At least five people were killed across the Southeast following an outbreak of severe weather that affected the region from Monday into early Tuesday (2ns-3rd). Four people died in the southeastern Alabama town of Rehobeth after a suspected tornado swept through the area Monday night and blew a tree onto a home, authorities said. A fifth fatality was reported in Florida after a man was found dead of an accidental drowning following flooding near Shoal River in Walton County, Florida. Sheriff's deputies found the victim, 70-year-old William Patrick Corley of DeFuniak Springs, floating face down near his trailer and his car partially submerged shortly after noon on Monday. The potent storms caused widespread damage due to powerful winds that caused trees to topple onto cars and homes and heavy rains that triggered the flooding. The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center listed 12 tornado reports from Monday among other storm reports.


The first week of 2017 brought a deadly severe weather outbreak in the Southeast on the 2nd. At least six people were killed across the Southeast on Monday as severe storms spawned strong winds, heavy rain and tornadoes. Four women in southeastern Alabama were killed when a tornado swept through the town of Rehobeth and blew a tree onto their home. A fifth fatality occurred in Florida when a 70-year-old man died as the result of an accidental drowning. In Georgia, a woman was killed when storms moved through the town of Albany and damaged about 1,000 homes, the Associated Press reported.



The famed Pioneer Cabin tree, known for its hollow center that allowed cars to pass through, collapsed during the intense storm that blasted California with heavy rain on the 8th. The giant sequoia was located in the Calaveras Big Trees State Park in Calaveras County, about 80 miles southeast of Sacramento. The tree was a popular tourist site since the 1880s when a group of pioneers carved out the center. It became an iconic part of the state park. Until recently, cars were allowed to drive through. Jim Allday, a park volunteer, found the collapsed tree on Sunday as a major storm affected central and northern California.


The drought was declared over in northern California this week as storms continued to dump rain and massive amounts of snow across the state on the 13th. The storms caused flash flooding, power outages, mudslides and a high avalanche risk across the Sierra Nevada. As many as 15 rivers were reported to be above flood stage at one point, while state officials opened the Sacramento Weir for the first time in a decade to lessen the flood risk. A stretch of Interstate 80 along Donner Pass was closed for several days as crews worked to clear the heavy snow from the roads. Blizzard warnings were issued as well.


A long-duration ice storm in the Great Plains and Midwest claimed the lives of six people, caused treacherous travel conditions, prompted the delay of an NFL football game and left thousands without power on the 14th-16th). Freezing rain, ice and winter storm warnings were in effect from the Texas panhandle north into Iowa and east through central Indiana. Multiple crashes occurred due to drivers losing control of their vehicles on the ice-covered roadways, including at least four fatalities, according to Missouri and Oklahoma State Highway Patrol. Two fatal accidents also occurred in Kansas on Saturday, the Kansas Highway Patrol reported. Missouri and Oklahoma declared states of emergency. The same storm also produced some severe weather in parts of Oklahoma and Texas on Sunday.


Deadly weather in the south-eastern US has left at least 18 people dead and injured dozens more as residents along the Georgia-Florida line braced for more intense, fast-moving storms including unusually strong -long track tornadoes on the 22-23rd. On Sunday, a tornado blew through a mobile home park in rural Cook County in southern Georgia, sheering off siding, upending homes and killing seven people, officials said. Coroner Tim Purvis said an apparent tornado 'leveled' the park before dawn and that emergency responders searched for survivors for hours. Purvis said the park had about 40 mobile homes and roughly half were destroyed. Four people were killed in adjoining counties on Sunday and another three were confirmed on Sunday evening in Dougherty County where Albany is located, said Catherine Howden, spokeswoman for the Georgia Emergency Management. A further four were killed in Mississippi by a tornado on Saturday making a total of 18 fatalities. The weather service's Storm Prediction Center warned on its website of a 'dangerous outbreak of tornadoes' on Sunday afternoon and pressed for residents to prepare. There were 4.8 million people under the high risk area; the total in the area of bad weather in the south east, who came under the slight risk category or worse, was about 38 million people. While the central part of the US has a fairly defined tornado season - the spring - the risk of tornadoes 'never really goes to zero' for most of the year in the south east, said Patrick Marsh, warning coordination meteorologist at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.




New Year's Eve fireworks contributed to dangerously high levels of pollution in several German cities, official figures suggest (3rd). In Munich, particulate levels briefly reached 26 times the EU-recommended daily limit of 50 micrograms of particulates per cubic metre of air. National figures suggest that firework displays ejected some 4,000 tons of particulates into the atmosphere. That reportedly equates to 15% of yearly vehicle particulate emissions. Airborne sooty particulates are mostly emitted during the burning of fossil fuels and contribute to deaths from respiratory illnesses. The German figures have prompted environmentalists to call for restrictions on the sale of private fireworks.


