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SKYE on AOL

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    Friday, May 9, 2014

    The remains of a house destroyed by a storm surge due to Hurricane Sandy rests submerged in a flooded depression, Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, in the Staten Island borough of New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

    The National Hurricane Center (NHC) will issue a new experimental map this hurricane season in hopes of improving decision-making for possible coastal evacuations from a storm.

    The storm surge forecast map will provide emergency management officials and the public with a better idea of where and how they could be affected by the surge brought by a hurricane.

    Storm surge, or the rise in water levels with a landfalling hurricane, is the greatest threat from a hurricane, AccuWeather.com tropical weather expert Dan Kottlowski said.

    "Storm surge is just part of the rise in water," Kottlowski said. "Total inundation or the total rise in water from a hurricane making landfall is a combination of storm surge, tides, the shape and orientation of the coast and depth of the continental shelf."

    Storm surge is associated with more than half of all hurricane deaths, storm surge specialist Jamie Rhome of the NHC said.

    The map will help better communicate two things: How deep the water could be from a storm surge and how far inland it could go, Rhome said.

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    It's hard for people to visualize water from the ocean being pushed over land, he said.

    "Most people don't experience it," he said. "People understand the wind from a hurricane because they experience wind every day."

    Storm surge is very strongly tied to the exact forecast of a hurricane.

    "So, if the hurricane moves a little to the left or a little to the right, then the storm surge changes dramatically," Rhome said.


    A sample map from the National Hurricane Center shows storm surge potential for the New York City area from a hypothetical hurricane. (Photo/National Hurricane Center).

    The map was in development well before Hurricane Sandy raked New Jersey and New York in 2012, but the hurricane helped speed up its development, Rhome said.

    "Sandy highlighted the desperate need for this information," he said.

    Such a map would have helped in a Sandy scenario, but couldn't have predicted the catastrophe associated with Hurricane Katrina, Kottlowski said.

    "The storm surge from Katrina triggered a rise in water which caused the levees to fail," he said. "The failure of the levees was more from the levees not being built properly and local officials failing to recognize needed repairs and upgrades. Storm surge maps would have helped people affected by Sandy to understand the danger of the rise in water and would have convinced more people to evacuate. These maps would not have helped people save their property."

    The map will be issued every six hours once a hurricane or tropical storm watch is issued, Rhome said.

    "We hope it will greatly improve evacuation decision-making because evacuation orders are based on storm surge threat," he said.

    Depending on the situation, the map forecast will be based on several hundred to several thousand scenarios. It won't be based on a worst-case scenario but on the upper band of possibilities, Rhome said.

    The hurricane center is also looking for feedback on the maps for its usefulness, accuracy and how the information was used. The feedback will be used to determine whether the maps will become a part of the regular products the center issues, Rhome said.


    RELATED ON SKYE: Stunning Hurricane Photos from Space

     

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    Friday, May 9, 2014
    Storm Shelters-Shortage
    In this Thursday, May 1, 2014, photo, Tessa Beaulieu poses for a photo in the storm shelter of her new construction home with her children, from left, Hudson, Dawson and Sloane, in Edmond, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Last year's tornado season wasn't the worst in Oklahoma history, either in the number of twisters or the number of lives taken.

    But the deadly barrage that killed more than 30 people scared Oklahomans in a way that previous storms had not, moving them to add tornado shelters or reinforced safe rooms to their homes.

    There's just one problem: The surge of interest in tornado safety has overwhelmed companies that build the shelters, creating long waiting lists and forcing many people to endure the most dangerous part of this season without any added protection.

    "Pretty much anywhere you go right now, the soonest anyone can install is about mid-June," said Kayli Phillips, who works in sales and accounting at Norman-based Thunderground Storm Shelters. "We're booked solid until then."

    Thunderground, which opened about two years ago, is part of a booming new industry that has taken shape as more Americans seek to shield their families from severe weather. The demand intensified last year following the series of deadly twisters in central Oklahoma, where a single tornado on May 20, 2013, killed 24 people and destroyed 1,100 homes in Moore.

    Since then, Moore residents have added about 1,100 basements or shelters, according to city spokeswoman Deidre Ebrey. In all, the city has an estimated 6,000 shelters or basements.

    In nearby Oklahoma City, more than 8,000 storm shelter permits have been issued since May 2013, according to Kristy Yager, a spokeswoman for Oklahoma City. In 2009, just 322 permits were issued.

    The 2013 tornadoes "pretty much kept us booked up the entire year," Phillips said.

    Abby Brown, a sales manager for Edmond, Oklahoma-based GFS Storm Shelters, said there's always a waiting list for installations, but it generally peaks starting in March, when people begin thinking about the upcoming storm season. The company, which has been in business for four years, installs about 175 shelters a month.

    "People are thinking about it more. People who have lived in Oklahoma all their lives sometimes may not have ever thought that they needed a storm shelter until last year," she said.

    Oklahoma is not the only state where families are confronting their twister fears.

    After a half-mile-wide tornado hit the Little Rock suburb of Vilonia last month, officials said the death toll of 15 could have been worse if residents had not piled into underground shelters and fortified safe rooms.

    Alisa Smith, sales manager for Austin, Arkansas-based Tornado Shelters Systems, said the company is working around the clock to keep up with demand. Sales have doubled since last year, to about 300 shelters. New customers have to wait six to eight weeks for installation, she said.

