Wednesday, April 30, 2008

NOAA Satellites Help Save 23 People in the North Atlantic

NOAA Satellites Help Save 23 People in the North Atlantic

April 11, 2008

In a dramatic distress case yesterday, NOAA satellites helped the U.S. Coast Guard respond to a major engine room fire aboard the merchant vessel M/V Sea Venus 1,200 miles east of Cape Cod, Mass.

The 577 foot Panamanian-flagged vessel, with a crew of 23, was en route from Rhode Island to Belgium when the fire broke out. At about 7:30 a.m., NOAA’s satellites detected a distress signal from an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) onboard the vessel and relayed the ship’s location to search and rescue personnel at the Coast Guard’s Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) in Norfolk, Va. The Canadian Navy, and two other merchant vessels in the area, also provided critical coordination.

NOAA’s polar-orbiting and geostationary satellites are part of the international Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking System called COSPAS-SARSAT. This system uses a network of satellites to quickly detect and locate distress signals from emergency beacons onboard ships and aircraft and from handheld personal locator beacons.

“Yesterday’s incident was a tragedy averted,” said Chris O’Connors, acting program manager for NOAA SARSAT.

In Canada, personnel based at RCC Halifax contacted the Coast Guard at the RCC in Norfolk that they established voice communication with the Sea Venus' crew, who initially reported the engine room fire had been extinguished with the ship's automatic CO2 systems and no assistance was needed.

But rescue officials received a second distress call from the ship that the fire had re-flashed, the CO2 system had been depleted, and the crew was fighting the blaze with water and hand-held extinguishers. After regaining control and finally extinguishing the fire, fourteen of the 23 crew members were then safely transferred from the Sea Venus to its sister ship, the Olympian Highway. Nine crew members remain onboard to await a tug from Halifax that is scheduled to arrive on Sunday.

“The SARSAT program worked as designed, especially with the international coordination and teamwork between the U.S. and Canada,” O’Connors said.

Now in its 26th year of operation, COSPAS-SARSAT has been credited with more than 22,000 rescues worldwide, including more than 5,800 in the United States and its surrounding waters.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.


Common Myths About Driving in Dangerous Weather

Prevent Yourself From Making Wrong Decisions During Dangerous Conditions


April 15, 2008—

You never know where you'll be when severe weather strikes. You could even be in your car. So, when driving gets hazardous, we rely on habit, and tried and true techniques. But how true are they?

Myth #1: You Can Dodge an Oncoming Tornado in Your Car

Let's say you're driving and encounter a tornado. The first reaction of many people is amazement at nature's fury. But then reality sets in, maybe panic. People need to make a split-second decision about what to do. Too often they decide they can outrun the tornado in their car. But automotive expert and former race car driver Lauren Fix says that is pure myth.

"Tornadoes change direction without any notice and you don't know what the road in front of you is gonna look like," Fix said. "There could be debris. You could have a roadway that's blocked. Where are you gonna go?"

"But I've seen this," ABC News' Sam Champion said. "I've seen people in cars out-drive tornadoes."

"You've seen the storm chasers," Fix replied. "These people are professionals and this is not something the average driver should even attempt."

The best advice, Fix said, is "if you see a tornado, find shelter immediately. Your car is a 4,000 pound toy and it can be tossed at anywhere, anytime."

Myth #2: Steer into the Skid

The winter season is filled with myths about snow, ice and freezing temperatures. So, what better place to get to the cold hard truth than about 9,000 feet up in the Colorado Rockies, where places like Steamboat Springs can get 30 feet of snow in a winter season, and it rarely gets above freezing.

That's great for the ski conditions, but for driving ... well, that's something completely different, as Mark Cox of the Bridgestone Winter Driving School knows firsthand.

"If you start to skid on the ice or snow, just realize that it's not the end of the world," he said. "First and foremost, don't panic."

Normally, Cox said, people react by letting go of the steering wheel, yanking on it or jamming on the brakes. "None of these things helps you in correcting a skid," he said.

We're often told to steer into a skid. But is that the right thing to do?

Let's say you turn a corner in the snow or ice, and the car skids. You realize the front end is turning to the right. Many people would believe 'steering into the skid' means turning the car to the right ... big mistake! This is an over-steering situation in which the skid actually happened because the rear wheels skidded to the left. So, if you were to steer into the skid, you'd be steering to the left. But this can get confusing, so Cox tells students, instead of steering into the skid, "Look in the direction that you'd rather have the car be going, and steer that way."

CLICK HERE to see an explanatory diagram from the Bridgestone Winter Driving School.

Myth #3: Always Warm Up Your Car

Another winter driving myth: always warm up the car. But this one simply isn't true. Cox explains that "modern cars deal really well with cold. And you can start it up pretty quickly, and take off right away, within thirty seconds, and it's fine."

In fact, experts say idling the car wastes gas, and that's bad for the environment.

Myth #4: You Can Drive Through a Flooded Roadway

After winter snows, drivers have to deal with April showers. So, if torrential rains flood the roads, don't buy into the myth that you can drive right through, even if you think it's just a puddle. Fix warned, "if it's flooded roadways from a river, a creek, or a lake, you do not want to drive through it because anything that's even a foot deep of water, which is not much at all, can cause your vehicle to float."

Champion's advice to drivers is to "slow down and make a good solid judgment about where the water's coming from, how much water do I think it is before I pursue."

Myth #5: Your Car Provides Protection From Lightning

Those April showers also bring something else ... lightning, and the myth people continue to believe, no matter what they've been told: you're safe in your car if you get struck by lightning because of the rubber in the tires.

Fix said that people believe the rubber in their tires acts as an insulator that will keep them safe from the lightning. But in reality, he said, "if you get struck by lightning, it will travel down to the ground and stop itself. But you will hear a loud bang inside the car, and it's very scary."

The popular British TV show "Top Gear" put this myth to the test with host Richard Hammond as the guinea pig.

"They're going to zap me and this car with 800,000 volts," Hammond said to the cameras during the demonstration. "You might think the tires are going to protect me, by insulating the car from Earth because they're rubber."

Inside the car, he waited and then suddenly, Hammond said, "I'm being hit by lightning!"

He quickly realized, "now it's doing stuff to the car, got error message up on the dashboard."

After the ordeal, Hammond was thankful, yet amazed, to say, "I'm alive."

It wasn't the tires that kept Hammond safe. As this experiment proved, the one thing that will protect you from a lightning strike is your car's metal frame, because the electricity travels around the passenger compartment and down to the ground.

But what happened to the car?

To Hammond's surprise, "it starts, it still works, amazing."

But not everyone is so lucky.

"My poor little car was totaled," said Wendy Allen, a graduate student at the University of Florida, who was struck by lightning as she drove on a rural Mississippi highway a few years ago.

"It was raining very heavily, it was thundering and lightning, and I just saw bright light," she said. "Intense light filled up my car for just a split second. But it was a deafening bang."

Her car antenna was destroyed because that's where the lightning hit, and a tiny scorch mark on the trunk showed where the lightning exited after it fried the car's electrical system. It wasn't the car's rubber tires that protected Allen. It's because she wasn't touching anything metal in the car.

