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    Workers remove debris from the roof of the O'Brien Athletic Center on the campus of Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio, on Saturday, July 20, 2013. A tornado of 110 mph winds hit the college in northeast Ohio early Saturday morning, collapsing a wall of the school's athletic center and damaging other buildings but causing no injuries, officials said. (AP Photo/The Plain Dealer, Thomas Ondrey)

    PEPPER PIKE, Ohio (AP) - A tornado packing 110 mph winds hit Ursuline College in northeast Ohio early Saturday morning, collapsing a wall of the school's athletic center and damaging other buildings but causing no injuries, officials said.

    The EF1 twister hit about 3:35 a.m. northwest of the college and continued across part of the campus, said meteorologist William Comeaux of the National Weather Service in Cleveland. It reached 100-200 yards wide and traveled 1.3 miles.

    Only a few students were on campus at the time, and they weren't close to the athletic center that was hardest hit, a college spokeswoman said.

    "The blessing is that there was no loss of life or injury," Sister Diana Stano, president of the 1,500-student school about 13 miles east of Cleveland said on the college's website.

    No one answered the main number for the college Saturday evening, but a recorded message said the campus was closed Saturday and Sunday to assess the damage.

    The storm caused an external wall of the school's O'Brien Athletic Center to collapse and destroyed part of the roof. It also damaged several other buildings, including the Dauby Science Center and the Ralph M. Besse Library. Many trees were uprooted or destroyed and other campus facilities had minor damage.

    College spokeswoman Angela DelPrete said only about five students were on campus at the time and they were about 1,000 feet from the gymnasium. She described debris scattered around the campus and broken windows. Weather service photos showed roof tiles torn away on the gymnasium exposing splintered wood and support beams.

    Stano told The Plain Dealer that Ursuline was accepted as an NCAA Division II school only last week.

    "Now we don't have a place to play," she said.

    Ursuline was founded by Roman Catholic nuns as the first women's college in Ohio. Men now also attend the school.

    Despite the damage Saturday, Comeaux said, "It's a beautiful area with lots of trees."

    He said it's been about two years since a tornado has touched down in the region; the state averages 17-19 tornadoes per year. A disaster relief fund will be established to help rebuild the campus, the website said.

    50 Must-See Weather Photos

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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    More comfortable air will finally replace the intense heat wave across the Northeast Sunday as a cold front sags southward.

    Gone Sunday will be the 90-degree heat and high humidity that has been soaring northward to Portland and Bangor, Maine, recently.

    In its place, high pressure will usher in cooler and less humid air following locally severe thunderstorms on Saturday.

    The nicest conditions on Sunday will grace upstate New York and New England, where humidity will be at its lowest and temperatures will be held to the 70s and 80s.

    RELATED:
    Heat Departs, Rain Returns for East, Midwest
    Northeast Regional Radar
    Forecast Temperature Maps

    Partly to mostly sunny skies and dry weather will compliment the day in both Portland and Boston.

    A shower or thunderstorm will rattle New York City for a time Sunday, but humidity will be noticeably lower and temperatures will be more seasonable than what was recorded during the seven-day heat wave.

    Not since August 2002, has New York City endured a more lengthy heat wave. As residents and visitors dealt with the oppressive heat, the city set an all-time electric usage record on Friday.

    Farther to the south on Sunday, the air will still feel humid and sticky to those in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The good news is that more typical late-July highs for these cities are expected, not a repeat of the recent extreme heat.

    The steamy air will set the stage for a shower or thunderstorm to develop and briefly interfere with outdoor plans.

    Showers and thunderstorms will return to more of the Northeast Monday and Tuesday as humidity surges back to the north--but not accompanied by searing heat.

     

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    Engineering students with the UCSD Microgravity Team from the University of California, San Diego, stands near their biofuel experiment to test weightless flames ahead of a NASA Microgravity University flight at Ellington Field in Houston. (Tariq Malik/SPACE.com)

    HOUSTON -- Gravity, we have defied you. Seven university student teams from across the United States escaped the pull of Earth's gravity --if only for a few seconds -- on a NASA microgravity flight to see how fire, liquids and magnets behave in weightlessness.

    The students flew with NASA's Microgravity University Program Friday (July 19) aboard a Zero Gravity Corporation Boeing 727 jet modified to fly up and down on a parabolic path to create up to 30 seconds of zero gravity, moon gravity or Martian gravity on the downswing followed by periods of "hypergravity" (twice Earth's pull) on the way back up.

    About 34 students, NASA specialists and veteran astronauts Mike Fossum and Cady Coleman flew on ZERO-G's G-Force One jet, which took off from Ellington Field here near NASA's Johnson Space Center. Among the groups was the UCSD Microgravity Team from the University of California, San Diego, which SPACE.com has been shadowing to show how student science is performed in weightlessness without leaving Earth. Offering students and teachers the chance to perform weightless experiments is the goal of NASA's Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program. [Photos: Zero-Gravity Science at NASA's Microgravity University]

    Tiny fires + zero gravity = Science

    The UCSD Microgravity Team, led by aerospace engineering undergraduate Sam Avery, worked for nearly nine months to create a triple-contained experiment that tested how biofuel fires burn in microgravity. The goal, Avery said, was to learn how large of a fire a single droplet of biofuel creates when ignited in weightless conditions. The experiment was accepted for a NASA weightless flight in October 2012, with the team working ever since to design, fund and then build its flame-inducing box.