    "I think this tornado scared a lot of mothers," she said. "There were two little boys lost in the Vilonia storm, so I think a lot of mothers are saying, 'Forget those granite counter tops or sunroom, let's put in a shelter.'"

    It's not unusual for an episode of severe weather to send demand soaring, said Ernst Kiesling, executive director of the National Storm Shelter Association.

    Just as parts of the central U.S. are seeing an increase now, the South experienced a similar trend in 2011, after twisters killed more than 300, he said.

    But the shelters and safe rooms don't come cheap. Pricing is based on a variety of factors, including size, location within the home and the type of door used. The priciest models can cost as much as $14,000. Smaller ones can be had for a few thousand dollars.

    Some people turn to a lottery-style federal program that provides matching money for residential shelters. The government offers rebates of up to $2,000 per home. About 10,000 people or families apply annually for one of about 500 rebates, said Keli Cain, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management. Other cities and towns may offer their own rebate programs.

    Jennifer Sweeten and her husband used a refund from their federal taxes to install a shelter in their Oklahoma City home in March 2013.

    "I thought: How stupid are we to live in Oklahoma without a storm shelter or basement?" Sweeten said. "We felt like that was the best use of our refund. My husband actually wanted to go on a little vacation, and I said, 'Nope, we're getting a storm shelter.'"

    It's lucky they did. Two months later, two tornadoes swept through the area, and the family took shelter underground.

    "It gives me great security," Sweeten said. "I felt like we were prepared, and we were safe, and that was worth great peace of mind."

    Prior to last May's storms, only one neighbor had a storm shelter, Sweeten said. Since then, four more have installed them.

    Tessa Beaulieu, of Edmond, Oklahoma, made sure the new home she is building with her husband had a shelter. She ordered the shelter in January, and it was installed at the end of April.

    "We have three small children," Beaulieu said. "So obviously protecting them and us is a top priority."

     

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    Friday, May 9, 2014

    A security camera at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Tupelo, Mississippi, captured dramatic footage of the devastating EF3 tornado that tore through the town on April 28.

    The NWS listed one fatality and 40 injuries from the incident. Estimates put the peak wind gusts at 150 mph for the tornado.

    The deadly storm system that produced this tornado reigned over the eastern portion of the United States for five days, knocking out power to tens of thousands from Arkansas to the mid-Atlantic coast and taking more than 30 lives.

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    There were 121 tornadoes reported across the Deep South on April 28, along with 174 high wind reports and more than 60 reports of large hail.

    Of the tornado reports, 21 have been confirmed from April 28. Two other tornadoes were also rated as EF3, with one EF4 that ripped across Mayflower, Arkansas.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 18 Incredible Photos of Tornadoes

     

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    Friday, May 9, 2014
    Earthrise from the moon

    The Earth rises spectacularly as a tiny blue marble above the moon in a new NASA photo that hints at the fragility of humanity and the vastness of space.

    NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter captured the image on Feb. 1 with its wide-angle camera, depicting a colorized view of the Earth rising over the 112-mile-wide (180 kilometers) Rozhdestvenskiy crater. The event was one of 12 such "earthrises" that occur every day from the perspective of the moon.

    The LRO spacecraft's wide-angle camera takes images in a different way than most digital cameras. A typical cellphone camera has more than 5 million pixels, whereas a single frame of the LRO camera has fewer than 10,000 pixels. [Amazing Photos of Earth from Space]

    But the LRO camera builds up a much larger image by taking multiple exposures as the spacecraft orbits, a technique known as "push-frame" imaging. Over the course of a month, the orbiter camera collects enough images to cover the whole moon.

    The LRO usually spends its time staring at the lunar surface looking for signs of water or ice in permanently shadowed craters. But occasionally the spacecraft points into space to image the moon's exosphere, the thin atmosphere-like layer surrounding it, or to calibrate the craft's instruments. Sometimes, the spacecraft captures images of Earth (like this one) or other planets making their progress across the heavens.

    In the image, Earth is a color composite of several frames, optimized for the colors blue, green and red. These colors match what the human eye detects, so they are true to what an average person might see.

    Follow Tanya Lewis on Twitter and Google+. Follow u @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: 20 Epic Photos of Astronauts on the Moon
    Man on Moon

     

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    Saturday, May 10, 2014

    Fierce lightning is expected to be a part of the storm system. (Samuel D. Barricklow via Getty Images)

    A low pressure system developing over the Plains will produce a multiple-day severe weather event across the region, set to kick off on Sunday.

    Not only could these storms put lives and property in danger, but also threaten any events planned for Mother's Day.

    Just a handful of the cities in the path of these storms include Chicago; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Kansas City and Springfield, Missouri; Wichita, Kansas; Oklahoma City and areas just west of Dallas.

    Anyone planning to have dinner on the patio of their favorite restaurant or cooking out on the grill may want to keep an eye to the sky as storms are expected to develop during the afternoon hours on Sunday.

    Storms of this nature can develop with short notice and have the ability to produce hail as large as baseballs, frequent lightning, wind gusts past 60 mph and even tornadoes.

    If you find yourself in the path of one of these storms, you should take shelter until the storm has passed.

    The threat of severe thunderstorms will carry over into the new week with Monday's storms set to affect a larger area than Sunday, stretching from southern Wisconsin to central Texas.

    Travel delays should be anticipated for those in this large area as storms continue to produce large hail and damaging winds.

    Fortunately, the tornado threat does not appear to be as high on Monday when compared to Sunday. However, a few brief twisters may still spin up with the strongest storms.