And that, Fix said, is the best advice if you get caught in your car in a thunder storm.

"In the vehicle, there's a lot of plastic and a lot of non-metal components," he said. "Best thing is don't touch anything metal. Keep your hands ... to yourself. Pull over and park in a safe place, if you can. It's absolutely safer to stay in the car than get out of the car."

At the end of the day, Allen admitted, "there is not a doubt in my mind that I'm incredibly lucky to be alive today. My car saved my life."


National Level Exercise Begins In May

Release Date: April 24, 2008
Release Number: HQ-08-063

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Exercise Program (NEP) will conduct National Level Exercise 2-08 (NLE 2-08) a combined functional and full scale exercise from May 1 through May 8. NLE 2-08 will merge the objectives of U.S. Northern Command's (NORTHCOM) Ardent Sentry 2008 exercise, FEMA National Continuity Program's (NCP) Eagle Horizon 2008 exercise (formerly known as Forward Challenge), and FEMA Disaster Operation's Hurricane Preparedness Exercise (HPE).

The purpose of NLE 2-08 is to exercise national capabilities to prepare and respond to multiple incidents including both natural disasters and terrorist incidents. The exercise was designed to include scenario elements addressing hurricane preparedness and response, national continuity capabilities, and Defense Support to Civil Authorities coordination in response to weapons of mass destruction terrorist attacks. The exercise venues involve a Category 4 hurricane impacting the Mid Atlantic Coast and the National Capitol Region and multiple terrorist attacks in Washington State.

Also during NLE 2-08, the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP) will test it's response to an accidental chemical agent release at the Umatilla Chemical Depot in Oregon. Canada will also participate through their Staunch Maple Exercise.

The exercise allows Federal officials to implement continuity plans, test communications connectivity, operations and procedures for performing essential government functions from alternate locations, and interagency coordination. Additionally, it serves to demonstrate that essential functions can be effectively conducted during threats and emergencies.

NLE 2-08 is a NEP exercise conducted within the five year exercise schedule. The NEP is the nation's overarching homeland security exercise program, provides the federal government with a national, interagency wide program and a multi-year planning system to focus, coordinate, plan, conduct, execute, evaluate and prioritize national security and homeland security preparedness-related exercise activities.

FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.

Disaster experts’ advice: Be prepared

Brad Shannon
Disaster-response experts still are drawing lessons from December's flooding that killed a half-dozen people in Washington and caused millions of dollars in damage.

The storms that flooded the Chehalis River basin also forced hundreds of families out of homes. Community groups have received a stream of donations to help victims; United Way of Lewis County alone raised more than $1.1 million.

The single-largest donation came from Olympia-based The Community Foundation of South Puget Sound, which gave nearly $155,000 through two relief funds, executive director Norma Schuiteman said. But the needs are larger than the help, three experts told the foundation's annual meeting in Olympia on Wednesday.

"I figure per capita damages were about $500 per person in Mason County," Martin Best, Mason County emergency management manager, told the crowd of about 85 at Indian Summer Golf & Country Club.

Federal aid to individuals totaled a little more than $1 million, Best said, so "right there we're facing close to a $10 million shortfall for individuals affected by this disaster."

"We ended up taking in more than seven tons of clothing. That actually became the second disaster," said Debbie Campbell, director of United Way of Lewis County, whose efforts at storage were hampered by flooded buildings. "I would recommend you learn how to deal with that."

Be ready

Best, Campbell, and Thurston County Emergency Management director Kathy Estes carried a kindred message: Government and aid groups cannot do it all, and individuals need to be ready for the first days of the next bad storm or earthquake.

"How prepared are you? Are you really ready to spend a week without being able to get to the store? And I encourage you to be. Many people locally found that was a reality for them," Estes said. "Each individual really needs to take care of themselves and their families."

Best said residents should have an out-of-state phone number that family members can call in an emergency, so messages can be relayed among relatives when local phone connections break down.

The foundation distributed its aid through two funds — the Community Foundation Relief Fund and the Boistfort Valley Flood Relief Fund.

Campbell said about 400 Lewis County residents still are waiting to get back into their homes. In Thurston County, nearly 30 families still are rebuilding near the river, said Marcee Stiltner of Rochester Organization of Friends Community Services.


This video was taken by my friend Michael Hester in Portsmouth, Virginia during the Tornado that destroyed the neighborhoods in the nearby city of Suffolk


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

How Strong Is That Hurricane? Just Listen

How Strong Is That Hurricane? Just Listen.

ScienceDaily (Apr. 10, 2008) Knowing how powerful a hurricane is, before it hits land, can help to save lives or to avoid the enormous costs of an unnecessary evacuation. Some MIT researchers think there may be a better, cheaper way of getting that crucial information.

So far, there's only one surefire way of measuring the strength of a hurricane: Sending airplanes to fly right through the most intense winds and into the eye of the storm, carrying out wind-speed measurements as they go.

That's an expensive approach--the specialized planes used for hurricane monitoring cost about $100 million each, and a single flight costs about $50,000. Monitoring one approaching hurricane can easily require a dozen such flights, and so only storms that are approaching U.S. shores get such monitoring, even though the strongest storms occur in the Pacific basin (where they are known as tropical cyclones).

Nicholas Makris, associate professor of mechanical and ocean engineering and director of MIT's Laboratory for Undersea Remote Sensing, thinks there may be a better way. By placing hydrophones (underwater microphones) deep below the surface in the path of an oncoming hurricane, it's possible to measure wind power as a function of the intensity of the sound. The roiling action of the wind, churning up waves and turning the water into a bubble-filled froth, causes a rushing sound whose volume is a direct indicator of the storm's destructive power.

Makris has been doing theoretical work analyzing this potential method for years, triggered by a conversation he had with MIT professor and hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel. But now he has found the first piece of direct data that confirms his calculations. In a paper accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, Makris and his former graduate student Joshua Wilson show that Hurricane Gert, in 1999, happened to pass nearly over a hydrophone anchored at 800 meters depth above the mid-Atlantic Ridge at about the latitude of Puerto Rico, and the same storm was monitored by airplanes within the next 24 hours.

The case produced exactly the results that had been predicted, providing the first experimental validation of the method, Makris says. "There was almost a perfect relationship between the power of the wind and the power of the wind-generated noise," he says. There was less than 5 percent error--about the same as the errors you get from aircraft measurements.

Satellite monitoring is good at showing the track of a hurricane, Makris says, but not as reliable as aircraft in determining destructive power.

The current warning systems are estimated to save $2.5 billion a year in the United States, and improved systems could save even more, he says. And since many parts of the world that are subject to devastating cyclones cannot afford the cost of hurricane-monitoring aircraft, the potential for saving lives and preventing devastating damage is even greater elsewhere.

"You need to know, do you evacuate or not?" Makris explains. "Both ways, if you get it wrong, there can be big problems."

