In the crazy times in which we live, it helps to expect the unexpected. Sometimes you can think that you have it all figured out and then this world can throw a real curveball at you. Very few people anticipated that we would see a massive outbreak of the West Nile Virus in Texas this year or that the Mississippi River would be in danger of drying up after experiencing historic flooding last year. Who would have thought that we would see the worst drought in more than 50 years or that horrific wildfires would burn nearly 7 million acres of land? This is why economic conditions are always so hard to predict. A single “black swan event” can come along and change everything almost overnight. Our world has become incredibly unstable, and so who really knows what the rest of 2012 will bring? Will we see a stock market crash? Will the hurricane season be unusually bad? Will war erupt in the Middle East? Will we see a major earthquake on the west coast or even a volcanic eruption? Will the upcoming election cause an eruption of anger and frustration in America? We don’t know the answers to those questions yet, and the truth is that we will probably see some things happen that very few of us are anticipating at this point.
This is an exciting time to be a “news junkie”, but unfortunately the vast majority of the news these days is bad.
It is almost as if a “perfect storm” is developing. Our weather is going crazy, our financial system is on the verge of collapse, our politicians seem more insane than ever, there is evidence of social decay all around us and the drumbeats of war in the Middle East grow louder with each passing day.
As strange as 2012 has been so far, I fear that things are about to get a whole lot stranger.
Not that we haven’t had some very unanticipated events happen this year up to this point.
The following are 8 economic threats that we were not even talking about at the beginning of the summer….
#1 West Nile Virus
What is up with all of the strange disease outbreaks that we have seen so far this year?
Flesh eating disease and the bird flu have both been making global headlines this summer, but in the U.S. right now it is the West Nile Virus that is getting the most attention.
So far more than 1,100 cases of the West Nile Virus have been diagnosed in the United States and more than 41 people have died from it.
More than half of the cases so far have been in Texas, but we have also seen people come down with West Nile Virus in Mississippi, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Oklahoma.
If you live in any of those areas, you might want to do your best to avoid mosquitos for the rest of the summer.
#2 Historic Drought
This summer, the United States has experienced the worst drought that it has seen in more than 50 years.
This weather has been absolutely crippling for farmers and ranchers all over the nation. As I wrote about the other day, about half of all corn being grown in the U.S. is currently either in “poor” or “very poor” condition.
As the drought has dragged on, many farmers and ranchers have become increasingly desperate. In fact, one farmer has even been feeding his cows candy in an attempt to deal with rising feed prices.
Needless to say, this drought has been causing commodity prices to soar.
On Tuesday, the price of corn closed at a record $8.38 a bushel, and the price of soybeans closed at $17.30 a bushel.
#3 The Mississippi River Is Drying Up
Thanks to this drought, rivers and lakes all over the United States are drying up. In fact, there have been reports that millions of fish have been dying because water levels have gotten so low in many areas.
At this point, the Mississippi is lower than most people living along the river can ever remember. If it drops much lower, it could potentially have an absolutely devastating impact on the U.S. economy.
About $180 billion worth of goods move up and down the river on barges, 500 million tons of the basic ingredients for much of the U.S. economy, according to the American Waterways Operators, a trade group. It carries 60 percent of the nation’s grain, 22 percent of the oil and gas and 20 percent of the coal, according to American Waterways Operators. It would take 60 trailer trucks to carry the cargo in just one barge, 144 18-wheeler tankers to carry the oil and gas in one petroleum barge.
If all traffic along the Mississippi was forced to stop, it is estimated that it would cost the U.S. economy about 300 million dollars a day.
And already there have been stoppages along one 11 mile stretch of the river….
Nearly 100 boats and barges were waiting for passage Monday along an 11-mile stretch of the Mississippi River that has been closed because of low water levels, the U.S. Coast Guard said. New Orleans-based Coast Guard spokesman Ryan Tippets said the stretch of river near Greenville, Miss., has been closed intermittently since Aug. 11, when a vessel ran aground.
So what happens if the Mississippi gets even lower?
The extreme heat has also been responsible for the horrific outbreak of wildfires that we have seen in the western United States this year.
That is an area about as big as the states of Maryland and Delaware combined.
#5 The Global Elite Hoarding Gold
In the past, the global elite and the mainstream media would mock those who are hoarding gold in anticipation of a major financial collapse.
