News Australia’s wild weather floods Sydney; fans deadly bushfiresBy Paulina Duran and Colin Packham•Cars and buses sit on a road that leads onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge as strong winds and floods cause traffic problems in Sydney Cars and buses sit on a road that leads onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge as strong winds and floods cause traffic problems in Sydney, Australia, November 28, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray By Paulina Duran and Colin Packham SYDNEY (Reuters) – Torrential rain and gale force winds lashed Australia’s biggest city Sydney on Wednesday causing commuter chaos, flooding streets, railway stations and homes, grounding flights and leaving hundreds of people without electricity.Police called on Sydney motorists to stay off the roads due to the „horrendous weather”. One person was killed in a car crash during the storm and two police officers seriously injured when a tree fell on them as they assisted a stranded motorist.Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said within just a few hours Sydney received more than 100mm of rain, a level that the country’s most populous city would normally receive throughout the whole of November.Although the rains offered a welcomed respite to farmers who have suffered through a sustained drought in recent months, the weather caused major disruptions to Sydney’s infrastructure.Sydney Airport, the country’s busiest, said it canceled at least 20 flights after closing two of its three runways, while the majority of flights that continued suffered delays.”The storm is pretty intense in and around the airport,” Cait Kyann, a spokeswoman from Sydney Airport, told Reuters.”We are operating from a single runway so that means that there are delays and likely some flights will be canceled.”Ausgrid, the nation’s biggest electricity network, said the storm had left 8,100 customers without power around Sydney and the Central Coast area to its north.There was chaos on Sydney’s roads as the storm struck only hours before the city’s main morning peak hour, transforming some streets in fast flowing rivers and parks into lakes. Several stranded motorists were plucked from rising floodwaters.”We are asking all road users to reconsider the need to be on the roads throughout what will be a severe rain event today,” said New South Wales state Assistant Police Commissioner Corboy.The BOM said the storms would last through most of the day before easing, with gale force winds whipping up four meter (12 feet) waves which are expected to pound Sydney’s beaches.In stark contrast in Australia’s northern state of Queensland soaring temperatures near 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and strong winds exacerbated major bushfires.Firefighters have been battling for nearly a week to contain more than 80 fires across Queensland.”We are expecting a very bad day,” Craig Crawford, fire and emergency services minister for the Queensland state government told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.”These are the kind of days where people could lose their lives.”(Reporting by Paulina Duran; additional reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Michael Perry)
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — A wildfire stoked by heatwave conditions in northeast Australia has destroyed at least four homes, forced the evacuation of hundreds of others and razed 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres) of farmland and woodland, authorities said Tuesday.
Police had been knocking on doors of homes in the small rural communities of Baffle Creek, Deepwater, Oyster Creek and Rules Beach in Queensland state to advise residents to evacuate but some were refusing, Gladstone Region Mayor Matt Burnett said.
„When you have a police officer knock at your door saying a fire is coming, it is time to get out — it’s serious,” Burnett said. „There is no one in that area that is safe to stay,” he added.
Hundreds of firefighters were preparing for worse conditions on Wednesday, when temperatures are expected to reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) with winds reaching 40 kph (25 mph).
Large swathes of Queensland were experiencing record high November temperatures and the heat wave will continue for days, Bureau of Meteorology state manager Bruce Gunn said.
„This really has been an exceptional — and still is an exceptional — heat and fire event in Queensland,” he said.
„We’ve seen all-time temperature records absolutely shattered — records that have stood for 60 or 70 years,” he added.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Katarina Carroll said the perimeter of the fire that began on Saturday had expanded to 66 kilometers (41 miles).
One of the key components to the development of wildfires across the western United States is the amount of fuels that are readily available to cause fires to spread more rapidly.
In California, the abundant vegetation that has grown following wet winters the past several years has dried out during the spring and summer seasons. This combined with weather factors such as low humidity and strong winds provides optimal conditions for fire development.
While there is no such thing as a fireproof plant, some burn less easily than others and that comes down to a plant’s chemical composition.
Plants that are flammable are often that way because of their chemistry, according to Peter Fulé, a professor in Northern Arizona University’s School of Forestry.
