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SKYE on AOL

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    A flooded downtown Calgary, Alberta, is seen from a aerial view of the city on Saturday, June 22, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)

    CALGARY, Alberta (AP) - Thousands of residents of Calgary were allowed to return to their homes and many of them faced extensive repairs after flooding that left Alberta's largest city awash in debris and dirty water.

    About 75,000 people had to leave at the height of the crisis as the Elbow and Bow rivers surged over their banks Thursday night. Three bodies have been recovered since the flooding began in southern Alberta and a fourth person was still missing.

    "We've turned a corner, but we are still in a state of emergency," Mayor Naheed Nenshi said. "Our hearts and thought and prayers are with our colleagues downstream."

    People in the eastern part of the province headed for higher ground as the flood threat remained. In Medicine Hat, Alberta, thousands of people have left their homes as water levels rose on the South Saskatchewan River. The river was not expected to crest until Monday, but by Sunday morning it was lapping over its banks in low-lying areas and people were busy laying down thousands of sandbags.

    In Calgary, Nenshi said crews were working hard to restore services and he thanked residents for heeding the call to conserve drinking water.

    He had already warned that recovery will be a matter of "weeks and months" and the damage costs will be "lots and lots."

    While pockets of the city's core were drying out, other areas were still submerged. The mayor didn't anticipate that anyone could return to work downtown until at least the middle of the week. The downtown area was evacuated Friday.

    The city's public schools were also to remain closed Monday.

    Nathan MacBey and his wife found muddy water had risen to about kitchen counter level in their Calgary home at the peak of the flooding. His basement was still swamped and the main floor of the home was covered in wet mud.

    "This is unprecedented," said the father of two, his voice cracking with emotion. "Not being able to give our kids a home, that's tough. ... We can survive, it's just the instability for the kids."

    Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths said that 27 communities in Alberta were under states of emergency - with some areas slowly starting to emerge from the watery onslaught and others still bracing for it

    Griffiths said no place has been hit harder than the town of High River south of Calgary and it will be some time before residents there will be allowed back.

    The waiting and worrying were causing tensions and emotions to run high, but Griffiths said virtually every home in the town of 18,000 would need to be inspected.

    More than 2,200 military personnel were involved in flood relief efforts, along with nine helicopters. Soldiers were helping evacuate an area around the mountain town of Canmore, laying down sandbags in Medicine Hat and assisting in road repairs in Kananaskis Country, west of Calgary.

    In High River, about 350 members of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry from Edmonton have been assisting police in reaching homes that still haven't been checked. Armored vehicles have been churning through submerged streets and Zodiac watercraft have been used to reach the hardest-hit areas.

    High River Mayor Emile Blokland said the town's infrastructure has been dealt a critical blow and there is no timeline for when citizens can return.

    Royal Canadian Mounted Police Staff Sgt. Brian Jones said the atmosphere was "surreal."

    "We're finding a great deal of mud, a great deal of sludge on the streets. The homes are secure. It's almost like time stopped," he said.

    Back in Calgary, the water has taken a toll outside residential neighborhoods as well. The Saddledome hockey arena, home of the National Hockey League's Calgary Flames, was extensively damaged. The team said boards, dressing rooms, player equipment and several rows of seats were a total loss.

    The rodeo and fair grounds of the world-famous Calgary Stampede were also swamped, although Nenshi was optimistic that things would be cleared up in time for the show to open July 5.

    Nenshi said Sunday that all the major hotels in the downtown were closed and advised visitors to plan accordingly.

    The federal Conservative party had planned to hold a policy convention in Calgary next weekend, but that's been postponed and a new date hasn't yet been set.

    Canmore was one of the first communities hit when the flooding began on Thursday. Residents there have been allowed to return to 260 evacuated homes, but the Royal Canadian Mounted Police says 40 more are too damaged to allow people back.

    In Saskatchewan, efforts are under way to move more than 2,000 people from their homes in a flood-prone part of the province's northeast.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Floodwaters Deluge Calgary, Canada

     

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    (AP Photo)

    On queue for the first few days of summer, heat is building across the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. The mercury will reach the 90-degree mark from Washington D.C. to Boston on at least a couple of occasions this week.

    Many locations will have their highest temperatures recorded so far this year. Washington D.C. is expected to reach the mid-90s Tuesday and Wednesday. The highest temperature so far this year was 91 degrees on June 1.

    The same can be said for New York City. AccuWeather.com is predicting 92 for a high on Wednesday. The highest temperature so far this year was 90 degrees, reached three days in a row late last month.



    This go-around, an official heat wave is not expected in New York City with just two days in a row of 90-degree heat expected.

    The heat will not be extreme enough to break records. Record-high temperatures in the big cities for this time of year are near or above 100 degrees.

    Despite not reaching record levels, high humidity will make this heat feel even worse. With dew point temperatures reaching the lower 70s, AccuWeather.com RealFeel(R) temperatures could near 100 degrees in a few places.

