US: Governor - Wind Gust That Fell Indiana Stage a 'Fluke'

The wind gust that toppled a stage at the Indiana State Fair Saturday night, killing five and injuring dozens of fans waiting for the country band Sugarland to perform, was a "fluke" that no one could have anticipated, the governor and others said Sunday.

The wind was far stronger than that in other areas of the fairgrounds, said Dan McCarthy, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Indiana. He estimated the gust at 60 to 70 mph.

Gov. Mitch Daniels said precautions were taken before the storm, but no one could have foreseen such a strong gust focused in one place. Some witnesses have said that while a storm was expected, rain hadn't begun to fall when the wind sent the stage rigging falling into the crowd of terrified fans.

"This is the finest event of its kind in America, this is the finest one we've ever had, and this desperately sad, as far as I can tell fluke event doesn't change that," Daniels said.

Four people were killed when the metal scaffolding that holds lights and other stage equipment fell, and a fifth died overnight at a hospital, Indiana State Police 1st Sgt. Dave Bursten said. The county coroner's office identified the victims as Alina Bigjohny, 23, of Fort Wayne; Christina Santiago, 29, of Chicago; Tammy Vandam, 42, of Wanatah; and two Indianapolis residents: 49-year-old Glenn Goodrich and 51-year-old Nathan Byrd. Byrd died overnight.

Arrow Down

Indiana, US: Stage Collapse Kills At Least 4 and Injures Dozens Before Sugarland Concert

Sugarland concert
© The Indianapolis Star/Matt KrygerFans waiting to see Sugarland run away after high winds blew the stage over at the Indiana State Fair Grandstands, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011, in Indianapolis.
A stage collapsed during a powerful storm at the Indiana State Fair on Saturday, sending steel scaffolding into the terrified crowd below and killing at least four people among fans awaiting a performance by the country band Sugarland.

The collapse came moments after an announcer warned of the advancing storm and gave instructions on what to do in event of an evacuation. Witnesses said a wall of dirt, dust and rain blew up quickly like a dust bowl and a burst of high wind toppled the rigging. People ran amid screams and shouts, desperate to get out of the way.

Hundreds of concert-goers rushed afterward amid the chaos to tend to the injured, many with upraised arms seeking to lift heavy beams, lights and other equipment that blew down onto the crowd. Many of the injured were in the VIP section closest to the stage. Emergency crews set up a triage center in a tunnel below the grandstand at the Indianapolis fairgrounds.

About 40 people were injured, including at least one child, WTHR reported. Witnesses reported seeing many people with head and neck injuries and broken bones.

Cloud Lightning

New Zealand braces for a snowstorm for the record books: Snow, ice 'could last all week'

Canterbury is bracing for what could be a snowstorm for the record books.

Forecasters warn a major storm is about to be unleashed across much of the country.

Frigid Antarctic air has left the Ross Ice Shelf and is heading for the South Island.

Bitter weather could hit Canterbury between tomorrow afternoon and Wednesday, when snow flurries to low levels and cold southerly winds may ease.

However, snow and ice are likely to be a problem all week, with heavy frosts likely to stop the snow melting as quickly as it did after last month's fall.

MetService and Blue Skies Weather predict that gales and heavy snow will combine to cause chaos for Canterbury farmers, workers, schools, motorists and travellers over the next few days, with up to 20 centimetres settling close to sea level, 40cm on Banks Peninsula and inland, and more than 50cm above about 200m by Wednesday.

Cloud Lightning

Russia: Ball lightning strikes German tourist bus near Kaliningrad

© Unknown
Ball lightning struck a bus with German tourists near Russia's western city of Kaliningrad, chairwoman of the regional tourist association Tamara Toropova said on Thursday.

None of the 19 passengers on board the bus was injured when the ball lightning struck the bus during a thunderstorm on Monday.

Bizarro Earth

Australia: Victoria - Floods Inundate Gippsland Farms, Close Roads

© Wayne TaylorFollowing heavy rainfall the Thomson Dam is 46.3 per cent full, it's highest level in almost six years.

Extremely heavy rainfall this week in eastern Victoria has caused widespread flooding of Gippsland farms, closed local roads and threatens to affect townships in low-lying areas as rivers swell.

But the rainfall has been a boon for the Thomson Dam where 85 millimetres fell in 24 hours, pushing the dam to 46.3 per cent full, its highest level in almost six years.

Seven locations in Gippsland and East Gippsland received more than 100 millimetres of rain in the 24 hours to 9am yesterday, with Reeves Knob recording the highest total, a massive 137 millimetres.

