TIME Pain

Achy Back? Don’t Blame the Weather

Changes in the weather don’t cause back pain, say researchers.

Some people insist they know when it’s going to rain because they can “feel” it in their bones. Or their knees start aching. Or their back. Their explanation? They’re more attuned to changes in air pressure, precipitation, and the like. But a new study reveals that might be nothing more than magical thinking.

Researchers in Australia put to the test the idea that weather triggers back pain. They recruited 993 people who saw doctors because of low back pain and matched those visits to national meteorological data on temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind direction and precipitation. They also checked the same weather parameters one week and one month before the patients reported their pain. It turns out there was no statistically significant correlation between weather changes and back pain.

MORE: This Is the No. 1 Cause of Disability Worldwide

“We had an open mind on the issue,” Daniel Steffens, from the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Syndey, told TIME in an email. “We had heard many patients attribute their worsening pain to the weather, but we also knew there was limited research. In our very rigorous study we found no evidence that weather is associated with an increased risk of back pain.”

One of the strengths of the study, published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, involved the fact that the same participants were evaluated during stable and changing weather, meaning that most of the other variables that could affect pain, such as people’s lifestyles, behaviors and genetics, remained the same.

MORE: Aching Back? Try Massage for Chronic Pain

So why do so many patients believe that weather affects their joints? Some studies have found an association between cold or humid conditions and people’s symptoms of chronic pain, but the reason for the link from a physiological point of view isn’t known.

Steffens and his colleagues aren’t discounting the potential role that weather could play. They admit that Sydney, where the study was conducted, is blessed with relatively temperate conditions.

But for now, it looks like back pain sufferers can’t blame the weather. Steffens notes that other factors, including the way people move and lift heavy objects, as well as stress and fatigue, may be more important for triggering aching backs.

TIME weather

Storms Kill 4 in New York State and Child at Maryland Camp

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Severe storms brought destruction and tragedy across the Northeast on Tuesday evening, with one child dying at a Maryland summer camp and a possible tornado killing four people in an upstate New York town.

Around 100 children were in an outdoor pavilion at River Valley Ranch, a Christian camp north of Baltimore, when the storm hit. Organizers said they tried to get everyone to shelter but the high winds were upon them before all the children were safe — one of the nine children hurt died from their injuries…

Read the rest of the story at NBC News

TIME Japan

Typhoon Neoguri Pounds Japan’s Okinawa at Speeds of 108 Miles Per Hour

An image from NASA's Terra satellite shows Typhoon Neoguri in the Pacific Ocean approaching Japan
A Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image from NASA's Terra satellite shows Typhoon Neoguri in the Pacific Ocean, approaching Japan on its northward journey July 6, 2014. Handout—Reuters

Typhoon Neoguri swept across the southern Japanese islands of Okinawa on Tuesday.

(TOKYO) — A powerful typhoon pounded across the southern Japanese islands of Okinawa on Tuesday, as residents took refuge from destructive winds, towering waves and storm surges.

Airports closed and residents were evacuated from low-lying areas and shorelines as Typhoon Neoguri was passing through Okinawa, packing sustained winds of 175 kilometers (108 miles) per hour and gusts up to 250 kph (154 mph), the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

The storm was due to hit the main Okinawan city of Naha Tuesday evening. The national broadcaster said one woman had suffered a head injury due to the storm and one fisherman was missing after he was swept off a boat in seas near the southern island of Kyushu.

Television footage showed roads in Naha strewn with greenery and some downed trees.

Officials said the storm could be one of the strongest to hit Japan in decades, generating waves up to 14 meters (46 feet) high. But since typhoons track along Japan’s coasts and occasionally veer onshore every summer, the country is relatively well prepared.

“Please take refuge as early as possible,” said Keiji Furuya, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission.

The meteorological agency issued special warnings for violent winds, heavy rain and storm surges. The storm was moving slowly and diminishing in intensity, but its wide area and slow movement could add to the potential damage, weather forecasters said.

Evacuation advisories were issued for some 500,000 people, and about 500 sought refuge in Naha’s city hall, NHK reported.

Government leaders held an emergency meeting Monday, urging urged local governments and residents to take maximum precautions. Authorities in China and Taiwan also warned ships to stay clear of the storm.

