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Earthwatch: A Diary of the Planet

Deadly Tornado Swarms

June 11, 1998

Many parts of the American Midwest and Northeast were raked by swarms of tornadoes that caused numerous fatalities and extensive damage. Hardest-hit was the South Dakota town of Spencer, which was virtually wiped off the map. More than half of Spencer's population was injured during the disaster. Tornadoes were also especially destructive in Michigan, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and New York.

Earthquakes

A massive international relief effort was launched in the aftermath of a devastating temblor that killed thousands of people in northern Afghanistan. Entire villages were destroyed when the magnitude 6.9 quake struck the remote mountainous region of Badakhshan.

Earth movements were also felt in northern Greece, eastern Romania, Taiwan, southwest Japan, northern China, the Kamchatka Peninsula, south-central Alaska and the Los Angeles area.

Fatal Feast for Trout

An estimated 22,000 trout died in Texas' Guadalupe River after eating dead fire ants that fell into the waterway after mating in the sky. Trout kills of lesser magnitude occur on the Guadalupe every May when swarms of the winged ants embark on mating flights after the first heavy rain of the month. Males die, fall to the ground and roll into the river, where they are eaten by hungry trout. The fire ants migrated from South America, reaching the southern United States during the 1930s. They can inflict painful and sometimes deadly stings on humans and animals.

Heat and Dust

The severe heat wave that has killed more than 1,300 people on the Indian subcontinent during the past three week was eased by the onset of light showers and dust storms. The first monsoon showers and thunderstorms of the season reached India's southwestern coast and promised to bring future relief through the remainder of June. The extreme heat produces a huge area of low barometric pressure in the interior of India that sucks in moist and cooler air from the Indian Ocean-- a key ingredient to the southwest monsoon season of summer.

Whale Revenge

Oslo's Verdens Gang newspaper reported that a harpooned whale fighting for its life rammed the Norwegian boat that had fired on it, breaking the ship's mast and hurling two crewmen into icy waters. The paper said that the whale escaped, but none of the rescued crew members could tell if it survived. The whaling boat, Boga, was off Norway's northern tip when the minke whale fought back. The two men tossed into the water were in the crow's nest near the tip of the mast, and had initially spotted the whale. Norway continues to ignore a worldwide ban on commercial whaling established in 1993, and plans to allow its whaling fleet to "harvest" hundreds of the marine mammals this summer.

Additional Sources: U.S. Navy Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center, U.S. Climate Analysis Center, U.S. Earthquake Information Center and the United Nations World Meteorological Organization

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