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    Heading into Tuesday and Wednesday, the system responsible for the severe weather will begin to weaken as it lifts over the Great Lakes.

    As it does this, it will reduce the probability of severe thunderstorm development. However, storms from Michigan to the coast of Texas could still produce gusty winds and flooding downpours.

    Travel delays are still likely due to the storms through midweek for those on the roadways and at the airport in Detroit; Pittsburgh; Indianapolis; Cincinnati; Louisville, Kentucky; Little Rock, Arkansas; Dallas and Houston, Texas.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Stunning Photos from the 2013 Tornado Season
    Kansas Torndao

     

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    Saturday, May 10, 2014

    A pair of tulips stick out of a drift of snow in Denver after a spring storm. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

    The second of two cold storms in less than a week will take aim on Colorado on Saturday night, Sunday and into early Monday with heavy snow and gusty winds.

    The storm has the potential to unload a couple of feet of snow in the high country of Colorado and Utah, and can bring substantial snow to the cities of Denver, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins, in Colorado, as well as accumulating snow to Cheyenne and Casper, Wyoming.

    The storm threatens to cause travel delays and could lead to power outages.

    Enough snow can fall to create slushy and slow travel over the passes along I-70 in Colorado and I-80 in Wyoming on Sunday night into Monday.

    The snow will have trouble accumulating to roads during the day on Sunday, especially out of the mountains and in major cities, due to the strong May sun effect. However, as road surface temperatures cool at night and remain cool into the next morning, slippery conditions should be expected by motorists and pedestrians.

    Since trees are beginning to leaf, the weight of wet snow adhering to elevated objects can bring down large branches and wires.

    Rain will change to snow as it turns colder, causing snow levels to lower. The changeover to snow around Denver is forecast to take place during the midday and afternoon hours.

    If you are taking mom out for a meal on Sunday, consider breakfast, brunch or an early dinner. Road conditions may deteriorate and power outages could be developing and become widespread by evening.

    Temperatures much of the day on Sunday will be in the 30s in the major cities and even lower in the mountains. Enough wind will be generated by the storm in open and elevated areas to produce AccuWeather RealFeel(R) temperatures in the teens and 20s.

    This will come as quite a shock to many people as temperatures on Saturday are forecast to peak in the 60s and 70s. Temperatures will plummet on Saturday night into Sunday morning.

    Most ski resorts have closed for the season (Arapahoe Basin is still open). However, the snow will present an opportunity for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Use extreme caution when skiing on non-trails after heavy snowfall due to the risk of avalanches.

    The storm will bring temperature extremes over the Plains and Rockies. The temperature contrast will contribute not only to a zone of heavy snow, but also very wet conditions and the risk for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.

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    There is the potential for thunderstorms to erupt and become severe from portions of central Texas to northern Illinois on Sunday. This area is likely to be the intersection of dry air from the southwest, building heat and moisture to the southeast and chilly air to the northwest.

    A zone of drenching rain is likely to develop just north and west of the thunderstorm area in the cooler air.

    Meanwhile, gusty winds topping 60 mph in some areas will kick up dust and raise the wildfire danger south of the storm track over the deserts and passes from Southern California to New Mexico and the western Texas Panhandle.

    The storm can bring rainfall to some drought areas of the southern and central Plains on Sunday to Monday. However, the rainfall will be spotty in the neediest areas of the region from the Texas Panhandle, western Oklahoma, southwestern Kansas and southeastern Colorado.

    There will be some snow reaching the mountains of northern New Mexico, but nothing like the magnitude of the snow farther north.

    The snow will linger into Monday, which could cause travel delays and disruptions to commerce and school activities.

    As the storm rolls out to the northeast on Monday and Tuesday, wet snow could mix in over part of the upper Great Lakes region at the tail end.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Dramatic Photos Reveal California's Epic Drought

     

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    Saturday, May 10, 2014

    It's time to grab your umbrellas if you live in the middle of the U.S. (AP Photo)

    Severe thunderstorms are in the offing on Saturday over part of the central Plains and middle Mississippi Valley.

    The storms will erupt in parts of northern Oklahoma to eastern Kansas, much of Missouri, southern Iowa and western Illinois. Most of the storms will occur between 2:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. CDT, but some of the storms can survive through Saturday night.

    The strongest storms will bring damaging wind gusts, large hail, flash flooding, frequent lightning strikes and the risk of a couple of tornadoes to some communities.

    Major cities that could be hit by the storms include Topeka, Kansas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Joplin, Springfield, Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri, Springfield, Illinois; and Cedar Rapids and Ottumwa, Iowa.

    In addition to foiling outdoor plans like ballgames, weddings and graduations, the storms can knock out power in some communities, disrupt travel along I-35, I-44, I-49, and I-75, cause property damage and even threaten lives.

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    Elsewhere, locally drenching downpours will bring the risk of flash and urban flooding on Saturday into Saturday evening from parts of the central Appalachians, the Ohio Valley and the mid-Atlantic to the central Gulf coast.

    More widespread severe weather and the potential for tornadoes is forecast on Mother's Day from central Texas, Oklahoma, central and eastern Kansas, northwestern Missouri, southeastern Iowa and central and northern Illinois.

