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    A striking image of Verrazano Bridge in Brooklyn as Hurricane Sandy approaches on Oct. 29, 2012. (Photo: Carlos Ayala)

    The city of New York -- America's largest metropolis and home to over 8 million people -- will be ravaged by the effects of climate change within a few years.

    That's the bleak scenario presented by a recent 430-page report developed by a blue-ribbon panel of academics, environmental planners and government officials.

    Released this month, the report, nicknamed "SIRR" for Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency, presents an ambitious plan for managing the worst effects of global warming, which include flooding, rising temperatures and extreme storms. [8 Ways Global Warming Is Already Changing the World]

    The potential disasters laid out by the plan, however, could easily overwhelm New York City: Searing heat waves, pounding rainstorms and vast acreages flooded by seawater are all expected for the city and the surrounding region.

    And as dire as these situations are for New York City as a whole, the implications for the city's most vulnerable populations -- the elderly, children, disabled people and those with special needs -- are even more ominous.

    Sandy: a harbinger of storms to come

    On Oct. 29, 2012, New York City and the surrounding area woke up to a reminder of nature's fury when Hurricane Sandy struck the region.

    In addition to causing nearly $20 billion in damage, the storm killed 43 people and injured many more. The city's transportation facilities, including airports, commuter trains, subways and highways, were effectively shut down. [On the Ground: Hurricane Sandy in Images]

    Other critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and wastewater treatment plants, were incapacitated, and millions of city residents were thrown into darkness by the flooding of electrical facilities. Communication networks were similarly crippled as personal cellphones, computer screens and other devices went dead.

    Experts are quick to point out that Hurricane Sandy cannot be directly blamed on climate change, but say that similar storms are more likely in the near future, based on existing trends.

    "There has been an increase in the strength of hurricanes, and in the number of intense hurricanes, in the North Atlantic since the early 1980s," Cynthia Rosenzweig, a NASA researcher and co-chair of the New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC), said at a recent news briefing.

    And Sandy's devastation was made worse by existing climate realities. "Sea level rise already occurring in the New York City area, in part related to climate change, increased the extent and magnitude of coastal flooding during the storm," according to a 2013 NPCC document.

    New York's future laid bare

    After Sandy exposed New York's vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, Mayor Michael Bloomberg was emboldened to create the plan outlined in the recent SIRR report.

    Among the report's many projections, written in a detached academic tone, are a number of genuinely frightening scenarios. A handful stand out as extreme events, said Rosenzweig, who refers to them as "the Big Three":

    Heat waves: In decades past, New York experienced an average of 18 days a year with temperatures at or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius). But the city could experience 26 to 31 such days by 2020 - just seven years from now.

    And by 2050, New Yorkers will swelter under as many as 57 days - almost two full months - of temperatures above 90 degrees F, the report projects. These heat waves "could cause ... about 110 to 260 additional heat-related deaths per year on average in New York City," the SIRR report states.

    Intense precipitation: Instead of experiencing an average of two days per year with rainfall exceeding 2 inches (5 centimeters), New York City will endure up to five such days by 2020 - almost triple the current number.

    Coastal flooding: By 2020, the chances of a 100-year flood (a flood with a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year) at the Battery in downtown Manhattan will almost double, according to SIRR projections. By 2050, the chances will increase fivefold.

    The heights of 100-year floods are also expected to increase, from 15 feet (4.6 meters) to as high as 17.6 feet (5.4 m) at the Battery. These effects will be experienced dramatically in swamped coastal neighborhoods and at important low-lying facilities such as John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport.

    Populations at greatest risks

    During Hurricane Sandy, 26 nursing homes and adult-care facilities had to be closed, forcing the evacuation of about 4,500 people. And six hospitals, including four in Manhattan, were also closed and almost 2,000 patients evacuated.

    These evacuees represent just a small fraction of New York City's most vulnerable populations, who are at greatest risk from the projected impacts of climate change-related disasters, said Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness in New York City.

    "I don't think people realize that vulnerable people - who may be vulnerable for a variety of reasons, whether they're very young or very old or sick or disabled - are roughly 40 to 50 percent of the population," Redlener told LiveScience.

    "The success of disaster planning and response could be gauged by how well we handle those vulnerable populations," Redlener said. "This is a big problem, because most of our official planning organizations tend to do very generic planning."

    Hurricane Sandy presented a number of case studies in disaster planning successes and failures. After Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn lost power, backup generators supplied electricity until the generator room flooded and all power was lost.

    During the height of the storm, "the staff valiantly cared for patients using flashlights and battery-powered medical equipment," the SIRR report states.

    By contrast, the nearby Shoreham Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing Care was built in 1994 to withstand a 500-year flood (a flood with a 0.2 percent chance of happening in any given year). Its suite of backup generators supplied power for four days during an area-wide blackout, and the facility was able to provide food and shelter to many of Brooklyn's stranded residents.

    Unfortunately, the example of Coney Island Hospital - which was forced to send more than 200 patients to other facilities - may be more typical of the way vulnerable populations experience climate change-related disasters.

    "I visited shelters for families in the aftermath of Sandy, and they didn't have baby food, they didn't have diapers and they didn't have cribs," Redlener said. "This is typical of what happens when you do generic planning - you end up leaving lots and lots of people out."

    Cities: ground-zero for climate change impacts

    New York's SIRR plan calls for about $20 billion in infrastructure improvements, including strengthening utility and transportation networks, renovating buildings and constructing seawalls and shoreline buffers, including a massive residential and commercial development named "Seaport City."

    Though it's ambitious, New York's planning isn't atypical for coastal cities, which have assumed a leadership position in addressing climate-change risks since they will likely bear the brunt of its expected impacts.

    Through the Urban Climate Change Research Network (UCCRN), cities are sharing scientific and economic research to support and inform decision makers in those areas, Rosenzweig said.

    "We work with cities all over the world. New York is definitely one of - if not the - leader, but there are other U.S. cities that also have a longer-term history of addressing [climate change]," Rosenzweig said.

    "Prime examples are Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami, of course, because of their risks," Rosenzweig said.

    "It's really striking that cities are emerging as the first-responders to climate change," Rosenzweig said. "It's a very exciting and very positive story - the cities are really stepping up."

    Follow Marc Lallanilla on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.com.

    Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

     

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    Photo of the 2012 Supermoon over Valencia, Calif., by AccuWeather Facebook fan Dan C.

