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    Sept. 20, 2013

    Satellite image of Usagi captured on Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 (NOAA)

    TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) - The most powerful typhoon of the year approached the northern Philippines and southern Taiwan on Friday with ferocious gusts of up to 184 miles per hour. It was expected to skirt both regions, but authorities warned of torrential rains and destructive winds.

    Super Typhoon Usagi had maximum sustained winds of 150 mph on Friday evening and was about 600 373 miles southeast of Taipei, Taiwan's capital, according to the U.S. Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center. A storm achieves super typhoon status when its sustained winds are at least 150 mph.

    The huge storm was on track to pass near the Batanes Islands, the northernmost part of the Philippines, as it moved across the Luzon Strait, close to Taiwan's southernmost Hengchun peninsula.

    In Taiwan, hundreds of people were evacuated from flood-prone areas near cities and in remote mountainous regions. Torrential rains were forecast for all of the eastern coast and the south.

    Usagi was projected to push on toward southern China, with its outer bands slamming into the Guangdong-Hong Kong coastline on Sunday. The storm is expected to weaken, and by Sunday is projected to have maximum sustained winds of 158 kph (98 mph).

    Usagi had a massive diameter of 1,100 kilometers (680 miles), with its outer rain bands extending across the main northern Philippine island of Luzon and southern Taiwan. Forecasters predicted 24-hour rainfall accumulation of 500 millimeters (nearly 20 inches) near its center.

    In the Philippines, the Batanes Islands were placed under the highest storm alert, while lower warnings were raised in at least 15 northern provinces where officials warned of flash floods, landslides and storm surges.

    SEE ON SKYE: Amazing Photos of the Incredible Force of Nature

     

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    Sept. 20, 2013

    Above, people stranded in Acapulco by flooding due to Manuel. (AP Photo/Bernandino Hernandez)

    As Acapulco cleans up after severe and deadly flooding, Manuel will continue to bring heavy rain to Mexican communities farther north through Friday.

    The once-hurricane made landfall Thursday morning west of Culiacan, located in northern Sinaloa.

    Soon after, Manuel weakened to a tropical storm and then it weakened to a tropical rainstorm Thursday evening as its center tracked northeastward over mainland Mexico.

    It is expected to weaken even more Friday as it continues moving over western Mexico.

    As was the case when Manuel was moving into southwestern Mexico earlier this week, flooding rain and mudslides are the greatest dangers Manuel poses to lives and properties.

    Rainfall amounts through Thursday night include 5.96 inches in Culican since Tuesday, 7.46 inches in Mazatlan since Monday and 10.8 inches in Acapulco since Monday.

    The heavy rain and threat of flooding will also spread to southern and eastern sections of Chihuahua state through Friday. South and east of Chihuahua city, the rain will amount to 2 to 4 inches.

    RELATED:
    AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center
    Latest Statistics of Manuel
    Super Typhoon Usagi Barrels Toward Taiwan, China

    Beyond Friday, Manuel's moisture will likely get drawn across northeastern Mexico and bring downpours to the northern portions of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas states this weekend.

    Some of these areas were just hit hard by once-Hurricane Ingrid's torrential rain.

    Manuel's moisture, however, will generally be viewed positively across Texas, where the moisture will interact with a cold front and help produce widespread showers and thunderstorms across the drought-stricken state.

    The departure of Manuel from Mexico cannot come soon enough for residents. The combination of flooding from both Manuel and once-Hurricane Ingrid has been blamed for the deaths of at least 80 people, according to Reuters.

    More than half of those deaths occurred in Acapulco's home state of Guerrero. In Acapulco, mud completely blocked the entrance to a main hillside tunnel that leads into the city as waist-deep flood waters at the city's international airport prevented roughly 40,000 visitors from leaving.

    During the inundation of heavy rain, 7.43 inches of rain alone fell on Acapulco in 24 hours (ending Sunday morning).

    The death toll rose on Wednesday after rescue workers recovered the bodies of 18 people who were killed when a landslide buried their homes in the village of La Pintada, located northwest of Acapulco.

    The death toll may rise again since more than 68 people in the area are missing, according to the Associated Press.

    Farther east, torrential rain from Ingrid led to landslides that buried homes and a bus in the eastern state of Veracruz.

    A couple of showers and thunderstorms will continue to stream across Acapulco and Mexico's southern coast through this weekend--potentially hindering cleanup efforts.

    During that time, another Atlantic tropical system may attempt to organize in the western Gulf of Mexico.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Big Storms Hit Mexico on Opposite Coasts
    Tropical Storm Manuel, Mexico

     

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    Sept. 20, 2013

    Dirk Huntington checks on a friend's flood-damaged trailer at the River Bend Mobile Home Park in Lyons, Colo., on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Schneider)

    LYONS, Colo. (AP) - Coloradans who ventured back into the flood-ravaged town of Lyons found scenes of stomach-turning destruction, with dozens of homes destroyed, family keepsakes missing, food spoiling and mud everywhere.

    "It's just sickening," said Gloria Simpson, whose family salvaged some of her grandmother's hand-made quilts Thursday from her 81-year-old father's home. They found some family photos, but others were no where to be found.

    Up and down Colorado's Front Range, the number of dead rose to seven, with three others missing and presumed dead. But the number of unaccounted-for people dropped to about 140, thanks to rescues and restored communications.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Flash Flooding Deluges Parts of Colorado
    Colorado FloodsRescue operations tapered off and the state began to turn its attention to finding homes for the displaced, restoring basic services and figuring out how to repair hundreds of miles of roads and dozens of bridges.

    "Right now we're just moving from the life-saving mode to the life-sustaining mode," said Kevin Kline, director of the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

    Kline said it was too early to estimate the dollar damage but added, "It's going to be big."

    The damage spans 17 counties and nearly 2,000 square miles.

    Gov. John Hickenlooper said the state's reconstruction effort would be overseen by Jerre Stead, executive chairman of the global information company IHS Inc.

    A new group within the state Transportation Department will focus on repairing and reconstructing as much of the state highway system as possible by Dec. 1.

    Underlining the urgency, Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the only routes still open into the flood-damaged town of Estes Park, was temporarily closed because of snow early Thursday. The high-elevation road normally shuts down in October for the winter.

    Under tight security, hundreds of Lyons evacuees were given two hours to check on their homes Thursday. On Sept. 12, the St. Vrain River destroyed dozens of homes, a trailer park, two bridges and sections of roads in the picturesque town of 1,600 framed by sandstone cliffs.

    Darren Horwitz saw boulders, broken glass and dislodged propane tanks strewn around Lyons. His truck and sailboat that he parked at a friend's mobile home had been swept away.

    "When you get there, the shock sets in," he said.

    Bob Ruthrauff, 84, found his home intact, but food was rotting in his refrigerator because electricity had been cut off. He spent his two hours getting rid of the spoilage but was grateful. "We're very lucky. We came home to a dry home," Ruthrauff said.

