Sunday, February 26, 2006

AND NOW OUR NEXT CONTESTANT…
THE PANDEMIC

SAT 25 APRIL 2009: This commentary was first published on 26 Feb 2006 and is revisited for evidence that this has been on my radar screen for quite some time. ORIGINAL POST:

And you thought this was primarily a weather hazards site? As John Lennon says, “Life is what happens when you are making other plans.” Friends, Mother Nature has conjured up and is carrying out a plan that more sooner than you would expect is going to affect each and every one of us, and may very well change the entire fabric of our society forever. If you’ve come to trust this site for an educated analysis of the weather, then I encourage you to extend that trust another step. Since September 2005 I have been conducting extensive and exhausting research on the impact and spread of a particular avian influenza, of which you all are familiar with by now, H5N1 or commonly referred to as “bird flu.”

My research into this topic has been part of the reason why my posts on this site have stopped being as regular as last year, although adding a child to the family and my wife going back to work were equally as influential. Simply put, the time I used to devote to detailed, long-term meteorological analysis in pinpointing the nuances of the next winter storm has been curtailed. That time has been spent researching and preparing for what I now strongly believe will be an inevitable worldwide epidemic (a pandemic) of highly pathogenic influenza. This event will be unlike any natural catastrophe in human history, will happen in our lifetimes, and may even get underway before the end of this year.

If you are totally thrown out of whack by this so far, then look over the US Government website on Pandemic Influenza, and pay special attention to the tab labeled "Individuals and Families." Let me also provide you some reasons behind this seismic change on a weather site. The purpose of this website has always been to provide a well-researched, straight-forward assessment of potential severe weather hazards which may threaten the U.S. East Coast and Northeast Corridor. Well, the times, they are a’ changing.’ From this point forward, the focus of the site will now include an on-going review of the threat posed by H5N1 to North America, in addition to forecasting for hurricanes and winter storms. In fact, I could argue that my study of meteorological and climatological patterns is closely linked to the epidemiology of bird flu, (as defined by Webster's the sum of the factors controlling the presence or absence of a disease or pathogen) because the whole situation revolves around wild bird migration brought on by change of the seasons. I have been following the bird flu situation so closely that, well, you know, I’ve let other tasks falter from time to time. But the reason I’ve done that is probably more instinctive than anything else, because a pandemic directly threatens my family, my livelihood and our future. I’m a scientist and a teacher, so you’d better believe that when something of this magnitude comes along, I’m not going to sit idly by and wait for it to pounce on me. I’m going to find out everything I can about it, and then do whatever it takes to protect my family.

But as a reader of this site, you are in effect, an pseudo-extended member of that family. For a while I have been thinking that it would be nice someday for those of us whom often correspond here to meet, say on an annual basis… just for fun. A “Friends of Foot’s Forecast” Convention, just a fun random gathering once a year to talk, share stories, get to know each other, let our kids play together, etc. I had actually been thinking about making a formal proposal on the site to host something like that starting this May. Your participation on this site makes it a rewarding endeavour for me, and motivates me to continue the challenge, and to continue being a life-long learner. But sadly, I am learning that events may change too fast in the coming months for such a gathering to happen this year. Instead, I felt it necessary to bring you up to date on those things that do keep me up at night, because as of late it has not been “when is the next storm” but rather “how much time do I have left to prepare for this pandemic?”

That’s what this site will try to sort out and identify over the next 3 months. Instead of creating a new blog solely for bird flu, it’s all going to be right here… winter storms, hurricanes, and the mother of all maelstroms… pandemic influenza. If you think I should just stick to forecasting weather, you are welcome to voice your opinions, or do the research I've done and present an opposing viewpoint. What I’m going to present is not designed or intended to be hype or fear-mongering, but the information is now reaching a level that just stating the facts is getting scary. I do this because I know you have families, I know you saw what happened with Katrina, and I know you’ve wondered what would happen if your family faced that kind of situation. So let me start by breaking it down for you this way: An H5N1 Influenza Pandemic now or at any point in our remaining lifetime would be the equivalent of POST KATRINA NEW ORLEANS WORLDWIDE.