    During Friday's flight, Avery used a control box covered in switches to issue swift commands to machinery inside the fire box to ignite the biofuel droplet. One switch moved a syringe into place, the next told the syringe to squirt out a tiny blob of fuel onto a set of crosshair-like filaments. Then, another switch moved the igniter into place, setting off the burn. The resulting zero-gravity flame was a rippling blob of pure fire about the size of a small piece of hard candy that glowed in haunting shades of reddish-orange.

    "I think that it looked amazing," Avery told SPACE.com. "It was just a big, morphing ball of fire. Every time it was a little bit different."

    Knowing how small biofuel fires behave in weightlessness could help engineers develop more efficient biofuel engines on Earth, as well as better fire countermeasures for astronauts in space. Avery and his team used ethyl alcohol as the fuel source in Friday's weightless flight. The team planned to try butyl alcohol during a second flight, if possible. [6 Everyday Things That Turn Weird in Weightlessness]

    A taste of weightlessness

    The UCSD team saw a nearly 95 percent success rate in their zero-gravity experiment. The NASA astronauts on the flight, Fossum and Coleman, spent some time observing the UCSD fire experiment. Fossum said it looked remarkably close to the flame experiments he performed during a long-duration mission on the International Space Station.

    Avery and his team had hoped to fly two flights this week, with the first flight taking off on Thursday. But bad weather along southern Texas and the Gulf of Mexico delayed that first flight to Friday morning.

    In addition to Avery, teammates Jack Goodwin and Daneesha Kenyon flew on the Friday zero-gravity mission. Kenyon observed the experiment and recorded the team's work with a small GoPro video camera, while Goodwin called out the steps for Avery to perform with the control box and a side-mounted valve to vent out the flame vapors.

    Who cares about space sickness?

    In between experiment runs, the UCSD team and other students enjoyed some fun parabolas and took advantage of the weightlessness to conduct outreach experiments.

    For my part, I attempted to show how to put on a SPACE.com t-shirt in weightless conditions and hoped to float some space shuttle toys, but with just 30 seconds of weightlessness, even unfolding the shirt was a challenge. The lesson: Think ahead of what action need to be performed before the onset of weightlessness in order to take advantage of that brief period. But the sensation of floating alone seemed to spark elation in all those aboard, sick or no. [Video: Astronaut Bloopers in Zero-G]

    "It's a whole body experience," UCSD aerospace engineering study Jack Goodwin said in a post-flight interview with a NASA video team. "About one-third of the way through, it became natural, you don't have to walk anymore."

    Both Avery and Goodwin initially decided to forgo taking a shot of scopolamine, an anti-motion sickness medication offered by NASA for all participants. Ultimately, though, they opted to take the shot just in case. They fared extremely well, floating and laughing during the rare zero-gravity stints that they weren't working. They tackled 2G pushups on the upswing.

    Scopolamine, we thank you

    Taking the shot, it turns out, was a great choice.

    I got through nearly all of the 30 zero-gravity parabolas without any motion sickness from the weightlessness. Near the end, I felt some slight queasiness and whipped out a small plastic bag for the last two weightless periods, just in case. Luckily, I didn't get sick and was able to marvel at Goodwin and Avery as they performed a moon gravity dance with Coleman in one-sixth Earth's gravity, and then again under a one-third Earth gravity parabola mimicking conditions on Mars.

    Kenyon, meanwhile, also made it through most of the weightless parabolas but did have to make use of her plastic bag. (All flyers kept them tucked in our flight suit chest pockets to keep them close). She ultimately opted to sit in one of the seats used during takeoff and landing for the remainder of trip.

    "Even so, I would 100-percent go again," Kenyon said. "It was such a fantastic experience."

    In a post-flight briefing, Coleman and Fossum told the student flyers that they were impressed with the science they saw on the flight. But something else also caught their eye.

    "I saw a lot of teamwork and team members not only watching their experiments, but also watching out for one another," Coleman said. "It was really fun."

    Real students, real science, real weightlessness

    Friday's flight took off at about 9:30 a.m. EDT (10:30 a.m. EDT/1430 GMT) and lasted about two hours. Avery, Goodwin and Kenyon flew on the actual flight while five other team members waited on the ground. The rest of the team at Ellington included Andrew Beeler, Victor Hong, Joshua Siu, Joshua Sullivan, Nico Montoya and their NASA mentor Christina Gallegos.Gallegos is an electrical engineer who works on the Morpheus moon lander prototype at NASA's nearby Johnson Space Center. Other team members remained behind in San Diego. 

    Some of the remaining team members may fly on Saturday, if the weather allows, in order to collect more data. Beeler, who serves on the team's ground crew to prime the fire experiment for flight, said Friday's experiments managed to burn the needle used to squirt out the biofuel droplet ahead of ignition. [Fires in Space: It's Not What You Know]

    "We have never seen this before," he told SPACE.com as he showed the charred syringe needle. "Maybe we'll see how it happened when we go back through the video."

    The UCSD Microgravity Team has been supported by several sponsors, including the Canadian biofuel company W2 Energy, the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering, the California Space Grant Consortium and the Ledell Family Scholarship, Avery said. Altogether, the team raised more than $10,000 to fund the experiment and spent more than 1,000 man-hours building the flame apparatus to NASA specifications. Their mentor at UCSD for the project was engineering professor Forman Williams.

    Gallegos, the NASA engineer who served as the UCSD team's mentor on NASA's side, said it was her job to make sure the team knew NASA's regulations and built its flame box to the proper safety specifications. She was slated to fly on the team's second flight to observe the experiment in action.

