Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.
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By Timothy B. Wheeler, The Baltimore Sun (TNS)
BALTIMORE — With flooding already on the rise along the East Coast, a new study led by the Johns Hopkins University suggests that urban dwellers may have more to worry about from climate change than just getting their feet wet if they live near the water. People in some inland cities who think they’re safe from tropical storms could find themselves in the dark longer or more often.
In the December issue of Climatic Change, researchers suggest that increases in storm frequency, as predicted by some climate scientists, are likely to aggravate power outages in hurricane-prone areas like Miami or New Orleans. But if hurricanes become more intense, as many climate researchers expect, the study found severe outages could occur in areas that now suffer relatively few storm landfalls — such as New York, Philadelphia and Hartford, Conn.
“Hartford (is) not some place you’d think of being a particularly hurricane-prone place — until Sandy,” said Seth Guikema, an associate professor in Hopkins’ departments of geography and environmental engineering.
Recent studies have highlighted the flooding threats most U.S. coastal cities face from rising sea levels. A report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for instance, noted that Annapolis and Washington already suffer relatively minor “nuisance flooding” more than 30 days a year. Given current trends, Baltimore could reach that tipping point by 2020, the report said.
Experts are still divided on how climate change might affect tropical storms, though. Some models indicate there could be fewer hurricanes in the Atlantic, but an increase in storm intensity in some locations. Other models suggest both the number and severity of storms could rise as the waters warm.
Guikema and four colleagues attempted to evaluate how much more vulnerable East and Gulf coast communities might be if climate change alters hurricanes in any way — their frequency, intensity or landfall. The researchers worked with a computer model that Guikema had developed earlier for predicting the likelihood of power outages from tropical storms. For this study, they ran a series of simulated storms through the model to see how power grid vulnerability was affected by the range of possible climate-change impacts on storm behavior.
“How much would our vulnerability (to blackouts) change if storms became more intense?” asked Guikema, posing one of the scenarios analyzed.
They focused their attention on power grids in 27 major cities from Maine to Texas, and came up with both expected and unexpected findings. New York City, hit hard by Sandy just two years ago, topped the ranking of places particularly vulnerable to more severe outages as storms intensify. But others at the top of the at-risk list were Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Fla., Virginia Beach and Hartford.
While portions of the Baltimore area seem to lose power whenever a big thunderstorm hits, the study found both Baltimore and Washington less vulnerable to blackouts from stronger hurricanes than many other major coastal cities.
Andrea Staid, a Hopkins doctoral student and the study’s lead author, suggested the two cities benefited by being a little inland from the Atlantic coast.
“Baltimore and D.C. are both protected — by the (Chesapeake) Bay and eastern Maryland,” Staid said.
Even so, Baltimore faces a 14 percent greater risk of residents’ losing power if storm intensity increases, the researchers found.
“We definitely have some risk from hurricanes here,” Guikema said. “We’re just not as sensitive to climate-change-induced changes in hurricane hazards as some other places like New York City.”
The study authors hope their modeling might help emergency planners and utility managers prepare their communities for what the future could bring.
“If I’m the mayor of New York or Con Ed or a utility provider for Philadelphia or Jacksonville,” Guikema said, “we might have a bigger issue with this than we realize. … Maybe we need to think about hardening our system.”
A Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. spokesman said the company has invested $3 billion in the past five years in upgrading the power infrastructure for its 1.2 million customers and plans to spend another $3 billion by 2018. As part of that, BGE devotes more than $30 million annually to trimming and removing tree limbs and trunks that threaten power lines in rough weather, said the spokesman, Aaron Koos.
“Our customers are seeing the benefits of these investments,” he added, “with the frequency of power outages down 30 percent and the duration of those outages reduced by 60 percent.”
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
By Ken Kaye, Sun Sentinel
Now racing north into the Atlantic, Cristobal is expected to fall apart over the next day.
The National Hurricane Center continues to monitor three other disturbances, one in the Caribbean, another expected to move off the coast of Africa on Friday, and the third in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Large swells continue to wash ashore from the Carolinas to New England in Cristobal’s wake. The system’s projected path is aiming toward Iceland. Potentially, it could bring some rain to the island.
As of 8 a.m. Thursday, Cristobal was 305 miles northwest of Bermdua, moving Northeast at 26 mph, with wind speeds of 75 mph.
OTHER SYSTEMS: The wave coming off Africa for now looks like it has the best chance of becoming the next storm. If so, it would be named Dolly. It’s too early to say where it might go.
