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SKYE on AOL

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    Northwest Regional Weather Forecast

    Meanwhile, a Pacific storm will produce moderate to heavy rain through Washington and Oregon in the morning, before progressing eastward into Idaho and Montana. By the time it reaches the higher elevations of the Intermountain West, the rain will be mixed with some snow over the higher peaks. In addition to the precipitation in the Northwest, the storm will produce strong winds throughout the region. Wind Advisories have been posted for many areas from Washington through Montana in anticipation of wind gusts to 60 mph. These strong winds will progress from Washington and Oregon in the morning to eastern Montana by the evening.

    To the south, a mild to warm October day is expected for California and the Southwest as temperatures will once again rise into the 80s and 90s. In addition, tropical moisture will stream out of northern Mexico and into Texas where it could produce scattered showers and thunderstorms.

    As a storm exits the eastern seaboard, another storm will move into the Pacific Northwest from the Pacific Ocean.

    The cold front along the East Coast will move gradually eastward as the day progresses, mirroring the movement of the center of the storm that will move through eastern Canada. Areas of moderate to heavy morning rain will fall from Delaware through Maine before much drier conditions will take hold in the afternoon and evening. The wettest areas could receive an additional inch of rain before the front finally moves off the coast.

    Elsewhere, a weak storm will track through the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes. This storm will not contain a tremendous amount of moisture, but light rain is expected mainly for Minnesota and Wisconsin.

    The Northeast will rise into the 40s, 50s, and 60s, while the Southeast will see temperatures in the 70s and 80s. The Southern Plains will rise into the 80s and 90s, while the Northwest will see temperatures in the 50s and 60s, while high elevations could see temperatures in the 40s.

    Temperatures in the Lower 48 states Monday have ranged from a morning low of 21 degrees at Wadena, Minn. to a high of 95 degrees at Thermal, Calif.

     

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    Breaking Weather: Tropical Troubles

    The storm is expected to pass just east of Bermuda, and tropical storm warning have been issued for the island. Hurricane-force winds are expected to remain offshore. The hurricane is then expected to reach Newfoundland on Wednesday or early Thursday.

     

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    Video footage shows what appears to be a tornado forming and ripping through a parking lot north of Marseilles, France on Sunday. In the chaos as the system passes by, it becomes clear the car from which the tornado was being filmed suffered frightening damage.

     

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    (AP)

    MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Don't let the bright eyes and bushy tails fool you. These squirrels are up to no good.

    Last year's mild winter and a bumper crop of nuts have caused an apparent explosion in the squirrel population in patches of the country, bewildering fruit growers with their ravenous appetites, littering highway shoulders as roadkill, and keeping homeowners and pest control experts busy.

    In southern Vermont, Clarence Boston said he hasn't seen such an infestation of pests in the 33 years he has been an orchardist on 60 farms in five states.

    The squirrels wait until his apple crop is nearly ripe to swarm into the trees from nearby forests, sometimes eating half a tree's fruit in two or three hours. Sometimes, the squirrels will take only one bite, but the teeth marks make the apples worthless for retail sale.

    "It's leaving me reeling. I'm sort of used to getting kicked around; I'm a farmer," said Boston, who estimates squirrels destroyed about half of his most profitable variety of apples following a season already made tough by the weather. "I was not expecting the next plague to be red squirrels."

    Biologists know squirrel populations have rare but periodic "eruptions," when conditions coincide to produce abundant foods that fuel the fast-reproducing animals. This year's squirrel boom in parts of Vermont followed two seasons of bountiful acorn and beechnut crops and last year's mild winter.

    In addition to eating up cash crops, squirrels can also prevent future harvests by "girdling" trees - eating away a band of bark around the trunk, causing it to die.

    At South Carolina's Clemson University, gray squirrels have been so abundant in the past several years that they have killed more than 100 mature trees, said Greg Yarrow, chairman of the school's division of natural resources.

