TIME weather

Swarm of Tornadoes Tears Across the South

Constance Lambert embraces her dog after finding it alive when returning to her destroyed home in Tupelo, Miss., April 28, 2014.
Constance Lambert embraces her dog after finding it alive when returning to her destroyed home in Tupelo, Miss., April 28, 2014. Brad Vest—AP

Dozens of twisters across Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee pushed the death toll from this week's storms to at least 35 as the system moves east

Updated 4:58 p.m. ET

At least 16 people were killed Monday as deadly tornadoes ripped through sections of Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, bringing the death toll for the storm system that hit the Midwest earlier in the week to 35.

The dangerous weather was headed toward Georgia early Tuesday, after having flattened buildings in towns throughout the region, and Governor Nathan Deal has declared a state of emergency.

“For about 30 seconds, it was unbelievable,” said Mississippi state Sen. Giles Ward, whose Louisville home was destroyed in the storm while he huddled in a bathroom with his wife, four kids and dog. “It’s about as awful as anything we’ve gone through.”

The storm system rumbling east across the country has slammed a huge swath of territory with dangerous weather, from Iowa south to Oklahoma and into Arkansas, which alone saw 15 deaths. An estimated 11 tornadoes hit the central U.S. Sunday and 25 ravaged the South Monday, according to a preliminary count from the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center.

The storm reserved its most severe weather for Mississippi and Alabama. At least 45 injuries and six deaths were reported in Winston County, Miss., on Monday. One was a woman who died in the day care center she operated in Louisville, though it remained unclear if there were children in the center when the storm hit.

In Tupelo, Miss., every building in a two-block area was damaged when a tornado ravaged the town of about 35,000. Limestone County, Ala., suffered severe damage in the storm, which knocked out power to nearly 12,000 and killed two when a twister hit a trailer park in the small community of Coxey.

Power was out for tens of thousands of customers in the region and road crews worked to clear debris from streets Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.

[AP]

 

TIME weather

Tornadoes Trample Swath of South, Midwest

A U.S. flag sticks out the window of a damaged hot rod car in a suburban area after a tornado near Vilonia, Arkansas April 28, 2014 Carlo Allegri—Reuters

Dozens of twisters across Mississippi and Alabama pushed the death toll from this week's storms to at least 28 as rescuers search for survivors

Tornadoes have torn through the Deep South in the wake of two days of severe weather in the Midwest, killing nine and bringing the tornado-season death toll so far to at least 27.

At least five tornadoes touched down in Mississippi on Monday evening, claiming seven lives, while authorities in Alabama reported that at least two people were dead in Limestome County in the wake of several powerful spring storm cells. The severe winds have downed trees, leading to local power outages, and reportedly also destroyed a trailer park.

A tornado struck Tupelo, Miss., at around 2:45 p.m. on Monday, causing multiple injuries, the Weather Channel reports, though none were expected to be fatal.

A widespread tornado watch was put into effect across the Midwest and South on Monday night. Ohio, Iowa, Tennessee and parts of Missouri are at risk of severe weather.

The fresh spate of tornadoes comes after 18 were killed across three states on Sunday as a result of severe weather. The worst may not be over yet either: the Weather Channel reports that flooding, heavy rain and thunderstorms are expected to continue into Wednesday.

[Weather Channel]

 

TIME weather

At Least 16 Dead as Tornadoes Cut Through Midwest

Search and rescue teams are scouring the rubble in Arkansas and Oklahoma after the year's worst tornado outbreak yet left at least 16 people dead across three states and caused widespread destruction of property

Updated 1:26 p.m. ET

Tornadoes tore through the American Midwest and South on Sunday, killing at least 18 people in three states—14 in central Arkansas, one in Oklahoma in a cyclone’s wake and one in Iowa.

Authorities are reporting that a tornado touched down 10 miles west of the Arkansas state capital Little Rock, causing widespread devastation in the suburban communities of Mayflower and Vilonia. Authorities initially said 16 people had died in Arkansas but later revised that to 14 because two people were counted twice, the Associated Press reports.

“What I am seeing, it is a lot of damage. I’ve been listening to the rescue folks. They’re saying people have to be extracted from vehicles,” Vilonia Mayor James Firestone told CNN. “It looks pretty bad. From what I understand, there has been a subdivision that’s been leveled.”

The tornado was reportedly on and off the ground for a total of 80 miles, cutting large swaths of destruction to the west and north of Little Rock.

“It sounded like a constant rolling, roaring sound,” Mayflower resident Becky Naylor told the Associated Press. “Trees were really bending, and the light poles were actually shaking and moving. That’s before we shut the door, and we’ve only shut the door to the storm cellar two times.”

Just two hours before the tornado touched down in Arkansas, another cyclone unleashed havoc farther to the west in the tiny town of in Quapaw, Okla., where one resident died and six were injured.

Tornadoes were sighted in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri throughout Sunday as heavy storm cells ripped across the Great Plains.