The disturbance in the Caribbean appears to be headed toward Mexico’s Yucatan or the Gulf of Mexico. The area in the Gulf likely will move over land before it has a chance to develop.
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By Maya Srikrishnan, Los Angeles Times
As Hawaii braced Thursday for two hurricanes — which would be the first to hit the state in 22 years — a magnitude 4.5 earthquake shook Waimea on the eastern shore of the Big Island, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said some areas may have experienced shaking, but no tsunami was expected. The earthquake hit at a depth of 7.9 miles.
There were no reports of damage from the 6:24 a.m. temblor, but the news heightened the concerns of island residents, who have been stocking up on food and water in anticipation of the approaching storms.
Category 1 Iselle is expected to hit Thursday evening local time and Category 2 Julio, which is traveling closely behind Iselle, is expected to hit over the weekend or early next week, the National Weather Service said.
Iselle was last reported to be 300 miles southeast of Hilo and moving toward the Big Island at a speed of 18 mph. It is expected to bring heavy rains, winds gusting up to 90 mph, and flash flooding in coastal areas. Tropical storm conditions are expected to spread to Maui on Thursday night and to Oahu and Kauai on Friday.
Hurricane Julio had maximum winds of 100 mph, forecasters said, and was about 1,230 miles southeast of Hilo.
Mary Roblee, owner of the Ala Kai Bed and Breakfast in Hilo, located about 400 feet from the ocean in the Puna Peninsula, said that in her 10 years on the Big Island, she expects these two storms to be “by far, the worst.”
“We’re very worried,” she said. “We are prepared to evacuate if we have to.”
She said a storm six months ago with 50-mph winds took out the shingles on her roof, and that she fears her roof will be completely destroyed by Iselle’s winds, let alone Julio’s.
Roblee said all her family’s outdoor furniture on her wraparound porch has been secured, and that she has stocked up on food, water, and other essentials. She said the local grocery store was “totally jammed and absolutely outrageous” on Tuesday.
Iselle is expected to hit Hawaii’s Big Island and Maui first, though “there is still some uncertainty in the exact track and strength” of the storm, the National Weather Service said.
The Big Island is under a hurricane warning, while Maui and Oahu are under tropical storm watches. A tropical storm warning was also issued for Kauai, state officials said. Public schools are closed on the Big Island, Maui, Molokai, and Lanai.
Roblee said that if she needs to evacuate, she’ll go to a friend’s house or to one of two local high schools that have been stocked and prepared for evacuees.
Roblee said her inn currently has four guests, all but one of whom have rescheduled their flights to leave earlier to avoid the storms.
Hawaiian Airlines waived reservation change fees and fare differences for passengers who wanted to alter their travel plans because of the hurricanes, according to the airline’s website.
On the other side of the Big Island, in Kona, Mary Dahlager, owner of Hale Ho’ola Bed and Breakfast, said they’ve never had a hurricane on that side of the island in the 12 years she’s been there.
“We’re all paying attention to the weather, but we’re not overreacting,” Dahlager said.
Nevertheless, stores in Kona were mobbed with people buying water and toilet paper, she said.
“Even my yoga studio is closed, but I think it’s just a precaution,” she said. “There are always severe storm warnings and we just say ‘ho hum.'”
Hawaii hasn’t been hit hard by a hurricane since 1992, when Hurricane Iniki pummeled the island of Kauai, killing six people.
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Kihei (United States) (AFP) – Hawaii hunkered down Thursday as a rare pair of hurricanes took aim at the holiday paradise, with the first expected to make landfall within hours.
Big Island was expected to see a direct hit from Hurricane Iselle Thursday night, bringing with it strong winds, heavy rain and dangerous storm surges, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) warned.
In an unusual development, Iselle is being trailed by another, stronger hurricane dubbed Julio, with the prospect of a one-two punch placing the popular archipelago on even higher alert.
Packing maximum sustained winds of 85 miles per hour (140 kilometers per hour), Iselle — a Category 1 storm — was located some 350 miles (560 kilometers) east-southeast of Hilo and 560 miles east-southeast of the state capital Honolulu at 1200 GMT, the CPHC forecasters said.
“On the forecast track, the center of Iselle is expected to pass over the Big Island tonight and pass just south of the smaller islands Friday,” they added.
Tropical storm conditions were expected on Big Island Thursday afternoon, with hurricane conditions taking hold overnight. Maui and Oahu were forecast to see tropical storm conditions starting late Thursday.
The haven for sun-seekers from around the world was expected to see rainfall of up to 12 inches thanks to Iselle.