    The UCSD Microgravity Team was just one of seven university teams selected by NASA to fly on the Microgravity University flights this week. Seven other teams of classroom teachers representing grades K-12 also flew on NASA flights this week with the agency's Teach from Space program.

    The experiments among the other university teams were varied. The UCSD team was experimenting with two types of biofuels, while a team from Purdue University tested how to remove excess water from fuel cells to improve power systems on satellites and spacecraft.

    Another team from West Virginia University studied the effectiveness of spray-cooling on a heated chunk of aluminum to learn how well the method could perform in satellites and spacecraft. And yet another team from the University of Texas, El Paso, was testing how mock Mars and moon dirt combust when mixed with magnesium.

    You can see the full list of university teams and their experiment names for this week's NASA Microgravity University here:

    • Baldwin Wallace University / John Carroll University: The Stability of Liquid Bridges under Varying Total Body Force
    • Purdue University: Water Removal in Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells
    • Rice University Electromagnetic Position Sensing in Microgravity
    • SUNY Buffalo: Microgravity Characterization of Zirconia Monolithic Electrokinetic Micropumps
    • University of California San Diego:¬†Fiber Supported Droplet Combustion of Bioethanol and Biobutanol
    • University of Texas, El Paso: Combustion of Lunar and Martian Regolith Simulants with Magnesium
    • West Virginia University: Optimization of Liquid Spray Cooling in a Variable Gravity Environment.

    Frank Prochaska, NASA's student campaign manager for the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program, said the space agency has been organizing the flights for students and teachers for about 18 years.

    NASA originally flew microgravity training and research flights aboard its KC-135 "Weightless Wonder" aircraft, which was also known as the "Vomit Comet." The program is based at the Johnson Space Center, with flights originating from Ellington Field. In 2008, NASA began buying weightless flights aboard ZERO-G's G-Force One. ZERO-G has offered commercial weightless flights since 2004.

    Before flight, Prochaska urged the college student teams to perform their experiments carefully, but not to overlook the personal impact of where they are: in weightlessness. More people have climbed to the peak of Mount Everest — the world's tallest mountain — than floated in microgravity, he said.

    "This is it, this is the pinnacle of your parabola here," Prochaska said. "Don't get so focused on your research that you forget to look around."

    NASA's next microgravity flights are scheduled for next week, between July 26 and Aug. 3, as part of the agency's Systems Engineering Education Discovery (SEED) program. The next Microgravity University flights will take off in November, NASA officials said.

    In the meantime, Avery and his UCSD teammates are reveling in what appears to have been a successful experiment and an unforgettable experience. The students will take their data back to UCSD, analyze their findings and then write them up in a final report.

    "I really feel like this was one of those once-in-a-lifetime type of experiences," Avery said.

    Editor's note: Visit SPACE.com next week for more photos and video from the UCSD Microgravity Team's weightless ride. You can learn more about the UCSD Microgravity Team's fire experiment at the team's website here.

    Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, 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: 25 Amazing Photos of the International Space Station
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    This image provided by NASA shows the agency's Terra spacecraft photo showing smoke from a wildfire near Idyllwild, Calif., right, and the Los Angeles area, left. The blaze in the San Jacinto Mountains has expanded to roughly 39 square miles and was 15 percent contained Friday July 19, 2013. (AP Photo/NASA)

    IDYLLWILD, Calif. (AP) - Firefighters got little help from Mother Nature on Saturday as much-needed rainfall from expected thunderstorms didn't materialize for a huge wildfire burning in the Southern California mountains near Palm Springs.

    Fire officials were hopeful the storms, which can also bring wind, lightning and other volatile conditions, would douse some of the flames, but they said there hadn't been any significant rainfall.

    Cooler temperatures overnight, however, helped firefighters make progress on the fire's northern and southern flanks in the San Jacinto Mountains, as personnel worked to spare nearby desert communities from damage.

    The blaze, which grew to roughly 42 square miles, was 49 percent contained, officials said.

    Thunderstorms present a major threat to progress this weekend. Combined with hot air on the ground, the unstable air could create a strong updraft that draws smoke high into the atmosphere, fire spokesman Capt. Mike Lindbery said.

    If the smoke column rises too high, moisture at the top could freeze and the weight of the ice could cause the column to collapse, creating a powerful downdraft in all directions.

    "We're very concerned because this is the condition in the past that has definitely caused big firestorms and the death of citizens and firefighters," Lindbery said.

    Storm cells approached the area Friday afternoon but dissipated before reaching the fire zone. But the threat would remain through the weekend, and fire officials hoped it would be mild cloud cover and high humidity that could help in the firefight.

    The blaze in the San Jacinto Mountains had expanded to roughly 42 square miles and was 49 percent contained, officials said.

    Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, filling in for a vacationing Gov. Jerry Brown, declared a state of emergency for the area Friday night, freeing up more state funding and other resources to help with the protracted firefight that has already cost nearly $11 million.

    Mandatory evacuations remained in place for a fourth day for about 6,000 people, and officials had advised another 700 to evacuate.

    Some communities on the eastern edge of the fire were reopened to residents, but about 5,600 homes remained under potential threat.

    The fire was less than two miles from Idyllwild on its western flank. It was a similar distance from Palm Springs below on the desert floor, where an enormous plume of smoke could be seen, but the blaze was showing little threat of moving toward the much larger city.