Meteorologists are forecasting that severe weather, including tornadoes, hail and heavy winds could continue to pound the Midwest and Southeast throughout the beginning of the week. According to the Weather Channel, conditions are ripe for more tornadoes from east Texas across large swaths of the Plains up into Illinois.

[CNN]

TIME weather

Severe Storms, Tornados Forecast Across Large Swath of U.S.

A storm chaser photographer looks at thunderstorms supercells pass through areas in Vinson, Oklahoma
A storm chaser photographer looks at thunderstorms supercells passing through areas in Vinson, Oklahoma late April 23, 2014. The thunder storms on were a precursor of what's forecast for this coming weekend. Gene Blevins—Reuters

Meteorologists at the National Weather Service issued warnings about severe weather this weekend across Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas. Local residents were urged to prepare for hail, thunderstorms and tornadoes

Updated 4:08pm ET

Multiple tornados and severe thunderstorms are forecast this weekend from Nebraska to Texas, in what could be the worst severe weather event of the season so far.

The storms are expected to begin late Saturday and could last into the night before spreading to other areas, according to AccuWeather.com.

Multiple tornados had already touched down in eastern North Carolina by Saturday afternoon, sending 16 people to the emergency room so far and destroying or damaging 200 homes, CBS News reports.

“South-central Kansas to west-central Oklahoma would be in an elevated risk area for severe weather Saturday evening,” meteorologist Scott Breit said. The storms could then move in the direction of Omaha, Neb., Wichita, Kan., Oklahoma City, and Dallas later at night.

Sunday could see more tornados and strong hail lasting into the evening as well, according to National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center. It warned that Saturday’s storms would be severe, but “isolated and scattered.”

The relatively tame severe weather season so far makes the upcoming inclement weather a particular source of worry. “A reason for extra concern this weekend is that tornadoes have been nearly non-existent so far and people tend to forget what they have learned from year to year,” said Accuweather senior vice president Mike Smith.

[AccuWeather.com]

TIME nature

Washington State Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 39

Washington State Communities Continue To Deal With Aftermath Of Massive Mudslide
People hold candles during a vigil for mudslide victims at the Darrington Community Center on April 5, 2014 in Darrington, Wa. David Ryder—Getty Images

The Washington State mudslide has claimed 39 victims, according to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office. Seven people remain missing

The Washington State mudslide has claimed 39 victims, according to the most recent count by the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Agency officials have positively identified 36 of the 39 people killed in the March 22 slide, the Seattle Times reports.

Seven people remain missing after the devastating mudslide struck the small riverside neighborhood of Oso in Snohomish County on March 22.

[Seattle Times]

TIME Chile

11 Dead in Chile Forest Fire

And at least 500 homes have been destroyed in the port city of Valparaiso, Chile

TIME Earthquake

Tsunami Warning Issued After Solomon Islands Quake

The 7.5 earthquake occurred 69 miles south of Kirakira on the Solomon Islands Sunday morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The tremors could lead to a violent tsunami, warned the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami warning for the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papa New Guinea after a magnitude 7.5 earthquake shook the Pacific.

The earthquake occurred 69 miles south of Kirakira on the Solomon Islands Sunday morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was initially categorized a magnitude 7.7 before being revised down to a 7.5.

The tremors could lead to a violent tsunami, warned the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Authorities in the region were advised to take action.

“An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines in the region near the epicenter within minutes to hours,” warned the PTWC.

An 8.0 magnitude earthquake in February 2013 set off a tsunami that killed at least five people in a remote part of the Solomon Islands, Al Jazeera reported at the time.

TIME climate change

Climate Change Is a Game of Risk

Hurricane Sandy flooding effects
Climate change could increase the risk of catastrophic events like Hurricane Sandy Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Climate change is uncertain, which is why the best way to understand how warming will change the world is through the language of risk

Every new chapter of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment is boiled down into what is known as a policymaker’s summary—a 40-page or so document that is meant to contain the essential conclusions of the panel’s work and be used to guide politicians and the business community as they respond to global warming. Or at least that’s the idea.

Though chapter 2 of the fifth assessment—which was released on Mar. 31 in Yokohama—had no shortage of dire warnings about global warming, including projections that food could become scarcer as temperatures increased, it doesn’t seem as if many policymakers read the policymaker’s summary—let alone the full report, which runs over 1,000 pages. Kate Gordon, the director of the think tank Next Generation’s energy and climate program, noted that no speaker at the Wall Street Journal‘s ECO:nomics conference—a conference devoted to the intersection between the environment and business—actually brought up the issue of global warming until well into the afternoon of the summit’s second day. “Energy prices, energy volatility, future of utilities? Yes,” she wrote. “Climate change? No.”

If climate change is going to matter as a political and economic issue, it needs to be translated into political and economic terms. Out in San Francisco the hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer is trying to make climate matter for politics, promising to spend tens of millions of dollars in 2014 on attack ads targeting politicians who oppose action on global warming. And Steyer is also involved in an effort to make climate change matter for the business community, teaming up with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson on the Risky Business initiative, a wide-ranging project that will eventually produce a major report about the likely economic impact of climate change on U.S. business. “We came to this thinking how do we get to a place and a way of talking about climate change that is comfortable for the business community,” says Gordon, who also serves as the executive director of Risky Business. “And that’s the language of risk.”

