The Free Press WV

►  July ranks 2nd for heat globally, hottest recorded on land

Earth yet again sizzled with unprecedented heat last month.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday Earth sweated to its second hottest month since recordkeeping began in 1880. At 61.89 degrees (16.63 Celsius), last month was behind July 2016′s all-time record by .09 degrees.

But Earth’s land temperatures in July were the hottest on record at 59.96 degrees (15.5 Celsius), passing July 2016′s by one-seventh of a degree.

NOAA climate scientist Jake Crouch says land measurements are important because that’s where we live.

NASA, which uses newer ocean measurements and includes estimates for the Arctic unlike NOAA, calculated that July 2017 was the all-time hottest month.

Crouch says this heat is from long-term man-made warming and is unusual because there is no El Nino spiking global temperatures.


The Free Press WV

►  Science Says: Lightning is zapping fewer Americans, not more

Lightning — once one of nature’s biggest killers —is claiming far fewer lives in the United States, mostly because we’ve learned to get out of the way.

In the 1940s, when there were fewer people, lightning killed more than 300 people annually. So far this year, 13 people have died after being struck, on pace for a record low of 17 deaths. Taking the growing population into account, the lightning death rate has shrunk more than forty-fold since record-keeping began in 1940.

People seem to be capturing the phenomenon more on camera than before, making it seem like something new and sizzling is going on in the air. Separate videos last month of a Florida lifeguard and an airport worker being hit by lightning went viral. Both survived.

Lightning strikes have not changed — they hit about the same amount as they used to, said Pennsylvania State University meteorology professor Paul Markowski.

A big difference: Fewer of us are outside during bad weather. If we’re not huddled indoors, we’re often in cars. Vehicles with metal roofs — not convertibles — are safe from lightning, experts say.

“As a society we spend less time outside,” said Harold Brooks, a scientist at the National Weather Service’s National Severe Storms Laboratory. “Especially farmers. There aren’t just many farmers around.”

Decades ago, farmers would be in fields and were the tallest object, making them most likely to get hit, said National Weather Service lightning safety specialist John Jensenius Jr.

That helps explain the drop in yearly lightning deaths from about 329 in the 1940s to about 98 in the 1970s. The numbers have kept plunging since. From 2007-2016, average yearly deaths dropped to 31.

Improved medical care also has played a key role, including wider use of defibrillators and more CPR-trained bystanders.

When Dr. Mary Ann Cooper started out in the emergency room in the 1970s, there was nothing in textbooks about how to treat lightning victims.

Now instead of treating lightning patients the same way as people who touch high-voltage wires and are burned, doctors focus more on the neurological damage, said Cooper, professor emerita of emergency medicine at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

Perhaps the biggest reason deaths are down is because of efforts to teach people not to get hit in the first place.

“We’ve equipped the public by saying, ‘When thunder roars, go indoors .’ Three-year-olds can remember that,” Cooper said.

Men are four times more likely to be killed by lightning in the U.S. than women, statistics show. Men do riskier things that get them in trouble in storms, Cooper and Jensenius said.

“Our victims are at the wrong place at the wrong time. The wrong place is anywhere outside. The wrong time is anywhere that you can hear thunder,” said Jensenius.

In July — the deadliest month for lightning in the U.S. — vacationers Andre Bauldock and Lamar Rayfield were on a beach in Florida when a thunderstorm rolled in.

“We ignored it. We were just thinking it was going to pass over soon,” recalled Bauldock. “We could see the sun in the distance. I was admiring the lightning out in the ocean and I thought it was far away.”

The next thing Bauldock remembers is waking up in a parking lot surrounded by people. He was told the lightning struck his friend’s stomach and then hit him. They both fell over. Rayfield eventually died.

An analysis of 352 U.S. lightning deaths from 2006 to 2016 found people were most often doing something near water — fishing, camping and beach activities— when they were hit. Golf doesn’t even crack the top dozen activities, but soccer does, said Jensenius.

