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    Thursday, April 17, 2014

    LIMA, Peru (AP) - Peruvian authorities have ordered the preventative evacuation of 4,000 people living near the Ubinas volcano, which has been spouting ash clouds up to 2 miles (nearly 4 kilometers) high.

    The Andina state news agency quotes Agriculture Minister Juan Benites as saying it will take three days beginning Thursday to move the residents of two southern districts and their 30,000 sheep, cows, horses, burros and other animals.

    Peru's health ministry says about 40 people have complained of eye inflammation and stomach problems from ash that has been falling from Ubinas since March 29.

    The 18,609-foot (5,672-meter) Ubinas is Peru's most active volcano. It most recent strong eruption period occurred from 2006-2009.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 25 Incredible Photos of Volcanic Eruptions
    Lightning, Volcano

     

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    Friday, April 18, 2014

    A computer rendering of Apparatus X. (Photo/Aaron Wertman)

    It began with a simple idea.

    For Aaron Wertman, an architect isn't just someone who designs and builds structures. Rather, an architect is a type of activist, somebody who pursues engagement education through hands-on activity.

    Wertman, a 24-year-old working towards his masters of architecture degree at Penn State University, has long had a keen interest in displaced populations and responses to natural disasters.

    Now, he is intending to put his beliefs and interests to good use.

    For his thesis project, Wertman is transforming a tow-behind mobile home into a sustainable disaster relief vehicle dubbed Apparatus X.

    His goal is to complete the renovation of the trailer by this August, when Wertman will graduate from Penn State and travel to New Orleans by himself to work with a local nonprofit community organization called the Lower Ninth Ward Village.

    "I believe in starting work in a place that really needs it," Wertman said.

    This August will mark the nine-year anniversary since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans as a Category 3 Hurricane.

    And although nearly a decade has passed, and relief has come in many different forms, there is still plenty of rebuilding that needs to be done in the city, specifically the Lower Ninth Ward, which was one of the hardest-hit areas during Katrina.

    In 2000, the U.S. Census reported the population in the Lower Ninth Ward at slightly more than 14,000. The 2010 U.S. Census reported the population at 2,842 residents.

    Recent reports organized by the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center indicate that neighborhoods in New Orleans have seen increases in population since the 2010 census--even in the Lower Ninth Ward. Yet, out of 72 neighborhoods in the city, it still remains one of only three to have less than half the population it had prior to Katrina.

    Wertman didn't target New Orleans solely for its displaced population, but also because the city has suffered from a variety of long-term issues.

    After visiting the Lower Ninth Ward last summer, Wertman wasn't surprised with the amount of rebuilding that is needed but felt frustrated nevertheless.

    "It's been eight years and the community is still kind of in shambles as a result of Hurricane Katrina," Wertman said.

    Working alongside Wertman has been core group of about 20 students from the engineering and architecture schools at Penn State.

    Conceptually, Apparatus X is designed into three zones: a live zone, a work zone and a flex zone.

    The live space is a micro-living unit with the basic amenities such as a bed, shower, propane stove and bathroom.

    The flex space is the middle portion of the trailer which serves as a social space and a place for collaboration between the response team and the community. The space is valuable because it provides additional workspace or living space when needed.

    The work space, complete with a tooling area, tool storage and work table is the most expandable part of the trailer because it needs to have ample space in order to turn a parking lot or any open area into a work yard at a moment's notice.

    (Photo/Aaron Wertman)

    While construction on the vehicle continues to progress, production of Apparatus X has seen its fair share of delays, due to Mother Nature.

    One hindrance was the severe winter weather that plagued State College as well as a majority of the country. The project is based outdoors and there is no indoor workplace that the team could have moved the trailer.

    Time that could've been used for welding and metal work or simply to repurpose older materials was lost.

    "Obviously we can't work when it's raining or wet," Wertman said. "The fact that the project is outside was a challenge."

    While Wertman and his team have received funding from corporate sponsors such as IBM and Boeing, they are still short of the desired $15,000 they hope to reach by May 2. The team has set up a donation page explaining the project.

    "It's coming down to the time where all of the systems have to come together and all of the materials have to be purchased and funding is still... we're still a little worried about that," he said.

    The intention is for Apparatus X to be completely self-sustaining. Due to this, the team has spent a fair amount of time on climactic research in the area for solar power potential and rainwater collection. Wertman said four of the students, who are participating in a capstone project, have researched rain-water levels for its water purification system.

    Normal rainfall for August is around 5.92 inches in New Orleans and the monthly average year-round is 5.20 inches, so Wertman determined it is likely other water sources will be necessary. Of course, August also has the propensity to see more tropical storms and hurricanes.

    The Atlantic Hurricane season typically runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. Based on the early climate forecast, there are signs that the area from the Gulf Coast of New Orleans stretching up through the Atlantic Ocean to the Carolinas could be slightly more vulnerable. However, it's too early for anything conclusive.

    "It's impossible to know for sure whether a specific coastal site is going to be impacted by a tropical storm or hurricane," said AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski.

    Kottlowski added that while this season will be characterized as below normal in terms of the number of storms, all it takes is one to cause a tremendous amount of damage.

    In the event that a hurricane would make landfall while he is in the area this summer, Wertman said the first line of defense would be the vehicle's mobility, and he would move to a safer location. If he weren't able to leave before a storm would hit, he said he's considering an anchoring mechanism.

    RELATED:
    Atlantic Hurricane and Tropical Storm Center
    After a Disaster: Twelve Unexpected Things Victims Need
    Five Essential Safety Steps to Take Before Severe Weather Hits

    While Apparatus X will eventually be donated to the community center, Wertman will still stay invested in the project even after he leaves New Orleans.

    Long term, Wertman hopes that New Orleans is just the start. Currently, he views Apparatus X as more of prototype and that there can be many of these types of vehicles used in disaster relief situations around the country.

    He hopes that things will go well enough to potentially pitch ideas for new response vehicles to large RV manufacturers or government organizations such as FEMA.

    "I don't think that it ends at New Orleans," Wertman said. "I think it's the beginning of an idea, and that it's the first version of this type of vehicle."


    RELATED ON SKYE: Souped-Up, Tricked-Out Storm-Chasing Machines

     

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    Friday, April 18, 2014
    Florida Lightning
    (Getty Images)

    While heavy rain drenches the Southeast from Alabama to the Carolinas, portions of Florida will be in the path of severe thunderstorms.

    Thunderstorms are forecast to develop throughout the day Friday and continue into the evening with the greatest chance of severe storms coming in the afternoon and early evening hours.

    A few of the cities in the path of these storms include Orlando, Tampa, Daytona Beach, St. Augustine, Port Saint Lucie, Cape Coral and Naples.

    Damaging winds will be the main threat from these storms with winds strong enough to blow over trees and knock over power lines.

    However, some of the stronger storms may have the potential to produce large hail or even a few brief tornadoes.

    If you have plans to be in the outdoors, you should keep an eye to the sky for quick-changing weather as storms may develop with very little notice.

    RELATED:
    Heavy Rain, Flooding Headed for Southeast
    AccuWeather.com Severe Weather Center
    Florida Interactive Radar

    Lightning is one of nature's most dangerous weather phenomenon with more lightning-related deaths in Florida than any other state in the country.

    If you hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning and should seek shelter until the storm passes.

    Settled weather is set to gradually return to the Sunshine State heading into the weekend.

    A few showers and thunderstorms may linger around into Saturday, but these storms are not expected to be strong enough to produce any severe weather.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Breathtaking Images of Earth from Space

    RELATED ON SKYE: Stunning Hurricane Photos from Space

     

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    Friday, April 18, 2014

    This image, acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite, shows the Great Lakes on Feb. 19, 2014, when ice covered 80.3 percent of the lakes.

    Although spring may be in full swing, more than one-third of the Great Lakes remains covered in ice.

