Thursday, December 18, 2008

It Could be Possible to Stop Hurricanes with Supersonic Jets

It Could be Possible to Stop Hurricanes with Supersonic Jets

Hurricanes, as we've seen, can wreak serious havoc when they strike populated areas. We've never had control over them before, but one researcher thinks they could be broken up with F-4 fighter jets.

In theory, sending in a pair of the jets to do loops around the eye of the hurricane while it's still out over the ocean, creating sonic booms, would break it up before it hits the shore.

Jet fighters flying at supersonic speeds along special trajectories with a hurricane/typhoon at various altitudes would create supersonic booms. In one such embodiment, the trajectories for the supersonic booms of the present invention are counter to the rotational component of the hurricane and/or typhoon being targeted. As such, supersonic booms can be tailored and/or designed to partially and/or fully -negate the basic rotational contribution in a hurricane by slowing down a hurricane's/typhoon's rotation. Additionally, when supersonic booms propagate downward to the surface of the ocean they also destabilize a hurricane's/typhoon's structure by increasing the pressure in the central part of a hurricane's/typhoon's eye.


Storm planners reflect on hurricane season

Lessons learned after Katrina and Rita may have saved lives in 2008

NEW ORLEANS - In New Orleans, a dire warning to flee emptied the city before Hurricane Gustav in early September. In Houston less than two weeks later, a plea to "hunker down" might have kept evacuation routes from clogging before Hurricane Ike struck.

The strategies were different but the results largely the same: Both cities avoided repeating disastrous evacuations that cost lives during the deadly 2005 hurricane season.

Many Gulf Coast cities overhauled their disaster plans after hurricanes Katrina and Rita three years ago. With another destructive storm season ending Sunday, emergency planners are reflecting on lessons learned from Gustav and Ike to get ready for next year.

Retired Lt. Col. Jerry Sneed, New Orleans' emergency preparedness director, said residents deserve much of the credit for a successful Gustav evacuation.

"The number-one reason we succeeded for Gustav is that our citizens listened to us," he said.

Following catastrophic failures in evacuating people before and after Katrina, Louisiana emergency planners developed a model system using public transportation. It paid off for Gustav, the first time it was used.

'Mother of all storms'
Two days before Gustav made landfall, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation for what he called the "mother of all storms" and warned residents they wouldn't get emergency services if they stayed.

In a mass migration orchestrated by state officials, an estimated 2 million residents of coastal Louisiana evacuated before Gustav crashed ashore 90 miles southwest of the city Sept. 1.

The number of people left behind was minimal compared to Katrina, when thousands sought shelter at the Louisiana Superdome and New Orleans convention center and were stranded for days without food and water.

Gustav was blamed for 46 deaths in Louisiana and caused $1.9 billion in insured losses, numbers dwarfed by Katrina's death toll of more than 1,600 and $41.1 billion in property damage.

"To our knowledge," Sneed said, "no city has ever evacuated their entire population, and we feel 97 percent of the city's population did evacuate."

There were some flaws: Evacuees were taken to shelters without showers or adequate medical care; a state contractor who was supposed to provide 700 buses for the evacuation only delivered 311; and victims endured long lines for disaster food stamps.

Thomas Sanchez, a University of Utah professor who studies evacuation planning, said cities can't plan for disasters in a vacuum.

"This kind of planning really has to happen on a regional basis, and that's not what we're finding," Sanchez said. "It's more than about a city figuring out how to take care of itself."

‘Hunker down’
Texas learned that the hard way. In 2005, before Hurricane Rita struck, its evacuation plan required Houston to wait until 2 million people on the Gulf Coast had moved past the city, which sits 50 miles inland. But city leaders ordered Houston to evacuate early anyway.

Hundreds of thousands jammed the freeways in sweltering late September, stalled for days. Some 110 people died in accidents or from exposure or heart attacks. Only a handful died in the storm itself, which missed the Houston area and hit mostly rural southeast Texas.

By the time Hurricane Ike's path was apparent — a direct hit on Galveston Island and Houston — mandatory evacuations were ordered for coastal counties and a few Houston ZIP codes along waterways sure to flood. Everyone else was ordered to stay put.

"We are still saying: Please shelter in place, or to use the Texas expression, hunker down," Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, the county's chief administrator, said at the time.

This time, the freeway was jammed leading away from Galveston immediately after the order, but by late afternoon on Sept. 12, the day before Ike arrived, many evacuees had made it north of Houston.

"'Hunker down' definitely got the message across," said Francisco Sanchez, a spokesman for the Harris County emergency management office.

