Best of our wild blogs: 19 Aug 11

Awesome, mawsome – some real dinosaur fossils in the museum! from Otterman speaks

Volunteers needed for lab sessions at the Mega Marine Survey
from wild shores of singapore

24 Aug (Wed): Public Lecture on "Challenge of conserving dugongs in our region" from wild shores of singapore

Help! My neighbour keeps pythons
from Yawning Bread

Guiding at St John’s and other stuff
from Nature rambles

Spotted Dove taking grit
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (18 Aug 2011)
from Mega Marine Survey of Singapore

Over 80 percent of rediscovered species still face extinction from news

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A Strike Against Jakarta Reclamation

Fidelis E. Satriastanti Jakarta Globe 18 Aug 11;

A land reclamation project on Jakarta’s north coast has led to land disputes, damage to infrastructure and a drop in water quality, according to a new report .

The study, which was done by the Danish-based consultant DHI Water and Environment at the request of the Environment Ministry, which opposes the reclamation, pointed to a number of negative impacts that have and will result from the project, which has been the subject of a long-running legal battle.

Results from the Rapid Environmental Assessment (REA) for Coastal Development in Jakarta Bay were released on Thursday.

According to the report, the reclamation project has caused land disputes in the surrounding areas, has had direct and indirect impacts on the existing infrastructure and has caused a drop in water quality. It also pointed out that the environmental impact analysis had been conducted in parcels, and should have been done in an integrated fashion.

The reclamation project, first proposed in 1994, calls for up to 1.5 kilometers of land to be reclaimed from the sea along with some 32 kilometers of coastline. A total of 2,700 hectares would be reclaimed, with another 2,500 hectares of land in North Jakarta to be revitalized.

However, the project has been held up by a long-running legal battle between the Environment Ministry and the city administration.

The REA found that in the construction phase, coastal pollution would be the main issue as the sites were dredged and filled. Marine and fishery activities will be affected and local fishermen will lose access to their fishing grounds, it said.

“Coastal pollution is the main issue from the reclamation activities, considering the high concentration of pollutants in the sediment and the fact that the locations being filled are fisheries areas,” the study said, adding that it would require strict environmental monitoring of the process.

In the operational phase, the REA said the reclamation would affect the sea surface, tourism, power plants, undersea pipes and cables, coastal line geomorphology and coastal area water quality due to waste pollution from the project.

If changes occur in the area’s water quality, hydrology and sedimentation, it will eventually hit the remaining mangrove populations, which serve as conservation areas, the report said.

Imam Hendargo, deputy for spatial planning at the environment ministry, said the ministry was not against reclamation projects, but they needed to be done in accordance with requirements.

“The REA serves as an ‘express policy alternative’ because the regional spatial planning [RTRW] is not finalized yet, and the strategic environmental assessment has recommended that there should be changes in the RTRW,” he said.

The 2009 Environmental Management and Protection Law stipulates that each spatial planning study by regional or central governments must include strategic environmental assessments in the development plans.

“If the RTRW is not yet finalized, then all activities in the areas must be discontinued,” Imam said. “It has to be stopped until the new regional spatial planning study is released.” He added that the companies involved needed to prepare an integrated environmental impact analysis, and not per project, as had been the case.

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Forest fires in Indonesia

Hotspots detected in 15 sub districts in Kotawaringin Timur
Antara 18 Aug 11;

Sampit, Central Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - Hotspots have been detected in 15 sub districts, Kotawaringin Timur District, Central Kalimantan, from August 1 to 17, 2011.

Based on the monitoring of Terra an AQUA Satellites, there were 165 hotspots spread in the 15 sub districts during that period, according to Ian Septiawan of the Kotawaringin Timur Nature Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) here on Thursday.

Most of the hotspots came from forest and land fires and produced haze covering Sampit city.

The fires were difficult to extinguish because the locations wer far from roads and difficult to reach, he said.

He predicted the number of hotspots in Kotawaringin Timur to increase significantly if rains did not fall or the government did not deal with the fires seriously.

