Stories tagged natural disasters

Mar
24
2011

Behind the wall: The wall protecting the bottom floor of the museum is made of two rows of cement barriers with dirt packed between them. Next door at District Energy, they're using sand. I wonder which will work better?
Behind the wall: The wall protecting the bottom floor of the museum is made of two rows of cement barriers with dirt packed between them. Next door at District Energy, they're using sand. I wonder which will work better?Courtesy JGordon
If you've been following Science Buzz (of course you have!) you know that St. Paul is gearing up for a flood!

It's still unclear as to how high the water will rise, but given all the snow we got this winter, the Science Museum is preparing for the worst. The worst is unlikely, but even not-quite-the-worst would be pretty bad, so the museum is building some defenses against the water.
A red tailed hawk keeps an eye on the proceedings: Which, frankly, is ridiculous. What do hawks know about flood management?
A red tailed hawk keeps an eye on the proceedings: Which, frankly, is ridiculous. What do hawks know about flood management?Courtesy JGordon
The hawk takes flight!: Good riddance. What were we even paying him for?
The hawk takes flight!: Good riddance. What were we even paying him for?Courtesy JGordon

Our Science House is being surrounded by a wall of thick, solid concrete blocks, like a fort. And we're building a wall of Jersey barriers packed with dirt through the Big Back Yard to protect our first floor, should the water get that high. The museum's first floor, by the way, is not where you enter. The first floor is way below that, and it's where we build exhibits and keep all of the machinery that maintains the climate in the building, so it's important that it doesn't get too wet down there.

Here's a slide show of the pictures I took of the construction this afternoon. For descriptions of what's happening in each, click on the photo (or go right to the Flickr photoset).

The Mississippi River @ downtown St. Paul is at "action stage" right now - 12.63' - headed to "flood stage" by midnight. Yesterday, it was rising about an inch an hour, but the cold has slowed things down just a bit. And the continued cold means that the river should crest (the first time, anyway) quite a bit lower than earlier predictions. Visit the Hydrological Prediction Service for details, or follow the whole flood saga on Science Buzz.

3-23-11, 8:30pm forecast: In this ONE respect, winter's comeback is a good thing...
3-23-11, 8:30pm forecast: In this ONE respect, winter's comeback is a good thing...Courtesy National Weather Service

A new gigapan is up. It is a very snowy version with much higher water. What a difference two days makes...

http://gigapan.org/gigapans/73337/

BTW: pay special attention to the lack of a really long train that didn't pass by. :)

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

This video is definitely strange. It was taken in Tokyo Central Park on the afternoon the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck in northern Japan. What it shows has been described by some as liquefaction. I'm not sure that's what's going here but whatever it is, I think most people would find it very unsettling. That doesn't seem to be the case with people in the park.

Be sure to watch it past the first minute (and the constantly barking dog) as that is when it gets the most interesting.

Check out this amazing map. It shows the number of foreshocks, the big quake, and aftershocks, as well their location, date/time, depth, and magnitude. Stick with it: it starts off slowly, but it gets pretty horrifyingly spectacular.

The remaining 50 emergency workers were pulled from the Fukushima Daiichi plant tonight for an hour or so due to a spike in radiation levels. (They're back in, now. For more on just how much radioactivity nuclear operators can be exposed to, read this NYTimes article.) The disaster is now rated a 6 on the 7-point scale. Three Mile Island was a 5; Chernobyl was a 7. 200,000 people within a 12 mile radius of the power plant have been evacuated. Another 140,000 people within a 20 mile radius of the area have been told to stay inside, and a 19 mile no-fly zone has been imposed over the plant. The only good news tonight seems to be that the winds are blowing out to sea, helping to disperse the radiation away from populated areas.

This MSNBC update also includes a good infographic about how much radiation people are generally exposed to.

The Washington Post has a good interactive feature that sums up the crisis.

The NYTimes Green Blog is taking reader questions about the nuclear disaster, and will be posting answers tomorrow.

More in the morning...

GPS positioning data is showing that the island of Japan has moved an incredible 13 feet closer to North America due to Friday's 8.9 earthquake (some are now upgrading it to a magnitude 9.0). It also shows some 250 miles of Japan's coastline dropped 2 feet. This New York Times page has some great multimedia graphics about the geology involved with the quake. The first is a series of seven graphics that clearly illustrate the plate tectonics involved in the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

NYT article