    The school has experimented with non-lethal squirrel-control methods, including capturing and then injecting them with birth control chemicals. Another, less labor-intensive method has involves leaving chemical-laced bait that inhibits reproduction.

    "In this state we are getting increased calls of problems," Yarrow said. "I know it's similar in other states. ... It's all food-related."

    The same conditions are contributing to increases in other rodents, such as red squirrels and certain species of mice, experts say.

    Experts noting an increase in squirrel populations include Paul Curtis, an associate professor at Cornell University's Department of Natural Resources and a pest management expert. Such eruptions are rare but noted in historical literature, he said.

    "This is the first one I've heard of," Curtis said. "I've been here in New York state for 20 years."

    Trying to get a precise measurement of the scope of the infestation is difficult. The population booms appear to be happening in some places, but not others.

    Curtis said he has heard of problems in New York's Hudson Valley, north of New York City, but not in western New York. Similar booms have been reported in New Mexico, and squirrel hunters in Indiana and Ohio are expecting banner seasons. But hunters in Pennsylvania are being told it could be a tough season.

    In Vermont, at least, the plague is expected to end this winter. After two good nut seasons, this year saw poor acorn and beechnut crops. That could be contributing to high activity as many squirrels look for food elsewhere, Hammond said.

    For farmers, the beginning of the end is of little consolation in the here and now.

    Before this year, John Barber never had a problem with squirrels at his 25-acre Apple Hill Orchard in Whitehall, N.Y. Now the animals are building nests in his trees and sampling different varieties of apples as the fruit matures, staying one step ahead of his pickers.

    He estimates, conservatively, that he is going to lose 15 to 20 percent of his crop.

    "Usually your best fruit is the fruit that's fully exposed to the sun; it gets the best color to it," Barber said. "Your size is usually out on the upper canopy of the tree. That's what they're doing; they're climbing up into the upper canopy."

    Farmers aren't the only ones reporting problems.

    Drivers are dodging squirrels that dart across roads or skirting ones that are killed while crossing. Hammond said he has seen carcasses on roadsides from Vermont to Connecticut.

    Squirrels can also move into attics and build nests, creating a mess with droppings and urine. People commonly complain they can hear the pests scurrying through their attics at 4 a.m. They'll chew through wires, which can cause fires, said Dan Schwarzbeck, owner of the pest control company Got Wildlife? in Newburgh, N.Y.

    His business, which does both commercial and residential pest control, has been getting about 60 to 120 calls a week about squirrel problems ranging from New York's Dutchess County to central New Jersey, by far the most in the 10 years he has been in business.

    He sees all kinds of squirrels - gray, red and even flying squirrels, which don't really fly but have a flap of skin that helps them glide from tree to tree.

    "The gray is the most destructive and the widely spread. We get the flyers, but it's in select areas," he said. "The gray, you can get them in urban, you can get them in cities, rural it doesn't matter."

    Boston, the Vermont orchardist, is also a pest control consultant for orchards.

    "I am somewhat stunned. You get used to looking at disasters," he said. "It just happens, but this one is new. It's different."

     

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    It's hard not to love this Lego version of Felix Baumgartner's epic jump. Cue the soaring music.


    SEE ON SKYE: Stunning Photos from Felix Baumgartner's Epic Quest

     

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    Felix Baumgartner jumps out of his capsule during the final manned flight for Red Bull Stratos in Roswell, N.M. on Oct. 14, 2012. (Jay Nemeth/Red Bull Content Pool)

    By Ian O'Neill


    When Joe Kittinger made his historic jump from a US Air Force high-altitude balloon in 1960, a camera attached to the capsule's platform photographed an iconic scene: Kittinger, inside a pressure suit, taking a leap into the void.

    Photos on Discovery: When Felix Jumped, the World Jumped With Him

    On Sunday, Felix Baumgartner teamed up with Kittinger who, on the ground this time, remained in constant radio communications with the Austrian daredevil as the Red Bull Stratos balloon ascended to approximately 128,000 ft.