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

     

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    Updated Saturday, May 10, 2014, 6:05 p.m. ET

    This photo provided by Nancy Johnson shows what authorities say is a hot-air balloon that was believed to have caught fire and crashed in Virginia, Friday, May 9, 2014. Virginia State Police received calls of the crash shortly before 8 p.m., police spokeswoman Corinne Geller told a news conference. (AP Photo/Nancy Johnson)

    DOSWELL, Virginia (AP) - A second body was recovered Saturday from the crash of a hot air balloon carrying three people that drifted into a power line and burst into flames in front of horrified spectators. The bodies were discovered just under a mile apart.

    More than 100 searchers were called in to scour the woods and fields of the central Virginia site of the crash for the third victim and any remnants of the balloon or its basket, state police said.

    None of the victims has been identified.

    Witnesses said they heard the anguished pleas of the passengers Friday night as the balloon touched the power line and erupted into flames.

    On the ground, "It was complete silence," eyewitness Nancy Johnson said. "There were people praying. It was horrible."

    The balloon crashed Friday night ahead of a balloon festival. It was among 13 balloons that took off from Meadow Event Park, home to the State Fair of Virginia, and was approaching a landing site nearby. Two of the balloons landed safely before the third hit the live power line.

    The pilot attempted to retain control of the balloon and snuff the fire and two passengers either jumped or fell from the gondola, state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.

    "Then witnesses recall hearing an explosion and the fire continued to spread," Geller said. The gondola and the balloon then separated.

    Geller said the two bodies were found about 1,500 yards (1,370 meters) apart.

    An air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board said a preliminary report would be released on the crash in 10 days. Heidi Moats said investigators were seeking records on the balloon and the pilot.

    Troy Bradley, past president of the Balloon Federation of America, said most serious accidents on balloons - including fires, electrocution or baskets becoming severed - happen after hitting power lines. Most of the time it's due to pilot error, he said.

    Fatal accidents happen less often than with other types of aircraft, Bradley said.

    "Hundreds of thousands of flights will go without any notice. That one that hits the news gets all the attention, but ballooning is a very, very safe form of aviation."

    The crash occurred on the eve of the official start of the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival, which was canceled followed the crash. The area is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Richmond.

    Johnson said the crash occurred in an instant.

    "One minute the balloons were hovering in a field behind Event Park, the next everyone is pointing at sky," she said.

    Carrie Hager-Bradley said she saw the balloon in flames on her way home from the grocery and heard people yelling.

    "They were just screaming for anybody to help them," she told WWBT TV. One person screamed, "Help me, help me, sweet Jesus, help. I'm going to die. Oh my God, I'm going to die."

    Donnell Ferguson said he was cutting grass when he saw a couple of balloons passing by. One was low, barely at tree-top level.

    "At first I saw a cloud of black smoke and then I noticed the basket on fire," he said. "Then it just took off real fast and disappeared."

    The crash occurred during a special festival kickoff event Friday for about 740 people.

    Twenty balloonists from the Mid-Atlantic region were to participate in the weekend festival, said Greg Hicks, a spokesman for the venue.

    "It's just a shocking situation for everyone," Hicks said.

    Johnson, who went to the festival with her husband, photographed the balloon as it rose.

    "I turned around and just automatically started taking pictures," she said. "It just kept going up, up, up in the air."

    Some hot air balloons landed safely in Debra Ferguson's yard, The Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg reported. One of the men in the balloons pointed up at another still in the air and said he thought it might be in trouble.

    "As soon as we looked up, the thing blew up right there," Ferguson told the newspaper. "All I heard was, 'Oh my God, Oh my God,' and all you saw was the top of the balloon still flying, but all of the basket was gone. All of the flames just disappeared. ... It was like a match - poof - and then it was gone."

    RELATED ON SKYE: 25 Awe-Inspiring Images from 2013
    Nick Wallenda Grand Canyon

     

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    Saturday, May 10, 2014

    This image of Saturn was taken from Frosty Drew Observatory in Charlestown, Rhode Island. (Scott MacNeill | www.frostydrew.org)

    Saturn, the ringed beauty of the solar system, will put on its best show of the year for stargazers tonight, May 10, and you can catch live telescope views of the planet online.

    The online Slooh community telescope will offer live views of Saturn from a remotely operated telescope in the Canary Islands, off the western coast of Africa, as the ringed planet reaches opposition, a point in its orbit when it is on the opposite side of Earth from the sun.

    Slooh's feed of Saturn will begin at 9:30 p.m. EDT (0130 May 11 GMT) and feature commentary from astronomer Bob Berman and Slooh host Geoff Fox. You can also watch the Saturn webcast live on Space.com in addition to the Slooh website. Viewers will be able to ask questions about Saturn at opposition using the Twitter hashtag #Slooh.

    "Saturn has not looked this good since 2007," Berman said in a statement. "That's because its rings assumed their edge-on orientation for several years, making telescope observation of ring detail impossible. Now they are splayed at such a gratifying tilt, they visually form a nearly unbroken structure completely around the body of the planet."

    Weather permitting, stargazers can spot Saturn without a telescope by looking in the constellation Libra. The planet is the only bright object in the constellation and can be spotted as it rises in the southeastern sky soon after nightfall.

    Berman said he hopes the Slooh telescope will reveal stunning details of Saturn's rings.

    "We expect to easily see its famous inky-black Cassini division, situated between the A and B ring, where the ice-chunks that make up its rings have been swept clean by tidal meddling from its moon Mimas," he said. "Nearly everyone regards Saturn as the most beautiful planet in the known universe."

