least $100 million.

    The soaking weather was produced by a low-pressure system that has been stalled just offshore since the weekend and pumped moist tropical air northward along the East Coast. A record 4.05 inches of rain fell Tuesday at Binghamton. During the weekend, the same system drenched the Washington and Baltimore region with more than a foot of rain.

    Although the bulk of the rain moved out of the area Wednesday, streams were still rising from the runoff, and forecasters said more showers and occasional thunderstorms were possible along the East Coast for the rest of the week.

    Earlier this week, floodwaters in the nation's capital closed the National Archives, the IRS, the Justice Department and other major government buildings, and toppled a 100-year-old elm tree on the White House lawn. The National Archives, several Smithsonian museums and some government office buildings were still closed Wednesday.

    The National Archives moved in giant dehumidifiers to preserve its historic documents. "The threat to the records is not floodwater, but humidity from the lack of air conditioning," spokeswoman Susan Cooper said Wednesday.

    An estimated 2,200 people were ordered to evacuate the area around Lake Needwood at Rockville, Md., which was approaching 25 feet above normal. Engineers reported weakened spots on the lake's earthen dam.

    A swollen creek carved a 25-foot-deep chasm through all four lanes of Interstate 88, about 35 miles northeast of Binghamton, N.Y., and two truckers were killed early Wednesday when their rigs plunged into the gaps, officials said.

    Thousands of people were evacuated from communities across New York state, and whole villages north of Binghamton County were isolated by high water.

    Along the Delaware River, more than 1,000 people left low-lying areas of Trenton, N.J., and state employees in buildings along the river left work early.

    Trenton's water filtration system was shut down because of debris floating down the Delaware, and Mayor Doug Palmer called for conservation, saying the city had only about two days of drinkable water. The river was expected to crest Friday at nearly 8 feet over flood stage, the fourth-highest level on record for Trenton.

    The weather was blamed for four deaths each in Maryland and Pennsylvania, one in Virginia and three in New York, including the two truckers.

    The Agnes flood caused 50 deaths and more than $2 billion in damage in Pennsylvania, and remains the worst natural disaster in state history. It left 20,000 families homeless in Wilkes-Barre and surrounding Luzerne County towns.

    Afterward, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers undertook one of the most ambitious flood-control projects east of the Mississippi River, raising the existing levees by 3 to 5 feet. The $200 million project was finally completed in 2003.

    Associated Press writer Michael Rubinkam contributed to this report from Allentown, Pa.

    At least 9 killed in storm in SE U.S. state 2006-11-17 01:15:28
        WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2006 (Xinhua) -- At least nine people were killed Thursday after a tornado ripped through a trailer park in a small town in the southeastern U.S. state of North Carolina, U.S. media reported.

        Several mobile homes were demolished and others were torn off their foundations by the high winds in the town west of Wilmington, in the southeast of the state, CNN reported, quoting a local sheriff.

        Several people were injured and crews were searching for people who had been reported missing, a spokeswoman for the Columbus County Emergency Services was quoted as saying.

        As many as 200 emergency personnel were on the scene, and dogs were searching for people who still might be trapped in the rubble.

        CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers said it appeared the tornado touched down on the western side of Columbus County sometime after6 a.m. local time and "was on the ground for some time."

        The same storm system tore through other Southern states on Wednesday, slightly injuring two children when the building housing a skating rink in Montgomery, Alabama, collapsed, the report said.

        Thousands of homes and businesses were left without power in the storm, the Associate Press reported. 

    Ala. residents clean up in cold after twisters, storm

    Associated Press

    Gov. Bob Riley on Thursday toured communities in the Montgomery area damaged by severe storms that swept through the state a day earlier and marveled that no serious injuries occurred as roofs collapsed and a car flew the length of a football field.

    The governor visited Pintlala Thursday afternoon, where high winds shaved the tops off of pine trees behind an elementary school and ravaged neighboring farms.

    "I really do think God blessed this whole community in sparing us from any more injury or loss of life," Riley said.

