Earth Changes


New Jersey 'winter wildfire' burns over 1,500 acres - smoke odor reaches New York City - still uncontained - cause unknown

© News 12 New Jersey
A brush fire burns Sunday, April 6, 2014, along Batsto Road in Wharton State Forest in southern New Jersey. The smell of smoke was reported as far north as New York City.
The odor of smoke from a brush fire in southern New Jersey can be smelled as far away as New York City.

The fire has burned more than 1,500 acres, or about 2 square miles, along Batsto Road in Wharton State Forest. The smoke can be seen for miles.

NBC 10 in Philadelphia reports that crews dropped water from airplanes and used backfires to contain the blaze, which broke out Sunday. The cause is under investigation.

Barely two weeks after snow melts, and with temperatures still cool, wildfire breaks out along Appalachian Trail Maryland

© File photo
A wildfire in the area of the Appalachian Trail northeast of Boonsboro Sunday afternoon scorched about two acres, according to emergency rescue officials.

The fire, which was reported at 12:48 p.m, occurred near Annapolis Rocks, a popular resting spot along the Appalachian Trail that features a camping ground.

Firefighters brought the blaze under control and by 3 p.m., they were "mopping up hot spots," according to a Washington County 911 supervisor.

Six fire companies, Boonsboro's ambulance company and Maryland State Department of Natural Resources' forest rangers responded to the fire, a 911 supervisor said. The fire companies were from Mount Aetna; Boonsboro; Smithsburg; Funkstown; Wolfsville, Md.; and Myersville, Md.

Comment: There was another recent wildfire in Rockingham County, North Carolina... despite there being snow on the ground until last week! This one near Asheville, North Carolina was blamed on lightning, but can that spark a fire in wet, cool conditions?

Cloud Lightning

Unlike anything seen before: Solomon Islands flash floods kill at least 19 people

solomon floods
© Rachel Skeates/AFP/Getty Images
People search through the debris on the beach near the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara
Forty people are missing and 49,000 homeless after entire communities washed away following heavy rains

Devastating flash floods in the Solomon Islands have killed at least 19 people, while 40 are still missing and an estimated 49,000 people are homeless.

Entire riverside communities and bridges were washed away when the Matanikau river in Honiara broke its banks on Thursday. The government declared a state of emergency.

Rivers in the north-west, central and north of the island also flooded, destroying homes and displacing communities.There are more than 5,500 people in three of the most populous of the 13 evacuation shelters in Honiara, where aid groups report dengue fever is threatening to spread.
Arrow Down

Flint City plans to mend large sinkhole in local neighborhood, Michigan

What started out as a small inconvenience, turned into a major problem for some residents in this Flint neighborhood.

Brittney Lewis and her sister say the growing sinkhole is just steps away from their Flint home near the intersection of Dupont and Bagley Streets.

"it's real big now, scary," Brittney said.

It was just a small divot less than a week ago...and now measures over six feet at its widest point. It's no wonder concerns are growing as fast as the sinkhole itself.

"I'm nervous about the kids running back and forth across the street and they might fall down. That's why I tell my little sister, just stay up here by the driveway and the cars," said Brittney.

The school busses. They mostly come down right there. It makes me nervous," said Sterlisha Alexander, who lives across the street from the sinkhole.

While some residents are worried, others have met the situation with a sense of humor and trust Flint will fix it.

"Michigan has brought a little bit of Florida to us and we have our own sinkhole. Flint's trying, but it's going to take some time," said Terry Schlosser who lives in the neighborhood of the sinkhole.
Snowflake Cold

Hundreds of dead and dying palms legacy of big chill in Florida

What's up with all the dead palms?

From the towering palms at Pensacola International Airport to backyard cabbage palms, the legacy of this winter's unprecedented freeze in early January left hundreds and hundreds of damaged or dead palm trees.

The harsh cold, which saw temperatures in the teen for an extended period, took a toll on plant life in the area, but palm trees in particular have suffered, leaving folks wondering whether they will come back if pruned or whether they should be removed.

"A lot of the palm trees that you see in the area are not recommended for the zone that we're in," said Carol Lord, an environmental horticultural technician at Escambia County Extension. "So they may not come back."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a Hardiness Zone Map that provides information that helps gardeners determine what plants will grow in their area.

