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SKYE on AOL

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    (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

    PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Philadelphia has set a record for one-day rainfall as strong storms rolled through the region.

    The National Weather Service says 8.02 inches of rain fell in the city Sunday, shattering the previous record of 6.63 inches set during Tropical Storm Floyd on Sept. 16, 1999.

    Heavy rains caused flash flooding, power outages and airport delays.

    A spokeswoman for Philadelphia International Airport says some sections of Terminal A lost power for a few hours because of the storms and backup generators failed. Flights were delayed, but the spokeswoman says all of the runways remained open during the outage.

    The soaking rains also flooded roads and caused traffic headaches.

    Drier weather is on the way just in time for the start of the workweek.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    Weeks of heavy rain in Northwest China have caused flooding and landslides that have affected hundreds of thousands of people. This stunning video taken on a mountain pass in Shaanxi province recently shows a landslide completely engulfing a moving car. Incredibly, the car's four occupants walked away from the disaster.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Extreme Flooding Across China
    China Flooding

     

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    Monday, July 29, 2013, at 5:44 p.m. PT
    Tropical Storm Flossie
    This photo of Tropical Storm Flossie was captured by NASA''s AQUA satellite Sunday, July 28, 2013. (NASA Goddard MODIS)

    HONOLULU (AP) - Forecasters monitoring a tropical storm threatening Hawaii were still warning residents and tourists on Monday to brace for possible flooding, wind gusts, mudslides and big waves, even as the storm appeared to weaken.

    Earlier, local television stations extended morning news, pre-empting syndicated daytime shows to cover the storm's approach.

    But Tropical Storm Flossie faded through the morning, thanks to winds that broke layers of the storm apart, said Tom Evans, acting director of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center. Forecasters expected it to be downgraded to a tropical depression within 24 hours.

    Residents and government officials began preparing on Sunday for the storm's arrival. College campuses and courts were closed on Monday on the Big Island, and the Red Cross was gathering volunteers to staff 24 shelters statewide.

    The U.S. Coast Guard closed three ports - two on the Big Island where the storm was expected first and a third port on Maui. Airports statewide were open Monday but many flights were being canceled.

    Trails and campgrounds also were closed on the Big Island, where state officials warned people to avoid forest areas until Flossie clears.

    Officials warned people to cancel beach trips, finish necessary storm preparations and leave their homes if asked by local officials.

    "I woke up to blue skies. It was just a beautiful day out," Ian Shortridge, 22, of Kealakekua, on the west side of the Big Island, said Monday. "It hasn't rained all morning. We are waiting for the rain."

    Shortridge said he saw McDonald's employees boarding up windows on Sunday. Store shelves were running low of essentials like bottled water and toilet paper, he said.

    Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has signed an emergency proclamation that allows the state to use its disaster fund to pay for staff overtime, supplies and other resources. The proclamation also gives state officials the option to call Hawaii National Guard members to duty.

    The center of the storm was about 90 miles northeast of Hilo on the Big Island on Monday morning.

    Forecasters said the storm would likely bring rain of up to 6 inches on parts of the Big Island and up to 2 inches on other islands. The storm's 40 mph winds will continue to weaken, Evans said.

    Evans said tropical storm warnings will remain in effect for all of Hawaii's islands until Flossie is classified as a depression rather than a storm.

    The warnings mean the storm represents a threat to life and property.


    RELATED ON SKYE: 30 Stunning Photos of Powerful Hurricanes
    Hurricane Ike

     

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    Few people visited Waikiki beach in Honolulu on Monday, July 29, 2013, as Tropical Storm Flossie approached Hawaii. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)

    HONOLULU (AP) - Flossie's Hawaiian adventure: Short, scattered and more powerful than many believed it would be at first.

    National Weather Service officials say the tropical depression is expected to exit Hawaii on Tuesday as a weakened version of the storm that prompted school and court closures and an emergency declaration from Gov. Neil Abercrombie before hitting shore.

    But hours after surfers caught waves on the Big Island and tourists sunbathed despite showers and overcast skies in Waikiki, Flossie made its mark on the state with widespread thunder and lightning, heavy rain and winds that knocked out power to thousands on several islands.

    "Mother nature throws curve balls at us to make us more busy," said Michael Cantin, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu.

    Maui County officials said Monday night that widespread power outages were affecting water service on many parts of Maui and Molokai, with no estimate of when power will be restored.

    Winds and rainfall from the faltering system earlier knocked out power for about 6,500 people on Maui and the Big Island.

