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    In this Sept. 14, 2013, photo, a New Mexico State Police investigator is shown examining a vehicle that authorities believe was washed into a ravine covered in mud near the Elephant Butte dam, killing the motorist. (AP Photo/NM State Police)

    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A hiker found the body of a man amid debris from flooding that brought widespread damage to the state this month, authorities said Sunday as areas of the storm-weary region faced more thunderstorms.

    Catron Country Sheriff's Office said the man was found Saturday in a sand bar off the San Francisco River near Alma in the Gila National Forest. It appears he died in the flood.

    Under Sheriff Ian Fletcher said it was not known if the body was that of 83-year-old Howard Bassett, the Arizona man reported missing last week after he was evacuated from the Silver Creek Inn in Mogollon on Sept. 14 and did not return to collect his belongings.

    The sand bar where the body was found had debris from the flood. The body has been sent to the Officer of Medical Investigators for identification.

    State Police said aerial searchers found Bassett's truck Wednesday night, and it was wrapped in mud and flood debris in Silver Creek off State Road 159.

    Bassett was staying at the Silver Creek Inn when heavy rains hit.

    The National Weather Service said early Sunday northwestern and north central New Mexico could see "strong to severe" thunderstorms. By evening, a flood advisory was in effect for the Albuquerque, where thunderstorms also were reported.

    The storm comes as a strong low pressure system quickly advances toward the Four Corners region, including parts of Arizona, Colorado and Utah.

    Earlier this month, storms in New Mexico overflowed rivers, sparking massive flooding, forced evacuations and damaged roads.

    Flood damage from storms earlier this month struck 25 of New Mexico's 33 counties, official said.

    The Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/15hCMpy ) no statewide figures were available at the end of last week, but some counties had preliminary tallies linked to flood damage and severe weather.

    In San Miguel County, for example, the figure is between $6 million and $7 million. That doesn't include the city of Las Vegas, which had infrastructure and water treatment facilities damaged.

    Meanwhile, in Eddy County, Emergency Manager Joel Arnwine said damage to road and other public facilities there are estimated at up to $1.8 million.

    For Cibola County, the figure was about $1 million, and in Los Alamos, officials estimated $5 million in damage with millions more at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    The U.S. Department of Transportation estimated $9 million to the state's roads and bridges.

     

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    (Shutterstock)

    The pools have closed and crisp temperatures and crunchy leaves are on their way. Sunday, Sept. 22, marked the end of summer and the beginning of fall, also called the autumn equinox, in the Northern Hemisphere.

    The autumn equinox occurred at 4:44 p.m. EDT (20:44 UTC) Sunday, when the sun was directly in line with Earth's celestial equator, or the equator projected onto the sky. Day and night lasted almost equally long on Sunday, with about 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark. This same phenomenon occurs on the spring equinox, which will next occur on March 20.

    The date of the fall equinox (and its spring counterpart) varies slightly each year, sometimes falling on the 23rd or 24th depending on the quirks of the calendar, along with Earth's slightly irregular orbit. Here are five surprising facts about fall and the autumn equinox.

    1. Amazing light shows

    In addition to the brilliant colors of fall leaves, the autumn equinox signals another colorful spectacle - the aurora borealis, also called the Northern Lights. Besides the lengthening of nights and cool evening weather, which are great for stargazers, autumn truly is "aurora season," according to NASA. That's because geomagnetic storms are about twice as frequent as the annual average during the fall. [Aurora Photos: Northern Lights Dazzle in Night-Sky Images]

    Particles that get discharged from the sun during such geomagnetic storms zip toward Earth at breakneck speed. As the particles slam into Earth's magnetic field, they bump into atoms and molecules of oxygen, nitrogen and other elements. The result? Dazzling light shows, with hues most commonly of pink, green, yellow, blue, violet, and occasionally orange and white - depending on what elements the particles collide with.

    2. Animals respond with physical changes

    Living things respond to the light changes that come with fall, with trees shedding their leaves and animals preparing for hibernation. Fall can bring an especially noticeable change to the high-attitude-living male Siberian hamster. That's because the rodent's testes swell up 17 times their size from short days to long; the swelling allows, in part, the animals to time reproduction properly.

    Hamsters aren't the only creatures to herald in fall in strange ways. When autumn hits, the black-capped chickadee goes gangbusters collecting seeds and hiding them in hundreds of different spots in trees and on the ground. At the same time, the tiny bird's hippocampus balloons by 30 percent as new nerve cells pop up in this part of the brain, which is responsible for spatial organization and memory.

    3. Full moon named for autumn

    Autumn gets its own full moon, the Harvest Moon. From Wolf and Sturgeon to Hunter and Harvest, full moons are named for the month or season in which they rise. The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the autumn equinox, which occurred on the night of Sept. 18-19 this year.

    Before artificial lighting, farmers took advantage of the full moon's light to harvest their crops. In late summer and early autumn, many crops ripen all at once, making lots of work for farmers who had to stay in the fields after sundown to harvest all the goods. Such moonlight became essential to their harvest, and the Harvest Moon emerged, according to NASA.

