On This Date in History: Iceland is a rather ironic name for an island-nation that is not only formed from volcanic activity but is also a vulcanologist’s fantasy land. It is known as the land of Fire and Ice because of Iceland’s climate, that is cold but not as cold as one might think due to the proximity of the Gulf Stream, and the number of volcanoes that dot the landscape. One source claims that there is some 200 volcanoes in Iceland, the Global Volcansim Program features 32 volcanoes on Iceland while the Michigan Technological University Volcanoes Page indicates 6 active volcanoes on the island. I suppose the differences have to do with the parameters one uses to define a volcano and it’s state of activity. Anyway, one volcano that goes on every list is Mt. Hekla. From the top, you can take spectacular summit view video from Mt. Hekla. It is active and has a recent history of erupting about every 10 years. It hasn’t always been that regular though.
A history of Mt. Hekla reveals that it erupted in 1104 and then did so for the 17th time since then in 1991. The last time Mt. Hekla erupted was on this date in 2000. And now, University of Iceland Earth Science Professor Freysteinn Sigmundsson says that recent activity suggests that Hekla may be up to no good again. In December and January 2010, reports were circulating that the top of the big guy was void of snow, which is unusual in the middle of winter and especially since the past several months have been particularly cold. Apparently, it could be a clue because it may mean the top is heating up. But, not necessarily…well have to wait and see. After all February 26 has at least a small history of disasters but the two I’m thinking of had everything to do with man and very little with Mother Nature.
Did you Forget that on This date in History…
the World Trade Center was bombed? Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing on Sept. 11, 2001…but the first attempt to bring down the towers happened on February 26, 1993. The above photo is from the ATF files of the incident. Nice hole, huh? I suspect the bad guys got closer to undermining the integrity of the substructure than we were led to believe. No matter, they came back again 8 years later after we forgot about their intentions. While everyone remembers Sept. 11, 2001 and the events of the day I sometimes wonder if we remember enough that we take seriously the possibility that they will come back again, just as they did following their near-miss of February 26, 1993. With all of the justified pre-occupation with the economy, how certain are you that the new administration is as vigilante as it can be to thwart any more attacks? Or perhaps, do you think that there will be no more attacks?
Now, as I said I suspect that a mega disaster was narrowly avoided at the World Trade Center in 1993 and there is no question that September 2000 was just an catastrophic day on many many levels. Those were both man made events perpetrated by those whose clear aim was to destroy the buildings, kill many people, severely disrupt the American economy and terrorize it’s citizens.
But, other man made disasters don’t have to be deliberate. They can come about do to negligence or just plain stupidity. There is no way that the Buffalo Mining Company purposely courted disaster. Even the most cynical opponent to corporate America would agree the financial cost to the company would make such an assertion foolish. But, it can be said that they were neglegent on safety issues, perhaps in an effort to control costs. And there is no question that negligence was foolish from a financial perspective, a human perspective and from the viewpoint of a Patriot. On This Date in 1972 a cascade of water funnelled down Buffalo Creek in Logan County, West Virginia. 4000 homes and buildings in 17 towns were washed away and at least 118 people lost their lives. Marshall Univeristy has a “virtual museum” dedicated to the event. The culprit was a rather ironic foe. The irony lay in that the killer was also the lifeline to many of those who died. (Photo Gallery-Huntington Herald-Dispatch)
The Buffalo Mining Company was one of a number of companies exploiting West Virginia’s greatest natural asset (aside from its beauty) which is coal. Much of the state’s wealth and economy is based on coal. But a problem with coal mining is what to do with the wastes. If you put them on a mountain, you get landslides and if you put them in a valley, you spoil the creek or river. The great idea of the Buffalo group was to build a dam. Actually, it was a series of three dams. Because of the type of dam they were, they weren’t really regulated much. There really wasn’t much of an engineering study done or anything. The waste from coal mining is inherently unstable and makes for a lousy dam. The first dam gave way, putting pressure on the second dam which failed and the huge amount of water spilling down caused the main dam to collapse.
When you look at the steep terrain of West Virginia, it makes you wonder, “what were they thinking?” It’s one of those things in which it seems so obvious that using unstable material in such an area that a three-year-old could figure it out that it wouldn’t work. To say that its an example of corporate greed is probably a bit over-the-top as I’m sure those with the company didn’t want that to happen. Even if you have cynical view of the corporation, from their fiscal standpoint, it cost them a huge amount of money. However, the company was a subsidiary of the Pittston Mining Company and that company had a history of shabby safety practices. So, it would be fair to say that it appears that the company’s saving money on safety issues was the root cause of the disaster. But, given what it cost them from lawsuits, lost revenues, fines and other costs it seems that a greedy fellow would have prevented that from happening in order that they may keep more of their money. The result was from short sighted, stupid business practices and its a shame that we have to have government watch dogs to force some businesses to do what is not only smart from a corporate standpoint, but the right thing to do from a human perspective and for a business that relies on the efforts of their fellow citizens of the United States of America for their success.
Weather Bottom Line
Okay, I get it now, but I’m not sure that I’m buyin’ it. The models were in a bit of flux but now I’m seeing some consistency and support for the idea of warmer temperatures for the weekend; particularly Sunday. Not warm, mind you, but something closer to seasonal. Then we get colder again. But, I wouldn’t hold your breath. Yes, the data has some consistency but it’s not making sense. We’ll see. I do think though that it’s a certainty that a big old storm should come up out of the Gulf early in the week. Snow White and my friend at Apple Hill Farm in the Mountains of North Carolina may get dumped on with snow on Tuesday and Wednesday. She’s had a very large amount of snow this year. But, the alpacas are just fine…they’re from the mountains of South America. The trend has been for the storm to track a bit farther west and if this trend continues and it does track farther west than is progged now, then we may see another round of snow. But, again, we’ll see.