U.S. Polar vortex to freeze U.S. upper Midwest and Northeast•Midwest braces for potentially record-breaking cold air(Reuters) – The U.S. Midwest and Northeast were braced for dangerous subzero temperatures this week, as the polar vortex was set to blast arctic conditions unusually far south, the National Weather Service said on Monday.The system was set to extend from the Dakotas through New England, with Chicago expecting temperatures to plunge as low as -25 degrees Fahrenheit (-32 Celsius) overnight Tuesday into Wednesday, the weather service said.The polar vortex – the frigid winds that circulate around the North Pole – is extending further south into the Upper Midwest, said weather service meteorologist Brian Hurley.”If you live up in the Arctic Circle, you’d say this is pretty normal. When it’s actually brought down to this level, that’s when you know it’s something serious,” Hurley said in a telephone interview.Blizzard conditions are predicted across parts of the western Ohio Valley and snow is expected Tuesday through Wednesday from the Great Lakes region into New England, the weather service said.Snowfall will occur in the Dakotas, Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota; and in Central Michigan, where a foot (30 cm) or more of snow is expected, the weather service said. Upstate New York, Vermont and New Hampshire will see less than a foot of snow, and Boston will get less than an inch (2.5 cm).Chicago will take the main brunt of the supercold weather, with widespread heavy snow already affecting the area on Monday, the weather service said on Twitter. Wind chills as low as -50 F (-46C) were also expected by Tuesday evening through Thursday morning.The service’s Des Moines, Iowa, branch said „dangerous, life-threatening cold air” will hit the Midwestern state from Tuesday morning through Friday morning, with wind chill values on Wednesday likely to range from minus 45 Fahrenheit (minus 43 C) to minus 55 Fahrenheit (minus 48 C) across the northern part of the state.More than 600 flights into or out of Chicago O’Hare International Airport were canceled Monday morning and nearly 300 flights were delayed, according to FlightAware.com. More than 200 flights at Chicago’s Midway International Airport were canceled, but only about seven flights were delayed.Delta Air Lines Inc said it would waive flight change fees for passengers affected by the winter weather in Chicago, Detroit and areas of the Upper Midwest.(Reporting by Rich McKay, additional reporting by Maria Caspani and Gina Cherelus in New York; editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)
U.S. Midwest braces for record-breaking cold blast•FILE PHOTO: Icicles are seen near a beach on Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois, January 6, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young(Reuters) – A deep freeze is forecast to hit the U.S. Midwest this week, with snow, brutally cold temperatures and potentially life-threatening wind chill across northern Illinois and northwest Indiana by midweek, the National Weather Service said.In the Chicago area, snow will begin on Sunday night. Then the „coldest air mass in years” will hit the region on Tuesday with extreme cold lasting through Friday, the weather service said. Record low temperatures are likely by midweek.”I cannot stress how dangerously cold it will be,” said Mike Doll, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather. „An entire generation has gone by without experiencing this type of cold in the Chicago area.”Frigid temperatures were already affecting parts of northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin. The mercury dipped to minus 44 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 42 Celsius) in International Falls, Minnesota, on Sunday morning, breaking the previous record by 8 degrees, the NWS said in a tweet.The agency’s Des Moines branch said „dangerous, life-threatening cold air” will impact Iowa from Tuesday morning through Friday morning, with wind chill values on Wednesday likely to range from minus 45 Fahrenheit to minus 55 Fahrenheit across the northern part of the state.Delta Airlines said it would waive change fees for passengers affected by the winter weather in Chicago, Detroit and areas of the Upper Midwest.The cold front was expected to hit parts of the U.S Northeast as well. Freezing temperatures, though not as severe as those in the interior, and snow were forecast in New York, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania and New England.Northern Mississippi, northern Alabama and parts of Kentucky and Tennessee could also see potential snowfalls during the week, the NWS said.(Reporting by Maria Caspani; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
The frigid air unleashed by the polar vortex in the Midwest will expand into the Northeast this week, bringing the coldest air for the region thus far in 2019.
The bitterly cold air will follow the coat tails of a wave of snow sweeping through the Northeast.
Temperatures will begin to plummet from the Ohio Valley to the interior Northeast on Tuesday and Tuesday night, then to coastal areas on Wednesday.
„A large mass of Arctic air will move into the region by Wednesday bringing with it below-normal temperatures that will stick around into Friday,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Edwards said.
Temperatures are not expected to dive down quite as far as they will in the Upper Midwest; however, it is expected to be dangerously cold.
