Friday, July 11, 2008

U.S. crop damage from weather tops $8 billion

U.S. crop damage from weather tops $8 billion

From the worst floods in the Midwest grain belt in 15 years to drought in California, damage to crops from inclement weather has topped $8 billion so far this year, the largest U.S. farm group said on Wednesday.

The damage could rise or contract, depending on weather conditions for the rest of the growing season in the United States, the world's top exporter of corn, soybeans and wheat, the American Farm Bureau Federation said.

The flood damage in the Midwest over the past two weeks has lifted prices for U.S. corn, used for food, renewable fuel ethanol and animal feed, to a record high above $7 a bushel, up about 85 percent since the end of 2006 as of Wednesday.

The AFBF said leading farm state Iowa accounted for about half of the damage.

"Wet weather and flooding create issues, as farmers are unable to plant their crops," said AFBF senior economist Terry Francl. "The crops they do plant do not sprout and grow, resulting in few acres harvest."

"Additionally, the difficult growing conditions greatly reduce the yield of the crop that is harvested," he added.

Francl said he expected Iowa corn yields could fall by 16 percent this year and that 1.5 million to 2 million acres of corn and soybeans in the state that farmers intended to plant this spring will likely remain fallow.

AFBF said this would result in an estimated loss of $4 billion to Iowa's crops, and that other states taking a hit from excessive wet weather and flooding are Illinois with $1.3 billion, Missouri $900 million, Indiana $500 million and Nebraska $500 million.

It said an additional $1 billion in losses were expected in other states where conditions remained wet.

The U.S. Agriculture Department will provide some insight into the extent of crop damage from the floods when it issues its report Monday on how many acres farmers will plant with major crops, including corn and soy, this year.

The AFBF said some states were experiencing dry weather, with drought taking a toll in several Western and Southeastern states. It said northern California battled the driest spring in its history, and as a whole the state suffered $500 million in estimated damage.

AFBF said on a national basis, the corn yield is likely to decline some eight to 10 bushels per acre from the 2008 trend line, mostly due to inclement weather.

The national soybean average yield is also likely to be down one to two bushels per acre from the current U.S. Agriculture Department projection of 42 bushels per acre.

AFBF said the damage estimate is based on the assumption that weather conditions will be normal for the remainder of the growing season, adding that varying weather conditions later in the season could cause the estimate to grow or contract.

(Reporting by K.T. Arasu, editing by Matthew Lewis)


Annual Severe Weather Report Summary

All Reports | Tornadoes | Wind Damage | Large Hail

'Hurricane Freddy' drilled water management employees during exercise

Palm Beach Post Staff Report

Thursday, June 26, 2008

WEST PALM BEACH — South Florida Water Management District employees participated in a hurricane drill at the emergency operations center Thursday morning.

The South Florida Water Management District is conducted a full-scale, district-wide exercise designed to demonstrate and evaluate the district's Emergency Operations Center field response and recovery activities in the event of a catastrophic hurricane affecting South Florida.

Trained District staff practiced emergency management and flood-control procedures by responding to "Hurricane Freddy," a simulated catastrophic Category 5 hurricane that impacted South Florida.

The exercise will assess the district's ability to respond to numerous hurricane-related incidents and demands on the flood-control system.


Regional Hurricane Preparedness Exercise Features Deployment of Emergency Supply Stockpile and Shelter Setup

The New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Commissioner today announced the successful completion of HURREX 2008, a multi-agency field exercise to test the deployment of the City’s emergency supply stockpile and the setup of shelters.

During the two-day exercise, held on May 31st and June 1st, 24 pallets from the City’s emergency stockpile were delivered to IS 187 in Brooklyn, where more than 100 staff members from City agencies, the American Red Cross (ARC) and OEM’s Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) set up a shelter capable of providing housing and essential supplies for up to 500 people for four days. The supplies included cots, blankets, hygiene and medical kits, baby food and diapers, pet supplies and bottled water. In addition to setting up the shelter, staff members received training in five areas of shelter management: Evacuation Center Operations, Solar System Operations, Hurricane Shelter Administration, Hurricane Shelter Operations and Evacuation Center Administration/Hurricane Shelter Logistics.

“New York City has one of the most robust coastal storm plans in the country and this weekend we put yet another component of our plan to the test,” said OEM Commissioner Joseph Bruno. “Drills like HURREX help ensure the City is ready if we ever have to face the real thing.”

