History > 2009 > USA > Nature, weather, climate (I)
Volunteers help place sandbags
outside the home of Jeremy Kuipers
in Moorhead, Minn.,
Tuesday, March 24, 2009.
AP Photo/The Minneapolis Star Tribune, Richard Tsong-Taatarii
Boston Globe > Big Picture
Red River flooding
2 Firefighters Killed
Amid Massive Calif. Wildfire
August 31, 2009
Filed at 2:27 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Two Los Angeles County firefighters were killed Sunday
when their vehicle rolled down a mountain side amid the intense flames of a
wildfire that threatened 12,000 homes. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urged those in
the fire's path to get out as the blazes rained ash on cars as far away as
downtown Los Angeles, spreading in all directions in dry conditions.
Firefighters fixed their attention on the blaze's fast-moving eastern side where
flames lapped at the foot of the vital communications and astronomy center of
Mount Wilson, and on the northwestern front, where the two firefighters were
killed on Mount Gleason near the city of Acton.
''We ask for your understanding, for your patience as we move through this
difficult time, and please, prayers for the families of our two brothers that we
lost,'' county Deputy Fire Chief Mike Bryant said through tears at a Sunday
night press conference.
Bryant said the men's families have been notified. He did not release their
identities or give a cause for the crash, and officials at the press conference
would take no questions on the deaths.
Television helicopter video on Sunday night showed an upside-down vehicle on the
''Our hearts are heavy as we are tragically reminded of the sacrifices our
firefighters and their families make daily to keep us safe,'' Schwarzenegger
said in a statement.
The blaze was only about 5 percent contained and had scorched 71 square miles in
the Angeles National Forest. Mandatory evacuations were in effect for
neighborhoods in Glendale, Pasadena and other cities and towns north of Los
Angeles. Officials said air quality in parts of the foothills bordered on
The fire, which broke out Wednesday afternoon, was the largest of many burning
around California, including a new blaze in Placer County northeast of
Sacramento that destroyed 60 structures, many of them homes.
The Southern California fire was expected during the night Sunday to reach the
top of Mount Wilson, where 22 television stations, many radio stations and cell
phone providers have their transmitters, said U.S. Forest Service Capt. Mike
Firefighters were pulled from the top of the mountain after clearing brush and
spraying retardant on antennas because it was too dangerous for them to remain.
''We've done all the preparation we can,'' county fire spokesman Mark Savage
Television stations said if the antennas burn broadcast signals will be affected
but satellite and cable transmissions will not be.
Two giant telescopes and several multimillion-dollar university programs are
housed in the century-old Mount Wilson Observatory. The complex of buildings is
both a historic landmark and a thriving modern center for astronomy.
At least 18 homes were destroyed in the fire and firefighters expected to find
many more, authorities said.
While thousands have fled, two people who tried to ride out the firestorm in a
backyard hot tub were burned. The pair in Big Tujunga Canyon, on the
southwestern edge of the fire, ''completely underestimated the fire'' and the
hot tub provided ''no protection whatsoever,'' Sheriff's spokesman Steve
Whitmore said Sunday.
The pair made their way to firefighters and were airlifted out by a sheriff's
rescue helicopter. They received adequate notification to evacuate from deputies
but decided to stay, Whitmore said.
Whitmore described their condition as ''critical'' but fire officials said one
of the two was treated and released and the other remained hospitalized in
stable condition. A third person was burned Saturday in an evacuation area along
Highway 2 near Mount Wilson, officials said. Details of that injury were not
''There were people that did not listen, and there were three people that got
burned and got critically injured because they did not listen,'' Schwarzenegger
said at a news conference at the fire command post.
For the third straight day, humidity was very low and temperatures were expected
in the high 90s. Nearly 3,000 firefighters were battling the blaze.
Mandatory evacuations were also in effect for neighborhoods in Altadena and for
the communities of Acton, La Canada Flintridge, La Crescenta and Big Tujunga
There was some progress Sunday, as a small number of La Canada Flintridge
residents living west of the Arroyo Seco were told they could go back to their
But more evacuations were ordered in Acton in the Antelope Valley, and school
districts in La Canada Flintridge and Glendale announced that classes were
canceled Monday because of the fire.
Fixed-wing aircraft and a DC-10 jumbo jet were dropping water and flame
retardant on the fire.
At the fire command post, Schwarzenegger praised firefighters for successfully
protecting subdivisions in the foothills.
Rob Driscoll and his wife, Beth Halaas, said they lost their house in Big
Tujunga Canyon. By Sunday they were desperate for more information and came to
the command post to get answers.
''Our neighbors sent us photos of all the other houses that are lost,'' Halaas
said, her voice breaking as her young son nestled his sunburned face in her
arms. ''We've heard as many as 30 houses burned.''
At least 12 evacuation centers were set up at schools and community centers in
The center at Crescenta Valley High School filled up, but by Sunday afternoon
fewer than two dozen people remained. Residents trickled in to get information
Debbie and Mercer Barrows said their house was saved but they lost their scenic
view of a hillside to the flames.
''That'll grow back,'' said Mercer Barrows, a TV producer.
To the north, at least 60 structures -- many of them homes -- were destroyed in
a fast-moving fire that broke out Sunday afternoon in the Sierra foothills town
of Auburn northeast of Sacramento and the governor declared a state of emergency
in the area.
The fire had consumed 275 acres amid high winds and was 50 percent contained
Sunday night, CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant.
Berlant said it was not clear how many of the burned structures were homes and
it was likely to remain uncertain until daylight.
About 30 people waited anxiously for news at an evacuation center in the Rock
Creek Elementary School.
Pam and Stephen Incerty did not know the fate of their home on a beautiful
5-acre parcel in the rolling hills covered with trees.
Stephen Incerty wondered what the land looks like now after fire has ripped
''If there's nothing there when we get back, we won't rebuild,'' he said.
''There'd be no trees, just dirt.''
In the state's coastal midsection, all evacuation orders were lifted Sunday
after a 10-square-mile fire burned near the Monterey County town of Soledad. The
blaze, 80 percent contained, was started by agricultural fireworks used to scare
animals away from crops. The fire destroyed one home.
In Mariposa County, a nearly 7-square-mile fire burned in Yosemite National
Park. The blaze was 50 percent contained Sunday, said park spokeswoman Vickie
Mates. Two people sustained minor injuries, she said.
Park officials closed a campground and a portion of Highway 120, anticipating
that the fire would spread north toward Tioga Road, the highest elevation route
through the Sierra.
About 50 homes in the towns of El Portal and Foresta were under evacuation
orders and roads in the area will remain closed through Monday, Mates said.
Williams reported from Auburn, Calif. Associated Press writers Christopher Weber
and Andrew Dalton in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
2 Firefighters Killed
Amid Massive Calif. Wildfire, NYT, 31.8.2009,
Wildfire Bears Down on L.A. Suburb
August 28, 2009
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 6:21 a.m. ET
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Wildfires chewed through tinder-dry brush up and down
California on Friday, forcing hundreds to flee ritzy seaside neighborhoods,
comfortable foothill suburbs and tiny farming communities.
Up to 1,500 people were ordered to evacuate from the wealthy seaside community
of Rancho Palos Verdes, Fire Inspector Frederic Stowers said early Friday. He
said the mandatory evacuations were ordered until 6 a.m. Friday.
Stowers said an unknown number of structures had been damaged in the blaze. The
wealthy communities on the Palos Verdes Peninsula south of Los Angeles are in an
area known for horse trails, spectacular Pacific Ocean views, pricey real estate
and exclusive golf clubs, including the Trump National Golf Club owned by Donald
Helicopters dropped water on the 100-acre blaze, slowing its progression toward
homes, but there was no containment early Friday, Stowers said.
The Terrenea Resort, a luxury hotel a couple miles from the fire, opened its
door to locals who had to evacuate.
By midnight Friday, only two families took advantage of the offer but several
others had called to inquire, said hotel spokeswoman Wendy Haase. The resort's
usual weeknight rate is $264, but the rooms weren't fully booked so the managers
decided to help out, she said.
''I talked to one mom and her child and a dog. They were pretty calm, all things
considered,'' she said. ''It's pretty late so everyone's just exhausted and
wanted to get some sleep.''
About 500 homes in La Canada Flintridge, a suburb just 12 miles north of
downtown Los Angeles, were also evacuated late Thursday as flames made their way
slowly down from the San Gabriel Mountains, said Forest Service fire spokeswoman
The fire kicked up late Thursday afternoon as the blaze scorched at least 500
acres of heavy brush in steep and narrow canyons about 12 miles north of
downtown Los Angeles.
Weather plagued fire crews across Southern California as temperatures in some
areas rose toward triple digits and humidity levels headed downward. For a third
day Friday, the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for many of
California's central and southern mountain ranges.
Three days of low humidity and temperatures that hit 99 before noon Thursday in
downtown Los Angeles sapped the vegetation of moisture.
Another fire in the San Gabriel Mountains spread a lung-burning haze over much
of metropolitan Los Angeles, and was 60 percent contained late Thursday after
burning across 2,000 acres, or more than 3 square miles, said Capt. Jim Wilkins
of the U.S. Forest Service.
Nearly 1,000 firefighters aided by bulldozers and a fleet of water- and fire
retardant-dropping aircraft worked the fire's northeastern edge.
Wilkins said the area is so steep that ''it's almost to the point where you need
ropes'' for firefighters to reach it.
The fire, believed caused by human action began Tuesday near a dam and reservoir
in San Gabriel Canyon, a half-dozen miles above the city of Azusa.
Farther north in Monterey County, 100 homes were evacuated about four miles from
the community of Soledad. The fire burned more than 2,000 acres of steep
grasslands, or more than 3 square miles, since it started Thursday afternoon,
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Capt. James Dellamonica
said. The blaze has not been contained.
To the west, in the San Bernardino National Forest in Riverside County, another
fire had blackened 600 acres by Thursday evening and prompted authorities to
issue a voluntary evacuation of 12 homes in the area near Hemet, said Forest
Service fire spokeswoman Anabele Cornejo. She said about five people had left
and that the fire was 5 percent contained.
Associated Press Writers Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco and Tracie Cone in
Fresno contributed to this report.
Wildfire Bears Down on
L.A. Suburb, NYT, 28.8.2009,
After Iowa Flood, Feeling Just a Bit Ignored
August 28, 2009
The New York Times
By SUSAN SAULNY
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — It was more than a year ago that the core of this city
was submerged to its rooftops, a result of record flooding on the Cedar River
that caused an estimated $6 billion in damage — among the most costly natural
disasters since Hurricane Katrina.
The outpouring of attention toward New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, ratcheting up
again now as the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, has not
been seen here. In fact, the people of Cedar Rapids are feeling neglected.
The recovery here is only limping along as waterlogged buildings are still being
gutted, thousands of displaced families remain in temporary housing, and
large-scale demolition to make way for a new downtown has just begun.
Federal financing for long-term recovery is trickling in, with the government
having committed money for about half of what the city says it needs. And only a
fraction of that has actually arrived.
“We really feel that we are the forgotten disaster,” said Greg Eyerly, the
city’s flood recovery director. “We don’t make sexy products. We make starch
that goes into paper, we make foodstuffs, ingredients in crackers and cereal. We
make ethanol. The sexiest thing we make is Cap’n Crunch. We’re not a beachfront
property. We make an anonymous contribution to our country, and people forget
To be sure, Hurricane Katrina’s huge reach and a botched emergency response
devastated a far greater swath of the country than did the flooding in the
Midwest, and no one here is trying to make tit-for-tat disaster comparisons. No
lives were lost in the flooding in Cedar Rapids, and the government’s initial
response to the crisis was generally considered a success.
But over the long term, the tone has changed, and the feeling of neglect amid
devastation is palpable now. Five weeks of severe weather in the summer of 2008
made disaster areas out of 85 of the state’s 99 counties.
“We’re not making a lot of noise about it,” said Gov. Chet Culver, a Democrat,
reflecting on a sense of Midwestern stoicism. “We’re going about our business.
That’s a determination that’s impressive, but it doesn’t attract attention.”
The delays in recovery have multiple causes. The city cannot agree with the
Federal Emergency Management Agency on the level of damage to the public
buildings, and more than a thousand families do not know yet whether they will
be bought out of flooded homes or whether their neighborhoods are coming back.
And the sources of much the long-term recovery money — like the Departments of
Agriculture and Housing and Urban Development — are not crisis-response
agencies, and therefore do not operate at an emergency pace.
“We’re extremely thankful for the money, but we also know the turnaround time it
takes to get the dollars here creates a lot of anxiety for disaster victims,”
said Tina Potthoff, a spokeswoman for the Rebuild Iowa Office.
So far, Iowa has been promised $3.1 billion in federal assistance for housing,
infrastructure and business recovery, but only $689 million has been
distributed, and local officials estimate its damage need at something more like
$8 billion to $10 billion. The state suffered $1.6 billion in infrastructure
In Cedar Rapids, city officials estimate that they need close to $6 billion.
The slow pace of the money flow for long-term recovery has held up crucial
decisions about what is going to be rebuilt in the city of 120,000 people. Whole
communities are waiting to hear about buyouts and demolitions, new levees and
flood plains. Many are in limbo, and the frustration level is rising. Some
residents are still living in FEMA mobile homes. Even City Hall remains
The economic recession has only made a bad situation worse, drawing attention
and perhaps dollars away from Iowa.
Still, Mike Papich, the owner of a funeral home wrecked in the flood, has
decided to start rebuilding his house and business in the New Bohemia section, a
patchwork of recovery and abandonment not far from the river.
“We don’t know for sure what’s going to happen over here, whether it will be
needed for a new levee or flood wall or what,” said Mr. Papich, 50. “I told
someone with the city, ‘I assume that since you’re giving me a building permit,
that’s an assurance you won’t be taking my property.’ They said, ‘Not
necessarily.’ So then I thought, What am I doing?”
Mr. Papich is financing his rebuilding plans with a low-interest emergency
disaster loan from the Small Business Association and a grant from the state,
two flood-recovery measures that have helped spur rebuilding.
“You hear one thing, then another thing,” he said. “There are a lot of
unanswered questions in Cedar Rapids.”
City and state officials say residents should prepare for a recovery that could
span a decade.
Hundreds of houses in Cedar Rapids sit abandoned, similar to the way they were
on June 13, 2008, when the Cedar River crested. Some have been gutted down to
their stilts, awaiting repair but lending entire neighborhoods the feel of a
Ms. Potthoff said state officials were creating a set of recommendations to
suggest to the federal government how some agencies that do not normally respond
to disasters might do so more quickly, as is generally the case now with the
emergency management agency.
Kenneth Benning, 83, moved from an agency trailer to a new house on high ground
last fall, but he is still waiting to hear what is to become of his flooded
house — which he is maintaining and is expecting to pay taxes on — and its
“It’s so exasperating,” Mr. Benning said. “Every day you wonder what they’re
going to come up with that you have to deal with. Here it is 14 months or
better, and the city hasn’t made any move on the buyouts.”
The city says it is waiting for money that has already been approved to arrive
from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the state, which will
then distribute it. But those sorts of bureaucratic explanations do not go over
well with flood victims.
“They’ve all got all kinds of excuses,” Mr. Benning said.
Meanwhile, people are getting to work. Shaun Hootman, 33, exemplifies the
ambivalence that people here are experiencing. She has spent the last several
days painting and refurnishing her mother’s flooded home, where she intends to
live. Volunteers did some of the structural remodeling she could not afford.
