Sunday, August 28, 2011



* The U.S. Coast Guard said the New York Harbor will resume normal operations early on Monday morning after Irene weakened to a tropical storm near New York. 

The harbor will remain on 'Yankee' alert, which means there will be some traffic restriction, through Sunday. [ID:nWEN7657] 

* The Port of Philadelphia remained close as of Sunday.

U.S. Coast Guard shuts port of Philadelphia

27 Aug 2011 20:38

Source: Reuters // Reuters

NEW YORK, Aug 27 (Reuters) - The U.S. Coast Guard closed the port of Philadelphia at 4:00 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT) on Saturday to all vessel traffic as Hurricane Irene moved north up the eastern seaboard.

Port Condition Zulu, the highest level of security, was set for the port, which means gale force winds are expected within 12 hours.

The port serves about 1 million barrels per day of the region's 1.2 million bpd refinery capacity.



For brands, social media is a relatively new marketing platform that has grown exponentially over the past few years. 

And investing in social media now has never been more important, as experts say social media is on target to be a $30 billion industry (per year) by 2015.

Hiring a talented social media manager to take your brand from 1 fan to 1 million is a major factor in determining your business’s success and failure. 

We tracked down the globe’s finest social media managers behind brands such as Virgin America, The New York Times, Gizmodo, Flavorpill, Thrillist, TOMS, NASA, Intel, Etsy, HowAboutWe, Vanity Fair, Samsung, Fast Company, ELLE and even interviewed our very own Amalia Agathou from The Next Web. These aren’t just talented individuals. 

These are human beings pioneering a new profession.

When an issue arises, these are the men and women that have to spring into action. Do they use Hootsuite, Radian6, CoTweet, Vitrue or Awareness for social media monitoring? 

Where do you spend the most time? How do you keep conversation colloquial yet still professional? How do they encourage user-generated content, commenting, gamification, social aggregation and what’s the art of content curation? And what about geolocation? Are they on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Trumblr, Gowalla, Loopt, SoundCloud, Slideshare, vYou, Flickr or even GetGlue? What do they think of Google+? 

Which is their fastest growing media account? And do you ever sleep? 

We ask them here...



Irene Adds to a Bad Year for Insurance Industry

Published: August 28, 2011

The total damage inflicted by Hurricane Irene may reach $7 billion by the time the storm dissipates in the coming days, making one of the insurance industry’s worst years even tougher, according to an early estimate by the Kinetic Analysis Corporation in Silver Spring, Md.

Most of the loss will very likely come from property in New York and New Jersey, according to industry experts. Although Irene had diminished to a tropical storm by the time it reached New York early on Sunday, those two states have the most valuable coastal property on the Atlantic Coast.

At $7 billion in possible losses, Irene would be among the 10 costliest catastrophes in American history, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

The most expensive disaster by far was Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which caused $45 billion worth of damage, not counting costs that were covered by the National Flood Insurance Program. 

The second, at about $23 billion, was the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, which the institute counts as a single event. 

All but one of the remaining top 10 were hurricanes, ranging in cost from $22 billion for Hurricane Andrew in 1992 to $6 billion for Hurricane Rita in 2005.

Insured losses in the Carolinas from Hurricane Irene were estimated on Sunday at $200 million to $400 million by Eqecat, a company in Oakland, Calif., that models the effects of natural disasters.


USGS In the Surge Sampling for Nutrients, Sediment, E. coli, and Pesticides

Released: 8/28/2011 2:39:09 PM

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communications and Publishing
12201 Sunrise Valley Dr, MS 119
Reston, VA 20192 Charles Crawford
Phone: (317) 290-3333 x176

Kara Capelli
Phone: (571) 420-9408

Follow USGS on twitter @USGS to learn where the crews will be each day.
Media: If you would like to accompany a USGS crew during sampling, contact Kara Capelli at

As Hurricane Irene has left her mark along the East Coast, USGS crews are sampling water for pesticides, E. coli, nutrients, and sediment to document water quality in areas affected by the hurricane. This sampling effort is part of the federal government’s broad efforts to ensure public health and to support the state, tribal, and local response to the storm.