James Church was hit earlier this year in Florida as his first cast of the day flew through the air.

“I woke up. I couldn’t move. It was like an elephant sitting on me, not a single muscle would work,” Church recalled. “My eyes were working, my brain was working ... I couldn’t feel anything.”


The Free Press WV

►  Tropical Storm Gert forms in the Atlantic Ocean

Tropical Storm Gert is getting a little stronger in the Atlantic Ocean, with swells expected to begin affecting portions of the U.S. East Coast later Monday.

The National Hurricane Center said Gert was centered about 460 miles (735 kilometers) west-southwest of Bermuda Monday morning and had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kph). It is moving toward the north-northwest at 10 mph (16 kph).

A gradual turn toward the northeast with an increase in forward speed is forecast for the next 48 hours.

Gert is expected to become a hurricane by Tuesday night.

Swells generated by Gert will begin to affect portions of the coast of North Carolina and Virginia later in the day.

The Hurricane Center says these swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.


The Free Press WV

►  2016 weather report: Extreme and anything but normal

Last year’s global weather was far more extreme or record breaking than anything approaching normal, according to a new report.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday released its annual checkup of the Earth, highlighting numerous records including hottest year, highest sea level, and lowest sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctica.

The 299-page report, written by scientists around the world and published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, shows that 2016 was “very extreme and it is a cause for concern,“ said co-editor Jessica Blunden, a NOAA climate scientist.

Researchers called it a clear signal of human-caused climate change. A record large El Nino, the warming of the central Pacific that changes weather worldwide, was also a big factor in last year’s wild weather.

“2016 will be forever etched in my brain as the year we crossed a new threshold of climate change — one that gave us a grim glimpse into our future,“ said Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb, who had no role in the report.

Scientists examined dozens of key climate measures and found:

— At any given time, nearly one-eighth of the world’s land mass was in severe drought. That’s far higher than normal and “one of the worst years for drought,“ said report co-author Robert Dunn of the United Kingdom Met Office.

— Extreme weather was everywhere. Giant downpours were up. Heat waves struck all over the globe, including a nasty one in India. Extreme weather contributed to a gigantic wildfire in Canada.

— Global sea level rose another quarter of an inch for the sixth straight year of record high sea levels.

— There were 93 tropical cyclones across the globe, 13 percent more than normal. That included Hurricane Matthew that killed about 1,000 people in Haiti.

— The world’s glaciers shrank — for the 37th year in a row — by an average of about 3 feet.

— Greenland’s ice sheet in 2016 lost 341 billion tons of ice. It has lost 4,400 billion tons of ice since 2002.

“2016 was a year in the Arctic like we’ve never seen before,“ said NOAA Arctic research chief Jeremy Mathis, who called it “a clear and more pronounced signal of warming than in any other year on record.“

Many of the findings have been previously released, including that 2016 was the hottest year on record for the third consecutive year. A separate study based on modeling and weather patterns shows three hot years in a row is close to impossible to be a natural coincidence.

The odds of three years in a row setting heat records without man-made global warming is only 0.7 percent, compared to 30 to 50 percent with greenhouse gases according to a separate study published Thursday in the Geophysical Research Letters.

NOAA report co-editor Deke Arndt said the only notable normal global measure in 2016 was snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere.

Flooding in West Virginia… Again

The Free Press WV

Last weekend heavy rains—several inches within an hour overnight Friday—flooded communities from Ohio County in the Northern Panhandle down through North Central West Virginia.  Much of the damage seemed to follow along the route 250 corridor.

As many as 400 homes and businesses in Marshall County sustained water damage. The worst of it was in McMechen, where runoff roared down the hillside and flooded the town.  Several dozen people had to be rescued from their homes by emergency workers and volunteers in boats.

In the Wetzel County town of Hundred, the community spent the last two years raising money for a new fire hall. They opened the building just two weeks ago, only to see it flooded last weekend.  Five feet of muddy water soaked the brand new building and damaged or destroyed several emergency vehicles.