“Things could come along faster,” Ms. Hootman said. “But over all, we can’t
After Iowa Flood,
Feeling Just a Bit Ignored, NYT, 28.8.2009,
A Farm on Every Floor
August 24, 2009
The New York Times
By DICKSON D. DESPOMMIER
IF climate change and population growth progress at their current pace, in
roughly 50 years farming as we know it will no longer exist. This means that the
majority of people could soon be without enough food or water. But there is a
solution that is surprisingly within reach: Move most farming into cities, and
grow crops in tall, specially constructed buildings. It’s called vertical
The floods and droughts that have come with climate change are wreaking havoc on
traditional farmland. Three recent floods (in 1993, 2007 and 2008) cost the
United States billions of dollars in lost crops, with even more devastating
losses in topsoil. Changes in rain patterns and temperature could diminish
India’s agricultural output by 30 percent by the end of the century.
What’s more, population increases will soon cause our farmers to run out of
land. The amount of arable land per person decreased from about an acre in 1970
to roughly half an acre in 2000 and is projected to decline to about a third of
an acre by 2050, according to the United Nations. With billions more people on
the way, before we know it the traditional soil-based farming model developed
over the last 12,000 years will no longer be a sustainable option.
Irrigation now claims some 70 percent of the fresh water that we use. After
applying this water to crops, the excess agricultural runoff, contaminated with
silt, pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, is unfit for reuse. The developed
world must find new agricultural approaches before the world’s hungriest come
knocking on its door for a glass of clean water and a plate of disease-free rice
Imagine a farm right in the middle of a major city. Food production would take
advantage of hydroponic and aeroponic technologies. Both methods are soil-free.
Hydroponics allows us to grow plants in a water-and-nutrient solution, while
aeroponics grows them in a nutrient-laden mist. These methods use far less water
than conventional cultivation techniques, in some cases as much as 90 percent
Now apply the vertical farm concept to countries that are water-challenged — the
Middle East readily comes to mind — and suddenly things look less hopeless. For
this reason the world’s very first vertical farm may be established there,
although the idea has garnered considerable interest from architects and
governments all over the world.
Vertical farms are now feasible, in large part because of a robust global
greenhouse initiative that has enjoyed considerable commercial success over the
last 10 years. (Disclosure: I’ve started a business to build vertical farms.)
There is a rising consumer demand for locally grown vegetables and fruits, as
well as intense urban-farming activity in cities throughout the United States.
Vertical farms would not only revolutionize and improve urban life but also
revitalize land that was damaged by traditional farming. For every indoor acre
farmed, some 10 to 20 outdoor acres of farmland could be allowed to return to
their original ecological state (mostly hardwood forest). Abandoned farms do
this free of charge, with no human help required.
A vertical farm would behave like a functional ecosystem, in which waste was
recycled and the water used in hydroponics and aeroponics was recaptured by
dehumidification and used over and over again. The technologies needed to create
a vertical farm are currently being used in controlled-environment agriculture
facilities but have not been integrated into a seamless source of food
production in urban high-rise buildings.
Such buildings, by the way, are not the only structures that could house
vertical farms. Farms of various dimensions and crop yields could be built into
a variety of urban settings — from schools, restaurants and hospitals to the
upper floors of apartment complexes. By supplying a continuous quantity of fresh
vegetables and fruits to city dwellers, these farms would help combat health
problems, like Type II diabetes and obesity, that arise in part from the lack of
quality produce in our diet.
The list of benefits is long. Vertical farms would produce crops year-round that
contain no agro-chemicals. Fish and poultry could also be raised indoors. The
farms would greatly reduce fossil-fuel use and greenhouse-gas emissions, since
they would eliminate the need for heavy farm machinery and trucks that deliver
food from farm to fork. (Wouldn’t it be great if everything on your plate came
from around the corner, rather than from hundreds to thousands of miles away?)
Vertical farming could finally put an end to agricultural runoff, a major source
of water pollution. Crops would never again be destroyed by floods or droughts.
New employment opportunities for vertical farm managers and workers would
abound, and abandoned city properties would become productive once again.
Vertical farms would also make cities more pleasant places to live. The
structures themselves would be things of beauty and grace. In order to allow
plants to capture passive sunlight, walls and ceilings would be completely
transparent. So from a distance, it would look as if there were gardens
suspended in space.
City dwellers would also be able to breathe easier — quite literally. Vertical
farms would bring a great concentration of plants into cities. These plants
would absorb carbon dioxide produced by automobile emissions and give off oxygen
in return. So imagine you wanted to build the first vertical farm and put it in
New York City. What would it take? We have the technology — now we need money,
political will and, of course, proof that this concept can work. That’s why a
prototype would be a good place to start. I estimate that constructing a
five-story farm, taking up one-eighth of a square city block, would cost $20
million to $30 million. Part of the financing should come from the city
government, as a vertical farm would go a long way toward achieving Mayor
Michael Bloomberg’s goal of a green New York City by 2030. Manhattan Borough
President Scott Stringer has already expressed interest in having a vertical
farm in the city. City officials should be interested. If a farm is located
where the public can easily visit it, the iconic building could generate
significant tourist dollars, on top of revenue from the sales of its produce.
But most of the financing should come from private sources, including groups
controlling venture-capital funds. The real money would flow once entrepreneurs
and clean-tech investors realize how much profit there is to be made in urban
farming. Imagine a farm in which crop production is not limited by seasons or
adverse weather events. Sales could be made in advance because crop-production
levels could be guaranteed, thanks to the predictable nature of indoor
agriculture. An actual indoor farm developed at Cornell University growing
hydroponic lettuce was able to produce as many as 68 heads per square foot per
year. At a retail price in New York of up to $2.50 a head for hydroponic
lettuce, you can easily do the math and project profitability for other similar
When people ask me why the world still does not have a single vertical farm, I
just raise my eyebrows and shrug my shoulders. Perhaps people just need to see
proof that farms can grow several stories high. As soon as the first city takes
that leap of faith, the world’s first vertical farm could be less than a year
away from coming to the aid of a hungry, thirsty world. Not a moment too soon.
Dickson D. Despommier, a professor of public health at Columbia University,
is writing a book about vertical farms.
A Farm on Every Floor,
It’s Now Legal to Catch a Raindrop in Colorado
June 29, 2009
The New York Times
By KIRK JOHNSON
DURANGO, Colo. — For the first time since territorial days, rain will be free
for the catching here, as more and more thirsty states part ways with one of the
most entrenched codes of the West.
Precipitation, every last drop or flake, was assigned ownership from the moment
it fell in many Western states, making scofflaws of people who scooped rainfall
from their own gutters. In some instances, the rights to that water were
assigned a century or more ago.
Now two new laws in Colorado will allow many people to collect rainwater
legally. The laws are the latest crack in the rainwater edifice, as other
states, driven by population growth, drought, or declining groundwater in their
aquifers, have already opened the skies or begun actively encouraging people to
“I was so willing to go to jail for catching water on my roof and watering my
garden,” said Tom Bartels, a video producer here in southwestern Colorado, who
has been illegally watering his vegetables and fruit trees from tanks attached
to his gutters. “But now I’m not a criminal.”
Who owns the sky, anyway? In most of the country, that is a question for
philosophy class or bad poetry. In the West, lawyers parse it with straight
faces and serious intent. The result, especially stark here in the Four Corners
area of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, is a crazy quilt of rules and
regulations — and an entire subculture of people like Mr. Bartels who have been
using the rain nature provided but laws forbade.
The two Colorado laws allow perhaps a quarter-million residents with private
wells to begin rainwater harvesting, as well as the setting up of a pilot
program for larger scale rain-catching.
Just 75 miles west of here, in Utah, collecting rainwater from the roof is still
illegal unless the roof owner also owns water rights on the ground; the same
rigid rules, with a few local exceptions, also apply in Washington State.
Meanwhile, 20 miles south of here, in New Mexico, rainwater catchment, as the
collecting is called, is mandatory for new dwellings in some places like Santa
And in Arizona, cities like Tucson are pioneering the practices of big-city rain
capture. “All you need for a water harvesting system is rain, and a place to put
it,” Tucson Water says on its Web site.
Here in Colorado, the old law created a kind of wink-and-nod shadow economy.
Rain equipment could be legally sold, but retailers said they knew better than
to ask what the buyer intended to do with the product.
“It’s like being able to sell things like smoking paraphernalia even though
smoking pot is illegal,” said Laurie E. Dickson, who for years sold
barrel-and-hose systems from a shop in downtown Durango.
State water officials acknowledged that they rarely enforced the old law. With
the new laws, the state created a system of fines for rain catchers without a
permit; previously the only option was to shut a collector down.
But Kevin Rein, Colorado’s assistant state engineer, said enforcement would
focus on people who violated water rules on a large scale.
“It’s not going to be a situation where we’re sending out people to look in
backyards,” Mr. Rein said.
Science has also stepped forward to underline how incorrect the old sweeping
legal generalizations were.
A study in 2007 proved crucial to convincing Colorado lawmakers that rain
catching would not rob water owners of their rights. It found that in an average
year, 97 percent of the precipitation that fell in Douglas County, near Denver,
never got anywhere near a stream. The water evaporated or was used by plants.
But the deeper questions about rain are what really gnawed at rain harvesters
like Todd S. Anderson, a small-scale farmer just east of Durango. Mr. Anderson
said catching rain was not just thrifty — he is so water conscious that he has
not washed his truck in five years — but also morally correct because it used
water that would otherwise be pumped from the ground.
Mr. Anderson, a former national park ranger who worked for years enforcing rules
and laws, said: “I’m conflicted between what’s right and what’s legal. And I
For the last year, Mr. Anderson has been catching rainwater that runs off his
greenhouse but keeping the barrel hidden from view. When the new law passed, he
put the barrel in plain sight, and he plans to set up a system for his house.
Dig a little deeper into the rain-catching world, and there are remnants of the
1970s back-to-land hippie culture, which went off the grid into aquatic
self-sufficiency long ago.
“Our whole perspective on life is to try to use what is available, and to not be
dependent on big systems,” said Janine Fitzgerald, whose parents bought land in
southwest Colorado in 1970, miles from where the pavement ends.
Ms. Fitzgerald, an associate professor of sociology at Fort Lewis College in
Durango, still lives the unwired life with her own family now, growing most of
her own food and drinking and bathing in filtered rainwater.
Rain dependency has its ups and downs, Ms. Fitzgerald said. Her home is also
completely solar-powered, which means that the pumps to push water from the rain
tanks are solar-powered, too. A cloudy, rainy spring this year was good for
tanks, bad for pumps.
The economy has turned on some early rainwater believers, too. Ms. Dickson’s
company in Durango went out of business last December as the construction market
faltered. The rain barrels she once sold will soon be perfectly legal, but the
shop is shuttered.
“We were ahead of our time,” she said.
It’s Now Legal to Catch
a Raindrop in Colorado, NYT, 29.6.2009,
Plan Won’t End Louisiana Erosion, Report Says
June 29, 2009
The New York Times
By CORNELIA DEAN
Desperate to halt the erosion of Louisiana’s coast, officials there are
talking about breaking Mississippi River levees south of New Orleans to restore
the nourishing flow of muddy water into the state’s marshes. But in a new
analysis, scientists at Louisiana State University say that inland dams trap so
much sediment that the river no longer carries enough to halt marsh loss —
especially now that global warming is speeding a rise in sea levels.
As a result, the loss of thousands of additional square miles of marshland is
inevitable, the scientists report in Monday’s issue of Nature Geoscience
The finding does not suggest it would be pointless to divert the muddy water
into the marshes, one of the researchers, Harry H. Roberts, a coastal scientist,
said in an interview. “Any meaningful restoration of our coast has to involve
river sediment,” he said.
But he said that officials would have to choose which parts of the landscape can
be saved and which must be abandoned and acknowledge that lives and businesses
will be disrupted. Instead of breaking levees far south of New Orleans, where
relatively few people live, Dr. Roberts said, officials should consider
diversions much closer to New Orleans, where there are more people and
infrastructure, possibly into the LaFourche, Terrebonne or St. Bernard basins
closer to the city.
“It’s going to be an excruciating process to decide where that occurs,” he said
of the levee breaking.
Sediment carried by the Mississippi built up Louisiana’s marshes over thousands
of years, but today inland dams trap at least half of it, Dr. Roberts said,
noting that there are now 8,000 dams in the drainage basin of the Mississippi.
Levees have turned the river into “a pipe” south of St. Louis, he added. Getting
sediment into the marshes “is not happening, at least not very efficiently,” he
The impact of inland dams on sediment flow has been controversial. Although
sediment in the river is only about half what it was in the 18th and 19th
centuries, some scientists have argued that the flow back then was unusually
high because of the advent of farming in the nation’s midsection.
But Dr. Roberts said that a new analysis of sediment data going back thousands
of years challenges that idea. “There probably was a spike, but it was
insignificant,” he said.
In theory, it might be possible to remove inland dams to increase the flow of
sediment. But Dr. Roberts said the trapped sediment contains agricultural
chemicals and other pollutants that might worsen the already deteriorating water
quality at the mouth of the Mississippi.
On the other hand, he said, if nutrient-rich sediment made its way into
Louisiana’s marshes, it might encourage the growth of plants that would
contribute to marsh health.
Plan Won’t End Louisiana
Erosion, Report Says, NYT, 29.6.2009,
Think Like a Fish
June 28, 2009
The New York Times
By SALVATORE SCIBONA
UNLUCKY fishermen are all alike: We don’t know how to see. My friend Jud has
outfished me in all but one or two of the hundred times we’ve gone to the ocean
and bay beaches and kettle ponds on Cape Cod. By both study and exercise, he
knows the culture of striped bass better than I know my own nose. But to call
him “lucky” would begrudge him a talent that I have never seen in anyone else
and that lives underneath skill or knowledge.
One July night, on a falling tide that sifted through the granite jetty in the
west end of Provincetown, we fished the same 10-foot sluice, with the same
tackle and the same flies (he ties them for me), and I watched in outrage as he
caught 20 stripers to my two.
Another night, on Long Point, the finger of sand that curls into Provincetown
harbor at the far end of Cape Cod, the stripers were chasing alewife, peanut
bunker and other baitfish through the current that rips the point on a rising
tide. I caught the first fish of the night, a 32-inch bass, enormous for me and
for the lightweight rods we were using. It took 20 minutes to land. Jud yelped
in amusement and then caught eight more just like it, while I stood cursing and
changing flies by the light of the town, two miles across the dark harbor.
What he can do and I can’t is face a piece of water and so absorb himself in the
place that he seems to share the consciousness of the fish in it. If you have
seen a school of 10,000 sand eels swerving as one animal under a wharf, you have
seen that individuals can integrate their senses into a collective mind. Without
the benefit of language, they share all the most important news: where to find
food, light, threat, rocks. Human beings usually experience this common mind
only under the stress of love or panic.
My friend pulls his hat brim down to deflect the sun, as everybody does, and
makes the double-haul cast — a move in which the non-dominant hand jerks down
and up on the line, both on the forward and back casts. Think of a man doing the
polka with his arms. It isn’t as hard as it sounds; it just helps him reach the
fish, not find them.
For all I know, he may, more often than not, see only a confluence of light and
current, and point his desire at that spot, so that he believes he sees the fish
before his eyes detect the animal itself. But I can’t deny that wherever he puts
the lure, the fish find it.
