Tag Archive: Gulf of Mexico


New footage of captured US soldier: SITEhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110507/ap_on_re_us/us_afghan_captured_soldier_father_s_appeal

By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press John Miller, Associated Press Sat May 7, 7:14 am ET

BOISE, Idaho – In a rare public appeal, the father of a U.S. soldier held captive in the Afghan war has sought the help of Pakistan’s military in securing the release of Spc. Bowe Bergdahl.

Idaho resident Bob Bergdahl, in a video post on YouTube, directly addresses Pakistan Army Chief of Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the head of the country’s intelligence service.

“Our family is counting on your professional integrity and your honor to secure the safe return of our son,” he said. “And we thank you. Our family knows the high price that has been paid by your men in the army and the frontier corps. We give our condolences and thanks to the families of those who have fallen for Pakistan.”

Bowe Bergdahl’s parents have declined to say much publicly since he went missing from his base in southern Afghanistan on June 30, 2009. He is the only American soldier being held in the war.

While it’s unclear where the 25-year-old soldier is being held, a video released on the Internet earlier this week shows him standing next to a senior official in the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network in Paktika province in Afghanistan.

Wearing a long beard he began growing just after his son’s capture, Bob Bergdahl speaks in English, Pashto and Arabic in the video, and he talks directly to members of the Haqqanis and their military commander, Mullah Sangeen.

“Strangely to some, we must also thank those who have cared for our son, for almost two years, Mullah Sangeen, the Haqqanis, and others who have played a role in sheltering the American prisoner,” he said. “We know our son is a prisoner and at the same time a guest in your home.”

Idaho National Guard spokesman Col. Tim Marsano, a liaison for the U.S. Army in Idaho, confirmed that Bob Bergdahl is the man in the video.

The U.S. considers the Haqqani group to be its greatest enemy in Afghanistan. U.S. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, complained last month that Pakistan’s military-run intelligence service maintains links to the Haqqani network. The Haqqanis are Afghan Taliban who control parts of eastern Afghanistan and have bases in Pakistan’s North Waziristan frontier tribal region.

The video comes after Osama Bin Laden’s death on Sunday in Pakistan. Bergdahl doesn’t allude to any relationship between that and the timing of this video.

Speaking to his son, Bob Bergdahl offered reassurances that the family has done all it can — and that they want him home safe.

“We have been quiet in public, but we have not been quiet behind the scenes,” Bob Bergdahl said. “Continue to be patient and kind to those around you. You are not forgotten.”

In the video, Bergdahl appears to reference the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, or Taliban.

“We understand the rationale the Islamic Emirate has made through their videos,” Bergdahl said. “No family in the United States understands the detainee issue like ours. Our son’s safe return will only heighten public awareness of this. That said, our son is being exploited. It is past time for Bowe and the others to come home.”

Bergdahl does not indicate to whom he’s referring to with the phrase “the others.” There are no other U.S. soldiers in captivity in Afghanistan.

Marsano said he was uncertain about the passage.

“I’m not privy to all the information Mr. Bergdahl has, nor did he ask me to expand upon his remarks,” Marsano said.

A phone call to U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., wasn’t immediately returned.

The Bergdahls, who live in a home outside of Hailey near the tourist resort of Sun Valley, have largely shunned media attention following their son’s capture. Last year, Bowe Bergdahl’s mother, Jani Bergdahl, attended an elementary school ceremony after students wrote President Barack Obama urging him to help bring about the captive’s release.

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Online:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?vyJmmZQ3byKQ

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An electronic bill board warns drivers the reason Mississippi Highway 465 is closed to Eagle Lake is because of flood waters from the Yazoo River, neahttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110506/ap_on_bi_ge/us_severe_weather_flooding

By ADRIAN SAINZ and CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press Adrian Sainz And Cain Burdeau, Associated Press 1 hr 7 mins ago

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The Coast Guard closed a stretch of the swollen Mississippi to barge traffic Friday in a move that could cause a backup along the mighty river, while police farther south in Memphis went door to door, warning thousands of people to leave before they get swamped.

Emergency workers in Memphis handed out bright yellow fliers in English and Spanish that read, “Evacuate!!! Your property is in danger right now.”

All the way south into the Mississippi Delta, people faced the question of whether to stay or go as high water rolled down the Big Muddy and backed up along its tributaries, breaking flood records that have stood since the Depression.

Because of levees and other flood defenses built over the years, engineers said it is unlikely any major metropolitan areas will be inundated as the water pushes downstream over the next week or two, but farms, small towns and even some urban areas could see extensive flooding.

“It’s going to be nasty,” said Bob Bea, a civil engineer at the University of California-Berkeley who investigated levee failures in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. How bad it gets depends on how well the flood protection systems have been built and maintained, he said.

The Coast Guard closed a five-mile stretch of the Mississippi to protect Caruthersville, Mo., and said barges could be banned for up to eight days. The fear was that the wake from big boats would push water over a floodwall and into the town of 6,700.