    The harsh cold from this past winter resulted in extensive ice coverage over the Great Lakes, making it the second highest ice cover on record for the lakes.

    Since its peak coverage of 92.19 percent on March 6, 2014, the ice has been melting slowly but still remains to some extent on each of the five lakes.

    "Great Lakes ice coverage is shrinking but is still incredibly high for this time of year" said AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson.

    As of April 16, 38 percent of the Great Lakes were covered in ice.

    "Normally, only about 3 percent of the Great Lakes are still covered with ice at this time of year." said Anderson.

    "Even though the ice cover on the Great Lakes has steadily declined over the past month, the area of ice that remains is the highest in over 30 years and more than two times higher than the second highest extent for the same week back in 1996." he said.

    Looking back at 2010 and 2012, the ice on the lakes had completely melted by the second week of April.

    In addition to causing lower temperatures to linger around the lakes well into spring, the ice has had a negative impact on a variety of businesses that are dependent on the lakes to transport materials.

    According to the Associated Press, the ice has caused major problems for the steel industry and has forced the temporary closure of the largest steel mill in the United States.

    Steel mills are just one of the many businesses that rely on ships to transport goods and materials by traveling on the open waters of the Great Lakes.

    Even though the lakes have significantly less ice than when coverage peaked in early March, some ships still rely on icebreakers to cut paths through the ice for ships to travel.

    RELATED:
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    Thousands of Ducks Die as Great Lakes Ice Covers Food Supply
    PHOTOS: Icy Winter Creates Five Captivating Scenes

    With warmer days on the way, the ice will continue to melt but will still leave behind below-normal water temperatures.

    These chilly waters will continue to influence areas near and downwind of the Great Lakes, as well as folks looking to take to the water for fishing, boating and other recreational activities.

    The colder water may also influence different types of weather that typically occur around the lakes.

    "The presence of chilly water could reduce the threat of severe weather by keeping the atmosphere more stable." Anderson said. "Fog could be more widespread than usual early in the summer as well."


    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Breathtaking Images of Earth from Space

     

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    Friday, April 18, 2014
    FILE - In this Oct. 27, 2011 file photo, the last light of the day sets on Mount Everest as it rises behind Mount Nuptse as seen from Tengboche, in the Himalaya's Khumbu region, Nepal. An avalanche swept the slopes of Mount Everest on Friday, April 18, 2014, along a route used to ascend the world's highest peak, killing at least six Nepalese guides and leaving nine more missing, officials said. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer, File)
    In this Oct. 27, 2011 file photo, the last light of the day sets on Mount Everest as it rises behind Mount Nuptse as seen from Tengboche, in the Himalaya's Khumbu region, Nepal. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer, File)

    KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) - An avalanche swept down a climbing route on Mount Everest early Friday, killing at least 12 Nepalese guides and leaving three missing in the deadliest disaster on the world's highest peak.

    The Sherpa guides had gone early in the morning to fix ropes for other climbers when the avalanche hit just them below Camp 2 at about 6:30 a.m., Nepal Tourism Ministry official Krishna Lamsal said from the base camp where he is monitoring rescue efforts.

    Rescue workers pulled out 12 bodies from under mounds of snow and ice and were searching for the three missing guides, Lamsal said.

    Two Sherpas who were injured were taken by helicopter to hospitals in Nepal's capital, Katmandu.

    Hundreds of climbers, their guides and support crews have gathered at the base camp to prepare for attempts to scale the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) mountain early next month when weather conditions become favorable. They have been setting up camps at higher altitudes and guides have been fixing routes and ropes on the slopes above.

    As soon as the avalanche hit, rescuers and fellow climbers rushed to help.

    Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association said the area where the avalanche hit is nicknamed the "popcorn field" and is just below Camp 2 at 6,400 meters (21,000 feet).

    Earlier this year, Nepal announced several steps to better manage the heavy flow of climbers and speed up rescue operations. The steps included the dispatch of officials and security personnel to the base camp at 5,300 meters (17,380 feet), where they will stay throughout the spring climbing season that ends in May.

    More than 4,000 climbers have scaled the summit since 1953, when it was first conquered by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Hundreds have died attempting to reach the peak.

    The worst recorded disaster on Everest had been a snowstorm on May 11, 1996, that caused the deaths of eight climbers. Six Nepalese guides were killed in an avalanche in 1970.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 10 Amazing Survival Stories from Mount Everest

     

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    Friday, April 18, 2014

    Artist depictions of so-called "habitable exoplanets" are not precise portrayals of what the planet looks like, but are best-guesses based on available data. (Credit: PHL@UPR Arecibo)

    The "most Earthlike exoplanet" rankings will have to be revised.

    Today (April 17), astronomers announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, the first truly Earth-size alien planet ever found in a star's "habitable zone" - that just-right range of distances where liquid water could exist on a world's surface.

    Kepler-186f is a rocky world just 10 percent bigger than Earth that lies 490 light-years away. It's the outermost of five planets known to orbit Kepler-186, a red dwarf star that's considerably smaller and dimmer than our own sun. More than 70 percent of the Milky Way's 100 billion or so stars are red dwarfs. [9 Exoplanets That Could Host Alien Life]

    The Planetary Habitability Laboratory, run by the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, maintains a database of all exoplanets that may be capable of hosting life as we know it. Here's a quick look at the other worlds in PHL's top five (assuming Kepler-186f claims the first spot):

    2. Gliese 667Cc

    This "super-Earth" is at least 3.9 times more massive than our own planet. It orbits the red dwarf Gliese 667C, which is part of a three-star system that lies 22 light-years away, in the constellation Scorpius.

    Gliese 667Cc completes one lap around its parent star every 28 days. The planet has one confirmed neighbor, a world called Gliese 667Cb. But astronomers have spotted five additional planet candidates orbiting the star as well.

    3. Kepler-62e

    As its name suggests, Kepler-62e was discovered by NASA's Kepler space telescope. About 1.6 times more massive than Earth, the planet lies about 1,200 light-years away, in the constellation Lyra. It completes one lap around its parent red dwarf every 122 days.

    Kepler-62e is one of five planets known to orbit the star Kepler-62. Researchers think Kepler-62e and its potentially habitable neighbor, Kepler-62f, are "water worlds" - warm places mostly or completely covered by liquid water.

    4. Kepler-283c

    Another Kepler find, Kepler-283c is about 1.8 times bigger than Earth and completes one orbit every 93 days.

    The planet is one of two worlds known to circle the star Kepler-283, which is just over half as wide as Earth's sun. The other planet in the system, Kepler-283b, lies much closer to the star and is thus probably too hot to host life..

    5. Kepler-296f

    This planet is the outermost of five confirmed worlds circling Kepler-296, a star that's about half the size of Earth's sun and 5 percent as bright. At 1.8 times the size of Earth, this planet completes one orbit every 63 days.

    Kepler-296f is one of 715 confirmed planets just announced in February by the Kepler mission team. The spacecraft has spotted 3,845 potential planets, with 961 confirmed by follow-up observations or analysis. Mission officials expect that about 90 percent of Kepler's detections will turn out to be the real deal.

    Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published 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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    Friday, April 18, 2014
    SpaceX launch

    SpaceX launched a robotic capsule into orbit today (April 18), kicking off the company's third contracted cargo mission to the International Space Station for NASA, along with an ambitious rocket reusability test.

    SpaceX's unmanned Dragon spacecraft blasted off at 3:25 p.m. EDT (1925 GMT) today from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, riding into space atop the company's Falcon 9 rocket. Dragon is scheduled to rendezvous with the orbiting lab on Sunday (April 20), when it will offload nearly 5,000 lbs. (2,268 kilograms) of food, scientific experiments and supplies.

