Friday, April 29, 2011

Crisis in Alabama

At last count the death total from the April 27th southern storms had risen to above 300.

Whole cities have been devastated. There is huge damage to the grid infrastructure in Northern Mississippi and Alabama,
TVA has more than 100 major fallen transmission lines in North Alabama and Mississippi. . . .

(L)arge transmission lines and its towers were downed, the Widows Creek fossil plant was damaged and is offline, and the Browns Ferry nuclear plant shut down after power going into the plant was interrupted.
A reported estimate of 600,000 TVA customers are without electric power, and more than one million people in Alabama are experiencing outages. TVA has reported that it would need
"days to weeks" for electricity service to resume. Hydropower from the Guntersville Dam is available and Browns Ferry can generate power when the transmission system is repaired.
Reportedly it will take a week before TVA will be able to provide Northern Alabama with some electricity, and even then only some customers, such as hospitals, pharmacies, grocery stores and gas stations. Residential electrical services will be restored later. The economy of northern Alabama has been hit with a terrible blow. Alabama cities and counties are declaring dusk to dawn cerfews.

In Huntsville, Alabama utilities officials said that
150 power poles (were) downed and some substations damaged . . . .
People, including LFTR maven Kirk Sorensen and his family, are leaving Huntsville. In effect they are storm refugees. The Huntsville Times reports,
The relentless, catastrophic outbreak of tornadoes that barreled through our homes, our neighborhoods and our souls has left us crippled. Power will be out for days. Refrigeration is going to be limited or out at supermarkets. ATM machines will likely be out of service. Gas stations will likely be closed. . . .

. . . The National Guard will be called in to offer support.
In East Tennessee the storms were unusual. I spent the first half of my life in East Tennessee, and never saw anything like them. First there were the thunder storms and super cells, one after another. Usually a row of storms will pass through and then the bad weather is over. These storms kept coming starting during the morning hours and lasting through midnight. There were not the huge devastating tornadoes which were seen in Alabama and Mississippi, but radar showed that a lot of the storm cells contained rotating winds. Most of the proto-tornadic storms I witnessed during my 35 years in Texas were swept in on a single rapidly moving line and then were gone. I don't recall ever witnessing a day long episode of proto-tornadic storms like this. This is the latest episode of extremely unusual storm events in the south east that began less than two years ago when Atlanta underwent a ten thousand year rain/flood event. This was followed about 6 months later, by a thousand year rain/flood event in Nashville. Forty years ago this spring, I heard CO2/environmental researcher, Jerry Olsen tell ORNL scientists that we were headed into an era of unusual storms, and like other forecasts Jerry made that day, this now seems to have come to pass. Some people, mainly Republicans are still in denial about global climate change, just as many Republicans also deny that President Obama's is a native born American citizen.

Of course the recent Southern storms do not prove beyond all doubt that Anthropogenic Global Warming is occurring, but they fit into AGW expectations. Perhaps it is not the storms themselves, but the lack or any evidence that would lead us to atribute them to some other causes.

The recent grid damage in Mississippi and Alabama should be the focus of a great deal of attention because of the degree of damage to the grid, and its undoubted economical consequences. I Intend to follow up this post with an analysis of the disaster's implication for the future of the grid and the future of nuclear power in the United States.


charlesH said...


FYI, AGW theory warms the poles more than the tropics thus reducing the delta T that drives storm intensity. This is due to the fact that co2 warming is strongest in dry cold air not warm most air.

Storm intensity is not increasing as co2 increases. This fact is consistent with AGW theory.

Kirk Sorensen said...

What's a "maven?"

Charles Barton said...

CharlesH, the effects of atmospheric CO2 on climate are not perfectly understood, and many climate scientists believe that they include increased variation of rain patters, with both more extreme wet and dry patters and more frequent variations between extremes in some areas. Jerry Olsen talked about rainfall variations at ORNL some 40 years ago, as I recall, and that has stuck in my mind.

Charles Barton said...

From Hebrew and Yiddish. Someone who has superior understanding, an expert who helps others learn. A respected teacher.

Jim Baerg said...

"the Browns Ferry nuclear plant shut down after power going into the plant was interrupted."

Why is this done? Wouldn't it be better to cut it's output to whatever is usable by any customers it's still connected to?

Would the reason for shutting the generator down in such conditions apply to LFTRs?


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