Daily Archives: January 20, 2012

Wind chill hitting extreme levels as Canadian Prairies locked in winter’s icy grip


Residential homes are covered in fresh snow as a commercial airliner takes off over Calgary, Alberta December 5, 2011.

Canadian Press | Jan 18, 2012

by MIKE BLAKE

EDMONTON—School bus cancellations and school closures are becoming the norm as a blanket of Arctic air wraps itself ever more tightly around the Prairies.

All three provinces are in the grip of wind chill warnings, with the extreme range hitting -50 C in some areas.

About 400 people in Calgary were suddenly exposed to the extreme cold overnight when a carbon monoxide leak forced them from their central area high-rise.

No one was hurt and buses were brought to the scene to keep the evacuees warm while their building was cleared.

Drivers everywhere are being urged to be prepared for the bone-chilling cold in case of stalls and medical authorities are warning about the quick onset of frostbite if skin is exposed for short periods of time.

Environment Canada says there may be some relief from the deep freeze by this weekend when daytime highs start slipping above -20, but breezy conditions will keep wind chills high.

Extreme-cold warning issued for Minnesota, windchills plummeting to 40 below zero

duluthnewstribune.com | Jan 18, 2012

The National Weather Service has issued an extreme cold warning for much of Minnesota through Thursday morning, with temperatures dipping to 25 degrees below zero in some areas and wind-chill values plummeting to 40 below.

By: News Tribune staff, Duluth News Tribune

The National Weather Service has issued an extreme cold warning for much of Minnesota through Thursday morning, with temperatures dipping to 25 degrees below zero in some areas and wind-chill values plummeting to 40 below.

Northwest winds gusting to 25 mph will spur dangerous conditions where frostbite can occur in just 10 or 15 minutes, officials noted.

Thursday morning’s low temperature will hit about 12 below in Duluth, with wind chills overnight in the 30-below range. The extreme-cold warning is for much of St. Louis County, away from Lake Superior, as well as Koochiching, Itasca, Aitkin and counties to the west.

This appears to be the coldest spell of winter, and temperatures won’t rebound much Thursday, with highs below zero across most of the region. Highs will be in the single digits above zero Friday, hit the mid-teens on Saturday and then rise into the upper 20s, above normal, for Sunday and well into next week as another warming trend arrives.

This is on average the end of the Northland’s coldest temperatures of the year, with highs in Duluth bottoming out at about 19 degrees and lows around zero. From now into July average temperatures will continue to rise.

An inch or two of new snow was expected late Wednesday and early Thursday, mostly north of the Iron Range.

The extreme-cold warning is a new advisory for the Weather Service replacing wind-chill warnings. In the Duluth Weather Service area, the extreme-cold warning will be issued when either the air temperature or wind-chill values are forecast to hit 40 below zero. In other areas, warmer temperatures qualify for the new warning.

Billionaire co-founder of the Carlyle Group funds Washington Monument repairs


This undated file photo released by The Carlyle Group shows David M. Rubenstein of the Carlyle Group equity firm. Congress allocated $7.5 million late in 2011 to repair the damage to the Washington Monument caused by the Aug. 23, 2011, 5.8-magnitude earthquake. Rubenstein tells The Associated Press he felt inspired to help after learning about cracks and chipped stonework high up the 555-foot obelisk and on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2012, will announce he is donating the final $7.5 million needed to repairs cracks atop the monument. (AP Photo/The Carlyle Group, File )

Washington Monument gets $7.5M for quake repairs

Associated Press | Jan 19, 2012

By BRETT ZONGKER

 

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org

WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite a billionaire history buff’s pledge of $7.5 million to speed up repairs on the Washington Monument, officials say the complex work could last until August 2013 — two years after the landmark was damaged by an earthquake.

Businessman David Rubenstein said he was inspired to help fund the repairs to the 555-foot obelisk when it became clear how severely damaged it was by a 5.8-magnitude earthquake Aug. 23. The National Park Service and nonprofit Trust for the National Mall announced Rubenstein’s gift Thursday morning. It is the largest gift to the nonprofit group that’s working to restore the mall.

