Category Archives: rivers

Floods along the Yangtze River

Floods along the Yangtze River : Natural Hazards.

Floods along the Yangtze River

acquired June 27, 2011 download large image (6 MB, JPEG)
Floods along the Yangtze River

acquired May 28, 2011 download large image (5 MB, JPEG)

Water levels remained high in Dongting and Poyang Lakes in southeastern China on June 27, 2011. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite captured the top image the same day. For comparison, the bottom image shows the area on May 28, 2011.

These false-color images use a combination of visible and infrared light to increase contrast between water and land. Water varies in color from medium blue to navy. Depending on land cover, areas that are not under water range from green to brown. Clouds are pale blue-green or nearly white.

In late May, Poyang Lake is an assortment of small, isolated water bodies. One month later, the water bodies have merged into a swollen lake. Meanwhile, Dongting Lake has multiplied in area.

The recent floods followed months of devastating drought, China Daily reported. Prior to the torrential rains, 3.5 million people endured water shortages. Although the rain brought much-needed moisture, it also brought deadly floods and landslides. As of June 28, nearly 100 people had died and about 27,000 homes had been destroyed.

  1. References

  2. Qingfeng, Z., Howell Alipalo, M. (2011, June 28). How to fight natural disasters. China Daily. Accessed June 28, 2011.

NASA images courtesy MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center. Caption by Michon Scott.

Instrument: 
Terra – MODIS

Yellowstone River Oil Spill Environmental Damage Still A big Question

Teams Gauge Yellowstone River Oil Spill : NPR.

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July 3, 2011

Teams of federal and state workers fanned out Sunday along Montana’s famed Yellowstone River to gauge the environmental damage from a ruptured Exxon Mobil pipeline that spewed tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the waterway.

The break near Billings, in south-central Montana, fouled the riverbank and forced municipalities and irrigation districts to close intakes.

An Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Sonya Pennock said an unspecified amount of oil could be seen some 40 miles downriver during a fly-over Sunday, and there were other reports of oil as far as 100 miles away near the town of Hysham.

But an Exxon Mobil Corp. executive said shoreline damage appeared to be limited to the Yellowstone between Laurel and Billings, which includes about 20 miles of river.

Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. President Gary Pruessing said company observers flying over the river had seen “very little soiling” beyond Billings, and that the oil appeared to be evaporating and dissipating into the river as the flooded Yellowstone carries it downstream.

A representative of the Montana Disaster and Emergency Services Division said the company’s claim was reasonable but had not been independently verified.

State officials on Saturday had reported a 25-mile long slick headed downstream toward the Yellowstone’s confluence with the Missouri River, just across the Montana border in North Dakota. An estimated 1,000 barrels, or 42,000 gallons, spilled Saturday before the flow from the damaged pipeline was stopped.

“My guess is that as fast as that water is moving, it’s probably dissipating pretty quick,” said DES public assistance officer Tim Thennis.

Exxon Mobil also revealed Sunday that the 12-inch pipeline had been temporarily shut down in May because of concerns over the rising waters on the Yellowstone. Pruessing said the company decided to restart the line a day later after examining its safety record and deciding the risk of failure was low.

The company and government officials have speculated that high waters in recent weeks may have scoured the river bottom and exposed the pipeline to debris that could have damaged the pipe. The state has received record rainfall in the last month and also has a huge snowpack in the mountains that is melting, which has resulted in widespread flooding.

“We are very curious about what may have happened at the bottom of the river. We don’t have that yet,” Pruessing said.

An EPA representative said only a small fraction of the spilled oil is likely to be recovered.

Agency on-scene coordinator Steve Way said fast flows along the flooding river were spreading the oil over a large area, making it harder to capture. But Way said that also could reduce damage to wildlife and cropland along the river.
Crews were putting absorbent material along short stretches of the river in Billings and near Laurel, but there were no attempts at capturing oil farther out in the river. In some areas, oil flowed underneath booms and continued downstream.

Up to 100 emergency response workers from Exxon Mobil and its contractors were due on the scene by late Sunday. Pruessing said they would remain there until the cleanup is complete.

But property owners along the river were growing frustrated with the response, particularly in agricultural areas where crops and pastures for grazing were at risk. The Yellowstone river is also popular among fishermen, though areas further upriver from the spill are more heavily trafficked.

Billings-area goat rancher Alexis Bonogofsky said the flooding Yellowstone brought the oil into her summer pastures — pollution she’s not sure what to do with. Bonogofsky said she had been unable to get answers through either government authorities or Exxon Mobil.

