April 17, 2013

    Photo: muneaki

Fatal Bus Crash in the Alps

Ski employees were headed home

One person is dead and at least four injured after a bus carrying ski resort staff home from work crashed and burst into flames in the French Alps yesterday. More than 50 employees were on the bus, operated by Britain-based Classic Coaches, when it apparently had a problem with its brakes, causing it to veer off the road into some rocks.

According to The Independent, the 64-year-old English driver who died in the accident is credited with a life-saving maneuver:

The accident ... took place as the vehicle approached the last of 21 hairpin bends on the notorious mountain road leading down from the Alpe d'Huez ski resort.

“The driver showed remarkable courage. The witnesses all agree that his acts and his attitude meant a much heavier loss of life was avoided,” said Mr Cuvillier.

Marcus Beauchamp, whose brother Matthew was one of the passengers on the coach, said: “The driver saved everyone's life by steering into the tree rather than go over the edge. He was a hero.”

A number of passengers escaped by jumping out the windows of the bus. The driver's name has not yet been released.

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    Photo: Laurie MacGregor/Flickr

Study: 2012 Drought Unrelated to Climate Change

Controversial NOAA report under fire

A report by NOAA that the 2012 Great Plains drought was not caused by climate change is stirring controversy among climatologists.

The task force convened to study the drought—which eclipsed even the Dust Bowl in lack of precipitation—concluded that "mostly natural variations in weather" were responsible for the lack of rain. Instead of cliamte change, the report blames infrequent summertime thunderstorms and northward-shunted jet stream activity.

"Neither ocean states nor human-induced climate change, factors that can provide long-lead predictability, appeared to play significant roles in causing severe rainfall deficits over the major corn producing regions of central Great Plains," the report reads.

In response, Dr. Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research released a statement saying the report was "needlessly confusing, scientifically problematic, and already leading to mislead headlines." He goes on to argue that the NOAA analysis failed to account for "the cumulative effects of drought on heat and wild fire risk."

A number of studies previously projected that climate change will dry out the Central Great Planes and Southwest by pushing the jet stream north into Canada, as happened during the summer.

The 2012 drought had an estimated $12 billion damper on the economy and has been widely attributed to climate change

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    Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Car Owners Paying $9,100 a Year for Miserable Commute

AAA releases annual study

Those of us lacking a set of sweet wheels in which to go cruising on Saturday nights can take solace in the fact that they’re saving a record number of thousands every year. AAA released its annual study of driving costs on Tuesday, revealing that the average American driver will spend $9,100 on their car this year.

Topping the list are SUV drivers, who are spending $0.77 per mile, or $11,600 a year. Sedan owners don’t have it quite as bad, clocking in at just $0.61 per mile.

The total figure is up from $8,900 last year, with the biggest increase coming from maintenance and repair, which rose by 11% due to increased labor costs for mechanics. AAA has published the study every year since 1950, when gas cost less than $0.30 a gallon.

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    Photo: Mighty Sequoia Studio via Shutterstock

Search for Missing Hiker Delayed Due to Avalanche Danger

Washington snowpack still hazardous

Rescuers continue to wait for conditions to improve before they search for a man caught in an avalanche near Washington's Granite Mountain on Saturday. 

The victim, now identified as 61-year-old dentist Mitch Hungate, had been hiking with two others who managed to excape being buried

Members of the King County Sheriff's Office say the search may not resume for days as avalanche danger is still high.

Another avalanche that took place just a half hour earlier at nearby Snoqualmie Pass injured 12 and took the life of one woman. She has now been identified as 55-year-old physician Dr. Joy Yu. 

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