Sampling is taking place along the East Coast. Crews will follow the path of the hurricane where it brought high flows.

“Significant high water events are important to document, because a storm event like this can flush large quantities of nutrients, pesticides, and bacteria into rivers and also alter sediment flow,” said Charles Crawford, coordinator of the sampling effort. “When looking at long-term water quality trends and year to year variation, this hurricane could be a defining event for 2011, and it’s important that USGS captures a complete picture of what happens this year.”

Excessive nutrients in the Nation’s rivers, streams and coastal areas are a major issue for water managers, because they cause algal blooms that increase costs to treat drinking water, limit recreational activities, and threaten valuable commercial and recreational fisheries. Increased sediment can cause costly changes in shipping channels, where new sediment can require additional dredging.

“The USGS creates models that relate nutrient, pesticide and sediment concentrations to how much water is flowing,” said Crawford.” In order to have the most accurate model, it’s important to document concentrations during a high flow event such as this one.”

Additionally, high flows from the hurricane have the potential to create higher concentrations of E. Coli in areas that use surface water for drinking.

USGS provides science for a changing world. Visit, and follow us on Twitter @USGS and our other social media channels.
Subscribe to our news releases via e-mail, RSS or Twitter.

Links and contacts within this release are valid at the time of publication.


Toby Harnden
Toby Harnden is the Daily Telegraph's US Editor, based in Washington DC. Click here for Toby's website. You can email him at, follow him on Twitter here@tobyharnden and on Facebook here. His bestselling new book Dead Men Risen: The Welsh Guards and Britain's War in Afghanistan, about a Battle Group in Helmand in 2009, is available from Telegraph Books.

Perfect Storm of Hype: Politicians, the media and the Hurricane Irene apocalypse that never was

By Toby Harnden World Last updated: August 28th, 2011

A Cape Cod store owner took precautions but seemed to anticipate that Irene might be more benign than billed. Photo: Toby Harnden

For the television reporter, clad in his red cagoule emblazoned with the CNN logo, it was a dramatic on-air moment, broadcasting live from Long Island, New York during a hurricane that also threatened Manhattan.

“We are in, right, now…the right eye wall, no doubt about that…there you see the surf,” he said breathlessly. “That tells a story right there.”

Stumbling and apparently buffeted by ferocious gusts, he took shelter next to a building. “This is our protection from the wind,” he explained. “It’s been truly remarkable to watch the power of the ocean here.”


Irene's Legacy May Be Record Inland Flooding

By Bill Deger, Meteorologist
Aug 28, 2011; 8:47 AM ET

Major flooding is expected well inland across the Northeast in the wake of Irene, with several large rivers likely to remain above flood stage for days.

All-time records could even be approached on a few rivers, rivaling stages recorded during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

Heavy rain from Irene will continue to soak millions across the eastern mid-Atlantic through today, expanding north across New England into tonight. By early Monday, Irene's heaviest rain will have exited to the north into southeastern Canada.

Rainfall totals will continue to be excessive and impressive. Many areas from the mid-Atlantic into New England will get 3 to 6 inches of rain, with localized amounts above a foot.

Similar rainfall totals were observed on Saturday as Irene passed near eastern North Carolina and the Delmarva region.

The heavy rain is the last thing many locations across the Northeast want to see. Record rainfall has already caused flooding headaches across the region during the month of August.

While flooding along streets and in low-lying areas will be worse in the interim, river flooding will worsen in the hours and days after the rain stops falling.

This hydrograph from the Schuylkill River near Philadelphia indicates that major and near-record flooding is forecast. For a larger version, visit the AHPS website.
The Schuylkill River in southeastern Pennsylvania, the Passaic River in northern New Jersey and the Winooski River in northern New England are among the waterways that will likely experience major flooding.

