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SKYE on AOL

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    Tuesday, April 29, 2014

    The deadly tornado outbreak that struck the southeastern United States Sunday was tracked from space, as seen in a satellite video released on Monday, April 28, 2014 by NASA.

    The video animation of the tornado captured the powerful storm system in visible and infrared weather satellite images as it churned across Arkansas and Oklahoma. The severe weather spawned 31 reported tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center. At least 14 people were killed in Arkansas by a tornado that touched down northeast of Little Rock around 7 p.m. local time, according to news reports.

    Until this weekend, 2014 was one of the quietest tornado years on record, because of colder-than-average winter and spring temperatures, according to the National Weather Service. But recent warm weather finally brought the clash between cold and warm fronts that spawns tornado-brewing thunderstorms.

    The same system that spawned the destructive tornadoes is expected to bring severe weather farther east tomorrow, between Cincinnati, Ohio and New Orleans, La.

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

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Deadly Tornados Strike Central, Southern US

     

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    Tuesday, April 29, 2014

    Photographer CJ Armitage of Brisbane, Australia captured this stunning view of the sunset solar eclipse on April 29, 2014 during the first solar eclipse of the year. (Credit: CJ Armitage)

    The moon took a bite out of the sun in the first solar eclipse of the year on Tuesday (April 29), a celestial ballet visible from Australia that captivated stargazers despite cloudy weather.

    Tuesday's solar eclipse was a "ring of fire" annular eclipse, but only for an uninhabited swath of Antarctica. For observers in Australia, the moon appeared to covered about 65 percent of the sun, resulting in a striking partial solar eclipse at sunset.

    "I felt lucky to view and capture the eclipse this afternoon due to continuous partial cloud cover," photographer CJ Armitage told Space.com via email after snapping a spectacular view of the eclipsed setting sun. "Time seemed to stand still during the brief moments of visibility while I wanted in awe of this natural phenomenon. I hope the penguins of Antarctica enjoyed their view of the 'Ring of Fire.'" [Amazing Photos of the April 29 Solar Eclipse (Gallery)]


    Astronomer Jay Pasachoff of Williams College took this photo of the first solar eclipse of 2014 through clouds on April 29, 2014 while observing from Albany, Western Australia, where a partial eclipse was visible. (Credit: Jay Pasachoff/Williams College)

    "Ring of fire" solar eclipses, or annular eclipses, occur when the moon is too far from Earth to completely block the sun's disk, as seen from the planet's surface. The setup leaves a bright ring of sunlight at the time of greatest eclipse. It is that path of greatest eclipse that passed over a remote region of Antarctica, with observers in Australia and southern Indonesia seeing a partial solar eclipse as weather permitted.

    Australian eclipse-chasers dealt with frustrating clouds that occasionally blocked views of the moon-sun rendezvous. The clouds did not stop U.S. astronomer Jay Pasachoff of Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., who photographed the solar eclipse from Albany in Western Australia with a Nikon D610 camera and a 500 mm lens.


    This view of the solar eclipse of April 29, 2014 was captured by astronomers with the Perth Observatory in Western Australia, where a partial eclipse was visible through heavy clouds during the annular solar eclipse. (Credit: Perth Observatory)

    "Things went very well here," Pasachoff told Space.com via email. "Clear about half the time. Enough to see all the range of phases up to 65-percent [obscured]." Tuesday's sun show was the 59th solar eclipse observed by Pasachoff.

    A live video feed from the Sydney Observatory in Sydney was quickly clouded out, though the U.S.-based Slooh community telescope did see much of the eclipse via a telescope view provided by Gerard Lazarus in Newcastle, Australia.

    "The moon looks like a dark piece of coal," Slooh astronomer Bob Berman said during the group's webcast.

    The Perth Observatory in Western Australia also streamed live views of Tuesday's solar eclipse, with photographers located across Australia feeding striking views of the eclipse to the online Virtual Telescope Project in Ceccano, Italy.


    Photographer Geoffrey Wyatt of Darby, Queensland in Australia, captured this amazing view of the sunset solar eclipse of April 29, 2014 for the Virtual Telescope Project. (Credit: Geoffrey Wyatt via Virtual Telescope Project)

    "It's great to see that our collaborators are so willing to share their experiences with us, even under less than ideal weather," astrophysicist Gianluca Masi said during the Virtual Telescope Project webcast. "This is just fantastic."

    Tuesday's eclipse of the sun was the first of two solar eclipses in 2014, with the second event occurring on Oct. 23. That October event will be visible primarily from Canada and the United States. Tuesday's event also came on the heels of a total lunar eclipse on April 15. The next moon eclipse will be a total lunar eclipse on Oct. 8.

    Editor's Note: If you live along the visibility path and snapped an amazing picture of the April 29 solar eclipse, you can send photos, comments, and your name and location to managing editor Tariq Malik at spacephotos@space.com.

    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.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 15 Stunning Photos of the Moon

     

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    Wednesday, April 30, 2014
    Widespread Damage And Casualties After Tornadoes Rip Through South
    An ominous looking cloud hangs above the remains of a home that was destroyed yesterday by a tornado on April 29, 2014, in Tupelo, Mississippi. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

    The outbreak of severe weather will continue on Wednesday and will begin to affect part of the Northeast, while the threat of violent storms continues in the South and Midwest.

    Travel along stretches of I-20, I-40, I-70, I-77, I-80, I-81 and I-95 could be hazardous at times.

    A nearly stationary storm system over the Upper Midwest will continue to push warm, moist air across the Southeastern and Ohio Valley states on Wednesday and will begin to push warm, moist air across the mid-Atlantic.

    The threat of violent thunderstorms on Wednesday will span from northern Florida to southeastern Alabama, much of Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Ohio. However, depending on how successful the push of warm air is, severe thunderstorms can also reach into Delaware, southeastern Michigan, southern New Jersey and portions of Pennsylvania Wednesday afternoon.

    During Wednesday evening, advancing warm, humid air can bring the risk of severe weather into portions of New York state, the balance of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, as well as southwestern New England.

    According to Northeast weather expert Dave Dombek, "The main threat of severe weather in the Northeast will be from flash flooding and locally damaging wind gusts."

    Some areas have the potential to receive more than 4 inches of rain, factoring in rainfall from earlier in the week.

    Enough rain and poor visibility can occur to disrupt flights at major airports from Detroit to Pittsburgh, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

    "A few of the storms will also bring the potential for large hail, while a handful of the smallest storms could produce a tornado," Dombek said.

    For some storm-weary people in the South, this will be the second or third day in a row with the potential for damaging thunderstorms.

    "Wednesday has the potential to be the worst day of the outbreak for people in Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia," Kottlowski said. "Storms that erupt will bring damaging winds, large hail and isolated tornadoes."

    RELATED:
    Five Essential Safety Steps to Take Before Severe Weather Hits
    Severe Storms, Tornadoes: The Difference Between Watches and Warnings
    MAP: Track Severe Storm, Tornado Warnings

    The number of storms will be decidedly less numerous and less intense over much of Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi. Part of this area may have no storms at all.

    During Thursday into Saturday, the large storm stalled over the Midwest is forecast to weaken gradually and lift northward into Canada.

    However, this slow process may allow another round of thunderstorms to fire along the Atlantic Seaboard on Thursday from New England to Florida. Should a disturbance rotate in during the afternoon and evening hours, the thunderstorms could become locally severe.

    Chilly showers over the Midwest are forecast to become less extensive moving forward into the weekend as the old storm diminishes. There is just the chance of a brief shower for Derby day at Churchill Downs.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Deadly Tornados Strike Central, Southern US

     

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    Wednesday, April 30, 2014, Updated 11:42 a.m. ET
    The Ledger-Enquirer
    Kayla Holcey, right, holds her 8-month-old son Kristian Hampton as she looks at the debris that was once her home, Tuesday, April 29, 2014, in Crawford, Ala. (AP Photo/The Ledger-Enquirer, Robin Trimarchi)

    PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) - At least 37 deaths have been reported from a large, stubborn storm system making its way through the South after pummeling the central U.S.

