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    Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014
    US-WEATHER-STORM
    (TIMOTHY CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

    There is a chance that a storm will bring substantial snow to part of the Northeast Friday night and Saturday.

    According to AccuWeather.com chief meteorologist Elliot Abrams, "The pattern through next week will bring a series of storms originating from western Canada, traveling across the Ohio Valley then moving off the coast of the Northeast."

    These storms, known as Alberta Clippers, will generally be weak and fast-moving, so that they will fail to bring much precipitation.

    However, a couple of the dozen or so storms through next week have a chance to strengthen and turn the corner upon reaching the New England coast.

    One of the storms to watch for this is scheduled for Friday night and Saturday.

    There is a chance that this storm will strengthen and slow down enough to throw heavy snow across part of the mid-Atlantic, New England, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Such a storm could cause snow-clogged highways and flight delays due to wind and deicing operations.

    A mix of rain and snow could fall right along the coast.

    The timing of the potential storm is for the coastal mid-Atlantic Friday night, then areas farther northeast during Saturday.

    The other scenario is the storm brings only spotty light snow to the same areas and minor travel disruptions.

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    Details will follow on AccuWeather.com concerning the storm intensity, snowfall and snow versus rain issues.

    In addition to the series of clipper storms, waves of colder air will return to the Northeast.

    "The pattern will favor frequent temperature changes from one day to the next," Abrams said.

    One day will bring near- to above-average temperatures only to be followed by a cold blast the next.

    "How windy, warm and cold it gets on either side of the frequent storms will depend on how strong those storms become in the first place," Abrams said.

    A piece of the polar vortex will set up near Hudson Bay, Canada, through the end of the month and will act as a giant pinwheel for the waves of cold air and clipper storms reaching from the Upper Midwest to the Northeast.

    Meanwhile, it appears there is no hope for drought relief in the Southwest in the short term.

    "While storms and cold frequent the Midwest, Northeast and the interior South, much of the West will remain dry and rather warm," Abrams said.


    RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Photos of Monster Blizzards

     

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    Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014
    black asphalt road disappearing ...
    (Shutterstock)

    Winter brings many dangers for motorists, with one of the most threatening being slippery and hard-to-spot black ice.

    "The biggest danger [with black ice] is that you are at the mercy of your vehicle and the ice until your car passes over it," vice president and national director of AARP driver safety Julie Lee said.

    Black ice forms when the air is at 32 degrees or below at the surface and rain is falling, according to AccuWeather meteorologist Andrew Mussoline.

    The ground temperature causes the precipitation to freeze upon impact, thus creating ice. Sleet and the refreezing of snow or water can also generate black ice.

    This type of ice gets its name from its ability to blend in with its surroundings.

    "It's called black ice because it tends to look like the rest of the pavement on the road, but it's actually clear," Lee said.

    The complexion of black ice makes it extremely difficult to spot, but using a car thermometer as an initial gauge can be helpful in determining the road conditions.

    A car thermometer, like any digital thermometer, tries to find the air's ambient temperature. So, if a vehicle's thermometer is close to freezing, the car driver should be cautious on the roads.

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    While the sensors themselves are usually very accurate, their placement on a vehicle can make them less reliable.

    Located outside the car, behind the front bumper, these sensors sometimes pick up heat from the car's engine, resulting in a higher temperature reading, according to AccuWeather meteorologist Frank Strait.

    In addition, these thermometers can also read lower if rain water hits the sensors and evaporates while the car is at a higher speed.

    Overall, car thermometers give relatively accurate readings, but for various reasons they can be incorrect, so they should not be used as the absolute authority, Strait said.

    Due to the restrictions of a car's thermometers, the best way to know if roads are icy before heading out the door is to be aware of when, where and how black ice forms.

    The prime times for the development of this ice are around dawn and in the late evening, when temperatures are typically the lowest.

    During the day, the best thing to do before getting in a vehicle is to take a look at the pavement.

    "If the pavement is dry but you are seeing spots of pavement that look dark and glossy, that is probably going to be black ice," Lee said.

    Before getting on the roads at night, drivers should be informed of the area's weather conditions, as black ice is hardest to see in the dark, according to Lee.

    The most common locations for the emergence of black ice are shaded or tree-covered parts of driveways and roadways due to the lack of sunlight and bridges and overpasses because of their ability to freeze quickly.

    While driving on black ice is similar in some regards to driving on snow, the biggest difference between the two is the amount of traction the vehicle retains.

    "With snow there is still some traction, whereas on ice there is no traction and that's where it becomes very dangerous," Lee said.

    Due to the lack of traction a car has on ice, the basic rule for driving on black ice is to stay calm and let the vehicle pass over it, according to Lee.