    On Oahu, rolling thunder rumbled across the most populous island in the chain, causing the term "thunder" to trend in Honolulu on Twitter.

    "Be sure to have your flashlights charged and ready," Abercrombie said on his official Twitter account.

    Forecasters said the thunderstorms could bring small hail to Oahu.

    The National Weather Service canceled all storm warnings for Tropical Storm Flossie in Hawaii on Monday evening, keeping a flash flood watch in effect statewide until Tuesday night. The service later issued a flash flood warning for Maui, where live television footage showed thunder and lightning, fast-moving clouds and plenty of rain and wind.

    At one point, rain fell at rates of 4 inches per hour, and the service recommended people in low-lying areas move to higher ground right away.

    Weather officials said a downgraded Flossie could still cause outages and road closures, with wind gusts up to 40 mph through mountain passes.

    The downgrade came before Flossie hit Oahu. With the depression still a few hours away, emergency officials dealt with a high number of accidents - including six within an hour on one road connecting the eastern side of the island with the main part of Honolulu.

    Darren Pai, spokesman for Hawaiian Electric Company, said about 4,500 people were without power on the Big Island on Monday night as the utility responded to multiple outages that started in the late morning. Another roughly 2,000 people lost power in Kihei, Maui, but were restored. Other outages were reported in Hana and Piiholo before being restored, Pai said.

    Flossie faded through the morning thanks to winds that broke layers of the storm apart, said Tom Evans, acting director of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.

    Warnings about the storm didn't stop some tourists from heading to popular beaches, despite urgings from state officials to cancel all beach trips until further notice. In Waikiki, beaches were unusually sparse as those outside contended with overcast skies and rain ahead of Flossie's arrival.

    Kelly Tarkington, a college student from Savannah, Ga., got a sunburn from spending eight hours on the beach Sunday but had to take refuge from the rain under a beach umbrella Monday along with her aunt.

    "I'm mostly worried about our flight out of here tomorrow night," Tarkington said.

    Residents and government officials spent the weekend preparing for the storm's arrival. In addition to the closures, shelters opened statewide.

    The U.S. Coast Guard closed three ports - two on the Big Island where the storm was expected first, and a third port on Maui. Airports statewide were open Monday but many flights were being canceled.

    Trails and campgrounds also were closed on the Big Island.

    Officials warned people to leave their homes if asked.

    "I woke up to blue skies. It was just a beautiful day out," Ian Shortridge, 22, of Kealakekua, on the west side of the Big Island, said Monday.

    Shortridge said he saw McDonald's employees boarding up windows Sunday. Store shelves were running low of essentials like bottled water and toilet paper, he said.

    Melanie and Ian Jenkins of Portsmouth, England, tried to catch some sun lying on Waikiki Beach but were close to giving up as raindrops fell on the sand.

    "It's still warmer than England," Ian Jenkins said.

    Karen Eckert, who operates Mango Sunset Bed & Breakfast on a family coffee farm in Kailua-Kona, said some of her guests changed their plans as she secured windows and moved outdoor furniture inside.

    "The tops of coffee trees look like they are doing the wave at a baseball game or something. They are bending over at least 30 degrees," she said. "I hope they'll be alright."

    RELATED ON SKYE: 30 Stunning Photos of Powerful Hurricanes
    Hurricane Ike

     

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    A member, center, of a missing group of 20 South Korean climbers, arrives at a police station in Komagane, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, after descending a mountain in the Central Alps, Tuesday, July 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Kyodo News)

    TOKYO (AP) - Police said Tuesday that four South Korean climbers have died apparently after developing hypothermia in bad weather in Japan's Central Alps.

    Rescuers earlier found the bodies of three of the climbers Tuesday on a popular mountain trail at an elevation of nearly 3,000 meters (9,900 feet) connecting two mountains, Mt. Hinokio and Mt. Hoken, Nagano prefectural police official Akira Ito said. The area is part of a mountain range known as the Central Alps.

    A fourth man was later found dead about 100 meters (300 feet) below a trail he apparently fell off, Ito said.

    The four were part of a group of 20 South Korean amateur climbers aged between their 40s and 70s.

    A coroner who examined the bodies of the first three men, believed to be in their 70s, cited hypothermia as the cause of their deaths, Ito said. An examination of the fourth body is pending.

    The group began climbing Sunday without a Japanese guide and sought help after nine of them were separated from the group amid a rain storm and thick fog that hit the area Monday. All but the four were confirmed safe.

