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Six Planets Now Aligned in the Dawn Sky
The News - Science-Astronomy
May 04, 2011
six 6 planet alignment

If you get up any morning for the next few weeks, you’ll be treated to the sight of all the planets except Saturn arrayed along the ecliptic, the path of the sun through the sky.

For the last two months, almost all the planets have been hiding behind the sun, but this week they all emerge and are arrayed in a grand line above the rising sun. Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter are visible, and you can add Uranus and Neptune to your count if you have binoculars or a small telescope.

Astrologers have always been fascinated by planetary alignments, and the doomsayers of 2012 have been prophesying a mystical alignment on Dec. 21, 2012. The modern tools of astronomers, such as planetarium software, show otherwise: absolutely no alignment at any time in 2012. But they also reveal a beautiful alignment visible during the month of May this year. [ yahoo ]

 
Double waterspouts form off Hawaii shore
The News - Weird-Strange
May 03, 2011
waterspout waterspouts

Two tall and skinny waterspouts appeared off the south shore of Oahu, Hawaii yesterday, as some of the bad weather that has lately assailed the U.S. mainland has now alighted on the Pacific island.

The Star Advertiser reports that the waterspouts appeared during a hail and lightning storm that had reportedly knocked out power for at least 60,000 East Honolulu and Windward Oahu residents Monday evening. The spouts lasted for about 12 minutes. Waterspouts can become twisters if they reach land, but are usually weak.  [ Video can be found here ]

 
Levee blast saves town, flood focus now on Memphis
The News - Climate-Environment
May 03, 2011
levee flooding blast south
Blowing up a two-mile stretch of levee appears to have saved one town from flooding, but rising waters along the Mississippi and its tributaries were flooding other areas and forcing new evacuations, including parts of suburban Memphis, Tenn.

Memphis could see a near-record crest of 48 feet on May 10, just inches lower than the record of 48.7 feet in 1937. Water from the Wolf and Loosahatchie rivers has already seeped into parts of the suburbs, and some mobile home parks were inundated.

Flooding fears prompted Shelby County, which includes Memphis, to declare an emergency for 920,000 residents. Authorities blocked some suburban streets, and about 220 people were staying in shelters. [ msnbc ]

 
A record 226 tornadoes recorded over 24 hours last week
The News - Natural Disasters
May 03, 2011
record 226 tornadoes natural disaster

According to the National Weather Service, 226 tornadoes were recorded from Wednesday morning to Thursday morning, and that's a record for a 24-hour period.

From Wednesday to Friday, 312 tornadoes may have formed.

The previous record for a single weather event was April 3-4, 1974, when 148 twisters were recorded.

Read the details in the preliminary report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

 
World population to pass 7 billion on October 31
The News - Climate-Environment
May 03, 2011
world population 7 billion

The world's population is projected to pass 7 billion on October 31 as it heads toward 10 billion or more by the end of the century, a new U.N. report said on Tuesday.

The report also predicted that the global population would be higher by mid-century than its last edition forecast two years ago, reaching 9.31 billion instead of 9.15 billion. It attributed this to fewer deaths as well as more births than it had anticipated. [ yahoo ]

World population to reach 10.1 billion by 2100

The number of the world's people is expected to grow from nearly 6.9 billion currently to 9.3 billion by 2050 and 10.1 billion by 2100, U.N. population experts said Tuesday.

The projections are used by the United Nations and its many agencies to devise and fund programs for problems ranging from climate change to maternal mortality. [ ap ]

 
Updated - Asteroid YU55 to pass close by Earth
The News - Science-Astronomy
May 02, 2011
asteroid yu55 neo near earth object

Asteroid YU55 will fly past Earth this fall at a close approach that will allow a close-up view of one of Earth's good-sized space rocks, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) announced on Monday.

"On November 8, asteroid 2005 YU55 will fly past Earth and at its closest approach point will be about 325,000 kilometers away," said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the JPL in Pasadena, Los Angeles.

"This asteroid is about 400 meters wide - the largest space rock we have identified that will come this close until 2028."

Despite the relative proximity and size, "YU55 poses no threat of an Earth collision over, at the very least, the next 100 years, " Yeomans said in a press release.

 
Propaganda Comment Trolls - New government software
The News - Cover-Up-Conspiracy
May 02, 2011
government software internet trolls propaganda
It sounds like the deranged words of a conspiracy theorist: The U.S. military is (not so) secretly creating software that’ll generate phony online personae in order to subtly influence social media conversations and spread propaganda. But what may sound like wacky theory is actually wacky reality, or at least will soon be, depending on whether it’s already in the works.

Dubbed the “online persona management service,” this technology would enable a single soldier to assume upwards of 10 different identities. As United States Central Command Commander Bill Speaks told The Guardian, “The technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US.”

Once developed, the software could allow US service personnel, working around the clock in one location, to respond to emerging online conversations with any number of co-ordinated messages, blogposts, chatroom posts and other interventions. Details of the contract suggest this location would be MacDill air force base near Tampa, Florida, home of US Special Operations Command. [The Guardian]

 
Bin Laden's Death Creates Conspiracy Theories
The News - Cover-Up-Conspiracy
May 02, 2011
osama bin laden conspiracy

It’s not hard to imagine why the announcement sounds suspicious: A decade-long search for an international terrorist ends with his body dumped at sea, with no photos, film or other documentation provided.

