Case Study Summary_ Giuseppe

On February 7, 2009, now known as Black Saturday, the people of Victoria, Australia were warned of a record setting heat wave with temperatures of up to 115℉, or 46℃. These extreme temperatures came at the wrong time, as the vegetation in the area had mostly dried up due to a long standing drought. Winds of up to 56 miles per hour (90 km/hr) only added fuel to these literal fires, and the combination of the dry vegetation, the extreme temperatures, and the intense winds led to 47 different major fires. 

Map of Victoria, Australia

It was a human error that started the most deadly of the 47 fires in Victoria, as a faulty power line sparked a fire that would claim 119 lives. The location of these flames was only 37 miles north of Melbourne, one of the major cities in Australia, and the capital city of the state of Victoria. These flames were quickly blown over a nearby highway and into a forest igniting a large fire ball. Once this fireball was ignited it was too late for fireman to try and contain the flames and they too were forced to flee from the scene. This fire, renamed the Kilmore East fire, then spread quickly due to steep slopes and intense winds, racing through towns catching residents by surprise. While some residents tried to escape the flames in their cars, many were trapped in their homes. Unfortunately because of the fire’s size and temperature, even those that did manage to get on the road did not get very far as they were overtaken by the fire that reached 328 feet above the tree line and was hot enough to kill from 984 feet of radiant heat.

This map shows all of the land burned by wildfires in Victoria, Australia in the year 2009 alone. It is safe to say that the population was aware of what these fires were. It was the building codes and the warning systems- human errors which lead to so many deaths. However these human errors have been corrected as the Country Fire Authority’s website now requires better building codes, and offers information on ways to mitigate and prepare for fires as well as community programs.

 

 

Flooding Hits North Carolina… Again

There is even more flooding taking place in eastern counties of North Carolina, as a result of a storm which left 8 inches of water behind. Currently there are flood warnings for 15 different counties, and schools in Edgecombe county are closed today. Forecasters report that these rivers are the source of the flooding in their regions:

  • Along cape fear for Duplin, Bladen, and Pender counties
  • Tar river for Greenville, Rocky Mountain, and Tarboro
  • Roanoke River at Roanoke Rapids and the Neuse River for Goldsboro, Kinston, and Smithfield
  • Lumber River in Lumberton

Flooding is bad enough in Tarboro, that the American Red Cross has been called in and has set up a shelter there.

This seems to be a system of really bad river flooding, but it makes sense because 8 inches of rain is a lot. That much water in such a short period of time, definitely has a huge impact, even though 8 inches does not sound like a lot. The article did not speak of any damages, water levels, or any injuries, but I would be surprised if there were not later reports on all of these. North Carolina is a coastal state, and because most of this flooding took place in eastern counties of the state, I would hope that they would be fairly prepared to handle flooding. The article though does mention that one county had to close schools, but it did not say that they were necessarily closed because of flooding. These schools could have closed because of flooding, downed power lines, or moved debris. This just proves that rain is a potential hazard, and that all rivers including the 5 listed above all flood.

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/north-carolina/articles/2017-04-28/flooding-continues-in-eastern-north-carolina-after-storms

Landslides in Mizoram, India

Pre-monsoon rains have caused landslides that have cut Mizoram, India off from the rest of the country. These landslides blocked the National Highway 54, successfully preventing people from entering the state. The landslides are the result of a week long constant rain, which is not even part of the typical monsoon rains. Landslides occurred in the southern part of Mizoram, a north eastern state whose capital, Aizawl was also impacted by these landslides. The damage thus far includes downed communication lines, and a collapsed three story building. No news on any deaths or injuries.