Septiawan earlier had urged local farmers not open new farm land by burning bushes because the practice could get out of control and cause forest fires.

He also asked oilpalm plantation managers to remain alert toward possible forest fires which could spread to human resettlement.

Johan Wahyudi, the head of the Kotawaringin Timur national unity, political, and public protection office, said his office and the Sampit Red Cross (PMI) would distribute face masks to pedestrians and motorists to prevent them from having respiratory problems due to haze.

"There are 9,000 face masks that we will distribute free of charge to the public," he said.

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) will use cloud-seeding to put out forest fires in four provinces, according to a minister.

"Now the National Agency of Disaster Mitigation (BNPB) is working to tackle hotspots by using cloud-seeding," Environmental Affairs Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta said in Jakarta recently after opening a coordinating meeting on "Towards Green Indonesia".

Editor: Ruslan Burhani

Forest fire reported in West Lampung
Antara 19 Aug 11;

Liwa, Lampung (ANTARA News) - A forest fire destroyed vegetation on a hill bordering on a protected forest in Pekon Bakhu sub district, West Lampung District, Lampung Province, Sumatra, on Thursday.

"It`s very hard for us to extinguish the fire due to the difficult terrain. We don`t get help, the forest will be gutted by the fire which is now spreading and still burning freely," Head of the West Lampung Disaster Management Office Mulyono said here on Thursday.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 18 Satellite had detected at least 36 new hotspots on Sumatra Island on Thursday.

The head of Riau`s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) Yudhistira Mawaddah said in Dumai, Riau, on Thursday that of the 36 new hotspots, 13 were detected in Riau Province.

There rest were in South Sumatra Province (11 hotspots), Jambi (eight), North Sumatra (two), Lampung (one), and Aceh (one), he said.

Meanwhile, forest fires were reported in Jembrana District, Bali Province, on Wednesday (Aug 17).

Head of the Penginuman Forestry Police Resort Agus Sugianto said the fires gutted a half-hectare area near Tower 89 State Power Utility (PLN) and three hectares in the north area.

The forestry police personnel and staff of the West Bali National Park finally managed to extinguish the forest fires.

He suspected that the fires were triggered by cigarette butt thrown carelessly.

In West Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), a fire razed Mt Sasak forest at Kuripan village on August 5, 2011. The fire believed to have triggered by drought, was put out four hours later. (*)

Editor: B Kunto Wibisono

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Indonesia: Poaching, illegal trade still threatening Sumatran tigers

Antara 18 Aug 11;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Poaching and illegal trade in tiger parts are still major threats to the survival of the Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), according to an NGO activist.

The Sumatran tiger is the only remaining tiger sub-species in Indonesia following the extinction of Java and Balinese tigers in the early 20th century, Osmantri, chief coordinator of the WWF-Indonesia`s Tiger Protection Unit, said here on Thursday.

The Sumatran tiger population on Sumatran Island is estimated at 400 heads at present, he said.

Poaching and illegal trade usually involved financially strong and big networks, he said.

"In general, illegal trading in wildlife causes state losses, and it must be dealt with in the same way as illegal logging," he said.

The Indonesian government is one of the 13 tiger range nations which have signed a commitment on the Global Tiger Recovery Program in St. Petersburg, Russia, in November 2010.

The program is aimed among other things to preserve the Sumatran tiger and its habitat, and intensify legal enforcement against poaching and illegal trade in tiger parts.

The Indonesian government has also outlined the Sumatran Tiger Conservation Strategy Plan 2007-2017.

"The international world is watching whether Indonesia will be successful or fail in these efforts and it could affect the country`s image," he said.

WWF-Indonesia also expressed appreciation to the Payakumbuh district court and the Payakumbuh prosecutor`s office for bringing to justice Afandi (49), who is charged will illegal trade in tiger parts.

The Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is recognized as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and its population is decreasing.

Studies conducted in 1994 and 2007 both estimated the total population to be around 400-500 individuals. Habitat loss, fragmentation, and poaching for illegal trade on the island they inhabit (Sumatra) has put this tiger subspecies in some of the worst of circumstances.