    Videos on Discovery: Spaceflight and Exploration

    In this spectacular photograph released by Red Bull, Baumgartner can be seen taking that leap from the Stratos capsule in a scene reminiscent of Kittinger's 1960's plunge. At this heart stopping moment, millions of people were on the edge of their seats hoping Baumgartner survives the fall. Sure enough, less than 5 minutes later, after breaking the speed of sound and smashing the high-altitude skydive record, Baumgartner made a picture perfect parachute landing in the New Mexico desert.

    More on Discovery: Red Bull Stratos Skydive

    Whatever Baumgartner's motivations, drive or passion, for just a few minutes on Sunday morning, millions of people forgot their routine and ignored the chaos of the world to watch one man make history. For me, it will always be this image -- of a man in a pressure suit plummeting through the stratosphere -- that will forever typify the raw human spirit of exploration and breaking records... just because there are records to be broken and new discoveries to be made.


    Col. Joe Kittinger steps off a balloon-supported gondola at an altitude of 102,800 feet. In freefall for 4.5 minutes at speeds up to 614 mph and temperatures as low as -94 degrees Fahrenheit, he opened his parachute at 18,000 feet. (U.S. Air Force)

     

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    Riders launch some serious aerial assaults on the big, artificial wave at San Diego's Wave House.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 15 Gut-Wrenching Wipeout Photos

     

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    The damage wrought by a massive tornado in Joplin, Mo., in May 2011. (NOAA)

    By Douglas Main

    Some of the deadliest outbreaks of tornadoes in recent years have been linked to a particular type of climate pattern by a new study. The findings could help forecasters determine when twisters are most likely to strike.

    The pattern is called Trans-Niño and is part of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the climate cycle influenced by surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific, which affects global weather patterns. Trans-Niño occurs most notably when La Niña is winding down in the springtime, and creates conditions favorable for tornadoes in the central and eastern United States, according to the study, published recently in the Journal of Climate.

    Scientists looked at 10 of the worst years for tornadoes over the last 60 years, and found that in seven of these years, Trans-Niño conditions were in place, said co-author and University of Miami researcher Sang-Ki Lee. Historical data from several sources also allowed researchers to determine that Trans-Niño was active in the three deadliest years for tornadoes - 1925, 1936 and 1917 - before official counts of tornadoes were recorded, Lee told OurAmazingPlanet.

    The Trans-Niño pattern was also in place during the record-breaking tornado season in the spring of 2011, Lee said.

    Trans-Niño occurs in the spring and is marked by colder-than-average sea surface temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean and warmer-than-average temperatures in the eastern Pacific.

    This pattern helps create winds that blow northward out of the Gulf of Mexico, which increases the likelihood of tornadoes in two ways. First, it increases the transport of moisture into the United States, which fuels the thunderstorms necessary for birthing tornadoes. Second, these low-level northerly winds interact with high-altitude winds blowing from the west, creating swirling vortices. These swirling masses of air can be flipped vertically during updrafts and downdrafts present in large thunderstorms, giving rise to twisters, Lee said.

    While Trans-Niño helps create conditions favorable for tornadoes, Lee is quick to point out that it certainly can't explain all or even most tornadoes. "It's dangerous to try to explain all the tornado outbreak events by the impact of climate," he said. "Much of it is due to normal atmospheric variability."

    This research could eventually help scientists predict the severity of tornado seasons, "but it won't allow them to predict when and where individual tornadoes might form," Lee said.