    The night of June 22 into June 23 will feature a full moon, but it may look more impressive than any full moons seen so far this year. The moon will be at its lunar perigee, the closest it will get to the Earth in 2013, which will make it look somewhat larger than usual.

    According to AccuWeather's Mark Paquette, the term "Supermoon" (technically called a Perigee Full Moon by astronomers) was coined by astrologer Richard Nolle. It is used to describe full moon (or a new moon) that is at 90 percent or greater of its closest perigee to Earth.

    An extreme Supermoon occurs when the new or full moon is at 100 percent greater mean perigee. The view of the moon this weekend will therefore be an Extreme Supermoon as it passes 356,991 kilometers away from the Earth, compared to its "typical" distance of 384,400 kilometers.

    Supermoons can have an affect on the tides, but as far as having any adverse affects on behaviors or weather, there is no supporting science. Most likely, all that will occur is a better view of the moon with some great photo opportunities for those in areas with favorable viewing conditions.

    Skies over the Desert Southwest and the lower Ohio Valley into the mid-Atlantic and southern New England will have the clearest skies for viewing the moon. The Upper Midwest will have the poorest conditions as rain and thunderstorms will sit above the area overnight. Showers will also affect part of the Northwest and pockets of the Plains and Deep South, but will die out as the night goes on. The rest of the United States will have times of clear skies with patchy clouds obstructing views at times.

    For more information, updates and to submit your Supermoon photos, join the Accuweather Astronomy Facebook page.

    Conditions for viewing the Extreme Supermoon. Larger image available below.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Mind-Blowing New Photos from Space

     

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    Updated Friday, June 21, 10:32 a.m. ET

    In this Thursday, June 20, 2013 photo, Indo-Tibetan Border Police use a rope to rescue stranded pilgrims cross a river swollen by flood waters at Govind Ghat, in Chamoli district, in northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, India. (AP Photo)

    JOSHIMATH, India (AP) - Rescuers found bodies in the River Ganges and in the muddy, broken earth, raising the death toll from monsoon flooding and landslides in mountainous northern India to nearly 600 Friday, officials said.

    The air force dropped paratroopers, food and medicine for people trapped in up to 100 towns and villages cut off since Sunday in the Himalayan state of Uttrakhand where thousands of people are stranded, many of them Hindu pilgrims who were visiting four shrines in the area.

    Uttrakhand state Chief Minister Vijay Bahguna said 556 bodies have been noticed buried deep in slush and the army was trying to recover them. He spoke to CNN-IBN television channel on Friday.

    Rescuers also Friday found 40 bodies floating in the Ganges near Haridwar, a Hindu holy city, said police officer Rajiv Swaroop.

    Bahguna said the eventual toll would be in the hundreds. Rakesh Sharma, another state official, had said Thursday the death toll might reach the thousands but the exact figure would not be known until the entire region is checked.

    Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters in New Delhi that 34,000 people have been evacuated so far and another 50,000 were stranded in the region. Roads and bridges were washed away by the floods or blocked by debris.

    Uttrakhand spokesman Amit Chandola said the rescue operation centered on evacuating nearly 27,000 people trapped in the worst-hit Kedarnath temple area - one of the holiest Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, located atop the Garhwal Himalayan range. The temple escaped major damage, but debris covered the area around it and television images showed the bodies of pilgrims strewn around the area.

    Soldiers and other workers reopened dozens of roads by building makeshift bridges, accelerating the evacuation, Chandola said. More than 2,000 vehicles carrying stranded Hindu pilgrims have moved out of the area since late Thursday, he said.

    Thousands of soldiers continued efforts to reach the worst-hit towns and villages, Chandola said.

    Thirty-six air force helicopters have been ferrying rescue workers, doctors, equipment, food and medicine to Kedarnath, the town closest to many of those stranded, said Priya Joshi, an air force spokeswoman. Another seven aircraft carried paratroopers and fuel to the region.

    Hundreds of people looking for relatives demonstrated in Dehradun, the Uttrakhand state capital, where flood survivors were taken by helicopters. They complained that the government was taking too long to evacuate the survivors, with small helicopters bringing in four to five people at a time.

    Jasveer Kaur, a 50-year-old housewife, said she and her family survived by taking shelter in a Sikh shrine, which withstood the flood, located in Govind Dham.

    "There was destruction all around," said Kaur after she was evacuated by an air force helicopter. "It was a nightmare."

    Google has launched an application, Person Finder, to help trace missing people in Uttarakhand. The version is available in both Hindi and English languages, according to a Google India blog.

    Rakesh Sharma, a state official, said the death toll might run into the thousands, but the exact figure will not be known until the entire region is checked.

    The annual monsoon rains sustain India's agriculture but also cause flooding that claims lives and damages property. Neighboring Uttar Pradesh state said 17 flood-related deaths occurred there since the heavy rains Sunday.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Floodwaters Deluge India

     

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    A layer of snow covers roads in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, June 21, 2013. (AP Photo/New Zealand Herald, Martin Hunter)

    WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - A winter storm bearing powerful winds disrupted air traffic across New Zealand on Friday and cut power to thousands of homes, forced schools to close and generated record-sized waves.

    The capital, Wellington, got blasted with winds of more than 81 miles per hour. The gusts disrupted bus, rail and road transportation, brought down trees and power lines and ripped tiles from suburban roofs. About 28,000 homes in Wellington lost power.

    Ocean waves measuring 49 feet from trough to peak were recorded near Wellington by a government agency. The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research said the waves, measured from a buoy about 1.2 miles out to sea, were the largest it had recorded near the capital since it began taking measurements in 1995. The waves washed away parts of some coastal roads and seawalls.

    The storm also brought heavy snow to some parts of the South Island.

    National carrier Air New Zealand canceled all Wellington flights Friday morning and said it would resume limited service in the afternoon. It warned that passengers could expect ongoing disruptions and that international flights to and from the capital would be affected. Some flights from Christchurch and Queenstown were also canceled or delayed.

    Forecasters expected conditions to improve Saturday.

    RELATED ON SKYE: The 10 Snowiest Places on Earth

     

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    Updated Friday, June 21, 2013, at 12:37 p.m. ET

    Kevan Yaets swims after his cat Momo, bringing the two to safety as floodwaters sweep him downstream after submerging his truck in High River, Alberta on Thursday, June 20, 2013. Hundreds of people have been evacuated with volunteers and emergency crews helping to aid stranded residents. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jordan Verlage)

    CALGARY, Alberta (AP) - Calgary's mayor said Friday the flooding situation in his city is as under control as it can be - for now. Officials estimated 75,000 people have been displaced in the western Canadian city.

    Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the Elbow River, one of two rivers that flow through the southern Alberta city, has peaked.

    And if things don't change, officials expect that the flow on the Bow River - which, in his words, looks like "an ocean at the moment" - will remain steady for the next 12 hours.

    Photos: Floodwaters Deluge Calgary, Canada
    Nenshi said just over two dozen neighborhoods have been evacuated and most of the estimated 75,000 displaced people are staying with family and friends. There are about 1,500 people in evacuation centers in and around Calgary, a city of more than a million people that hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics.

    Nenshi said earlier he's never seen the rivers that high or that fast.

    Low-lying areas along the river started to flood Thursday night and there was water filling up some underpasses. There was water in the streets of the Bowness area in the city's northwest. The city has not said to what extent any homes have been flooded.

    Police urged people to stay away from downtown and not go to work. All schools - both Catholic and public - are closed, while Catholic schools in the communities of Chestermere, Airdrie and Cochrane were also to be shuttered.

    The Calgary Zoo, located on St. George's Island, closed its gates and started taking steps "to secure and move animals to safe locations."

    Contingency plans called for big cats, such as lions and tigers, to be moved into prisoner cells at the Calgary courthouse. But the city said that hadn't happened yet.

    It had been a rainy week throughout much of Alberta, but on Thursday the Bow River Basin was battered with up to 100 millimeters (4 inches) of rain. Environment Canada's forecast calls for more rain today in the area, but in much smaller amounts.

    Calgary is not alone in its weather-related woes. There were flashpoints of chaos from Banff and Canmore and Crowsnest Pass in the Rockies and south to Lethbridge. More than a dozen towns declared states of emergency, with entire communities including High River and Bragg Creek under mandatory evacuation orders.

    Some of the worst flooding hit High River, where it's estimated half of the people in the town have experienced flooding in their homes.

    Military helicopters plucked about 31 people off rooftops in the area. Others were rescued by boat or in buckets of heavy machinery. Some even swam for their lives from stranded cars.

    A spokesperson for Defense Minister Peter MacKay said about 354 soldiers are being deployed to the entire flood zone.

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised Alberta Premier Alison Redford she'll have Ottawa's full support for rescue and recovery efforts.

    Pictures from inside the mountain town of Canmore show a raging river ripping at the foundations of homes.

    Near Black Diamond on Thursday, the Highwood River also swept away two people. One was found, but the second - a woman - is still missing.

    Pictures from inside the mountain town of Canmore also a raging river ripping at the foundations of homes.

    Bruce Burrell, director of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, said water levels on the Bow River aren't expected to subside until Saturday afternoon.

    "Depending on the extent of flooding we experience overnight, there may be areas of the city where people are not going to be able to get into until the weekend," he told a news conference.

    Heavy rains eight years ago caused flood damage to about 40,000 Calgary homes and resulted in the evacuation of more than 1,500 residents. It resulted in $275 million in insured losses. Nenshi said this is worse.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Floodwaters Deluge Calgary, Canada

     

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    High wire performer Nik Wallenda concentrates as he walks across a wire during practice Tuesday, June 18, 2013 in Sarasota, Fla. Wallenda, a seventh generation high-wire walker, will attempt to walk across the Grand Canyon on Sunday, June 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

    SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) - Nik Wallenda, the Florida-based daredevil, acrobat and heir to the famed Flying Wallendas circus family, is afraid of only one thing.

    "I would say the only thing I fear is God," said the 34-year-old Wallenda.

    He certainly had no fear of walking across Niagara Falls on a tightrope, riding a bike on a high wire 260 feet above the ground or hanging from a hovering helicopter by his teeth.

    On Sunday, Wallenda will attempt an even more ambitious feat, even for a man who was born into a family of risk-takers.

    He will bid to walk on a tightrope stretched across the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon. The event, which will be broadcast on live television at 8 p.m. EDT on Sunday with a 10 second delay, will take place on the Navajo reservation near Cameron, outside the boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park.

    Wallenda will walk a third of a mile across a wire suspended 1,500 feet above the river. (In comparison, the Empire State Building in New York City is 1,454 feet high).

    "I respect deeply what I do and realize there's a lot of danger in it," he acknowledged on a recent day in his Florida hometown of Sarasota.

    Wallenda, who is married and has three children, always says a prayer with his family prior to stepping onto the wire.

    The 34-year-old is a seventh-generation high-wire artist and is part of the famous "Flying Wallendas" circus family - a clan that is no stranger to death-defying feats and great tragedy.

    His great-grandfather, Karl Wallenda, fell during a performance in Puerto Rico and died at the age of 73. Several other family members, including a cousin and an uncle, have perished while performing wire walking stunts.

    Nik Wallenda, who was born a year after his great-grandfather died, began wire walking at the age of 2, on a 2-foot high stretched rope. He grew up performing with his family and as a teen, had an epiphany.

    "It's an honor to be carrying on a tradition that my family started over 200 years ago," Wallenda said during a news conference on a recent day in Florida. "When I turned 19, I told my family I was going to set out to make sure everyone in the world knew who the Wallendas were again."

    Over the years, Wallenda has performed some dangerous stunts, but his walk across Niagara Falls in June of 2012 placed him firmly in celebrity territory.

    Wallenda became the first person to walk on a tightrope 1,800 feet across the mist-fogged brink of the roaring falls separating the U.S. and Canada.

    Other daredevils had wire-walked over the Niagara River but farther downstream and not since 1896.

    Niagara Falls, Wallenda said, was a dream of his. So is the Grand Canyon.

    But here's the difference between the two stunts: ABC televised the walk and insisted Wallenda use a tether to keep him from falling in the river. Wallenda said he agreed because he wasn't willing to lose the chance to perform the walk.

    On Sunday, the Discovery Channel will televise the walk, but Wallenda won't wear a tether. There won't be a safety net, either.

    He anticipates it will take him about 30 minutes to cross the chasm.

    For the last two weeks, Wallenda - who has a boyish face, strawberry blonde hair and a muscular build - has been practicing in front of crowds in his hometown of Sarasota.

    Each morning and evening, he glides across a two-inch cable strung on the banks of a river. Hundreds of his local fans show up every day to watch, and talk - Wallenda usually will stop and sit on the wire and take questions from his fans from high above.

