Sunday, June 2, 2013

THE GREAT DELUGE: Central Europe Hit By Major Floods - Several Killed Or Missing In Germany, Czech Republic And Austria After Torrential Rain Causes Flooding And Mudslides!

June 02, 2013 - CENTRAL EUROPE - Authorities in parts of Europe issued disaster warnings and scrambled to reinforce flood defences as rivers swelled by days of heavy rain threatened to burst their banks.

Several people have died or are missing in the floods in Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, and Switzerland since the rains began on Thursday.

The floods have killed at least one person and left several missing across the Czech Republic.

Parts of the old town in the Bavarian city of Passau were under water.

Central Prague was on standby on Sunday as emergency services worked to protect the city. These firemen are preparing an anti-flood barrier on the banks of the River Vltava.

Czech officials warned that the waters of the Vltava river could reach critical levels in Prague late on Sunday as soldiers erected metal barriers and piled up sandbags to protect Prague's historic centre from flooding after days of heavy rains swelled rivers and forced evacuations from some low-laying areas.

Prague authorities also limited public transport and closed underground stations as water from the Vltava River overflowed into parts of the Old Town.

The area is a UNESCO heritage site boasting hundreds of well-preserved buildings, churches and monuments dating back mostly to the 14th Century, including the Charles Bridge that straddles the Vltava.

"Due to the current situation, I have declared a state of danger for the area of the capital city," acting mayor Tomas Hudecek told a news conference.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas said 200 soldiers have been deployed so far to help local authorities.

Disaster warnings

Workers build a flood wall at the foot of the Charles Bridge in the historic centre of the Czech capital.

Bystanders in Landsberg am Lech in Bavaria view the floodwaters of the Lech river.

The Saxon town of Grimma is also suffering from flooding.

Salzburg and the surrounding areas have been badly hit.

In Germany, where at least four people have died or are missing, Chancellor Angela Merkel promised federal support for affected areas and said the army would be deployed if necessary.

Several cities, including Chemnitz in the east, and Passau and Rosenheim in the south, issued disaster warnings.

Passau, which is located at the confluence of three rivers, could see waters rise above record levels of 2002, said Mayor Juergen Dupper.

German news agency DPA reported that large stretches of the Rhine, Main and Neckar rivers have been closed to ship traffic.

Evacuations are also taking place in neighbouring Switzerland and Austria, where the torrential rain caused widespread flooding and landslides.

The River Steyr in Austria has also burst its banks.

These residents of the northern Swiss village of Wallbach look out at the flooded River Rhine from behind temporary flood protection walls.

Residents of Walschleben, near Erfurt in eastern Germany, worked together to build flood defences on Saturday.

Many other communities in western Austria were also under water on Sunday.

At least one person died and two were missing in the deluge in Austria, which in some places has dumped up to two months' worth of rain in just days.

One clean-up worker was killed in a mudslide in the town of St Johann near Salzburg, the Austrian Press Agency reported, while two other people were missing in the province after being swept into raging streams.

The provinces of Upper Austria, Tyrol and Styria were also hit hard by the severe weather, which triggered the worst flooding in some areas since 2002. - Aljazeera.

WATCH: Major floods hit central Europe.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Largest North American Landslide EVER - 165 MILLION TONS Dropped More Than Half A Mile Down At Copper Mine In Utah!

June 02, 2013 - UNITED STATES - This is the stunning aftermath of the largest landslide ever recorded in North America, which saw 165 million tons of earth dropping more than a half mile at a Utah copper mine last month.

The natural disaster cut mining production in half at the Bingham Canyon Mine after the April 10 incident.

Operators rushed to bring out all workers and equipment from the mine before a massive landslide ripped through the canyon. It started at the mine's northeastern corner and then plummeted to very bottom of the mine, some six-tenths of a mile down.

Landslide brought it down: The devastation at the Bingham Canyon Mine outside of Salt Lake City. The mine's production was cut in half after the natural disaster.

Miraculously, there were no injuries.

According to Kennecott Copper Corp., the London-based company that operates the mine, more than 165 million tons of earth had fallen in the landslide.

Production at the mine was cut in half due to the disaster. In a message to customers, Kennecott representatives said that shipments of refined copper would continue as normal through April, but that May deliveries would be down and 'thereafter, we do not anticipate the ability to make further shipments for the foreseeable future'

Production began at the mines again in late April, but only limited operations.

Aftermath: A mining truck hauls rock from the Kennecott Copper Corp. owned Bingham Canyon
Mine after the April 10 landslide.

In an effort to reduce costs at the slide-damaged mine, Kennecott has offered 270 workers in their 50s or older a $20,000 early retirement bonus in addition to pension and health insurance benefits. About a third of these workers are planning on taking the retirement, Union officials told the Associated Press May 31. The workers have until Saturday to accept or reject the plan.

The company, which employed 2,100 employees, had been looking to reduce costs with layoffs ever since a massive landslide hit the Bingham Canyon Mine.

According to Jeff Moore, a geological engineer at the University of Utah, this was the largest landslide North America has had to date.

'It's so big it's hard to sense and feel,' Moore told The Salt Lake Tribune. 'We haven't had something of this magnitude since [Montana's] Earthquake Lake'

Quitting time: The Bingham Canyon Mine has been operating as a mine for over 100 years. The current
company that owns the mine offered early retirement plans to older workers in order to reduce
costs after an April landslide severely diminished production.

Moore estimates that around 85 million to 92 million cubic yards of rock and dirt, along with copper, gold, silver and molybdenum were moved. Moore explains this amount of earth as being able to fill 21 Great Pyramids of Giza, or if it were spread out over New York City's Central Park, it would be 65 feet deep.

And it's going to take a lot for the company to clean it up. 150 million tons of waste is almost two-thirds of what the mine moves in a year, according to reporting in the Tribune. - Daily Mail.

ICE AGE NOW: A Year Without Summer - Russian City Of Kemerovo Stunned By Anomalous Snowfall In June?!

June 02, 2013 - RUSSIA - A layer of snow on the second day of summer has put the citizens of the Russian city of Kemerovo completely out of humor.

Meteorologists say the anomaly occurred because a cyclone brought cold Arctic air from Kara Sea region into Siberia dropping, temperature to lows typical for summer north of the Arctic Circle.

Image from twitter user@stasiarik

Image from

Bloggers were at a loss when commenting the issue.

"Snow in Kemerovo TODAY? That's hardcore. The weather must've forgot it's June."

"With a sense of terror has just learnt it's been snowing in Kemerovo. What's next?"

"Tornado in the US. Floods in Czech Republic. SNOW in Kemerovo!"