Editor: Ruslan Burhani

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Philippines: Corporate sponsors save vulnerable coral reefs

Gregg Yan Malaya 19 Aug 11;

Great reefs provide the seeds that make the seas around Western Visayas, Palawan, and Mindoro teeming with marine life. More than that, they provide food and livelihood for some 40 million people each year.

The great reefs of Tubbataha and Apo are part of the Coral Triangle, some 5.7 million square kilometers of the most productive reefs in six Southeast Asian countries with the Philippines at the apex.

Of all the coral reefs in the region, Tubbataha and Apo are the largest and most productive.

Since 2007, Apo Reef – west of Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro – has been proclaimed a no-fishing zone; Tubbataha Reefs off Palawan followed later.

Because of the no fishing policy at Apo Reef, Asia’s largest, overall coral growth has steadily improved from less than 33 percent in 1994 to 52 percent today.

Apo Reef is home to almost 200 species of soft and hard coral, 385 species of fish as well as the thresher and hammerhead sharks, manta rays, sperm whales, dolphins and sea turtles.

Because of the same no fishing policy, the fish population at Tubbataha is now over 200 tons per square kilometer, five times greater than the productivity of a typical healthy reef. The fish population has remained stable for over a decade now.

Tubbataha is host to over 600 kinds of fish living in nearly 400 types of soft and hard coral. It is home to eight breeding seabird, 13 marine mammal, 11 shark and two sea turtle species.

All these are significant, considering that less than 30 percent of the Coral Triangle are in good condition and in fact are among the world’s most threatened coral reefs. Indeed, only 1 percent – including parts of Apo and Tubbataha – remains pristine.

"Few reefs within the Coral Triangle come close to the biological productivity of Tubbataha," says Lory Tan, Vice-Chair and CEO of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Philippines) which, together with Cebu Pacific Air and the towns of Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, and Cagayancillo, Palawan, has put in place measures to protect the reefs.

Donations from thousands of Cebu Pacific passengers have made possible the better protection of the great reefs.

"The Bright Skies program is Cebu Pacific’s commitment to promote responsible flying and protect the Philippines’ largest coral reefs," says Cebu Pacific President and CEO Lance Gokongwei.

Since 2008, online donations to the Bright Skies program reached over P17 million.

From January 2010 to May 2011 alone, donations to the Bright Skies program helped conduct more than 300 patrol days; apprehend 15 violators; involve and engage 85 crew on motorized fishing boats; file four criminal cases; and maintain the Apo Reef Natural Park and the Tubbataha Reefs.

Other corporate sponsors have thrown their weight behind coral reef conservation.

The Grieg Shipping Group and the Grieg Foundation through WWF-Norway are funding the refitting of the M/Y Navorca which provides transportation services for WWF-Philippines’ support for conservation initiatives in the Sulu Sea, particularly in the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park and the island municipality of Cagayancillo.

The vessel is crucial in obtaining data needed to protect the Tubbataha Reefs. Modifications include improved propulsion systems to maximize fuel consumption and increase speed, a brand-new fiberglass coating for the vessel’s hull and upgrades for navigational, communications and safety equipment.

"These upgrades are absolutely vital in ramping-up WWF’s research and enforcement efforts for the Sulu Sea," explains WWF-Philippines Tubbataha Reefs Project Manager Marivel Dygico. "To deal with mounting threats, we must increase our capabilities. Upgrading the M/Y Navorca is a crucial first step for us to do this."

Acquired in 2008, M/Y Navorca is equipped with navigational and communications equipment and has been providing safe passage for research, expeditions, educational tours and rescue operations.

In 2010, M/Y Navorca was involved in eight research trips, one each for cetaceans, sharks, seabirds, fish, coral, marine turtles, Crown-of-Thorns seastars and gastropods.

Her crew installed mooring buoys and launched two expeditions and several short trips within Puerto and Honda Bays to develop a two-day, two-night live-aboard educational tour package which features dolphin watching, snorkeling and island-hopping.