We’ve evolved a neocortex that presents us with an awareness of past and future
at the cost of forgetting where we are right now. Jud seems to switch that
faculty off in favor of an older, lower brain. Like a sand eel in the school, he
sees with 10,000 pairs of eyes. Many times when he was catching fish and I
wasn’t, I’ve asked, “How do you know where the fish are?” And he’s said, “I see
I may have glimpsed for myself what he sees, but only once. On an early summer
afternoon we were fishing for brook and rainbow trout in the mid-Cape, at Cliff
Pond. In reality, except after heavy rains, it’s two ponds split by a narrow
More than 300 of these kettle ponds perforate the Cape. They formed around
10,000 years ago. As the Laurentide ice sheet retreated into Canada, it left
behind chunks of ice as thick as 60 feet that the force of the glacier had
plowed into the earth. The sediment outflow from the melting Laurentide sheet
covered the blocks of ice, so they lay hidden and insulated for 1,000 years or
more beneath the soil. As the climate warmed further, the blocks melted, the
sediment crusts collapsed, and the deep holes that the blocks had formed began
to fill with ground water and rain. In general, streams neither feed nor drain
the ponds, and in the absence of wind they lie as still as mirrors.
Oak and pine trees ring Cliff Pond so tightly that if a wading fisherman tries
to cast much farther than 10 feet, he snags his fly in the heavy brush during
the back cast.
I was having a miserable afternoon, yanking one errant fly after another from
the pine boughs. Jud came around the corner, having caught half a dozen brook
trout and let them go. He saw my irritation and suggested another spot.
We climbed around an oak grove and onto the sand bar that divides the water. Not
much high vegetation grows on the bar, so if you face east you can back cast as
far as you like without snagging a tree, and fish the smaller pond with ease.
The sun was going down in the drizzle. A screeching racket erupted, from the
nearby marsh it seemed, but also from everywhere at once.
“What are those?” I asked.
He said, “peepers,” a frog smaller than your thumbnail that can scream as loud
as an air raid siren. They lived all over the marsh, he said; but wherever I
looked, I couldn’t find them.
We knew the fish were roaming the inlet we faced; he’d seen them there, but he
left me alone and fished from the other side of the marsh.
I cast long and short, played the surface with a caddis fly, switched to a nymph
to fish the bottom, strategized to no end, but nothing doing. The sun behind me
threw my long shadow on the water and shot through a billion droplets hovering
over the pond. I kept on wading deeper, thinking harder, catching nothing.
Anyone who fishes is an animist, and anyone who is frustrated while fishing
becomes an egoist. So when a rainbow appeared over the far woods, I believed the
cornball god of the place was having a laugh at my expense. But who can look
away from a rainbow?
I stopped awhile and took it in, backing out of the weeds into shallower water,
shaking my sore arm. The bright arc rose from one flank of the distant forest
and fell into another. Above the uppermost red band, a secondary arc emerged —
thicker, the colors reversed, with red on the underside, purple on top — and
disappeared. The low clouds rumbled.
And all at once, with no invitation, the place penetrated me. My mind coextended
with the woods and the pond. All my senses sent their data not to the front
office of the brain for analysis and criticism, but to a room far below, to the
body’s mind. The squishy silt beneath my feet smelled of leaf rot, the wind of
ozone. The hidden throng of peepers rang from all quarters. The cold sun struck
me in the back of the neck.
My fly line lay coiled in the black water. I threw it behind me, threw it
forward, letting a few yards out, then cast backward again.
I had no awareness of future or past. I had forgotten everything I knew. My
pores were soaked with the place.
The fly shot out, settled on the pond, and sank beneath the stippled surface.
Nothing emanated from me but one thing, a passion that rose from the bottom of
my lungs and out my throat into the whistling air: it was the bottomless desire,
in the bottomless present, to catch a fish. I stripped the line once between the
fingers of my right hand.
The line jerked and went taut. And I yanked up on the rod. And the line dived. I
stripped again and drew up the rod. The pond cracked.
And a trout pitched itself out of the water and screwed through the yellow air.
Salvatore Scibona is the author of “The End.”
Think Like a Fish, NYT,
House Passes Bill to Address Threat of Climate Change
June 27, 2009
The New York Times
By JOHN M. BRODER
WASHINGTON — The House passed legislation on Friday intended to address
global warming and transform the way the nation produces and uses energy.
The vote was the first time either house of Congress had approved a bill meant
to curb the heat-trapping gases scientists have linked to climate change. The
legislation, which passed despite deep divisions among Democrats, could lead to
profound changes in many sectors of the economy, including electric power
generation, agriculture, manufacturing and construction.
The bill’s passage, by 219 to 212, with 44 Democrats voting against it, also
established a marker for the United States when international negotiations on a
new climate change treaty begin later this year.
At the heart of the legislation is a cap-and-trade system that sets a limit on
overall emissions of heat-trapping gases while allowing utilities, manufacturers
and other emitters to trade pollution permits, or allowances, among themselves.
The cap would grow tighter over the years, pushing up the price of emissions and
presumably driving industry to find cleaner ways of making energy.
President Obama hailed the House passage of the bill as “a bold and necessary
step.” He said in a statement that he looked forward to Senate action that would
send a bill to his desk “so that we can say, at long last, that this was the
moment when we decided to confront America’s energy challenge and reclaim
Mr. Obama had lobbied wavering lawmakers in recent days, and Secretary of State
Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore had made personal
appeals to dozens of fence-sitters.
As difficult as House passage proved, it is just the beginning of the energy and
climate debate in Congress. The issue now moves to the Senate, where political
divisions and regional differences are even more stark.
Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, a co-sponsor of the
bill, called the vote a “decisive and historic action” that would position the
United States as a leader in energy efficiency and technology.
But the legislation, a patchwork of compromises, falls far short of what many
European governments and environmentalists have said is needed to avert the
worst effects of global warming. And it pitted liberal Democrats from the East
and West Coasts against more conservative Democrats from areas dependent on coal
for electricity and on heavy manufacturing for jobs.
While some environmentalists enthusiastically supported the legislation, others,
including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, opposed it. Industry officials
were split, with the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National
Association of Manufacturers opposing the bill and some of the nation’s biggest
corporations, including Dow Chemical and Ford, backing it.
Republican leaders called the legislation a national energy tax and predicted
that those who voted for the measure would pay a heavy price at the polls next
“No matter how you doctor it or tailor it,” said Representative Joe Pitts,
Republican of Pennsylvania, “it is a tax.”
Only eight Republicans voted for the bill, which runs to more than 1,300 pages.
Representative John Boehner of Ohio, the Republican leader, stalled the vote by
using his privilege as a party leader to consume just over an hour by reading
from a 300-page amendment added in the early hours of Friday.
Apart from its domestic implications, the legislation represents a first step
toward measurable cuts in carbon dioxide emissions that administration officials
can point to when the United States joins other nations in negotiating a new
global climate change treaty later this year. For nearly 20 years, the United
States has resisted mandatory limits on heat-trapping emissions.
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who was in Washington on Friday to meet
with Mr. Obama, strongly endorsed the bill even though it fell short of European
goals for reducing the emissions of heat-trapping gases.
Mrs. Merkel, a longtime advocate of strong curbs on emissions, has been pushing
the United States to take a leading role before the climate negotiations, set
for December in Copenhagen.
After meeting with Mr. Obama, she said she had seen a “sea change” in the United
States on climate policy that she could not have imagined a year ago when
President George W. Bush was in office.
The House legislation reflects a series of concessions necessary to attract the
support of Democrats from different regions and with different ideologies. In
the months of horse-trading before the vote Friday, the bill’s targets for
emissions of heat-trapping gases were weakened, its mandate for renewable
electricity was scaled back, and incentives for industries were sweetened.
The bill’s sponsors were making deals on the House floor right up until the time
of the vote. They set aside money for new energy research and a hurricane study
center in Florida.
The final bill has a goal of reducing greenhouse gases in the United States to
17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and 83 percent by midcentury.
When the program is scheduled to begin, in 2012, the estimated price of a permit
to emit a ton of carbon dioxide will be about $13. That is projected to rise
steadily as emission limits come down, but the bill contains a provision to
prevent costs from rising too quickly in any one year.
The bill would grant a majority of the permits free in the early years of the
program, to keep costs low. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the
average American household would pay an additional $175 a year in energy costs
by 2020 as a result of the provision, while the poorest households would receive
rebates that would lower their annual energy costs by $40.
Several House members expressed concern about the market to be created in carbon
allowances, saying it posed the same risks as those in markets in other kinds of
derivatives. Regulation of such markets would be divided among the Environmental
Protection Agency, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission.
The bill also sets a national standard of 20 percent for the production of
renewable electricity by 2020, although a third of that could be met with
efficiency measures rather than renewable energy sources like solar, wind and
It also devotes billions of dollars to new energy projects and subsidies for
low-carbon agricultural practices, research on cleaner coal and electric vehicle
Mr. Gore, who shared a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming, posted
an appeal on his blog for passage of the legislation.
“This bill doesn’t solve every problem,” Mr. Gore said, “but passage today means
that we build momentum for the debate coming up in the Senate and negotiations
for the treaty talks in December which will put in place a global solution to
the climate crisis. There is no backup plan.”
House Passes Bill to
Address Threat of Climate Change, NYT, 27.6.2009,
June 22, 2009
The New York Times
Most of the world’s important commercial fish species have been declining for
years. Nearly one-fourth are unable, essentially, to reproduce. The biggest
cause of the deterioration in ocean health — bigger than climate change or
pollution — is overfishing. American fisheries are in better shape than most but
not by much.
The White House seems prepared to give this issue high priority. George W. Bush,
though more sensitive to marine issues than other environmental problems, was
slow to offer remedies, the most important being the establishment of three
large protected marine reserves in the Pacific. President Obama has engaged the
matter early in the game.
He recently ordered a new task force to develop a national oceans policy. He
said he wants a more unified federal approach to ocean issues, now spread across
20 different agencies operating under 140 separate laws. He also wants a plan
for allocating resources among competing interests like fishing and oil
A more immediate measure of the administration’s commitment is the steps it is
taking to meet a 2006 Congressional mandate to end overfishing in America’s
coastal waters by 2011. The most important of these is an effort led by Jane
Lubchenco, a marine biologist who runs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration. Her mission is to persuade America’s fishermen to broadly adopt
a market-based approach known as “catch shares” to manage their fisheries
Under the present system, America’s regional fishing councils, which are run
largely by fishermen with federal oversight, set annual catch limits. To meet
these quotas, most commercial fleets follow a detailed “days at sea” approach
regulating the number of days they may fish, how many fish they may catch and
what kind of equipment they may use. The system does not work well. Some people
obey the rules, and others don’t. The days-at-sea restrictions often lead to a
frantic race to catch as many fish as possible as quickly as possible, which in
turn leads to indiscriminate and wasteful fishing.
Ms. Lubchenco’s alternative would give individual fishermen or groups of
fishermen fixed shares — a guaranteed percentage — of the annual catch, then let
them set the rules. The theory is that share-holding fishermen will have a
vested interest in seeing their resource grow, much like shareholders in a
Fisheries that use this system — also known as “dedicated access” fisheries —
have prospered in places like New Zealand. The dozen or so American fisheries
with catch shares, accounting for about one-fifth of the total domestic catch,
have also done well.
Ms. Lubchenco has lately been beating the drums for catch shares in New England,
whose regional council will shortly take a preliminary vote on the issue. New
England’s fishermen could use a change in direction; four-fifths of their
commercially important stocks — including cod, pollock and flounder — are in
The truth is that fisheries almost everywhere could use a change in direction. A
well-managed American system would be an example for the world.
Ocean Rescue, NYT,
The INFLUENCE GAME: Excuse Me! Lobby Wins on Burps
June 21, 2009
Filed at 4:03 a.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The ew York Times
WASHINGTON (AP) -- One contributor to global warming -- bigger than coal
mines, landfills and sewage treatment plants -- is being left out of efforts by
the Obama administration and House Democrats to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Belching from the nation's 170 million cattle, sheep and pigs produces about
one-quarter of the methane released in the U.S. each year, according to the
Environmental Protection Agency. That makes the hoofed critters the largest
source of the heat-trapping gas.
In part because of an adept farm lobby campaign that equates government
regulation with a cow tax, the gas that farm animals pass is exempt from
legislation being considered by Congress to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
The EPA under President Barack Obama has said it has no plans to regulate the
gas, even though the agency recently included methane among six greenhouse gases
it believes are endangering human health and welfare.
The message circulating in Internet chat rooms, the halls of Congress and farm
co-ops had America's farms facing financial ruin if the EPA required them to
purchase air-pollution permits like power plants and factories do. The cost of
those permits amounted to a cow tax, farm groups argued.
''It really has taken on a life of its own,'' said Rick Krause, a lobbyist with
the American Farm Bureau Federation, which coined the term cow tax and spread it
to farmers across the country. ''This is something that people understand. All
that we have to say is that (cows) are the next step with these proposed permit
fees. And people are still talking about it.''
Administration officials and House Democratic leaders have tried to assure farm
groups that they have no intention of regulating cows. That effort, however, has
done little to ease the concern of farmers and their advocates in Congress about
the toll that regulating greenhouse gases will have on agriculture.
Lawmakers and farm groups are now pressing for the climate legislation to
guarantee that farmers will be compensated for taking steps to reduce greenhouse
gases. That could lead to farmers getting paid if their cows pass less gas.
Research has shown that changing cattle diet and boosting efficiency -- such as
producing the same amount of milk and beef from a smaller herd -- can result in
less gas, according Frank M. Mitloehner, an associate professor at the
University of California at Davis, who has studied livestock gas for 15 years.
''I don't think livestock should be ignored. Every industry has to play their
role,'' Mitloehner said. But laws designed to reduce emissions from smokestacks
and tailpipes won't work with cattle, which can't be fitted with pollution
control devices, Mitloehner said.
''The belching is very hard to collect,'' he said. ''You cannot capture these
The climate bill specifically excludes enteric fermentation -- the fancy term
for the gas created by digestion and expelled largely by burping -- from the
limit it would place on greenhouse gas emissions. The legislation directs the
EPA not to include it among the various sources that could be subject to new
EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has called rumors of the cow tax ''ridiculous
notions'' and a ''distraction.''
House aides and EPA officials say that controlling such emissions is unworkable.
Cow burps make up about 2 percent of all the climate-altering pollution in the
But allies of farmers in Congress say the reluctance to step in the cow tax
debate has a lot to do with the outcry from the agriculture industry and
moderate Democrats from rural states whose votes are needed to pass the bill.
''I think they realized that if you are a Democrat in an agricultural state, a
red state, that this is radioactive and I think that is why they have tried
scrupulously to reaffirm that they don't have any intention of doing this,''
said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. He is sponsoring a bill that would bar the EPA from
requiring farmers to get permits for cattle burps.
Thune, whose state is home to a half-million cattle, first heard about the cow
tax at a South Dakota Cattlemen Association's conference in early December.
Within weeks he introduced his bill and recruited support from New York
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, whose state boasts three times more cows.
The origins of the cow tax can be traced to last July, when President George W.
Bush's EPA released documents outlining how the Clean Air Act could regulate
Even though the Bush administration had no intention of using the law, farm
groups seized on a single paragraph deep in the comments from various federal
agencies. The Agriculture Department warned that if EPA decided to regulate
agricultural sources of greenhouse gases, numerous farms would face costly and
time-consuming process to acquire permits for barnyard burping.