    The area is not a place for picnicking and requires full preparation and physical strength, Ito said. Police interviews with some of the group's survivors have not revealed any obvious problems in their preparations, he said.

    In 2009, eight Japanese senior citizens died of hypothermia after being hit by a rain storm while climbing a mountain in Hokkaido in the north of the country. That case exposed the risks of mountain climbing as a growing trend among senior citizens in Japan as a way to stay healthy.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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    A helicopter crash in a remote, wooded area of northeastern Pennsylvania claimed the lives of five people, state police said Sunday, July 28, 2013. (AP Photo/The Times Leader, Aimee Dilger)

    NOXEN, Pa. (AP) - Severe thunderstorms and heavy fog were reported around the time a helicopter crashed in northeastern Pennsylvania on Saturday, killing all five people on board, including a child, officials said Monday.

    Search and rescue crews scouring the rugged, wooded area where the helicopter crashed on Saturday night encountered heavy fog, National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Peter Knudson said.

    Early indications are that the helicopter was caught in a thunderstorm, said Loretta Conley, a spokeswoman for the company that owns the craft. A county coroner investigating crash also said strong storms had passed through the region around the time the helicopter went down.

    The pilot contacted air traffic controllers around 10:30 p.m. Saturday to report he was losing altitude and would try to return to a nearby airfield, Wyoming County coroner Thomas Kukuchka said Sunday.

    "That's when he went off radar," Kukuchka said.

    The coroner's office on Monday identified the victims as 58-year-old Bernard Michael Kelly, of Ellicott City, Md.; his 27-year-old daughter, Leanna Mee Kelly, of Savage, Md.; 29-year-old Carl Robert Woodland, of Lovettsville, Va.; his 3-year-old son, Noah Robert McKain Woodland, of Leesburg, Va.; and 30-year-old David Ernest Jenny Jr., of Towson, Md. It didn't say who was piloting the helicopter.

    All five died of multiple traumatic injuries when the helicopter crashed near Noxen, a picturesque town of about 1,000 residents.

    Knudson said he did not know the reason for the flight.

    The wreckage was heavily fragmented but there was no fire after the crash, Knudson said. The aircraft was equipped with a device that records engine parameters for maintenance purposes, and that will be examined in Washington for clues as to the cause of the crash.

    No witnesses to the crash had been found, but authorities are still searching for anyone who might have seen it, Knudson said.

    The flight originated at Tri Cities Airport in Endicott, N.Y. Records show the helicopter, an R66 Rotorcraft, refueled at Tri Cities at 4:10 p.m. Saturday, airport manager Gerard Corprew said.

    Corprew said the helicopter must have gone back to the airport at least once more, however, because a father and young son later killed in the crash were still waiting to be picked up when he left at 7 p.m.

    The type of helicopter that crashed is sometimes used for tours, Corprew said, and can seat four plus a pilot. It also can be used for training new pilots.

    A tail number Corprew provided showed the aircraft is owned by Robinson Helicopter Co., of Torrance, Calif., according to an FAA records check. Conley said the company "is saddened by the loss of lives." She said the helicopter had been sold to a Robinson Helicopter dealer in Hampton Roads, Va.

    The company sent investigators to assist the federal probe, which is being led by the National Transportation Safety Board. An NTSB official in charge of the scene did not immediately return a call for comment Monday.

    The coroner and police said rough weather contributed to the difficulty of the search. The wreckage was located shortly before 2 p.m. Sunday.

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    (Getty Images)

    While there is a chance that Dorian may restrengthen, the tropical system will still impact those along its path this week with heavy rainfall, regardless of its official classification.

    After losing its tropical storm status on Saturday, Dorian is a tropical rainstorm racing westward through the southwestern Atlantic.

    With the path of Dorian is forecast to be along the Turks and Caicos, southern Bahamas and South Florida, people in these areas should be prepared for torrential downpours and the risk of low-lying area and urban flooding.

    However, AccuWeather.com meteorologists will continue to monitor Dorian since the atmosphere is showing signs of becoming more conducive for Dorian to regain tropical storm strength during the next couple of days.



    If Dorian returns to tropical storm status, that would raise the potential for damaging winds and dangerous surf to Turks and Caicos, Bahamas and South Florida. It could also mean heavier rainfall and a greater risk for flooding.

    Even if such restrengthening fails to occur, Dorian will not pass unnoticed to those living along and near its path.