To that end, Makris has been collaborating with the Mexican Navy's Directorate of Oceanography, Hydrography and Meteorology, using a meteorological station on the island of Socorro, off Mexico's west coast. The island lies in one of the world's most hurricane-prone areas--an average of three cyclones pass over or near the island every year. The team installed a hydrophone in waters close to the island and are waiting for a storm to come by and provide further validation of the technique.

Makris and Wilson estimate that when there's a hurricane on its way toward shore, a line of acoustic sensors could be dropped from a small plane into the ocean ahead of the storm's path, while conditions are still safe, and could then provide detailed information on the storm's strength to aid in planning and decision-making about possible evacuations. The total cost for such a deployment would be a small fraction of the cost of even a single flight into the storm, they figure.

In addition, permanent lines of such sensors could be deployed offshore in storm-prone areas, such as the Sea of Bengal off India and Bangladesh. And such undersea monitors could have additional benefits besides warning of coming storms.

The hydrophones could be a very effective way of monitoring the amount of sea salt entering the atmosphere as a result of the churning of ocean waves. This sea salt, it turns out, has a major impact on global climate because it scatters solar radiation that regulates the formation of clouds. Direct measurements of this process could help climate modelers to make more accurate estimates of its effects.

The research has been supported by the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research, ONR Global-Americas, MIT Sea Grant and the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate.


Cold-air funnel forms in West Valley

This cold-air funnel was spotted Wednesday evening in the West Valley. No, this is not a tornado. Levente Csaplar photo

The Daily Inter Lake

A stunning meteorological phenomenon formed Wednesday in the West Valley area.

A cold-air funnel formed at about 6 p.m. in the open fields west of U.S. 93 at the intersection of West Reserve Drive

Cold-air funnels most often occur under large, slow-moving low-pressure systems in the upper atmosphere. They tend to form during the cooler months of the year, when cold air meets warm, unstable ground air — prompting the growth of towering cumulus clouds. Small-scale wind shear associated with cold, slow-moving low-pressure systems generates spin, allowing funnels to form.

Cold-air funnels are generally weak, short-lived, and produce only minor damage.

“This is a pretty rare case, since it’s actually touching the ground,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Kitsmiller.

Those that do reach the ground behave like weak tornadoes, with winds often 50 mph or slower.

Because the West Valley cold-air funnel touched down, the spinning air mass picked up dirt and small debris.

“That’s why you can see it all the way up,” Kitsmiller said.

Like waterspouts and land spouts, cold-air funnels tend to form under cumulus congestus clouds. Unlike waterspouts, land spouts, and tornadoes, cold-air funnels typically aren’t associated with severe weather. They form from temperature imbalances between the ground and the subsequently created fair-weather cloud rather than from thunderstorms or supercells — essentially being produced from the bottom up, rather than the top down.

Dust devils are vortexes that start on the ground, fizzle out into clear sky, and aren’t connected to any clouds.

1 Dead, Hundreds Injured in Possible Tornadoes in Virginia

Associated Press Writer

RICHMOND, Va -- Authorities say one person has died and at least 200 injured as severe storms cut through central and southeastern Virginia.

Suffolk city spokeswoman Dana Woodson says the death occurred when two apparent tornadoes passed through the city Monday afternoon.

Bob Spieldenner from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management says at least 200 others were injured in Suffolk. Spieldenner says at least 18 others were injured in Colonial Heights.


Firefighters gather to brush up on shipboard procedures

The Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council is sponsoring the fifth Land-Based Marine Firefighting Symposium May 5-7 in Valdez.

Firefighters, oil spill response personnel, and other emergency services providers from Prince William Sound and other Alaska coastal communities will receive hands-on classroom and field training for fire response on oil tankers and other ships.

Participants from American Salvage Association, the Coast Guard, the Southwest Alaska Pilots Association, and the state fire marshal’s office will be included in this year’s event, along with firefighters from Anchorage, Cordova, Haines, Homer, Hoonah, Nikiski, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Port Graham, Seldovia, Seward, Sitka, Unalaska, Valdez, Whittier and Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.

Five instructors will provide coursework and seminars on operations and command procedures used in real events. Topics include basic shipboard firefighting and vessel familiarization; tank farm, cruise ship, small boat and marina awareness; fire safety/fire prevention planning and ship’s crew coordination; and the politics of a marine incident including regulatory authority and plan implementation. New to this year’s symposium is a panel discussion on the initial incident command system that would be established during a marine fire event.

There is no cost to the firefighters’ home departments – expenses are paid by the council and the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, with supplemental support in the form of sponsorships.

While there are no more sponsored slots, space is available for firefighters who wish to attend the symposium and provide their own travel, lodging and meals. Tuition is free for all participants. Interested firefighters should contact the council’s Valdez office for information.

More information on the symposium is available online at Next Marine Firefighting Symposium: or by calling the council’s Valdez office at (907) 834-5000.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Napoli sparks boxship crackdown

Napoli sparks boxship crackdown

portion of the world’s container fleet has been closely scrutinised for potential structural failure during the investigation into the loss last year of the 4,419 teu MSC Napoli.

A UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch report into the incident reveals that a screening by classification societies of 1,500 ships of the same configuration as the stricken vessel showed 12 large containerships that were identified as requiring remedial action to their structures. A further 10 were described as “borderline”, while another eight are being studied.

The report into the structural failure of the Zodiac-operated ship, which took place on January 18, 2007 as the fully laden vessel steamed westwards out of the English Channel in storm force conditions, reveals five major contributory causes.

It was discovered that the hull did not have sufficient buckling strength in way of the engineroom, which was positioned three quarters of the length from forward. The report also points out that class requirements in force at the time the ship was designed in 1990, only required buckling strength requirements around the midships section.

It was also found that there was an inadequate safety margin between the vessel’s hull design loading and its ultimate strength, while the load on the hull was likely to have been increased by the whipping effect as the big ship steamed into heavy head seas. The report suggests that the ship’s speed — making 11 knots over ground with the engine turning revolutions for 17 knots — was “not reduced sufficiently” for the prevailing weather.

Of the vessel’s final voyage and evacuation, the report notes that the ship, operating on the Europe-South Africa service, was six days behind schedule inbound and had suffered turbocharger failure and problems with the main engine governor, which remained inoperative when the laden vessel sailed outbound from Antwerp.

The need to minimise draught for Antwerp departure had required the vessel to be ballasted forward, exceeding the permissable bending moments, although ballast was moved in the Schelde to just within permissable limits as indicated by the ship’s computer.

The comparison of the vessel’s actual draught with that calculated according to the known ship’s weights and declared cargo showed a difference [the deadload] of 1,250 tonnes, indicating that some container weights were under-declared.

On the morning of the structural failure, the ship was heading out into the western approaches in storm force winds with wave heights said to be up to 9 m when a succession of three large waves were reported. Shortly afterwards, a bilge alarm indicated the first ingress of water. Inspection by the duty engineer revealed substantial quantities of water and the engine was shut down.

The master, looking over the side, found visible damage in way of the engineroom, and believing that the ship’s back had been broken, made arrangements to evacuate. The success of this operation, which saw the 26 crew safely abandon their ship and motor clear in a lifeboat to be rescued by two helicopters, was commended in the report. Good drills and preparation for such an emergency were evident to the inspectors.