The Farm Bureau quickly did the math and figured farms would have to pay about
$175 for each dairy cow, $87.50 per head of beef cattle and $20 for each hog to
purchase permits for emissions.
The cow tax was born.
On the Net:
Environmental Protection Agency:
Agriculture Department: http://www.usda.gov
American Farm Bureau Federation:
Sen. Thune's release:
The INFLUENCE GAME:
Excuse Me! Lobby Wins on Burps, NYT, 21.6.2009,
San Francisco to Toughen a Strict Recycling Law
June 11, 2009
The New York Times
By MALIA WOLLAN
BERKELEY, Calif. — San Francisco, which already boasts one of the most
aggressive recycling programs in the country, has raised the ante, vowing to
levy fines of up to $1,000 on those unwilling to separate their Kung Pao chicken
leftovers from their newspapers.
The Board of Supervisors passed new recycling and mandatory composting rules on
Tuesday in a 9-to-2 vote. The city already diverts 72 percent of the 2.1 million
tons of waste its residents produce each year away from landfills and into
recycling and composting programs. The new ordinance will help the city toward
its goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2020, said Jared Blumenfeld,
director of the city’s Department of the Environment.
Under the new ordinance, residents will be issued three mandatory garbage bins:
a black one for trash, a blue one for recyclables and a green one for compost.
Garbage collectors who spot orange peels or aluminum soda cans in a black trash
bin will leave a note reminding the owner how to separate his trash properly.
Anyone found repeatedly flouting recycling protocol will be issued fines of $100
for small businesses and single-family homes and up to $1,000 for large
businesses and multiunit buildings. The city has put a moratorium on all fines
until 2011 while residents learn the ropes.
Reaction to the new rules was as mixed as, well, recyclables.
“This takes Big Brother to an extreme I’m not comfortable with,” said Sean R.
Elsbernd, one of two supervisors who voted against the ordinance. “I don’t want
the government going through my garbage cans.”
Garbage cops snooping through the curbside refuse is not the intent of the
ordinance, said Nathan Ballard, spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom.
“We are not going to throw you in the clink for putting your coffee grounds in
the wrong bin,” Mr. Ballard said. “Fines will only be imposed in egregious
Mr. Newsom, who proposed the legislation last May and doggedly championed it, is
expected to sign it into law within 30 days.
The city’s most notorious recycling laggards tend to be owners of apartment
buildings, Mr. Blumenfeld said. “We’re mainly focusing this new law at
multitenant buildings; only 25 percent of those building owners provide
recycling for renters.”
But it is the mandatory composting that has city officials most excited.
“When the nation is looking at complex solutions for climate-change reduction,”
Mr. Blumenfeld said, “we should not overlook the importance of simple things
like increasing the recycling rate and composting.”
The city already composts 400 tons of food scraps a day, 90 percent of which
goes to enriching the soil of vineyards in Napa and Sonoma Counties.
“People will embrace composting just like they embraced recycling,” said Mr.
Ballard, who himself began composting kitchen scraps six months ago. “Here in
San Francisco people are crazy about recycling. Composting is the next
San Francisco to Toughen
a Strict Recycling Law, NYT, 11.6.2009,
Pelosi Calls for US-Chinese Climate Cooperation
May 26, 2009
Filed at 5:22 a.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times
BEIJING (AP) -- U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a frequent, fierce critic of
China, called for U.S.-Chinese cooperation to fight climate change in a speech
Tuesday that skirted human rights and other contentious issues.
Pelosi's comments to an audience of Chinese and American officials and
businesspeople stressed common environmental interests -- an approach that fits
with President Barack Obama's emphasis on engagement with Beijing, rather than
''We believe China and the United States can and must confront the challenge of
climate change together,'' Pelosi said. Noting that the two countries are the
world's biggest emitters of gases blamed for climate change, she said, ''we have
a responsibility to ourselves, to our country, to our people and to the world to
work together on this.''
The leading Democratic lawmaker's visit is part of a flurry of contacts between
Washington and Beijing that highlight their wide-ranging cooperation on issues
including North Korea's nuclear program and combatting the global economic
slump. Next week, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner travels to Beijing in part
to ease Chinese concerns about the health of the dollar and thus the value of
China's holdings of U.S. government debt.
Underscoring the shift in emphasis was Pelosi's change in tone. For nearly 20
years, the California Democrat has frequently criticized Beijing over human
rights and opposed giving the authoritarian government normal trading rights and
Pelosi, who leaves Beijing on Thursday for Hong Kong, mentioned human rights
glancingly, though she said in a speech in Shanghai on Monday that she would
''continue to speak out for human rights in China and around the world.''
Climate change is an issue the Obama administration has chosen as a new area for
cooperation with China.
Pelosi told the business forum that working together on climate change could
transform U.S.-Chinese relations.
''It is an opportunity that we cannot miss,'' Pelosi told the audience, which
included a former Chinese foreign minister and China's ambassador to Washington.
The event was organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in China and the
U.S.-China Clean Energy Forum, an industry group.
Pelosi brought with her five members of a House committee on energy policy and
global warming. She has promised to press for passage of climate legislation
this year, and Obama has said that he wants a bill. A bill that would impose the
first U.S. litmus test on greenhouse gas emissions was approved by a House
committee last week, a step being considered by the full House later this year.
While welcoming calls for cooperation, the Chinese government has publicly said
that global warming is largely the responsibility of rich nations, who should
provide funds and technologies for developing countries to cut carbon emissions.
Pelosi's delegation included Rep. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts and
committee chairman; Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin and
ranking committee member; Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon; Rep. Jay
Inslee, a Democrat from Washington; and Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from
On the Net:
U.S.-China Clean Energy Forum: cleanenergyforum.net
American Chamber of Commerce in China:
Pelosi Calls for
US-Chinese Climate Cooperation, NYT, 26.5.2009,
Leadership Long Delayed
May 23, 2009
The New York Times
For anyone eager to see the United States take a serious leadership role on
the issue of global warming, this week was enormously encouraging.
It began with the White House’s announcement that it will impose the first-ever
limits on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. It ended with a House
committee approving a comprehensive energy and global warming bill — an
important first step on legislation that seeks to reduce America’s dependence on
foreign oil, reverse emissions of carbon dioxide and create millions of clean
In fairly short order, President Obama and a Democratically controlled Congress
have made the lassitude and indifference of the Bush years seem like ancient
history. And they have greatly improved the prospects that American negotiators
will arrive at the next round of global climate negotiations in Copenhagen with
a credible strategy in hand and with the leverage to encourage other major
emitters like China to get cracking.
The trick now will be to sustain the momentum — at home and internationally.
The legislation approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee must survive
scrutiny by other committees and, of course, the whole House. Even after the
strong endorsement of expert scientists, only one of the committee’s Republicans
— Mary Bono Mack of California — voted for the bill. And then comes the Senate,
where 60 votes are required to overcome a filibuster and where a climate change
bill crashed to defeat last year.
The House bill’s main architect, Representative Henry Waxman of California, and
his chief lieutenant, Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts, have
politically tailored this bill to do better.
It calls for a 17 percent reduction in 2005 levels of greenhouse gas emissions
by 2020 — and 83 percent by 2050. It would put a price on carbon through a
cap-and-trade system that would impose a steadily declining ceiling on emissions
while allowing polluters to trade permits, or allowances, to give them more
flexibility in meeting their targets. It also mandates greater use of renewable
power sources like wind and solar, sets tough new efficiency standards for
buildings and invests in cleaner energy technologies, largely through the sale
of carbon allowances.
To placate politicians from industrial states that rely heavily on coal, and
whose energy costs are likely to rise, the bill includes a variety of mechanisms
to help industries make the near-term transition to cleaner and more efficient
ways of creating energy. The most prominent of these are “ offsets” that would
allow polluters to satisfy their own emissions-reduction obligations by
investing in carbon-reducing programs elsewhere, like preventing deforestation.
Critics says these and other provisions are too generous to polluters, and in
truth the bill is not as strong as it should be. But anything more might well
fail, as other bills have failed, and then the country would be back to Square
1. As it is, the bill represents an ambitious first step toward a solution too
long delayed for a problem too long denied.
Leadership Long Delayed,
Earthquake Shakes Los Angeles Area
May 19, 2009
The New York Times
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER
LOS ANGELES — An earthquake measuring 4.7 in magnitude struck Sunday night on
the southwest side of Los Angeles, announcing itself with a tremendous boom,
sending pans and glasses tumbling and unnerving thousands of Angelenos. It was
followed by a smaller aftershock.
There were no immediate reports of major injuries or damage stemming from the
quake, which struck just after 8:30 p.m. just east of Los Angeles International
Airport and could be felt as far south as San Diego. But seismologists described
it as the largest quake to hit the area since a 5.4 magnitude earthquake in
Chino Hills last year.
The shaking went on for roughly 10 seconds, centered in the suburb of Lennox,
followed by an aftershock measuring 3.1.
The Los Angeles Fire Department made an initial assessment of "no major
structural damage, no serious injuries," according to the Twitter feed of a
spokesman, Brian Humphrey, one of nearly 1,000 people who quickly tweeted about
Although he characterized it as significant, Mr. Humphrey added that there were
no reports of damage in or around the neighborhoods near the epicenter.
Victor Maldonado, 53, of the San Pedro neighborhood, said the quake shook his
three story house up and down, as opposed to a lateral movement, bouncing a
bulky metal baker’s rack and a heavy curio cabinet. “It looks like we have a few
new cracks in the house,” he said, “but otherwise everything looks fine.”
Ken Hudnut, a geophysicist with the United States Geological Service, told The
Associated Press that the quake, which hit 8.4 miles below the surface, appears
consistent with movement on the Newport-Inglewood fault.
Russ Buettner contribued reporting for this article.
Earthquake Shakes Los
Angeles Area, NYT, 19.5.2009,
As Alaska Glaciers Melt, It’s Land That’s Rising
May 18, 2009
The New York Times
By CORNELIA DEAN
JUNEAU, Alaska — Global warming conjures images of rising seas that threaten
coastal areas. But in Juneau, as almost nowhere else in the world, climate
change is having the opposite effect: As the glaciers here melt, the land is
rising, causing the sea to retreat.
Morgan DeBoer, a property owner, opened a nine-hole golf course at the mouth of
Glacier Bay in 1998, on land that was underwater when his family first settled
here 50 years ago.
“The highest tides of the year would come into what is now my driving range
area,” Mr. DeBoer said.
Now, with the high-tide line receding even farther, he is contemplating adding
another nine holes.
“It just keeps rising,” he said.
The geology is complex, but it boils down to this: Relieved of billions of tons
of glacial weight, the land has risen much as a cushion regains its shape after
someone gets up from a couch. The land is ascending so fast that the rising seas
— a ubiquitous byproduct of global warming — cannot keep pace. As a result, the
relative sea level is falling, at a rate “among the highest ever recorded,”
according to a 2007 report by a panel of experts convened by Mayor Bruce Botelho
Greenland and a few other places have experienced similar effects from
widespread glacial melting that began more than 200 years ago, geologists say.
But, they say, the effects are more noticeable in and near Juneau, where most
glaciers are retreating 30 feet a year or more.
As a result, the region faces unusual environmental challenges. As the sea level
falls relative to the land, water tables fall, too, and streams and wetlands dry
out. Land is emerging from the water to replace the lost wetlands, shifting
property boundaries and causing people to argue about who owns the acreage and
how it should be used. And meltwater carries the sediment scoured long ago by
the glaciers to the coast, where it clouds the water and silts up once-navigable
A few decades ago, large boats could sail regularly along Gastineau Channel
between Downtown Juneau and Douglas Island, to Auke Bay, a port about 10 miles
to the northwest. Today, much of the channel is exposed mudflat at low tide.
“There is so much sediment coming in from the Mendenhall Glacier and the rivers
— it has basically silted in,” said Bruce Molnia, a geologist at the United
States Geological Survey who studies Alaskan glaciers.
Already, people can wade across the channel at low tide — or race across it, as
they do in the Mendenhall Mud Run. At low tide, the navigation buoys rest on
Eventually, as the land rises and the channel silts up, Douglas Island will be
linked to the mainland by dry land, said Eran Hood, a hydrologist at the
University of Alaska Southeast and an author of the 2007 report, “Climate
Change: Predicted Impacts on Juneau.”
When that happens, Dr. Hood said, the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge,
4,000 acres of boggy habitat, will be lost. “That wetland will have nowhere else
to go,” he said.
In some places along the coast, the change has been so rapid that kayakers whose
charts are not up-to-the-minute can find themselves carrying their boats over
shoals that are now so high and dry they now support grass or even small trees.
In and around Juneau, “you can walk around and see what was underwater is
turning into grassland and eventually into forest,” Dr. Hood said.
The topographical changes have threatened crucial ecosystems and even locally
vital species like salmon.
“The lifeblood of our region has been salmon species and their return — and what
is the impact when they return and the streams are dry?” said Mayor Botelho, who
was born and raised in Juneau. “The salmon is bound to our identity as a region,
who we are.”
He said he did not think that any species were in imminent danger, but added,
“Anyone who is following climate change has to see that there are risks, perhaps
Dr. Hood said many people in Juneau had hoped to maintain a waterway called Duck
Creek as a salmon stream. But small streams like that “appear to be drying out,”
he said. “There are a lot of people in town saying, Let’s just let it return to
Relative to the sea, land here has risen as much as 10 feet in little more than
200 years, according to the 2007 report. As global warming accelerates, the land
will continue to rise, perhaps three more feet by 2100, scientists say.
The rise is further fueled by the movement of the tectonic plates that form the
earth’s crust. As the Pacific plate pushes under the North American plate,
Juneau and its hilly Tongass National Forest environs rise still more.
“When you combine tectonics and glacial readjustment, you get rates that are
incomprehensible,” Dr. Molnia said.
In Gustavus, where Mr. DeBoer’s property is, the land is rising almost three
inches a year, Dr. Molnia said, making it “the fastest-rising place in North
In addition to expanding the golf course, Mr. DeBoer is negotiating with the
Nature Conservancy to preserve some of the newly emergent land. He can do both,
he said, because the high tide line has pushed almost a mile out to sea since
his family first homesteaded on the property.
Where the shoreline is relatively flat, “it doesn’t take much uplift to make
quite a bit of difference,” Mr. DeBoer said.
Kristin White, a 28-year-old schoolteacher who grew up in Haines, a town north
of here, is from another family in the area whose real estate grew as land rose.
When her father tried to sell some property in Haines, she said, “he had to have
But for Ms. White, who has vivid memories of visiting the Mendenhall glacier as
a child, the gain in acreage has been bittersweet. Seeing the glacier retreat,
she said, is “as if you lived in the Smoky Mountains and you were used to seeing
certain peaks — and they disappeared. It’s just totally, totally sad.”
As Alaska Glaciers Melt,
It’s Land That’s Rising, NYT, 18.5.2009,
Easy Practices to Reduce Outdoor Water Waste
May 18, 2009
Filed at 11:50 a.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times
The average American homeowner uses about 89,100 gallons of water a year on
the outside of the home.