M/Y Navorca is slated for similar trips in 2011. Surveys to be undertaken include climate change vulnerability assessments for both Tubbataha and Cagayancillo isles, seabird, fish, coral and Crown-of-Thorns seastars monitoring surveys and further installation of mooring buoys. WWF

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US agency seeks to end sea otter relocations

Los Angeles Times 18 Aug 11;

After 24 years of barring sea otters from most Southern California waters and trying to establish a colony for the threatened animals on San Nicolas Island, federal wildlife officials on Wednesday announced a proposal to abandon the program, saying it failed to help the threatened species recover.

The proposal announced Wednesday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would allow sea otters to expand naturally into their historic range off Southern California and officially put an end to a relocation program long criticized as ineffective and harmful to the marine mammals.

Starting in 1987, federal officials relocated 140 sea otters from Monterey Bay to San Nicolas Island, 60 miles off the coast, to try to establish a new population of southern sea otters there in case a disaster, such as an oil spill, threatened them with extinction.

As part of a compromise with fishing groups, the government declared waters from Point Conception to the Mexican border a “no-otter zone” and promised to round up any otters that strayed into waters along the Southern California mainland, where they dine on the same shellfish fishermen seek.

But the new colony failed to take hold as many of the otters relocated to the island swam away to return to their parent population along the Central Coast, disappeared or died.

“About half of the otters we brought out there, we don’t really know what happened to them,” said Lilian Carswell, southern sea otter recovery coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We learned that the basic, underlying concept was flawed: that you can move sea otters in this mechanistic way and expect them to do what you want them to do instead of what they want to do.”

Under the plan, the 46 otters that remain at San Nicolas Island would be allowed to stay there and would no longer be considered an experimental population as they have for more than two decades. Sea otters in Southern California would be given the same protections as those along the Central Coast.

The Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to release a draft of the decision by next month under a settlement agreement last year with the Otter Project and Environmental Defense Center, conservation groups that sued the agency in 2009 to force them to end the program.

In a joint statement, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Sea Otter, the Humane Society of the United States and the Monterey Bay Aquarium applauded the decision, calling the no-otter zone “ineffective and harmful."

“For sea otters to have a real shot at recovery, they must be allowed to return to their historic range off the coast of Southern California,” they said. “If sea otters thrive again throughout their historic range, the entire marine ecosystem will benefit.”

By the early 1990s it became clear to federal wildlife officials that otters being relocated from Southern California to the Central Coast were dying after being released and that enforcing an artificial boundary was not helping restore the population. The last time the Fish and Wildlife Service moved otters out of Southern California waters was in 1993.

“Nobody really thought that you could take an ocean-going animal and draw an imaginary line and tell it not to go there,” said Jim Curland, marine program associate with Defenders of Wildlife. “People were very skeptical that you could take an animal, physically move it to an island and expect it to stay.”

In 1999 large numbers of male and juvenile sea otters started moving seasonally into Southern California as they searched for shellfish and other food. Fishermen filed suit against the Fish and Wildlife Service for not moving them north, and the government responded with a biological opinion that said it would jeopardize the population to continually move them out of Southern California and limit the expansion of their range.

Historically, southern sea otters inhabited waters from Oregon to Baja California, numbering 16,000 in the 19th century. They were nearly wiped out by fur traders who hunted them for their pelts, and by the early 1900s just a small remnant colony of 50 survived along the coast of Big Sur. In 1977 they were protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

Since then, sea otters have made a slow recovery and today number about 2,800 in California. But as they have exhausted food sources along the Central Coast, wildlife officials now believe the only way for their population to continue its recovery is to allow them to venture wherever they want.

“The goal is to have sea otters really functioning as part of the near-shore marine ecosystem,” Carswell said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is asking for public comments on the plan in the next 60 days. The decision could be made final by 2012.

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Melting Arctic sea ice drives walruses onto land

Deborah Zabarenko Reuters 19 Aug 11;

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Fast-melting Arctic sea ice appears to be pushing walruses to haul themselves out onto land, and many are moving around the area where oil leases have been sold, the U.S. Geological Survey reports.