    Editor's Note: If you take an amazing photo of Saturn, or any other night sky view, that you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact 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: Mind-Blowing New Photos from Space

     

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    Saturday, May 10, 2014

    Tulips bloom in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

    The clock is ticking on stubborn cool air in the Northeast as summerlike warmth is forecast to break loose Mother's Day weekend and will continue into early next week.

    Temperatures have been held to or below seasonal levels from Philadelphia to New York City and Boston, thanks to a persistent flow of air from the chilly waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

    The pattern is forecast to change dramatically from southwest to northeast this weekend as warm air from the west finally overwhelms the damp Atlantic air.

    The warmup will be accompanied by a dose of drenching showers and thunderstorms, which could disrupt outdoor activities such as weddings and graduations on Saturday. However, by Mother's Day, the bulk of the rainfall will have moved away.

    On Thursday, temperatures surged into the 80s F over western New York, central Pennsylvania, much of Virginia and the southern Delmarva Peninsula.

    After progressing farther east over the coastal mid-Atlantic on Friday, temperatures will jump well into the 70s over much of New England and to near 80 around New York City this weekend.

    According to Northeast Weather Expert Dave Dombek, "For much of the Northeast, this will be the warmest stretch of days with mild nights since early October."

    Many areas will get even warmer on Monday. Temperatures could rival record highs for the date from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Virginia. Ninety-degree highs are forecast from Virginia to the Carolinas, along with high humidity.

    Cooler air along with showers and thunderstorms will settle into the region later next week.

    "A back door cool front is likely to cut into the warmth in New England and the upper mid-Atlantic Tuesday to Wednesday," Dombek said.

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    While many are welcoming the warmth with open arms after a seemingly slow spring in the Northeast, people are reminded to not over do it in the summerlike conditions.

    Be sure to drink plenty of fluids, wear light weight clothing and avoid strenuous physical activity during the midday and afternoon hours when the sun is intense.

    Never leave children and pets unattended in vehicles. Temperatures can soar to over 120 degrees in a matter of minutes.

    Think twice before you take a dip. Water temperatures at area lakes, streams and the Atlantic Ocean are still chilly this time of the year. Use extreme caution if venturing into the water as there is the risk of cold water shock.

    According to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boating Commission, cold water shock can occur even when water temperatures are above 50 F. Atlantic water temperatures from New York to Maryland currently range from the lower 50s to the lower 60s. Area streams and lakes may be significantly colder.

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

     

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    Sunday, May 11, 2014

    This file photo shows a Cessna 207, the same type of plane involved in the Arizona crash. (AP Photo/Alaska State Troopers Bethel Post)

    PAGE, Ariz. (AP) - A single-engine plane carrying a pilot and six French tourists crashed while landing at a northern Arizona airport, killing one person and injuring five others, authorities said.

    The aircraft hit the ground and toppled over near the airport runway amid windy conditions Saturday afternoon in Page, the center of a tourist area about 200 miles north of Phoenix, Page Police Capt. Ray Varner said.

    "The plane hit the sand and flipped over upside down," Varner told The Associated Press.

    Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said the Cessna 207 crashed 400 to 500 feet short of the runway.

    One passenger died after being rushed to a hospital, while another was taken to Flagstaff Medical Center. Varner didn't have injury details but said the passenger was apparently in stable condition.

    He said four others received hospital treatment for minor injuries and were released, while the seventh person was unhurt. The pilot was among the injured.

    The aircraft had been on a sightseeing tour, Varner said.

    Both the captain and the FAA website listed the aircraft's registered owner as American Aviation Inc. of Salt Lake City.

    A person answering the phone there late Saturday said they didn't have any information.

    Varner said that the hometowns of the passengers were still being determined, but at least one of them was from the French city of Le Havre.

    There was no immediate word on the cause of the crash. Both Gregor and Varner said it was being investigated.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: 49 Killed in Deadly Laos Plane Crash

     

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    Sunday, May 11, 2014

    (Steve Bronstein via Getty Images)

    An outbreak of tornadoes will put lives and property across the Plains at risk this Mother's Day with the tornado threat greatest in the vicinity of eastern Nebraska and Iowa.

    Residents and visitors are urged to closely monitor media outlets and weather radios amid Mother's Day festivities and events this Sunday and take action when vital warnings are issued.

    "The highest risk of tornadoes should extend from southeastern Nebraska through central Iowa on Sunday afternoon and evening, including the cities of Omaha and Des Moines," stated AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Dan DePodwin.

    "Some of these tornadoes could be strong and long-lasting."



    The tornado outbreak danger also encompasses Lincoln, Nebraska, as well as far northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri, home to the city of St. Joseph.

    "Plenty of spin in the atmosphere in this area, combined with a surge of moisture will make conditions ripe for tornadoes," DePodwin continued.

    In addition to tornadoes, the strongest thunderstorms that erupt later on Sunday will produce damaging winds, large hail, frequent lightning and flooding downpours.

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    The danger for severe weather on Sunday afternoon and night is not just confined to the central Plains, but also stretches southward to west-central Texas and northeastward to southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

    Just a handful of the cities in the path of these storms include Chicago; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Kansas City and Springfield, Missouri; Wichita, Kansas; Oklahoma City and areas just west of Dallas.



    "[South of the highest tornado risk area], the main threat will be damaging winds and hail across Kansas southward to Texas," added DePodwin.

    Anyone planning to have dinner on the patio of their favorite restaurant or cooking out on the grill may want to keep an eye to the sky.