But now it is the global elite who are hoarding gold.
In a previous article, I discussed how men such as George Soros and John Paulson are investing mind-boggling amounts of money in gold right now. The amount of money that these two individuals are investing in gold is difficult to comprehend….
There was also news last week in an SEC filing that both George Soros and John Paulson had increased their investment in SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest publicly traded physical gold exchange traded fund (ETF).
Mr Soros upped his stake in the ETF to 884,400 shares from 319,550 and Mr Paulson bought 4.53m shares, bringing his stake to 21.3m.
At the current price of about $156 a share, these are new investments of about $88m of Mr Soros’ cash and more than $700m from Mr Paulson’s funds. These are significant positions.
Combined, Soros and Paulson dumped more than three quarters of a billion dollars into gold during the second quarter of 2012 alone.
So what are they anticipating?
The central banks of the world have been very busy hoarding gold as well. According to the World Gold Council, global central banks were net buyers of 157.5 metric tons of gold during the second quarter of 2012.
Over the past 20 years there has never been a time when global central banks have accumulated that much gold during a single quarter.
So just what in the world is going on?
#6 Recession In The UK
Everyone knew that Greece was in deep trouble.
And everyone knew that Italy and Spain were in deep trouble.
But it was a surprise to see the UK economy plunge deep into recession. During the second quarter of 2012 alone, the UK economy shrunk by 0.7 percent.
At this point the British economy has contracted for three quarters in a row.
Hopefully things will not get even worse over there.
#7 Major Economic Slowdown In The United States
Considering the fact that the U.S. economy never even came close to recovering from the last recession, it is a bit disheartening to see that it looks like we are headed for another major downturn.
According to Michael Panzer of Financial Armageddon, measurements of economic activity compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia indicate that the U.S. economy is rapidly heading into another recession. If you doubt this, just check out this chart.
And for a lot more reasons why the U.S. economy is entering another recession, check out this article.
#8 Hauled Off To A Mental Institution For What You Believe
Do you ever worry that what you post on Facebook could get you involuntarily committed to a mental institution?
Well, that is exactly what happened to one military vet recently.
The muscle used to grab Brandon Raub was local Chesterfield County, VA police. Also present during the grab were agents of the FBI and of the Secret Service.
Both the FBI and the Secret Service claim that they were only observing and not participating in the grab. The Chesterfield County police initially stated that they were only carrying out a request from the federal agencies.
The police also claim Raub is not under arrest, even though he was led away in handcuffs and is not permitted to leave the psychiatric ward of a hospital—even though it appears that Raub is not in any way in need of psychological care.
I note this happened in the United States of America, with local police, FBI agents and Secret Service taking part.
The claim that Raub is “not under arrest” is completely and totally ridiculous. The authorities came to his door, slapped handcuffs on him and are holding him in a mental institution against his will.
And now he has been transferred to a facility that is 3 hours away from his family, his supporters and his legal team.
What in the world is America turning into?
The Rutherford Institute is defending Raub, and the following is an excerpt from a statement about this case on their website….
“This is not how justice in America is supposed to work—with Americans being arrested for doing nothing more than exercising their First Amendment rights, forced to undergo psychological evaluations, detained against their will and isolated from their family, friends and attorneys. This is a scary new chapter in our history,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “Brandon Raub is no different from the majority of Americans who use their private Facebook pages to post a variety of content, ranging from song lyrics and political hyperbole to trash talking their neighbors, friends and government leaders.”
This is the kind of thing that we have seen under brutal totalitarian regimes in the past. Dissidents are grabbed by authorities and taken to mental institutions where they are conveniently “disappeared”.
This kind of thing is not supposed to happen in America.
But it is happening.
And you know what? Before the authorities start attacking people for exercising free speech on Facebook perhaps they should clean up their own house.
It turns out that thousands of DHS employees have been convicted of crimes in recent years. The following is from a recent CNS News article….
There have been 2,527 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees and co-conspirators convicted of corruption and other criminal misconduct since 2004, according to a federal auditor.
Our world is becoming a very crazy place.
One thing that most people did see coming this summer was the continuing economic decline in Greece.
At this point Greece is experiencing a full-blown economic depression and it gets worse by the day.
If you can believe it, 1,250 companies have shut down in the second largest city in Greece in 2012 alone.
And many in the financial world believe the the situation in Greece is going to go beyond the breaking point fairly soon.
