Tropical storm forecast kick-starts the 2012 hurricane season

Posted by Benji Riggins on May 18, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

The 2012 hurricane season might get an early start, with the possibility of a tropical depression or storm in the western Caribbean some time next week, according to a cutting-edge forecast Tuesday by federal scientists.

The Climate Prediction Center predicted moderate chances that a tropical depression or a storm will form in the Caribbean during the last week of May.

Even if no storm develops, the prediction signals that the Atlantic is becoming primed for tropical activity as June 1, the official start of the six-month hurricane season, nears.

“It’s something to pay attention to. It might be a little earlier than normal,” said Eric Blake, a specialist with the National Hurricane Center.

While the two-week tropical hazard forecasts by the Climate Prediction Center are not very accurate now, meteorologists there are working with the National Hurricane Center to improve them. Within a few years, the two agencies plan to start making a joint two-week forecast, with the hurricane center taking the lead on the first week and the climate center handling the second, said Blake, who gave a presentation about the project at the Governor’s Hurricane Conference here on Tuesday.

He said the hurricane center began working with the climate center on the two-week outlook shortly after the busy 2005 hurricane season.

“The challenge has really been eliminating the false alarms,” Blake said.

The two-week outlook mostly relies on thunderstorm activity around the global tropics to predict where chances are increased for a tropical storm or depression to form. Clusters of thunderstorms occasionally move around the globe in a weather pattern called the Madden-Julian Oscillation or MJO. When the thunderstorms are over the Caribbean and Africa, the chances for tropical storms to develop in the Atlantic increase, Blake said.

But because weather is so variable, forecasts that extend beyond a week tend to have a large margin of error. The five-day forecast for tropical activity, however, is getting much better.

Blake said the hurricane center will experiment this year, in-house, with predicting the formation of tropical storms five days in advance. If the forecasts pan out, weather buffs, fishermen, shipping businesses, emergency planners and those in the oil and gas extraction industries could benefit from those forecasts beginning next year.

By Kate Spinner

North Carolina Employers Face Jail Time Over Uncovered Workers’ Claims

Posted by Benji Riggins on May 15, 2012 under Insurance News | Be the First to Comment

North Carolina officials are requiring insurers to expedite the payment of workers’ compensation patients medical and wage-loss benefits or risk being sentenced to jail.

The North Carolina Industrial Commission has ordered more than a dozen employers to attend a May 22 hearing in an attempt to resolve claims that have been dragged though the legal system for decades. Employers who refuse to pay or settle part of a claim will face contempt charges and be ordered to jail.

“In the interest of better serving the employees and employers of North Carolina and enforcing the provisions of the workers’ compensation law, the North Carolina Industrial Commission is reviewing its contempt procedures,” said Pamela Young, chair of the commission that is charged with enforcing the state’s workers’ compensation law.

The commission’s action came within weeks of a study conducted by the Raleigh, N.C-based News and Observers that found that tens of thousands of employers may be operating without coverage.

At issue are the commission’s lack of resources to monitor the many worksites around the state, a lack of communication among state agencies, and an apparent reluctance to penalize employers.

The commission contracts with the North Carolina Rate Bureau to collect the data over the number of employers in the state with workers’ compensation coverage. The bureau reported that insurers provide coverage to 140,000 business with another 117 companies self-insured. That leaves many business without coverage.

By law, employers are required to inform the bureau on of the commission’s behalf, when they purchase, renew or cancel coverage.

For all practicable purposes, however, the information is a one-way street. Commission officials acknowledge using the database to find the insurer responsible for covering a claim, but do not monitor cancellations. As a result, they only find out an employer is without coverage when an injured worker files a claim.

Also, when it comes to pursuing employers without coverage, it has little leverage to enforce the law. The law states that employers found not in compliance with the law can be fined $100 per day and the cost of any benefits and medical expenses the injured worker should have collected.

The Industrial Commission’s Fraud Unit reported that since January 2011, it has only pursued 225 cases where employers where found not to have proper coverage. The unit reported collecting $30,500 in fines, which equals around $135 per case.

That is why North Carolina has decided to approach having proper workers’ compensation not just a civil matter, but a criminal one as well.

“In response to the issues raised, we now have some concrete plans,” said Young.

By Michael Adams

Traffic Deaths At Record Low in U.S. in 2011

Posted by Benji Riggins on May 11, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

Traffic fatalities on U.S. roads in 2011 fell to their lowest level since federal safety regulators started counting in 1949, the regulators said on Monday.
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Young Drivers Know Risks But Text Anyway: Survey

Posted by Benji Riggins on May 9, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

Most young American drivers agree that it is dangerous to text while driving, but nearly a third admit they do it anyway, a survey by Consumer Reports shows.
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Distracted Driving

Posted by Benji Riggins on May 7, 2012 under Safety | Be the First to Comment

Driver distractions or inattentive driving play a part in one out of every four motor vehicle crashes. That is more than 1.5 million collisions a year and 4,300 crashes daily, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Text messaging, changing radio stations, even turning around to talk to passengers can prove deadly.
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Fewer Storms Forecast for 2012 Hurricane Season

Posted by Benji Riggins on May 5, 2012 under Insurance News | Be the First to Comment

The 2012 Atlantic hurricane season is projected to be less active than in recent years with 11 tropical storms, six of which will intensify into hurricanes, U.S. private forecaster Weather Services International said on Wednesday.
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Once Again, Flood Insurance Program to Expire Unless Congress Acts

Posted by Benji Riggins on May 3, 2012 under Flood | Be the First to Comment

Federal officials are putting fresh pressure on Congress to take action on the National Flood Insurance Program, whose authorization expires at the end of this month, one day before hurricane season begins.
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Behind the Wheel, Not All Distractions Are Equal

Posted by Benji Riggins on April 30, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

As carmakers and lawmakers draw up plans for combating distracted driving, new research from MIT shows that drivers can lose focus even with their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel. Furthermore, the level of distraction that drivers encounter can best be measured in shades of gray rather than black and white.
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Number of Vehicles Failing Inspection in North Carolina Triples

Posted by Benji Riggins on April 26, 2012 under Interesting Info | Be the First to Comment

A report from the Division of Motor Vehicles has found that the number of vehicles filing safety inspections in North Carolina tripled last year.

DMV Commissioner Mike Robertson told The Charlotte Observer that he thinks the increase happened because his agency began cracking down on garages that pass vehicles shortly after they fail at another shop.
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Severe Weather Has Home Insurers Rethinking Coverages

Posted by Benji Riggins on April 23, 2012 under Insurance News | Be the First to Comment

As weather disasters strike with more frequency, U.S. homeowners first get hit with the destruction or total loss of property. Many are then hit with the unexpected loss of homeowners insurance policies as insurance companies re-evaluate their financial liabilities.
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