“These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods as well as rock and mud slides,” the CPHC cautioned.
Julio, which strengthened to a Category 2 storm overnight, was situated some 1,340 miles east of Hilo, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center.
With maximum sustained winds of nearly 100 miles per hour, the NHC forecasters warned it could strengthen some more before slowly losing steam.
On its current trajectory, Julio was expected to pass to the north of Big Island as a tropical storm late Saturday or Sunday.
With the twin storms fast approaching, television images showed long lines at local supermarkets, as residents and vacationers alike rushed to stock up on water and other basics to see them through the next few days.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that shelters would open Thursday night for residents of Oahu — home to Honolulu — and that state authorities were shutting down a slew of recreation areas that could become danger zones due to possible flash flooding and other storm-related hazards.
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Los Angeles (AFP) – Hawaii on Wednesday braced for a walloping by a rare duo of storms headed for the holiday paradise, with local residents rushing to stock up on water and flashlights.
Hurricane Iselle, while predicted to weaken to a tropical storm, was expected to bring strong wind, heavy rains and possibly damaging swells to the archipelago’s main islands by Thursday.
“Tropical storm conditions are possible on the Big Island of Hawaii on Thursday and portions of Maui County Thursday night,” the Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) warned.
Rains associated with Iselle are expected to affect the entire state by late Thursday and Friday and “could cause life-threatening flash floods and mud slides.”
A tropical storm watch was in effect for Hawaii and Maui counties, the CPHC said, adding that “watches will likely be required for additional islands later today.”
At 1200 GMT, Iselle was about 745 miles east of Hilo, Hawaii, and some 945 miles east-southeast of Honolulu.
While currently packing maximum sustained winds near 90 miles per hour, forecasters predicted the system would be downgraded to a tropical storm by Thursday.
Swirling on Iselle’s heels in the eastern Pacific is Hurricane Julio.
With maximum sustained winds of nearly 75 miles per hour, at 0900 GMT it was 1,750 miles east of Hilo and advancing west-northwest.
“Some strengthening is forecast during the next day or so,” the National Hurricane Center said.
As the two storms approached, authorities urged Hawaii residents and tourists alike to prepare, sparking long lines at stores as people snapped up basics such as water, flashlights and batteries.
By Ken Kaye, Sun Sentinel
Government forecasters on Thursday called for a slightly slower than average storm season with eight to 13 named storms, including three to six hurricanes — with one to two of those being major ones.
The lukewarm outlook assumes El Nino will arrive by the heart of the season in mid-August. Also, sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic are expected to be about average.
Yet the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration notes that even during otherwise slow seasons, the U.S. coastline still could be hit by a powerful system.
“The real message is that any section of our coastline can be hit by a severe tropical storm, and a single storm can cause tremendous havoc,” Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA administrator, said during a news conference in Brookyn, N.Y.
El Nino is the large-scale weather pattern that suppresses storm formation by producing strong vertical shear in the upper atmosphere.
As of this month, NOAA placed the odds of it emerging at about 70 percent. However, when, exactly, it might develop and how strong it would get remain question marks.
Hurricane season starts on June 1 and runs through Nov. 30. The average season sees 12 named storms, including six hurricanes, three major, with sustained winds greater than 110 mph.
Gerry Bell, NOAA’s lead hurricane forecaster, said the Atlantic has seen above-normal seasons in 12 of the past 20 years and remains in an era of high activity.
However, he said El Nino is expected to offset the active pattern.
“Atmospheric and oceanic conditions across the tropical Pacific are already taking on some El Niño characteristics,” he said.
“Also, we are currently seeing strong trade winds and wind shear over the tropical Atlantic, and NOAA’s climate models predict these conditions will persist, in part because of El Nino,” he added.
Other forecast teams also call for a slower than normal season.
Phil Klotzbach and William Gray of Colorado State University call for nine named storms, including three hurricanes, one major.
AccuWeather.com predicts 10 named storms, including five hurricanes, two intense. Tropical Storm Risk, based in London, predicts 12 named storms, including five hurricanes.
And Earth Networks, the company behind WeatherBug mobile apps, calls for eight to 12 named storms, including three to five hurricanes, with one to three of those being major ones.
NOAA’s forecast makes no attempt to say how many storms will hit the U.S. coastline or where.
The last hurricane to strike the nation was Isaac, which hit Louisiana in August 2012. In October of that year, Hurricane Sandy transformed to an “extra-tropical” system before it hit the Northeast with hurricane-like conditions.
Photo: acccarrino via Flickr
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