The city in South Siberia is situated on 55°22'17.58" north latitude but even for that region -2 Celsius on June 2 morning is over the top. The region has seasonal inland climate, which means really cold winters and very hot summers.

Image from

Image from

This spring has been sort of cold in the Kemerovo Region, which witnessed snow in early May and an emergency extension of the heating season. No wonder that people have been waiting for warm summer days just like for manna from heaven, but instead got snowflakes.

But the locals are full of determination to recalculate sowing season schedule and plant kitchen gardens as usual and against all odds, probably because over 70 percent of Russia's territory is the area of risk farming and people are used to encounter hardships of the kind.  - RT.

WATCH: Snow in  Kemerovo.

INFRASTRUCTURE & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: "There Was A Loud Crash" - Bridge Collapse Sends Freight Train Plunging Into Ontario River, Several Cars Topple Into Wahnapitae River!

June 02, 2013 - CANADA - A train trestle over the Wahnapitae River near Sudbury, Ont., collapsed on Sunday, sending freight cars plummeting into the water, police say.

No injuries have been reported.

A local resident distributed this photo of the accident on social media shortly after a bridge collapsed, 25 kilometres south of Sudbury, Ont., on Sunday, June 2, 2013, sending five cars into the river below. (Twitter)

Ray Dubois of Wanup, Ont., took this photo of a partially submerged Canadian Pacific freight car from his back deck after several of them toppled from a collapsed bridge. (Hilary Duff/CBC)

Roy Spooner, a local resident who lives 100 metres away from the site said the crash was loud.

"It woke me up. There was a loud crash. My neighbours live very close to that bridge. One of my concerns at the time was that there was property damage or threat to human life because it was so close to their house."

Officers are currently at the site of the derailment on Highway 537 in Wanup, Ont., 25 kilometres south of Sudbury. In addition, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada has sent a team of investigators to the scene.

Police say five cars of a Canadian Pacific freight train plunged into the Wahnapite River after the trestle gave way. (Sudbury police)

Diana Barnard of Wanup, Ont. has property close to the scene of the crash. (Hilary Duff/CBC)

Five Canadian Pacific cars carrying what police are calling "various consumer products" fell into the river.

"The river is flowing rapidly right now because the water is very high. Not too far down stream from where the bridge broke there are some rapids. And if the cars were to form across the river, they may form a dam which could cause flooding," said Spooner.

Local residents who live downstream of the derailment are being advised by police not to consume the water or swim in it because of the "potential of small-scale contamination."

Roy Spooner of Wanup, Ont. was among residents who stocked up on bottled water after police cautioned there may be small-scale contamination of the Wahnapitae River. (Hilary Duff/CBC)

"There is no immediate threat to public safety from a release of hazardous goods," police said in a statement.

The highway is currently closed to all traffic and motorists are being asked to use an alternate route. - CBC.

WATCH: Train derails in bridge collapse near Sudbury, Ontario.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: MERS Coronavirus Spreads To Italy As Three More Is Killed In Saudi Arabia - WHO Declares Disease Is "Never Under Control"!

June 02, 2013 - MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) continues to spread.

Little is known about the SARS-like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, but more than half
of the reported cases have been fatal.  There have been at least 38 cases of the MERS virus in Saudi
Arabia and 24 of them have been deadly. 

Health officials in Saudi Arabia have confirmed that three more people had died from the virus, ABC News reported. At least 38 cases have been reported in the country, and 24 of them have been fatal.

On Saturday, three new infections were confirmed in Italy.

MERS had already been reported in Europe, but a 45-year-old man who recently traveled to Jordan was

Italy's first resident sickened by the virus. A two-year-old girl and a 42-year-old woman, both of whom were in close contact with the man, also fell ill.

All three were in stable condition as of Sunday, according to the World Health Organization.

Little is known about the rapidly-spreading viral respiratory illness, which first appeared in 2012.

Before the recent Saudi cases, WHO was notified of at least 50 people instances of MERS, 30 of which were fatal.

In addition to the recent one in Italy, clusters have been confirmed in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, France, Tunisia and the United Kingdom.

The cases in Europe and Africa were still connected to the Middle East, as those people affected had recently traveled to the area or had close contact with someone who had, WHO said.

The head of WHO recently called the virus a "threat to the entire world."

"Looking at the overall global situation, my greatest concern right now is the novel coronavirus," Dr. Margaret Chan said at a conference in Geneva on May 27.

"We understand too little about this virus when viewed against the magnitude of its potential threat. Any new disease that is emerging faster than our understanding is never under control."

MERS isn't believed to be as early transmitted as SARS, which killed 774 people and sickened thousands about 10 years ago. However, both are coronaviruses. - NY Daily News.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Powerful 6.2 Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Taiwan - Killing Two And Injures 21 Others! UPDATE: Strong Magnitude 5.7 Earthquake Injures 33 People, Damaged 140 Houses, Setting Off A Major Landslide!

June 02, 2013 - TAIWAN - A strong earthquake jolted Taiwan on Sunday, killing two people and injuring at least 21 others and causing panicked shoppers to rush out of a shaking multi-story department store, officials said.

Another earthquake jolted the southern Philippines late Saturday, injuring at least 33 people and damaging more than 140 houses.

USGS earthquake location.

The tremor that hit Taiwan on Sunday afternoon was felt all over the island, but most severely in the central and southern regions. The magnitude-6.2 quake's epicenter was near Jenai township in Nantou County in central Taiwan, about 155 miles south of Taipei, the Central Weather Bureau said.

In Mountain Ali in the southern part of the island, a man was killed by a rockslide while driving a car on a mountain road, the Taiwan Fire Agency said in a statement. Another man was killed by a falling rock when he was working at a farm in Chushan, near the epicenter.

Rockslides at a scenic mountainous area near the epicenter injured several people, the agency said. In all, 21 people were injured by the earthquake, many by fallen objects.

Workers removed fallen rocks and repaired a damaged mountain road in Nantou, allowing more than 100 stranded tourists to pass.

Shoppers screamed and ran out of a 12-story department store that shook violently for nearly a minute, TV stations reported from the central city of Taichung. Households elsewhere in central Taiwan reported cracks on the walls or ceilings falling, the reports said.

The Central Weather Bureau said the tremor had a relatively shallow depth of 6 miles. The U.S. Geological Survey put the magnitude at 6.5.

USGS earthquake shakemap intensity.

Earthquakes frequently rattle Taiwan, but most are minor and cause little or no damage. Nantou is near the epicenter of a magnitude-7.6 earthquake that struck Taiwan in 1999 and killed more than 2,300 people.

In the southern Philippines, a magnitude-5.7 earthquake rattled North Cotabato province and nearby areas late Saturday as people slept, damaging more than 140 houses and several school buildings and setting off a landslide that partially blocked a road with boulders, officials said.