    Utility poles were toppled and power lines were in tangles. Work crews cleared debris and tried to restore power, water and sewer service.

    Flooding along the South Platte River pushed into western Nebraska but caused little initial damage.

    Amtrak said its Chicago-to-San Francisco California Zephyr train will detour through Wyoming until early October because of flood damage to its route in Colorado. Buses will take passengers to some of the train's normal stops in Colorado and Utah until repairs are completed.

    The White House said Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, will visit Colorado Monday.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Dramatic Flooding in Colorado
    Colorado Floods

     

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    Updated Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 at 5:40 p.m. ET

    Structures lay in ruins at the site of a landslide in the village of La Pintada, Mexico, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Mexico's Secretary of the Interior)

    ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) - Mexican soldiers dug through tons of mud and dirt Friday in their continuing search for landslide victims, as authorities looked for a federal police helicopter that went missing while carrying out relief operations on the flood-stricken Pacific coast.

    The helicopter with three crew members on board was returning from the remote mountain village of La Pintada, where the mudslide occurred, when it went missing Thursday. There is still no sign of it, said Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong.

    "They risked their lives all the time," Osorio Chong said. "We are truly worried."

    Search efforts continued in the town north of Acapulco, where 68 people were reported missing following Monday's slide. Two bodies have been recovered, but it was unclear if they were among those on the list of missing.

    Federal police have been helping move emergency supplies and aid victims of massive flooding caused by Tropical Storm Manuel, which washed out bridges and collapsed highways throughout the area, cutting Acapulco off by land and stranding thousands of tourists.

    The country's Transportation Department said Friday that a patchwork connection of roads leading to Mexico City had been partially reopened around midday Friday. Part of the main toll highway, however, remain blocked by collapsed tunnels and mudslides, so drivers were being shunted to a smaller non-toll highway that is in better shape on some stretches.

    Yet so badly damaged was that route that traffic was allowed through only in small groups escorted by federal police, and in only one direction: outward bound from Acapulco.

    Thousands of cars, trucks and buses lined up at the edge of Acapulco, waiting to get out of the flood- and shortage-stricken city.

    "We're a little calmer now. We've spent six days stranded, waiting to get out," said Armando Herrera, a tourist from Mexico state, outside of Mexico City, as he waited in his car to be allowed on to the newly reopened road.

    Survivors of the La Pintada landslide staying at a shelter in Acapulco recounted how a tidal wave of dirt, rocks and trees exploded off the hill, sweeping through the center of town, burying families in their homes and sweeping wooden houses into the bed of the swollen river that winds past the village on its way to the Pacific.

    "Everyone who could ran into the coffee fields. It smothered the homes and sent them into the river. Half the homes in town were smothered and buried," said Marta Alvarez, a 22-year-old homemaker who was cooking with her 2-year-old son, two brothers and parents when the landslide erupted.

    La Pintada was the scene of the single greatest tragedy in the twin paths of destruction wreaked by Manuel and Hurricane Ingrid, which simultaneously pounded both of Mexico's coasts over the weekend, spawning huge floods and landslides across hundreds of miles of coastal and inland areas.

    Manuel later gained hurricane force and rolled into the northern state of Sinaloa on Thursday morning before weakening over land. By Thursday night it had degenerated into an area of low pressure over the western Sierra Madre mountains, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

    Three people were reported dead in Sinaloa: a fisherman swept from his boat, a small boy who fell into a ditch and a young man whose vehicle was swept away by flood waters that reached waist-deep in some places in Culiacan, the Sinaloa state capital. Authorities reported three thousand people had been forced to take refuge at storm shelters throughout the state.

    The death toll from the weekend storms, not including the dead in Sinaloa, stood at 97. But it was certain to rise because the figure also doesn't include the missing in La Pintada.

    President Enrique Pena Nieto said he was cancelling a trip to New York for the annual U.N. General Assembly because of the emergency. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, visiting Mexico City for a Friday meeting with Pena Nieto, offered U.S. help in flood recovery and relief efforts.

    Federal officials set up donation centers for storm aid Thursday, but they faced stiff questioning about why, instead of warning people more energetically about the oncoming storms, they focused on Independence Day celebrations and a military parade that kept dozens of aircraft and emergency vehicles in Mexico City.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Big Storms Hit Mexico on Opposite Coasts
    Tropical Storm Manuel, Mexico

     

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    Updated 12:30 a.m. ET, Sept. 21, 2013

    A three-wheeled vehicle lies on its side after being blown over by winds from typhoon Usagi in the town of Hengtsun in China's southeast Pingtung county on Sept. 21, 2013, as the storm sweeps past the southern parts of the island. (Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images)

    TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) - The most powerful typhoon of the year swept through the Luzon Strait separating the Philippines and Taiwan on Saturday, battering island communities with heavy rains and strong winds as it headed straight for Hong Kong.

    Typhoon Usagi weakened from a super typhoon - those with sustained winds of at least 150 miles per hour - and veered westward during the day, likely sparing southern Taiwan from the most destructive winds near its eye. At least two people were killed in the Philippines, and two others were missing.

    By Saturday evening, the storm had maximum sustained winds of 108 mph and gusts of up to 131 mph, and was 94 miles southwest of Taiwan's southernmost point, the Central Weather Bureau said.

    But gusts exceeding 144 mph were recorded on the Taiwanese island of Lanyu, with dangerous winds buffeting the holiday resort of Kending on the Hengchun peninsula as the storm made its closest approach to the area.

    The Hong Kong Observatory said late Saturday night that Usagi was about 530 kilometers 329 miles east-southeast of the city. It said the storm's maximum sustained winds would weaken to 103 mph as it approaches Hong Kong on Sunday afternoon before making landfall overnight. The observatory issued a No. 3 Standby Signal and warned that the storm posed a "severe threat" to the city.

    Cathay Pacific Airways and Dragonair said flights Saturday were unaffected except for one canceled flight, but both airlines said flights to and from Hong Kong International Airport would be canceled from 6 p.m. Sunday and resume Monday if conditions permit.

    China's National Meteorological Center announced a red alert, its highest level, as the storm maintained its track toward the manufacturing heartland of the Pearl River Delta. The observatory warned Usagi would impact coastal areas of Guangdong, Zhejiang and Fujian provinces.

    In Taiwan, more than 3,000 people were evacuated from flood-prone areas and mountainous regions as the government deployed military personnel into potential disaster zones. The storm system dumped up to 20 inches of rain along the eastern and southern coasts in a 20-hour period, with officials warning that more than 39 inches could drop before the storm leaves Sunday.

    Local officials closed mountain highways blocked by landslides and suspended train services connecting the east and west coasts as power outages and rising floodwaters affected thousands of homes.

    Rivers swollen with fast-moving water and debris thrown down from steep and unstable mountain catchment areas threatened bridges on both sides of the island.