    Popular campgrounds, hiking trails and a 30-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from the Mexican border to Canada, remained closed.

    Nearly 3,400 firefighters, aided by nearly 30 aircraft, battled the fire, which stretched in elevation from 4,000 feet to 9,000 feet along the mountains.

    Authorities said the fire was human-caused, but they wouldn't say whether it was accidental or intentional. There have been no reports of injuries.

    The fire, which began Monday, has burned six homes and mobile homes, one cabin, and more than a dozen other buildings.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Oppressive Heat Wave Affects Millions

     

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    Dogs with short snouts, like this Pomeranian, are especially susceptible to overheating. (Getty)

    By KC Theisen

    KC Theisen is director of pet care issues in the companion animals program for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). This article first appeared on the HSUS website. Theisen contributed this article to LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

    Summer can be an uncomfortable -- even dangerous -- time for pets and people. It's difficult enough simply to cope with rising temperatures, but things really get tough in areas that are hit with the double blow of intense heat and storm-caused power outages, sometimes with tragic results.

    The HSUS can help you keep you and your pets safe and cool this summer. Follow these tips for helping everyone in your family stay healthy and comfortable when the heat is on (even if the power isn't).

    Never leave your pets in a parked car

    Do not leave pets in a parked car, not even for a minute, not even with the car running and air conditioner on. On a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels. On an 85-degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. At those temperatures, your pet may suffer irreversible organ damage or die.

    If you see an animal in distress in a parked car, contact the nearest animal shelter or police. Spread the word about the dangers of leaving pets in hot cars by talking to them and by printing out the HSUS Hot Car flyer and posting it in public places, and sharing it with your friends, family and coworkers. (It might help convince some people if you point out that leaving a pet in a car is an invitation to theft -- of the car, the pet or both -- especially if the windows are cracked.)

    Watch the humidity

    "It's important to remember that it's not just the ambient temperature but also the humidity that can affect your pet," says veterinarian Dr. Barry Kellogg of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. "Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves, and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels -- very quickly."

    Taking a dog's temperature will quickly tell you if there is a serious problem. Dogs' temperatures should not be allowed to get over 104 degrees. If your dog's temperature does, follow the instructions for treating heat stroke (see below).

    Limit exercise on hot days

    Take care when exercising your pet. Adjust intensity and duration of exercise in accordance with the temperature. On very hot days, limit exercise to early morning or evening hours -- and be especially careful with pets with white-colored ears, who are more susceptible to skin cancer, and short-nosed pets, who typically have difficulty breathing. Asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pet's paws, so walk your dog on the grass if possible.

    Don't rely on a fan

    Pets respond differently to heat than humans do. (Dogs, for instance, sweat primarily through their feet.) Fans don't cool off pets as effectively as they do people.

    Provide ample shade and water

    Any time your pet is outside, make sure he or she has protection from heat and sun and plenty of fresh, cold water. In heat waves, add ice to water when possible. Tree shade and tarps are ideal because they don't obstruct air flow. A doghouse does not provide relief from heat -- in fact, it makes it worse.

    Cool your pet inside and out

    To keep your pet cool, whip up a batch of quick and easy DIY peanut butter popsicles for dogs. (You can use peanut butter or another favorite food.)

    Keep your pet from overheating indoors or out with a cooling body wrap, vest or mat (such as the Keep Cool Mat). Soak these products in cool water and they'll stay cool (though usually dry) for up to three days.

    Watch for signs of heatstroke

    Extreme temperatures can cause heatstroke. Some signs of heatstroke are heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure and unconsciousness.

    Animals are at particular risk for heat stroke if they are very old, very young, overweight, not conditioned to prolonged exercise or have heart or respiratory disease. Some breeds of dogs -- like boxers, pugs, shih tzus, and other dogs and cats with short muzzles -- will have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat.

    How to treat a pet suffering from heatstroke

    To treat a pet suffering from heatstroke, move your pet into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply ice packs or cold towels to her head, neck and chest or run cool (not cold) water over her. Let her drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Take her directly to a veterinarian.

    Prepare for power outages

    Before a summer storm takes out the power in your home, create a disaster plan to keep your pets safe from heat stroke and other temperature-related trouble.

    This article first appeared as Keep Pets Safe in the Heat on the HSUS website. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This article was originally published on LiveScience.com .

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

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Oppressive Heat Wave Affects Millions

     

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    A man and woman sit in a truck on Tomahawk Rd. flooded by rain waters in Apache Junction, Ariz., Sunday, July 21, 2013. Mesa Fire Dept. were able to walk the two out safely. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Cheryl Evans)

    PHOENIX (AP) - A storm that rolled through metropolitan Phoenix on Sunday morning brought about a half inch of rain, sent water rushing through washes and flooded homes in Scottsdale.

    Authorities said they rescued several motorists who became trapped in their vehicles as they tried to drive through floodwaters. No injuries were reported.

    An unknown number of homes in an area of western Scottsdale were inundated, officials said.

    The downpour prompted the shutdown of U.S. 60 in Tempe, but that closure has since been lifted. State Route 88 northeast of Apache Junction and state Route 238 west of the Pinal County community of Maricopa were also closed.

    Authorities say motorists approaching flooded roads should either turn around and find a new route or wait until floodwaters have receded.

    Areas north of Tucson also were seeing rain Sunday. A flood advisory was issued for an area 15 miles southwest of Kearny.

    On Saturday, southeast Tucson experienced flash flooding from a storm that brought about three-fourths of an inch of rain.

