Stories tagged disaster

There were northerly winds over North Atlantic in the months prior to the RMS Titanic leaving port. These winds likely played a role in pushing icebergs farther south than normal and into the Titanic’s path.

When the Titanic left port in Queenstown, Ireland on Thursday April 11, 1912, it sailed under brisk winds from the north-northwest at 15-20 knots and a temperature of about 50 degrees. Two days earlier, well to the west in Boston, MA, a few thousand fans shivered in the cold and snow flurries as the Red Sox beat Harvard University 2-0 in the first game ever played at Fenway Park. On April 12 the winds were from the west-southwest at about 15 knots and the noon temperature was about 60 degrees. As the ship continued westward, the skies got cloudier as a weak cold front approached. The noon time temperatures on Saturday April 12 were still around 60 degrees, but another cold front (associated with the previous Fenway snow flurries) was to the west and north of the ship. As the Titanic passed through the second cold front on Sunday April 14, the winds switched to northwest at 20 knots. The noon temperature was around 50 degrees but by 7:30 pm the temperature was 39 degrees. On Sunday, nighttime temperatures dropped below freezing and the skies cleared and the winds calmed. A large Arctic air mass was now over the area, along with a clear, star lite night, subfreezing temperatures and calm winds that resulted in a sea “like glass”. Icebergs where known to be in the region, but the calm winds made spotting them difficult. To spot icebergs during the night, lookouts searched for wind driven wave breaking around their bases. The ship struck an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on Sunday, April 14.

On Monday morning, after the sinking, one survivor reported a breeze that came up around dawn to add to the morning chill. Photographs of the rescue that morning show small waves on the ocean surface, confirming that report.

The National Weather Service has updated the 7-day outlook for the Mississippi River at downtown St. Paul. So far, the news is good: we're looking at 18.3' by the end of the week -- equivalent to last year's flood event, and a hassle, surely, but nowhere near the record. However,

"SIGNIFICANT UNCERTAINTY REMAINS ABOUT HOW MUCH SNOW WILL MELT THROUGH
TUESDAY...AND HOW MUCH RAIN AND SNOW WILL FALL...AND HOW MUCH OF THIS
COMBINED TOTAL WATER WILL ACTUALLY MAKE IT INTO THE RIVER SYSTEMS...BEFORE
COLDER AIR MOVES INTO THE AREA LATER IN THE WEEK.

THE CURRENT RIVER FORECASTS ONLY TAKE INTO ACCOUNT 24 HOURS OF FORECAST
PRECIPITATION...HENCE THROUGH 7 AM ON MONDAY. SO THESE FORECAST DO NOT
INCLUDE THE PRECIPITATION EVENT EXPECTED TO IMPACT THE AREA ON TUESDAY
AND WEDNESDAY. ADDITIONAL RAINFALL MAY CAUSE RIVER LEVELS TO RISE EVEN
HIGHER THAN CURRENTLY FORECAST.THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE WILL MONITOR
THIS DEVELOPING SITUATION AND ISSUE FOLLOW UP STATEMENTS."

So stay tuned. The 7-day outlook gets updated as needed.

Plot showing 7-day forecast issued at 8:45 pm, 3/20: 18.3' is WAY lower than 26.4'. But this forecast doesn't take into account the rain/snow we're going to get this week. A heavy rain could take us back into record territory.
Plot showing 7-day forecast issued at 8:45 pm, 3/20: 18.3' is WAY lower than 26.4'. But this forecast doesn't take into account the rain/snow we're going to get this week. A heavy rain could take us back into record territory.Courtesy Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service

Feb
07
2011

Mt. St. Helens erupts in 1980: Yellowstone's supervolcano has erupted with one thousand times the power of the blast pictured here.
Mt. St. Helens erupts in 1980: Yellowstone's supervolcano has erupted with one thousand times the power of the blast pictured here.Courtesy USGS/Cascades Volcano Observatory
The gigantic volcano seething under Yellowstone National Park could be ready to erupt with the force of a thousand Mt. St. Helenses! Large parts of the U.S. could be buried under ash and toxic gas!