    The Falcon 9's work wasn't done after delivering Dragon to orbit. SpaceX also aimed to return the rocket's first stage softly to Earth, to help develop and demonstrate reusable-rocket technology, which company representatives say could dramatically reduce the cost of spaceflight in the future. [Liftoff! SpaceX Dragon Capsule Soars Toward Space Station (Video)]

    The first stage is equipped with four 25-foot-long (7.6 meters) landing legs to help steady its descent toward the ocean, where SpaceX hopes to retrieve it by boat.

    Just how the reusability test went was not apparent immediately after liftoff. But company representatives would not be shocked or saddened if something went wrong, having pegged the endeavor's odds of success at less than 50 percent in the days leading up to launch.

    "The entire recovery of the first stage is entirely experimental," Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX's vice president of mission assurance, told reporters Sunday (April 13). "It has nothing to do with the primary mission here."

    Today's launch initiates the third of 12 official supply missions that California-based SpaceX will fly to the space station for NASA under a $1.6 billion contract.

    Dragon is carrying some interesting cargo on this run. For example, it will deliver legs for NASA's humanoid robot Robonaut 2, which is designed to help astronauts perform menial tasks in space. Robonaut 2 will get to test out its new 9-foot-long (2.7 m) legs for the first time in June, NASA officials have said.

    Dragon is also toting a NASA laser-communication experiment called OPALS (Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science), as well as an experiment called Veg-01 that will help researchers learn more about growing food in space.

    A tiny NASA satellite called PhoneSat 2.5 also hitched a ride on Dragon today. As its name suggests, PhoneSat 2.5 is based on commercial smartphone technology. The idea is to demonstrate just how well spacecraft made with inexpensive, off-the-shelf electronics can perform in space, agency officials have said.

    Today's liftoff was originally slated to occur on March 13, but SpaceX pushed it out by about two weeks to tie up a few loose ends. The launch was delayed again when a fire damaged a ground-based radar system used to track liftoffs from Cape Canaveral. And a planned Monday (April 14) launch was scrubbed due to a helium leak on the Falcon 9's first stage.

    SpaceX isn't the only company flying cargo to the International Space Station for NASA. Virginia-based Orbital Sciences holds a $1.9 billion deal to make eight such flights using its Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft. The first of these missions blasted off in January.

    Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published 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: 25 Amazing Photos of the International Space Station
    International Space Station, Shuttle

     

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    Saturday, April 19, 2014
    FILE - In this May 18, 2013 file photo released by mountain guide Adrian Ballinger of Alpenglow Expeditions, climbers make their way to the summit of Mount Everest, in the Khumbu region of the Nepal Himalayas. An avalanche swept down a climbing route on Mount Everest early Friday, April 18, killing at least 12 Nepalese guides and leaving three missing in the deadliest disaster on the world's highest peak. (AP Photo/Alpenglow Expeditions, Adrian Ballinger, File) MANDATORY CREDIT, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
    In this May 18, 2013 file photo released by mountain guide Adrian Ballinger of Alpenglow Expeditions, climbers make their way to the summit of Mount Everest, in the Khumbu region of the Nepal Himalayas. (AP Photo/Alpenglow Expeditions, Adrian Ballinger, File)

    KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) - Search teams recovered a 13th body Saturday from the snow and ice covering a dangerous climbing pass on Mount Everest, where an avalanche a day earlier swept over a group of Sherpa guides in the deadliest disaster on the world's highest peak.

    Another three guides remained missing, and searchers were working quickly to find them in case weather conditions deteriorated, said Maddhu Sunan Burlakoti, head of the Nepalese government's mountaineering department. But the painstaking effort involved testing the strength of newly fallen snow and using extra ropes, clamps and aluminum ladders to navigate the unstable field.

    The avalanche barreled down a narrow climbing pass known as the "popcorn field" for its bulging chunks of ice at about 6:30 a.m. Friday. The group of about 25 Sherpa guides were the first people making their way up this climbing season to dig paths and fix ropes for their foreign clients to use in attempting to reach the summit next month.

    One of the survivors told his relatives that the path had been unstable just before the snow slide hit at an elevation near 19,000 feet. The area is considered particularly dangerous due to its steep slope and deep crevasses that cut through the snow and ice covering the pass year round.

    As soon as the avalanche occurred, rescuers, guides and climbers rushed to help, and all other climbing was suspended.

    Seven of the 12 bodies pulled out and brought down Friday were handed over to their families in the Everest region, while the other five were taken to Katmandu, Nepal's capital.

    Four survivors were conscious and being treated in the intensive care units of several Katmandu hospitals for broken ribs, fractured limbs, punctured lungs and skin abrasions, according to Dr. C.R. Pandey from Grande Hospital. Others were treated for less serious injuries at the Everest base camp.

    Hundreds of climbers, guides and support crews had been at Everest's base camp preparing to climb the 29,035-foot peak when weather conditions are most favorable next month. As with each year, the Sherpa guides from each of the expedition teams had been working together to prepare the path by carving routes through the ice, fixing ropes on the slopes and setting up camps at higher altitudes.

    One of the injured guides, Dawa Tashi, said the Sherpas were delayed on their way up the slope because the path was unsteady. With little warning, a wall of snow crashed down on the group and buried many of them, according to Tashi's sister-in-law, Dawa Yanju. Doctors said Tashi, who was partially buried in the snowfall, suffered several broken ribs.

    The Sherpa people are one of the main ethnic groups in Nepal's alpine region, and many make their living as climbing guides on Everest and other Himalayan peaks.

    More than 4,000 climbers have summited Everest since 1953, when it was first conquered by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Hundreds have died trying.

    The worst recorded disaster on Everest had been a fierce blizzard on May 11, 1996, that caused the deaths of eight climbers, including famed mountaineer Rob Hall, and was later memorialized in a book, "Into Thin Air," by Jon Krakauer. Six Nepalese guides were killed in an avalanche in 1970.

    Earlier this year, Nepal announced several steps to better manage the heavy flow of climbers and speed up rescue operations. The steps included the dispatch of officials and security personnel to the base camp at 17,380 feet, where they will stay throughout the spring climbing season, which ends in May.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 10 Amazing Survival Stories from Mount Everest

     

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    April 19, 2014

    As in this file photo, showers may affect some of the springtime holiday celebrations. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

    Throughout the United States, the greatest potential for the weather to disrupt outdoor plans and festivities on Easter Sunday exists across the Plains.

    The nation will get a breather from extreme weather Easter Sunday with no major winter storm or severe weather outbreak in the works.

    However, the Plains may still face disruptions to Easter egg hunts, sunrise services and other outdoor activities on Sunday with showers and thunderstorms set to erupt.

    The afternoon hours will likely prove to be the most active time of the day.

    The storminess will rattle Bismarck, N.D.; Pierre, S.D.; Des Moines, Iowa; Omaha and Grand Island, Neb.; Dodge City and Wichita, Kan.; Oklahoma City and Amarillo, Abilene and San Antonio, Texas.



    Showers will also stretch northeastward to central Wisconsin and the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

    Showers and thunderstorms will be most numerous west of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. However, a stray shower or thunderstorm will still cross the Metroplex on Sunday afternoon and could interfere with the baseball game between the Texas Rangers and Chicago White Sox at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.

    While a major outbreak of severe weather will not unfold, there is concern for some of the strongest thunderstorms from southern Kansas to western Texas to turn severe with damaging winds, hail and flooding downpours.



    An isolated tornado touching down cannot be ruled out.

    The danger of lightning strikes will be much greater. Residents and visitors should seek shelter immediately once thunder is heard; you are then close enough to be struck by lightning.

    Isolated thunderstorms will also dot the mountains of the Four Corners region and eastern Nevada Sunday afternoon. Rainfall may be limited with these thunderstorms; the same cannot be said for lightning.

    Where snow is not covering the ground and tinder dry vegetation exists, the lightning may touch off a few wildfires.

