NSW wild weather: Residents warned of flood threat in Hunter, parts of Sydney after storms kill three people in Dungog

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New South Wales authorities say they are dealing with the largest storm operation in a decade after three people were killed in “cyclonic” conditions that have battered parts of the state for hours.

Residents in the Hunter region were told to brace for more flash flooding overnight, while authorities door-knocked some Sydney residents to warn they may need to evacuate. Conditions described as “cyclonic” have wrought havoc on the Hunter, Sydney, Central Coast and Illawarra regions, with rescue crews called to more than 1,000 storm-related incidents and more than 200,000 properties losing power.

In the Sydney suburbs of Manly and North Manly, the State Emergency Service (SES) visited homes and sent text messages to warn homes could be flooded if the Manly Dam continued to rise. “The worst-case scenario, if the houses in our flood planning get affected, would be 660 residences,” Samantha Colwell from the SES said. “In saying that, a lot of them are apartments so obviously the people on the higher levels are not going to get inundated. “At the moment, people can stay in their homes, but we do actually encourage them to prepare because the last thing people want to do is find out about it in the middle of the night.” An evacuation centre has been set up at the Hardbord Diggers club.

Further north, authorities warned some low-lying parts of Narrabeen and North Narrabeen, near Narrabeen Lagoon, could also be at risk, with an evacuation centre opened at Pittwater RSL and Mona Vale. On Tuesday morning, three elderly residents were found dead in the town of Dungog, north of Newcastle, where more than 300 millimetres of rain fell in less than 24 hours. Authorities said the circumstances around the deaths were still still being investigated. Locals said several homes were washed away, and a woman and two children were rescued from a house as it was washed down a street in nearby Greta. SES deputy commissioner Steve Pearce said the storm was like nothing he had seen before. “I haven’t seen a storm of this magnitude in my time here at the SES and, indeed, this would be the largest storm operation in the last 10 years,” he said. “We’ve never seen these cyclonic winds last for 24 hours straight. That’s what’s caused the majority of the damage. “We’ve had over 6,500 requests for assistance and on top of that, with the enormous amount of rainfall – up to 320 millimetres in over 24 hours – we’ve seen about 80 flood rescues. We’ve seen homes washed away, whole streets decimated.” He said thousands of emergency services were on the ground and more were coming in from around the state to help on Wednesday.

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The SES sent emergency alerts to more than 100,000 mobile phones in the Hunter as it was battered by relentless wind and rain on Tuesday afternoon. The text messages warned of “rapid rises and high velocity flash flood water in local creeks, watercourses and urban areas” in Newcastle and surrounding areas. Newcastle Mayor Nuatali Nelmes told 7.30 the city looked like it had been in a disaster movie. She said roads were under water, trees had been blown down and roofs had been ripped from buildings. “We’re actually bracing for worse to come,” she said. “Overnight, we are bracing for potentially more flooding in Newcastle and the Hunter … so people are being urged to stay at home and to stay on high ground where it’s safe.”

In the eight hours to 5:00pm Tuesday, Maitland received 274 millimetres of rain, Seaham received 152 millimetres and Tocal received 137 millimetres. The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) issued a severe weather warning for damaging winds and surf and heavy rain along the coast from the Illawarra region to the Hunter. It said an intense low pressure system was centred just off the Hunter coast, near Newcastle. “This low is expected to remain slow-moving overnight, maintaining vigorous winds, large seas, and periods of heavy rain and thunderstorms,” BoM said in a warning issued just after 11:00pm. “Conditions are expected to slowly ease during Wednesday as the low weakens.” An evacuation centre was set up at Dungog High School following reports at least 20 homes had been inundated, but it has since been closed. However, evacuation centres have been opened at the Senior Citizens Centre in East Maitland and the Shamrock Multipurpose Centre at Ashton Field.