Still, in part because of the direct hit on Galveston and Houston, Ike was blamed for at least 72 deaths, including 37 in Texas, and caused $8.1 billion in insured losses, eclipsing the $5.6 billion in damage attributed to Rita.

The 2008 hurricane season was one of the most active on record, with 16 named storms, including eight hurricanes, forming in the Atlantic. Five of the eight hurricanes were at least Category 3 strength.


When the Great Lakes Aren't So Great Anymore

Rise in Pollution, Carp Could Signal Trouble for Freshwater Lakes


Dec. 6, 2008—

On a starry night, the 730-foot Canadian Leader, the last bulk-carrying steamship built on the Great Lakes, slips silently past illuminated buoys near Montreal on a five-day voyage up to Thunder Bay, Ontario, on Lake Superior.

After unloading titanium ore at the St. Lawrence River port of Sorel, the ship is proceeding empty toward the upper lakes. With the recent economic downturn, there is less demand for her typical upbound cargo of iron ore pellets. Capt. George Wheeler, a 40-year veteran of the sea originally from Northern Ireland, has taken on freshwater ballast from the river, to maintain the ship's stability and maneuverability.

Taken together, the Great Lakes are a vast inland sea representing over one-fifth of all surface fresh water on the planet. More than 40 million Canadians and Americans draw their drinking water from the lakes, which play a vital role in public health, the environment, industry, commerce, and leisure.

But there are causes for concern: invasive species, declining water levels, uncertain quality of drinking water, and pressures to divert water from and into the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence basin. Signed into law by President George W. Bush Oct. 3, the Great Lakes Compact takes effect Dec. 8. The binational agreement, the fruit of regional initiatives, obliges eight American states and two Canadian provinces to work together to protect the lakes system.

"The Great Lakes Compact is an awesome victory," says Jeff Skelding, national campaign director for Healing Our Waters  Great Lakes Coalition. "No one predicted it could have happened so quickly. We can't protect the Great Lakes if there's no water in them. The cocktail of assaults may be pushing the Great Lakes toward a tipping point, an irreversible change in the food web."

Part of this assault is the introduction of 182 invasive species such as the zebra mussel, which began disrupting the food web on Lake St. Clair in 1988 and has clogged many water intake pipes since, at an annual cost running in the billions of dollars.

Typically, "salties" (oceangoing ships) reaching the Great Lakes from overseas via the St. Lawrence River have discharged invasive species along with their saltwater ballast once they reached lake ports. Lakers have unwittingly transported these invasive species in their freshwater ballast, from one point on the lakes to the next.

Zebra mussels have made lake water look cleaner than before. But for Mr. Skelding, the clarity of water is a problem. "Sure, zebra mussels filter water," he says, "but when the water is clearer, sunlight penetrates deeper, and organic material proliferates and absorbs much-needed oxygen in the water that is needed by fish and microorganisms." The result: "Dead zones."

Now a new pest is closing in on the lakes: Asian carp from the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers have nearly found their way through the Chicago River to Lake Michigan.

"What gets into the Great Lakes can work through the country like a computer virus and dismantle the biology of systems," says Cameron Davis, president of the Chicago-based Alliance for the Great Lakes (AGL), a citizens' group of 6,000 professionals and volunteers working for clean water in the Great Lakes. The choke point is a 10-mile stretch of the Chicago River, the Chicago Sanitary Ship Canal. "The bad news is," Mr. Davis continues, "even if we know where the choke point is, we are having a hard time taking action."

The Great Lakes Compact is expected to give federal, state, and provincial governments more muscle to take preventative action against invasive species.

Storms and Surges a Danger

Venturing "light ship" (without cargo) across the stormy lakes of autumn can be unsettling. When 50-knot northerly winds lash the surface of Lake Erie, sending some lakers into sheltered anchorages, Captain Wheeler decides to maintain course. Lake Erie is shallower than the other great lakes and more likely to be whipped up by storms. Ships at anchor off Toledo, Ohio, may suddenly find themselves aground when a short-term natural effect called "seiching" (pronounced "SAY-shing") drives surface water towards Buffalo, N.Y., at the eastern end of Lake Erie.

Despite a few seasonal blips, a 30-year trend shows that water levels are declining. This is one of the main reasons the Great Lakes Compact was rushed into law. Canadian and American entrepreneurs alike had been seeking ways to commercialize the freshwater resources of the Great Lakes, hoping to send it by pipe or ship to thirsty markets in the US Southwest and overseas.