    On Wednesday, officials in Georgia reported one death in Athens. Police say winds pushed over a tree that crashed into a car, killing its driver at a mobile home park.

    In Florida, with severe flooding in the Panhandle, the Highway Patrol said Wednesday that a woman who drove her car into high water died.

    Those deaths brought the total from four days of storms to 37.

    Mississippi and Arkansas saw the most fatalities, as well as the most destruction from violent tornadoes.

    Deaths also were reported in Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Iowa.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Deadly Tornados Strike Central, Southern US
    Mayflower tornado

    In the latest blow from a dayslong chain of severeweather across the South and Midwest, the Florida Panhandle and Alabama Gulf Coast were hit with widespread flooding early Wednesday, with people stranded in cars and homes waiting for rescuers to find a way around impassable roads and others abandoning vehicles to walk to safety.

    Crews weren't able to respond to some calls for help because of flooding in and around Pensacola, and one woman died when she drove her car into high water, officials said. Boats and jet skis were moved from the beaches to the streets, authorities planned aerial rescues, and the National Guard sent high-wheeled vehicles.

    Officials received about 300 calls for evacuation in the Pensacola area and had completed about 210, Gov. Rick Scott said at a news conference in Tallahassee. About 30,000 were without power.

    Some people left their flooded cars and walked to find help on their own. "We have people at the police department," Officer Justin Cooper said in Pensacola. "They walked up here and are hanging out until things get better."

    About 22 inches of rain had fallen by midmorning in Pensacola, with 4 more expected Wednesday. Average annual rainfall for Pensacola is 65 inches, meaning much of that area was seeing about a third of that amount in just one day.

    In some neighborhood, streets flowed like rivers as water reached mailboxes. Cars were submerged in driveways, and residents paddled by on kayaks.

    "We've seen pictures that people are posting with water halfway up their doors, front doors," Grigsby said. "It's going to be a big cleanup, looks like."

    The widespread flooding is the latest wallop of a storm system that still packed considerable punch days after the violent outbreak began in Arkansas and Oklahoma. More than 30 people have been killed, including the 67-year-old driver in Pensacola.

    In Pensacola Beach, people woke to violent storms, heavy rain and lightning. Standing water could be seen on many parts of the beach, and a military vehicle made its way through one heavily flooded neighborhood. Pensacola Naval Air Station's hospital was closed, as was the Air Force Special Operations center at Hurlburt Field.

    Paul Schuster made an emergency run about 4 a.m. from Pensacola Beach to his mother's flooded home in nearby Gulf Breeze. The woman, 82, had to be rescued from by an emergency official in a boat, he said.

    "The water was waist high," he said.

    Ron Hruska's neighborhood was flooded, but his home, more elevated than others nearby, was safe. Hruska said there were flash flooding warnings on television throughout the night but that the water came up faster than expected.

    "I've never seen it this bad in 12 years here," he said. "It wasn't even this bad after hurricanes."

    In Gulf Shores, Ala., where nearly 21 inches of rain fell in a day's time, the scene resembled the aftermath of a hurricane early Wednesday. The intracoastal waterway rose, reaching the canal road linking the town with neighboring Orange Beach.

    There, at Sportsman Marina, employee J.J. Andrews couldn't believe what she saw out the window.

    "We've got water up in our parking lots," she said. "Our docks are under water. It's worse than during Hurricane Ivan, is what they're saying. It's crazy."

    Shelters opened for evacuees, but some people had difficulty traversing roads. Water covered parts of Alabama 59, the main road for beach-bound tourists.

    In Mobile, a few dozen rescues were conducted, mostly on roads, the emergency management agency estimated.

    "We do have a lot of roads that are still underwater," the agency's Glen Brannan said but noted improvements, with the worst weather to the east.

    That included Baldwin County, where crews started rescues before midnight, said Mitchell Sims, emergency management director.

    "As soon as we get a water rescue team in here, they're sent back out," he said. "We're rescuing people from cars, from rooftops, from all over the place.

    "I think we're going to be dealing with this for days. I don't know where the water's going to go. Everything is saturated."

    Over the past four days, storms hit especially hard in places such as Arkansas' northern Little Rock suburbs and the Mississippi cities of Louisville and Tupelo. Arkansas, with 15 deaths after a tornado blasted through Sunday, and Mississippi, with 12 deaths from Monday's storms, accounted for the brunt of the death toll.

    Authorities in Louisville searched until dark Tuesday for an 8-year-old boy missing since Monday's large tornado that killed his parents and destroyed the home where they lived. Though searchers didn't rule out finding the boy alive, officials were describing the process as one of recovery.

    On Wednesday, Louisville officials said they were shifting priorities from response to cleanup. They expected volunteers to stream into the town to lend a hand.

    "Today is the day we start putting Louisville back together," said Buddy King, county emergency management director.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Deadly Tornados Strike Central, Southern US

     

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    Wednesday, April 30, 2013

    As summer 2014 takes shape, Mother Nature will show no mercy as the West will sink deeper into drought and severe thunderstorms will ignite from the Plains to the southern mid-Atlantic.

    While a typical summer is in store for much of the East, hurricane season looms, threatening areas along the coast. While this year's hurricane season is expected to be below normal, two systems may make landfall in the United States.

    JUMP TO: Drought to Intensify in the West, Texas| Below-Normal Hurricane Season | Cool for Great Lakes | Strongest Heat Arrives Late Summer in East | Central, Southern Mid-Atlantic Storm Battle Zone Takes Form

    Drought to Intensify in the West, Texas

    Following the driest year ever recorded for the state of California, the summer season will lock in the drought for the Golden State and cause drought conditions to expand into the Northwest.

    With above-normal temperatures and below-normal rainfall expected from Phoenix to Los Angeles and up through Seattle, much of the West will undergo a dry spell this summer.

    "The temperatures this summer will be dictated by where it's dry," AccuWeather.com Lead Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok said.

    As the drought strengthens across the Southwest, the temperatures in this region will heat up quickly due to dry conditions.

    Across the West, temperatures will rise quickly heading into June 21, 2014, with highs reaching into the 90s and 100s in the valleys of California. Even farther north, the mercury will climb above seasonal normals frequently by midsummer.

    "We are going to see the 90s and 100s popping up pretty quickly in the valleys and even the 90s showing up in the big cities such as Seattle and Portland as we get into midsummer," Pastelok said.

    As dryness increases across the region, wildfires could prove troublesome for the Northwest this summer. As the wildfire risk heightens, minimal rainfall and lack of water will continue to hit the agricultural and livestock industries hard across the region, limiting fruit and nut production in the U.S.

    "They are going to go into a very dry period, and that could lead to some big problems as we get into the middle to later parts of the summer," Pastelok said.

    While the drought tightens its grip on the West this summer, the West may not be the only region with a major drought.

    As June and July heat up across southern Texas and the tropics remain relatively tranquil in the western Gulf of Mexico, rain will consistently bypass the state.

    "We could have a drought developing in the lower valley of Texas along the Gulf Coast, southeast Texas and the lower Mississippi Valley," Pastelok said.

    Only two years after the state's previous drought battle in 2011, areas from Brownsville up through San Antonio and Dallas will be at risk for another drought situation this year.

    Below-Normal Hurricane Season

    While the heart of hurricane season is not until the tail end of the summer season in August and September, roughly 10 named tropical storms and five hurricanes are expected in the Atlantic Basin this season.

    According to AccuWeather.com Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski, of those five hurricanes two major hurricanes are predicted to make landfall in the U.S.