    4. Why fall leaves may fade

    Climate change may dull the picture most synonymous with autumn - fall leaves. Leaves change their wardrobes in response to chilly temperatures and less light (as days begin to shorten); they stop producing chlorophyll, the green pigment that helps leaves capture sunlight to power photosynthesis. As green fades, the leave's other pigments, such as the orange and yellow of carotenoids shine through. Vibrant red hues are the result of anthocyanins, pigments that are produced in the fall. [Photos of Turning Leaves: The Rich Colors of Fall Foliage]

    These autumn colors could be some of the casualties of global warming, say scientists. Research has shown as the world warms, fall-colored leaves are delayed since their cues to change color come partly from cooling temperatures.

    Fall's cool nights and sunny days also help to trigger trees like the sugar maple to store their anthocyanins temporarily in their leaves, giving leaf peepers a show of red. But if global warming leads to warmer nights, paired with autumn's shortening days, trees may not use their sugars to make red pigments, instead sending that fuel to twigs or burning it off, according to Howie Neufeld, a plant physiologist at Appalachian State University in North Carolina.

    Climate change may also alter suitable habitats for trees like the sugar maple known to be big players in fall's vibrant colors.

    5. When is the equinox?

    The autumnal equinox falls on different dates each year, usually Sept. 22, like this year, or Sept. 23; but in 1931, the equinox happened on Sept. 24. The reason: The Gregorian calendar doesn't match up perfectly with the position of Earth in its orbit around the sun.

    As Earth orbits the sun, it revolves around its axis at a 23.5-degree angle so that it is pointed directly toward the sun at the summer solstice, directly away from the sun during the winter solstice, and at a right angle with the sun on the equinoxes; that right angle means the sun shines about equal amounts of light across the Northern Hemisphere on the equinoxes. If this trek around the sun took exactly 365 days, Earth would be in its autumn equinox position on the same day each year. Since Earth takes 365.25 days to make a complete journey around the sun, the date is slightly different each year. The fall equinox won't happen again on Sept. 24 until 2303.

    Follow Jeanna Bryner on Twitter and Google+. 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.

    RELATED ON SKYE: America's Best Fall-Foliage Road Trips

     

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    The shot is so stunning - so beautiful and so perfectly timed - you think it must have been Photoshopped: a surfer carving down a sunlit wave as a dolphin sails through the air behind him.

    But photographer Matt Hutton insists the image wasn't Photoshopped. The 31-year-old Australian photographer and a friend were on a road trip across western Australia recently when he captured the image. The two had stopped off in the small coastal town of Kalbarri for a few days. Hutton had just bought a new telephoto lens and was testing it out on the surfers at a local spot called Jacques Point. That's when he trained his lens on the surfer he would later learn to be Trent Sherborne.

    "I was getting some great photos of him surfing this awesome wave when a pod of dolphins decided to join him," Hutton told SKYE via email. "On the first occasion I captured two dolphins sharing a wave with him and a few separate photos of just the dolphins by themselves."





    Hutton continued: "We were about to leave for the day and I followed Trent in on what was going to be my final shot when a dolphin jumped out of the water beside him. At this point I was a little excited and zoomed in on my LCD screen to make sure it was in focus ... which it was!"

    Hutton couldn't believe his good fortune.

    "Let's just say I was very happy!!!" he wrote. "Really a very rare shot and I was so lucky to have been at the right place and right time!"

    Hutton posted the photo to Facebook. Only then did he hear from Sherbourne.

    "Trent said he knew it was him in the photo, as it's not everyday you get to eyeball a dolphin," he wrote.

    Hutton is a self-taught photographer. He works for Rio Tinto Iron Ore, an iron ore producer, and he's learning to be a train driver. "I work full time, even though my shifts are four days on then four days off," he wrote, "which gives me plenty of time to explore and find new and exciting places to photograph."

    The dolphin photo has been his biggest hit to date.

    "I have had so many people write kind emails, messages, comments, etc.," he said, "and it has been a very humbling experience and is simply the highlight of my small photography career."

    RELATED ON SKYE: 10 Amazing Underwater Surfing Photos

     

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    (Getty Images)

    Cold air will plunge into the Rockies allowing for snow this week, foreshadowing things to come in winter.

    A cold front swept the Northwest for the early part of the week, starting off fall on a chillier note.

    The cool air mixed with moisture from a storm moving out of the central Rockies will produce the first significant snowfall of the season across Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

    The lower valleys will still be too warm to see snow, but elevations from about 5,000 feet and higher will be seeing snowflakes for the middle of the week.

    Snowfall at this low of a level will cause travel delays across the area with slick, snow-covered roadways in the passes, especially along I-90 and I-15.

    After some days with highs in the upper 80s in the middle of September, this cool shot will seem like a drastic change. Although temperatures will be slightly below average, snow this time of year in the northern Rockies is not that uncommon.

    RELATED:
    Fall Foliage Forecast
    Interactive Northwest Weather Radar
    AccuWeather.com Forecast Temperature Maps

    AccuWeather.com expert senior meteorologist and long range expert Paul Pastelok commented that "it's usual for them to get snow this time of year, assuming that pattern also allows moisture."

    Furthermore, Pastelok implied that more of the white stuff could be on the way for fall, with a snowy period expected into October.

    "This is the start of what could be a colder and snowier winter, especially for Montana," Pastelok said.

    The official AccuWeather.com 2013-2014 winter forecast will be released in the near future, October 9.