    Tips to Stay Safe While Driving on Black Ice:

    1. Do not hit the brakes, instead keep your steering wheel steady.

    2. Lift your foot off the accelerator.

    3. Do not overcorrect your steering if you feel your car sliding.


    RELATED ON SKYE: How to Drive in Any Weather Condition

     

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    Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014
    California Wildfires
    A brush fire on Kimball Island in the San Joaquin River, Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Coast Guard Station Rio Vista, Petty Officer Loumania Stewart)

    LOS ANGELES (AP) - As Santa Ana winds made moisture plunge, plant life wither and wildfire danger soar, Southern California firefighters pounced on several small blazes before they could surge, though another day of dryness awaited.

    The Santa Anas, generated by strong surface pressure anchored over the West, were predicted to remain at advisory levels until noon Wednesday. Red-flag warnings for fire danger were expected to remain in effect until Wednesday evening.

    Tuesday's wildfires also struck an unusually arid and windy Northern California, where a fire on the small Kimball Island between San Francisco and Sacramento engulfed at least one of the island's 20 buildings and was threatening others, Solano County fire dispatcher Robyn Rains said.

    The U.S. Coast Guard was helping with evacuations, and Delta Fire Protection District crews had difficulty getting to the blaze because the site is was only accessible by boat.

    No one was injured, and all the approximately 15 people who were on the island have been accounted for, officials said.

    In Southern California, flames were spread by 25 mph winds across a 2-acre property in Riverside County's Jurupa Valley and destroyed two houses, two mobile homes, three motor homes, 40 vehicles in different states of repair and about a dozen small structures, state fire Capt. Lucas Spelman said. Two more mobile homes were damaged.

    Alejandro Heredia fled with his 3-year-old child, 15-day-old baby and dog when palm trees began burning in a field behind his home. He said firefighters concentrated on saving his parents' nearby house while his burned.

    "We asked for help, and they said that they were doing what they can," Heredia told the Riverside Press-Enterprise. "Everything is lost. There's nothing left."

    Deputies ran back into one smoke-filled house that had been evacuated to save a litter of shar-pei puppies when they feared that their owner, who was found crying in the evacuation area, was about to head back in herself, sheriff's Sgt. Red Heard said.

    Two deputies came out of the house with the 20-week-old puppies in their arms, but the dogs' parents couldn't be found after the blaze.

    "How are they going to survive without their mom?" the 19-year-old owner Carla Guardado told the Press-Enterprise.

    By nightfall, 110 firefighters had the fire fully contained.

    "The reason why we got an upper hand so quickly is because the wind had actually subsided for about 10 minutes," allowing a breathing space for firefighters, Spelman said.

    In Los Angeles, a SuperScooper aircraft dumped tons of water on streams of flame that rolled up a steep cliff side along Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades on Tuesday afternoon. The flames crept within feet of multimillion-dollar cliff-top homes, but none were damaged.

    The fire was knocked down in about 1 1/2 hours, but the highway remained closed for several hours more until one lane opened in each direction.

    Earlier, more than 100 firefighters and two helicopters responded when a large house caught fire in the Chatsworth area of the San Fernando Valley and strong gusts threatened to spit embers into a neighborhood downwind.

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

     

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    Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014
    Ice Storm Aftermath
    (AP Photo/Lisa Poole)

    Nancy Owens takes no chances with trees since a windstorm propelled a large one through the roof of her Long Island, N.Y., home 15 or so years ago.

    So when a neighbor whose property abuts Owens' Maine summer home said he believed two of her tall pines looked suspiciously askew - and leaning toward his house - Owens wasted no time having them removed.

    "They didn't look dead to us. But what do I know?" Owens says. "I was born and raised in Manhattan. I know nothing about trees except they can come through your roof."

    Owens, who "cries every time I have to take down a tree," is one of a number of homeowners who reluctantly opt to be safe rather than sorry by removing trees - even when it may not be necessary.

    Arborist Dane Buell, who oversees tree care for the company SavATree, says that in the last few years people call him "all the time" asking to remove healthy trees. Most, he said, are afraid of the uptick in wild weather that has sent trees crashing down on homes, cars and power lines around the country.

    "People see bad things that happen with trees, and the natural response is we should cut them all down," says Buell.

    Joe Lamb, a Berkeley, Calif., arborist sees the phenomenon too. He cautions that there's no connection between a tree's size and the hazard it poses.

    "It is very common for people to be afraid of trees simply because they are large," Lamb says.

    The health of the tree is more important than its size, Buell says, and he recommends that property owners focus on managing their trees. That includes annual health checks, pruning and precautionary steps, such as adding support and even lightning protection when necessary.

    Certified arborists can identify problems - insect infestation, nutritional deficiencies and disease - in the early stages "90-some percent of the time," he says. Remediation is often fairly simple, too, he says.

    "Trees fail often because these conditions are not identified early. They don't fail because they are tall," Buell says.

    And while no one can prevent an extreme storm from toppling even the healthiest of trees, he says, the benefits of having trees usually far outweigh the risks they pose.