    In the Philippines, a 50-year-old man and a 20-year-old woman drowned when a passenger boat capsized in rough waters off northeastern Aurora province, the Office of Civil Defense said Saturday. Two other people were missing, while the nine other passengers and crew were rescued from the boat, which capsized Friday.

    The typhoon blew out of the country late Saturday after triggering landslides and floods, uprooting trees, and damaging houses, roads and bridges in parts of the northern and central Philippines.

    Usagi has a massive diameter of 680 miles, with its outer rain bands extending across Luzon, all of Taiwan and more than 63 miles into China's interior, satellite images showed.

    SEE ON SKYE: Amazing Photos of the Incredible Force of Nature

     

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    Sept. 20, 2013

    Oil workers try to lift a container of condensate -- a mix of oil and water that is pumped out of the ground -- storage tank. The massive tank was knocked over by floodwaters from the Platte River at an oil well site near LaSalle, Colo., on Friday, Sept. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Schneider)

    DENVER (AP) - Coloradans watched for more spills in flooded oilfields as crews waited for the waters to recede so they could begin cleanup operations.

    Four new spills were discovered Friday, including 2,400 gallons of oil from a toppled storage tank and almost 900 gallons from an unspecified source. Oil spilled from two other damaged tanks but authorities did not know how much.

    That brings the known volume of oil released since massive flooding began last week along Colorado's Front Range to an estimated 22,060 gallons or about 525 barrels.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Flash Flooding Deluges Parts of Colorado
    Colorado FloodsMost of the oil releases reported to date came from tanks operated by Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum Co. At least four of the releases reported by the company were in Weld County and spilled oil into the South Platte River or a tributary, according to information submitted to regulators.

    Other companies might have suffered similar problems since flooding began last week, but they have not yet been able to assess their damage.

    An aerial survey of the flood area on Thursday revealed up to two dozen overturned oil storage tanks, state regulators said. Releases from those tanks could not be immediately confirmed.

    With many roads in the area washed out, the sites remained largely inaccessible, preventing cleanup work from getting underway, said Anadarko spokesman John Christiansen.

    "We've got a couple of amphibious vehicles and flat-bottom boats that we're using, but really until things have a chance to dry out and some of the infrastructure issues are sorted out, it's going to be difficult," Christiansen said.

    Authorities in Weld County have said their concern over spilled oil is eclipsed by much greater volumes of sewage and other contaminants washing into local waterways.

    In other developments:

    - The number of people unaccounted for dropped to around 80 thanks to door-to-door searches and restored communications. Seven people have died and three others are missing and presumed dead.

    - The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved $8 million in aid for homeowners and the number of FEMA personnel on the ground increased from 250 to 800.

    - Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said he was heartened to see residents in remote communities doing their own makeshift repairs to roads.

    - The new official in charge of recovery efforts, IHS Inc. executive chairman Jerre Stead, said his priorities are rebuilding the affected area equal or better than it was before.

    - Gov. John Hickenlooper approved another $20 million in emergency flood funding, bringing the total to $26 million, and expanded the disaster zone to include a total of 17 counties.

    - Schools are making arrangements for students in flooded towns to head back to class. Students in Lyons will attend school in nearby Longmont starting next week while students in another mountain town may have a teacher sent to them.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Dramatic Flooding in Colorado
    Colorado Floods

     

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    Updated 6:15 p.m. ET, Sept. 20, 2013

    Thousands were stranded when Tropical Storm Manuel hit. Above, frustrated tourists and locals wait for the highway to open in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco, Mexico, Friday, Sept. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Bernandino Hernandez)


    ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) - The Mexican government searched for victims and continued assessing the damage Saturday from the one-two punch of storms Manuel and Ingrid, as a missing Federal Police helicopter working on the rescue was found crashed. All aboard died.

    Meanwhile, in Mexico City, criticism mounted all week in editorials and public commentary that the government had made natural disasters worse because of poor planning, lack of a prevention strategy and corruption.

    "Governments aren't responsible for the occurrence of severe weather, but they are for the prevention of the effects," wrote Mexico's nonprofit Center of Investigation for Development in an online editorial criticizing a federal program to improve infrastructure and relocate communities out of dangerous flood zones. "The National Water Program had good intentions but its execution was at best poor."

    President Enrique Pena Nieto was en route Saturday to La Pintada, said Guerrero Gov. Angel Aguirre via his Twitter account, a remote mountain coffee-growing village northwest of Acapulco that is the scene of the single-greatest tragedy wreaked by the two storms.

    Later reports said the president would do a flyover if conditions allowed and land nearby.

    Ingrid and Manuel simultaneously pounded both of Mexico's coasts last weekend, killing at least 101 people, not including the helicopter crash victims. Another 68 people remained missing in La Pintada, where soldiers continued digging after a landslide wiped out half of the town.

    Even Aguirre and other government officials publicly confirmed that corruption and political dealings allowed housing to be built in dangerous areas where permits should have been rejected.

    "The responsibility falls on authorities," Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said in a press conference earlier in the week. "In some cases (the building) was in irregular zones, but they still gave the authorization."

    Both federal and state administrations are new and cited cases in the past, though Osorio Chong said that going forward, he is sure that Aguirre and the mayor of Acapulco will not allow flooded-out victims to return to high-risk areas, which is not the case in many other states and municipalities.

    The federal police helicopter, lost since Thursday, was located early Saturday morning. Government spokesman Eduardo Sanchez says the number of victims is still being determined and could be between three and five people.

    It had been returning from La Pintada, where weather conditions initially hampered rescue efforts and flights into the area.

    The Mexican government late Friday gave a list of damages from Ingrid and Manuel, which later gained hurricane force and rolled into the northern state of Sinaloa on Thursday morning.

    The storms affected 24 of Mexico's 31 states and 371 municipalities, which are the equivalent of counties. More than 58,000 people were evacuated, with 43,000 taken to shelters. Nearly 1,000 donation centers have been set up around the country, with nearly 700 tons of aid arriving so far to the state of Guerrero, by far the hardest-hit state. Nearly 800,000 people lost power, though the Federal Electricity Commission said 94 percent of service had been restored as of Saturday morning.

    Seventy-two key highways were damaged, including main arteries that left Acapulco isolated for days, as thousands of tourists awaited airlifts out of the inundated resort city.

    The highway reopened Friday, albeit with many detours skirting stretches damaged by flooding and landslides. As of Saturday, all of the stranded tourists had been able to leave Acapulco.

    The investigations center, known as CIDAC for its initials in Spanish, said Mexico had not been hit by two simultaneous storms since 1958.

    The editorial said that while rescue efforts and aid are indeed humanitarian, they also provide good images for opportunistic politicians.

    Prevention "like that in developed countries, designed to avoid the negative impact of natural events on people, doesn't seem to sell advertising or create grateful constituents," read the editorial.