“My place is covered with oil,” she said. “I would like a list that says ‘this is what’s in crude oil.’ … I called a million times yesterday and got no response.”

The 20-year-old pipeline was last inspected in 2009 using a robotic device that travels through the line looking for corrosion, dents or other problems, Pruessing said. Soundings to determine the pipeline’s depth were taken in December, and at the time, the line appeared to be 5 to 8 feet below the riverbed, he said.

“It was completely in line with all regulatory requirements,” he said.

Pipeline control room workers first became aware of a problem with the line when pressure readings dropped early Saturday morning. Pruessing said workers began shutting down the line within six minutes, although it was unclear how long that process took.

The estimated 42,000 gallons spilled was a small fraction of that in major accidents; 11 million gallons were spilled in Alaska’s Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989, for example. But officials said the pristine nature of the Yellowstone, along with its turbulent waters and riverside communities, were likely to make for unique challenges as cleanup and damage assessment progressed.

Swift water hinders Yellowstone River oil spill cleanup

Swift water hinders Yellowstone River oil spill cleanup – CNN.com.

The leaked oil floats in pools caused by recent flooding around the Yellowstone River.

The leaked oil floats in pools caused by recent flooding around the Yellowstone River.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: “Milky brown” residue spotted in Yellowstone River
  • The underwater pipeline breach was discovered late Friday
  • Exxon estimates the leak at 750-1,000 barrels

(CNN) — High water and a swift current has helped break up an oil spill that dumped hundreds of barrels of crude into Montana’s Yellowstone River over the weekend, local officials said Sunday.

ExxonMobil said between 750 to 1,000 barrels (32,000 to 42,000 gallons) of oil escaped late Friday when a pipeline ruptured beneath the river near Billings. Some of the of the oil has washed ashore or formed pools of “milky brown” residue in river eddies, Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder said.

But Linder and Duane Winslow, the county’s emergency services director, said flooding has made it harder to track and clean up the mess. The Yellowstone was running above flood stage over the weekend, sweeping brush and logs into the river, and had a 5- to 7-mph current Sunday.

“It’s too dangerous to do anything on the river, to put out any sort of boats or anything,” Winslow said. “So people will be working from the shores rather than out in the middle of the river.”

Crude oil leaks into Yellowstone River

The spill was discovered late Friday night near Laurel, west of Billings and about 100 miles downstream from Yellowstone National Park. The pipeline feeds an ExxonMobil refinery in Billings, and the company said it had shut down the line within minutes.

“We will stay with the cleanup until it is complete, and we sincerely apologize to the people of Montana for any inconvenience the incident is creating,” Gary Pruessing, the president of ExxonMobil’s pipeline subsidiary, said in a statement issued Sunday.

There were no reports of wildlife being endangered by the spill, Tim Thennis, who is leading the response for the Montana’s Disaster Emergency Services agency, said Sunday.

The spill forced the evacuation of more than 200 nearby residents after it was discovered Friday night, but they were allowed to return Saturday morning. Laurel rancher Lloyd Webber said the spill left a “pretty heavy” smell of oil hanging over the area Friday night as he and his wife left their home.

“We went to the Perkins in Billings and drank coffee for two or three hours, then went back,” said Webber, who lives about a half-mile from the river.

The Yellowstone is one of the tributaries of the Missouri River, which it joins in neighboring North Dakota. Thennis said state agencies, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and ExxonMobil are working together to clean up the spill.

Nebraska nuclear plant officials reject comparisons to Fukushima

Nebraska nuclear plant officials reject comparisons to Fukushima – CNN.

June 28, 2011|By Brian Todd, CNN

The Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station likely will remain offline until floodwaters from the Missouri River completely recede.

Tim Nellenbach is on a mission as he shows a small group of journalists around his workplace. The manager of the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant and his colleagues are bent on dispelling rumors about the condition of their facility: rumors about a meltdown, about a loss of power. The rumors are patently false, they say, and it’s frustrating to have to deal with them while also battling a genuine crisis.

These officials are also acutely aware of comparisons to the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March, which crippled a nuclear power plant there, leading to the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

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“There’s no likelihood of a Fukushima-like incident here,” Nellenbach says.

So does Gary Gates, CEO of the Fort Calhoun plant.

“It is not another Fukushima. The difference is the rapid flooding that occurred at Fukushima. This was a predicted event, to a degree, from the Corps of Engineers. The floodwaters at Fort Calhoun are outside the plant. There is no water inside the plant. The reactor is covered with borated water. The spent fuel is covered with borated water, which we want it to be. That’s intentional. That’s where it should be. The floodwaters are outside Fort Calhoun, not inside,” Gates explains.

