Category Archives: Weather

Hurricane Sandy Mostly Spares Area

Although Hurricane Sandy continues to wreak havoc on the northeast, as it spins out over land, the enormous storm is finished with Charlottesville, apparently having left us mostly unharmed. Twitter and Facebook were how many people kept up with developments, and the worst stories in our area seem to be the loss of power (about 10% of Dominion customers in Albemarle) and some light damage from wind and flooding. Although the rain, wind, and snow aren’t quite done, the airport got 1.2 inches of rain yesterday and gusts of 40 mph—a far sight better than folks in Delaware, New York, and New Jersey, who woke up this morning to devastation.

Earthquake Exceeded North Anna’s Designed Tolerances

Last month’s earthquake exceeded the design standards of the North Anna nuclear plant, the Associated Press reports. That came out after a Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspection of the plant, using USGS data. That’s based not on the magnitude of the quake, but based on the peak ground acceleration (PGA)—the measurement of how hard and fast the ground was shaking at the plant. You can see that on the USGS’ “shakemap” of the earthquake. PGA varies enormously, based on distance from the quake, soil makeup, and other factors. It’s measured in G-force, a term that you’ll have heard in the descriptions of the forces on fighter pilots when pulling sharp turns, or on astronauts upon launch. Lake Anna was constructed to withstand 0.12–0.18g, but the 5.8 earthquake caused peak ground movement of 0.26g, substantially more than the designed limits of the reactor.

The plant remains closed, as it has been since the August 23 earthquake. The NRC says that it suffered “minor” damage, but no specifics have been provided.

5.8 Earthquake Centered on Mineral

An impressively strong earthquake shook up the central east coast just a few minutes ago, a 5.8 magnitude quake centered on Mineral, which is midway between Charlottesville and Richmond. Though we’ve had a few quakes of this size in the past few hundred years, it’s been a while since we’ve had one this big. We had one in 2001, a 4.5 in 2003, and a 2.7 in Nelson in late 2009, but a 5.8 is a lot stronger than any of those. The shaking was felt from North Carolina clear to New York. What was it like where you are?

5pm Update: Note that it was just in March when Dominion Power’s Lake Anna nuclear plant was named the 7th most at-risk nuclear plant, in the event of an earthquake. So what was the facility designed to withstand? “A magnitude 5.9–6.1 earthquake.” The plant’s reactors shut down automatically, but after the Fukushima nuclear plants reduced the surrounding area to a radioactive wasteland following their March earthquake, that’s not as reassuring as Dominion might think it is.

Things Are On Fire

The smoke from a wildfire between between 29N and the Blue Ridge Mountains. By Jocelyn Dale / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There are brush fires all over the area, as CBS-19 and NBC-29 report, or as you might have noticed if you’ve breathed today. The high wind means that small fires quickly become big fires. Lots of people are providing reports of small fires via Facebook, and Albemarle’s Fire Incident Display System is thick with responses to brush fires. Over at The Hook, Hawes Spencer has a dramatic photo of a wall of flames advancing through an Ivy neighborhood, said to be the result of some jackass deciding that the day with a 20 mph average wind speed would be the day to burn some brush. There are also good-sized fires in Esmont, 53, north of Crozet, and a thousand-acre fire in Louisa.

Here in northwest Albemarle, the air has been filled with smoke all day, the result of a fire between 20N and 29N. My house is perched on the side of the Southwest Mountains, and as the sun set, the low rays illuminated the huge cloud of smoke that is hovering over the area.

The strongest winds should peter out overnight, although it’ll still be decently breezy tomorrow, so it could be a bit until these fires are out and new ones stop popping up.

Council Votes for Dredging; Pipeline Loses

City Council has voted 5-0 in favor dredging the Rivanna Reservoir rather than building a pipeline, Hawes Spencer writes for The Hook. The vote was held just before midnight, after dozens of speakers—two to one in favor of dredging—expressed their support for one plan or another. The plan also includes increasing the height of the existing Ragged Mountain dam by thirteen feet.

This unanimous vote represents a pretty enormous turn-around for Council, which had been all about the pipeline just a few years ago, and did a 180° on this after a great deal of study and community input. This looks like a big victory for Mayor Dave Norris, who at least appears publicly to have been the guy who turned around opinion on what to do about our long-term water supply.

10:30 PM Update: City spokesman Ric Barrack points out that the pipeline is still in the plan, which is a pretty important correction. It’s just no longer the plan.