- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2008


Volcano erupts in Aleutian chain

ANCHORAGE | A volcano erupted Saturday with little warning on a remote island in Alaska, sending residents of a nearby ranch fleeing from falling ash and volcanic rock.

The Okmok Caldera erupted late Saturday morning, hours after seismologists at the Alaska Volcano Center began detecting a series of small tremors.

The explosion flung an ash cloud at least 50,000 feet high, said geophysicist Steve McNutt.

Ten people, including three children, were at Fort Glenn, a private cattle ranch six miles south of the volcano on Umnak Island, located in the western Aleutians about 860 miles southwest of Anchorage.

They were picked up later by the fishing boat Tara Gaila, which responded to a Coast Guard request for emergency assistance.

Okmok is 60 miles west of the busy fishing port of Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island. Ash was reported falling in the region, Mr. McNutt said.

The 3,500-foot volcano last erupted in 1997, Mr. McNutt said. The volcano has shown signs of increased activity during the last few months, he said.

Previous eruptions have typically produced lava flows, but the volcano center could not immediately determine if that had occurred in Saturday’s explosion, Mr. McNutt said.


Thunderstorm spawns huge mudslide

INDEPENDENCE | A mudslide has forced nearly a dozen people from their homes in the town of Independence on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada.

Cal Fire spokeswoman Janet Upton said severe thunderstorms Saturday set off the slide, which is 300 yards wide and up to 3 feet deep.

The mud oozed across California Highway 395 and authorities say they evacuated a few people who were trapped in their homes. Some of the mud entered the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

But Ms. Upton said there wasn’t enough rain to help efforts to combat wildfires elsewhere in the state.


Dolphin with no tail fitted for new fin

CLEARWATER | A dolphin at a Florida rescue center was sized up for a new prosthetic fin designed to allow her to swim with more flexibility, marine scientists say.

The 3-year-old dolphin, Winter, was measured Saturday at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the Tampa Tribune reported.

Workers at Hanger Prosthetics & Orthotics are constructing a new cast of Winter’s peduncle, which is located between her fluke and dorsal fin, the newspaper said.

Winter has received several prosthetic tails since she was rescued from a crab trap three years ago when her tail was severed.

Winter’s new tail will be constructed with an advanced stainless steel joint that will give her increased flexibility, said Jeni Hatter, media relations director for the rescue facility.

The dolphin also will get a new non-slip sleeve for her stump, the Tribune said.


Religion puts wrinkle into flood recovery

DES MOINES | Tayeeb Foods Inc. always enjoyed a modest profit, but Nazar Osman said running his six-year-old Sudanese grocery was never about the money.

Now the survival of his store in Coralville depends on finding money, but unlike hundreds of other small Iowa businesses affected by last month’s flooding, Mr. Osman can’t accept low-interest loans from the federal Small Business Administration.

Like many Muslims, he takes a strict interpretation of the Koran’s prohibition against paying interest.

Mr. Osman, 41, was among the thousands of Iowans pushed out of their homes and businesses by flooding last month.

He had prepared for the likelihood that about a foot of water would hit his business, hurriedly raising his freezers, refrigerators and everything else a foot off the ground.

However, the Iowa River eventually filled his store with water 8 feet deep, soaking everything for days.

Mr. Osman’s landlord is Brian Ho, who says he will rebuild the complex that held his Chinese restaurant and Mr. Osman’s grocery.

Mr. Osman said that gives him hope, but even with a repaired building he figures he must find about $18,000 to reopen and restock money he said would be difficult to find without paying interest.

His attorney has told him the best course may be to declare his businesses bankrupt, but Mr. Osman views that as akin to declaring defeat.

“We survived the last six years with little profits,” he said. “This is not about profits.”


Gas prices rise to $4.11 a gallon

NEW YORK | The U.S. national average for self-serve, regular unleaded gasoline was $4.1124 a gallon on July 11, up about 1.52 cents per gallon from three weeks ago, according to the nationwide Lundberg survey of about 7,000 gas stations.

This represented the most stable gas price period so far in 2008, according to survey editor Trilby Lundberg, who said refiners and retailers shouldered margin losses rather than pass on the higher cost of crude oil to motorists.

If not for profit margin losses to refiners and gasoline retailers there could have been a price rise more like 23 cents a gallon. Refiners lost about 15 cents of their gasoline margin and retailers lost about 9 cents in the period, Mrs. Lundberg said.

At $3.82 a gallon, Tucson, Ariz., had the lowest average price for self-serve, regular unleaded gasoline on July 11, while the highest price was $4.53 a gallon in San Francisco. Mrs. Lundberg said refiners in particular are under pressure to regain margins soon or shut down refining capacity.

“It would take a drop of $10 a barrel in the price of crude from the July 11 price of $145.08 for us not to see a rise in the pump price,” Mrs. Lundberg said.

Friday’s crude oil price close was nearly double its July 13, 2007, price of $73.93 a barrel. The gas price on that date last year was $3.0577 per gallon, Mrs. Lundberg said.

On Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, August crude settled up $3.43, or 2.42 percent, at $145.08 a barrel, trading from $141.44 to an Intraday record of $147.27, eclipsing the previous NYMEX high of $145.85 hit on July 3.


Truckers seek to save with green options

MILTON | To cool off inside his cab, Ken Kafer hooks up his rig to a contraption that looks like a giant exhaust pipe for a clothes dryer.

Besides air conditioning, the yellow hose funnels TV and even Internet connections through a window into his cab at a truck stop. The best part, Mr. Kafer says, is that he doesn’t need to keep his diesel engine running.

So-called “electrified truck stops,” along with on-board tools such as auxiliary power units, have drawn interest from some truckers in part to reduce pollution and engine grind from idling and abide by a growing number of anti-idling guidelines nationwide.

But lately, drivers like Mr. Kafer have increasingly turned to them to also save money with fuel prices at record highs.

“I’m saving fuel, engine wear, and I’m getting all the comforts that I need,” Mr. Kafer, 42, of Hubert, N.C., said during a break at a truck stop in the central Pennsylvania town of Milton on a recent Iowa-to-New York run.

Jim Runk, president of the Pennsylvania Motor Trucking Association, said many truckers are using such options now because fuel prices are at a point where “they just can’t put up with it.”

Environmentalists have long been critical of the pollution emitted by diesel engines, with tractor-trailers among the most common and plentiful source of soot.

A report from the Clean Air Task Force, an advocacy group, estimated in 2005 that 21,000 Americans’ lives were shortened by particle emissions from diesel engines.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2001 established new rules, including the introduction of cleaner highway diesel fuel in 2006 and requirements for manufacturing truck engines starting in 2007.

Once fully enacted, the rules could lead to a reduction in 2.6 million tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions and prevent 8,300 premature deaths, the EPA has said.

After initial resistance from the industry, most truckers are on board with the changes. There’s additional impetus these days, with diesel prices pushing $4.70 per gallon.

Many companies have turned to installing auxiliary power units, which allow drivers to have heat or air conditioning inside the cab during rest breaks without having to run the engine using just a fraction of the fuel used otherwise.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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