    Although this season's tropical storm and hurricane count is expected to be statistically below average, with seasonal averages at 15 storms and eight hurricanes, it takes only one storm to create massive destruction, as Hurricane Andrew proved in August of 1992 when it struck Florida and Louisiana.

    Despite reduced activity in the Atlantic Basin, the Pacific Basin will be extremely active this season with 19 tropical storms and 10 hurricanes predicted.

    Cool for Great Lakes

    With their second highest ice coverage on record, the Great Lakes reached their peak ice coverage on March 6, 2014, with 92.19 percent of the lakes encrusted in ice. Despite the spring season, as of April 16, the lakes were still 38 percent covered by ice.

    "There are no years in the last 30 years that are even close to that, so it's very unusual this late in the season to have that much ice coverage," Pastelok said.


    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. (Satellite Image/MODIS)

    The extent of the ice coverage still present on the lakes will make water temperature recovery very difficult and, as a result, may have a huge impact on the summer weather for the region including some of the U.S.'s major cities, such as Cleveland, Detroit and Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It's going to affect the overall atmosphere around the region," Pastelok said. "It may be a bit on the cooler side."

    In addition to cooler weather for the area, the lagging lake temperatures could lead to less severe weather near the lakes, as storms track farther south.

    Strongest Heat Arrives Late Summer in East

    A relatively normal summer weather pattern is in store for much of the East this year with temperatures expected to be back and forth in June and July.

    In the I-95 corridor, temperatures will average out to near or slightly above average for the summer, as thunderstorms sporadically pop up in the area, according to Pastelok.

    Despite normal temperature ranges in the midsummer months, areas from Washington, D.C., up through Boston are expected to heat up quickly in May before returning to more seasonal temperatures in June and July.

    RELATED:
    Forecast High Temperatures for US
    AccuWeather Severe Weather Center
    Severe Storms, Tornadoes: The Difference Between Watches and Warnings

    To end the summer, August will bring the hottest weather of the summer to cities along the coast.

    Farther south, the Southeast and Florida will experience a fairly typical summer with spotty thunderstorms and near-average temperatures and humidity.

    Central, Southern Mid-Atlantic Storm Battle Zone Takes Form

    Between the warmth in Texas and the cooler trend in the Great Lakes region, a battle zone of unsettled weather will set up.

    Severe storms will erupt in the Midwest, Ohio Valley, central Appalachians and into the Carolinas in June and July, due to the vast differences between the two weather patterns neighboring the areas. Some of these storms, however, will make their way into the southern mid-Atlantic region, putting the region at risk for many storms this summer.


    The sun sets across southwestern Kansas as a storm supercell remains in the sky, following a severe weather outbreak in the area on Wednesday, April 23, 2014. (Photo/Cory Mottice)

    "Expect a few severe weather events here, which will be a dividing area of cooler air across the Great Lakes and warmer air building along the Gulf Coast," Pastelok said.

    Farther west, moisture from the Pacific Ocean will be ushered into the Rockies at times, helping to fuel numerous thunderstorms and threats for flash flooding in the area.

    "Early [tropical] development there will send some moisture up through New Mexico and into the Four Corners region, so they will get their dose of rain," Pastelok said. "They could have some flooding issues around Denver down towards Albuquerque during the course of the summer."

    While rain and thunderstorms could lead to flash flooding in the Rockies, the increase in moisture should help to limit wildfires in the area.

    However, some of the moisture in the Rockies will move into the Plains and, when combined with an offset upper high in the region, will set up yet another battleground for thunderstorms and showers throughout the summer.


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

     

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    Wednesday, April 30, 2014
    AP
    Friends and volunteers help remove Dan Wassom's 1934 Ford from the debris left by Sunday's tornado, Tuesday, April 29, 2014, in Vilonia, Ark. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

    MAYFLOWER, Ark. (AP) - On the banks of Lake Conway, Michael and Christina Saville had what they regarded as their perfect home, a suburban retreat that attracted an abundance of animals.

    They say they will again, too.

    The Savilles lost their roof during a tornado Sunday night in Arkansas, and their front porch is missing, but they remain focused on what they need to do to rebuild the home they've had for eight years.

    "We waited so long for the right home and this was it," Christina Saville said Tuesday, crying at the thought of what she had lost. "Right now, it's not what it was, but it was gorgeous and in time it will be again."

    Sunday's storm killed more than a dozen people in Arkansas as it roared through some 80 miles of the state. The severe weather was part of a complex of storms that killed at least 35 across the Plains and South since Sunday.

    The sleepy communities of Mayflower and Vilonia, just north of Little Rock, got pummeled - heaping more misery on towns recently beset with misfortune. Four people died in a 2011 twister that hit Vilonia, and last year Mayflower suffered through a pipeline rupture that sent 200,000 gallons of heavy crude through streets and lawns and threatened a popular fishing hole.

    Yet despite the din of chain saws and backhoes, a peaceful sense of place abides.

    "We just like the quiet neighborhood, being able to go out on the lake," Michael Saville said. "It's just real quiet and peaceful. We love the wildlife that visits - turtles, ducks, geese and beavers."

    There's no self-pity rife among the towns' residents. Many traded life in a larger city for good schools, a little bit of land and the feeling of knowing who lives next door. Several vowed Tuesday to salvage what they can, haul away the rest and construct something new.

    "You walk into a grocery store and they know you," said Debra Hollingshead, who now has an oak tree across the Mayflower house she's lived in for five years. "You don't need a checking account number. They know you by name."

    Along stretches of damaged houses in both towns, volunteers with chain saws cleared trees from across homes, driveways and streets. Backhoes and bulldozers cleared lots down to the slabs and utility crews strung power lines. A cellphone tower in Vilonia downed at the height of the storm was already replaced. Insurance companies set up shop out of tents and vans to assist people.

    Volunteers seemed to be everywhere, with dozens of people at home sites, helping residents sort through the debris to find family photos and financial documents.

    Fred Muawad, who lost his popular Daylight Donuts shop in the storm, didn't have insurance and he's not sure if the strip mall where his business was located will be rebuilt. But he knows Vilonia is behind him.

    "This community has been great to me - we've been one big family for 11 years," Muawad said. "We've been through good times and bad."

    But Mayflower resident Theresa Long, 51, said she had been looking for a sign about moving back to North Little Rock to live near her parents - and believes she received one when the storm sheared off three-quarters of her roof.

    "I can always come back and do my fishing here any time I want," Long said.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Deadly Tornados Strike Central, Southern US

     

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    Wednesday, April 30, 2014
    Dora Miller
    Astrophotographer Dora Miller sent in a photo of an auroral display over Alaska, taken April 20, 2014. Miller is based in Talkeetna, Alaska. (Credit: Dora Miller/www.AuroraDora.com)

    The northern lights dance in a breathtaking display of purples and green in these stunning images by a night sky photographer in Alaska.

    Astrophotographer Dora Miller of Talkeetna, Alaska captured the dazzling aurora images on April 20 during a nighttime photo session that she won't forget anytime soon.

    "A very intense and colorful show of northern lights happened last night here in Alaska," Miller wrote in an email to Space.com. "I have been shooting auroras for many years but last night was a mind-blower." [See more amazing northern lights photos of 2014]

    Auroras are caused by charged particles from the sun (the solar wind) that interact with the Earth's upper atmosphere (at altitudes above 50 miles, or 80 km), causing a glow.

    The particles are drawn to Earth's polar regions by the planet's magnetic field resulting in aurora borealis, or northern lights, and its southern counterpart the aurora australis, or southern lights.

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

    Follow Space.com on Twitter @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook & 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: 20 Dazzling Photos of the Northern Lights

     

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    Wednesday, April 30, 2014
    Severe Weather
    A man walks along a flooded stretch of Mobile Highway in Beulah, Fla., following heavy rains near Pensacola, Fla., Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (AP Photo/G.M. Andrews)

    PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - People were plucked off rooftops or climbed into their attics to get away from fast-rising waters when nearly 2 feet of rain fell on the Florida Panhandle and Alabama coast, the latest bout of violent weather that began with tornadoes in the Midwest.