Forecasts show the storm tracking toward Kyushu island and then across Japan’s main island of Honshu. It is forecast to lose more of its power over land, but much of the damage from such storms comes from downpours that cause landslides and flooding. Such risks are elevated by the storm’s timing, on the tail end of Japan’s summer rainy season.

The Philippines, which suffered the strongest typhoon to ever hit land when Haiyan struck six months ago, was spared the ferocious winds of Neoguri. The storm did not make land fall and remained about 480 kilometers (300 miles) east of the northernmost province of Batanes, when it roared past on Sunday.

The typhoon did intensify the country’s southwest monsoon, dumping heavy rains on some western Philippine provinces.

TIME viral

These Stunning Wedding Photos Feature a Tornado as the Backdrop

A cool twist on an otherwise traditional photo shoot

If they saw a funnel cloud looming on the horizon, most people would probably, you know, head somewhere safe to take cover. But Colleen Niska saw it as an opportunity. The Canadian wedding photographer was shooting a young bride and groom in Saskatchewan when they all noticed a tornado forming behind them. Niska decided to use it as a backdrop.

“I’ve dreamed about a day like this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” the photographer wrote on Facebook. “Could NOT wait to post these! Pretty sure this will only happen once in my lifetime!”

“We were a long ways from it and so we weren’t frightened or anything and it wasn’t heading in our direction,” Niska told BuzzFeed. “We were pretty excited as none of us had witnessed a tornado before and thought it was a pretty cool opportunity. I wasn’t going to pass on it!”

TIME Japan

Typhoon Neoguri Barrels Toward Japan

Typhoon Neoguri, the first super typhoon of 2014 heading towards Japan on July 7, 2014.
Typhoon Neoguri, the first super typhoon of 2014 heading towards Japan on July 7, 2014. NOAA/EPA

"This is not just another typhoon"

A “once in decades” storm is approaching Japan’s southern islands with winds up to 150 mph, the country’s weather agency said according to Reuters.

Typhoon Neoguri was south of Okinawa on Monday afternoon local time, but moving northwest with sustained winds of 110 mph. The Japan Meteorological Agency has issued high sea warnings and storm advisories for the Okinawa island chain and other parts of southern Japan, forecasting that the super typhoon will grow into an “extremely intense” storm by Tuesday.

“In these regions, there is a chance of the kinds of storms, high seas, storm surges and heavy rains that you’ve never experienced before,” a JMA official said at a news conference according to Reuters. “This is an extraordinary situation, where a grave danger is approaching.”

The state minister in charge of disaster management canceled a planned trip to the United States.

Okinawa is home to most of the U.S. military facilities in Japan, and Kadena Air Force Base, one of the largest, was taking measures to prepare for the storm.

“I can’t stress enough how dangerous this typhoon may be when it hits Okinawa. This is the most powerful typhoon forecast to hit the island in 15 years,” Brigadier General James Hecker, the base commander, wrote on the Facebook page. “This is not just another typhoon.”

TIME weather

Hurricane Arthur Heads Northeast, Brings July 4 Travel Chaos

Gridlock spans the Eastern U.S. with more than a thousand flights canceled on a weekend when 41 million Americans are expected to travel

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Updated 12:11 p.m. E.T.

Hurricane Arthur made its way north up the East Coast on Friday, after forcing thousands of Fourth of July vacationers to evacuate and creating gridlock on highways and skyways as rain scrambled holiday plans and rescheduled fireworks shows.

After the hurricane made landfall late Thursday night, the National Weather Service said North Carolina could get eight inches of rain on Friday, while areas as far north as Cape Cod in Massachusetts could se six inches. Arthur became a Category 2 storm overnight, and fierce winds were expected to push into Virginia on Friday. Authorities warned of coastal flooding and dangerous ocean conditions up and down the East Coast, and tropical storm warnings were in effect all the way to Cape Cod. It weakened to a Category 1 storm Friday morning as it moved up the East Coast.

Despite sunny skies forecast for the weekend, heavy rain had already wreaked havoc on Fourth of July plans. Cities as far north as Boston had rescheduled their fireworks for Thursday night or later in the weekend in anticipation of soggy weather.