    A change in the pattern is expected for the end of the week, when a series of cold fronts will bring thunderstorms and cooler temperatures.

    For more weather news, visit AccuWeather.com.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Tips for Surviving a Heat Wave

     

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    Kristi Gordon, a meteorologist for Global BC in Canada, was surprised by an 8-legged intruder on the weather camera as she did her noon news forecast recently. Her "bugged out" reaction to the creepy crawler is drawing giggles and going viral.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 10 Most Weathery Weather Forecaster Names

     

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    June 24, 2013
    Fishing Leads U.S. Lightning Death Activities
    NOAA's National Weather Service kicked off this year's National Lightning Safety week with the release of a new study on lighting deaths in the U.S. From 2006 through 2012, 238 people were struck and killed by lightning, with two thirds of the fatalities occurring during leisure activities. Fishing tops the list of activities, accounting for 26 deaths -- more than three times as many as golfing.

    Lightning FatalitiesMost people killed during leisure activities were participating in water-related pastimes, including fishing, boating, swimming and simply spending time by a lake or on the beach. Sports contributed to 19 percent of the fatalities during leisure activities, with 12 people killed while playing soccer and eight while golfing.

    "When people think of lightning deaths, they usually think of golf,"said John Jensenius, the NWS lightning safety specialist who conducted the study. "NOAA has made a concerted effort to raise lightning awareness in the golf community since we began the campaign in 2001, and we believe our outreach has made a huge difference since lightning-related deaths on golf courses have decreased by 75 percent."

    RELATED ON SKYE: Man Recounts Being Struck by Lightning

    Lightning FatalitiesAccording to Jensenius, water-related deaths may be more common because participants require more time to find shelter in a storm. "People often wait far too long to head to safety when a storm is approaching, and that puts them in a dangerous and potentially deadly situation," he said.

    During the seven-year study, 82 percent of those killed by lightning were male and most victims were between the ages of 10 and 60. About 70 percent of the deaths occurred during June, July and August.

    So far this year, seven people have been killed by lightning. Three of them were killed while fishing and a fourth was walking on the beach.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 11 Surprising Effects of Being Struck by Lightning
    Lightning Scar

     

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    One minute, you're chilling by the window, grabbing a little video of the rain coming down. The next, lightning explodes mere feet away, scaring the bejesus out of you. But wait: You've hit YouTube gold! Witness this video posted Saturday, June 22, 2013, with the caption, "Lightning struck the line to my house. Crazy!"

    It is crazy. And it's almost as good as this classic from last year:



    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Lightning Strikes 10 Famous Landmarks

     

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    New York City skyscrapers. (Getty)

    NEW YORK (AP) - New York's top police officer says Nik Wallenda's hope of tightrope walking between the city's most famous skyscrapers just isn't going to fly.


    NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly was asked on Monday about the possibility of Wallenda, a member of the famous "Flying Wallendas" circus family, walking a tightrope between the Chrysler and Empire State buildings.

    The daredevil completed a walk over a gorge near the Grand Canyon on Sunday, walked over Niagara Falls a year ago, and was eyeing New York City for his next death-defying attempt.

    "I would say no," Kelly said. "I think it's dangerous."

    He added that any attempt could be hazardous to those on the ground underneath in case of a fall.

    "Here, there's thousands of New Yorkers who certainly could be put at risk. So I don't think it would be wise in this city," Kelly said.

    Wallenda walked a quarter mile Sunday without a safety net or harness, 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River Gorge. The 22-minute walk on a 2-inch cable was watched by people all over the world on television and computer.

    He said Sunday night it was too early to say when any New York plan would materialize, but added that he wouldn't do it if the law didn't allow it.

    "I'm a man of integrity and a man of my word. If I say I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it, and I'm going to honor everybody that's involved," Wallenda said.

    Wallenda, 34, is a seventh-generation high-wire artist from a family with generations of experience with high-profile, high-risk stunts. He grew up performing with his family and dreamed of crossing the Grand Canyon since he was a teenager. Sunday's stunt took place a year after he traversed Niagara Falls earning a seventh Guinness world record.

    Wallenda's 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.

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


     

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    In this photo taken Monday, June 17, 2013, people swim and sunbathe at Goose Lake in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Rachel D'Oro)

    WASHINGTON (AP) - The jet stream, the river of air high above Earth that generally dictates the weather, usually rushes rapidly from west to east in a mostly straight direction.

    But lately it seems to be wobbling and weaving like a drunken driver, wreaking havoc as it goes.

    The more the jet stream undulates north and south, the more changeable and extreme the weather.

    The most recent example occurred in mid-June when some towns in Alaska hit record highs. McGrath, Alaska, recorded an all-time high of 94 degrees on June 17. A few weeks earlier, the same spot was 15 degrees, the coldest recorded for so late in the year.

    You can blame the heat wave on a large northward bulge in the jet stream, Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis said.

    Several scientists are blaming weather whiplash - both high and low extremes - on a jet stream that's not quite playing by its old rules. It's a relatively new phenomenon that experts are still trying to understand.

