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Monday, March 4, 2013

Swarms of locust descend on Cairo, Egypt + Record snowfalls across the world

March 4, 2013 EGYPTSwarms of locusts have been seen in several districts of Cairo on Saturday, including Moqatam and New Cairo. The feared ‘locust plague’ could reach Cairo, after prior sightings were reported along the Red Sea coast and in Upper Egypt. Some citizens burned tires to create a black fog to keep the locusts from settling in the city. Swarms were earlier reported to have reached Egypt’s Red Sea city of Zafarana, some 200 kilometers from Cairo, and then the Upper Egyptian city of Qena where locusts appeared in at least three major villages. There has earlier been reports of a “plague of locusts,” which some experts say could hit Egypt’s Nile Delta. Since January, swarms of the insects — originating from Sudan — have been spotted along the Red Sea coast in south-eastern Egypt, north-eastern Sudan, Eritrea and Saudi Arabia. In 2004, Egypt witnessed one of the most serious locust infestations in recent history, when farmers in 15 out of the country’s 27 governorates suffered extensive crop damage. At the time, the Land Centre for Human Rights, a local NGO devoted to agriculture issues, reported that 38 percent of the nation’s crops had been damaged as a direct result of the arrival of locusts.  According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), one ton of locusts eat the same amount of food in a single day as around 2,500 people. –Ahram

Ice World: Record snowfalls inundates cities across the globe

March 4, 2013 EARTHThis is proving a freakish year for weather, but Japan is having an odder time of it than most. The country has had a record winter for snow, and northern Japan is currently coated by unprecedented volumes of the white stuff – more than five meters at higher altitudes, with houses turned into igloos and roads into snow tunnels. In the Hakkoda Mountains the depth of snow has been measured at 5.61 meters – a record for Japan. Even lower down, in the city of Aomori, snow is standing at almost 1.5 meters and bulldozers have to work round the clock. This has also been a record year for snow in parts of Russia – a couple of weeks ago snow piles of more than five meters caused gridlock in Moscow – and Switzerland, too, has been experiencing dramatic snowfalls, with depths of up to three meters. These snowfalls, especially those in northern Japan, are remarkable by any standards. But they still fall well short of the all-time record-breakers. Tamarack in California claims the record for the deepest snow ever recorded: 11.5 meters on 11 March 1911. That was clearly some year in the Sierra Nevada, as Tamarack also recorded the largest snowfall in a single month in the US: almost 10 meters. -Guardian
Heaped snow in Red Square, Moscow, 21 January 2013. Most of northern Russia was buried in heavy snowfalls this winter.
Texas blizzard breaks 120 year old record: The blizzard that hammered the nation’s midsection broke a 120-year-old record in Amarillo for one-day snowfall in February with 19.1 inches. The blizzard was accompanied by fierce winds in excess of 75 mph. National Weather Service meteorologist Krissy Scotten in Amarillo says the snowfall total Monday bested a record set Feb. 16, 1893, when 19 inches fell. -Abqjournal
Roads in India buried under 100 ft (30 m) of snow: Ahead of them stands a 100-foot-tall wall of snow and they are slowly cutting their way through the mass to connect this Himachal Pradesh hill resort to landlocked Lahaul Valley in the Himalayan slopes. They are the dedicated men of General Reserve Engineering Force (GREF), a wing of the Border Roads Organization, working to reopen for traffic the snow-marooned Rohtang Pass located at 3,978 meters in the Pir Panjal mountain range, 51 km from here. Snow-clearing work started March 1 and it will take the men two months to reopen the 115-km road stretch between Manali and Keylong towns, Col. Yogesh Nair, commander of the 38 Task Force of GREF here, told IANS. Rohtang Pass is the gateway to Keylong from Manali in Kullu district, but it remains off-limits from the rest of the country for over five months due to heavy snow deposits on the road. This time, Rohtang shut down in mid-December and since then, people of the Lahaul region have been holed up in their region. Nair said there was record snowfall in the region this season and the snow-clearing operation was a herculean task. “The road stretch near Rohtang Pass is under 100 to 120 feet of snow. Unusually high. It normally experiences 70 to 80 feet of snow. We will try to reopen the Manali-Keylong highway by April-end,” he said. Every year, after winter, GREF opens the Manali-Rohtang-Keylong highway by deploying more than 250 personnel and laborers. The highway is also strategically important as it further connects to the forward areas of Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh region along the borders with China and Pakistan. “Our men are working in Arctic-like conditions where chances of snowstorms and avalanches still loom large. Last year, our laborers were caught in a snowstorm but were evacuated safely,” he said. The effort of GREF working in snowy and harsh climatic conditions is commendable since a sudden drop in temperature, even in summer, can trigger winter-like conditions. Oxygen near the Rohtang Pass is minimal and high velocity winds blow every afternoon. GREF has provided special uniforms to workers which weigh around five kg while the weight of a pair of shoes is two kg. Anti-glare sunglasses and gloves are also part of their uniform. With the help of global positioning system, engineers locate the road beneath the hill of the snow. After a bulldozer clears off the major snow, labourers manually clear the remaining snow with shovels. Residents of two dozen small and scattered villages with a population of over 20,000 in the Lahaul valley are eagerly awaiting restoration of the road traffic. A government-run helicopter, which also operates once a week between district headquarters Keylong and Manali, is the only mode of transportation for them these days. “Since late last December, we have been cut off from the rest of the world. We are awaiting reopening of roads,” Mohan Bodh, a resident of Chokhang village in Lahaul, told IANS. –Daijiworld
Canada sees record February snowfall: Toronto broke a snowfall record for Feb. 27, according to Environment Canada. At Pearson International Airport, 12.4 centimeters of the heavy wet snow covered the ground, breaking the record of 7.1 centimeters set in 1967. The slush is still flooding some city streets. City officials are asking homeowners to stop shoveling the slushy snow onto the road as it’s blocking the catch basins. According to a report in the Toronto Sun, the city said the cost to clean up Wednesday’s slushy mess is around $2.5-million. -680News

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