The repair job will be no easy task, though. A design process is under way to determine how to do the work, and federal officials hope to award a contract by August to begin construction. From there it will take about a year, according to the best estimates.

The repairs may involve building huge scaffolding around the monument, as was the case during a restoration project from 1999 to 2001. Officials said they don’t yet know whether scaffolding will be necessary.

Bob Vogel, superintendent of the National Mall, said the park service is working to get the monument reopened as quickly as possible. But such an undertaking has never been done before, so the exact timeline is uncertain.

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“This is a complex job,” Vogel said. “This is a one-of-a-kind structure that poses challenges for repair that other buildings don’t.”

Rubenstein, a co-founder of the large private equity firm The Carlyle Group, has quickly become Washington’s foremost philanthropist. He is among the nation’s wealthiest people, joining Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in pledging to give away at least half of their wealth to charity.

In the past five years, Rubenstein has spent more than $83 million to support the capital city’s cultural scene through cash donations or pledges and purchases of historic documents — including copies of the Magna Carta and Emancipation Proclamation — to be shown in national institutions. Just last month, he gave $4.5 million to save the National Zoo’s giant panda program.

The Washington Monument caught his attention as soon as he learned how severely it was damaged. Chunks of stone were shaken loose and fell to the ground, and deep cracks formed at the top.

Rubenstein said he wanted to help make certain the monument can be reopened as quickly as possible.

“Really, this is something that was built by the American people because of their admiration and love of George Washington,” he said, noting $1 donations were collected to build the structure for a little more than $1 million. With his own many donations in Washington, Rubenstein said, “I kind of want to repay a debt I have to the country.”

Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said the monument will reopen sooner, thanks to Rubenstein. The Park Service wasn’t given enough money this year to fund the complete restoration on its own, he said.

“I would suggest it hadn’t even stopped shaking before David Rubenstein came to me and asked if he could help,” Jarvis said.

Congress allocated $7.5 million in December on the condition that private donations match that amount. The combined $15 million in public and private funds is expected to cover the cost of repairing damage directly caused by the quake. Repairing water damage from when rain leaked through will cost more, as would a seismic study or reinforcements to strengthen the structure against future earthquakes.

The August quake was centered some 40 miles west of Richmond, Va., and was felt from Canada to Georgia. It damaged the Washington National Cathedral, where pieces of mortar rained down from its vaulted ceiling.

At the Washington Monument, panicked visitors fled down flights of stairs, but there were no deaths or serious injuries in the region. Daylight could later be seen through some of the cracks, the largest of which was reported to be at least 4 feet long and about an inch wide.

Last fall, daring engineers rappelled from the top to conduct a visual inspection of the exterior. They documented the damage but noted the monument is structurally sound. Their report in December recommended extensive repairs and reinforcements to preserve the structure. It said some marble panels were cracked all the way through near the top portion of the monument.

Rubenstein’s gift will be delivered to the nonprofit Trust for the National Mall, which aims to raise $350 million privately to restore the grounds and facilities at the heart of the nation’s capital. Many areas have become run down from over-use and inadequate funding for maintenance.

Caroline Cunningham, president of the group, said Rubenstein’s gift “demonstrates how much people care about this space.”

A design competition is under way to develop ways to improve the mall, including the Washington Monument grounds. Finalists will be chosen in May, and the group will seek funding for each project.

Construction on the monument began in 1848, but funds ran out during the Civil War, leaving just an embarrassing stump for years. It was finally completed in 1884 and was the world’s tallest man-made structure until it was eclipsed by the Eiffel Tower. It remains the tallest structure in Washington.

Rubenstein recently toured the monument and saw its damage inside. Plaques from various states and groups line the walls, paying tribute to the nation’s first president.

“Because of what he did, we have a terrific republic, and I think Americans and people all over the world want to come here and see this monument,” he said.

Rubenstein, a Baltimore native and the son of a postal worker, has made major gifts in recent years to the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives, the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center, where he serves as chairman.

“I come from very modest circumstances, and I’m very fortunate to have achieved wealth beyond what I ever expected,” he said. “I don’t think that I want to be buried with my wealth. … I’d like to have the pleasure of giving it away to things I think are good while I’m alive.”