    In the Panhandle, roads were chewed up into pieces or wiped out entirely. Cars were submerged and neighborhoods were inundated, making rescues difficult for hundreds of people who called for help when they were caught off guard by the torrential rains in the span of about 24 hours.

    In the aftermath, people cruised around on paddleboards. Boats and Humvees zigzagged through the flooded streets to make rescues. About 30,000 people were without power, and one woman died when she drove her car into high water, officials said.

    Kyle Schmitz was at home with his 18-month-old son Oliver Tuesday night when heavy rain fell during a 45-minute span in Pensacola. He gathered up h is son, his computer and important papers and decided to leave when the waters quickly started to rise.

    "I opened the garage and the water immediately flowed in like a wave," he said. "The water was coming up to just below the hood of my truck and I just gassed it."

    Schmitz and his son made it out safely. He returned Wednesday to assess the damage at his rented home in the East Hill neighborhood. The water was up to his shins and he feared he would never again live in the home.

    Elsewhere, water lingered above mailboxes. Florida Gov. Rick Scott said officials received about 300 calls for rescues and had completed about 210 of those by midmorning. Some people abandoned flooded cars and walked to find help.

    "It's gotten to the point where we can't send EMS and fire rescue crews out on some 911 calls because they can't get there," Escambia County spokesman Bill Pearson said. "We've had people whose homes are flooding and they've had to climb up to the att ic."

    About 22 inches of rain fell in Pensacola - one-third of what falls in an entire year. National Weather Service officials were still sorting out official numbers because equipment that serves Mobile, Ala., and Pensacola lost power during the storm.

    Meteorologist Jeffrey Medlin said what they had recorded officially - more than 11 inches - would be the fourth highest total for a calendar day since 1879.

    Medlin said flash flood warnings were issued as early as Friday. Still, many people were caught unaware.

    Elizabeth Peaden was driving home from her weekly Bunco game Tuesday night when she drove her van through a flooded intersection and got stuck.

    "I was scared out of my wits. Water started coming in and I wasn't sure what to do," she said.

    Peaden made her way to a nearby American Legion post where she and other stranded travelers spent the night sleeping on tables.

    The widespread flooding was the latest wallop from a violent storm system that began in Arkansas and Oklahoma and worked its way South, killing 37 people along the way, including the 67-year-old driver in Pensacola.

    Ron Hruska's neighborhood was flooded, but his home was safely on higher ground. Hruska said there were flash flooding warnings on television throughout Tuesday night but that the water came up faster than expected.

    "I've never seen it this bad in 12 years here," he said. "It wasn't even this bad after hurricanes."

    In Gulf Shores, Ala., where nearly 21 inches of rain fell in a day's time, the scene resembled the aftermath of a hurricane. The intracoastal waterway rose, reaching the canal road linking the town with neighboring Orange Beach.

    There, at Sportsman Marina, employee J.J. Andrews couldn't believe what she saw out the window.

    "We've got water up in our parking lots," she said. "Our docks are under water. It's worse than during Hurricane Ivan, is what they're saying. It's crazy."

    The 2004 hurricane dumped 3 to 7 inches of rain along the Florida Panhandle.

    In Baldwin County, Ala., crews started rescues before midnight Tuesday, said Mitchell Sims, emergency management director.

    "As soon as we get a water rescue team in here, they're sent back out," he said. "We're rescuing people from cars, from rooftops, from all over the place.

    "I think we're going to be dealing with this for days. I don't know where the water's going to go. Everything is saturated."

    But there were reports of water already receding in Pensacola.

    Over the past four days, storms slammed Arkansas' northern Little Rock suburbs and the Mississippi cities of Louisville and Tupelo. Arkansas had 15 deaths after a tornado blasted through Sunday, and Mississippi had 12 deaths from Monday's storms.

    Authorities in Louisville searched until dark Tuesday for a missing 8-year-old boy. A large tornado killed his parents and destroyed their home. Though searchers didn 't rule out finding the boy alive, officials described it as a recovery process.

    On Wednesday, Louisville officials said they were shifting priorities from response to cleanup. They expected volunteers to stream into the town to lend a hand.

    "Today is the day we start putting Louisville back together," said Buddy King, county emergency management director.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Deadly Tornados Strike Central, Southern US

     

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    Wednesday, April 30, 2014
    Severe Weather Mid-Atlantic
    Cars sit on the edge of a sinkhole in the Charles Village neighborhood of Baltimore, Wednesday, April 30, 2014, as heavy rain moves through the region. (AP Photo)

    Several cars were devoured by the earth below Wednesday afternoon after a block-long sinkhole opened in a residential neighborhood in northeastern Baltimore, The Associated Press reported.

    "It looks like downtown Baltimore reported nearly 4.5 inches of rain since through 5 p.m. EDT," AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Dave Dombek said. "The heaviest rain in Baltimore should be (through) the first part of tonight. But there can be one more flare-up late tonight."

    The Baltimore Fire Department tweeted that the sinkhole has impacted CSX railroad tracks, stopping traffic along with the evacuation of several houses along 26th Street.

    No injuries have been reported at this time, according to the fire department.

     

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    Thursday, May 1, 2014
    Farmers Hire Drilling Crew To Search For Water To Irrigate Crops
    Dried and cracked earth is visible on an unplanted field at a farm on April 29, 2014, near Mendota, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    As an offshore wind continues over California and along much of the West Coast, temperatures will continue to rise through Thursday and will increase the risk of wildfires.

    Temperatures will reach the 90s all the way to the Southern California beaches.

    "While not unprecedented, the heat will challenge and break record highs for the date through the end of the week," western weather expert Ken Clark said. "Temperatures are forecast to reach the mid-90s in Downtown Los Angeles on Thursday; the old record is 89 set in 1929."

    As far north as Seattle, daily record highs will be challenged. The record in Seattle on Thursday is 81, set in 1998 and a high of 87 is forecast.

    In portions of Southern California, gusty winds, known as Santa Anas, will raise the fire danger.

    "The combination of very low humidity, heat, sunshine and wind can cause any fire that gets started to spread rapidly through dry brush and potentially into populated areas," Clark said.

    Winds can gust between 40 and 50 mph in canyons aligned in a southwest to northeast fashion Wednesday night into Thursday but gusts near 70 mph are possible in some areas during the day Wednesday.

    Northeast winds will carry any smoke from inland fires toward the coast and will tend to push fires to the south and west.

    "A fire has broken out in Day Canyon, in the San Bernardino National Forest just north of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Wednesday midday and was spreading rapidly," Clark said.

    RELATED:
    Detailed Los Angeles Forecast
    Southern California Visible Satellite Loop
    Forecast Temperature Maps

    The southward-moving fire has prompted evacuations of neighborhoods and schools in the Haven and Carnellian areas.

    People are urged to be extremely careful with outdoor power equipment, camp fires and grills and to avoid parking vehicles over brush. Hot exhaust and/or sparks from this devices can quickly ignite a blaze.

    The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center has the fire threat rated as elevated to critical over much of Southern California, southern Nevada and western Arizona through Thursday.

    According to AccuWeather long-range expert Paul Pastelok, "The lack of rain and mountain snow this past winter is allowing the heat to get a jump start this spring and will, in turn, cause the drought to build through much of the summer and may result in an extended fire season."

    This particular spell of hot weather will ease into the weekend, but more waves of warmth are likely to follow.


    RELATED ON SKYE: 7 Surprising Health Effects of Drought

     

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    Thursday, May 1, 2014
    AP
    Employees from Learn It Systems help push coworker Russell Lum's car to higher ground after it was flooded in a parking lot, back, in Baltimore, Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (AP Photo)

    Lingering moisture will allow another round of locally drenching, gusty thunderstorms along part of the Atlantic coast on Thursday.