    SEE ON SKYE: Amazing Photos of the Incredible Force of Nature

     

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    Sept. 21, 2013

    Above, the Global Hawk drone is equipped with microwave and radar instruments inside the round nose, and along the aircraft's underbelly. (Denise Chow/LiveScience)

    Editor's Note: In this weekly series, LiveScience explores how technology drives scientific exploration and discovery.

    Hurricane tracking and forecasting save lives. In sparsely populated Florida in the 1920s and 1930s, hurricanes killed thousands of people. The storms arrived without little to no warning. Now, thanks to forecasters who monitor incoming storms, millions of Floridians can evacuate days before storm surge flooding and winds hit.

    The technology for monitoring hurricanes may sound old-fashioned - weather satellites and specially equipped planes. But NASA has added unmanned aircraft, or drones, to the country's arsenal of hurricane-hunting aircraft, and a planned weather satellite will soon peer through clouds to scan rainfall inside a hurricane, providing 3D views. The data feeds into weather models that run on supercomputers, and scientists are always looking for new tweaks that will improve storm forecasts.

    Hurricane hunters: tracking by air

    The first time a plane flew into a hurricane on purpose was in 1943, near Galveston, Texas. Now, a group of pilots and scientists called the Hurricane Hunters regularly soar through storms that threaten the United States. Aircraft from the U.S. Air Force and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) gauge wind speeds, barometric pressure, rainfall and snow. They also release sensors called dropsondes, which fall through the storm and send back data in real time to improve forecasting models. The dropsondes descend by parachute, relaying two to four measurements per second by radio to aircraft nearby. [Video: Ride With Hurricane Hunters Into Irene's Eye]

    NASA is also sending two Global Hawk drones lofting above hurricanes as part of a five-year science mission to investigate the influence of weather patterns across the Atlantic on tropical storms, and how hurricanes grow and wane.

    Between the Hurricane Hunters and NASA, six planes from three government agencies have flown at the same time in one hurricane (2010's Hurricane Karl), each in different parts of the storm.

    Even though data from the remotely piloted Global Hawks is not used for weather forecasting, the science can help to improve hurricane-forecasting models, said Scott Braun, chief scientist for the NASA mission.

    "We're interested in the processes that control storm formation and intensification," Braun said. When the drones watched Hurricane Nadine in 2012, they saw the storm lose strength, then intensify again into a hurricane after wandering around the Azore islands for a few weeks. "We're hoping to learn something about how the storm was able to redevelop when the environmental conditions were quite adverse," Braun said. "One would have anticipated that storm would have quickly dissipated."

    Satellites: weather watchers in space

    Weather satellites watch hurricanes from orbit, snapping visible images of swirling clouds and measuring weather patterns with radar and infrared sensors. Today's satellites can track temperatures inside a storm, cloud heights, rain, snow and wind speed.

    NOAA tracks developing storms and makes long-term forecasts with two sets of satellites: geostationary operational environmental satellites (GOES) and polar-orbiting operational environmental satellites (POES). The GOES satellites hover above the same spot for their life spans, and the POES satellites circle the planet in above the poles 14 times a day. [Time-Lapse Video: 10 Years of GOES Weather Monitoring]

    But one of the most useful satellites for monitoring hurricanes wasn't meant for storm-watching at all.

    The TRMM satellite, or Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, launched in 1997. Intended to measure rainfall in the tropics, the satellite quickly proved invaluable for providing "CT scans" inside hurricanes. The radar on the TRMM satellite sees inside storms, including a newly recognized phenomenon called hot towers. Thanks to TRMM, forecasters now know that storms with hot towers - rain clouds that reach the top of the troposphere - are more likely to intensify in the next 24 hours. The troposphere is the lowest layer of the atmosphere, and hot towers bring heat up to these high altitudes.

    "TRMM was the first and only rainfall radar in space," said Braun, who is a research meteorologist. "Ultimately, what it provides is a CT scan beneath the clouds. It's like a three-dimensional view."

    A new satellite that improves on TRMM is planned for launched in February 2014 by NASA and the JapanAerospace Exploration Agency. Dubbed the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) satellite, it will take a snapshot of rain and snow between 65 degrees latitude North and South every three hours.

    Supercomputers: where it all comes together

    Pacific hurricane warnings were issued as early as the late 1800s, but hurricane forecasts didn't come until 1954, with a day's advance warning of a storm track. By 1964, meteorologists could draw a hurricane track out to three days. This remained the standard for nearly four decades. In 2002, thanks to better storm models and more powerful computers, NOAA started releasing five-day forecasts of tropical storms and hurricanes. [Infographic: Storm Season! How, When & Where Hurricanes Form]

    The weather models improved with new understanding of global ocean and atmospheric patterns that influence budding storms. But when researchers offer a tweak, such as computer algorithms that analyze satellite images for hot towers in hurricanes, NOAA wants reliability. So new algorithms are tested in real time at a computer complex in Boulder, Colo. The tests run side-by-side with current forecast models, taking on incoming feeds from weather satellites, ocean sensors and the hurricane hunters, said Frank Marks, director of NOAA's Hurricane Research Division. The computer-model newbies also have to prove their mettle against 1,000 past storms.

    "Researchers are always looking for the next innovation, but in operations, you're only as good as what you did yesterday," Marks said.

    Another advance: NOAA recently unveiled two new supercomputers in 2013, one in Reston, Va., and a backup in Orlando, Fla. Both run at a peak speed of 213 teraflops (213 trillion operations per second), more than twice the processing power of the last set of weather supercomputers.

    "About every five years, we get better computers, and that's one of the ways in which hurricane forecasting has been improving steadily over the last 20 years," said David Nolan, a meteorology professor at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. "Another is just improving our understanding of the physics of hurricanes."

    Even with the boost in computing power, scientists still face a limit. To improve intensity forecasts - the Category 1 through 5 scale - meteorologists need more accurate wind speed measurements. But hurricanes are so huge compared with planes and dropsondes that improving accuracy has been a hurdle for nearly two decades.

    "The 24-hour intensity forecast has had an error of 10 to 12 knots over the last 20 years," Nolan said. "We can only measure hurricanes to an accuracy of plus or minus 10 knots, and you can't predict something better than you can measure it."

    Email Becky Oskin or follow her @beckyoskin. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.

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

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Remembering Hurricane Katrina
    Hurricane Katrina, Looting

     

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    In this Oktoberfest 2013 photo, revelers enjoy a carnival ride that lifts them skyward at an angle that looks like they could reach out and touch St. Paul's Church in Munich. (The elaborate Gothic Revival Catholic structure was completed in 1906.)

    The Bavarian Oktoberfest, a celebration of beer, runs until October 6, 2013 -- so, brew-lovers, there's still time to get a last-minute ticket and join the expected six million thirsty partiers from all over the globe.

    RELATED ON SKYE: The World's 50 Most Epic Views

     

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    Updated Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, at 11:53 p.m. ET


    HONG KONG (AP) - The year's most powerful typhoon had Hong Kong in its crosshairs on Sunday after sweeping past the Philippines and Taiwan and pummeling island communities with torrential winds and fierce winds.

    Typhoon Usagi was grinding westward and expected to make landfall close to Hong Kong late Sunday or early Monday. Forecasters had warned earlier that the storm posed a "severe threat" to the southern Chinese city.

    The typhoon passed on Saturday through the Luzon Strait separating the Philippines and Taiwan, likely sparing residents in both places from the most destructive winds near its eye. In the Philippines, Usagi left at least two dead and two others missing while in Taiwan nine people were hurt by falling trees on Kinmen island.

    Usagi was downgraded from a super typhoon on Saturday after sustained winds fell below 241 kilometers (150 miles) per hour.

    By Sunday morning it was about 370 kilometers (230 miles) east of Hong Kong and moving west at 20 kph (12 mph), the Hong Kong Observatory said. It said the storm would retain maximum sustained winds of 140 kph (88 mph) at 5 a.m. Monday after making landfall overnight. The observatory said it would consider raising the No. 8 storm warning signal later Sunday, after issuing the No. 3 standby signal the day before.

    In adjacent Guangdong province in mainland China, the government urged people to prepare for the storm, which was forecast to slam into the manufacturing heartland of the Pearl River Delta as it passed Hong Kong.

    Guangdong authorities asked more than 44,000 fishing boats to return to port while neighboring Fujian Province evacuated more than 80,000 people from flood-prone areas and deployed 50,000 disaster-relief workers, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

    Cathay Pacific Airways and Dragonair said flights to and from Hong Kong International Airport would be canceled from 6 p.m. Sunday and resume Monday if conditions permit. China Southern Airlines, based in nearby Guangzhou, also said it was cancelling flights to and from Hong Kong and other places in China, Xinhua said.

    SEE ON SKYE: Amazing Photos of the Incredible Force of Nature

     

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    Updated Monday, Sept. 23, 2013, at 12 a.m. ET

    A motorist tries to get round a fallen tree blocking a road in Shantou, in southern China's Guangdong province on September 22, 2013, as Typhoon Usagi approaches.(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

    BEIJING (AP) - The year's most powerful typhoon slammed into southern China, leaving 21 dead, local authorities said Monday. The storm also forced hundreds of flight cancellations, shut down shipping and train lines and blew cars off the road.

    The deaths occurred in Guangdong province, where Typhoon Usagi struck Sunday evening after veering away from the neighboring and densely populated financial hub of Hong Kong. It had earlier passed by Taiwan and the Philippines, where two deaths were reported.

    The Guangdong provincial government's news office said on its official microblog that 13 of the 21 people were killed in Shanwei city, near the typhoon's landfall.

    The official Xinhua News Agency had earlier reported three deaths - two killed when strong winds brought down a tree ahead of the typhoon's arrival, and a third person killed by falling window glass.

    One county's electricity and water supply was cut off and houses were toppled by strong winds, Xinhua said. At one gas station near Shanwei city, winds blew cars off the road, it said.

    In Hong Kong, dozens of trees were reported down and 13 people had sought medical treatment and seven of these were admitted to hospital, according to the Hong Kong government's information services department.

    Usagi - Japanese for rabbit - was classified as a severe typhoon and had sustained winds of 175 kilometers (109 miles) per hour, with gusts of up to 213 kph (132 mph), on Sunday evening.

    The storm had been a super typhoon on Saturday when it passed through the Luzon Strait separating the Philippines and Taiwan, a path likely sparing both places from the most destructive winds near its eye.

    In the Philippines, Usagi left at least two people dead and two others missing, while in Taiwan nine people were hurt by falling trees.

    The typhoon landed near the city of Shanwei in the Chinese province of Guangdong, about 140 kilometers (87 miles) northeast of Hong Kong, and was moving west-northwest at 22 kph (14 mph), the Hong Kong Observatory said late Sunday.

    Intercity trains including the high-speed rail to Beijing, Shenzhen and Hong Kong would remain suspended until Tuesday, Xinhua said.

    Ferry services between Hong Kong and nearby Macau and outlying islands were suspended as the observatory reported winds as strong as 68 kph (42 mph) and warned that a storm surge and heavy rains could cause flooding in low-lying areas.

    Police in Shanwei ordered more than 8,000 fishing boats to return to port and more than 1,200 residents were taken to temporary shelters, China's official Xinhua news agency reported.

    The typhoon wreaked havoc on airport schedules in Hong Kong, nearby Macau and mainland China, upsetting travel plans for many passengers who were returning home at the end of the three-day mid-autumn festival long weekend.

    Hong Kong International Airport said 370 arriving and departing flights were canceled and another 64 delayed. Two of Hong Kong's biggest airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways and Dragonair, canceled flights to and from the city's airport starting at 6 p.m. Sunday. Cathay Pacific said Monday it would resume flights at noon, weather and safety conditions permitting.

    Beijing-based Air China scrubbed 148 flights to and from Hong Kong, Macau and five nearby mainland cities. China Southern Airlines, based in Guangzhou, canceled all flights to and from Hong Kong and three mainland airports, Xinhua said.

    Fujian province suspended shipping between mainland China and Taiwan, the news agency said.

    Authorities in Guangdong initiated an emergency response plan for the Daya Bay nuclear power station northeast of Hong Kong as Usagi approached, ordering four of six reactors to operate at a reduced load, Xinhua said.

    In Taiwan, more than 3,300 people were evacuated from flood-prone areas and mountainous regions. Rail service was restored Sunday on a rail line that had been buried by a landslide.

    Another landslide late Saturday in the southeastern hot springs resort village of Chihpen sent mud and rocks crashing through the ground floor of a resort spa, forcing the evacuation of frightened guests. The Chihpen River breached its levies upriver, turning the village's main street into a rock-strewn stream, flooding homes and damaging vehicles.

    In the Philippines, two people drowned and two went missing when a passenger boat capsized in rough waters off northeastern Aurora province, the Office of Civil Defense said Saturday. Nine passengers and crew were rescued.

    The typhoon set off landslides and flooded parts of six Philippine provinces, but additional casualties were not reported.

    RELATED ON SKYE: See Typhoon Usagi Wreaking Havoc

     

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    Sept. 22, 2013

    Soldiers search through mud and rubble for bodies, victims of a landslide in the town of La Pintada, Mexico, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. (AP)

    LA PINTADA, Mexico (AP) - Fourteen hours per body.

    That's how long rescue crews with shovels, hydraulic equipment, anything they can muster, are averaging to find the victims of a massive landslide that took half the remote coffee-growing village of La Pintada, leaving 68 people missing.

    The Mexican army's emergency response and rescue team slogged in pouring rain and several feet of mud with five rescue dogs on Saturday, recovering two women who were buried in the same area near a kindergarten, the second body under more than four feet of dirt. At least two children are believed to be nearby.

    Lt. Carlos Alberto Mendoza, commander of the 16-soldier team, said it's the most daunting situation he's seen in 24 years with the Mexican army.

    "They are doing unbelievable work, hours and hours for just one body," he told The Associated Press. "No matter how hard the day is, they never get tired of working."

    La Pintada was the scene of the single greatest tragedy in destruction wreaked by the twin storms, Manuel and Ingrid, which simultaneously pounded both of Mexico's coasts a week ago, spawning huge floods and landslides across a third of the country. The death toll stands at 101, not counting five federal police who died on a rescue mission Thursday when their Blackhawk helicopter crashed as they were leaving La Pintada. The wreckage wasn't found until Saturday. The toll also excludes the 68 missing.

    Interior Secretary Miguel Osorio Chong told Mexican media the death toll could go as high as 200 in the coming days, nearing that of Hurricane Paulina, which hit the same Guerrero state in 1997 and caused one of Mexico's worst storm disasters.

    Houses were filled to their roofs with dirt and vehicles were tossed on their sides when the hillside collapsed Monday afternoon after several days of rain brought by Tropical Storm Manuel, which along with Hurricane Ingrid gave Mexico a one-two punch.

    "As of today, there is little hope now that we will find anyone alive," President Enrique Pena Nieto said after touring the devastation, adding that the landslide covered at least 40 homes.

    Survivors staying at a shelter in Acapulco recounted how a tidal wave of dirt, rocks and trees exploded through the center of town, burying families in their homes and sweeping wooden houses into the bed of the swollen river that winds past the village on its way to the Pacific

    The scene by Saturday was desolate, a ghost town. One man remained to care for abandoned goats, pigs and chickens that seemed disoriented as they roamed the rescue site.

    When the rains get too hard, the crew has to stop for fear of being buried, too, by another slide, Mendoza said.

    By Saturday the team had been on site for 48 hours, he added. They had been ready to go two full days earlier, but bad weather conditions delayed their ability to reach the mountainous area northwest of the resort city of Acapulco.

    Pena Nieto told storm survivors that La Pintada would be relocated and rebuilt in a safer location as officials responded to a wave of criticism that negligence and corruption were to blame for the vast devastation caused by two relatively weak storm systems.

    "I will come to inaugurate a new La Pintada," he said. "That's a promise I'm making today to this community, which has undergone such a misfortune."

    All week in Mexico City, editorials and public commentary said the government had made natural disasters worse because of poor planning, lack of a prevention strategy and corruption.

    "Governments aren't responsible for the occurrence of severe weather, but they are for the prevention of the effects," wrote Mexico's nonprofit Center of Investigation for Development in an online editorial criticizing a federal program to improve infrastructure and relocate communities out of dangerous flood zones. "The National Water Program had good intentions but its execution was at best poor."

    Guerrero Gov. Angel Aguirre publicly confirmed that corruption and political dealings allowed housing to be built in dangerous areas where permits should have been rejected.

    "The responsibility falls on authorities," Osorio Chong said in a press conference earlier in the week. "In some cases (the building) was in irregular zones, but they still gave the authorization."

    Both the federal and Guerrero state administrations are new and cited cases in the past, though Osorio Chong said that going forward, he is sure that Aguirre and the mayor of Acapulco will not allow flooded-out victims to return to high-risk areas.

    In a meeting with hotel owners in hard-hit Acapulco, Pena Nieto told the city that the reconstruction phase has begun, and that "Acapulco is standing. The government will help address the hoteliers' concerns, he added, including improving the main thoroughfare from Mexico City, the Highway of the Sun, which was closed by slides and damage, cutting off access for days.

    The highway reopened Friday, albeit with many detours skirting stretches damaged by flooding and landslides. As of Saturday, all of the thousands of stranded tourists had been able to leave Acapulco.

    Pena Nieto said he would visit the northern state of Sinaloa on Sunday, where Manuel hit with hurricane force Thursday morning.

    Three people were reported dead in Sinaloa. Flood waters hat reached waist-deep in some places in Culiacan, the Sinaloa state capital, including the city zoo.

    The storms affected 24 of Mexico's 31 states and 371 municipalities, which are the equivalent of counties. More than 58,000 people were evacuated, with 43,000 taken to shelters. Nearly 1,000 donation centers have been set up around the country, with nearly 700 tons of aid delivered so far. Nearly 800,000 people lost power across the country, though the Federal Electricity Commission said 94 percent of service had been restored as of Saturday morning.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Big Storms Hit Mexico on Opposite Coasts
    Tropical Storm Manuel, Mexico

     

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    Sept. 22, 2013

    The ideal, technicolor-leaf autumn day is on its way to some parts of the U.S. (Getty)

    Many have been marking their calendars for the first official day of autumn. Finally, Sept. 22 has arrived, bringing a range of weather conditions across the country.

    Although the season will start with fall-like temperatures in some places, other regions will have warmer temperatures clinging to the first few days of autumn with sunshine.

    Below are details for regions across the country for the first official week of fall.

    Northeast and Midwest: Cool, Then Warming

    In the wake of a cold front that moved through on Saturday, there will be a brief dip in temperatures from the Great Lakes to the Northeast.

    Cities like Detroit, Chicago, Buffalo, State College and Washington, D.C. will be at least a few degrees below average for the first day of fall. Syracuse and Pittsburgh will have highs more than 10 degrees under the average for this day in September.

    There will still be a few lingering showers in the Northeast for Sunday, followed by increasing sunshine for the start of the workweek.

    As the week progresses, temperatures will be on the rise, making it into the upper 70s and even 80s across the mid-Atlantic and Ohio Valley.

    RELATED:
    Weird Ways the Fall Season Affects Your Health
    Windy, Wet and White Start to Fall in the Northwest

    Southeast and Gulf Coast: Summer Returning

    The sweeping cold front to end the last few days of summer dumped large amounts of rain on the region.

    Areas like Shelby, N.C., New Orleans, La., and Houston, Texas, surpassed the 3-inch mark in only 24 hours.

    Much of the South will be starting fall off with sunshine from Virginia through the Tennessee Valley.

    For the first day of fall, the Carolina Coast and Gulf Coast will be dreary with lingering showers and clouds, but sunshine will break through for the workweek.

    After a cool start, temperatures will be on the rise for the middle of the week, making it only a brief feeling of fall. Highs on Wednesday will range from the middle 80s to the lower 90s.

    Southwest and South Central: Dry and Warm

    A mild start of autumn will come to cities such as Dallas, Texas; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Los Angeles, Calif. After lows started in the 50s in some places, highs will reach near average for Sunday, ranging from the upper 70s to low 80s.

    Sunshine is expected to continue for the majority of this area.

    A few showers and thunderstorms will continue to stream along the Arizona/New Mexico border to the Four Corners in the afternoon on Sunday. Some of these storms have the potential to be strong or severe with the threat for damaging wind gusts and hail.

    However for the middle of the week, abundant sunshine will stretch from the Southern California coast to Oklahoma.

