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SKYE on AOL

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    Storm chaser Ron Shawley was out tracking a complex of thunderstorms near Johnstown, Pa., on Aug. 8 when he heard an enormous crack and saw a flash of lightning that likely struck right above his vehicle.

    "I could see tiny little lightning bolts inside the truck," Shawley said. "I could feel it; I could feel all this static electricity."

    Shawley was out investigating a series of storms that rocked central Pennsylvania Wednesday night. He said that as he monitored the radar he could see the storm shift. At that point, he saw hailstones larger than he had ever seen in that area, ranging from quarter- to golf ball-sized.

    "They were unusually severe thunderstorms for Pennsylvania; there was a lot of lightning," AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Jesse Ferrell said.

    Shawley is already mostly recovered, though he did say he remains rather tired. At the time of the strike, he went temporarily deaf and his ears started bleeding. Had he not been inside his vehicle and allowed the truck to take the brunt of the hit, he would likely not be as fortunate.

    "Storms like this, people need to stay inside their vehicles; I'll testify to that," he said.

    These lightning strikes he recorded came on the back end of the storm, so he urges people to always be cautious around thunderstorms, even after they think the threat is over.

    "Lightning is so unpredictable," he said. "Don't ever underestimate lightning."

    AccuWeather meteorologist Jesse Ferrell discusses the weather setup for the storm and decodes the video frame by frame in his WeatherMatrix Blog. You can also see an extended version of the video with a slow-motion track of the lightning on Sawley's Youtube account, though the video does feature some NSFW language.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Lightning Strikes Around the World
    Lightning Strike

     

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    Nashville Area Flash Flooding Prompts Rescues


    ST. LOUIS (AP) - Torrential rains lashed the U.S. midsection on Thursday, causing flash flooding that killed a woman and a child, damaged homes and forced multiple water rescues.

    Up to 10 inches of rain pounded Missouri overnight. A woman died in the far southwestern corner of the state where creek water washed over a highway, sweeping away her car.

    Authorities in the south-central Missouri town of Waynesville continued to search for 23-year-old Jessica D. Lee, whose car was swept up in a flash flood early Tuesday. The body of her 4-year-old son, Elyjah, was found Tuesday, hours after his mother made a distress call from her mobile phone.

    Flash flood warnings were common in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee. And things could get worse: Heavy rain is in the forecast into the weekend.

    National Weather Service meteorologist Drew Albert in Springfield, Missouri, said the rain is the result of a storm front that has stalled over the plains.

    Missouri has gotten the worst of it. Some gauges near Waynesville recorded 15 inches of rain in a two-day period. One-day totals of 6 inches or more were common across the width of the southern part of the state.


    A barrel, a propane tank and other debris float in rising floodwaters near the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad bridge between Jerome and Arlington, Mo., Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Rolla Daily News, Paul Hackbarth)

    Soggy south-central Kansas was under a flood warning after up to 6 inches (152 millimeters) of rain fell early Thursday in the center of the state. Since the storms began Sunday, hundreds of Kansas homes have been damaged, mostly by water in basements and sewage backups, said Megan Hammersmith, director of the Central Kansas Chapter of the American Red Cross.

    An estimated 10 inches of rain fell overnight in parts of Benton County, Ark., prompting the county to declare an emergency. Benton County Emergency Management director Robert McGowen said crews have performed 15 water rescues. More than three dozen roads and bridges were closed, but no injuries were reported.

    Heavy rain in Tennessee also triggered flash flooding that required several water rescues. Nashville firefighters waded into waist-deep water to lead residents of one apartment complex to higher ground. Others in the region had to be rescued from balconies and rooftops. High water even stopped traffic near the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    This Jan. 18, 2013 file aerial photo shows the area of Breezy Point where more than 100 homes were damaged by fire, center, in Superstorm Sandy, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

    NEW YORK (AP) - On a desolate stretch of sand and concrete rubble in a beachfront community, a lone home is rising amid the ruins of more than 100 houses that burned to ashes during Superstorm Sandy.

    Nine months after the fire tore through Breezy Point, a neighborhood of tightly packed homes in New York City, this house is the only one under construction in the burn zone, the swath of homes that went up like tinderboxes during the storm.

    Rows of rectangular boxes sunk into the sand form a graveyard of wrecked homes. American flags waving feebly from the ground help mark where a street once existed.

    "That fire zone is the one scar out of all of this that won't go away," said Kieran Burke, a firefighter whose home was destroyed in the blaze. "These aren't just beach homes. These are people's lives. This is a way of life."

    A perfect storm of government inefficiency, cumbersome permit laws and general confusion has hampered the recovery effort in Breezy Point, which became a symbol of the storm's devastation after images of the charred neighborhood were broadcast to the rest of the world.

    Sandy battered the East Coast, flooding homes, killing dozens of people and costing millions in damage. It was the second most expensive storm in U.S. history, after 2005's Hurricane Katrina.

    The fire swept unchecked through the area as it was flooded with surging seawater, preventing fire trucks from entering Breezy to stop it. Nearly 130 homes were reduced to blackened rubble. A photograph of a statue of the Virgin Mary that survived the fire became an iconic image of the storm's wrath.

    About 350 of the nearly 3,000 homes in Breezy Point were wrecked beyond repair from flood or fire during the storm. But while many of the flooded homes began repairs months ago, the people who once lived in the fire zone are stuck in no-man's land.

    Some homeowners have filed plans to rebuild, but few have been approved by the city or by the Breezy Point Cooperative, which runs the neighborhood.

    Some people are battling with insurance companies. Others waited months for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to finalize its newly updated flood maps, which put Breezy Point in a more stringent flood zone with higher elevation requirements. And still more are waiting for the government and the cooperative to approve a long list of permits and plans that stand in the way of starting construction.