    While widespread severe weather is not expected, there is still the potential for a few thunderstorms to bring strong winds, hail, frequent lightning strikes and flash flooding in portions of Florida the eastern part of the Carolinas and southeastern Virginia.



    Cities that have the chance of experiencing heavy, gusty thunderstorms, including a slight chance of severe weather on Thursday include Charleston, S.C., Raleigh, N.C., Norfolk, Va., and Jacksonville and Tampa, Fla.

    RELATED:
    Five Essential Safety Steps to Take Before Severe Weather Hits
    Severe Storms, Tornadoes: The Difference Between Watches and Warnings
    MAP: Track Severe Storm, Tornado Warnings


    Due to saturated ground and some streams still above flood stage, any additional rainfall can lead to rapid runoff and additional flooding problems in the East on Thursday.

    The steadiest rain will lift northeastward across New England during the midday hours. However, spotty downpours may develop during the afternoon in coastal areas.

    Spotty, locally drenching downpours will affect part of the mid-Atlantic coast from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia and New York City.

    A pocket showers and drenching thunderstorms will continue to pester part of the Deep South into Friday. Some of the rain will target areas hit hard by flooding at midweek.

    There is the potential for localized flooding downpours in portions of Florida, central and southeastern Georgia, southeastern South Carolina, the North Carolina coast and part of southern Alabama.

    Spotty light showers will riddle the Midwest and will spread into the Northeast through this weekend. This type of rainfall will not aggravate flooding issues but can be an annoyance for outdoor activities.

    Related on SKYE: The World's Wettest Places
    AP

     

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    Thursday, May 1, 2014
    Brantly S. Keiek
    In this image provided by Brantly S. Keiek shows several vehicles that collapsed together with a portion of the Scenic Highway in Pensacola, Fla., Thursday, April 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Brantly S. Keiek)

    PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) - Valencia Norton awoke to a neighbor pounding on the windows of the mobile home she shared with a friend. Water had washed away her steps and part of the porch. She grabbed a small bag of clothes and waited.

    "I was freaking," said Norton, tears streaming down her face as she recalled the scene. "I don't know how to swim."

    A short time later, a firefighter came by and carried her to dry land. It was one of many rescue stories from the single rainiest day ever recorded in Pensacola, and another tale of survival after days of relentless storms across the U.S., beginning with deadly and destructive tornadoes Sunday in the Midwest.

    On Monday, the violent winds wrecked parts of Tennessee and Mississippi, but by the time the storm system arrived in the Panhandle, the devastation was all water.

    The system was expected to bring heavy rain and thunderstorms to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions Thursday.

    In Florida, people were plucked off rooftops Wednesday or climbed into their attics to get away when nearly 2 feet of rain dropped on the area in the span of about 24 hours. Roads were chewed up into pieces or wiped out entirely and neighborhoods were inundated, making rescues difficult for hundreds of people who called for help when they were caught off guard.

    Boats and Humvees zigzagged through the flooded streets to help stranded residents. A car and truck plummeted 25 feet when portions of a scenic highway collapsed, and one Florida woman died when she drove her car into high water, officials said.

    Near the Alabama-Florida line, water started creeping into Brandi McCoon's mobile home, so her fiance, Jonathan Brown, wrapped up her nearly 2-year-old son Noah in a blanket and they swam in neck-deep water to their car about 50 feet away.

    Then, the car was flooded.

    "Every which way we turned, there was a big ol' pile of water," she said.

    Brown called 911 and eventually a military vehicle picked them up and took them to a shelter.

    Kyle Schmitz was at his Pensacola home with his 18-month-old son Oliver on Tuesday night when heavy rain dropped during a 45-minute span. He gathered up his son, his computer and important papers and left.

    "I opened the garage and the water immediately flowed in like a wave," he said. "The water was coming up to just below the hood of my truck and I just gassed it."

    Schmitz and his son also made it out safely.

    In Alabama, Capt. David Spies of Fish River/Marlow Fire and Rescue said he was part of a team who found two women and a young boy trapped in the attic of a modular home.

    Spies said they received the first call of help before midnight Tuesday but they couldn't find the group until about 8 a.m. Wednesday. By then, the water was 2 feet below the roof. A firefighter used an axe to punch a hole through the roof and free them.

    "They were very scared, they were very upset. I would've been, too," Spies said.

    There were at least 30 rescues in the Mobile area of Alabama. Florida was hit harder. Gov. Rick Scott said officials there received about 300 calls from stranded residents.

    At the Pensacola airport, 15.55 inches of rain fell on Tuesday before midnight - setting a record for the rainiest single day in the city, according to data since 1880. By comparison, the airport in drought-stricken Los Angeles has recorded 15.9 inches of rain - since Jan. 1, 2012.

    Pensacola and nearby Mobile are two of the rainiest cities in the U.S., averaging more than five feet of rain in a year, according to the National Climatic Data Center. Los Angeles in a normal year gets a bit less than 13 inches of rain.

    "It tells us the wet places are getting wetter and the dry places are getting drier in the U.S. and that's the future climate expected in the U.S.," said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private Weather Underground.

    The National Weather Service said forecasters issued flash flood warnings as early as Friday, yet many people were still caught unaware.

    Elizabeth Peaden was at her weekly Bunco game Tuesday night and it wasn't raining on her way there. On her way home, she drove her van through a flooded intersection and got stuck.

    "I was scared out of my wits. Water started coming in and I wasn't sure what to do," she said.

    Peaden waded her way to a nearby American Legion post where she and about 20 other stranded travelers spent the night sleeping on tables or the floor.

    The widespread flooding was the latest wallop from a violent storm system that began in Arkansas and Oklahoma and worked its way South, killing 37 people along the way, including a 67-year-old driver in Florida.

    Pensacola Police Chief Chip Simmons said two vehicles fell 25 feet when portions of a scenic highway collapsed. The truck driver was fine, but a woman in a car needed help getting out. Neither had serious injuries, Simmons said.

    By Wednesday afternoon, the storm marched its way up the East Coast. Emergency officials in Maryland said crews rescued motorists stranded in high water and a block-long sinkhole opened up, swallowing several cars.

    HOTOS ON SKYE: Deadly Tornados, Floods Strike Central, Southern US

     

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    Thursday, May 1, 2014
    San Gabriel Valley Tribune
    Smoke from the Etiwanda Fire looms behind a home in the 5400 block of Carriage Place in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (AP Photo/San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Leo Jarzomb)

    RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (AP) - Firefighters battling a smoky blaze in the foothills east of Los Angeles hoped to take advantage of a brief respite from the fierce, hot winds that initially pushed the fire into the path of more than 1,500 homes.

    As the winds that had gusted to 80 mph on Wednesday eased up during the evening, mandatory evacuation orders for 1,650 once-endangered homes were canceled. The winds were forecast to return before dawn on Thursday, however, which prompted officials to order four high schools near the blaze to remain closed.

    The fire erupted around 8 a.m. Wednesday in the foothills of the San Bernardino National Forest and quickly burned across 1,000 acres of brush. Although the U.S. Forest Service continued to cite that figure late Wednesday night, indicating the fire hadn't grown for several hours, no containment estimate was given either.

    Meanwhile, more than 700 firefighters remained on the front lines, fighting the blaze with 55 fire engines and four bulldozers. High winds prevented them from using aircraft.

    At their peak, the Santa Ana winds had gusted to 80 mph, with one gust recorded as high as 101 mph.
    More of the same conditions were predicted for Thursday, accompanied by temperatures that forecasters said could top 100 degrees.

    The National Weather Service issued a red-flag warning of extremely dangerous fire conditions for Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties until 8 p.m. Thursday.