There are so many implications and ramifications of this concept that it will take me hours and hours to spell it all out (which I will attempt to do slowly over the next 3 months). But this virus, though it mostly resides in birds at the moment, is a serious, persistent and growing threat to the very stability of every aspect of our life on Earth and has the ability to unravel the foundations of Western Civilization like no other natural event has ever before. Scared yet? Think I'm crazy yet? Are you in denial yet? I’ve been mortified since September so let me wake you up a little more. The following statements are TRUE and are supported with a source link.

1. The British Government ordered 200,000 body bags last week and is planning to create 15 temporary mortuaries around the U.K. to handle an overload of corpses should a pandemic occur. Source: UK Times-Mirror

2. Marriott International is ordering gloves, masks and protective gear for it's employees in Asian hotels worldwide. Source: San Francisco Chronicle

3. The National Academy of Science is hosting a conference in Washington, DC March 6 and 7 on the topic of developing “re-useable face masks” to help the public protect themselves in the event of a pandemic. Source: National Academy Public Meeting

4. The U.S. Chicken Industry in January began implementing plans to test every flock of commercial poultry in the entire country for H5N1. Source: MSNBC.com

5. Virologists have recently established that if a HIV-positive person in Africa also contracted H5N1, the unique reassortment of those two viruses might enable that person to become a more efficient “transmitter” of a human bird flu strain to others for months or years before themselves becoming ill. Source: AIDSmap News

In short, bird flu is not going away anytime soon, it is going to become a part of our life just like dealing with the events of 9-11 have, and may arrive in North America as early as this spring or summer, as explained by in an International Herald Tribune article written by Laurie Garrett from the Council on Foreign Relations. If you are new to this topic and think I have completely flipped, then spend some time looking through the links I have posted to the right. Another eye-opening assessment of the situation was written by Dr. Michael Osterholm in the July 2005 edition of Foreign Affairs. Dr. Osterholm is one of the nation's premier experts on this virus threat, and is Associate Director of ‘CIDRAP’ the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

If a winter storm comes blowing up anytime soon, you can bet I'll be on it. But the bigger fish (or bird) for the foreseeable future is going to be getting a handle on, and understanding the bird flu threat as it pertains to your family and our society. The US Government website says it best... "Get Informed, Be Prepared." That's what I've been doing and I hope you will consider doing the same, for the sake of your friends and family. Your comments and opinions are welcome, and I will post again on this topic after it is clear we are finished with winter storms for this season.

Flyways Map 1

The yellow regions shown on this Wild Bird Flyways map show there are at least 4 major regions in the world (2 in North America) where migration paths cross over, creating a persistent and growing ability of infected birds to cross-infect new flocks which can then carry the virus to a major nesting area, hence the recent spreads to Africa and Europe as reported in the news.

37 comments:

Andy, Southern York County PA said...

Mr. Foot you are correct that there is a "chance". But looking at climatology I think there is a greater chance that we will get nothing snow wise, also considering the way this winter has played out as well it does not look good. I'll place my virtual money on no more accumulating snow the rest of the season, but I hope you win this bet!

The pattern of 30's then 60's is more indicative of early spring. Our average high for the first week of March is about 50. It's gonna take a lot to make it snow and stick. Climatology is now our foe. Even when climatology has been our friend this winter, the pacific jet had conspired for 6 weeks in the heart of winter to make us feel more like Atlanta than Bostamore.

Julee said...

Completely agree with you about this Mr. Foot. I have a fascination with Medieval history and English history in general, and have, therefore, read a lot about the plague years. I know that it completely changed the fabric of society in the Medieval world. They lost so many artisans, and trained workman of all kinds that there was no one left to build buildings, tan leather, run the flour mills, tend the farms, run the cities. Everything was in upheaval -- and that was when people were mostly dependent on themselves for the everyday needs of food, clothing and shelter.
A change in the fabric of society on THAT scale in THIS world is incomprehensible to most people. They either cannot or do not wish to see the possibility. Things always get better don't they? How bad can it be? Surely we'll have people to provide food and water, basic medical needs and services.
I'm not so sure.
Thank you for taking on this all encompassing work. You have a daunting task ahead of you. I will hang on your every word.

kristine said...