NSW Police said residents who evacuated their homes should take important documents and photos, spare clothing and medication. Those using the evacuation centres were asked to bring blankets or sleeping bags, pillows and sleeping mats. Local police commander Jeff Loy said the three deaths occurred in different locations in Dungog. “Two males and one female all perished in different circumstances,” he said. “The police are investigating the cause of those deaths.

One talkback caller, David, told 1233 ABC Newcastle he was in the town visiting family but got out before it was cut off on Tuesday afternoon. “I expect there is 50 to 60 people whose houses have flooded,” he said. “There were people sitting on their roofs. “[Some people] have nothing left – they don’t have a wallet, they don’t have anything. They got out within minutes, these people. “Water’s up to their ceilings, people were swimming to try and get up on their roof. “There are animals floating around all over the place.” He said the local timber mill had been “smashed”, which would have lasting repercussions for the local economy.

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The weather caused major transport disruptions, including cancellations and delays to train, bus and ferry services. Transport authorities urged people to avoid all non-essential travel, both by car and public transport, and check timetables for updated information. More than 100 sets of traffic lights were blacked out and some major road networks were affected by flooding. Sydney Airport advised passengers to check with airlines for information about delayed and cancelled flights. Electricity distributor Ausgrid said there were more than 4,500 reports of hazards, such as fallen wires, across its network. Crews were responding to thousands of urgent incidents and restoring power to more than 200,000 properties would take several days, he said.

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http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-21/nsw-faces-largest-storm-operation-in-10-years/6409968

Update: Philippines, Federated States of Micronesia – Tropical Cyclone MAYSAK

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FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA

• TC MAYSAK’s centre passed north of Fais, Ulithi and Yap Island (Micronesia) on 31 March. Strong winds and heavy rainfall affected the Yap Islands with 91mm measured in 24h. Media report nearly total destruction of the infrastructure on Fais and Ulithi atolls, including contamination of drinking water on Fais, and damage also on Yap, as of 1 April.

• The location of MAYSAK’s centre was approximately 250 km north-west of Yap Island on 1 April, at 06.00 UTC. It was a Super Typhoon, with 241 km/h maximum sustained winds, and it was moving northwest. Over the next few hours, it was forecast to enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility and continue on its north-western track, intensifying further. MAYSAK may approach central/northern Philippines on 4 April.

• As of 1 April, there are no Warnings or Watches in effect for the islands of Micronesia. NDRRMC has issued a weather advisory.

PHILIPPINES

• TC MAYSAK (its local name is Chedeng) is forecast to continue moving further west, north-west towards the northern Philippines, slightly weakening, but still remaining a Typhoon. According to the data of 1 April 06.00 UTC, it may reach Luzon over 4 – 5 April with max. sust. winds of between 150 – 170 km/h. However, the uncertainty on the forecast track and intensity is still high.

• NDRRMC has issued a weather advisory

http://reliefweb.int/map/micronesia-federated-states/philippines-federated-states-micronesia-tropical-cyclone-maysak-echo

Erosion putting Sandwich (MA) on edge

A surge of seawater during last month’s nor’easter demolished the town’s recently rebuilt dunes, dumped heaps of sand in a tidal marsh, and blocked the flow of a creek into the sea. The onslaught forced the closure of a portion of Route 6A, damaged septic systems, wrecked staircases, and led Sandwich authorities to condemn more than a dozen seaside homes.

Last week, local officials declared a state of emergency as a result of the erosion of its beaches, which residents say has put hundreds of millions of dollars of local real estate at risk of being flooded, including the historic downtown of Cape Cod’s oldest town.

Rising seas and more powerful storms have taken a toll on the town’s coast for decades, but residents aren’t blaming climate change. Their homes are at risk of being swallowed by Cape Cod Bay, they say, because of a major federal project that has impeded the natural flow of sand and starved their beaches.

