Entries in weather (9)


Drought Taking Toll on Corn, Soybean Farmers

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(OMAHA, Neb.) -- It’s been 56 years since the U.S. last experienced a drought as bad as the one this year. And according to an Agriculture Department report released today, the drought has drastically reduced production estimates for corn and soybean.

Corn production is down 13 percent from 2011. Based on conditions as of August 1, yields are expected to average 123.4 bushels per acre, down 23.8 bushels from 2011. If realized, this will be the lowest average yield since 1995.

“Corn is important,” said Bill Lapp, president of Advanced Economic Solutions, a commodity and economics consultancy in Omaha. “In a normal year, corn is more than half of all the corps we produce in the U.S.  So when we have a bad corn crops it affects virtually all food products that the average American consumes.

“When corn sneezes, other commodities catch a cold.”

So what does this mean for the consumer? In the short term, not much, said Erin Lash, a senior equity analyst with Morningstar, in Chicago. Lash doesn’t think the high prices will trickle down to the grocery store, at least not over the next few weeks and months.

“Consumer product firms tend to hedge their costs or make commitments to buy at a particular cost for several months in advance,” said Lash. “As a result, the higher commodity prices that we’re seeing now–and that could persist in light of the challenging weather conditions that we’ve had this summer in the U.S. cornbelt– in general won’t impact these firms for a few quarters.”

Longer term, the outlook is more bleak. According to Lapp, over the next year, the price of vegetable oil will most likely increase. So will the price of wheat, rice, oat and barley.

“By having higher prices for the major agriculture commodities, we have imposed a $30 billion dollar tax on the US consumer,” he said.  “Spread out, that will add about 4 and a half percent to the average American consumer food bill.”

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Higher Food Prices Likely as Drought Worsens

Ryan McVay/Photodisc(NEW YORK) -- The price of many food products could increase later this year as much of the country is hit with the worst drought in a generation.

Wholesale corn prices shot up nearly 5 percent Monday, and soybean prices are also heading higher.

Crop losses will be a blow to America’s rural economy and cut farm exports. The U.S. Agriculture Department slashed its estimate of this fall’s corn crop by 12 percent – compared with last month’s forecast. Officials say 38 percent of the corn crop is in poor condition because of the drought. A shortage of corn and soybeans is raising concerns about global food shortages and inflation.

Still, it may take months for some food and meat costs to rise in supermarkets.

According to a government estimate, cereals and grains accounts for just 2 percent of the U.S. consumer price index.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sweltering Heat May Wreak Havoc on Corn Crops

Ablestock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The blistering heat behind the bone dry soil is creating major problems for farmers across the corn-belt states.

“We’re in a critical point, could be the beginning of the end,” said Dave Kestel, a farmer.

In Manhattan, Ill., where Kestel is a fourth-generation corn farmer, they are praying for rain. His plants are almost two feet shorter than they should be at this point in the season and the next two weeks are critical.

During the next 14 days, Kestel’s corn plants begin the pollination period. Without the right amount of moisture, his corn crop will be lost.

“If heat and dry weather continue…kernels will just die,” Kestel told ABC News.

It was supposed to be the best corn harvest in decades, but now farmers fear a repeat of the 1988 drought that wiped out millions of acres of corn and caused billions in crop damage, the worst crop setback since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

Experts say consumers could end up feeling the pinch in their pocketbook. As much as 75 percent of the products in your grocery store use corn as a key ingredient. Things like cereal, peanut butter and soda could all be affected in the coming months.

“That’s going to raise the price of corn,” said Ricky Volpe, a U.S. Department of Agriculture research economist, “which is immediately going to raise the price of feed, of grains that goes into producing a lot of other foods, a lot of our meat and dairy, and so on and so forth. And that’s going to translate into an increase in the price of retail.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Storm Blamed for Instagram, Netflix, and Foursquare Outages

THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- If you had some trouble over the weekend uploading a photo to Instagram, checking in on Foursquare, watching a movie on Netflix, pinning something to your Pinterest board, or posting to Reddit, you’re not alone.

