BREAKING NEWS: Catastrophic Flooding ‘Beyond Anything Experienced’

The worst fears of flooding have been realized with Harvey. Close to three feet of rain has already fallen in Southeast Texas, and there’s still more to come. It’s the most extreme rainfall the region has ever witnessed.

“Catastrophic flooding in the Houston metropolitan area is expected to worsen,” said Patrick Blood of the National Weather Service on Sunday. It added: “This event is unprecedented and all impacts are unknown and beyond anything experienced.”

On Sunday evening, brand new bands of torrential rain were forming southwest of Houston and appeared on-track to strike the city overnight. Rainfall rates will almost certainly exceed three inches per hour over the already-submerged city. That threat prompted the National Weather Service to re-issue the flash flood emergency  –  the strongest flood warning it can issue  –  in effect through around 1 a.m. Central Time.

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Two-day rainfall totals have reached or exceeded 20 inches across the entire Houston metro area. Some locations are approaching 30 inches. The swift inundation of water has turned rivers, bayous and streams into lakes – including those that run through the city of Houston itself.

“I know for a fact this is the worst flood Houston has ever experienced,” Patrick Blood, Weather Service meteorologist, told the Houston Chronicle.

The Weather Service said this August had become Houston’s wettest month in recorded history due to the storm. At the Weather Service office serving Houston in Dickinson, Tex. 24.1 inches of rain fell 24 hours.

The Weather Service said the “majority” of rivers and bayous around Houston were at record levels. Some were exceeding previous records by 10 feet.

Rainfall from Harvey in Harris County, the third most populous in the country and home to Houston, had exceeded the amount from Tropical Storm Allison, in half the amount of time (two to three days, rather than five, the Weather Service said Sunday afternoon. Prior to Harvey, Tropical Storm Allison was considered the worst flood on record in the Houston region.

The onslaught will continue into the week. Harvey is forecast to remain parked over Southeast Texas through at least Tuesday, pummeling the region with more rain bands .

The National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center is calling for an additional 15 to 25 inches of rain over the middle and upper Texas coast, including the Houston area, during the next several days. The National Hurricane Center said isolated storm rainfall totals could reach 50 inches, which would rival some of the most extreme rain events in U.S. history and break the state rainfall record in Texas.

A relentless band of heavy rain sat nearly stationary over Houston and its surrounding suburbs Saturday night. By Sunday morning, the effects of hour after hour of drenching rainfall started to take their toll, with widespread reports of high water on roadways. Bands of heavy rain continued to pivot through the Houston area Sunday afternoon but became somewhat more intermittent.

The National Weather Service did not mince words about the danger of this unprecedented situation. The office issued multiple flash-flood emergencies, which extended into Sunday evening, shattering the precedent for issuance of such warnings locally.

At least five deaths have already been blamed on the storm, and over 1,000 water rescues have taken place in the Houston area as of Sunday afternoon. Local officials are pleading with the general public to not travel and to make sure they access their roof if the water rises too high in their homes rather than shelter in their attic.

“This disaster’s going to be a landmark event,” Brock Long, FEMA administrator, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “This is a storm that the United States has not seen yet.”

So much rain has fallen that is has been extremely hard for first responders to keep up with the growing onslaught of rescue requests.

“We are facing a catastrophic multi-billion-dollar loss,” tweeted Steve Bowen, a meteorologist at Reinsurer Aon Benfield.

Perhaps even more frightening, computer model forecasts are showing the very real possibility that Harvey will move back over the Gulf of Mexico Monday night and Tuesday, when it could re-strengthen modestly. It may make a second landfall near Houston on Wednesday, with rain continuing into Thursday and even Friday.

In addition to the heavy rain, embedded thunderstorms have spawned more than a dozen tornadoes across the region, adding to the list of hazards brought on by Harvey. In fact, the Weather Service had issued more tornado warnings on (each of) Friday, Saturday, and Sunday than on any previous single day on record, for a total of 123 warnings.

This storm is unfortunately breaking all the wrong precedents. Things will only continue to get worse over the next 24 to 48 hours as more areas of the region receive overwhelming amounts of water with nowhere for it to go.