A firefighter battles the Holy Fire burning in the Cleveland National Forest along a hillside at Temescal Valley in Corona, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
„They often contain chemicals that have a lot of substances like waxes and resins that burn very easily,” Fulé said.
These waxy substances are useful for plants that grow in drier climates because it helps cover their leaves and protects them from losing water.
The shape of plants also comes into play when it determines how flammable they can become.
„A lot of shrubs in particular are relatively low to the ground and often provide fuel that is kind of nicely spaced so the wind can get in there very well and make it burn quite well,” Fulé said.
On the opposite end, more fire-resistant plants are typically those that lack that waxy characteristic and do not readily ignite from a flame or embers, according to Firefree.org.
Other characteristics of fire-resistant plants, according to Firefree, are:
- Leaves that are moist and supple
- Plants have little dead wood and tend not to accumulate dry, dead material within the plant
- Low sap or resin materials
Larger plants, such as trees, are able to withstand wildfires, but that pertains more to the type of wildfire than the natural material of the tree.
In the U.S., the two main types of wildfires are crown fires and surface fires.
Surface fires spread quickly along the ground and are one of the primary fire regimes that occur in forests.
„Typically, in a surface fire, the larger trees do survive. The fire passes underneath them. It may damage them, but it doesn’t kill all of them,” Fulé said.
Trees have natural adaptations to fire, such as developing a thick bark which insulates the base of the tree to the ground level.
They carry their limbs pretty high up in the tree so the flames pass by but don’t scorch too many of the leaves because the leaves that are actively growing are higher in the tree, according to Fulé.
A crown fire is a more destructive fire, which moves from one crown of the tree to the other. Whole mature trees become giant torches and flames pass from tree to tree in the forest canopy.
„Pretty much every kind of tree dies when the crown of the tree catches on fire,” Fulé said.
A big part of wildfire prevention strategies has involved finding more fire-resistant plants for homeowners to grow around their residences. In some instances, the concept of introduced vegetation has become an issue.
People plant attractive species like eucalyptus, which is native to Australia, and junipers because their easy to take care of. However, they burn very easily, according to Fulé.
Cal Fire provides a list of tips and certain species of plants that are drought tolerant help make landscapes around homes more resistant to blazes
Pasadena (United States) (AFP) – Cheers and applause erupted at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Monday as a waist-high unmanned lander, called InSight, touched down on Mars, capping a nearly seven-year journey from design to launch to landing.
The dramatic arrival of the $993 million spacecraft — designed to listen for quakes and tremors as a way to unveil the Red Planet’s inner mysteries, how it formed billions of years ago and, by extension, how other rocky planets like Earth took shape — marked the eighth successful landing on Mars in NASA’s history.
„Touchdown confirmed,” a mission control operator at NASA said, as pent-up anxiety and excitement surged through the room, and dozens of scientists leapt from their seats to embrace each other.
„It was intense and you could feel the emotion,” said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, in an interview on NASA television afterward.
Bridenstine also said President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had watched on television and called to congratulate the US space agency for its hard work.
„Ultimately, the day is coming when we land humans on Mars,” Bridenstine said, adding that the goal is to do so by the mid 2030s.
The vehicle appeared to be in good shape, according to the first communications received from the Martian surface.
But as expected, the dust kicked up during the landing obscured the first picture InSight sent back, which was heavily flecked.
France’s Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) made the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, the key element for sensing quakes.
The principal investigator on the French seismometer, Philippe Lognonne, said he was „relieved and very happy” at the outcome.
„I’ve just received confirmation that there are no rocks in front of the lander,” he told AFP.
And in a final crucial phase, NASA said InSight signaled to Earth that its solar panels — twin solar arrays spanning seven feet (2.2 meters) in width — had opened and were collecting sunlight on the surface of Mars.
„The InSight team can rest a little easier tonight now that we know the spacecraft solar arrays are deployed and recharging the batteries,” said Tom Hoffman, InSight’s project manager.
– Entry, descent, landing –
The spacecraft is NASA’s first to touch down on Earth’s neighboring planet since the Curiosity rover arrived in 2012.