    Some say it's related to global warming, but others say it's not.

    Upside-down weather also happened in May: Early California wildfires fueled by heat contrasted with more than a foot of snow in Minnesota. Seattle was the hottest spot in the nation one day, and Maine and Edmonton, Canada, were warmer than Miami and Phoenix.

    Consider these unusual occurrences over the past few years:

    - The winter of 2011-12 seemed to disappear, with little snow and record warmth in March. That was followed by the winter of 2012-13 when nor'easters seemed to queue up to strike the same coastal areas repeatedly.

    - Superstorm Sandy took an odd left turn in October from the Atlantic straight into New Jersey, something that happens once every 700 years or so.

    - One 12-month period had a record number of tornadoes. That was followed by 12 months that set a record for lack of tornadoes.

    And here is what federal weather officials call a "spring paradox" - the U.S. had both an unusually large area of snow cover in March and April and a near-record low area of snow cover in May. The entire Northern Hemisphere had record snow coverage area in December but the third lowest snow extent for May.

    "I've been doing meteorology for 30 years and the jet stream the last three years has done stuff I've never seen," said Jeff Masters, meteorology director at the private service Weather Underground. "The fact that the jet stream is unusual could be an indicator of something. I'm not saying we know what it is."

    Rutgers' Francis is in the camp that thinks climate change is probably playing a role in this.

    "It's been just a crazy fall and winter and spring all along, following a very abnormal sea ice condition in the Arctic," Francis said, noting that last year set a record low for summer sea ice in the Arctic. "It's possible what we're seeing in this unusual weather is all connected."

    Other scientists don't make the sea ice and global warming connections that Francis does. They see random weather or long-term cycles at work. And even more scientists are taking a wait-and-see approach about this latest theory. It's far from a scientific consensus, but it is something that is being studied more often and getting a lot of scientific buzz.

    "There are some viable hypotheses," Stanford University climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh said. "We're going to need more evidence to fully test those hypotheses."

    The jet stream, or more precisely the polar jet stream, is the one that affects the Northern Hemisphere. It dips down from Alaska, across the United States or Canada, then across the Atlantic and over Europe and "has everything to do with the weatherwe experience," Francis said.

    It all starts with the difference between cold temperatures in the Arctic and warmer temperatures in the mid-latitudes, she explained. The bigger the temperature difference, the stronger the jet stream, the faster it moves and the straighter it flows. But as the northern polar regions warm two to three times faster than the rest of the world, augmented by unprecedented melting of Arctic sea ice and loss in snow cover, the temperature difference shrinks. Then the jet stream slows and undulates more.

    The jet stream is about 14 percent slower in the fall now than in the 1990s, according to a recent study by Francis. And when it slows, it moves north-south instead of east-west, bringing more unusual weather, creating blocking patterns and cutoff lows that are associated with weird weather, the Rutgers scientist said.

    Mike Halpert, the deputy director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, said that recently the jet stream seems to create weather patterns that get stuck, making dry spells into droughts and hot days into heat waves.

    Take the past two winters. They were as different as can be, but both had unusual jet stream activity. Normally, the jet stream plunges southwest from western Washington state, sloping across to Alabama. Then it curves slightly out to sea around the Outer Banks, a swoop that's generally straight without dramatic bends.

    During the mostly snowless winter of 2011-12 and the record warm March 2012, the jet stream instead formed a giant upside-down U, curving dramatically in the opposite direction. That trapped warm air over much of the Eastern U.S. A year later the jet stream was again unusual, this time with a sharp U-turn north. This trapped colder and snowier weather in places like Chicago and caused nor'easters in New England, Francis said.

    But for true extremes, nothing beats tornadoes.

    In 2011, the United States was hit over and over by killer twisters. From June 2010 to May 2011 the U.S. had a record number of substantial tornadoes, totaling 1,050. Then just a year later came a record tornado drought. From May 2012 to April 2013 there were only 217 tornadoes - 30 fewer than the old record, said Harold Brooks, a meteorologist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory. Brooks said both examples were related to unusual jet stream patterns.

    Last fall, a dip in the jet stream over the United States and northward bulge of high pressure combined to pull Superstorm Sandy almost due west into New Jersey, Francis said. That track is so rare and nearly unprecedented that computer models indicate it would happen only once every 714 years, according to a new study by NASA and Columbia University scientists.

    "Everyone would agree that we are in a pattern" of extremes, NOAA research meteorologist Martin Hoerling said. "We don't know how long it will stay in this pattern."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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    Updated Tuesday, June 25, 9:10 p.m. ET

    This image provided by NOAA shows tropical storm Cosme taken at 5:00 a.m. EDT Tuesday June 25, 2013. (AP Photo/NOAA)

    MIAMI (AP) - Hurricane Cosme (KAHS'-may) has strengthened in the Pacific Ocean well off the coast of Mexico.