    Reach Douglas Main at dmain@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @Douglas_Main. Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Twitter @OAPlanet. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

    The Top 5 Deadliest Tornado Years in U.S. History
    Infographic: Tornado! How, When & Where Twisters Form
    The Tornado Damage Scale In Images

    Copyright 2012 OurAmazingPlanet, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 18 Incredible Photos of Tornadoes

     

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    This artist's concept shows the newfound alien planet Alpha Centauri Bb, found in a three-star system just 4.3 light-years from Earth. (ESO/L. Calçada)

    By Mike Wall

    The star system closest to our own sun hosts a planet with roughly Earth's mass and may harbor other alien worlds as well, a new study reports.

    Astronomers detected the alien planet around the sunlike star Alpha Centauri B, which is part of a three-star system just 4.3 light-years away from us. The newfound world is about as massive as Earth, but it's no Earth twin; its heat-blasted surface may be covered with molten rock, researchers said.

    The mere existence of the planet, known as Alpha Centauri Bb, suggests that undiscovered worlds may lurk farther away from its star - perhaps in the habitable zone, that just-right range of distances where liquid water can exist.

    "Most of the low-mass planets are in systems of two, three to six or seven planets, out to the habitable zone," study co-author Stephane Udry, of the Geneva Observatory, told reporters today (Oct. 16).

    So the discovery "opens really good prospects for detecting planets in the habitable zone in a system that is very close to us," Udry added. "In that sense, this system is a landmark."

    Alpha Centauri Bb zips around its star every 3.2 days, orbiting at a distance of just 3.6 million miles (6 million kilometers). For comparison, Earth orbits about 93 million miles, or 150 million km, from the sun. [Gallery: Nearby Alien Planet Alpha Centauri Bb]

    A difficult detection

    The research team, led by Xavier Dumusque of Geneva Observatory and the University of Porto in Portugal, spotted Alpha Centauri Bb using an instrument called the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher, or HARPS.

    HARPS is part of the European Southern Observatory's 11.8-foot (3.6 meters) telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. The instrument allows astronomers to pick up the tiny gravitational wobbles an orbiting planet induces in its parent star.

    In the case of Alpha Centauri Bb, these wobbles are very tiny indeed; the planet causes its star to move back and forth at no more than 1.1 mph (1.8 kph). It took more than 450 HARPS measurements spread out over four years of observing to detect the planet's signal, Dumusque said.

    "It's an extraordinary discovery, and it has pushed our technique to the limit," he said in a statement.

    The detection, to be published tomorrow (Oct. 17) in the journal Nature, was so difficult that some astronomers aren't yet convinced that Alpha Centauri Bb exists.

    For example, Artie Hatzes of the Thuringian State Observatory in Germany lauded the discoverers' technical achievement but said he believes the jury is still out.

    "As the American astronomer Carl Sagan once said, 'Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,'" Hatzes wrote in a commentary piece in the same issue of Nature. "Although a planetlike signal is present in the data, the discov­ery does not quite provide the 'extraordinary evidence.' It is a weak signal in the presence of a larger, more complicated signal. In my opin­ion, the matter is still open to debate."

    Udry, however, said that the team's statistical analyses show a "false alarm probability" of just one in 1,000 - meaning there's a 99.9 percent chance that the planet exists.

    And some experts don't agree with Hatzes that Alpha Centauri Bb requires extraordinary supporting evidence.

    "The reason why this seems to be an extraordinary claim is because everyone has heard of Alpha Centauri B; it's a household name," said Greg Laughlin of the University of California, Santa Cruz, who was not part of the discovery team. "It's extraordinary not so much in terms of the robustness of the result, but rather just in terms of the fact that it's a well-known nearby star."

    A lava world?

    Dumusque and his colleagues determined that Alpha Centauri Bb is about 13 percent more massive than Earth, suggesting it's a rocky world. In addition to being the closest known exoplanet, it's also the first planet with a mass similar to Earth ever found around a sunlike star, researchers said. [Gallery: The Smallest Alien Planets]

    Alpha Centauri Bb's extreme closeness to its parent star probably gives the planet a surface temperature around 2,240 degrees Fahrenheit (1,227 degrees Celsius), making it unsuitable for life, researchers said.