BREAKING NEWS: Hurricane ‘Harvey’ Escalates to Cat. 4 – Another Volcano Erupts

Hurricane ‘Harvey’ now Category 4, has begun to pound the Texas coast and its millions of residents, with hurricane-force winds knocking down trees, power poles and signs, and with torrential rain deluging streets. The storm surge, downpours and harsh winds are already pummeling the shores. In its 9 p.m. ET update, the National Hurricane Center said the eye wall, the most dangerous part of the storm, has begun to move onshore along the middle Texas coast.

The hurricane center warns that some areas will see as much as 13 feet of storm surge and large, destructive waves. Maximum sustained wind speeds were at 130 mph on Friday night. And there’s the rain that the slow-moving storm is expected to produce. Because it is expected to come to a near halt inland, Harvey could drop as much as 40 inches of rain in some places, and up to 30 inches in others, by Wednesday. The combination of wind and water could leave wide swaths of South Texas “uninhabitable for weeks or months,” the National Weather Service in Houston said.

BREAKING NEWS: Coast Rica ‘Poas’ Volcano Erupts

The Poás Volcano in Alajuela, Costa Rica began its eruption today starting at 3:17p.m. local time. The eruption blasted soot and ash which elevated around 500 meters above the crater, 3,100 meters (2 miles) above sea level according to the report by the National Seismology Network and Dr. Mauricio Mora.

This new eruption comes at a time where the National System of Areas of Conservation (SINAC) has been evaluating the possibility of reactivating tourism to the area through controlled visitations to the National Park following certain security protocols. A team of experts continue monitoring the volcano and evaluating the situation.

I wish to thank you for your continued support….. Cheers, Mitch

 

Coming Next: More Earth Changing Events to Occur. Civil Disturbance Appears to Continue Escalation.

Costa Rica’s Poas Volcano Erupts

A three hour volcanic eruption in Costa Rica sends vapor and gas emissions into the air.

The Poas Volcano has been active for the past several months, resulting in disruptions in the local tourist industry.

The national park surrounding the volcano has been closed since April, and local commerce has suffered losses due to its heavy reliance on the influx of tourists.

In 2016 over 400,000 tourists from Costa Rica and abroad visited the park.

Officials expected to earn around three million dollars in revenue this year, but the volcano activity capped the income at just one million dollars.

The park is expected to remain closed while frequent activity continues, and a team of volcanic experts will remain on site for close evaluation.

Texas Prepares For ‘Catastrophic’ Flooding As Hurricane Harvey Bears Down On The Gulf Coast

Residents along a vast swath of the Texas coast scrambled for shelter and stocked up on emergency supplies as Hurricane Harvey crept closer to shore Friday, threatening lashing rains and winds exceeding 110 mph in what could be the first major hurricane to hit the mainland United States in 12 years.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott requested a federal disaster declaration in advance of the worst of the storm, which he warned is expected to be a “very complex and dangerous” hurricane that could bring devastating flooding along the middle Texas coast over the weekend.

“It’s a hurricane that’s going to prove more dangerous than many hurricanes,” Abbott said. “We are going to be dealing with immense, really record-setting flooding in multiple regions across the state of Texas.”

Harvey is projected to make landfall near Corpus Christi late Friday or early Saturday. A hurricane warning is in effect along a wide stretch of the coastline from Port Mansfield to Sargent, spanning a region home to about 4 million people. An additional 12 million, many in the major cities of Houston and San Antonio, are under a tropical storm warning.

Heavy bands of rain began pounding the coast near Galveston on Friday afternoon as a stream of vehicles flowed out of the seaside resort city.

Few people were still out on the roads as the hurricane approached and the area fell under a tornado warning, with some drivers taking shelter in the lobbies of area hotels that have remained open.

The National Weather Service office in Corpus Christi cautioned that the extreme rainfall could be “devastating to catastrophic,” and that the current threat to life and property was “extreme.” Rivers and tributaries could overflow their banks and streets and parking lots become “rivers of raging water with underpasses submerged,” the weather service said.

A major hurricane poses the first major test of emergency response for the Trump administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new administrator, Brock Long, who was confirmed in June.