    "I'm just fascinated by the movement, the way he walks," said Loy Barker, a Sarasota resident who watched one of Wallenda's practice sessions. "He's just an amazing athlete."

    Wallenda has tried to simulate different conditions he might face while crossing the gorge.

    "It's very important that I train on a cable that simulates the weight, the feeling, the movement of the cable, the way it will move under my feet," he said. "We have also brought wind machines out. I've walked in 52 mile an hour gusts during Tropical Storm Andrea, with a torrential downpour. And we also brought out wind machines where we simulated 45-55 mile per hour gusts. Then I also walked in 91-mile an hour winds that day."

    Only one thing could halt the planned wire walk, he says: lightning detected within a 15-mile radius of the wire.

    In the meantime, he's training physically and mentally. Wallenda said the adrenaline has "kicked in" and that he's anxious to be suspended with only a 2-inch-cable below his feet.

    "I absolutely will look down," he said. "And I'll enjoy the view."

    RELATED ON SKYE: The World's Most Extreme Sports
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    Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey (Getty Images)

    Warmth and humidity will build over the mid-Atlantic and much of New England this weekend just in time for the official summer season.

    Summer officially began at 1:04 a.m. EDT Friday, June 21.

    A warm afternoon will follow Friday. Typical summertime warmth combined with humidity will follow in most areas by Saturday. For some areas, this will become the second heat wave since late May.

    Daytime highs will range from the middle 80s to near 90 degrees along the I-95 corridor from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia, New York City, Hartford and Boston and well into the 80s in the Appalachians to Pittsburgh and Buffalo both days this weekend and on into Wednesday of next week.

    The nights will be rather warm and sticky.



    Some folks accustomed to leaving their windows open during the cool nights much of the spring may have their air conditioners running around the clock this weekend into much of next week.

    Most of the time through Wednesday will be rain-free, a change from the first part of the month. However, the uptick in heat and humidity and weak disturbances from Saturday on will lead to widely separated thunderstorms on an almost daily basis with some day-to-day differences in location. Most of the thunderstorm activity will occur between 3:00 and 9:00 p.m.

    RELATED: AccuWeather Forecast Temperature Maps
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    The only exception to the spotty thunderstorm regime will be from northern upstate New York to northern New England, where rounds of thunderstorms from the Midwest will arrive and continue.

    Folks heading to the Firefly Music Festival at Dover, Del., the Great Tastes of Pennsylvania at Lake Harmony, the Pooch-A-Palooza at Canton, Mass., or just heading to a ball game will want to don sunglasses and be prepared for the warmth. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing, remember to use sunscreen and drink plenty of fluids.

    Water temperatures are cool along the Atlantic coast, ranging from near 70 in Virginia to 60 in New Jersey to 56 in Massachusetts.
    RELATED ON SKYE: Could a Trip to Your Favorite Beach Make You Sick?

     

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    The seasons are caused by Earth's tilt. In the Northern Hemisphere it is summer when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted towards the sun. (Credit: Starry Night)

    The sun will reach the point where it appears to shine farthest to the north of the equator, over the Tropic of Cancer, today (June 21), marking the moment of the summer solstice - the start of northern summer.

    Since Dec. 21, the altitude of the midday sun has been shifting progressively higher in the sky as its direct rays have been gradually migrating to the north. It reached its peak at 1:04 a.m. EDT (0504 GMT), marking the summer solstice.

    The sun's altitude above the horizon at noontime is 47 degrees higher now, compared to six months ago. As we often mention, your clenched fist held at arm's length measures roughly 10 degrees, so the sun at midday is now nearly "five fists" higher in the southern sky compared to Dec. 21. [Solar Quiz: How Well Do You Know the Sun]

    As "armistice" is defined as a staying of the action of arms, "solstice" is a staying of the sun's apparent motion over the latitudes of the Earth. During the northern summer solstice, the sun stops its northward motion and begins heading south. At the winter solstice, it turns north.

    While the June 21 solstice marks the start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the start of winter in the Southern Hemisphere. Technically, at one minute past the moment of the solstice, the sun has turned around and started south. It will cross the equator at the autumnal equinox, passing into the Southern Hemisphere on Sep. 22, at 4:44 p.m. EDT (2044 GMT).

    From temperate latitudes, the sun can never appear directly overhead. From New York, for instance, on Friday at 12:57 p.m. EDT (1657 GMT), the sun will attain its highest point in the sky for this entire year, standing 73 degrees above the southern horizon. Since the Sun will appear to describe such a high arc across the sky, the duration of daylight is now at its most extreme, lasting 15 hours and 4 minutes.

    However, contrary to popular belief, the earliest sunrise and latest sunset do not coincide with the summer solstice. In fact, the earliest sunrise actually occurred back on June 14, while the latest sunset is not due until June 27.

    During the year varying amounts of sunlight strike different regions of the planet and as a consequence both the angle of the sun's path across the sky and the number of hours it is above the horizon change significantly. If the total energy received from the sun - known as insolation - alone governed the temperature, we should now be experiencing the year's hottest weather.

    But the atmosphere in temperate regions continues to receive more heat than it gives up to space, a situation that lasts several weeks or more. A reverse process occurs after the winter solstice in late December. Thus, there is a temperature lag of roughly about a month: Our hottest weather usually comes in late July and our coldest in late January.

    Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmer's Almanac and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, N.Y. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Original article on SPACE.com.

    Copyright 2013 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    RELATED ON SKYE: The 30 Best Places to Watch the Sunset

     

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    Updated 9:30 p.m. EDT Saturday, June 22, 2013

    This undated photo provided by the Calgary Flames shows the inside of the Calgary Saddledome, in Calgary, Alberta. The Saddledome, home to the National Hockey League's Calgary Flames, was flooded up to the 10th row, leaving the dressing rooms submerged. The two rivers that converge on the western Canadian city of Calgary are receding Saturday, June 22, 2013 after floods devastated much of southern Alberta province, causing at least three deaths and forcing thousands to evacuate. (AP Photo/Calgary Flames)

    CALGARY, Alberta (AP) - The two rivers that converge on the western Canadian city of Calgary were receding Saturday after floods devastated much of southern Alberta province, causing at least three deaths and forcing thousands to evacuate.

    The flooding forced authorities to evacuate Calgary's entire downtown and hit some of the city's iconic structures hard. The Saddledome, home to the National Hockey League's Calgary Flames, was flooded up to the 10th row, leaving the dressing rooms submerged.

    Flames' president and CEO Ken King said Saturday that the Saddledome is a "real mess," with water still up to row 8 of the lower bowl. He said the flooding had caused a total loss on the event level with all mechanical equipment submerged under 15 feet (4.5 meters) of water.

    "If you were a hockey player walking out of the tunnel to the ice, you'd be underwater yourself," he said during a news conference.

    Photos: Floodwaters Deluge Calgary, Canada
    Water lapped at the roof of the chuckwagon barns at the grounds of the Calgary Stampede, which is scheduled to start in two weeks. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has said the city will do everything it can to make sure that the world-renowned party goes ahead.

    Bruce Burrell, director of the city's emergency management agency, said Saturday they are seeing improvements in the rivers. Dan Limacher, director of water services for the city, said the Elbow river is expected to recede by about 60 percent over the next two days, while the larger Bow river will recede by about 25 percent.

    The improving conditions Saturday morning prompted Calgary's mayor to tweet: "It's morning in Calgary! Sunny, water levels are down, and our spirit remains strong. We're not out of this, but maybe have turned corner."

    However, Nenshi said later Saturday that while the city may have turned a corner, there is still a state of emergency in effect.

    "Flows on Elbow and Bow (rivers) are dropping slowly. We do believe the peak has passed on the Elbow. However, water levels are still four times higher than 2005 flood levels," he said during a press conference.

    Overflowing rivers on Thursday and Friday washed out roads and bridges, soaked homes and turned streets into dirt-brown waterways around southern Alberta.

    High River, southwest of Calgary, was one of the hardest-hit areas and remained under a mandatory evacuation order. Police said they have recovered three bodies in the town.

    It is estimated that half the people in the town of 13,000 experienced flooding in their homes. Police cut off access to most of the town and helicopters circled overhead. Abandoned cars lay submerged in water, while backhoes worked in vain to push water back from houses.

    Police asked residents who were forced to leave the High River area to register at an evacuation shelter. By Saturday morning, 485 evacuees had registered at the shelter in Nanton, south of Calgary, and 278 people were on the inquiry list.

    The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Saturday that during rescue and evacuation efforts on Friday in the High River area, approximately 800 people were evacuated by helicopter along with 100-200 people rescued by various water craft.

    Ed Mailhot, a volunteer in High River, was working to build a database of registered evacuees and those who are looking for them. Cellphone service was not restored until late Friday.

    "There are a lot of loved ones out there that people can't find, or they don't know where they are," he said. "It's still chaos."

    Alberta Premier Alison Redford has warned that communities downstream of Calgary have not yet felt the full force of the floodwaters. Medicine Hat, downstream from Calgary, was under a mandatory evacuation order affecting 10,000 residents.

    As the sun rose in Calgary on Saturday morning it wasn't raining. Burrell said some of the 75,000 flood evacuees from more than 24 neighborhoods will be allowed back into their homes. He said the goal is to allow people from portions of six communities back into their homes on Saturday. Residents of a neighborhood in one of those communities - the high ground portion of Discovery Ridge -have already been allowed back.

    About 1,500 people in Calgary went to emergency shelters during the flooding, while the rest of those evacuated found shelter with family or friends, Nenshi said. Schools and courts were closed Friday. Transit service in the city's core was shut down.

    Dale McMaster, executive vice president of ENMAX, Calgary's power company, said Saturday that at least 30,000 customers remain without power.

    Calgary's mayor said the downtown area remained off limits and employers will have to make arrangements to have staff work remotely until at least the middle of the week.

    "It is extremely unlikely that people will be able to return to those buildings before the middle of next week," Nenshi said.

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a Calgary resident, said he never imagined there would be a flood of this magnitude in this part of Canada.

    The Conservative Party said Saturday that it has postponed its federal policy convention which was scheduled to begin Thursday at the Telus Convention Centre in downtown Calgary because of the floods.

    "There are neighborhoods under water, so there is a lot of work we have to do to rebuild," said Michelle Rempel, a member of Parliament for Calgary Center. "Postponing the convention is the right thing to do for the people ofCalgary."

    Calgary, a city of more than a million people that hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics, is the center of Canada's oil industry.

    About 350,000 people work in downtown Calgary on a typical day. However, officials said very few people had to be moved out, since many heeded warnings and did not go to work Friday.

    A spokesman for Canada's defense minister said 1,300 soldiers from a base in Edmonton were being deployed to the flood zone.

    The Mounties added that approximately 200 additional Royal Canadian Mounted Police personnel were deployed Saturday from other parts of Alberta to assist with evacuation, rescue, traffic safety and security operations,

    Calgary was not alone in its weather-related woes.

    Efforts were under way Saturday to move more than 2,000 people from their homes in a flood-prone part of northeastern Saskatchewan because of rising water levels.

    Saskatchewan's deputy emergency management commissioner Colin King said the water is going to rise to an unprecedented level in the Cumberland House area.

    The communities are downstream of where the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers meet and those rivers are swollen as floodwaters from Alberta head east.

    The Saskatchewan Water Security Agency said inflows on the South Saskatchewan River into Lake Diefenbaker are expected to be the highest ever recorded.

    The South Saskatchewan River is expected to rise six feet.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Floodwaters Deluge Calgary, Canada

     

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    A bus tried to negotiate a tree and limb-littered street in Minneapolis near the MIA Friday in Minneapolis. Another round of heavy rain and high winds swept into the Twin Cities Friday night, less than 24 hours after damaging winds and heavy rain uprooted trees and knocked out power to more than 157,000 Xcel Energy customers. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, David Joles)

    SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - A fast-moving line of storms barreled across the northern Plains and Upper Midwest Friday evening, killing a woman in her trailer on a South Dakota lake and leaving thousands of people without power.

    Hamlin County Sheriff Chad Schlotterbeck said the 63-year-old woman was hunkered down in the bathtub in her trailer on the east side of Lake Poinsett when a storm lifted the structure and dropped it to the ground. Schlotterbeck said the entire county of about 6,000 residents was without power Friday evening, and the fire department was going door to door to assess the extent of damage.

    "We've got homes destroyed," he said.

    The sheriff's office was waiting to release the woman's name until it could notify relatives. A man in his 60s was also injured in the storms, and another man was hospitalized from an electrical shock, Schlotterbeck said.

    The National Weather Service said it received reports of tornadoes touching down in Clark, Hamlin, Spink and Kingsbury counties, as well as strong winds and golf-ball-sized hail. The storms later moved into Minnesota and Wisconsin, bringing heavy rain and damaging winds.