    The storm led to several downed electric power lines in Tucson and two water rescue efforts Saturday.

    A woman in her 40s who was under a Tucson bridge was swept away into a wash by floodwaters. The woman was able to get out of the water on her own and was then taken to a hospital.

    In a separate incident, three children who were playing in a wash that wasn't running became trapped on a sand island by a rush of floodwaters. The children, ages 8, 10 and 12, were rescued.

    An overnight storm also had dropped a half-inch of rain from Yuma to western Maricopa County, though the rainfall reached more than 2 inches in certain spots. There were no reports of flash flooding from that storm.

    The storms that brought rain to many spots in Arizona were expected to end in the coming days as the moist air will once again turn dry.

    "This period of moist weather is almost at an end," said Chris Kuhlman, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Phoenix. "Today (Sunday) will be the last day."

    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    In this Sept. 12, 2008 file photo provided by the U.S. Marine Corps., Capt. Andrew D'Ambrogi, Marine Attack Squadron 211 pilot, prepares to land an AV-8B Harrier at Auxiliary Airfield II, a simulated amphibious assault ship flight deck on the Barry M. Goldwater Range in Yuma, Ariz. (AP Photo/U.S. Marine Corps, Cpl. T.M. Stewman)

    CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - The U.S. Navy said on Monday it is considering salvaging four unarmed bombs dropped by U.S. fighter jets into Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park last week when a training exercise went wrong.

    The two AV-8B Harrier jets launched from the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard during joint exercises with the Australian military each jettisoned an inert, concrete-filled practice bomb and an unarmed laser-guided explosive bomb into the World Heritage-listed marine park off the coast of Queensland state on Tuesday. None exploded.

    The Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest network of coral structures, is rich in marine life and stretches more than 1,800 miles along Australia's northeast coast.

    The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the government manager of the 133,360 square miles protected marine zone, said in a statement that identifying options for the "rapid recovery" of the bombs so that they could pose no risk to the marine park was "a high priority."

    But the authority also said the ordnances posed a "low risk to the marine environment."

    "Based on where the ordnance have been dropped in a location that is in water around 164 feet deep, about 19 miles from the nearest reef and 31 miles from the shoreline, the immediate impact on the marine environment is thought to be negligible," the statement said.

    U.S. 7th Fleet spokesman Lt. David Levy said Monday the Navy was currently reviewing the possibility of retrieving the ordnances in consultation with Australian authorities.

    "If the park service and the government agencies of Australia determine that they want those recovered, then we will coordinate with them on that recovery process," Levy said in an email.

    Levy could not say whether the bombs were damaged or what the effect of long-term immersion in seawater could be.

    The four bombs, weighing a total of 2,000 pounds, were dropped in deep water away from coral to minimize possible damage to the reef, the Navy said.

    The jets from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit had intended to drop the ordnances on the Townshend Island bombing range, but aborted the mission when controllers reported civilian boats in the way.

    The pilots conducted the emergency jettison because they were low on fuel and could not land with their bomb load, the Navy said.

    The authority that manages the marine park said the risk of any bomb detonating was "extremely low."

    The emergency happened on the second day of the biennial joint training exercise Talisman Saber, which brings together 28,000 U.S. and Australian military personnel over three weeks.

    The Navy and Marine Corps were working with Australian authorities to investigate the incident, the Navy said.

    Australian Sen. Larissa Waters, the influential Greens party's spokeswoman on the Great Barrier Reef, described the dumping of bombs in such an environmentally sensitive area as "outrageous" and said it should not be allowed.

    "Have we gone completely mad?" she told Australian Broadcasting Corp. "Is this how we look after our World Heritage area now? Letting a foreign power drop bombs on it?"

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Breathtaking Images of Earth from Space

     

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    In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, rescuers clear the debris of a damaged house in quake-hit Majiagou Village of Minxian County, northwest China's Gansu Province, Monday, July 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Guo Gang)

    BEIJING (AP) - A strong earthquake that shook an arid, hilly farming area in northwest China sparked landslides and destroyed or damaged thousands of brick-and-mud homes Monday, killing at least 75 people and injuring more than 400, the government said.

    The quake near the city of Dingxi in Gansu province toppled brick walls and telephone lines, shattered mud-and-tile-roofed houses and sent cascades of dirt and rock down hillsides that blocked roads and slowed rescue efforts by crews trying to reach remote areas.

    Hospitals set up aid stations in parking lots to accommodate large numbers of injured, while hundreds of paramilitary People's Armed Police fanned out to search for victims in the region of terraced farmland where the quake struck about 1,200 kilometers (760 miles) west of Beijing.

    "I saw the bulb hanging from the ceiling start swinging wildly around. I woke my two friends and we ran into the bathroom to hide," said arts student Li Jingui, 21, who was on the fourth floor of a school dormitory in Dingxi when the shaking started.

    "After the strongest tremors were over, we were worried that there would be aftershocks so we packed our stuff and ran out into a large clearing," Li said in a telephone interview.

    In addition to the 75 confirmed dead, there were 14 people missing and 459 injured, the central government's China Earthquake Administration said.

    Damage was worst in Min county in Dingxi's rural southern portion, where scores of homes were damaged and telephone and electricity services knocked out, Dingxi Mayor Tang Xiaoming told state broadcaster CCTV. All but three of the deaths, all the missing and most of the injured were in Min, a likely result of shoddy construction.

    Residents said the shaking lasted about one minute, but wasn't strong enough to cause major damage in urban areas, where buildings are more solidly built.