    For example, trees around a home can increase its value up to 15 percent, according to the Arbor Day Foundation. Properly placed trees around buildings can also reduce air conditioning needs by up to 30 percent, and save 20 percent to 50 percent in energy used for heating, according to the USDA Forest Service.

    Homeowners aren't the only ones who have stepped up precautions in recent years. Bob McGee, a spokesman for Con Edison, which provides power to New York City and neighboring Westchester County, says the utility company has improved its year-round tree-trimming since the recent rash of harsh storms.

    "This typically engenders either a community outpouring of thankfulness or scorn, depending on whether there's been a recent storm," McGee says. "We know that taking this action helps keep service reliable. But if nothing is going on and we trim the trees, people will hit the roof."

    Lamb - who says he gets a rush of tree-removal requests from homeowners after storms - says he finds many people are willing to try remedial measures like thinning out a tree and removing dead branches once they learn more about them.

    For many others, however, it's better to err on the side of caution.

    "If someone says that a tree doesn't look right, I don't argue with that," Owens says. "If they say it, I pay whatever it is."

     

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    The dying star SBW2007 sits at the center of this photo by the Hubble Space Telescope like a "lidless purple eye" gazing out from deep space. (Credit: Credit ESA/NASA, acknowledgement: Nick Rose)

    The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a striking new photo of a doomed star poised to explode in a devastating supernova event.

    The Hubble photo of the star, known as SBW2007 1 (or SBW1 for short) reveals the star surrounded by its own expelled gas to create what appears to be a "lidless purple eye, staring back at us through space," NASA officials wrote in an image description. SBW1 is located more than 20,000 light-years away from Earth.

    "The star was originally 20 times more massive than our sun, and is now encased in a swirling ring of purple gas, the remains of the distant era when it cast off its outer layers via violent pulsations and winds,." NASA officials wrote. "But the star is not just any star; scientists say that it is destined to go supernova." [Supernova Photos: Great Images of Star Explosions]

    Scientists suspect SBW1 will ultimately die violently as a supernova because of its close resemblance to the famed supernova SN 1987A, a star that exploded in 1987. Both stars were traveling at comparable speeds, had the same brightness, and had very similar rings of the same size and age.

    "At a distance of more than 20 000 light-years it will be safe to watch when the supernova goes off," NASA officials wrote. "If we are very lucky, it may happen in our own lifetimes."

    Follow Laura Poppick on Twitter. Follow SPACE.com onTwitter, Facebook and Google+.Original article on SPACE.com.

    Copyright 2014 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Mind-Blowing New Photos from Space

     

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    Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2014
    frosty natural pattern and sun...
    (Shutterstock)

    Cold snaps such as the recent arctic blast of Jan. 5-8, 2014, can bring a different kind of cold snap - the loud boom of the earth from frost quakes.

    The quakes, known as cryoseisms, are a natural phenomenon caused from a sudden deep freezing of the ground. They occur near the surface of the earth and result from freeze-and-thaw cycles which weaken and break rock due to high water pressure, according to Natural Resources Canada.

    The frost quakes were recently reported around Toronto and Brantford, Ontario, and Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin during recent cold waves, including a rare appearance of the polar vortex in the U.S.

    Residents reported loud booms and cracking sounds from the frost quakes.

    The frost quakes have nothing to do with earthquakes. Movement of tectonic plates, volcanoes and other factors are unrelated to surface temperature, Natural Resources Canada said.

    There is no such thing as "earthquake weather," with an equal distribution of earthquakes in hot, cold, hot or rainy weather, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

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    Frost quakes usually occur between midnight and dawn, the coldest part of the night, the Maine Geological Survey said. They can occur over several hours and even several days.

    Water from snow and rain froze rapidly in the ground when the arctic cold front rolled through the Midwest and Northeast and caused the ground to expand and crack in places, AccuWeather meteorologist Randy Adkins said.

    "With the rain, it didn't have a chance to soak deeper in the ground before it became extremely cold," Adkins said.

    Another cold spell is expected this week but it will "not be remotely close to that cold outbreak," he said.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 30 Ice Sculptures That Will Take Your Breath Away

     

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    Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2014
    Marina Erakovic of New Zealand takes a drink during a break in her second round match against  Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
    Marina Erakovic of New Zealand takes a drink during a break in her second round match against Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

    MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - The scorching weather finally brought play to a halt on the fourth day of the Australian Open when the temperature topped 43 degrees Celsius (109 degrees Fahrenheit), but not soon enough for some players who criticized officials for not stopping matches earlier.


    The Extreme Heat Policy was enacted at Melbourne Park just before 2 p.m. Thursday, suspending all matches on outer courts until the early evening and requiring the closure of the retractable roofs at Rod Laver and Hisense arenas before play could continue on the show courts.

    It was the first time since 2009 play had been halted due to heat at the Australian Open.

    For Maria Sharapova, playing at Rod Laver Arena, the call came too late. The rule dictates the roof can't be closed until the end of a set in progress, so she was forced to finish a grueling third set against Italian Karin Knapp under the blazing sun.