Arthur was the earliest hurricane to hit North Carolina since record-keeping efforts began in 1851. The storm system continued to bring heavy rains and winds of up to 100 m.p.h. early Friday morning, with meteorologists anticipating “little change in strength” as the storm grazes the Eastern seaboard over the course of the day.

More than 21,000 people across North and South Carolina were without electricity early Friday morning, the Associated Press reports. The storm was heading northeast at 22 m.p.h. and was about 80 miles north of Cape Lookout, N.C., by early Friday, CNN reports.

Arthur created a pattern of gridlock spanning the U.S. More than a thousand flights had been canceled by midday Thursday—a frustrating start to a weekend when 41 million Americans were projected to travel.

“I found out at 5 p.m. [on Wednesday] that my 7:50 p.m. flight was canceled due to ‘air-traffic congestion [because of Arthur],” Taylor Laub, who was scheduled to fly to Philadelphia from Atlanta, told TIME from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Her rescheduled flight had been “successively delayed” into late Thursday night.

The scene at Reagan Washington National Airport on Thursday afternoon was chaos as Hurricane Arthur continued to gather strength off the coast of North Carolina. Passengers on flights scheduled to leave mid-afternoon were still waiting at 8:30 p.m.

One such passenger was David Luterman, who did his best to ignore the turmoil around him, reading a magazine in front of Gate 2 in Reagan National’s Terminal A, waiting to take off on what should have been a 3:40 p.m. Jet Blue flight to Boston. “Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize,” a Jet Blue employee announced over the loudspeaker around 5:45 p.m. “We’re just waiting for the lightning to clear for the ramp to open so we can land, disembark and clean the plane to continue on to Boston. We hope to have you on your way as soon as possible.”

Three hours later, that flight still hadn’t boarded.

Luterman had hoped make it back to his Boston-area home to spend the holiday weekend with his family. “I really want to get home,” he said.

In the days preceding the storm, state authorities warned of flooding and other damage, prompting mandatory evacuations in vulnerable areas and forcing thousands of vacationers to make alternate plans for their Fourth of July weekend. Tourism officials in North Carolina had initially projected a quarter of a million people to travel to the beaches of the Outer Banks for the holiday.

“We’ve lost a lot of business because of the storm — people are afraid of hurricanes,” said Jeff, the night manager of the Nags Head Inn in Nags Head, N.C., early Friday morning. “We were expecting to be 80 to 90% full, and now it’s looking more like 60.”

Storm preparation is a familiar routine along the North Carolina coast, where some of the most devastating tropical cyclones of recent years have made landfall. As Arthur churned in the Atlantic on Thursday, local supermarkets were crowded with residents stocking up on flashlights and bottled water. The town of Surf City canceled its Fourth of July celebration.

Rough surf and rip currents will remain a major concern along East Coast beaches, and swimmers have been advised to be extra cautious.

At the same time, a good number of North Carolinians have responded with indifference, dismissing the ongoing media coverage of the hurricane as unnecessarily alarmist.

“We had a big increase in sales today, which is normal when hurricanes come,” an employee at a Harris Teeter grocery store in the beach town of Kitty Hawk said. “But it’s really not too bad. It seems pretty overhyped.”

-Additional reporting by Jay Newton-Small/Washington

TIME weather

Hurricane Arthur as Seen from Space

The eye of Hurricane Arthur is seen over the Atlantic in this photo from the International Space Station tweeted by European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst July 3, 2014.
The eye of Hurricane Arthur is seen over the Atlantic in this photo from the International Space Station tweeted by European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, July 3, 2014. NASA/Reuters

The International Space Station captured a beautiful faraway view of the storm that began to wreck havoc on the eastern United States just before the Fourth of July

MONEY The Economy

Hurricane Arthur’s Threat to the July 4 Economy

A major storm is threatening the East Coast on the biggest holiday weekend of the summer, and evacuations have already sent hundreds of thousands of people scurrying away from the coast.

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Hurricane Arthur’s timing couldn’t be worse. While hurricane season technically starts in June, few expect big storms to arrive before late July. Tourists tend to think of the Fourth of July weekend as a pretty safe bet.