Or, y'know, not.

This story has popped up in a couple of places recently, including National Geographic's website and, more sensationally, the UK's Daily Mail. Shifts in the floor of Yellowstone's caldera indicate that magma may be pooling below the surface, a phenomenon that might be the very earliest stages of an eruption. Then again, it's difficult to predict volcanic eruptions with much accuracy because there's no good way to take measurements of phenomena happening so far below the earth's surface.

Incidentally, the contrast in tone between the two stories makes them an interesting case study in science reporting: The Daily Mail plays up the possible risk and horrific consequences of an eruption, while National Geographic is much more matter-of-fact about the remoteness of that possibility. Which do you think makes better reading?

Challenger disaster

by mdr on Jan. 28th, 2011

Crew of the space shuttle Challenger
Crew of the space shuttle ChallengerCourtesy NASA
Twenty-five years ago, on January 28, 1986 the space shuttle Challenger (STS-51L) experienced a catastrophic explosion 73 seconds after liftoff killing all seven astronauts aboard, including teacher Christa McAuliffe. Details of the tragedy can be found here and here.

Estimates of the amount of oil that spilled from the ruined Deepwater Horizon wellhead vary greatly, so it's tough to pin down a total amount. (The short answer is, "a LOT.") But that difficulty hasn't stopped a bunch of different sources from trying...

The official estimate is that some 50 million to 140 million gallons spilled.

Boston.com has a nice gallery of images to help visualize just how much oil has spilled in the Gulf of Mexico. (Unfortunately, the numbers and comparisons only reflect the amount spilled as of June 11, so it's a month out of date. But still fascinating.)

The Alaska Dispatch has a counter that estimates the total amount of oil spilled. (They figure some 92,240,117 gallons, or about 2,196,193 barrels, over 87 days.)

And, last, here's a map of the world's largest oil spills.

May
03
2010

All your official oil spill info in one place

One website, DeepWaterHorizonResponse.com, combines information from multiple official sources.
Gulf of Mexico  Deepwater Horizon Incident: Screen capture
Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon Incident: Screen captureCourtesy ARTiFactor
Social media techniques are being applied in response to the 2010 BP oil spill disaster. The site is being maintained by British Petroleum, Transocean, the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Interior.

Excellent resource for learning about oil spills

Front and center is a Flickr slideshow hosted by U.S. Coast Guard Eighth District External Affairs. In the right column is a list of "latest information" links to news items and also PDFs and Word documents describing dispersants, booms and skimmers, and many "how to ..." tasks like reporting oil soaked wildlife or submitting claims for damages.

Social Media links

Source

I wish to thank ReadWriteWeb for pointing me toward this site.

The site allows you to register for updates. It also provides numbers to call for oiled wildlife, to report oil spill related damage, to report oiled shoreline, to request volunteer information or to submit alternative response technology, services or products.

May
02
2010

BP oil spill projection for May 3, 2010
BP oil spill projection for May 3, 2010Courtesy uscgd8
Chemicals known as dispersants are now being used against the ever increasing amount of oil leaking out of a deep water well head. Dispersants help break the larger masses of oil into smaller droplets which will mix into the water. These dispersants are being sprayed onto the surface slicks and are also being injected directly into the oil flowing out almost a mile under the surface.

Officials said that in two tests, that method appeared to be keeping crude oil from rising to the surface. They said that the procedure could be used more frequently once evaluations of its impact on the deepwater ecology were completed. New York Times

How do chemicals disperse the oil?

Dispersant chemicals contain solvents to assist it in dissolving into and throughout the oil mass and a surfactant which acts like soap. Surfactant molecules have one end that sticks to water and one end that sticks to oil. This, along with wave action, breaks masses of oil into droplets small enough that they stay suspended under water, rather than floating back to the surface.

Are these chemicals safe?

Such cleanup products can only be used by public authorities responding to an emergency if they are individually listed on the National Contingency Plan Product Schedule.