The design of the ship, a one-off order from Samsung, revealed a number of issues, notably the discontinuity of the structure, which was longitudinally framed throughout the forward cargo spaces, while there was transverse framing in way of the engineroom, the location of the eventual buckling. This, says the report, was an “inherently weak” structure when under compressive loading.

Initially built to Bureau Veritas classification, the ship fully complied with the rules in force at that time which required buckling calculations only around the mid-length of the ship, where it was assumed, the greatest stresses would arise. The earliest cellular containerships were generally built with the machinery space aft, and underdeck cargo spaces forward of the engineroom.

The MAIB concluded that the class rules which were applicable “have lagged behind the development of containership design, and requires immediate revision”. Buckling checks are required, says the report, along the whole length of the ship.

The report examines design safety margins for hull stresses and suggests that a more objective approach is required. It appeared that it was almost routine for permissable loads to be exceeded for operational reasons, such as the need to minimise draught, yet the ship’s staff, or indeed the terminal planners, could never be sure of the actual weights of boxes being loaded on their vessel.

Following the deliberate grounding of the damaged ship in Branscombe Bay, there was the opportunity to weigh all the unflooded containers taken off the ship by the salvors. Some 600 containers were weighed ashore, 137 of which revealed a weight discrepancy of more than 3 tonnes. The largest difference between declared and actual weight was 20 tonnes.

It was also discovered that 7% of the deck load of containers were not in the position shown on the cargo plan. The MAIB concludes that “the stresses acting upon a containership’s hull cannot be accurately controlled unless containers are weighed before embarcation”. This will have obvious implications for terminal operations.

The structure of the 16-year-old ship was found to be in reasonable condition, with no evidence that the 2001 full-speed grounding of the ship, which saw it ashore on a reef on the Malacca Strait for two months and a requirement for 3,000 tonnes of steel repairs, had any bearing on the final hull failure.

Samples were removed from the wreck for testing, and there was some evidence found of on-board welding repairs that had not been reported.

The inspectors had several observations regarding the speed of the ship in heavy weather, noting that the whipping effect of the hull flexing in the high swells could have contributed to the accident. However, the report points to a paucity of any research into the effects of such dynamic forces in a seaway and it recommends that more research should be undertaken into a subject that clearly has considerable potential impact upon safety and structural strength.

It also notes that research should also be considered into the provision of hull stress monitoring equipment and vessel motion sensing, bearing in mind the relationship between speed and wave loading and whipping effects.

As regards the particular circumstances of this casualty the report notes that while the ship’s speed was considered to be “appropriate” for the conditions, “it is almost certain that a reduction of speed would have significantly reduced the risk of hull failure”.

The identification of over 1,500 containerships which had potentially similar vulnerabilities to that which led to the loss of MSC Napoli was clearly a major exercise involving the classification societies. It is understood that vessels larger than 2,500 teu, with cargo bays aft of the accommodation/machinery space were investigated, particularly seeking out those with structural discontinuities.

Of the 12 identified, it is understood that stiffeners in the engineroom and some operational limitations will be sufficient to keep them safe. The societies involved with these ships are currently in discussion with their owners as to the best way forward.

The MAIB has worked closely with DNV, which took over MSC Napoli after its 2002 repairs and which has undertaken a major analysis of containership structures in recent months.

The MSC Napoli report also gives major emphasis to many of the issues which were raised into the MAIB’s earlier report into a container stack collapse aboard the feeder Annabella. This pointed to the inability of the ship’s staff to intervene in planning and stowage, and the evident problem of determining accurate weights of containers.

Additionally, the Annabella report underlined the lack of any proper safety code for the carriage of containers and the operation of containerships.

This issue was taken up by the International Chamber of Shipping, which, in conjunction with the World Shipping Council is currently working on a code of best practice for the industry.

This is expected to be completed by the end of this year, and subsequently presented to the International Maritime Organization for adoption. Relevant action is also promised by the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency which has taken up the issue of container weights and longitudenal strength checks with the Paris MOU Port State Control Committee.


Always be prepared for a tornado to strike

Staff reports
Published: March 31, 2008

Tornado Preparedness—Do You Have a Plan?<p>

Tornados which appear suddenly and without warning are nature's violent storms. One may often hear or read about "tornado season," a time of year when tornadoes appear frequently. The fact is there is no such thing as a "tornado season." Tornadoes can strike anywhere at anytime. You need to be ready, know the drill and act quickly.

Tornado Watches, Warnings

It is vital that you know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning.

A tornado watch indicates conditions are favorable for a tornado and a tornado is possible. A tornado warning indicates that a tornado has been sighted or seen by the National Weather Service Doppler Radar and may be headed your way. Take cover immediately!

When conditions are favorable for severe weather, monitor your local weather and news stations for up to date information and changes that may occur rapidly affecting you and your family's safety.

Preparing for a Tornado

When preparing for a tornado, one should become familiar with the terms that are being used, i.e. Tornado Watch vs. Tornado Warning to identify the hazard level and what actions you should take:

• Open buildings (shopping malls, gymnasiums or civic centers): Try to get into the restroom or an interior hallway. If there is no time to go anywhere else, seek shelter right where you are. Try to get up against something that will support or deflect falling debris. Protect your head by covering it with your arms.

• Automobiles: Get out of your vehicle and try to find shelter inside a sturdy building. A culvert or ditch can provide shelter if a substantial building is not nearby—lie down flat and cover your head with your hands. Do not take shelter under a highway overpass or bridge, because debris could get blown under them or the structures themselves could be destroyed.

• Outdoors: Try to find shelter immediately in the nearest substantial building. If no buildings are close, lie down flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands.

• Mobile homes: Do not stay in mobile homes. You should leave immediately and seek shelter inside a nearby sturdy building or lie down in a ditch away from your home, covering your head with your hands. Mobile homes are extremely unsafe during tornadoes.

Prepare a Home Tornado Plan

• Develop a safety plan for home, work, school and when outdoors. Make sure your family reviews and practices the plan at least once a year and especially on days when severe weather is forecast for your area. If you or a family member are disabled, develop an alternative plan and be sure to include items in your supply kit that will meet their special needs for at least a week or longer (

• To learn more about tornado drills and how to protect your family during a tornado visit,

Are you ready?

