India floods situation worsens in UP, Bihar and Orissa

More than two million people have been affected by floods in India as torrential rains lash Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states.

Heavy monsoon rains have been battering parts of India for the past fortnight.

More than 80 people have died in flood-related incidents, and some areas have been cut off by rising waters.

Heavy rains in Uttar Pradesh (UP) have killed more than 30 people across the state. A flood alert has been issued in eight districts in Bihar.

In Orissa, the worst affected state, vast parts of 10 districts have been inundated by flood waters, officials say.

Special Relief Commissioner PK Mohapatra said 55 people had died - some drowned, while others died from snakebites and in wall collapses.

More than 10 people who had gone missing after the boat in which they were travelling overturned in the Brahmani river in Dhenkanal district were rescued on Monday, officials say.

Some areas have been cut off because of breaches to river banks and embankments. Helicopters are the only way to bring food and water to people stranded there.

Officials said that more than 130,000 in Orissa alone have been evacuated to safety as the relief and rescue operation moves into full swing.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the state are reported to be taking refuge in trees or on the tops of buildings as flood waters continue to rise.

Flowing full
In UP officials say that most people were killed in wall and house collapses on Sunday caused by the incessant rain in the eastern districts of Varanasi, Jaunpur and Mirzapur.

Relief Commissioner KK Sinha said that most died in their sleep when the roofs of their mud houses collapsed.

Officials say that the water levels of two major rivers in UP - the Ganges and Gomti - are on the rise. Other rivers are full, but below the danger mark.

In neighbouring Bihar state, authorities have sounded a flood alert in eight districts, including the capital, Patna, after heavy rains led to a rise in the water levels on Ganges and Sone rivers.

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Missouri River Flood Damage Revealed

Officials do not expect the Missouri River to fully return to its banks until October. As it recedes farmers are seeing their fields for the first time since June and what they are finding is discouraging. Sand dunes, strange debris and deep gouges the floodwaters carved into their once-fertile land are the scars of flooding. The soil quality has also been diminished because the floodwaters killed off many of the microbes that help crops grow and compacted the soil.

Farmland along the Missouri River in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri may be out of production for at least a year. As an example of the damage left behind, Scott Olson, a farmer near Tekamah, Neb., found a new ditch that's about 300 feet wide, one-quarter mile long, and more than 15 feet deep.

Clarke McGrath, agronomist with the Iowa department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, says any time water stands on a field for more than a couple days the soil starts to stagnate because of the lost microbes and the weight of the water. McGrath advises that farmers may need to allow weeds to grow on the land or plant a cover crop such as winter wheat to get roots back in the soil and help microbes grow. Without doing that, there's a risk that whatever crop is planted on the land won't perform well.

The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency warns that a critical flood insurance deadline is approaching for many policy holders whose properties were damaged as a result of this year's flooding along the Missouri River. For some, the deadline could be as early as this Thursday, September 29.

The first step for flood insurance policy holders is to call their insurance agent to open a claim for the flood damage and provide current contact information so they may be reached as necessary throughout the process. If a claimant is unsure whether or not the "Proof of Loss" was properly submitted, they should contact their insurance agent in order to meet the 120-day deadline.

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Hurricane Hilary may turn toward Baja

SUMMIT COUNTY — Hurricane Hilary regained strength Monday, redeveloping sustained winds of 135 mph as it continued to move west over warm waters and in a low wind-shear environment. The storm is expected to weaken during the next few days as it moves over cooler water, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Whether or not Hilary will curve sharply north and potentially affect Baja is still unclear. Some of the forecast models show the storm making a sharp jog to the northeast Wednesday, on a path that could lead Hilary toward the southern end of the peninsula, but other forecasts suggest the hurricane will once again start heading out into the open waters of the Pacific. Check the NHC forecast discussion for more details.

The hurricane center said the uncertainty toward the end of the five-day forecast period is still quite high, so residents of southern Baja will probably be watching the storm closely the next few days. In any case, Hilary is likely to bring some big surf to Baja and potentially even parts of California.

In the Atlantic, the hurricane center now says that the remnants of Tropical Storm Ophelia are again showing signs of organization. That area of disturbed weather will bring heavy rain to parts of the northern Leeward Islands in the next few days. Forecasters said there’s a 60 percent chance the system will reform as a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours.

