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Sat, 25 Jan 2020
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'Tumblegeddon': Washington highway closed for hours after piles of tumbleweed trap cars, semi-truck

Washington tumbleweeds
© Trooper Chris Thorson/Washington State Patrol via AP
In this image taken Tuesday evening, Dec. 31, 2019, and provided by the Washington State Patrol, Washington State Department of Transportation using snow plows to remove a pile of tumbleweeds along State Route 240 near Richland, Washington
Several drivers in Washington state had to be rescued by snowplows after getting trapped in their vehicles on a highway New Year's Eve, according to officials.

But the rescues had nothing to do with wintry weather.

Tumbleweeds had piled up about 30 feet, blocking State Route 240 and leaving "several vehicles trapped," including a semi-truck, according to Washington State Patrol. The road was closed in both directions around 6:30 p.m. near West Richland, Wash.

Trooper Chris Thorson shared a photo of Department of Transportation workers making their way through the piles of tumbleweeds in the dark as some drivers can still be seen in their vehicles.

Cloud Lightning

Australian wildfires are so massive, they're generating their own weather patterns

Comment: Which causes more lightning, which causes more wildfires... It's a horrible set of circumstances to be caught up in. Stay safe, Aussie readers!

pyrocumulonibus cloud wildfire australia
© Dave Ellem/Michael Bath
Pyrocumulonimbus cloud, Australia 2001
The bushfires in Australia are now so big that they are generating their own weather, in the form of giant thunderstorms that start more fires, according to the Bureau of Meteorology in Victoria.

"Pyro-cumulonimbus clouds have developed to altitudes over 16km in East #Gippsland this afternoon. These fire-induced storms can spread fires through lightning, lofting of embers and generation of severe wind outflows," the bureau tweeted on Monday.


Australia wildfires: Tens of thousands stranded while attempting to flee

bushfires australia sky red
Visitors who were told to evacuate a vast area along the NSW south coast before even worse fire conditions return stuck for hours in gridlocked traffic

Tens of thousands of people remained stranded on Thursday evening while attempting to flee bushfire-ravaged areas of the south-east Australian coast - having earlier been urged to leave before the return of extreme and dangerous weather conditions.

The mass evacuation of communities in New South Wales and Victoria is among the largest ever emergency movements of people in Australia. The numbers fleeing the bushfire crisis remain unclear, but are expected to compare to the 60,000 people who were flown out of Darwin after Cyclone Tracy in 1974.

Visitors told to flee a vast evacuation area along the NSW south coast reported sitting in gridlock for up to 10 hours after responding to the order to evacuate, as further outbreaks of fire and sheer weight of traffic blocked escape routes north of Ulladulla and near Cooma in the Snowy Mountains.

Comment: RT adds more on Morrison's tone-deaf PR swing through one ravaged area:
The official started his visit to Cobargo walking up to a local woman, casually asking "How are you?" and then forcing her into a handshake - and that was when all the PR stunt flopped.

"I'm only shaking your hand if you give more funding to our RFS [Rural Fire Service]," the visibly reluctant woman told the PM.

Morrison was promptly swarmed by locals afterwards, who asked him a bunch of quite reasonable questions about very low number of fire engines that responded to the fires, lack of relief and so on - that he did not answer, however.

The PM aimlessly roamed the street with a bunch of other officials, including the natural disasters minister David Littleproud - and their silence only angered the locals further. One man urged the official to get out of town, telling him that his electoral prospects now look quite bleak in a profanity-laden rant.

"You're an idiot, mate. You really are. You won't be getting any votes down here buddy... No liberal votes. You're out son. You are out. Goodnight Vienna. Bye. Go on, p**s off."

Pelted with further questions about those who died in the fires and the many who've lost their homes, the officials ultimately retreated to their car - without so much as a goodbye.


Overnight storm dumps 14 inches of snow on Brundage Mountain, Idaho

New Year's storm drops over a foot of snow on Brundage

New Year's storm drops over a foot of snow on Brundage
A New Year's storm dropped over a foot of snow Wednesday on Brundage Mountain.