    Some of the most notable damage from the storms occurred around Lake Poinsett, which is in northeast South Dakota and is home to numerous summer cabins. Jim Scarlett, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Aberdeen, said the damage was likely caused by a tornado, but the office was still assessing what happened.

    Randy Knudtson was standing on the side of the road across from his cabin along Lake Poinsett when the storm moved in.

    "It was completely black on the tree horizon and then in less than five minutes all of the sudden it was right on top of us," said Knudtson, 64. "I've never seen winds like this."

    Knudtson went inside and huddled in the cabin's laundry room with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren. The storm tossed around some of his neighbors' docks, pontoon boats and boat lifts, but his cabin was spared.

    Scarlett said there were also reports of heavy wind damage around Castlewood and in Deuel County near Clear Lake.

    "The town of Clear Lake just got devastated with wind damage," he said.

    The winds blew down trees and branches in several areas, and heavy rain caused some street flooding.

    In Wisconsin, a trained spotter measured 1.48 inches of rain in a 40-minute period in Hudson in St. Croix County, the National Weather Service said.

    In Minnesota, the storms blew through the Twin Cities area less than 24 hours after damaging winds and heavy rain uprooted trees and knocked out power to more than 157,000 customers.

    Hennepin County Emergency Management Director Eric Waage said he saw "quite a few large trees down" as he surveyed damage from the latest storm.

    "Almost everywhere I've driven has been out of power," Waage said Friday night. He said he had not received any reports of injuries.

    A wind gust measuring 69 mph was reported just before 8 p.m. in suburban Crystal, the weather service said.

    Amanda Viacara, bar manager at Chino Latino restaurant in Minneapolis, said the sky darkened and "the winds started coming in sideways." She said the rain "was moving from side to side," sending "a lot of people scurrying for cover."

    "We had a lot of people that just decided to sit and relax and enjoy the inside (of the restaurant)," Viacara said.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Floodwaters Deluge Calgary, Canada

     

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    Updated 6:14 p.m. EDT Saturday, June 22, 2013

    Water gushes down a river as Indian paramilitary soldiers stand near a temporary bridge after it was damaged as stranded pilgrims wait to be evacuated on the other side in Govindghat, India, Saturday, June 22, 2013. Soldiers were working to evacuate tens of thousands of people still stranded Saturday in northern India where nearly 600 people have been killed in monsoon flooding and landslides. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

    GOVINDGHAT, India (AP) - Soldiers worked on rocky gorges and rugged riverbanks Saturday trying to evacuate tens of thousands of people still stranded by monsoon flooding and landslides that killed nearly 600 people in northern India's Himalayas.

    With bad weather and heavy rainfall predicted over the next two days, there was an added urgency to reach the approximately 22,000 people still stranded in the flood-hit Uttarakhand state, federal Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said.

    Since helicopters could rescue only small groups of people at a time, army troops Saturday opened up another road route to the Hindu temple town of Kedarnath, worst affected by the floods that hit the mountainous region nearly a week ago.

    Soldiers created rudimentary bridges by stringing rope across rocky riverbanks and gouged earth, enabling safe passage for civilians in areas where bridges and roads were swept away by the floods or blocked by debris and boulders.

    Shinde said air force helicopters were dropping food and drinking water to those stranded in inaccessible areas.

    Uttarakhand state spokesman Amit Chandola said late Saturday that more than 80,000 people have been rescued from the worst-hit districts by air and road since the rescue operations began.

    At least 7,000 people were air-lifted by air force and privately-owned helicopters and transported to Uttarakhand's capital, Dehradun, on Saturday, he said.

    Food, water and medicines were being supplied to the numerous relief camps that had been set up for the people rescued from the mountains until arrangements were made for the tourists to return home. Officials were also drawing up lists of local residents whose homes have been flattened to arrange compensation.

    Officials say the death toll was expected to rise as troops reach remote hillside villages where flash floods washed away homes and boulders hurtled down on the fleeing villagers.

    Around 10,000 army and paramilitary troops, members of India's disaster management agency and volunteers were involved in the rescue and relief efforts, Shinde said.

    Uttarakhand state Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said Friday that 556 bodies were buried deep in slush caused by the landslides. Another 40 were found floating in the Ganges River.

    Thousands of homes have been washed away or damaged in the state.

    People across India are collecting clothes, blankets and tarpaulins and contributing money to help those left homeless in Uttarakhand.

    Army engineers were rebuilding bridges and clearing roads to enable thousands of people to leave the region.

    Uttarakhand is a popular summer vacation destination for hundreds of thousands of tourists seeking to escape the torrid heat of the plains. It is also a religious pilgrimage site with four temple towns located in the Garhwal Himalayan range.

    The tourists usually head down to the plains before the monsoon breaks in July. But this year, early rains caught hundreds of thousands of tourists, pilgrims and local residents unaware.

    Meteorological officials said the rains in Uttarakhand were the heaviest in nearly 80 years.

    Google has launched an application, Person Finder, to help trace missing people in Uttarakhand. The version is available in both Hindi and English languages, according to a Google India blog.

    Meanwhile, opposition parties and angry relatives in Uttarakhand accused the government of not doing enough to rescue people stranded in the temple towns.

    Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party accused the government of callousness toward those affected by the flooding.

    "It is very unfortunate that the government cannot coordinate the rescue efforts and provide timely help to the survivors of this calamity," Naqvi told repoters.

    Earlier Saturday, Shinde admitted that there had been gaps in the government's rescue and relief efforts due to a lack of coordination between several disaster and welfare agencies in Uttarakhand.

    Sri Devi, a tourist from neighboring Nepal, said she and her companions took shelter in a building in Govindghat, a small town on the road to the Sikh holy site of Hemkund, after their car was washed away. The 60-year-old woman was among a group of stranded tourists rescued from the town.

    "It was raining boulders down the mountain and then a flood of water swept away everything. The road was washed away and we were stuck for four days without any food," Devi said.

    Monsoon flooding is an annual occurrence in India, causing enormous loss of life and property, and hundreds of people were missing and feared washed away in this week's torrential monsoon downpours and flash floods in the tributaries of the Ganges River.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Floodwaters Deluge Calgary, Canada

     

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    Wildfire smoke masks the sun as it sets over a ridge Saturday, June 22, 2013, near South Fork, Colo. A massive wildfire threatening a tourist region in southwestern Colorado has grown to nearly 60 square miles, but officials said Saturday that the erratic blaze had slowed and they were optimistic they could protect the town of South Fork. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

    DEL NORTE, Colo. (AP) - Fanned by another afternoon of high winds, the erratic wildfire threatening tourist areas of the southwestern Colorado mountains grew to 100 square miles on Saturday, and fire officials said they saw little hope for a break before Tuesday.

    Still, they remained optimistic of saving the popular summer retreat of South Fork, and some 600 firefighters spent another day trying to keep the flames from moving in on the Wolf Creek Ski area and the historic mining town of Creede.

    "I like our chances," fire operations chief Russ Long said when asked about the chances of protecting South Fork from one of three blazes in the so-called West Fork fire complex that were sparked last week by lighting in forests turned tinder by lingering drought and beetle infestations that have killed thousands of acres of spruce trees.

    But he emphasized that firefighters were strictly in defensive mode, with no containment of the fire.

    The blaze's rapid advance on Friday prompted the evacuation of hundreds of summer visitors and the town's 400 permanent residents, and it could be days before people are allowed back into their homes, cabins and RV parks, fire crew officials said. South Fork Mayor Kenneth Brooke estimated that 1,000 to 1,500 people were forced to flee.

    The fire's movement toward South Fork had slowed overnight Friday when winds dropped and the flames moved into a more healthy section of forest. But 30- to 40- mph winds returned Saturday afternoon, grounding aircraft and spreading the fast-moving flames to the north.

    The town of Creede's 300 residents were under voluntary evacuation orders as officials feared the fire could reach the roads leading out of town.

    Officials said they knew of no structures lost, and they estimated the blaze was about a mile and half from South Fork.

    "We were very, very lucky," said Rio Grande County Commissioner Carla Shriver. "We got a free pass yesterday."

    Many of the evacuees are retirees from Texas and Oklahoma, who come to the mountains in their RVs to escape the summer heat.

    "We jumped out of the South Texas hot box into the Colorado frying pan," said Ralph Harden of Victoria, Texas.

    Some business owners were allowed back into South Fork during the day Saturday to tie up issues left unattended in the rush to leave.

    New fire crews, meanwhile, descended from other areas to join more than 600 firefighters in the area.

    And the Red Cross, anticipating the mandatory South Fork evacuation would last for days, prepared to bring in more supplies and portable showers.

    Many of the evacuees are retirees from Texas and Oklahoma, who come to the mountains in their RVs to escape the summer heat.

    "We jumped out of the South Texas hot box into the Colorado frying pan," said Ralph Harden of Victoria, Texas.

    The heavy smoke from the fire was so thick that the plume was credited with keeping keep an 18-square-milewildfire burning 100 miles to the east near Walsenburg from spreading as fast as it would have otherwise.

    Susan Valente, an on-site spokeswoman for an 18-square-mile fire near Walsenburg, said the shade helped keep the forest from drying out in the hot afternoon sun. Residents from 300 homes remain evacuated while in the city of Walsenburg and the town of Aguilar remain on pre-evacuation notice, meaning residents must be ready to flee at a moment's notice.

    "Fire conditions are prime with the combination of fuels, heat, winds and low humidity," fire information officer Mike Stearly of the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center, "It's expected to be like this through next Tuesday."

    There are 12 wildfires burning in Colorado that have scorched 133 square miles, which includes the Black Forest fire that destroyed 511 homes north of Colorado Springs and is the most destructive in Colorado history.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Incredible Natural-Disaster Photos from Space

     

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    Breaking Weather: Rain Brings Flooding ConcernsThe past few days have been very active from the northern Plains to the western Great Lakes when it comes to severe weather, and there's no sign of it slowing down for the second half of the weekend.

    This area has been battered with round after round of severe storms since Thursday, bringing everything from baseball-sized hail to wind gusts over 70 mph and even a few tornadoes.

    Flooding rain in this area has made the ground super saturated, with some individual storms dropping as much as 5 inches of rain in just a few hours time. In some extreme cases, the copious amount of rainfall has resulted in mudslides, shutting down roadways and causing headaches for travelers and emergency crews.

    Sunday afternoon will feature the fourth consecutive day of severe weather, particularly across Iowa, Wisconsin and southern Minnesota.



    The primary area that will be affected by severe thunderstorms on Sunday afternoon and Sunday night will stretch from northeastern Kansas to Lake Superior.

    Some weaker storms may move through this area during the morning hours, followed by the development of stronger storms in the afternoon capable of producing large hail, damaging wind and flash flooding.

    Some cities that will be in the path of these severe storms include Kansas City, Mo., Sioux Falls, S.D., Des Moines, Iowa, Madison, Wis., and Minneapolis, Minn.

    People visiting Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series may also see severe storms. Fortunately, no games are scheduled to take place again until Monday.



    Some stronger thunderstorms will also develop on Sunday afternoon farther to the west, spanning from northeastern Colorado through the Texas Panhandle.

    Although they will not be as widespread, these storms will be stronger than those to their east, and will be capable of spinning up a few tornadoes.

    RELATED ON ACCUWEATHER:


    The threat for severe storms across the region will diminish on Monday, but will still continue across part of the Plains from South Dakota through the Big Bend Country of Texas.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Floodwaters Deluge Calgary, Canada

     

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    Updated Monday, June 24, 2013, at 7 p.m. ET

    (NOAA)

    MIAMI (AP) - Tropical Storm Cosme is strengthening in Pacific waters southwest of the Mexican mainland and forecasters say it's expected to become a hurricane within a day.

    The storm's maximum sustained winds Monday afternoon have risen to 60 mph (95 kph). The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says more strengthening is expected in the coming 48 hours with Cosme expected to become a hurricane sometime Tuesday.

    Cosme is centered about 335 miles (535 kilometers) southwest of Manzanillo, Mexico, and is moving northwest at 14 mph (22 kph).

    No coastal watches or warnings are in effect.

    The hurricane center says ocean swells generated by the storm will begin affecting a swath of the Pacific coast from Manzanillo to Cabo Corrientes later Monday night with life-threatening surf and rip currents possible.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    Updated Monday, June 24, 2013, 8:25 p.m.

    Colorado State Patrol officer Jessie Bartunek talks to a motorist at a checkpoint near South Fork, Colo., Sunday, June 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

    DEL NORTE, Colo. (AP) - Crews defending small homes, a ski area and a handful of roads against an erraticwildfire in Colorado's southwest mountains hoped Monday for a break - any break - in the weather that will allow them to launch a more strategic assault on the backcountry blaze.