These landslides are clearly a result of the lack of cohesion of whatever kind of sediment surrounds the state of Mizoram. THis article though leaves me with several questions. What I am most curious about is where exactly this city is located, and what the topography of the region is. I wonder if there was a way this could have been prevented and if events like these are typical in this area. I know that many places in India are extremely poor, and there is probably a good chance that the people in this state can not afford to put into place many mitigation efforts even if they know that they need them. Lastly I do not even want to think about the implications this event has on the incoming monsoon rains and what kind of damage they will no be able to cause because of the already weakened, saturated soil. We will just have to see what events transpire after this one.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/landslides-after-heavy-pre-monsoon-rain-in-mizoram-4627437/

Flooding Due to Severe Storms hits the Nashville

A Storm 5 Alert has gone out for the greater Nashville area as a result of the severe storms and the consequent flooding this weekend. Between Friday and Saturday evening there were three rounds of storms which resulted in a Flash Flood Watch to be set until 4 a.m. on Sunday. Saturday the main threat was flooding from the storms, with many roads being closed as a result of creeks and rivers cresting. Multiple reports have been made not only about closed roads but also about creeks with rushing currents that are impassable. Officials have released a list of roads that have been barricaded but have also included a list of areas that they are monitoring. The forecast on Sunday includes showers, which might result in flash floods. These flash floods are highly likely due to the amount of saturation in the soil, which means it probably can not hold anymore.

The rain on Friday came with strong winds that added a tornado warning into the mix for parts of several counties. The winds caused fairly severe damage in the path of the storm in Shelbyville, the National Weather Service reported in that these were more specifically straight-line winds. Peak winds in the area at the time of Friday’s storm reported in with speeds between 65 and 70 miles per hour. The damage stretched about 50 yards. These winds caused the collapse of a motel roof. The second round of storms hit between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. on Saturday with strong winds and rain passing through the middle of the state. The third and final round of storms hit between 1 p.m and 7 p.m. on Saturday.

The main concerns with these storms included flooding and downed trees. These were a main concern because of the saturated soil that resulted from the storm, as saturated soil not only allows for faster flooding but can also cause trees to uproot faster as they have nothing to cling to. There have also been warnings issued for tornadoes, and strong winds were a secondary concern after flooding. I bet that the roads which closed were either located at the bottom of a hill and were very flat, or near a stream or river. I would also like to include in this post the reminder that the Nashville PD put out, “turn around, don’t drown” because while it sounds funny it is actually really good advice considering that some of the streams were reported as having impassable rushing currents.

http://www.newschannel5.com/news/severe-storms-expected-for-friday-night-saturday

Wildfire in Florida Causes Highway Closures

A wildfire in Orange City, Florida next to the I-4 caused some lane closures and a huge traffic jam. There are actually three fires which are being fought by multiple fire units from surrounding areas, which were first reported at 1:43 pm. The fire is in the westbound lane causing traffic to be backed up for miles, with eastbound traffic also being affected. Officials have claimed that 350 acres have already been blackened the flames. While the fire chief from Orange City has stated that the fires have been contained, the winds have shifted. Meanwhile the Florida Traffic Patrol has released a warning saying that the fire, wind and smoke conditions are subject to sudden change which could lead to more closures and worsening traffic. The Florida Traffic Patrol advises that the roads in these areas should be avoided.

It is not uncommon for Florida to have wildfires, but the fact that this one was right next to what sounds like a major highway sounds unreal to me, as someone from Virginia. It is also frightening to think that this fire was so close to so many people who really had no way to escape or anywhere to go. What I have the hardest time imagining is driving on a highway and turning to my left to see a massive fire just roaring on the side of the road. The good news is that it sounds as though the fires are being contained, the bad news is that winds are shifting and that means the fire is going to get more unpredictable. However this report was from a couple of hours ago and nothing new has been reported or written so I am guessing that the situation is much the same as it was when this report was written. I find it interesting that this report seems to be more about the traffic jam, and closed lanes than the actual fire.

http://www.wesh.com/article/wildfire-causing-backups-and-road-closures/9280443

Rebuilding and Mitigation in Peru

This years floods in Peru are some of the worst the country has ever faced, with 10 times the usual amount of rainfall leading to devastating amounts of running water and many landslides. There are currently at least 100 people dead, 158,000 people displaced from their homes and 210,000 of those homes damaged. In addition to personal and private loses the overall infrastructure within the country itself also took major hits with as many as 260 collapsed bridges, and 3,000 km of roads destroyed. The overall damages have come to cost $3.1 billion dollars, and plans to rebuild comes with a price tag of $9 billion dollars.