    Northwest, Rockies and Northern Plains: Rain and Thunderstorms

    Cold fronts sweep through these regions for the start of autumn, bringing the chance for a wet start to the week.

    High pressure over the Great Lakes will help to keep it dry with warming temperatures in cities like Minneapolis, Bismarck and Omaha on Sunday as highs reach 80 in some locations.

    Showers and thunderstorms will transfer from the Rockies on Sunday to the northern Plains for the start of the workweek, bringing temperatures back to near 70.

    The Rockies will have a very up-and-down week with more rain bringing the chance for additional flooding in the Boulder, Colo., area through early Monday. However, a few dry days with temperatures in the upper 70s will follow for the middle of the week.

    The Northwest will be feeling the autumnlike chill for this first week. Temperatures will remain in the lower 60s in most areas through middle of the week as a cold front brings rain and a cool wind to the region.

    As described in more detail here, this will bring cold air to the tops of the mountains, making for some early snowfall in the higher elevations.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Off-the-Charts Hottest and Coldest Places on Earth
    Hottet Places on Earth

     

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    Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013

    Typhoon Usagi slammed into mainland China on Sunday with sustained winds of 109 mph. It was expected to hit Hong Kong but shifted course, skirting north of of the former British colony. As the storm approached and hit, Vine users in Hong Kong and mainland China captured the scene. See their videos below.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Typhoon Hits Southern China

     

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    Sept. 22, 2013

    A guardrail hangs away from a closed canyon road, which is washed out in places by recent flooding, west of Boulder, Colo., Friday Sept. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

    LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) - State highway crews and National Guard troops worked furiously Sunday to repair highways to Colorado mountain towns cut off by unprecedented flooding.

    Other teams were assessing how much damaged needed to be repaired on Colorado's eastern plains before trucks begin hauling in the fall harvest.

    "They're really humming," said Jerre Stead, the corporate executive chosen by Gov. John Hickenlooper to oversee the state's recovery from the catastrophic floods, which killed seven and wreaked havoc across 17 counties and 2,000 square miles.

    Stead and Don Hunt, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, said they were optimistic they can meet a Dec. 1 target to complete temporary fixes to at least some roads, if more bad weather doesn't interfere.

    Quick repairs are critical because winter weather will make highway work more difficult and force the closure of the high-elevation Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park, one of only two routes still open into Estes Park, a small town at the park's east entrance.

    Also looming are the harvests from Colorado's $8.5 billion-a-year agriculture industry, which relies on trucks to get cattle and crops to markets.

    Officials said it's too early to know how much time and money it will take to make permanent repairs, but they say it will cost more than $100 million.

    Some 200 miles of state highways and 50 bridges were destroyed.

    On Sunday, Stead and Hunt drove up flood-battered U.S. 36 northwest of Denver until they reached a point where floodwaters had obliterated the roadway. Then they got out and hiked.

    Holding his hands about shoulder-width apart, Stead said, "You're on paths this narrow where the roads used to be."

    Residents who chose not to evacuate aboard National Guard helicopters gave them a lift at one point, Hunt said. Those isolated residents can drive along unscathed sections of highway but can't reach either Estes Park on the north or Lyons on the south.

    Hunt said residents of Pinewood Springs had built makeshift trails along highway washouts and planned to escort some children along those paths to waiting vehicles on Monday.

    He didn't know how many children were making the trek or how far they would have to walk.

    Stead said the devastation was worse than he expected, but Hunt was more optimistic.

    "It's maybe not as bad as I thought," he said. "The damage is severe, but it's highly concentrated" in a few areas, mostly where roads share a narrow canyon with a river.

    Hunt said the biggest difficulties will be getting construction materials into damaged areas and protecting workers and travelers from falling rocks loosened by days of heavy rain.

    Colorado will award several contracts for emergency repairs to construction companies on Monday. State employees and National Guard soldiers are already on the job and making quick progress, Stead said.

    The federal government will reimburse the state up to $100 million for road repairs, CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford said, but Colorado officials are pushing to raise that to $500 million, which she said was the cap for mid-Atlantic states rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

    "It is critically important that we get this relief," she said.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Dramatic Flooding in Colorado
    Colorado Floods

     

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    A resident wades through chest-deep floodwaters along a street while his neighbors paddle an improvised life raft in Manila on September 23, 2013, after torrential rains pounded Luzon island, worsened by Typhoon Usagi. (TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Torrential monsoon rains hit the northwestern Philippines on Monday, triggering landslides and killing 20 people in areas already weakened by a powerful typhoon, and raising the death toll to 47 from storms across Asia.

    Philippine officials said soldiers and villagers were also searching for at least seven people missing in mountainside villages hit by the landslides Monday in the province of Zambales.

    In China, where Typhoon Usagi struck after passing by the Philippines, officials said the storm killed 25 people in the southern province of Guangdong, 13 of them in the city of Shanwei where it struck the coast late Sunday.

    The other deaths came when two people drowned when a passenger boat capsized in northeastern Aurora province in the Philippines.

    Subic Mayor Jeffrey Khonghun said 15 bodies were dug out in two landslide-hit villages in his town. Five people also died in landslides in two other towns in Zambales, according to army officials and police.

    Rescuers used their hands, pots and shovels to dig through the muck that buried a cluster of houses while relatives of two other missing residents waited in the rain in the village of Wawandue.

    "This is the first after a long time that we were hit by this kind of deluge," Khonghun told Manila's DZBB radio network. He had to stop the interview after another body was pulled out from a muddy heap near him.

    Typhoon Usagi enhanced the torrential monsoon rains that drenched the main northern Philippine region of Luzon over the weekend. The powerful typhoon blew away late Saturday and a new tropical storm off southern Japan was continuing to intensify the downpours in Luzon, government forecaster Samuel Duran said.

    Many low-lying areas of the Philippine capital, Manila, and outlying regions were swamped Monday, prompting authorities to cancel classes and office work.

    In Hong Kong, flight schedules were returning to normal Monday after major disruptions from Usagi, which was the season's strongest storm at its peak. It forced about 250 flight cancellations in Hong Kong before weakening to a tropical depression over the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.

    Train and airline services around Guangdong also were back to normal after the storm, China's state broadcaster CCTV said.

    China's national weather center said the storm would continue to weaken as it moves northwest.

    RELATED ON SKYE: See Typhoon Usagi Wreaking Havoc

     

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    A guardrail hangs away from a closed canyon road, which links Boulder with the mountain town of Nederland, and which is washed out in places by recent flooding, up Boulder Canyon, west of Boulder, Colo., Friday Sept. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

    LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) - Colorado officials are aiming to meet a Dec. 1 target to complete temporary fixes to at least some roads heavily damaged by catastrophic flooding this month.

    On Sunday, state highway crews and National Guard troops worked furiously to repair highways to Colorado mountain towns cut off by unprecedented flooding.

