5 Alternatives To Fireworks This (Very Dry) Fourth of July

wildfireIt’s hard to imagine the Fourth of July without fireworks, but for drought- and fire-stricken regions like Colorado, that’s the way it’s going to be this year. If you happen to be living or traveling in a no-fireworks zone, don’t despair. There are still ways to celebrate our nation’s birth without setting it ablaze.

Since I’m in Colorado right now, I brainstormed with a group of rangers at Boulder’s Chautauqua Park (which is adjacent to the now 90%-contained Flagstaff Mountain blaze). Our ideas, below:

1. Organize a block party

2. Go to a laser show (or hold your own; those PowerPoint things are for more than just entertaining cats)

3. Have a picnic or barbecue and stargaze

4. Go to a concert in a park or other outdoor venue

5. Go camping, minus the open fire

[Photo credit: Flickr user H Dragon]

The Stop, Drop and Role Technique for Fire Safety

Venezuelan church back from watery grave

Potosi, Venezuela hasn’t been on anyone’s travel radar much since 1985. That was the year when the town was deliberately flooded by the Venezuelan government to build a hydroelectric dam. That left most of the worthwhile souvenirs from Potosi rather soggy. However, severe droughts in the region have resulted in an odd miracle, of sorts. The water levels in the man-made reservoir are so low that the town’s previously submerged church is now completely above water and resting on dry land.

National Geographic has some haunting photographs of the 82-foot-tall church that hasn’t been seen in its entirety in 25 years. The good news is that visitors can now witness this beautiful church and marvel at the effects of El Niño. The bad news is 68% of Venezuela’s power is hydroelectric. That means that the country is now experiencing an officially-declared energy emergency.

One could assume that the drought will eventually end and the reservoir will once again drown the town of Potosi. Until then, the church stands in the center of a ghost town that is seeing visitors for the first time in over two decades.

Photo by Flickr user JunCTionS.

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.

Photo of the Day (4/30/07)

This is fun stuff from our Gadling Flickr photo pool. An artist painted over a waterfall fountain backdrop in Melbourne. The fountain was shut off, due to drought. But, as they always do, the rains came. Check out the full-sized picture, here.