These floods and landslides came during what is regularly known as landslide season, but even in a country which teeters between drought and floods nothing could prepare them for the sheer amount of water and the sheer power of the floods they would experience. Not only was there a record amount of rain, which caused dry rivers to become a white water rafters dream, but there has never been so many people living in the direct path of these floods. While the country is not well-prepared to deal with flood season, this particular flood season completely exposed the poor infrastructure of Peru.

Jorge Nieto, the defense minister of Peru, stated that this disaster has opened up great opportunity for improvements, claiming that this country needs”reconstruction of historic proportions”. Nieto’s mitigation plan includes channeling all of the 30 or so rivers which flow from the Andes to the Pacific. He also wants to create reservoirs, especially in mountainous areas where there is often a shortage of water, this is also his attempt at making the best of all the rains.

President Kuczynski commented on the $9 billion dollar two stage reconstruction plan. The first stage will take care of immediate reconstruction of homes, cities and towns that have been damaged or destroyed. The second stage, which will be significantly longer will include building the infrastructure in way which brings Peru to become a modern and organized country in the face of potentially more extreme climate events.

Not only did the floods cause dollar damage to structures, but the floods carried so much debris including dead livestock that they almost threatened the water supply in the capital city Lima. Sedapal, Peru’s waterboard, was forced to shut off water for five days in order to properly sanitize and filter the contaminated flood waters. Lima which is the second largest desert city in the world, is used to not having enough water but was nowhere near prepared to have the amount of water that the floods brought in. These disasters just further proved the insufficient handling of water in Lima, where 1 million people do not have access to clean running water.

Not only is the infrastructure a factor in the amount of devastation, but where people have decided to settle also contributed to the tragedy. People who are moving out of rural areas and towards more urban dwellings have been settling in floodplains out of necessity. These residents were hit extremely hard by landslides as well as flooding. The reconstruction plans for Lima must not only be adaptive but also corrective, and could potentially involve relocating an upwards of millions of people. The UN has also stepped in and warned that Peru has to involve in some kind of multi-hazard warning system, as well as better education and understanding of these events as well as the impacts that climate change have on them.

This was a really well-written and thought out article, that left very few, if any, stones un-turned. This is another case which shows that education is super important. The people were gearing up for a drought in Lima, and not only was the infrastructure not prepared to handle this amount of water, the people were also not knowledgeable about what to do. Furthermore this article brings up that where people had settled was a contributing factor to the deaths and destruction. People because of poverty are living in floodplains which is one of the most dangerous habitats to settle in, because all rivers flood. The floods in Peru are yet another example of the socioeconomic gap, both because of where people were forced to live, and also because so many people 150+ thousand people are displaced from homes. When disasters strike developing countries they take everything down with them. I am glad however, that the current president of Peru and the other government officials sound like they are taking mitigation really seriously. Their plan involves channeling and also building reservoirs that will hopefully prevent something like this from happening in the future. The article did not say but I am hoping that the way in which they rebuild the infrastructure is also more sound, and better equipped for handling flooding in the future. This sounds like it is going to be a long process, but I think Peru will be better off after it is over.

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2017/apr/13/peru-prevent-floods-landslides-climate-change

An Explanation of Thursday’s DC Tornadoes

Washington DC’s weather gang put together a report explaining the types of tornadoes that hit DC on Thursday. The Weather Gang was seeking to explain that these tornadoes are not the ones that we are used to seeing, or hearing about. The tornadoes which touched down in and around Washington were not tornadoes caused by a super cell  thunderstorm that are created by a spiral updraft also called a mesocyclone, but instead were “squall line tornadoes” which form along a bow-shaped series of thunderstorms. These squall lines, called quasi-linear convective systems (QLCS) are reported as being responsible for 20% of all tornadoes in the U.S., and are smaller, weaker and shorter-lived than their super cell counterparts.