Risk—you’ll be hearing that word a lot in the context of climate change. That’s because the best way of thinking about the impact of global warming—and especially the economic impact—is as a risk factor. As the climate warms, sea level will rise, which puts coastal communities—from tens of millions of poor people in Bangladesh to ultra-wealthy Manhattanites—at greater risk of flooding. Warming may also intensify tropical weather, potentially increasing the risk of catastrophic storms like Katrina. If climate change cuts into the yield of crops like wheat or corn—as the latest IPCC report predicts—that could raise the risk of violent conflict in already impoverished countries. Climate change is a risk multiplier.

Putting climate change in the context of risk also gets around the uncertainty inherent in trying to predict the effects of something as fiendishly complex as global warming. Read the IPCC report closely, and you’ll see that there’s a lot of hedging, especially when it comes to the impact that warming temperatures will have on extreme weather. That’s not evidence that global warming doesn’t exists; rather, it’s evidence that climate scientists are honest about what they know and what they don’t know. And it doesn’t give us a free pass—it’s possible that hurricanes might not be responsive to warming, and it’s also possible that warming could supercharge storms. “The very fact of uncertainty—that’s what we mean by risk,” says Hemant Shah, the CEO of Risk Management Solutions (RMS), a catastrophe risk modeling firm that is taking part in the Risky Business initiative.

And this is what’s really important: businesses already know how to deal with risk. They’re accustomed to operating in an uncertain world, and hedging that risk appropriately, whether it’s the threat of natural disaster, war or regulation. By making CEOs see that climate change is just another form of risk—albeit one that’s potentially on a scale larger than any we’ve faced before—the Risky Business initiative will hopefully nudge them towards taking some steps to mitigate that risk. “The question is, what decisions can we make to manage that risk appropriately,” says Shah. “We think this is incredibly important work.”

RMS, which uses complex analytics to model natural catastrophe risk in real time, will provide much of the science behind Risky Business. The company’s analysts will use climate data and models to map out how rising seas, warming temperatures and changing atmospheric patterns could alter the natural disasters that already cost the global economy tens of billions of dollars each year. The result won’t be a single figure—a dollar cost that we can hang on climate change—but it will help us understand the danger we face. The question then is whether we’ll finally listen.

TIME Washington

County Considered Buying Out Homes Destroyed by Mudslide

A piece of heavy equipment moves past an American flag as search work continues in the mud and debris from a massive mudslide that struck Oso near Darrington, Washington
The search for the missing people after the deadly mudslide continues in Oso © Jason Redmond—Reuters

Snohomish County once considered buying out the properties in the Washington state neighborhood that was devastated by a massive mudslide last month that killed at least 30 people and led to a nearly two-week search for more than a dozen others

In 2004, Snohomish County was so worried about the mudslide threat near the slope that collapsed last month that the county considered purchasing the properties to protect its citizens’ safety, The Seattle Times reports.

According to documents reviewed by the paper, the costs of buying out the neighborhood “would be significant, but would remove the risk to human life and structures.”

The county instead opted for trying to stabilize the base of the slope and, after a mudslide in 2006, a wall was built to prevent a river from cutting into the base side of the hill, in an attempt to minimize the mudslide threat.

Since the horrific mudslide near the small town of Oso in Snohomish County last month, questions have been raised about the county’s awareness of the threat. Thirty people were killed by the mudslide, and 15 are still missing.

[The Seattle Times]

TIME weather

Severe Weather Unleashes Tornadoes and Hail Across the Midwest

Early-morning storms roll through St. Louis
Jason Reidl, left, and Chris Thomas with Laclede Gas, look at a fallen tree that ruptured a gas main on Thursday April 3, 2014 in University City, Mo. Christian Gooden—St. Louis Post-Dispatch/AP

Springtime sees the seasonal return of severe weather to the Midwest, with tornadoes, heavy rain and baseball-size hailstones hitting the heartland as other parts of the country prepare to warm up after months of snow

Updated 12:49 a.m. E.T. on April 4, 2014

Spring is here, and towns across Tornado Alley experienced their first taste of severe seasonal weather Thursday as tornadoes, hail and thunderstorms hit large swaths of the southern Plains and the Midwest.

As of Thursday night, myriad tornado warnings issued by the National Weather Service remained in effect in counties across North Texas, up through central Missouri and into western Kentucky. But the tornadoes were relatively small, and there were no deaths reported as of late Thursday night.

“That’s where we think (potential of) tornadoes — some potentially strong — will be the greatest,” Bill Bunting, forecast operations chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., told the Associated Press.

“This will continue to evolve with time.”

Earlier on Thursday morning, a small EF1 tornado briefly touched down in St. Louis, damaging approximately 100 homes. Severe-weather bands plagued also the Dallas–Forth Worth area, with reports of power outages and baseball-size hail wreaking havoc on automobiles and homes in north-central Texas.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser