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  • Location: Tiree
  • Location: Tiree

    From the times news paper. Always an interesting read.

    Weather eye: Heavy rains have brought the Australian desert alive

    Rain was the big weather story this week. The monsoon in India continues to baffle forecasters after a poor start left much of the country in drought. But last week the monsoon delivered above average rainfalls for the first time this season. In Mumbai a cloudburst brought relief from a severe water shortage, but set off flooding. And in the coastal state of Orissa in eastern India, floods and heavy rains killed 23 people. However, the monsoon’s progress across the country remains patchy and some places are still short of water, hitting rice and sugar cane crops.

    Huge rains fell from tropical storm Isang over the northern Philippines on Thursday before heading towards China, where the storm may strike near Hong Kong this weekend. And in South Korea, downpours brought mudslides that killed five people.

    But heavy rains have brought the Australian desert alive. Floods from huge rainfalls earlier this year in Queensland fed into rivers flowing southwards and eventually reached Lake Eyre, deep in the barren Simpson Desert. The lake filled up with water, an event that only happens a few times each century. Thousands of birds such as pelicans flocked to the waters, and the desert bloomed with wildflowers. But from now on the lake will evaporate and shrink.

    Lightning strikes in Alaska set off a huge wildfire that has raged for three weeks, with flames leaping to 9m (30ft) high. The blaze was whipped up during an unusual heat wave in which Fairbanks, Alaska, reached 32C (90F). This was far hotter than Washington and the rest of northeastern US, where cool temperatures set new low records for July in many places last week, in what has been a disappointing summer so far.


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  • Location: Tiree
  • Location: Tiree

    Do not rescue your barbecue during thundery weather

    Here is a warning to anyone trying to rescue a barbecue during thundery weather: a man in Lincolnshire was struck by lightning last month as he tried to retrieve sausages from a barbecue using a metal fork during a thunderstorm. He suffered burns to his arms and spent two days in hospital, but recovered.

    The best advice to avoid being hit by lightning is to remain indoors with the doors and windows shut, but even that carries a small risk. In June a man in Staffordshire was standing in his kitchen by the washing machine when lightning blasted a hole through the roof of the house, tore down through the electrical wiring into the washing machine and hurled the man across the kitchen.

    Possibly even more surprising was a lightning strike on an air traffic controller in the control tower at Newcastle airport during an intense thunderstorm two weeks ago. “We were looking out to see which end of the runway to direct a plane in to land. I was using a touchscreen phone to advise the radar room when a bolt hit the tower,” Vikki Cole told The Journal newspaper. “My finger was in contact with the screen when it hit, I heard a crackle and I felt a shock in my finger.”

    Her colleagues reported seeing something shoot across her desk when she was hit, and which set off an emergency alarm but without any damage caused. And despite the shock, Miss Cole quickly recovered.

    Threat of storm surges is growing worse

    Sirens that warn communities of floods along the Norfolk coast have been earmarked for scrapping. A report to Norfolk County Council claimed that the sirens are unreliable, not fit for purpose and could cause confusion and panic. A council committee last Tuesday decided to axe the sirens, but agreed a compromise that will allow local councils to make a case for keeping and paying for them, if they wished.

    Many local people are appalled at the proposal. Much of the coast of Norfolk is highly vulnerable to North Sea storm surges, when storms pile the sea up into a bulge of water that can be devastating. In 1953 a storm surge killed more than 300 people along the East Coast and Thames Estuary, when many people drowned in their beds at night as flood warnings sent by telephone were never received because the phone lines collapsed.

    The threat of storm surges is growing worse as sea levels rise with climate change and East Anglia subsides from the effects of the last ice age. Since 1953 there have been six North Sea storm surges, most recently on November 9, 2007, when the sea was only inches from causing a significant flood. But the sea defences at Walcott, on the Norfolk coast, were breached that night and the warning sirens were not used for fear of causing unnecessary panic. Only the quick thinking of volunteer flood wardens managed to evacuate the village and avert disaster.

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