    "Everyone knows there is no tiebreaker in the third set (at the Australian Open), so once you start that set, you're going to be out there until you're done," she said after closing out the 3½-hour match, 6-3, 4-6, 10-8.

    Other players wilted in the heat. American Varvara Lepchenko received medical treatment during her match against 11th-seeded Romanian Simona Halep, lying flat on her back during a changeover as trainers rubbed iced on her body.

    "At first I didn't understand what was going on but then my legs, my arms started to get heavier. I couldn't focus at one point and started feeling dizzier and dizzier," she said.

    She continued but only won one more game in a 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 defeat.

    "They definitely should have just not started the matches in the first place," she said. "And the same goes for a couple of days ago when I played my (first) match."

    The heat wave began Tuesday when the temperature peaked at 42C (108F). The tournament referee did not halt play then because the Extreme Heat Policy also takes into account other factors, such as humidity and wind speed.

    The distinction is lost on the players, who have grumbled all week about the conditions which some have described as inhumane and dangerous. On Tuesday, Canadian Frank Dancevic blacked out and hallucinated during his match, while China's Peng Shuai vomited and suffered cramps.

    No. 25-seeded Alize Cornet of France sobbed on court Thursday after her draining 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory over Italian Camila Giorgi, then blasted officials for not halting play sooner.

    "On Tuesday, I don't know why they didn't stop matches," she said. "It was an oven. An oven. It was burning. Why today and not Tuesday?"

    Play finally got under way again on outer courts shortly after 6 p.m. local time, but 14 matches were later suspended again due to lighting.

    The heat hasn't just affected players - it's also kept fans away. Total attendance was just 53,226 on Thursday, down from Monday's high of 63,595.

    The unshaded seats on the outer courts were virtually empty Thursday, with spectators congregating under trees or in the upper reaches of stands where temporary covers provided a little relief.

    New Zealander Helen Naylor escaped the sun after watching fellow Kiwi Marina Erakovic play for a bit on Court 13.

    "Even the seats are really hot - God knows how (the players) are running around out there."

    Relief is as least in sight. Friday will be another scorcher, with an expected high of 44C (111F), but Saturday it will only reach 23C (73F). That may feel downright chilly by comparison.


    RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Tips for Surviving a Heat Wave
    Smart ways to beat the summer heat

     

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    Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2014
    Tourists use mobile phones to take photos of themselves wearing masks on a heavily polluted day on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. Beijing's skyscrapers receded into a dense gray smog Thursday as the capital saw the season's first wave of extremely dangerous pollution, with the concentration of toxic small particles registering more than two dozen times the level considered safe. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)
    Tourists in masks use mobile phone cameras to snapshots of themselves during a heavily polluted day on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

    BEIJING (AP) - Beijing's skyscrapers receded into a dense gray smog Thursday as the capital saw the season's first wave of extremely dangerous pollution, with the concentration of toxic small particles registering more than two dozen times the level considered safe.

    The air took on an acrid odor, and many of the city's commuters wore industrial strength face masks as they hurried to work.

    "I couldn't see the tall buildings across the street this morning," said a traffic coordinator at a busy Beijing intersection who gave only his surname, Zhang. "The smog has gotten worse in the last two to three years. I often cough, and my nose is always irritated. But what can you do? I drink more water to help my body discharge the toxins."

    The city's air quality is often poor, especially in winter when stagnant weather patterns combine with an increase in coal-burning to exacerbate other forms of pollution and create periods of heavy smog for days at a time. But the readings early Thursday for particles of PM2.5 pollution marked the first ones of the season above 500 micrograms per cubic meter.

    The density of PM2.5 was about 350 to 500 micrograms Thursday midmorning, though the air started to clear in the afternoon. It had reached as high as 671 at 4 a.m. at a monitoring post at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. That is about 26 times as high as the 25 micrograms considered safe by the World Health Organization, and was the highest reading since January 2013.

    Serious air pollution plagues most major Chinese cities, where environmental protection has been long sacrificed for the sake of economic development. Coal burning and car emissions are major sources of pollution. In recent years, China has beefed up regulations and pledged financial resources to fight pollution.

    In the far northeastern city of Harbin, some monitoring sites reported PM 2.5 rates of up to 1,000 micrograms in October, when the winter heating season kicked off. In December, dirty air gripped the coastal city of Shanghai and its neighboring provinces for days, with the density of PM 2.5 exceeding 600.


    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Choking Smog Engulfs China Skylines

     

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    Multicolored cosmic lights dance over mountains, bridges and lakes in an amazing new video that highlights the beauty of the northern lights as seen from Norway.

    The spectacular video of Norway's northern lights - entitled "Sixth Element" and produced by the production company Level 4 - runs nearly five minutes in duration and showcases the aurora borealis in the sky near Nordeisa, Troms, Norway, with an ethereal musical score setting the mood. The footage was captured from August to mid-November 2013.