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Orissa flood: 17 dead, 21 lakh hit in 10 districts

Orissa continued to reel under one of the worst floods in recent memory, as rising floodwater in 3,128 villages across 10 districts claimed 17 lives, while affecting more than 21.6 lakh people.

The floods in Baitarani, Brahmani, Budhabalanga and Subarnarekha river systems, which came less than a week after the massive floods in Mahanadi river system, have marooned over 1,100 villages, mostly in Bhadrak, Jajpur, Kendrapara and Keonjhar districts. Though water-levels in Baitarani came down, Brahmani continued to rise menacingly. The flood in Mahanadi river system in the second week of September affected 3.4 million people in 19 districts, causing a loss of Rs 2,122 crore to the State.

Officials at the State Emergency Centre said that during the last 48 hours, five choppers from Air Force, Navy and the State’s own choppers have air-dropped 9,009 food packets worth 360 quintals in marooned villages of Bhadrak, Jajpur, Keonjhar and Kendrapara. Besides, 10 teams of NDRF (307 men with 60 boats and other accessories) have been deployed for the rescue and relief operations. These teams have already started evacuating the marooned people to safer places.

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Typhoons, Cyclones and Hurricanes: What's the Difference?

Typhoon Roke is currently pounding central Japan, causing massive blackouts, flooding and at least three deaths. Roke is the second typhoon to hit Japan this month, coming only three weeks after Typhoon Talas struck the west side of the island nation, killing more than 60 people.

These types of large storms are seasonal, running almost exclusively between the spring and the new year. So far, there have been a number of major storms across the world, including Hurricane Irene, which slammed the Caribbean and traveled up the East Coast of the United States.

So what exactly is the difference between a typhoon, a cyclone and a hurricane?

Technically, all three are categorized under the umbrella-term "Tropical Cyclone." But just as a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square -- the distinction between these three types of storms vary in the details. The difference lies not in any meteorological difference, but in the geographical difference. (Contrary to popular belief, the designation has nothing to do with a storm's rotation. Clockwise or counter-clockwise, it doesn't matter.

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Irene Sounded Strong Climate Change Warning

WASHINGTON DC (IDN) - Goodbye, Irene. Other tempests, too, will straddle parts of the U.S. during the 2011 hurricane season which, as usual, began in June and will run through the end of November. But Irene, though gone, is not forgotten.

Many cannot forget how Irene took away precious lives, destroyed homes, plans and livelihoods. Others remember it for their fearful moments of anticipation when they followed its every move and wondered whether it would affect and alter their lives. Some remember it for the dislocation of their holiday plans by the enforced evacuation of potential hurricane victims from perceived danger zones.

On top of the grim memories, perplexing questions arise, despite the "let's all look the other way" approach of science-deniers, as to whether and how climate change affects weather patterns including the intensity of hurricanes. (Their intensity determines their destructiveness.)

Greater Risks
A great deal of scientific research has been conducted and continues to be undertaken on the impact of climate change, and on the economic consequences that might follow. As research continues, more knowledge is forthcoming, enabling private citizens and policy makers to reach informed decisions.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) recently compiled a summary of key items that included the following:

-- Sea levels are rising and allowing storms to reach further inland and damage property. As sea levels rise due to climate change, storms – including hurricanes – have a higher “jumping off point” when they hit land and are able to penetrate further inland before they dissipate, posing greater risks to roads and buildings.

-- Sea levels are expected to rise as the ocean warms and expands and as land-based glaciers and ice sheets rapidly shrink. One recent study estimates that total sea-level rise by the end of the century could be between 2.5 feet and 6.6 feet, though scientists consider the worst-case scenario less likely.

-- Warmer air increases the chance for more intense precipitation that can drive flooding. Since 1958, the amount of rain or snow falling in the heaviest one percent of storms has risen nearly 20 percent on average in the U.S.

On the specific question of how climate change affects hurricanes, the UCS responded: "The short answer is that global warming makes the ocean warmer and increases sea surface temperatures, which can make hurricanes stronger. But several factors, including differences in wind speed and direction, can break up hurricanes. Many future projections show a decrease in the frequency of all hurricanes globally, but a higher chance of intense hurricanes forming when they do occur. The changing nature of hurricanes in a warmer world remains an active area of research."

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Hurricane Irene costs Delaware River and Bay Authority $1.3 million in lost revenue

NEW CASTLE, Del. — Hurricane Irene’s late-August assault on the East Coast cost the Delaware River and Bay Authority more than $1.3 million in lost fares and tolls, officials said Tuesday.