Still, the Healing Our Waters  Great Lakes Coalition predicts that lake levels could drop this century by one foot on Lake Superior, three feet on Lakes Michigan and Huron, 2.7 feet on Lake Erie, and 1.7 feet on Lake Ontario.

Water levels are also a challenge for American ship operators, the largest of whose vessels are "1,000 footers" designed to carry 70,000 tons. The largest Canadian bulk carriers, like the Canadian Leader of the Upper Lakes Group, carry only half that much.

"Water levels are very important to us," says Glen Neksavil, vice president of the Lake Carriers Association, a trade association based in Rocky River, Ohio, which represents 16 American companies operating 63 vessels exclusively on the lakes. "When water levels were high back in 1997, some of our ships were carrying 70,000 tons of cargo per trip. This year, they are carrying 66,500 tons&. Our largest ships lose 270 tons of cargo for each inch in draft caused by lower water," he says.

"The US Army Corps of Engineers estimate they have a backlog of 17 million cubic yards of sediment in virtually every US port on the Great Lakes," says Mr. Neksavil. "That would cost $230 million to dredge. The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is funded by a tax on cargoes, and currently has a surplus of $4.8 billion, which I think the government is using to balance its books."

Drinking-Water Safety an Issue

The Canadian Leader slows at Ambassador Bridge, on the Detroit River between Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair, long enough to pick up mail for the crew. Tundra swans and snow geese laze on the sparkling water.

Detroit draws its drinking water from the river, and the concentration of ships, steel mills, and car plants here reminds one how dependent Great Lakes communities are on freshwater resources.

"Drinking water from the Great Lakes is the envy of the world," Davis says.

But a series of scientific reports has raised concerns about drinking water in Detroit and other communities. Trace amounts of pharmaceuticals flushed down toilets have found their way into river water. Byproducts of chlorine treatment and disinfection, coliform bacteria, and lead also pose health risks. Canadian petrochemical plants at Sarnia on the St. Clair River are also a concern.

Sewage overflows are a major problem. "During heavy rainstorms," Davis says, "it's easy for treatment plants to risk being overwhelmed. There are two things we can do to help: conserve water, so that we're not using as much, and use 'green infrastructure,' like rooftop gardens, to cut the amount of stormwater that needs to be treated."

On to Thunder Bay, Ontario

Under cover of night, the Canadian Leader transits the Soo lock on the St. Mary's River between Michigan and Ontario, passing a huge windfarm on the Canadian side. Then it's 18 hours of steaming out of sight of land, across glittering Lake Superior, before docking at a grain elevator in Thunder Bay to pick up a 28,000-ton load of durum wheat.

Lake Superior's temperature is rising, says Jay Austin, an oceanographer at the Large Lakes Observatory of the University of Minnesota at Duluth. "Temperature is the most important environmental variable" in a lake, he says. It determines "the chemical reaction rates, the metabolism rates of fish, phytoplankton, and zooplankton, and the spawning rates of fish."

Mr. Austin and his colleague Steve Colman are deploying an array of moorings at different depths in Lake Superior, from just below the surface to some 1,300 feet down, just above the lake bottom. "Surface water in Lake Superior is warming faster than the air temperature," he says. "Lakes Michigan and Huron also seem to be experiencing the accelerated warming phenomenon, although not Lake Erie."

Less ice cover in winter means more evaporation, which in turn lowers water levels, stressing ecosystems. Austin says change on this scale is hard to ima¬gine, much less control. The warming of the Great Lakes is its latest challenge, he says  perhaps its most serious one.

U.S. Coast Guard Responds To Healy Tragedy, Opens Regional Dive Facilities; 'We Will Not Accept Preventable Loss Or Injury' News Service

December 11, 2008 16:22 EST

San Diego, California -- On Aug. 17, 2006, two active duty military members' lives were cut short during a cold water familiarization diving accident in the Arctic aboard U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy.

The Coast Guard initiated an immediate administrative and safety investigation into the circumstances which contributed and ultimately led up to the regrettable deaths.

In a statement included in the investigation report, Adm. Thad Allen, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, said, "We cannot prevent every Coast Guard casualty. Despite the professionalism, bravery and dedication of our workforce, in rare cases we suffer serious injury or death in the line of duty. As Coast Guard men and women we accept this risk, but we will not accept preventable loss or injury.

