Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Devastating Floods Can Result in Human Helplessness

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover - Visitor Services Manager

Devastating Floods Can Result in Human Helplessness
Living in the Albemarle region has innumerable blessings. As Goldilocks would say, it’s “… not too hot, not too cold.”

We usually escape the extreme weather faced by many places in the world. The hurricanes of my childhood were worse than the ones we have endured in recent years. Storms named Hazel, Donna, and Ash Wednesday stand out in my memory.

The National Weather Service has described the flooding taking place in Colorado over the last two weeks as being of Biblical, indescribable proportions. The airlift being conducted is the largest since Hurricane Katrina. The media has highlighted the number of deaths, people still missing, the total of survivors being air-lifted to safety, the horrific property loss, and the emotional and monetary cost.

Human capabilities are dwarfed by the power of natural disasters and their aftermath. They make us feel powerless. History proves our helplessness in such times.

There are five main types of floods. The Areal variety happens when rain falls at such a rapid rate that the water cannot run off quickly enough. Sometimes a series of storms causes the disaster, or rain falling on areas with impermeable surfaces like concrete or frozen earth. Flash floods often result.

Riverine floods are caused when large rivers with drainage areas have obstructions such as landslides, ice, or debris. Large dams built by beavers can also cause flooding in low areas.

Estuarine and coastal flooding are caused by a combination of rising tide and low barometric pressure. Conditions created by storms at sea, tsunamis, and storm surges create these types of floods.

Urban flooding happens when heavy rainfall is too much for the drainage system of a populated area. Catastrophic flooding is the result of an earthquake, a volcanic eruption, or a dam collapsing.

The effects of flooding can include damage to buildings, bridges, roads, and canals. Loss of electric power can stop water treatment plants from operating which results in waterborne diseases.

Often the toll of diseases like typhoid and cholera are worse than the flood itself. Food shortages are brought on by bad harvests after the tragedy.
The effects of flooding are long lasting and costly.
China was the scene of the five most deadly floods in history, which occurred in 1931 (2.5-3.5 million dead), 1887 (2 million dead), 1938 (5-7 hundred thousand dead), 1975 (231,000 dead), and 1935 (145,000 dead).
In 1928 California experienced the 110th worst flood on record when the St. Francis Dam failed.
The famous Johnstown, Penn., flood occurred in 1889 when the South Fork Dam collapsed after several days of heavy rain. The dam was 14 miles upstream from the town and had been built to form a lake for vacationing millionaires like Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon. Welsh and Germans coal mining immigrants were the victims of the mishap.
Floods give us a new level of understanding and compassion for victims of natural disaster in our world.
(Source: www.lakelandelectric.com)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Fountain of Youth and Life

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover: Visitor Services Manager
The Fountain of Youth and Life

           When Ponce de León was looking for the fountain of youth in 1513, he found something just as exciting and beneficial to humankind.   He discovered “a current such that, although it had great wind, they could not proceed forward…the current was more powerful than the wind.”  It was the Gulf Stream.

            Later explorers Peter d’Anghiera and Sir Humphrey Gilbert took note of it also.  Hernando Cortez and Anton de Alaminos convinced other Spaniards to use the strong current to propel them north before they turned eastward to Europe. 
            Benjamin Franklin published the first map of the Gulf Stream in 1770.  Seeing the current as a way to speed-up commerce between the colonies, he pushed the British to use the speed of the Gulf Stream.  When they finally did take his advice, they shaved two weeks off the cross Atlantic trip.  During the colonial period, the Gulf Stream was extremely beneficial and influenced where the largest cities and ports grew.
            The Gulf Stream originates in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and then begins at the tip of Florida and winds along the coastline of the eastern United States to Newfoundland. There it divides, and forms the North Atlantic Current as it travels to Europe.  Scientists believe that the current keeps coastal countries of Europe and North America warmer than they would be ordinarily.
            Driven by wind stress, the Gulf Stream could almost be described as a powerful river within the ocean.  It is forty to sixty miles wide and averaged 3,900 feet deep.   Moving an average of five miles per hour, it hugs the coastline of the United States.  Off Florida, the temperature is seventy-five degrees, but as it goes north to Newfoundland it cools to sixty-four degrees.
From coastal North Carolina, the fishing fleets head-out into the warm waters of the Gulf Stream which produce some of the best deep sea fishing in the world.   Species that would not be there if the water were not so warm become the prizes of the anglers.  When the boats reach the Gulf Stream, the color of the water changes to a deep, crystal clear blue through which the sea life can be clearly seen. 
Hurricane watchers know that the warm waters of the Gulf Stream help to form and strengthen storms that approach the coast.  Many of them that have weakened sometimes gain power in the stream and reform into even more powerful storms.
Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad recently reached her goal of swimming from Cuba to Florida on her fifth attempt at age sixty-four.  She covered 110 miles in fifty-three hours.  “The Gulf Stream was my friend, and usually it’s not,” she said.  “Usually you’re out there going in circles…this time the Gulf Stream went north, right where I was going.” 
And so, Nyad became one of the many adventurers helped by a force of nature, the Gulf Stream.
Source (staff.orecity.k12.or.us)

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