    The hurricane had top sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph) Tuesday afternoon, and forecasters say the storm will strengthen further in coming hours before it begins to gradually weaken Wednesday and Thursday.

    The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says Cosme is centered about 380 miles (615 kilometers) south-southwest of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and is moving west-northwest at 17 mph (28 kph).

    The center says the storm is generating large swells that are already affecting parts of Mexico's Pacific coast and soon will be lashing parts of southern Baja California starting Tuesday night. The swells are likely to cause dangerous surf and rip current conditions.

    No coastal watches or warnings are in effect.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 30 Stunning Photos Revealing the Power of Hurricanes

     

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    The sun sets through wildfire smoke Sunday, June 23, 2013, near Monte Vista, Colo. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

    DEL NORTE, Colo. (AP) - This is what counts as good news in Colorado's wildfire season: a breezy day but at least not three straight hours of winds blowing at 25 mph or more.

    Firefighters battling the massive and erratic wildfire in the state's southwestern mountains got a bit of a break Tuesday, with forecasters calling for winds below the threshold for a red flag warning after nearly a week of winds gusting to 50 mph.

    Some gusts are still possible in the afternoon, and hot and dry weather should still keep the 124-square-mile fire active.

    "We're out of red flag, but I can't say we're a lot better off," incident commander Pete Blume said. "It's not exactly like great fire weather, but I guess we should count our blessings every time the wind drops a little bit."

    The fire is 3 to 4 miles from South Fork, Blume said. More than 1,000 residents and summer visitors were evacuated from the town and surrounding areas Friday.

    Fire crews have used bulldozers to build lines around South Fork to slow the fire should it get closer, but Blume said protecting the town is still a concern.

    Large wildfires are also burning elsewhere in the Southwest.

    A wildfire in southern New Mexico's Gila (HEE'-luh) National Forest has grown to 125 square miles and is expected to keep expanding. In Arizona, crews hope to have the 10.5-square-mile Doce Fire near Prescott fully contained soon.

    In Colorado, firefighters are hoping for a major change in the weather - the arrival of the summer monsoon season and its afternoon thunderstorms - to help control the fire. Still, every day the fire is kept at bay near South Fork, the odds of saving the town increases.

    Tim Foley, a fire behavior expert working on the blaze, said officials are hoping to begin a more strategic assault on the backcountry blaze.

    "We're going from extreme (winds) to very high, basically," Foley said. "So it's not like it's going to be a piece of cake."

    The red flag winds have grounded most afternoon flights and have limited where tankers and helicopters can drop retardant and water.

    Crews have been able to beat back flames threatening homes and cabins along Highway 149, between South Fork and the historic mining town of Creede.

    No structures are known to have been lost from the fire, which has been fed by drought-stricken, beetle-killed trees.

    It started June 5 with a lightning 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 about 10 miles from Creede.

    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: 50 Must-See Weather Photos
    Lightning

     

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    The Capitol Dome is seen behind the Capitol Power Plant in Washington, D.C., Monday, June 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

    WASHINGTON (AP) - Taking climate change efforts into his own hands, President Barack Obama is proposing sweeping steps to limit heat-trapping pollution from coal-fired power plants and boost renewable energy production on federal property.

    Obama, in a speech Tuesday at Georgetown University, was to announce he's issuing a presidential memorandum to launch the first-ever federal regulations on carbon dioxide emitted by existing power plants, moving to curb the gases blamed for global warming despite adamant opposition from Republicans and some energy producers.

    The far-reaching plan marks Obama's most prominent effort yet to deliver on a major priority he laid out in his first presidential campaign and recommitted to at the start of his second term: to fight climate change in the U.S. and abroad and prepare American communities for its effects. Environmental activists have been irked that Obama's high-minded goals never materialized into a comprehensive plan.

    By expanding permitting on public lands, Obama hopes to generate enough electricity from renewable energy projects such as wind and solar to power the equivalent of 6 million homes by 2020, effectively doubling the electric capacity federal lands now produce, senior administration officials said. He'll also set a goal to install 100 megawatts of energy-producing capacity at federal housing projects by the end of the decade.

    Obama also was to announce $8 billion in federal loan guarantees to spur investment in technologies that can keep carbon dioxide produced by power plants from being released into the atmosphere.

    "While no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we have a moral obligation to act on behalf of future generations," the White House said in a statement, arguing that climate change is no longer a distant threat - the 12 hottest years on record all occurred in the past 15 years.

    The linchpin of Obama's plan involves new and existing power plants. Forty percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, and one-third of greenhouse gases overall, come from electric power plants, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. The Obama administration already has proposed controls on new plants, but those controls have been delayed and not yet finalized. Tuesday's announcement would be the first public confirmation that Obama plans to extend carbon controls to existing plants.

    "The country is facing a threat; the president is facing facts," said Dan Lashof of the Natural Resources Defense Council, praising Obama for taking aim at power plants. "Reducing that pollution is the most important step we can take as a nation to stand up to climate change."