More than half of 43 attempts to reach Mars with rovers, orbiters and probes by space agencies from around the world have failed.
NASA is the only space agency to have made it, and is invested in these robotic missions as a way to prepare for the first Mars-bound human explorers in the 2030s.
„We never take Mars for granted. Mars is hard,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for the science mission directorate, said on Sunday.
The nail-biting entry, descent and landing phase began at 11:47 am (1940 GMT) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, home to mission control for Mars InSight, and ended one second before 1953 GMT.
A carefully orchestrated sequence — already fully preprogrammed on board the spacecraft — unfolded over the following several minutes, coined „six and a half minutes of terror.”
Speeding faster than a bullet at 12,300 miles (19,800 kilometers) an hour, the heat-shielded spacecraft encountered scorching friction as it entered the Mars atmosphere.
The heat shield soared to a temperature of 2,700 Fahrenheit (about 1,500 Celsius) before it was discarded, the three landing legs deployed and the parachute popped out, easing InSight down to the Martian surface.
– Goal: 3D map of inner Mars –
InSight contains key instruments that were contributed by several European space agencies.
France’s CNES made the SEIS instrument, while the German Aerospace Center (DLR) provided a self-hammering mole that can burrow 16 feet (five meters) into the surface — farther than any instrument before — to measure heat flow.
Spain’s Centro de Astrobiologia made the spacecraft’s wind sensors, and three of InSight’s seismic instruments were designed and built in Britain.
Other significant contributions came from the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika and the Swiss Institute of Technology.
„It is wonderful news that the InSight spacecraft has landed safely on Mars,” said Sue Horne, head of space exploration at the UK Space Agency.
Together, the instruments will study geological processes, said Bruce Banerdt, InSight’s principal investigator at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
By listening for tremors on Mars, whether from quakes or meteor impacts or even volcanic activity, scientists can learn more about its interior and reveal how the planet formed.
The goal is to map the inside of Mars in three dimensions, „so we understand the inside of Mars as well as we have come to understand the outside of Mars,” Banerdt told reporters.
While much of the nation has made the transition to winter weather, a burst of springlike severe weather is on the horizon for the southern United States.
Severe weather is not unheard of in Gulf Coast states in November, with Louisiana and Mississippi both averaging six tornadoes during this month each year.
„A developing storm system in the southern Plains will lead to a favorable setup for severe weather across areas from the eastern Plains across the Lower Mississippi Valley and into portions of the Ohio River Valley,” said AccuWeather Storm Warning Meteorologist Brian Adams.
Warm Gulf air will surge into the Mississippi Valley, pushing temperatures to 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit above average at the end of the week.
Residents of areas from Houston to Little Rock and Memphis may need to alter plans due to the threat of dangerous storms. Download the free AccuWeather app for the latest on when you can expect severe weather in your area.
„Storms look to first develop later Friday afternoon, with the greatest storm coverage expected overnight,” Adams said.
Strong storms could impact after-school events or interfere with bus rides home. The evening commute across these areas could be slowed or endangered by storms, as well.
The severe threat will shift eastward through Friday night, putting the populations of Mississippi, southern Tennessee, Alabama and the western Florida Panhandle on alert.
„Damaging winds will be the primary concerns for much of the event, with heavy rain and flooding becoming the main concerns overnight into Saturday morning, especially across areas receiving multiple rounds of storms,” Adams warned.
However, a few tornadoes cannot be ruled out. A significant part of the tornado risk will extend to after dark on Friday, which is a heightened risk.
Gusty winds throughout the day and overnight can lead to downed trees and power lines, as well as other property damage. Anyone in this area of concern should make sure all yard furniture and other outdoor objects are properly secured before disruptive weather strikes.
Motorists should remember to turn around, don’t drown, and to get off the road and seek shelter in a sturdy building if severe weather interferes with your drive.
Anyone planning to travel on interstates 10, 20, 49, 55, 59, 65 or 85 should heed local warnings. It will be important to make sure cell phone weather alerts are enabled and to keep an eye on the sky.
Conditions will be less humid, but still relatively warm in the wake of these storms. However, a cooldown is in store for early next week for the southern United States.