    "You could see the chandeliers wobble and the windows vibrating and making noise, but there aren't any cracks in the walls. Shop assistants all poured out onto the streets when the shaking began," said a front desk clerk at the Wuyang Hotel in the Zhang County seat about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the epicenter. The clerk surnamed Bao refrained from identifying herself further, as is common among ordinary Chinese.

    Tremors were felt in the provincial capital of Lanzhou 177 kilometers (110 miles) north, and as far away as Xi'an, 400 kilometers (250 miles) to the east.

    The government's earthquake monitoring center said the initial quake at 7:45 a.m. (2345 GMT Sunday) was magnitude-6.6 and subsequent tremors included a magnitude-5.6.

    The quake was shallow, which can be more destructive. The center said it struck about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) beneath the surface, while the Gansu provincial earthquake administration said it was just 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) deep. The U.S. Geological Survey measured the magnitude of the initial quake as 5.9 and the depth at 10 kilometers (6 miles).

    Initial measurements of an earthquake can vary widely, especially if different monitoring equipment is used.

    Su Wei, leader of a 120-member rescue team from the paramilitary People's Armed Police, told state broadcaster CCTV that they were on their way to the epicenter, but progress was being slowed by mud and rock slides blocking the road.

    The Chinese Red Cross said it was shipping 200 tents, 1,000 sets of household items, and 2,000 jackets to the area and sending teams from both Lanzhou and Beijing to help with relief work and assess further needs.

    Heavy rain is expected in the area later in the week, raising the need for shelter and increasing the chance of further landslides.

    Almost 2,000 homes were either destroyed or heavily damaged, with thousands more suffering partial damage, according to the Dingxi government website. It said 14,066 households were without power and five county and township roads had been cut.

    Gansu province, a region of mountains, desert and pastureland with a population of 26 million, is one of China's more lightly populated provinces, although the New Jersey-sized area of Dingxi has a greater concentration of farms in rolling hills terraced for crops and fruit trees. Dingxi has a total population of about 2.7 million.

    China's worst earthquake in recent years was a 7.9-magnitude temblor that struck the southwestern province of Sichuan in 2008, leaving 90,000 people dead or missing.

     

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    Villagers look at Merapi volcano Cangkringan, Indonesia, Monday, July 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Slamet Riyadi)

    YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - Indonesia's most volatile volcano spewed smoke and ash Monday, forcing hundreds of people to flee their villages along its slopes, a disaster official said.

    Mount Merapi on the main island of Java rumbled as heavy rain fell around its cloud-covered crater, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, disaster mitigation agency spokesman.

    The volcano unleashed a column of dark red volcanic material 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) into the air, and the ash made the rain thick and muddy in several villages as terrified residents fled to safety, he said.

    The sound was heard 30 kilometers (18 miles) away, but an eruption did not occur and the volcano's alert level was not raised, Nugroho said.

    The 2,968-meter (9,737-foot) mountain is the most active of 500 Indonesian volcanoes. Its last major eruption in 2010 killed 347 people.

    Indonesia, an archipelago of 240 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it sits along the Pacific "Ring of Fire," a horseshoe-shaped series of fault lines.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Breathtaking Volcanic Eruptions Seen from Space

     

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    The return of more frequent showers and thunderstorms to the mid-Atlantic and Northeast will keep the intense heat at bay, but could lead to localized flash flooding.

    After a more comfortable end to the weekend across New York and New England, higher humidity will surge back northward through Tuesday.

    With the rise in humidity will come the return of showers and thunderstorms from the mid-Atlantic, some of which will be drenching.

    Drier and less humid air will quickly return to the St. Lawrence Valley later in the week, while the thunderstorms linger across the mid-Atlantic and eastern New England.



    In addition to interfering with outdoor activities, any downpours across the mid-Atlantic and Northeast this week threaten to create problems for motorists.

    Downpours will dramatically lower visibility, while vehicles traveling at highway speeds will be susceptible to hydroplaning as water ponds on roads.

    A localized number of the downpours will cause flash flooding in urban and poor drainage areas, as well as along small streams and creeks.

    That is especially true underneath any slow-moving thunderstorm or in places that see repeated rounds of thunderstorms.

    RELATED:
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    Forecast Temperature Maps
    Latest Flood Watches, Warnings


    Daily thunderstorms and the localized flood threat will prove to be reminiscent to what occurred during much of June into the first few days of July, according to AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

    Despite the recent heat wave, rainfall totals are still running well above normal since June 1, throughout the mid-Atlantic and Northeast due to the wet spell in June.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    A storm will move closer to the Great Lakes on Monday, bringing a chance for severe weather to southern Canada through Missouri.

    The same system that brought severe thunderstorms and tornado reports to North Dakota on Sunday will make its way eastward to start the workweek.

    By the afternoon, strong, and even severe thunderstorms will stretch from Thunder Bay in southern Ontario to Minneapolis, Minn., and La Crosse, Wis., to northern Iowa, including Mason City.

    The primary threats as these storms move through will be damaging wind gusts and large hail. Storms also have the potential to bring torrential downpours that could inhibit travel.

    However, an isolated tornado cannot be ruled out. The greatest risk for tornadoes extends from northern Wisconsin, north of Wausau into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Thunder Bay.