A winter snowstorm delivered a skiers dream to Brundage Mountain after dropping 12-14 inches of fresh snow on the mountain Tuesday evening to Wednesday morning.

Temperatures stayed in the mid to low 20's during this storm surge, so the quality of the snow is on par with the quantity.

"Powderhounds were up early to enjoy the fresh snow and an unexpected sun break before snow showers moved back in," the mountain said.


Spectacular 'Sun Dog' observed in Jilin, northeastern China

Halo and sundog in KC, MO
© Teresa and Mark Harvey
Residents in the city of Fuyu, northeast China's Jilin Province were thrilled to see three "suns" in the sky on the last day of 2019.

Around 8 a.m., two glowing spots were seen on the left and right side of the actual sun. The two extra "suns" were relatively bigger while the middle one smaller. The scene lasted for around 20 minutes.

This spectacular view, caused by a natural phenomenon called "sun dog," is also known as mock suns or parhelia.

As a result of light refraction through ice crystals, "sun dogs" become colored spots of light. This is an atmospheric optical phenomenon in nature, said Hu Xiao, the chief analyst of a weather reporting website.

The scenery is relatively rare, requesting strict meteorological conditions. First, the temperature required must be as below as minus 20. Besides temperature, the time of its occurrence is normally after sunshine but before morning, with a somewhat abundant amount of ice crystals.

The phenomenon went viral on Chinese social media, and some netizens referred to it as a rare scene in the story of Hou Yi.

Comment: It's not just the prevalence of 'ice crystals' in the atmosphere that creates conditions for this 'optical illusion' - it's particulates in general, so... volcanic dust, meteor 'smoke', smoke from wildfires...

All of which appear to be on the rise globally, hence the ever more regular appearance of what were once atmospheric 'anomalies'.


Black Saturday: The bushfire disaster that shook Victoria, Australia

Comment: H/T to SOTT reader ChapS23, who reminded us on this article about the bushfires currently raging in Victoria and New South Wales that Australia has seen worse, and not long ago...

bushfire australia 2009
© Getty Images
The town of Kinglake and surrounding regions were devastated
Ten years ago, Australia experienced its worst-ever bushfire disaster when 173 people died across the state of Victoria. Immediately branded "one of the darkest days in Australia's peacetime history", Black Saturday has left a profound legacy. Sharon Verghis reports.

"It was like the gates of hell. There is no other way to describe it."

For Tony Thomas, 7 February 2009 began as another ordinary day. It had been a summer of record-breaking temperatures, prompting days of safety warnings.

But Mr Thomas wasn't overly concerned; they had had scorching days like this before.

In the lush, peaceful hills on the outskirts of tiny Marysville, about 90km (55 miles) north-east of Melbourne, he and wife Penni had carved out a fruitful life running a bed and breakfast on a 60-acre property.

His in-laws had arrived for a birthday lunch. It was a pleasant gathering, despite the suffocating heat. But in the late afternoon, they spotted smoke in the west. Going for a closer look, they saw fire.


Snowstorm knocks out power to more than 30,000 in southern Interior of British Columbia

A snowstorm in the Southern Interior has caused damage to BC Hydro infrastructure, leading to power outages for customers.
A snowstorm in the Southern Interior has caused damage to BC Hydro infrastructure, leading to power outages for customers.
Snowstorm knocks out power to more than 30,000 in B.C.'s southern Interior

B.C. Hydro says a snowstorm cut power to tens of thousands of customers in the province's southern Interior Tuesday.

The hardest hit areas included Clearwater, Quesnel and rural areas just outside of Kamloops, Vernon and Salmon Arm where heavy snow caused branches and trees to crash into power lines.

On Saturday morning, B.C. Hydro said it had restored power to about 60 per cent of affected customers, but there were still around 34,000 customers without power in the region.