    At one farm, maintenance foreman Bobby Smith said he and other workers huddled in an office during the two or three minutes that it took the storm to rip a good portion of the roof from the building, exposing bare beams and throwing chunks of soft yellow insulation everywhere.

    "It was scary as the dickens," Smith said. "We were close to getting hurt, really close."

    At the Pintlala Elementary School, principal Jeff Camp said he and his staff had been monitoring the weather all morning Wednesday. When the storm got close, he went around to the classrooms and told the children to prepare for some rough weather.

    "They were so well-behaved and so calm, and the teachers get kudos for that," Camp said. "I was just blown away."

    He said the emergency plan went off smoothly because the students had been practicing with unannounced tornado and fire drills once a month since school began.

    Riley said this type of preparedness is key in emergency situations. At both the Pintlala school and at the Fun Zone recreation center that was destroyed by a tornado in Montgomery, Riley said, the staff acted quickly and made a difference.

    "That's the lesson to be learned from this," Riley said. "As long as we're going to be dealing with tornadoes, we all need to have a plan, and as soon as the siren goes off, we need to implement it."

    Bruce Baughman, director of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, surveyed the damage in Pintlala with the governor Thursday afternoon. He said his staff had assessed about 95 percent of the damage by late Thursday.

    Baughman and Riley both said it didn't look like the damage caused by Wednesday's storms was extensive enough to merit a request for federal disaster money. Baughman said most of the damage was done to insured property, and not enough uninsured property was damaged to qualify for federal aid.

    Like when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast last year, Riley said he was proud of the response of Alabamians, who came out in droves to help neighbors clean up after the storm despite cold, blustery conditions. Temperatures in the 70s as the storms passed gave way to high temperatures in the 40s and low 50s, making for a miserable day of hauling away debris and cutting up downed trees.

    Riley began his tour in east Montgomery at the Fun Zone day care center, where only two of 31 children inside were hurt, and none of the four adult workers was injured.

    Riley was amazed by the strength of the storm, which the National Weather Service had determined was an F2 tornado with winds of between 120 mph and 150 mph. Officials said the tornado cut a path nearly 4 1/2 miles long and 250 yards wide.

    "It can pick up an automobile from the post office, put it in the air 100 to 150 yards and dump it inside. I mean it's just amazing," Riley said.

    A string of storms laden with high winds and twisters moved across south Alabama on Wednesday, leaving damage from the Mississippi to Georgia state lines. Two children at the skating rink were hurt, but there were no reports of life-threatening injuries.

    In the southeast corner of the state, residents of the Hamilton Crossroads community were shaken by the devastation of a suspected tornado. Beverly Austin stood on her front porch surrounded by twisted metal, roof tiles, tree limbs and soggy personal belongings.

    "All of a sudden I heard a roaring and the house started shaking," she told the Dothan Eagle. "I hit the ground and just laid there. Glass started breaking and flying all over the place. I just kept hoping the house would stay with me long enough for the storm to go through. It was scary, very scary."

    The community's water tower sat in a twisted, mangled heap of metal. The volunteer fire department was a heap of concrete blocks.

    On the other side of the state in Chatom, Chad Singleton said it only took seconds for the storm to rip apart his home.

    "A life can change in 15 seconds," he said.

    In Covington County in south central Alabama, the high winds caused heavy damage around Opp, said Kristy Stamnes, the county's emergency management director.

    "We've got trees through homes; barns gone; silos taken out; chicken houses destroyed," Stamnes told the Andalusia Star-News. "It's an absolute mess. These people will have a long road ahead of them, but we were fortunate. No one was injured. The only fatality reported was a cow that was hit by a car."

    July 4, 2007
    This Is London

    Photo: This extraordinary twister-like cloud formation over central London is the latest example of extreme weather
    conditions nationwide

    This is the moment when apocalyptic weather swept across London, darkening the summer skies.

    An extraordinary twister-like cloud formation hovers over central London in a terrifying example of the extreme weather conditions nationwide.

