Hurricane Earl was the big talk of the week, upgrading and then downgrading and picking up speed, but ultimately largely spared the East Coast the damage that many experts were predicting.
Two swimmers in New Jersey drowned in the strong tides caused by the storm, and the coast of North Carolina got pounded with wind, while some parts of New England and Nova Scotia saw some heavy rain and knocked-down power lines, but overall, Earl kept most of it's strength away from the coast and most of the damage was minimal for the hurricane that for at least a short period of time was Category Four, stronger than a certain Category Three hurricane that flooded New Orleans five years ago.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Hermine has formed in the western Gulf of Mexico, prompting a tropical storm warning from Tampico, Mexico all the way to Baffin Bay in south Texas. For those paying attention, that's exactly the same area hit recently by Hurricane Alex early this summer. With wind speeds currently at 40 mph, Hermine isn't expected to be anywhere as fierce as Alex, but anything is possible, and the storm is expected to strengthen in the warm Gulf waters.
The question is, how much?
The US agreed to send flood aid to help devastated North Korea cope with flooding on its border with China. As we reported last July, the region was blasted with heavy rains, and the normally avoidant nation reported the loss of life and the evacuation of many communities in the north.
The US pledged $750,000 to three NGO's that operate in North Korea, amaritan's Purse, Global Resource Services and Mercy Corps, calming any fears that the money could be used for anything other than relief.
In other news, the International Monetary Fund agreed to disperse $450 million in relief to Pakistan, after new estimates report that the nation lost an estimated $43 billion, or about one quarter of its 2009 GDP in the July flood. The Pakistan Red Crescent Society, with support from international partners has been steadily delivering aid to the beleaguered nation but reports that survivors could be displaced for as long as six months ad flood waters recede.
A new round of mudslides hit China this week, according to state news in that nation. Some 21 people have been declared dead, with 27 missing, and eight hospitalized in southwestern China. China, like North Korea and Pakistan have seen a very rainy summer and have experienced flooding and mudslides since June.
A massive 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocked Christchurch, New Zealand Saturday, causing an estimated $1.4 billion in damage. Some 60% of the regions structures have been damaged, and a night time curfew remains in place for the city to prevent looting. While the costs to rebuild the New Zealand city are high, experts predict that the resulting construction boom will provide many jobs to locals.
Several aftershocks have been reported since the Saturday quake, some as high as 5.4 magnitude, but deaths or major injuries have been reported, thanks to a very strict and well enforced building code.
San Diego county was rattled again this week by aftershocks of it's April 7.2 magnitude quake, with a 3.6 magnitude tremor striking just south of the border. The US Geological Survey reports no injuries or major damage.
Authorities in Los Angeles were able to put out a nasty fire that burned ten acres in an unlikely place: the north side of the 405 freeway. The major traffic artery of the city remained open during the two and a half hours required to fight the blaze. Los Angeles Fire Department Spokesman Devin Gales reported no no injuries or property reported damaged.
Orange County Fire Authority Captain Greg McKeown said a weekend blaze near Yorba Linda is still under investigation after 10 acres threatened houses before the intervention of 100 area fire fighters.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin pledged $33 million in aid for victims of Russias massive summer wildfires. More than 600 fires engulfed the nation, killing some 50 people and destroying more than 2,000 homes.
Two migrant workers made a call to Mexico's emergency dispatch system to report that they were lost for two days and dehydrated and were making a fire to signal rescuers. Well they did, in San Diego County, starting a fire that is currently some 822 acres and continues to burn.
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Battalion Chief Nick Schuler said that the original campfire has been found, but have so far not found the two lost Mexican hikers.
|Top 10 US Wildfires By Acre|
| Incident || Unit ||State||Acres|
| Toklat 2 ||Alaska Fire Service - Tanana Zone|| Alaska ||188,807|
|Turquoise Lake||Southwest Area Forestry|| Alaska ||91,885|
|White Lightning Complex|| Warm Springs Agency ||Oregon||33,732|
| Delta Complex ||Delta Area Forestry||Alaska||27,518|
| Chitanatala || Alaska Fire Service - Tanana Zone ||Alaska||25,706|
|Swakane||Washington State: Southeast||Washington||19,291|
| Eagle Trail Fire || Tok Area Forestry ||Alaska||17,934|
| Applegate ||Alaska Fire Service - Tanana Zone||Alaska||17,446|
| South Fork || Santa Fe National Forest ||New Mexico||17,086|
| Bull ||Sequoia National Forest ||California||16,442|
DISASTER OF THE WEEK
A fire broke out Thursday on an oil platform owned by Houston based Maringer Energy, Inc. All thirteen of the platform workers evacuated the rig for the water but were promptly rescued by the Coast Guard, with no major injuries reported.
With memories of the recent trouble of the ill-fated BP Gulf oil spill still fresh in everyone's minds, the incident made a rumble on Capitol Hill, as well as in Lousiana Governor Bobby Jindal's office, prompting Congressman Nick J. Randall II (D-West Virginia) the chairman of the House natural resource committee to write to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that the incident "highlights all too clearly that risks of offshore drilling are not limited to deep water."
Energy industry organizations were not pleased with what they felt was an over-reaction. Louisiana Oil & Gas Association president Don Briggs called the reaction "a stretch" to use Thursday's fire as an indictment of the industry's threat to the environment.
Federal statistic show that the Gulf of Mexico saw 514 offshore explosions between 2006 and 2009, with 486 of them causing $25,000 in damage or less, and only two causing more than $1 million in damamge