In fact, analysts at Citibank believe that there is a 90 percent chance that Greece will leave the euro over the next 12 to 18 months.
They sound pretty sure of themselves.
Not that the rest of Europe is in such great shape either.
According to Bloomberg, it looks like Europe will soon be losing about half a million auto industry jobs….
Efforts by PSA Peugeot Citroen (UG) and Fiat SpA (F) to end losses in Europe could cost more than 500,000 people their jobs as automakers and parts suppliers grapple with the effects of the European sovereign debt crisis.
We live in very unusual times.
Things are falling apart all around us and we seem to be rapidly approaching another major economic crisis.
As you read this, the United States is experiencing the worst drought it has seen since the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s. As you read this, nearly half of all corn crops in the United States are in “poor” or “very poor” condition. As you read this, 38 major wildfires are ripping across the central and western United States. The brutal wildfires in Oklahoma have been so bad that they have made national headlines. The price of corn has hit a brand new record high this summer and so has the price of soybeans. More than half of all the counties in this country have been declared to be “natural disaster areas” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at this point. Things are so bad for ranchers that the CEO of Smithfield Foods is projecting that meat prices will rise by “significant double digits” in the months ahead. Sadly, this drought is projected to continue throughout August and into September. As you will read about below, some meteorologists are even openly postulating that there may not be enough moisture to avoid another drought next year. Yes, things are really bad this year, but when you step back and take a look at the broader picture they become truly frightening.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, as of July 31st close to two-thirds of the continental United States was experiencing at least some level of drought….
Keep in mind that brown is “severe drought”, red is “extreme drought” and dark brown in “exceptional drought”.
This is truly a historic drought. We have never seen anything like this in modern times in the United States.
The week before, this is how the U.S. Drought Monitor described conditions in the center of the country….
“Over 90 percent of the topsoil was short or very short of moisture in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, with virtually all (99 percent) short or very short in Missouri and Illinois”
There had been some hope that rain would bring relief to farmers in the central part of the country, but instead things just keep getting worse and worse.
At this point, close to half of all corn being grown in the U.S. is either in “poor” or “very poor” condition.
For ranchers, the outlook is even more dismal. The following is from a recent CNN article….
Nearly three-quarters of the nation’s cattle acreage is now inside a drought-stricken area, as is about two-thirds of the country’s hay acreage, the agency reported.
What that means is that a lot of animals are being slaughtered now and the price of meat is going to be moving substantially higher later in the year.
“When I was a kid in the ’50s … it got real dry, but nothing like this,” said Marvin Helms, a 70-year-old farmer and rancher in central Arkansas who was compelled to sell his beef cattle after being short on feed.
His thousand acres of farmland near Arkadelphia include corn and soybeans, which Helms says is normally sufficient to sustain his family and provide for his cattle.
“We’ve got some insurance on the crops, but it’s not enough,” he said. “It will help, but it won’t pay the bills.”
Of course the federal government is going to step in and try to help these farmers and ranchers, but the truth is that the federal government is already drowning in debt. Any additional help will have to be done with more borrowed money.
It is hard to describe how oppressive the heat and the drought have been in the middle part of the nation this year. We have seen some unprecedented things happen.
Another major problem throughout the central part of the country right now is all of the horrible wildfires that are ravaging the wilderness areas. The following is from a recent Chicago Tribune article about the recent fires in Oklahoma….
Wildfires burned out of control on Friday in Oklahoma, destroying homes and shutting down highways in a state that has suffered 18 straight days of 100-plus degree temperatures and persistent drought.
Emergency officials counted 11 different wildfires around the state, with at least 65 homes destroyed in parched areas north and south of Oklahoma City and south of Tulsa.
Oklahoma joins several states that have been plagued by wildfires this summer, including Colorado, Arkansas and Nebraska. Fires are being fed by a widespread drought.
But these fires in Oklahoma are only part of a very distressing long-term trend. As I have written about previously, 6 of the 10 worst years for wildfires ever recorded in the United States have all come since the year 2000.
Another major change that we have seen is that massive dust storms called “haboobs” are becoming much more frequent in the southwest part of the country.
Just the other day, a dust storm that was approximately2,000 feet high and nearly 100 kilometers wide ripped through the city of Phoenix, Arizona at 35 miles an hour.
Such events were once very rare in Phoenix.