As more people switch to eco-friendly and energy-efficient practices, they're
discovering the problem isn't just leaky faucets and inefficient sprinklers. The
part of their landscape that wastes the most water is often the greenest: their
''The English lawn has become the American expectation,'' says Chris Brown,
executive director of the California Urban Water Conservation Council, ''but
we're trying to reproduce a landscape that wouldn't grow here naturally.''
To dissuade wasteful habits, water providers in drought-prone areas like
California and Nevada are offering incentives for homeowners to ''green'' their
lawns by growing native plants as well as picking up other water conserving
The San Diego County Water Authority gives rebates starting at $230 for
weather-based irrigation systems and $4 rebates per rotating hose nozzle that
acts like an on-off switch. The Southern Nevada Water Authority is paying
homeowners $1 to $1.50 per square foot -- with a maximum of $300,000 -- to rip
up their grass and replace it with water efficient plants.
''People's perception of water use and the reality are quite different,'' said
Doug Bennett, conservation manager at the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
''They don't know how much water their lawns use. They think, 'No, it's my
The federal government is also interested in changing consumer water habits. The
Environmental Protection Agency has launched a water conservation program,
called WaterSense, to help consumers find water-saving products for inside and
outside the home.
Here are some of the best ways to save water outside your home:
LANDSCAPING: Skip the grass and grow plants Mother Nature intended for your
region and climate. A study done last year by the Southern Nevada Water
Authority found the annual water bill for a lawn with grass was on average
$2,600, almost 3.5 times more than the $770 bill for a lawn with native plants,
such as Foxtail Fern and Pink Desert Hibiscus.
Another bonus? No more lawnmower.
In semiarid regions such as California and Arizona, try shrubs like Western
Redbud or Toyon, which bloom pink flowers. In New England, plant the adaptable
highbush blueberry shrub or the versatile American witch hazel. Deer fern, the
red huckleberry shrub and the orange honeysuckle vine all grow well in the
Pacific Northwest. Check your local water authority, nurseries or plant or
flower society for native plant suggestions.
If you want grass, put it areas where you need it the most, such as areas where
you kick the soccer ball or picnic. Plant it in shady areas instead of in direct
sunlight. Shaded grass requires less water, up to half less depending on the
grass type. And keep the blade length around three inches to slow evaporation
and reduce heat stress.
WATERING: To reduce loss to evaporation, water in the morning or evening.
Watering in the morning also cuts down on fungus growth. Don't water in the wind
because the drops won't fall where you need them to.
Avoid watering the pavement. Make sure sprinklers and hose nozzles are watering
the plants, not the driveway or sidewalk. Weed regularly so they don't compete
with plants for water.
Resist the urge to over water. A study by Southern Nevada Water Authority found
that residents watered up to three times too much during the fall.
One way to avoid over-watering is to group plants by water needs to make them
easier to care for. Also, water when plants show signs of distress like wilting
or discoloring. By holding off on watering, your plants respond by growing a
deeper root system, making for healthier plants in the long run. If you're
worried, check two inches below the soil surface to see if it's moist. If it's
Don't forget to pay attention to the weather.
''It's not useful to have sprinklers run during a rainstorm,'' says Greg Kail,
spokesman for the American Water Works Association. And it's not efficient to
water on Saturday if it already rained on Thursday.
To help you keep track of the weather, install automatic water timers
($15-$100), moisture or rain sensors ($25-$50) or weather-based timers
($150-$800) on irrigation systems. Weather-based systems are plugged into the
Weather Channel or other data sources and alter the watering schedule based on
the information it receives. The rain sensors will shut off watering valves when
it gets wet.
You will need a trained professional to install these systems. Warns Brown:
''You can install a smart timer and it can be a dumb timer if it's not installed
Anywhere you have mulch, install drip irrigation hose system, which run between
$11 and $35. These hoses snake through plant beds at or just above soil level
and slowly release water directly into the soil. The loss to evaporation is
minimal and it gets right to the root systems.
MULCH: Mulch is an easy way to prevent runoff and preserve moisture. Use it
around plants and trees to reduce evaporation, to keep the soil and roots cool,
to enrich the soil with organic material and to discourage weed growth. Also,
line sidewalks and driveways with an eight-inch mulch buffer using wood chips,
shredded wood, bark nuggets, landscaping stones or rocks. This will curb water
PLUMBING: Just like indoors, outdoor leaks are a major source of water loss. A
dripping faucet wastes about 75 gallons of water a week. But outside leaks often
go unnoticed. Check for leaks in hoses, pipes, faucets and hose connections to
ensure they're in working order.
Buy automatic shut-off nozzles, which completely turn off the water when the
hose isn't in use. Water pours out of an open hose about 10 gallons a minute, so
the seconds count. Also, the nozzle will direct the stream better than your
OTHER: Cover pools and spas to reduce evaporation. An uncovered pool can lose
about 1,000 gallons of water each month. Cut out sprinklers and other water toys
that use a constant stream of water. Instead, buy toys that use a finite amount
of water like small wading pools.
Instead of hosing off the sidewalk and driveway, sweep leaves and dirt with a
broom. And when you wash the car, remember to turn off the water when you're not
using it. Otherwise, you waste about 100 gallons of water each car wash. During
drought times, take your car to a professional car wash which typically
recaptures and recycles water.
In the West and Midwest, evaporative air conditioners, or swamp coolers, can
consume between 10,000 and 20,000 gallons of water each year. To reduce its
consumption, turn on the cooler when it hits 85 degrees versus 79 degrees;
you'll use 50 percent less water, according to the New Mexico Water Use and
Conservation Bureau. Only run the fan during rainy or humid days or on cooler
nights. And routinely check for leaks.
Easy Practices to Reduce Outdoor Water Waste,
Mansions, Humble Homes Burn in Coastal Calif. City
May 7, 2009
Filed at 12:41 p.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) -- Winds swirled and homes of all sizes burned as
a wildfire descended on this scenic coastal city amid hot, dry conditions that
resembled late summer more than the middle of spring.
Firefighters had a brief respite of moderate breezes early Thursday, but
expected another day of heat, gusts and potential destruction as they took on a
blaze that had swelled to 500 acres and forced the evacuation of more than 5,000
TV news helicopters showed at least a dozen homes ablaze as night fell, but
authorities had no immediate estimate of how many had been destroyed.
Huge mansions and humble homes alike were reduced to rubble, leaving palm trees
swaying over gutted ruins. Aerial footage showed five or more luxury homes
burning along one crest-top road, and many flare-ups dotting the residential
hills were apparently burning homes.
''The fire is very spotty and patchy and there's a lot of smoke,'' which makes
it difficult to see the damage,'' Santa Barbara County fire Capt. David Sadecki
said. ''Because it involves people's homes, we don't want to speculate.''
The fire went from tame to explosive Wednesday afternoon as gusts up to 50 mph
in triple-digit temperatures hurled the fire from north to south into
neighborhoods, Santa Barbara County fire Capt. David Sadecki said.
It remained out of control Thursday morning, though temperatures dropped to the
60s and winds had grown calm.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency, and the National
Weather Service issued a ''Red Flag'' warning for fire danger, predicting strong
wind danger through Friday morning.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department spokesman Drew Sugars said 5,430 homes
were under mandatory evacuation. The estimated population of those homes was
13,575 people, he said.
Some of the evacuated were allowed to return to their homes early Thursday, the
county said in a news release, but officials had no estimate of how many people
More than 900 firefighters were on the lines, and 20 more strike teams totaling
about 1,300 firefighters were requested.
Crews from surrounding counties and inmates from the California Department of
Corrections were arriving on the scene Thursday morning.
Firefighters who had worked through Wednesday's fierce flames dozed in sleeping
bags on the lawn of the command center while others worked through the night in
''The firefighters are picking houses and seeing if they can make a stand,''
The city has experienced a number of wildfires. Less than six months ago a fire
destroyed more than 200 homes in Santa Barbara and neighboring Montecito. The
new fire reached the area burned by that blaze Wednesday. And in 1990, a fire
killed one and destroyed 641 homes, apartments and other structures in the
Santa Barbara, a city of 90,000 about 100 miles west of Los Angeles, rises
rapidly from the coastline on the south to the foothills of the Santa Ynez
Mountains to the north. It is subject to ''Sundowners'' -- strong winds that
blow downslope through passes and canyons of the mountain range and offshore.
Elsewhere, firefighters were battling a blaze in rural southeastern Arizona that
destroyed three houses near Sierra Vista on Tuesday and injured a man. The fire
charred about 4,200 acres near Fort Huachuca, threatening about 50 homes in a
subdivision. Containment was estimated at 15 percent Wednesday.
In southern New Mexico, a wildfire in the mountains near Timberon charred about
100 acres, burning at least three structures. State Forestry spokesman Dan Ware
said firefighters hadn't been able to confirm what types of buildings they were.
Fifteen residents have been evacuated, and 70 structures were threatened, Ware
Mansions, Humble Homes
Burn in Coastal Calif. City, NYT, 7.5.2009,
Wildfires Hit Myrtle Beach Area
April 24, 2009
The New York Times
By ANAHAD O’CONNOR
Wildfires swept through a coastal region of South Carolina on Thursday and
threatened North Myrtle Beach, destroying about 70 homes and forcing more than
2,500 people to evacuate, state officials said.
Gov. Mark Sanford declared a state of emergency in Horry County, which includes
the Myrtle Beach area, and officials of North Myrtle Beach scrambled to get
residents to pack up and flee.
No injuries have been reported since the fire began on Wednesday, but the blaze
jumped a state highway and headed rapidly toward a heavily concentrated
residential and tourist area, prompting the evacuations and the closing of
schools and businesses in North Myrtle Beach. It also tore through a 10,000-acre
nature preserve that is home to bald eagles, woodpeckers and many rare species
The blaze began along the coast just west of Myrtle Beach around noon on
Wednesday and quickly spread, fueled by winds of 25 miles per hour and low
humidity. The fire rapidly expanded overnight, but by early Thursday evening
firefighters said they had managed to hold it at bay with the help of Blackhawk
helicopters that dropped water and small bulldozers that created fire breaks
along the perimeter.
But residents were still being urged to evacuate.
“Our public safety department went door to door and we asked everyone to leave,”
Mayor Marilyn Hatley of North Myrtle Beach said at a news conference Thursday.
“We tried our best to remove everyone as soon as possible.”
Although the blaze moved quickly along the coast, it stopped just short of the
Intracoastal Waterway separating the mainland from the coastal area, which
firefighters were hoping would act as a natural barrier. The cause of the fire
was being investigated, and officials said it could take two or three days more
to contain it fully.
“We realized right away that it had huge potential, that it was a very dangerous
fire,” said Russell Hubright, a spokesman for the South Carolina Forestry
Commission. “The other serious part is that there’s quite a lot of homes in that
immediate area there.”
Todd Cartner, a spokesman for the Horry County Fire Rescue, told The Associated
Press that the blaze was the worst to hit the area since 1976, when 30,000
acres, or 47 square miles, burned.
Typically, wildfires claim about 35 homes a year in South Carolina, Mr. Hubright
said, adding that the wildfire that began on Wednesday destroyed about 70 homes
and damaged 100 others in barely 24 hours.
Mr. Hubright said that fire and forestry officials responded quickly to the
blaze, and contained about 25 percent of it by late Wednesday, but that the fire
burned vigorously overnight, and by Thursday morning containment was below 10
By early Thursday evening, officials said, the blaze had engulfed about 15,000
Many tourists who had been vacationing in the area, known for its golf courses
and beaches and which generates about $16 billion a year in business, were
forced to flee.
Firefighters said they were concerned that the low humidity and strong winds
would allow the fire to “spot,” or send out embers as far as a quarter mile
away, causing the blaze to spread more quickly.
“When you’re out there trying to contain a fire and you’ve got fire jumping
ahead of you, that makes it even more dangerous,” Mr. Hubright said.
Wildfires Hit Myrtle
Beach Area, NYT, 24.4.2009,
Industry Ignored Its Scientists on Climate
April 24, 2009
The New York Times
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
For more than a decade the Global Climate Coalition, a group representing
industries with profits tied to fossil fuels, led an aggressive lobbying and
public relations campaign against the idea that emissions of heat-trapping gases
could lead to global warming.
“The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood,” the
coalition said in a scientific “backgrounder” provided to lawmakers and
journalists through the early 1990s, adding that “scientists differ” on the
But a document filed in a federal lawsuit demonstrates that even as the
coalition worked to sway opinion, its own scientific and technical experts were
advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming
could not be refuted.
“The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of
human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established
and cannot be denied,” the experts wrote in an internal report compiled for the
coalition in 1995.
The coalition was financed by fees from large corporations and trade groups
representing the oil, coal and auto industries, among others. In 1997, the year
an international climate agreement that came to be known as the Kyoto Protocol
was negotiated, its budget totaled $1.68 million, according to tax records
obtained by environmental groups.
Throughout the 1990s, when the coalition conducted a multimillion-dollar
advertising campaign challenging the merits of an international agreement,
policy makers and pundits were fiercely debating whether humans could
dangerously warm the planet. Today, with general agreement on the basics of
warming, the debate has largely moved on to the question of how extensively to
respond to rising temperatures.
Environmentalists have long maintained that industry knew early on that the
scientific evidence supported a human influence on rising temperatures, but that
the evidence was ignored for the sake of companies’ fight against curbs on
greenhouse gas emissions. Some environmentalists have compared the tactic to
that once used by tobacco companies, which for decades insisted that the science
linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer was uncertain. By questioning the
science on global warming, these environmentalists say, groups like the Global
Climate Coalition were able to sow enough doubt to blunt public concern about a
consequential issue and delay government action.
George Monbiot, a British environmental activist and writer, said that by
promoting doubt, industry had taken advantage of news media norms requiring
neutral coverage of issues, just as the tobacco industry once had.
“They didn’t have to win the argument to succeed,” Mr. Monbiot said, “only to
cause as much confusion as possible.”
William O’Keefe, at the time a leader of the Global Climate Coalition, said in a
telephone interview that the group’s leadership had not been aware of a gap
between the public campaign and the advisers’ views. Mr. O’Keefe said the
coalition’s leaders had felt that the scientific uncertainty justified a
cautious approach to addressing cuts in greenhouse gases.
The coalition disbanded in 2002, but some members, including the National
Association of Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute, continue to
lobby against any law or treaty that would sharply curb emissions. Others, like
Exxon Mobil, now recognize a human contribution to global warming and have
largely dropped financial support to groups challenging the science.
Documents drawn up by the coalition’s advisers were provided to lawyers by the
Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, a coalition member,
during the discovery process in a lawsuit that the auto industry filed in 2007
against the State of California’s efforts to limit vehicles’ greenhouse gas
emissions. The documents included drafts of a primer written for the coalition
by its technical advisory committee, as well as minutes of the advisers’
The documents were recently sent to The New York Times by a lawyer for
environmental groups that sided with the state. The lawyer, eager to maintain a
cordial relationship with the court, insisted on anonymity because the
litigation is continuing.
The advisory committee was led by Leonard S. Bernstein, a chemical engineer and
climate expert then at the Mobil Corporation. At the time the committee’s primer
was drawn up, policy makers in the United States and abroad were arguing over
the scope of the international climate-change agreement that in 1997 became the
The primer rejected the idea that mounting evidence already suggested that human
activities were warming the climate, as a 1995 report by the United Nations
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had concluded. (In a report in 2007,
the panel concluded with near certainty that most recent warming had been caused
Yet the primer also found unpersuasive the arguments being used by skeptics,
including the possibility that temperatures were only appearing to rise because
of flawed climate records.