They blame the US Army Corps of Engineers, as well as town officials, for failing to fix what they say is an obvious consequence of the construction of the Cape Cod Canal, a vital passage to Buzzards Bay that opened in 1914. Two jetties at the mouth of the canal, which have been extended several times, were designed to block much of the southeastern flow of sand so the 7-mile channel wouldn’t have to be dredged as often.

They propose a straightforward solution: They say the sand that has built up Scusset Beach north of the jetties should be transported regularly to Sandwich’s beaches.

The town’s short-term solution is to bolster the beaches with tons of sand from the bottom of the canal, which the Corps plans to dredge this fall. The more expensive long-term plan would involve bringing in much more sand, lengthening the beach by more than 200 feet, and creating a 100-foot berm. (Boston Globe 2/2015)

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Cyclone Victoria moving toward Australian Coast

Tropical Cyclone Victoria, a large system which is about 400km south-west of Christmas Island, is moving south and gathering strength. Meteorologist declare this storm a category two overnight, but the system strengthened to a category three earlier today, before once again being downgraded to a category two storm.   Hurricane Force wind warning has been issued for shipping in the area affected by the cyclone. At 3pm April, 10th 2013,  the cyclone was about 228 miles west-southwest of Christmas Island, moving south at 13 mph. The system has affected Christmas Island weather, but lies is well to the south-west of the island.  The cyclone could affect the Australian west coast city of Perth’s weather by the weekend, with showers forecast for Saturday, as the mass of unstable tropical air continues to move to the south. The cyclone has a central pressure of 988 hPa, but remains hundreds of miles from the West Australian coast and appears unlikely to make landfall. Seas are being affected within 90 nautical miles of the center. The forecast is for maximum winds to 85 mph near the center increasing to 100 mph today. Winds above 48 knots within 30 nautical miles of the center bring very rough to high seas and moderate to heavy swell.  Tropical Cyclone Victoria has weakened overnight to a Category Two storm as it continues a southerly path several hundred miles out to sea south east of Christmas Island. A Hurricane Force wind warning has been downgraded to a Storm Force warning for shipping in the area affected by the cyclone.  Cyclone Victoria will continue to be tracked as it moves towards Australia.

tropical cyclone victoria

http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/western-australia/category-two-cyclone-victoria-brewing-out-to-sea/story-fnhocxo3-1226617148523

Americans Believe in Climate Risks, But Won’t Pay for Mitigation

During the month of March a national survey was taken on the public’s approach to climate change risks and the ability for mitigation. Sponsored by two departments at Sanford University and Woods Institute for the Environment and the Center for Ocean Solutions, they have found that Americans are quite aware of climate change and the risks that come with it. They all agreed that there is a need to plan for hotter climate and more severe storms, but are not willing to put in the money for building protective structures such as sea walls and sand dunes. “I think it’s a real challenge for them,” said professor Jon Krosnick, of Sanford University. “I think there is a fundamental disconnect.”

Results from the survey showed that 82% believed climate change existed and 70% believed the change would result in sea level rise and storms. However, only 30% believed it was necessary to build sea walls and 37% liked the idea of relocating buildings away from coast lines. The drop in mitigation support was surprising, especially after what happened with superstorm Sandy.  New York governor Andrew Cuomo suggested spending up to 400 billion dollars to buy homes and buildings wrecked by the storm and turn the land into dunes and wetlands. That plan did not please the public. Although relocation was not supported, setting up laws to prohibit building new homes near coastlines was.

“It’s support for preventing damage to people or business, but not by trying to hold mother nature back,” said Krosnick. “It’s saying: we are not going to win this battle, let’s retreat’.” Let’s be honest nature will always be smarter and stronger than us, so we have to  alter our surroundings in order to reduce risk. Mitigation does save lives.

 

For more information:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/28/americans-climate-change-risk-cost

Recovering from Sandy and Nemo

One horrible thing about this superstorm is its timing, shortly after Hurricane Sandy devastated many of the same places. The snow storm brought in more challenges to people struggling to get life back together after Sandy. The blizzard knocked out power in over 600,000 homes and some places got over 3 ft of snow.

