Weather and mortality

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:21 PM GMT on February 27, 2009

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Hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes get the attention-grabbing headlines when a natural disaster kills people in the U.S. Yet heat waves, cold winter weather, severe thunderstorm winds, and flooding all killed more people in the U.S. between 1970 and 2004, according to a December 2008 article published by Kevin Borden and Susan Cutter of the University of South Carolina. Tornadoes and lightning were tied for fifth place, and Hurricanes and earthquakes tied for eighth place. However, had this study extended one more year into 2005, the roughly 1800 hurricane deaths from Hurricane Katrina would have vaulted hurricane deaths into third place, behind heat wave deaths and cold weather deaths. The study also showed that people living in rural areas were most likely to die from a natural disaster than those living in cities.


Figure 1. U.S. deaths due to natural hazards between 1970 and 2004 showed that weather associated with extremes of hot and cold weather, along with severe thunderstorm winds (the "Severe Weather" category), killed the most people. Image credit: Spatial patterns of natural hazards mortality in the United States, International Journal of Health Geographics. Authors: Kevin Borden and Susan Cutter of the University of South Carolina.

The authors used Spatial Hazard Event and Loss Database for the United States (SHELDUS)(available at http://www.sheldus.org). This database provides hazard loss information (economic losses and casualties) from 1960-2005 for eighteen different hazard types, and is primarily based on data from the NOAA/National Climatic Data Center publication, "Storm Data". The numbers have high uncertainty, and the authors conclude, "There is considerable debate about which natural hazard is the most "deadly". According to our results, the answer is heat. But this finding could be changed depending on the data source, or how hazards within a data source are grouped."


Figure 2. U.S. deaths due to natural hazards for the 10- and 30-year period ending in 2007, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Image credit: NOAA.

To illustrate, a 2008 study by Thacker et al. called, "Overview of deaths associated with natural events, United States, 1979-2004", concluded that cold deaths were twice as common as heat deaths in the U.S. However, they noted that the 1995 Chicago heat wave, which killed between 600 and 700 people by some estimates, was not properly represented in the data base used in their study. This data base attributed only 50 deaths in the entire state of Illinois to heat in 1995. The authors conclude that their data base "under-reports the actual number of deaths due to severe heat".

Another example: NOAA plots up annual natural hazard deaths from the same source ("Storm Data") as the first study I montioned. Their statistics for the ten-year period ending in 2007 show a much different picture (Figure 2). Heat deaths are a much more dominant source of mortality than cold and winter storm deaths, by a factor 3.5. The take-home message from all this is that heat- and cold-related extreme weather are probably the deadliest weather hazards in the U.S., but we really don't know the proportion of people killed by each. One can easily cherry pick the study of one's choice to show a desired result.

How global warming might affect heat and cold-related deaths
If the globe continues to warm up this century, as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), heat-related deaths will increase and cold-related deaths will decrease (duh!). Unfortunately, that's about the most intelligent thing one can say about the matter. The 2007 IPCC report (section 8.4.1.3, Heat- and cold-related mortality), does not attempt to estimate the numbers, saying, "Additional research is needed to understand how the balance of heat-related and cold-related mortality could change under different socio-economic scenarios and climate projections."

This high uncertainty in future heat- and cold-related deaths does not stop advocates on either side of the global warming issue from cherry picking results from selected studies to support a particular point of view. For example, opinion columnist George Will stated in a recent Newsweek column: "In Europe, cold kills more than seven times as many as heat does. Worldwide, moderate warming will, on balance, save more lives than it will cost--by a 9-to-1 ratio in China and India. So, if substantially cutting carbon dioxide reverses warming, that will mean a large net loss of life globally." Will bases his arguments on Danish statistician Bjørn Lomborg's controversial 2007 book, "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming." However, as pointed out by Danish biologist Kåre Fog, who has assembled a large web site dedicated to pointing out the errors in Lomborg's books, the huge number of excess deaths attributed to cold by Will and Lomborg are in large part because the death rate naturally rises in the winter: "Old and seriously sick people have less vitality in the dark season. It is too bold to say that the excess deaths during the dark part of the year are `deaths due to excess cold?. There is no evidence that a warmer climate will alter the seasonal variation. These people would soon die in any case, even if winters became warmer. Indeed, cold and warm climates, like Finland and Greece, have approximately the same seasonal variation in mortality." The IPCC underscores this problem, stating: "projections of cold-related deaths, and the potential for decreasing their numbers due to warmer winters, can be overestimated unless they take into account the effects of influenza and season".