    RELATED ON SKYE: The 10 Snowiest Places on Earth

     

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    DENVER (AP) - U.S. researchers have been working on a system to measure and predict the destructiveness of wildfires - similar to the way officials use the magnitude scale for earthquakes and other tools to rate and evaluate tornadoes and hurricanes.

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology hopes its Wildland Urban Interface Hazard Scale will tell residents the likely intensity of a wildfire burning into their neighborhood.

    The scale would allow city planners to assign better building codes for the millions of people who live in fire-prone areas in the U.S. West and would also measure how those homes could contribute to the spread of a fire.

    The proposed scale would range from E1 to E4 - with E4 being a location's highest exposure to fire, from grasslands to a forest in a remote mountain canyon. Building codes and buffer zones between homes and forest could then be set accordingly.

    Nelson Bryner, research engineer for the institute's fire research division, envisions the day when TV stations report that a wildfire is burning in an E4 community. But he said the scale is primarily meant to form the technical foundation for tougher building codes for high-risk areas.

    Insurers also are eager for results. Payouts after western wildfires have grown exponentially. In the 1970s, wildfires destroyed about 400 homes nationwide. Since 2000, wildfires have destroyed about 3,000 homes per year, according to NIST.

    Researchers are analyzing building materials, grasses, trees, shrubs, topography, weather patterns and especially the behavior of wind-driven embers as ignition fuel.

    NIST has already developed a mobile app and is developing other computer programs that will allow fire marshals, building inspectors and others to rate an area before a fire starts. Researchers caution it will be several years before that happens.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Southern California Wildfire Spreads
    Southern California Wildfire

     

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    In this Sept. 13, 2013, file photo, water rushes through her destroyed home as resident Holly Robb, left, and her neighbor Pam Bowers salvage belongings after storms that raged through the Rocky Mountain foothills in this photo made in Lyons, Colo. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

    LYONS, Colo. (AP) - The storms that raged through the Rocky Mountain foothills instantly remade the landscape and disrupted thousands of lives. They may have also changed the character of the funky mountain hamlets that dot the Front Range.

    The disaster hit rich and poor alike, but some residents will be able to afford to wait and rebuild, while others will not.

    In Lyons, 20 minutes north of Boulder, two low-lying mobile home parks bore the brunt of the damage. Residents say their landlords have told them they will not rebuild, in part because a river now flows through a portion of the property.

    "I don't think we'll ever be able to go back," said Holly Robb, a Lyons native whose grandfather was mayor and who lived with her husband and two young children in the River Bend Mobile Home park, which dates to the 1960s.

    "The people who've lived there, who've gone to school there, can't go back," she said.

    The flood has accelerated a process that was already underway in the region's towns. Young, affluent families from places like Boulder and Denver have flocked here, attracted to the slower pace of life, bohemian flavor and pristine natural beauty.

    In Lyons, a quarry town turned tourist haven, the number of renters fell by half between 2000 and 2010, while the portion paying more than $1,500 a month quadrupled. The median price of a home rose by 71 percent to $340,000, according to the U.S. Census.

    Newcomers have historically moved into the hills above Main Street, while the lower income residents lived in the flood plain below. When the storm came, it swept away mobile homes, but left the new cafes, sushi shop, and revamped high school intact.

    A website for the town's mayor, Julie Van Domelen, a consultant for the World Bank, says she moved to Lyons four years ago. She did not respond to calls and emails from the Associated Press, but told the Denver Post she intends to build the town into something better than it was before.

    Some resident fear there will be no place for the manual laborers, retirees and artists that have given Lyons its character.

    Carmel Ross, 66, an artist and caretaker for the elderly, thought about the town's future amid the splintered trailers that now surround the mobile home she rents for $430 a month.

    "Who rebuilds a trailer park?" she asked, laughing through tears. "Lyons is going to become a different story now. It's a loss of a way of life. The things could always be bought again, but there will no longer by any low-income housing in this town."

    Former mayor Tim Combs said the new Lyons might look more like Aspen, a tony, celebrity refuge that began as a working class hamlet.

    "It's going to upgrade the town. We're going to see nicer houses replace a house that wasn't so nice," he said. "Lyons is surrounded by protected open space, so there will be no place for the poor people to go."

    Up the hill from the mobile home parks, beautiful homes sit essentially untouched, their soggy lawns the only evidence of the disaster that's crippled the region and re-routed its waterways. Some residents are planning to stay in these homes until the roads reopen.

    Among them is David Tiller, a bluegrass musician who believes the home he owns will be condemned. He said he feels lucky to have a sturdy support system, and friends with guest rooms, especially when he thinks of his neighbors taking refuge in churches.

    "We have so many friends that are offering us places. We have an amazing community - it's almost overwhelming," he said.

    Lyons residents were told at a town meeting Thursday that it might take officials six months to restore drinking water and working sewage.

    Robb, a caterer, and her husband, who installs wood floods, said that even if they could find a new rental in Lyons, they cannot afford to crash around for that long. For Robb, the realization that she could not go home dawned slowly in the hectic days after theflood.

    "It's really a second blow to a lot of people that live there," she said.

    Residents of the even more remote community of Jamestown have been told it could be a year before they can return.

    When helicopter rescuers took Jamestown resident Meagan Harrington and her husband to a makeshift shelter in Boulder with no running water, they did not have to follow their neighbors inside and look for a bed.

    Instead, the couple sat in front of the school waiting for their ride. A college friend of Harrington's in Boulder had offered them a guest room.

    "We've got it made compared to other people in Jamestown," said Harrington, an industrial hygienist.

    Ross, who spent the days after the flood dragging out her muddy carpet singlehandedly while other flooded residents called private cleaning services, is unsure where she will go after the shelters close. Her friends do not have extra rooms for her to stay in, and she has no family in the region.

    Combs, the ex-mayor, said he feels for people like her, but believes that part of the towns was already on the path to getting washed out.

    "Nobody wants to see those McMansions built that people live in only three weeks of the year," he said. "But it's the way this country works - the poor people are always getting pushed out, without or without a flood."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Historic Flooding Devastates Colorado
    Colorado Floods

     

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    This aerial photo shows flood damage in Greeley, Colo., during a helicopter tour f flood-ravaged areas by Vice President Joe Biden, Gov. John Hickenlooper and FEMA officials, on Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, Kathryn Scott Osler, Pool)

    DENVER (AP) - Vice President Joe Biden is promising residents that aid for areas devastated by massive flooding in Colorado won't stop even if the federal government shuts down.

    "I promise you, I promise you, there will be help," Biden said after flying by helicopter Monday over the Big Thompson River, and fields and reservoirs swollen with muddy brown water.

    Biden stood with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and member of the state congressional delegation to tell Coloradans not to fear that budget problems in Washington could stall aid.

    "It's probably going to scare the living devil out of you," Biden said about debt ceiling negotiations in Congress. Biden insisted the "dysfunction" in Washington won't affect emergency spending.

    "They will not shut down even if the Congress doesn't fund the federal government," Biden said, pointing to federal emergency relief workers behind him.

    The death toll from Colorado's flooding rose to eight Monday, when a 79-year-old woman whose house was swept away by the Big Thompson River was found dead on the riverbank.

    The number of people unaccounted for dwindled to six. One other person was still missing and presumed dead - a 60-year-old woman from Larimer County. A man was taken off the list Monday after walking into the sheriff's office.

    The floods caused damage across nearly 2,000 square miles. Nearly 2,000 homes were damaged or destroyed along with more than 200 miles of state highways and 50 state bridges.

    The floods are also blamed for spills of about 27,000 gallons of oil in northern Colorado oilfields, including two mishaps found over the weekend, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said.

    The commission said it's tracking eight notable leaks, 10 other locations with some evidence of leaks, and 33 places where oilfield equipment appears damaged but no evidence of spills has been spotted. About 1,300 oil and gas wells remain shut down.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it had approved $19.6 million in individual assistance, most of it to help people to repair homes or find temporarily rentals. More than 15,600 people have applied for FEMA relief.

    The U.S. Department of Transportation has pledged an initial $35 million for roads, and Colorado has allocated $100 million.

    Colorado's congressional delegation is lobbying to raise the Federal Highway Administration's $100 million funding cap for emergency relief to $500 million - an amount approved after Hurricane Sandy struck Atlantic states last year.

    Colorado officials have awarded four contracts for emergency bridge and highway repairs. Officials hope to complete temporary fixes to at least some of the heavily damaged roads by Dec. 1.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Historic Flooding Devastates Colorado
    Colorado Floods

     

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    (Gettystock)

    Rounds of rain and thunderstorms will continue the soggy start to fall across the Deep South.

    A tropical low in the Gulf of Mexico rides along the coastline, following the tail end of a front that pushed through the country late last week.

    This low pressure has a very slight chance to develop into a tropical system. However, even without strengthening, the low will bring heavy rain to portions of the South, especially Florida.



    Rain will be pushed up into interior portions of the Southeast, but the low itself will track eastward towards north-central Florida.

    The highest rain totals will follow the storm, bringing the risk for flash flooding for Florida cities such as Panama City, Gainesville, Orlando and Tampa.

    RELATED:
    Detailed Tampa, Fla., Forecast
    Interactive Florida Weather Radar

    First Week of Fall Forecast

    With the tropical moisture fueling the rain and thunderstorms, rainfall totals generally will range from 1 to 3 inches across the Southeast through Thursday. However, some areas, especially along the Florida Gulf Coast could see much more, locally up to 4 inches of rain.

    By the end of the week, high pressure over the Northeast will expand into the Southeast. This will help to push the tropical low out to sea, making for a drier forecast for start the weekend.

     

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    The Soyuz rocket will blast off for the International Space Station Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, carrying American astronaut Michael Hopkins and cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky. But first it had to make the journey to the launch pad in Kazakhstan.

    NASA photographer Carla Cioffi captured some stunning images as it made the trip Monday.









    RELATED ON SKYE: 25 Amazing Photos of the International Space Station
    International Space Station, Shuttle

     

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    Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013

    Is this a new island? Sana Baloch uploaded this photo to Twitter and wrote, "Urgency: PakNavy & CoastGuard hastily submitted requests for the allotment of newly emerged Island -Sources - pic.twitter.com/pqm7pXWFS7" (Senator_Baloch/Twitter)

    QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) - Thousands of Pakistanis ran into the streets praying for their lives Tuesday as a powerful earthquake rocked a remote area in the southwest, killing at least 39 people and possibly creating a small island off the coast.

    The Pakistani military said it was rushing troops and helicopters to Baluchistan province's Awaran district, where the quake was centered, and the nearby area of Khuzdar. Local officials said they were sending doctors, food and 1,000 tents for people who had nowhere to sleep as strong aftershocks continued to shake the region.

    Most of the victims were killed when their houses collapsed, according to the chief spokesman for the country's National Disaster Management Authority, Mirza Kamran Zia, who gave the death toll.

    He warned that the toll might rise and said the agency was still trying to get information from the stricken area.

    "We all ran out for safety in the open field in front of our house. Many other neighbors were also there. Thank God no one was hurt in our area, but the walls of four or five houses collapsed," said Khair Mohammed Baluch, who lives in the town of Awaran, roughly 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the epicenter.

    Pakistan's chief meteorologist and the U.S. Geological Survey put the magnitude of the quake at 7.7.

    Pakistani officials were investigating whether the earthquake was so powerful that it pushed up the earth and formed a new land mass.

    Witnesses reported seeing a small island appear off the coast of the port of Gwadar after the quake, said the director general of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, Arif Mahmood.

    Gwadar Police Chief Pervez Umrani said people gathered on the beach to see the land mass, which was about 9 meters (30 feet) high and 100 meters (109 yards) long.

    Baluchistan is Pakistan's largest province but also the least populated and most impoverished. Awaran district has about 300,000 residents.

    Many residents are believed to be involved in smuggling fuel from Iran, while others harvest dates.

    The area where the quake struck is at the center of an insurgency that Baluch separatists have been waging against the Pakistani government for years. The separatists regularly attack Pakistani troops and symbols of the state, such as infrastructure projects.

    A Pakistani military official speaking on customary condition of anonymity said security officials were fired on while escorting doctors to Awaran. No one was wounded.

    The quake was felt as far as New Delhi, the Indian capital, some 1,200 kilometers (about 740 miles) away, but no damage or injuries were immediately reported there.

    The quake also jolted Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, roughly 250 kilometers (155 miles) from the epicenter. People in the city's tall office buildings rushed into the streets, and Pakistani television showed lights swaying as the earth shook.

    "My table and computer started shaking. I thought I was feeling dizziness but soon realized they were tremors," Karachi resident Mohammad Taimur said.

    In Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, cellphone vendor Matiullah Khan said he was in his shop with a customer when the cabinet and shelves started to shake.

    "I along with customers rushed out to the main street. ... Thousands of people were standing, many in fear and reciting Quranic verses," he said.

    Baluchistan and neighboring Iran are prone to earthquakes. A magnitude-7.8 quake centered just across the border in Iran killed at least 35 people in Pakistan last April.


    RELATED ON SKYE: 50 Incredible Photos of Forces of Nature
    Volcano Eruption

     

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    In this photo released by the Gwadar local government office on Wednesday, Sept 25, 2013, people walk on an island that reportedly emerged off the Gwadar coastline in the Arabian Sea. (AP Photo/Gwadar local government office)

    QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) - Rescuers struggled Wednesday to help thousands of people injured and left homeless after their houses collapsed in a massive earthquake in southwestern Pakistan the day before as the death toll rose overnight to at least 210.

    The earth moved with enough force to create a small island visible off the southern coast after the huge tremor, said Pakistani officials.

    The magnitude 7.7 quake struck in the remote district of Awaran in Pakistan's Baluchistan province on Tuesday afternoon. Such a quake is considered major, capable of widespread and heavy damage.

    The Additional Home Secretary in Baluchistan, Zahid bin Maqsood, put the death toll at 210 and said 375 people had been injured, while a spokesman for the provincial government, Jan Mohammad Bulaidi, put the death toll at 250 - conflicting figures likely due to the difficulty in contacting local officials and people in the remote region.

    "We are finding it very difficult to reach the affected remote areas," said Bulaidi. "We need more tents, more medicine and more food."

    He described a horrific scene of people who lost limbs in the quake and who will need to be sent to hospitals in major cities of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, and Karachi along the Arabian Sea.

    The quake flattened wide swathes of Awaran, the district where it was centered. Most of the victims were killed when their houses collapsed.

    Associated Press images from the village of Kaich showed the devastation that the massive quake had wrought. Houses made mostly of mud and handmade bricks had collapsed, walls and roofs caved in and people's possessions scattered on the ground. A few goats roamed through the wreckage as men dug through the rubble.

    In images shown on Pakistani television, an unidentified man who appeared to be injured in his leg was shown supported by two men helping him walk. He said he was drinking tea when he heard a loud bang: "It shook everything."

    In Pakistani cities such as Karachi and Quetta people ran into the streets in fear, praying for their lives when the quake hit.

    The Pakistani military said it had rushed almost 1,000 troops to the area overnight and was sending helicopters as well. A convoy of 60 Pakistani army trucks left Karachi early Wednesday, carrying supplies for those affected by the quake.

    Pakistani forces have evacuated 174 people from various villages around Awaran to the district hospital, the military said in a statement.

    Local officials said they were sending doctors, food and 1,000 tents for people who had nowhere to sleep as strong aftershocks continued to shake the region.