Mr. Foot,
I think too many of us are in denial about the bird flu. We choose not to research if for fear of what we may find. I was watching an Oprah show regarding not only the bird flu but other epidemics- such as Katrina. It was quite mortifying!
If the government could not handle helping the people affected by Katrina- that we knew was coming, what on earth are they going to be able to do for us if and when the bird flu hits? One of the things that stuck with me from that show was when the doctor said we all think that there is a hospital bed available for us...but when everyone is sick and needs that bed- will there be one for you? When this hits, a whole new moral and ethical issue will arise. Will the 90 year old person on the ventilator stay on it or will it be given to the 25 year old who has a better chance of surviving? Things the medical feild has never really had to do.
THank you so much for your research. I look forward to reading it.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Foot, what do you see happening with this snow the Weather Channel is calling for tommorrow in York, PA?

Drew said...

I know its a week away but GFS is starting to show the "monster" along the east coast Tuesday range that even Joe B. has been talking about for the last few weeks. Could be one more for the record books to end the season :-).
Cheers.

Eric said...

Hey bird flu scares, I believe are nothing more than a ploy by the Bush administration...they just want to keep us scared and talk about it and in a way forget about more pressing issues like the WAR IN IRAQ and social security, the growing problem of poverty in our cities, ie Katrina really showed that in New Orleans.

The guy I work with used to be a heart surgeon at MGH, now joined a lawyer, smart guy, has friends, doctors, at MGH and they have told him that the bird flu is nothing to worry about for many years to come. It is a very very low probability of an all out plague.

The government is just trying to found this country on fear and wants the general public scared. It keeps everybody in line and away from more pressing and important issues.

However, I totally agree that there should be something said about this, but don't go all Y2K and start stocking up for Armagedon. Its just not worth the effort. There is a better chance of dying in a car accident on your way to work than dying of the Avian flu. Just keep that in mind.

Well, as you can tell I am not a big fan of George W. Bush, his administration, or the Republican party and they are just a bunch of people that mislead and are extremely corrupt. My personal liberal opinion. They are nothing but misleaders and liars.

I love the insight on it though Mr. Foot. Very well put together. However, we as a country should feel more strongly about the 25,000 dead and wounded American soldiers in Iraq and how this is destroying the fabric of our nation. I just feel very strongly on this and strongly just do not trust the White House and its sad that so many people will watch the biased FOX NEWS channel and not even know what this administration is doing and how it is tarnishing this country's great past.

ON A SIDE NOTE:

Current projections for the SNOW on Thursday in Boston looks to be about 2-4". We'll see.

Have a good day.

Eric said...

Always a controversial opinion from us up here in Boston.

Mr. Foot said...

That's okay Eric. I have been just as controversial with my forecasts from time to time. Your opinion is welcome and I challenge anyone reading to make the mature choice to NOT be offended by the remarks of anyone posting on this site.

Since I'm the moderator.. my rule is that being offended is a choice. So let me respond with a couple controversial questions:

1. How do you explain that avian influenza has been around for thousands of years and was the cause behind the last great pandemic of 1918 which killed 50-100 million people.

2. If bird flu scares" are nothing more than a government designed distraction...why is it that the current subtype H5 first appeared in China in 1997? That was when Clinton was in office, so should be also be blamed for getting the government to being pandemic planning going in the mid 90's? does you really think the worldwide response to this virus from the EU and UN has anything to do with who is in the White House?

3. Does your friend from MGH know that this particular strain of avian influenza can survive in feces for up to 30 days in temperatures even as cold at 20 degrees? So when he finds bird feces on his cardoor handle this spring...