President Trump plans to travel to Texas next week, and the White House is considering having him declare a federal emergency before Hurricane Harvey makes landfall on the Gulf Coast. Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert told reporters at a news briefing Friday that federal officials had significantly improved their ability to respond to natural disasters since Hurricane Katrina caused widespread flooding in New Orleans in 2005.

If all the conditions for an emergency declaration were met, Bossert said he believed the “President is going to be very aggressive in leaning forward and declaring it a disaster.”

“This is right up President Trump’s alley,” he added. “His questions were: ‘Are you doing what it takes to help the people.”

Harvey intensified in the central Gulf of Mexico on Thursday morning, reaching official Category 3 hurricane status by early afternoon. By 2 p.m. Friday, the storm was about 75 miles southeast of Corpus Christi, with sustained winds of nearly 120-mph winds, and moving northwest at about 10 mph.

After it makes landfall, Harvey is likely to slow down and meander near the coastline, dropping up to 35 inches of rain across some parts of Texas through Wednesday.

Harvey could be the first hurricane classified as at least Category 3 to hit the United States since Hurricane Wilma struck Florida in 2005. Last year, thousands of residents along the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coasts evacuated as Hurricane Matthew was forecast to hit the East Coast as a Category 4 hurricane. However, the hurricane veered east and weakened to a Category 2 as it skirted along the coast.

Historically, slow-moving tropical storms and hurricanes have caused some of Texas’ most severe flooding. In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison hovered above the Houston area for days, dumping up to 30 inches of rain — as much as 80% of the area’s average annual rainfall over some neighborhoods.

The last hurricane to hit the Texas coast – Hurricane Ike, a Category 2 storm that wreaked havoc after making landfall in Galveston in 2008 – killed at least 37 people and resulted in more than $30 billion in damage.

Abbott urged residents of low-lying and coastal areas– even residents of Houston, where Mayor Sylvester Turner has not called for evacuations – to evacuate before Harvey makes landfall

“What you don’t know and what nobody else knows right now is the magnitude of flooding that will be coming,” he said.

At the Hertz car rental outside Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, arriving customers snapped up trucks and SUVs in preparation for the days of catastrophic rains projected to come.

After learning she was speaking to a journalist, one of the rental workers paused and asked, in a grim voice, “Do you think they’re telling the truth about how bad it’ll get?” Several other employees also stopped and craned their necks to listen.

Local officials and news outlets have had to bat down a viral social media message that circulated widely among Texans on Thursday warning that the storm would be far worse than officials were already predicting.

“Ignore unfounded, unsourced weather predictions that have needlessly frightened Houstonians,” Mayor Turner tweeted. “Get info from trusted outlets.”

Not everybody was running from the storm.

One married couple, Tom Miller, 48, an IT analyst, and Ron Marcus, 55, a food service manager, both of Bartlesville, Okla., had been watching the forecast for days and seen the hurricane coming toward Texas.

They decided to beat it to Galveston — where they had been planning to catch a cruise where Miller’s niece was expecting to get married. Veterans of tornado alley, they figured they could wait out a hurricane, with its weaker-than-a-tornado winds.

“We headed out last night and drove straight through [the night] to get here,” arriving around 4 a.m. Friday morning, said Miller.

“Of course, after getting here,” Miller added sheepishly, “It’s kind of growing in intensity.”

Along the southern edge of Galveston, foaming waves marched angrily toward the shore, where a TV cameraman and an anchor stood in the sand to record the oncoming wrath of the storm.

They weren’t alone. Three friends —James Hibberts, 19, of Clear Lake, Branden Castillo, 26, of Webster, and William Mead, 21, of Clear Lake — moseyed around nearby in the sand, barefoot, hoping to get on TV.

Like other sightseers that had not fled the area, they weren’t intimidated by the storm.

“Danger is not a factor in these parts,” Mead said, smiling, as the men’s shirts whipped around in the hurricane winds.

The men were hoping to skimboard on one of the main roads running along Galveston’s Gulf shoreline, but it hadn’t flooded yet.

Even they were amazed when they saw two surfers paddle out and try to ride the wrathful waves, which raged unpredictably toward the beach.