    Meanwhile, homeowners like Burke are struggling to afford rental housing on top of the mortgage that they're still paying on a pile of sand.

    "We're paying a mortgage, we're paying real estate tax, we're paying insurance, we're paying everything," said Burke, who has been renting a house in suburban Yonkers with his wife and two young sons. "So basically we're living a dual life. We have two homes, and we never prepared for that."

    Burke's grandparents owned his two-story home, and like many Breezy abodes, it was passed down through the generations. During the storm, he waded through flooded streets and helped rescue neighbors before narrowly escaping his own home as it caught fire.

    "I'm 41 years old and we're dipping into retirement funds," he said. "A lot of people are actually going broke over this."

    Adding to the confusion is the fact that many Breezy homes were built on unmapped streets, which means that they have to apply for a special permit from the state to rebuild.

    "It's good for morale to see a house going up," said A.J. Smith, a spokesman for the cooperative. "But we really need the buildings department to act on some of these plans."

    Building plans began moving forward in recent weeks after the city resolved some issues with the cooperative that had been delaying plans, such as agreeing on a market value of each home in Breezy, said Peter Spencer, the spokesman for the Mayor's Office of Housing Recovery.

    "We have been working closely with the co-op board on getting things expedited," Spencer said. "It's one big area that has to be handled as a massive redevelopment."

    The home that's under construction is owned by Sue Flynn, a mother of three who has summered in Breezy with her family since she was a baby. The Flynn family was luckier than others, she said, because they rebuilt their home in 2010 and already had the required permits and building plans.

    But it's lonely being the only house on the block.

    "It won't be the same until our neighbors are back," Flynn said. "And I know they'll come back. It's a strong group."

    It's been a quiet summer in Breezy, where children roam the streets barefoot and everybody knows their neighbors by name. The Fourth of July fireworks display was canceled. The beach is still manned by lifeguards, but there aren't many people in the water this year.

    Residents are hopeful that progress will come soon. The Flynns' home is expected to be completed this fall.

    "I was a little wary about being the first to build. But once I got the positive feedback from the community, I was really happy about it," Flynn said. "Because I'm very happy to be in a position to show that we can make progress and growth."

    In the coming weeks, Burke plans to submit building plans to the government for his new home. He'd love to be back for Christmas but realizes that's unlikely.

    No matter how long it takes, he's determined to make it home.

    "For a neighborhood that's going through all of this turmoil," he said, "people are fighting to come back."

    RELATED ON SKYE: 25 Indelible Images from Superstorm Sandy

     

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    Firefighters battle a wildfire, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, in Cabazon, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

    CABAZON, Calif. (AP) - Susana Medrano stood in her front yard, mesmerized by the orange and red flames creeping along the wind-swept mountain ridge behind her home, and struggled to leave.

    Her children sat in the back of her pickup after grabbing the new clothes and backpacks they had bought for the school year, which starts next week. Now they were wondering whether they will have a place to live.

    "It's hard because we don't know what's going to happen," said the mother of four, her eyes tearing up as she prepared to stay with family down the road in San Bernardino. "I've never seen the fire so close to my home."

    The rapidly spreading wildfire raging through a rugged Southern California mountain range Thursday had already destroyed 26 homes and was threatening more than 500 other residences, forcing some 1,800 people to flee. One man suffered serious burns and five firefighters were injured, including two from heat exhaustion.

    More than 1,400 firefighters and nine helicopters battled the flames as they pushed eastward along the San Jacinto Mountains, a desert range 90 miles east of Los Angeles.

    The wind-whipped blaze was getting bigger and heading toward the desert town of Cabazon, said Cal Fire Riverside Chief John R. Hawkins.

    The fire was estimated at nearly 22 square miles Thursday with 20 percent containment, but the direction could change in the area, which is known as a wind tunnel. Evacuation orders were issued in five towns, including parts of Cabazon.

    "The conditions at the front right now are very dangerous," Hawkins said.

    Authorities still have not determined what caused the fire.

    Medrano was among scores of residents in Cabazon who were evacuated in the pre-dawn hours Thursday and returned after sunrise to pack up more belongings and watch the flickering line of fire snaking along the brown, scrubby mountains.

    In the nearby town of Banning, Lili Arroyo, 83, left with only her pet cockatiel, Tootsie, in its cage and a bag of important papers from her home, which was rebuilt after being destroyed in a 2006 wildfire.

    "There were embers and ash coming down all over the sky," Arroyo said. "The smoke was really thick. I was starting not to be able to breathe."

    Along with Cabazon, the evacuation orders covered two camping areas and the rural communities of Poppet Flats, Twin Pines, Edna Valley and Vista Grande.

    Most of Southern California's severe wildfires are associated with Santa Ana winds caused by high pressure over the West that sends a clockwise flow of air rushing down into the region.

    This week's fire, however, was being fanned by a counter-clockwise flow around a low pressure area over northwest California.

    It was the second major wildfire in the San Jacinto Mountains this summer. A blaze that erupted in mid-July spread over 43 square miles on peaks above Palm Springs, burned seven homes and forced 6,000 people out of Idyllwild and neighboring towns.

    The latest fire also burned in the footprint of the notorious Esperanza Fire, a 2006, wind-driven inferno that overran a U.S. Forest Service engine crew. All five crew members died. A man was convicted of setting the fire and sentenced to death.

    After touring the area, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who lives in Riverside County, said 165,000 acres have burned in California this year and climate change is setting conditions for more disastrous blazes, while budget cuts are limiting resources to fight them.

    "Unless we take action, things are only going to get worse," she said.