I agree with you Eric that Iraq is a huge mess and Republican or Democrat aside, we are in deeper trouble with each passing day. For me the even more important and pressing issue is going to be what happens when the pandemic strikes and our troops are stuck over there? Or what happens if our troops contract the virus from the Iraqi people should it become easily transmissible... and then they are not permitted to come home for fear of infecting the general population, just like what happened in 1918.

Let's hope all our discussions served nothing more than to simply jinx the virus and the pandemic never happens.

You do have your supply of N95 masks, though, right? :-)

I hear rumblings of the GFS showing a monster on the East Coast early next week.

Mr. Foot said...

A little cut and paste mischief with question #2.. let me clean it up! I sound like an idiot.

Revised # 2 below:

2. If bird flu scares" are nothing more than a government designed distraction...why is it that the current subtype H5 first appeared in China in 1997? That was when Clinton was in office, so should he also be blamed for getting the government going on pandemic planning in the mid 90's? Do you really think the worldwide response to this virus from the EU and UN has anything to do with who is in the White House? Parris Glendening was Democratic Governor of Maryland when he initiated the first pandemic plan of any state in the union in 1999.

Andy, Southern York County PA said...

Politics is a dirty business, always has been always will. Snow is dirty too, just check out the piles in the parking lot, which we still have here. Try and serve that flavor at the snowball stand, "Andy's parking lot snow with carbon topping" YUM! Fresh flavors and toppings from my transmission to your table.

Before I give away any more patent ideas, let's get back to the weather. Gfs seems bullish on the Monday storm for next week. JB was also bullish on this idea. I will say this though, model predictions this far out never verify or rarely do. I expect many changes by the weekend. For powderhounds one good thing would be if the GFS drops this storm in the next day or so then picks it up by Friday again. It has a history of seeing a storm losing it, then bringing it back.

Hope is alive, but my VIRTUAL MONEY is still on the no snow scenario.

Eric said...

Mr. Foot, I totally agree with your opinion and respect it fully. I also agree with you Andy, politics is a dirty business and one not to mess around with.

I'll just stick to the basics...Weather...and I'll leave everything else to them. But I will always be ready to vent out some of my frustration.

Thursday event here...some are saying a MODERATE SNOWSTORM.

What do you say?

Mr. Foot said...

Eric: In all fairness, if the Pandemic Level is dropped from the current Level 3 back to 2, I will be the first to rejoice and put my tail between my legs!

But I suspect I will be rejoicing sooner and about a happier topic when there is 4" or more of snow on the ground outside my window this time next week!

Frank said...

Weather forecasts for tonight and tomorrow here in CNJ range from 4-8" of snow, to a mix bag. That is a big variation. What may happen?

Eric said...

Hey Frank...I would say a good 3-6" in your area of CNJ. If little or no mixing occurs, expect the higher end of the scale and you may even wind up with closer to that eight or nine inch mark. Wide variation...true, but its needed. It'll be a play by play storm for you guys.

Farther north into New York City, WATCH OUT!!!

Areas around NYC and onto Long Island and northern NJ, expect a full blown snowstorm with snowfall accumulations of 7-10"!

Expect about six or seven inches in Manhattan and closer to ten inches north of the city. Fairfield Co, CT may even see 4-7".

The South Coast of New England...2-4"

Northern CT, RI, and SE MA: 1-2"

Along the Mass Pike into Boston: D-1"

North of the Pike including me: La Nada or a Flurry?

Enjoy the SNOW NYC and much of the northern half of NJ, I would not be at all surprised to hear someone out of your area to wind up with close to a FOOT of snow!!!

Wow...have fun.

Expect those WSW in the Philadelphia area to change to Winter weather advisories or possibly warnings for ICE and def. expect those WSW in NJ and NYC to go to WINTER STORM WARNINGS OR HEAVY SNOW WARNINGS...

Maybe snow advisories on the very southern coast of New England.

Boston....NOTHING.

Enjoy the snow Frank and all you guys down there.