Barges regularly move coal, grain, ore, gravel, auto parts and other vital products down the Mississippi. A single barge can carry as much material as 70 tractor-trailers, and some towboats can move 45 barges at once.

Lynn Muench, a vice president of the American Waterways Operators, an industry group, said the eight-day shutdown would have a multimillion-dollar effect on the barge industry and slow the movement of many products.

“It’s just like if you took out every bridge going over the Mississippi what that would mean to railroad and vehicle traffic,” Muench said. “You’re shutting down a major thoroughfare.” She added: “The last thing we want is a levee to go, but we also want to keep moving.”

In Tennessee, local authorities were uncertain whether they had legal authority to order evacuations, and hoped the fliers would persuade people to leave. Bob Nations, director of emergency management for Shelby County, which includes Memphis, said there was still time to get out. The river is not expected to crest until Wednesday.

“This does not mean that water is at your doorstep,” Nations said of the door-to-door effort. “This means you are in a high-impact area.”

About 950 households in Memphis and about 135 other homes in Shelby County were getting the notices, Shelby County Division Fire Chief Joseph Rike said. Shelters were opened, and the fliers include a phone number to arrange transportation for people who need it.

Jeanette Twilley of south Memphis came home to find one of the yellow notices on her door. Her house is roughly 75 yards from Nonconnah Creek, which has overflowed its banks and flooded three houses on her street.

“Amazed. Amazed. I just can’t believe this,” said Twilley, who is retired and rents her home. She planned to leave in the afternoon and stay with friends or relatives. “There’s not going to be anybody here,” she said of the neighborhood, a working-class area in one of the poorer sections of Memphis.

In a section of south Memphis outside the evacuation zone, Billy Burke stood in his backyard, where water from a creek has been rising for days. About 20 feet away, a fish jumped out of a pool of standing brown water.

“I’m going to stay as long as I can,” Burke said. “But if the water goes up another 10 feet, I’m out of here.”

Graceland, Elvis Presley’s home and one of the city’s best-known landmarks, is about a 20-minute drive from the river and in no danger of flooding, spokesman Kevin Kern said. “We’re on a hill, high and dry and open for business, and will stay open,” Kern said.

Water pooled at the lowest end of Beale Street, the thoroughfare synonymous with Mississippi blues, but it was about a half-mile from the street’s world-famous nightspots.

The main Memphis airport was not threatened, nor was FedEx, which has a sorting hub at the airport that handles up to 2 million packages per day.

In Missouri, dozens of National Guardsmen and Highway Patrol members who had been rescuing people from floodwaters had to be rescued themselves after six boats got stuck in low water. Half were rescued before dark, and the others spent the night on a levee, relying on provisions dropped to them by the Guard.

Farther south, parts of the Mississippi Delta began to flood, sending white-tail deer and wild pigs swimming to dry land, submerging yacht clubs and closing floating casinos.

“We’re getting our momma and daddy out,” said Ken Gelston, who helped pack furniture, photos and other belongings into pickup trucks in Greenville, Miss. “We could have five feet of water in there,” Gelston said, nodding at the house. “That’s what they’re telling us.”

Bea, the civil engineer, said he is concerned because some levees across the U.S. have been built with inferior dirt, or even sand, and have been poorly designed.

“The standards we use to build these things are on the horribly low side if you judge them by world criteria and conditions,” he said. “The breaches, as we learned in New Orleans, are the killers.”

How long the high water lingers, and how much damage it does to the earthen walls of the levees as it goes down, are crucial factors.

“The whole summer will have to be watched,” said J. David Rogers, a civil engineer at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Since the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, a disaster that killed hundreds, Congress has made protecting the cities on the lower Mississippi a priority. The Army Corps of Engineers has spent $13 billion to fortify cities with floodwalls and carve out overflow basins and ponds — a departure from the “levees-only” strategy that led to the 1927 calamity.

The Corps also straightened out sections of the river that used to meander and pool perilously. As a result, the Mississippi flows into the Gulf of Mexico faster, and water presses against the levees for shorter periods.

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Burdeau reported from Greenville, Miss. Jim Salter in St. Louis and Travis Loller in Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this report.

Water covers the west-bound lane of Interstate 40 on the approach to the White River Bridge near Hazen, Ark., Thursday, May 5, 2011. Eastbound lanes ohttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110505/ap_on_re_us/us_severe_weather_flooding

By DYLAN LOVAN and ADRIAN SAINZ, Associated Press Dylan Lovan And Adrian Sainz, Associated Press 2 hrs 35 mins ago

HICKMAN, Ky. – Jail inmates filled sandbag after sandbag to protect one of the many Southern river cities threatened by the swelling Mississippi as it broke more 1930s flood records and crept higher Thursday.

A flooding tributary threatened to cut off Interstate 40, a major east-west route through Arkansas, and the Army Corps of Engineers planned to blast a new breach in a Missouri levee in hopes of controlling the slow-motion disaster flowing downriver.

Thousands of people from Illinois to Louisiana have already been forced from their homes, and anxiety is rising along with the river, though it could be a week or two before some of the most severe flooding hits.

