Severe flooding is threatening parts of New South Wales and Queensland in eastern Australia, with towns cut off and thousands of residents evacuated. More than 10,000 people in communities affected by the floods have been left stranded, authorities said on Friday. A military helicopter was sent to the northern New South Wales town of Moree with bedding and supplies. “From the air it looks like an inland sea,” said New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell. Moree is reportedly facing its worst flooding in more than 35 years, with more than 2,000 people ordered to evacuate homes and buildings. Water levels at the Mehi River there had peaked and flooding was expected to continue for several days, emergency officials said. “As you fly over the centre of the town there are streets that look like canals that have more relevance to Venice than north-western New South Wales,” said Mr O’Farrell. In the town of Mitchell in Queensland, about 200 people have reportedly been forced to evacuate after floodwater inundated their homes. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said the hospital had also been evacuated and five schools were closed, following fears that the Maranoa river could reach a record 10-metre height. The Bureau of Meteorology in Australia also issued a severe weather warning for parts of Queensland on Friday. –BBC
Hawaii drought worsens: Federal authorities today issued a natural disaster designation for Hawai’i County due to ongoing drought conditions. The designation clears the way for affected ranchers and farmers to apply for federal relief. According to the National Weather Service, Extreme Drought conditions persists in the South Kohala and portions of the Hamakua District of Hawaii Island. Hydrologist Kevin Kodama noted in a recent advisory that pastures and general vegetation over most of the district were in very poor condition causing an ongoing concern for brush fires. The advisory further stated that ranchers in the area destocked cattle and initiated water hauling operations, while some Kona coffee growers, had to irrigate more than normal to sustain their orchards. The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued the declaration on Jan. 18, 2012, after reviewing an application submitted by the governor last month. “By designating Hawai’i County a natural disaster area, President Obama and US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack have recognized that the island’s farmers and ranchers have endured enough,” said Governor Neil Abercrombie in a statement. “Even today, Big Island residents continue to experience drought conditions ranging from severe to extreme. The USDA’s assistance will help hard working families recover losses and see it through until conditions improve,” he said. –Maui Now
Kenyan Elders are no longer able to predict the rains
MARSABIT, Kenya – Nomadic communities living off the dry terrain of northern Kenya have relied for generations on the powers of village elders to predict the weather. But the divinations of traditional forecasters were confounded by an unexpectedly severe drought in 2011, threatening herders’ livelihoods. Now pastoralists and meteorological experts are trying to find better ways to cope with regional weather that is increasingly difficult to anticipate – a situation some believe is linked to climate change. Using their traditional forecasting systems, the elders in Marsabit district predicted that rains would fail in the area from October or November 2010 until April 2011, but that after this dry spell the situation would return to normal. This information was relayed to the community through the network of traditional elders in every village in the district. As anticipated, there were only erratic rains towards the end of 2010, and then a dry period.
But the onset of rain predicted for April never occurred, and the situation rapidly turned catastrophic. With livestock weakened, pasture diminished and the water running dry for people and livestock, thousands of herders crossed into southern Ethiopia in search of water and pasture, while others fled remote villages for towns in search of food and pasture. Abdi Boru, from the Turbi area of Marsabit, said he lost 23 head of cattle in the drought, leaving him with just two. “The situation changed to worse from (what the elders) predicted and everybody started losing livestock in high numbers. We could not move them across the border as they were weak, and we watched while they died,” said Boru. When rains finally came in November 2011, they were so heavy that there was flash flooding, which the traditional forecasters also failed to predict. Kunu Halakano, an elder in Dambalfanchana village, said he was shocked by the turn of events. “We have given our community weather information for many years, and that assisted them in understanding what to expect and plan, but now I am seeing something else from what we predicted. We predicted good rains after the dry spell and (yet) the rains failed from April to October,” said Halakano. –Alert Net
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