Still, there is a genuine crisis at the plant. Floodwaters from the swollen Missouri River have engulfed this facility. The parking lots are underwater. The river’s fast-paced currents are swirling against several buildings in this compound. Catwalks had to be constructed to allow workers to move from one building to the next. The buildings housing the reactor core, the spent fuel rods and other crucial components are protected by small levees and aqua-berms. But outside those barriers, the water is at least 2 feet above ground level.

Officials are keeping a close eye on the network of power transformers here. The transformers are surrounded by floodwater and high-velocity pumps are continually pumping water away from them. The transformers power internal pumps, which operate cooling systems keeping the reactor core and the spent fuel rods from overheating.

“Maintaining electrical power, operating the pumps, is our biggest concern for the station, and we’re able to fully do that at this time,” Nellenbach says. Officials say the plant went off the power grid temporarily on Sunday and was powered by backup generators, but they say it is now back on the grid.

The Fort Calhoun plant has been offline since early April for a re-fueling operation. It was scheduled to be back online in mid-June, according to officials here, but the flooding has delayed that. Now, they anticipate the plant will remain offline through the month of August, until the floodwaters completely recede.

“What’s keeping me up at night is making sure that we’re going to have electricity for everybody,” says Gates. “Electricity is so important to… the mitigation efforts of our whole community. Fort Calhoun’s safe. It’ll continue to be safe.”

Gates and his colleagues say the water has not breached the buildings housing the reactor core and the spent fuel rods, and they’re confident it won’t. Those buildings and the barriers protecting them are designed to withstand flooding extending 1,014 feet above sea level. The water is now at about 1,006 feet, and they say they do not expect it to exceed 1,008 feet.

Officials did not allow journalists directly into the rooms housing the reactor core and the spent fuel rods, but did allow them to view those rooms via closed-circuit cameras. The rooms did not appear to be damaged by floodwater.

Gates says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission cited the Fort Calhoun plant in 2009 for not being adequately prepared for a flooding event. Since that time, he says, they’ve taken steps to upgrade safeguards for the facility, and he says NRC officials were satisfied with the handling of the current flooding. Still, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko had solemn words for the staff of Fort Calhoun after touring the plant on Monday.

“In the end,” Jaczko said, “this challenge is yours.”

Missouri river flooding threatened America’s nuclear plant (PHOTOS)

Missouri river flooding threatened America’s nuclear plant (PHOTOS).

By IBTimes Staff Reporter | Jun 21, 2011 04:17 AM EDT

The swollen Missouri River had posed a serious threat to a riverside nuclear power plant in the state of Nebraska in the United States after levees built to hold back the rising floodwaters failed.

The Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant was reportedly very close to getting engulfed by the floodwaters, raising fears of a crisis similar to Japan’s Fukushima disaster.

Though the nuclear plant declared the event as “unusual,” the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) maintained that there was no risk of disaster.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, Japan, was devastated by Tsunami waves in March 2011, leading to leakage of radioactive water into the ocean.

As a massive earthquake and tsunami killed thousands of people in Japan, radiation woes and a much more severe nuclear crisis took the country’s economy into recession affecting businesses, consumer spending and tearing apart supply chains.

Federal officials widened flood gates last week to allow record, or near-record water releases to ease pressure on six major reservoirs swollen by heavy rains and melting snow, Reuters reported.

But later in the week, Missouri River floodwaters reached a levee built up to protect Hamburg, Iowa, after the main protection along the river failed, a county emergency official said.

Check out some of the latest pictures of Missouri river flooding below: 

 

 

 

aerial views of rapidly rising Souris River engulfing Minot

PHOTOS: Latest aerial view of rapidly rising Souris River engulfing Minot.

By IBTimes Staff Reporter | Jun 27, 2011 02:43 AM EDT

Thousands of houses got swallowed up by the flooding of Souris River, while the rapidly rising waters forced emergency evacuation of residents of Minot, North Dakota, on Sunday.

The flooding Souris River poured over flood defenses in North Dakota, overwhelming efforts to delay the deluge, Reuters reported.

The Souris River spilled over levees and dikes over the weekend, submerging about 4,000 houses and letting about 10,000 to 12,000 residents flee, officials estimate.

Flood projections have forecast about 18 more inches of water before levels begin dropping.

Check out some of the latest aerial view of submerged houses in Minot city:

More on disasters in US:

Missouri river flooding threatened America’s nuclear plant

Choppers drop water as Arizona Wallow Fire rages

Latest aerial view of Mississippi River Flooding

Rapidly rising Souris River engulfs Minot

Houses are submerged in flood waters in Minot, North Dakota, as the Souris River spills over levees and dikes June 25, 2011.