    A different blaze, a 60-acre wildfire, forced evacuations of about 75 homes Thursday near Wrightwood, a community in the San Gabriel Mountains popular with skiers located about 40 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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    (Getty Images)

    NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - An unusually high number of bottlenose dolphins are dying off the East Coast this summer, the deadliest period for the sea mammals since a virus killed off more than 700 in the late 1980s, federal officials said Thursday.

    Researchers are investigating what may have killed the 124 dolphins found stranded in coastal areas in the Mid-Atlantic region since July - seven times the historic average, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said. All but seven of the dolphins were already dead when they were discovered, and each of those eventually died or had to be euthanized.

    It isn't clear whether an infectious disease is causing the deaths; scientists plan to test blood and tissue for viruses, bacteria, fungi and biotoxins, among other things. But humans and marine mammals do share common pathogens, and anyone who finds a dead dolphin is being urged to stay away from it and contact authorities.

    The discoveries have led the federal agency to declare an unusual mortality event for bottlenose dolphins, a significant designation that Congress created in the wake of the in the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and previous dolphin kill-off.

    The declaration means scientists will have access to additional research funding. That investigation and analysis by teams of national and international experts could take months or even years to finalize, and officials say there is likely little they can do to stop the deaths unless the root cause is ultimately blamed on humans. And determining a cause is difficult: Of the 60 unusual mortality events declared since 1991, causes have been determined for only 29 of them.

    Among dolphins, other strandings have also been caused by trauma, starvation, algal blooms and pollution.

    At the top of the suspect list for the deaths is the same disease that led to 740 dolphins dying between New Jersey and Florida in 1987 and 1988, a morbillivirus infection. Morbillivirus is found in a broad range of marine mammals like seals, and its symptoms often involve lesions appearing in the lungs and central nervous tissues. Many of the dolphins have washed up badly decomposed, and lesions have been found in some of them.

    One of the washed-up dolphins has already preliminarily tested positive for morbillivirus, but officials say it is too early to tell if that is the culprit for the other deaths. So far, necropsies haven't revealed a unifying cause. The morbillivirus passes from dolphin to dolphin, and bottlenose dolphins are typically found in groups of two to 15.

    "We're not saying that this is a morbillivirus outbreak," Teri Rowles, NOAA's National Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator, said in a conference call with reporters. "But because of the size of it right now, everybody's making that link at this point. But that is not a confirmed diagnosis or cause of this event at this point."

    Officials say the spike in strandings began in early July, with dead dolphins reported in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. There are two different stocks of dolphins that populate that region, with the northern stock having between 7,000 and 9,000 dolphins, while the southern stock has between 9,900 to 12,000 dolphins, according to federal estimates. Rowles said the population is too large for there to be a plan to vaccinate or otherwise treat the animals.

    Virginia has experienced the largest increase in dolphin strandings this year, with most occurring along heavily populated beaches at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Officials say the number of dolphins that have died is likely greater than the number reported, with many more likely dying at sea and not washing up.

     

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    (Getty Images)

    Rounds of showers and thunderstorms will bring the threat of flash flooding and travel disruptions from the Ohio and Tennessee valleys to the mid-Atlantic and New England through Friday.

    The risk area covers a heavily populated and heavily traveled region of the country, home to tens of millions of people and daily commuters.

    A surge in humidity, combined with a very slow-moving front and a series of disturbances moving along it, will favor episodes of downpours, thunder and lightning.

    While most of the region will just experience a few doses of heavy rain and thunder, some locations can be hit much harder on one or more occasions through the end of the week.

    Cities that could be directly impacted by flash flooding include Nashville, Cincinnati, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, Hartford, Conn., and Portland, Maine.



    The pattern is part of the same setup that will continue to clobber the central Plains this week.

    It has the potential to bring a couple of inches of rain in as many hours to a few communities in the Ohio Valley, mid-Atlantic and New England as well. Some unlucky locations could be hit with 6 inches of rain into the end of the week.

    Similar to what occurred in June and July in the Northeast, some streets and highways could be flooded.

    The activity will not be limited to the afternoon and evening hours, which is typically the case this time of the year.

    Motorists and airline interests should be prepared for delays.

    RELATED:
    Severe Weather Watches and Warnings
    A Summer's Worth of Rain Falls on Missouri in One Week
    Will Summer Return in the Midwest, Northeast?

    Over the weekend, the corridor of repeating downpours will shrink southward, so that much of New England, the northern mid-Atlantic and part of the Ohio Valley will dry out.

    However, that southward shift will grind to a halt. Flooding problems are possible from Kentucky and Tennessee to the Appalachians in Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland Saturday and Sunday. There is a chance the activity continues on to part of the Virginia Tidewater as well.

    A few of the storms can also briefly become severe, producing damaging wind gusts, hail and frequent lightning strikes.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    August 1, 2013

    Nick Ramirez looks downstream for signs of his trailer which was swept away by flood waters. Ramirez returned to the Hidden Valley Mobile Home Park after earlier rescuing his neighbors to find it was ripped from its spot in the park in Hollister, Mo., Thursday morning, Aug. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/The Springfield News-Leader, Dean Curtis)

    ST. LOUIS (AP) - Water-weary residents of Missouri, Kansas and nearby states are girding for more possible floods after a week of intermittent downpours dumped as much as 15 inches of rain and caused several deaths.

    The National Weather Service in Springfield, Mo. forecast heavy rainfall and a risk of floods late Friday through early Saturday across southeast Kansas and parts of central and southern Missouri. More rain is expected through Tuesday, said meteorologist Doug Cramer.

    A storm front that arrived on Aug. 2 and stalled over the Plains has hit Missouri's Ozarks region the hardest, with parts of Arkansas, Tennessee and Oklahoma also experiencing persistent rain and spotty flooding, leading to at least four fatalities.

    Authorities in southwest Missouri identified 69-year-old Helen Pendergraft of Noel as the woman who died before dawn Thursday as she attempted to drive across a flooded creek near the town of Jane. Early Tuesday, a 4-year-old boy and his 23-year-old mother died when their car was swept up in a flash flood in the south-central Missouri town of Waynesville.

    And in Oklahoma City, a 60-year-old man drowned early Friday while trying to rescue a relative who was stranded by floodwaters. Police say the man was swept into a drainage canal and his body was found several blocks away. The relative, who was stranded in a car, escaped without injury.

    The slow-moving storm forced mobile home and campground evacuations and closed parts of Interstate 44 in Missouri. A crew of rescuers were themselves rescued after their boat broke down McDonald County. Water rescues were also reported in Kansas, Arkansas and Tennessee.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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    August 10, 2013

    An air tanker drops fire retardant on a hot spot as firefighters continue to battle a wildfire on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, near Banning, Calif. Southern California firefighters are facing another day of battle as they try to corral a wildfire that has destroyed 26 homes. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

    BANNING, Calif. (AP) - California truly is the Golden State this summer -- golden brown -- and that has fire officials worried heading into the peak of the wildfire season.

    It's still weeks before the fire-fanning Santa Ana winds usually arrive and already it's been a brutal fire season, with nearly twice as many acres burned statewide from a year ago, including 18,000 scorched this week in a blaze still raging in the mountains 90 miles east of Los Angeles.

    So far this year, California fire officials have battled 4,300 wildfires, a stark increase from the yearly average of nearly 3,000 they faced from 2008 to 2012, said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

    Until last week, those fires had already burned 111 square miles or more than 71,000 acres, up from 40,000 acres during the same period last year. The annual average for acreage charred in the last five years was 113,000 acres, he said -- roughly 177 square miles.

    "We have seen a significant increase in our fire activity and much earlier than normal," said Berlant, adding that fire season began in mid-April, about a month ahead of schedule after an especially dry winter. "We're not even yet into the time period where we see the largest number of damaging fires."

    U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who lives in Riverside County, said more than 165,000 acres or 258 square miles have burned in California this year, and climate change is setting conditions for more disastrous blazes, while budget cuts are limiting resources to fight them. Boxer's data comes from both California officials and federal agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service.

    This year, state fire officials have called up more firefighters and reserve engines on days with hot, dry conditions, Berlant said.

    And while state officials encouraged residents to rid their properties of dry brush before fire season starts, he said authorities are now urging the public not to use lawnmowers or weed eaters during the heat of the day because a spark off the metal blades can trigger a blaze.

    On Friday, firefighters launched a fleet of seven retardant-dropping airplanes against Southern California's latest destructive wildfire, which has destroyed 26 homes and threatened more than 500 others in the San Jacinto Mountains.

    The so-called Silver Fire injured five firefighters and seriously burned one civilian.

    It had grown to 28 square miles late Friday, but it was 40 percent contained and showed little more than white smoke.

    At its peak, it forced the evacuation of 1,800 people, including 800 campers, but orders were lifted for many areas Friday and only a few hundred evacuees remained.

    Gov. Jerry Brown declared an emergency for the area Friday, freeing up additional funds and resources for the firefight and recovery.

    In the Twin Pines neighborhood outside Banning, Andy Schrader said he couldn't get out in time. The wildfire crept up suddenly and blew over his house, burning his motor home and singeing his hair as he sprayed water from a hose to try to keep the house wet.

    "I could feel my face burning," the 74-year-old carpenter said. "And I thought I was going to die."

    Most of Southern California's severe wildfires are associated with Santa Ana winds, caused by high pressure over the West that sends a clockwise flow of air rushing down into the region.

    This week's fire, however, was being fanned by a counter-clockwise flow around a low pressure area over northwest California. The National Weather Service said conditions could change in the second half of next week, with weaker winds in the mountains and deserts.

    Wildfire experts say the traditional fire season has grown longer in California as rainfall has been lower than usual over the last two years and tapered off sooner.

    Los Angeles, for example, received only 5.85 inches of rain from July 2012 through June 2013, compared with 8.71 inches a year before and a 30-year average of 14.93 inches, said Eric Boldt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

    Tom Scott, a natural resources specialist who teaches at University of California campuses in Riverside and Berkeley, said plants can have a harder time staying hydrated under such conditions.

    "The whole system is like a bank account -- it's being drawn down," he said.

    Richard A. Minnich, a professor of earth sciences at University of California, Riverside, said much of Southern California is in pretty good shape because older vegetation burned off during a spate of wildfires over the past decade, but there are spots at serious risk because of the prevalence of old-growth chaparral.

    "Wherever there is very old chaparral, we've got a tremendous threat," he said.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Southern California Wildfire Spreads
    Southern California Wildfire

     

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    August 10, 2013


    A responder surveys the scene of a small plane crash, Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, in East Haven, Conn. The multi-engine, propeller-driven plane plunged into a working-class suburban neighborhood near Tweed New Haven Airport, on Friday. (AP Photo/Fred Beckham)

    A turbo-prop plane crashed into two homes in East Haven, Conn., around 11:25 a.m. EDT Friday, killing as many as six people, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board said late Friday.

    The plane, a Twin Commander, was found inverted with its left wing in one house and the right wing in the other, NTSB Senior Air Safety Investigator Bob Gretz said. As many as three people were in the plane and three others in one of the houses at the time of the crash.

    At the time of the crash, there was a line of showers and thunderstorms between Teterboro, N.Y., and New Haven, Conn.

    "It looks like there was a gusty, heavy shower in the approach to the runway," AccuWeather Expert Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity said.


    A radar snapshot at 11:25 a.m. EDT Friday shows the showers and thunderstorms that were around at the time of the crash. (AccuWeather)

    A wind gust of 21 mph was recorded at Tweed-New Haven Airport at 11:26 a.m. EDT Friday with light rain and a visibility of 9 miles. In any heavier showers or thunderstorms nearby, the visibility could have been much lower.

    "We're looking into that [the weather]," Gretz said during a Friday night news conference. "We plan to talk with [the controllers in] the control tower. There was no distress call."

    Part of the plane went into a basement and up to 60 percent of the plane was destroyed in a fire, Gretz said.

    A responder surveys the scene of a small plane crash, Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, in East Haven, Conn. The multi-engine, propeller-driven plane plunged into a working-class suburban neighborhood near Tweed New Haven Airport, on Friday. (AP Photo/Fred Beckham)

    Before the crash, the plane added fuel at Teterboro, N.Y., Airport, Gretz said. There were no anomalies in the fuel, he said.

    Connecticut State Police were assisting with the investigation and the recovery effort, Gretz said.

    East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. said the mother of two children who were inside one of the homes was taken to a local hospital.

    "All things considered, she's devastated," Maturo said. "How would any mother be?"

    It may take up to a year for the NTSB to determine the probable cause of the crash.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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    August 10, 2013

    LAKE MEAD, NV: A Perseid meteor streaks across the sky early August 12, 2008, in Nevada. The meteor display, known as the Perseid shower because it appears to radiate from the constellation Perseus in the northeastern sky. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    The potentially dazzling Perseid meteor shower will hit its peak this weekend, and you don't have to have clear skies to catch the annual celestial fireworks display. You can watch it online on Sunday (Aug. 11).

    NASA provided the first webcast of the Perseid meteor shower Saturday night, beginning at 11 p.m. EDT (0300 Aug. 11) and running through 3 a.m. EDT (0700 GMT). Then on Sunday, the online Slooh Space Camera will provide live views of the Perseids beginning at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT) and running through most of the night.

    You can watch the Perseid meteor shower webcasts live on SPACE.com, courtesy of NASA and the Slooh Space Camera. Stargazers and NASA scientists have also already captured photos of the Perseids this month. [How to See the 2013 Perseid Meteor Shower]

    The Perseid meteor display occurs every August is typically one of the most dependable displays of "shooting stars" of the year. The meteor shower is caused by leftover bits of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. As the Earth passes through the Swift-Tuttle's dusty trail, the comet debris slams into the planet's atmosphere and flares up in brilliant meteors or fireballs.

    This year, the Perseids will peak in the overnight hours between Sunday and Monday (Aug. 11 and 12), but there are chances to see meteors from the event just before and after the peak, NASA officials said.

    "Rates can get as high as 100 per hour, with many fireballs visible in the night sky," NASA officials said in a Perseids webcast announcement. 'Early in the evening, a waxing crescent moon will interfere slightly with this year's show, but it will have set by the time of the best viewing, just before dawn.'

    During NASA's Saturday night webcast, the agency's meteor expert Bill Cooke and colleagues Danielle Moser and Rhiannon Blaauw from the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., will be online to answer questions on the meteor shower in a chat forum. You can join the forum chat at 11 p.m. EDT by visiting here: http://www.nasa.gov/connect/chat/perseids_2013a.html. NASA's Perseids webcast will be provided by a live video feed from an all-sky camera at the Marshall Center.

    "The live feed is an alternative for stargazers caught with bad weather or light-polluted night skies," NASA officials explained. "The camera activates at full dusk (approx. 9 p.m. EDT). During the day you will either see a dark gray box or pre-recorded footage."

    If you miss NASA's Saturday night webcast, you can catch more views of the Perseid meteor shower from the Slooh Space Camera, an online service that allows stargazers to gaze at the universe through remotely operated telescopes.

    "We will pull a live feed from our amazing all-sky camera located on the top of Mt. Teide in the Canary Islands, off the coast of west Africa, over 8,000 feet up where skies are nice and dark," Slooh President Patrick Paolucci told SPACE.com. You can watch the feed on SPACE.com and directly from Slooh via the Slooh Space Camera website.

    In addition to watching this weekend's meteor display, you can also try to hear the Perseid meteor shower using radio equipment. In Chile, astronomers at the Gemini Observatory's Gemini South telescope also planning to fire lasers into the meteor trails to probe the dusty "celestial pollution" of the Perseids to help fine-tune their adaptive optics system that cancels out the interference of Earth's atmosphere in their night sky observations.

    Editor's Note: If you snap an amazing picture of the 2013 Perseid meteor shower or any other night sky view that you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, send photos, comments and your name and location to managing editor Tariq Malik at spacephotos@space.com.

    Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalikand Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebookand Google+. Original article on SPACE.com.
    o. Top 10 Perseid Meteor Shower Facts
    o. 'Best' Meteor Shower Arrives In August | Video
    o. How Meteor Showers Work (Infographic)
    Copyright 2013 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • 08/10/13--07:36: Can You Hear a Meteor?

  • Astrophotographer Mark Ezell took this photo of a Geminid meteor on Dec. 13, 2012, in Lometa, TX. (Mark Ezell)

    When the Perseid meteor shower bursts across the sky this week, will people be able to hear it?

    For centuries, people have reported hearing a sound made by meteors as they streaked across the skies overhead. And with the Perseids about to dazzle skywatchers with a meteor display that will earn it the title "fireball champion," some researchers are wondering if the Perseid meteor shower will be heard as well as seen.