Wetzel County House of Delegates member Dave Pethtel said his town has been devastated. “I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve never seen water this high before,” he said on MetroNews Talkine Monday.

In Littleton (Wetzel County), Rachel McDiffitt waded through waist-deep water to get to safety.  She came back after the flood waters receded to find her house and car destroyed. A few items that belonged to her late daughter were covered in mud.

The Marion County town of Mannington was hard hit. Some there are calling it the worst flood in 40 years.  Shelia Higgins looked out her front door Saturday morning and found the water surrounding her truck and up to her porch. “I was really scared,” she said.  What’s left behind are mud and a terrible smell. “It’ll take a while to get dried out.”

The Marion County 911 center reported 30 water rescues during a 12-hour period Saturday.  Miraculously and thankfully no one died.

Those who had water and mud damage got busy cleaning up as soon as the flood waters receded. Volunteers started showing up to pitch in.  Some of the first to respond came from communities that suffered though the devastating flood of 2016, returning the favor for the help they received.

Meteorologists said the flooding rains were caused by an unusually strong weather pattern normally associated with fall or winter. The Nor-easter triggered heavy rains and flooding throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

West Virginia is particularly vulnerable to flash flooding because of the steep mountains and narrow valleys. The ground and valley streams simply cannot absorb several inches of rain over a short period of time.

We’re told that death and taxes are life’s only certainties, but in West Virginia we have to add one more–flooding.


The Free Press WV

►  A full recap of flooding

A state of emergency is in effect in eight West Virginia counties following flooding late Friday night and early Saturday morning.

Marion, Monongalia, Harrison, Taylor, Tucker, Wetzel, Marshall, and Ohio counties are all currently operating under the state of emergency. Taylor and Tucker counties were late additions to the Governor’s state of emergency declaration.

MORE read final DOH road update from Saturday evening 

Governor Jim Justice announced the mobilization the National Guard and Division of Highways personnel Saturday afternoon.

“We are extremely saddened and deeply concerned for all West Virginians that are experiencing flooding and damage right now,” said Governor Justice. “We have mobilized our National Guard and Highways personnel and they are assisting other first responders from across the state to make sure our citizens in these affected areas are being kept safe and out of harm’s way. Numerous evacuations have and are continuing to take place and as of right now no fatalities or serious injuries have been reported-and we want to keep it that way.

“I of all people know how terrible these situations can be after experiencing the tragedy of the flooding in West Virginia during June 2016,” Governor Justice added. “But West Virginians are strong people and in this time of need we will do everything we can to aid our neighbors. After the waters recede we will work with them to begin clean-up and start the recovery process from this horrible devastation.

“I urge all West Virginians to join Cathy and I as we continue to pray for the safety and well-being of all of our citizens that have been impacted by this flooding.”

Water rescues began in northern Marion County around 1:00 a.m. Saturday morning. Teams from Kanawha County and Harrison County were dispatched to assist and support the effort. First responders successfully made more than 30 rescues in the Mannington and Rachel areas of Marion County. No injuries or deaths were reported.

The Red Cross announced shelters have been opened in Marion County at North Marion High School in Rachel and Hundred High School in Hundred in Wetzel County.

“The Red Cross is helping those impacted by the flooding and will continue to help meet their immediate needs of food, shelter and distribution of cleaning supplies. Our hearts go out to all of those affected and we will continue to be available to them as they begin to recover,” said Erica Mani, chief executive director for the American Red Cross West Virginia Region.

Red Cross damage assessment teams spent Saturday going through the flooded counties.

Dominion Energy is experiencing a loss of service in those areas affected by the flooding. Spokesperson Bob Fulton released the following statement, asking customers not to attempt to restore service themselves:

“Due to flooding in several areas, some of Dominion Energy West Virginia customers are experiencing a loss of natural gas service and reporting an odor of gas. Due to high water, crews are having difficulty reaching some of the affected areas. As the waters recede, crews will be able to access the affected areas and restore service. If you have lost service contact Dominion Energy West Virginia. Due to safety concerns, do not attempt to restore your service. Thank you.”

