Science news, October 2012

There are two items of news: an outbreak of meningitis has hit the U.S.; Hurricane Sandy wreaks havoc on the northeast U.S. coast.

Rogue waves on the Great Lakes

What really happened to the Edmund Fitzgerald? Some new evidence from Dive Detectives suggests that it was broken up by extra-high rogue waves during a hurricane-force storm. The investigating board was quick to blame employee error in leaving hatch covers improperly latched–although the sailor’s lives depended on doing it right. However, other ships on the Great Lakes are known to have broken in half without warning. If it weren’t for the testimony of a single survivor, it, too might have been written off as employee error. Another ship manufactured in the same way developed cracks and broke up while being towed away for demolition. At the time the Edmund Fitzgerald sank, the load limits had been increased so that it was carrying more than it was designed for and riding lower in the water. It had been inspected for structural safety only ten days before.

The Edmund Fitzgerald

Both ships are lakers, long, broad ships limited by the size of the smallest locks that they’ll pass through. The assumption in building them is that the lakes do not develop waves large enough to, say, lift the ends of the ship and leave the middle unsupported or vice versa, or to twist it like a sponge. Ocean-going ships, or salties, are shorter, with the bridge in the middle to help reinforce the ship’s body. The superstructures of lakers are at the ends, leaving a large area free for cargo loading–but leaving the middle weaker.

U.S. emergency preparedness

Comments from CNN, Morgan Piers show,  about the U.S.’s disaster preparedness.

Irwin Redlener, Director of Columbia U’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness:

  • Says FEMA is much improved since Hurricane Katrina, more professional.
  • Japanese citizens and gov’t are far more prepared for disaster than those in U.S.
  • “We have grossly under-invested in some of the actual structures and systems that we’ll need to have in place if we have a major disaster. For example, our health and hospital systems are really unprepared to deal with any kind of major disaster and it has to do with our unwillingness to really invest and make sure those systems can surge up when they need to.

Craig Fugate, director of FEMA:

  • US Geological survey maps seismic risks, but other places like central U.S. does not meet specs, generally around inactive faults e.g. South Carolina.
  • Working with private sector and retailers so they’ll help move supplies, have right things on hand.
  • Personal preparedness, need plan: see (?)
  • “As much as people say, ‘Well, it would never happen in my community,’ low-probability, high-consequence events is why we have to build the depth and the capability to respond as a nation.”

Now why can’t people apply that last to the probability of global warming?

Ways to help in Haiti  is collecting news from crowd sources. It also give a list of established charities in Haiti: How you can help in Haiti.


A list of charitable organizations active in Haiti

For those in the US interested in helping immediately, simply text “HAITI” to “90999” and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross…

All For Good

All for Good helps you find and share ways to do good.


AmeriCares is preparing to respond to a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti earlier today. The earthquake leveled a hospital in the Haitian capital…

Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group

The Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group (AIDG) helps individuals and communities get affordable and environmentally sound access to electricity,…


Fonkoze is Haiti’s Alternative Bank for the Organized Poor. They are the largest micro-finance institution offering a full range of financial services…


Fonkoze is Haiti’s Alternative Bank for the Organized Poor. They are the largest micro-finance institution offering a full range of financial services…

Food for the Poor

Our goals are to improve the health, economic, social and spiritual conditions of the men, women and children we serve. Food For The Poor raises funds…

Haiti Volunteer Network

This site provides a platform for people who wish to donate services or goods to connect with relief and humanitarian agencies that are helping Haiti…

Hopital Albert Schweitzer

Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti, located 40 miles NW of Port-Au-Prince was able to withstand the recent devastating earthquake and is currently operating…

I Want 2 Help

United Way and The Miami Herald/el Nuevo Herald have activated Operation Helping Hands to collect donations in response to the catastrophic earthquake…

Inter Action

For a regularly updated list of agencies responding to the crisis and accepting donations. Community efforts to raise money for the responding organizations…

International Rescue Committee

Founded in 1933, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is a global humanitarian organisation that provides emergency relief, protection and other assistance…

Konbit Sante

Started in 2000, Konbit Sante Cap-Haitien Health Partnership is a Maine-based volunteer partnership to save lives and improve health care in northern…

Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps, an international aid agency founded in 1979 in the United States, works on emergency relief, sustainable development and civil society initiatives.

Missing Pesons Index: HaitianQuake

Creating the unified database for missing people and reunification in Haiti. Will have an api exporting and importing in various formats including PFIF….


Plan has worked in the country since 1973, and is working closely with government, emergency services and other organisations to respond to the immediate…

UN – family members of UN staff in Haiti

For any staff members who are trying to get information about family members who were working in Haiti should call the UN hotline at +1 212 963 4139…


Yéle Haiti is a grassroots movement that builds global awareness for Haiti while helping to transform the country through programs in education, sports,…

National day of mourning in Samoa

Today, Samoans bury those that can be found of the 176 people who died in the recent tsunami.  Spare a thought or word of sympathy for  people of Samoan heritage today for their national loss.

Other recent disasters in the Pacific are earthquakes in Indonesia, Sumatra, and Vanuatu and flooding in the Phillipines, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos.

Australian Pacific Tsunami Appeals:

The Springhill Mine Disaster was 50 years ago

Springhill, Nova Scotia, had a deep and dangerous mine. It experienced accidents, cave-ins, and explosions. The last and most famous disaster was a “bump” fifty years ago today: Springhill Mine Disaster.

Hurricane Paloma reaches Category 4


Hurricane Paloma gained yet more strength and became a Category 4 storm, which is “extremely dangerous.” It is moving north towards Cuba.

Paloma had top sustained winds near 225 km/h Saturday morning.

It was expected to bring total rainfall accumulations of 120 to 250 millimetres over the Cayman Islands as well as central and eastern Cuba.

…Cuba already is suffering from Hurricanes Ike and Gustav, which struck the island earlier this season and together caused an estimated $9.4 billion in damage. Nearly a third of Cuba’s crops were destroyed, causing widespread shortages of fresh produce.

Highway 97 in BC closed by danger of rock slide

That's not a path, it's a crack!

That is not a path, it is a crack in the hillside!

The main highway in the Okanagan Valley, Highway 97, has been closed north of Summerland. It will stay closed until at least Monday while geotechnical engineers examine a dangerous slab of rock poised above the highway. A crack above the rock widened about 10 cm in the last few days. The crack was noticed by workers who were widening the highway.

Geotechnical engineers say the fissure is several feet wide and is around 30 feet deep. Rough estimates are that around 300,000 cubic metres of rock are moving on the face.

The shutdown severs the main artery between Penticton to Kelowna in B.C.’s Okanagan region.

Arthon Construction… estimates it will take at least a few days to repair the face….

Northbound motorists are advised to detour via Highway 33 or Highway 3. The alternate route will add at least a few hours to the trip.

If it’s granite, that’s around two million tonnes of rock.

The photo below must be taken from the north because the lake is on on the left.

Lake Okanagan, looking south along Highway 97

Lake Okanagan, looking south along Highway 97

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