    "Quite a bit of time was spent finding the right music to go along with it, we did quite a few rough cuts with different music just to see how the video panned out, and when we finally found 'Promise' by Thomas Bergersen the rough cut was quite close to the finished version," Level 4's Tommy Richardsen told SPACE.com via email. [See more amazing photos of the northern lights]

    Particularly striking images from the video include meteors streaming overhead as green northern lights flow through the sky. The Milky Way provides a backdrop for a green and red glow above snow-topped mountains.

    "We shot this video with the intent to showcase what we can do for future clients," Richardsen said. "For this video we used quite a bit of double coverage so we could intercut between scenes with the same aurora at the same time, most of the scenes was shot using ultra wide angle lenses, while we sparingly used 24mm shots and fisheye shots."

    Auroras are created when showers of charge particles blown out from the sun are caught in Earth's magnetic field. Some of these particles are directed toward the poles, where the strike neutral particles in the planet's atmosphere, creating the colorful lights. The northern lights are called aurora borealis, while their southern counterparts are the aurora australis.

    Other planets in the solar system also have auroras. Scientists have observed auroras at the poles of both Jupiter and Saturn.

    You can watch a high-res version of Level 4's "Sixth Element" aurora video on the company's Vimeo page: http://vimeo.com/79902085

    Editor's note: If you have an amazing night sky photo or video you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact SPACE.com Managing Editor Tariq Malik at spacephotos@space.com.

    Follow Miriam Kramer @mirikramer and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on SPACE.com.

    Copyright 2014 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    RELATED ON SKYE: The Best Places to See the Northern Lights

     

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    Updated Thursday, Jan. 16, 2013, 7:02 p.m. ET
    AP10ThingsToSee California Wildfires
    A wildfire burns in the hills just north of the San Gabriel Valley community of Glendora, Calif., on Thursday, Jan 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

    GLENDORA, Calif. (AP) - Campfire embers fanned by gusty winds blew up Thursday into a fast-moving wildfire that forced nearly 2,000 people from their homes in the dangerously dry foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and threatened some densely populated suburbs of Los Angeles.

    The blaze draped smoke across the LA basin all the way to the coast and rained ash on Glendora.

    "We're underneath a giant cloud of smoke," said Jonathan Lambert, general manager of Classic Coffee. "It's throwing quite the eerie shadow."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Wildfire Burns Out Of Control Near Los Angeles
    Glendora California FireThree men in their 20s were arrested on suspicion of recklessly starting the blaze by tossing paper into a campfire in the Angeles National Forest, just north of Glendora. The forest was under "very high" fire danger restrictions, which bar campfires anywhere except in fire rings in designated campgrounds.

    There are no designated campgrounds where the fire began, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman L'Tanga Watson said.

    By late afternoon, the flames had charred at least 2½ square miles of dry brush in a wilderness area and destroyed two homes.

    At least 10 renters were left homeless when the fire destroyed two guest units on the historic grounds of a retreat that once was the summer estate of the Singer sewing machine family. Statues of Jesus and Mary stood unharmed near the blackened ruins.

    "It's really a miracle that our chapel, our main house is safe," owner Jeania Parayno said.

    The mountains rise thousands of feet above dense subdivisions crammed up against the scenic foothills. Large, expensive homes stand atop brush-choked canyons that offer sweeping views of the suburbs east of Los Angeles.

    Whipped by Santa Ana winds, the fire quickly spread into neighborhoods where residents were awakened before dawn and ordered to leave.

    Jennifer Riedel in Azusa was getting her children, ages 5 and 7, ready to evacuate.

    "They're a little nervous, but I'm keeping calm for them," she said. "I've been loading the car up with important papers and getting the kids dressed. We'll just take some essentials and get going if we have to."

    The last catastrophic fire in the San Gabriel Mountains broke out in 2009 and burned for months, blackening 250 square miles, killing two firefighters and destroying more than 200 structures, including 89 homes.

    The flames could have abundant fuel to consume. Vegetation above Glendora had not burned since a 1968 fire that was followed by disastrous flooding in 1969.

    TV news helicopters spotted embers igniting palm trees in yards as firefighters with hoses beat back flames lapping at the edges of homes. Many homes are nestled in rugged canyons and ridges that made access difficult.

    Glendora police went door to door ordering residents of the upscale city of 50,000 to leave. Citrus College and several other schools canceled classes.

    Between 1,700 and 2,000 people were evacuated from Glendo ra and neighboring Azusa. Some homeowners wore masks as they used garden hoses to wet the brush around their houses even as firefighters ordered them to leave.

    A man was photographed on the roof of a home talking on a cellphone as he surveyed the smoke-filled sky.

    More than 700 firefighters were on the scene, along with 70 engines and a fleet of helicopters and air tankers dropping water and retardant.

    The smoke was visible from space in satellite photos. The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory and urged residents to avoid unnecessary outdoor activities in directly affected areas.