    The West Fork Fire likely will burn for months, said incident commander Pete Blume. And crews are not expecting to make any real gains against the 117-square-mile burn until the summer monsoon season brings cooler temperatures and rains, hopefully in early July.

    "This is a significant fire with significant problems, and we are not going to see any significant containment until we have significant changes in the weather," said Blume, who is with the Rocky Mountain Type I Incident Command.

    The fire is feeding on beetle-killed trees and is fanned by hot, windy weather. Those conditions were expected to continue across much of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, where a 119-square-mile wildfire in the mountains of Gila National Forest is expected to grow this week.

    Some 900 firefighters with a variety of aircraft were in southwestern Colorado, and more were arriving. But so far they have been in an almost completely defensive mode, waiting for the 30-to 40-mile-an-hour afternoon winds that have grounded aircraft and driven flames to subside.

    The fire's price tag has topped $2.2 million, and the effort has just begun.

    More than 1,000 residents and visitors left homes, cabins and RV parks in South Fork and surrounding areas Friday. As of Monday, no structures were known to have been lost.

    The blaze started June 5 with a lighting strike in a rugged, remote area of the San Juan Mountains, west of the Continental Divide. A second lightning strike sparked a fire east of the divide. The two then joined, making a fast run Thursday and Friday at popular tourist areas, including South Fork and the Wolf Creek Ski Area.

    A third lightning strike, meantime, sparked another fire to the West, creating what is now called the West Fork complex, the largest and most intense to ever hit this area, Blume said. That fire was moving north but was several miles from the historic mining town of Creede. Near the headwaters of the Rio Grande River, the town now has a thriving tourist industry that relies on its colorful past.

    In Creede on Monday, residents and tourists shopping went about business as usual. West of town, on Highway 149, hills smoldered above homes where firefighters worked to contain the blaze.

    Such larger and longer-burning fires are far from unusual in the drought- and beetle-stricken West. The Rio Grande Forest, for example, had another dry winter. More than half of its hundreds of thousands of acres of mature spruce trees have been killed by beetles, turning the usually fire resistant trees into tinder, Blume said.

    Crews in Colorado also are being challenged by the high altitude, which adds to the danger and complexity of launching air assaults in smoke and high winds, said Larry Trapp, a branch director of air operations with Rocky Mountain Type I Incident Command working the east side of Continental Divide. Wolf Creek's summit is 11,904 feet; South Fork's elevation is 8,208 feet. Some peaks in the Rio Grande Forest surpass 13,000 feet.

    Among the air resources on the way, he said, is a helicopter with infrared technology that can fly through the smoke to map power lines above the tree line. That will allow more tankers to take to the sky to drop retardant on the planes, Trapp said.

    About a dozen fires burned elsewhere in Colorado, including a nearly 21-square-mile wildfire near the southern Colorado town of Walsenburg that was 50 percent contained.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Incredible Natural-Disaster Photos from Space

     

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    Wallenda Walks Tightrope Over Grand Canyon
    LITTLE COLORADO RIVER GORGE, Ariz. (AP) - Nik Wallenda studied the plunging walls of the Little Colorado River Gorge before stepping out on a quarter-mile tightrope cable. "Whoo! That's an amazing view."

    With that observation, the well-known aerialist embarked Sunday afternoon on a walk without a safety net or harness, 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River Gorge in northeastern Arizona.

    The successful, 22-minute walk on the 2-inch thick cable was monitored by people around the world via television and computer screens during a broadcast of Wallenda's most ambitious stunt yet.

    They watched as the winds tested the Florida daredevil, and listened as he called on God to calm the swaying cable and as he paid homage to his famed great-grandfather. The stunt was the leading trending topic on Twitter on Sunday afternoon.

    "It was unbelievable," he told reporters later. "It was everything I wanted it to be. It was extremely emotional. I got to the other end and started crying."

    Hundreds of people watched from the remote site on the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona that led them past roadside vendors selling traditional jewelry and about a dozen protesters who consider the area sacred.

    During his walk on the 2-inch-thick steel cable above the dry river bed near the Grand Canyon, Wallenda paused and crouched twice as winds whipped around him and the rope swayed. Gusts had been expected to be around 30 mph. He said they sent dust flying into his eyes.

    "It was strenuous the whole way across. It was a battle. The winds were strong, they were gusty," he told reporters. "But there was never a point where I thought, 'Oh my gosh, I'm going to fall.'"

    Wallenda stepped slowly and steady throughout, murmuring prayers to Jesus almost constantly along the way. He jogged and hopped the last few steps.

    "Thank you, Lord. Thank you for calming that cable, God," he said about 13 minutes into the walk.

    The Discovery Channel broadcast the even live. He wore a microphone and two cameras, one that looked down on the river bed and one that faced straight ahead.

    The 34-year-old Sarasota, Fla., resident is a seventh-generation high-wire artist and is part of the famous "Flying Wallendas" circus family - a clan that is no stranger to death-defying feats.

    His great-grandfather, Karl Wallenda, fell during a performance in Puerto Rico and died at the age of 73. Several other family members, including a cousin and an uncle, have perished while performing wire walking stunts.

    Nik Wallenda grew up performing with his family and has dreamed of crossing the Grand Canyon since he was a teenager. Sunday's stunt comes a year after he traversed Niagara Falls earning a seventh Guinness world record.

    About 600 spectators watching on a large video screen on site cheered him on as he walked toward them. A Navajo Nation ranger, a paramedic and two members of a film crew were stationed on the canyon floor.

    The ranger, Elmer Phillips, he got a little nervous when Wallenda stopped the first time. "Other than that, a pretty amazing feat," Phillips said.

    Discovery's 2-hour broadcast showcased the Navajo landscape that includes Monument Valley, Four Corners, Canyon de Chelly and the tribal capital of Window Rock.

    Wallenda already is eyeing his next stunt, which he hopes will take him between the Chrysler and Empire State buildings in New York. As a nod to his Internet audience, he said he also would ask his Facebook and Twitter followers what the next challenge should be

    But he said he would give up tightrope walking altogether if his wife and children ever asked him.

    "That's a serious talk that we'll have. But absolutely, it weighs on heavy on me," he said.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: ​Daredevil Wallenda Crosses Grand Canyon on Tight Rope


     

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