But not anymore.
Meanwhile, much of the central and western United States is rapidly running out of water.
And I am not just talking about surface water.
A lot of the key aquifers that have allowed us to build cities and irrigate crops in the western half of the United States are being drained completely dry. The following is from a recent San Diego Union-Tribune article about what is happening in California….
Few places in Southern California is that more evident than the desert sands of Borrego Springs, where residents, farmers and golf course operators are sucking about four times as much water from the ground each year as nature replaces.
They’ve been pumping so hard for so long that the community’s main aquifer could essentially run dry after a few more decades. That’s a dire possibility: A recent study showed it would be prohibitively expensive to build a pipeline to an outside source.
Did you catch that last part?
The truth is that someday entire cities may have to be abandoned because it will be “prohibitively expensive” to build water pipelines stretching hundreds of miles to bring them water.
Sadly, this is not just happening in California. This kind of thing is going on all over the nation….
Similar concerns are bubbling up along San Diego County’s backcountry and across the nation — particularly in places such as the Central Valley and the Great Plains, where residents have dug deep to withstand a drought that has squeezed the nation’s midsection dry.
“It took Mother Nature in some cases thousands of years to accumulate the water in the aquifers, but we are pumping it out in mere decades,” said Robert Glennon, a law professor and water expert at the University of Arizona. “It’s a huge national and international problem. … It is utterly unsustainable and scary.”
I have previously written about how the largest underground water source in the United States, the Ogallala Aquifer, is being drained at an almost unbelievable pace. You can read my previous report about the Ogallala Aquifer right here.
So even when this summer ends our problems will be far, far from over.
But right now the most immediate concern is the condition of our corn and our soybeans.
Corn is found in about 74 percent of the products we buy in the supermarket, and it is used to feed livestock all over the country.
In addition, the United States exports more food to the rest of the world than anyone else does.
So if our crops fail that is a very big deal.
Right now, it is being reported that this drought “will likely cost the U.S. food export industry billions in lost revenue.”
Considering the fact that the “employment rate” in the United States is lower than it was during the last recession and that the U.S. economy is in the midst of a horrible long-term economic decline, this is the last thing that we need.
And what happens to all of the countries that are depending on us for food?
A recent Wired article had this startling headline….
When people cannot feed their families, they tend to lose it.
Unfortunately, this year might just be the beginning.
According to a recent article in the Guardian, some scientists say that the drought has been so bad this year that it is going to take a “freak event” to avoid catastrophic damage to next year’s corn crops….
What matters now is whether there will be enough rain to get next year’s crops off to a good start.
“This drought isn’t going anywhere,” he said. “The damage is already done. What you are looking for is enough moisture to avert a second year of drought,” he said.
However, Svoboda conceded that might require a freak event, especially in the mid-west which has already passed its rain season. “In the entire corn belt, from Indiana to Nebraska to the Dakotas, we have already reached the maximum precipitation periods for year. From here on in, it’s all downhill,” Svoboda said.
“As far as widespread general relief for the whole region it would take a really freakish dramatic change to make that happen. That doesn’t appear to be in the cards, given the time of year we are in.”
The skies are dry and our fields are scorched.
Our crops our failing and millions of acres are burning.
Our groundwater supplies are being rapidly depleted and giant dust storms are sweeping across some of our major cities.
As America watches large sections of Colorado literally burn to the ground, many are wondering why all of this is happening. There have always been wildfires, but what we are experiencing now seems very unusual. So is the number of wildfires in the United States increasing? As you will see later in this article, the answer is yes. 2011 was a record setting year for wildfires and this wildfire season is off to a very frightening start. Right now the eyes of the nation are focused on the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado. It doubled in size overnight and it has consumed more than 300 homes so far. It is threatening the city of Colorado Springs, and at this point more than 35,000 people have been forced to evacuate – including the U.S. Air Force Academy. On Twitter and Facebook residents are describing what they are seeing as “the apocalypse” and as “the end of the world”. But this is just the beginning of the wildfire season. We haven’t even gotten to July and August yet.
The Waldo Canyon fire is rapidly becoming one of the most expensive and destructive wildfires in Colorado history. The historic Flying W Ranch has already been burned totally to the ground by this fire. Local authorities are struggling to find the words to describe how nightmarish this fire is. The following are a couple of quotes from a CNN article….