    In A.D. 817, as a meteor shower passed over China, many observers reported hearing buzzing, sizzling or hissing sounds, according to a 1992 report by Colin Keay, a physicist at the University of Newcastle in Australia. [When Space Attacks: The 6 Craziest Meteor Impacts]

    A similar phenomenon occurred in 1719, when a fireball passed over England. Astronomer Edmond Halley reported, "Of several accidents that were reported to have attended its passage, many were the effect of pure fantasy, such as the hearing it hiss as it went along, as if it had been near at hand."

    Halley (who also calculated the orbit of the eponymous Halley's Comet) was among the first to note that, if a distant meteor makes a sound, that sound should arrive after the meteor had passed, not simultaneously, since sound travels much more slowly than the speed of light.

    Skywatchers hearing things

    As recently as the 1970s, people who reported hearing a sound as a meteor passed were routinely dismissed as crackpots, according to the report by Keay, published in the journal Asteroids, Comets, Meteors.

    But after a large meteor passed over New South Wales in 1978, hundreds of anecdotal reports from people who claim they heard the meteor flooded the news media. Keay analyzed 36 of these reports and drew some important conclusions.

    Meteors obviously release electromagnetic radiation in the visible portion of the spectrum, but the fact that they also release very low frequency (VLF) radio waves, below 30 kilohertz, is less known and less studied.

    Because these VLF radio waves travel at the speed of light (not at the speed of sound), they arrive at the same time observers see a meteor passing overhead. But in order to be heard by hundreds of people, Keay deduced, radio waves need a "transducer," or some physical object that could create a sound.

    Under laboratory conditions, Keay was able to do just that: He created rustling sounds in ordinary objects by exposing them to VLF radiation. Aluminum foil, plant foliage such as pine needles, thin wires -- even dry, frizzy hair -- produced sounds that were easily heard. This phenomenon is known as electrophonics.

    Wire-framed eyeglasses seem to be particularly sensitive to VLF radiation: "When I was out [viewing the Leonid meteor showers in 1999], I had my head back on the ground and heard a sizzling sound," one observer reported. "My head was close to grass and leaves and I wear wire-frame glasses as well. The sound was definitely simultaneous with the observation of a rather large streak."

    Finding unseen meteors

    The Leonid meteor shower of Nov. 18, 1999, gave researchers an ideal opportunity to test Keay's hypothesis. Colin Price and Moshe Blum of Tel Aviv University found that Leonid meteors produced distinct VLF electromagnetic pulses.

    Additionally, they discovered that there were many meteors that were not visible to observers -- they were detected only by the VLF radiation they emitted. Finding meteors solely by their VLF signatures "detected nearly 50 times more meteors than the optical method," Price and Blum wrote.

    "What makes this exciting is that we're talking about a phenomenon that has been experienced by people for perhaps thousands of years," said Dennis Gallagher, a space physicist at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

    "Even in modern times folks who reported hearing such sounds were ridiculed. It was only about 25 years ago that Keay was able to do the research and legitimize the experiences of all those generations of people," Gallagher said.

    "It shows there are still wonders in nature yet to be recognized and understood," Gallagher said. "We should take this experience with meteors as reason to open our minds to what may yet be learned."

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

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

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    Rainwater rages with mud and ash in Fountain Creek after flash flooding from the Waldo Canyon Fire burn scar swept through Manitou Springs, Colo. on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, leaving one person confirmed dead. (AP Photo/Bryan Oller)

    A 53-year-old man died Friday in flash flooding in Manitou Springs, Colo., the El Paso County, Colo., Sheriff's Office reported Saturday.

    Three other people are reported missing, authorities told CNN.

    The man was found in a large amount of debris which covered part of Highway 24, the sheriff's office said in a news release. It was unclear why he left his vehicle, which was in the same area where he was found.

    The El Paso County Coroner's Office said the man is believed to have died as the result of drowning.

    The flooding occurred in the area of the Waldo Canyon wildfire. The burn scar left behind makes the area susceptible to flash flooding, AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said."The ground has trouble absorbing it. It easily rushes off," Pydynowski said.

    Up to 0.39 inches of rain was reported around Colorado Springs, but Manitou Springs is at a higher elevation and no rainfall total was available, Pydynowski said.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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    August 11, 2013

    The image above is a satellite picture taken Sunday evening. (NOAA)

    Powerful Typhoon Utor continues to move steadily towards the Philippines, and as of Sunday afternoon local time was packing sustained winds of around 130 miles per hour.

    As of Sunday afternoon, Utor was about 250 miles east of Manila, Philippines, and the storm remains on course to impact the island of Luzon in the Philippines Monday.

    With plenty of warm water and lack of wind shear, Utor continued to strengthen Sunday. With the same conditions in place through Sunday night, Utor may strengthen at bit before landfall early Monday.

    When Utor reaches northern Luzon, maximum sustained winds are forecast to be around 135 miles per hour. Gusts could exceed 155 miles per hour, especially along the coast and in the higher terrain. Structural damage will be widespread and potentially catastrophic.

    Further impacts to the northern parts of the Philippines include total rainfall between 6 and 8 inches of rain. This will likely cause flooding and mudslides.

    After blasting Luzon, Utor is expected to move westward over the South China Sea, around the periphery of a high pressure system to the northeast. Despite weakening some due to the mountains of Luzon, Utor should strengthen by the middle of next week as it nears southeast China and far northern Vietnam.

    AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls cautions, "These areas were hit hard by Mangkhut last week and Jebi the week prior. Another round of nasty weather from Utor is on the table."

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    August 12, 2013


    BANNING, Calif. (AP) - Firefighters made steady progress Saturday in battling Southern California's latest destructive wildfire, which burned 26 homes and threatened more than 500 others in the San Jacinto Mountains.

    The so-called Silver Fire, which charred 30 square miles in three days, was 70 percent surrounded. The fire stopped advancing Saturday as firefighters focused on extinguishing hot spots.

    Full containment was expected Sunday evening.

    The blaze injured 10 firefighters and seriously burned a mountain biker who was overrun by the fast-moving flames when the fire erupted Wednesday.

    At its peak, the fire forced the evacuation of 1,800 people, including 800 campers. Evacuation orders for several communities remained in effect.

    Gov. Jerry Brown declared an emergency for the area Friday, freeing up additional funds and resources for the firefight and recovery.

    Most of Southern California's severe wildfires are associated with Santa Ana winds, caused by high pressure over the West that sends a clockwise flow of air rushing down into the region.

    This week's fire, however, was being fanned by a counter-clockwise flow around a low pressure area over northwest California. The National Weather Service said conditions could change in the second half of next week, with weaker winds in the mountains and deserts.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Southern California Wildfire Spreads
    Southern California Wildfire

     

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    The Tomorrowland-looking Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space, a combined terminal and hangar facility, is part of the expansive Spaceport America site. (Spaceport America)

    TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. - Spread across 18,000 acres, Spaceport America continues to preen itself here in anticipation of booming business as the world's first purpose-built, commercial spaceport.

    The "fit-out" of the Spaceport Operations Center continues at the site. New fire trucks and emergency vehicles are now on station, and field maintenance activities are in full swing. A runway extension effort is complete, now yielding a 12,000-foot "spaceway" to handle the projected comings and goings of anchor tenant Virgin Galactic, which plans to begin commercial space tourism flights there in the coming years. [Photos: Take a Tour of Spaceport America]

    Spaceport America tours are treating ticket-holding visitors to up-close-and-personal encounters with the sprawling complex, located adjacent to the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico. Ongoing work continues to flesh out both on- and off-site welcome centers, which are expected to be complete next year.

    "The local community is very happy to have Spaceport America here," said Christine Anderson, executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA). "It's already generated about 1,100 jobs in the state of New Mexico."

    New tenant

    Last May, Spaceport America put out the welcome mat for a new tenant, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX.

    The spaceport signed a three-year agreement with SpaceX to lease land and facilities at Spaceport America, where the company will conduct flight testing for its reusable rocket program, dubbed Grasshopper. That vertical takeoff and landing project aims to enable a multi-legged booster to return to the launch pad intact, rather than being wastefully tossed away.

    Anderson said she initiated the conversation with SpaceX to bring Grasshopper flight testing to Spaceport America. "We started talking, and they came out and it seemed like a great fit. We're very excited to have them here," she told SPACE.com.

    Anderson said that the three-year agreement with SpaceX has some extra options. "You know how flight testing is," she said. "We were already in the process of expanding our vertical launch area. So timing-wise, it worked out really well."

    Leap of faith

    The SpaceX Grasshopper venture has already faced a number of ups and downs during its flights. The last leap occurred on June 14 at the company's development facility in McGregor, Tex. The 10-story-tall rocket scored a new altitude record of 1,066 feet before returning to its launch pad. [Photos: Grasshopper Flight Tests]

    "Spaceport America offers the physical and regulatory landscape needed to complete the next phase of reusability testing, including the ability to coordinate tests to high altitudes and the flexibility to fly a variety of trajectories," said Christina Ra, communications director for SpaceX in Hawthorne, Calif.

    "Spaceport America adds a second testing location to the program," Ra told SPACE.com via email.

    Ride of their lives

    Spaceport America is eagerly awaiting the completion of start-up operations by Sir Richard Branson's spaceline firm, Virgin Galactic. That company's WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo launch system continues to go through shakeout testing at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

    "I've been working on this project for more than five years now," said Mark Butler, Virgin Galactic's lead for the spaceport's construction. "The flight program is going really well. With powered flight, we're moving forward as speedily as we can, as safely as we can," he said shortly after the June 21 launch here of an UP Aerospace suborbital rocket.

    Butler said the two-pilot, six-passenger suborbital vehicle SpaceShipTwo will do more than just take space tourists "for the ride of their lives."

    "We do also have the scientific side," Butler said. "That's going to be a really important part of our business. We're going to be taking experiments on board [the] spaceship and flying from Spaceport America. We are developing quite a versatile system to support this new industry. Keep an eye on the next 18 months or so, and watch one of our launches out of Spaceport America," he added.

    It is when it is

    Anderson said Virgin Galactic's first flight out of Spaceport America depends on testing that's currently in progress.

    "I hate to put dates on it. It is when it is. It's when you are done testing," she said. "It is actually a disservice to yourself to set a date. [But] obviously, you have to have a schedule and a budget."

    Work has begun on designing the interior of the Tomorrowland-looking Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space, a combined terminal and hangar facility, Anderson said. Set to be fit out in the next 10 months, it will be capable of supporting up to two WhiteKnightTwo and five SpaceShipTwo vehicles.

    In addition, the Gateway will house all of the company's astronaut preparation and celebration facilities, a mission control center and a friends and family area. Additional space will be dedicated to public access via the planned New Mexico Spaceport Authority's Visitor Experience.

    "Virgin Galactic has already started paying rent," Anderson said. "We're landlords, basically, keeping things running. Keep the runway clean. Make sure there's power to the facility."

    Market-driven enterprise

    Still, the $209 million project that is New Mexico's Spaceport America needs business. It was constructed using money from state and local county taxpayers.

    "I'm hoping more companies take a look at us," Anderson said. One of the biggest challenges is to be a self-sustaining, market-driven enterprise, she added.