Current forecasts indicate that some rivers and creeks may approach all-time records. The Perkiomen Creek near Graterford, Pa., could come within a foot of the all-time record of 18.3 feet, while the Hoosic River near Bennington, Vt., will approach the record of 12.0 feet.

While millions will experience significant flooding today, those along creeks and rivers should not hesitate to head to higher ground to escape rising floodwaters.

Roadways around and over these waterways will flood as well. Never drive through floodwaters and always heed the advice of officials and barricades.


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Billion Dollar U.S. Weather Disasters


Chronological List

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El Nino/La Nina

2003 Tech Report (PDF)

2006 AMS Paper (PDF)

2006 AMS paper

Narrative/MapPlease note that the graphs and maps are updated periodically, so may not fully reflect the latest figures shown in the report below.

Synoptic Map of Billion Dollar U.S. Weather Disasters--1980-2010
(Click on the image for a larger view- print in landscape mode.)

The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) is the “Nation’s Scorekeeper” in terms of addressing severe weather events in their historical perspective. As part of its responsibility of “monitoring and assessing the climate,” NCDC tracks and evaluates climate events in the U.S. and globally that have great economic and societal impacts. NCDC is frequently called upon to provide summaries of global and US temperature and precipitation trends, extremes, and comparisons in their historical perspective.

This web page/report describes those events that have had the greatest economic impact since 1980. 

The authors (Ross and Lott) have also written a paper (PDF version - larger than 1.0 MB), "A Climatology of 1980-2003 Extreme Weather and Climate Events", which provides a climatology of some of these events, and relates the events to population/societal trends and climate change. 

Also, a 2006 conference paper provides additional details regarding this report.

Note: The images below reflect the current event summary period, and are updated as needed. Please note that the national map color-coded by state reflects a summation of billion dollar events, for each state affected--ie, it does not mean that each state shown suffered at least $1 billion in losses for each event. 

Use Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader for the PDF files.

Time Series Chart- larger landscape view

Printable Copy of This Report, 1980-2011

Chronological Chart - larger view

State Frequency Map

Chronological List of U.S. Billion Dollar Events

Note: Billion Dollar U.S. Disaster costs have now been adjusted to 2011 dollars using the Consumer Price Index (CPI), as noted below.

The U.S. has sustained 108 weather-related disasters over the past 31+ years in which overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion. 

The total normalized losses for the 108 events exceed $750 billion. 

Events are listed below beginning with the most recent. 

Two damage figures are given for events prior to 2011 - the first figure represents actual dollar costs at the time of the event and is not adjusted for inflation. The value in parenthesis is the disaster cost adjusted to 2011 dollars using the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

These statistics were taken from a wide variety of sources and represent, to the best of our ability, the estimated total costs of these events---that is, the costs in terms of dollars and lives that would not have been incurred had the event not taken place. Insured and uninsured losses are included in damage estimates. These estimates are likely to change as damage assessments become more complete.

Estimates are periodically updated as more data/information become available. Sources include the National Weather Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Department of Agriculture, other U.S. government agencies, individual state emergency management agencies, state and regional climate centers, media reports, and insurance industry estimates.

NOTE: In some cases, the "special reports" provided via html links below include preliminary damage and fatality statistics, which are now updated in the chronological listing below with our final figures. Therefore, we will always attempt to have our final compilation of damages and fatalities in the billion dollar weather disasters report.

---- 2011 (preliminary) ----

Economic damage costs to date in the US exceed $35 Billion.