    "At this temperature, there is a lot of chance that the surface - if it's made of rock, for example - it's not solid, but it's more like lava," Dumusque told reporters today.

    Even though it resides in a three-star system - consisting of close-orbiting Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B, along with the more distant Proxima Centauri - the newfound world's orbit is stable over the long haul, Laughlin said. So are orbits in Alpha Centauri B's habitable zone, he added.

    It's possible that Alpha Centauri A and Proxima Centauri may host planets as well, Udry said. The system will likely be the subject of newly intense scientific scrutiny, as astronomers seek to confirm the existence of Alpha Centauri Bb, learn more about it (such as whether or not it has an atmosphere) and hunt for additional nearby alien worlds.

    "If you want to envision exploring this system, then it's almost twice as easy to get there as anywhere else," Laughlin said. "This is our backyard, and to find out that planet formation did occur there is just extraordinarily exciting."

    Astronomers have now discovered more than 800 exoplanets, but thousands more - including 2,300 detected by NASA's planet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope to date - await confirmation by follow-up investigations. Work so far suggests that small, rocky planets such as Earth are quite common throughout our Milky Way galaxy.

    Follow SPACE.com senior writer Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall or SPACE.com @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

    The Strangest Alien Planets (Gallery)
    A Quick Trip to Alpha Centauri
    Planets Large and Small Populate Our Galaxy (Infographic)

    Copyright 2012 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Mind-Blowing New Photos from Space

     

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    National Weather Forecast

    Expect showers and thunderstorms to spread across the middle of the country as a cold front moves eastward through the Plains and into the East. A low pressure system spinning in Canada creates a cold front that extends southward into Plains.

    The system has brought scattered showers and thunderstorms to the Northern Rockies and Northern Plains, but the front will continue sliding eastward over the Northern and Central Plains, reaching into the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes by evening. The tail end of this front will stretch southward into the Lower Mississippi River Valley and eastern Texas.

    Moisture from the Gulf of Mexico will feed in ahead of this system, allowing for showers and thunderstorms to develop. This system has a history of producing strong winds with gusts up to 70 mph and periods of heavy rainfall. There is a chance of severe weather development from the Lower Ohio River Valley through the Lower Mississippi River Valley.

    Rainfall totals will range from 0.5 to 1.5 inches along this front, with over 2 inches likely in areas of severe weather development. In the North, moisture will wrap around the northern side of this system, allowing for rain showers to persist for North and South Dakota, after the front passes.

    Precipitation will remain as rain in these areas, as temperatures remain well above freezing. High wind advisories will remain in effect for the North as this winds up to 30 mph will persist.

    Temperatures in the Lower 48 states Tuesday have ranged from a morning low of 19 degrees at Mt. Washington, N.H. to a high of 95 degrees at Palm Springs, Calif.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    (NOAA)

    LOS CABOS, Mexico (AP) - Tropical Storm Paul spun northward off the southern half of Mexico's Baja peninsula early Wednesday, after veering away from a landfall on a sparsely populated stretch of coast.

    Forecasters said the storm could cross the small Vizcaino Desert peninsula that hooks into the Pacific sometime Wednesday afternoon, then turn northwestward and head back out to sea.

    Paul started Tuesday as a hurricane but it rapidly lost strength as it headed toward Baja, preceded by rains that caused some minor flooding at the peninsula's southern tip.

    The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Paul's maximum sustained winds had decreased to 45 mph early Wednesday. It was moving northwest at 13 mph.

    A tropical storm warning was in effect for the western coast from Santa Fe north to El Pocito and in the east from San Evaristo to Bahia San Juan Bautista.

    In the Atlantic, Hurricane Rafael buffeted Bermuda with wind and rain while it stayed out to sea to the east of the British territory. The hurricane's maximum sustained winds decreased to near 80 mph with some additional weakening forecast. Rafael was centered about 310 miles northeast of Bermuda and was moving north-northeast near 33 mph.