Andy, Southern York County PA said...

Our Monday/Tuesday event looks to be off the table if the latest model runs can be trusted (which they cannot be). I'm certain there will be more back and forth, but I'm staying with my prediction that winter as far as accumulating snow is over in the mid atlantic and points south.

Eric said...

Except for the NYC southern CT snowstorm tomorrow, I am not getting any snow...I firmly believe that the snow is pretty much done in my area as well. I totally agree with you. Looking at the long range models...there is NO chance of snow in Boston for the next several days.

Its March 1st and the avg high is in the low-mid 40's here right now and the sun is as hot as it is in October and late September. Winter is OVA!

And we just got this site going like we did last winter...what a shame.

Anonymous said...

dude from Montgomery County here

stop looking at the mounth!! There is no difference between Feb 28 and March 1 sun angle wise. Yes, the sun makes a difference now, but theres been major snow storms beyond Feb 28....'93 superstorm to name one.

Here in the middle of Montco, Pa i expect atleast early dismisal, if not completly closed.

Calling for: Snow (1-2inches) to Ice (alot, significant ice storm maybe via NBC10) to Rain (maybe, not certain) back to a little more snow

thats crazy. Since i rely on driving to get to school, i may decide not to go in at all if school is open. What's the point? Only to go home early when the roads are in bad condition? sorry, not happening. we'll see though

Mr Foot, your thought?

Next week should be the major SNOW storm which will be the last one of the season, but now is for the Ice storm of 2006.

Remember, it takes about 3 inches roughly to close school (around me), but it takes v little ice....

i feel good about no school tomorrow

Mr. Foot, your thought??

Mr. Foot said...

Crappppppppp

I just had this nice response to all of you about this storm and spent 20 min typing it, then I had a junior moment and somehow deleted it. Goddddddddd. As Napoleon Dynamite would say.

Too tired to rewrite. Mont Co you have a good shot at no school.

Julee wear your pj;s backward to see if this helps our chances down south here.

I'll see you all around 5:15 AM in my pj;s drinking my coffee watching the scroll

Julee said...

Hold it...avert your gaze whilst I switch ... there we go ... backwards!
Now -- do you PROMISE it will work? I NEED this day off!
Two hours for everyone -- with a Hereford day perchance?

Hope you get to spend the day with your three princesses!

chip said...

Day off? My gut says no.
Two hour Hereford Zone delay? Possible.
It concerns me a bit that they remembered
that there is such a thing as a ONE hour delay
the other day... so, they may go that route.
Well, we can hope... and, at the risk of providing
too much info, I don't wear PJ's,
but I will put on my usual night-time garb backwards.
Good luck edumacators!

Anonymous said...

yup, no school

think i got lucky possibly...this has a huge bust written all over it

but day off and thats all that matters

back to bed i go

dickey66 said...

From the news most schools in the Delaware Valley are closed, except Philadelphia Public and Private. According to WPVI the Ice/Rain line is East-West through Chester County. They report accidents in some places. I think the schools are being overly cautious, but hey its their summer going away.

MA

Anonymous said...

nah i go to a private school....never in my 7 yrs here have we had to make up for snow days.....this is #3 for the season....most years we get 4 or 5 with 1 or 2 early dismisals/2hr delays

MAJOR BUST....just cloudy really, with occ RAIN

lucked out with no school....not complaining though

Frank said...

So far this "storm" has been a bust. Had some very light sleet and rain for about 2 hours, and now it looks like the sun is trying to break through. I do see some filling in in central PA, but that will probably be rain by the time it gets to me in NJ. As of now, The Weather Channel seemed to have it called right. They said maybe an inch of snow and ice then rain. Most everything else said 2-4" or 3-6" of snow. Looks like north jersey may see that though.

Andy, Southern York County PA said...