The authority was forced to shut down its Cape May-Lewes Ferry for four days when the storm struck the area and saw traffic drop off sharply on the Delaware Memorial Bridge as drivers stayed off of roadways.

“The DRBA will not be able to make up the revenue lost, particularly at the ferry,” said Jim Salmon, spokesman for the bi-state authority. “August is typically one of the top months for traffic volume at both the Cape May-Lewes Ferry and the Delaware Memorial Bridge.”

Authority commissioners, meeting here Tuesday, were told overall traffic was down 8.6 percent on the bridge with only 1,596,323 vehicles passing through the tolls. At the ferry, which crosses the Delaware Bay between North Cape May and Lewes, Del., only 41,415 vehicles paid fares (down 19.4 percent) and the number of passengers using the crossing dropped 16.9 percent to 138,861.

The figures compare usage numbers from August 2010 compared to August 2011.

Also at the ferry, with terminals in North Cape May and Lewes, food and beverage revenues dropped 12.2 percent this year compared with 2010 and retail revenues fell 17.5 percent , officials said.

The hit from Irene translated to $703,000 less in tolls at the Delaware Memorial Bridge ($8,933,000 compared to the anticipated $9,636,000) and $629,222 less in revenues from the ferry ($2,393,000 compared to the anticipated $3,022,000).

Overall, DRBA officials said total authority revenues totaled $12,707,000 in August, $1,343,000 short of the $14,050,000 which had been anticipated.

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Corps Pegs 2011 Flood Damage to Levees at $2B

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates it will cost more than $2 billion to repair the damage to the nation’s levees, dams and riverbanks caused by this year’s excessive flooding, a sum that dwarfs $150 million it currently has to make such repairs and that doesn’t account for damage from Hurricane Irene or Tropical Storm Lee.

Floodwaters that raged down the nation’s rivers this year have strained dams, eroded riverbanks, filled harbors with silt and ripped football field-sized holes in some earthen levees protecting farmland and small towns. The damage estimate, confirmed to The Associated Press by corps officials, promises to be more significant than with a typical flood in which high water recedes quickly.

The estimate does not factor in flood damage caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, and the corps does not have an estimate of the damage from those storms yet.

Along some stretches of the Missouri River, levees have been holding back floodwaters since June 1 as the corps lowered water levels from upstream dams that had filled to overflowing with record runoff from rain and winter snows. That water ultimately proved too much for many levees downstream in states such as Iowa and Missouri. Record high water levels also created havoc along the lower Mississippi from Missouri to Louisiana.

“I’m really nervous about it,” Tom Waters, chairman of the Missouri Levee and Drainage District Association, said of the limited resources. “I think the corps is real nervous about it, too.”

The Senate is considering a $7 billion emergency disaster relief bill, but only $1.3 billion of that would go to the corps. A competing House bill would allocate $3.7 billion to overall disaster aid, $226 million of it to the corps, although Congress could provide more money in future legislation.

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin said he is working with senators in neighboring states to urge support for the emergency relief.

“I have seen firsthand some of the devastation along these rivers and local communities need financial assistance to recover,” Harkin said.

Sensing it might not get all the money it needs, the corps is racing to repair the most essential damaged flood barriers before the spring runoff. Priority is being given to repairing damaged infrastructure that if left unfixed, would put lives at risk when the snows start melting and the 2012 flood season begins. Repairs only meant to safeguard property from future damage would get second billing.

“We are trying to rack and stack them and see which projects need to be done quickly and which ones can be delayed for some time,” said Jud Kneuvean, emergency management chief for the corps’ Kansas City district. “And honestly some of them can’t be delayed. There is a high likelihood for failure. The consequences associated with failure are high.”

Crews have been bulldozing earth back into place along the Mississippi River’s damaged floodwalls, but repairs along much of the Missouri River will have to wait until the water level fully recedes, likely by October. A dry winter would allow repair work to continue, but ice and snow could force them to shut down temporarily.

“We’ve got to be ready to roll when the water recedes because time is our enemy,” said Jud Kneuvean, emergency management chief for the corps’ Kansas City district. “I will cross my fingers that it will be dry through the winter and spring.”

In northwest Missouri’s Holt County, more than 30 levee breaks inundated more than 230 square miles. Presiding commissioner Mark Sitherwood, whose own corn and soybean crops were ruined, said the levee damage will be in the millions.