At least 33 people, including children, were injured by collapsed walls and falling debris in the hard-hit North Cotabato villages of Kimadzil and Kibugtongan, said Hermes Daquipa, a Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology official who joined a government team that surveyed the hilly villages.

The quake, which was set off by the movement of a nearby fault, damaged the approaches to two bridges and concrete pipes that cut off water supply to the two villages. Some of the damaged school buildings will not be able to be used for Monday's resumption of classes after a summer break for safety reasons, North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Tolentino-Mendoza said.

Many residents remained jittery Sunday because of continuing aftershocks, said Mendoza, who added that she scrambled out of her home like other villagers when the ground started to shake and objects fell from shelves.

"It's a big relief that no motorist was passing through our highway when boulders rolled down from the mountainside," she said.

The Philippine archipelago is located in the Pacific "Ring of Fire," where earthquakes and volcanic activity are common. A magnitude-7.7 quake killed nearly 2,000 people on the northern island of Luzon in 1990. - USA Today.

WATCH: Raw Footage: Quake Rattles Taiwan.

Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of the Philippine Sea and Vicinity.
The Philippine Sea plate is bordered by the larger Pacific and Eurasia plates and the smaller Sunda plate. The Philippine Sea plate is unusual in that its borders are nearly all zones of plate convergence. The Pacific plate is subducted into the mantle, south of Japan, beneath the Izu-Bonin and Mariana island arcs, which extend more than 3,000 km along the eastern margin of the Philippine Sea plate. This subduction zone is characterized by rapid plate convergence and high-level seismicity extending to depths of over 600 km. In spite of this extensive zone of plate convergence, the plate interface has been associated with few great (Magnitude greater than 8.0) ‘megathrust’ earthquakes. This low seismic energy release is thought to result from weak coupling along the plate interface (Scholz and Campos, 1995). These convergent plate margins are also associated with unusual zones of back-arc extension (along with resulting seismic activity) that decouple the volcanic island arcs from the remainder of the Philippine Sea Plate (Karig et al., 1978; Klaus et al., 1992).

South of the Mariana arc, the Pacific plate is subducted beneath the Yap Islands along the Yap trench. The long zone of Pacific plate subduction at the eastern margin of the Philippine Sea Plate is responsible for the generation of the deep Izu-Bonin, Mariana, and Yap trenches as well as parallel chains of islands and volcanoes, typical of circum-pacific island arcs. Similarly, the northwestern margin of the Philippine Sea plate is subducting beneath the Eurasia plate along a convergent zone, extending from southern Honshu to the northeastern coast of Taiwan, manifested by the Ryukyu Islands and the Nansei-Shoto (Ryukyu) trench. The Ryukyu Subduction Zone is associated with a similar zone of back-arc extension, the Okinawa Trough. At Taiwan, the plate boundary is characterized by a zone of arc-continent collision, whereby the northern end of the Luzon island arc is colliding with the buoyant crust of the Eurasia continental margin offshore China.

Along its western margin, the Philippine Sea plate is associated with a zone of oblique convergence with the Sunda Plate. This highly active convergent plate boundary extends along both sides the Philippine Islands, from Luzon in the north to the Celebes Islands in the south. The tectonic setting of the Philippines is unusual in several respects: it is characterized by opposite-facing subduction systems on its east and west sides; the archipelago is cut by a major transform fault, the Philippine Fault; and the arc complex itself is marked by active volcanism, faulting, and high seismic activity. Subduction of the Philippine Sea Plate occurs at the eastern margin of the archipelago along the Philippine Trench and its northern extension, the East Luzon Trough. The East Luzon Trough is thought to be an unusual example of a subduction zone in the process of formation, as the Philippine Trench system gradually extends northward (Hamburger et al., 1983). On the west side of Luzon, the Sunda Plate subducts eastward along a series of trenches, including the Manila Trench in the north, the smaller less well-developed Negros Trench in the central Philippines, and the Sulu and Cotabato trenches in the south (Cardwell et al., 1980). At its northern and southern terminations, subduction at the Manila Trench is interrupted by arc-continent collision, between the northern Philippine arc and the Eurasian continental margin at Taiwan and between the Sulu-Borneo Block and Luzon at the island of Mindoro. The Philippine fault, which extends over 1,200 km within the Philippine arc, is seismically active. The fault has been associated with major historical earthquakes, including the destructive M7.6 Luzon earthquake of 1990 (Yoshida and Abe, 1992). A number of other active intra-arc fault systems are associated with high seismic activity, including the Cotabato Fault and the Verde Passage-Sibuyan Sea Fault (Galgana et al., 2007).

Relative plate motion vectors near the Philippines (about 80 mm/yr) is oblique to the plate boundary along the two plate margins of central Luzon, where it is partitioned into orthogonal plate convergence along the trenches and nearly pure translational motion along the Philippine Fault (Barrier et al., 1991). Profiles B and C reveal evidence of opposing inclined seismic zones at intermediate depths (roughly 70-300 km) and complex tectonics at the surface along the Philippine Fault.

Several relevant tectonic elements, plate boundaries and active volcanoes, provide a context for the seismicity presented on the main map. The plate boundaries are most accurate along the axis of the trenches and more diffuse or speculative in the South China Sea and Lesser Sunda Islands. The active volcanic arcs (Siebert and Simkin, 2002) follow the Izu, Volcano, Mariana, and Ryukyu island chains and the main Philippine islands parallel to the Manila, Negros, Cotabato, and Philippine trenches.

Seismic activity along the boundaries of the Philippine Sea Plate (Allen et al., 2009) has produced 7 great (Magnitude greater than 8.0) earthquakes and 250 large (Magnitude greater than 7) events. Among the most destructive events were the 1923 Kanto, the 1948 Fukui and the 1995 Kobe (Japan) earthquakes (99,000, 5,100, and 6,400 casualties, respectively), the 1935 and the 1999 Chi-Chi (Taiwan) earthquakes (3,300 and 2,500 casualties, respectively), and the 1976 M7.6 Moro Gulf and 1990 M7.6 Luzon (Philippines) earthquakes (7,100 and 2,400 casualties, respectively). There have also been a number of tsunami-generating events in the region, including the Moro Gulf earthquake, whose tsunami resulted in more than 5000 deaths. - USGS.

DISASTER IMPACT: Very Extreme Weather - Tornado Chaos, Supercell Thunderstorm And Extreme Atmospheric Violence From Oklahoma To Missouri Kills 9 And Injures 71; Leaving A Trail Of Widespread Destruction!