Heat wave deaths are subject to a degree of uncertainty as well. It is somewhat of a subjective call if an elderly person who dies during a heat wave died primarily as a result of the heat, or of a pre-existing heart or respiratory condition. Complicating the diagnosis is the fact that air pollution is at its worst during heat waves, and can also be blamed as the cause of death in some cases. Different studies will use different criteria for classify deaths due to heat, pollution, or pre-existing medical conditions during a heat wave, leading to widely varying estimates of mortality. For example, the European heat wave of 2003 is blamed for 35,000, 52,000, or 70,000 deaths, depending upon the source. You're more likely to hear the higher 70,000 figure quoted by advocates of doing something about global warming, and the 35,000 figure quoted by those opposed.

The three 2008 studies for the U.S. show the ratio of cold deaths to heat deaths ranges from 2:1 to 1:3, which is very different from the 7:1 and 9:1 figures quoted by Will and Lomborg for Europe, India, and China. I don't trust any of these numbers, since heat and cold mortality statistics are highly uncertain and easy to cherry pick to show a desired result. It is rather unproductive to argue about how many people die due to heat and cold in the current climate or in a future climate. Excess heat deaths due to climate change should not get as much attention as the potential for death due to reduction in crop yields due to increased heat and drought, regional collapses of the oceanic food chain from the steady acidification of the oceans, and the wars these conditions might trigger.

For more information
For those interested, Kåre Fog also presents a list of the errors in Al Gore's book and movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and has a Comparison of error counts between Al Gore and Bjørn Lomborg. Lomborg has assembled a Short reply to Skeptical Questions to respond to some of Fog's criticisms, but does not answer Fog's criticism on cold deaths vs. heat deaths. Suffice to say, one should be wary of trusting climate change information from either source, or from opinion columnists, or from politicians. Blogs can also be a questionable source of climate change information, though I think wunderground Climate Change blogger Dr. Ricky Rood is one of the most knowledgeable and unbiased climate change experts in the world. Though imperfect, the best source of climate change information is the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The level of scientific collaboration and peer review that went into that document is one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of science, and the IPCC was fully deserving of the Nobel Prize awarded to it last year. Blogs and books like Lomborg's and Gore's have not gone through peer-review by scientific experts on climate change, and will have far more errors, biases, and distortions of the truth than the IPCC reports.

Jeff Masters

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Hi Adrian: I was in a building next to the nbc studio. Transfixed watching it, it hopped right over my car in the parking lot below. Then we could see the glass blowing out in the building on the corner of miami ave and 4th. That's when it finally occurred to me that perhaps it wasn't a good idea to have our noses pressed to the glass to see. When it hit the water, it was amazing, it pulled the water up in a swirl all around it.
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Quoting zoomiami:


There was a tornado in Miami that went through downtown and into Biscayne Bay. I was in a building a block over on the 17th floor watching it. Mesmerizing


Here's MY PAGE on the miami tornado.
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Quoting futuremet:
The GFS model has been forecasting a possible severe storms sometime next week over the midwest.
I'm getting excited already

The atmospheric dynamics akin to what we saw about 3 weeks ago. The GFS model is expecting an amplifying shortwave to set up near Oklahoma. This is still a while from now, however. I am remaining conservative for the time being.