• Get a kit

• Make a plan

• Stay informed

• Visit


This column is provided by the Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue's Community Relations Team. Send questions or comments to DFR Responding to You, 9250 Lee Ave., Manassas VA 20110

Several TX Homes Destroyed by Severe Storms

Officials near Fort Worth, Texas, say more than a dozen homes have been damaged or destroyed by a severe thunderstorm system. Crews are being dispatched across the state today to confirm reports of possible tornadoes. (April 24)

Monthly Tornado Statistics (Official Text or PDF version)

Number of Tornadoes Number of Tornado Deaths Killer Tornadoes

20082007200620053 Year Avg.20082007200620053 Year Avg.20082007200620053 Year Avg.

JAN 136 84 29 21 47 33 34 7 2 1 4 2 4 1 1 2 1
FEB 232 ? 87 52 12 10 25 58 22 0 0 7 13 3 0 0 1
MAR 151 ? 214 171 150 62 128 4 27 11 1 13 3 10 7 1 6
APR 154 ? 187 165 245 132 181 ? 9 38 0 16 ? 3 9 0 4
MAY ? ? 282 251 139 123 171 ? 14 3 0 6 ? 4 1 0 2
JUN ? ? 152 128 120 316 188 ? 0 0 0 0 ? 0 0 0 0
JUL ? ? 55 69 71 138 93 ? 0 0 0 0 ? 0 0 0 0
AUG ? ? 87 73 80 123 92 ? 1 1 4 2 ? 1 1 3 2
SEP ? ? 63 51 84 133 89 ? 0 1 1 1 ? 0 1 1 1
OCT ? ? 115 87 76 18 60 ? 5 0 0 2 ? 3 0 1 1
NOV ? ? 7 6 42 150 66 ? 0 10 28 13 ? 0 3 5 3
DEC ? ? 22 19 40 26 33 ? 1 2 0 1 ? 1 2 0 1
Total 673 84 1300 1095 1106 1264 1159 69 81 67 38 62 20 26 25 13 21

Note:? means final number not yet available.
Important! Prelim. numbers represent tornado reports. Columns marked Final represent total tornadoes.
2008 numbers updated through

Click to see the larger Daily Tornado Trend Image

Storm Reports/SPC Home


This morning after reviewing the casualty runs for the last 24 hours I noticed that Transocean's Discover Deep Seas reported a engine room fire to the United States Coast Guard in Morgan City, Louisiana. Extent of the damage is unknown and believe to be to one of several thruster engines. The Deep Seas is a drill ship presently located some 200 nm off the coast of Louisiana. There were no reported injuries nor SAR operations. As information develops it will be passed along.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Better Understanding Of Hurricane Trajectories Learned From Patterns On Soap Bubbles

Better Understanding Of Hurricane Trajectories Learned From Patterns On Soap Bubbles

ScienceDaily (Apr. 15, 2008) Researchers at the Centre de Physique Moléculaire Optique et Hertzienne (CPMOH) (CNRS/Université Bordeaux (1) and the Université de la Réunion(1) have discovered that vortices created in soap bubbles behave like real cyclones and hurricanes in the atmosphere. Soap bubbles have enabled the researchers to characterize for the first time the random factor that governs the movement and paths of vortices. These results, published in the journal Physical Review Letters, could lead to a better understanding of such increasingly common and often devastating atmospheric phenomena.

A soap bubble is an ideal model for studying the atmosphere because it has analogous physical properties and, like the atmosphere, it is composed of a very thin film in relation to its diameter(2). In this experiment, the researchers created a half soap bubble that they heated at the “equator” and then cooled at the “poles”, thereby creating a single large vortex, similar to a hurricane, in the wall of the bubble. The researchers studied the movement of this vortex, which fluctuates in a random manner. This is characterized by a law known as a superdiffusive law(3), well known to physicists, but which had not until then been observed in the case of single vortices in a turbulent environment.

The disconcerting resemblance between vortices on soap bubbles and cyclones led the researchers to study their similarities. By analyzing in detail the trajectories of certain recent hurricanes such as Ivan, Jane, Nicholas, etc., the researchers measured the random factor that is always present in the movement of hurricanes. They then demonstrated the remarkable similarity of these fluctuations with those that characterize the disordered movement of the vortices that they created on soap bubbles.(4)

Taking this random factor into account in predicting the trajectory of hurricanes will be useful in anticipating the probability of impact on a given site or locality. Although the mean trajectory of hurricanes (without any fluctuations) is beginning to be well simulated by meteorologists, this random factor has, until now, been poorly understood. This discovery highlights a universality in the statistics of trajectory fluctuations and should make it possible in the future to better predict the behavior of hurricanes and anticipate the risks.


Keeping Your Family Safe During Severe Weather

Keeping Your Family Safe During Severe Weather

From thunderstorms to drought to extreme cold, severe weather affects the northland.

Meteorologist Shannon Murphy begins our special weather report with a look at how you can keep your family safe during severe weather events.

April is always a busy time for meteorologists.

Drastic changes in temperature during the spring season fuel the formation of thunderstorms.

This week has been proclaimed Severe Weather Awareness Week for both Minnesota and Wisconsin to encourage citizens to be prepared when bad weather strikes.

"Last year we had baseball size hail in the Duluth area. Strong downburst winds hit the Northland every year, and these winds can be as strong or stronger than a tornado. And yes they do cause damage. And yes if you don't take precaution you could get injured or even killed."

In 2007, straight line winds hit speeds of eight-five miles per hour, the same strength of a Category one hurricane.

This year, Mother Nature continued to stir up problems during a rare January outbreak of tornadoes in Kenosha County in Southeastern Wisconsin and a rare spring blizzard in April.

Although many people think that twisters are the most deadly thunderstorm phenomenon, it is actually lightning that's kills and injures the most people, which is why even a severe thunderstorm warning cannot be taken lightly.

"Go inside, go into a sturdy building, a basement if you have one, under your basement stairs or get under some heavy type of furniture like a work bench or a pool table to protect yourself from debris."

If you don't have a basement experts say try to put as many walls between you and the outside as possible. In Duluth, Meteorologist Shannon Murphy, the Northland's NewsCenter.

Part of Severe weather Week includes a mock tornado drill, in which sirens will sound shortly before two pm on Thursday.



Messing About In Ships Episode 20
April 25, 2008, 4:05 am
Filed under: podcast, shownotes

Episode 20 of Messing About In Ships has launched.

(46 minutes)


Have a really great weekend!


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Minn. and Wis. tornado drills planned for severe weather awareness week

Minn. and Wis. tornado drills planned for severe weather awareness week

Statewide tornado drills will be held later this week as part of the annual Severe Weather Awareness Week. The week is a joint operation of the National Weather Service; Minnesota's Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management; county- and city-level emergency managers. Monday's sever-weather-week topics include thunderstorms, hail, straight-line winds, lightning; Tuesday studies severe weather warnings; Wednesday centers on floods and flash floods; Thursday is tornado day; Friday focuses on heat waves.

On Thursday, the National Weather Service will simulate a tornado watch for Minnesota at 9 a.m. Two tornado warning drills are planned later that day.

The first will be at 1:45 p.m. All jurisdictions in the state will activate their warning systems and will give schools, businesses, and hospitals the opportunity to practice their plans for getting people to safe shelters.

The second drill, at 6:55 p.m., is voluntary, and will allow families and second-shift workers to practice sheltering plans. Two-thirds of Minnesota's 89 counties will hold the second drill. The counties participating in the second drill are: Anoka, Beltrami, Benton, Big Stone, Carver, Chippewa, Chisago, Clearwater, Cottonwood, Crow Wing, Dakota, Douglas, Freeborn, Goodhue, Grant, Hennepin, Hubbard, Isanti, Jackson, Kandiyohi, Lac Qui Parle, Lake of the Woods, Le Sueur, Lyon, Mahnomen, Martin, Mc Leod, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Mower, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Norman, Olmsted, Pine, Pipestone, Polk, Pope, Ramsey, Red Lake, Redwood, Renville, Rice, Roseau, Scott, Sherburne, Stearns, Steele, Stevens, Swift, Todd, Traverse, Wabasha, Wadena, Waseca, Washington, Watonwan, Wilkin, Wright.