    More numerous drenching and gusty showers and thunderstorms from Dorian may graze Hispaniola and will spread in a southeast-to-northwest fashion across the Turks and Caicos, southern and central Bahamas and eastern Cuba Tuesday through Wednesday.

    Flash flooding and mudslides are a concern, as well as minor tree damage and power outages.

    The danger of rough surf will also shift from east to west from the Leeward Islands to the Bahamas through Wednesday.

    RELATED:
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    Latest Statistics on Dorian
    Flossie Brings Flooding Rain, Strong Winds


    Dorian is forecast to travel far enough to the northwest Thursday and Friday to enhance showers and thunderstorms across South Florida, including in Miami, Key West and Fort Lauderdale.

    For motorists, the accompanying downpours could the visibility and increase the risk of vehicles to hydroplane.

    Beyond Thursday, Dorian could make a right hand curve and travel along or just off the Southeast coast. Other options include a westward path into the southern Gulf of Mexico or the system breaking up near Florida.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 30 Stunning Photos of Powerful Hurricanes
    Hurricane Ike

     

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    A number of tornadoes reportedly touched down near Milan, Italy, on Monday. This video shows incredible footage taken inside an office building as the center of a tornado passes by. The terrifying video shows debris flying through the air, particularly after the first :40 seconds of the video. According the Washington Post, some injuries and damage to buildings were reported.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Stunning Photos from the 2013 Tornado Season
    Kansas Torndao

     

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    Dorian

    While Dorian is likely to remain disorganized, disruptive downpours will continue to spread northwestward from the Bahamas to South Florida into the end of the week.

    In most cases, Dorian's impact will be an unwanted downpour or brief squall, but for a few locations, it could be more significant.

    Dorian is essentially a tropical wave, or a very weak tropical disturbance at this time, but it still poses travel disruptions and perhaps occasional risks to lives and property.

    People in the path of Dorian should continue to monitor the system, especially from the standpoint of enhanced rainfall, possible flooding and locally gusty thunderstorms.

    Popular cruise stops in Nassau and Freeport, Bahamas, bathers and sun worshipers at Miami Beach and people vacationing in Orlando could face some disruptions. Locally gusty storms could cause delays at the airports in Miami, Tampa and Orlando and along I-75, I-95 and the Florida Turnpike.

    During Wednesday into Thursday, areas likely to be impacted the most from Dorian would be the central and southern Bahamas to central Cuba.

    From late Thursday into Saturday, the area from the northern Bahamas to South Florida and central and western Cuba would have the most impact from the system.

    The odds are greatly against Dorian from becoming a hurricane, and it may never regain tropical storm status.

    RELATED:
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    Latest Statistics on Dorian
    Hawaii's Flossie Brings Flooding Rain, Strong Winds

    Occasionally, the downpours associated with the struggling system can organize into something a bit more robust.

    These unpredictable flare-ups of showers and thunderstorms can produce torrential rainfall and gusty winds. During such an event, several inches of rain can fall in as many hours and winds could be strong enough to down trees, power lines and cause minor property damage.

    Localized torrential downpours can lead to urban and low-lying area flooding, while strong wind gusts can catch small craft operators offguard.

    Rounds of tropical downpours are common in the tropics, during the summer and early autumn as weak disturbances roll along from east to west in the trade winds.

    Disruptive winds at mid-levels of the atmosphere will be the main deterrent to explosive redevelopment of Dorian. The system could totally break up over or near the Florida Peninsula toward this coming weekend.

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    Hurricane Ike

     

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    July 30, 2013

    Lightning strikes the Willis Tower on June 12, 2013, in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

    According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control, American men are almost six times more likely to be struck and killed by lightning than women. From 1968 to 2010, a total of 3,389 lightning deaths were reported in the U.S.; 85 percent of those fatalities were males while only 15 percent were females.

    RELATED ON SKYE: More Lightning Deaths from Fishing than Golf

    Deaths from lightning in the U.S. have been steadily declining since the start of the report. In the four decades studied, deaths have decreased by 78.6 percent among men and 70.6 percent among women.


    (CDC)

    A study released by NOAA on June 24 revealed similar findings. The report showed that from 2006 to 2012, 238 people were struck and killed by lightning in the U.S., and 82 percent of those deaths were men.

    The NOAA report also found that two thirds of lightning deaths occurred while the victims were participating in an outdoor leisure activities. Fishing tops the list of those activities, accounting for 26 deaths.

    So far this year, 14 people -- eight males and six females -- have been killed by lightning.

