Crazy dust storm covers Sydney in red haze

Residents and tourists in Sydney, Australia, might be feeling as though they been transported to Mars, and in fact, a glance around at the city covered in red dust against a red-orange sky does bring to mind images of what a colony on the red planet would look like. Despite its other-worldly appearance, the haze that converged on Sydney yesterday is earth-bound, composed of red dust from the Outback.

Australia has been suffering one of the worst periods of drought since the 1940’s and an eight-year dry spell and record high temperatures have combined to create the country’s worst dust storms in 70 years. The storms normally only affect the interior of the country, but this time, they’ve covered Sydney as well, all but shutting down the airport and halting the service of passenger ferries for several hours.

According to The Age, air quality in Sydney was reported as 40 times worse than the level regarded as “poor” and 20 times the “hazardous” level. People are being advised not to go outside, especially if they have respiratory problems, and to take care when driving in the poor visibility. Officials said they had received over 250 calls from people reporting breathing problems as a result of the thousands of tons of dust in the air.

The storms were visible on radar and their effects were felt as far away as New Zealand, 1400 miles away.

For more amazing images of the dust storm, click here.

Airport closed so plane can’t land

Yesterday there were two stories out there about rest stop closings. This story is about an airport, an airplane and a more problematic situation than a rest stop being closed when one is desperate to stop. If a rest stop is closed there are options. The side of the road works in a pinch. In the case of the airplane in a decent towards an airport, but the airport turns out to be closed, there’s a bit more involved.

The pilot needs to quit descending asap and head somewhere else, in an ideal case, somewhere close by. Thankfully, that is what happened when US Airways flight 3203 was about to land at the Charleston, South Carolina airport but found the airport closed. The pilot turned the plane around to head back to where it came–Charlotte, North Carolina.

The airport isn’t closed all the time, but just some of the time–after midnight and only until August 9. Usually, it’s open 24-7. Two runways are getting fixed. A lightning strike had delayed the plane from take off after taxing out to the runway and the pilot knew he wouldn’t have enough time to make it to the airport before the witching hour, but thought the tower would stay open a tad longer. Nope.

Once back in Charlotte after state hopping the Carolinas, the passengers were given rooms, meal vouchers and status as being on a flight with an issue that almost never, if ever, happens. [The Post and Courier]

Cities where planes don’t fly to anymore

Bob Dylan song lyrics, “The times they are a changing” keep playing in my head. A few years ago, Greyhound buses stopped rolling into towns off its major routes. Now, in several small cities, airplanes won’t be appearing on their tarmacs.

According to this article in the New York Times, in Hagarstown, Maryland, it doesn’t matter that a new tarmac was made to bring more commercial planes there. They aren’t coming. The carriers that used to come quit. It would be hell to work at the Hagarstown Regional Airport right about now, I would think. What is there to do while waiting for a private plane to arrive? Drag racing?

The article lists several other airports without the commercial planes that used to whisk people in and out. New Haven, Connecticut, Wilmington, Delaware (where the plane in the photo was heading), Lake Havasu City, Arizona and Boulder City, Nevada are the ones named, but there are more.

So, now that you can’t whisk in and out of these places, and possibly you can’t take a bus to them either, I’m wondering what will happen when it comes to travel? When I criss-crossed the United States on a bus, there were some sites I wanted to go that were out of reach. We mostly went to large cities as a result of the hassle of going to smaller ones. The only small towns we went to were Hannibal, Missouri and Vinita, Oklahoma.

For people who have gotten used to going places quickly, lots of luck. With gas prices what they are, who’s going to want to drive to places that aren’t on the way to someplace else?

What strange things have been found on planes?

Click the image to read the bizarre story…