In a major coastal storm, such as a category 3 or 4 hurricane, as many as 2.3 million people would need to evacuate coastal areas and up to 600,000 people would require temporary shelter. To meet those needs OEM has developed a comprehensive Coastal Storm Plan that includes detailed procedures for evacuating and sheltering residents. The City’s shelter system consists of 65 evacuation centers and up to 509 hurricane shelters, including eight special medical needs shelters. To supply and staff the shelter system, OEM maintains an emergency stockpile of essential supplies and a database of nearly 25,000 City employees who would be called upon to manage evacuation centers and emergency shelters.

City officials will evaluate the exercise and study the response and decisions made by the participants for future training in New York City and in other jurisdictions. HURREX was funded by SEMO and a contribution from American International Group, Inc. (AIG).

“As an insurance company with a clear understanding of the importance of emergency preparedness and risk mitigation, AIG is proud to support the New York City Office of Emergency Management’s HURREX coastal storm exercise,” said Ned Cloonan, AIG Vice President for International & Corporate Affairs. “We value our relationship with OEM and look forward to continuing to work with them as they test and refine New York City’s preparedness plans and emergency response protocols.”

Hurricane Season in the United States begins June 1 and ends November 30. HURREX took place on the final day of National Hurricane Preparedness Week 2008, which ran from May 25 through May 31.

HURREX 2008 is part of the City's continuing efforts to test and refine its Coastal Storm Plan. The exercise was designed specifically to test the deployment of supplies from the City’s emergency stockpile and staff from the city’s volunteer database, and to set up a simulated emergency shelter.

In 2006, OEM held three drills that focused on other aspects of the Coastal Storm Plan. In October 2006, more than 800 evacuees were evaluated and transported from an evacuation center to two shelter locations. In June 2006, OEM held a tabletop exercise involving more than 60 City, state and federal agencies, non-profit organizations and private sector partners that traced the movement of a hurricane from its initial development to the decision to evacuate portions of the city. And, in a second tabletop exercise held in July 2006, players focused on the evacuation of special needs populations from healthcare facilities.

Agencies that participated in HURREX include:

* American Red Cross in Greater NY
* NYC Administration for Children’s Services
* NYC Community Emergency Response Teams
* NYC Department for the Aging
* NYC Department for Citywide Administrative Services
* NYC Department of Education
* NYC Department of Environmental Protection
* NYC Department of Finance
* NYC Department of Homeless Services
* NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications
* NYC Department of Parks and Recreation
* NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development
* NYC Fire Department
* NYC Housing Authority
* NYC Human Resource Administration
* NYC Law Department
* NYC Mayor’s Office
* NYC Office of Emergency Management
* NYC Police Department

In addition to the HURREX shelter exercise, the City of New York is participating in a first-of-its-kind regional exercise hosted by the New York State Emergency Management Office (SEMO). SEMO’s Empire Express Hurricane Exercise will activate state and local coastal storm plans in preparation for a direct hit by a simulated hurricane and will focus on three critical components of New York’s hurricane response: Emergency Operations Center (EOC) coordination, local operations and healthcare facility evacuations.

The regional exercise kicked off Friday, May 31, 2008 with a call between OEM, SEMO, the National Weather Service and Nassau Suffolk and Westchester counties. Over the weekend, OEM participated in calls with the Regional Evacuation Liaison Team (RELT), a group of city and county executives that would ensure a coordinated regional evacuation during a major hurricane. Today, the exercise continued with a simulated activation of OEM’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The activation simulated the decision making and information gathering activities that would be taking place if a Category 2 hurricane was approaching New York City. With the simulated hurricane scheduled to make landfall Tuesday at 8 pm, players worked to establish a timeline for the evacuation of healthcare and nursing home facilities and a timeline for evacuating the general population from areas that would be impacted by storm surge. Throughout the exercise, OEM will simulate the activities that would occur in an actual event. On Wednesday, the exercise will focus on regional recovery efforts. The SEMO exercise concludes in Albany on Thursday with a meeting where participants will examine the decisions made during the exercise and assess the effectiveness of the regions costal storm plans.

CONTACT: Andrew Troisi / Chris Gilbride (718) 422-4888

Safety tips can prevent disaster when tornadoes hit

Recently Greeley and Weld County experienced one of nature's most violent storms, a tornado. Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while rain or nearby low-hanging clouds obscure others. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible. The City of Greeley and Union Colony Fire Rescue's Office of Emergency Management are currently in the process of exploring options for a tornado advanced warning and mass notification system. These options include sirens/public address systems, text messaging to cell phones and e-mail alerts. In the absence of such a system being in place, there are things residents can do to be prepared for another one of these devastating events.