Source: REUTERS/Allen Fredrickson

Rapidly rising Souris River engulfs Minot

Houses in Minot, North Dakota are lost to floods as the Souris River spills over levees and dikes June 25, 2011.

Source: REUTERS/Allen Fredrickson

Rapidly rising Souris River engulfs Minot

Houses in Minot, North Dakota are lost to floods, as the Souris River spills over levees and dikes June 25, 201

Source: REUTERS/Allen Fredrickson

Rapidly rising Souris River engulfs Minot

A train crossing and train tracks are covered with flood water near Minot, North Dakota, as water from the Souris River spills over levees and dikes June 25, 2011.

Source: REUTERS/Allen Fredrickson

Rapidly Rising Souris River Engulfs Minot

Floodwater from the Souris River submerges property in Sawyer, North Dakota June 25, 2011.

Source: REUTERS/Allen Fredrickson

Rapidly rising Souris River engulfs Minot

A section of a trailer park is seen submerged in flood waters in Minot, North Dakota June 25, 2011.

Source: REUTERS/Allen Fredrickson

Flood disrupts Minot water supply

Flood disrupts Minot water supply – CNN.com.

Gordon Valgren, right, cleans debris from his flood-damaged home Monday in Minot, North Dakota.

Gordon Valgren, right, cleans debris from his flood-damaged home Monday in Minot, North Dakota.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Minot, North Dakota, residents are under orders to conserve water
  • Floodwaters apparently broke a water main on Monday
  • Flooding also is affecting Burlington, North Dakota

Is severe weather happening where you are? Share your story.

(CNN) — Residents of flooded Minot, North Dakota, remained under orders to limit their water use Tuesday, a day after rushing floodwaters apparently broke a main water line, a city spokesman said.

Utility crews were able to wade to the site of the break and divert the water flow, but it would likely be Tuesday night or Wednesday before they could install a new line to restore normal flow, said Dean Lenertz, a spokesman for the city.

About a third of Minot’s population of nearly 36,000 has been evacuated due to record flooding from the Souris River, which bisects the city.

The main north-south route through the city, the Broadway Bridge, has been closed to traffic other than emergency vehicles and those involved in the flood fight, leading to traffic jams, Lenertz said.

“It’s a two- to three-hour commute in the mornings and evenings to get from one area to another,” he said.

Floodwaters crest, fears remain
Flooding called heartbreaking

The Souris crested over the weekend at nearly 13 feet over flood stage. It has since fallen about a foot but remains more than 2½ feet above the previous record flood from 1881, according to the National Weather Service.

Lenertz said it will likely be at least a week, perhaps two, before residents of the estimated 4,000 homes flooded in the city will be able to return home and assess the damage.

Residents of Burlington, North Dakota, are also being affected by flooding, but not from the Souris. There, the water being released from Garrison Reservoir into Missouri River is causing the problems.

About 4,000 people have been forced out of about 800 homes there, according to iReporter Mark Armstrong, who is a Burleigh County commissioner.

Flooding problems have been ongoing there for five weeks, he said.

Flooding along the Souris River 2011

Flooding along the Souris River : Natural Hazards.

Flooding along the Souris River

acquired June 23, 2011 download large image (12 MB, JPEG)
Flooding along the Souris River

acquired June 24, 2010 download large image (11 MB, JPEG)

On June 22, 2011, the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) forecast record flooding for multiple locations along the Souris River in North Dakota, including Sherwood, Minot, Towner, Bantry, and Westhope. On June 23, 2011, the Advanced Hydrological Prediction Service reported major flooding in or near all of these locations.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite captured these images on June 23, 2011 (top), and June 24, 2010 (bottom). Both images use a combination of visible and infrared light to increase contrast between water and land. Water varies in color from electric blue to navy. Vegetation is green. Bare ground and fallow fields are earth-toned. Clouds are pale blue-green.

Parts of the Souris River disappear from view in 2010, but the river is clearly visible throughout its path a year later. In this satellite view, the river appears especially swollen near Bantry and Towner, but the Souris actually overtopped levees in Minot, according to the NWS. A sharp rise in the water level occurred near Sherwood overnight June 21 and 22, and the AHPS forecast a significant rise in river level near Minot around June 24.

Originating in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, the Souris River loops southward through North Dakota before flowing into Manitoba.

  1. References

  2. National Weather Service. Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service. Accessed June 23, 2011.

NASA images courtesy MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center. Caption by Michon Scott.