Also on Thursday, the National Weather Service will simulate a tornado watch for Wisconsin starting at 1 p.m.

At 1:40 p.m., the National Weather Service plans a tornado warning drill for nine counties in western Wisconsin: Barron, Chippewa, Dunn, Eau Claire, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, Rusk and St Croix.


Tornadoes reported in South Plains


Thursday, April 24, 2008
Story last updated at 4/24/2008 - 1:48 am

High hopes for big storms in the Hub City were dashed Wednesday by cooler weather, but other counties in the South Plains may have gotten more than they bargained for.

Tornadoes reportedly touched down in both Dawson and Scurry counties, said David Hennig, forecaster with the National Weather Service in Midland, though no major damage was reported.

"Officially, we've got zero right now because we're not sure," Hennig said of the twister sightings.

An emergency manager with the service was dispatched to investigate the Scurry County scene, which was near Snyder. Those reports suggested it could have been a straight-line wind rather than a tornado that downed power lines and uprooted trees in the area, Hennig said.

The more definite tornado, which reportedly touched down between Patricia and Ackerly in Dawson County, was captured in a photograph, though Hennig said an official report wouldn't be filed until a team investigated the area.

While Lubbock received just a trace of rain, coupled with winds gusting up to 48 miles per hour, areas of Borden and Dawson counties filed reports of nearly 5 inches of rainfall, Hennig said. The average for that region was nearly 2.5 inches.

More weather may be on the way, said meteorologist Robert Barritt with the National Weather Service in Lubbock, but it won't be here until the weekend.


CHEBOYGAN - Home from its second full season of icebreaking, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw and crew are in the midst of a brief maintenance period to prepare for the upcoming spring buoy commissioning season.

Nearly 40 large lake buoys, pulled prior to ice development, will be reset at various points of the Great Lakes.

“Crewmembers were periodically left ashore throughout the ice season to ensure all summer hulls were ‘tanked' - painted, batteries charged, solar panels inspected and lamps changed,” said Cmdr. John Little. “This is a big job and usually occurs during the very worst of weather conditions but they are ready and the deck gang has done well. Buoytending operations will soon begin in lower Lake Michigan and along the Wisconsin Door Peninsula. Four mid-lake NOAA buoys will also be reset over the next few weeks.”

The Mackinaw returned to Cheboygan Friday afternoon after nearly five weeks in Lake Superior's Whitefish Bay. Since the first week of January, the Mac accumulated more than 1,200 icebreaking hours, escorted more than 200 vessels and freed 45 ships beset in thick ice.

“These vessels were carrying iron ore, coal, wheat and cement to ports throughout the Great Lakes,” Little continued. “Much of the last two months was spent in the St. Mary's River and Whitefish Bay, however, the cutter also spent significant time laying initial tracks in Green Bay and assisting vessels transiting across the Straits of Mackinac. This season has been touted by many of the masters of these commercial lake carriers as the worst ice season in the last 11 years. The Mackinaw's extended stay in Whitefish Bay and the fact that two of our 140-foot cutters are still there can attest to this sentiment.”

Little said the Mackinaw worked with three 140-foot Bay Class cutters - the Katmai Bay, Neah Bay and Biscayne Bay, along with the Canadian Coast Guard cutter Samuel Risley.

“This was really the first year that tandem operations of Mackinaw and the Bay Class cutters was utilized fully and it proved to be quite successful,” Little noted. “These smaller workhorses took advantage of Mackinaw's larger track in very heavy ice to expand the track width by using their speed wakes. As Mackinaw pounded through ice up to three feet thick, the 140s would charge behind her and wake-out the track. It worked beautifully - a real team effort that also involved close coordination with the overseeing vessel traffic service, Soo Traffic and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lockmaster to ensure safe and efficient ship queuing.”

As a result, hundreds of ships transited through the ice-choked Whitefish Bay with only minimal delays even when the weather was at its very worst.

“While in Whitefish Bay, Mackinaw also conducted several aids to navigation operations moving buoys from the narrow channels that had been shifted off station by massive ice floes up to six feet thick and dozens of miles square in size,” Little said. “The last ship directly assisted by Mackinaw for the season was the Canadian ship Algoisle, beset on April 16 in a shifting windrow in lower Whitefish Bay near Ile Parisienne. The last buoy reset was the Point Iroquois Anchorage Buoy A after it was pulled into the middle of a busy anchorage area near Brimley, Mich.”


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Climate Change Likely To Intensify Storms, New Study Confirms '

Climate Change Likely To Intensify Storms, New Study Confirms

ScienceDaily (Apr. 19, 2008)
Hurricanes in some areas, including the North Atlantic, are likely to become more intense as a result of global warming even though the number of such storms worldwide may decline, according to a new study by MIT researchers.

Kerry Emanuel, the lead author of the new study, wrote a paper in 2005 reporting an apparent link between a warming climate and an increase in hurricane intensity. That paper attracted worldwide attention because it was published in Nature just three weeks before Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans.

Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, says the new research provides an independent validation of the earlier results, using a completely different approach. The paper was co-authored by postdoctoral fellow Ragoth Sundararajan and graduate student John Williams and recently appeared in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

While the earlier study was based entirely on historical records of past hurricanes, showing nearly a doubling in the intensity of Atlantic storms over the last 30 years, the new work is purely theoretical. It made use of a new technique to add finer-scale detail to computer simulations called Global Circulation Models, which are the basis for most projections of future climate change.

"It strongly confirms, independently, the results in the Nature paper," Emanuel said. "This is a completely independent analysis and comes up with very consistent results."

Worldwide, both methods show an increase in the intensity and duration of tropical cyclones, the generic name for what are known as hurricanes in the North Atlantic. But the new work shows no clear change in the overall numbers of such storms when run on future climates predicted using global climate models.

However, Emanuel says, the new work also raises some questions that remain to be understood. When projected into the future, the model shows a continuing increase in power, "but a lot less than the factor of two that we've already seen" he says. "So we have a paradox that remains to be explained."

There are several possibilities, Emanuel says. "The last 25 years' increase may have little to do with global warming, or the models may have missed something about how nature responds to the increase in carbon dioxide."

Another possibility is that the recent hurricane increase is related to the fast pace of increase in temperature. The computer models in this study, he explains, show what happens after the atmosphere has stabilized at new, much higher CO2 concentrations. "That's very different from the process now, when it's rapidly changing," he says.

In the many different computer runs with different models and different conditions, "the fact is, the results are all over the place," Emanuel says. But that doesn't mean that one can't learn from them. And there is one conclusion that's clearly not consistent with these results, he said: "The idea that there is no connection between hurricanes and global warming, that's not supported," he says.