    A spokesman for major power companies said the industry long has understood the importance of addressing climate change and has been working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for two decades. The industry will consider whether new climate change policies and regulations "mesh" with its ongoing transition to a cleaner generating fleet and an enhanced electric grid, said Tom Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute, a group that represents power companies.

    Even before Obama spoke, reaction from Republicans was swift and dismissive, reflecting the opposition to climate legislation on Capitol Hill that prompted a frustrated Obama to sidestep lawmakers and take action himself. Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said imposing carbon rules on power plants amounts to a national energy tax.

    "Will the president explain the massive costs to American jobs? Will the president explain how low-income Americans would pay for their new, higher utility bills?" Stewart said.

    Senior administration officials, who weren't authorized to comment by name and requested anonymity, said Obama will set a timeline for putting new power plant controls in place. But he won't issue detailed emission targets or specifics. Instead, the president will launch a process in which the Environmental Protection Agency will work with states to develop specific plans to rein in carbon emissions, with flexibility for each state's circumstances.

    Obama also will announce more aggressive steps to increase efficiency for appliances such as refrigerators and lamps, the White House said, adding that stricter standards could reduce carbon pollution by more than 3 billion tons between now and 2030 - the equivalent of a half-year's worth of carbon pollution from power plants. Another component of Obama's proposal will involve ramping up hydropower production from existing dams.

    Obama raised climate change as a key second-term issue in his inaugural address in January, but has offered few details since. In his February State of the Union, he issued an ultimatum to lawmakers: "If Congress won't act soon to protect future generations, I will."

    "His view reflects reality," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday. "We've seen Congress attempt to deal with this issue, and fail to."

    Framing Obama's efforts as part of a broader, global movement, the White House said the U.S. can play a leading role in persuading other nations to join in efforts to slow the warming of the planet.

    Obama is calling for an end to U.S. support for public financing for new coal-fired plants overseas, officials said, but will exempt plants in the poorest nations as long as the cleanest technology available in those countries is being used. He's also pledging to work with major polluting countries like China and India to curb emissions, building on an agreement Obama struck recently with China's leader to phase out hydrofluorocarbons, potent greenhouse gases used in air conditions and refrigerators.

    Another of Obama's goals - to prepare communities for the inevitable effects of climate change - appears to be more aspiration than concrete plan. Community leaders and environmental activists say that what cities and states need to prepare for flooding and higher temperatures is money - something Obama is hard-pressed to provide without Congress' go-ahead.

    Sidestepping Congress by using executive action doesn't guarantee Obama smooth sailing. Lawmakers could introduce legislation to thwart Obama's efforts. And the rules for existing power plants will almost certainly face legal challenges in court.

     

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    Jim Johnson rows his boat down Main Street, Tuesday, June 25, 2013, in New Hartford, Iowa. Hundreds of residents obeyed an order to evacuate their homes in this northeast Iowa town Tuesday before floodwaters from a rising creek could strand them. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

    NEW HARTFORD, Iowa (AP) - Even as he rowed his flat-bottom aluminum boat down New Hartford's Main Street, Jim Johnson didn't seem especially concerned Tuesday about the flooding that had inundated his small northeast Iowa town.

    Much of New Hartford's 500-plus residents had been evacuated before dawn, but those who remained and others in a nearby evacuation shelter took the flooding and damage in stride.

    "I have about 8 inches of water in my basement," said Johnson, 49. "I usually stay until everything is lost."

    The flooding was due to more than 7 inches of rain that pounded the area Monday. The rainwater poured into Beaver Creek, turning a stream normally a couple feet deep into a fast-moving river that is far over its banks.

    Authorities responded by notifying residents of the danger via a telephone emergency system on Monday night, and then issuing an evacuation warning early Tuesday. Up to 50 emergency workers, sheriff's deputies and firefighters went door to door starting at 3 a.m. and helped townspeople flee before the water got too high and when boats and high-centered vehicles would have been required for rescues.

    Nordmeyer estimated about a third of New Hartford's residents remained, but the town was largely silent by afternoon. At one point, the water reached about 3 feet deep on the east side of town, and floodwaters poured into the west side of town as well. The creek topped a levy that surrounds the town on the east side near the elementary school, Nordmeyer said.

    Residents said they took the danger seriously, but they'd seen Beaver Creek surge out of its banks before, including a devastating flood in 2008 that swamped the community with 4 feet or more of water. After that flood, many residents raised their homes when they rebuilt to better withstand future flooding.

    "I've seen it a lot worse," said Sue Ragsdale, 60, who evacuated her home in the early hours but returned later in the day. She found a flooded barn but a dry home.

    Ragsdale's home was severely damaged by flooding in 2008, and she rebuilt and raised her home. Still, she heeded the warning from officials and moved her livestock and dogs away from the potential flooding, then stayed with family nearby for a few hours.

    "It's something you're used to when you live in New Hartford," she said.

    James Bergfelder, 57, stayed in his house on the southeast corner of town. He said his two-story home is on higher ground and remained dry, but by Tuesday afternoon it was surrounded by water.

