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Joplin tornado toll climbs to 116
The News - Natural Disasters
May 23, 2011
joplin tornado natural disaster
A massive tornado that tore a 6-mile path across southwestern Missouri killed at least 116 people as it slammed into the city of Joplin, ripping into a hospital, crushing cars like soda cans and leaving a forest of splintered tree trunks behind where entire neighborhoods once stood.

Authorities warned that the death toll could climb as search and rescue workers continued their efforts. Their task was made more miserable as a new thunderstorm with strong winds and heavy rain pelted part of the city with quarter-sized hail.

City manager Mark Rohr announced the number of known dead at a pre-dawn news conference outside the wreckage of a hospital that took a direct hit from Sunday's storm. Rohr said the twister cut a path nearly 6 miles long and more than a half-mile wide through the center of town. Much of the city's south side was leveled, with churches, schools, businesses and homes reduced to ruins by winds of up to 165 mph. [ stltoday ] - [ Three-Quarters of Joplin, MO Destroyed ] - Threat of more bears down ] - [ 116 dead, nearly 500 twister deaths this year ]

Really? Doomsday prophet, followers ‘flabbergasted’ world didn’t end
The News - Religion
May 23, 2011
harold camping failed doomsday armageddon apocalypse prediction
It's hard to feel bad for someone whose doomsday predictions caused so much anxiety, but 89-year-old Harold Camping's recent admission that he's "flabbergasted" the world didn't end last weekend sounds somewhat pitiful.

"It has been a really tough weekend," Camping said Sunday, after emerging from his Alameda, California home for the first time to talk to a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle. "I'm looking for answers ... But now I have nothing else to say," he said, adding that he would make a full statement today.

Camping's PR aide, Tom Evans, told the L.A. Times that the group is "disappointed" that 200 million true believers weren't lifted up to heaven on Saturday while everyone else suffered and eventually died as a series of earthquakes and famine destroyed the Earth. "You can imagine we're pretty disappointed, but the word of God is still true," Evans said. "We obviously went too far, and that's something we need to learn from." The group posted 2,000 billboards around the country warning of the rapture, while Camping--an uncertified fundamentalist minister--spread the word on his radio show. [ yahoo ]

Missouri officials say at least 89 dead in tornado
The News - Natural Disasters
May 23, 2011
89 dead missouri tornado natural disaster

Authorities say at least 89 have died in the massive tornado that struck the southwest Missouri city of Joplin.

City manager Mark Rohr announced the number at a pre-dawn news conference outside the wreckage of a hospital that took a direct hit from Sunday's storm.

Rohr said the twister cut a path nearly six miles long and more than a half-mile wide through the center of town.

Much of the city's south side was leveled, with businesses, homes and restaurants reduced to ruins. [ yahoo ]

Tornadoes batter central US, kill unknown number
The News - Natural Disasters
May 22, 2011
midwest tornadoes natural disaster
Tornadoes ripped through parts of the Midwest on Sunday, killing at least one person in Minneapolis and an unknown number of others in Missouri, where a massive twister flattened a large area of one city and heavily damaged a hospital.

Damage was widespread across part of the southwest Missouri city of Joplin. Many streets on the city's south side were described as impassible, littered with downed trees and utility poles. Emergency vehicles were racing across the city, taking injured residents to hospitals.

John Campbell, operations director for the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency, confirmed fatalities have been reported, but he did not have an exact number or specifics. Phone communications in and out of the city of about 50,000 people about 160 miles south of Kansas City were largely cut off. [ yahoo ]

Tornadoes Strike North Minneapolis
The News - Natural Disasters
May 22, 2011
minneapolis tornado damage

Several rotating supercells spawning a few tornadoes touched down across the Minneapolis area on Sunday afternoon.

The tornado or tornadoes tore roofs off buildings, downed power lines and toppled trees blocking streets. Early reports estimated the tornado touched down for around 30 minutes across the metro area.

Northwest and North Minneapolis was especially hit hard.  Television cameras revealed tremendous tree damage across North Minneapolis which then led to significant house damage. [ weather ]
How Area 51 Hid Secret Craft
The News - Cover-Up-Conspiracy
May 22, 2011
area 51 cover up conspiracy

No word yet on alien starships, but now that many Cold War-era Area 51 documents have been declassified, veterans of the secret U.S. base are revealing some of the clever - and surprisingly low-tech - ways they hid futuristic prototypes from prying eyes.

The CIA created Area 51 in 1955 to test and develop top secret U.S. military projects in the remote Nevada desert. More than 50 years later, the base still doesn't officially exist and appears on no public U.S. government maps. In the 1950s and '60s, Area 51 was the epicenter of the OXCART project, intended to create the successor for the U-2 spy plane.

