Archive for July, 2007

POLL: Coastal Residents Won’t Evacuate In Storm…

A child’s toy car waits for the demolishing crew at a home in Chalmette, La., Wednesday, July 11, 2007. Contractors hired to clean up after Hurricane Katrina are fuming over delays in getting paid by FEMA, and some fear the red tape will discourage companies from bidding on the big rebuilding projects that lie ahead for New Orleans. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

No end in sight to China floods after hundreds die...

Tainted China air hovers over California... 

Sea of misery: An aerial view shows the astonishing extent of the flooding around Tewkesbury

Floods trap 10,000 on the M5 as Armed Forces are called in

By GLEN OWEN – Last updated at 00:00am on 22nd July 2007 The largest rescue airlift in post-war Britain was under way as tens of thousands of flood victims were caught up in what emergency services described as ‘mayhem and chaos’. As widescale floods forced overstretched rescuers to call in the Army and RAF, officials warned that two of the biggest rivers in the South West were ready to burst their banks.

The torrential downpours, which stretched from South Wales to Humberside, led to astonishing scenes on the M5, with up to 10,000 vehicles left stranded overnight in a 40-mile gridlock.

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Floods trap 10000 on the M5 as Armed Forces are called in – Daily Mail


FREAK: Hail storm buries Mexican town...

Hundreds Rescued From Floods in Britain...

Death toll in China rises...

Central and Southern Europe Sizzling... 

Texas Parks and Wildlife July 2007The Invisible Lake

The mystery, history and strange allure of Caddo Lake

By Barbara Rodriguez


Separating Caddo’s myth from its reality is equally difficult. Though consistently labeled the only natural lake in Texas, it’s not (although it is the largest and maybe the only one with public access). Unlike most Texas lakes it is a lake with a past, albeit one shaded by tall tales and time. Where and when did it all begin? As with all creation theories there is no consensus. Some say that in the beginning there were earthquakes. Others tell of a Great Flood borne of a Great Raft leading to a Big Bang — of sorts. Then there are those who claim it all began with the Fairy. The unknowable is central to the ongoing attraction of the vast wetland that is actually a maze of bayous, bogs, sloughs and backwaters sprawling along the border between Harrison and Marion counties in Texas and Caddo Parish in Louisiana.The Earthquakes

The Caddo, Native American mound-builders, believed the lake was birthed by floods swelled by earthquakes. Recorded history testifies that as recently as 1811 a series of earthquakes around New Madrid, Missouri, tumbled and twisted the earth as far as the Pineywoods, whip-cracking rivers into new courses. Even today plenty of lake dwellers believe these temblors pooled waters into Caddo Lake. The ancient cypresses that lend the lake its distinctive character know the full truth, but they’re offering only one hint: a cypress seed will only root in water. The age rings of the cypresses that wash their knees in the Caddo give witness to a primordial puddle here as long as 400-600 years ago.

The Flood

Many geologists believe that the modern lake is the result of a behemoth log jam on the Red River. The logs that bobbed, lolled and banged themselves into a mind-boggling 100-mile geometric construction known as the Great Raft were described by the government-commissioned Freeman-Custis exploratory expedition in 1806 — five years before the Madrid earthquakes. The fallen trees, wedged impossibly tight between the banks of the Red River near the present site of Shreveport, swelled all connected waterways. By the 1840s Big Cypress Creek was deep enough to invite serious navigation, and the brief but glorious era of steamships huffing from New Orleans to Jefferson began.

The fate of the log jam holds the most water in the tale of Caddo’s genesis. In 1873 the Army Corps of Engineers blew the raft to bits in a Big Bang that pulled the plug on Cypress Bayou. The lake left behind is seldom deeper than 4 to 6 feet and changes character from season to season. In the winter, it is window-glass clear as vegetation dies off and settles; in the summer, water that isn’t heavily traveled is carpeted in the shady greens of spatterdock, duckweed and hyacinth. Where sediment is suspended the water is the color of steeping tea.