„The coldest air will hold for interior parts of the Northeast, where the mercury will drop below zero Wednesday night,” Edwards said.
Cities across the interior Northeast like Pittsburgh and Buffalo are forecast to register highs only in the single digits on Wednesday, as much as 30 degrees Fahrenheit below normal for the end of January.
The coldest air will reach the I-95 corridor late Wednesday night and Thursday. After single-digit low temperatures on Wednesday night, high temperatures on Thursday will only be in the teens for major hubs such as Philadelphia, New York City and Boston.
Download the free AccuWeather app to see how cold it will get in your area this week.
Biting winds will make it feel even colder than what the mercury reads Wednesday through Friday, bringing AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperaturesbelow the actual temperature.
„On Wednesday night, AccuWeather RealFeel Temperatures will be well below zero for places like Pittsburgh; Baltimore; New York City; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Burlington, Vermont; and Providence, Rhode Island,” Edwards said.
Those impacted by the cold will have to take the proper precautions and cover all exposed skin to avoid these dangers. The homeless should be encouraged to stay in shelters.
Residents should ensure that they have a proper amount of propane, wood pellets and/or firewood to last during this cold outbreak.
Motorists should travel with a winter survival kit in the event their vehicle breaks down and they are forced to wait for help. Precautions should be made to prep your car for the harsh cold to help keep you from getting stranded.
With the lack of this deep of cold so far this winter, the Great Lakes remain unfrozen, opening the door for lake-effect snow as the icy air pours in.
The cold, biting winds from the northwest will create lake-effect snow downwind of the lakes into Friday. In more persistent bands in western and northern New York state, several feet of snow could pile up in some communities.
Cold is expected to ease across the Northeast at week’s end, with temperatures returning closer to normal in time for the weekend.
TradeWx provides access to the CX weather market to allow you to trade the results of different weather events. Learn more on TradeWx.com.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Insurance claims from California’s deadly November 2018 wildfires have topped $11.4 billion, making the series of fires some of the most expensive in state history, officials said Monday.
The latest tally adds to growing concerns about the future availability of home insurance in wildfire-prone areas.
More than $8 billion of the November 2018 losses stem from the fire that leveled the town of Paradise, killing 86 people and destroying roughly 15,000 homes. The other $3 billion in losses are from two Southern California wildfires that ignited the same week.
The numbers were expected to rise, though not dramatically, state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said. So far, total damage for 2018 wildfires is close to $12.4 billion.
„These are massive numbers for us,” Lara said.
California’s wildfires are increasingly destructive and the fire season is stretching longer due to climate change. A series of 2017 wildfires in Northern California’s wine country and in parts of Southern California became the state’s most expensive in history at $11.8 billion.
It has already become harder for people in fire-prone areas to get or keep insurance, although Lara said the state is not at a point where it’s impossible for homeowners to find it. A recent law requires insurers who do not renew policies to notify customers of other options, including a pooled insurance plan of last resort known as the „FAIR plan.”
„We want to make sure that we’re monitoring the situation, and right now we don’t feel this is an area we should be alarmed about,” he said.
Still, he said the worsening fires put California „in uncharted territory.” The insurance department is beginning to collect information on non-renewed policies to assess patterns such as location, he said.
Representatives from the insurance industry acknowledged that some insurers may stop doing business in certain areas. But they said plans should still be widely available.
„California still has a competitive market, there are other carriers moving into place to write new business,” said Nicole Mahrt-Ganley of the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, which represents about 60 percent of the nation’s property casualty insurance market.
Pacific Gas & Electric Corp., California’s largest utility, is preparing to file for bankruptcy as early as Tuesday. Company officials say the utility cannot afford an estimated $30 billion in costs related to deadly 2017 and 2018 wildfires.
California law makes utilities entirely liable for damage from wildfires sparked by their equipment, regardless of whether they are found to be negligent. The bankruptcy would consolidate the victims’ lawsuits and could potentially leave thousands of wildfire victims without compensation.
State investigators recently found that PG&E equipment did not spark of one of the most destructive 2017 fires, but the cause of the Paradise wildfire has not yet been determined.
After insurers pay out claims, they can try to get back the money from a utility if it is found at fault.
Armand Feliciano, vice president of the industry group, said he hopes the bankruptcy process is fair to people suffering losses and to insurers.
Regardless of what happens with PG&E, California’s insurers are prepared to pay out all the claims, most of which were filed by residential property owners, Lara said.
„We are confident that the insurers have the money to make sure that we make people whole,” Lara said.