This specific squall line approached the DC area from the southwest. However the Weather Gang report that this squall line was unusual in nature. Firstly there was no lightening, the line itself was very wavy in nature- arching and bowing in several areas, and lastly it formed in area of only relative instability. An extremely supportive upper atmosphere compensated for the low instability ultimately allowing for the squall line to be formed. In this case the supportive upper-atmosphere was a vorticity maximum, which is characterized by an extremely vigorous ascent of air beneath the jet stream. The squall line is a direct reflection of the violently rising air along the outer edge of the vorticity maximum.

This particular squall line had the appearance of a regular QLCS, which is why multiple tornado warnings were issued for areas around DC. However meteorologists are still learning and researching about the way in which these systems form, and develop. What is known about these QLCS systems pose real problems for detection because their parent storms, misocyclones are shallower and shorter-lived than the mesocyclones which cause super cell tornadoes. This means that they can easily fool Doppler radar, and they are also hard to see visually because they are often embedded within storms and are hidden by the heavy rain that falls along the squall line. They are even hard to determine post-mortem because the strong rotary winds become embedded within the powerful straight-line winds of down bursts.

The squall line that formed along Washington, showed the counter-clockwise rotating couplets which are products of a misocyclone system. These rotating couplets were able to be observed because of the highly sensitive radar located at Andrews Air Force Base, south of DC. The rotating couplets of air were seen 10,000 feet over the ground, and while it is likely that these vortical circulations likely extended to touch the ground and became weak tornadoes which caused spotty wind damage across the district. While the spinning column of air characteristic of tornadoes were not present in many of the videos that the Weather Gang studied, but in the case of the likely tornado which hit the Tidal Basin and H. St. Corridor showed a spinning column of water spray on the river, and also rotation in the in the cloud base as well. The reason that the characteristic funnel cloud was not present in this case is most likely due to the fact that the pressure drop at the center of these rotating air columns was not sufficient enough to cause enough the right amount of condensation for a funnel cloud to form.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2017/04/07/how-thursdays-tornadoes-in-the-washington-area-formed/

6.1 Magnitude Earthquake in Mashhad, Iran Cause of at Least 2 Deaths

A magnitude 6.1 earthquake occurred about 50 miles outside of Mashhad, Iran on Wednesday April 6, 2017. The earthquake was said to have had a depth of only about 6.2 miles, but caused tremors strong enough to damage four villages surrounding the epicenter in the Sefid Sang district. This district is a remote and mountainous region which is home to about 5,000 people. One news source, Press TV, reported that 2 people had been killed in this earthquake, while another news source, reported 11 injured. Other semi-official news sources posted videos depicting people fleeing their homes, items falling off of shelves, and general panic. The U.S Geological Service reported that the earthquake was a 6.1 magnitude as well, but reported that the depth was probably more like 8 miles. Earthquakes are not uncommon in Iran, as it sits on a series of seismic faults, but magnitude 6 earthquakes have done serious damage in the past with one 6.6 magnitude earthquake resulting in 26,000 dead after it flattened the historic city of Bam in 2003.