I don't blame you for being conservative, although The ECMWF and GFS are in much better agreement now on whats going to happen than they were for the last couple of days. Unfortunatly for me I am stuck with this ULR until atleast Sunday and finally this discusting dry weather will change to a different pattern perhaps a zonal pattern once more.
Member Since: September 7, 2008 Posts: 17 Comments: 1604
Quoting zoomiami:


Your braver than me, if I had seen the water spout coming I'm sure I would have had a melt down. Never did like that bridge.


Not much choice. 0 visibility and a Truck on my bumper and no emergency lane to pull over. Rain stopped, then blew me across the lanes. Fortunately, the trucks blew first. I thought it was a micro burst until I watched the news and viewed it from a far. I think I could see my enlarged eyes throught the windshield.
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
Quoting Ossqss:


Wow, uH , that kinda looks like it could have been moving towards you !!!

I still await the opportunity again. I have seen a funnel cloud, happend to drive through a small water spout on the Skyway bridge (not a fun experience) and had one go over the house during Charlie, could hear the roaring anyhow. But not the real thing yet. Maybe thats not a bad thing.


Your braver than me, if I had seen the water spout coming I'm sure I would have had a melt down. Never did like that bridge.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:

Mhm, took this picture.


Wow, uH , that kinda looks like it could have been moving towards you !!!

I still await the opportunity again. I have seen a funnel cloud, happend to drive through a small water spout on the Skyway bridge (not a fun experience) and had one go over the house during Charlie, could hear the roaring anyhow. But not the real thing yet. Maybe thats not a bad thing.
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
Quoting P451:


Good old suburban NJ. Monmouth County.


Hi P451 - my daugther was born in Monmouth County, we lived there for 3 years. I really liked the area.
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Quoting Ossqss:
Has anyone viewed a Tornado first hand?


There was a tornado in Miami that went through downtown and into Biscayne Bay. I was in a building a block over on the 17th floor watching it. Mesmerizing
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Quoting Ossqss:
Has anyone viewed a Tornado first hand?

Mhm, took this picture.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23938
Has anyone viewed a Tornado first hand?
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
The GFS model has been forecasting a possible severe storms sometime next week over the midwest.
I'm getting excited already

The atmospheric dynamics akin to what we saw about 3 weeks ago. The GFS model is expecting an amplifying shortwave to set up near Oklahoma. This is still a while from now, however. I am remaining conservative for the time being.
Member Since: July 19, 2008 Posts: 43 Comments: 4051
Quoting P451:


Good old suburban NJ. Monmouth County.


That looked like it felt in Sarasota this early AM. BRRRRRRRR
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
Late rain offers blessed relief to Victoria's firefighters
Article from: Herald Sun

Staff writers

March 04, 2009

PATCHY rain has brought relief to firefighters, but wind gave the SES a busy day across the state.

Fire authorities said only prolonged heavy rain would quell the fires burning across Victoria, and the fire threat is still very real for some parts of Victoria.

The State Emergency Service reported a busy day yesterday, however, with 452 call-outs around the state, including 307 in Melbourne.

Sixty per cent of the calls were about trees that had come down and 25 per cent were about building damage.

CFA state duty officer Tony Bearzatto said yesterday’s downpour had brought a new set of challenges for firefighters.

“We’ll continue to patrol and put out any hotspots but it may be difficult in some areas because conditions have become more slippery and in some areas may make it difficult to conduct a back burn,” Mr Bearzatto said.

“There hasn’t been enough rain to say that the season is over and everything is completely safe.

“There is still potential for smoke and fire so people need to remain alert, however, this rain has certainly provided some relief and slowed things down.”

Driving rain was welcomed by firefighters in Healesville, which they said would significantly help the firefighting effort.

Firefighter Damien Beeby was literally singing in the rain.

"Any rain is good," he said." As long as it keeps going like this."

Melbourne was battered by ferocious wind up to 125km/h yesterday, but blazes stayed within containment lines.

