Across the world it was a volatile Valentine’s Day last week, with superstorms raging, the earth trembling and volcanoes erupting.
More than 7,000 properties in England and Wales were left without power after gale force winds of up to 173km per hour (108mph) battered the United Kingdom.
For the first time in its 150-year history, the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol had to be closed due to the extreme winds as the UK Met Office issued its first "Red" warning of the winter. The Red warning is the highest possible level of alert, intended to warn residents of the western coast to stay indoors as there was a genuine risk to life. The whole of the country had either amber and yellow warnings in place; snow caused further misery and disruption in the north and heavy rain deluged the south, worsening the floods that have already brought many regions to crisis point after the wettest January since records began.
The river Thames broke its banks last week flooding thousands of home and businesses, and the U.K. Environment Agency has predicted that it will rise again over the next few days. The capital city of London was protected from the floods by the mighty Thames Barrier, a series of ten steel gates each as high as a five storey building. Elsewhere, however, the agency currently has 16 severe flood warnings in place, warning of a danger to life, fourteen along the Thames and two in Somerset, where some villages have been cut off by flooding since before Christmas. A further 118 flood warnings are in place across the rest of the country, and 169 flood alerts. Over 3,000 military personnel have been brought in to assist emergency services, with a further 5,000 standing by.
The UK Met Office, the British counterpart of the U.S. National Weather Service suggested that the extreme weather this winter is occurring as a result of global warming, as higher temperatures increase the likelihood of heavy precipitation events.
The storm front battering Britain was so large that it joined forces with the mighty tempest that assaulted the United States with heavy snow and ice last week: satellite images showed the storms "holding hands" over the Atlantic ocean in an unlikely Valentine’s Day gesture. The US storm brought snow to 49 of the 50 states in North America, knocked out power in 550,000 homes, grounded thousands of flights and caused traffic chaos. Almost two dozen people died as a result of the severe weather, as up to 27 inches (68cm) snow fell in some areas.
The storm moved from the US into eastern Canada, dumping up to 60cm (24in) of snowfall from Quebec to Newfoundland and lashing affected areas with high winds of around 60 mph (95km/h). A 200km (124 mile) section of the Trans-Canada Highway had to be completely closed to traffic in Quebec.
Elsewhere in the world, snow also brought chaos and devastation to Japan. A snowstorm of unprecedented fury on Friday and Saturday killed eleven people and forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes. Raging blizzards brought three feet of snow to some areas, closing roads and forcing airports to cancel flights in Tokyo. Buildings collapsed under the weight of the snow, and drivers were left stranded. The area was still recovering from an earlier snowstorm that resulted in the deaths of a further eleven people, and over a thousand were injured.
Back in the US, the earth moved for some on Valentine’s Day in South Carolina, as a 4.1 earthquake shook the state.
“It’s a large quake for that area," USGS geophysicist Dale Grant told the Associated Press. "It was felt all over the place."
Geologists believe that Friday’s “Valentine’s Day Quake” may have been caused by a subterranean breakdown within the Appalachian Mountains. No severe damage or casualties were reported, though it alarmed bewildered residents who were still attempting to cope with the rare snowfall in the area.
In Indonesia the earth’s fury erupted in the form of a massive volcanic eruption that killed three people and caused the evacuation of 100,000 homes. Java island’s Mount Kelud exploded during the night and could be heard up to 125 miles away, Indonesia’s disaster agency said.
"The eruption sounded like thousands of bombs exploding," Ratno Pramono, a 35-year-old farmer, said after returning from an evacuation center to check on his property in the village of Sugihwaras, around five kilometers (three miles) from the crater. "I thought doomsday was upon us. Women and children were screaming and crying."
Kelud is one of around 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia, and last erupted in 1990, killing more than 30 people and injuring hundreds. The latest explosion was expected and had been preceded by rumblings for weeks.
The wrath of Mother Nature on Valentine’s Day reminds us that"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." Are we aggravating her natural processes via global warming, causing her to react with alarming intensity? She is a formidable force and, for all of our technological advances, we are ultimately powerless to resist her advances and should eke out our existence on the surface of this Earth with due humility.
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