The DOH has announced the closure of dozens of roads throughout all the impacted counties in the State of Emergency, including Doddridge County, Preston County, and Brooke County.

Three small streams that run through the Marshall County town of McMechen turned into raging rivers late Friday night during a flash flood that left behind damage to at least four dozen homes along with the town’s fire station and city building.

“We measured 5.56 inches of rain in an hour,” McMechen Mayor Gregg Wolfe told MetroNews as he surveyed the damage Saturday morning.”It just overwhelmed three streams that run through the center of town from the top of the hills. It was just a typical flash flood.”

There were several reported water rescues in McMechen as well.

“We got great help from rescue people from all the towns. What a great help,” Wolfe said.

Monongalia County suffered most of its damage on the county’s western end.

Delegate John Williams (D – Monongalia, 51) traveled around the county when the rain subsided Saturday morning.

“Looking out toward Dunkard Creek is flooded very badly if you are going westward,” he told WAJR-AM in Morgantown. “And so far as I can tell you it really starts around Mason-Dixon Park.”

Several roads in the Wadestown area, where they were celebrating the 90th Battelle District Fair this week, are closed.

“I stopped at a gentleman’s home,” Wiliiams said. “He looked like he had water very closely encroaching on his property. I stopped and asked if he would like a ride or if there is anything I could do. He said he thought it would be fine, but he said he thought the water was still rising.”

In Preston County, a number of major and minor roads remain closed early Saturday evening due to rock slides and high water. Dispatchers with the Preston County 911 Center are warning residents to remain cautious. The Cheat River is expected to crest at 8:00 p.m. Saturday night at 21.53 feet.

Major flood stage begins at 22 feet. If the Cheat River reaches major flood stage, dispatchers warn residents that low-lying structures will be impacted. Additionally, Rt. 72 South/River Road is expected to take the brunt of the river’s punishment.

Harrison County is presently under a state of emergency, but the major problems appear to be localized close to the Harrison-Marion County line. 911 officials told the AJR News Network that only slight damage from flooding had occurred.

“I have no reports of significant damage at all,” said Paul Bump, director of Harrison/Taylor 911 Center. “I have been calling the office asking where the problem areas are, and it’s our typically roadway flooding areas.”

Shift Supervisor Sgt. Mick said much of Harrison County’s damage has been in and around Shinnston and northern Harrison County.

“There’s some flooding, and there’s some road closures,” she said. “There’s a lot of trees down where the ground is so saturated, the trees are just falling over.”

In Ohio County, authorities described Saturday morning’s flooding as some of the worst they had seen since Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

Reports have been limited, but MetroNews confirmed similar saturation and flooding in the Wetzel County town of Hundred.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin released the following statement Saturday afternoon:

“Today Governor Justice declared a state of emergency for eight West Virginia counties because of extreme flooding,” Manchin said. “I’ve been in touch with state and local officials and my office is ready to assist in any way possible. Gayle and I send our thoughts and prayers to everyone impacted by this flooding.”

Dryer weather is in the forecast for the region Sunday, but a flood watch is in effect through 6:30 p.m. Saturday evening for Randolph, Taylor, and Barbour counties.

A flood watch remains in effect until 8:15 p.m. Saturday evening. While additional rainfall is unlikely in the Northern Panhandle or the Morgantown area, the watch remains in effect for Marion County.

A flood advisory is also in effect for Tucker County until 3:15 a.m. Sunday morning.

State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey warned against price gouging in connection with the emergency situation. State law prohibits certain consumer items from going up more than 10 percent from what it sold for 10 days before the declaration.

“I’m very concerned by the pictures, video and reports coming from areas of northern and north central West Virginia,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “I join countless others in praying for those impacted and the first responders rushing to render aid.

“West Virginians pull together in times of need. We look forward to working with consumers and businesses to help those most impacted by the flooding,” Morrisey said in a statement released Saturday.

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