More than 20 people are now known to have died as icy temperatures continue to grip much of Europe on the 9th. Ten people died of cold in Poland on Sunday. The bodies of three migrants, two Iraqi and one Somali, were found near the Turkish-Bulgarian border. Deaths have been reported in Italy, the Czech Republic, Russia and Ukraine. Dozens of flights have been halted. In Turkey, the Bosphorus is closed to shipping after a snowstorm. Even Greece's islands are covered in snow. In Serbia, all river transport is suspended on the Danube. The Medecins Sans Frontieres aid organization said it was "very concerned about the thousands of vulnerable people across the continent in danger and stuck in undignified conditions". It said "of particular concern are the 2,000 people living in informal settlements in Belgrade where temperatures are currently reaching -20C". In Russia, temperatures in some regions have plunged below -40C. Normally milder Greece has witnessed temperatures of -15C in the north, where an Afghan migrant died of cold last week and roads were closed. In Athens, the temperature failed to rise above 0C over the weekend and many of the islands were covered in snow. Some of the Greek islands are home to thousands of migrants and many are being moved to temporary housing and heated tents. Some of Rome's famous fountains are now covered in ice. Children had a rare opportunity to play on the frozen Esca River in Burgui, northern Spain. Homeless hostels in Italy are opening their doors day and night as the weather has been blamed for the deaths of seven people, five of them living out in the open. Airports in Sicily, Bari and Brindisi closed over the weekend. Rome, too, saw freezing temperatures. In Russia, Moscow experienced its coldest Orthodox Christmas in 120 years on 7 January.


Low elevations of southeastern Spain received a rare coating of snow this week on the 17th. With cold, dry air in place ahead of a storm, the stage was set for snow to fall outside of the mountains of southeastern Spain at midweek. While only lasting a few hours before changing to a chilly rain, the most snow since 1983 whitened Murcia. The city averages a high of 16.6C and a low of 4.7 in January.




A thick fog settled over large parts of China, including the capital of Beijing, early in the week prompting hundreds of flight cancellations across the country (4th). The dense fog also forced highways to be shut down with visibility being reduced to just a few hundred feet. Officials in Beijing issued a red smog alert on Wednesday, the highest possible warning level for smog, Reuters reported.


Flooding from heavy rains hammering Thailand's south has left at least 18 people dead and thousands of villages partially submerged on the 8th. The flooding, which was roof-high in some areas, has affected nearly one million people in 10 southern provinces since it started a week ago, according to the country's interior ministry. At least 18 people had died and one was missing, the government said, with the rains turning roads into rivers, inundating farmland and damaging more than 1,500 schools in the region. The downpour was expected to persist for at least two more days, according to Thailand's meteorological department, which warned of flash floods.


Days of heavy rain have caused flooding and several deaths across the Philippines on the 17th. At least seven deaths were reported and 6,800 people were displaced from their homes by the flooding. A combination of a frontal boundary and ample tropical moisture have resulted in several days of heavy rainfall across the central an southern Philippines. Rainfall totalled 311 mm in Borongan, Visayas, since Saturday. This is around 50% of the normal rainfall for the entire month of January. Farther southwest, 7.32 inches of rain fell in Dipolog City in only six hours with a total of 8.26 inches falling on Monday. Normal rainfall is close to 5 inches for the entire month of January.




A powerful 'weather bomb' has hit New Zealand, cutting off rural towns, flooding major roads and dumping snow on to bare alpine ski fields at what should be the height of the southern hemisphere summer on the 19th. The significant low edged over the South Island late on Thursday afternoon, causing landslips and snow, and went on to lash the country throughout the weekend. Auckland in the North Island suffered major power outages, while rivers on the west coast of the South Island rose rapidly in a matter of hours, lapping at road-sides and carrying large debris, including trees washed down from the Southern Alps. A landslip also buried the famous Sylvia Flats hot pools, and residents of Dunedin reported having to burn their fences to stay warm after being caught off guard by the unseasonal weather. 'This weather bomb was caused by a burst of really hot air coming out of Australia and forming a low when it moved into the Tasman Sea, and then picking up moisture and increasing in intensity,' said Mads Naeraa-Spiers, a forecaster for the Met Service.



Dramatic TV footage has captured the moment a three-storey hotel collapsed into a swollen river in Peru on the 26th. Dating from colonial times, La Hacienda was located near the bank of the river Sicra in the town of Lircay. Heavy rains began in the area on Wednesday and continued for 10 hours, eroding the river edge and then the building's foundations. The 50-room hotel was evacuated as the situation worsened and nobody was injured when the hotel finally crashed into the fast-flowing torrent. Other buildings in the town in Peru's Huancavelica region were also destroyed or damaged as a result of the constant heavy rain. Roads have also been blocked by landslides.




There are fire bans across the Australia's south-east, with Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT all heading for sweltering temperatures in the high 30s and even 40s (Celsius) on the 30th. In NSW, the Bureau of Meteorology issued a fire warning for much of the state's south and the far western region, with the Rural Fire Service declaring a total fire ban for those areas. The town of Moree in northern NSW was set for its 33rd day in a row over 35C. The city broke the previous state record for the most days in a row over 35C - 17 - about two weeks ago, and is expected to continue to break its own record for at least the rest of the week.


Jim G. Munley, jr.

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