    The United Nations said in a statement that it mourned the victims and was in close contact with the Pakistani government to provide help if needed.

    Pakistani officials were investigating a small island that appeared off the coast of Pakistan after the quake, apparently the result of earth and mud pushed to the surface by the quake.

    The head of the Geological Survey of Pakistan confirmed that the mass was created by the quake and said scientists were trying to determine how it happened. Zahid Rafi said such masses are sometimes created by the movement of gases locked in the earth under the sea, pushing mud and earth up to the surface in something akin to a mud volcano.

    "When such a strong earthquake builds pressure, there is the likelihood of such islands emerging," he said. "That big shock beneath the earth causes a lot of disturbance."

    To get a better idea of what the island is made of and how permanent it is, scientists will have to get samples of the material to see if it's mostly soft mud or rocks and harder material. He said these types of islands can remain for a long time or eventually subside back into the ocean, depending on their makeup.

    A Pakistani Navy team reached the island by midday Wednesday, navy geologist Mohammed Danish told the country's Geo Television. He said the mass was about 60 feet (18 meters) high, 100 feet (30 meters) long and 250 feet (76 meters) wide.

    "There are stones and mud," he said, warning residents not to try to visit the island. "Gasses are still emitting."

    But dozens of people had already visited the island, said the deputy commissioner of Gwadar district, Tufail Baloch, who traveled by boat himself to the island Wednesday morning.

    Water bubbled along the edges of the island, in what appeared to be gas discharging from under the surface, Baloch said. He said the area smelled of gas that caught fire when people lit cigarettes.

    Dead fish floated on the water's surface while local residents were visiting the island and taking stones as souvenirs, he added.

    Such land masses have appeared before off Pakistan's Makran coast, said Muhammed Arshad, a hydrographer with the navy. After quakes in 1999 and 2010, new land masses rose up along a different part of the coast about 282 kilometers (175 miles) east of Gwadar, he said.

    He said each of those disappeared back into the sea within a year during the monsoon season, a period of heavy rain and wind that sweeps Pakistan every summer. He said that in the area where the island was created on Tuesday, the sea is only about six to seven meters (23 feet) deep.

    Baluchistan is Pakistan's largest province but also the least populated and most impoverished. Medical facilities are few and far between and often poorly stocked with medicine or qualified personnel. Awaran district has about 300,000 residents spread out over 29,000 square kilometers (11,197 sq. miles).

    Many residents are believed to be involved in smuggling fuel from Iran, while others harvest dates.

    The area where the quake struck is at the center of an insurgency that Baluch separatists have been waging against the Pakistani government for years. The separatists regularly attack Pakistani troops and symbols of the state, such as infrastructure projects.

    Baluchistan and neighboring Iran are prone to earthquakes. A magnitude 7.8 quake centered just across the border in Iran killed at least 35 people in Pakistan last April.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 50 Incredible Photos of Forces of Nature
    Volcano Eruption

     

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    Underseas explorer Barry Clifford holds a piece of eight, right, and a metal syringe salvaged from the wreck of pirate ship "Whydah" during a video interview in Brewster, Mass., Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

    BREWSTER, Mass. (AP) - He calls it "the yellow brick road" because it's literally sprinkled with gold dust.

    This road runs along Cape Cod's shifting seafloor, and undersea explorer Barry Clifford believes it leads to undiscovered treasure from the wreck of the pirate ship Whydah.

    About two weeks ago, Clifford and his dive team took a trip back to the wreck site, and Clifford returned more convinced than ever that the road he's exploring is a path to riches.

    "We think we're very, very close," he said.

    The Whydah sank in a brutal storm in 1717 with plunder from 50 ships on board. Clifford discovered the wreck site in 1984 off Wellfleet and has since pulled up 200,000 artifacts, including gold ornaments, sword handles, even a boy's leg.

    But just this year, Clifford learned far more treasure may be resting with the Whydah, the only authenticated pirate shipwreck in U.S. waters.

    Colonial-era documents discovered in April indicated the Whydah raided two vessels in the weeks before it sank. Its haul on those raids included 400,000 coins, the records said.

    A Sept. 1 dive during what was supposed to be Clifford's last trip of the season uncovered evidence he was near those coins. That convinced Clifford he had to make another trip before summer's end. So Clifford and a seven-man crew went back on a three-day trip that ended Sept. 13.

    Clifford headed for the "yellow brick road," which refers to a gold and artifact-strewn path extending between two significant sites at the Whydah wreck that are about 700 feet apart - a cannon pile and a large chunk of wood that Clifford thinks is the Whydah's stern.

    The trove of coins and other treasure likely poured from the stern as the ship broke up and the stern drifted to its rest 300 years ago, he said.

    Divers searching the path on the recent trip pulled up several concretions, which are rocky masses that form when metals, such as gold and silver, chemically react to seawater. Diver Jon Matel said one discovery was following another, even though divers were working in "black water," or zero-visibility.

    Matel says several feet of a fine seaweed called mung settled in the excavated pits and it was like diving in a vat of black gelatin dessert.

    "You're going by your feel, your touch, your hands, and the ping of a metal detector," Matel said. "When that thing goes off, it's a great feeling."