 Here is a preliminary summary of 9 U.S. Billion dollar disasters that have occurred so far in 2011:

Upper Midwest Flooding, Summer, 2011 

Melting of an above-average snow pack across the Northern Rocky Mountains combined with above-average precipitation caused the Missouri and Souris Rivers to swell beyond their banks across the Upper Midwest (MT, ND, SD, NE, IA, KS, MO). An estimated 11,000 people were forced to evacuate Minot, North Dakota due to the record high water level of the Souris River, where 4,000 homes were flooded. Numerous levees were breached along the Missouri River, flooding thousands of acres of farmland. Estimated losses exceed $2.0 billion as the event continues to unfold (as of 8/15). The flooding also stretched into the Canadian Prairies, where property and agriculture losses were expected to surpass $1.0 billion, at least 5 deaths.

Mississippi River flooding, Spring-Summer, 2011 

Persistent rainfall (nearly 300 percent normal precipitation amounts in the Ohio Valley) combined with melting snowpack caused historical flooding along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Estimated economic loss ranges from $2.0-4.0 billion; at least 2 deaths. Below are more detailed stats, which are preliminary, as the event continues to unfold (as of 8/15): $500 million to agriculture in Arkansas; $320 million in damage to Memphis, Tennessee; $800 million to agriculture in Mississippi; $317 million to agriculture and property in Missouri's Birds Point-New Madrid Spillway; $80 million for the first 30 days of flood fighting efforts in Louisiana.

Southern Plains/Southwest Drought, Heatwave, & Wildfires, Spring-Summer, 2011

Drought, heatwave, and wildfires have created major impacts across the Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, southern Kansas, and western Arkansas and Louisiana. In Texas and Oklahoma, respectively, 75% and 63% of range and pasture conditions were classified in 'very poor' condition as of mid-August. Wildfire fighting/suppression costs for the region are also ~$1 million / day with over 2,000 homes and structures lost. The total direct losses (as of August 15) to agriculture, cattle and structures are well over $5.0 billion; both direct and total economic losses will rise dramatically as the event continues.
Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes, May 22-27, 2011

 Outbreak of tornadoes over central and southern states (MO, TX, OK, KS, AR, GA, TN, VA, KY, IN, IL, OH, WI, MN, PA) with an estimated 180 tornadoes and 177 deaths. Notably, an EF-5 tornado struck Joplin, MO resulting in at least 141 deaths, making it the deadliest single tornado to strike the U.S. since modern tornado record keeping began in 1950. Over $4.9 billion insured losses for event; total losses greater than $7.0 billion; 177 deaths.

Southeast/Ohio Valley/Midwest Tornadoes, April 25-30, 2011 

Outbreak of tornadoes over central and southern states (AL, AR, LA, MS, GA, TN, VA, KY, IL, MO, OH, TX, OK) with an estimated 305 tornadoes and 327 deaths. Of those fatalities, 240 occurred in Alabama. The deadliest tornado of the outbreak, an EF-5, hit northern Alabama, killing 78 people. Several major metropolitan areas were directly impacted by strong tornadoes including Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and Huntsville in Alabama and Chattanooga, Tennessee, causing the estimated damage costs to soar. Over $6.6 billion insured losses; total losses greater than $9.0 billion; 327 deaths.

Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes, April 14-16, 2011 

Outbreak of tornadoes over central and southern states (OK, TX, AR, MS, AL, GA, NC, SC, VA, PA) with an estimated 160 tornadoes. Despite the large overall number of tornadoes, few were classified as intense, with just 14 EF-3, and no EF-4 or EF-5 tornadoes identified. Over $1.4 billion insured losses; total losses greater than $2.0 billion; 38 deaths [22 of which were in North Carolina].

Southeast/Midwest Tornadoes, April 8-11, 2011 

Outbreak of tornadoes over central and southern states (NC, SC, TN, AL, TX, OK, KS, IA, WI) with an estimated 59 tornadoes. Over $1.5 billion insured losses; total losses greater than $2.2 billion; numerous injuries, 0 deaths.

Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes, April 4-5, 2011

 Outbreak of tornadoes over central and southern states (KS, MO, IA, IL, WI, KY, GA, TN, NC, SC) with an estimated 46 tornadoes. Over $1.6 billion insured losses; total losses greater than $2.3 billion; 9 deaths.

