Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hurricane Tracking: Tracking Hurricanes from Your PC

Hurricane Tracking: Tracking Hurricanes from Your PC

Tracking hurricanes can be as simple as finding the right website. As this article is being written, a hurricane is bearing down on Florida. As is customary during hurricane season, especially when a tropical storm or hurricane develops and heads toward land, many people stay glued to their radios, televisions, phones, and personal computers (PCs) for up-to-the-minute updates and information. The problem with radios and televisions is that programming and commercial time get in the way of the information people seek for personal, safety, planning, or assuaging their curiosity. But on the right website, hurricane tracking becomes as simple as clicking a mouse.

Hurricane season begins June 1 and lasts until the end of November. In that time, people from Texas to Florida and up the Atlantic Coast watch as tropical storms become hurricanes and head west. When they do, the curious, the worried, and the practical can turn on their laptop, PC, or cell phone (with computer uplink) and find out the latest information on the oncoming hurricane.

One of the best and most professional-looking sites on the web is Weather maps proliferate the home page -- 29 in all. There is also a live webcam of Tampa, Florida (the home of There are still maps and time-lapse maps as well as updates and news concerning hurricanes and severe weather.

If functional and practical is more your speed, then the National Weather Service website is the place to go. It offers various maps which are clickable and zoomable. Updates and news are also available.

Along the same lines as the NWS website is, of course, is the sister site to cable television's Weather Channel. is another site with professional-looking weather maps. But whereas is focused on American weather, has a world flavor to it. Weaher maps and radar are clickable, allowing closer views.



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Tropical Storm Fay floods hundreds of Fla. homes


PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — Emergency crews launched airboats into submerged streets Wednesday to rescue central Florida residents trapped by rising floodwaters from a stalled Tropical Storm Fay, which soaked the state for a third consecutive day.

Meanwhile, Gov. Charlie Crist requested an emergency disaster declaration from the federal government to defray rising debris and response costs. Crist issued his own disaster order ahead of the advancing storm several days ago, when it seemed the Florida Keys would get the worst. Instead, Fay skipped almost harmlessly over the island chain, but stalled over the peninsula on a second swing through Florida. There, it has done the most damage.

On Wednesday, officials reported flooding in hundreds of homes in Brevard and St. Lucie counties, some by up to 5 feet of standing water. In three towns, rising waters backed up sewage systems. It wasn't immediately clear how many residents had been displaced or were stranded, but county officials reported making dozens of rescues.

"We can't even get out of our house," said Billie Dayton of Port St. Lucie, as waters lapped at her porch. "We're just hoping that it doesn't rain anymore."

The Florida National Guard mobilized about a dozen guardsmen and some high-water vehicles to assist with damage assessment and help with evacuations, said Jon Myatt, spokesman for the Florida Department of Military Affairs.

The storm could dump 30 inches of rain in some areas of Florida and the National Hurricane Center said up to 22 inches had already fallen near Melbourne, just south of Cape Canaveral on the state's central Atlantic coast.

Forecasters originally expected Fay to energize over the ocean and possibly become a hurricane before landing in Florida for the third time later this week. The erratic storm first struck Monday, then veered out to sea before traversing east across the state, briefly strengthening, then stalling. The storm barely moved for most of Wednesday, dumping inches and inches of rain over coastal central Florida.

"In some areas, it's waist-deep," said Erick Gill, a spokesman for St. Lucie County. "We've had reports of people having 3 to 5 feet of water in their home."

Tom Christopher, St. Lucie County emergency management coordinator, said between 85 and 140 people were rescued by boat or high-clearance vehicle by Wednesday afternoon. He said no more were stranded, though other families seemed to be stuck without a way to leave.

Steve Grenon, 40, was sitting in the bed of his truck in front of his house. He said he'd been holed up there for two days, unable to leave with water was up to six feet deep in the street in front of him. A dodge sedan was partly submerged in front of him.

"I had no idea what it looked like out there until today," Grenon said.

The storm was 30 miles north of Cape Canaveral at 5 p.m. EDT Wednesday. Its maximum sustained winds were back up to about 50 mph and it was expected to resume slowly moving north later Wednesday at about 2 mph.

Gill said hundreds of homes had been flooded, though a count was incomplete. Homes also were flooded in Brevard County, said Bob Lay, the county's emergency operations director. Floodwaters also had caused sewage to back up, affecting another 40,000 to 50,000 people in three towns.

Fay formed over the weekend in the Atlantic and was blamed for 20 deaths in the Caribbean before hitting Florida's southwest coast, where it first fell short of predictions it could be a Category 1 hurricane when it came ashore.

Though no one in Florida had been killed, some were close. Joe McMannis, 27, said he jumped into floodwaters to help three people in a submerged truck in Jensen Beach. McMannis said the driver accidentally drove into a retention pond, confusing it for a driveway.

"I didn't think it was going to be that deep," he said. "It pretty much came up to my ears and chin. I saw this little kid coming toward me so I grabbed him and swam him back to the shore line and went back for other two guys that were still stuck in there."