“The contrarian theories raise interesting questions about our total
understanding of climate processes, but they do not offer convincing arguments
against the conventional model of greenhouse gas emission-induced climate
change,” the advisory committee said in the 17-page primer.
According to the minutes of an advisory committee meeting that are among the
disclosed documents, the primer was approved by the coalition’s operating
committee early in 1996. But the approval came only after the operating
committee had asked the advisers to omit the section that rebutted the
“This idea was accepted,” the minutes said, “and that portion of the paper will
The primer itself was never publicly distributed.
Mr. O’Keefe, who was then chairman of the Global Climate Coalition and a senior
official of the American Petroleum Institute, the lobby for oil companies, said
in the phone interview that he recalled seeing parts of the primer.
But he said he was not aware of the dropped sections when a copy of the approved
final draft was sent to him. He said a change of that kind would have been made
by the staff before the document was brought to the board for final
“I have no idea why the section on the contrarians would have been deleted,”
said Mr. O’Keefe, now chief executive of the Marshall Institute, a nonprofit
research group that opposes a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions.
“One thing I’m absolutely certain of,” he said, “is that no member of the board
of the Global Climate Coalition said, ‘We have to suppress this.’ ”
Benjamin D. Santer, a climate scientist at Lawrence Livermore National
Laboratory whose work for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was
challenged by the Global Climate Coalition and allied groups, said the coalition
was “engaging in a full-court press at the time, trying to cast doubt on the
bottom-line conclusion of the I.P.C.C.” That panel concluded in 1995 that “the
balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.”
“I’m amazed and astonished,” Dr. Santer said, “that the Global Climate Coalition
had in their possession scientific information that substantiated our cautious
findings and then chose to suppress that information.”
Industry Ignored Its
Scientists on Climate, NYT, 24.4.2009,
SC Wildfire Burns Homes Near Popular Beach Area
April 23, 2009
Filed at 10:53 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) -- A coastal wildfire spread early Thursday
toward one of the busiest tourist stretches in South Carolina, burning dozens of
homes and forcing hundreds to flee in the middle of the night. No injuries were
Police banged on doors to awaken residents as strong winds helped the blaze cut
a four-mile-wide swath through forests and scrub toward the Barefoot Landing
development, a sprawling complex of houses, condominiums and golf courses
separated from the main route through Myrtle Beach by the Intracoastal Waterway.
''It was like something out of a movie,'' said Danielle Prater, 25, of
Charlotte, N.C., who woke her aunt and uncle at 1:30 a.m. after seeing flames
several feet high racing through a neighbor's back yard. ''I ran and got them
and we got out of there as fast as we could.''
Officials hoped the waterway would act as a natural firebreak to protect more
populated areas closer to the beach. State officials said as many as 70 homes
had been destroyed and Garry Alderman, the county fire chief, described some as
left with only ''skeletal remains.''
''I've never seen anything this bad,'' he said.
The governor declared a state of emergency for the county.
About 2,500 people in a four-mile stretch on the western side of the waterway
were told to leave their homes overnight, said North Myrtle Beach spokeswoman
Nicole Aiello. Shelters were set up at North Myrtle Beach City Hall and the
House of Blues, where about 50 people watched a television over the bar looking
for news updates. More than 100 others milled about, some waiting in their cars
outside, where a white haze settled over the parking lot and the acrid smell of
smoke was pervasive.
''What we have on is what we got away with,'' said Sherlene Pinnix, 63.
A cause of the fire, which started a day earlier in a wooded area west of the
beach, had not been determined. The governor's office said more than 15,000
acres, or about 23 square miles, had been scorched by early Thursday morning.
Flames jumped highways and walls of smoke engulfed tourist attractions as 30 mph
gusts blew toward the ocean. Winds were expected to be weaker Thursday, but
officials still feared the blaze could jump the waterway.
Besides the wind, Horry County Fire Rescue spokesman Todd Cartner said crews
were having trouble getting to the flames because of the dense vegetation and
were using plows and tractors to cut paths to it.
Adding to the problem were heavily vegetated patches called Carolina Bays that
caught fire and fueled the blaze.
The shallow, egg-shaped depressions pockmark the coast and range in size from a
few to thousands of acres. The bays are densely filled with plant life and often
have boggy bottoms where peat, if it catches fire, can burn for days or weeks.
Tropical downpours are often needed to extinguish such fires, said state
Forestry Commission spokesman Scott Hawkins.
''Once you get a fire in a bay, it's very, very hard to put out,'' he said.
The area is the anchor of the state's $16 billion annual tourist industry,
drawing college students for its low-cost spring break and families who fill
miles of budget beachfront hotels along the coast from Memorial through Labor
Day. Tens of thousands of golfers visit each year, and some of the region's
courses are among the most highly regarded in the nation.
Just off the coast, subdivisons and golf courses have been carved from forest
and swamps over decades and the area remain prone to wildfires that spring up in
the woods and scrub. Cartner said it was the worst blaze since some 30,000
acres, or 47 square miles, burned in 1976.
On Wednesday, gray-white smoke engulfed the restaurant row between Myrtle Beach
and North Myrtle Beach. It looked like a winter fog, with car headlights and
neon signs peeking through the haze. Several miles west of the tourist strip, 15
people gathered in a church shelter set up when their subdivision was
At a shelter set up Wednesday when the fire threatened a subdivision, Jo
Hillman, 52, joined her husband, Chuck, and 13 other people at a shelter set up
at the Tilly Swamp Baptist Church about midway between Conway and North Myrtle
As a prayer meeting went on inside, Jo Hillman and her husband recalled the
tense moments as the fire started spreading.
''First they said 'You've got 15 minutes.' Then they said 'Get out now,''' said
Jo Hillman, 52.
Associated Press writers Meg Kinnard in North Myrtle Beach, and Jeffrey Collins
and Jack Jones in Columbia contributed to this report.
SC Wildfire Burns Homes Near Popular Beach
Area, NYT, 23.4.2009,
A River Prone to Flooding, and Misunderstanding
March 31, 2009
The New York Times
By KIRK JOHNSON
FARGO, N.D. — Predicting the weather has always been at least in part a
gambler’s game — a matter of odds and percentages.
But over the last week, as the Red River in North Dakota has surged to
potentially catastrophic flood levels, setting off waves of anxiety from here to
Washington, forecasters seem to have been betting mostly on the wrong horse.
The flood surge rose much faster than expected in Fargo, the state’s largest
city, then peaked sooner and at a lower level than forecast — to the city’s
great relief and gratitude. In the last two days — surprise again — it has gone
down more rapidly than foreseen.
But the uncertainty has taken a toll.
“It really stresses the city’s system,” said Donald P. Schwert, a professor of
geology at North Dakota State University in Fargo, who has been a consultant on
landslide and erosion issues to Cass County, which includes Fargo. “The city
builds up temporary dikes on a forecast, then a new forecast comes and the city
has to respond to that, and on it goes.”
Scientists say they have learned a tremendous amount about the Red River since
its last major flood in 1997, using sophisticated modeling systems developed in
the wake of disasters up and down the river that year.
But to the chagrin and frustration of emergency workers, one of the biggest
lessons from all the new data is that the Red River — obscure to many Americans,
but beloved in the world of river hydrology — has emerged as perhaps even more
maddeningly complex, and thus in some ways harder to predict, than before.
“It’s like anything else in life — the more you know, the more you know you
don’t know,” said Scott Dummer, the hydrologist-in-charge at the National
Weather Service’s North Central River Forecast Center.
Mr. Dummer (pronounced DUE-mer) said the Red River, though fairly modest
compared with some more famous rivers, was devilishly hard to predict, partly
because of its shallow channel. The Colorado River has been carving out the
Grand Canyon for millions of years. The Red, by contrast, dates back to perhaps
only a few thousand years before the Pyramids. That means it has not had that
long to cut deep channels that can contain water during floods.
On top of that, the river flows very slowly across a pancake-flat landscape.
Imagine raising an eight-foot-long sheet of plywood just enough to slip a single
sheet of paper under the raised end. The resulting minuscule tilt of the board
represents the average slope of the Red River’s bed.
What that means is that the river, when it goes awry during a flood, spills
every which way across the countryside. This makes predictions of flood levels
contingent on thousands of data points, not just depth gauges here and there.
In the Weather Service’s defense, Mr. Dummer said the long-term predictions of
this year’s flood — the first warnings went out in December — were right on the
money, and justified the expense and work involved in the new computer models,
which rely on 58 years of river data.
Other wrinkles of the river’s drainage basin, though, are just now being
explored, like the odd legacy of homesteading. The land grant system of the
1800’s divided much of the nation into square-mile sections of 640 acres — a
pattern still prevalent on the Great Plains, where many roads follow with
geometric, if not downright boring, exactitude the old ruler-straight division
Now comes the Red River question: How much water does each square hold? Nobody
knows the exact amount, said Aaron W. Buesing, a hydraulic engineer with the
United States Army Corps of Engineers in St. Paul, but the next round of
computer models aims to provide an answer.
Mr. Buesing said he thought that grid storage might explain why some flood surge
predictions were off. The river’s quick rise, accompanied by a cold snap, may
have trapped enough water in the grids to keep the worst predictions from
materializing, he said.
Then there’s Canada to worry about. Squashed by glaciers for thousands of years,
it has been slowly recovering from the compression. For the north-flowing Red
River, that means its downhill slope, already barely perceptible, is getting
even less pronounced with each passing year, adding to its complexity, and its
propensity to flood.
A River Prone to
Flooding, and Misunderstanding, NYT, 31.3.2009,
Fargo Neighborhood Evacuated as Waters Rise
March 28, 2009
The New York Times
By MONICA DAVEY
FARGO, N.D. — Along the banks of this city, the Red River surpassed its
highest level in history Friday morning, forcing the emergency evacuation of one
neighborhood before dawn and leading city leaders here, once cheerfully upbeat,
to sound far more dire.
“We do not want to give up yet,” Mayor Dennis Walaker of Fargo said late
Thursday night after receiving yet another piece of gruesome news. Forecasters
now believe the Red River will go right on rising, and by Saturday overtake the
record set here more than a century ago by two feet or even more, much higher
than anyone here had earlier believed possible.
“We want to go down swinging — if we go down,” the mayor said, as he urged his
city to summon the energy to build the dikes that protect it yet another foot
higher by Friday night.
“I’m going to be devastated if we lose,” said Mr. Walaker, who had, only a few
days ago, expressed optimism, even certainty, that Fargo, a city of 90,000 and
North Dakota’s most populous, would be fine.
By Friday morning, some hospitals here had transferred patients to other
facilities miles away, and nursing homes had sent residents to relatives’ homes
on high ground. Major roads here were closed, to allow trucks carrying more
loads of sandbags to reach levees as fast as possible. And after about 100
people, including some residents of a nursing home, in one Fargo neighborhood
and a large swath of neighboring Moorhead, Minn., were forced to evacuate
Thursday night, officials on Friday ordered residents from about 150 more Fargo
homes to leave just after 2 a.m. The authorities said they found a leak in a
levee near those homes, and were racing to repair it. Residents, meanwhile,
could be seen trudging out by foot, bearing belongings in bone-cold
temperatures, local news reports said.
While flooding conditions have threatened much of North Dakota and parts of
western Minnesota, and some rural communities are already under water, all eyes
on Friday were on this city and on Moorhead, a city of 34,700 just across the
Red River. More than a thousand members of the National Guard had been called in
to add more sand to the area’s already enormous dikes, but even weather
forecasters seemed at a loss to be sure what might come next.
“This is definitely ground zero right now,” said Patrick Slattery, a spokesman
for the National Weather Service. “Once you get here, into predictions above the
levels we have ever seen before, you’re taking about unbroken ground. Even we
don’t know for certain what’s going to happen.”
People here found themselves facing added challenges given the singular
dimensions of this flood. Once the river crests on Saturday, it is expected to
stay at those swelled, highest levels for several days. Dikes that hold for a
few hours may be in trouble in a matter of days, the authorities here say.
The temperature here, too — 10 degrees on Friday morning with a wind chill
reported at 4 degree below zero — tested the stamina of thousands of volunteers.
It also led some to worry about the condition of the piles sandbags. Would
sandbags slide and give way on frozen ground? Would frigid sandbags allow water
to flow through rather than holding it back?
In Fargo, a city where residents continued to offer applause at public meetings
for their political leaders even as the news grew worse and worse this week,
tempers were clearly tested by late Thursday. Kristy Fremstad, who owns rental
property in Fargo, pleaded with city officials to add sandbags to the dike near
“We’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting,” she tearfully told city
commissioners at an emergency meeting, (also attended by Gov. John Hoeven,
Senator Byron L. Dorgan and Representative Earl Pomeroy). “I need some help.”
Schools and businesses were closed. And some people in between the city’s
primary dike system and a second set of newly created emergency dikes were
advised to evacuate. Volunteers, now days into their work, went right on filling
sandbags at the Fargodome all through the night.
Across the bulging river, in Moorhead, residents who had been advised to
evacuate found themselves on roads jammed with other cars, (and, in some cases,
still covered in snow). The congested streets led some here, including Mayor
Walaker, to worry about how a broader evacuation plan, if one were required,
would play out here.
Adding to the complications of such a concept, local officials acknowledged, was
the fact that no one could be sure where the dikes might break or what roads —
given rising waters and falling snow — might be passable.
In some rural areas to the south of Fargo and elsewhere, water had already
filled homes. White caps, one law enforcement officer said, could be seen around
what had once been farm fields. Rescues were made with boats and helicopters,
even as other residents, surrounded on all sides by water, insisted on staying
Around Bismarck, the state capital, flooded neighborhoods sat empty as
demolition crews battled dangerous ice jams on the Missouri with explosives.
Water levels had dropped some there, offering hope.
“Our biggest concern is an ice jam in the river just 10 miles north of Bismarck,
which we’re hoping does not dislodge,” said Bill Wocken, that city’s
administrator. “An ice jam is kind of like my teenage daughter. Sometimes there
is just no way to predict what they’ll do next.”
In Grand Forks, which was devastated by flooding in 1997, two of the three
bridges leading in and out of town were already closed. But city officials
seemed hopeful that a $409 million Army Corps of Engineers flood protection
project, completed two years ago, would save the city from the Red River this
“We remain cautious, vigilant and watchful,” said Kevin Dean, a city spokesman.
Karen Ann Culotta contributed reporting from Chicago.
Evacuated as Waters Rise, NYT, 28.3.2009,
Red River Tops Historic Marker, Undermines Dike
March 27, 2009
Filed at 8:53 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FARGO, N.D. (AP) -- The Red River rose to a 112-year high early
Friday, breaching a dike south of downtown and forcing authorities to order the
evacuations of about 150 homes.
The river had risen to 40.32 feet early Friday -- more than 22 feet above flood
stage and inches more than the previous high water mark of 40.1 feet set April
7, 1897. It was expected to crest as high as 43 feet on Saturday.
Just after 2 a.m. Friday, residents in one neighborhood were roused from sleep
and ordered to evacuate after authorities found a leak in a dike. The leak left
the integrity of the dike in question, police Capt. Tod Dahle said.
''It's not like there's a wall of water going through,'' he said. ''It's just a
Fargo spokeswoman Karena Lunday said it was the only overnight breech and crews
would start patching it Friday morning.