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

     

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    Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 4:03 p.m. PT

    Few people visited Waikiki beach in Honolulu on Monday, July 29, 2013, as Tropical Storm Flossie approached Hawaii. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)

    HONOLULU (AP) - A tropical storm that rolled through Hawaii Monday and early Tuesday dissipated, leaving little damage and no reports of deaths or major injuries.


    Flossie was classified as a tropical storm but then weakened into a depression Monday afternoon. Weather officials said Tuesday that it no longer has any real organization or well-defined center.

    Flash flood watches were still in effect on Oahu and Kauai in the western part of the state, but by midmorning in downtown Honolulu, skies were gray with streaks of blue and scattered rain.

    Utility crews were working to restore power to parts of Maui, where about 500 households scattered across the island were still without electricity. Fire poles and electrical lines came down, cutting power to some customers from Waiehu to Nahiku, Maui Electric officials said.

    Maui Electric spokeswoman Kaui Awai-Dickson said power was expected to be restored later Tuesday for a majority of customers.

    The outages caused disruptions in water service in Haiku, where wells were not running, Maui County officials said.

    Earlier Monday night, lightning strikes knocked out power to the entire island of Molokai for less than an hour, while the Big Island and Maui saw separate outages affecting about 6,500 customers, utility officials said. Another outage affected 4,000 customers on Maui, but most were restored early Tuesday morning.

    Awai-Dickson said the outages were caused by lightning strikes to electrical equipment and fallen trees.

    Carolyn Sluyter, spokeswoman for the Hawaii Department of Transportation, said Kahului Airport had a brief power outage that caused a couple flight delays, but airports statewide remained open.

    She said airlines were working to reschedule flights that had been canceled in and out of the state during the storm.

    Shelly Kunishige, spokeswoman for Hawaii State Civil Defense, said the agency did not receive any reports of major damage except to an emergency siren on Maui that was knocked over.

    Kunishige said the siren was already scheduled for regular maintenance, including retrofitting.

    "It was basically knocked over," she said.

    Haleakala National Park, the widely popular volcano destination on Maui, reopened Tuesday morning with officials cautioning that visitors might be delayed on trails and roads as crews cleared small tree branches and rocks.

    Many state parks also reopened, though some parks in remote areas of the Big Island, Maui and Kauai stayed closed because of debris, flooded roads and other reasons.

    Maui County officials said there were two reports of buildings being hit by lightning, but neither caused injuries or a fire. One strike at a home in Kahului bore a 10-inch hole through the roof and the back of the two-story house, causing $1,000 in damage.

     

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    (NOAA)

    MIAMI (AP) - Forecasters say Tropical Storm Gil is getting better organized in the Pacific, far off the southern tip of California.

    The National Hurricane Center in Miami says maximum sustained winds late Tuesday are at 45 mph (72 kph). The center is about 845 miles (1360 kilometers) south-southwest of Mexico's Baja California peninsula, south of California. It could become a hurricane by Thursday.

    There are no coastal warnings or watches.

    It's moving at 15 mph and is expected to head farther out to sea on its current west-northwest track.

    Meanwhile, what was once Tropical Storm Flossie's Hawaiian adventure was short, scattered and left little damage behind.

    It was expected to exit Hawaii on Tuesday as a weakened version of the storm that prompted school and court closures and an emergency declaration by the governor.

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    In this July 9, 2013, file photo, the church in the town of San Damian Texoloc, Mexico, stands near Popocatepetl volcano spewing ash and vapor.(AP Photo/J. Guadalupe Perez, File)

    MEXICO CITY (AP) - In a clean, hushed room in the south of Mexico City, cameras, computer screens and scrawling needles track the symptoms of a special patient, as they have every second of every day for the past two decades. The monitors indicate that "Don Goyo" is breathing normally, even as he spews hot rock, steam and ash.

    That kind of activity isn't unusual for the 15,000-foot (4,500-meter) volcano, Mexico's second-highest, whose formal name is Popocatepetl, or "Smoking Mountain" in the Aztec language Nahuatl. But this volcano, personified first as a warrior in Aztec legend and now as an old man grumbling with discontent, is in the middle of two metro areas, where his every spurt can put 20 million people on edge.

    Mexico's National Disaster Prevention Center laboratory keeps a round-the-clock watch on Popocatepetl, with anywhere from six to 15 technicians analyzing data for signs of a full-scale eruption, which they can never fully anticipate.