    RELATED:
    Northeast Regional Radar
    Forecast Temperature Maps
    Latest Flood Watches, Warnings


    Storms will likely be most severe in the afternoon and evening as the storms move eastward and threaten even more cities. Affected areas from the evening, into the overnight, include Madison, Wis., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Kansas City. Chicago also could have a gusty storm.

    Again, the primary threat will be hail and gusty, damaging winds.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    July 22, 2013

    This image of Earth was taken on July 19, 2013 and received on Earth July 20, 2013. The camera was about 898,414,528 miles away. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

    Our planet might have been ready for its close-up, but this particular camera wasn't going to capture that kind of image.

    NASA'S Cassini spacecraft, orbiting Saturn roughly 900 million miles away, turned its camera on Earth on July 19 and captured several images of the planet, a tiny speck of light amidst the blackness of space.

    The images were taken while North America was in sunlight. People gathered at observatories and elsewhere to wave toward Saturn. Many tweeted about the experience with the hashtag #WaveAtSaturn.

    SEE ON SKYE: Stunning New Images of Earth Captured by Cassini

     

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    Amalio Medina sits in front of his shop without AC in the midday heat, Thursday, July 18, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

    While the recent heat wave did not set many record high temperatures, records have fallen based on the duration of heat.

    This summer has been responsible for some rather uncomfortable sleeping weather. Many nights have been warm and muggy in the Northeast.

    In Philadelphia, temperatures have not dropped below 70 degrees since June 23. This 28-day stretch is the longest string of days at or above 70-degrees since records have been kept in 1872. The old record was 26 consecutive days at or above 70 degrees set during the summer of 1876 and more recently in 1995.

    New York City has experienced three consecutive nights where the temperature was above 80 degrees, spanning July 18-20.

    In Washington, D.C., the temperature failed to drop below 80 degrees for five nights during the recent heat wave.

    According to warning coordinator meteorologist Chris Strong at the Baltimore/Washington area NWS office, the five-day string of 80-degree or greater low temperatures is a record.

    The four-day period starting on July 21, 2011, was the most recent record-holder with three days beginning on July 5, 2012, being number two.

    High temperatures have not been exceptional in Washington, D.C., at least, Strong said of the recent heat wave, but high humidity has contributed to very warm nights.

    RELATED:
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    Latest Flood Watches, Warnings

    Strong described this record streak as "amazing," adding, "At least the string was broken this morning."

    The temperature in Washington, D.C., Monday morning finally fell below 80, dropping to 77 degrees.

    Meanwhile, in the South, daytime and nighttime temperatures have been notably lower this summer.

    Day and night time temperatures have averaged nearly two degrees warmer in Washington, D.C., compared to Atlanta.

    According to expert senior meteorologists Dale Mohler, "Columbia, S.C., typically hits 100 degrees at least once during about 75 percent of the summers."

    Columbia's highest temperature thus far has only been 96 degrees.

    New York City's John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) and Boston's Logan International Airport (BOS) have been hotter by day than Columbia and Atlanta, Ga. JFK reached 100 degrees on July 18 and BOS reached 99 degrees on July 19. Both locations each set some of the few daily record highs during the heat wave.

    The hottest Atlanta has been so far this summer is 92 degrees on June 28. At about 1,000 feet above sea level and farther inland from the coast, Atlanta's climate during the summer is on par with Washington, D.C. However, the warmest night Atlanta has experienced this summer so far was 74 degrees on June 27.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Oppressive Heat Wave Affects Millions

     

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    Firefighters take cover at Lake Hemet Market as Louie Delegge walks around under his sun shade in the heavy rains on Sunday, July 21, 2013. (AP Photo/The Press-Enterprise, Terry Pierson)

    IDYLLWILD, Calif. (AP) - A Southern California wildfire that destroyed seven homes and threatened the mountain town of Idyllwild was sluggish after a thunderstorm drenched the timberland, and more storms doused the remaining flames on Monday.

    The 43-square-mile fire above Palm Springs was 85 percent contained. It didn't move overnight and crews concentrated Monday on surrounding it on ridges thousands of feet up in the San Jacinto Mountains, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Lee Beyer said.

    "It's pretty much in the smoldering category right now," Beyer said. "There's no moving fire."

    The rain was beneficial for firefighters, but powerful downpours also raise the potential for flooding and mudslides in recently burned areas, prompting authorities to issue a voluntary evacuation warning for about 20 homes several miles southeast of Idyllwild.

    With rain in the area "it has the potential to be more serious," Beyer said. "If it's raining hard now, it's going to be bringing the mud down in a very short time."

    Thousands of evacuees were allowed back home Sunday as a thunderstorm dumped up to 2 inches of rain on portions of the week-old fire.

    About 1,900 firefighters were assigned, down from some 3,300 at the fire's height, and more will be removed as the fight winds down, Beyer said.

    More storms are expected in the next couple of days - and that could prove a mixed blessing, he said.

    "Light rains are good; heavy rains create mud flows," Beyer said. "Thunderstorms obviously have lightning with them. That's always a safety concern when you have people up on those exposed ridges."

    Crews also must watch out for possible falling burnt trees, he said.

    Some 6,000 people fled the idyllic little towns that dot the San Jacinto Mountains between Palm Springs and Hemet after the fire broke out July 15 and quickly raged across the heavily wooded area. Twenty-three structures, including the seven homes, were destroyed. There were no reports of injuries.

    Authorities have said the fire was human-caused but wouldn't say whether it was accidental or intentional.

    Full containment is expected on Wednesday.