Snowflake Cold

Anchorage, Alaska breaks snow record for New Year's Day following the warmest Dec 31 on record

Snowfall overnight transformed Southcentral Alaska from an icy, slushy mess to a snow-laden landscape, Jan 1, 2020. Spruce trees are loaded with snow in Eagle River valley, Wednesday morning.
© Anne Raup/ADN
Snowfall overnight transformed Southcentral Alaska from an icy, slushy mess to a snow-laden landscape, Jan 1, 2020. Spruce trees are loaded with snow in Eagle River valley, Wednesday morning.
Anchorage rang in the new year with record-breaking snowfall and warmth, as temperatures tumbled on Tuesday evening and precipitation ticked up throughout the night.

It was the snowiest New Year's Eve and New Year's Day combined on record for Anchorage, with 9.5 inches of snow by Wednesday afternoon, according to meteorologist Michael Vuotto at the National Weather Service in Anchorage. The snow totals broke the previous record set during the 1963-64 New Year's, which measured 7.2 inches of snow.

The snowfall came after Anchorage broke the daily record for warmest Dec. 31, with temperatures at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport measuring 46 degrees. That broke a previous record that was set in 2018, at 44 degrees for the final day of the year.


Crikey. Australian military preps for major evac operation from fire-ravaged Victoria

Comment: It's 'climate change', sure, but there's nothing your govts can do to stop it...

At least they've found a productive use for the military.

australia wildfires mallacoota

Residents of Mallacoota in Victoria, Australia, prepare for emergency evacuation as wildfires reach the sea-shore
Plans to evacuate thousands of stranded residents from fire-ravaged communities in Victoria are underway; Australian navy ships are anchored offshore as air force vehicles brave the acrid smoke to evacuate the sick and elderly.

At least 18 people have died throughout the current bushfire season in Australia. Eight of the victims perished in the country's southeast on New Year's Eve, while 17 people remain unaccounted-for in Victoria State.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has declared a seven-day state of emergency and the fire service have created a roughly 200km-long "tourist leave zone."

Comment: Videos are emerging of the destruction some of these wildfires left in their wake:

What else is known, so far (summary courtesy of The Guardian):
  • The NSW government declared its third state of emergency, beginning on Saturday and running for seven days
  • The Australian Capital Territory has declared a state of alert
  • There are extraordinary delays and traffic jams on the roads out of South Coast regions, after authorities told all tourists and some residents to leave areas today and tomorrow
  • There are now four 'leave zones for tourists' and/or residents in Snowy Monaro, Shoalhaven, Batlow/Wondalga, and South coast
  • Evacuation orders were made for Kosciusko National Park, where the Dunns Road fire is taking hold
  • Exits were hampered by high crowds, road closures, and fuel shortages
  • Some service stations ran out, while others limited people to 50L of gas
  • Victorian authorities also urged people to leave the alpine and East Gippsland regions before the weekend
  • There is a total fire ban for NSW on Friday and Saturday
  • The Choulas Navy ship can take 500-1,000 people, but they will have to climb up a rope ladder to get aboard
  • Limited evacuations by air will be organised for elderly and infirm people
  • The conditions are predicted to be extreme in South Australia on Friday, with temperatures in Adelaide of 42C and 45C in the regions
  • Fire chief Mark Jones said the concern was already existing fires. "There are millions of sparks out there ready to go tomorrow if they break containment lines."
  • The prime minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, attended the funeral of firefighter Geoffrey Keaton, who died in December while fighting the Green Wattle Creek blaze
  • Some $21m in commonwealth disaster payments has so far been paid to fire victims in NSW
Is this scale of disaster-by-wildfire 'unprecedented' for Australia?

Update 19:00 CET

PM Scott Morrison has been visiting townships to 'lend his support'. It's not going too well...


Wild boar goes on rampage in Uttar Pradesh, India

In a terrifying moment, workers at a petrol station were confronted by a wild boar as they went about their regular day's work in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

A wild boar has created havoc in the Sultanpur district town of Kadipur in Uttar Pradesh when it went wild, creating a panic at a petrol station.

In the incident caught on a CCTV camera in the area, the wild boar can be seen tossing a schoolgirl into the air.