June 02, 2013 - UNITED STATES - It was a terrifying evening of tornado chaos and extreme atmospheric violence in the Oklahoma City area on Friday. Three tornadoes touched down near the city, killing nine, injuring at least 71, and causing widespread destruction. Huge hail up to baseball-sized battered portions the the metro area, accompanied by torrential flooding rains, widespread damaging straight-line winds, and lightning that flashed nearly continuously. The strongest tornado, which touched down west of Oklahoma City in El Reno, has been preliminarily rated an EF-3 with 136 - 165 mph winds. The tornado warning for the storm was issued 19 minutes before it touched down. Two other EF-3 tornadoes touched down near St. Louis, Missouri, and NOAA's Storm Prediction Center (SPC) logged 20 preliminary tornado reports on Friday. Tinker Air Force Base on the east side of Oklahoma City reported sustained winds of 68 mph, gusting to 88 mph, at 8:09 pm CDT. The Oklahoma City airport had sustained winds of 53 mph, gusting to 71 mph at 7:26 pm. These winds were generated by the massive and powerful downdrafts from the supercell thunderstorm that spawned the El Reno tornado. Thankfully, Friday was likely the peak day for this week's severe weather outbreak, as SPC is calling for only a "Slight Risk" of severe weather Saturday and Sunday.

TWC's Mike ‪Bettes‬ crew caught this image of the El Reno, Oklahoma tornado of May 31, 2013
before the tornado caught them and rolled their vehicle.

Radar reflectivity (top) and Doppler velocity (bottom) images of the May 31, 2013 El Reno, Oklahoma tornado.

Preliminary tracks of the three tornadoes that touched done near Oklahoma City on May 31, 2013. Image credit: NWS Norman, OK.

Tornadoes and cars: a dangerous mix

A vehicle is about the worst place you can be in a tornado, as the tornado's winds can easily roll a car. (The only place less safe is probably a mobile home, as a tornado's winds can roll mobile homes almost as readily, and mobile homes don't come with seat belts and air bags.) At least five of the deaths in Friday's El Reno tornado occurred in vehicles attempting to flee. There was one local TV station that urged residents without underground shelters to get in their cars and "get south" in advance of the tornado that was approaching Oklahoma City, since chasers were reporting that the El Reno tornado may have been so strong that only an underground shelter would have provided adequate protection. This terrible piece of advice likely contributed to the incredible traffic jams that we saw on I-35, I-40, I-44, and other local roads Friday night. Thousands of cars were bumper-to-bumper on the roads as a dangerous tornado approached them. Had the El Reno tornado plowed directly down one of these car-choked interstates, the death toll could have easily exceeded 500. If you are located in a metro area and don't have an underground shelter, the best thing to do it to take shelter in an interior windowless room or hallway, with protective furniture over your body. Getting in a car and attempting to flee the tornado is the worst thing you can do in an urban area. You may not be able to see the tornado if it is dark or the tornado is wrapped in rain. You are likely to encounter hazardous winds, rain, and hail, run into unexpected traffic, or flooded or debris-blocked roads that will put you directly in the path of the tornado. Even without an underground shelter, most people will be able to survive a dangerous EF-4 tornado. Case in point: during the Mannsford, Oklahoma EF- 4 tornado of 1984, a packed church received a direct hit, and everyone in the church survived. The only fatality was a man who drove to the church to get his wife. (Thanks to wunderground member AGWcreationists for this link.) It's better to abandon your vehicle and take shelter in a ditch, if you are caught in a car during a tornado.

WATCH: The Weather Channel storm chasers weren't the only ones who got themselves in an extremely dangerous situation on May 31. storm chaser Brandon Sullivan and his chase partner Brett Wright got caught in the tornado northwest of Union City, OK and slammed with debris as the tornado hit a barn that exploded in front of them.

WATCH: When the hunters became the hunted: Weather Channel storm chasers ‪Mike Bettes and two photographers were in their Tornado Hunt vehicle when they were hit by a tornado in El Reno, Oklahoma on May 31,‬ ‪2013. ‬The tornado picked their car up off the ground and rolled it 6 - 8 times before depositing it in a field 200 yards away. All the occupants were wearing seat belts and the air bags deployed, likely saving their lives. Bettes sustained minor injuries, including stitches in his hand. It was the first injury sustained by a Weather Channel personality covering violent weather, according to company spokesperson Shirley Powell.

A storm chasers' nightmare

Cars and tornadoes can prove a dangerous mix even for the world's most experienced storm chasers. Driving at high speeds though heavy rain, large hail, and high winds is hazardous. If one is lucky enough to chase down a tornado, even the most experienced chasers can find themselves in a serious life-threatening situation when unpredictable events occur. Tornadoes by their nature are unpredictable, and can change course unexpectedly, or pop up suddenly. It's particularly dangerous when a tornado is wrapped in rain, making it hard to see, or if a chaser is operating in a heavily populated area, where roads may suddenly become congested. All four of these conditions occurred Friday during the El Reno tornado, and it is very fortunate that multiple chasers were not killed. The El Reno tornado was wrapped in rain and difficult to see as it headed west towards Oklahoma City. The twister suddenly made a jog to the southeast as a Weather Channel team led by Mike Bettes was attempting to get in front of the storm, and the tornado lifted their vehicle off the ground, rolled it multiple times, and hurled it 200 yards into a nearby field. storm chaser Brandon Sullivan and his chase partner Brett Wright got caught in the tornado northwest of Union City, OK and slammed with debris as the tornado hit a barn that exploded in front of them. Meteorologist Emily Sutton and storm chaser Kevin Josefy of local Oklahoma City TV station KFOR also had a very close call with the El Reno tornado Friday afternoon. They got too close to the tornado, and were forced to floor the car in reverse to escape flying debris. With branches of trees crashing around them, Sutton began feeling debris hitting her back, and realized that the rear windshield of the car must have gotten destroyed. Both were uninjured. Reed Timmer's armor-plated "Dominator" chase vehicle had its hood torn off by the tornado. Wunderground member Levi32 was out storm chasing during the El Reno Tornado, and got stuck in traffic on Highway 4 and couldn't move. "We looked up above the car and saw the wall cloud over top of us, with very quick rotation and rising scud indicating the updraft. We were definitely too close. We made it home safely last night, but not until after an insanely wild day. One hour of chasing turned into six more of being chased by at least 2 tornadoes and a 3rd wall cloud, one of which was the one that went right through downtown Oklahoma City. At one point we were stuck in traffic underneath the El Rino wall cloud watching rotating, rising scud directly above the car. I am hoping and praying that the daylight does not reveal more fatalities.

Would I go again? Yes, but not today, or tomorrow, and I would take even greater care. We had no clue we would get caught the way we did. I thought we had done everything right. We were kind of freaking out for a while. That velocity signature you guys saw with radar folding and multiple vortices - we were under the southern edge of it. We never got a clear view of the tornado, but we could tell just how close it was to our north. It was unreal. The inflow got pretty strong.