“You expect it to be hot, maybe a little muggy,” says Douglas Woodward, a University of South Carolina business professor who has studied the economic impact of hurricanes. What you don’t anticipate is a storm strong enough to force 250,000 people to evacuate (which is what happened in North Carolina’s Outer Banks), or that caused one major city (Boston) to move its Fourth of July fireworks show up a day to avoid Arthur at its peak.

“I’ve been here 28 years, and I don’t recall a significant storm hitting this early in the season,” said Woodward. “You think maybe over Labor Day there could be one, but not July Fourth.”

It’d be reasonable to assume that the economic impact of such a storm, which has caught many tourists off guard, is likely to be devastating. Surprisingly, experts and even local business owners don’t think this will be the case.

(MORE: It’s Hurricane Season: 5 Ways to Disaster-Proof Your Finances)

“The timing’s bad, that’s undeniable,” said William Hall, an economics professor at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. “But all signs indicate this will be a mild storm. It’ll be a short-lived event.” Hall predicated that power outages will be “minimal,” and estimated that coastal retail businesses might see revenues fall one percentage point or two because of Arthur. “There will be a lot of people who cancel today or tomorrow at hotels, but most of them will be replaced by walk-in traffic, so those rooms will be rented,” he said. The storm “will have an impact, but won’t be anywhere near a 100-year impact.”

Even in Boston, where Fourth of July festivities were hurriedly moved a day earlier to avoid the incoming storm, Arthur isn’t supposed to put much of a hurting on the economy. Boston 4 Productions, the group responsible for Independence Day fireworks and an evening Boston Pops concert, is merely turning their previously scheduled dress rehearsal—which traditionally draws 75,000 people—into the main event. So the costs incurred by switching the date are mostly a wash.

Steve MacDonald, the company’s spokesman, says that workers had successfully finished loading pyrotechnics on Wednesday night, so the fireworks show would be ready for Thursday (rather than Friday) evening. Ultimately, the show looks to remain on budget. “The biggest cost is to the public having to adjust their schedules,” said MacDonald.

Arthur also seems unlikely to seriously impact local Boston businesses. Randy Clutter, general manager of Bistro Du Midi, a French eatery just a few blocks away from the city’s Independence Day events, explained that the Fourth of July isn’t a particularly essential weekend for the restaurant business.

“If this would happen on New Year’s Eve, that would be a disaster,” said Clutter. “Valentines Day, that would be a disaster.” On the other hand, the Fourth of July “is not a make-or-break day for us.” Clutter expects traffic to be down about 30% on Friday, but doesn’t foresee the storm having a major impact on his bottom line.

In fact, many businesses stand to benefit from the fact that Arthur has thrown a huge number of tourists’ plans up in the air. Most obviously, the 250,000 Outer Banks evacuees have to go somewhere. While many will simply go home—if they live in Raleigh, for instance—others will wait out the storm in motels and spend money in inland-town businesses and restaurants along I-95, where traffic is sure to be horrendous. “It’ll help Cracker Barrel, that’s for sure,” said USC’s Woodward.

In the popular South Carolina beach destination of Myrtle Beach, chamber of commerce president Brad Dean told the Sun News that he expected spending to be strong. “We anticipate a wet, windy start to the holiday weekend, which may actually drive some business to the indoor amusements in our area, but overall it will be a fun time for visitors and residents,” Dean said on Wednesday. “Visitors are still planning to come, and the weekend should be packed with vacationers.”

Yet while Arthur’s economic impact appears that it won’t be catastrophic, the arrival of a major storm so early in the season is worrisome for a different reason. “This was supposed to be a mild season,” said UNCW’s Hall. “But it sure is starting off with a bang, isn’t it?”

Longer term, the economic impact of Arthur and similar storms on the Outer Banks depends largely on how Highway 12, the lone road to Hatteras Island, holds up. “It’s the most vulnerable stretch of highway in America,” said Robert Young, director of Western Carolina University’s Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on the road’s upkeep, which is damaged and even washed away in parts on a fairly regular basis. When that happens, the road can be closed for days, sometimes weeks, and beyond the millions spent on repairs, there’s obviously a sizeable impact on local businesses, beach rental properties, and the vacation plans of thousands of tourists. “It’s such a vulnerable road that it doesn’t have to be a big storm to cause major problems,” said Young.