    "We're right in that very tricky timing period, because the bonds are running out," Anderson said. "A lot is dependent on how fast we get the visitors complex built, and [when] Virgin and SpaceX, and other exciting things, start happening from the launch site. That brings both revenue and also excitement for the tourists that come."

    "That's not within my control," Anderson said. "The parts that are in my control, I can handle. So it gets a little hairy."

    Leonard David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. He is former director of research for the National Commission on Space and is co-author of Buzz Aldrin's new book "Mission to Mars - My Vision for Space Exploration," published by National Geographic. 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.

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    August 11, 2013

    In a scene from the original Sharknado, humans battle tornado-borne sharks. (AP Photo/Syfy)

    Love it or hate it, you can't deny the social-media, well, feeding frenzy when the Syfy network's cheesy horror mashup Sharknado was released last month.

    The killer-shark-meets-tornado TV movie netted over 300,000 Tweets -- some from bold-face names like actress Mia Farrow and comedian Patton Oswalt (who quipped: "Based on the Twitter attention it got, SHARKNADO is our Arab Spring"). So, its makes perfect sense that Twitter would crowd-source the title for its inevitable sequel.

    Are you ready? The winner is... Sharknado 2: The Second One.

    "Since Twitter played such a huge role in the success of the original movie, we wanted to use that platform to ask our fans to name Sharknado 2," said Thomas Vitale, executive vice president of Syfy's programming and original movies, in a statement per Mashable. "This response is another reminder of how Sharknado has become a pop culture phenomenon. We want to thank all our viewers for their wonderful contributions to keeping up the shark-mentum."

    The sequel will take place in New York, which, after Sandy, we feel has suffered through enough awful storms. However, maybe a corny fake-weather flick, set for a July 2014 release in theaters, is just the thing the city needs?

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

     

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    August 11, 2013

    Mount Rokatenda spews volcanic material as it erupts on Palue island, Indonesia, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013. Nearly 3,000 people have been evacuated from the island, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency. The volcano has been rumbling since last October. (AP Photo)

    MAUMERE, Indonesia (AP) - The six people swept up and killed by hot lava from an erupting volcano in eastern Indonesia had refused to leave the area for safer ground when the mountain began rumbling last year, an official said Sunday, one day after the eruption.

    Officials continued searching Sunday for the bodies of two children buried by the hot lava as rumbling could still be heard from Mount Rokatenda on the small island of Palue in East Nusa Tenggara province.

    Nearly 3,000 people have been evacuated from the area since the volcano erupted early Saturday morning, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency. The volcano had been active since last October.

    Tini Thadeus, head of the local disaster agency, said the six victims, who died while sleeping in a beachside village, were among those who had refused to leave last year when evacuations were carried out to establish a safety zone around the volcano.

    "On their belief, if all the old villagers abandoned the red (danger) zone, then lava will destroy the residential area," Thadeus said from Kupang, the provincial capital. Among the dead was a 58-year-old woman, the grandmother of the two children who also died.

    "But unfortunately, not like in the past, lava from Saturday's eruption flowed northward and hit them," Thadeus said, adding that during earlier eruptions since the 1930s, volcanic material had always flowed southward.

    On nearby Flores island, Mutiara Mauboi, an official at the command post helping evacuees, said 138 had arrived Sunday in the town of Maumere. Eleven people, including two pregnant women and two disabled people, were taken to a hospital due to injuries sustained during the eruption.

    The people who died included three adults and the two children. The age of the sixth person is not clear.

    Thadeus said he was not optimistic about recovering the children's bodies since they were buried under hot volcanic material.

    He said small explosions could still be heard coming from the peak, which was still spewing smoke up to 656 yards into the sky.

    "But all of the villagers have been evacuated out of the danger zone" near the crater, he said.

    Mount Rokatenda is one of 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands that's home to 240 million people. The country 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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    Thunderstorms capable of producing flooding downpours and/or damaging winds are set to return to New England and the mid-Atlantic on Tuesday.

    Travel delays, spoiled outdoor plans and property damage are problems residents from Portland to New York City to to Richmond, Va., could face on Tuesday.

    The threat for flooding downpours will encompass this entire corridor, as well as back to the mountains of West Virginia. Low-lying and poor drainage areas will be most susceptible to flooding.

    Thunderstorms with both flooding downpours and damaging winds will primarily occur south of Boston, from Providence to Richmond. New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., also lie in this zone.

    The afternoon hours should prove to be more active than the morning.

    Drenching thunderstorm could also create hazards to motorists by reducing visibility and heightening the risk of vehicles hydroplaning at highway speeds.

    RELATED:
    Northeast Regional Radar
    Severe Weather Center
    Viewing Conditions for the Perseids Meteor Shower

    While not every thunderstorm will trigger flooding or damaging winds, all should prompt residents and visitors to move inside. Remember as soon as thunder is heard, you are close enough to get struck by lightning.

    Tuesday's stormy weather will be preceded by a spotty shower or thunderstorm across the Northeast on Monday with building humidity in Philadelphia and New York City.

    The culprit behind the drenching and gusty thunderstorms across New England and the mid-Atlantic on Tuesday is a cold front that will first drop through the Great Lakes on Monday.

    In the wake of the front, drier and less humid air will pour across the Northeast for Wednesday and Thursday and once again suppress any summer heat that was attempting to surge northward.

    Wednesday may actually feel cool to some in the St. Lawrence Valley and eastern Great Lakes where highs will be held to around 70 degrees.

    The front, however, will struggle to make much more southward progress after reaching North Carolina, keeping the chance of thunderstorms in the forecast for Richmond and surrounding areas for the remainder of the week.

     

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