    About 70 miles to the northwest, another fire burned at least one acre of tinder-dry chaparral near Pyramid Lake. As many as 115 firefighters battled those flames and water-dropping helicopters were diverted from the fire in Glendora. The cause was under investigation, authorities said.

    California is in a historically dry period, and winter has offered no relief.

    The National Weather Service said a red-flag warning of extreme fire danger would remain in effect into Friday evening because of low humidity and the chance of winds gusting to 30 mph in the foothills and canyons. The winds were expected to peak Thursday night and ease off late Friday.

    Fires that struck windy areas of the state earlier in the week were quickly quashed by large deployments of firefighters, aircraft and other equipment before the flames could be stoked by gusts into major conflagrations.

    Large parts of Southern California have been buffeted all week by the region's notorious Santa Ana winds, which have contributed to some of the region's worst wildfires.

    The winds form as the cold inland air flows toward Southern California, then speeds up and warms as it descends in a rush toward the coast. Some of the most extreme gusts reported by the weather service topped 70 mph.

    The Santa Anas typically begin in the fall and last through winter into spring. The winds also raise temperatures to summerlike levels. Many areas have enjoyed temperatures well into the 80s.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Wildfire Burns Out Of Control Near Los Angeles
    Glendora California Fire

     

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    RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - A violent lightning and rain storm has swept across Rio de Janeiro, flooding streets and knocking out power in some neighborhoods.

    Sirens warning residents of the danger of mudslides sounded in several areas of the city.

    Each year across Brazil, hundreds of people die in mudslides, almost all happening in ramshackle slums often precariously built up steep hillsides.

    Rio's domestic airport shut down for about an hour during Thursday's storm as did ferries that take commuters from Rio to the neighboring of Niteroi.

    The storm passed after 90 minutes, but there was no word on when power would be restored for tens of thousands of residents.

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

     

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    Friday, Jan. 17, 2014
    Polar Vortex Weather System Brings Artic Temperatures Across Wide Swath Of U.S.
    Morning commuters bundle up against the cold on the morning of January 7, 2014, in New York, United States. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

    The polar vortex will get stronger and move farther south later in January, causing cold to intensify in the Midwest and East and drought to build in California and the West.

    As the pattern responsible for rounds of nuisance snow and waves of cold air continues into next week, indications are that bitterly cold air will return later in the month courtesy of the polar vortex.

    There is the chance the cold may rival that of early January in some areas.

    Impact from the new surge of very cold air may include the already familiar risks from below-zero temperatures including life-threatening conditions and frostbite. The cold may be intense enough to cause school closings, frozen pipes and water main breaks. Heating systems may struggle to keep up, people will spend more money keeping their homes and businesses warm and ice will again build up on area rivers. Where the cold is accompanied by snow, travel delays are likely.

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    A piece of the polar vortex will continue to hover around Hudson Bay and northern Quebec, Canada, into next week.

    In this position, the vortex will continue to act like a giant pinwheel producing a series of weak storms with spotty snow and flurries, as well as brief waves of moderately cold air over southern Canada and the northern United States.

    However, during the third and fourth weeks of January, some changes will take place. The high amplitude pattern is forecast to get more extreme. The polar vortex will move farther south and get stronger. The pattern will gradually change the current mixture of Pacific and Arctic air in the Canada Prairies and the North Central United States to all Arctic air. The air will get significantly colder over the Canada Prairies and the much of the eastern half of the nation as a result.

    West Impact

    Storms from the Pacific Ocean will be blocked from rolling onshore along the West coast.

    Warmth in much of the West now will continue, with virtually no chance of rain and probably no snow for the Sierra Nevada in California. Above-average warmth in Alaska will likely get more extreme.

    Air stagnation and fog may become more of a problem in parts of the West. The risk of wildfires will continue and may get worse. The drought will worsen.

    East Impact

    The pattern has the potential to produce days of near- to below-zero cold from the northern Plains to parts of the Midwest, more lasting cold in the Northeast and noteworthy episodes of cold over the interior South.

    Since the path of the bitterly cold air will be first directed over the North Central states, the cold will not be quite as severe by the time it reaches the Northeast, similar to that of early January.

    Prior to and during the main push of the coldest air later in the month in the East, there may be a large storm or two.

    According to senior meteorologist Bernie Rayno, "We could have a storm slice out of the South Central states and into the mid-Atlantic and Northeast that puts down snow."

    Any deep snow cover that occurs could make the cold more severe. Deep snow acts as an insulator to the warming effects of the ground.

    "If there is no big snow ahead of the cold in the East, it may take more of the extreme out of the cold," senior meteorologist Henry Margusity explained.

    The new invasion of frigid air will produce lake-effect snow downwind of areas of open water. While much of Lake Erie has frozen over, most of the other Great Lakes are still open. Some areas immediately downwind of Lake Erie may get colder with this outbreak, compared to the last as a result.