30 Dead dolphins have washed up at Galveston since oil spill

© AP/Jennifer Reynolds
Gerald Joubert bags oil-soaked sand on the Texas City Dike as crews start the clean-up after the Galveston Bay oil spill.

Just as it seemed the clean-up efforts from last months oil spill under control, there's new evidence washing ashore that proves to the public just how much nearly 168,000 gallons of oil affects wildlife.

The U.S. Coast Guard confirms that 30 dead dolphins have been found in the Galveston area since the wreck, 48 total in March. That's well above average, and very well above last years recovery of only 15.

A high number of dead dolphins is typical during what is called the stranding season from January through March, but so far, 2 have been confirmed to have oil on their bodies and two more are being tested for possible oil exposure.

Though it's not proven that oil is the definite cause of the increase in stranding yet, it's definitely a concern, and until the murky waters are all cleared up, we won't know exactly how much our wildlife will be impacted.
Arrow Down

Sinkhole shuts down Roanoke City roadway in Virginia

With recent rainfall, a sinkhole has opened up on a Roanoke City roadway.

The sinkhole is about four feet in diameter and about one foot deep.

The sinkhole has closed a portion of Southern Hills Drive in the Southwest portion of the city.

The closure is between the 4200 and 4300 blocks, or from where Southern Hills Drive intersects Van Winkle and Griffin roads. Police say they are advising drivers to take alternate routes.
Cloud Lightning

'Several' planes struck by lightning during one storm in Bay Area, California

Northern California authorities say several planes have been struck by lightning as rain fell Monday on the drought-stricken San Francisco Bay Area.

Alaska Airlines spokesman Bobbie Egan says Alaska Airlines flight 2589, operated by Horizon Air, was on its way to Oakland, Calif., from Portland, Ore., when it was struck by lightning.

Egan says that planes are designed to withstand lightning strikes and that no one on board was harmed.

The flight landed at Oakland International Airport just before 1 p.m. Monday and was expected to be back in service by Tuesday.
Arrow Down

Two cars trapped by sinkhole in Detroit, Michigan

A fresh sinkhole in Detroit along McClellan and Felch streets, near Gratiot Avenue, trapped two vehicles Friday evening.

Davonte Reed says he thought he was driving over a drainage backup when his Ford Focus became abruptly stuck in the ground.

"It's - BOOM. I just leaned forward, my face hit the steering wheel, and it's just crazy," he says.

He says he called police who told he they couldn't provide assistance, and suggested he call a tow truck. While Reed was waiting to be towed, he called and alerted FOX 2 to his situation and we sent a crew to the scene.

The tow truck came and pulled out Reed's vehicle. But, shortly after, a second vehicle drove over the same spot and also got lodged in the sinkhole because no barricade had been placed.

That accident was caught on FOX 2 camera. The photographer was shooting the tow truck driving away from the scene, carrying the Ford Focus. In just a matter of seconds after the tow truck drove out of the shot, the Jeep drives into the sinkhole. The photographer unfortunately did not have time to warn the driver because the tow truck was blocking his line of sight, and when he realized what was happening it was too late.

Bye-bye butterfly: monarchs' are about to disappear

monarch butterfly
© Tim Johnson / MCT
A monarch butterfly lands on the head of an unsuspecting photographer in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico's Michoacan state, March 21, 2014
On a high mountain slope in central Mexico, a patch of fir trees looks dusted in orange and black. In fact, millions of monarch butterflies cloak the trees. The forest murmurs with the whir of their flapping wings.

Every year, hundreds of millions of monarch butterflies, each so light that 50 together weigh barely an ounce, find their way on what may be the world's longest insect migration, traveling the length of North America to pass the winter in central Mexico.

Yet the great monarch migration is in peril, a victim of rampant herbicide use in faraway corn and soybean fields, extreme weather, a tiny microbial pathogen and deforestation. Monarch butterfly populations are plummeting. The dense colonies of butterflies on central Mexican peaks were far smaller this year than ever before.

Scientists say Mexico's monarch butterfly colonies, as many as several million butterflies in one acre, are on the cusp of disappearing. If the species were to vanish, one of the few creatures emblematic of all North America, a beloved insect with powerhouse stamina that even school kids can easily identify, would be gone.