The rain was welcome in dry Florida and Georgia cropland, but could also hurt farmers' production. Forecasters predicted parts of northern Florida could get 10 to 15 inches of rain, while southern Georgia could receive 3 to 6 inches.

"They're probably areas of the state that found the rains very beneficial. There are other areas of the state getting 10-12 inches that have crops in the ground and are getting too much," said Terence McElroy, spokesman for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

McElroy said the rain could pool around and damage citrus trees and flood pastures and hay fields, but said it was too soon to quantify the damage.

Before moving east, the storm flooded streets in Naples, downed trees and cut power to some 95,000 homes and businesses. Tornadoes spawned by the storm damaged 51 homes in Brevard County, southeast of Orlando, including nine homes that were totaled. In the Keys, officials estimated 25,000 tourists evacuated.

In the Jacksonville area north of the flooding, officials prepared shelters and cleared drainage areas in anticipation the storm would jut left and drench residents there later this week. Public schools canceled Wednesday and Thursday classes, and mobile home residents were encouraged to find sturdier shelter.

In southeast Georgia, Camden County public works crews cleaned storm drains and ditches in preparation for possible flooding. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency also began 24-hour operations to monitor the storm.

Associated Press Writer Russ Bynum reported from Savannah, Ga.; Kelli Kennedy, Matt Sedensky and Travis Reed reported from Miami; Christine Armario reported in Tampa, Tamara Lush reported in Punta Gorda, Bill Kaczor and Brendan Farrington reported from Tallahassee and Sarah Larimer from Orlando.

Weather service to advise of rip currents
Craig Davison

For The News-Dispatch

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Advisories for dangerous rip currents, which are posted at all public beaches along the Lake Michigan shore, have been sent out this year by the National Weather Service.

Rip currents are blamed for the deaths of two teens this summer, which led to criticism of how warnings about dangerous swimming conditions were posted.

Advisories are sent to emergency services and local news media as well as weather radio and the National Weather Service's Web site.

Tim Halbach, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Chicago, said that for Indiana's shores on Lake Michigan, meteorologists study northerly winds that have a better chance of producing rip currents.

"We've been planning this for a while," Halbach said. "Every year there is, unfortunately, people that drown due to rip currents out on the lake."

Davante D. Jackson, a 14-year-old Illinois boy, drowned July 13 off Kemil Beach in Porter County due to rip currents. Raphael Palomar, 13, had been swimming at Porter Beach when he went missing in early August, even though the beach where he was swimming was closed due to rip currents. His body was found three days later near Indiana Dunes State Park.

Before swimming in Lake Michigan, beach visitors should check the advisories, which urge extreme caution and that if anyone is caught in a rip current, to swim parallel to the beach until out of it.

Indiana Dunes State Park has had lifeguards on the lookout for rip currents for decades, said assistant property manager Doug Stukey. When staff members at the park find rip currents, they report it to the National Weather Service.

Stukey said the lifeguards are in charge of making the beaches safe for swimming and that swimmers stay away from danger.

"Anything that poses a safety hazard, that's part of their responsibilities," he said.

Michigan City had three beach closures in July due to rip currents, city recreation director Jeremy Kienitz said. Like at the Dunes, lifeguards survey beach conditions to look out for rip currents.

Kienitz said the advisories have worked out so far and have been accurate.

"It's been a pretty good tool so far," he said.

Weatherman warns of catastrophic climate change
Zurawski's book focuses on risks to Maritimes

Halifax News Net

Bedford resident Richard Zurawski is a well-known meteorologist, television and radio host, public speaker and documentary film maker. He's also an author who is preparing to launch his third book, The Maritime Book of Climate Change, published by Pottersfield Press.

Zurawski agreed to respond to a few questions about his latest book.

Q: Why do you prefer the term "climate change" as opposed to "global warming?"

A: Global warming is a very general and inaccurate term. All planets with an atmosphere have global warming: the atmosphere traps the heat and warms the planet above what it would otherwise be if it did not have an atmosphere. So in a sense, global warming is not the issue. Climate change is the issue that we have to deal with. As the world heats up, some places will actually cool, though most will warm (in the short term).

Q: Your book discusses the melting of the Greenland ice cap. How much will it affect us in the Maritimes?

A: In the past, when substantial amounts of fresh water have entered the North Atlantic, there have been massive downturns in the climate for decades and even centuries; 12,800 years ago is a good example. If the melt is a worst-case scenario and all the Greenland cap lets go, we will most certainly have a return to a mini ice age in the east of North America and northern Europe. And with the cost of heating ... colder winters are not an advantage!

Q: Can we expect more hurricanes, blizzards, and droughts in the Maritimes?

A: Yes ... all of the above. The end to stable, predictable weather is certainly in the cards. We have had a remarkably stable run this past couple of millennia and by stirring the weather pot, we are most assuredly going to end that.

Q: What can residents of HRM do to try and combat climate change?

A: Measure everything in terms of carbon footprint and cut down consumption; lowering CO2 emissions is not a 20-year goal, it is an immediate need; consumption is a Western problem and (over) population a Third World problem. Both have to be stopped if we are to lower CO2.