    If it is any comfort, during the frigid weather forecast, the daylight will be a bit longer, when compared to just past New Year's Day. However, the few extra minutes of daylight will have minimal effect on the air mass that could rival the early January visit from the polar vortex.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Dangerous Deep Freeze Pummels Much of US

     

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    Friday, Jan. 17, 2014
    Winter Storm South Dakota
    This photo shows a multiple vehicle pile up Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, on Interstate 90 near Humboldt, S.D., about 30 miles west of Sioux Falls. (AP Photo/Minnehaha County Emergency Management, Lynn DeYoung)

    On Thursday afternoon, blowing snow and near-zero visibilities caused a massive pileup along I-90 near Sioux Falls, S.D.

    While the region only had a few snow bursts during the day on Thursday, high winds caused snow to blow around to create blizzardlike conditions.

    "It not so much what's falling that is blowing around but what was on the ground was already," AccuWeather meteorologist Brian Edwards said.

    The 22-car pileup occurred at mile marker 375 along I-90, west of Sioux Falls, just before 3 p.m. CST.

    The weather through the rest of the day is not expected to get any better and may actually make for more dangerous road conditions.

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    Winds through the evening are expected to gust to up between 40 and 45 mph, and temperatures will continue to drop.

    "Conditions will not get any better, winds will continue through the night and temperatures will fall below zero by midnight," Edwards said.

    However, no additional snow is expected for the area.

    The local National Weather Service office in Sioux Falls has asked residents to only travel for emergency situations.


    RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Photos of Monster Blizzards

     

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    Updated, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, 9:35 a.m. ET
    California Wildfires
    A firefighting plane makes a water drop on a wildfire that's burning in the hills just north of the San Gabriel Valley community of Glendora, Calif., on Thursday, Jan 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

    GLENDORA, Calif. (AP) - Firefighters were chasing early-morning flare-ups Friday in a damaging wildfire that was largely tamed but which kept thousands of people from their homes in the foothill suburbs northeast of Los Angeles, as dangerously dry conditions persisted.

    Television news footage showed spots of open flames chewing through brush along hillsides, raining embers and ash onto communities abutting the San Gabriel Mountains as crews doused properties in the path of the fire. Smoke from the blaze descended across the Los Angeles basin all the way to the coast.

    By nightfall Thursday, the wildfire that swept through about 2 1/2 square miles of tinder-dry chaparral and destroyed five homes early in the day had its progress halted and was 30 percent contained, Los Angeles County fire Deputy Chief John Tripp said.

    "I imagine by morning it's going to be much higher than that," Tripp said. "We've got good solid containment around almost all of the neighborhoods, and most of those areas are out."

    Officials planned to provide a status update at a Friday morning press conference.

    Crews hoped to make progress against the flames before daybreak, when winds were expected to pick up.

    The National Weather Service said a red-flag warning of extreme fire danger in effect much of the week would remain in place until Friday evening because of low humidity and the chance of the region's notorious Santa Ana winds gusting to 30 mph in the foothills and canyons.

    "We build up a little bit of confidence," Tripp said, "but we always still have a threat."

    Those conditions come with a bigger backdrop of a serious statewide water shortage and intensifying pressure on Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a drought emergency.

    Such a move from Brown, who was planning a "major announcement" for Friday morning in San Francisco, would allow the state to request a broad emergency declaration from President Barack Obama, expediting some water transfers, providing financial assistance and suspending some state and federal regulations.

    "Fire season just didn't end this year," Los Angeles County fire Inspector Scott Miller said.

    Some 3,700 people from Glendora and Azusa evacuated at the height of the fire, county emergency officials said. Glendora residents were allowed to return home Thursday evening, but homes in Azusa remained under evacuation orders. More than 2,000 people remained evacuated, according to KABC-TV.

    Fire engines would stay in all the endangered neighborhoods through the night and helicopters were available to fly after dark if it became necessary, Tripp said.

    Nighttime gusts brought a few flare-ups, but they remained within fire lines.

    Two firefighters had minor injuries and a woman trying to fight the blaze near her home suffered a minor burn, Tripp said.

    Seventeen structures were damaged, including homes, garages, barns and other buildings, he said.

    At least 10 renters were left homeless when the fire destroyed rental units on the historic grounds of a retreat that once was the summer estate of the Singer sewing machine family. Statues of Jesus and Mary stood unharmed near the blackened ruins. However, the main 1920s mansion was spared.

    "It's really a miracle that our chapel, our main house is safe," owner Jeania Parayno said.

    Alex Larsen, 50, rented a room at the estate. The musician had lived there for about four years.

    "All my possessions are toast, burned toast," he told the Los Angeles Times.

    Three men in their 20s, including a homeless man, were arrested on suspicion of recklessly starting the blaze by tossing paper into a campfire in the Angeles National Forest, just north of Glendora. They could face state or federal charges.

    Glendora Chief Tim Staab said the men were trying to keep warm and the wildfire appears to have been an accident.