The Fairy

But let us not forget one last contributor to our tale. Before the earthquakes and the Great Raft, there was the Fairy. Fairy Lake. On its glistening footprint, hundreds of years before quakes or raft, some say the Caddo was born when the Fairy and Sodo Lakes flooded (today less romantically known as the Ferry and Soda Lakes).

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Aquapocalypse Dream 070719




This video is a companion to the piece An Earth Without People from the July 2007 issue of Scientific American.



Hat tip to




Megaflood ‘Made Island Britain’ BBC News

Sonar studies of the English Channel reveal scars scientists are attributing to a massive discharge of water from what is believed to be a lake where the North Sea now rests. Until that time, they say, Britain was a part of the European landmass.

Hat tip to

Texas Parks and Wildlife July 2007Sunken City – July 2007

When Lake Falcon’s water level drops, ghost towns emerge from the depths.

By E. Dan Klepper

Arturo the gatekeeper steps from the shadow of his sandstone dwelling into the light of the early afternoon. His simple abode, a blade-sharp rectangle of rocks, lies along the boulevard of a Mexican city built more than two and a half centuries ago. A coyote skull rests on one of the building’s cornerstones. Arturo’s dog, rousted from her nap by the arrival of visitors, appears at the edge of the Tamaulipan thornscrub, then waits patiently for a friendly sign before approaching. She is shy or cautious, one healthy brown eye avoiding the visitors’s gazes, one failing blue eye ticking hard like a ricocheting marble.

The surrounding countryside is radiant with spring flowers and berries. Scores of blackbrush have gone lemon-white with blooms. Their scent permeates the air in a musk more savory than sweet, a smell that attracts and repels all at once. Ruby berries of tasajillo droop from sticky branches like fly-blown orchard fruit. The ground around them is covered with verbena.


A scan of the area reveals a landscape equally at odds with the routine world; an empty parakeet cage and a deer hoof hang together from a nearby branch, javelina skulls tuck into tree forks, snake skins dry in the sun, and tidy assemblages of rubber and tin teeter in cartoon-like pillars. But most surreal are the myriad stone facades lining the boulevard and the intersecting avenues that cross-hatch the horizon. As far as the eye can see, architecture collapses in heaps of square-cut blocks, barrel segments of stone-carved pillars, and remnants of lintels, pediments, keystones and voussoirs. Other structures stand erect and intact, some with rusticated walls beneath peeling stucco, others with prickly pear cactus growing from their cornices. Homes, shops, cemeteries, plazas and a cathedral all sprout from the thick vegetation, Pompeii-like, in a visage of ruin. But it wasn’t a natural disaster that reduced this 250-year-old community in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas to a surrealist’s rubble. It was, instead, the construction of Falcon Dam and a slowly rising tide of water.

Devised and built jointly by the United States and Mexico pursuant to the Water Treaty of 1944, the International Falcon Dam and Reservoir project was put in place to provide flood control, water conservation and hydroelectric power to communities on both sides of the lower Rio Grande. The rolled, earth-fill embankment dam, with its maximum base-width of 1,000 feet and a height of 150 feet above the river bed, was designed to hold back more than 2 million acre-feet of water. But in doing so, almost 115,000 acres of the Texas and Tamaulipas landscape were submerged. Shortly after the completion of the dam, reservoir waters inundated ranches, farms, riparian habitat, rural homes and, in fact, entire towns on both sides of the border. The original Texas communities of Zapata, Falcon and Lopeño went under as well as much of Arturo’s charge — the beautiful Spanish colonial town now called Old Guerrero.

Arturo invites the visitors into his unlit dwelling where the sun shines as mid-day shafts through cracks in the windows’ wooden shutters. Twilight illuminates the rusting works of a kerosene lantern and the shed skin of an indigo snake that hang together on a nail. Pieces of a wooden wagon lay across the floor. The abode is part residence for Arturo and his animal menagerie and part showcase for fading newspaper clippings and graying photocopies that tell the story of Guerrero’s watery decline.