We were almost ready to jump out and take cover right before we found a route south, which ended up being slow. It became a six-lane highway south as everyone panicked and drove on the wrong side of the road. Even we did so. We thought we were clear until we saw the training of tornadic supercells on radar, all connected somehow. I've never seen anything like that. My best pictures of the day were of the wall cloud that followed behind the El Reno storm. We didn't see a funnel from that one either, but it chased us south for a long time, and we heard from radio that it spawned a confirmed tornado in Tuttle, when we realized that we were in Tuttle.

A third mesocyclone showed up behind that one as we continued slowly south, eventually reaching Blanchard. It looked weaker than the others but we weren't going to escape it, so we took shelter in a storm room in the local grocery store for about an hour. It then took a long time to find a way around the huge hail cores to get back home. Lightning flashes were occurring 10 times per second as we drove home in the dark. It was almost calming to watch as we got over the semi-shock that we were all in. None of us in the car had seen a tornado before. We didn't see one yesterday, but we were chased by two."

WATCH: Birth of the El Reno wedge tornado. As the tornado touched down, it produced a rare display of suction vortices.

WATCH: Storm chasers Jeff Piotrowski and Kathryn Piotrowski captured impressive footage of a double vortex tornado near El Reno, Oklahoma on May 31, 2013.

Severe storms causing major flooding
The 5.64" of rain that fell at the Oklahoma City Will Rogers Airport on Friday was their 6th wettest day in city history, and brought the total rainfall for the month of May to 14.52", the wettest May in Oklahoma City's history (Thanks to BaltimoreBrian for this link.) The North Canadian River in Oklahoma City rose sixteen feet in twelve hours, cresting at its 2nd highest flood on record this Saturday morning. The heavy rains have spread eastwards on Saturday, causing more flooding problems. Paducah, KY had its wettest June day and 3rd wettest day on record on June 1, with 5.73" of rain (all-time record: 7.49" on 9/5/1985.) Major flooding is occurring along a substantial stretch of the Mississippi River in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri.

The North Canadian River in Oklahoma City rose sixteen feet in twelve hours, reaching its 2nd highest flood on record this Saturday morning.

Radar-estimated rainfall in the Oklahoma City area reached 8+" over some areas from Friday's storm.

Remains of Hurricane Barbara may bring heavy rains to Mexico, Florida, and Cuba
Today, June 1, is the official first day of the Atlantic Hurricane season, and we already have our first Atlantic tropical disturbance to talk about. Hurricane Barbara, which died on Thursday as it attempted to cross Mexico's Isthmus of Tehuantepec into the southernmost Gulf of Mexico, has left behind an area of disturbed weather over the southernmost Gulf of Mexico. There is very little heavy thunderstorm activity associated with Barbara's remnants apparent on satellite loops this Saturday afternoon. Wind shear is a high 20 knots in the region, and the area of disturbed weather is quite small, so I don't expect any development to occur over the next few days. NHC is giving the disturbance a 10% chance of developing into a tropical cyclone by Monday. Moisture from the remnants of Barbara may combine with moisture from an area of heavy thunderstorms expected to build over the Western Caribbean this weekend, and begin bringing heavy rains to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and Western Cuba on Sunday and Monday. These heavy rains may spread to Southwest Florida as early as Monday night. The computer models predict that this disturbance should be large and poorly organized, making development into a Gulf of Mexico tropical cyclone unlikely.
- Weather Underground.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Devastating Mega-Earthquake Predicted For The Himalayan Region - The Kashmir Basin Valley Is Undergoing A "Locus Of Active Deformation" Capable Of Hosting A Magnitude 7.6 Tremor!

June 02, 2013 - HIMALAYAS - A devastating earthquake is expected in Himalayan region stretching from Indian Administrated Kashmir to Northern Pakistani areas, a latest scientific research has revealed.

“The projected strike length of the fault would be 120 km which consists of 80 km strike length of the mapped fault and 40 k length from the implied portion,” forecasts Dr. A. A. Shah research fellow at the Earth Observatory Sciences (EOS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

The study ‘Earthquake geology of Kashmir Basin and its implications for future large earthquakes’ anticipates happening of magnitude 7.6 quake on this fault line.

The general location of the Himalayas mountain range.

Unearthing records of 13 major historical earthquakes in the valley over the last millennium, the study indicates that Kashmir Valley is a locus of active deformation. “There are a few active faults in the Kashmir Basin and which are capable to host a magnitute 7.6 earthquake, big enough to shake the entire valley”, it added.

An earthquake of similar magnitude struck Northern Pakistan and Kashmir regions in 2005 which killed at least 73,000 people.

Scientists believe that Himalayan region has witnessed frequent tremors and few prominent tragedies occurred in Kashmir in ~1555 and 1885-86. Recalling past geological changes the report concludes that “the active geomorphic evidences suggest that these historical events must have ruptured the surface that are now preserved as active fault scarps.”

The report says that the on-going collision deformation along the 2,000-km long Himalayan orogenic belt is distributed differently along the central and western portions of the belt.

The study concludes the fault trace could be continuous over a distance of 210 km and might connect on the west with the Balakot Bagh fault. Balakot is the second most affected city by 2005 disaster in Northern Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province.

However, the author was neither sure about geomorphic expression of this fault on the north-west, nor it found any evidence(s) of structural or topographic breaks, which could suggest that it is an adjacent structure.

It concludes that Kashmir Basin (KB) fault is an independent thrust, a possible ramp on the Main Himalayan Thrust (MHT) that has uplifting the south-western (SW) portion of the KB and drowning everything to the north-east (NE) to it.

“Further than extending into the Kashmir Basin, the Balakot Bagh fault steps right and continues as the active Riasi Thrust based on the juxtaposition of similar bedrock along both faults,” it added.

The study found a clear geomorphic evidence of active thrusting in the Kashmir basin and possibility of a fault stepping. It also forecasts that Balakot Bagh may continue on the east as the Riasi Thrust and the Kashmir Basin fault.

The seismologist believes that the investigations will further unravel the earthquake chronology of the region where earthquake research is extremely important for hazard mitigation.

Dr. Shah recommends that strict building code must be imposed to promote earthquake resistant structures. Referring to the economic packages that Indian and Pakistan governments have offered for the rehabilitation of victims of past and recent Kashmir quakes, he says that unless the states are not equipped in understanding the earthquakes and building necessary earthquake resistant structures, such economic rehabilitation packages seem meaningless.

In the past years geologists have also presented similar scientific calculations about the arrival of a devastating earthquake in the Himalayas. - Eurasia Review.