Walruses are accomplished divers and frequently plunge hundreds of feet (meters) to the bottom of the continental shelf to feed. But they use sea ice as platforms to give birth, nurse their young and elude predators, and when sea ice is scarce or non-existent, as it has been this summer, they come up on land.

Last September, the loss of sea ice caused an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 walruses to venture onto land, and as sea ice melts reached a record last month, U.S. government scientists are working with Alaskan villagers to put radio transmitters on some of the hauled-out walruses to track their movements around the Chukchi Sea.

"The ice is very widely dispersed and there is little of it left over the continental shelf," researcher Chad Jay of the U.S. Geological Survey said in a statement on Wednesday. "Based on our tracking data, the walruses appear to be spreading out and spending quite a bit of time looking for sea ice."

The loss of sea ice puts Pacific walruses at risk, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but other, higher-priority species will get attention first. In February, the wildlife service listed Pacific walruses as candidates for protection, though not protection itself.

Walruses are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which means these animals cannot be harvested, imported, exported or be part of interstate commerce.

Polar bears, which also use sea ice in the Chukchi Sea as platforms for hunting, have been designated as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act because of declining sea ice in the Arctic.

Compared to last year's massive haul-out, there are few walruses on land, and there is no solid count, Jay said.

"There is a lot less ice than there used to be on the continental shelf this time of year," he said. "So we might be headed into a new normal."

Transmissions from the radio-tagged walruses offer a good picture of where these creatures are in the Chukchi Sea in a U.S. Geological Survey graphic updated approximately weekly.


Available online at , the graphic shows where the walruses were when they were first tagged (shown as red Xs) and how they moved around the water (shown as yellow dots).

The graphic also shows changes in sea ice cover in the far north, indicating nearly ice-free conditions in areas where the walruses are moving. Many are within the boundaries of an oil lease sale area that stretches along the northwestern Alaska coast and far into the Chukchi Sea.

Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips and Statoil hold leases in the Chukchi Sea, though no drilling has started.

Last month saw Arctic sea ice drop to its lowest extent -- meaning that it covered the smallest area -- for any July since satellite records began in 1979, according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center. Typically, Arctic sea ice hits its lowest extent for the year in September.

This record-low ice extent for July is lower than July ice extent in 2007, when ice extent shrank in September to its smallest area in the satellite record.

(Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Warming Planet Pushing Species Out of Habitats Quicker Than Expected

Jennifer Welsh Yahoo News 19 Aug 11;

If you can't take the heat, get out of the habitat. That's exactly what many species are doing, and they're moving at an unprecedented rate, new research suggests. The cause: our changing climate.

The researchers analyzed previous studies to determine how far more than 2,000 species of plants and animals had strayed from their native habitats. The study included regions across the globe.

All types of species studied were moving toward the poles, at an average rate of about 8 inches (20 cm) per hour, or 11 miles (17.6 km) per decade. Species are also moving upward at an average rate of about 40 feet (12.2 meters) per decade. These estimates are about three times farther than previous measures. [Top 10 Surprising Results of Global Warming ]

The researchers also correlated this with how quickly the temperature was changing in these areas. They saw that in the areas of greatest temperature increases, species were moving farther and faster.

"There wasn't any clear overall pattern that different types of species were responding more than others," said study researcher Chris Thomas, of the University of York in the United Kingdom. "The amount of change we are seeing is greater in the regions that have warmed the most, the link to climate change is clear."

Climate effects

In each broader group of several species — birds, trees or rodents, for example — some species were big movers and some weren't. In some groups, species even moved toward the warmer areas, probably a result of other pressures on top of global warming.

For example, the high brown fritillary, a butterfly species in Britain, should be moving toward Scotland, but because its habitats have been destroyed the fritillary has actually declined in numbers and range. In comparison, the comma butterfly has moved more than 130 miles (220 km) north in two decades.

Another example comes from the avian population. The Cetti's warbler has moved to the north by more than 90 miles (150 km) while another bird, the Cirl bunting, moved south by 75 miles (120 km) because agriculture has disrupted its habitat.