    "It got right up next to my house," said Bergfelder, a day trader whose home received water in 2008. "I thought for sure it was going to come in because I kept putting a stake out there in my lawn to see how it was coming up. And I kept having to move it. I thought, 'Yeah, it's going to come in.' And then all of a sudden it just kind of stopped. And now it's just gradually going down."

    The National Weather Service said most of New Hartford floods when the creek rises to 14 feet. This time, it crested at 15.15 feet by 7:45 a.m. Tuesday. The weather service said the creek was at 14 feet as of 4 p.m. Tuesday and the water continues to recede. It is expected to return to the creek by Wednesday evening.

    The crest, or when the river overflows its banks, is about a half-foot short of the record of 15.7 feet set in June 2008, and it is two feet higher than when the creek caused flooding last month.

    An emergency shelter was set up six miles away in Shell Rock, but by Tuesday afternoon it was empty.

    "There comes a point when you face the fact that you can't beat mother nature back and today was one of those days," said Kip Ladage, Bremer County Emergency Management Coordinator running the shelter. "We had some people sick to their stomach as we did the hourly cresting levels but still there's nothing you can do and you just take it."

    The rest of Butler County is under a flash flood watch until Wednesday morning. The weather service said New Hartford is along a path in northern Iowa that may experience showers and thunderstorms Tuesday afternoon into the overnight hours. Meteorologist Kevin Skow said between 2 and 3 inches of rain could fall per hour from the systems moving through the area.

    Any rain that falls over the town will flow back into Beaver Creek because the ground is saturated, said Skow, resulting in standing water possibly staying around longer than expected.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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    A thunderstorm with heavy rains approaches downtown Chicago, Monday, June 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Scott Eisen)

    As potent jet stream energy dives through the northern Plains, several rounds of dangerous thunderstorms will erupt from the Dakotas into the Midwest and western Great Lakes.

    Some of the cities and towns most at risk include Minot, N.D.; Fargo, N.D.; Sioux Falls, S.D.; Minneapolis, Minn.; La Crosse, Wis.; Milwaukee, Wis.; Des Moines, Iowa; Chicago, Ill.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; and Detroit, Mich.

    The worst of the storms will bring damaging wind gusts as high as 60, 70 or even 80 mph. Large hail as big as golf balls or baseballs and a few tornadoes are also possible.

    Wind gusts over 60 mph can uproot large trees, snap branches and down power lines, resulting in power outages. Winds this strong can also easily blow around any unsecured objects left outside.

    Hail as large as golf balls or baseballs can cause severe injury to animals or people caught outside. Unprotected livestock are especially at risk. Hail of this size can also cause damage to vehicles, roofs on houses and crops such as corn.

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    The most dangerous storms are likely to fire in the evening hours into the overnight on Tuesday, especially from Minneapolis into Chicago and South Bend.

    If you have any plans to be out and about on Tuesday or Tuesday night, you will need to pay special attention to the weather.

    Once thunderstorms develop this afternoon, they will strengthen quickly, and dangerous conditions could follow soon after.

    One added concern across the region will be very heavy, potentially flooding rain. This storm system will have the ability to produce a large area of 1-3 inches of rain, especially across areas such as Dubuque, Iowa; Madison, Wis.; and Chicago, Ill.

    Flash flooding can easily become life-threatening, and given the already saturated soil across the region, it will not take much rain to cause flooding.

    Current technology has advanced enough over recent years to provide ample alert of the potential for severe weather and the approach of localized severe storms. Be sure to understand the difference between a watch and a warning. A watch means that an area is being monitored for dangerous weather. A warning means that dangerous weather is imminent. When a warning is issued, there may be too little time to travel across town or across a county to escape the storm. The time to have a plan of action and move to the general vicinity of a storm shelter or safe area is when a watch is issued.

    Keep in mind that lightning is one of Mother Nature's most dangerous killers. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning, even if the sun is still shining.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    23 Boy Scouts Hurt After Lightning Strike at Camp
    GILMANTON, N.H. (AP) - After about two dozen Boy Scouts out camping were burned when lightning struck a nearby tree, most returned Tuesday to the leadership program that had had them out braving the elements on a remote New Hampshire hilltop.

    Two Scouts were still at Concord Hospital as of mid-afternoon but were expected to rejoin the program later in the day, said Gerry Boyle, course director of the national youth leadership program.

    None of the boys was hit directly by lightning in Monday's storm at Camp Bell, part of the Griswold Hidden Valley Scout Reservation in Gilmanton, a scout spokesman said.

    The Scouts who returned to camp after their injuries were treated had no scarring or visible signs of their ordeal, Boyle said.

    The giant pine that was struck was the only physical evidence of their close call. The tree had a visible scar running from its top to the ground, caused when the sap and water inside it boiled and split the tree open.

    "When that bolt hit it shook the ground," said Boyle, who was under another tarp nearby. "Another 25 feet and it would have been a whole different story."

