A nauseous gas leak in an upscale neighborhood north of Los Angeles has closed schools and forced thousands of families to flee the area.
Neighbors have left in a mass exodus from the invisible threat of the well, at Southern California Gas Co's Aliso Canyon storage facility, which wafts occasionally, sickening many in its path, as it continues to spew enormous amounts of climate-changing methane.
It has been gushing the equivalent of about a quarter of the state's daily output of methane, along with other gases, since it was reported on October 23.
California Gov Jerry Brown declared an emergency last week in Porter Ranch for the prolonged blowout that requires the utility to cover the costs and instructs state regulators to protect ratepayers.
The leak, which causes a sulfur-like smell, has cost the utility $50 million so far and is expected to balloon as the company tries a tricky fix to plug the well deep underground, while also shelling out compensation for exasperated residents and fighting dozens of lawsuits.
This infrared image released by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) shows methane gas leaking from the Aliso Canyon facility near the Porter Ranch suburb of Los Angeles
It is the largest natural gas storage facility west of the Mississippi River and can provide energy to all of Southern California for a month.
The leak is also blamed for depositing tiny oil droplets on cars and houses that are about a mile away.
The well is one of 115 in the Santa Susana Mountains where Southern California Gas Co, a division of San Diego-based Sempra Energy, stores natural gas in a vacant oil field about a mile and a half underground.
Porter Ranch resident Laura Gideon and her family endured the sickening stench from the out-of-control natural gas leak for about a month before they could no longer tolerate the nausea, headaches and nosebleeds.
After she went to the emergency room in November vomiting and with a severe migraine, Gideon, her husband and their two children abandoned the only home they'd ever known together in the upscale Los Angeles suburb of Porter Ranch.
They moved in with her parents about ten miles away to await a fix that could still be months away.
'We're in mourning now,' she said. 'We didn't ever want to leave. We were in a nice gated community. We were safe, you know, supposedly good schools. This wasn't our plan.'
Public health officials said most of the gas is dissipating and not causing long-term problems, but foul-smelling additives that make highly flammable gas detectable has been blamed for maladies including irritated throats, coughs and respiratory problems.
'It's like being in a disaster area, but it's not a disaster you can see,' said Sue Hammarlund, who has seen her share of national disasters as a Red Cross volunteer and has suffered from headaches and nosebleeds recently. 'I think this is more debilitating mentally.'
Two local schools closed before the end of the year and nearly 1,900 students will start the year at different schools Monday.
While more than 4,500 families have either left or are on the move, many have stayed behind - either because they're not bothered by the smell, aren't worried or don't want to hassle with moving.
The company has apologized for failing to disclose the leak after residents began complaining about the smell and for reacting slowly to their concerns.
The incident is unprecedented for a utility and it is 'forging new ground,' said Gillian Wright, a SoCalGas vice president.
Under orders from the county health department to relocate people who want to leave, SoCalGas has offered to pay up to $250 a night for hotels, plus $45 per person per day for food, or up to up to $7,500 a month for rental homes.
Hezbollah, in anticipation of the next round, began a period of reconstruction and rearmament. Financed by Iranian petro dollars, it acquired sophisticated anti-tank missiles and cruise missiles and increased its rocket arsenal from 12,000 to over 100,000. Some of these rockets are said to be capable of hitting targets south of Tel-Aviv.
Most of the weapons were either transported overland through Syria or sent directly to Beirut International Airport, where Hezbollah operatives maintain complete control. These weapons transfers represented a clear violation of UN Resolution 1701 but the Western component of the UN had no stomach to challenge the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah Axis of Evil and the Muslim component either didn’t care or actually supported it.
A special commando unit, composed of hand-picked soldiers from other elite units, has been formed specifically to deal with the Hezbollah menace. The armored forces have been upgraded as well. Merkava tanks and Namer armored personnel carriers are now fitted with special anti-rocket defense shields like the Trophy and Iron Fist systems. These are active defense systems capable of destroying any missile in midair before the projectile reaches the vehicle’s armor. Both platforms are battle-proven and are effective against both Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG) and anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM).
Israel will not rely solely on its vaunted air force to destroy the missiles. The Second Lebanon War proved that the enemy must be denied territory from where it could launch its rockets. Therefore, an offensive strategy has been devised aimed specifically at acquiring territory so as to deny the enemy a platform from which it could launch its weapons.
Israel has also been carefully monitoring Hezbollah’s activities in Syria. The terror group has been keen on taking advantage of the lawlessness in Syria to transport sophisticated weaponry into Lebanon and set up bases of operations near Israel’s Golan Heights but Israel has conveyed to both Iran and Hezbollah by word and deed that it will not tolerate such nefarious activities.