Established in 1750, Guerrero was once a vibrant urban center of trade with more than 25,000 citizens. The town, originally named Villa del Señor San Ygnacio de Loyola de Revilla and built near the Rio Grande at the mouth of the Salado River, was renowned for its Spanish Colonial art, enterprise and architecture. In fact, Guerrero was considered a key link in the compelling history of the entire Lower Rio Grande Valley due to its location, age and considerable beauty.


Arturo disappears behind a blanket-hung doorway and retrieves a stack of dog-eared papers. He returns and shuffles through the archive of photocopies and articles that document bits of Guerrero’s history and its ultimate demise, pausing occasionally at the visitors’ request. The images of Guerrero’s classic cathedral, Nuestra Señora del Refugio, submerged halfway up her portico arches and relegated to a slow deterioration are painful to view.


The cycle of inundating floods and crop-killing drought was the bane of farmers, ranchers and the myriad communities along the Lower Rio Grande Valley throughout the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. The creation of the International Falcon Dam and Reservoir was, by federal declaration, the solution. Construction was completed just in time, in fact, to arrest the damaging waters of the historic flood of 1954. According to a report published in the San Antonio Express on July 1, 1954:


Directions to Old Guerrero
(Antigua Guerrero Viejo)

Round-trip distance is approximately 60 miles from Falcon State Park into Mexico and back. A high-clearance, 4-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended.

The ruins are extensive. Hiking boots, water, food, cameras and binoculars are recommended. Watch for venomous snakes. Mountain bikes are welcome. A small fee is required to view the ruins.

Be sure to check on the latest identification requirements for crossing the U.S. border into Mexico and back via automobile. A fee may be required from the Mexican checkpoint for re-entry. U.S. dollars are accepted.

The route is relatively simple whether you are traveling south from Zapata or north from Rio Grande City via Highway 83. Turn onto FM 2098 (a sign for Falcon State Park points the way). Continue on FM 2098 past Park Road 46 (which will take you to Falcon State Park) until you reach Falcon Dam. Bypass the U.S. border checkpoint station and continue driving along the dam, where you will cross the international border between the U.S. and Mexico. Slow down at the Mexican border checkpoint station, where you may or may not be asked to stop. Once through the checkpoint, you will be traveling on Blas De La Garza Falcon. Continue on Blas De La Garza Falcon into the small town of Nueva Ciudad Guerrero (New Guerrero). Continue to the Avenida Miguel Hildago Y Costilla intersection. Turn left onto Avenida Miguel Hidalgo Y Costilla and continue a short distance to Highway 2 (the Nuevo Laredo–Mier Highway). Turn right (west) onto Highway 2 and continue for approximately 21 miles. After crossing Puente Rio Salado (the Salado River Bridge) continue another 3.2 miles and then look for a blue sign indicating the road to Antigua Guerrero Viejo. Turn right. Follow the rough (and often muddy) unpaved ranch road approximately 10 miles. Additional blue signs for Antigua Guerrero Viejo have been posted on the route. You will pass through a number of ranch gates along the way (approximately eight — most with cattle guards). Please leave gates as you find them. Also, be aware that these gates are locked by 6 p.m. The road terminates at Antigua Guerrero Viejo and the shores of Falcon Reservoir.

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Ready, aim, fire and rain
By Pallavi Aiyar

BEIJING – After weeks of watching the mercury soar, hardening the already cracked earth of their wilting orchards and farms, a group of farmers on the outskirts of Beijing gather in the Fragrant Hills that line the western fringe of China’s capital city. Unlike their ancestors, they do not assemble to perform a rain dance or gather in a temple to pray to the Lord Buddha to bring the rain.

Instead, they grab rocket launchers and a 37-millimeter anti-aircraft gun and begin shooting into the sky. What they launch are not bullets or missiles but chemical pellets. Their targets are not enemy aggressors but wisps of passing cloud that they aim to “seed” with silver-iodide particles around which moisture can then collect and become heavy enough to fall.

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