The article I read talked about a man, from Rockaway, who has been displaced, or homeless, since Sandy. The peninsula he lived on had a number of tragic deaths and is currently trying to recover its popular SUmmer vacation spot to what it used to be before both storms hit. It is estimated that it will take 3-5 years for this small town to recover from the blow of two massive storms. The people of the town are trying to get together, and with cooperation of government agencies it may be possible to make a full recovery.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/09/blizzard-snow-new-york-rockaways

Hurricanes and Coral Reefs

So this week we have started talking about cyclones throughout the United States. One common and arguably most dangerous form is a tropical cyclone, commonly referred to as a hurricane. As we learned, hurricanes that hit south/southeastern North America form in the mountains of Africa, then travel over the warm waters of the Atlantic ocean as they pick up energy. Of course, not all hurricanes make land fall, not all storms that form in Africa create hurricanes, and scientists cannot diagnose the storm as a hurricane until it reaches certain conditions.

Anyway, today in my “Global Environmental Class” I learned about the effect that hurricanes and cyclones have on coral reefs, specifically ones in the Caribbean. Coral reefs are one of the most important marine ecosystems because they have such a large biodiversity of plants and animals, and they are found all over the world such as the Caribbean, off the coast of Africa, and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, just to name a few. Coral reefs must live in an environment with shallow, warm, salty water – which just about nails the coasts of countries and territories in the Caribbean Sea.

 

 

Coral reefs are becoming a new environmental issue because they’re sea floor cover in the Caribbean has decreased from 60% to 10% during the past 20 years. The Coral reefs lose their color when they cannot thrive in an area, commonly known as coral reef bleaching, and eventually die off. Hurricanes are contributing to this environmental problem because they cause waves to crash down with such force it destroys the coral head into fragments. Similarly, hurricanes can cause the reefs to be exposed for periods of a time, causing them to die. Although hurricanes have been affect the reefs for years, the damages are becoming worse; some propose that this is due to global climate change causing the tropical cyclones to be more intense, as we discussed in class.

Of course, hurricanes are not the only reason for coral reef bleaching and destruction; humans are also adding to the problem and making matters worse. But most think about the damages that hurricanes cause on land, overlooking their ability to destroy marine ecosystems.

Here is a 2008 article from The Guardian addressing the powerful hurricanes in 2005 and their effect on coral reefs.

Japan issues gloomier forecast for future tsunami threats

Experts revamping Japan’s tsunami warning system war that a 9.oM offshore earthquake could trigger a tsunami over 100 feet high, as opposed to the previous height of 66 feet.  The last major tsunami that hit last March was, in comparison, 45 feet and managed to destroy much of the coastline and disable key nuclear plants, sparking a meltdown on the level of Chernobyl.  Scientists also warn that the Tokyo metropolitan area is unprepared to handle a large earthquake, which many say is long overdue.  Although Japan is a country that is long used to earthquakes, studies show that many residents do not have water stored or other precautions for a disaster.

Here is the link.

Japanese Earthquake Starts Tsunami Warnings

“Aftershock of magnitude 7.1 hits north-east of country one month after quake and tsunami killed 28,000 people”.

Temporary tsunami warnings have been issued for north-eastern parts of Japan. A possible 2 meter high tsunami could hit the coast. Currently, there’s a 12 mile evacuation area, but the government would like to extend the area to 25 miles, which would encompass 5 more communities. Civilians are getting a possible week to prepare.

“About 70,000 people living within 12 miles of Fukushima Daiichi have already been evacuated, and another 130,000 living inside a band 12 to 19 miles away have been told to leave voluntarily or remain indoors due to disruption to supply lines and services.”

From a month ago when the 9.1 magnitude earthquake hit, there are still more than 14,000 people missing and 152,000 people are still living in evacuation centres.

See the full story at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/11/japan-earthquake-prompts-tsunami-warnings