President Barack Obama's announcement on Sunday night that United States forces had killed Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden leaves a lot for conspiracy theorists to chew on. [ See Conspiracy Theories ]

"The potential is tremendous," said Barna Donovan, a professor of communications at St. Peter's College in New Jersey and author of the forthcoming book "Conspiracy Films: A Tour of Dark Places in the American Conscious" (McFarland & Company, 2011).

In fact, the conspiracy theorists are already out. Politico reporting that radio host Alex Jones, who thinks the U.S. government was behind the Sept. 11 attacks, said that he believes that the government had bin Laden frozen for years. Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan has also called the announcement a fake as did an arm of a Pakistani Taliban group, according to the website. A facebook group Osama bin Laden NOT DEAD has begun collecting attracting like minded people, and apparently fake photos of bin Laden's battered face have added fuel to the fire.

 
Life in Limbo for Japanese Near Nuclear Plant
The News - Current Events
May 02, 2011
japan nuclear radiation

For seven generations, Yoshitoshi Sewa and his ancestors have tilled this farm in a gently curving valley filled with green rice paddies. But now he will not let his young grandchildren play outside their tile-roofed home for fear of an invisible and potentially long-lasting threat, radiation.

“Even if the government says it’s O.K., no one here wants to take the risk of radiation,” said Mr. Sewa, 63, whose farm sits about 40 miles west of Japan’s stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant — well beyond the zone where residents have been told to leave or remain indoors.

Since an earthquake and tsunami on March 11 crippled the plant, spewing radioactive particles into the air and sea, Tokyo has ordered the evacuation of a 12-mile radius, and some villages beyond that. But those living outside the evacuation zones have felt left in limbo, exposed to levels of radiation that are several times the normal level, though not high enough to cause observable health risks. Still, experts admit that there is a lack of knowledge about the health effects of lower doses of radiation, especially over an extended period of time. Japan’s plant has been dispersing radioactive material for nearly two months and counting, far longer than the 10 days during which the Chernobyl plant released a much larger burst of radioactive particles in 1986. [ nytimes ]

 
Capturing bin Laden 'would unleash hell'
The News - War-Draft
May 02, 2011

The mastermind of the 9/11 attacks warned that al-Qaeda has hidden a nuclear bomb in Europe which will unleash a "nuclear hellstorm" if Osama bin Laden is captured, leaked files revealed.

The terror group also planned to make a 9/11 style attack on London's Heathrow airport by crashing a hijacked airliner into one of the terminals, the files showed.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told Guantanamo Bay interrogators the terror group would detonate the nuclear device if the al-Qaeda chief was captured or killed, according to the classified files released by the WikiLeaks website. [ 9news ]

 
Scientists investigate tornadoes like detectives
The News - Natural Disasters
May 02, 2011
tornado damage

Weather scientists are retracing the footprints of this week's monstrous tornadoes the way detectives would investigate a crime scene: talking to witnesses, watching surveillance video and even taking the measurements of the trees ripped from the ground.

The result will be a meteorological autopsy report on the disaster, revealing once and for all how many twisters developed and how powerful they were.

"First priority is finding the dead and taking care of the injured and getting utilities back up," said John Snow, dean emeritus of the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences at the University of Oklahoma. "But in parallel to that, we want to get as much data and find as much data as we can." [ msnbc ]

 
Osama bin Laden Dead
The News - Current Events
May 01, 2011
osama bin laden dead

The United States is now certain that Osama Bin Laden is dead. Nearly ten years to the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Obama will announce Osama bin Laden has been killed almost a decade after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, CNN and the New York Times reported. *developing*

Osama bin Laden, hunted as the mastermind behind the worst-ever terrorist attack on U.S. soil, has been killed, sources told ABC News.

His death brings to an end a tumultuous life that saw bin Laden go from being the carefree son of a Saudi billionaire, to terrorist leader and the most wanted man in the world.

Bin Laden created and funded the al Qaeda terror network, which was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. The Saudi exile had been a man on the run since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan overthrew the ruling Taliban regime, which harbored bin Laden.

 
2011 flood may top Great Mississippi Flood of 1927
The News - Natural Disasters
May 01, 2011
2011 may rival 1927 flooding

A surge of water not seen since the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 is forecast in coming days to test the enormous levees lining the Mississippi River on its course through the Deep South, adding another element of danger to a region already raked by deadly tornadoes and thunderstorms.

Mississippi's and Louisiana's governors issued flood warnings Thursday and declared states of emergency. Authorities along the swollen waterway in both states are warning nearby residents to brace for the possibility of any flooding. River boat casinos in Mississippi are closing and levee managers are readying sand bags and supplies — and the manpower to build the defenses — to fight the rising river along hundreds of levees in both states where the river crosses en route to the Gulf of Mexico.

"We're going to do everything we can to prepare for the worst-case scenario while we still are hoping for the best case," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said, adding the state was prepared to withstand the test.
 