The SES had about 370 calls about fallen trees on roads and downed powerlines.

SES spokeswoman Simone Myers said most had come after noon, as strong wind built from the west.

Of those, 270 came from metropolitan Melbourne, with areas of the Dandenongs, the outer eastern suburbs and Frankston worst hit.

CBD workers were urged to leave for home early amid fears the wind and possible power failures could cause havoc to peak-hour traffic.

But by 7pm, Connex reported the train system was running to timetable.

About 10,000 customers were without power last night in Powercor's region, covering most of the state's west.

Two wind-related power faults disconnected 3200 customers in the area between Horsham, Dimboola and Natimuk. Blackouts also hit Colac and Bacchus Marsh.

About 700 customers are without power in the SP AusNet electricity distribution area, which covers most of eastern Victoria.

Most customers were expected to be online again by late last night.

The gusts forced hundreds of firefighters to watch rather than tackle the huge blazes on Melbourne's eastern fringe.

Helicopters were also grounded for most of the day as sticks and other projectiles were hurled through the sky.

Fire crews in the Yarra Ranges sent to protect homes and communities spent most of the day waiting at Wesburn with trucks, bulldozers, graders and helicopters grounded because of the wind.

"We can't let our strike teams go out in the bush, it's too dangerous," CFA divisional commander Brian Halit said.

While the worst fears failed to materialise by 6pm, Premier John Brumby warned Victorians to brace themselves.

"This is going to be a significant storm event and we've done well today," Mr Brumby said. "But the message from all of the authorities is the worst is yet to come and the next few hours are really crucial.

"We've got through today - all things considered - very well indeed."

The SES is expecting a busy few days cleaning up the aftermath of the strong wind that hit Melbourne last night.

The wind gusting at up to 125km/h also increased the threat to the isolated settlement of Woods Point, on the Great Dividing Range.

CFA spokesman Frank Colverson said fire on the Warburton Highway precinct had been kept within containment lines.

"We've been extremely lucky," he said.

The CFA also hoped the fire threatening towns including Reefton, McMahons Creek and Warburton in the Yarra Ranges had been dealt with
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P451, nice pics where do you live?
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Seeing The Good Dr..and the Neville Brothers always a treat.
Glad ya had a good time,they really bring da music.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127947
651. Patrap 4:33 PM EST on March 03, 2009

Hey Pat...Not sure if your're still around but I got a nice taste of NO this past Sunday evening when I went to a concert, here in Tallahassee, to see Dr. John and the Neville Brothers............Awesome Show (and we've been rather chilly here lately with temps in the lower 30's when the show ended around 11:00 PM....Brrrrrrrr
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All of the Hurricanes of 08

Member Since: July 19, 2008 Posts: 43 Comments: 4051
Wow that wave shook the whole boat
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
Hurricane Gustav Creates Numerous Small Oil Spills in the Gulf -- Response Team Works to Save Oiled Brown Pelicans Link
At least 33 oil spills ranging from simple sheens to 8,000 gallons plagued Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav. Most of the oil spills were sheens, not slicks, so were of minimal wildlife concern.
Although not as severe an impact as the eight million gallons spills resulting from the Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, one Hurricane Gustav incident coated numerous brown pelicans.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127947
Could global warming be a factor in the world economic downturn? Early 20th century climate determinist Ellsworth Huntington wrote that if rapid climate change ever occured it would lead to a breakdown of civilization in the more prosperous countries and the savages of the tropical latitudes would be more pernicious. The warmer climate would cause those in the mid-latitudes to lose the mental energy to defend againd these savages(terrorist). Could countries like Canada and Russia emerge as the new world powers in a warmer world?
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Nope looks like light reflecting off of the spray.
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645. Was that a fireball below the rig when the wave hit?

