Hazard Roundup--August 2008

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Detailed Description

A roundup of the previous month's hazard-related events around the world, with some newsworthy tidbits.

Details

Episode Number: 63

Date Taken:

Location Taken: US

Transcript

Dave Hebert

Hey, everybody, real quick before we start: Do not forget to enter the Be a CoreCast Host for a Day Contest. The lucky winner—you guessed it—gets to host their very own episode of CoreCast.

The contest ends September 26, so make sure to enter by sending your name and e-mail address to corecast@usgs.gov. That's C-O-R-E-C-A-S-T at usgs.gov. Learn more about the contest by listening to episode 60 of CoreCast at usgs.gov/corecast.

Remember, we're only using your personal information for the purposes of choosing a winner. If you're under 18, get your parents' permission. USGS employees and their immediate families are not eligible. Good luck, and enjoy this episode of CoreCast.

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Brian Campbell

Welcome and thanks for tuning in to the U.S. Geological Survey's Hazards Round-Up for August 2008.  I am Brian Campbell, your host.

More volcanic activity in Alaska, a tropical storm in Florida, flooding in North Carolina and the threat of a massive hurricane in the Gulf Coast. These natural hazards kept U.S.G.S scientists busy throughout the month.

August began with yet another volcanic eruption in Alaska's Aleutian Islands.  Kasatochi volcano erupted on August 7, sending billowy plumes of ash as high as 45,000 feet into the air! Kasatochi's eruption was the third in just three weeks for the Aleutian Islands!

Amazingly, two Fish & Wildlife biologists were evacuated from the island by a commercial fishing boat just one hour prior to the eruption! U.S.G.S scientists can take some pride in the rescue, which was orchestrated in response to their careful, persistent monitoring of increased seismic activity on the island in the hours leading up to the eruption.  While such seismic activity does not always indicate with certainty that an eruption will occur, no one was willing to take that chance.  In the end, it turned out to be a very close call. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

In a podcast interview following the eruption, U.S.G.S volcano expert Marianne Guffanti stresses an important lesson to be learned from Kasatochi, namely that there is not always much time between when a volcano begins to show signs of unrest and when an eruption occurs. I encourage you to listen to the entire interview at http://www.usgs.gov/corecast, Episode 59.

While volcanoes have been keeping U.S.G.S scientists busy in Alaska, hurricane and tropical storm season has been keeping them busy elsewhere.

Tropical Storm Fay made landfall in the Florida Keys on August 18 and bombarded the state with heavy rain and strong winds of up to 65 mph for seven straight days. Fourteen people died in Florida and millions of dollars worth of damage was inflicted as a result of the storm.

While Tropical Storm Fay primarily impacted Florida, its reach extended along the entire east coast.Perhaps nowhere was Fay more poignantly felt than in North Carolina, where remnants of the storm brought torrents of rain and flooding to parts of the state that had previously been suffering from a record-breaking drought.

The torrential rainfall in North Carolina was monitored by U.S.G.S rain and stream gauges. These gauges are equipped with data recorders and radio transmitters that rapidly send rainfall and streamflow data to U.S.G.S scientists and local emergency response agencies.  Twenty-four hour rainfall totals in excess of 10 inches were reported at seven such gauges in and around Mecklenburg County- the seat of Charlotte- while record breaking flood peaks and stream flows were recorded elsewhere in the state.  Such data is not just restricted to U.S.G.S scientists and the local emergency response agencies, though! It is also available in real time to the general public through the U.S.G.S website. Feel free to visit water.usgs.gov to view our data or learn more about our water programs.

The reality of Tropical Storm Fay paled in comparison to the expectations for Hurricane Gustav, which made landfall on the coast of Louisiana about 70 miles southwest of New Orleans on September 1.I know what you are thinking- "This is a hazards round-up for the month of August! Save Gustav for next month!"- Well, preparations for the storm kept U.S.G.S scientists plenty busy during the final days of August while Louisiana and much of the Gulf Coast was overcome by a flurry of anticipation that ultimately proved to be more powerful and newsworthy than the storm itself.

As the Category 4 storm ripped through the Caribbean on a destined path for the Gulf Coast, Louisiana and the rest of the coastal states braced for the worst. Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans issued a mandatory evacuation order and curfew for the Big Easy while Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal encouraged citizens, particularly those residing along the coast, to take such evacuation orders seriously. Nearly 2 million people in Louisiana did just that, unwilling to risk their lives in another large hurricane. After all, for many the memories of Katrina three years earlier still lingered.

While the policy-makers, emergency response crews and citizens of the Gulf Coast were making their respective preparations for Gustav, the U.S.G.S sent in its storm teams to install rapidly-deployable mobile gages and storm surge sensors to complement the permanent stream gages there and provide additional real-time monitoring data.  Such data is essential for effective forecasting and coordinating safe and proper emergency response activities during the course of the storm. The data is also useful in the long-run for modeling future storms.

Louisiana and the Gulf Coast was as prepared as it could be for Gustav when the Hurricane made landfall on September 1st.However, you will have to wait until next month for the details on that. After all, this is a round-up for the month of August and I'd hate to get ahead of myself.

Hazards Round-Up is a product of the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior. I'm Brian Campbell. Thanks for listening. 

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Music credit: Edgen, A Mastermind's Plan of Evil