TIME weather

Hurricane Arthur Threatens July 4 Weekend for Many

Hurricane Arthur 4th of July
Kyler Cook, 18, walks through the storm surge of Hurricane Arthur in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., on July 3, 2014. Randall Hill—Reuters

“Don’t put your stupid hat on,” North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory said at a press conference after declaring a state of emergency

Updated 11:34 p.m. E.T. Thursday.

Hurricane Arthur has finally made landfall near the southern end of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Arthur reached land around 11:15 p.m. on Thursday between Cape Lookout and Beaufort, N.C.

Arthur was a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 100 m.p.h. (160 km/h) and was located about 65 miles (105 km) southwest of Cape Hatteras, N.C., the Associated Press reported. It is moving northeast at 18 m.p.h. (30 km/h).

Fourth of July plans came to a screeching halt for many across the U.S. on Thursday, as the effects of a Category 1 hurricane began to work their way up the East Coast, causing flight delays and cancellations, and evacuations in some critical areas.

The scene at Reagan Washington National Airport on Thursday afternoon was chaos as Hurricane Arthur continued to gather strength off the coast of North Carolina. Passengers on flights scheduled to leave mid-afternoon were still waiting at 8:30 p.m.

One such passenger was David Luterman, who did his best to ignore the turmoil around him, reading a magazine in front of Gate 2 in Reagan National’s Terminal A, waiting to take off on what should have been a 3:40 p.m. Jet Blue flight to Boston. “Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize,” a Jet Blue employee announced over the loudspeaker around 5:45 p.m. “We’re just waiting for the lightning to clear for the ramp to open so we can land, disembark and clean the plane to continue on to Boston. We hope to have you on your way as soon as possible.”

Three hours later, that flight still hadn’t boarded.

Luterman had hoped make it back to his Boston-area home to spend the holiday weekend with his family. “I really want to get home,” he said.

Washington remained under a severe-storm warming until 9 p.m. Thursday. Tropical-storm warnings were also issued Thursday afternoon for Nantucket Island and parts of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, AP reported, though the full brunt of the storm itself likely won’t reach that far north until late Friday.

At the next gate over, a woman who only wanted to be known as H.R. clutched in one hand the remnants of a three-hour-old salad, her son’s tickets, passport and her iPhone in another. She was trying to get her 13-year-old son to Toronto where his five cousins were eagerly awaiting his two-week visit. That flight and one to Montreal were canceled.

“I booked a flight to Thailand for myself months ago,” H.R. said. “I leave tomorrow but if I can’t get him out,” she said, poking her lanky son who towered over her, “I can’t go. The other airline isn’t going to be sympathetic about Air Canada’s cancellations.”

Every gate in the terminal had people stacked in line, haggling with gate agents over tickets and delays. The walls were lined with would-be passengers as empty seats were not to be found. “It’s going to be a long night,” said John Henry, whose flight to Miami for a bachelor party was already two hours delayed. He and his buddies had already downed a few beers at the airport bar. “But I feel like I went straight to hangover. This is un-fun.”

Arthur’s current estimated trajectory has it grazing North Carolina’s northern seashore by Friday morning, prompting officials to order a mandatory evacuation of Hatteras Island — one of the many barrier islands making up the Outer Banks, where a quarter of a million people were projected to converge for the Fourth of July holiday weekend, according to the Associated Press. “Don’t put your stupid hat on,” North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory said at a press conference Thursday, after declaring a state of emergency in 25 coastal counties, urging swimmers and surfers to avoid the ocean in light of the impending storm. “Our major goal is to ensure that no lives are lost during this upcoming storm,” McCrory said.

Here’s the latest storm track, via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

hurricane-arthur-track
NOAA

Hurricane Arthur is forecasted to weaken by Friday night and become a post-tropical cyclone by Saturday.

[AP]

TIME weather

WATCH: Lightning Strike in NYC Caught on Video

You may not be able to capture lightning in a bottle, but you can certainly post it on YouTube

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