Many of the first dispersants used in the 70s and 80s did show high toxicity to marine organisms. However, today there is a wealth of laboratory data indicating that modern dispersants and oil/dispersant mixtures exhibit relatively low toxicity to marine organisms.
On occasions the benefit gained by using dispersants to protect coastal amenities, sea birds and intertidal marine life may far outweigh disadvantages such as the potential for temporary tainting of fish stocks. ITOPF

Here is a link to one product on their list (Oil Gone Easy Marine S200

Hard choices

According to National Geographic News, "Dispersants only alter the destination of the toxic compounds in the oil." Moving the oil off the surface protects the birds and animals along the shoreline but will increase the oil exposure for fish, shrimp, corals, and oysters. I hate to mention what hurricanes will do to this situation.

Aug
02
2007

7 dead, 60 injured (as of 1am, Aug 2)

I-35W bridge
I-35W bridge
tangled roadwayAt 6:05 pm, during peak traffic, the 35-W bridge over the Mississippi river collapsed. All eight lanes, all the way across, just dropped straight down into the river along with more than 50 cars, trucks, and even a school bus. How could this happen? Here is what I have found so far.

The I -35W bridge.

What does it look like? How is it made? It was a steel arch deck truss bridge. Its longest span stretched 458 feet between supports. It was built in 1967. (Link to photos and more data about the I-35W bridge.)

What might have gone wrong?

"The state, whoever did the inspection, which was likely to be MnDOT, noticed and observed cracking in the structural steel members, the main girders that hold the bridge up in the air. What it means is that the bridge is no longer going to stay stable," Galarn said.

Link to early video with a safty engineer about what might have went wrong.

How safe are other bridges?

Transportation Commissioner Len Levine who served under Governor Rudy Perpich (said) "between 40 and 50 percent of the 20,000 bridges in Minnesota are deficient in some way."

What is going to happen to traffic?

There will be added bus services from North metro area.
Map of detour routes.(pdf)

Where are photos of this disaster?

KSTP has lots of photos and updates.
Detroit Free Press had 25 photos.
34 photos on Flickr by blogger s4xton Read his story here.

Please use our comments to add updates, photo links, or thoughts.

I could not sleep so I started this after midnight. This story will keep growing so stay tuned and share what you know.

Jun
21
2007

Tidal surge from the 1938 hurricane: Image courtesy NOAA/NWS Historic Collection.
Tidal surge from the 1938 hurricane: Image courtesy NOAA/NWS Historic Collection.
Over on our thread about a crazy catfish skull, "brandon" recently left a rather off topic, yet still intriguing question:

hi there! i was wondering if there was a hurricane in new york in 1930???????

Why, yes, there was. Technically, it happened in 1938, and it was quite the whopper. On Friday, September 16th, 1938, a Brazilian ship reported a huge storm in the Atlantic and weather forecasters expected it to make landfall near Miami. Luckily for Miami, the storm turned north and everyone expected it to head out to sea. Remember: this was long before satellite images allowed us to track these huge storms in real-time.

Unluckily for people who lived in New York, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, though, the storm had just temporarily headed out to sea and was about to make landfall in New England. On the 21st, with no warning, one of the fastest-moving hurricanes ever recorded slammed into the New England coast. It caused massive damage in Long Island, giving the storm the name "The Long Island Express." Nearly 600 people died by the time it was all over.

Can you imagine what a storm like that would do to this area today? In 1938, Long Island was still somewhat rural and undeveloped. Today it's a densely-packed urban area full of millions of people, homes, and businesses. And, quite honestly, I hadn't ever even heard of this storm until today. I often think of New York as immune to these sorts of major storms. But it's actually very likely that a major storm will affect this region again in the next 50 years.

1938 Hurricane Links

The Great Hurricane of 1938 - a very in-depth history of the storm.
History Reveals Hurricane Threat to New York City - A modern perspective on the risks to New York city.
The regional perspective on the 1938 hurricane - Lots of great pictures of the destruction in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Do you know anyone who remembers the 1938 hurricane? Do you live in this area and have a hurricane story? Share your stories.