     

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    (AP Photo)

    BRUSSELS (AP) - Winemaker Cherie Spriggs had watched the bad weather over southern England's vineyards all season long. It just wasn't good enough for Nyetimber, her award-winning sparkling wine.

    "I have never seen a situation like this before," Spriggs said as the grapes failed to deliver. She was left with only one option and the company decided to forego the 2012 harvest.

    Few have gone as far as Nyetimber but drought, frost and hail have combined to ravage Europe's wine grape harvest, which in key regions this year will be the smallest in half a century, vintners say.

    Thierry Coste, an expert with the European Union farmers' union, said Wednesday that France's grape harvest is expected to slump by almost 20 percent compared with last year. Italy's grape crop showed a 7 percent drop - on top of a decline in 2011.

    "Two big producing nations, France and Italy, have not known a harvest so weak in 40 to 50 years," Coste said. "All the major producing nations have been hurt."

    France's Champagne and Burgundy regions were hard hit by weather conditions that particularly affected the prevalent Chardonnay grape, used to make the world's most famous sparkling wine and the luxurious whites from those regions. Nyetimber also depends on Chardonnay.

    In places where vintners were already facing a small margin of profit, many could be facing survival problems, said Coste of the Copa-Cogeca union.

    "In certain regions, there will be many vintners in big difficulties because of the collapse of the harvest," he said.

    The European wine harvest automatically has a global impact since it accounts for some 62 percent of the worldwide wine production.

    It won't mean any immediate drought for consumers since retailers typically offer a wide range of vintages. And taste often wins when yields are small.

    In Europe, about 2.5 million families live off the wine sector. It makes the dependency on the vagaries of weather a sometimes cruel business.

    Drought hit the Mediterranean rim hard this year, Coste said. As a cooperative leader in southern France's Herault region, he should know.

    "First and foremost, climate change or not, we see that we have ever more dry spells," he said. Making matters worse is that even winter was dry this time. "It was almost zero (degrees Celsius) in the south."

    In the northern wine regions, it was the inverse, with cold and wet weather wreaking havoc. Hail in particular hurt the crops.

    "Natural phenomena happened all at the same time to make sure the harvest is so small," Coste said.

    French figures show that in Champagne the harvest could decline by up to 40 percent, with Bourgogne Beaujolais expected to decline 30 percent. Bordeaux would get away lightly with a drop of 10 percent.

    Coste said there may be an upside to the bad harvest - it is not a bitter one when it comes to taste. The quality of the wine produced will be good as it is expected to be more concentrated.

    "When it comes to quality, we are looking at a good year," Coste said.

    While some price increases were on the cards, Coste hoped they could be contained along the long chain from hillside picking to supermarket shelves.

     

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    Widgery Wharf in Portland, Maine. (AP)

    PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Patrons of a pizza parlor near the epicenter of an earthquake in southern Maine may not have known what was happening. But the shaking building was enough to send all 20 of them skedaddling outside.

    "It was loudest bang you ever heard in your life. We actually thought it was an explosion of some type," said Jessica Hill, owner of Waterboro House of Pizza. "The back door and door to the basement blew open," she said.

    The earthquake that hit southern Maine Tuesday night and was felt in New England states as far away as Connecticut caused no apparent damage or injuries, but it rattled residents throughout the region.

    The U.S. Geological Survey said the 4.0 magnitude quake hit around 7:12 p.m. and its epicenter, about 3 miles west of Hollis Center, Maine, was about 3 miles deep. That location is about 20 miles west of Portland. The quake was first estimated to be 4.6 magnitude but was later downgraded.

    In Saco, Sue Hadiaris said, "The whole house shook. ...It was very unnerving because you could feel the floor shaking. There was a queasy feeling."