Regretfully, Mead said he couldn’t hang out all weekend. He has a job at Walmart. “I gotta work tomorrow,” he said.

After preemptively declaring a state of disaster for 30 Texas counties, Gov. Abbott on Thursday activated about 700 members of the state National Guard.

Mandatory evacuation orders are already in effect across seven coastal counties. Mayor Joe McComb of Corpus Christi, Texas’ eighth largest city with a population of about 325,000, has encouraged residents to leave voluntarily.

With Houston forecast to see up to 20 inches of rainfall, local officials there are readying evacuation boats and high-water rescue vehicles.

On Thursday, Houston’s Office of Emergency Management urged residents to stockpile enough water, food and medication for five to seven days, secure anything that could be picked up by strong winds, and park vehicles off the streets. The Houston Independent School District, the largest public school system in Texas, canceled all classes Monday on what would have been the first day of school.

Gas prices spiked as oil and gas operators shut down about 21% of oil production and 23% of natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. Workers have been evacuated from four of the 10 rigs operating in the Gulf, as well as from 86 production platforms, about 11% of the Gulf’s staffed platforms.

In neighboring Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency Thursday for the entire state.

“All arms of the state’s emergency preparedness and response apparatus are planning for the serious threat posed by Hurricane Harvey, and we are calling on all Louisianans throughout the state to do so as well,” Edwards said.

Just a few inches of rain could cause severe challenges in New Orleans, which is still recovering from flooding after thunderstorms earlier this month overwhelmed the city’s drainage system. On Thursday, Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged residents to prepare for 5 to 10 inches of rain.

With 105 out of 120 pumps operating in the city, Landrieu said, officials are “working around the clock” to repair drainage pumps and turbines.

“There is no need to panic, but there is need to be well-prepared,” Landrieu said.

Bossert said federal emergency officials had been in close contact with state managers in Texas and Louisiana and were assured that both states had made aggressive preparations.

“Now is not the time to lose faith in your government institutions,” Bossert told reporters.

“They all seemed to be well postured, and they didn’t report to us any additional needs. In fact, they all reported to us that they’re in the right operational posture to help the American people in the path of this storm.”

At the same time, he said federal officials were urging residents of both affected states to take responsibility for themselves.

“You never want to plan for the federal government to swoop in and provide everything that you need, when you need it, just on time, right? It’s going to be 4.6 million people, I guess, in the path of this storm, depending on how the forecast goes,” he said. “That’s a lot of people. We encourage people to be ready, be prepared, take some responsibility for their own safety as the next 72 hours unfold.”

Proposed Orbiter Could Probe the Ocean Beneath Saturn’s Moon Titan

When NASA’s Cassini mission arrived at Saturn, it pressed through the haze surrounding the ringed planet’s largest moon, Titan, to reveal a complex, liquid-covered world with the potential to support life. Now, researchers are proposing a return to Titan with a mission that would investigate not only the flowing methane and ethane on its surface, but also the ocean beneath.

“It’s really important that we go back to Titan,” Michael Malaska told fellow scientists at the Astrobiology Science Conference in Mesa, Arizona, in April. Malaska, a researcher at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is part of the team proposing Oceanus, a mission with the goal of studying the moon’s habitability.

“It’s a really fantastic world totally rich with organic chemistry,” Malaska said. “It looks like it might be an interesting place for life in the same vein as Europa and Enceladus.”

Proposed Orbiter Could Probe the Ocean Beneath Saturn’s Moon Titan
An icy shell separates Titan’s organic-rich surface from its liquid ocean. If organic material manages to penetrate that shell and travel to the water beneath, it could provide the necessary ingredients for the evolution of life as we know it.

When NASA’s Cassini mission arrived at Saturn, it pressed through the haze surrounding the ringed planet’s largest moon, Titan, to reveal a complex, liquid-covered world with the potential to support life. Now, researchers are proposing a return to Titan with a mission that would investigate not only the flowing methane and ethane on its surface, but also the ocean beneath.

“It’s really important that we go back to Titan,” Michael Malaska told fellow scientists at the Astrobiology Science Conference in Mesa, Arizona, in April. Malaska, a researcher at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is part of the team proposing Oceanus, a mission with the goal of studying the moon’s habitability.

