Earth ChangesS

Cloud Lightning

Six killed by lightning in China

© Unknown
Six farmers were killed in eastern China Sunday when the hut they were sheltering in during a storm was struck by lightning, state media reported.

Another farmer in the hut was injured and taken to hospital, the Xinhua news agency quoted local officials in Anhui province as saying.

The accident happened during a heavy rainstorm in the village of Qiaodong, around 650 kilometres (400 miles) northwest of Shanghai, Xinhua quoted officials from the county government as saying.

Bizarro Earth

US: Georgia's Satilla River seen as 'poster child' for mercury poisoning

A recent study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey reveals mercury contamination is pervasive in rivers and streams all across the nation.

A Southeast Georgia environmental advocate says the Satilla River, which rises near Douglas and empties into the Atlantic near Woodbine, could be the "poster child" for that study.

"The Satilla exemplifies everything in that study," Satilla Riverkeeper Gordon Rogers said after the results of the study were released Wednesday. "It's a blackwater stream that's heavily contaminated with mercury, and the mercury is poisoning the fish to the point that they're inedible."

USGS scientists who tested fish from 291 streams found mercury contamination in all of them. According to the study, the highest levels of mercury were found in blackwater streams, such as the Satilla and similar rivers in the southeastern United States.

Blackwater river systems are far more efficient at transferring mercury to fish than are alluvial systems like the Altamaha River, Rogers said. Fish species, such as catfish, redbreast and largemouth bass, ingest mercury when they feed on plants and insects.


US: California homeowners defy evacuation order, band together to fight flames

La Crescenta - About a dozen residents of Maurice Street on the north end of an island of La Crescenta homes known as Briggs Terrace found themselves Saturday afternoon in the middle of the road, taking stock of their ominous situation.

They were surrounded by fire on three sides, and there were no firefighters or law enforcement in sight. One asked a question that was on everyone's minds: Is anybody leaving? All of them shook their heads no.

The evacuation order had come down after nightfall for the Briggs Terrace area, a century-old collection of homes in the Craftsman and cabin style, along with newer stucco custom models.

"We started thinking smart and came up with a plan," said Greg Lievense, 54, an engineer at nearby Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The group broke up into teams of three with an agreement that no one would be alone for the duration of the emergency. One neighbor began stockpiling ladders and flashlights.


US: Evacuations continue Sunday for New Harmony fire

Harmony Heights fire
© Scott Sommerdorf/Salt Lake TribuneNEW HARMONY FIRE Aerial crews dropped fire retardant onto the hillside below fires threatening this home in Harmony Heights
Blaze grows - Winds have swelled the Mill Flat Fire to 10,000 acres.

New Harmony -- Members of the Washington County Search and Rescue team went door-to-door Sunday morning to alert residents here of a voluntary evacuation in the face of a wildfire bearing down on the town that already has consumed at least three homes.

The 10,000-acre Mill Flat Fire is burning actively in areas west and north of the town. Residents in the west have been asked to evacuate; others have been put on a one-hour notice for future evacuations.

Sheriff Kirk Smith said although the evacuations remain voluntary for now, residents are being given a warning: firefighters have the best chance at protecting their property if they leave now. Leaving as the fire approaches allows teams to move in resources to fend off the flames, but waiting until the last minute to evacuate can cause a bottleneck, he said.

Cloud Lightning

Mexico: Cabo San Lucas area braces for Hurricane Jimena

The arch off Cabo San Lucas
© Geraldine Wilkins The famous arch off Cabo San Lucas
If you've scheduled a fishing trip to Cabo San Lucas early this week, bring your umbrella and plan on spending time indoors.

Hurricane Jimena, off mainland Mexico, has intensified overnight and is classified as a Category 4 storm, with sustained winds of about 135 mph. At 8 a.m. Sunday its center was located 515 miles south-southeast of Cabo and was tracking to the northwest (see graphic below) at about 9 mph.

The National Hurricane Center predicts it will skirt the Baja California peninsula before making landfall Tuesday night in the Magdalena Bay area. It will deliver plenty of much-needed rain, but might also cause extensive flooding.


US: Yosemite National Park Big Meadow Fire

The Big Meadow Fire
© LA TimesThe Big Meadow Fire in Yosemite National Park
The Big Meadow Fire in Yosemite National Park continues to grow, with estimates this morning at 4,382 acres and 50% containment.

In addition to evacuations and closures previously reported on Outposts, the community of Old El Portal has been evacuated, and Yosemite View Lodge, located outside the west entrance of the park, is now closed.

Although visitors may experience delays on area roads due to firefighting operations, much of the park is open.


Update: Los Angeles Forest Fires Threaten Foothills

LA fire
© Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesLos Angeles County firefighters Kevin Klar, right, and Eric Tucker, center, sat with homeowner Henrik Hairapetian as fire scorched the La Canada Flintridge foothills on Saturday
A wildfire raging in the mountains north of Los Angeles spread rapidly to the northwest and southeast Saturday night into Sunday, consuming thousands of acres of national forest land and threatening at least 10,000 homes in suburban and rural communities in the foothills, the National Forest Service said.

Fueled by high temperatures and low humidity, the fire has more than quadrupled in size since Friday, scorching more than 35,000 acres of underbrush, scrub oak and mature trees and destroying three dozen cabins inside the Angeles National Forest. Much of the area has been fire-free for 50 to 60 years, providing plenty of dead undergrowth to fuel the flames.

"It's a pretty ugly scene out there," Bruce Quintelier, a fire information officer for the United States Forest Service, said in a telephone interview. "It has got a lot to burn."


Update: Fires create another bad-air day in parts of Los Angeles

Parts of L.A. County were dealing with bad air today as a result of the Station fire.

According to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the western San Gabriel Valley recorded "very unhealthful" air this morning. Officials expect the air in other areas near the fire zone to become unhealthful as the day progresses.

"Wildfire smoke settled into valleys last night near the fires," the AQMD said in a statement. "Smoke will likely linger in these areas until this afternoon when onshore ocean breezes are expected to move smoke across the valleys and into the mountains."


Grasshoppers Can Transmit Virus To Livestock

© Photo courtesy of Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.orgARS researchers have discovered that grasshoppers can transmit vesicular stomatitis virus from rangeland plants to livestock.
Rangeland plants may be harboring a virus that grasshoppers are transmitting to cattle, horses and other hoofed mammals, according to a published research study by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists.

A recent outbreak of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) in the southwest United States has disrupted rodeos and prompted quarantines. VSV is a viral disease that causes sporadic outbreaks in the United States, most recently in 2006.

Bizarro Earth

6.6 Earthquake Jolts Samoa Islands Region

© AFP PhotosAn official monitors a newly-installed seismograph in Legaspi city, Philippines.
A strong earthquake of 6.6 magnitude jolted the Samoa islands region of the Pacific on Sunday, seismologists said, but there were no immediate signs of damage.

The quake struck at 3:51 am local time (1451 GMT) at a shallow depth of 10 kilometres (32 miles), some 175 miles southwest of the capital Apia, the US Geological Survey said.

The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said no "destructive widespread tsunami threat" existed.