Saturday 28 July 2012

Fires in Siberia: Storms in the US

This is western Siberia. There have been fires in the Far East for weeks

Wildfires Continue to Ravage Siberia
Forest fires continue to rage in Siberia, decimating up to 15,000 hectares of forest and forcing the closure of the Tomsk regional airport, Russia's Emergencies Ministry said on Friday.

27 July, 2012

Most of the fires were fueled by intense heat and strong winds, increasing the area by 2,000 hectares overnight.

The worst of the blazes were concentrated in Russia's Siberian regions of Krasnoyarsk, Tomsk, Tuva, Khakassia and Irkutsk, according to the ministry.

Firefighters continue battling to control around 30 wildfireson Friday that have swept through thousands of hectares of land in the region .

Forest services in the Federal Reserve of Siberian Federal District have eliminated 45 forest fires covering an area of 522 hectares," the Department of Forestry said in a statement.

Another 29 forest fires that previously engulfed more than 5,000 hectares have been localized, the statement said.

The Emergencies Ministry said 412 pieces of wildland firefighting equipment and 24 firefighting aircraft were deployed to suppress the fires. Up to 3,000 firefighters are currently battling fires in the area.

As Russia faces high temperatures with raging wildfires and possible droughts, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev appealed to regional governors on Friday to pay special attention to the operation of early warning systems.

"I appeal to all fellow governors, especially to the heads of federal executive bodies: please keep the situation under control; do not relax,” Medvedev told a meeting called to discuss the heat wave. He warned that the summer is still very much around and it is essential to protect all populated areas.

Tomsk Wrapped in Thick Cloud

The situation remains severe in the Tomsk region, where firefighters eliminated two forest fires in the past two days and localized another 12 that raced through large swaths of surrounding area.

There was no let up on Thursday, however, as three new fire outbreaks engulfed an estimated 160 hectares, bringing the total number of reported forest fires to 34 on Friday.

Most of the fires, which have now claimed 8,500 hectares in the area, are concentrated in the region’s rugged terrain.

Meanwhile, Tomsk, the regional capital, remained enveloped in dense smoke on Friday.

Hundreds of passengers were stranded at Tomsk airport on Friday morning after dozens of early morning flights were either canceled or delayed due to the thick cloud.

A number of airlines, including UTair, Transaero, S7 and Aeroflot delayed flights for more than five hours because of the smog.

There was no visibility as a result of the forest fires and we cannot allow aircraft to land. The plane belonging to S7 landed at an airport in Kemerovo, flights from other airports were simply canceled,” a spokesman for the airport told RIA Novosti.

City residents have also reported a high density of carbon monoxide in the air, twice exceeding the permitted level.

"Our current standard for carbon monoxide is five milligrams. But on Friday morning, the figure stood at 10 milligrams, that is, twice as high," an expert at the regional ministry of natural resources said.

The regional health department said Friday that the level of carbon monoxide in the air in Tomsk is not high enough to cause toxic poisoning.

Emergency Situation

A wildfire raging in the Krasnoyarsk Territory for two weeks with hot, dry and windy conditions has forced authorities to declare an emergency situation, according to regional emergencies ministry.

"In order to prevent forest fires from erupting and spreading to more populated areas in the Krasnoyarsk Territory, an emergency situation has been declared," the ministry said in a statement.

Almost 84 forest fires are raging across the territory, affecting some 6,057 hectares of land. There was no immediate threat the fires would spread to populated centers on Friday, regional emergency officials said.

Dry lightning and dry thunderstorms caused 60 of the wildfires in the region while the causes of another 19 cases have not yet been determined.

But despite the unusual weather conditions, authorities have not ruled out the possibility of arson.

Storms knock out power to tens of thousands from Plains to Northeast
Hundreds of thousands lost power due to a potent storm system that extended eastward from the Plains toward the Northeast on Thursday, bringing with it high winds and destructive lightning

27 July, 2012
Severe thunderstorm watches were in effect at one point Thursday evening for a continuous stretch from Oklahoma through New Jersey. The danger could lurk for several hours longer, with the National Weather Service issuing such warnings in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Kentucky, Virginia, Arkansas and other points in between.

Well before then, the system had already packed a punch.

In Pennsylvania, a tree crushed a woman in her car as she sought shelter at a campsite, killing her, said Glenn Dunn, the emergency management coordinator for Potter County.

A 61-year-old man in Brooklyn, New York, died after lightning struck a church sending a scaffold crashing down on him, authorities said.

Witnesses reported trees in the region buckling under the impact.

"The trees were bending sideways, (and) the sky just went really dark and green," said Mark Ventrini, a photographer, of the scene around 7:30 p.m. as he headed toward Belmar, New Jersey. "Some of the storms were pretty intense."

The weather service had received reports of possible tornadoes touching down in Elmira, New York, and Brookville, Pennsylvania.

Emergency managers in Broome County, New York, reported people trapped inside a home because of downed trees in the town of Vestal.

Strong storms also caused damage in Binghamton, New York, but the weather service said no injuries or fatalities have been reported.

The residual and more widespread damage came in the form of extensive power outages. More than 100,000 First Energy customers in Pennsylvania, for instance, didn't have electricity as of 10 p.m. ET, with other utilities like PECO and PPL reporting tens of thousands of others similarly in the dark.

An hour earlier, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a press release stating there were nearly 95,000 customers without power in that state, mostly NYSEG and Central Hudson customers.

Cuomo also declared a state of emergency for hard-hit Chemung County in the southwestern part of the state.

Many more people took in the impressive lightning storms, with daunting bolts preceding booming claps of thunder in small towns and big cities.

"The brunt of the storm itself was intense but short -- there was very strong rain and wind for about 15 minutes, at which point the rain cleared and the lightning show began," said Matthew Burke, a CNN iReporter who photographed lightning sprawling across the New York City skyline.

Several states away, tens of thousands also were in the dark, though power was being restored at a fairly fast rate. AEP Ohio, for instance, reported just over 51,000 customers lacking electricity at 6:15 p.m., yet more than 20,000 of those had the lights back on by 10 p.m.

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