    If you find yourself in the path of one of these storms, you should take shelter until the storm has passed.



    The threat of severe thunderstorms will carry over into the new week with Monday's storms set to affect another large area, stretching from southern Wisconsin to central and eastern Texas.

    Travel delays should be anticipated for those in this large area as storms continue to produce large hail and damaging winds.

    Fortunately, the tornado threat does not appear to be as high on Monday when compared to Sunday. However, a few brief twisters may still spin up with the strongest storms.

    Heading into Tuesday and Wednesday, the system responsible for the severe weather will begin to weaken as it lifts over the Great Lakes.

    As it does this, it will reduce the probability of severe thunderstorm development. However, storms from Michigan to the coast of Texas could still produce gusty winds and flooding downpours.

    Travel delays are still likely due to the storms through midweek for those on the roadways and at the airport in Detroit; Pittsburgh; Indianapolis; Cincinnati; Louisville, Kentucky; Little Rock, Arkansas; Dallas and Houston, Texas.

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    Sunday, May 11, 2014

    Don't put away those winter clothes just yet. (Jack Hollingsworth via Getty Images)

    The taste of summer kicking off this week across much of the Midwest and Northeast is not a sign of things to come with cooler air set to make a comeback.
    The majority of the Midwest and Northeast will see temperatures on Monday top Mother's Day highs.

    Highs in the 80s are expected northward to Chicago, Detroit, Albany, New York, and Boston.

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    Louisville, Kentucky, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia will come close to recording the first 90-degree day of the year.

    A surge of higher humidity will accompany the warmth on Monday across the Midwest and northward to around New York City.

    Fans of summerlike weather who plan on spending a part of Monday outdoors should keep an eye to the sky with thunderstorms set to rattle some communities. Remember to seek shelter as soon as thunder is heard; you are then close enough to be struck by lightning.

    The greatest threat for thunderstorms to turn severe on Monday stretches across the eastern Plains and central Great Lakes.

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    An end to the warmth will come for some by Tuesday as two cold front converge on the Midwest and Northeast. One will be advancing from the Plains; the other--what meteorologists call a backdoor cold front--will be pressing through the Northeast.

    Around 20 degrees will be shaved off Monday's highs on Tuesday from St. Louis to Chicago to Madison, Wisconsin, as well as central and southern New England to Albany, New York.

    Boston could experience a 25-degree drop in temperatures. New York City may start Tuesday on a milder note before the cooler air rushes in.

    In between the cool presses on Tuesday, the warmth will build further across the mid-Atlantic and upper Ohio Valley with record highs set to be challenged.

    Wednesday through Thursday is when the summertime warmth will finally be erased from these areas. More comfortable air will also sweep into the South later in the week.

    AccuWeather.com meteorologists will be monitoring the potential for any severe thunderstorms or flooding rain to occur ahead of the advancing cooler air over the next several days.

    Once the heat is ushered out, it will not be quick to return to the Midwest and Northeast.

    Highs will likely be held to the 50s and 60s for several days later in the week throughout the Midwest with fresh cool air pouring down from Canada.

    Temperatures may rebound back into the 70s late in the week along the Northeast's I-95 corridor, but the forecast is bleak for any further warming.

    "I think the cool shot is going to be centered west of the Appalachians for next weekend," stated AccuWeather.com Long Range Forecaster Mark Paquette.

    "Around Monday and the days that follow, we will have to watch for a storm system to take shape and cause some damp and cool weather for the mid-Atlantic and possibly the Northeast," Paquette continued.

    Despite the upcoming cooldown, those who have planted flowers or gardens will take comfort in the fact that there are not frost or freeze concerns outside of the Upper Midwest through early next week.

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    Sunday, May 11, 2014

    University of Richmond associate head coach Ginny Doyle, left, and director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis. Doyle and Lewis were two of the three people aboard a hot air balloon that drifted into a power line, burst into flames and crashed on Friday, May 9, 2014, in Virginia. Investigators say their remains were found about a mile apart in dense woods. (AP Photo/University of Richmond, Frank Strauss)

    DOSWELL, Va. (AP) - Preparations for the University of Richmond's graduation ceremony were tinged with sadness Sunday, just days after two members of its athletic staff were killed when a hot air balloon crashed in Virginia after hitting a power line.

    Associate head coach Ginny Doyle and director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis were two of the three people aboard the balloon who were killed Friday after the balloon drifted into a power line, burst into flames and fell into a heavily wooded area about 25 miles north of Richmond.

    "Words cannot begin to express our sorrow," Keith Gill, the school's athletic director, said in a statement. "We are all stunned by the tragic news. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their loved ones."

    Donald Kirk on Sunday said his son, Daniel T. Kirk, was piloting the balloon. The balloon was registered to Daniel at an address in the Dover, Delaware, area. His company's website said he had been a hot air balloon pilot for more than 20 years and had a commercial balloon pilot license issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.

    Two bodies have been found so far. Searchers continued to look for the third body Sunday. Undergraduate commencement at University of Richmond was scheduled for later in the day.

    Lewis just completed her second year as director of basketball operations for the women's team, according to a profile on the university's website. The Buffalo, New York, native was a four-year letter winner and two-time captain of the Spiders' swim team.

    Lewis was "an amazing person and a strong person, an athlete engaged to be married," according to family spokeswoman Julie Snyder.