    RELATED:
    Forecast Temperature Maps
    AccuWeather.com Severe Weather Center
    Five Unique Easter Celebrations From Around the World


    Aside from a couple of showers in northern Montana and a bit of rain in northwestern Washington (west of Seattle), dry weather will dominate the rest of the West.

    A cool morning across the Northwest will give way to comfortable afternoon temperatures. Away from the California coast, the air will be quite warm for Easter Sunday in the Southwest. Highs in the lower 90s will sizzle Phoenix, Ariz.

    A dry Easter Sunday is also shaping up for most of the eastern third of the nation, allowing Easter festivities to go as scheduled.



    The Southeast coast will be the exception as some rain, clouds and brisk winds from a stubborn storm linger.

    Places farther inland in the Southeast--such as Atlanta, Ga., and Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C.--will see the return of some sunshine and a rebound in temperatures.

    Temperatures will also exceed Saturday's highs throughout most of the Midwest and Northeast. Subfreezing temperatures to start the day, however, will have many from northern Pennsylvania to northern New England reaching for heavier jackets before heading to sunrise services.

    Sunday's rise in temperatures does not apply to the Northeast's I-95 corridor. The return of air flowing in from the cold ocean will put a halt on the warming experienced on Saturday.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos from 2013
    Lightning Hits the Grand Canyon

     

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    Saturday, April 19, 2014

    This file photo shows a girl during an Easter-egg hunt here in the U.S. Around the world, there are many other ways to celebrate the holiday. (AP Photo/Nevada Appeal, Kevin Clifford)

    As thousands from around the world prepare to celebrate the Easter holiday this weekend, beginning with Good Friday, traditional Easter egg hunts and egg-dying are in store for many residents of the United States.

    However, other nations across the globe will celebrate in their own way, commemorating the holiday with their own customs.

    1. Flying Bells

    In a country known for fine dining, a long-standing legend is the pedestal for the nation's symbolic cloche volants, or flying bells.


    Chocolate candy bells symbolize the Easter holiday all over France. (Instagram/Sarah Vanderstoken)

    It is said that on Good Friday all the bells from all of France's churches fly off their respective buildings to the Vatican, carrying all of their town's grief from mourning Christ, according to a Bonjour Paris article. Then these bells return home on Easter morning to ring in correspondence with the resurrection of Christ.

    Even today, this tradition is upheld as church bells refrain from ringing until Easter morning, when chocolate candy bells are distributed to celebrate.

    This year the weather may put a damper on Easter festivities in Paris, as rather cloudy skies and a few showers are in the forecast for the holiday weekend.

    2. The Oxen-Drawn Cart

    Centuries old, the tradition of the "Scoppio del Carro" in Florence, Italy, takes place today in the square in front of the city's Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, or the city's main church known also as the Duomo.

    The ceremony of the cart began after the infamous Pazzi family failed to overthrow the Medici family and was exiled from the city in the 1090s, according to a Tuscany for Sustainable Tourism article.


    The cart tradition takes place outside the Duomo in Florence, Italy. This side view shows part of the Duomo and the Baptistery of St. John. (Kristen Rodman)

    The cart is typically adorned with ribbons and pulled by two oxen from Porta al Prato to the square in front of the Duomo. According to the article, a mechanical dove is fixed on an iron wire inside the cart and throughout the clergy's procession to the Baptistry; it slides up and down the wire. At midday, the dove leaves a trail of smoke in its wake down the central nave, or central body of the church, of the Duomo until it reaches the cart where it ignites firecrackers.

    After the dove's return to the cart, smoke appears as loud whistles ring out across the church and eventually a explosion occurs and four banners appear with the insignia of the city of Florence, the Pazzi family, the 'Arte della Lana,' or wool guild of the city, and the United Nations Organization emblem.

    For Easter weekend 2014, a few showers in the morning may dampen the city, but sunny skies will be present each afternoon.

    3. Good Friday Kite Flying

    Noted for its private coves and white-sand beaches in the North Atlantic Ocean, Bermuda is also known for flying numerous colorful kites over the Easter holiday.


    Kites are flown to celebrate the Easter holidays in Bermuda. (Flickr/Karen Blaha)

    This tradition is said to have begun when a local teacher had trouble explaining Christ's ascension to heaven to his class so he showed them by launching a kite into the sky, according to Bermuda-Online. Ever since, locals have been constructing handmade kites in various shapes, sizes and colors and launching them on Good Friday to commemorate the holiday.

    According to the article, kites are typically launched at Horseshoe Bay and followed by a non-denominational religious service, live music and games.

    However, clouds and rain this Easter may make flying kites challenging throughout the country this weekend.

    4. Traditional Processions

    In various countries across South America and Europe, processions mark the commemoration of the Holy Week.

    Penitents from
    Penitents from "Santa Genoveva" brotherhood hold their crosses as they take part in a procession in Seville, Spain, Monday, March 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

    For San Luis Potosi, Mexico, the city's most iconic tradition takes place on Good Friday, it's known as the Procession of Silence.

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    Nearly 2,000 people from more than 25 guilds come together to participate in the procession, which starts at dusk. The entire ceremony is done in silence with dimmed street lights, as guilds make their way to Plaza del Carmen, carrying various religious emblems related with the passion and death of Christ, according to VisitMexico.

    Seville, Spain, also holds Holy Week celebrations and processions based on the passion and death of Christ. These are known as the procesiones de Semana Santa.

    In the city, there are various processions throughout the week organized by different brotherhoods. Each procession walks down a designated route from the home church to the Seville Cathedral then back home, the route is always the shortest distance between the two, a Seville Traveller article stated.

    Upon arrival at the cathedral, the members of the procession receive blessing from the archbishop before returning home.

    Evening processions in Seville may be a bit chilly this year as highs for Easter weekend are expected to be in the mid-50s. Clouds and a few rain showers may dampen city grounds as well.

    5. Easter Markets


    Easter markets are set up in the squares near Church of Our Lady before Tyn in Prague, Czech Republic, every April. (Kristen Rodman)

    Similar to the city's widely visited Christmas markets, Old Town and Wenceslas Squares in Prague, Czech Republic, open Easter markets everyday from the beginning to the end of April.

    These markets display and sell various handmade crafts, jewelry and toys, as well as hand-painted Easter eggs. Eggs can even be customized by name or with a personal message.

    For shoppers and those walking around the markets, Easter weekend will be partly sunny and warm with highs in the mid-60s during the daytime hours.

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    April 19, 2014

    Miguel Claro recently sent Space.com this cool image of the constellation Ursa Major, or the Big Dipper, shining over the road to Roque de Los Muchachos on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, Spain. (Miguel Claro)

    As soon as darkness falls this Easter weekend, step outside and look skyward. What is the most prominent and easiest star pattern to recognize?

    If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you only need to look overhead and toward the north where you will find the seven bright stars that comprise the famous Big Dipper. For most sky gazers, the Big Dipper is probably the most important group of stars in the sky. For anyone in the latitude of New York or at points northward, it never drops below the horizon. The Big Dipper is one of the most recognizable patterns in the sky and thus one of the easiest for the novice to find.

    People in other parts of the world know these seven stars not as "the Dipper" but as some sort of a wagon. In Ireland, for instance, sky watchers recognize this pattern as "King David's Chariot," named for one of that island's early kings, and in France, it is the "Great Chariot." And in the British Isles, people widely recognize these seven stars as "The Plough." [See amazing photos taken by stargazers in April 2014]

    Stargazers can use the Big Dipper to locate Polaris, the North Star. The two bright stars that mark the outer edge of the bowl of the Big Dipper make this possible. These two stars, Dubhe and Merak, are known as "the Pointers," because they always point to Polaris. Just draw an imaginary line between these two stars and stretch it out to about five times its length. It will ultimately hit a moderately bright star: Polaris.

    The Southern Cross

    Those in the Southern Hemisphere don't use the Big Dipper as their guide to the night sky, instead relying on the constellation known as Crux, the Southern Cross.