Amazon’s Web Services, which powers many sites and Cloud services, was taken out by the same lighting storms that caused power outages across the country. Amazon’s main server facility in Northern Virginia was hit hard by the storm, which left over 3 million people on the East Coast without power.

The outages started around 9 p.m. ET on Friday and lasted close to 12 hours for some of the services. Instagram and Netflix informed users via Twitter, however, many still were looking for answers. Instagram became one of the highest searched terms on Google on Saturday. Most services were up and running by Saturday afternoon.

This is the second time Amazon’s Web Services went down this month.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


A Bit of Cold Weather, the Sweeter the Orange?

Wayne Eastep/Getty Images(GAINESVILLE, Fla.) -- While Florida prepares for freezing temperatures Tuesday night and Wednesday, some say there may be a bright spot amid the heavy coats and chattering teeth: sweeter oranges.

“It is true that a little bit of cold weather is good for the citrus crop,” said Lisa Lochridge, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association. “It’s not just citrus. It’s the same with blueberries and strawberries. It’s something that goes on in the fruit itself.”

Although the cold isn’t expected to stick around for long, AccuWeather senior metereologist Alex Sosnowski told ABC News Tuesday night would be the coldest with multiple hours of temperatures below the freezing mark -- 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

He said that temperatures in the lower 20s and middle 20s could damage the fruit, but that the state’s orange groves were farther south on the peninsula and less subject to the deep freeze.

Fruits and vegetables in central and north central Florida will be at risk, however.

According to Sosnowski, a light frost sweetening the oranges was common information.

“It has to do with the seasoning of the fruit. Anytime you partially break down the structure of the fruit, you tend to sweeten it,” he said. “As long as the [temperatures are] not too severe and totally doesn’t damage the fruit. The slight freeze elevates the sugar content.”

Fred Gmitter, a professor of citrus breeding and genetics at the University of Florida, told ABC News Tuesday that he was not aware of any data proving this theory and that he believed it was a “sort of wives’ tale.”

“Whether they get sweeter or not,” he said, “that’s kind of questionable in my opinion.”

He did say that damage done to an orange’s skin by the cold weather could lead to water evaporation and a greater concentration of sugar in the fruit, as seen in the case of rust mites.

The Florida association’s Lochridge said the state’s citrus growers were watching forecasts and protecting their crops. Right now, harvesting is at its peak for the state’s $9 billion citrus industry.

“Growers are used to temperatures dipping. They use low-volume drip irrigation around the base of the tree,” she said. “The water keeps the base of the tree warm.”

Sosnowski said growers also would spray water on their citrus fields and use smudge pots and even wind machines powered by propane to stir the air and keep the cold air from sinking.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in December that this season Florida would produce 150 million boxes of oranges, including Valencias, navels and temples.

The retail price of orange juice -- a gallon is now about $6 -- has not been easing, according to Dr. Tom Spreen, a professor of food and resource economics at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

He said a major freeze event -- similar to the one that occurred around Christmas 1989 -- in which 15 percent to 20 percent of the crop was lost would make prices move. That is not expected to occur Tuesday night or Wednesday.

Spreen said, however, that few orange groves remained north around Orlando and Tampa and that growers had learned to make their groves less vulnerable.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


JetBlue Waives Fees in Lieu of Gulf Coast Weather 

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Inclement weather along the Gulf of Mexico has caused some airlines, like JetBlue Airways, to waive change fees and fare differences.

JetBlue will also allow customers booked for travel to or from New Orleans between Sept. 3 and Sept. 5 to voluntarily rebook their travel plans.

Customers will be allowed to rebook new flights between the same cities, departing anytime through Sept. 7, by calling 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583).

Changes must be made prior to the customer's originally scheduled departure.

