As we move through February 2000, there are some major ice/snow events in different corners of the world. A good deal of the Middle Atlantic states in the U.S. are enjoying more tranquil weather after their round of ice and snow storms in late January 2000. However, parts of Alaska, especially the south central part of the state near the Gulf of Alaska, has received heavy snowfalls so far this winter. This snow has led to major avalanches.
"The Kenai Peninsula still has some ticking time bombs. Natural avalanche releases are still occurring and the definite threat to human life continues," said Doug Fesler of the Alaska Mountain Safety Center. "Typically in backcountry accidents, 96% of avalanche victims trigger the avalanche that catches them," continued Fesler. "Avalanches happen for particular reasons and backcountry travelers need to learn how to assess the stability of the snow pack. When in doubt, stay on low angled slopes of 30 degrees or less, as long as those slopes are not connected to steeper terrain." "The threat of avalanches in backcountry areas and on the road system could linger until summer. Weather patterns such as rain, heavy snow and wind can change avalanche conditions rapidly," said Fesler. Additional information is available on the Avalanche 2000 www page.
Tornadoes ripped through southwest Georgia shortly after midnight on the 14th, killing at least 18 people, and injuring more than 100. The town of Camilla, GA in Mitchell County appears to have been hardest hit. According to reports, a tornado cut a five-mile path through a housing development south of town. Preliminary estimates indicate that at least 450 homes were demolished overall. Fourteen people died in Mitchell County, said Liz McQueen, a Red Cross representative working at a temporary morgue in Camilla. Insured losses are currenly estimated to be $25 million. See preliminary NOAA/Storm Prediction Center damage reports for further details.
Also, see the Midwest Regional Climate Center's report on temperature extremes and flooding in the Midwest region.
Alaska isn't the only area getting lots of snow. Major snows hit parts of the Middle East in late January and early February, and snow continues to cause problems across portions of eastern Europe. Cold temperatures and blizzards have sharply increased energy demands throughout Serbia, which in turn have strained the energy infrastructure. Serbian officials enforced power outages, such as two-hour power cuts in Belgrade, in order to conserve energy.
Elsewhere globally, flooding is causing problems. Media reports indicated that the Feb 1-6th flooding, which affected some 300 villages in the southern Philippines, has resulted in 23 fatalities, 50 houses destroyed and $4.1 million in damage to crops.
Tropical Cyclone Connie , according to media reports, affected the island of Reunion during Feb 5-6, and resulted in 2 deaths while leaving at least 600 people homeless. One hundred homes were reportedly destroyed.
Rainfall also caused flooding in Mozambique, Botswana, South Africa, and Swaziland during the month. Media reports indicate that this is the worst flooding across southern Africa in nearly 50 years. More than a week's worth of heavy rainfall damaged or destroyed bridges, roads, rails and water systems. In South Africa's Northern Province, over two dozen people are believed dead while thousands have been left homeless. In addition, parts of the Kruger National Park have been flooded. Flooding in Mozambique, with the onset of the rainy season, has reportedly killed thousands and displaced well over 250,000 people who have sought temporary shelter.
Tropical Cyclone Eline added insult to injury and drenched already flood stricken Mozambique on the 22nd. The country was slowly recovering from its heaviest flooding in half a century. Even before the cyclone brought more rain and caused more damage, U.N. aid workers said they were struggling to provide food and water for those stranded or left destitute by the torrential rains during the first two weeks of February. Mozambique Prime Minster Pascoal Mocumbi told Reuters that "It's definitely a major-scale disaster," said Marielise Berg-Sonne, a Red Cross official. Berg-Sonne said as many as 800,000 people are at risk from flood-related outbreaks of diseases such as cholera, malaria and meningitis. Cyclone Eline also brought some heavy rains to eastern Zimbabwe.
Ayers Rock in Australia, normally a dry continental interior climate, has received heavy monsoon rains. Heavy downpours have turned the parched heart of Australia into an inland sea, with waterfalls cascading down the face of the giant Uluru (Ayers Rock) and outback towns flooded. A complete report is available at CNN Australia Flooding report.
Also, NOAA satellites are helping scientists keep tabs on volcanoes. This image over northeastern Sicily this month shows Mt. Etna . The volcano can be seen as a "hot signature - (red dot) " surrounded by snow cover.
Other global highlights for the month can be found at NOAA/OGP Special Global Summary for February 2000.