Moore Tornado

  • Monday 20th May 2013 at 15:01 was the time of touchdown of the Moore Tornado. It remained grounded for 45 minutes
  • At least 24 confirmed dead
  • The worst effected area was to the south of the city of Moore, Oklahoma, which was hit with wind speeds over 200km/h
  • About 120 people had to be hospitalised
  • President Obama ordered federal authorities to join the search for survivors in the wreckage
  • On the 21st, 24 victims had been identified and returned to their families, although 40 other deaths had occurred, and the bodies had not yet been identified. 20 of the dead were children
  • Several children were hit when Plaza Towers Elementary school took a direct hit. The school’s roof was torn off and the walls knocked down, and 7 children died there
  • Briarwood Elementary school was also damaged
  • The tornado was about a mile wide, and at some points reached about 2 miles’ wide
  • Moore had been prepared for tornadoes, but not of that magnitude. There was a warning in place, but the tornado veered on an unexpected route. It was hard to keep out of the way of it
  • More than 200 Oklahoma National Guardsmen were called in to help search and rescue
  • The path of destruction was a line heading roughly east through the city
  • Many residents did not have anywhere to shelter, due to not having secure basements. There were also insufficient public shelters
  • Scored a 4 on the Enhanced Fujita scale (enhanced Fujita being made to account for events that the Fujita scale can’t accurately showcase)
  • The storm system stretched from Texas to Minnesota
  • A lack of funds and fatalism among residents has meant that response to prevent future events has been minimal
  • Several hundred people were injured
  • Education funding was limited, so schools could not afford proper measures
  • People had been wrongly informed that tornadoes could only hit in the late afternoon and evening
  • Normal behaviour in Oklahoma, due to the presence of so many storms, is to be constantly checking the weather out
  • Many storm chasers follow similar events so that their paths and impacts can be better predicted in the future; and some follow them just to see what they look like. Average people will sell the footage they get from tornadoes to actual TV stations
  • Doppler radar improvements mean that dangerous storms, and storm systems likely to create tornadoes can be more easily identified. Supercell storms which create tornadoes have distinctive patterns of movement within them, which Doppler radar can detect.
  • The loss of recognised places and landmarks can be over-whelming for citizens, especially those who come back to check on friends and relatives, or those who work in journalism, and therefore didn’t see the event itself
  • Frequent weather warnings can create complacency- Oklahoma can receive 80 warnings in a single month
  • Some people say that if they don’t live in tornado-prone areas, their taxes shouldn’t be used to help fund tornado shelters and warnings
  • Citizens of Moore are trying to raise money to add shelters and safe rooms to all the schools in the area, to not only protect children but the whole community

Belize Agricultural Industry

Agriculture and tourism are the main sources of employment for many Belizean people, but Hurricane Earl in Summer 2016 greatly affected the agricultural sector. Loss of revenue has had a large impact on the Belizean economy. Damages are estimated around US$183.6 million, with BZS$ 100 million of this just from the impact to agriculture.

Belize’s exports have been contracting, which on top of damage from the South East of Corozal District to the North of Toledo, has had a large impact. Sugar was generally least effected, apart from the loss of infrastructure, but this year’s cane might be damaged. There was a spike in cattle diseases due to the flooding that the hurricane caused. When agriculture has been weakened, historically, so has the rest of the economy.

Banana

In October 2015, Fyffes stopped buying Belizean bananas, causing a major economic decline, resulting in thousands of unemployed locals and millions of BZD lost.

Papaya

Fruta Bomba closed in June 2016, after 20 years of Belizean operation; a press release in February 2016 indicated that economic conditions after 2007’s Hurricane Dean hindered company attempts to rebuild their organisation. Fruta Bomba used to be Belize’s main employer but 251 people were left without a job.

Shrimp

In November 2015, a virus plague hit the shrimp industry, causing shrimp farms to face losses in raw produce and in investment. The infection was probably transmitted by birds that visited the ponds for the shrimp farms’ aquaculture. 600 workers were laid-off, and there were losses of BZ$30 million.

Sugar cane

Sugar makes up 60% of Belize’s exports. In July 2016, several tonnes of molasses (syrupy type of refined sugar) were lost in Orange Walk district. 3,900 tons of molases (worth BZ$432,666) was lost in Hurricane Earl; the Belize Sugar Industry said that cane farmers should cover 65% of the losses from this. Cane Farmers protested, as the losses were taken directly from their pay.

 

The Statistical Institute of Belize has documented instability in agriculture in Belize for years. In 2014, according the the SIB, agriculture had a GDP of BZ$381 million, with marine products with BZ$112.34 million. Marine production slowed in the 4th quarter of 2015, due to the decline in shrimp production. Banana shipments decreased by 25% (7,000 tons) due to dry weather affecting the plants.