    And just when you thought the weather couldn't get any worse, Britain was bombarded with huge hailstones.

    As thunder and lightning swept across the UK, an inch of rain fell in less than an hour in parts of England - overwhelming drains and triggering floods.

    Photo: The snow-like scene in Clapham, South London, after a hailstorm yesterday

    At the peak of the storm, parts of the country were peppered with hailstones the size of 50p pieces.

    Battersea in South London was blanketed in white in a scene more like winter than the height of summer.

    Last night the Met Office warned that more heavy showers and storms were on their way today and issued severe weather warnings for the South West.

    The wet weather is expected to last at least until the weekend.

    Photo: Get the sledge out: Only the leaves on the trees betray that it is summer in South London as hailstones cover this street in Battersea with a thick, white carpet

    "There have been heavy, thundery showers across the whole of Britain," said a spokesman. "When you get showers at this time of the year, they are inevitably dramatic.

    "We saw hailstorms across the UK too, which happens sometimes in the summer, but which can be surprising for the people involved.'

    Two girls aged 13 and 15 were treated for serious burns after being struck by lightning at the end of the school day at Ipswich High School.

    The East of England Ambulance Service said the strike had blown the girls' shoes apart.

    "They were struck simultaneously," said a spokesman. "They both had entry and exit wounds on their arms and feet." He said the girls, who remained conscious throughout their ordeal, had not suffered life-threatening injuries.


    Photo: Dramatic: Thunder clouds and lightning over London last night

    The stormy start to July follows the third wettest June on record.

    Photo: Floods caused chaos for moped riders and cyclists in South London

    According to Met Office statistics, 105.3mm or 41ins of rain fell last month. Only 1912 and 1982 were wetter.

    It was also the dullest June for ten years, with just 33 hours of sunshine recorded at Jersey Airport - 15 hours below the average for the month.

    But despite the cloud and rain, it was the 11th consecutive month to be warmer than average.

    Although the rain is forecast to continue, the Environment Agency has removed its last severe flood warnings from the River Don, which warned of imminent threat to life and property. Last night, there were 13 less serious flood warnings and 48 flood watch alerts.

    Around 280 people are still in temporary accommodation after their homes were flooded in Yorkshire more than a week ago. They have been told it could be many months before they return.

    Doncaster Council said it will take another three or four days before water can be pumped from their homes in Toll Bar.

    Photo: A main road in Brixton, South London, turned into a river

    Firemen from 26 brigades have been brought in to help clear the floods.

    The insurance industry says 27,000 homes and 5,000 businesses were hit by last week's floods. It believes the repair bill will top £1billion.

    Hail storm buries Mexican town just over the border


    July 20, 2007 02:40 PM PST

    These are pictures of a fierce hail storm that pounded the town of Cananea Sonoroa, Mexico, last night.

    "I was talking with my mother this morning," writes international viewer Ing. Hctor Manuel Germn Gardner, "and she says that in her whole life she didn't remember something like yesterday ever happening in Cananea, and she's almost 80 years old!!!"

    You can see, hail the size of golf balls and bigger fell upon the town, along wth flooding rain.

    "There was a lot of damage caused by the hailstorm," writes Ing. Gardner. "It lasted more than one hour and it was really scary. Lots of cars got their windshields broken and many houses were flooded."

    Ing. Gardner provided these pictures.

    Aug 8, 2007 6:42 pm US/Eastern

    NWS: F2 Tornado Confirmed In Brooklyn

    Twister First Ever To Strike Borough In Recorded History

    (CBS) NEW YORK What was thought to be a violently windy thunderstorm that plowed through Brooklyn Wednesday morning turned out to be a weather event of historical proportions.

    The National Weather Service confirmed that the storm brought with it Brooklyn's first ever tornado since such weather events were recorded. Officials measured it to be an EF2 twister, characterized by winds of anywhere from 111 to 135 miles per hour.

    Between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. a string of severe thunderstorms blew through the region, making for an incredible headache for morning commuters. Thousands of New Yorkers found themselves enduring hours of delays in the sweltering heat with subways shut down and vacant taxi cabs hard to come by.