“It’s a really fantastic world totally rich with organic chemistry,” Malaska said. “It looks like it might be an interesting place for life in the same vein as Europa and Enceladus.”

An ocean world

In April, Oceanus was submitted as part of NASA’s New Frontiers mission competition. The New Frontiers program seeks to explore the solar system with frequent, medium-class spacecraft missions engaged in focused investigations. In addition to the ocean worlds Titan and Enceladus, the current round of proposed investigations features goals that include sample return from the moon or from comets, a study of Saturn or Venus, or a rendezvous with the Trojan asteroids of the outer solar system. By studying the organic material and landscape features, as well as capturing more detailed images, Oceanus would investigate the organic and methane cycle on Titan and probe what’s going on beneath the surface.

Titan boasts an intriguing surface, with organic-rich hazes and flowing liquids. With its liquid presence fueled by energy from the sun, the planet bears a strong resemblance to Earth. Instead of water, however, Titan’s atmosphere and surface are dominated by methane and ethane. The presence of these hydrocarbons in the upper atmosphere forms what Malaska called “a complex organic chemical factory,” while it is the only solar system other than Earth to contain flowing lakes and rivers.

Some scientists have suggested that life, which may have followed a completely different path than it took on Earth, could evolve on Titan.

The three necessary ingredients for life as we know it include organic material, a source of energy and water. Titan’s exterior holds the first two: Energy streaming in from the sun may be captured in the form of high-energy molecules. “You can almost think of it as manna from heaven,” Malaska said.

While the surface doesn’t contain liquid water, that doesn’t mean it isn’t present on the moon.

“Remember that Titan is an ocean world,” Malaska said — there’s a potential large ocean of liquid water beneath the surface.

When paired with the rich organic surface, that ocean could provide a home for life as intriguing as the two most well-known ocean moons, Saturn’s satellite Enceladus and Jupiter’s moon Europa. All three have an icy layer shielding their ocean, though Titan’s lies beneath its rich organic surface.

But while Europa and Enceladus must rely on interactions with the rock to build a habitable environment where life could evolve, Malaska said that Titan’s ocean could get a little help from the surface, which is also a potential home for life. Previous experiments revealed that exposing simulated Titan organics to water generates some of the molecules necessary for life as we know it, such as amino acids and nucleobases.

Oceanus would make in-depth investigations of surface features identified by Cassini, such as suspected ice volcanoes, impact sites and other signs of tectonic processes. The spacecraft would also examine the ice shell to determine if it is convecting, with warm material rising and colder material sinking. Convection could help to carry surface material through the ice and into the ocean, as well as bring water to the surface.

It’s even possible that the surface could be interacting with the very core of the planet. “That’s one of the things we want to find out — Is there contact with the core, or is there so much ice that [the ocean] is actually sealed off,” Malaska said

If the mission were chosen, Oceanus would spend two years orbiting Saturn, making flybys of Titan, Malaska said. Then it would settle into a two-year orbit around that moon.

The spacecraft would carry three instruments to help study the surface and subsurface. A mass spectrometer would analyze the chemistry of the heaviest molecules in the atmosphere to understand how they interact, Malaska said. An infrared camera would follow how the organic material moved across the surface, and potentially how it interacted with water near the surface. And a radar altimeter would examine tectonic activity.

Together, the instruments would not only provide a glimpse of the surface, but also how material might cycle through the crust through geological processes, providing “the building blocks for life to a water-rich environment,” the team said in its abstract.

‘Follow the organics’

Before Cassini caught a glimpse in 2004, Titan remained shielded behind a haze of organic material. The spacecraft revealed an intriguing surface, with seas of methane and ethane; rivers; and deltas and dunes (not to mention ‘magic islands’ that appear and disappear).

“Cassini revealed an absolutely beautiful landscape that is alien and bizarre, but also Earth-like,” Malaska said.

But although Cassini revealed insights about the moon’s features, its images could only resolve the largest, kilometer-size features. Oceanus would take advantage of orbiting Titan to capture far more detailed images, down to 82 feet (25 meters) per pixel.