Flooding along the Missouri River 2011

Flooding along the Missouri River : Natural Hazards.

Flooding along the Missouri River

acquired June 25, 2011 download large image (2 MB, JPEG)
Flooding along the Missouri River

acquired June 26, 2010 download large image (5 MB, JPEG)

Flooding continued along the Missouri River in late June 2011, affecting multiple communities in Nebraska. On June 26, the Advanced Hydrological Prediction Service (AHPS) of the U.S. National Weather Service reported moderate flooding near Omaha and Brownville, and major flooding near Plattsmouth, Nebraska City, and Rulo.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured these images on June 25, 2011 (top), and June 26, 2010 (bottom). Both images use a combination of visible and infrared light to increase contrast between water and land. Water ranges from electric blue to navy. Vegetation is green. Bare ground is earth-toned. Clouds range from off-white to blue-green.

Compared to conditions from the previous year, the Missouri River is visibly swollen in 2011, from north of Omaha to south of Rulo. By June 26, 2011, the river had exceeded its historic crests at Plattsmouth, Nebraska City, Brownville and Rulo, the AHPS reported.

  1. References

  2. National Weather Service. Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service. Accessed June 26, 2011.

NASA images courtesy MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center. Caption by Michon Scott.

New Dam evaluation protocols better but not perfect

Damned if they do : Nature : Nature Publishing Group.

An industry approach to greener hydropower is far from perfect, but it does offer a way forwards.

The mighty Iguaçu Falls in Brazil are an excellent illustration of the power of water, so what better place for the hydropower industry to promote what it says is a fresh approach to its sustainability?

There is ample room for scepticism about the effort — known as the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (see page 430). It is an industry-led endeavour that requires next to nothing from the industry. It grades hydropower projects, but makes no judgement on what should happen to projects that rank poorly. And it is geared towards assessment of individual dams, independent of broader questions about energy-resource development. So far, so bad. Yet, if deployed properly, it could also be an invaluable tool to inject much-needed science and reason into a planning process that has operated with little of either for much too long.

Developers and governments have historically assessed dam projects mainly on the basis of cost and power. Engineers simply survey the landscape to identify the easiest places to block channels, set up turbines and run power lines. Sediments, endemic species and the consequences of severing communication between headwaters and estuaries are very much secondary issues. Even people get short shrift, leading indigenous groups to mount the kind of intense protests that last week saw the Peruvian government shelve plans for a massive dam in the Amazon.

“The hydropower assessment protocol asks all the right questions but fails to provide any answers.”

This standard approach has caused numerous environmental problems — such as siltation and blockages to migrating fish — in industrialized countries, which exploited their best hydropower resources long ago and are now trying to repair the damage. In some cases, the costs of improvement outweigh the benefits, and old dams are being decommissioned. But, in the developing world, hydropower projects continue to stack up. Countries in Southeast Asia and Latin America, in particular, are pursing hydropower with gusto, hoping to alleviate energy poverty and feed burgeoning economies. By one optimistic industry estimate, cumulative hydropower capacity could nearly double by 2030. Without a more coordinated approach, these countries are doomed to make the same mistakes.

The new hydropower protocol comes courtesy of the International Hydropower Association, which consulted with environmental and human-rights groups, as well as representatives from finance and government, in an effort to set out some basic principles of sustainable hydropower.

After three years of work, the result is a way to assess dam projects on a range of criteria — from planning, governance and public engagement to ecology and hydrology. It is voluntary, however, and there are no minimum standards. The protocol asks all the right questions but fails to provide any answers.

This has driven a wedge into the community of environmental and social activists that work in this arena. Critics argue that the protocol represents little more than a public-relations exercise that will allow bad developers to appear green while pursuing business as normal — often on projects that pre-date current environmental thinking. This may be true, but, unfortunately, in the political and corporate world such ‘greenwash’ is common. The new effort would at least create a common language with which to raise concerns, evaluate the best available science and negotiate improvements.

The biggest shortcoming lies in the assessment of individual dams that have already been proposed for specific locations. Much better would be an approach to analyse entire river basins in an effort to identify the most suitable locations, as well as areas where special precautions should be taken. Indeed, it might well be that some rivers should be left to flow freely to preserve ecological integrity.

The protocol does touch on these issues, raising questions about a dam’s role in the broader energy mix and about wider impacts from hydroelectric development. And it could yet offer a foundation to set minimum standards in these and other areas, so that companies would need to build and operate better dams, as well as integrate them into a more comprehensive energy strategy. For all of its faults, the protocol opens another bridge to a better future. Now it’s up to governments, banks and companies to make the journey across.