Groundhog Day Blizzard, Jan 29-Feb 3, 2011 

Large winter storm impacting many central, eastern and northeastern states. The city of Chicago was brought to a virtual standstill as between 1 and 2 feet of snow fell over the area. Insured losses greater than $1.1 billion; total losses greater than $2.0 billion; 36 deaths.


Big Storm and Little Storm: Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Jose

Hurricanes come in different shapes and sizes. This is evident in the photograph above which shows Hurricane Irene approaching New York City and little Tropical Storm Jose, which is near Bermuda. 

Hurricane Irene's tropical storm force winds extend out for up to 320 miles, while Jose's winds extend out for up to 50 miles according to the National Hurricane Center.

Photo: NASA

Posted on August 28, 2011


Mexico’s economy
The cartel problem

Mexico could be a giant if only it forced its moguls to compete

Aug 27th 2011 | from the print edition

A COUPLE of decades ago, when businesspeople and investors first got excited about the growth prospects of large emerging markets, Mexico was at the top of their lists. 

Nowadays it is the BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia, India and China—that have all the swagger, while Mexico commands attention for a sad reason: the surge of drug-fuelled violence that assails some of its cities. 

Mexican envy at the hoop-la surrounding Brazil, its Latin American rival, has reached a pitch to which only a psychoanalyst could do full justice.

Look more closely, however, and Mexico has hidden strengths. 

Its people are richer than those of any of the BRICs except Russia. 

They are better educated than Brazilians. 

The economy is more industrialised, better managed and more business-friendly than Brazil’s. 

And although growth has not been spectacular over the past 15 years, it has been significant.

For reasons of geography Mexico’s fate is ineluctably intertwined with that of the United States. 

This now looks less of an advantage than it once did (and not just because it is Americans who arm and finance the Mexican drug gangs). 

In 2009 Mexico’s was hit worse than any other big economy in the Americas by the recession in the United States. Renewed weakness north of the border this month has prompted economists to slash their forecasts for Mexico as well.

But Mexico is not condemned to suffer contagion. A decade ago its exporters were losing ground to China. Now Chinese wages are rising sharply, and Mexico’s market share north of the border is growing again. Despite the violence, foreign investment is pouring in, especially to the motor industry. And more of those cars and other products can be bought at home: whereas Brazil’s credit market looks overheated, there is plenty of scope for loan growth in Mexico.

Above all, it is within Mexico’s own power to do better. Its economy has long been held back by monopolies and cartels—of legal businesses, not drug traffickers (see article). Costliest of all is the state monopoly over oil. Even as Brazil’s oil industry—state-dominated, but open to foreign investment—is surging, Mexico’s is retreating. 

Then there is the telecoms business: thanks to a private near-monopoly, owned by Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man, Mexicans pay between four and ten times as much to be connected than do people in developed countries. Restrictive practices drive up the price of much else, from medicines to air fares.

Ignore the vested interests, court the voters

The government of Felipe Calderón, president since 2006, has taken some timid steps to make the state energy monopolies less inefficient, and has applied the odd pinprick to Mr Slim. But bolder action—especially allowing in more foreign investment—would secure a big reward: opening up oil and reforming labour markets and competition law could raise the rate of growth by up to 2.5 percentage points, according to one estimate. 

So why hasn’t it happened?

 The oil monopoly is a nationalist totem, but its only beneficiaries now are the oil workers’ union and favoured suppliers. It dates to the days of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ruled Mexico for seven decades mainly on the basis of cosy deals with monopolists. These have proved hard to unpick, partly because no president has had a majority in Congress since 1997.

The price of political deadlock is rising. A failure to raise extra taxes hobbles efforts to bolster security. Lack of reform risks condemning Mexico to stagnate with America. 

As politicians start campaigning for next year’s presidential election, they should ignore the business lobbyists. Reform would benefit voters; they can surely be persuaded to back it.

from the print edition | Leaders