NE Mississippi tornado was highest-rated EF-5
The News - Natural Disasters
May 01, 2011
mississippi f5 tornado

At least one of the massive tornadoes that killed hundreds across the South this week was a devastating EF-5 storm, according to an analysis Friday by the National Weather Service, which suspects several others also were the worst of the worst.

After the first day of assessing storm damage, the weather service said the tornado that hit Smithville, Miss., at 3:44 p.m. EDT on Wednesday was an EF-5 storm. That's the highest rating given to assess a tornado's wind speed, and is based in part on damage caused by the storm.

The weather service said the half-mile wide Smithville tornado had peak winds of 205 mph and was on the ground for close to three miles, killing 14 and injuring 40. It was the first EF-5 tornado to strike Mississippi since 1966, and the first EF-5 tornado in the United States since a May 25, 2008, storm in Parkersburg, Iowa. [ yahoo ]

 
More Rain for Already Flooded Arkansas, Ohio Valley
The News - Natural Disasters
May 01, 2011
flooding nature arkansas ohio levees

More flooding is inevitable from Arkansas to the Ohio Valley since the already water-logged region will not be able to handle the additional rain that will pour down through Tuesday.

The potential exists for 3 to 5 inches of rain to soak the corridor from northeastern Texas to the Ohio Valley tonight into Tuesday. For places from central Texas to western Tennessee, some of this rain will come from severe thunderstorms this evening.

That amount of rain would alone raise concerns for flash flooding. But with the ground already saturated and rivers severely flooding, new flooding issues are inevitable. Residents in low-lying, poor drainage and urban areas can expect the return of flood waters. Small streams that may have receded during the recent brief dry spell should once again overflow their banks. Flooding along already swollen large rivers will worsen, heightening the potential for more levees to fail. [ accuweather ]

 
Why Were the Southern Tornadoes So Deadly?
The News - Natural Disasters
May 01, 2011
deadly southern tornadoes

Tornado-related deaths have declined dramatically over the past few decades due to improved forecasts and better warnings, but the massive outbreak on April 27 killed hundreds across the Deep South. What happened?

The bottom line: Massive tornadoes hit populated cities head-on. Forecasters had warned of an "insane" storm system for days, so it's unlikely that the tornadoes caught many by surprise. But with few basements in Dixie Alley, not many places were safe in the paths of tornadoes that had nearly 200-mph (322-kph) winds. Even solidly built houses were swept away. Many entire neighborhoods were completely obliterated.

"The truth is, even if you did everything you were supposed to do, unless you were in an underground bunker, you weren't going to survive," James Spann of the ABC affiliate in Birmingham, Ala., told the New York Times. [ live science ]

 
Twister death toll 318; most since 1932 outbreak
The News - Natural Disasters
April 29, 2011

Authorities say the death toll from the devastating tornado outbreak across the South has climbed to 318, making it the deadliest day for twisters since the Great Depression.

Alabama was in the path of the most destruction from Wednesday's storms. Authorities on Friday raised the number of confirmed dead to 228. More than 30 lost their lives in Tuscaloosa, which is home to the University of Alabama. Two students are among the dead.

In March 1932, 332 people died, all in Alabama. In April 1974, a series of twisters killed 315 people in 11 states. The largest death toll ever in the U.S. from twisters was on March 18, 1925 when 747 people were killed in storms that raged through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. In that outbreak, a single, 219-mile-long tornado killed 695 people.

 
Killer twisters likely among largest, strongest recorded
The News - Natural Disasters
April 28, 2011
killer tornado damage destruction

Some of the killer tornadoes that ripped across the South may have been among the largest and most powerful ever recorded, experts suggested, leaving a death toll that is approaching that of a tragic "super outbreak" of storms almost 40 years ago.

"There's a pretty good chance some of these were a mile wide, on the ground for tens of miles and had wind speeds over 200 mph," said Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla.

It may have been a single long-ranging twister that battered Tuscaloosa, Ala., and then covered the 60 miles to Birmingham, Brooks said.

Only 1 percent of twisters reach the most powerful readings, but Brooks thinks several of those that left death and destruction in Alabama and five other states Wednesday fall into that category.

That speculation hasn't been confirmed yet, but if it is, it's no wonder so many homes were flattened and scores were killed. ( click image to enlarge )

 
Americas Nuclear Nightmare
The News - Current Events
April 28, 2011
americas nuclear nightmare

Five days after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, triggering the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, America's leading nuclear regulator came before Congress bearing good news: Don't worry, it can't happen here.

In the aftermath of the Japanese catastrophe, officials in Germany moved swiftly to shut down old plants for inspection, and China put licensing of new plants on hold. But Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, reassured lawmakers that nothing at the Fukushima Daiichi reactors warranted any immediate changes at U.S. nuclear plants. Indeed, 10 days after the earthquake in Japan, the NRC extended the license of the 40-year-old Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor - a virtual twin of Fukushima - for another two decades. The license renewal was granted even though the reactor's cooling tower had literally fallen down, and the plant had repeatedly leaked radioactive fluid. [ rollingstone ]

 
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