    Afterward, Hadiaris called her 15-year-old niece in Falmouth to make sure she was safe. "She said, 'We can cross that off our bucket list. We've lived through an earthquake,'" Hadiaris said.

    Earthquakes are rare in New England but they're not unheard of.

    In 2006 there was a series of earthquakes around Maine's Acadia National Park. The strongest earthquake recorded in Maine occurred in 1904 in the Eastport area, near the state's eastern border with Canada according to the Weston Observatory at Boston College. It had an estimated magnitude of 5.7 to 5.9.

    The Seabrook Station nuclear plant, about 63 miles away in New Hampshire, declared an unusual event - the lowest of four emergency classifications - but said it was not affected. The plant has been offline for refueling.

    "There has been no impact at all to the plant from the earthquake and our refueling maintenance activities have not been affected," said Alan Griffith, spokesman for Next EnergyEra Seabrook Station.

    Jim Van Dongen, public information officer for the New Hampshire Department of Safety said New Hampshire 911 got about 1,000 calls in the first hour after the quake, but they later dropped off. He said no major damage was reported.

    Brief, but noticeable shaking was felt in downtown Boston and the surrounding area.

    Edward Conti, who lives in a four-story apartment building in Cambridge, Mass., he was watching television when "it sounded like a car crash. Then there was another boom-boom. It was no small thing." Conti said there was no damage.

    In Melrose, just north of Boston, Peter Ward said the shaking he felt seemed to last about four seconds. "It felt like a big gust of wind shaking the house. I don't want to overstate it, but the glass did rattle a little," he said.

    Lynette Miller, a spokeswoman for the Maine Emergency Management Agency, said her dogs started barking several seconds before the quake on Tuesday. "It was several seconds of good shaking but nothing falling down," Miller said from her home in Readfield, about 60 miles north of Portland.

    In Portland, Abbie Miller had just turned on the aging furnace in her house for the first time this season. "An hour later, things started shaking and it sounded almost like a train coming through. I thought my furnace was going to blow," she said.

    East Coast quakes are rarely strong enough to be felt over a wide area. A quake of magnitude 5.8 on Aug. 23, 2011, was centered in Virginia and felt all along the coast, including in New York City and Boston. Experts say the region's geology can make the effects felt in an area up to 10 times larger than quakes of similar size on the West Coast.

     

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    The Denver, Colo. skyline. (AP)

    DENVER (AP) - A powerful wind storm knocked out electrical service to about 50,000 customers in the Denver area and in northern Colorado, and about 20,000 remained without power Wednesday afternoon.

    Xcel Energy said it might take until Wednesday night to restore electricity to everyone.

    The blackouts affected primarily the Denver area, Fort Collins and Greeley starting at 10 p.m. Tuesday. Power was restored to Fort Collins and Greeley by midday Wednesday.

    The National Weather Service said gusts of up to 60 mph were reported in the Denver area and the northeast Colorado plains Tuesday night.

    Gusts of 46 mph were reported in the northern Colorado town of Loveland on Wednesday. Fort Morgan, Akron and Holyoke in northeastern Colorado reported 40 mph gusts.

    The Weather Service issued a high wind warning for much of northeastern Colorado, with sustained winds of up to 40 mph and gusts of up to 60 mph possible.

    A red flag warning was issued for eastern and southeastern Colorado, saying high wind and low humidity created very high to extreme fire danger. Sustained winds of up to 30 mph and gusts of up to 55 mph were forecast in that area.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    Catamaran Makes a Big Splash

    America's Cup champion Oracle Racing is assessing the damage to its 72-foot catamaran, which capsized on San Francisco Bay and was swept by a strong current more than four miles past the Golden Gate Bridge before rescue boats could control it.

    Syndicate spokeswoman Lisa Ramsperger says the catamaran was upside down when it was towed back to the team base on Pier 80, arriving at about 1 a.m. PDT Wednesday.

    While some of the crew members were thrown into the water Tuesday afternoon, there were no serious injuries.