Richard Brown, the Colorado Springs fire chief, described it as a “firestorm of epic proportions.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper surveyed the Waldo Canyon Fire, telling reporters it was a difficult sight to see.
“There were people’s homes burned to the ground. It was surreal,” he said late Tuesday night. “There’s no question, it’s serious. It’s as serious as it gets.”
But this is not the only wildfire that is raging in Colorado. Right now there are 10 wildfires burning in the state. Overall, there are 33 large wildfires currently burning in twelve U.S. states.
If you will remember, New Mexico just experienced one of the worst wildfires that it has ever seen. Conditions throughout most of the western United States are ideal for wildfires right now. As USA Today reports, much of the western half of the country is under a “red flag warning” right now….
Throughout the interior West, firefighters have toiled for days in searing, record-setting heat against fires fueled by prolonged drought. Most, if not all, of Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana were under red flag warnings, meaning extreme fire danger.
But wait, didn’t this kind of thing happen last year too?
Yes it did.
In fact, 2011 was one of the worst years ever for wildfires in America. The following is a short excerpt from an EarthSky article….
Thousands of wildfires raged across the United States last year, 2011, burning a record amount of land, especially in the southern U.S. In fact, 2011 the third-most-active fire season since 1960 (when this record-keeping began) with respect to acres burned, according to preliminary data released from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in late December 2011. The NIFC will be releasing an official summary report detailing the 2011 wildfire season later in 2012, but for now you can read some of the details in the State of the Climate Wildfires 2011 report from NOAA.
During 2011, a total of 73,484 wildfires burned an estimated 8,706,852 acres (35,235 square kilometers) of land across the United States. Wildfire activity during 2011 was exceptionally high and was only exceeded in the historical record by wildfire activity during the years 2006 and 2007.
We have seen highly unusual wildfire activity throughout America in recent years. In the article quoted above you can find a chart which shows that wildfire activity in the United States has been far above normal during the past decade.
Wildfire records have only been kept since 1960. The 6 worst years on record for wildfires in the U.S. have all happened since the year 2000. The following is from an Earth Island Journal article that I found….
In the United States, where some of the most accurate wildfire statistics are kept, the six worst fire seasons in the past 50 years have occurred since 2000. In Texas, nearly 4 million acres were burned in 2011, double the previous record. This included the Bastrop Fire last September that destroyed 1,600 homes and became the most destructive fire in Texas history. In Arizona more than one million acres were burned in 2011, a new record. The Wallow Fire, which destroyed nearly a half million acres, was the largest fire in Arizona history. The Pagami Creek Fire in northern Minnesota became the third largest fire in state history when it burned 100,000 acres in September 2011, most of this in an unprecedented 16-mile run on a single day.
So what does all of this mean?
It means that the number of wildfires in the United States is increasing and wildfires are becoming more powerful and doing more damage.
So what is causing all of this?
The truth is that this is happening because we are seeing exceptionally dry conditions throughout the western half of the United States. In fact, according to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. interior west is now the driest that it has been in 500 years.
The eastern half of the country also gets very hot during the summer, but they don’t have as many wildfires because they get a lot more rain.
Many areas in the western half of the country have been experiencing drought conditions for quite a few years, and there seems to be no end in sight for the drought.
If you go check out the U.S. drought monitor, you will see that almost the entire southwest United States is experiencing some level of drought right now.
So what will July and August bring?
It is kind of frightening to think about that.
Earlier this year I wrote an article that postulated that we could actually see dust bowl conditions return to the middle of the United States. Many readers were skeptical of that article.
But as much of the western United States continues to experience bone dry conditions and continues to be ravaged by wildfires, perhaps more people will understand how bad things are really getting in the interior west.
Just because we have made great technological advances as a society does not mean that we know how to tame nature. We can attempt to contain the massive wildfires that are popping up all over the place and we can attempt to deal with the drought, but in the end we cannot stop what is happening.
So do you live in any of the areas that are being affected by these wildfires?
Do you have an opinion about why so much of America is on fire?
Please feel free to post a comment with your opinion below….