    Other teams assessed how much damage needed to be repaired on Colorado's eastern plains before trucks begin hauling in the fall harvest.

    "They're really humming," said Jerre Stead, the corporate executive chosen by Gov. John Hickenlooper to oversee the state's recovery from the floods, which killed seven and wreaked havoc across 17 counties and 2,000 square miles.

    Stead and Don Hunt, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, are optimistic they can hit the December target if more bad weather doesn't interfere.

    Quick repairs are critical because winter weather will make highway work more difficult and force the closure of the high-elevation Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park, one of only two routes still open into Estes Park, a small town at the park's east entrance.

    Also looming are the harvests from Colorado's $8.5 billion-a-year agriculture industry, which relies on trucks to get cattle and crops to markets.

    Officials said it's too early to know how much time and money it will take to make permanent repairs, but they say it will cost more than $100 million.

    Some 200 miles of state highways and 50 bridges were destroyed.

    On Sunday, Stead and Hunt drove up flood-battered U.S. 36 northwest of Denver until they reached a point where floodwaters had obliterated the roadway. Then they got out and hiked.

    Holding his hands about shoulder-width apart, Stead said, "You're on paths this narrow where the roads used to be."

    Residents who chose not to evacuate aboard National Guard helicopters gave them a lift at one point, Hunt said. Those isolated residents can drive along unscathed sections of highway but can't reach either Estes Park on the north or Lyons on the south.

    Hunt said residents of Pinewood Springs had built makeshift trails along highway washouts and planned to escort some children along those paths to waiting vehicles on Monday.

    He didn't know how many children were making the trek or how far they would have to walk.

    Stead said the devastation was worse than he expected, but Hunt was more optimistic.

    "It's maybe not as bad as I thought," he said. "The damage is severe, but it's highly concentrated" in a few areas, mostly where roads share a narrow canyon with a river.

    Hunt said the biggest difficulties will be getting construction materials into damaged areas and protecting workers and travelers from falling rocks loosened by days of heavy rain.

    Colorado will award several contracts for emergency repairs to construction companies on Monday. State employees and National Guard soldiers are already on the job and making quick progress, Stead said.

    The federal government will reimburse the state up to $100 million for road repairs, CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford said, but Colorado officials are pushing to raise that to $500 million, which she said was the cap for mid-Atlantic states rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

    "It is critically important that we get this relief," she said.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Dramatic Flooding in Colorado
    Colorado Floods

     

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    A surfer rides the machine-made wave at Wavehouse San Diego on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

    LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. (AP) - Some of surfing's biggest names aren't just catching waves. They're also talking about making them.

    Surf parks - massive pools with repeating, artificial waves - are the latest buzzword in the surf community, as everyone from top athletes to retailers look for ways to expand the sport, boost sales and create a standardized way to train that could help surfing earn an Olympic pedigree.

    "Mother Nature stipulates that surfing only can occur where waves can be born. When man takes his hand to forming the waves, it unlocks the potential of surfing anywhere. And that is the most powerful thing," said Doug Palladini, president of the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association.

    This month, dozens of industry leaders, surfers and investors met in Laguna Beach in Southern California for the first annual Surf Park Summit to spark interest in a business proposition that could breathe life into a sport that struggled during the recession.

    About 50 percent of independent, mom-and-pop surf retailers - the heart and soul of surf culture - shut down worldwide during the recession and those that survived face an increasingly saturated market that is limited by geography.

    Enter the dream surf park, a 2-acre wave pool capable of generating anything from tiny beginner ripples to 10-foot barrels every minute, with every wave the same. Customers would pay by the number of waves to learn the sport or refine their technique and learn new tricks.

    The prospect has surf board manufacturers and apparel retailers salivating at the thought of new markets for surf gear and clothing in land-locked places like Kansas or Nebraska. But parks would also be prime real estate for sponsored surfing competitions that would draw both eyeballs and dollars.

    At the summit, speakers tossed out tantalizing what-ifs: A national surfing league, much like the NBA, with feeder teams and city affiliations. Live, televised surfing competitions staged with predictable waves in a massive surf arena.

    Some even believe surf parks could propel the sport into the Olympics, a dream that has so far proven elusive.

    "Without man-made waves, there will not be Olympic surfing," said Fernando Aguerre, president of the International Surfing Association. "It's the ultimate wave-sharing that you can imagine."

    Olympics aside, everyday surfers who already live near the beach say even they would use the parks as a supplement to the ocean, to refine their skills on a consistent wave or get in a few rides when the natural surf is bad.

    "In a park, you can always get in a perfect position, the wave will always be perfect and you can really work on your surfing," said Cliff Char, 54, who's been surfing 15 years near his hometown of Seal Beach.

    Detractors, however, worry that in the rush to surf parks, the sport will lose its soul.

    Betting on artificial waves, they say, will sanitize and commercialize a pastime the most passionate surfers describe as a solitary, rugged pursuit where athletes and nature commune. They say the sport will lose sight of its culture and history if the next generation learns to rip on chlorinated water.

    "The problem is, 'surf culture' is about so much more than just riding a wave. It is about having a genuine respect and connection with the ocean," said Zac Heisey, a surfer and freelance writer who addressed the debate on his blog, In The Name of Surfing.

    Others are concerned that the energy required to power waves big enough for surf parks will contribute to global warming.

    Momentum around surf parks has been growing since the 1960s and but fewer than a dozen serious parks currently exist in locations from Florida to Malaysia - and cost and wave technology have always been stumbling blocks.

    That technology has now advanced enough to make parks economically viable, but operators will need to build near large population centers and make the pool the centerpiece of a larger development to make a profit, said Tom Lochtefeld, owner of Wave Loch, a wave technology company.

    Some of the biggest and best-known include Disney's Typhoon Lagoon in Florida, Wadi Adventure in United Arab Emirates and Wavegarden, a private research and development site tucked away in Spain's Basque country.

    A park that would attract serious surfers would run between $15 and $25 million to build and need to be at least 2 acres in size to allow surfers to paddle in, Lochtefeld said. With current technology, the energy price tag for one hour of waves could be up to roughly $500, he said.

    Other wave companies have said they can produce waves for $1 a wave, said Matt Reilly, director of operations and marketing at Surf Park Central, which put on the summit.

    "It comes in as how you operate a park and that's a question that hasn't been answered by anybody," he said.

    Despite the challenges, history is filled with examples of extreme, outdoor sports that have been tamed for the masses.

    Before chair lifts, ski bums had to hike up mountains to ride down and rock gyms made rock-climbing possible miles from any mountain, said Dan Harmon, a development manager with Select Contracts, which builds and operates leisure and sport projects worldwide.

    "They're places to train, they're safe, controlled environments that allow people that initial introduction and that is absolutely key," said Harmon, whose company operates Saudi Arabia's wave park. "If we can get them in, then we can get them hooked."

    RELATED ON SKYE: 10 Amazing Underwater Surfing Photos

     

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