I recently had a discussion as to wether or not there were oil spills in the GOM due to the destruction of oil rigs. Are you aware of any spill attributed to rigs capsizing or sinking during hurricanes?
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Quoting Skyepony:
Gabrielle

click to animate


COC Exposed, but you can see convection firing to the north. Might rap in if that shear tappers off some.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23938
A short clip of the type of weather we endure at this time of year, huge waves batter the Dunbar platform in the North Sea in Dec 08. A massive wave hits at 0:40 secs into clip

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127947
Quoting stillwaiting:
WOW!!!,there was a 91 foot rauge wave durning hurricane ivan in 04....


There were reports of waves when he was in the gulf as high as 130ft tall.
Member Since: August 12, 2007 Posts: 2 Comments: 2838
WOW!!!,there was a 91 foot rauge wave durning hurricane ivan in 04....
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We do a lot of boating on Lake Powell - Many times have seen small boats full of kids - family members, looking overloaded - not a life jacket in sight. We get sudden summer thunderstorms and several times a goodly number of small boats swamp and sink. Especially for the kids - our rule is (even on our big barge-like houseboat) - If you are on the deck you wear the jacket. There are some very comfortable ones out there.
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Quoting HIEXPRESS:
636. Ossqss

That is interesting. Won't spend too much time thinking about it (or wear a life jacket at all times on a cruise). I guess that rare hazard falls under "geophysical".


Absolutely wear one. I do't venture off shore anylonger after I got a good look at the large sharks up close and personal. I only fish the shallow waters for Red, Snook, Tarpon etc. Last time off shore, we were escorted by a Hammerhead that was nearly as long as the 23' boat we were in. The locals call him hitler. Life jackets are in the same vein as kids with helmets on bikes etc. No choice, you wear it or you dont go.
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
634. I always wear one - if you get hit in the head with the boom and are knocked out...kind of hard to try to get your lifejacket if you're unconscience. Better safe than sorry...if people want to make fun of me or give me a hard time for taking the necessary precautions, then they don't get on the boat with me. Just my one rule on the boat besides "have fun."
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 12 Comments: 1837
We will be raffling off 2 Midland NOAA Weather radios during the wunderground sponsored NOLA Portlight Relief Walk March 21st.

Portlight Relief Walks Link



One in the morning at the end of the Speakers, and one after the Walk during the entertainment.

WR-100 NOAA Weather Alert Programmable Radio



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This desktop Public Alert Certified Weather Radio from Midland eliminates false alarms and notifies you of alerts for tornadoes, hurricanes, ice and snowstorms, floods and much more.

Featuring SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) technology which allows entry of up to 25 county codes, this affordable emergency weather radio allows you to filter out distant weather alert broadcasts and centralize your reception to only local counties.

The weather radio also has backlighting for easy night viewing; a telescoping antenna; digital clock in 12-hour format; and is powered by an AC adapter with battery backup. The weather radio also receives 24-hour National Weather Radio forecasts and bulletins.



Features:
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Monitors all seven NOAA emergency alert weather channels
User selects siren, flashing light or voice alert mode
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Receives NOAA warnings of severe weather and environmental dangers
SAME technology allows you to filter out non-local emergency alerts
Allows entry of up to 25 county codes
Monitors National Weather Radio broadcasts of local forecasts and regional conditions
Attractive silver and black radio case with telescoping antenna
Reception range from 25 to 50 miles depending on geographical conditions
90-decibel siren with flashing visual alert and LCD message display
Time and alarm clock function
Backlight engaged for 5 seconds by pressing and releasing any button
Includes digital alarm clock with time and date
Alarm with snooze function
Low battery indicator
External antenna and accessory jacks
Power source is AC adapter (included)
Portable use requires 3 AAA alkaline batteries (not included)
One-year limited warranty from manufacturer
SAME county codes
User Manual
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127947
636. Ossqss

That is interesting. Won't spend too much time thinking about it (or wear a life jacket at all times on a cruise). I guess that rare hazard falls under "geophysical".
Member Since: October 13, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 2156
Interesting section on encounters with rogue waves on the wiki site. Quite the eye opener.