    With about a 15-minute warning from their base camp, the Boy Scouts and their counselors hurriedly gathered under a tarp tied to trees to wait out the approaching storm. The torrential downpour hit first - just before 6 p.m. Monday - then a nearby flash of lightning.

    The 31 gathered under the tarp were stunned by a booming clap of thunder that followed the lightning strike on the tree barely 30 feet away. Some began to feel burning, tingling sensations about 20 minutes later.

    Spider-web like marks appeared on the arms and legs of some and a half dozen Scouts - ages 13-17 - were transported from the hilltop camping area to the base headquarters of the scout reservation, Boyle said.

    Boyle suspects the lightening coursed down the 100-foot pine and into its root system, which stretched under the tarp where the Scouts were gathered.

    Minutes later more Scouts developed the same symptoms and sensations and by night's end, 23 had been transported to area hospitals for treatment and observation. Most were treated and released. Six who went to Concord Hospital were held overnight, Boyle said.

    Belmont Fire Chief David Parenti, who helped triage the Scouts after they were injured, said Tuesday he was most concerned about six of them whose burns involved the chest area. He said lightning burns typically have an entry and an exit wound, marked by those spidery lines on the skin, which helped the firefighters and EMTs triaging them to identify whose injuries were of most concern.

    "What happened was, with some of the kids, you could see the burn come into the hand, up the arm, across the chest and out the other arm," Parenti said. "That's an entrance and exit that crosses the chest, definitely."

    The Belmont Fire Department, staffed 24 hours a day, has 12-point heart monitors that were used to assess the Scouts' conditions.

    Parenti said the boys were "incredibly calm" throughout the ordeal.

    "No one was screaming or yelling. Whatever we asked them to do, they did," Parenti said.

    Boyle said it helped that the program the Scouts were participating in is an elite one designed to give them skills to go back and lead their troops, and they must complete years of scouting before they can participate. Its participants, he said, come from all over the Eastern seaboard and as far south as Florida.

    Boyle and Greg Olson, spokesman for the Daniel Webster Council of the Boy Scouts of America, would not let a reporter interview the Scouts who had returned to the program Tuesday because they did not have releases from their parents.

    Scout officials said lightning strikes at camp are not unusual, but not on the scale of Monday's hit.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 11 Surprising Effects of Being Struck by Lightning
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    Obama Climate Change
    The Capitol Dome is seen behind the Capitol Power Plant in Washington, D.C., Monday, June 24, 2013. The plant provides power to buildings in the Capitol Complex. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

    WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama ordered his administration on Tuesday to end the practice of coal-fired power plants dumping unlimited carbon pollution into the Earth's atmosphere, moving to deliver on a major priority he laid out in his first presidential campaign and recommitted to a the start of his second term.

    As he ordered regulators to crack down with the first-ever federal regulations to curb carbon dioxide emissions from existing and new electricity generating stations, Obama also said the Keystone XL pipeline project from Canadian tar sands to Texas refineries should only be approved if it doesn't "significantly exacerbate" carbon pollution. Environmental activists have demanded that the administration not approve the pipeline, which would carry oil from Canadian tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast.

    Speaking on the politically charge topic of climate change at Georgetown University in Washington, Obama told students: "I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that's beyond fixing."

    Even before Obama unveiled his plan, Republican critics in Congress were lambasting it as a job-killer that would threaten the economic recovery.

    As a preview, Don Stewart, a spokesman for Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said imposing carbon rules on power plants amounts to a national energy tax.

    "Will the president explain the massive costs to American jobs? Will the president explain how low-income Americans would pay for their new, higher utility bills?" Stewart said.

    Obama dismissed the critics, saying, "That's what they said every time. And every time, they've been wrong."

    American public opinion about climate change has proven a major barrier to addressing the issue. The Pew Research center released polling data Monday that showed just four-in-10 say the warming of the planet poses a major threat to the U.S. Pew said the finding makes "Americans among the least concerned about this issue of the 39 publics surveyed, along with people in China, Czech Republic, Jordan, Israel, Egypt and Pakistan."

    Obama raised climate change as a key second-term issue in his inaugural address in January, but has offered few details since. In his February State of the Union policy speech, he issued an ultimatum to lawmakers: "If Congress won't act soon to protect future generations, I will."

    Obama said he wanted the United States to be the global leader in slowing the warming of the planet and insisted the country had the technological wherewithal to assume that role.

    Obama also called for an end to U.S. support for public financing for new coal-fired plants overseas, with exemptions in the poorest nations as long as the cleanest technology available in those countries is being used. He's also pledged to work with major polluting countries like China and India to curb emissions, building on an agreement Obama struck recently with China's leader to phase out hydrofluorocarbons, potent greenhouse gases used in air conditioners and refrigerators.

    Sidestepping Congress by using executive action does not guarantee Obama smooth sailing. Lawmakers could introduce legislation to thwart Obama's efforts. And the rules for existing power plants will almost certainly face legal challenges in court.