There has been a natural disaster that has caused at least a billion dollars of damage inside the United States every single month so far this year. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there have been 10 major disasters in the United States this year. On average, usually there are only about 3 major disasters a year. At this point, disasters are happening inside the United States so frequently that there seems to be no gap between them. We just seem to go from one major disaster to the next. Last year, FEMA declared an all-time record of 81 disasters inside the United States. This year, we are on pace for well over 100. We just got done dealing with Hurricane Irene, and now we are dealing with historic wildfires in Texas and unprecedented flooding up in the northeast part of the country. This has been the worst year for natural disasters in U.S. history, and we still have nearly four months left to go. Hopefully after everything that has happened this year it has become abundantly clear to all of us why we need to prepare for emergencies. The world is becoming an increasingly unstable place, and you never know what is going to happen next.
Thankfully, the U.S. has not experienced a disaster on the level of Hurricane Katrina so far this year, but what makes this year different is that we have never seen so many major disasters happen so rapidly. Since the beginning of the year we have had to deal with record-setting winter storms, nightmarish tornadoes, “once in a century” earthquakes, historic flooding all over the country, severe drought and some of the worst wildfires the U.S. has ever experienced.
Is there a reason why the United States is being hit by major disaster after major disaster or is all of this just a really unfortunately coincidence? The following are just a few of the nightmarish natural disasters that the U.S. has had to deal with so far this year…..
At this point, the state of Texas has been on fire for nearly 300 consecutive days. This has been the worst wildfire season that Texas has ever experienced.
So far, an astounding 3.6 million acres has been burned. Vast stretches of Texas have been transformed into desolate wastelands.
Over the past week alone, the Texas Forest Service has responded to more than 180 new fires. The incredibly dry weather and the scorching temperatures have combined to turn the state of Texas into a tinderbox.
One massive wildfire near Austin, Texas has burned approximately 1,400 homes and continues to spread. The state desperately needs rain and it needs it now.
To get an idea of just how fast the fires in Texas are spreading, just watch this video.
Right now, approximately 81 percent of the state of Texas is experiencing “exceptional drought” conditions. Not only has this created an ideal environment for wildfires, it is also absolutely crippling ranchers and farmers.
Farmers in Texas have lost over half of the cotton crop so far. This is likely to cause clothing prices to rise substantially in the months ahead.
Ranchers in Texas have been forced to slaughter huge numbers of cattle because the drought has made it incredibly difficult to feed them. Sadly, the number of U.S. cattle is now down to its lowest level since 1963.
You might want to stock up on beef. In the coming months the price of beef is likely to go significantly higher.
It is hard to describe just how bad things are down in Texas right now. Overall, it is estimated that the drought has caused more than $5 billion in damage to the agricultural industry so far.
But wait, there is more bad news. In fact, if things don’t improve soon we could see massive problems with winter wheat. Just check out what an article recently posted on Yahoo news had to say….
The bad news does not stop there. Winter-wheat-planting season runs from September through October and rain is vital to germination. Texas and Oklahoma produce almost a third of winter wheat in the U.S. – the hard wheat used in bread products. This week, Bloomberg financial news quoted wheat economists predicting a 50% jump in winter-wheat prices. If the dearth of rain continues and there is no moisture in the soil to germinate the wheat, prices could climb higher still.
Flooding In The Northeast
We just got done with Hurricane Irene, and now Tropical Storm Lee is dumping huge amounts of rain all over the northeast United States. In fact, there has been so much rain up in Pennsylvania that more than 100,000 people were evacuated from the Wilkes-Barre area on Thursday because of rising waters on the Susquehanna River.
Rivers and creeks all over Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey are flooding. The region desperately needs a break from rain, but it does not look like that is going to happen quite yet.
The big problem is that many of these areas had already been hit really hard by Hurricane Irene. As a result of Hurricane Irene, millions of people lost power and dozens of people lost their lives. Hurricane Irene caused the worst flooding that Vermont had experienced since 1927, and the total economic damage from Irene could reach as high as $16 billion.
Now there are three more storms in the Atlantic that we will have to keep an eye on. Hopefully Tropical Storm Nate, Tropical Storm Maria and Hurricane Katia will not cause major problems, but with the way this year has been going you never know what is going to happen.
As I have written about previously, the number of major earthquakes around the globe is significantly increasing. Back in 2001, the world had 1361 earthquakes of magnitude-5.0 or greater. This year, we are on pace to have over 2800, which would be the highest number this decade by far.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the U.S. experienced two of the weirdest earthquakes that it has seen in ages. The earthquake in Virginia that made headlines all over the nation is being called a “once a century” earthquake. The east coast very rarely sees anything like this happen.