In Hickman, a town of about 2,500, Morrison Williamson was confident a towering floodwall would save his hardware store, despite small leaks that let some flood waters spray through.

Williamson was in a nearly deserted downtown, keeping his store open for customers who needed flood-fighting supplies. He said the decision to break open the Missouri levee upstream has kept the river from topping the floodwall, saving many communities to the south.

“They say blowing up the levee saved Cairo (Ill.) Well, it did. But if this breaks, you’re talking Dyersburg, Ridgely, Tiptonville, water all the way to Memphis,” Williamson said about places in neighboring Tennessee.

About 120 Fulton County jail inmate volunteers dressed in orange or white prisoner uniforms furiously filled sandbags for Hickman. They have made 120,000 since April 26.

“We’re just going to keep going until they say stop,” jail Sgt. James Buckingham said.

Up and down the Big Muddy, farmers braced for a repeat of the desperate strategy employed earlier this week in southeast Missouri, where Army engineers blew up the levee and sacrificed vast stretches of farmland to protect populated areas upstream.

The corps planned to blast a third and final breach in the Birds Point levee around 1 p.m. Thursday to allow water to flow back out of the flood plain into the river.

“I’ve never seen it this bad,” said 78-year-old Joe Harrison, who has lived in the same house in Hickman since he was 11 months old. Floodwaters turned his house into an island — dry but surrounded by water. He has been using a boat to get to his car, parked on dry ground along a highway that runs by his house.

Tom Salem, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Memphis, said flooding is extreme this year in part because of drenching rain over the past two weeks. In some areas, Wednesday was the first day without rain since April 25.

“It’s been a massive amount of rain for a long period of time. And we’re still getting snowmelt from Montana,” Salem said.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday declared parts of Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky disasters, making the states eligible for federal help with relief efforts.

Forecasters and emergency officials said some of the high-water records set during the great floods of 1927 and 1937 could fall.

But because of the system of levees and locks built since those disasters more than 70 years ago, flooding this time is unlikely to be anywhere near as devastating.

“We have a high confidence in our levees, but in the sense of transparency, we have to say that the levees have not been tested,” Shelby County Emergency Management Director Bob Nations said in Memphis, Tenn.

The great flood of the lower Mississippi River Valley in 1927 was one of the biggest natural disasters in U.S. history. More than 23,000 square miles were inundated, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced and hundreds died.

The flood found its place in folklore, literature and films, and popular songs including “When the Levee Breaks.”

More devastation came in 1937 when 31,000 square miles were submerged from West Virginia to Louisiana.

Lifelong Hickman resident H.L. Williamson, 77, was a boy when he and his family fled to the highest point in town. He recalled little except that his brother wouldn’t eat black-eyed peas or grapefruit for years because that was all they had during the flood.

This time, Williamson packed up and left his home, which was still dry thanks to a hill just inches higher than the floodwaters. He took only a few belongings, including the Navy uniform he hopes to be buried in.

The relief from blowing up the levee is probably only temporary downstream in Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana because the water will eventually find its way back into the Mississippi River.

In Arkansas, a stretch of westbound Interstate 40 was closed where it crosses the White River, adding a 120-mile detour to the main route to Little Rock from Memphis. The state highway department said eastbound lanes remained open Thursday but flooding appeared imminent and they too could be shut.

Arkansas recorded its eighth death since the rains started April 25 when authorities found the body of a man in the floodwaters in eastern Arkansas’ Prairie County.

In Kentucky, about 3,800 residents have left their homes.

Memphis, where the Mississippi was at 43.8 feet Tuesday, could see a crest of 48 feet on May 11, just inches below the record of 48.7 feet set in 1937. Water from the Wolf and Loosahatchie rivers already has seeped into the suburbs, and some mobile home parks were swamped.

Emergency management officials said more than 1,100 houses and apartments could be hit with flooding. Several hundred people have already left, and thousands more are expected to follow them.

In Louisiana, shippers, ports and the chemical industry hoped the government could dredge fast enough to keep a major channel into the Gulf of Mexico unclogged. The Mississippi sends huge amounts of sediment downriver during high-water times.

Because the maximum-security Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola is particularly flood-prone, the state planned to evacuate the most medically vulnerable inmates by Monday, then others later.

Mississippi officials told about 1,000 people packed into a National Guard armory Wednesday that they are confident the main levees along the Mississippi River will withstand high water in the coming weeks, but they warned that some backwater levees could be overtopped by as much as a foot.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour warned people to expect monumental flooding and said he was moving his furniture from his family’s lakeside home to prepare for flooding from the Yazoo River.

With the recent deadly outbreak of tornadoes and, now, the threat of flooding, “we’re making a lot of unfortunate history here in Mississippi in April and May,” said Jeff Rent, a Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman.

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Sainz reported from Memphis. Associated Press writers Jim Suhr in Metropolis, Ill., and Holbrook Mohr in Rolling Fork, Miss., contributed to this report.

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