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Super Typhoon Yutu brings 290 km/h winds to Pacific islands

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Residents of the Northern Mariana Islands were bracing for months without electricity or running water in the aftermath of the strongest storm to hit any part of the U.S. this year.

Super Typhoon Yutu crossed over the U.S. commonwealth early Thursday local time.

Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, the territory’s delegate to U.S. Congress, said the territory will need significant help to recover from the storm, which he said injured several people.

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Saipan, Sablan said he has heard reports of injuries and that people are waiting at the island’s hospital to be treated. He could not provide further details or official estimates of casualties.

‘It’s like a small war’

“There’s a lot of damage and destruction,” Sablan said. “It’s like a small war just passed through.”

Sablan said the entire island sustained damage, but there are areas that are worse than others. He has not been able to reach officials on the territory’s neighbour islands of Tinian and Rota because phones and electricity are out.

In this photo provided by Glen Hunter, damage from Super Typhoon Yutu is shown outside Hunter’s home in Saipan. (Glen Hunter via AP)

“It’s going to take weeks probably to get electricity back to everybody,” he said.

Sablan says colleagues in Congress have reached out to offer help. He expects there will be a presidential disaster declaration put in place.

In a tweet Thursday evening Sablan said that the typhoon warning for Saipan and Tinian was ended.

‘Probably won’t have power for months’

The electricity on Saipan, the largest island in the commonwealth about 6,115 kilometres west of Hawaii, went out at 4 p.m. local time Wednesday, resident Glen Hunter said.

“We probably won’t have power for months,” he said, recalling how it took four months to restore electricity after Typhoon Soudelor in 2015.

Maximum sustained winds of 290 km/h were recorded around the eye of the storm, which passed over Tinian and Saipan early Thursday local time, said Brandon Aydlett, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Weather Service.

“At its peak, it felt like many trains running constant,” Hunter wrote in a Facebook message to The Associated Press. Hunter lives on Saipan.

“At its peak, the wind was constant and the sound horrifying,” he wrote.

Roofs ripped from homes

There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries.

Tinian suffered a direct hit. Saipan and Tinian will be unrecognizable, Aydlett said, adding that the weather service received reports that Yutu’s catastrophic winds ripped roofs from homes and blew out windows.

As the powerful storm crossed over the island the walls shook in Hunter’s concrete home, a tin roof over the garage blew away and howling winds terrified his cats. (Glen Hunter via AP)

“Any debris becomes shrapnel and deadly,” he said.

Fallen trees could isolate residents, and power and water outages could last weeks, the weather service warned.

‘We are in typhoon alley’

It was still dark when Hunter peeked outside and saw his neighbour’s house, made of wood and tin, completely gone. A palm tree was uprooted.

Hunter, 45, has lived on Saipan since childhood and is accustomed to strong storms. “We are in typhoon alley,” he wrote, but added this is the worst he has experienced.

The roof flew off the second floor of Del Benson’s Saipan home.

“We didn’t sleep much,” he wrote to the AP in a Facebook message. “I went upstairs and the skylight blew out. Then the roof started to go. We got the kids downstairs.”

‘This is the worst-case scenario’

Recovery efforts on Saipan and Tinian will be slow, Aydlett said.

“This is the worst-case scenario. This is why the building codes in the Marianas are so tough,” he said. “This is going to be the storm which sets the scale for which future storms are compared to.”

Dean Sensui, vice-chair for Hawaii on the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, was in Saipan for a council meeting. He hunkered down in his hotel room, where guests were told to remain indoors because winds were still strong Thursday morning.

“From around midnight the wind could be heard whipping by,” he said in a Facebook message. “Down at the restaurant it sounded like a Hollywood soundtrack with the intense rain and howling wind.”

Because he’s in a solid hotel, it wasn’t as scary as living through Hurricane Iniki in 1992, which left the Hawaiian island of Kauai badly damaged, he said.

“The fact that we still have internet access proves how solid their infrastructure is,” he said. “Hawaii and others should study the Marianas to understand how to design and build communication grids that can withstand a storm.”

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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