    Doyle, who graduated from Richmond in 1992 after a standout basketball career, served on the team staff for 16 years after that - including nine winning seasons. She earned all-conference honors twice as a player.

    "As alumnae, classmates, and colleagues - and as invaluable and devoted mentors for our student-athletes - Ginny and Natalie have been beloved members of our community," university president Edward L. Ayers said.

    The university canceled two weekend baseball games and held a moment of silence at commencement Saturday for its law school.

    Amber Battle, who will be a senior next season, said from her home in Apex, North Carolina that her coach, Michael Shafer, was keeping the team updated via text messages.

    He told them that he was also at the balloon festival.

    "I just can't believe this happened," she said.

    Witnesses to the crash described a harrowing sight on the special preview night for the Mid-Atlantic Balloon Festival, which was set to open Saturday. The festival was canceled. About 740 people attended the preview event.

    On the ground, "It was complete silence," spectator Nancy Johnson said. "There were people praying. It was horrible."

    The balloon was among 13 that lifted off Friday night from Meadow Event Park, home to the State Fair of Virginia, and was approaching a landing site nearby. Two of the balloons landed safely before the third hit the live power line, according to police.

    The pilot attempted to retain control of the balloon and snuff the fire and two passengers either jumped or fell from the gondola, state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.

    "Then witnesses recall hearing an explosion and the fire continued to spread," Geller said.

    She said another pilot interviewed by investigators described how the pilot tried to open vents to release extra-hot air in an attempt to keep the balloon from rising faster.

    "Based on witness accounts, he did everything he could to try to save the passengers' lives," Geller said.

    The National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating the crash.

    Troy Bradley, past president of the Balloon Federation of America, said most serious accidents on balloons - including fires, electrocution or baskets becoming severed - happen after hitting power lines. Most of the time it's due to pilot error, he said.

    Fatal accidents happen less often than with other types of aircraft, Bradley said.

    "Hundreds of thousands of flights will go without any notice. That one that hits the news gets all the attention, but ballooning is a very, very safe form of aviation."

    Twenty balloonists from the Mid-Atlantic region had been scheduled to participate in the weekend festival, said Greg Hicks, a spokesman for the venue.

    Johnson, who went as a spectator to the festival with her husband, photographed the balloon after the accident. She said the crash near the park about 25 miles north of Richmond occurred in an instant.

    "One minute the balloons were hovering in a field behind Event Park, the next everyone is pointing at sky," she said.

    Carrie Hager-Bradley said she saw the balloon in flames on her way home from the grocery and heard people yelling.

    "They were just screaming for anybody to help them," she told WWBT TV.

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    Updated Sunday, May 11, 2014, 2:44 p.m. ET

    (Steve Krull via Getty Images)

    DENVER (AP) - A powerful spring storm was bringing cold temperatures and a sloppy mix of rain and snow to parts of Colorado and Wyoming on Mother's Day.

    The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for most of northern Colorado and parts of southern Wyoming for all of Sunday and for Monday morning.

    Forecasters were also warning that strong thunderstorms and possibly tornadoes could develop in eastern Nebraska and Iowa Sunday afternoon. There was a moderate risk of severe weather in the area starting Sunday afternoon and continuing into Sunday night, the weather service said.

    In Colorado, snow amounts could vary greatly, but up to 15 inches could fall at higher elevations and 4 to 9 inches could fall at lower elevations, including Denver and other cities along Colorado's Front Range.

    "If we see the total accumulations that we are anticipating from this storm, we are certainly going to see a top 10 May snow event for the Denver metro area," said David Barjenbruch, a weather service meteorologist in Boulder.

    Barjenbruch said a foot of snow had already fallen in the foothills of Larimer County northwest of Denver by Sunday morning, and workers along much of the Front Range can expect a "slushy, sloppy morning commute" Monday.

    The weather service also warned that snow could be heavy and wet enough to snap tree limbs and power lines, causing power failures. Winds gusting up to 30 mph could reduce visibility, and slushy roads could be treacherous to drive.

    Julie Smith, a spokeswoman for Denver International Airport, said passengers might spend a little more time on the tarmac as crews de-ice planes, but no major airline delays have been reported. Meanwhile, Denver officials plan to deploy up to 70 snowplows overnight to prepare for Monday's commute.

    In southern Wyoming, the storm forced transportation officials to close a 150-mile stretch of Interstate 80 from Cheyenne to Rawlins on Sunday morning.

    The weather service said mountainous areas in Wyoming could get a foot or more of snow, and 5 to 10 inches are forecast for Cheyenne and Laramie.

    The storm is a product of a low-pressure system moving east colliding with a cold air mass from the north. It's expected to deliver rain in the northern plains once it leaves Colorado.

    Spring-like weather was expected to return to the Rockies by Tuesday, with mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-50s in Denver, the high 40s in Cheyenne and the low 40s in Laramie.

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    Updated Sunday, May 11, 2014, 8:20 p.m. ET

    (Aleksandar Nakic via Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES - The hot and windy gift that Mother Nature gave the greater Los Angeles area on Mother's Day is a preview of what weather forecasters said to expect across California this week.

    Gusts in coastal mountains near Los Angeles reached as high as 73 mph early Sunday, while morning brought sunny skies with projected high temperatures in the 80s. The winds toppled some trees and caused power outages that left about 1,800 people without electricity in Los Angeles County, representatives of local utilities said.

    The conditions translated into a "red flag" fire warning, with authorities saying that any wild land flames would quickly spread out of control.