Officials vowed to build the dikes higher, but there was a growing sense the
city's best efforts might not be enough.
''We do not want to give up yet. We want to go down swinging if we go down,''
Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said Thursday, just hours after the disheartening
news that forecasters had -- yet again -- increased the projected crest.
Residents in this city of 92,000 had been scrambling in subfreezing temperatures
to pile sandbags along the river and spent much of Thursday preparing for a
crest of 41 feet, only to have forecasters late in the day add up to 2 feet to
The National Weather Service said in its follow-up statement that the Red was
expected to crest between 41 and 42 feet by Saturday, but could reach 43 feet.
It said water levels could remain high for three days to a week -- a lengthy
test of on-the-fly flood control.
The first estimate sparked urgency among thousands of volunteers in Fargo. The
second shook their spirits.
''I've lived here 40 years and over a 30-minute span I've reached a point where
I'm preparing to evacuate and expect never to sleep in my house again,'' said
Tim Corwin, 55, whose south Fargo home was sheltered by sandbags to 43 feet.
Dick Bailly, 64, choked up as he looked out over his backyard dike.
''It was demoralizing this morning,'' Bailly said, his eyes welling. ''We got a
lot of work to do. People have the will to respond, but you can only fight
nature so much, and sometimes nature wins.''
But the sandbag-making operation at the Fargodome churned as furiously as ever,
sending fresh bags out to an estimated 6,000 volunteers who endured temperatures
below 20 degrees in the race to sandbag.
''I was skeptical as far as volunteers coming out today, but they're like
mailmen,'' said Leon Schlafmann, Fargo's emergency management director. ''They
come out rain, sleet or shine.''
Gov. John Hoeven called for 500 more National Guard members to join 900 already
part of the effort.
Several unusual factors sent the Red River surging to historic heights this
year. The winter was unusually cold and snowy, which left a large snowpack
sitting on top of frozen ground that couldn't absorb it. Then a warm snap and
heavy rain quickly melted the snow and sent it into toward the river.
And it all happened to a river that flows north. When most rivers in the United
States melt, they send the extra water south toward warmer, open water. When the
Red breaks up, it sends hunks of ice north into colder water that is often still
Officials ordered the evacuation of another Fargo neighborhood and a nursing
home late Thursday after authorities found cracks in an earthen levee. Residents
were not in immediate danger, and water wasn't flowing over the levee, Walaker
Still, officers went door to door to the roughly 40 homes in the River Vili
neighborhood and were evacuating Riverview Estates nursing home. Authorities
also asked the 1,000 residents who live between the main dikes and the backup
dikes in various parts of the city to leave within 24 hours. That evacuation
could become mandatory.
The city was also blocking off its main roadways Friday, so sandbag trucks could
get to where they were needed most.
Authorities across the river in Moorhead, Minn., also stepped up evacuations
Thursday. The city of about 35,000 recommended that residents leave the
southwest corner of the city and a low-lying township to the north where some
homes had already flooded.
Fargo's largest hospital and at least four nursing homes also moved residents.
''A few of them said they didn't want to go. I said I'm going where the crowd
goes,'' said 98-year-old Margaret ''Dolly'' Beaucage, who clasped rosary beads
as she waited to leave Elim Care Center.
''I'm a swimmer,'' she said, smiling, ''but not that good a swimmer.''
In rural areas south of Fargo, crews were rescuing stranded residents. Pat
Connor of the Cass County sheriff's department said 70 people had been rescued
by Thursday evening, and he expected that number to grow.
The federal government announced a disaster declaration Thursday for seven
Minnesota counties. The entire state of North Dakota had received a disaster
designation earlier in the week.
On the Canadian side of the northern-flowing Red River, ice-clogged culverts,
ice jams and the rising river threatened Manitoba residents. Several homes were
evacuated north of Winnipeg and several dozen houses were flooded.
''We're in for probably the worst two weeks that this community has ever seen in
its entire existence,'' St. Clements Mayor Steve Strang said. The Red River
crest threatening North Dakota isn't expected to arrive in Manitoba for another
On the Net:
Red River at Fargo water levels: http://sn.im/enwgc
Red River Tops Historic
Marker, Undermines Dike, NYT, 27.3.2009,
ND Univ Cancels Classes to Help With Sandbagging
March 23, 2009
Filed at 1:03 p.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
x FARGO, N.D. (AP) -- High school and college students were let out of class
Monday to help with sandbagging as residents raced to hold off possible flooding
on the rising Red River.
City officials planned to fill more than 1 million sandbags, but with more rain
forecast they increased the need to nearly 2 million sandbags -- about 500,000
each day by the end of the week.
''We're confident that we can get the bags delivered,'' said Bruce Grubb,
Fargo's enterprise director. ''Getting them made is a more daunting challenge.''
North Dakota State University canceled classes Monday and told students
transportation would be provided to and from volunteer sites. Fargo high schools
also excused busloads of students to help.
''The students are eager to help. We're ready to go,'' Fargo school spokesman
Dan Huffman said.
Administrator Pat Zavoral estimated the city was about 40 percent protected as
Officials in Fargo, with about 90,000 residents, and across the river in
northwestern Minnesota issued urgent pleas Sunday for volunteers to help with
sandbagging as a storm increased the flood threat in an area already expected to
be swamped by a record crest.
''We need this help,'' Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said Sunday. ''We need to
stay calm, we need to stay cool, but we need to get serious and get this done.''
Flood stage at Fargo is 18 feet, and the National Weather Service said the Red
River had reached 25.3 feet Monday morning. The weather service said the river
is expected to crest in Fargo early Friday at around 40 feet -- a record.
Officials said a dike protecting downtown Fargo was being raised to about 43
feet and an emergency levee south of the city was being completed.
The Minnesota National Guard said Sunday that more than 200 soldiers were being
sent to the Red River Valley to help with the flood fight, and the North Dakota
National Guard said about 250 members were ready.
Fargo is borrowing some expertise from Louisiana. The National Guard and the
city plan to bring in seven miles of 4-feet high interlocking plastic containers
that can be filled with sand to form temporary dikes, a system that was used
during Hurricane Katrina.
''It's collapsable and easy to move,'' Zavoral said.
Flooding also forced people from their homes in small ranching and farming
communities in south-central North Dakota.
North Dakota National Guard members used boats Monday morning to ferry about
five rural residents from farms in Emmons County, said county spokeswoman Marlys
Also in Emmons County, 50 to 75 homes were evacuated Sunday night in Linton, a
town of about 1,300 south of Bismarck, said county emergency manager Shawna
About 40 families abandoned their homes in Beulah on Sunday and early Monday,
said Mercer County emergency manager Richard Sorenson. County rescuers used a
boat to pick up two people from their homes Monday, he said. Beulah is a coal
country town of about 3,150 northwest of Bismarck.
''There are no injuries -- just a lot of people stressed out and worried,''
Associated Press writer James MacPherson in Bismarck contributed to this report.
ND Univ Cancels Classes
to Help With Sandbagging, NYT, 23.3.2009,
Snowstorm Moves In, Causing Delays and Closing Schools
March 3, 2009
The New York Times
By EMILY S. RUEB and TRYMAINE LEE
A heavy snowstorm continued to blanket the New York City region Monday
morning, forcing the cancellation of thousands of flights and closing most
schools as region braced for as much as a foot of snow.
By 5:30 a.m. Monday morning, four to six inches of snow had fallen in and around
New York City, and six to nine inches were reported across parts of Long Island
and Connecticut, according to the National Weather Service. Lighter snowfall —
between three and five inches — covered parts of northeastern New Jersey and the
lower Hudson Valley. In addition to the flight cancellations, major bus
carriers, including Greyhound and Peter Pan, canceled all trips after midnight.
Public schools in New York City were closed.
“We’re comfortable that today’s a day for a snow day,” Joel I. Klein, city
schools chancellor, said in an early morning interview with WCBS-TV.
Most city subways were operating on or close to schedule, but there were
significant delays on the A, G and L lines, and all New York City buses were
delayed, the Metropolitan Transit Authority reported. New Jersey Transit
commuter trains were running up to 25 minutes late, with some cancellations, and
New Jersey Transit buses were running 20 minutes late. The Long Island Railroad
also reported scattered delays.
At 7 a.m., the US Airways terminal at LaGuardia Airport was largely empty, with
the vast majority of flights canceled, and a handful of people waiting at
counters trying to reschedule their travel. A few flights were getting off the
ground. It was much the same situation at Kennedy Airport, local television
The National Weather Service predicted the heaviest snowfall through 7 or 8 a.m.
on Monday. Periods of snow were likely to continue throughout Monday afternoon.
Wind gusts were predicted to reach up to 35 miles per hour, which would classify
the storm as a nor’easter, meteorologists said.
“It’s the first of March, which you know is the month that we say comes in like
a lion and out like a lamb,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said at a news
conference on Sunday. “And while it is too soon to be counting sheep, it’s
pretty clear that the lions are getting ready to roar, if you like that.”
The looming storm sent the city and Port Authority scurrying to prepare.
The Port Authority had planned to dispatch more than 300 pieces of heavy snow
equipment, including melters and plows at the airports, and approximately 60 for
bridges and tunnels, including 28 for the George Washington Bridge alone. More
than 4,000 tons of salt and sand were available for airport roads and parking
lots, bridges and tunnels.
Vito A. Turso, the Department of Sanitation’s deputy commissioner for public
information and community affairs, estimated that 4,500 sanitation workers would
be on duty over the next 24 hours, as well as more than 2,000 pieces of
equipment, which included 365 salt spreaders and close to 1,600 plows attached
to garbage vehicles.
Because salting the roads is the first defense in these scenarios, he said the
city was prepared to dip into 130,000 tons of rock salt on reserve.
“I think the city is very, very prepared to deal with it, and if people
cooperate, then it makes our job easier,” Mr. Turso said.
Earlier Sunday, the storm crept across several Southern states, making for a
peculiar wintry sight in places like Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama.
Alabama got about four inches of snow that caused the cancellation of more than
210 church services in the central part of the Bible Belt state, according to
The Associated Press. In Georgia, the snow caused flight cancellations and made
As Wayne Letson drove through Alabama toward Florida on Sunday, the Michigan
resident told The Associated Press that he had fretted about sharing the roads
with Southerners unaccustomed to winter weather. The last time it snowed in
Alabama was more than a year ago, in January 2008.
“This is nothing to me, but I’m worried about the other people who think they
know what they’re doing,” Mr. Letson told The Associated Press as he filled up
his car with gas south of Birmingham. Up to seven inches of snow was expected
through Monday morning in areas of Maryland, northern Virginia and Washington,
where Mayor Adrian Fenty declared a snow emergency.
In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg urged commuters to take public transportation
and leave their cars at home.
“I will be taking the subway, as I do most days,” he said at the news conference
on Sunday. “Particularly in a snowstorm, it’s the only way to get around.”
Mr. Bloomberg also asked residents to check in on older friends and neighbors.
As a safety measure for those who will be driving after the storm, the Port
Authority has lowered the speed limit on all Staten Island bridges to 25 miles
per hour, said Jennifer Friedberg, a Port Authority spokeswoman.
People needing information on school closures should call the city’s information
hotline at 311 between 4 and 6 a.m.
New York City-area courts planned to remain open on Monday, but thousands of new
jurors were told not to report for duty in New York, Westchester, Rockland,
Putnam, Dutchess and Orange Counties, said David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the
state Office of Court Administration. The jurors hearing pending cases may come
to court if the judge so orders, he said.
Alternate-side parking has been suspended for Monday.
Nearly 300 flights were canceled at Newark Liberty International Airport by 10
p.m. Sunday, Ms. Friedberg said. La Guardia Airport experienced about 15
cancellations and Kennedy Airport had about 90.
“A foot of snow is significant and will cause significant travel problems late
tonight and into tomorrow morning,” said Michael Silva, a meteorologist with the
National Weather Service in Upton, N.Y.
Winds could also be a factor. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there were gusts of 35
m.p.h.,” he said. “We have to keep our eye out for blizzard conditions.” The
weather service defines a blizzard not by the amount of snowfall — even though
they tend to be accompanied by significant snow — but by three consecutive hours
of winds blowing at 35 m.p.h. and visibility of less than a quarter-mile. Since
October, New York has had only 19.3 inches of snow, as measured in Central Park,
slightly higher than the normal of 18.7 inches for the entire winter.
“Last year we lucked out,” Mr. Silva said, alluding to the 11.7 inches of snow
that fell last winter. “This will probably rank up there with some of the major
events, but it won’t be like 2006,” Mr. Silva said.
On Feb. 13, 2006, Central Park was blanketed in 26.9 inches of snow in a matter
of hours, the biggest snowstorm since record keeping began 1869.
Mr. Turso remembers the cleanup from that storm. “Every city street had been
salted and plowed within 24 hours,” he said, “which is an incredible
Emily Rueb, Eric Bisho, Mick Meenan and Jonathan Ellis contributed reporting for
Snowstorm Moves In,
Causing Delays and Closing Schools, NYT, 3.3.2009,
Tornado Kills 8 People in Oklahoma
February 11, 2009
Filed at 12:42 p.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LONE GROVE, Okla. (AP) -- Emergency crews on Wednesday searched for more
victims amid the wreckage of homes and businesses smashed by a cluster of
tornadoes that killed at least eight people.
One young woman was lifted into the air as a tornado pulled the roof off a
house, but her mother and others held her down.
Firefighters moved aside bricks and fallen walls as they sought to ensure there
were no additional victims in Lone Grove, where all of the eight victims died
Tuesday and 14 people were seriously injured, said Oklahoma Department of
Emergency Management spokeswoman Michelann Ooten. Each building that had been
searched was then marked with a large, spray-painted ''X.''
Rescuers found one woman injured but alive under an overturned mobile home.
Ooten said the National Guard was sent to help. ''We will do everything we can
to get Oklahomans the assistance they need,'' Gov. Brad Henry said.
Buildings were damaged or destroyed throughout the town of about 4,600, some 100
miles south of Oklahoma City, said Chester Agan, assistant emergency manager for
The eight confirmed deaths included seven people in Lone Grove and a truck
driver who was driving through the area, said Robert Deaton, interim chief
investigator for state Medical Examiner's office.
Most of the deaths were in an area of mobile homes that was virtually wiped out,
said Paul Sund, a spokesman for the governor.
''Some were outside, some were inside,'' said Cherokee Ballard, a spokeswoman
for the medical examiner's office. Most of the deaths appeared to be blunt force
trauma to the head, some apparently hit by flying objects, she said.
''One victim was found underneath a pickup truck the tornado had lifted and
dropped on him,'' Ballard said.
There was no storm shelter near the mobile home park.
Part of the roof blew off the house where Lana Hartman crowded into a small
clothes closet with her two daughters, three grandchildren and two friends. The
twister lifted one of her daughters into the air, but everyone grabbed the girl,
''We held onto each other and did a lot of praying,'' said Hartman's friend
''I was in shock, I think I still am,'' Hartman said. ''We're alive, that's all
Hartman, who had just moved into the rented house on Monday, said there wasn't
much warning. ''We heard the sirens blow and it was here,'' she said.
The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning, meaning a tornado is
imminent and residents should take shelter, at 6:50 p.m. Another was issued at
7:15 p.m. when the tornado was spotted, and the twister hit Lone Grove 10
Tears rolled down the cheeks of Trina Quinton as she stood next to a pile of
rubble that used to be a furniture store owned by a cousin.