Livestock fared poorly in the same time. Sugarcane deliveries started in December in 2015, a month earlier than in the previous year.  Citrus deliveries saw an unusual increase too. Purely in June 2016, exports across the agricultural industry declined by 30%. Marine products declined by more than 50%. Exports for bananas declined by 1/3.

Typhoon Haiyan

Haiyan slammed into the Philippines on 8th November 2013 with the force of a category 5 Atlantic hurricane, at a speed of 250kmh^-1. It came with a 5m storm surge and up to 290 mm of rainfall in just 12 hours. Haiyan was likely known as Yolanda. Fewer than 20 other hurricanes had reached the same strength.

Between 5 and 10 typhoons hit the Philippines every day, leading to, within normal bounds, 2% of GDP lost annually.

Top Five Natural Disasters, 2004-2012 in the Philippines Date Number Kiled
Typhoon Bopha Dec 2012 1,901
Typhoon Winnie Nov 2004 1,619
Typhoon Washi Dec 2011 1,439
Typhoon Durian Nov 2006 1,399
Leyte landslide Feb 2006 1,126

Bopha had a windspeed of 280kmh^-1 and hit the island of Mindanao. It caused over US$1 billion of damage. Yet no one remembers Bopha. This reflects how the richest countries tend to ignore the issues that prevent development in other countries once the immediate issue appears to be dealt with.

Many people made the link between Haiyan and climate change:

“I’ll leave the scientists to speak for themselves about the link between severe weather events and climate change. The evidence seems to me to be growing.”- David Cameron

Rising sea levels from melting ice caps mean that areas which are low lying or coastal are at more risk of damage from storm surges and other sea based hazards linked with the hurricane. An IPCC AR5 report judged that there would be no real increase in the number of hurricanes but the intensity of them would rise.

Date Development of Haiyan
2 Nov An area of low pressure developed South East of Micronesia
3 Nov Haiyan started to move westward, turning into a tropical depression
5 Nov Classified as a typhoon
6 Nov Joint Typhoon Warning Centre classified it as a category 5 storm
7 Nov Haiyan intensified to winds up to 314kmh^-1. Made landfall at Guiuan, Eastern Samar.
8 Nov Five more landfalls within the Philippines. Passed into the South China Sea
10 Nov Turned NW and made landfall in Vietnam as a category 1 typhoon
11 Nov Weakened to a tropical depression

Causes

To form, hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones (the same thing by different names depending upon location), need warm deep water (around 27°C for 70m) and sufficient rotatory power from the Coriolis effect; the coriolis limitation means that tropical storms can rarely be formed outside of about 5-20° away from the equator. Tropical storms form around an area of low pressure- Haiyan’s sea surface pressure was as low as 895mb- where air starts to rush in in a spiralling effect.

The air then starts to rise with warm water evaporating off the warm sea, forming clouds. The clouds then start to rise. The accumulation of air at the top creates a higher section of high air pressure. Air is then blasted out at immense speeds, creating the clouds visible on satellite images.

Hurricanes maintain their full force when they are over warm water with no real wind sheer (high up winds which move the top layer of cloud away from the hurricane). In the Philippines, most of the land is made of small islands with larger sections of warm water between them, meaning that the hurricane never gets far away from warm water when over the Philippines, and thus don’t really weaken around the country.

Across the Philippines, Haiyan made 6 separate land falls. It travelled very quickly, meaning that the water in front of it was not stirred up. Stirred up water will often have cold water near the surface, but the water in front of Haiyan did not. This meant that the water entering the typhoon was very warm, so when it rose it released masses of latent heat energy, giving the typhoon enormous power.

The islands of Leyte and Cebu’s configuration channeled the storm in a particular way, funneling it straight towards the city of Tacloban; the decreasing ocean depth also increased the intensity of the storm surge.

Lowest Pressure 895 mb
Sustained wind speed 314 kmh^-1
Radius of hurricane-force winds 85 km
Peak Strength Category 5
Strength at Landfall Category 5, 314 kmh^-1
Storm Surge Height 15 m
Rainfall 400mm

There had also been an earthquake (at 7.2 on the Richter scale) recently beforehand, in October 2013, which had an impact on how effective any aid work could be.

Impacts

Haiyan affected 11 million people.

  • 6,021 were killed, although the initial estimate was 10,000
  • 10,000s of people were made homeless, and further 10,000s lost their main sources of income.
  • The Tacloban City Convention Center was being used as an evacuation centre, but became a death trap as water poured into it.
  • A 5.2 m storm surge destroyed Tacloban airport’s terminal building.
  • Many water vessels were washed ashore; in some areas 95% of fishing equipment and boats were destroyed.
  • The phone network was lost, making it hard to establish contact between victims, the authorities, and the victims’ families.
  • 1,000s of trees were destroyed; 33 million coconut palms were destroyed, destroying 15 million tons of timber.
  • Roads were undamaged, but huge piles of debris still made transportation of aid workers and supplies very slow.