One of the best ways to keep yourself appraised and imminent dangerous weather is to Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service, is the federal agency that monitors weather world wide and issues regular "watches" and "warnings" on dangerous weather in specific locations. A "weather" radio can be purchased at various local retail stores that is designed to specifically receive these "watches" and "warnings" in the radio users specific geographic vicinity.

So, what's the difference between a "watch" and a "warning"? A tornado watch means tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to a NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information. A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

Should you find yourself in the path of an approaching tornado, remember the following:

If in a structure (e.g. residence, small building, school, nursing home, hospital, factory, shopping center, high-rise building)--Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.

If in a vehicle, trailer, or mobile home--Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes

If outside with no shelter, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Be aware of the potential for flooding. Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location. Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.

Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

There is little, if anything that can be done to totally eliminate property damage from one of these violent storms. However, with planning, preparation, and awareness, there is much that can be done to minimize injuries to citizens and even save lives.

Dale Lyman, CFPS, is division chief and fire marshal for the Union Colony Fire Rescue Authority in Greeley.

Never try and out run a supercell.....


Probers told: 2 of ship’s ballast tanks empty

MANILA, Philippines—
The MV Princess of the Stars may have been unstable when it sailed, thus dooming it to sink and capsize after being battered by big waves, a member of the Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI) theorized Thursday.

The statements were aired by Commodore Amado Romillo, a representative of the private sector, at the ongoing investigation of the sinking.

According to Romillo, two of the four ballast tanks were empty, and two were filled. “It’s very obvious the ship sailed without the proper quantity of ballast,” he said.

Romillo’s testimony did not sit well with Sulpicio Lines Inc. lawyer Arthur Lim, who appealed to the BMI to suspend the announcement of its “tentative, individual findings.”

Lim said the company did not want to foster an environment that would encourage the clamor for the government to take over the shipping company.

The BMI chair, Rear Adm. Ramon Liwag, assured Lim that the board would conduct its investigation fairly.

Romillo questioned the stability of the Princess of the Stars after noting that data submitted by the company to the board showed that the ship was not holding the full ballast tanks that he said were supposed to serve as its permanent ballast.

Ballast tanks are used to stabilize the ship and are filled with or emptied of water as needed.

Romillo also cited “lapses in the management” of the Princess of the Stars.

He said the ship had only one form of communication—the single sideband radio—with the ports, and that there were certain hours when no one was manning the radio communication.

Thus, he said, the ship was unable to receive an important weather bulletin at 10 p.m. on June 20, the day it set sail.

Center of gravity

The Princess of the Stars sank at the height of Typhoon “Frank” (international codename: Fengshen) off Sibuyan Island in Romblon province on June 21. It was en route to Cebu from Manila and was carrying more than 800 people and a cargo of the pesticide endosulfan on board. Only 57 survivors have been found.

Benjamin Eugenio, the port captain of Sulpicio Lines in Manila, said some ballast tanks had to be emptied to accommodate the cargo and ensure the ship’s stability.

But Romillo said the ballast was needed for continued stability, regardless of the cargo on board.

“If they discharge ballast in place of cargo, you change the center of gravity... Then you can’t consider the vessel stable. Thereby, you are risking the lives of passengers,” Romillo said.

Eugenio replied that selected tanks were full, but added that he did not have all the data about the ballast tanks with him. He assured the BMI that the data would be submitted soon.

Dead in the water

Romillo, who showed Eugenio the pictures of the upturned ship published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of and cited a Philippine Coast Guard report to him, said the vessel was dead in the water and was drifting after it capsized.

The pictures showed a portion of the ship’s bow protruding from the sea off Sibuyan.

Romillo also said it was buoyancy that kept a ship afloat, and this buoyancy could have been caused by the air in the empty ballast tanks.

“A ship will sink if there is continued ingress of water. But if there’s enough air left on board, that will keep the ship afloat even though she capsized,” Romillo said.

He said this could mean that the ballast tanks of the ship were empty when it sailed.

“What’s keeping her afloat is her empty ballast tanks. The reason the stern is lower is the cargo,” he said.

According to Romillo, the ballast should be calculated while the ship is at port, and not while at sea because such practice would be dangerous.

He said that because of the high center of gravity of the cargo, it appeared there was not enough weight down below, causing the ship to list when it was hit by strong waves.

If the ship had more weight below, it could have righted itself when hit by the waves, he said.

Rhetorical observation

But Lim objected to the airing of Romillo’s views.

