Fiji hammered by severe cyclone, no deaths reported

Cyclone Evan

More than 8,000 people, including foreign tourists, were evacuated to emergency shelters as Fiji was battered by a severe tropical cyclone, with winds topping 230kmh (140 mph) and floods damaging homes and resorts.

There were no reports of casualties as Tropical Cyclone Evan roared over the Pacific island nation on Monday, uprooting palm trees, tearing roofs off buildings and blowing down power lines.

A category four storm, the second highest level, when it hit Fiji, Evan had weakened and moved about 160km (100 miles) south of the main island of Viti Levu by Tuesday morning, the Fiji Metrological Service said. The storm was forecast to weaken further as it headed into cooler southern waters.

Cyclone Evan killed at least four people in the islands of Samoa last week before setting its sights on Fiji, which relies on tourism and sugar exports.


Cyclone Nilam Hits the Southeastern Coast of India

Cyclone Nilam has struck the southeastern coast of India, bringing with it severe flooding and winds almost as strong as superstorm Sandy.

Nilam, which formed over the Bay of Bengal, looked to be headed straight for the Sri Lankan coast.  Fortunately, Sri Lanka, which is still re-building after a decades-long war, avoided the worst of the storm. Having only closed the massive Menik Farm displacement camp one month ago, the last thing this Southern Asian country needed was another humanitarian disaster.

The force of the cyclone could be seen even before it hit Indian coastlines. Its powerful winds forced an oil tanker to run aground.

The storm then surged towards the Southeastern coast of India, placing the states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu on high alert. More than 5,000 people were subsequently evacuated from their homes in Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu. By early evening (IST) Nilam had struck the port of Mahabalipuram and is now expected to spread along the coast through the night.

Cyclone Nilam comes only a year after Cyclone Thane, which last December killed 47 people in India. This massive storm, which hit Tamil Nadu destroying houses and crops, brought gale force winds of up to 135 kmph and tidal surges of nearly 1.5 metres, or about 5 feet. Although the cyclone currently bashing the coastal areas of southern India is not as strong as Thane, it still brings fears of human displacement and infrastructure damage. Extra precautions are being taken this time to ensure people’s safety.

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more