    X-rays show all the newly retrieved concretions have coins and gold inside. To Clifford it's more proof of high concentrations of metals and coins being dumped en masse on that spot of sea floor.

    Clifford believes two examples that were pulled up on the previous trip are particularly compelling evidence: a cannonball piled with 11 coins and a foot-and-a-half long piece of iron stacked with 50 coins.

    "Did all of those coins just happen to fall on this one little piece of iron? Or were there thousands of coins there, and this is just an example of what's left?" he said.

    Clifford has no doubt it's the latter, but he'll have to wait until next summer to try to find out.

    He's taken 21 trips this summer at a cost of more than $200,000. But the worseningweather and lingering boat problems after a recent lightning strike make another visit impossible until June.

    Clifford doesn't sell Whydah artifacts, though he knows the treasure, both uncovered and hidden, has monetary and historic value. He anticipates the delay until the next trip will be somewhat maddening.

    "I'll wake up in the middle of the night this winter and go, 'Oh my God, I know what that means,' when I'm reviewing something from the Whydah," he said. "And then I can hardly wait to get back there in the spring."

     

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    An Indian motorist tries to balance himself as a bus drives past him on a flooded road after heavy rains in Ahmadabad, India, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

    AHMEDABAD, India (AP) - Massive flooding has forced thousands of people to evacuate villages in the west Indian state of Gujarat, where heavy rains and swollen rivers have inundated cities and closed off roads and railway lines, officials said Wednesday. At least three people have died.

    One man was electrocuted in the main city of Ahmedabad, where people were wading through thigh-deep water on the streets and waterlogged cars and buses became stranded, said Chief Fire Officer M.F. Dastoor.

    Farther south in the hard-hit district of Bharuch, two people were killed in flood-related incidents, said district official Avantika Singh.

    Almost 14,000 people were evacuated from Bharuch's villages, while thousands of others elsewhere in Gujarat were also sheltering in refuges.

    Schools across the districts of Bharuch, Vadodara and Surat remained closed Wednesday, while fire brigades, police personnel and disaster response teams were working to rescue people.

    In the city of Vadodara, animal activists said at least four crocodiles were recovered from roads and courtyards.

    The floods followed heavy rains that caused rivers, including the Vishwamitri and the Narmada, to swell above levels considered safe.

    In June, India saw some of its worst-ever flooding in the northern state of Uttarakhand, with more than 6,000 people killed. That death toll was worsened by the presence of tens of thousands of Hindu pilgrims visiting temples and vacationers to the mountains.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 50 Incredible Photos of Forces of Nature
    Volcano Eruption

     

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    This aerial photo shows flood damage in Greeley Colo. during a helicopter tour by Vice President Joe Biden, Gov. John Hickenlooper, and FEMA officials, of flood-ravaged areas , Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, Kathryn Scott Osler, Pool)

    DENVER (AP) - The final six people who were unaccounted for after massive flooding in Colorado have been found safe and well, authorities said Tuesday, but new spills were reported in water-damaged oilfields.

    Only one person remained missing and presumed dead. Eight deaths have been confirmed.

    It was a remarkable outcome after a disaster that damaged or destroyed nearly 2,000 homes, washed out hundreds of miles of roads and left many small mountain towns completely cut off.

    In the early days of the flooding, more than 1,200 people were listed as unaccounted for, but the list shrank quickly as people checked in after they were evacuated.

    Meanwhile, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said three new spills totaling at least 7,600 gallons had been discovered as flood waters recede. Regulators are now tracking 11 notable leaks totaling at least 34,500 gallons, mostly from storage tanks that toppled or otherwise failed.

    Flooding has hampered attempts to inspect storm damage. Where crews can get to the sites, they are using containment booms and vacuum trucks to capture and remove oil-contaminated water, said Todd Hartman, a spokesman for the commission.

    Air National Guard helicopters have airlifted more than 3,000 people and nearly 900 pets to safety.

    "We are really happy that we were able to clear all the missing folks," Larimer County sheriff's spokesman John Schulz said, adding that deputies were saddened by the deaths.

    The woman who is missing and presumed dead is 60 and lived in hard-hit Big Thompson Canyon. Schulz said eyewitnesses saw the woman in the water, and searchers have found no trace of her. Her name hasn't been released.

    The death toll was dramatically lower than the 144 people killed in 1976 when a flash flood thundered down Big Thompson Canyon. About a foot of rain fell at the head of the canyon in just four hours, triggering the deadliest flash flood in state history.

    The difference was that this month's floods, which started in earnest Sept. 12, arose over a period of days, giving most people time to get to safety, Schulz said.

    The National Weather Service said between 7 and 18 inches of rain fell over an eight-day span, primarily in Larimer and Boulder counties.

    Five of the final six people who were unaccounted for contacted authorities after their names were made public, Schulz said. Investigators found the sixth person after realizing they had been working from an incorrect spelling of his last name.

    No official estimate has been released on the cost of the floods, which wiped out 200 miles of state roads and 50 state bridges.

    State transportation officials say the road damage will top $100 million. U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet of Colorado introduced legislation Tuesday to remove a $100 million cap on disaster-related federal assistance for road repairs.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it had approved $22.1 million in individual assistance, most of it to help people to repair homes or find temporarily rentals. More than 15,600 people have applied for FEMA relief.

