Authorities are preparing for the worst as Hurricane Laura has rapidly strengthened into a Category 4 storm, threatening to bring brutal conditions to the coastal regions of Texas and Louisiana overnight.
On Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued increasingly urgent warnings about the bruising storms and warning that Laura would create “unsurvivable” 20-foot storm surges and “life-threatening hazards” including flash floods and violent winds ranging from between 145 mph to 175 mph.
The flood risk inland also extends far north and east with Arkansas and the Ohio and Tennessee valleys expected to feel some impact from the storm. Isolated tornadoes resulting from Laura are also likely, reports the Weather Channel.
Residents are being urged to “rush” to complete their preparations for when the hurricane makes imminent landfall, while over half a million residents of Louisiana and Texas have been ordered to evacuate.
TROPICAL UPDATE: At 1:50 pm EDT today, @NOAA's #GOES16🛰️ is zoomed in on the swirling eye of #Hurricane #Laura, whose winds are now 140 mph, making it a Cat-4 hurricane. @NHC_Atlantic says the storm will cause an "unsurvivable storm surge" in places. https://t.co/VTAp4gGkHs pic.twitter.com/dgBQcuvjJb
— NOAA Satellites – Public Affairs (@NOAASatellitePA) August 26, 2020
By 5 p.m. Wednesday, Laura remained en route to the Gulf Coast and had maximum sustained winds increasing to 145 mph. The hurricane-force winds of Laura extend 60 miles from its center while tropical-storm-force winds reach as far as 205 miles, reports Orlando Sentinel.
“Unsurvivable storm surge with large and destructive waves will cause catastrophic damage,” the NHC said. “The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.”
Experts had initially feared that Laura’s strike would come shortly after another storm, Marco, in the form of back-to-back hurricanes within the span of 48 hours. However, Marco was downgraded to a tropical storm that still managed to pummel Louisiana with strong winds and heavy rain.
Unsurvivable storm surge with large and destructive waves will cause catastrophic damage from Sea Rim State Park, Texas, to Intracoastal City, Louisiana, including Calcasieu and Sabine Lakes. This surge could penetrate up to 30 miles inland from the immediate coastline. #Laura pic.twitter.com/bV4jzT3Chd
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) August 26, 2020
But while Marco was downgraded, Laura has quickly grown in ferocity by 70 percent in a mere 24 hours, upgrading from a Category 3 to a Category 4 in a disturbing turn of events.
Earlier Wednesday, the NHC warned that satellite images had shown Laura assume its remarkably more intense form and grow to become a “formidable hurricane” presenting a dangerous threat to parts of the Gulf Coast.
“To think that there would be a wall of water over two stories high coming on shore is very difficult for most to conceive, but that is what is going to happen,” National Weather Service meteorologist Benjamin Schott informed reporters.
Once the storm makes landfall Wednesday night, it is expected to have a devastating effect as it rakes through northwestern Louisiana throughout Thursday on its way to Arkansas on Thursday night.
— Chris Cassidy (@Astro_SEAL) August 26, 2020
The hurricane should rapidly weaken to Category 1 status by Thursday afternoon, however, with maximum sustained winds lowering to 85 mph.
Experts are certain, however, that the initial strike from Hurricane Laura will be catastrophic.
“Some areas, when they wake up Thursday morning, they’re not going to believe what happened,” said senior hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart.
“We could see storm surge heights more than 15 feet in some areas,” she added. “What doesn’t get blown down by the wind could easily get knocked down by the rising ocean waters pushing well inland.”
— Reed Timmer (@ReedTimmerAccu) August 26, 2020
Even sturdy and well-built homes are likely to incur damages, while trees will be snapped and uprooted while crucial utilities such as electricity and water could be knocked out of commission for days to weeks, the NHC has warned.
“Hurricane force winds and widespread damaging wind gusts will also spread well inland into portions of eastern Texas and western Louisiana early Thursday,” the NHC said.
The evacuations are facing complications due to the still-raging coronavirus pandemic, with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott telling families that they should seek refuge in hotels and motels if they can afford to, allowing them to maintain physical distancing rather than being forced to cram in with other evacuees.