    As the flames raced through heavy brush on Wednesday, some of which last burned a decade ago, homes not even in the blaze's path were threatened.

    A blaze fanned by gusts "tends to throw embers and brands ahead of itself, sometimes a mile," said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Chon Bribiescas. "That's the insidious part of a wind-driven fire."

    That's why officials decided to keep Los Osos, Rancho Cucamonga, Alta Loma and Etiwanda high schools closed on Thursday.

    At the fire's height Wednesday, seven schools were closed and parents scrambled to take their children away.

    Francisco Aguilar, a Los Angeles city firefighter who lives in Rancho Cucamonga, picked up his 11-year-old daughter, Bella.

    "It's like a madhouse in there," he told the San Bernardino Sun (http://bit.ly/1fzZX8Y ). "Parents are running around trying to grab their kids, and kids are covering their faces with tissue or their T-shirts."

    Leo Lemelin, 67, and his family busily loaded several cars with belongings as they prepared to leave the area.

    "We're trying to pack up everything we can into our cars from 45 years of marriage and eight grandchildren," he told the Riverside Press-Enterprise (http://bit.ly/1ftmqok).

    Although the fire remained out of control, it had run out of fuel in some areas, while firefighters and bulldozers cut away brush in others, Bribiescas said.

    The only structure reported burned was a fence.

    The winds also fanned a handful of small brush fires around Southern California that were quickly doused without damage.

    At one point, utilities reported about 8,000 people had lost power Wednesday because of wind-related problems such as downed power lines.

    The fire erupted in the midst of a heat wave that has sent Southern California temperatures soaring into the 90s in some areas, with triple-digit highs predicted for Thursday.

    On Wednesday, Los Angeles International Airport recorded a high of 87 degrees, breaking the record for the day of 86 that was set in 1996. At Long Beach Airport, the high of 92 broke a 1996 record by 2 degrees.

    High temperatures were expected to continue through Saturday, with humidity in the single digits.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Incredible Natural-Disaster Photos from Space

     

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    Thursday, May 1, 2014
    NASA Future Spacesuit
    (NASA)

    NASA's next-generation spacesuit is really coming together, with a little help from the public.

    The space agency revealed today (April 30) the "Tron"-like new look of its prototype Z-2 spacesuit, which sports an external "cover layer" chosen by public vote.

    The cover layer option dubbed "Technology" won the spacesuit design challenge with 147,354 votes, or just over 63 percent of the total ballots cast, NASA officials said. The other two choices -- "Biomimicry" and "Trends in Society" -- received 53,057 and 33,020 votes, respectively.

    The newly selected cover layer now becomes part of the Z-2, which should be fully constructed and ready to be tested by November, officials said.

    That extensive testing campaign won't prepare the Z-2 for spaceflight, however. The Z-series spacesuit line is still in the prototype phase, seeking to advance and develop technologies that will allow astronauts to amble about on the surface of Mars someday. So whatever NASA learns about the Z-2 will inform the design of the next iteration, the Z-3.

    The Z-2, for example, features some key improvements over the Z-1 spacesuit, which was named one of Time Magazine's best inventions in 2012. The Z-2's hard upper torso makes it more durable, officials said, and the suit uses materials designed to function well in the vacuum of space.

    NASA future spacesuit
    The three proposed designs for NASA's Z-2 spacesuits. (NASA Advanced Concepts Lab - POC: Alberto Bertolin)

    The newly selected cover layer -- which sports electroluminescent wiring and a stark, futuristic look -- will provide services beyond mere aesthetics, officials said.

    "The cover layer of a non-flight suit still performs an important function in ground-based testing. The cover protects the lower layers and technical details from abrasion and snags during testing," NASA officials wrote in a press release today.

    "The cover layer on flight suits used for spacewalks performs many other important functions like protecting the spacewalker from micrometeorite strikes, the extreme temperatures in space and the harmful effects of radiation," they added. "These requirements drive selection of specific high-performance materials and design details that aren't necessary at this stage in a prototype suit."

    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: 20 Epic Photos of Astronauts on the Moon
    Man on Moon

     

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    Friday, May 2, 2014

    The iconic fountains run in front of Bellagio in Las Vegas on July 21, 2012. (Photo/Kristen Rodman)

    The drought that has plagued California and other areas of the western U.S. has not left Las Vegas unscathed, putting the city's primary water resource in jeopardy.

    The water levels in Lake Mead, which supplies 90 percent of the city's water, have been steadily decreasing over the past 14 years primarily due to the ongoing drought conditions on the Colorado River.

    Currently, the lake's water levels are just below 1,100 feet above sea level and approaching the elevation mark for the first water intake straw, which is one of two that supplies water to the city. The intake sits at an elevation mark of 1,050 feet.

    Drought conditions are nothing new for the city, which due to its arid climate averages only about 4 inches of rain per year. Through the first four months of 2014, roughly 0.31 of an inch of rain has fallen in the city and nearly two months have passed without measurable rainfall.

    For casino resorts in town, described as the economic engine of the city, water conservation isn't just an option, it's a necessity.

    During the early 1990s, resorts were one of the first sectors in the community targeted for conservation.

    Any new resort that has been built since then is required to submit a water conservation plan as part of the approval process for construction.

    Conservation techniques such as using water efficient technologies, minimizing landscaping, moving water features from outdoors to indoors among other measures are utilized.

    "They need to be able to show us how and where they are working to save water," said Bronson Mack, a spokesperson for the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA).

    All casino resorts in Las Vegas use roughly 7 percent of the local water resources. However, their actual water consumption is around 3 percent, according to Mack.

    "Here in Las Vegas, we have a distinction between what we use, as far as water resources go, and what we consume," Mack said. "Because we recycle nearly 100 percent of our indoor water use."

    At the 10 MGM Resorts properties in Las Vegas, they take many steps to be efficient with their water usage, including building and retrofitting many of their operations to be water conservative.

    Low-flow shower heads and toilets are installed in their hotel rooms and guests are offered the option to reuse towels, lines and bed sheets each day, according to MGM Resorts Spokesperson Yvette Monet.

    The water for the iconic fountains at the Bellagio, does not come from municipal water, Monet said. Rather, it comes from an underground well, fed from its privately owned 8.5-acre lake, which holds 22 million gallons of water.

    Annually, about 12 million gallons are replenished due to certain factors such as evaporation and leaky pipes.

    Similarly to MGM, Caesars Entertainment has implemented low-flow shower heads and toilets in their hotel properties worldwide, nine of which are in southern Nevada. Caesars also offers the policy of changing sheets and towels in hotel rooms upon request.

    The company has tried to move away from water-intensive uses in its Las Vegas properties. With the exception of the fountain outside Caesars Palace, there are minimal exterior water features. Water-intensive landscaping, such as sod, has been converted to desert-style landscaping.

    "We're definitely aware of water as an important resource, in trying to implement practices and technologies that ultimately reduce consumptive use," said Eric Dominguez, corporate director of facilities, engineering and utilities at Caesars Entertainment.

    Southern Nevada accounts for about 70 percent of the state's economy, according to Mack. The resorts are a huge economic element to the entire state, but they only use a very small amount of the water resources.

    "We believe that's a pretty good investment in water," Mack said.


    Mandalay Bay fountains viewed at night in Las Vegas on July 21, 2012. (Photo/Kristen Rodman)

    In fact, back in the early '90s, the resort industry helped fund the city's initial residential conservation programs, Mack said.

    Due to the fact that indoor water is recycled, Las Vegas has been focusing conversation on outdoor water use. In 2002, the SNWA developed a drought response plan.

    RELATED:
    Ken Clark's Western US Weather Blog
    Drought-Stricken Southwest Tears up Lawns to Save Water
    2014 AccuWeather Summer Forecast

    Part of the plan includes strict water restrictions for irrigation on residential landscaping. In the winter, watering is limited to one day per week. During spring and fall, residents can water on three days a week, with specific neighborhoods assigned certain days of the week to water their properties.