All airline passengers traveling to areas affected by inclement weather are encouraged to check flight statuses online via the airport or airlines website before travel.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hurricane Irene Causes Flight Cancellations, Train Disruptions

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As Hurricane Irene slammed into North Carolina this morning, commuters and travelers across the country are feeling its impact.

More than 8,300 commercial airline flights have already been canceled this weekend, and that number is expected to rise, according to the website

All airports in the New York area—Newark, John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia—will stop accepting domestic and international arrival flights at noon Saturday.

Public transportation in New York City will stop running at noon, and airport officials do not want arriving passengers to be stranded at the airports.

Sam Schwartz, former commissioner for New York City's Department of Transportation said it will take eight hours to get all the trains and buses tucked safely away.

Philadelphia International Airport will shut down Saturday at 6 p.m.

Most airlines are now giving out travel waivers, meaning they will not charge any fees for flight changes.

But in many cases, you have to book your next flight within a short window.

In the central terminal at LaGuardia Airport, several passengers are stranded in the food court, trying to plot their next move. Many airport shops and restaurants may close at noon.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said it is ready for potential disruptions.

"Additional staff and contractor employees will be assisting customers as needed in every area of airport operations," said the Port Authority, and they will "stock hundreds of cases of bottled water, diapers, cots, blankets and pillows to provide to stranded passengers if necessary.

Under terms of the agency's concession contracts, at least one food vendor in every passenger terminal must remain open 24 hours so that food is available at any time of day or night."

Despite the fact that thousands of flights have been canceled, the departures area at LaGuardia was packed at 6 a.m. Saturday with people trying to get home before they get stranded.

Flights will continue to take off as weather permits.

Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority told ABC News Friday morning about 100 out of 400 flights have been canceled Saturday at RDU and it anticipates further disruptions for flights along the East Coast through Monday, Aug. 29.

How quickly airports can function after Irene will depend on more than clear skies. If the public transportation in New York is not running, many airport personnel may not be able to get to work.

President Obama cut his vacation short by one day, conferencing with his emergency response team, and warned citizens of the dangers of Hurricane Irene.

"I cannot stress this highly enough: If you are in the projected path of this hurricane, you have to take precautions now. Don't wait. Don't delay," Obama warned Friday morning from Martha's Vineyard, urging citizens to visit if they are unsure how to prepare.

Amtrak canceled most trains traveling south of Washington, D.C. for Saturday and Sunday.

The railroad announced at 5:40 p.m. Friday it is canceling more East Coast trains with service reductions beginning on today and will not operate trains in the Northeast on Sunday.

Amtrak may make additional announcements as the storm travels north.

Most cruises set sail on weekends, so the ships that had already departed were clear of the storm by the time it made landfall, said Paul Motter, editor of

However, all the major cruise lines have altered their schedules to some degree.

As of 10 a.m. Saturday, Carnival Cruise Lines announced changes to cruises departing this weekend to the Bahamas and Key West, updating guests and suggesting they continue checking the company website.

Carnival Pride has been directed by the U.S. Coast Guard to arrive early from the previous cruise and proceed to a secure, alternate location until the storm passes.

Celebrity Cruises Celebrity Summit did not depart Kings Wharf, Bermuda, Thursday at 6 p.m. Instead, the ship will remain in Bermuda until 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26. As of Friday morning, the cruise line anticipates the ship will arrive in Bayonne, New Jersey, on Aug. 29.

Holland America HAL's Veendam which left August 21 for a seven-day Bermuda Cruise, departed Bermuda at 5:00pm on Thursday, Aug. 25, and is scheduled to arrive in New York one day early on Saturday, ahead of the storm's anticipated arrival, as of 10 p.m. PDT Thursday.

Norwegian Cruise Line announced changes to the schedules of the Norwegian Jewel on Friday at 2 p.m. and asked travelers to check the companies website.

Royal Caribbean's "Explorer of the Seas" will depart Cape Liberty, Bayonne, N.J., on Saturday at 4 p.m., one hour earlier than originally scheduled.