Marco and Laura have already left behind a trail of brutal damage in the Caribbean, killing at least 24 people, including an eight-year-old child and an infant in Haiti.
In Cuba, authorities managed to evacuate some 160,000 people from coastal regions, while thousands were also evacuated in the Dominican Republic.
Scientists Thrilled by Discovery of Rare, Mammoth 400-Year-Old Coral
A massive 400-year-old hard coral discovered on the Great Barrier Reef has scientists expressing their sense of surprise and excitement.
Named Muga dambhi by the Manbarra people, the Indigenous group who have traditionally taken care of the land, the “exceptionally large” brown and cream-colored coral is located off the coast of Goolboodi or Orpheus Island in the Great Barrier Reef.
It is believed that the coral was spawned some 421 to 438 years ago, meaning that its age predates the arrival of Captain James Cook and the advent of colonization in Australia, notes the Guardian.
The spectacular coral is about 35 feet wide and over 17 feet high, and is double the size of the nearest coral.
Scientists and members of the community participating in a marine science course discovered the specimen earlier this year.
While not the largest coral in the world, the huge find is of major significance to the local ecosystem, according to Adam Smith, an adjunct professor at James Cook University who wrote the field note on the find.
“It’s like a block of apartments,” Smith said. “It attracts other species. There’s other corals, there’s fish, there’s other animals around that use it for shelter or for feeding, so it’s pretty important for them.”
“It’s a bit like finding a giant redwood tree in the middle of a botanic gardens,” he added.
It is likely that the coral hasn’t been discovered for such a long time due to its location in a relatively remote and unvisited portion of a Marine National Park zone that enjoys a high degree of protection.
“Over the last 20 or 30 years, no one has noticed, or observed, or thought it newsworthy enough to share photos, or document, or do research on this giant coral,” Smith said.
The coral is in remarkable condition, with over 70 percent of its surface covered in live coral, coral rock and microalgae. No disease, bleaching or recently deceased coral has been recorded on the specimen.
“The cumulative impact of almost 100 bleaching events and up to 80 major cyclones over a period of four centuries, plus declining nearshore water quality contextualise the high resilience of this Porites coral,” the field note added.
The specific coral has been given the name Muga dhambi, meaning big coral, out of respect for the Indigenous knowledge, language, and culture of the Manbarra Traditional Owners.
Greenland Ice Washed Away as Summit Sees Rain for First Time in Recorded History
For the first time in recorded history, torrential downpours of rain have struck Greenland’s icy summit nearly two miles above sea level.
Greenland, an environmentally sensitive island, is typically known for its majestic ice sheet and snowy climate, but this is fast changing due to a massive melt taking place this summer.
However, the typical snowfall has been replaced in recent years not simply by a few showers, but by heavy rainfall. The torrential downpour last week was so huge, in fact, that it washed away a terrifying amount of ice across some 337,000 square miles of the ice shelf’s surface, reports Earther.
Temperatures at the ice shelf had simultaneously warmed to a significant degree, with the summit reaching 33 degrees Fahrenheit – within a degree above freezing and the third time that the shelf has surpassed freezing temperatures this decade.
The fact that rain is falling on ice rather than snow is also significant because it is melting ice across much of southern Greenland, which already saw huge melting events last month, while hastening rising sea levels that threaten to submerge whole coastal cities and communities.
To make matters worse, any new ice formed by the freezing rainwater will not last long. The ice shelf currently existing on Greenland was formed by the compression of snow over innumerable years, which shines bright white and reflects sunlight away rather than absorbing it, as ice from frozen rain does.
The huge scale of the melt and accompanying rainfall illustrate the growing peril of rapidly warming climate conditions across the globe.
“This event by itself does not have a huge impact, but it’s indicative of the increasing extent, duration, and intensity of melting on Greenland,” wrote Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado. “Like the heat wave in the [U.S. Pacific] northwest, it’s something that’s hard to imagine without the influence of global climate change.”
“Greenland, like the rest of the world, is changing,” Scambos told the Washington Post. “We now see three melting events in a decade in Greenland — and before 1990, that happened about once every 150 years. And now rainfall: in an area where rain never fell.”
South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash
What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?
It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.
The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.
The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.
“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”
The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.
Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.
Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.