In Washington D.C., the earthquake caused quite a bit of panic. Congressional buildings were evacuated and so was the Pentagon. The earthquake actually cracked the Washington Monument and it also caused significant damage to the U.S. Treasury building.
That exact same day, there was another very “unusual” earthquake in another area of the United States. A magnitude-5.3 earthquake shook the area along the Colorado/New Mexico border. That was the largest earthquake that region had experienced in more than 40 years.
Sadly, it is not just the U.S. that has been hit by significant earthquakes this year. Just check out what a recent article in the Guardian had to say about what has been going on around the globe so far this year….
6.2 or above earthquakes have hit New Zealand, the Philippines, Japan, the Fox Islands, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Indonesia, Fiji, Thailand, Burma, Vanuatu, Argentina, Chile and Iran in the first six months of 2011.
With all of the other natural disasters that we have had recently, it is easy to forget that we just went through one of the worst tornado seasons of all time.
In a recent article, I discussed the incredible damage that some of these monstrous tornadoes did….
The United States experienced a truly bizarre tornado season this year. In April, there were approximately 600 tornadoes all across America. That is the most tornadoes that have ever been recorded in a single month inside the United States. Usually, we only have about 1,200 tornadoes for the entire year.
The massive tornado outbreak in the southeast at the end of April is being called the worst natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina. One F5 tornado that ripped through the Tuscaloosa, Alabama region was reportedly a mile wide and some scientists estimated that it had winds that exceeded 260 miles an hour. By the time it passed, Tuscaloosa resembled a war zone.
The tornado that ripped through Joplin, Missouri a few months ago is being called the deadliest single tornado in more than 60 years. It ripped a path of destruction more than a mile wide and more than 6 miles long directly through the city. One British newspaper has some amazing before and after pictures of Joplin that you can view right here.
After viewing pictures such as those, what else is there to say?
Sadly, there were a lot of other major disasters this year that deserve be discussed as well.
For example, I have not even mentioned the nightmarish flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. River systems all over the central part of the country experienced “hundred year floods” this year.
So why is all of this happening? Is there a reason for all of this chaos, or has it just been one of those years?
Whatever your opinion is, what we all should be able to learn from this year is that it is imperative that we all get prepared ahead of time for emergencies.
Natural disasters can strike at any time. Whether it is a hurricane, a tornado, a flood, an earthquake, a volcano or a wildfire, if you wait until the disaster strikes to prepare then you are going to be too late.
But most natural disasters are only temporary. Even more frightening is what an economic collapse, a war, a deadly plague, a nuclear disaster, an EMP strike or a weapon of mass destruction could mean.
As we have seen during so many disasters in the past, when something really bad happens food and supplies vanish from store shelves almost immediately. If transportation is cut off, you could be on your own for an extended period of time.
Our world is becoming a highly unstable place. If someone had told you all of the crazy things that were going to happen this year, would you have believed them?
It seems like with each passing year things are getting crazier and crazier. Yes, we can all hope that things will return to “normal”, but we would be foolish if we also did not take precautions.
2011 sure has been a wild year for America so far. First we had unprecedented tornado outbreaks, then we had horrific flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, then we had record setting wildfires and now we are facing a crippling drought all over the southern United States. From Arizona all the way to Georgia there are vast areas that have been declared to be experiencing “exceptional drought” by the National Weather Service. Crop failures are widespread and ranchers are having a very difficult time trying to feed their cattle. If the southern United States does not receive a significant amount of rain soon, the drought of 2011 is going to be one of biggest natural disasters that we have seen in a long, long time.
Right now, approximately 29 percent of the country is experiencing some level of drought. About 12 percent of the U.S. is experiencing “exceptional drought”, which is the highest level of drought. The combination of very little rain and scorching heat over much of the nation has been absolutely devastating. Many areas have been dealing with high temperatures in the 90s and the low triple digits for weeks.
Between October and June, the state of Texas experienced one of the driest stretches ever recorded. Already, the drought of 2011 is considered to be the third-worst drought ever experienced in Texas.
Currently, approximately 72 percent of the state of Texas is dealing with “exceptional drought” conditions. It has been estimated that 30 percent of the wheat fields in Texas will be lost. Agricultural losses from the drought of 2011 are projected to be $3 billion in the state of Texas alone.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has already designated all 254 counties in the state of Texas as natural disaster areas. The farmers and ranchers down there are going through hell right now.