Habitat fragmentation and changing ranges of predators, prey and pollinators (for plants) also influence species' ability to survive in any specific habitat. If a species can't reach the next bit of livable habitat, they would be stuck where they are until climate changes led to their extinction.

"You could have a population where effectively you have the living dead," Thomas said. "You have adult individuals, which are alive, but without recruitment [the creation of offspring], the individuals die off."

Other things affecting their ability to move habitats include life span and reproductive rates (longer-lived species that produce few offspring would likely take longer to move habitats).

Conserving species

Moving to a new habitat is just one response to climate change.

"There already is evidence that many species are undertaking evolutionary changes in response to climate," Thomas said. "You don't have to just adapt with the physical conditions, but you need to compete with these new species" that have since moved into their newly warmed digs.

For instance, beech trees in Spain are getting better at adapting to hot conditions. The smaller, younger trees have different molecular characteristics that allow them to deal better with warmer temperatures, Thomas said.

How these species move and adapt has a direct impact on conservation efforts.

"It is a huge challenge for conservation, because the central premise of conservation is that if you protect species somewhere, they will stay there," Thomas said. "Trying to manage the land to keep what you had in the beginning is likely to fail."

The study was published today (Aug. 18) in the journal Science.

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U.S. Sees Growing Losses From Extreme Weather

Jane Sutton PlanetArk 18 Aug 11;

The United States has already tied its yearly record for billion-dollar weather disasters and the cumulative tab from floods, tornadoes and heat waves has hit $35 billion, the National Weather Service said on Wednesday.

And it's only August, with the bulk of the hurricane season still ahead.

"I don't think it takes a wizard to predict 2011 is likely to go down as one of the more extreme years for weather in history," National Weather Service Director Jack Hayes told journalists on a conference call.

The agency's parent organization, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA, launched a campaign on Wednesday to better prepare Americans for violent weather.

There have so far been nine separate disasters this year that caused an economic loss of $1 billion or more in the United States, tying the record set in 2008, NOAA said. The most recent was the summer flooding along the Missouri and Souris rivers in the upper Midwest.

The "new reality" is that both the frequency and the cost of extreme weather are rising, making the nation more economically vulnerable and putting more lives and livelihoods at risk, Hayes said.

The number of U.S. natural disasters has tripled in the last 20 years and 2010 was a record breaker with about 250, according to property and casualty reinsurer Munich Reinsurance America.

Average thunderstorm losses have increased five-fold since 1980. For the first half of 2011 there have been $20 billion in thunderstorm losses, up from the previous three-year average of $10 billion, NOAA said.

The rising costs are due partly to demographics, Hayes said. The population is rising and there are more people and more buildings in environmentally vulnerable areas, such as coastal regions.


Asked if global warming was to blame for the rising frequency of wild weather, Hayes said that was "a research question" and that it would be difficult to link any one severe season to overall climate change.

NOAA's effort to make America "weather-ready" is aimed at producing earlier, more precise warnings and helping people understand what to do to protect themselves, Hayes said.

In the current fiscal climate, it mainly focuses on already-budgeted items such as upgrading the weather radar system and on better coordination among existing agencies.

For example, one program aims to have rainfall forecasters work more closely with the agencies that build and maintain levees and operate flood-control canals.

Other steps include:

-Helping communities stage disaster preparedness drills.

-Dispatching specially trained meteorologists to emergency response centers during disasters such as wildfires.

-Asking behavioral scientists for advice on how to improve the wording of advisories so that the general public understands them, and how to deter risky behavior such as driving onto flooded roads.

-Expanding the use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and chatrooms to help spread weather warnings.

NOAA's warning was timed with the advent of what is traditionally the busiest part of the June-through-November Atlantic hurricane season. The United States has not been hit by a hurricane in three years.

"Those are the types of things that lull people to sleep. We want people vigilant," Hayes said.

NOAA has predicted there will be as many as 19 tropical storms this year. So far there have been seven, but none have strengthened into hurricanes. Only one, Tropical Storm Don, came ashore in the United States but it quickly fizzled over the Texas coast without delivering the rain that is badly needed in the parched state.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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