    In the summer, anyone can use water for irrigation any day of the week, so long as it's not between the hours of 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.

    Another tactic used by the SNWA is a turf rebate program. Residents are paid to have grass removed and water-efficient landscaping installed. Through the life of the program, about 168 million square feet of grass has been converted.

    Construction of a third water intake at Lake Mead began in 2008 in an effort to continue to draw water from the lake, even as levels potentially drop below 1,000 feet, which is where the second intake was built. Set to be complete in 2015, it will help protect municipal water customers from water quality issues as the lake's water levels decline.

    While there isn't any reason for panic yet, officials will be closely monitoring the lake's water levels and the construction process of the third intake.

    "Our primary concern has been ensuring that we're able to maintain access to the Colorado River and to those water resources," Mack said.

    Dominguez said in the U.S., water traditionally has been a utility that's been under-priced and people haven't been as concerned with water use. But he sees a shift in thinking that is beginning to take place in terms of conversation efforts, especially in areas like southern Nevada, where water should be used more smartly.

    "It's something that we should be doing not only as an industry, but as a society of people that live here in this type of environment," he said.


    RELATED ON SKYE: 7 Surprising Health Effects of Drought

     

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    Friday, May 2, 2014

    Cars lay on their sides amongst leveled homes after a preliminarily EF4 tornado hit Jackson, Miss., on Monday, April 28, 2014. (Photo/NWS Jackson, Miss.)

    More Than 20 States Thrashed by Five-Day Storm Outbreak

    Despite a quiet start to the severe season, the most deadly and fierce severe storm outbreak of 2014 yet erupted in the early hours of Sunday, April 27, 2014, and proceeded to wreak havoc into Thursday, May 1, 2014. Lasting for a full five days, the storm system spewed heavy rain, provoked deadly tornadoes, generated powerful winds and triggered severe flash flooding across much of the eastern half of the United States, destroying nearly everything in its path.

    During the course of the five-day outbreak, millions sought safe shelter as the system tracked over more than 20 states, including Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arkansas, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.

    Preliminary Tornado Reports Climb to 160

    A series of severe thunderstorms spawned more than 160 tornadoes across 14 states over the storm system's lifespan, leaving completely leveled buildings, thousands of displaced people and nearly 37 people dead in their wake.

    Out of all the twisters during the outbreak, two topped the charts for the most powerful tornadoes of the bunch. On Sunday, April 27, 2014, a preliminarily rated EF3 tornado with a 30-mile path charged through the town of Mayflower, Arkansas, flattening numerous homes and buildings. The very next day, an even stronger tornado struck Jackson, Mississippi, at a force ranking it preliminarily an EF4.

    Hail Falls Nearly 200 Times

    Ranging in size from quarter-sized to baseball-sized hail, approximately 205 hail reports were recorded during the multi-day outbreak. Hail was reported in 13 states with the biggest hail report coming out of Alabama at 2.75 inches in diameter, or baseball-sized hail.

    RELATED:
    PHOTOS: Deadly Severe Storm Outbreak Spans Five Days, 20 States
    AccuWeather Severe Weather Center
    Summer 2014: Series of Storms to Attack Central US, Mid-Atlantic

    Winds Burst up to 80 mph

    With approximately 370 reports of high winds, storms brought high-gusting, damaging winds to more than 14 states, blowing down countless trees in the process. As a result of downed trees, thousands were left in the dark for hours as trees fell on power lines in multiple towns in the path of the storms. Outside wind gusts generated by tornadoes, the highest wind gust blew at up to 80 mph in Clinton County, Ohio.

    At Least Three Cities Set New Rain Records

    As the severe storm system moved towards the East Coast around midweek, the thunderstorms produced flash flooding in various communities on the East Coast including Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York City, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., Boston, Newark and Trenton, New Jersey, Bridgeport, Connecticut, Gulf Breeze and Pensacola, Florida.


    Afloat in a kayak, a child sits in her Gulf Breeze, Fla., home as flood waters inundate the property as severe storms dump significant rain on parts of the state on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (Photo/Abby Burton)

    Amid torrential downpours, three cities set new rainfall records this week. On Wednesday, April 20, 2014, Watertown, New York, broke its 1962 maximum daily rainfall record of 1.17 inches, previously broken also in 2011, with 5.93 inches of rain recorded for the day. Farther south, Lynchburg, Virginia, also broke its daily maximum rainfall record of 0.91 of an inch set in 2003 by a shy 0.02 of an inch, setting the new record at 0.93 of an inch for April 20.

    Over a two-day span, Pensacola, Florida, received more than 20 inches of rain on April 29 and 30, 2014, causing life-threatening flooding throughout the area. The city proceeded to shatter its daily maximum rainfall record set in 1918 at 3.33 inches by collecting 4.92 inches on April 30, 2014.

    One Landslide, Two Mudslides Transpire


    Cars sit on the edge of a landslide in the Charles Village neighborhood of Baltimore, Wednesday, April 30, 2014, as heavy rain moves through the region. (AP Photo)

    Following hours of heavy rain, cars, roadways and street signs were swallowed as a landslide opened up alongside a residential neighborhood in Baltimore late Wednesday night, April 30, 2014.

    Only a few hours later, early Thursday morning, May 1, 2014, a mudslide near Yonkers, New York, halted morning commute traffic along the Hudson Line service in the state. Around the same time, residents in Long Island were evacuated from their Sea Cliff homes as a mudslide in Port Washington left two vehicles buried in mud, according to the area's local news station.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Deadly Tornados, Floods Strike Central, Southern US

     

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    Friday, May 2, 2014

    Summerlike heat is in store for the southern Plains this weekend and early next week, eventually spreading warmer weather across the East.

    The heat will begin to crank up over the weekend, setting the stage for the record-challenging warmth Monday and Tuesday from Texas to Kansas.

    Afternoon highs will flirt with the 100-degree mark from central Texas to central Oklahoma under the bright afternoon sun; this is more than 20 degrees above normal for early May.

    People across the region should take proper precautions to stay protected from the high temperature values and the strong rays of the sun.

    Wearing sunblock, light-colored clothing and sunglasses with UV protection are just several ways to stay protected from the sun.

    Staying hydrated is also important, especially if you have plans on spending long periods of time in the outdoors. Be sure to drink plenty of water and try to avoid carbonated and caffeinated beverages that can accelerate dehydration.

    One of the many cities that is forecast to see consecutive days at or above the 90-degree mark is Dallas.

    This stretch of above-normal temperatures will likely result in the first time that the city has had three consecutive 90-degree days since the beginning of October 2013.

    Oklahoma City is also forecast to come within a few degrees of 100 F. If it does manage to reach the triple digits, it would be the second earliest 100-degree day on record.

    RELATED:
    Summer 2014: Series of Storms to Attack Central US
    Forecast Temperature Maps
    Las Vegas Casinos Conserve Water Amid Drought

    Although the core of the heat is expected to focus on the southern Plains, this will eventually translate to warmer weather for the East and the Midwest by midweek.

    Widespread 80s will be likely across the Southeast and into the Ohio Valley by Thursday with the warmer weather possibly sticking around into the weekend.

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

     

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    Friday, May 2, 2014
    AP
    Debris from an explosion at the Escambia County Jail is scattered at the entrance to the facility, Thursday, May 1, 2014, in Pensacola, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

    PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) - When an apparent gas explosion leveled a Florida jail and killed two inmates, officials had to rescue prisoners trapped in the rubble, evacuate the building and treat the injured in the parking lot and hospitals. Then, they had to find new secure facilities for 600 inmates.