Link
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
I feel pretty badly for the families of the guys that are missing in the water...

This is why i tell everyone on my boat that they MUST have a lifejacket on AT ALL TIMES...sometimes there is no time to get one on AFTER the fact that something happens. A lifejacket doesn't do the boat much good...
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 12 Comments: 1837
Quoting Patrap:
Hurricane Center developing Web tool to predict risk to homes

By Curtis Krueger, Times Staff Writer: Link
Tuesday, March 3, 2009

ST. PETERSBURG — When hurricanes hit, it's often the water that kills.

So the National Hurricane Center is making it easier for people to learn if a hurricane is likely to cause seawater to surge into their homes. They soon will be able to find out at the Web site www.hurricanes.gov.

"If you have a Category 3 coming in, you can figure out, 'Am I at risk?' " said the center's director, Bill Read, who is in St. Petersburg to for a federal hurricane conference.

For example, if your house is at 10 feet above sea level, you'd probably want to evacuate from an incoming storm that threatens to raise seas 15 feet above sea level. On the other hand, if your house sits at 20 feet above sea level, you might decide to stay put during that storm, depending on local recommendations.

In a worst-case storm in the Tampa Bay area, swelling, unstoppable seas could rise more than 20 feet above low-lying parts of St. Petersburg, Tampa or Oldsmar.

What a sobering thought - and of course the lack of precisely being able to predict storm surge is another factor. Were I close to shore and 10 feet elevation, I'd be bopping out early to some nice high ground to wait and see what happened. I've seen so much unpredicted damage that I wouldn't wait around based on a "best guess" which is pretty much what we have to deal with. But still - some predictive ability is better than none. I've been offline for a while. How are y'all doing?
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Latest info on the boaters. Link
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
Bad Luck,circumstance..and failure to be aware of ones surroundings.
We have HUGE Oaks here in NOLA..big sprawling ones. And the Joggers around here know,..if the wind blows,limbs will fall. Especially weakened limbs from the LAst 3 cane seasons.
Its unfortunate that every lifevest,dont have a EPIRB.
I used to service Revere Life Rafts and an epirb is the ONLY way to be found in dire water circumstances.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127947
619. Patrap 9:31 AM EST on March 03, 2009
Coast Guard finds one man clinging to boat

It was plenty rough that day Saturday), even on 16 mile long Lk. George in a 22' bass boat. Lost some parts off the boat, but made it back. I could have made the 2 miles to shore, but then there's the gators... Another Captain that wanted me to go out to the Gulf Stream in a 21' (in fair weather) took umbrage when I inquired if he had an EPIRB. He didn't, and I didn't go.

The next day, I was running a paved rec trail, but stopped and went the other way when the trail entered a huge stand of old mossy Oaks. The wind was gusting to gale there along the lake. Those limbs are a lot bigger up close - I have seen what they can do to houses. Didn't want to be found under a tree.
Would that be wind, "mass movement", or just plain old bad luck?
Member Since: October 13, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 2156
627. Don't worry. I think we're all just busy at the moment.
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627. GBlet
I'm gonna need a public defender please. I am being accused of killing the blog!
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626. GBlet
Hey! Do I have cooties?
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625. GBlet
Good morning from the dustbowl! I have been here 12 years and never seen drier winter. I'm becoming worried as to what effect this could have during the spring storm season. The last few years we have had a higher number of storms and they seem to be way more intense! I am really not in the mood for another Greensburg.
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Coast Guard news conferece at 10 est on the missing boaters.
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
623. Skyepony (Mod)
Gabrielle

click to animate
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The sad fact about the boating incident,..is that one click of a NOAA radio,..the Boaters would have known a Marine Warning was in Effect as the front approached.

Sadly,..they didnt check the weather or ignored the warnings.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127947

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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