The worst affected area, the Eastern Vasayas were flooded up to 1km inland.

There was no clean water, electricity or food for survivors. There was also no available fuel for vehicles, many of which were also upturned.

 

Response

Preparedness

The Philippines has many low scale hurricanes on a regular basis; thus, many people had a false sense of safety going into the disaster because they had been desensitized to the danger of it.

The government frequently produces risk maps and provides evacuation shelters for its citizens.

On November 6th, PAGASA (Philippines Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) issues a low level Public Storm Warning, but had raised this to the highest level it could within 24 hours.

The military deployed planes and helicopters in advance to areas likely t be worst-hit. Community buildings were designated as storm shelters, although there was concern that they may not resist the high wind force. Some islands, such as Tulang Diyot, were completely evacuated of its 1,000 residents, due to years of education and community preparedness.

The local mayor of Tulang Diyot won an award in 2011 for community work in the “Purok system”, where community members agree to deposit their own money into a fund for post-disaster assistance rather than waiting for government aid.

Short Term

When Haiyan made land fall, the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters was activated, allowing relief agencies to have satellite data from space agencies to help in relief and recovery after a disaster.

Journalists arrived very quickly to the area, largely consisting of storm chasers who arrived before the storm to help contribute to better models for use in predicting the effects and severity of future disasters.

The first actual aid work was done by survivors who searched the ruins for bodies and other survivors. The government was criticised for a very slow response, as locals turned to looting to acquire enough food for themselves. The UK and USofA sent supplies of diggers, and other moving equipment to help the distribution of aid. Aid supplies were often ambushed and looted. Mass graves were dug to contain the bodies before disease could break out.

Pledges of aid were made quickly but the actual carrying out of the aid schemes was severely delayed, partly because of the isolated nature of the effected islands, and the damage done to infrastructural and transport links.

Street sellers had started to set up stands again a week after the event. Fishermen salvaged water proof items to turn into impromptu boats, such as tree trunks and fridges. Broadband antennae were constructed and Micromappers.com managed to map out the worst hit areas to send workers into where they were most needed.

Long Term

Water and sanitation services were set up fairly soon afterwards. Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, representing 3,000 small businesses set up a permanent disaster committee. A month after the event, 100,000 people were still in evacuation centres, with 4 million in temporary homes. 324,00 households were given materials for emergency shelters, and began building 30,000 higher standard homes.

If material distribution had been slower, many people would have started to just rebuild with what they had, leading to more unsafe structures than what was there before the event.

Representatives of national and local governmental departments started administering aid directly, speeding up distribution and reducing bureaucracy. 50,000 homes in affected areas were given US$50 in addition to emergency supplies, overseen by the Philippines Red Cross.

People started to be paid for clearing up the mess, allowing them structure back into their lives while also helping the aid work.

There were no outbreaks of diseases, despite the large risk and the lack of initial sanitation.

More than 20% of government spending in the Philippines is on debt repayment. This crippling cost keeps much of the population in poverty and at risk of another disaster.

Xiamen Acid Rain

258 of China’s cities experience acid rains due to sulphur emissions.

Xiamen is located in the South-East part of Fujian province, which is often regarded as one of the best places to live in China. The city is experiencing continuous acid rain.

China has made some large attempts to reduce pollution levels, but these have clearly not had much of an effect on Fujian province yet.

“Official statistics show every drop of rain in Xiamen in the first half of 2010 was acidic, recording pH levels of less than 5.6 (neutral is 7),” – Zhuan Mazhan

Causes

The PRC is one of the most polluting countries in the world, along with the USofA, and air currents across the country push polluted air to the sea, and then south wards. Fujian province is at the Southern most point of the main curve of the PRC coastline, across the East China Sea from Taiwan, so it is at the point where the most polluted air converges.

Impacts

  • Acid rain is leaving buildings with yellow staining due to corrosion, particularly the colonnial age buildings which give Xiamen its unique appearance, which in turn helps to attract tourists to the island.
  • The island where Xiamen is located is being turned yellow as plants are being damaged.

Outside Xiamen, the Leshan Buddha statue of Sichuan province, has been hugely effected, and has been very badly damaged, losing its reddish colouring, due to factories built close by to it. The statue is the largest Buddha statue in the world, carved into the sacred Mount Emei, and has been there since at least 907 AD; it is a major tourist destination, particularly for Buddhist pilgrims, but is being damaged from all the acid rain and may not remain so. (This was initially confusing as almost every source mentions Leshan alongside Xiamen. I have tried to make it clear they are not the same place.)

Response

China is pursuing its promises made in 2009 to cut the intensity of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP in 2020 by 40-45% compared to 2005 levels. This has yet to be particularly effective; acid rain rates are still increasing down wind of industrial centers.