The OXCART plane was expected to be undetectable in the air as it flew surveillance and information-gathering missions over the Soviet Union. But Area 51 personnel soon found it necessary to conceal the craft from the Soviets eyes even when it was still being tested on the ground. [ natgeo ]

Pile of debt would stretch beyond stratosphere
The News - Economy
May 22, 2011
national debt

President Ronald Reagan once famously said that a stack of $1,000 bills equivalent to the U.S. government's debt would be about 67 miles high.

That was 1981. Since then, the national debt has climbed to $14.3 trillion. In $1,000 bills, it would now be more than 900 miles tall. In $1 bills, the pile would reach to the moon and back twice.

The United States hit its legal borrowing limit on Monday, and the Treasury Department has said the U.S. Congress must raise the debt ceiling by August 2 to avoid a default. The White House is trying to hammer out a deal with lawmakers to cut federal spending in exchange for a debt-limit increase.

Most people have trouble conceptualizing $14.3 trillion. [ reuters ]

Severe Weather : Tornado threat from Minn. to Texas
The News - Current Events
May 22, 2011
tornado threat MN to TX natural disasters

It was a busy day of severe weather on Saturday afternoon and evening. We are expecting much of the same on Sunday afternoon. There were at least 20 reports of tornadoes all congregated around far northeast Kansas.

The threat, however, has shifted farther to the east with the higher chance of tornadoes moving from northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri into southern Wisconsin, parts of Illinois, central Missouri, southeast Kansas and eastern Oklahoma.

Dr. Forbes has increased today's TOR:CON values in Wisconsin, Illinois and Arkansas. More severe weather is on the horizon for Monday. Below we have access to the latest radar, watches/warnings and forecast maps to track the storms each day. [ weather ]
Brace yourselves: Iceland's volcanic ash
The News - Natural Disasters
May 22, 2011
iceland volcano eruption volcanoic ash
  • Keflavik airport closed till Monday and 40 international flights cancelled
  • Residents urged to wear masks and stay indoors as ash rains down on buildings, cars and fields
  • Ash from the Grimsvotn volcano hurled 12 miles into the air
  • The volcano is Iceland's most active and has not erupted since 2004

Ash from Iceland's most active volcano could reach northern Scotland by Tuesday and the rest of the UK, France and Spain by Thursday, experts say.

The Grimsvotn volcano erupted late last night hurling steam and ash 12 miles into the sky forcing the country's main international airport to close and plunging areas into near darkness today. The ash has turned the sky black and rained down on nearby areas covering buildings, cars and fields in a thick layer of gray soot. [ dailymail ]

Iceland volcano: Grimsvotn eruption hits local flight
The News - Current Events
May 22, 2011
Iceland volcano Grimsvotn eruption

The Icelandic authorities have imposed a local flight ban after the country's most active volcano, Grimsvotn, began erupting. A plume of smoke has risen 20km (12 miles) into the sky from the volcano.

But Iceland's Meteorological Office says the eruption should not cause widespread disruption to air traffic.

Last year, ash clouds from another Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajokul, led to the closure of a large section of European airspace. Governments feared that ash particles could cause aircraft engines to fail, and the closure caused chaos to air travellers. [ bbc ]

When Doomsday Isn't, Believers Struggle to Cope
The News - Religion
May 21, 2011
2011 may 21 disaster armageddon apocalypse doomsday

If you're reading this, Harold Camping's predictions that the end of the world would start Saturday (May 21) failed to pan out.

That's good news for most of us, but Camping and his followers were looking forward to the end. After all, they believed that they were likely to be among the 200 million souls sent to live in paradise forever. So how do believers cope when their doomsday predictions fail?

It depends, said Lorenzo DiTommaso, a professor of religion at Concordia University in Montreal who studies the history of doomsday prediction. [ livescience ]

May 21, 2011 - Yet another failed doomsday prediction
The News - Current Events
May 21, 2011
may 21 failed doomsday apocalypse rapture

Christian doomsday prophet Harold Camping looks likely to be less than rapturous after his prediction that the world would end on Saturday failed to materialize.

The 89-year-old Californian preacher had prophesied that the Rapture would begin at 6pm in each of the world's time zones, with those "saved" by Jesus ascending to heaven and the non-believers being wiped out by an earthquake rolling from city to city across the planet.

But as the deadline for the Apocalypse passed in the Pacific islands, New Zealand and Australia, it became apparent that Camping's prediction of the end of the world was to end not with a bang but with a whimper.

End of the world May 21st? About a billion years too soon, astronomers say.
The News - Science-Astronomy
May 21, 2011
may 21 doomsday armageddon apocalypse judgement

When doomsday comes to planet Earth, it will leave the third rock from the sun a scorched, sterile cinder devoid of living organisms. Virtually everyone can agree on that.