    Though lava or glowing rock would only travel so far, an explosion could be deadly for 11,000 people in three farming villages within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of the base because of landslides and hot gas. A spectacular plume of ash could also wreak havoc on one of the world's largest metro areas, much as it did in 2003, when the sky over Mexico City more than 40 miles away nearly went dark in the middle of the afternoon. The neighboring city of Puebla on the other side of the volcano from the capital would also be clouded over.

    "The volcano is like a patient, and we observe the different aspects," said the center's technical director Gilberto Castelan. "Here we receive over 60 indicators in real time."

    The 20-by-30-foot (6-by-9-meter) laboratory resembles those that once housed old giant supercomputers, everything plain white with a server at one end and screens all around. Five remote-controlled cameras positioned on the side of the mountain emit real-time images, while sensors feed data to the constantly scrolling seismographs as the crew and volcanologists analyze the concentration of gases and changes in the shape of the mountain. The loudest laboratory sound is a regular ping that alerts technicians to every seismic shift, at least a half dozen an hour.

    The data helps set the "volcano stoplight," a three-color system in which green means "little activity," yellow means "warning" and red starts the evacuation process - something that has occurred only twice since 1994, when the volcano awoke again after sitting dormant for seven decades.

    "It's one of the most advanced laboratories of its kind in the world, and the scientists in charge are using the best methods," said Michael Sheridan, a volcanologist at the University of Buffalo in New York who has studied Popocatepetl. "It is very difficult to predict the behavior of a volcano that has not had an eruption in recent history."

    Earlier this month, Popocatepetl released ash that grounded plane flights and dusted cars, but it quieted down enough last week for the warning to drop from yellow-3 to yellow-2. The Mexican government has designated evacuation routes and shelter locations in the case of a bigger explosion.

    Popocatepetl, nicknamed Popo or Don Goyo, is a stratovolcano, a steep conical formation built from layers of thick, slow-moving lava and ash - the same type as Mount St. Helens in Washington state, scene of a 1980 eruption that was the most deadly in the U.S., killing 57 people.

    Mexico's disaster prevention center says Popo has been active for at least 500,000 years and has had at least three eruptions as large as Mount St. Helens, the most recent 23,000 years ago. Unlike Hawaiian volcanos and their rivers of lava, the biggest dangers for those nearby are mudslides and swift-moving clouds of gas. For those farther away, it's the ash, which can ruin motors, stall airplanes, cover roofs with material heavy enough to make buildings collapse and cause respiratory diseases.

    "Considering the number of people who would be affected, it could be considered among the most dangerous volcanos in the world," said Ramon Espinasa, director of geological hazards for the disaster prevention center.

    According to Mexican legend, Popocatepetl was a warrior who sought the hand of Iztaccihuatl, a fair maiden whose reluctant father told her that her suitor had died in battle. The "Romeo and Juliet"-style tale ends with the lovers turning into twin mountains east of Mexico City. The dormant peak of Iztaccihuatl has since become part of a national park, while access to Popocatepetl is closed off.

    Don Goyo, meanwhile, is the nickname for Gregory, a character who supposedly was the spirit of the volcano and would come to warn the locals of eruptions or to assure them that the mountain, despite plumes of smoke, was calm.

    Today, that's Castelan's job. He and his crew of technicians don't have much to say about the myths or legends, preferring to stick to the hard data in their laboratory, which opened right after Popo's reawakening two decades ago. At the time, Mexico was about to plunge into one of its worst economic crises. Since then, Mexicans say the eruptions are just Don Goyo showing his discontent with the course of his country, including blowing off smoke and ash a year ago, just before the presidential election.

    Castelan prefers to look to the sensors to read Don Goyo's thoughts. The trick is monitoring the crater, where it's too hot for instruments, and that's where the seismographs offer clues.

    Some tremors indicate an internal buildup of magma, while others result from expulsions of rock and ash. At times the only way to really see what's going on inside is to fly over the crater, something Mexican officials do regularly, feeding the laboratory more data.

    The technicians are especially watchful of lava domes that can form inside the crater in hours, days or weeks, creating a pressurized cap.

    The domes usually grow and then collapse. But they could also harden into a sort of bottle-stopper, allowing pressure to build until the volcano violently dislodges the cap in an explosion. What seems to be happening with Popo is lava settling inside, bringing the crater floor closer and closer to the rim, Castelan said.

    "The volcano becomes more dangerous as the crater fills with lava, and the domes that form are closer in elevation to the crater rim," Sheridan told the Associated Press in an email. "Explosions can more easily throw red hot lava fragments over the rim and onto the volcano flanks."