''This is where I was raised, this is where I grew up,'' she said.
The furniture store was closed when the tornado struck and her cousin's family
wasn't there. ''This is how they make their living, rebuilding is probably not
going to be an option,'' Quinton said.
Lone Grove resident Joe Hornback, 42, said he and his neighbors took shelter in
the only cellar on their block. ''There were 30 of us in a 6 by 6 underground
cellar,'' he said.
Shirley Mose was not home when the tornado struck but returned Wednesday morning
with members of her family and found her home destroyed and her pickup truck
''I had a little Chihuahua that stayed in there,'' Mose said. ''We found her
bed, but not her. I guess she's gone.''
A twister also damaged homes and businesses in the Oklahoma City metropolitan
area, but only three minor injuries were reported. Another tornado was reported
in north-central Oklahoma, six homes were destroyed near the Oklahoma City
suburb of Edmond, and a separate tornado caused property damage but no injuries
in Springfield, Mo.
The tornado in northwest Oklahoma City apparently developed near Wiley Post
Airport and then headed northeast, damaging several shopping centers and
restaurants at a major intersection.
That twister then hit the Boulder Ridge Apartments, a spread of two-story units
surrounding a courtyard.
Shawn Tiesman, 33, moved to the complex from Iowa about four months ago and got
his first taste of Oklahoma's notorious weather but without the same protection
of his former home.
''Where I'm from, we've got basements,'' Tiesman said. ''I'm amazed that there's
no basements here.''
He invited his upstairs neighbors into his apartment and then used his futon
mattress to barricade them into a walk-in closet. While they were in the closet,
a large section of roof was blown off one of the complex's buildings and part of
a wall was blown off another.
Tornado sirens were sounded in the area but some residents said they were still
caught off guard. ''I can't believe we didn't hear it,'' said Traci Keil, 37.
Oklahoma Gas and Electric reported about 8,900 customers without power, nearly
3,500 in Lone Grove, according to its Web site.
Tornadoes in Oklahoma are most frequent in the spring, but can occur at any
time, weather service meteorologist Rick Smith said.
Since 1950 the state has been struck by 44 February tornadoes, said weather
service meteorologist Doug Speheger in Norman. The most recent one before
Tuesday's spurt occurred Feb. 25, 2000, damaging a barn and power lines in Ellis
and Harper counties in western Oklahoma.
Outside Oklahoma, however, Speheger said an outbreak of twisters on Feb. 5,
2008, killed more than 50 people in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and
(This version CORRECTS the date of last February tornado in Oklahoma to Feb. 25,
Tornado Kills 8 People
in Oklahoma, NYT, 11.2.2009,
Man Dies and Scores Are Rescued From Ice Floe
February 8, 2009
The New York Times
By LIZ ROBBINS
One man died after more than 100 ice fisherman who ventured a mile onto the
western Ohio shores of Lake Erie Saturday had to be rescued after an eight-mile
long portion of ice they were on broke away amid warming conditions and starting
The man, who has not yet been identified, fell into the water while looking for
a path to the shore and died when he was being airlifted to the hospital, the
Ottawa County sheriff said.
In a telephone interview the sheriff, Bob Bratton, said that the rescue
operation took about five hours and more than 100 people were rescued by local
authorities and United States Coast Guard agents.
By nightfall, a Coast Guard spokesman said that a total of 134 people were
“It’s very dangerous, but this has gone on for years,” Mr. Bratton said of the
popular culture of ice fishing on the Great Lakes. “We had a death out there
today, and that is so frustrating to me because common sense dictated it
Ice in western sections of Lake Erie can be up to two feet thick. But
temperatures had risen above freezing on Saturday, and a brisk 35-mile an hour
wind contributed to the cracking of the ice.
The fisherman, who were on the ice between Sandusky and Toledo became imperiled
after they ventured farther onto the frozen lake .
According to Sheriff Bratton and the Coast Guard, the fishermen built a
makeshift bridge with wooden planks and went out to farther. But Chief Petty
Officer Robert Lanier of the Coast Guard said that soon afterward, the ice
shifted and the planks fell into the water, stranding the fishermen.
Chief Lanier said his station had received a distress call around 10:45 a.m.,
and helicopters were dispatched from Detroit and Travers City, Mich. In
addition, a C-130 plane used for surveying was flown in from Elizabeth City,
“Ice fishing is a culture here in the Great Lakes and the coast guard
understands people in the community here have been doing it all their life and
will continue to do it all their life,” he said.
Local authorities mobilized three helicopters and airboats, which eventually
took the stranded fisherman to shore, assisted by personnel from 15 fire
departments.. Sheriff Bratton said that some firemen had to convince people to
leave the ice.
He said he was frustrated that so much manpower and money were being used to
rescue people who knowingly put themselves in danger, adding that one fisherman
who was rescued admitted that going out farther on the lake might not have been
the best idea.
“You know,” Mr. Bratton recalled the man telling him, “we shouldn’t have been
out there today.”
Chris Maag contributed reporting from Sandusky, Ohio.
Man Dies and Scores Are
Rescued From Ice Floe, NYT, 8.2.2009,
Obama’s Order Is Likely to Tighten Auto Standards
January 26, 2009
The New York Times
By JOHN M. BRODER and PETER BAKER
WASHINGTON — President Obama will direct federal regulators on
Monday to move swiftly on an application by California and 13 other states to
set strict automobile emission and fuel efficiency standards, two administration
officials said Sunday.
The directive makes good on an Obama campaign pledge and signifies a sharp
reversal of Bush administration policy. Granting California and the other states
the right to regulate tailpipe emissions would be one of the most emphatic
actions Mr. Obama could take to quickly put his stamp on environmental policy.
Mr. Obama’s presidential memorandum will order the Environmental Protection
Agency to reconsider the Bush administration’s past rejection of the California
application. While it stops short of flatly ordering the Bush decision reversed,
the agency’s regulators are now widely expected to do so after completing a
formal review process.
Once they act, automobile manufacturers will quickly have to retool to begin
producing and selling cars and trucks that get higher mileage than the national
standard, and on a faster phase-in schedule. The auto companies have lobbied
hard against the regulations and challenged them in court.
Mr. Obama will use the announcement to bolster the impression of a sharp break
from the Bush era on all fronts, following his decisions last week to close the
detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; tighten limits on interrogation
tactics by Central Intelligence Agency officers; order plans to withdraw combat
forces from Iraq; and reverse President George W. Bush’s financing restrictions
on groups that promote or provide abortion overseas, administration officials
Beyond acting on the California emissions law, officials said, Mr. Obama will
direct the Transportation Department to quickly finalize interim nationwide
regulations requiring the automobile industry to increase fuel efficiency
standards to comply with a 2007 law, rules that the Bush administration decided
at the last minute not to issue.
To avoid losing another year, Mr. Obama will order temporary regulations to be
completed by March so automakers have enough time to retool for vehicles sold in
2011. Final standards for later years will be determined by a separate process
that under Mr. Obama’s order must take into consideration legal, scientific and
He will also order federal departments and agencies to find new ways to save
energy and be more environmentally friendly. And he will highlight the elements
in his $825 billion economic stimulus plan intended to create jobs around
The announcements, to be made in the East Room, will begin a week of efforts to
get the stimulus plan through Congress. The White House hopes the Senate will
confirm Timothy F. Geithner as Treasury secretary on Monday, and Mr. Obama plans
to travel to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to meet with both Senate and House
Republican caucuses and lobby for his stimulus package. Mr. Obama’s aides expect
the House to vote on its plan on Wednesday.
But the centerpiece of Monday’s anticipated announcement is Mr. Obama’s
directive to the Environmental Protection Agency to begin work immediately on
granting California a waiver, under the Clean Air Act, which allows the state, a
longtime leader in air quality matters, to set standards for automobile
emissions stricter than the national rules.
California has already won numerous waivers for controls on emissions that cause
smog, as opposed to global warming.
The Bush administration denied the waiver in late 2007, saying that recently
enacted federal mileage rules made the action unnecessary and that allowing
California and the 13 other states the right to set their own pollution rules
would result in an unenforceable patchwork of environmental law.
The auto companies had advocated a denial, saying a waiver would require them to
produce two sets of vehicles, one to meet the strict California standard and
another that could be sold in the remaining states.
The Bush administration’s environmental agency director, Stephen L. Johnson,
echoed the automakers’ claims in denying California’s application, ignoring the
near-unanimous advice of agency lawyers and scientists that the waiver be
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, a Republican, wrote to Mr. Obama last
week asking him to swiftly reconsider Mr. Bush’s decision. The head of
California’s Air Resources Board, Mary D. Nichols, also wrote to the new
director of the environmental agency, Lisa P. Jackson, asking for a quick
reversal of the Bush policy.
Ms. Nichols said Sunday night that she had not been formally notified that Mr.
Obama intended to move toward granting the waiver. But she said, “Assuming that
it is favorable to our request, we’re delighted that the president is acting so
quickly to reverse one of the worst decisions by the Bush administration and to
get the E.P.A. back on track.”
Ms. Jackson indicated in her confirmation hearing this month that she would
“aggressively” review California’s application. The environmental agency has
routinely granted California such waivers dozens of times over the past 40
The California law, which was originally meant to take effect in the 2009 model
year, requires automakers to cut emissions by nearly a third by 2016, four years
ahead of the federal timetable. The result would be an increase in fuel
efficiency in the American car and light truck fleet to roughly 35 miles per
gallon from the current average of 27.
The emissions standards are part of an ambitious California plan to reduce
emissions of the gases that are blamed for the heating of the atmosphere.
Automotive emissions account for more than one-fifth of all such greenhouse
California was joined in its plea by 13 other states, including New York, New
Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Washington. Three
other states have indicated they plan to adopt the California standard. Together
they account for about half of the American market for cars and light trucks.
Charles Territo, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said
the car makers would prefer a single national standard and needed time to
develop new fuel-sipping models. “Applying California standards to several
different states would create a complex, confusing and very difficult situation
for manufacturers,” he said last week in anticipation of the Obama
Mr. Obama wants to use the Monday event to promote the environmental and energy
elements of his economic plan, aides said. According to a report released by the
White House this weekend, the plan is intended to double renewable energy
generating capacity over three years, which would be enough to power six million
It would also pay for 3,000 miles of new or modernized transmission lines as
part of a new national electric grid as well as 40 million “smart meters,” which
provide instant readouts of electricity uses, on American homes. The money would
also help refurbish two million homes and 75 percent of federal building space
to better guard against the weather and conserve enough energy to save
low-income families $350 a year and the federal government $2 billion a year,
according to the report.
The White House also said that Mr. Obama wanted to start a “clean energy finance
initiative” to leverage $100 million in private sector investments over the next
three years through loan guarantees and other financial support.
Environmentalists and California Democrats had pressed hard for the tougher
automotive standards. Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the
Center for American Progress in Washington, plans to attend Monday’s
announcement and said he was pleased by the quick action.
“This is a complete reversal of President Bush’s policy of censoring or ignoring
global warming science,” Mr. Weiss said. “With the fuel economy measures and
clean energy investments in the recovery package, President Obama has done more
in one week to reduce oil dependence and global warming than George Bush did in
The California rules would not take effect immediately, but would require
several months of legal review and public comment. The auto companies could
challenge them in court, but they have been unsuccessful in previous lawsuits.
The Clean Air Act allows California to seek a waiver from federal rules if it
can demonstrate that its own regulations are more stringent, and needed to
address its air pollution problems. California’s trend-setting air resources
board has done this successfully more than 50 times. Other states can adhere to
either the California or the federal standard.
Felicity Barringer contributed reporting from Palo Alto, Calif.
Obama’s Order Is
Likely to Tighten Auto Standards, NYT, 26.1.2009,
Big Chill: Blast of Arctic Air Stuns Eastern US
January 17, 2009
Filed at 4:43 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama briefly turned colder than Alaska, water
fountains froze into ice sculptures in South Carolina and Florida shivered
through its brush with the Arctic air blast that deadened car batteries in the
Northeast and prompted scattered Midwest power outages.
As Southerners awaited an expected weekend thaw, the Northeast persisted under
the bitterly cold air from Canada that sent temperatures plunging in some places
below minus 30 degrees Friday and left even longtime residents reluctant to
Quentin Masters braved the Big Chill, making a trip to a Syracuse, N.Y., post
office to mail his sister a gift for her birthday Monday.
''It was almost too cold to come down,'' he said, but he added, ''I don't want
to be late.''
Single-digit temperatures and subzero wind chills were expected in western New
York through the weekend, with more seasonable conditions moving in early next
To Southerners, who rarely see temperatures so cold, the icebox-like weather was
the most jarring. Construction worker Allen Johnson wore a gray beanie, flannel
shirt, long johns and boots as he stopped for coffee in Montgomery, Ala., after
an overnight low of 22 degrees Friday.
''No matter how bad it is, it could be worse -- we could be in Anchorage,
Alaska,'' Johnson said. Actually, the temperature was about 20 degrees warmer in
Anchorage for a while Friday.
Freezing temperatures threatened to kill picturesque Spanish moss hanging from
Gulf Coast trees. In Spartanburg, S.C., a hard freeze coated a water fountain in
shimmering icicles. And it was too cold to bet on dogs in West Virginia, ditto
Heather Davis, of NashvillePAW Magazine, was watching as her photographer
unsuccessfully tried to coax their cover model, a white poodle named Cotton, to
pose outdoors for the animal publication in that city in Tennessee. Cotton, who
is up for adoption, ran to the car and didn't want to leave.
''I don't think I realized how cold it was,'' Davis said, laughing.
But gusting winds were no laughing matter in Ohio, where temperatures pushed to
their lowest this winter and forced scattered power outages. Lows ranged from
minus 6 degrees in Cincinnati to minus 14 degrees in Dayton and Toledo -- just
missing record lows for Friday's date.
Thousands in Ohio and Illinois lost power for several hours while Charleston,
W.Va.-based Appalachian Power, which delivers electricity to more than 1 million
customers Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, had record electricity demand
as businesses and homes cranked up the heat.
In Columbus, Ohio, 45-year-old Brandon Champney beat the cold by visiting the
orchid exhibit at the Franklin Park Conservatory -- a deliciously
climate-controlled 72 degrees.
''It's beautiful, warm, great,'' Champney said.
The cold claimed at least six lives since Friday and contributed to dozens of
traffic accidents. One death involved a man in a wheelchair who was found in
subzero temperatures stuck in the snow, a shovel in his hand, outside his home
in Des Moines, Iowa.
In central Pennsylvania, AAA fielded a spike in calls from motorists whose
batteries went dead or door locks froze shut. Wind chills were as low as 25
degrees below zero in greater Pittsburgh.
In Michigan, a winter storm watch was in effect for parts of the Lower
Peninsula, where up to 8 inches of snow could fall by Sunday morning, the
weather service said.
And in Illinois, where a low of 32 degrees below zero was recorded in a
north-central area Friday, the weather service predicted only modest weekend
relief -- sort of. The mercury was expected to head Saturday into the 20s in
northern Illinois and the 30s in southern Illinois.
''The heat wave begins,'' meteorologist Tim Halbach quipped.
Associated Press writers William Kates in Syracuse, Kristin M. Hall in
Nashville, Tenn., and David Mercer in Champaign, Ill., contributed to this
Big Chill: Blast of Arctic Air Stuns
Eastern US, NYT, 17.1.2009,