MONUMENTAL EARTH/SOLAR SYSTEM CHANGES: The Moon Is Being Pushed Away From The Earth Faster Than Ever - Key Is The Massive Accelerated Expansion Of The North Atlantic Ocean?!

June 02, 2013 - SPACE - Earth is pushing the moon away faster now than it has for most of the past 50 million years, mostly a result of tides, a U.S. researcher says.

Matthew Huber of Purdue University says his models of the influence of tides on the moon's orbit help solve a longstanding mystery concerning the moon's age, reported Wednesday.

The moon's gravity creates a daily cycle of low and high tides that dissipates energy between it and Earth, slowing the planet's spin on its axis and causing the moon's orbit to move farther away by about an inch and a half a year.

If that rate has always been the same, given where the moon's orbit is now the moon should be 1.5 billion years old, Huber said, yet some lunar rocks are 4.5 billion years old.

Huber and his colleagues gathered data on ocean depths and continental contours existing 50 million years ago to create a model of ancient tides. The model suggests the energy dissipation then was only half what it is today, so the moon was pushed away at a slower rate, Huber said.

The key is the North Atlantic Ocean, which is much wider today than it was 50 million years ago -- wide enough for water to slosh across once per 12-hour cycle, creating larger waves and very high tides that result in shoving the moon faster, he said. - Moon Daily.

EXTREME WEATHER: The Powerhouse Fire - California Wildfire Explodes Overnight, Burns Nearly 20,000 Acres; 5 Structures Destroyed; Hundreds Evacuated!

June 02, 2013 - UNITED STATES - The Powerhouse fire destroyed at least five structures during a wind-fueled assault on Lake Hughes and Lake Elizabeth on Saturday and has burned nearly 20,000 acres. The 4-day-old fire in the Palmdale area grew rapidly in size overnight amid the hot, dry conditions.

Flames move toward a cross on a hillside overlooking a religious retreat threatened by the Powerhouse
fire near Castaic. ( Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times / May 31, 2013 )

A tanker helicopter makes a drop as crews work to protect a handful of homes from the Powerhouse fire
burning near Castaic.  ( Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times / May 31, 2013 )

As of Saturday afternoon, only 3,600 acres had burned.

Authorities were still trying to determine how many structures were lost when the fire bore down on the lake communities. Hundreds of residents remain evacuated, and nearly 1,000 fire personnel remain on the fire lines.

Firefighters on Saturday night rescued people from homes and had some close calls. At one point, a fire station was surrounded by flames.

Water-dropping helicopters were used to make night drops, helping beat back the flames from the communities.

Some 2,000 firefighters are battling the Powerhouse fire in rugged terrain near Castaic Lake. The fire, which has burned through nearly 20,000 acres, is about 20% contained, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
View Powerhouse Fire in a larger map

Lake Hughes resident Patty Robitaille, 61, sat in her car Saturday night and watched the Powerhouse fire burning at the top of a nearby hill.

Inside the vehicle, her pit bull, Roxie, slept amid the belongings Robitaille was able to grab before she was forced to evacuate.

"I grabbed pictures and documents," Robitaille said.

The Caltrans employee said she had pulled over at the intersection of Johnson and Elizabeth Lake roads to wait for her boyfriend and son, who stayed behind to water down their house.

Robitaille said her home on Muir Drive and Lake Hughes Road was among the first in the direct path of the fire.

She said the fire had burned on the ridge of the mountain at 6:15 p.m. Within an hour, the flames had reached the back of her home.

"It kept going and going," Robitaille said. "Driving away, you could see the town burning up," she added. "I don’t think there’s going to be much left."

She said she noticed flames near Hughes-Elizabeth Lakes Union Elementary School, the Lancaster Fire Station and the post office. The buildings sit along the north side of Lake Elizabeth Road.

The Powerhouse Fire burning in the Angeles National Forest northwest of Los Angeles sends up a huge plume of smoke on Saturday, June 1, 2013. Smoke from the fire made visibility hazy in the San Fernando Valley, foreground. The blaze has burned thousands of acres of brush since it erupted Thursday afternoon near a utility powerhouse. (AP Photo/John Antczak)

A crew from Duarte stands by as a bulldozer cuts a fire line in an effort to slow the progress of the Powerhouse fire near Castaic. ( Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times / May 31, 2013 )

“It was horrible,” Robitaille said. “Everything happened fast.”

Across the intersection, in a small empty lot, Elizabeth Lake resident Sara Ford, 43, waited in her SUV for her husband and two sons. They too had stayed behind to protect their home, she said.

Ford said her home is in the Club Ranch area, which sits on the western part of the Elizabeth Lake Golf Course.

 WATCH: Powerhouse fire grows overnight - At least 5 structures destroyed.

"We have had fires out here before, but this is the closest that it's ever been in my 18 years of living here," Ford said.

At 11:35 p.m. the fire had burned slightly down the side of the hill. The air got smokier and the orange glow in the sky turned brighter as the flames grew. Ash fell everywhere.

A squad of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies made their way down on Elizabeth Lake Road and into Alderwood Road, where dozens of homes sat on the east side of the golf course.

Not far, Stephanie Purdy, 43, and her boyfriend JJ Azan, 43, watched the fire. They listened to a scanner through a phone app. At one point, a propane tank exploded in the distance.

"It’s devastating for Lake Hughes," Purdy said. - LA Times.

THE GREAT DELUGE: A Year Without Spring - Top U.S. Corn State Iowa Receives Most Spring Rain On Record, Most Rain In 141 Years!

June 02, 2013 - UNITED STATES Top U.S. corn and soybean producing state Iowa has received the most spring rainfall since records began 141 years ago, slowing crop plantings and threatening to reduce yields, an Iowa climatologist said on Friday.

Top U.S. corn and soybean producing state Iowa has received the most spring rainfall since records began 141 years ago, slowing crop plantings and threatening to reduce yields, an Iowa climatologist said on Friday.

You Think It’s Wet Here? Yes, it is soggy, but just south of the border they’re bailing out from the wettest spring on record across Iowa. Graphic courtesy of WeatherNation TV.

"From March through May, which is our spring record keeping period, Iowa had received 17.48 inches of rain as of Thursday," Iowa State Climatologist, Harry Hillaker said. "There may be another 0.15 inch added to that today."

Hillaker said the old record of 15.36 inches was set in 1892 but rainfall seen from March through to May is the most since records began.

Hillaker said typical March-May rainfall in the state was 10.22 inches. "That would be normal and is based on rainfall received for the past 30 years," he said.

Excessive wet weather in the U.S. Midwest has slowed seedings of corn and soybeans, pushing corn plantings up to the end-of-May deadline that farmers can plant without suffering cutbacks in crop insurance coverage.