The investigation into this accident revealed failures in oversight at every level aboard Healy, as well as numerous departures from standard Coast Guard policy. This mishap further highlighted the need to improve diving expertise at units with dive capabilities and missions, address shortfalls in training and experience, and elevate program managements and oversight on par with other high-risk, training-intensive Coast Guard operations such as aviation."

Another goal of the Coast Guard's study was to initiate several new policies and procedures to prevent future diving mishaps while finding a cost-effective method for increasing the safe execution and reducing the risks of such a dangerous operation.

Consequently, the Coast Guard established regional dive lockers on the East and West coasts of the USA, staffed with highly-trained, professional divers capable of responding to apportioned or emergent operations.

"After tragically losing two of our shipmates and fellow divers, it was important to set up the regional dive lockers to provide the management, oversight and inspection process needed to meet all Coast Guard diving missions in the safest manner possible," said Lt.j.g. Andrew Younkle, deployable operations group(DOG) diving force manager in Arlington, Va.

Not only will the regional dive lockers help the Coast Guard execute vital diving missions more safely, but the missions are also expected to assist in the war on terrorism.

"The dive lockers are going to make America safer by deterring terrorists and smugglers who look at sub-surface operations as a means to hurt our country," emphasized Younkle.

Younkle also said the dive lockers and teams will be supporting the Coast Guard's Polar Class Icebreaker missions, District 14 buoy tender missions, maritime security missions and provide needed services to the captains of the ports in all major U.S. cities.

"During ice breaking missions, divers can provide pitch calibrations and emergency services to assist in keeping the polar class icebreakers at peak performance. When the cutter is performing well, it opens key shipping lanes thus improving our economy. Also, when requested by Coast Guard Buoy Tenders, the dive lockers can augment the collateral-duty divers currently serving aboard the buoy tenders. The Dive Locker personnel can help with in-water inspections and maintenance of aids to navigation in District 14," he said referring to the Coast Guard's operational area in Hawaii and surrounding Pacific Islands.

The dive lockers, which became fully operational Oct. 1, 2008, are staffed with a dive officer supervisor who is responsible for three primary-duty, six-person dive teams that focus solely on dive operations.

"Prior to the dive lockers, we were running minimally manned dive teams," said Lt. Trevor Hare, command diving officer stationed at regional dive locker west in San Diego.

Hare said the old diving units had the collateral-duty divers doing so many things at different times that when it was time to execute a dive the divers were too tired from other missions and not focused on the dive.

"Another safety concern was that the collateral duty divers weren't staying current on their qualifications, and even if they did, they weren't really used to diving. Now, with the lockers, we have enough personnel to man the dive site optimally instead of minimally," said Hare, who has been diving for three years.

Aside from the safety aspect the dive lockers bring to the Coast Guard, dive teams will be able to focus on the mission and complete a dive in a timelier manner.

"Having more personnel on site is going to enable us to knock out a mission much quicker than before. These are guys who dive all the time - the focus on diving every day - and that's all they do for the Coast Guard, so you know they do it professionally, efficiently and safely," Hare said.

The dive teams are comprised of Coast Guard members from all rates whose minimum qualification is the 88-day Second Class Diver Course at the Naval Diving Salvage Training Center (NDSTC).

"We have about every rate you can imagine, and they are coming from every single unit via maritime safety and security units, polar divers and buoy tender divers. It gives us such a wide range of experience, and it's good diversity for our unit," said Hare, referring to the dive team in San Diego.

Hare also said divers must maintain diver currency by completing 13 annual and 13 semi-annual training tasks, complete at least four re-qualification dives and pass two physical fitness tests annually.

"The training tasks and re-qualification dives were determined by the Coast Guard to be the minimum necessary items to maintain proficiency and certification in the Coast Guard diving community. We dive to serve America, and we train and PT to serve as safely and effectively as possible," he said.

Hare said the training is crucial because the classroom, dive side and physical training tasks keep divers sharp with respect to dive side protocol, diving medicine, diving physics, practical diving performance, in-water proficiency and physical conditioning pertinent to military diving.

The Coast Guard is creating a process for selecting potential candidates for the regional dive lockers. Until that process is established, a Coast Guard member can compete for diver selection by sending his or her dive package to NDSTC after obtaining command approval.

"The dive billets are typically three years," said Younkle. "However, many of our divers seek follow-on assignments to buoy tenders, NDSTC or the DOG to continue diving for the Coast Guard."

According to the final action memo from the Coast Guard cutter Healy's mishap investigation, Allen identified areas of the dive program management that needed improvement and reevaluation.

The establishment of the regional dive lockers improves the Coast Guard dive program and enables the mission to be accomplished.