But May 21, 2011, as the start of a five-month period that ends with an October 2011 doomsday? That's off by at least a billion years, give or take 50 million, according to a recent study by a pair of astronomers in Mexico and Britain. ("Recent" on time scales that astronomers work with, anyway.)

And the cause they cite is considerably different than the one invoked by a California minister for an October end of the world. [ csm ]

Big Hurricane Season Looms, NOAA Chief Calls Satellite Cuts a "Disaster"
The News - Science-Astronomy
May 21, 2011
2011 big hurricane season looms disaster

This year's Atlantic hurricane season will be "above normal," with 12 to 18 storms, thanks in part to unusually warm ocean temperatures, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said yesterday.

Six to 10 of those storms are likely to reach hurricane strength, the agency said in its initial forecast for the 2011 storm season, which begins June 1 and ends Nov. 1. NOAA forecasters expect three to six of those storms to become major hurricanes with winds reaching 111 miles per hour or greater.

"The active Atlantic hurricane era that we entered back in 1995 continues," NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco said. "During this period, the conditions in the oceans and the atmosphere have produced a larger number of storms and more powerful hurricanes." [ sciam ]

What happens if 200 Million People Go Missing Tomorrow?
The News - Religion
May 20, 2011
may 21 rapture doomsday armageddon apocalypse

According to the predictions of Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping, May 21 will be the day of the rapture, when God calls believers to heaven to live in everlasting paradise. By Camping's estimation, that means the Earth will be 200 million souls lighter by Sunday morning.

While there's no reason to believe that Camping's doomsday predictions are more reliable than the hundreds of failed end-of-the-world predictions throughout history, the loss of 200 million people all at once would be the largest single population decrease in human history. It's safe to say the world would take notice - but the effects of such a mass disappearance would depend on where believers were concentrated.

Historic US flooding turns deadly
The News - Natural Disasters
May 20, 2011
historic mississippi flooding disaster

Historic flooding along the Mississippi River turned deadly Thursday when an elderly man died despite being pulled from floodwaters and resuscitated by firefighters.

The worst floods to hit the central United States in more than 70 years have swallowed up thousands of homes, farms and roads from Illinois southward to Louisiana.

Officials have erected temporary levees and opened spillways to protect towns and cities from the slow-moving floods but warn that the mighty river will remain above flood stage for weeks to come. [ yahoo ]

Mega Earthquake shifted the ocean floor sideways by more than 20m (65ft)
The News - Natural Disasters
May 20, 2011
japan mega earthquake disaster effects

Japan's 11 March mega-quake shifted the ocean floor sideways by more than 20m (65ft), according one instrument placed on the seabed off the nation's coast.

This direct measurement exceeds the displacement suggested by some models built only from data gathered on land.

The figure was recorded by the Japan Coast Guard which maintains underwater geodetic equipment along the fault responsible for the giant tremor. An upwards movement of 3m (10ft) was registered by the same instrument. The data underlines once again the colossal nature of the Magnitude 9.0 quake and its associated tsunami.

Japan earthquake study raises fears for other areas
The News - Natural Disasters
May 20, 2011
japan earthquake new fears disaster

Scientists sifting through data from the great Japan earthquake in March are uncovering surprises that may raise concerns nearby. Researchers led by Mark Simons of the California Institute of Technology are urging close monitoring of seismic activity in the Ibaraki region immediately south of the spot where the most recent quake occurred.

They are not predicting another earthquake, Simons stressed in a telephone interview. But the area where the deadly March temblor struck "was believed by many to be not likely to produce a big earthquake, and that was wrong." So that raises questions about other, similar regions, he said.

"We learned we have to be much more suspicious about what we know for sure, and more explicit about what we don't know," Simons said. Monitoring the region will give scientists clues to the movement of the undersea plates that slipped in the quake. [ msnbc ]

Many U.S. Nuclear Plants Ill-Prepared to Handle Simultaneous Threats
The News - Current Events
May 20, 2011
us nuclear plants threat disaster

The U.S. government finds that many U.S. nuclear plants would fail to face multiple challenges at the same time as happened at Fukushima Daiichi.

On April 26, Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff did a safety "walkdown" of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant on southern California's coast, part of NRC inspections of all U.S. reactors that were triggered by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in Japan.

The NRC's inspection report, released Friday, did not flag the plant's owner, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) for a serious violation of the rules the commission has imposed to assure the plant's safe shutdown in an anticipated emergency. But it did list more than a half-dozen issues that could jeopardize the plant if it were confronted with the kind of chain reaction of unexpected and unplanned-for calamities that struck the Fukushima nuclear complex. [ sciam ]

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