Late yesterday major flood warnings were in place for the Mitchell and Thomson rivers and moderate warnings for the Avon, Latrobe and Macalister rivers. Widespread flooding has occurred on farmland at Cowwarr, Denison, Nambrok and Lindenow, but no homes have been inundated.

Cloud Lightning

Thailand: Flash flood destroys hilltribe shelter, killing seven

Thailand shelter flash flood aftermath
A flash flood last week smashed a hilltribe shelter in Mae Hong Son, killing seven occupants and injuring a few others.

The area had suffered days of heavy rain triggered by the lingering influence of tropical storm Nock-Ten.

Scores of hilltribe people, mainly Karenni, were seeking refuge at the shelter after fleeing armed fighting in Burma. Altogether 346 households have been affected. One person of unknown nationality was reported missing.

The seven bodies were retrieved and subjected to verification of death and identification in neighbouring Tak before they were cremated in a ceremony organised by survivors and Thais of Karenni descent.

Two communities were accommodated at the shelter, which was located between Mae La-oon and Sob Moei districts. Initial rescue attempts and medical assistance were made difficult by the high waters and raging currents.

Four Thais, including three children, were hurt after they were swept away by torrential currents.

In Nan, more than 400 homes in Tha Wang Pha district were submerged under two metres of floodwaters while landslides and falling trees blocked a main road, marooning villages. Many homes located along a large creek were inundated, leaving many residents stranded.


Power Companies Prepare as Solar Storms Set to Hit Earth

solar storm
© unknown
Three large explosions from the Sun over the past few days have prompted U.S. government scientists to caution users of satellite, telecommunications and electric equipment to prepare for possible disruptions over the next few days.

"The magnetic storm that is soon to develop probably will be in the moderate to strong level," said Joseph Kunches, a space weather scientist at the Space Weather Prediction Center, a division of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

He said solar storms this week could affect communications and global positioning system (GPS) satellites and might even produce an aurora visible as far south as Minnesota and Wisconsin.

An aurora, called aurora borealis or the northern lights in northern latitudes, is a natural light display in the sky in the Arctic and Antarctic regions caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere.

Major disruptions from solar activity are rare but have had serious impacts in the past.

Cloud Lightning

Mass evacuation as typhoon nears Chinese coast

© Getty ImagesFishing boats dock in Shenjiamen fishing port to take refuge from the powerful typhoon Muifa
More than 200,000 coastal residents in eastern China have evacuated and thousands of ships have been called back to shore ahead of the arrival of Typhoon Muifa, a powerful tropical storm that has already battered the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan.

Zhejiang province moved 206,664 people from its coastal areas while another 80,400 residents were evacuated in Fujian province, according to local government websites. Thousands of ships along the east coast had also been called back to shore, the statements said.

Typhoon Muifa was forecast to hit China sometime between Sunday morning and late Sunday afternoon, China's Central Meteorological Administration said. The storm is expected to make landfall in either northern Zhejiang or southern Jiangsu and skim the coast as it heads north.


Recent Active Sun Prompts Stunning Auroras Over England

English Aurora
© Raymond GilchristAurora over Cumbria 5/6th August 2011.
On the evening of the 5th of August 2011 the Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights were seen as far South as Southern England! At approximately 18:00 Universal Time (19:00 BST) the Earth's magnetosphere was hit by a coronal mass ejection from the sun, triggering a powerful geomagnetic storm and Aurora.

This storm measured 8 on the K index (aurora richter scale) which ranges from 0 - 9 so this was a big storm.

It is quite common to see Aurora in Northern Scotland, but at approximately midnight, aurora was seen as far south as Berkshire, Wiltshire and Hampshire in Southern England. It is incredibly rare to see aurora this far south - the last time I remember was in 2003.

I was incredibly lucky to briefly see the pale greenish hue of the aurora through clouds from my back garden in West Berkshire.

Cloud Lightning

US: Lightning sparks 3 wildfires in Bitterroot National Forest, Montana

bitteroot national forest fire
© John McColgan
Lightning sparked three wildfires in the Bitteroot National Forest after Thursday night's storm.

A fire burning in the Sapphire Mountains is about 10 miles northeast of Corvallis. Two engines and 26 firefighters are on the scene. A U.S. Forest Service helincopter dumped water on the six-acre blaze Friday morning.

Another fire is burning near Sula Peak and Forest Road 5728. Six firefighters are working to contain the fire, which has burned less than an acre.