Farmers who plant corn after the end of May in Iowa and Illinois are hit with reductions in insurance benefits for each day that plantings are delayed.

Hillaker said Iowa runs the risk of flooding since soil moisture reserves have been replenished following the worst drought in over 50 years last year.

"The only time period I can find where it was so hot and dry one year followed by cold and wet the next would be the 1901 and 1902 years," he said.

Additional rainfall late this week into the weekend will further slow corn and soybean plantings in the U.S. Midwest, threatening to reduce yield potential for the 2013 crop season, an agricultural meteorologist said on Friday.

"It's not the best of conditions, there will be more rain for the next two days with the heaviest southeast of a line from Kansas City to Green Bay," said John Dee, meteorologist for Global Weather Monitoring.

Dee said it would turn drier from Sunday through Tuesday but more rain is expected in the Midwest beginning next Wednesday and "we could see more showers next Friday into the weekend." The showers will be widespread and "continue to cause some issues," Dee said.

The slow seeding of both crops this spring has raised concerns about reduced yields at autumn harvest as key phases of crop development will likely be delayed until the heat of the summer. A late planting also increases the possibility of an early frost inflicting further damage on the crops.

The USDA said that corn planting was 86 percent complete as of May 26, up 15 percentage points from a week earlier.

The corn progress was down from 99 percent a year ago and behind the five-year average of 90 percent. But prospects were much improved from just two weeks ago, when muddy fields led to the slowest start on record for corn planting.

Farmers had finished 44 percent of soybean planting as of May 26, compared with 87 percent a year ago and the five-year average of 61 percent. It was the slowest pace for soybeans since 1996, when farmers had seeded just 35 percent of their crop by the end of May. - Scientific American.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Philippines Mayon Volcano Exhibits "Abnormalities" - Alarm Raised To Level 1!

June 02, 2013 - PHILIPPINES Volcanologists have raised the state of alert around Mayon Volcano  from normal to Level 1 after the volcano exhibited some abnormalities, mainly bluish steam emissions and a persistent although weak crater glow, an official of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said Saturday.

 Pyroclastic flows at Mayon Volcano, Philippines, 1984.
Image: C.G. Newhall.

Eduardo Laguerta, Phivolcs resident volcanologist, said the level of the volcanic alarm was raised Friday afternoon after volcanologists noted that besides the steam emission and crater glow, Phivolcs’ instruments had detected slight bulging or inflations in  two areas of the volcano’s structure—one on the northwest side facing Barangay Buang in Tabaco City; and the other on the southwest section facing  Barangay Lidong in Sto. Domingo town.

He explained the volcano’s slight deformation and crater glow might be an indication that magma activity was increasing beneath the volcano.

Laguerta stressed, however, that there were no indications of an imminent eruption as the other characteristics were not yet present, such as low and high frequency volcanic quakes, high sulphur dioxide emissions, lava fountaining, lava flows, magmatic activities, pyroclastic flows and steam and ash explosions.

The raising of alert status prompted the Albay Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) to issue a public notice  strictly prohibiting any “human activity” inside the six-kilometer Permanent Danger Zone  around the volcano.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda directed local disaster councils, various village chiefs, the police and the military to enforce the “no human activity” restriction, including mountain climbing, farming, orchids gathering and ATV (all-terrain vehicle) tours within the danger zone.

He advised the disaster councils of the cities of Legazpi, Ligao and Tabaco and the towns of Daraga, Camalig, Sto Domingo, Malilipot and Guinobatan to be on alert and closely monitor advisories released by Phivolcs and the PDRRMC.

In its bulletin on Saturday morning, Phivolcs said that during its past 36-hour observation period, Mount Mayon  continued to emit weak and short-lived bluish fumes with persistent crater glow of Intensity 1 (weak).

The 2,462-meter-high volcano had a steam-driven phreatic explosion on May 7 that sent a three-kilometer-high ash cloud, killing five mountaineers—three Germans, a Spaniard and their local guide.

Two weeks after  the incident, the authorities rescued a lone Russian mountaineer who called for help after getting lost and breaking a leg during a solo climb on the volcano without getting a permit.

PDRRMC data showed that Mount Mayon’s last recorded eruption was in December 2009 during which 8,637 families or 40,991 persons living in 30 villages at the foot of the volcanoe had to be evacuated.

Phivolcs strongly reiterated that the six-kilometer Permanent Danger Zone was off-limits to the public  because of the constant danger of rockfalls, avalanches, ash puffs and sudden phreatic or steam-driven eruptions. - Inquirer News.


EXTREME WEATHER: Tornado Hunt Team Takes Direct Hit By Tornado - 3 Veteran Storm Chasers Killed In Oklahoma!

June 02, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Three veteran storm chasers were among the 10 people killed when a violent tornado barreled into the Oklahoma City metro area.

The photo shows the SUV Mike Bettes and a few of his crew member were travelling in when it was thrown by the tornado. Sean Schofertvn/Twitter

Jim Samaras said Sunday that his brother Tim Samaras was killed. Tim Samaras' son, Paul Samaras, and another chaser, Carl Young, also died.

The men were from Colorado but traveled the Great Plains in search of bad weather.

The three died Friday night near El Reno when an EF3 tornado with winds up to 165 mph hit the Oklahoma City area during rush hour.

The national Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said the men were involved in tornado research. - AP.

WATCH: Tornado Hunt Team Takes Direct Hit By Tornado.

The Weather Channel Tornado Hunt Team is safe, but shaken up after their chase vehicles took a direct hit by a violent tornado west of Oklahoma City.

Meteorologist Mike Bettes was chasing the monster rain-wrapped tornado near El Reno, Okla. when he says the storm picked up the heavy chase SUV and threw it an estimated 200 yards.

"We were ahead of the storm. We stopped to broadcast and I saw a large violent wedge tornado," Bettes said in a live phone interview after he established phone connection after the incident.

"What we were trying to do was just get away from it and get to the south side of it," Bettes said. "But what ended up happening was all three of our vehicles that we chase with were all hit by it."

He remembers being thrown into the air.

"It was like we were floating. We were tumbling. We were airborne at least one point and we were floating. Then we weren't tumbling anymore and we came down hard."

Bettes was nursing minor injuries Saturday, including stitches in his hand. All the occupants were wearing safety belts and walked away from the banged-up vehicle.

"My life flashed before my eyes."

It's the first time one of the network's personalities has been injured while covering violent weather, spokeswoman Shirley Powell said.

Bettes reported seeing other vehicles that had also been thrown by the storm.

It's the fourth year that The Weather Channel has sent crews out actively hunting tornadoes, Powell said. Two years ago, one of the network's crews was among the first on the scene after a devastating twister hit Joplin, Mo., bringing back gripping video.

