May 12, 2008

Nature Gone Wild

Posted: 09:30 AM ET

On the heels of the disastrous Myanmar cyclone ten days ago, nature has had a busy week - with more human tragedy as a consequence.

We awoke this morning to reports of a massive quake near a Chinese city most Westerners have never heard of.    Sichuan Province may be better known to Americans as the home of the giant pandas, and for the region's spicy cuisine.  But Chengdu, obscure to most of us over here, has a metro area larger than any in the U.S. except for New York and Los Angeles. 

At CNN, our first info on a quake anywhere in the world often comes from an automatic email warning system from the U.S. Geological Survey    The 7.8 quake, post-midnight on the East Coast but mid-afternoon in Sichuan Province, China, has a reported death toll in the thousands.   There have been several aftershocks, the largest in the 5 and 6 range on the intensity scale.  The main quake was felt over thousands of miles.

Numerically tame by comparison but just as tragic to those affected were this weekend's tornadoes.  At least 22 Americans died in the Midwest and Southeast.  A relatively small twister ripped up some homes about ten miles from my own house in Ellenwood, Georgia.  Things were much worse in the midwest, where a storm estimated in the EF3 or EF4 range tore through a wide swath of lead-mining country in northeastern Oklahoma and southwestern Missouri.   The National Weather Service has counted 66 tornadoes over the weekend, and the one that ravaged Picher, Oklahoma stayed on the ground for 63 miles.  2008 is well ahead of pace for both the number of tornadoes (over 500), and the death toll they've produced - now 98 for the year.

Had enough?   Heavy rains combined with high tides to force evacuations along the Delaware coast.   On Sunday high winds and low humidity conspired to spark large, sudden wildfires along Florida's East Coast, temporarily closing Interstate 95.

We cover all of this stuff through CNN's domestic and international weather center.   One of our summer interns is starting her first day.  It will be a learning experience.


Peter Dykstra  Executive Producer   CNN Science, Tech, and Weather

Filed under: earthquakes • Flooding • Severe weather • Tornadoes • Weather

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