Friday, July 27, 2012

The Hits Keep Coming

ELMIRA, New York (Reuters) - Two people were dead and more than 100,000 homes and businesses in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania were without electricity Friday morning after severe thunderstorms swept through the region late Thursday.

The storms spawned a tornado that touched down in Elmira, New York, toppling trees and tearing off roofs, the National Weather Service said.

Officials in Pennsylvania and New York reported two storm-related deaths.

In Elmira, the city's east side took the biggest hit from the tornado. In one four-block neighborhood, most homes had trees toppled upon them, street signs were bent in half and tree trunks had debris wrapped around them. Several cars were crushed by downed trees.

One two-story brick building had most of the second story torn off in the storm.

On Friday morning, most power remained out for the city's 29,000 residents.

Meteorologists said 70-mile-per-hour (113-kph) winds were reported in parts of Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma.

As the storms sent black, menacing clouds rolling across some cities, hail ranging from the size of a dime to a quarter fell in some areas of Pennsylvania, said.

Pennsylvania accounted for a majority of those still without power, with more than 85,000 customers in the dark early Friday, according to electric companies serving the region.

Roughly 34,000 people in New York were without power, most of them in the southern tier region near Elmira, according to NYSEG. About 13,500 customers in eastern Ohio were still offline, according to AEP Ohio.

The storms formed along a cold front stretching from the Northeast into the Ohio Valley, bringing the threat of damaging winds, hail and tornadoes, according to the Weather Channel.

The storm activity forced the cancellation of over 900 flights on Thursday, according to FlightAware, a Texas-based company that tracks the status of flights. The highest number of cancellations was at LaGuardia Airport in New York.
Two dead, over 130,000 without power after fierce U.S. storms (Reuters)
One year after its waters swelled to historic proportions, the lower Mississippi River now sits so low that barge operators hauling some $180 billion in goods must lighten their loads for fear of getting stuck.

If water levels drop any lower, industry insiders say, prices could rise on the raw commodities commonly shipped by boat -- coal, grain, petroleum and steel, to name a few.

"The main thing that they're doing now is voluntarily reducing the size of their tows ... so they're having to take more trips to carry their normal volume of commodities," said Ann McCulloch, spokeswoman for American Waterways Operators, a national trade association representing tugboats, tow boats and barges.
"This will drive up transportation costs if it continues over a long period of time," she said.

Kirby Corp, the largest U.S. inland tank barge operator, said Thursday it is adding more capacity to its fleet that carries petrochemicals, gasoline and fertilizers.

Scattered rains in the Midwest this week have come too late for many crops, government drought specialists said, and the worst drought conditions since 1956 worsened over the last week.

Almost 30 percent of the nine-state Midwest was suffering extreme drought as of July 24, nearly triple that of a week ago.

The United States is the world's largest exporter of corn, soybeans and wheat. Markets around the world are growing worried that local food costs will soar because imports will be expensive, food aid for countries from Asia to Egypt will not be available, and food riots could occur as in the past.

Drought and scorching temperatures in Eastern Europe from Poland to Romania also have burned up crops, causing alarm about stockpiles and soaring prices. Russian wheat harvests will also be cut by drought and Indian harvests will be cut by the poorest monsoon rains in four decades, officials said on Thursday.

The U.S. Agriculture Department said U.S. food prices are likely to rise as much as 3.5 percent this year and as much as 4 percent in 2013, with higher feed costs driving up meat and dairy products. By comparison, the overall U.S. inflation rate is estimated at 2 percent this year and 1.9 percent in 2013.

Wildfires in drought-hit areas were also a growing problem. Firefighters in three Nebraska counties battled expanding wildfires, and Ola, Arkansas, a town of 1,300 people, was evacuated because of an approaching fire.
Greenland ice, it seems, can vanish in a flash, with new satellite images showing that over just a few days this month nearly all of the veneer of surface ice atop the island's massive ice sheet had thawed.

That's a record for the largest area of surface melt on Greenland in more than 30 years of satellite observations, according to NASA and university scientists.

The images, snapped by three satellites, showed that about 40 percent of the ice sheet had thawed at or near the surface on July 8; just days later, on July 12, images showed a dramatic increase in melting with thawing across 97 percent of the ice sheet surface.
Record Greenland Ice Melt Happened in Days (Live Science)

The power went out briefly at work today (no severe weather that I can tell). I wonder how much economic "growth" is being wiped out.

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