Countries around the world are trying to cope with climatic catastrophe, as a big freeze chills Europe and North America, Brazil recovers from torrential rains, bushfires blaze in an Australian heatwave and Saudis pray for rain. North America was plunged into an intense cold front that buried Buffalo and sent 3 feet of snow to New York.
In Europe, the chill has claimed hundreds of lives. A winter cold snap in Poland has killed 178 people since October, well above the 112 killed by the cold last year. Authorities in Bulgaria declared a state of emergency after the worst snowfalls in 30 years. Moscow authorities said three people died in the sub-zero temperatures, bringing to 250 the number to perish in the city?s chill this winter.
Countries which usually have fairly modest temperatures, such as Germany, have reported intense lows, with the southern region of Bavaria seeing temperatures of almost minus 51 Fahrenheit. This is the lowest recorded temperature in the region since 1870.
In the southern hemisphere, bush fires burn in Sydney, Australia during a heat wave when temperatures rose to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Although the fires are believed to have been set deliberately, the high temperatures are making it harder for firefighters to bring them under control.
In Brazil, massive mudslides triggered by torrential rain in Rio de Janeiro buried homes, claiming at least 50 lives and leaving nearly 2,000 people homeless. Over 30 people are still missing, rescue authorities say.
In Saudi Arabia, thousands of people filled the mosques to pray for rain, as the imam of Mecca?s Grand Mosque blamed the drought on sin and corruption. Saudis have already offered up rain prayers this year, but with little apparent success.
Scientists warn that we?ll have to get used to increasing incidences of drought, temperature extremes and floods, which they say are part of global warming.
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After a snow free November and December with temperatures in the 60s, Buffalo received one of the heaviest snowfalls it has ever seen. The 83.5 inches of snow this month ? 82.3 of it since last Monday ? makes this the snowiest month in Buffalo history. The old record of 68.4 inches had stood since December 1985.
The 35.4 inches of snow that fell from 6 a.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday ranks as the second-highest 24-hour total in Buffalo history. The record is 37.9 inches, Dec. 9-10, 1995.
The 45 inches on the ground at the National Weather Service?s airport measuring station Friday eclipsed the 42-inch record set in January 1977. The reading was less than the total snowfall because some snow had melted or had become compacted.
Buffalo residents began digging out from under a near 7-foot snowfall. An army of street crews hacked at thick walls of snow with backhoes. Prison inmates cleared fire hydrants and residents uncovered buried driveways and cars, shooting plumes from snowblowers and shoveling eye-level mounds. Assisting local crews were 119 troops and heavy equipment from the National Guard and 450 state workers, who brought with them nearly 200 pieces of equipment.
Pedestrians struggled through chest-high drifts. Mercy Hospital put out a call for volunteers with four-wheel-drive vehicles to pick up staff members unable to get to work. Most major roads into and out of Buffalo were closed, including about 50 miles of the New York State Thruway.
Meteorologist Darin Figurskey says large masses of cold air were siphoning moisture from Lake Erie and dropping it in bands of snow. ?These bands just keep going back and forth, back and forth,? Figurskey says.
Mary McGuire tried shoveling a path through waist-high snow in her driveway after staying home from work. ?I sell cars, and nobody?s buying a car today,? she said, ?and if they want to, if they can dig it out, it?s theirs.?
The snow came while schoolchildren and many workers were on vacation, meaning there were fewer vehicles were on the roads. ?If there?s any plus, that?s it,? says Streets Commissioner Paul Sullivan.
It was a drastic change for a community that had its first-ever November without snow, and recorded only 1 ? inches before Christmas Eve. ?We had such a good fall and a great summer. What are you going to do?? says resident Joe Jacobbi. ?It came so late in the season that at least spring isn?t too far away.?
?Even by Buffalo's standards, it was very severe,? says Mayor Tony Masiello, who was forced to watch the whole thing from a distance when the snow kept him from returning from an out-of-town trip.
Jay Patterson of Orlando was among the travelers stranded at the Buffalo airport when it closed. He says, ?I come up here about once a year just to remind myself why I live in Florida.?
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