Talking about huge waves... Here is one hitting a cruise ship and catching the bridge crew a little off guard.

From Storm Reports '08 tornado losses top $1 billion, report finds '


Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Monday, April 21, 2008

This year has been a tough one for people living in areas hit by tornadoes.

It hasn't been good for insurers there, either.

Insured losses from tornadoes have passed the $1 billion mark this year, according to a new report from A.M. Best, the influential insurance and financial services rating company.

About $850 million of that came from the Super Tuesday outbreak that killed 55 people in the mid-South on Feb. 5-6.

The first-quarter losses surpassed the previous four-year average, said Oldwick, N.J.-based A.M. Best.

Until recently, insurers have taken comfort in the fact that tornado damage historically has not been as severe as that of major hurricanes.

"But according to data from catastrophe modeling firms, these events have the potential - with the right conditions - to generate insured losses on par with hurricanes, such as 2004's Hurricane Frances and 2005's Hurricane Rita," the report said.

States that recently endured severe tornadoes - including Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi and Arkansas - may see increased premiums, deductibles and coverage interruptions, A.M. Best said.

Even more troubling, the firm said a new trend has emerged in the last several years: Losses of $1 billion and more from single-event tornadoes are more common.

If tornado-favoring weather patterns continue, insurers could feel more of a struggle to remain profitable, particularly smaller companies that write policies in single states, the rating service said.

- Randy Diamond


Shipping industry is ‘courting disaster’

The container shipping industry is sacrificing safety and risking an environmental disaster to reduce costs and meet tight delivery schedules, according to an investigation into the grounding of a ship off the coast of Devon last year.

Another 22 ships have been found to have design flaws similar to those of the MSC Napoli, which was deliberately grounded a mile off Sidmouth after her hull cracked in heavy seas.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) found that the ship was carrying many overloaded containers and had been travelling too fast for the conditions.

After the incident hundreds of people flocked to Branscombe beach to scavenge everything from BMW motorcycles to disposable nappies when dozens of containers washed ashore.

The Napoli, built in 1991 in South Korea, was in the Channel on passage to Portugal from Antwerp when her engine room flooded after a hull failure about 45 miles south of Lizard Point, Cornwall.

The MAIB report, published today, says that after the Napoli hit “several large waves” there was a “large crashing or cracking sound”.

Vertical cracks could be seen in the hull below the waterline on the port and starboard sides, and the ship’s master assessed that the vessel had “broken her back”.

The crew of 26 abandoned ship and were rescued by two Royal Navy helicopters. Tugs began towing the ship towards Portland in Dorset but she was beached en route because there were concerns that she might sink.

The beaching prevented severe oil pollution of Devon and Dorset’s World Heritage Coast.

The MAIB said that a review of safety rules governing container ship design and a code of practice covering operations was urgently needed to prevent further losses.

It concluded that the container shipping industry had been allowed to expand rapidly — from 12 million to 140 million containers a year since 1983 — without proper safety oversight.

The report said: “The commercial advantages of containerisation . . . such as speed and quick turnarounds appear to have become the focus of the industry at the expense of the safe operation of its vessels.”

The MAIB found that a loophole in safety regulations meant that the buckling strength of the hull near the engine room had not been tested.

It also found that ship’s loading contributed to the stresses on the hull. The MAIB condemned the widespread practice in the industry of failing to load containers, either to save time or avoid taxes.

“Container shipping is the only sector of the industry in which the weight of a cargo is not known.”

The MAIB referred to a previous report, which it published last September on the collapse of cargo containers on the Annabella, which concluded: “Evidence obtained during this and other MAIB investigations into container shipping accidents suggests that in reality, the safety of ships, crews and the environment is being compromised by the overriding desire to maintain established schedules or optimise port turn-round times.”

After the Napoli grounding the MAIB ordered the screening of more than 1,500 container ships, and 12 were identified as being potentially vulnerable to buckling in severe conditions and requiring remedial action. A further ten vessels were identified as being borderline and needing more detailed investigation. The screening of eight container ships has yet to be completed.

The International Chamber of Shipping is developing a code of best practice for the industry, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The report said that Britain would conduct a “concentrated inspection campaign” in 2010 to check compliance with tightened safety rules.

A Devon County Council local public inquiry into the grounding of the Napoli will be chaired by Ian Mercer, an environmental specialist. “This inquiry must seek all the answers available, and register with governments the outstanding questions,” Professor Mercer said.

The inquiry’s evidence-gathering process, which was launched last month, was the first stage of the investigation, which will be followed by hearings in public.

The Report

MSC Napoli
Report on the investigation of the structural failure of MSC Napoli in the English Channel on 18 January 2007.
Report No 9/2008
Published 22 April 2008


UK – report on structural failure of the MSC NAPOLI

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) released the report of its investigation of the structural failure of the container ship MSC NAPOLI in the English Channel on 18 January 2007. The report found that the ship’s hull did not have sufficient buckling strength in way of the engine room; that there was an insufficient safety margin between the hull’s design loading and its ultimate strength; and that the load on the hull was increased by whipping effect. Recommendations have been made to the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) that are intended to increase the requirements for container ship design, consolidate current research into whipping effect, and to initiate research into the development and use of technological aids for measuring hull stresses. As ships get larger, simple extrapolation is insufficient. Report No. 9/2008 (4/22/08).


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Jet Streams Are Shifting And May Alter Paths Of Storms And Hurricanes

Jet Streams Are Shifting And May Alter Paths Of Storms And Hurricanes

ScienceDaily (Apr. 17, 2008) The Earth's jet streams, the high-altitude bands of fast winds that strongly influence the paths of storms and other weather systems, are shifting--possibly in response to global warming. Scientists at the Carnegie Institution determined that over a 23-year span from 1979 to 2001 the jet streams in both hemispheres have risen in altitude and shifted toward the poles. The jet stream in the northern hemisphere has also weakened. These changes fit the predictions of global warming models and have implications for the frequency and intensity of future storms, including hurricanes.

Cristina Archer and Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology tracked changes in the average position and strength of jet streams using records compiled by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, the National Centers for Environmental Protection, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The data included outputs from weather prediction models, conventional observations from weather balloons and surface instruments, and remote observations from satellites.

Jet streams twist and turn in a wide swath that changes from day to day. The poleward shift in their average location discovered by the researchers is small, about 19 kilometers (12 miles) per decade in the northern hemisphere, but if the trend continues the impact could be significant. "The jet streams are the driving factor for weather in half of the globe," says Archer. "So, as you can imagine, changes in the jets have the potential to affect large populations and major climate systems."

Storm paths in North America are likely to shift northward as a result of the jet stream changes. Hurricanes, whose development tends to be inhibited by jet streams, may become more powerful and more frequent as the jet streams move away from the sub-tropical zones where hurricanes are born.

The observed changes are consistent with numerous other signals of global warming found in previous studies, such as the widening of the tropical belt, the cooling of the stratosphere, and the poleward shift of storm tracks. This is the first study to use observation-based datasets to examine trends in all the jet stream parameters, however.