A study of Titan could provide insights about the early Earth. According to Malaska, the methane-rich moon may be an analogue of our own planet, before the rise of oxygen.

“Effectively by going to Titan today, we could be going back in a time machine to early Earth,” he said.

But while Earth is all about the water, Titan is all about the hydrocarbons. That’s the trail Malaska and his colleagues hope to pursue with Oceanus.

“We’re going to study the molecules from their source,” Malaska said. “So we’re effectively going to follow the organics.”

Eight Missing After Landslide In Swiss Alps, Say Police

Eight people, including German, Austrian and Swiss citizens, are missing following a landslide that forced the evacuation of a village in the Swiss Alps, police have said.

“In the region of Val Bondasca, eight people who were there at the time of the landslide have not been found,” the Graubünden cantonal police said.

The landslide on Wednesday morning sent an estimated 4m cubic metres of mud, rocks and dirt flooding into the village of Bondo near the Italian border. About 100 people were evacuated, some airlifted out with helicopters.

Six of the eight were reported missing by their relatives, police said, adding that the search had intensified overnight, with a Swiss army helicopter taking part.

“The missing persons are nationals from Germany, Austria and Switzerland,” the police said.

Another group of five to six people were reported missing after going on a hike in the nearby Val Bregaglia valley, but were later located in Italy, a Grisons police spokeswoman said.

Amateur film footage shows large amounts of debris coming loose near the top of Piz Cengalo, a granite peak that towers 3,369 metres above Val Bondasca, and thundering into the valley below.

Images taken after the landslide showed a broad swath of farmland covered in a grey, moving mass, with mud partially engulfing some buildings.

Police said 12 farm buildings, including barns and stables, had been destroyed by the flow of debris.

The landslide’s force registered a magnitude of 3 on the Richter scale, police Lieutenant Andrea Mittner said, equivalent to a small earthquake that can be felt by people and might shake indoor objects.

“You can imagine just what a mass had to come down to cause an earthquake scenario,” he said.

Further loss of life was prevented thanks to an automated warning system that was installed in Bondo after another large landslide in 2012. After registering movement on the Piz Cengalo mountain, the system alerted emergency services and automatically closed off roads in the village.

The approximately 200 villagers who live in Bondo have been told they will not be allowed to return to their homes before 10am on Friday as authorities could not rule out further landslides.

Stunning Satellite Photo Reveals Volcanic Eruption Near Alaska

Eruptions from one of the most active volcanic regions in the world sent plumes of ash and steam into the sky this week, as captured in a spectacular image by an Earth-monitoring satellite.

Shiveluch, a massive stratovolcano made up of ash and hardened lava, is located in the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula, near the Pacific Ocean. The volcano rises 10,771 feet (3,282 meters) above sea level, according to NASA, and behaves similarly to the volcanoes located in the nearby islands of Alaska. The Aleutian Islands, which sit in the Bering Sea and extend toward this Russian peninsula, are part of Alaska. According to the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program, the 49th state has produced 70 percent of all historical eruptions in the United States, and a “vast majority” of those have occurred in this region in particular.

In the image, Shiveluch is seen releasing a stream of ash that moves west, and the slightly smaller Bezymianny volcano is also seen jettisoning an eruption — of steam rather than ash — to the south, NASA officials said in a statement. The ASTER satellite captured the phenomena on Aug. 20, and the image covers an area of 12 miles by 14 miles (19.5 by 22.7 kilometers). [Astronaut in Space Sees Mount Etna Volcano Eruption (Photo)]

ASTER, which stands for Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer, is a dual-nation project: it is operated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Japan Space Systems. ASTER observes changes to Earth’s surface and provides scientists from various disciplines with useful data, NASA officials said in the statement. The satellite monitors glacial movement, potentially active volcanoes, the physical properties of clouds, the degradation of coral reefs, the surface temperature of soils and crop stress, and thermal pollution.

The volcanoes themselves have also helped scientists to understand ancient vegetation. Millions of years ago, volcanic ash settled on sequoia and metasequoia trees after a volcanic eruption, which created the petrified forests that paleontologists can study today in places such as Unga Island in Alaska.