    By expanding permitting on public lands, said he hopes the country can generate enough electricity from renewable energy projects such as wind and solar to power the equivalent of 6 million homes by 2020, effectively doubling the electric capacity federal lands now produce, senior administration officials said. He'll also set a goal to install 100 megawatts of energy-producing capacity at federal housing projects by the end of the decade.

    Obama announced $8 billion in federal loan guarantees to spur investment in technologies that can keep carbon dioxide produced by power plants from being released into the atmosphere.

    The lynchpin of Obama's plan involves new and existing power plants. Forty percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, and one-third of greenhouse gases overall, come from electric power plants, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. The Obama administration already has proposed controls on new plants, but those controls have been delayed and not yet finalized. Tuesday's announcement was the first public confirmation that Obama plans to extend carbon controls to existing plants.

    Obama also said steps much be taken to increase efficiency for appliances such as refrigerators and lamps, adding that stricter standards could reduce carbon pollution by more than 3 billion tons between now and 2030 - the equivalent of a half a year's worth of carbon pollution from power plants. Another component of Obama's proposal will involve ramping up hydropower production from existing dams.

    A spokesman for major power companies said the industry long has understood the importance of addressing climate change and has been working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for two decades. The industry will consider whether new climate change policies and regulations "mesh" with its ongoing transition to a cleaner generating fleet and an enhanced electric grid, said Tom Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute, a group that represents power companies.

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    (Getty Images)

    Another show in a seemingly endless parade of severe weather will march through the Midwest into the Northeast on Wednesday, bringing damaging winds, large hail, flash flooding and even the threat for tornadoes along with it.

    Cities and towns most at risk include New York City, N.Y.; Boston, Mass.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Baltimore, Md.; Washington, D.C.; Chicago, Ill.; Nashville, Tenn.; Indianapolis, Ind.; and Saint Louis, Mo.

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    The worst of the storms will produce damaging wind gusts as high as 60 or 70 mph, hail as large as quarters or even golf balls and perhaps an isolated tornado.

    Wind gusts to 60 or 70 mph can easily uproot trees, snap off large branches and bring down power poles. Sporadic power outages are possible in some areas. These kinds of wind gusts can also damage roofs and blow around unsecured objects left outside.

    Hail as large as golf balls can cause damage to vehicles and crops such as corn and wheat. Any people or livestock caught outside can easily be injured.

    While the pattern does not favor a large outbreak of tornadoes by any means, a stray spin-up is possible, especially across southern Illinois, southern Indiana and western Kentucky.

    Spotty drenching thunderstorms around in the morning will diminish toward noon, but the most dangerous storms are likely to fire from Saint Louis into Indianapolis, Louisville and Cincinnati during the afternoon and evening hours.

    If you have any plans to be out and about on Wednesday or Wednesday night, you will need to pay special attention to the weather.

    Once thunderstorms develop this afternoon, they will strengthen quickly, and dangerous conditions could follow soon after.

    If you expect to travel interstate 80, 70 or any other major roadways from the Midwest into the Northeast and New England, be on alert for rapidly changing weather conditions.

    Dark skies ahead can signal blinding downpours, powerful winds and possible hail. If you get caught driving through this weather, pull over to a safe location, away from any trees or power poles, and wait for it to pass.

    One added concern across the region will be very heavy, potentially flooding rain. This storm system will have the ability to produce a large area of 1-3 inches of rain, especially across areas such as Indianapolis, Ind.; Columbus, Ohio; and Pittsburgh, Pa.

    Flash flooding can easily become life-threatening, and given the already saturated soil across the region, it will not take much rain to cause flooding.

    Current technology has advanced enough over recent years to provide ample alert of the potential for severe weather and the approach of localized severe storms. Be sure to understand the difference between a watch and a warning. A watch means that an area is being monitored for dangerous weather. A warning means that dangerous weather is imminent. When a warning is issued, there may be too little time to travel across town or across a county to escape the storm. The time to have a plan of action and move to the general vicinity of a storm shelter or safe area is when a watch is issued.

    Keep in mind that lightning is one of Mother Nature's most dangerous killers. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning, even if the sun is still shining.



    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    Updated Wednesday, June 26, 11:40 a.m. ET

    This image provided by NOAA shows Hurricane Cosme taken at 12:45 a.m. EDT, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. (AP Photo/NOAA)

    MIAMI (AP) - Cosme (KAHS'-may) has weakened to a tropical storm in the Pacific Ocean well off the coast of Mexico.

    The storm had top sustained winds of 70 mph late Tuesday. Forecasters say the storm will gradually weaken Wednesday and Thursday.

    The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says Cosme is centered about 450 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. It is moving west-northwest at 14 mph.

    The center says the storm is generating large swells that are affecting parts of Mexico's Pacific coast and its Southern Baja California Peninsula. The swells are likely to cause dangerous surf and rip current conditions.

    No coastal watches or warnings are in effect, and the storm is moving away from land.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Stunning Hurricane Photos from Space

     

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