    The high pressure system that created the conditions should by midweek to push temperatures to near record highs - 100 degrees or more in inland areas already parched by drought.

    High temperatures will extend up and down California, according to the National Weather Service.

    In the San Francisco Bay Area, the service said to expect "a robust warming trend" through Wednesday, with projected highs in coastal areas near 90 degrees and inland highs around 100 degrees.

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    Monday, May 12, 2014

    A truck moves off of Interstate I-70 to chain up before continuing eastward in Vail, Colo., on Sunday, May 11, 2014. The storm that ripped through the Vail Valley on Mother's Day caused numerous accidents and road closures. (AP Photo/The Vail Daily, Anthony Thornton)

    DENVER - A spring storm that has brought over a foot of snow to parts of Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska has spun out thunderstorms and slowed travelers.

    The weather has shut down portions of Interstate 80 in Wyoming and Nebraska.

    The heavy, wet snow was still falling in the Denver area Monday morning but isn't sticking much to streets. Driving conditions are more difficult in the mountains.

    About two dozen flights have been cancelled at Denver International Airport and delays are expected as planes deice.

    Meanwhile, parts of the Midwest, including Illinois, Indiana and Iowa, were hit by strong thunderstorms and hail.

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    Monday, May 12, 2014

    As in this file photo of a rainy day in Chicago, that city and a huge swath of the country will be hit with downpours, hail, thunderstorms, high winds and possibly tornadoes. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

    The threat of severe weather will continue into the beginning of the new week, shifting eastward across the Plains and into the Midwest.

    Detroit; Chicago; Madison, Wisconsin; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; St. Louis; Little Rock, Arkansas; Dallas and San Antonio are just a few of the cities in the path of severe thunderstorms on Monday and Monday night.

    Travel delays should be expected as these storms move through with heavy downpours and frequent lightning, causing delays at the airports and on the roadways.

    Damaging wind gusts, large hail and tornadoes will all be possible with thunderstorms that develop, especially during the afternoon and evening hours.

    Additionally, moisture surging in from the Gulf of Mexico will help to fuel heavy downpours which could result in flash flooding.

    If you are driving and encounter one of these heavy thunderstorms, it is important that you are aware of the dangers that they bring.

    Downpours do not only reduce visibility significantly, but can also cause you to hydroplane, increasing the odds that you become involved in a weather-related accident.

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    If you are driving and come across water flowing over the road, you should avoid driving through it.

    The water may be deeper than you anticipate and can be enough to move your vehicle. Turn around, don't drown.

    Heading into Tuesday, the threat of widespread severe weather looks to decrease.

    However, thunderstorms from Michigan to Texas will still hold the potential to produce some gusty winds and flooding downpours.

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    Monday, May 12, 2014

    This file photo shows a fire crew battling a blaze in Smithville, Texas. (AP Photo/Erich Schlegel, File)

    Mandatory evacuations were ordered after a wildfire broke out late Sunday afternoon in Hutchinson County, Texas, officials said.

    While the fire was approximately 75 percent contained as of Monday morning, nearly 75 homes were destroyed, according to anAssociated Press article.

    Set in an area between Sanford and Fritch, Texas, thousands of people were evacuated from their homes on Sunday due to the fire threat.

    Late Sunday night, the Hutchinson County Emergency Management Agency reported that officials were allowing Sanford residents to return to their homes but all other areas were to remain evacuated into Monday.

    Texas Highway 136 was closed to all traffic except emergency vehicles between Fritch and Amarillo.

    The fire caused classes in the Sanford-Fritch Independent School District to be canceled on Monday, according to the ISD's Twitter feed.

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    With the area already in a drought situation, no rain is expected to aid containment efforts on Monday.

    "Unfortunately, winds will be an issue Monday," AccuWeather Meteorologist Eric Leister said. "Winds from the north at 20 to 30 mph and wind gusts up between 35 and 40 mph are possible."

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    Monday, May 12, 2014
    Getty Images North America
    As in this file photo of a ranch in Bakersfield, Calif., many ranchers and farmers will be affected by the longstanding drought and intense heat. (David McNew/Getty Images)

    Temperatures will be on the rise across the West early this week, challenging records from California to Washington.

    The heat is forecast to peak around midweek with California and the deserts of Arizona set to sizzle under the blazing afternoon sunshine as the hottest areas of the West.

    Those participating in outdoor activities should take the proper precautions to stay protected from the heat, such as wearing sunblock and drinking plenty of water.

    Several cities in California, including Los Angeles, Sacramento, Fresno, Redding and Ontario, could have their first 100-degree day of the year.



    Although other portions of the West are not expected to approach the 100-degree mark, temperatures in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Nevada may still run 10 to 20 degrees above normal from Monday through Thursday.

    This will still be enough to approach record levels on multiple occasions throughout the week.

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    The same weather system responsible for this heat will also yield dry conditions across the West Coast throughout the week.

    Areas currently affected by extreme drought are more prone to seeing higher temperatures due to the lack of moisture available for evaporation.

    With less evaporation, more of the sun's energy goes directly towards heating the air and the ground, resulting in hotter and less humid conditions.

    Consequently, these dry conditions in conjunction with low humidity will result in a heightened risk of wildfires.



    Following Wednesday, temperatures are forecast to drop by a few degrees each day through the rest of the week.

    However, temperatures will likely remain above normal through Friday and possibly into the first half of the weekend.

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