Drive slower and less - slower speeds reduce CO2 emissions. Car pool; no more cars using fossil fuels. Buy local - nothing from India and China. Insulate your home, turn down the thermostat. Take the bus, train, vacation in the Maritimes. Live closer to your shopping and work.

Don't allow misinformation to be presented without a rebuttal. Lobby, lobby, lobby, and educate yourselves.

Q: What could HRM be doing differently?

A: (Use) alternate energy for homes and power; bring back rail; more research into alternate energies (geothermal, wind, tide etc); smaller homes, fewer suburbs; new thinking into sustainable economic models.

Q: How about the provincial and federal governments?

A: Stop the hot air and jockeying for political points. This is 1939 and the environmental equivalent of fascism is on our doorstep.


Attempt to get toxic chemicals in 'Princess' to start Aug 29

The salvage operation of MV Princess of the Stars is expected to start on August 29 after the 21-day mobilization period requested by the salvor, Titan Salvage, to ship all their equipment in the country, a transportation official said.

"They asked for 21 days, so by August 29, we expect that they will conduct surveys on the condition of the containers. And after studying the status of the chemicals below, they will start retrieving the chemicals and the crude oil," according to Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) Undersecretary for Maritime Affairs Elena Bautista.

In an interview with dzMM Saturday, Bautista said Titan Salvage was only given 30 days to recover the containers.

MV Princess of the Stars, which was carrying more than 800 passengers and crew, sank off Sibuyan island, Romblon province in central Visayas last June 21 at the height of tropical storm Frank.

Earlier, Bautista said the foreign experts who made an assessment of the sunken ship have concluded that refloating the ship is not the best way to remove the oil and toxic and hazardous chemicals inside it.

She said the experts don’t want the vessel moved since dragging it near the shore might break the vessel or the containers with the toxic and hazardous materials.

Bautista said they have already identified the areas where the fuel is stored. The salvaging team will use a hose that will suck out the fuel. Another hose will bring in air or other substances that will push the oil out to the other end.

As to how best to retrieve the toxic and hazardous agrochemicals, Bautista said they will have to cut through the side of the vessel to penetrate the cargo.

Meanwhile, Bautista confirmed that DOTC will finally submit to MalacaƱang on Tuesday the Board of Marine Inquiry’s report on the sinking of MV Princess of the Stars.

Long wait remains

The families of around 500 missing passengers will have to wait at least one to two more months before they get what's left of the remains of their kin.

This is because the retrieval of bodies was not included in the contract Sulpicio Lines Inc. signed with Titan Salvage, Bautista said.

Only 312 bodies have been found as of July 23.

Bautista said the salvor is only responsible for retrieving Del Monte’s endosulfan cargo and Bayer’s chemicals from the sunken ferry.

"Sulpicio Lines already paid the down payment of $3.5 milion, while the $4.5 million balance is under a letter of credit. That’s how it goes in the industry. You have to pay first. They will only retrieve the shipments of Del Monte and Bayer and the ship’s crude oil," Bautista said, stressing that the retrieval of the bodies will be carried out by another company, the Philippine Technical Divers.

Bautista said Sulpicio Lines agreed with the $7.5 million cost of retrieval for the toxic chemicals plus the ship's crude oil. But the firm apparently could not afford to pay the salvor $21 million for recovering everything, including the remains of around 800 missing persons.

The US-based Titan Salvage is not responsible in retrieving other undetected chemicals inside MV Princess of the Stars, Bautista added.

She said the salvor will find it difficult to salvor to extract other chemicals. It may be easy to recover Del Monte's endosulfan and Bayer's crop science pesticides since these have been identified through their containers’ assigned numbers.

However, Bautista said that Titan Salvage agreed to bring on shore bodies they will see inside the ship during the salvage operation.

Daily monitoring for toxic leaks

Bautista assured that the government continuous to monitor the waters within the 5-kilometer radius from the ship wreck.

She said that the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource and Bureau of Plant Industry’s Fertilizer and Pesticides Office take water and fish samples five times a day to monitor any toxic leaks from the ship.

Bautista toxic chemicals have not been detected in the water samples and in the marine life in the vicinity of the capsized ship.

In an interview with Bautista last July, she confirmed that other chemicals and hazardous materials that have reported to be in the capsized ferry are:

· 10 metric tons of Del Monte Philippines Inc.'s highly-toxic insecticide, endosulfan;

· Bayer CropScience's agrochemicals, Antracol WP70, Tamaron 600SL, Trap 70WP and Fuerza GR3;

· asphalt;

· paints;

· electric transformers.

Bautista said that a lot of materials in Sulpicio Lines' cargo manifesto were not declared in detail. For instance, freight forwarder Sea Quest just declared the contents of its container as "various goods."

Bautista said misdeclaration of cargo is widely practiced in the industry since not labeling a particular cargo "toxic" means three permits less from the government.

"It will be quicker for them to get things moving, and they pay less than what they are supposed to pay," she said.