For the first two years, The Weather Channel was embedded with a government research team. But in the past two years, the network has sent its own crews out. Bettes' white vehicle is emblazoned with the phrase "Tornado Hunt" and the network's logo.

Powell said it is too early to tell how the close call will affect the network's tornado coverage, but it will be under review. "Tornadoes are violent and unpredictable, but covering them keeps the public at large informed and, as a result, safer," she said.

Bettes thanked friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter Saturday morning for the kind thoughts. "Hopefully our mishap will teach us all to respect the weather and be responsible and safe at all costs," he posted on Facebook. "I thought I was doing the right thing, but obviously I wasn't. Lesson learned the hard way. Someone was watching over us. Very blessed to be headed home tomorrow to see my family." - TWC.

WAR DRUMS: Cold War 2.0 - Russia To Launch Nuclear Submarines To North And South Poles!

June 02, 2013 - RUSSIA Russia plans to resume nuclear submarine patrols in the southern seas after a hiatus of more than 20 years following the break-up of the Soviet Union, Itar-Tass news agency reported on Saturday, in another example of efforts to revive Moscow's military.

The plan to send Borei-class submarines, designed to carry 16 long-range nuclear missiles, to the southern hemisphere follows President Vladimir Putin's decision in March to deploy a naval unit in the Mediterranean Sea on a permanent basis starting this year.

A Russian submarine is anchored on the Neva River in central part of the city of St. Petersburg, July 27, 2012.
Credit: Reuters/Alexander Demianchuk.

"The revival of nuclear submarine patrols will allow us to fulfill the tasks of strategic deterrence not only across the North Pole but also the South Pole," state-run Itar-Tass cited an unnamed official in the military General Staff as saying.

The official said the patrols would be phased in over several years. The Yuri Dolgoruky, the first of eight Borei-class submarines that Russia hopes to launch by 2020, entered service this year.

Putin has stressed the importance of a strong and agile military since returning to the presidency last May. In 13 years in power, he has often cited external threats when talking of the need for a reliable armed forces and Russian political unity.

Fears of a nuclear confrontation between Russia and the United States has eased in recent years, and the Cold War-era foes signed a landmark treaty in 2010 setting lower limits on the size of their long-range nuclear arsenals.

But the limited numbers of warheads and delivery vehicles such as submarines that they committed to under the New START treaty are still enough to devastate the world. Putin has made clear Russia will continue to upgrade its arsenal.

Russia's land-launched Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) would fly over the northern part of the globe, as would those fired from submarines in the northern hemisphere.

Both the Borei-class submarines and the Bulava ballistic missiles they carry were designed in the 1990s, when the science and defense industries were severely underfunded.

Russia sees the Bulava as the backbone of its future nuclear deterrence, but the program has been set back by several botched launches over the past few years. - Reuters.

ICE AGE NOW: A Year Without Spring - Italy Shivers Through "Cursed Spring" Of Relentless Rain; Wettest Spring In At Least 150 Years!

June 02, 2013 - ITALY - June normally heralds the arrival of summer heat, but 2013's capricious weather is fueling new meteorological obsession. As the breeze swept in under the cafe's parasols and the sky darkened over Rome, waiter Apu Haq exchanged commiserations with a customer nursing an espresso and a scowl. "They said summer was going to arrive this week," remarked Haq, "and instead came winter." Within minutes, torrential rain was lashing the cobblestones as thunder rumbled in the distance. "It's all the wrong way round," said a bewildered Haq, from Bangladesh. "It's incredible. I've been here for 10 years now and I've never seen anything like it. It's too strange."

Pope Francis surrounded by Catholics sheltering from the heavy rain under umbrellas in St Peter's Square this week. Photograph: Alessandra Benedetti/Corbis

Italian springs are often strange, but this one will perhaps be remembered as particularly capricious. As with much of northern Europe, the country has shivered its way through a good deal of the year. In the north-west, according to the Italian meteorological society, residents have had the coldest May since 1991. In much of the north-east, the spring has been the wettest for at least 150 years. A mountain stage of the Giro d'Italia bike race was called off due to snow and ice. Beach resorts in Tuscany have been flooded. Many farmers have suffered huge damage to their crops.

Now, as June arrives, it should technically be summer. But it certainly doesn't feel like it. "Last year, by this point, we were going to the sea. At the beginning of June we went down to the Fori Imperiali and sunbathed," said Mario Ramelli, a street-corner florist in central Rome. This spring's brutto tempo has been a topic of conversation with many of his customers - that is, those who stop to buy a pot of pansies or, optimistically, some sunflowers. "When it's horrid and wet, people hurry by," said Ramelli. "It's not good for work."

In countries such as Britain where changeable weather is a given, the coming meteorological events have always been a favoured topic of conversation. But among Italians, this so-called cursed spring appears to have created what one magazine has called the latest national obsession.

"As well as a country of saints, poets and sailors, we are now a people of meteorologists," declared Panorama magazine, part of Silvio Berlusconi's media empire. "The more it rains," it noted, gloomily, "the more we become like the Americans, addicted to the weather forecast, glued to the Weather Channel, talking only of this."

Certainly, the grey skies have ushered in a boom time for the array of weather apps and websites on offer to aid navigation of the first unpredictable few months of 2013. "We are seeing an exponential growth," said Antonio Sanò, director of He said the site had almost doubled its daily number of unique browsers, from 1.8m last year to 3m this year, and had even reached 6m during particularly mischievous periods. "It's explained by the strange weather, but also by the fact that every day ever more people put their trust in the forecasts," he said.

As well as giving forecasts, sites such as also advise on how to cope with the changeable weather - not to mention the physical and psychological ailments some claim it can cause. "Many Italians, an estimated 2 million, appear to suffer from 'spring sickness'," wrote the site. "The symptoms are: all-over fatigue, bad mood, anxiety, irritability and concentration problems."

As they ponder the weather forecast, many of Italy's millions of tourists would be forgiven for experiencing at least some of the above. But most - especially those from northern Europe - are putting on a brave face. "We were a little disappointed when we saw the temperatures," said Rachel Thorn-Roberts, an Anglo-American on holiday with her husband and two children, "but we live in France." Meteorologists declared 24 May to have been Paris's coldest - at just 3.7C - since 1887.

"A lot of non-Italian tourists are coming without umbrellas, and they don't like this weather," said Abdul Riki, one of Rome's enterprising street-sellers who come to the rescue of foolhardy flâneurs caught in a downpour. Normally, he said, he and his colleagues would have swapped their stock for sun hats and bottles of water by now. But, judging by the forecast, there seems little point in changing just yet. - Guardian.