    By Thursday afternoon, authorities appeared to have pulled off the logistical feat, shuttling nearly all of them to several jails. Two inmates and a corrections officer were still in hospitals after 180 or so prisoners and guards were treated and released. One inmate reportedly went into labor and had a baby in the chaos.

    With the inmates locked up again, attention quickly turned to exactly what caused the blast. Inmates told news outlets they smelled gas before the explosion, but officials said it they had no record of those reports.

    Investigators said it could take days to figure out exactly what happened. They were having a hard time getting to the epicenter of the blast in the back of the building because of so much damage.

    Joseph Steadman, the head of the state fire and arson bureau, described it as a "collapse of concrete floors between the basement and upper floors."

    The basement was flooded with about 2 feet of rain after the record-setting rainfall this week in Pensacola, but Steadman said it was still too early to say if the weather had anything to do with it. The basement houses the kitchen and laundry. No inmates were locked up there, officials said.

    Authorities briefly lost track of three inmates in the confusion, but later were confident that none had escaped.

    "Every inmate is accounted for," said Lumon May, chairman of the Escambia County board of commissioners. "Most important to us was the lives and safety of our inmates."

    Officials have requested 100 beds from the state to help alleviate some of the stress on the jail system.

    Inmate Monique Barnes told The Associated Press by telephone that she was knocked off her fourth-floor bunk.

    "The explosion shook us so hard it was like we were in an earthquake," Barnes said. "It was like a movie, a horrible, horrible movie."

    Pieces of glass, brick and inmates' flip-flops were strewn about on the ground outside the jail. The front of the building appeared bowed, with cracks throughout.

    Barnes, who spoke to AP after she was taken to another jail, said she and other inmates complained of smelling gas ahead of the blast, and some reported headaches.

    More than 15 inches of rain fell on Pensacola on Tuesday, the rainiest single day since forecasters started keeping records in 1880. Neighborhoods were flooded and hundreds of people had to be rescued from homes and cars.

    The jail was running on generator power after the flooding. Barnes, the inmate, said the toilets weren't working, so inmates had to use plastic trash bags.

    About 200 men and 400 women were in the building. Barnes said during the evacuation, hundreds of inmates and corrections officers had to use one stairwell, "everyone pushing and bleeding."

    After the blast, a group of relatives and attorneys for the inmates stood behind police tape that cordoned off the area, trying to figure out where loved ones had been taken. Many family members were upset because they said they were left in the dark.

    Defense attorney Gene Mitchell was reviewing dozens of text messages from clients' relatives.

    "I have over 20 clients in there," he said. "I've had dozens of calls. Every other call is a family member wanting to know what has happened to a loved one."

    He said he wasn't able to get much information about the inmates.

    County spokeswoman Kathleen Castro said officials were having trouble notifying families because for hours it wasn't safe to enter the jail to access computers and paper records. Later, officials promised better updates for families on the county's website.

    The names of the inmates killed weren't immediately released.

    The county took control of the jail and its 400 employees on Oct. 1 after a five-year federal investigation. According to the Pensacola News Journal, problems included too few guards overseeing the inmates, which led to violence, poor mental health care and a decades-long practice of segregating inmates by race.

     

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    Friday, May 2, 2014

    This photo of the "trophies and the spires" taken on May 2, 2009. (Flickr Photo/got2dv8)

    After multiple days of wet weather at Churchill Downs, home to the Kentucky Derby, weather conditions will continue to dry out late this week in time for the 140th annual event.

    Through Tuesday of this week, the storm in its strong phase delivered about 2.50 inches of rain. Sloppy track conditions resulted from the heavy, persistent rainfall. The same storm system brought rounds of severe weather and tornadoes to the Central and Southern states.

    RELATED:
    Detailed Louisville, Ky., Forecast
    Louisville, Ky., Interactive Weather Radar
    Forecast Temperature Maps

    While the old storm is forecast to linger in the Midwest through Friday, the system will begin to unwind and break down by the weekend.


    Photo of the stables at Churchill Downs taken on May 3, 2013. (Flickr Photo/Diana Robinson)

    Spotty showers will occur Wednesday through Friday, but the forecast for a more intermittent nature of the rainfall should allow conditions on the well-drained track to improve gradually. So while the track may favor mudders now, it will change by Friday.

    For the 140th running of the Kentucky Oaks on Friday afternoon, the weather will be cool with peeks of sun and the chance of a shower. Temperatures will peak in the middle 60s F.

    Enough dry air is forecast to mix in over Louisville, Kentucky, on Derby day to keep showers away. The weather could be near perfect for fans, jockeys and horses with sunny intervals and temperatures peaking in the middle 70s.

    According to the National Weather Service in Louisville, out of the all the Derby days, 46 percent had rain at some point during the day.

    The warmest Derby day was May 2, 1959, when the temperature climbed to 92 F.

    The coolest Derby days were May 4 in 1935 and 1957, when the high was only 47 F.

    On May 6, 1989, sleet fell for a few minutes in the afternoon.

    The wettest Derby day was on May 11, 1918, when 2.31 inches of rain fell.

    Just under 0.50 of an inch of rain during the six hours prior to last year's Derby resulted in sloppy track conditions with Orb pushing ahead of the field.

    On May 5, 2012, the track was fast, despite nearly 1.50 inches of rain falling prior to the afternoon of the race. The track had time to drain off and dry out prior to the start of the Derby.

    Since a long-lasting downpour is not expected on the day of the race, the track should be fairly fast for the 2014 Kentucky Derby.

     

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    Friday, May 2, 2014
    Saturn rings
    (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

    A robotic probe exploring the planet Saturn and its moons has captured an amazing photo of another ringed wonder: Uranus.

    The Cassini spacecraft turned its gaze to Uranus, snapping its first-ever photo of the light blue ice giant on April 11. The newly released photo shows the planet -- a pale blue dot in the upper left part of the image -- shining beyond the distinctive rings of Saturn in the foreground of the photo.

    At the time the photo was taken, Uranus was about 28.6 astronomical units from Saturn and Cassini -- 1 AU is the distance from Earth to the sun, about 93 million miles (150 million kilometers). At their closest approach, Uranus and Saturn come within about 10 astronomical units of each other about once every 30 years, according to NASA. It takes Saturn nearly 30 Earth years to make a full orbit of the sun. [See more amazing photos taken by the Cassini spacecraft]

    While both Saturn and Uranus are relatively large and gaseous planets, scientists don't necessarily classify them in the same category.

    "The planets Uranus and Neptune are sometimes referred to as 'ice giants' to distinguish them from their larger siblings, Jupiter and Saturn, the classic 'gas giants,'" NASA officials wrote in a news release about the new photo. "The moniker derives from the fact that a comparatively large part of the planets' composition consists of water, ammonia and methane, which are typically frozen as ices in the cold depths of the outer solar system. Jupiter and Saturn are made almost entirely of hydrogen and helium, with smaller percentages of these ices."

    This isn't the first time Cassini -- a collaborative mission between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency -- has taken a photo of another planet in the solar system from Saturn. The international probe trained its gaze on Earth in 2013, producing an incredible photo that shows Earth, Mercury and Venus shining as pinpricks of light behind Saturn.

    The new Cassini photo of Uranus is more than just a pretty picture. Scientists can help calibrate other Cassini instruments using the light signature and other images from the observations, according to NASA.

    One odd feature of Uranus -- the seventh planet from the sun -- is that it is tilted on its side. Scientists think that two large bodies probably crashed into Uranus sometime early in its history, causing it to spin on its side, with the planet's axis pointing toward the sun.

    The planet's strange tilt is responsible for causing extreme seasons. For about a quarter of the Uranian year -- equivalent to about 84 Earth years -- the sun shines directly on just one pole, plunging the other half of the planet into a long, dark winter.

    The Cassini mission launched in 1997 and made it into orbit around Saturn in 2004.

    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: Mind-Blowing New Photos from Space

     

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