    Sky watchers south of the equator (where the season is autumn), need only cast a glance toward the south, where they'll see the distinctive shape of the Cross hanging well up in the sky. To some, it looks more like a kite, though the Cross is outlined by four bright stars.

    From top to bottom, Crux measures just 6 degrees -- only a little taller than the distance between the Pointer stars of the Big Dipper. In fact, the Southern Cross is the smallest (in area) of all the constellations.

    Like the Big Dipper of the northern sky, the Southern Cross indicates the location of the pole, and so navigators often use it. The longer bar of the Cross points almost exactly toward the south pole of the sky, which some aviators and navigators have named the "south polar pit" because, unfortunately, it is not marked by any bright star.

    It is thought that Amerigo Vespucci was the first of the European voyagers to see the "Four Stars," as he called them, while on his third voyage, in 1501. Actually, Crux was plainly visible everywhere in the current United States some 5,000-years ago, as well as in ancient Greece and Babylonia. [Best night sky events of April 2014 (photos)]

    According to Richard Hinckley Allen (1838-1908), an expert in stellar nomenclature, the Southern Cross was last seen on the horizon of Jerusalem about the time that Christ was crucified. But thanks to precession -- an oscillating motion of Earth's axis -- through the centuries, the Cross shifted out of view, well to the south.

    Immediately to the south and east of the Cross is a pear-shaped, inky spot, about as large as the Cross itself, looking like a great black hole in the midst of the Milky Way. When John Herschel first saw it from the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa in 1835, it is said that he wrote his aunt, Caroline, about this "hole in the sky." Indeed, few stars appear within this hole, and it soon became popularly known as the "Coalsack," initially thought to be some sort of window into outer space. Today, astronomers know that the celebrated Coalsack is really a great cloud of gas and dust that absorbs the light of the stars that must lie beyond it.

    A number of flags have also depicted the Big Dipper and the Southern Cross. Crux appears on the flags of several different nations, while the Alaskan State flag features the Dipper.

    Limits of visibility

    Coincidentally, this time of year, the Southern Cross and Big Dipper both reach their highest positions in the sky at the same time: around midnight local time. To see Crux, one must go at least as far south as 25 degrees north latitude. That means heading to the Florida Keys in the continental United States, where you'll see the constellation just lifting fully above the southern horizon. A slightly better view is afforded to those living in Hawaii, where the Cross appears a few degrees higher.

    For the Big Dipper, you must go north of 25 degrees south latitude to see it in its entirety.  Across the northern half of Australia, for instance, you can now just see the upside-down Dipper virtually scraping the northern horizon about an hour or two after sundown. In fact, those latitudes experience just the opposite effect as those in north, temperate latitudes (like New York). In these northern spots, inhabitants see the Dipper at a similar altitude above the northern horizon on early evenings in late November or early December, except the Dipper appears right side up.

    Editor's Note: If you have an amazing skywatching photo you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact managing editor Tariq Malik at spacephotos@space.com.

    Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmer's Almanac and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, N.Y. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebookand 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.

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    Saturday, April 14, 2014


    Rain and thunderstorms spreading to the East on Tuesday will put the brakes on the warmup following Easter weekend.

    Most of the East, with the Northeast's I-95 corridor being the exception, will end Easter weekend on a milder note.

    An even milder day will unfold throughout the East on Monday with highs in the 70s dominating the South and mid-Atlantic and 60s prevailing across upstate New York and New England.

    Some communities in upstate New York and New England will crack the 70-degree mark, while others in the Deep South hit 80 F. However, air flowing in from the cold ocean will keep many mid-Atlantic and Northeast beaches cooler.

    Further warming will occur on Tuesday east of the Appalachians, but advancing showers and thunderstorms will signal an end to that trend.

    After spreading into the Midwest--rattling Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis in the process--on Monday, showers and thunderstorms will continue to track to the East and central Gulf coasts Tuesday through Tuesday night.

    Odds favor the storminess waiting until later Tuesday reach the I-95 corridor. Boston and Portland should even remain dry through the daylight hours.

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    r

    It is not out of the question that one or two thunderstorms become strong enough to unleash damaging winds and/or hail from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., southward.

    The majority of Tuesday's showers and thunderstorms will instead prove to be disruptive to travelers and those with outdoor plans.

    Even though severe weather will be limited, lightning remains a danger from any thunderstorm. If you hear thunder, remember that you are close enough to be struck by lightning.

    The wet weather later Tuesday could impact the Major League Baseball games between the Los Angeles Angels and Washington Nationals in Washington, D.C., and the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets in New York City.



    Showers will either reach Boston during the late innings or after the game between the city's Red Sox and New York Yankees at Fenway Park.

    Other outdoor activities and sporting events may be forced inside, delayed or canceled.

    While widespread heavy rain is not expected, enough rain could fall to trigger localized flash flooding issues across northern New England where rivers are running high and the ground is saturated from recent rain and melting snow.

    Some snow may return to the mountains of northern New England Tuesday night if advancing cold air catches up to the rain. There may even be enough cold air in place for wet snowflakes to fly Wednesday morning in the higher terrain of New York State and northwestern Pennsylvania.

    The cooldown in the wake of Tuesday's showers and thunderstorms will be far less dramatic than what was experienced earlier this week, preventing more places from seeing yet another round of wet snow or snow pellets.

    Across the East, the cooler air will be noticed the most by residents and visitors to the Northeast on Wednesday. In addition to temperatures tumbling, brisk winds will blow and create lower AccuWeather.com RealFeel(R) temperatures.

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    Updated Saturday, April 19, 2014, 4:40 p.m. ET

    This aerial image provided by Tributary Environmental shows a home damaged by a landslide Friday, April 18, 2014 in Jackson, Wyo. A slow-moving landslide in Jackson sped up significantly Friday, splitting this house in two, causing a huge uplift in a road and a Walgreens parking lot, and threatening to destroy several other unoccupied homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Tributary Environmental)

    JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - No one can say precisely when the mountainside collapsing into this Wyoming resort town will give way. But it appears increasingly likely that when it does, it's going to take a piece of Jackson with it.

    Workers and residents have watched helplessly in recent days as the slow-motion landslide spanning hundreds of yards split a house in two and inched ever closer to a cluster of businesses below.

    Standing at the edge of the slide zone, its rocky slope rising sharply behind him, Jackson Fire Chief Willy Watsabaugh said the rate of movement slowed Saturday, giving crews a chance to get back in and re-assess the damage.

    Yet the fate of the businesses, houses and apartment buildings in the slide zone remained in doubt. Experts brought in to assist the town say it's unknown when the slide will come to a rest.

    "We're up against the Earth, and the Earth's movement is an extremely powerful thing," Watsabaugh said.

    A sudden acceleration earlier in the week prompted authorities to suspend their efforts to shore up the slope as falling rocks created a hazard. The work that resumed Saturday was focused not on stopping the slide but repairing some of the damage it already has caused, such as a break in a sewer line on Friday.

    What triggered the geologic event remains under investigation.

    Authorities are looking into whether recent construction at the foot of East Gros Ventre Butte made the slope unstable. But they say there could be a variety of causes, including prior construction at the site, warmer weather and a wet winter that put more water into the ground, where it acts as a lubricant for unstable rocks and soil.

    Town officials first noticed significant hill movement April 4. They evacuated 42 homes and apartment units April 9.

    By Saturday morning, the shifting earth had caused bulges in a road and a parking lot at the foot of the hill that were as big as 10 feet. The groundswell pushed a small town water pump building 15 feet toward West Broadway, the town's main drag.

    Because of its more stable geology, the slope is unlikely to suddenly collapse like the March 22 landslide in Oso, Wash., that killed 39 people, experts said. More likely, large blocks of earth would tumble down piece by piece.