    Vice President Joe Biden flew over some of the damage Monday and promised that federal aid won't stop even if a possible shutdown of the federal government occurs.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Historic Flooding Devastates Colorado
    Colorado Floods

     

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    (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

    Sunny versus stormy weather on the East Coast this weekend is contingent upon the development and track of a storm over the western Atlantic Ocean.

    Current indications are that a storm will spin up just off the Atlantic coast this weekend. One scenario swings that storm westward with heavy rain, gusty winds and rough seas.

    Forecasts from the eastern part of the Carolinas to the I-95 mid-Atlantic and New England this weekend into next week are contingent on the track and strength of a storm expected to form offshore.

    A non-tropical system moving off the East coast could capture tropical moisture and a weak tropical system in such a way to spin up a major storm this weekend and may produce nasty weather in some Atlantic Seaboard locations.

    According to hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski, "The potential system off the Atlantic coast this weekend is not likely to be purely tropical but would likely be a hybrid."

    Even if the storm remains out to sea, large swells could be generated, especially north and east of the center from east of the Outer Banks to Georges Bank.

    Cruise, shipping and offshore fishing interests should monitor the progress of this storm, even if the weather for land lubbers remains clear.

    Part of the system will affect Florida through the middle of this week with heavy rain.

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    How strong the storm becomes and the track it takes will determine sunny versus stormy conditions at Cape Hatteras, N.C., Atlantic City, N.J., New York City and Boston.

    "The possibilities range from the storm becoming very strong, backing westward then paralleling the coast, to just brushing New England to remaining weak and escaping harmlessly out to sea," Kottlowski said.

    Regardless of classification of the storm (tropical, non-tropical or hybrid), there is the potential for building seas from the Carolinas to New England later this weekend which could remain rough into early next week. This could produce not only rough surf and strong rip currents, but also beach erosion in some communities.

    Meanwhile, a potent storm may also affect part of the West Coast this weekend.

    According to expert senior meteorologist Brett Anderson, "One scenario brings heavy rain, strong winds and rough seas to areas from British Columbia to parts of Washington and western Oregon."

    The details on the track and severity of the Atlantic and Pacific coast storms will unfold as the week progresses.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    Colorado National Guard soldiers lead a group of CDOT and state employees during a tour Sept. 22 to look at the damage caused by recent flooding in the area on U.S. Highway 36 between Lyons and Pinewood Springs. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

    After historic flooding swept Colorado, washing out roadways and bridges in Boulder and Larimer counties, the Colorado Department of Transportation is in a race against Mother Nature to reopen major routes in time for winter tourism.

    Colorado, which spans a great deal of the southern Rocky Mountains, can receive the peak of its snowfall in the fall months, creating a rush for local ski and winter sport resorts.

    While a second snow season typically arrives in late winter for the area, getting skiers on the slopes in the first half of the season is critical to the industry and local economy.

    Large sections of roadway on state routes were dragged away by the flood waters in mid-September, while others were clogged by inches of standing water.

    Still, some areas are not accessible by crews at all.

    Though detours have been constructed, the temporary routes force travelers around the mountains and have added more than an hour of travel time to some routes.

    "At one point, we had 30 different roadway closures up in northeastern Colorado that included a variety of state highways," Ashley Mohr, public relations manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), said.

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    CDOT has set Dec. 1, 2013, as their goal for construction completion, but it's a race against time and Mother Nature to get roadways repaved, reopened or temporarily reconstructed.

    If the coming weeks continue to yield unfavorable conditions, the quickly approaching winter season could spell disaster for the tourism industry.

    "Just one day of not having those roads open will definitely affect tourism, so we're just doing everything we can to get those highways open in some facet as soon as we can," Mohr said.

    Construction has already been hampered by continuing precipitation, resulting in work and paving delays for contractors.

    "Anything with moisture we definitely don't want and unfortunately we're getting it in two different forms right now," Mohr said.

    Adding insult to injury, snow began falling in the mountains of Colorado in mid-September, and the threat for more is looming.

    "It's already started and we're going to continue to see it through October," according to Paul Pastelok, AccuWeather.com expert long-range forecaster.

    "If the pattern is right, however, the snow should ease back a little bit in November then pick back up again in December and January," he said.

    With the worst of the storms through December forecast to occur over the northern Rockies, however, it's promising that the area will have some extended periods where they can work on the roads, Pastelok said.

    More than 35 bridges on major routes have been impacted by the flooding, some of which are imperative in moving traffic through major travel arteries.

    Officials are hoping that the precipitation will relent in time, becoming more conducive for the construction plans.

    In September alone, the Boulder area has received more than 16 inches of precipitation, shattering previous year-to-date and all-time monthly accumulation records.

    "We're really trying to beat the clock on the winter weather, but at the same time, we're still getting rain. We're getting very heavy winds today; we've got actually a different section of interstate out east that's closed due to dust," Mohr told AccuWeather.com Monday. "So, we're just praying at this point that the nasty weather kind of calms down a little bit so we can get our work done."

    Cost estimates for the reparations have not yet been established.

    "Obviously, it's going to be millions of dollars, but we haven't really gotten our heads around that yet," Mohr said.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Historic Flooding Devastates Colorado
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