I had no idea that Iran sat on a serious of seismic fault lines, and that they report generally at least one minor earthquake a day. I am not super aware of the average income of the average Iranian household, but this article discusses that damage occurred in villages so I am assuming that the overall socioeconomic status of the average person was not particularly high. This low average socioeconomic status, combined with what I am assuming is low quality or cheap construction is probably part of the reason that there was what sounds like a significant amount of damage to the four villages closest to the epicenter. What is not clarified in this article is where exactly the deaths and the injuries occurred, whether they occurred in the villages or in the city of Mashhad. It could be possible that the city was only mentioned to give geographical context, and that the deaths occurred in the villages, but this is unclear. Hopefully over the next few days more information will come out, and the facts of this case like what the exact depth, how many injured, how many dead, and more about the location will become available.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/04/05/iran-deadly-earthquake/100062524/

Tornado in Houston

On Wednesday March 29, 2017 an EF-1 tornado ripped through the Azalea Place Apartment complex in South Western Houston, Texas. This tornado was about 50 yards wide, with 90 mile per hour winds, and traveled about .27 miles in total. Regardless of its small size, the damage that it inflicted could take up to months to repair. Some of the people directly damaged include two people who were in cars, one of which was bruised by debris which crashed through the roof. One lucky baby, was a literal baby who narrowly escaped pieces of the ceiling which fell in the crib. The residents of the ground floor apartments are drying out their homes as a result of subsequent flooding from this tornado. The good news is that there were no serious injuries and the American Red Cross is on the scene to help families who have been displaced.

90 mile per hour winds sound super fast, and this tornado is only an EF-1. It is weird to think that something that fast, would be considered small. What I find the most interesting about this story is the inclusion of the flooding in the ground-level apartments. The reasons that these apartments flooded was not listed, but I can only think of two reasons for the flooding. The first is that the winds caused a nearby body of water to blow into the apartment complex- which is really only possible if the apartment complex backs a pond, a lake, or a stream. The second possibility is that they strong winds caused damage to the apartment’s pipelines causing flooding. If the flooding is the result of the first case then it proves that disasters tend to perpetrate one another. If the second possibility is the real cause of the flooding then this shows how people can make a disaster so much worse, but more importantly it shows that building for disasters is essential. If this is an area which is prone to tornadoes then there must be some way in which the pipes can be built so they do not break once exposed to intense wind, or built in a location which ensures that falling debris will not break them.

The article talks about this tornado only hitting one specific Apartment complex, which just solidifies that tornadoes are some of the most unpredictable of all storms. The good news is that there were no serious injuries and no deaths.

http://www.click2houston.com/news/ef-1-tornado-rips-through-sw-houston

Up to 20 Students Dead after Storm in Ghana

 

Rescuers search for tourists trapped under the fallen tree at a waterfall at Kintampo in Brong Ahafo region.

Up to 20 students are dead after a storm in Ghana caused trees to fall into a popular swimming spot. Wind and heavy rains caused by a storm resulted in large trees to fall and trap people in a pool at the bottom of the Kintampo Waterfalls. The Kintampo Waterfalls are some of the tallest in the Brong-Ahafo region of Ghana. The pool at the bottom of these waterfalls is a very popular tourist spot, and also a favorite of locals to swim and cool off. While on a trip to the northern regions of Ghana, 12 students of the Wenchi secondary school got trapped in the pool by falling tress and were killed. A spokesman for the national fire service, Prince Billy Anaglate, released a statement saying that 18 people died at the scene and an additional 2 people died in the hospital.

While storms would not regularly be considered disasters, this case just proves that they are still dangerous weather events and people need to be more cautious when storms are occurring. The students should not have been in the pool when it was raining to begin with, there are just too many factors that can go wrong during a storm. It is obvious that these students were too overzealous in thinking that it was just a storm and nothing more, weather is unpredictable, which is why it is so dangerous to ignore weather and to be callous in the face of potential disaster. This case is a perfect of example of people taking a disaster and turning it into a catastrophe, except that the careless overconfidence of the students and their teachers in this case caused a routine weather event to become a disaster. I can not help but think that this event could have been avoided, had someone just told the students to get out of the pool as soon as the rain started, and if not when the rain started at least when the winds started to pick up. Tragedies like these can be avoided if people just stopped ignoring the signs nature is providing them.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/20/twenty-teenagers-die-ghana-waterfall-accident-kintampo