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Northeast farmers warn of pumpkin shortage after Hurricane Irene

NEW YORK (AP) — Northeastern states are facing a jack-o’-lantern shortage this Halloween after Hurricane Irene destroyed hundreds of pumpkin patches across the region, farmers say.

Wholesale prices have doubled in some places as farmers nurse their surviving pumpkin plants toward a late harvest. Some farmers are trying to buy pumpkins from other regions to cover orders.

“I think there’s going to be an extreme shortage of pumpkins this year,” said Darcy Pray, owner of Pray’s Family Farms in Keeseville, in upstate New York. “I’ve tried buying from people down in the Pennsylvania area, I’ve tried locally here and I’ve tried reaching across the border to some farmers over in the Quebec area. There’s just none around.”

Hurricane Irene raked the Northeast in late August, bringing torrents of rain that overflowed rivers and flooded fields along the East Coast and into southern Canada. Pray saw his entire crop, about 15,000 to 20,000 pumpkins, washed into Lake Champlain.

But pumpkin farmers had been having a difficult year even before the storm. Heavy rains this spring meant many farms had to postpone planting for two or three weeks, setting back the fall harvest, said Jim Murray, owner of the Applejacks Orchard in Peru, N.Y.

A late harvest can be fatal to business because pumpkin sales plummet after Halloween on Oct. 31. Wholesalers need to get pumpkins on their way to stores by mid-September.

Another spate of rain about two weeks before Irene caused outbreaks of the phytophthora fungus —a type of water mold — in many fields, said Jim Stakey, owner of Stakey’s Pumpkin Farm in Aquebogue, on New York’s Long Island.

This week a cold snap threatened to kill the surviving vines, Murray said.

“We were real close to a frost last night,” Murray said Saturday. “It was 34, and if we had had a frost, a lot of immature pumpkins would have never made it.”

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Hurricane Maria Speeds Toward Newfoundland With 80 MPH Winds

Sept. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Hurricane Maria sped toward Newfoundland and is expected to cross the Canadian island later today with winds of at least 74 miles (119 kilometers) per hour, the National Hurricane Center said.

Maria, with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, was racing northeast across the Atlantic at 45 mph, the center said in a 5 a.m. Miami time advisory. The storm was about 495 miles southwest of Cape Race, Newfoundland, and is forecast to strike Placentia Bay, passing north of St. John’s, a base for offshore oil and gas companies.

On its current track, “the center of Maria should pass near or over extreme southeastern Newfoundland this afternoon,” the center said. “Little change in strength is expected before Maria moves over southeastern Newfoundland.”

Energy companies including Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Hibernia Management & Development Co. have offshore facilities near the storm’s projected path, according to Bloomberg data. Hurricane Igor hit the island last year, killing three people and causing $200 million in damage.

Maria is expected to pass about 170 miles southeast of the Sable Offshore Energy Project’s Thebaud platform, Tanya White, a Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board spokeswoman, said yesterday in an e-mail.

The Sable natural-gas project is owned by a group including Exxon Mobil Canada Properties Ltd., Shell Canada Ltd., Imperial Oil Resources, Pengrowth Energy Corp. and Mosbacher Operating Ltd., according to its website.

Hurricane Warnings

A hurricane warning is in place for the coast of Newfoundland from Arnolds Cove to Brigus South, and a tropical storm warning, indicating winds of at least 39 mph are expected, was set for the area from Stones Cove to Arnolds Cove and from Brigus South to Charlottetown, the center said.

Hurricane-force winds extend 45 miles from Maria’s center. Tropical storm-strength winds reach 205 miles.

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In the wake of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, sediment choked the Hudson River in New York City.

On September 7, The New York Times noted the river’s unusual brown or reddish hue, likely driven by runoff occurring upstate.

The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured these natural-color images of the Hudson River and East River around Ellis Island. Both images are rotated and north is at right. The top image shows the area on September 12, 2011. The bottom image shows the same place about a year earlier, on September 2, 2010.

Flooding not only raises river levels, but also increases the amount of sediment they carry. Torrential rain eats away at the ground, washing mud and debris into streams. After it is deposited into a river, sediment may sink to the bottom of the riverbed, or may flow with the water toward the sea. Multiple rivers feed the Hudson, and some of the sediment winding up in the river in early September 2011 included reddish clays from the Catskills region, The New York Times reported.

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