    In 2000, Popo's floor was 150 yards (meters) below the rim of the crater, compared to 50 yards (meters) today, he said. In the case of Mount St. Helens, the summit slid away and a new crater was formed, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Mount St. Helens' huge eruption came just 15 to 20 seconds after a 5.1 magnitude quake.

    Castelan, a 42-year-old father of three, has worked in the laboratory since 1997 and steadily moved up to technical director. The job has meant days without going home, or tending to equipment failures on nights and weekends.

    Sometimes he thinks, "Not again," when he's called while off duty. But he said he does the work gladly because he knows how important it is that the people in the shadows of Popo stay alerted and safe.

    "It's a very important relationship that we've established," he said. "We take care of this volcano."

    RELATED ON SKYE: Breathtaking Volcanic Eruptions Seen from Space

     

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    Royal Thai Navy personnel, Thai army and local volunteers clean up a beach from a major oil slick on Ao Phrao beach on the island of Ko Samet, Thailand, on July 31, 2013. (NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)


    BANGKOK (AP) - An oil spill that has marred a tourist island in the Gulf of Thailand has spread to nearby smaller isles, officials said Wednesday, as authorities raced to clean up the island's once-white sands and clear waters.

    The black tide of crude oil that washed up in Prao Bay on the west coast of Samet Island on Sunday night has been partly cleaned up, but the bay was still marred with oil slicks for the fourth straight day, said Rayong province Deputy Gov. Supeepat Chongpanish.

    "The situation is definitely better than the previous days," Supeepat said. "We are starting to see real waves and ocean foam at the north end of the bay, not the black waves of oil. It has significantly improved, but there's still work to do."

    About 13,200 gallons of oil - about the amount contained in 1 1/2 tanker trucks - spilled into the Gulf of Thailand on Saturday morning from a leak in a pipeline operated by PTT Global Chemical Plc., a subsidiary of state-owned oil and gas company PTT Plc.

    The company said it detected a leak when crude oil from a tanker moored offshore was being transferred to the pipeline, 20 kilometers (11 miles) from a refinery in Map Ta Phut, one of the largest industrial estates in Southeast Asia. The leak has since been fixed.

    The slick floated in the sea for more than a day before it began washing ashore on Samet, a small resort island that each year draws some 1 million foreign and domestic tourists due to its white sand beaches and proximity to Bangkok, 140 kilometers (90 miles) to the northwest.

    The company apologized on Monday and said the bay would be cleansed within three days, a goal questioned by environmental activists.

    Marine and Coastal Resources provincial director Puchong Saritdeechaikul said Wednesday that "there's no way it will be finished by that time," and added that his team detected a clear oil sheen that had spread to smaller isles off Samet's eastern shore.

    He said that the marine center was collecting daily samples of the seawater and that the results of quality tests were expected soon.

    Puchong said an initial inspection of the coral reef 100 meters (328 feet) from Prao Bay showed that it had not been damaged by the oil slicks.

    Provincial authorities on Wednesday ordered related agencies to conduct a test on seafood caught off Rayong's coastline to see whether there was any contamination from the oil spill.

    The incident is the fourth major oil spill in Thailand's history, according to the Energy Ministry.

    In 2009, another PTT subsidiary was involved in the Montara oil spill, one of Australia's worst oil disasters, in the Timor Sea off western Australia.


    RELATED ON SKYE: Could a Trip to Your Favorite Beach Make You Sick?

     

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    (Getty Images)

    While Dorian is likely to remain disorganized, disruptive downpours will continue to spread northwestward from the Bahamas to South Florida into the end of the week.

    In most cases, Dorian's impact will be an unwanted downpour or brief squall, but for a few locations, it could be more significant.

    Dorian is essentially a tropical wave, or a very weak tropical disturbance at this time, but it still poses travel disruptions and perhaps occasional risks to lives and property.

    People in the path of Dorian should continue to monitor the system, especially from the standpoint of enhanced rainfall, possible flooding and locally gusty thunderstorms.

    Popular cruise stops in Nassau and Freeport, Bahamas, bathers and sun worshipers at Miami Beach and people vacationing in Orlando could face some disruptions. Locally gusty storms could cause delays at the airports in Miami, Tampa and Orlando and along I-75, I-95 and the Florida Turnpike.

    During Tuesday, locally drenching showers and gusty thunderstorms will affect parts of Hispaniola, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the southern Bahamas and western Cuba.