As rescuers in Brazil search for survivors of a dam collapse, questions abound about the health and environmental risks of the thick, brown, metal-laden mine waste that flowed over buildings. The accident comes after the United Nations and others warned that dam failures in the mining industry are becoming increasingly catastrophic because the structures are growing larger and more numerous around the globe. A look at some of the hazards:
WHAT ARE MINE TAILINGS AND HOW ARE THEY STORED?
Mine tailings are large volumes of waste rock and other material left behind after companies dig up mineral-bearing ore and run it through mechanical and chemical processes to remove the most valuable components. The tailings are disposed of in ponds or other „impoundments,” often in a mud-like mixture of water and rock known as slurry.
A single large mine can produce hundreds of thousands of tons of tailings each day that are typically pumped into a massive holding area behind a dam, where the waste can remain for decades. Tailings piles can be dry enough on the surface to allow people to walk on them, but the inside is often wet, with a jelly-like consistency. A breach can release a runny, muddy material.
In Friday’s disaster in Brumadinho, Brazil, the dam that failed was 282 feet (86 meters) high and held more than 15 million cubic yards (11.7 million cubic meters) of waste material, according to its owner, Brazilian-mining company Vale.
ARE THE TAILINGS TOXIC?
The composition of tailings varies from mine to mine, with some containing radioactive material, heavy metals and even cyanide, which is used in silver and gold extraction.
Vale representatives have insisted that the slow-moving mud spreading down the Paraopeba River following Friday’s collapse is composed mostly of silica, or sand, and is non-toxic. But environmental groups contend the iron ore mine waste contains high levels of iron oxide that could cause irreversible damage.
A similar disaster in 2015 at a Vale-operated mine in the same region of Brazil killed 19 people and released 78 million cubic yards (60 million cubic meters) of mud that polluted hundreds of miles of rivers and streams. In that case, a U.N. report found that the waste „contained high levels of toxic heavy metals.”
Beyond the chemical dangers, a huge rush of muddy water into a river system can have long-lasting environmental effects, plastering the riverbed with silt that kills fish and vegetation.
The 2015 accident, in the city of Mariana in Minas Gerais state, left 250,000 people without drinking water after downstream supply systems were tainted or otherwise disrupted by mud.
Another danger from a tailings dam breach is that the sudden release can overtop a river’s normal channel and deposit contaminants on normally dry land, said Ellen Wohl, a geology professor at Colorado State University.
Those contaminants can later wash back into the river, re-polluting the water, she said. The contaminants can also become airborne if floodwaters deposit them on the riverbank, where they can dry out and blow away, said Marco Kaltofen, who is also a nuclear and chemical engineering researcher at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
HOW OFTEN DO THE DAMS FAIL AND WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THEY DO?
These types of dam failures are increasingly devastating because mines operate on a much larger scale than in the past, producing more tailings that require bigger dams.
There are an estimated 18,000 tailings dams worldwide, according to David Chambers with the Center for Science in Public Participation, which consults with government agencies and private groups on mining pollution issues.
A 2017 U.N report identified 40 significant dam failures over the prior decade — including in Canada, China, Brazil and Chile. A compilation of dam failures by Chambers and others tallied 435 people killed over the same time period.
The death toll in Friday’s spill rose to 65 on Monday, with 279 still missing, according to Brazilian officials.
„We can’t tell you where a failure is going to occur, but statistically we can tell you they are going to happen,” Chambers said.
WHAT IS BEING DONE TO PREVENT TAILINGS DAM FAILURES?
The dams can be threatened by earthquakes, undiscovered geologic faults and heavy rainstorms, and each of those threats has many unknowns, said Dermot Ross-Brown, a longtime mining consultant and a part-time professor at the Colorado School of Mines.
Mining companies use the best science and consultants they can find, he said. „It’s just that the problem is so big, and they have imperfect knowledge of what the geology is.”
Last year’s report from the U.N. recommended that governments and mining companies adopt a „zero-failure” goal for mining impoundments.
In 2016, in the wake of the Mariana dam failure, the International Council on Mining and Metals said instances of catastrophic mine waste impoundment failures were unacceptable. The organization issued new safety guidelines, and called on companies to use construction methods and operating practices that minimize the chances of accidents.
But the industry’s critics say such calls for reforms have yielded few changes and more dam failures are inevitable without stepped-up construction practices and inspection regimes. They say more also needs to be done to make sure that people are not living or working just downstream of the dams, where they are at the greatest risk in a failure.
„We have the technology and we have the expertise, and the mining industry frankly has fought making those changes,” said Payal Sampat with the U.S.-based environmental group Earthworks.