    "One was very remorseful for starting this fire," he said.

    The Angeles National Forest was under "very high" fire danger restrictions, which bar campfires anywhere except in fire rings in designated campgrounds.

    The mountains rise thousands of feet above dense subdivisions crammed up against the scenic foothills. Large, expensive homes stand atop brush-choked canyons that offer sweeping views of the suburbs east of Los Angeles.

    Whipped by Santa Ana winds, the fire quickly spread into neighborhoods where residents were awakened before dawn and ordered to leave.

    Jennifer Riedel in Azusa was getting her children, ages 5 and 7, ready to evacuate.

    "They're a little nervous, but I'm keeping calm for them," she said. "I've been loading the car up with important papers and getting the kids dressed. We'll just take some essentials and get going if we have to."

    However, other homeowners chose to stay, despite firefighters' orders to get out. Some wore masks against the ash and smoke as they wetted down their properties with garden hoses.

    The last catastrophic fire in the San Gabriel Mountains broke out in 2009 and burned for months, blackening 250 square miles, killing two firefighters and destroying more than 200 structures, including 89 homes.

    The new fire could have abundant fuel to consume. Vegetation above Glendora, an upper-middle-class suburb of about 50,000 people, had not burned since a 1968 fire that was followed by disastrous flooding in 1969.

    Many homes are nestled in rugged canyons and ridges that made access difficult.

    More than 700 firefighters were on the scene, along with 70 engines and a fleet of helicopters and air tankers dropping water and retardant.

    The smoke was visible from space in satellite photos. The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory and urged residents to avoid unnecessary outdoor activities in directly affected areas.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Wildfire Burns Out Of Control Near Los Angeles
    Glendora California Fire

     

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    Friday, Jan. 17, 2014
    Australian Open Tennis
    Varvara Lepchenko of the U.S. receives treatment for heat related illness during her second round match against Simona Halep of Romania at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

    MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - Li Na had one simple request before answering questions in her on-court, post-match interview following a 2½-hour battle in the brutal heat at the Australian Open on Friday: "Can we stand in the shadow?"

    The Chinese star certainly earned the courtesy. She saved a match point before prevailing against Lucie Safarova, all while playing at the hottest time of the day.

    The temperature topped 104F for the fourth consecutive day in Melbourne, the longest heat wave in the city for more than a century.

    Players draped themselves with ice packs during changeovers and those in the women's singles were given a 10-minute break before playing a third set, but tournament officials did not enact the "Extreme Heat Policy," which would have suspended matches on the outer courts and closed the roofs on the two show courts.

    The heat policy was put into effect on Thursday when the temperature topped 108F in the early afternoon, suspending matches on the outer courts for about four hours.

    The high again topped 108F on Friday and, again, doctors were a frequent sight on the courts.

    China's Zheng Jie received medical treatment after becoming dizzy and struggling with her breathing during the second set of her third-round loss to Casey Dellacqua.

    "I feel so hot, my (mind) is not working," she said. "I just watch the ball and just hit it. I don't know where I hit it."

    A doctor checked her blood pressure as she was lying across chairs beside the court with ice bags around her neck. She got up and broke Dellacqua's serve in the next game, but lost the match.

    Poland's Jerzy Janowicz, the 20th seed, looked completely drained during his third-round loss to Germany's Florian Mayer and said later, holding back tears, that his only chance would have been to play at night.

    "Whatever he would do today and whatever I would do today doesn't matter," he said. "I had no power to stay on the court. I felt like I'm going to collapse soon."

    Top-seeded Serena Williams had an easier time during her 80-minute win over Daniela Hantuchova, but she, too, sought any shade she could between points and later withdrew from the doubles competition with sister Venus before they were scheduled to play their first-round match.

    The official reason was an injury to Venus' leg, but Serena admitted she didn't relish the idea of playing another match in the heat.

    "I guess it's a relief, but like I say, we love to play doubles," she said.

    Although players have blacked out, staggered, hallucinated and vomited on court this week, tournament officials have defended their decision to only halt play once during the four-day heat wave.

    Speaking to BBC radio, tournament doctor Tim Wood said that while it may not be "terribly comfortable" to play in these conditions, it's safe from a medical perspective.

    "We know that man is well-adapted to exercising in the heat. If you take us back a few thousand years, we evolved on the high plains of Africa chasing antelope for eight hours under these conditions," he was quoted as saying.

    Players aren't totally convinced. As if to underscore the increasingly vocal concerns of players, Novak Djokovic tweeted a photo of what appeared to be an egg frying on an outer practice court at the Australian Open.

    Above the photo, he wrote: "That's how hot it was. Thank you everybody for being so persistent and passionate about our sport."

    At least the heat should be subsiding. The temperature dropped considerably to 90F during the event matches and lowered again to 73 F when rain interrupted the night matches. Saturday's forecast is for a maximum of 73 F.

    RELATED ON SKYE: The World's Most Extreme Sports

     

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