    The ground had been moving initially at a rate of an inch a day. That's is expected to speed up as time goes on, said George Machan, a landslide specialist consulting for the town.

    Rockslides are common in the surrounding Rocky Mountains in the spring, when melting snow and warmer weather unleashes the region's dynamic geology. In the early 1920s, a massive slide caused by heavy rains north of Jackson formed a natural dam across a small river. The dam gave way two years later, unleashing a flood that killed six people.

    But other factors appear to be in play on East Gros Ventre Butte, a small mountain that looms over the west side of town, its base dotted with homes and businesses.

    The area of the landslide has been graded for roads and businesses in recent years, including a new Walgreens. That could have weakened the hillside and set the stage for the landslide, although the precise trigger remains under investigation.

    Jackson resident Rick Johnson lives less than a quarter-mile from the slide area along the same south-facing slope. He said a retaining wall on his property has been shifting in recent years, but he had not given it too much thought until the slide started just down the road.

    As he watched workers at the top of the slide area taking measurements of the previous night's movements, Johnson said he had no doubt that the natural geologic forces at work were amplified by the recent construction of a Walgreens at the foot of the slide.

    "I think they are just messing with Mother Nature, and they didn't think of the long-term consequences," he said.

    Unlike an earthquake or tornado, landslides typically are isolated and don't affect large swaths of territory. Yet they consistently rate among the costliest, most frequent and deadliest natural disasters in the U.S., said David Montgomery, a geology professor at the University of Washington in Seattle.

    They can occur in all 50 states, kill 25 to 50 people a year and cost $1 billion to $3 billion annually, he said, citing a 2004 National Research Council report.

    Landslides in scenic, mountainous areas like Jackson are a lot like the wildfires that occur in the same areas. Both hazards are natural events that present more of a problem when people move in and build subdivisions or shopping areas.

    "When you add it up, it's actually a major geological hazard," Montgomery said. "As more people move into more mountainous environments, the opportunities for interactions between human infrastructure and people, and landslides, increase."

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    Sunday, April 20, 2014

    Infrared Satellite imagery from Saturday night, local time, shows Tropical Cyclone Jack well west of Australia. (Bureau of Meteorology)

    A cluster of showers and storms over the South Indian Ocean last week organized into Tropical Cyclone Jack on Friday.

    Jack is over the open waters, and the cyclone is not expected to pose a threat to land through at least the latter part of the upcoming week as it tracks in a general southeasterly direction. Environmental conditions into early Monday will be favorable for some additional strengthening with water temperatures ranging from 80-84°F and relatively low wind shear. However, as the storm continues southeast next week, it will move over cooler waters and an environment of increased wind shear which will strip the cyclone of its tropical characteristics.

    The remnants of Jack will approach Western Australia later next week or weekend, however, any impacts to the state will be minimal and in the form of a shower or two.

    As Jack weakens during the upcoming week, attention will turn to the Arafura and Timor Seas for continued unsettled weather and possible tropical development.

    A broad area of convection that has persisted through the last several days will continue through next week with the possibility of a more focused area of lower pressure developing between Horn Island and the northern coast of Northern Territory.

    Satellite imagery from Saturday night, local time, shows some convection across the Timor and Arafura Seas, as well as some cloud cover near the Great Australian Bight. (Bureau of Meteorology)

    Regardless of tropical development, squally weather will impact the northern portion of Northern Territory as well as Horn Island and the northern peninsula of Queensland through much of the week where 2-4 inches of rain can fall. Winds will be generally less than 65 kph (40 mph), but a few higher gusts cannot be ruled out.

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    Sunday, April 20, 2014
    SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 1:  Traffic on Highway 101 slows down in a heavy rainstorm near the Golden Gate Bridge on April 1, 2014, in San Francisco, California. San Francisco continues to be a major global tourist destination and has experienced a real estate and high-tech boom in recent years. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)
    As in this file photo, the upcoming storm will deliver significant rains to a large swath of the west, making travel treacherous. (George Rose/Getty Images)

    A potent area of low pressure moving into the West will dictate the weather from Washington to Texas heading into the new week.

    The biggest impacts will be felt on Tuesday and Wednesday as the system delivers rain, snow, howling winds and severe thunderstorms to different portions of the West.

    Folks in the Northwest and the Rockies will want to keep their umbrellas handy both days as the slow-moving system spreads rain across the regions with some showers even dipping down into central California.

    The Cascades and Sierras are also expected to pick up some snow as well as the higher elevations of the Rockies.

    While moisture from this system will fail to reach the Southwest, it will still bring howling winds to parts of the region with wind gusts topping 40 mph.

    The combination of these strong winds and the unusually dry weather will result in a heightened risk of wildfires from Nevada to New Mexico on Tuesday.

    This area is expected to expand eastward heading into Wednesday, reaching into western parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

    If you are in the area being influenced by these gusty winds, you should take extra precautions to help prevent wildfires.

    Most wildfires in the United States are caused by humans. Even a smoldering cigarette can be enough to start a fire given the right conditions.

    In addition to the threat of wildfires, these winds may also kick up a few dust storms.

    Visibility can be significantly reduced for several hours as these storms pass through, making travel near impossible.

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    While rain dampens the Northwest and winds whip the Four Corners, a different type of weather looks to develop over the Plains.

    Following a dry Tuesday, thunderstorms will fire from South Dakota to western Texas on Wednesday afternoon and continue into the evening.

    Storms that develop in this area will have the potential to produce damaging winds, large hail and even a few tornadoes.

    Be sure to check back with AccuWeather.com over the next several days for the latest on the areas to be impacted by these severe thunderstorms.

    Looking ahead to the second half of the week, settled weather looks to make a return to much of the West as the low pressure system tracks eastward.

    However, another batch of rain may move into the Pacific Northwest right on the heels of this system.

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    Sunday, April 20, 2014

    In this Saturday May 17, 2003 file photo, a view of the Kumbhu icefall, the first hurdle in the ascent to Everest from base camp, is seen from Everest Base camp, where 12 Nepalese guides were killed, in Nepal. (AP Photo/Gurinder Osan, file)

    KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) - Survivors of Mount Everest's deadliest avalanche recalled scenes of panic and chaos, describing Sunday how they dug through snow with their hands and ice axes in hopes of finding their friends alive.

    Just minutes before the avalanche hit on Friday, about 60 Sherpa guides had been backed up along the dangerous Khumbu Icefall - the edge of a slow-moving glacier known to calve and crack without warning. They heard the sickening boom of ice breaking above, and then the roar of it coming down around them.

    As details of the tragedy trickle down the mountain, Nepal's tight-knit climbing community has been left reeling and struggling to make sense of an accident that they say could have happened to any one of them, at any time.

    "We were sweating, panting, digging for our friends," survivor Cheddar Sherpa said, standing beside his friend's body at the Sherpa monastery in Katmandu, Nepal's capital.

    As he helped carry down the injured, he had no idea who might still be alive. "We were terrified," he said.

    At least 13 people were killed, and another three are still missing, though there is almost no hope of finding them alive.

    Climbing has been halted amid a search operation to locate bodies buried under snow, but the operation was suspended Sunday afternoon due to bad weather, and it was unclear whether it would resume on Monday, Tourism Ministry official Mohan Sapkota said.

    The expeditions ferrying foreigners to Everest's peak said they would continue the climbs, though they're not sure when - or how, with some guides now injured or gone.

    All of the victims were from Nepal's ethnic Sherpa community, which relies heavily on the country's alpine trekking and climbing industry, with many making a living as climbing guides and others catering to foreign visitors by providing restaurants, equipment or transportation.

    At the time of the avalanche, according to Cheddar Sherpa, dozens of Sherpa climbers were carrying tents and equipment to higher elevations in preparation for their foreign clients to ascend next month, when weather conditions are best.

    They got caught in a traffic jam behind several Sherpas struggling to fix one of the aluminum ladders laid over the crevasses that cut through the Icefall.