    During Wednesday into Thursday, areas likely to be impacted the most from Dorian would be the central and southern Bahamas to central Cuba.

    From late Thursday into Saturday, the area from the northern Bahamas to South Florida and central and western Cuba would have the most impact from the system.

    The odds are greatly against Dorian from becoming a hurricane, and it may never regain tropical storm status.

    RELATED: AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center
    Latest Statistics on Dorian
    AccuWeather LIVE: Hurricane Season Ramps Up

    Occasionally, the downpours associated with the struggling system can organize into something a bit more robust.

    These unpredictable flare-ups of showers and thunderstorms can produce torrential rainfall and gusty winds. During such an event, several inches of rain can fall in as many hours and winds could be strong enough to down trees, power lines and cause minor property damage.

    Localized torrential downpours can lead to urban and low-lying area flooding, while strong wind gusts can catch small craft operators off-guard. Rounds of tropical downpours are common in the tropics, during the summer and early autumn as weak disturbances roll along from east to west in the trade winds.

    Disruptive winds at mid-levels of the atmosphere will be the main deterrent to explosive redevelopment of Dorian. The system could totally break up over or near the Florida Peninsula toward this coming weekend.

     

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    Some of the 4781 bottle caps collected from Midway Atoll shorelines by a 9-member team from the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division during a cleanup mission in April 2013. (Credit: NOAA photo by Kristen Kelly)

    In an area of Hawaii, far removed from most human habitation, a recent cleanup effort yielded an 18-wheeler's worth of human debris during a 19-day anti-pollution campaign this year.

    The region, which includes Midway Atoll, some 1,200 miles from the Hawaiian mainland, acts as a "fine-tooth comb" in picking up debris from elsewhere, officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) told LiveScience. Broken fishing gear, tattered nets and plastic fragments litter the water and land on the beaches.

    As challenging as it is to clean up that much debris, it's even more of an undertaking to remove it. Heavy machinery could damage the environment, so about 90 percent of the underwater cleanup is done by divers, said Kyle Koyanagi, NOAA's marine debris operations manager.

    "They physically go down and remove the net little by little with pocket knives, slowly cutting away at the debris that is entangled," Koyanagi said. "They remove it from that environment, pull it in with their arms, hands and back, and transport it in small vessels on to larger support vessels."

    NOAA does this campaign every year, but the annual budget is in "soft money," Koyanagi said, which means it's vulnerable to budgetary effects such as sequestration.

    Cleanup changes every year

    The Coral Reef Ecosystem Division Marine Debris Project, run by NOAA's Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, has collected 848 tons (769 metric tons) of debris - about the weight of 530 sedan-size cars - in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands since the program began in 1996.

    Efforts began after pollution was identified as a major threat to monk seals, an endangered species native to Hawaii. Decades of built-up pollution required NOAA to spend anywhere from 60 to 120 days at sea between 2000 and 2005, when intensive anti-pollution measures began in earnest. [Video: Humans Hit the Oceans Hard]

    With the buildup now addressed, the agency has now been in "maintenance mode" since 2006, picking up whatever gets washed into the area annually. A typical field season lasts 30 to 60 days.

    "We put together an annual effort every year depending on our budget that gets allocated," said Mark Manuel, NOAA's marine ecosystems research specialist. "It will be some kind of survey effort, whether a shore-based, three-week mission or an extensive, two-month cleanup [at sea]."

    Turning nets to energy

    The amount of debris collected varies wildly from year to year. Surveyed areas in Hawaii include the French Frigate Shoals, Kure Atoll, Laysan Island, Lisianski Island, Maro Reef, Midway Atoll and Pearl and Hermes Atoll.

    This year's efforts stayed on the shore due to budgetary concerns, Koyanagi added, which likely reduced the amount of debris collected, even though it could have filled a big rig.

    "As you can imagine, the ship time is very expensive," Koyanagi said. "Because of budget cuts this year, we could not afford to do a full-blown effort and get to the remote atolls."

    Once the debris is picked up, NOAA works to recycle as much of it as possible. Nets, for example, are sent to Schnitzer Steel Hawaii Corp. on the mainland, where they are chopped up for the City and County of Honolulu's H-Power plant to convert into electricity.

    The facility, run by Covanta Energy, burns the nets and generates steam, which is used to drive a turbine and create electricity.

    Follow Elizabeth Howell @howellspace. Follow us @livescience, Facebook& Google+. Original article on LiveScience.com.

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

     

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