    A woman on Staten Island died in a car accident which officials say was a result of the horrible driving conditions. In Brooklyn, amazingly, only scattered minor injuries were reported.

    Still, the tornado certainly rattled bones as well as bricks, especially in Bay Rid

    "About 6:35 this morning it sounded like a freight rain coming down the driveway. The house was shaking and people were screaming," said Linda Mantia, who lives in the Bay Ridge section.

    "I just wanted to lay down and die," Brooklyn resident May Johnson told CBS 2.

    Eric Casanova couldn't believe what he saw out his window. "I looked out my window and the trees looked like dandelions. They were flowing all over the place," he said. "They say you get 15 minutes of fame, here in Bay Ridge it's 15 minutes of history."

    Not only is the tornado the first ever in recorded history to touch down in Brooklyn, it's also the first to hit a New York City borough since 1995, when a twister struck Staten Island.

    Outside of those two, there have been only two other tornadoes to strike New York City. The first touched down in Queens in 1985 and the second in Staten Island in 1990.

    Record-keeping of tornadoes began nationwide in 1950.

    Stay with CBS 2 and for the latest information.

    Wild Weather a Taste of Things to Come

    by Marc Kaufman

    A MONSOON dropped 35 centimetres of rain in one day across many parts of South Asia this month. Germany had its wettest May on record, and April was the driest there in a century. Temperatures reached 45 degrees in Bulgaria last month and 32 degrees in Moscow in late May, shattering long-time records.

    The year still has almost five months to go, but it has already experienced a range of weather extremes that the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation says is well outside the historical norm and is a precursor to much greater weather variability as global warming transforms the planet.

    The warming trend confirmed in February by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - based on the finding that 11 of the past 12 years had higher average ground temperatures than any others since formal temperature recording began - appears to have continued with a vengeance into 2007. The meteorological organisation reported that January and April were the warmest worldwide ever recorded.

    “Climate change projections indicate it to be very likely that hot extremes, heatwaves and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent,” the organisation said.

    The heavy rains in South Asia have resulted in more than 500 deaths and displaced 10 million people, while 13.5 million Chinese have been affected by floods, the report said. In England and Wales, the period from May to July was the wettest since record-keeping began in 1766, resulting in floods that killed nine and caused more than $US6billion ($7billion) in damage.

    The World Meteorological Organisation, which is co-sponsoring a series of meetings and reports on global climate change, is putting together an early-warning system for climate extremes and establishing long-term monitoring systems, and plans to help countries most vulnerable to climate change.

    “The average Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were very likely the highest during any 50-year period in the last 500 years, and likely the highest in the past 1300 years,” the report said.

    Global warming is expected to result in more extreme weather because of changes in atmospheric wind patterns and the ability of warmer air to hold more moisture, said Martin Manning, the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s working group on the physical science of climate change. He said that one year of heavier than normal rains and warmer than usual temperatures said nothing definitive about climate change, but they were consistent with the panel’s long-term predictions.

    “What we have projected is an increase in extreme events as the global temperatures rise,” Dr Manning said. “Floods, droughts and heatwaves are certainly consistent with that.”

    The World Meteorological Organisation reported the extreme weather occurred in many parts of the world. In May, a series of large waves (estimated at up to 3.6 metres) swamped almost 70 islands in 16 atolls in the Maldive Islands off south India, causing serious flooding and extensive damage. Halfway around the globe, Uruguay was hit during the same month by the worst flooding since 1959 - floods that affected more than 110,000 people and severely damaged crops and buildings. Two months later, an unusual winter brought high winds, blizzards and rare snowfall to parts of South America.

    Meanwhile, two extreme heatwaves affected south-eastern Europe in June and July. Dozens of people died, and firefighters worked nonstop battling blazes that destroyed thousands of hectares. On July 23, temperatures hit the record 45 degrees in Bulgaria.

    Copyright © 2007. The Sydney Morning Herald.



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