    Meanwhile, several other Sherpas, who had already passed before the avalanche hit, remain stranded above the collapsed Icefall, waiting until a new trail can be dug and new ropes fixed, said Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.

    It was unclear how long that would take, but Tshering said the group had tents and enough food to last for days.

    Hospitals in Katmandu were treating four survivors of the avalanche for broken bones, punctured lungs and other injuries.

    While there were hundreds of climbers, guides and support crews at Everest's base camp preparing to climb the 29,035-foot peak, few had been around the Khumbu Icefall on Friday, according to American climber Jon Reiter, who spoke with the Santa Rosa Press Democrat (http://bit.ly/1hcOA0R) by satellite phone from the base camp.

    He and an Australian had been climbing in the area when their Sherpa guide shoved them back from the avalanche, and out of harm's way.

    "We were moving up to Camp 1, just after dawn, when we heard that 'crack,'" said Reiter, 49, a contractor from Kenwood, California. "My first thought was to film it, and I reached for my camera. But the Sherpa yelled to get down. Things started happening in slow motion. Big blocks of snow and ice started coming down all around."

    It's not clear how close Reiter was to the avalanche. But in response to questions, he wrote on his blog: "There were very few Western climbers in the area, and all of us had our climbing Sherpa by our sides and they all survived."

    The worst recorded disaster on Everest had been a fierce blizzard on May 11, 1996, that caused the deaths of eight climbers, including famed mountaineer Rob Hall, and was later memorialized in a book, "Into Thin Air," by Jon Krakauer. Six Nepalese guides were killed in an avalanche in 1970.

    Hundreds of people, both foreigners and Sherpas, have died trying to reach the world's highest peak. About a quarter of them were killed in avalanches, climbing officials say.

    More than 4,000 climbers have reached the top of Everest since 1953, when the mountain was first conquered by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.

    Nepal this year began stationing officials and medical personnel at Everest's base camp, located at 17,380 feet, to better monitor the flow of climbers and speed up rescue operations during the March-May climbing season.

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    Sunday, April 20, 2014

    Knowledge is power when you find yourself caught in an electrical storm. (Kayla Terry)

    Each year, two-thirds of all lightning-related fatalities recorded in the United States occur when people are engaging in leisure activities, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Lightning Safety Specialist John Jensenius.

    While the odds of getting struck by a fiery bolt from the sky in any given year is approximately 1 in 1 million, the odds of getting struck in a lifetime is 1 in 10,000.

    "It's important for people to plan ahead," Jensenius said.

    Jensenius attributes the decline in large part to increased awareness, decreased dangers in agricultural activities including safer equipment and a shift in the industry, as well as simple technological innovations like cordless telephones.

    "From the 1940s to the 1970s, farming activities were one of the highest (in recorded fatalities)," he said.

    Lightning will strike the highest object in a given area, Jensenius said, adding that people who are caught in the midst of a thunderstorm should avoid being the tallest object around and make their way to a safe place before the storm approaches.

    According to the report, June, July and August are the top months for lightning activity and the peak months for outdoor activities, contributing to 70 percent of annual lightning-related fatalities in that time frame.

    "Lightning can strike 10 miles from the storm," he said. "People should get to a safe place as soon as they can hear thunder, especially if it takes more time to get there."

    Temporary rain shelters, pavilions and structures without plumbing or electric wiring are not effective shelters in a thunderstorm, he said.

    "They don't protect you at all," Jensenius said, adding the safest place is either in a substantial structured building or a hard-top vehicle.

    Avoiding windows and doors is also important to avoid the possibility of getting struck by the discharge. If you are unable to find adequate shelter, taking measures to reduce the risk of getting struck is important by avoiding being the tallest object in the area, according to Jensenius.

    "If it will take you a long time to get to a safe area from where you are, perhaps you shouldn't be there," he said. "There's not a lot you can do, so you would need to avoid standing under or near a tall tree, standing out in the open, and you don't want to be on a hill; you don't want to increase your risk."

    More information about lightning and lightning safety can be found by visiting NOAA's official lightning safety website.

    Among the most common activities in which lightning caused deaths, fishing ranked the highest, dispelling the myth that golfing was among the highest risk activities.

    "During this seven-year period, fishermen accounted for more than three times as many fatalities as golfers, while camping and boating each accounted for almost twice as many deaths as golf," according to a report written by Jensenius. "From 2006 to 2012, there were a total of 26 fishing deaths, 15 camping deaths, 14 boating deaths and 11 beach deaths."

    "There are a couple of reasons for this. One, they are out in an open area or on a boat. Another factor is, if you are out fishing, it may take longer to make it to a safe place. Sometimes they are reluctant to get to a safe place."

    In addition, male fatalities outnumbered female fatalities at 82 percent of the total reported, 90 percent of which were fishing and sport-related, according to the report. Of all sport-related deaths in that time, soccer ranked the highest with 12 deaths followed by golf with eight deaths.

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    Of the fatalities recorded, 52 percent of the female deaths occurred during daily-routine activities, where most of the male deaths occurred during leisure activities, according to Jensenius.

    In 2013, lightning-related deaths hit a record low with 23 reported fatalities, three below the record low in 2011.

    "I think people are more aware of the dangers," he said.



    Jensenius attributes the decline in large part to increased awareness, decreased dangers in agricultural activities including safer equipment and a shift in the industry, as well as simple technological innovations like cordless telephones.

    "From the 1940s to the 1970s, farming activities were one of the highest (in recorded fatalities)," he said.

    Lightning will strike the highest object in a given area, Jensenius said, adding that people who are caught in the midst of a thunderstorm should avoid being the tallest object around and make their way to a safe place before the storm approaches.

    According to the report, June, July and August are the top months for lightning activity and the peak months for outdoor activities, contributing to 70 percent of annual lightning-related fatalities in that time frame.

    "Lightning can strike 10 miles from the storm," he said. "People should get to a safe place as soon as they can hear thunder, especially if it takes more time to get there."

    Temporary rain shelters, pavilions and structures without plumbing or electric wiring are not effective shelters in a thunderstorm, he said.

    "They don't protect you at all," Jensenius said, adding the safest place is either in a substantial structured building or a hard-top vehicle.

    Avoiding windows and doors is also important to avoid the possibility of getting struck by the discharge. If you are unable to find adequate shelter, taking measures to reduce the risk of getting struck is important by avoiding being the tallest object in the area, according to Jensenius.

    "If it will take you a long time to get to a safe area from where you are, perhaps you shouldn't be there," he said. "There's not a lot you can do, so you would need to avoid standing under or near a tall tree, standing out in the open, and you don't want to be on a hill; you don't want to increase your risk."

    More information about lightning and lightning safety can be found by visiting NOAA's official lightning safety website.

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    Sunday, April 20, 2014

    As in this file photo, Wednesday's storms may be intense enough to form tornado funnel clouds. (AP Photo/Paul McIntosh)

    While remaining on a localized level through Tuesday, severe weather will ramp up across the Plains on Wednesday.

    The stage is being set for violent thunderstorms to line the central and southern Plains later Wednesday afternoon and night, from Nebraska to west-central Texas.

    Cities in the path of the outbreak include North Platte, McCook and Grand Island, Neb.; Dodge City and Russell, Kan.; Gage and Clinton, Okla.; and Childress, Abilene and San Angelo, Texas.

    The worst of the severe weather, at this point, is expected to remain to the north and west of Wichita, Kan., but the city may still become the target of a strong and gusty thunderstorm overnight Wednesday.

    "If there is no change to the current thinking, [Wednesday] will be a busy day dealing with a myriad of severe weather of all kinds, including large hail, high wind gusts as well as tornadoes," stated AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions Storm Warning Meteorologist Eddie Walker.

    As night falls, more lives could be put at risk as tornadoes will be hard to see and some people may sleep through vital warnings.