On Friday at noon, it also cancelled the "Majesty of the Seas" call to CocoCay on Saturday and the "Monarch of the Seas" call to CocoCay on Sunday.

The safest location for a ship during a hurricane is at sea, well away from the storm. A ship should never be in port when a storm hits, because the vessel can be dashed against the pier and sustain damage, he said.

The biggest challenge comes when a hurricane makes landfall the same day that the ship is scheduled to be in its U.S. home port, Motter said. Cruise lines will usually opt to keep ships out to sea until "the coast is clear." The passengers get an extra day of "fun," although the seas may be rougher than usual.

Motter said the worst part of a hurricane during a cruise may be the airline reservation chaos passengers face when they disembark a day later than planned.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Tracking Hurricanes on Your Smartphone

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Hurricane Irene, now moving through the Caribbean and perhaps threatening the Southeast by week's end, is only the latest sign of one of the most active hurricane seasons in years. So you want to know where the action is and whether you're in the line of fire. Your smartphone could be your most valuable tool during or after a hurricane, with dozens of apps available to provide crucial information.

Here are a few apps:

Hurricane HD: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch. $3.99Hurricane HD lets you track storms, with moving radar and satellite imagery from the National Hurricane center. It provides tropical bulletins, forecasts, and advisories for the Atlantic and Pacific Basins. You can watch video updates for storms currently underway or forming, and find data on major storms of the past, like Andrew, Hugo and Katrina.

The Weather Channel: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, Android. FreeThe Weather Channel has fully customizable weather maps, animated radar maps, detailed weather conditions and forecasts, severe weather alerts, and a notification bar with the current temperature and severe weather alert indicator. In addition to the popular location-based local video forecasts, the video section now includes the "Must See Six" videos each day from a national collection. It allows you to get weather forecasts for your location or search by city, ZIP code, street address or landmark. The app also includes interactive maps that are fully customizable and feature the functionality of Google Maps. Customers can decide to display layers such as radar, clouds, UV index, rainfall and more.

Global Alert Network: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android Blackberry. Free
– The Global Alert Network delivers hands-free national traffic and weather alerts. See iTunes for Apple devices, or go to BlackBerry for a download. The Global Alert Network is a location-aware network platform that automatically broadcasts audible hands-free alerts to mobile devices.


National Hurricane Center – Tips on hurricane preparedness, storm surge, marine safety, with archives so you can track the past accuracy of storm forecasts.

The American Red Cross has an app called Shelter View that tells you what shelters are open and how close they are to capacity. After the storm is over, this free app from the government helps you locate and apply for relief.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Weather's Economic Impact So Far: Substantial But Temporary

Photo Courtesy - Chris McGrath/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The significant snow falls in January are expected to have a substantial, though temporary, impact on the U.S. economy.  Experts say that from an economic standpoint, production and consumer spending are the most affected, but once the weather clears, pent-up demand will mean that people will return to doing what they do and make up for economic losses caused by the storm.

Paul Kocin, a meteorologist with NOAA, has researched the impact of the weather on the economy and says that a storm like Thursday's affected at least 20 million people and the stormy winter weather throughout the country has had an impact on millions more just in the month of January.   He says in the past economic losses during similar storms have been several billions of dollars.

Kocin points out, however, that snow cleanup is a relatively smaller cost than production losses, with a tab running into the millions rather than billions.  Cleanup costs will be a huge strain on city and state budgets, but these are one-time costs as compared to the long term budget woes states and cities are facing.

Even energy prices are not necessarily affected.  Dave Feinberg of Planalytics,  a firm that follows the impact of weather on business says, “there’s a lot more going on in energy markets than just the impact of weather.” 

Scott Bernhardt, CEO of Planalytics, says that airlines too are better prepared to deal with such weather, “this will cost airlines money, but they have become much better at canceling early and are able to bring their costs down significantly.”

So while this winter may seem painful and sometimes even deadly, the U.S. economy seems basically prepared to weather the storm.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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