Friday, April 29, 2011

Massive EF5 tornado tears through Tuscaloosa

On April 27, 2011, a 1+ mile-wide (1.6 ≥ 2.4km), wedge tornado gouged a 6-mile path of destruction through Tuscaloosa, annihilating businesses and entire neighborhoods.   With wind speeds in excess of 200 mph (>322km/h), the tornado is classifiable as an EF5, falling into the most destructive category yet identified by meteorologists.  Roughly 6,000 homes fell in the direct path of the tornado, while perhaps 15,000 homes were damaged, according to Tuscaloosa mayor Walt Maddox.  At least 45 people in Tuscaloosa lost their lives; at the time of this post, hundreds still remain missing.

The storm cell that enveloped Tuscaloosa is part of a record season of tornadic activity in the US, responsible for at least 174 tornados to date.  In the state of Alabama alone hundreds are dead and missing, and hundreds of thousands of homes are still without power.

Before and After: pictures of the Tuscaloosa tornado

Below are before and after images collected by the University of Alabama's Crimson White.

DCH visible from 15th St.Chevron on the corner of McFarland Blvd. and 15th St.Full Moon and the strip mall in front of Hobby Lobby on McFarland Blvd.Bails Bonds and H&W Drugs on 15th St.A straight-on look at Hobby Lobby on McFarland Blvd.McDonalds looking toward MidTown Village on 15th St.
Looking at Hobby Lobby from the corner of McFarland Blvd. and 13th St.Batteries Plus and the Money Store strip malls on 15th St.Looking toward Midtown Village from 15th St. by Hardee'sThe University Downs intersection on 15th St.Schlotzsky's Deli and Cinnabon on 15th St.The Shell station at the corner of McFarland Blvd. and 13th St.
Hokkaido on 15th St. across from McDonaldsThe Quik Pawn Shop on 15th St. behind the Chevron stationKrispy Kreme and a billboard on McFarland Blvd.CVS on the corner of McFarland and 15th St.Mattress King on McFarland Blvd.DCH from ExpressOil on 15th St.

Thursday, April 28, 2011








Friday, April 8, 2011

Overdose or overdo? Doused and scanned for radiation

Whenever you travel, you're sure to carry away some memorable experiences.

I had to walk through a radiation scanner on my visit to Taipei last week. The experience was both nerve-wracking and ridiculous.  This is the kind of thing that makes people unnecessarily worried  (Just ask the UN).  Passengers arriving from Japan were sequestered off for a special check.  The scanner was brown and resembled a thin, lanky doorframe. There were two or three officials wearing masks sitting at a table to one side of the scanner watching to see whether those who passed triggered a red or green light.

I didn't get a chance to take a picture, but I was able to find a video of the scene in Taipei:

There's also this news report.  Of course, everyone who passed through the brown gate triggered the green light. Who knows what the Kafka-esque red light is supposed to indicate...

I think my largest dose of radiation in all of this came from the airport (a trip through the metal detector and round-trip flight.

There was one other odd detail about my flight into Taipei (departure and arrival): a large swatch of translucent blue tape (sticky side up) was set upon the floor of the jet bridge in the space directly before entering the aircraft.  The edges were taped down and the size was so large that you couldn't leap over it without a running start.  At first glance it was kind of comical, but my paranoid brain told me, "You've never had to do this before.  Is this something related to the radiation scare?"  It was sort of like flypaper for humans.  It pulled at your feet as you treaded over it.

Maybe this is just a China Airlines thing, but why both before boarding the aircraft and again when exiting?  Perhaps the strange, sticky tape trap was designed to collect radioactive dust, rather than have it being left aboard like a peanut wrapper tucked into the seat crevice.  Unfortunately for the airlines, if there really is radioactive dust on your shoes, there's probably dust in/on your clothes.  I wonder if those HEPA filters used on aircraft would collect that sort of airborne dust?  How often are those changed, anyway?

The scanning reminded me (ironically) of a similar experience...
In May 2009, I visited Japan during the swine flu scare.   I remember when I landed at Kansai International, a group of Japanese medical personnel boarded my plane clad in goggles, masks, yellow, hooded jumpsuits to screen passengers for elevated body temperatures.   The whole thing was surreal--like some cross between Predator and The Hot Zone.  Two rows behind me, someone was found with an elevated temperature, so half of the plane was quarantined (probably for ten days).

The ordeal didn't end at the airport, either.  Throughout my trip, I was pestered with calls from the Board of Health, as my flight had originated in Huntsville, AL, where there had been several confirmed cases of swine flu in the week leading up to my trip.

Traveling is always an adventure.

Shake, rattle, and roll (again) Another big earthquake/aftershock

Last night at around 11 PM there was a fairly large (and long!) earthquake/aftershock. In Narashino, what made it unique from the hundreds of others that we've experienced since March 11 was its length. In Miyagi prefecture at the epicenter, it was registered at a 7.2 magnitude. According to the news, three died from last night's quake (of course not in Narashino). If you had asked me on March 11, I don't think I would've believed it possible but I've become all too accustomed to these quakes. I was half asleep when last night's hit, and I didn't even get out of bed.

Aside from the geological report, I thought I would mention today's strange weather. The crazy kaze here in Narashino today was an incredibly strong and relentless Mary Poppins gale; it turned the land surrounding 第一中中学校 into a dustbowl (School 1 is a wonderful junior high school here in Narashino that now lies in the middle of a major construction site).

I'll let the Fishmans give you the extended forecast:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A good blog on the situation in Japan

I think I'll use my blog to recommend a much better blog for disaster coverage. The author goes by gakuranman. It's very well put together.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Back from Taipei

I'm back from my short visit to Taipei. Between using Japanese and English, it wasn't too hard to communicate. Having a good knowledge of kanji was extremely helpful in deciphering the landscape. Hopefully I'll be able to post something about that trip (videos/pictures) in the next week. Right now, I'm just trying to catch up with emails I received while away (term 1 starts Tuesday).