He also countered Romillo’s statements, saying: “Maybe the vessel is afloat because it is resting on something, not because it is floating.”

He asked the BMI to suspend judgment on the ballast tanks and the ship’s stability given the government’s decision to refloat it.

“It’s purely speculative even when backed by scientific theory,” Lim said. “I don’t think it will be fair to make conclusions that certain things were done or not done.”

He also asked the BMI to consider that the ship “went right smack in the eye of the typhoon,” and that the tragedy was “very extraordinary.”

Lim pointed out that there was talk about the government’s takeover of Sulpicio Lines, and said he did not want Romillo’s views to coerce the public into thinking that the idea should be carried out.

He said Romillo’s statements about the ship were a “rhetorical observation.”

“So if the media will pick that up, everybody in the country will be agitating for the closure of Sulpicio. I don’t believe the board should be the instrument of a sinister plan anyone might have,” he said.

No knowledge of guidelines …

A crucial circular on the movement of vessels during heavy weather was one of the highlights of Thursday’s hearing, with Sulpicio Lines insisting that it had not seen the updated version of the guidelines issued by the Coast Guard.

Manila port captain Eugenio repeatedly told the BMI that he had “no knowledge” of the guidelines discussing the conditions during which a vessel could leave port during bad weather, and whose responsibility it was.

Only Signal No. 1 was raised in Manila when Princess of the Stars was allowed to leave port of Manila on June 20.

“Dapat alam ninyo bakit pinapaalis ang barko o hindi pinapaalis (You should know why a ship is allowed to leave or not),” Rear Adm. Benjamin Mata, the BMI vice chair, told Eugenio.

According to Eugenio, the Coast Guard is the “last authority” in allowing ships to sail during typhoons, as it approves the Master’s Oath for Safety Departure (MOSD) signed by the ship captain.

But according to the BMI, the Coast Guard merely “accepts” the MOSD and checks for violations.

...Or of 2007 circular

Sulpicio Lines lawyer Lim said he was aware of the previous circulars issued in 1996 and 1998 but did not know of the most recent issued last year.

Edgar Go, Sulpicio Lines vice president, likewise denied seeing the circular.

But the board pointed out that ship operators like Sulpicio Lines should have had a copy of such an important document.

Coast Guard safety officer Teotimo Borja said the latest version of the circular was discussed at a meeting attended by shipowners.

No toxic cargo

Erwin Balagas, the relieved Coast Guard station commander, quoted the ship’s captain as saying in the MOSD that the vessel was not carrying toxic cargo, when it actually held a 10,000-kilo cargo of endosulfan.

Sulpicio Lines has denied knowing that the cargo owned by Del Monte Philippines Inc. contained endosulfan.

Balagas added that the boarding team found no violations in the ship based on the MOSD, like having less than half of its passenger capacity of 1,992.

He said the 23,000-ton ship was allowed to sail based on Coast Guard guidelines allowing vessels of such weight to proceed to its destination even if Signal No. 2 had been raised.

In a separate interview, Engineer Nelson P. Ramirez, president of the United Filipino Seafarers, said it was also possible that the cargoes on board the vessel were not properly secured, causing them to be dislodged when big waves hit the ship.

Cir., June 30, 2008).

From Holland & Knight

Australia – online registration of distress beacons

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) issued a media release stating that it inaugurated a website for online registration of 406 MHz distress beacons. When the AMSA receives a distress alert from a registered beacon, it can more quickly determine if the activation is a real distress situation or an inadvertent activation. In addition, the Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) can task the most suitable assets for the rescue response. (7/3/08).

Passenger Vessel Emergency Alarms Advisory Committee – meeting

The Passenger Vessel Emergency Alarms Advisory Committee, sponsored by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board), will meet in Washington, DC on August 12 and 13. 73 Fed. Reg. 38353 (July 7, 2008).

IMO – SOLAS amendments enter into force

The IMO issued a news release stating that amendments to the SOLAS Convention to strengthen the fire protection arrangements on cabin balconies on passenger ships entered into force on 1 July 2008, along with other SOLAS amendments relating to the prevention of accidents involving lifeboats and protective coatings on ships. (7/2/08).

Senate hearing on maritime treaties

On Thursday, June 10, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will meet to consider various treaties. Among those to be considered are the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships and the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter. (7/8/08).


USCG BTS Michigan City, Indiana intercepts a recreational boater who crossed over the beaches swimming zone and warning (NO BOATS) buoys between Porter Beach and Dunes State Park in Indiana..... Big NONO!

Messing About In Ships Podcast