But Texas is not alone. Most of Arizona, all of New Mexico, all of Oklahoma, most of Arkansas, all of Louisiana, most of Mississippi, most of Alabama, most of Georgia, most of Florida, most of South Carolina and most of North Carolina are also dealing with drought conditions.
This drought is hitting many of our most significant agricultural areas. If we don’t get a significant amount of rain in some of these areas soon the losses are going to be catastrophic.
At this point, Oklahoma has just had 28 percent of the rainfall that it normally gets during the summer. Many other areas are experiencing similar problems.
Just check out the map below. The areas that are the darkest are the areas that are experiencing “exceptional drought”….
Needless to say, the drought of 2011 is absolutely devastating a lot of hard working farmers and ranchers.
A recent article posted on CNBC described some of the effects that this drought is having on farmers….
“The heat and the drought are so bad in this southwest corner of Georgia that hogs can barely eat. Corn, a lucrative crop with a notorious thirst, is burning up in fields. Cotton plants are too weak to punch through soil so dry it might as well be pavement.”
So what is going to happen if this drought continues for the rest of the summer?
Ranchers are also having a very hard time right now. All over Texas, as pastures die off ranchers are selling their herds because soon they will not be able to feed them any longer.
Right now cattle are being slaughtered in record numbers due to the drought. But after all of these cattle are gone will we be facing a cattle shortage?
Most Texas pasture and range lands – 86 percent – are currently “poor” or “very poor,” according to the US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. The same rating applied to 69 percent of Oklahoma and 40 percent of Kansas.
During this month, high temperatures of over 110 degrees have been very common in cattle country. There is not enough for these cattle to eat and there is not enough for these cattle to drink. If things do not turn around soon, even more ranchers will be racing to sell off their herds while they still can.
But it is not just cattle that are being devastated by this drought. Just check out what this drought is doing to deer….
Pregnant does are having problems carrying fawns to term, and most of them born prematurely aren’t surviving, according to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. Other does are abandoning their newborns because drought-induced malnutrition has robbed them of their ability to produce milk.
Abandoned fawns found all over the Panhandle and South Plains have been brought to the South Plains Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Ten had been brought to the Lubbock wildlife center by the end of last week.
This drought has also had some other dramatic effects.
For example, a gigantic “wall of dust” recently rolled through Phoenix, Arizona. Take a moment and watch the video posted below. Does this remind anyone else of the “Dust Bowl” of the 1930s?….
In economic terms, the drought of 2011 could end up having a huge impact on average American families.
That means grocery shoppers will feel the effects of the drought at the dinner table, where the cost of staples like meat and bread will most likely rise, said Michael J. Roberts, an associate professor of agricultural and resource economics at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. “The biggest losers are consumers,” he said.
All of this wouldn’t be so alarming if we were not already on the verge of a global food crisis. Global food prices continue to hover around record highs. Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are experiencing the worst drought conditions that they have seen in 60 years. Tonight there are 10 million people living in the Horn of Africa that are facing severe food shortages. Hunger and starvation are spreading again in east Africa and in many other areas of the world as well.
That is one reason why so many Americans are working so hard to prepare for disaster right now. All over the United States (and around the world), “preppers” are storing up food and supplies in case things go really bad.
Some Americans are taking things to extreme levels. For example, a man named Steven Huff is constructing a 72,000 square foot “home” (some call it a fortress) in Missouri. Huff is the chairman of Wisconsin-based TF Concrete Forming Systems. Apparently the goal is to show off what his firm is capable of. It is claimed that this will be “a home that uses very low energy, as well as having strong resistance to tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, fire, flood and insect damage”.
It kind of looks like a castle to me. You can see a picture of this remarkable “home” right here.
Unfortunately, most of us cannot afford to build 72,000 square foot fortresses. So we will just have to do the best that we can with what we already have.
The world is becoming more unstable every single day. Global financial markets are getting extremely nervous and jumpy. More chaos or more war could erupt in the Middle East at any time. Natural disasters continue to get more frequent and more intense. We certainly do live in interesting times.
It is imperative that we all watch carefully as these global events unfold. None of us knows for sure what is going to happen next. But those that are prepared are going to have the best chance to make it through when disaster does strike.