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    The danger for severe thunderstorms and some tornadoes will not end with Wednesday.

    "It seems like at least portions of the eastern Plains into the Mississippi Valley will see severe threats on Thursday," Walker continued.

    AccuWeather.com meteorologists are zoning in on the corridor from central Missouri to southern Wisconsin for the greatest severe weather potential on Thursday.

    All residents across the nation's midsection should continue to check back with AccuWeather.com for the latest updates as the threat zone and severity of the situation is refined.

    The storm system set to trigger the midweek severe weather will first slam the West with rain, mountain snow and strong winds.

    Prior to the midweek outbreak, severe weather will erupt on a more localized level.

    Easter Sunday will end with some thunderstorms capable of producing hail and damaging winds erupting from Kansas to west-central Texas. An isolated tornado cannot be ruled out.

    On Monday, similar thunderstorms will threaten some communities from southwestern Arkansas to central Texas. Dallas and Waco, Texas, lie within this zone.

    Showers and thunderstorms will track to the East and central Gulf coasts Tuesday and Tuesday night. It is not out of the question for one or two thunderstorms to turn severe. The majority will prove only disruptive to those with outdoor plans.

    This year's severe weather season has gotten off to an extremely slow start (in terms of climatology), which the AccuWeather.com Long Range team anticipated.

    The below graphic from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center (SPC) shows that the preliminary tornado count so far this year is running well below the minimum value on the inflation adjusted annual tornado trend chart.

    As the graphic declares, the preliminary count for 2014 has been multiplied by 0.85 to remove erroneous extra reports.

    Greg Carbin, Warning Coordination Meteorologist from the SPC, told AccuWeather.com that the bars on the graphic are only estimates and do not represent any year in particular.

    "[The graphic] is an attempt to define the ranges in the running annual total of U.S. tornadoes by removing the positive upward trend in reports of weak tornadoes over the past couple of decades when compared to the longer-term record," Carbin stated.

    The SPC also reported that Saturday was the 153rd day without an EF-3 or stronger tornado touching down in the United States. That is the fourth longest such stretch in the last 60 years.

    Listed third on the list is the 188 days from 1997, while 2004 ranks first with 249 days.

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    Sunday, April 20, 2014

    A SpaceX Dragon space capsule floats serenely in orbit near the International Space Station with the Earth as a dazzling backdrop in this view from the station on April 20, 2014 as the Dragon cargo ship delivered nearly 5,000 lbs. of supplies to the ISS. (NASA TV)

    It's not exactly the Easter bunny, but a commercial Dragon cargo ship built by SpaceX made an Easter delivery to the International Space Station Sunday (April 20) to deliver tons supplies, and possibly even some treats, for the astronauts on board.

    The robotic Dragon spacecraft arrived at space station Sunday morning, floating within reach of the orbiting laboratory's robotic arm. Station astronauts used the arm to capture the Dragon spacecraft as both spacecraft sailed 260 miles above Egypt and the Nile River.

    "Great work catching the Dragon," NASA astronaut Jack Fischer radioed the station crew Mission Control in Houston. The station crew then carefully attached the Dragon cargo ship to a docking port on the station, completing the job in just under three hours. [See photos of SpaceX's Dragon launch and station arrival]

    The Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX launched the Dragon cargo ship toward the space station on Friday (April 18) using its own Falcon 9 rocket that lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The mission is SpaceX's fourth Dragon flight to the space station and third of 12 cargo delivery missions under a $1.6 billion deal with NASA.

    The Dragon spacecraft is carrying 5,000 lbs. of food, supplies and gear for 150 different experiments. A miniature lettuce farm, space robot legs and laser communications system are among the delivery's highlights.

    Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said Friday that he wasn't sure if those supplies included any chocolate eggs, jelly beans or other Easter goodies for the station crew.

    "It'll be a surprise for all of us when they open the hatch," Gerstenmaier said. That hatch opening is slated to occur on Monday.

    SpaceX's latest Dragon cargo ship was captured by space station commander Koichi Wakata, of Japan, and NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, who watched over the spacecraft's approach to the station from the orbiting lab's Cupola observation deck. The spacecraft will return to Earth in May to return science experiments and other gear to NASA scientists.

    "Congratulations to the entire team for the successful rendezvous and capture," Wakata said. "The vehicle and spacecraft was very solid and very stable."

    The arrival of SpaceX's Dragon occurred nearly a month late. SpaceX initially aimed to launch the cargo ship in mid-March but delayed the flight first to allow final checks, then due to a damaged Air Force ground radar used to support Cape Canaveral rocket launches.

    SpaceX is one of two companies with NASA contracts for robotic cargo missions to the space station. The other firm is Orbital Sciences Corp. in Dulles, Va., which has a $1.9 billion deal for eight delivery flights using its own Cygnus spacecraft and Antares rockets. The first official Cygnus delivery to the station launched in January.

    Dragon's Easter Sunday arrival sets the stage for a spacewalk later this week on Wednesday (April 23) to replace a broken backup computer on the station's exterior. The computer, called a Multiplexer-Demultiplexer or MDM, serves as a backup for routing commands to several key systems on the station's exterior.

    The backup MDM device stopped responding to commands on April 11, although the system's primary computer is still working fine. But to preserve redundancy, NASA will send Mastracchio and fellow NASA astronaut Steve Swanson outside the station on Wednesday to replace the faulty backup computer with a spare. Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik 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.

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    Monday, April 21, 2014

    Rain and thunderstorms spreading to the East on Tuesday will put the brakes on the warmup following Easter weekend.

    Most of the East, with the Northeast's I-95 corridor being the exception, will end Easter weekend on a milder note.

    An even milder day will unfold throughout the East on Monday with highs in the 70s dominating the South and mid-Atlantic and 60s prevailing across upstate New York and New England.

    Some communities in upstate New York and New England will crack the 70-degree mark, while others in the Deep South hit 80 F. However, air flowing in from the cold ocean will keep many mid-Atlantic and Northeast beaches cooler.

    Further warming will occur on Tuesday east of the Appalachians, but advancing showers and thunderstorms will signal an end to that trend.

    After spreading into the Midwest--rattling Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis in the process--on Monday, showers and thunderstorms will continue to track to the East and central Gulf coasts Tuesday through Tuesday night.

    Odds favor the storminess waiting until later Tuesday reach the I-95 corridor. Boston and Portland should even remain dry through the daylight hours.

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    It is not out of the question that one or two thunderstorms become strong enough to unleash damaging winds and/or hail from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., southward.

    The majority of Tuesday's showers and thunderstorms will instead prove to be disruptive to travelers and those with outdoor plans.

    Even though severe weather will be limited, lightning remains a danger from any thunderstorm. If you hear thunder, remember that you are close enough to be struck by lightning.

    The wet weather later Tuesday could impact the Major League Baseball games between the Los Angeles Angels and Washington Nationals in Washington, D.C., and the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets in New York City.

    Showers will either reach Boston during the late innings or after the game between the city's Red Sox and New York Yankees at Fenway Park.

    Other outdoor activities and sporting events may be forced inside, delayed or canceled.

    While widespread heavy rain is not expected, enough rain could fall to trigger localized flash flooding issues across northern New England where rivers are running high and the ground is saturated from recent rain and melting snow.

    Some snow may return to the mountains of northern New England Tuesday night if advancing cold air catches up to the rain. There may even be enough cold air in place for wet snowflakes to fly Wednesday morning in the higher terrain of New York State and northwestern Pennsylvania.

    The cooldown in the wake of Tuesday's showers and thunderstorms will be far less dramatic than what was experienced earlier this week, preventing more places from seeing yet another round of wet snow or snow pellets.

    Across the East, the cooler air will be noticed the most by residents and visitors to the Northeast on Wednesday. In addition to temperatures tumbling, brisk winds will blow and create lower AccuWeather.com RealFeel(R) temperatures.


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