"At this point we can't say for sure that this is the result of global warming, but I think it is," says Caldeira. "I would bet that the trend in the jet streams' positions will continue. It is something I'd put my money on."

The results are published in the April 18 Geophysical Research Letters.


It's Severe Weather Week

Severe Weather Awareness Week takes place April 21-25 this year, with the statewide tornado drills Thursday.

At 1:45 p.m. Thursday, the National Weather Service will issue a simulated tornado warning, and outdoor warning sirens will be activated. At 6:55 p.m., a second drill will take place in Scott County for families and second-shift workers.

“Everyone should practice their safety plans during Severe Weather Awareness Week,” said Chris Weldon, Scott County emergency management director. “There is no pattern to these things. A tornado can happen any day — without warning — and your preparation time is well spent.”

According to National Weather Service data, tornadoes have occurred in every Minnesota county at some time during the past 57 years. Scott County has experienced 12 tornadoes since 1950.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, along with the National Weather Service and the American Red Cross, sponsors Severe Weather Awareness Week annually to promote weather knowledge and planning. The Web site at, contains tornado safety information along with instructions on surviving thunderstorms, hail, straight-line winds, heat waves, floods and lightning. Links to the National Weather Service and Red Cross provide fascinating weather facts and a variety of downloadable resources for families, teachers and children.

Citizens prepped on disaster response
Published: Monday, April 21, 2008 at 6:30 a.m.

OCALA — Marion County government, taking a proactive approach to terrorism, hosted a three-day training course under a grant from the Department of Homeland Security. Successful completion of the course, and an associated online component, granted educational credit to those who passed, better preparing them to respond to the possibility of terrorist events.

From Tuesday to Thursday, two instructors from the Texas Engineering Extension Service trained locals in recognizing, responding to and recovering from terrorist incidents.

The course, "Public Works: Planning for and Responding to a Terrorist/WMD Incident," was designed to help integrate training for terrorist events into existing emergency response plans.

Byrd Wilcox, safety hazard coordinator for the Public Works Bureau, said that while every emergency situation is unique, they all have common elements. Hurricanes, fires, chemical spills and terrorist threats can all be handled using the same crisis management techniques.

"All that this class is teaching the participants is that no matter how small or big [an event] is, it uses the same process," Byrd said.

Instructors Luke Stevens and David Pullen, both longtime public works officials, spent much of the course time discussing how communities react to emergencies and analyzing government response to previous terrorist events.

"One way we learn is from our own experiences. If we do that, then the depth of our knowledge will be limited by our experiences," Pullen said. "If we can learn from other people's experiences, then we broaden our knowledge and broaden the probability of a successful outcome."

Luiz Bisacchi, principle business analyst for public works in Hillsborough County, agrees, having attended the course to aid in the development of his community's hazmat protocols. "The Oklahoma case study was very helpful," he said. "Hopefully I can take some of [what I learned] back home and apply that to our plans."


Hot-button issues during the course were communications during an emergency situation and the integration of various agencies into the emergency response.

Lawrence Thacker, Marion County Public Works Bureau Chief, taught the course five years ago, and said that responding to an emergency "takes a lot of communication and a lot of coordination." The inability to do so complicates emergency situations and reduces the effectiveness of recovery efforts.

He feels the most effective way to safely deal with a crisis situation is to develop response plans well in advance and train workers in implementation of those plans.

"Safety is important to me because of my background," Thacker said. "I spent 18 years working underground in coal mines. I know what it is like when you've got your employees with you and you're trapped for 36 hours."

Attendee Andrea Nelson, of the transportation department's Public Education and Outreach section, is aware of the importance of effective communication.

"In a designated emergency I'm assigned to a public information function," she said, "so I think it's always good to know how your area will be interacting with others."

Nelson feels that increased training over the last few years has prepared government employees to better deal with emergencies.

"Setting up an incident command, determining who is in charge, identifying the functions that have to be filled and filling those, I think everyone here has been through the basics of that," she said.


Integration of services into a single command and communication structure is equally as important. While many note the disaster relief contributions of police officers, firemen and EMS personnel, they often overlook the contributions of public works employees and volunteers.

Stevens believes 90 percent of an emergency situation involves people from public works.

"Most people who look at an incident are looking at the initial response; it is putting everything back together that is the hardest part. The more that public works is involved, the better off you're going to be," he said. "Either the community is going to respond well together, or everybody is going to lose."

Robert Middleton, senior litter crew supervisor for solid waste, knows the value of integrating his efforts with an emergency response plan.

"We have a plan in place for natural disasters and terrorists," Middleton said. By preparing now, his people will be ready to fulfill their role when called to respond to an emergency situation.


Wilcox said volunteers can be valuable assets in an emergency situation, but only if they are correctly integrated into the response plan. "Volunteers need to be trained and credentialed," he said.

Having people show up at a disaster site without going through proper channels disrupts the command structure and lines of communication, leaves people working at cross-purposes and potentially turns would-be volunteers into victims. Unstable ground, overhead debris, toxic fumes and other hazards can injure or kill the unprepared.

Wilcox suggests that members of the public who want to become involved in disaster response should follow the example of county government and plan ahead. Citizens should prepare disaster supply kits of food, water, flashlights and other necessities and review shelter-in-place and evacuation procedures that can be found on the Internet.

Proactive citizens also can join organizations such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Citizen Corps and Amateur Radio Emergency Service.


A salvage company is being sought to recover a tanker truck and logging equipment that sank to the bottom of Robson Bight, off northern Vancouver Island, last August.

A tugboat was used to move a barge that overturned in Johnstone Strait last August.A tugboat was used to move a barge that overturned in Johnstone Strait last August.
(Coleen Johnson)

A barge carrying the truck and equipment capsized in Johnstone Strait, an ecological reserve for killer whales.

B.C. Environment Minister Barry Penner said his government is concerned that leaking fuel may pose a threat to orcas and other marine life.

Penner and Loyola Hearn, Federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, announced Friday that they have decided to attempt a recovery operation following months of debate over what to do about the wreckage.

Penner said the first priority is to go after the equipment that contains the most fuel.

The barge was pushed to shore by the tugboat near Beaver Cove.The barge was pushed to shore by the tugboat near Beaver Cove.
(Coleen Johnson)

"That would be the fuel truck that had a tank that could hold up to 10,000 litres of diesel fuel," he said. "There's also a piece of equipment that we believe contains a significant amount of hydraulic fluid."

Penner said only a handful of companies in North America have the expertise to do the job.

The minister said the plan is to retrieve the equipment as quickly as possible, while minimizing From Holland and Knightthe impact on wildlife.

He said recent video footage of the sunken equipment shows it to be in decent shape.

Legal Notes From Holland and Knight

USCG – reminder to replace older EPIRBs

The US Coast Guard issued a press release reminding mariners that older model Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) that broadcast on 121.5 MHz or 243 MHz will not be monitored by satellite as of February 1, 2009. Effective that date, the satellites will only monitor for radio beacons broadcasting on 406 MHz. Some of the newer EPIRBs are equipped with embedded GPS, which will automatically signal the location of the distress. (4/18/08).