    The 131-foot wing sail was destroyed and the bowsprit was torn off the multimillion-dollar craft.

    Grinder Jono MacBeth says that when it became evident the boat was going to flip end-over-end, skipper Jimmy Spithill yelled out, "Make sure you have an eye on your mates."


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    The space shuttle Endeavor traveled through the streets of Los Angeles Oct. 11-14 on the last leg of its final journey. As the shuttle made its way to its permanent home at the California Science Center, thousands of people lined the streets for a glimpse of the iconic spacecraft. This time-lapse video encapsulates the shuttle's stunning trip.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos from Endeavour's Final Journey

     

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    (AP Photo)

    JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A line of severe storms packing strong winds and possible tornadoes swept across the Southeast overnight, injuring four people in Mississippi, downing power lines and trees and damaging homes around the region, authorities said early Thursday.

    Nearly 900 customers lost electricity in Arkansas, where some buildings were damaged but no injuries were reported. Storms also raked western Tennessee, toppling trees in a mobile home park north of Memphis and forcing some residents out of their homes. No injuries were reported.

    Mobile homes were also damaged in northern Mississippi's Union County.

    In Louisiana, authorities reported trees down in at least two parishes and one home with a damaged roof when part of the front swept through that state.

    "These were severe storms that produced damaging winds," said Jeff Rent, a spokesman for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

    At least six northern counties in Mississippi reported damage, Rent said. He said experts would check for further reports of damage Thursday and would inspect damage locations to determine if any tornadoes had touched down.

    A worker at Mississippi's Sharkey Issaquena Community Hospital in Rolling Fork said four people had been taken there in stable condition with injuries and two were sent on to the University Medical Center in the state capital of Jackson. A University Medical Center spokeswoman later said the two injured sent there were in good condition.

    Radar weather maps overnight showed a huge, arcing front that swept across Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and parts of states such as Louisiana and Alabama on its march eastward on a jagged slant.

    Meteorologist Greg Dial at the national Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma said there had been reports of possible tornadoes in some parts of the country.

    "Most of the tornadoes have been from extreme eastern Arkansas into northwestern and west-central Mississippi," Dial said.

    He said the storms extended from southwest Louisiana northeastward over several states, advancing on portions of Alabama and Georgia, among other areas.

    Meteorologist Brian Koeneke at the National Weather Service in Jackson said the severe weather warnings in his state were widespread during the night. The National Weather Service had begun issuing tornado watches and warnings for many areas of Mississippi beginning late Wednesday afternoon and expanding those as the hours wore on.

    In Mississippi, dispatcher Erica Severson with the dispatch office for Yazoo City and county said winds roughed up some areas.

    "We had a bunch of trees down and a bunch of power lines down," she told AP, adding there had been a report of a possible tornado in a nearby county.

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    Denver, Colo. (AP)

    DENVER (AP) - It could be midday Thursday before electricity is restored to everyone who lost power in the Denver area after powerful winds.

    Xcel Energy says the blackouts affected about 50,000 customers in Denver, Fort Collins and Greeley starting at 10 p.m. Tuesday. Crews restored service to most by midday Wednesday.

    About 5,500 were still without power Wednesday evening, and the company said it could be noon Thursday everyone's service is restored.

    The National Weather Service said gusts of up to 60 mph were reported in the Denver area and the northeast Colorado plains Tuesday night.

    Gusts of 46 mph were reported in the northern Colorado town of Loveland on Wednesday. Fort Morgan, Akron and Holyoke in northeastern Colorado reported 40 mph gusts.

    The Weather Service issued a high wind warning for much of northeastern Colorado, with sustained winds of up to 40 mph and gusts of up to 60 mph possible.

    A red flag warning was issued for eastern and southeastern Colorado, saying high wind and low humidity created very high to extreme fire danger. Sustained winds of up to 30 mph and gusts of up to 55 mph were forecast in that area.

     

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