     

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    A woman sits on the remnants of a quake destroyed house in Lalu village of Hetuo township in Minxian in northwest China's Gansu province Monday, July 22, 2013. (AP Photo)

    BEIJING (AP) - Rescuers with shovels and sniffer dogs chipped away at collapsed hillsides Tuesday as the death toll rose to 94 from a strong earthquake in a farming region of northwest China.

    Just one person was listed as missing and 1,001 as injured in Monday morning's quake near the city of Dingxi in Gansu province.

    About 123,000 people were affected by the quake, with 31,600 moved to temporary shelters, the provincial earthquake administration said on its website. Almost 2,000 homes were completely destroyed, and about 22,500 damaged, the administration said.

    The quake toppled brick walls and telephone lines, shattered mud-and-tile-roofed houses and sent cascades of dirt and rock down hillsides, blocking roads and slowing rescue efforts by crews trying to reach remote areas.

    Hospitals set up aid stations in parking lots to accommodate the injured, while hundreds of paramilitary People's Armed Police fanned out to search for victims in the region of terraced farmland where the quake struck about 1,200 kilometers (760 miles) west of Beijing.

    Min county in Dingxi's rural south accounted for almost all the deaths and the worst damage.

    Urban areas where buildings are more solid were spared major damage, unlike the traditional mud and brick homes in the countryside.

    Tremors were felt in the provincial capital of Lanzhou 177 kilometers (110 miles) north, and as far away as Xi'an, 400 kilometers (250 miles) to the east.

    The government's earthquake monitoring center said the quake was magnitude-6.6, while the U.S. Geological Survey said it was 5.9. Measurements can often vary, especially if different monitoring equipment is used.

    The Chinese Red Cross said it was shipping 200 tents, 1,000 sets of household items, and 2,000 jackets to the area. Other supplies were being shipped in by the army and paramilitary police, which dispatched around 6,000 personnel and two helicopters to aid in rescue efforts.

    But heavy rain is expected later in the week, raising the need for shelter and increasing the chance of further landslides.

    Gansu, with a population of 26 million, is one of China's more lightly populated provinces, although the New Jersey-sized area of Dingxi has a greater concentration of farms in rolling hills terraced for crops and fruit trees. Dingxi has a population of about 2.7 million.

    China's worst earthquake in recent years was a 7.9-magnitude temblor that struck the southwestern province of Sichuan in 2008, leaving 90,000 people dead or missing.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Breathtaking New Photos of Earth From Space

     

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    (Shutterstock)

    As a sharp cold front cuts through an air mass thick with humidity, showers and thunderstorms will bubble up from Kansas into Ohio.

    Some of the cities and towns most at risk include Wichita, Kansas City, Springfield, Fayetteville, Paducah, Evansville, Cincinnati and Columbus.

    While there will be a storm or two around on Tuesday morning with brief gusty winds and heavy downpours, the biggest impacts will come in the afternoon and evening hours as new storms fire across the region.

    It should be stressed that not everyone will see a storm, but those that do run the risk of wind gusts to 60 mph, hail as large as ping pong or even golf balls, blinding rain and an isolated tornado.



    Wind gusts to 60 mph can uproot trees and bring down power poles. They can also blow around any unsecured objects left outside.

    Hail as large as ping-pong balls or golf balls can cause damage to crops, especially corn. It can also injure livestock and damage vehicles.

    If you plan to travel on Interstate 70, 44 or 35, to name a few, be on the lookout for quickly changing skies and the potential for blinding rain ahead. If you encounter blinding rain, put your four-way flashers on and pull off to a safe area of the roadway until the storm passes.

    Those who will be out and about on Tuesday afternoon or evening from Wichita to Cincinnati will also need to keep a keen eye to the sky. Once thunderstorms develop this afternoon, they will strengthen quickly, and dangerous conditions could follow soon after.

    Current technology has advanced enough over recent years to provide ample alerts 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.

    RELATED:
    Northeast Regional Radar
    Forecast Temperature Maps
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    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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    (Jeff Last/Twitter)

    Residents of Iron Mountain, Mich., were treated to an extraordinary display of bulbous-looking clouds on Monday night. The phenomenon was captured by Joe Nottage, who posted the image on Facebook and asked, "Can anyone explain this?" Meteorologist Jeff Last tweeted the photo and wrote, "Mammatus in Iron Mt, Mich this evening. Taken by Joe Nottage. #miwx pic.twitter.com/83lsFPlBtw."

    What caused the formation of the ball-like clouds? As Last noted in his tweet, these are actually mammatus clouds, a pattern of pouches bubbling beneath the base of a larger cloud. Mammatus clouds may look ominous, and sometimes they foreshadow trouble. In fact, mammatus clouds can indicate severe thunderstorms are imminent. The clouds form following sharp gradients in temperature, moisture and wind shear, and can extend for hundreds of miles.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 10 Incredible Photos of Strange Mammatus Clouds
    Mammatus Clouds

     

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    Tuesday, July 23, 2013


    Editor's Note: The video above contains profanity.

    Two divers off of Morro Bay along the Central California coast were nearly swallowed whole by humpback whales. Shawn Stamback and Francis Antigua were hoping to photograph the whales from a distance of about a quarter of a mile when a school of sardines swarmed past. Moments later, two huge, open-mouthed humpbacks thrust out of the water, narrowly missing the divers.

    According to GrindTV, the whales were catching fish using vertical lunge-feeding techniques. Watch the video to see the incredibly close call.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 15 Truly Bizarre Creatures of the Deep
    Mola Mola

     

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