This winter is over. It's over not because it can't snow in March (because it can although fairly rare) It's over because the pattern does not lend itself to an extreme event. The next 7 days appear storm free and the sun angle becomes much higher each day. While there is not much of a
difference between the sun angle of 2/28 and 3/1 there is a BIG difference between 2/28 and 3/5 and 3/5 and 3/10. The further we go the more of an extreme or unusual event we need to generate significant snow. I just do not see an event like that in the near future. You may see flurries of snow showers but don't go breaking out those shovels because it's extremely unlikey that you'll need them!

WEYTYN said...

WEYTYN here , its been along time since I have posted. So how is everyone, and the new baby, Mr Foot.?

Weather has been really warm, Glaciers are melting, shall I up my flood insurance coverage?

whatever happened to our old friend Uncle Rico?

Bird Flu- I see US Gov't ordered another 15 mil doses of the vax.
Uh Oh.

perhaps we need more cats patrolling the area.

Happy spring!

Eric said...

Waiting for my half inch of snow here in Boston...ahh.

Down south into CT, RI, and SE MA a good 4-8" is likely.

Sorry NYC...too much mixing. This wasn't your storm...hey you already got your 27" in one storm...be happy about that.

Mr. Foot said...

Wouldn't be fair for me to say I knew this storm would bust because my post explaining that last night was DELETED BY MY RIGHT PINKY.

But Andy filled in for me perfectly with his comment earlier and must have been reading my mind...I think higher sun angle and late onset time did this storm in, not to mention intrusion of warm and warm ground surfaces. I heard it was even a bust in State College. I didn't even bother to 4cast for this one because it just wasn't worth it.

Now that we have Grammy and Pap here to help for the weekend, I will update the post sometime over next few days on my thoughts for our FINAL snowstorm of 05-06. This is a special love letter to all you lovelies out there who have been crying that winter is over...cause I've been making a list and checking it twice to see who will be naughty or nice when you have to shovel ONE MORE TIME :-)) He he he.

Interesting that suburban Philly schools would not close for a 17 inch snowstorm but do close for the THREAT of ice and sleet that does not materialize.

kristine said...

Ithica, New York got about 10 inches of snow...so it did end up somewhere..just not here.

hoco md elkridge guy said...

Looks like its Monday/Tuesday or bust. Doubt we will see any more snow unfortunately

Frank said...

Seems like the bulk of the precip stayed north. If it was all snow here, I might have gotten and inch or two. Lets hope there is one more system left. Otherwise bring on the 60s!

kristine said...

I am with you Frank...if it is goin to be cold- there needs to be snow- otherwise...bring on the warm weather!!

Mr.B said...

Where's the thunderstorms? Looks like by the end of next week we maybe in the 60's.

kristine said...

OK...so Bob Terk is calling the Monday night snow event to be a total flop...anyone else on the same page?

Andy, Southern York County PA said...

I've been on that page since day one when it came to the snow potential. Winter is 98% over snow wise this season. Computer models can not be trusted that far in advance and it takes an extraordinary event to generate a true snow this time of year in this region. Let's just pray we get 2 inches of wet snow at least this month so we can meet our seasonal average for March. Again, not enough to break ot those shovels if we can even get it (if we do get it it either won't stick, or it will burn off in 2 hours!).

Eric said...

THERE IS NO MORE CHANCES FOR SNOW.

By this time next week, Boston will be in the middle to upper 60's.

New York City: Upper 60's to lower 70's.

Philly: Lower 70's

Baltimore: Lower to mid 70's

DC: Mid to upper 70's.

WINTER IS OVER.

NO MORE SNOW FOR BOSTON AT ALL.

You guys may see a few flakes Tuesday as a storm system moves out south of my area, harmlessly, out to sea. NO SHOVELABLE SNOW.

Adios.

Andy, Southern York County PA said...

As much as I love winter, we are about to enter the second week of March. With models showing 60's and 70's by the end of the week, winter is over as Eric has said. Bring on Spring! 70's are much better than a wind swept 45 degress and rain. To me that's the worst type of weather since it's cold, but not cold enough for snow. That is useless cold in my book. HAPPY SPRING:)