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SKYE on AOL

older | 1 | .... | 202 | 203 | (Page 204)

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    Saturday, June 28, 2014

    These observations, taken by NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO on Aug. 5, 2007, helped scientists define the outer limit of the sun's atmosphere. (NASA/STEREO)

    The sun's volatile atmosphere is even bigger than expected, a NASA spacecraft revealed through observations of gigantic waves.

    While the sun itself is 864,938 miles wide, NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, found that the solar atmosphere, known as the corona, stretches 5 million miles above the sun's surface.

    "We've tracked sound-like waves through the outer corona and used these to map the atmosphere," Craig DeForest of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said in a statement from NASA. "We can't hear the sounds directly through the vacuum of space, but with careful analysis we can see them rippling through the corona."

    These waves, called magnetosonic waves, are a cross between sound waves and magnetic waves called Alfven waves. They oscillate only about once every four hours and span 10 times the width of Earth, NASA officials said.

    When magnetosonic waves erupt from solar storms and other disturbances, they can ripple up to 5 million miles away from the sun's surface, DeForest and colleagues found. Beyond this boundary, solar material separates from the corona and flows out into space in a steady stream known as the solar wind.

    NASA officials say the findings will help researchers prepare for the space agency's Solar Probe Plus mission, scheduled to launch in 2018. That mission will send a spacecraft closer to the sun that any man-made object has ever ventured within 4 million miles of the sun's surface. Now, scientists know the probe will actually be traveling through the corona during its historic trip.

    "This research provides confidence that Solar Probe Plus, as designed, will be exploring the inner solar magnetic system," Marco Velli, a Solar Probe Plus scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. "The mission will directly measure the density, velocity and magnetic field of the solar material there, allowing us to understand how motion and heat in the corona and solar wind are generated."

    The findings, which were published last month in The Astrophysical Journal, should also help astronomers define the inner boundary of the heliosphere, the giant bubble enveloping the solar system, created by the solar wind and solar magnetic field.

    Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @SPACEdotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published on Space.com.

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

    RELATED ON SKYE: Mind-Blowing New Photos from Space

     

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    Saturday, June 22, 2014

    As in this file photo, flooding may affect crops in Nebraska and other parts of the Midwest. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

    Severe storms will continue to rattle portions of the Plains this weekend with the highest risk centering on Minnesota and Iowa.

    Howling winds and hard-hitting hail will take aim at Minneapolis; Des Moines, Iowa; and Omaha, Nebraska, both on Saturday and Sunday, impacting any outdoor events around the cities.

    Lives and property can be at risk as these storms slam the Plains and even a few areas of the Midwest.

    Travel delays should also be expected as these storms move through with slowed traffic on roadways and flight delays at the airports.

    Flash flooding will be another danger that these thunderstorms bring, especially due to the abnormally high rainfall amounts that have fallen over this area in June.

    Because of this, urban flooding can happen much quicker with the ground already saturated with water.

    "Low-lying areas not protected by levees, such as farmland, homes, businesses and some roadways, are being inundated as river levels surpass flood stage." said AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

    Several inches of rain are possible through Sunday across areas of the upper Mississippi River Valley, only extending the flooding into July.

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    Looking ahead to the start of the new week, the threat of severe weather is forecast to shift eastward across the Midwest and towards the mid-Atlantic.

    "The storms will sweep through and impact cities from Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis Monday and Monday night, then will move into Detroit, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh on Tuesday." said Sosnowski.

    Damaging wind gusts past 60 mph and hail as large as golf balls will still remain the primary threats with thunderstorms as they progressively make their way towards the Northeast.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 10 U.S. Cities Most at Risk from Rising Sea Levels

     

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    Saturday, June 28, 2014

    In this Sunday, June 30, 2013 file photo made by firefighter Andrew Ashcraft, members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots watch a growing wildfire that later swept over and killed the crew of 19 firefighters near Yarnell, Ariz. Ashcraft texted the photo to his wife, Juliann, but died later that day battling the out-of-control blaze. One year after the 19 Arizona firefighters were killed in the worst loss of life among wildland firefighters in 80 years, few changes have been implemented among the state's fire crews. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Juliann Ashcraft, File)

    PHOENIX - It was the worst loss of life for U.S. wildland firefighters in eight decades, a tragedy that killed 19 members of a Hotshot crew during an out-of-control inferno in a brush-choked canyon.

    The fire prompted a strong sense of unity among everyone involved in the days after the blaze as dignitaries traveled to the site to remember the fallen and a promise to learn from the tragedy.

    But one year later, few changes have been implemented among the state's fire crews as a result of the deaths, despite an investigation that uncovered a series of communications breakdowns that doomed the 19 men and a second that blamed fire managers.

    Firefighters in other parts of the country have also been unable to incorporate specific changes prompted by the deadly incident into their training, largely because Arizona investigators have been unable to reach any consensus about fault in the deaths.

    The Arizona Forestry Division found that fire managers overseeing the Yarnell Hill Fire did not make major mistakes and that it isn't clear why the Granite Mountain Hotshots left a safe zone and walked into the canyon where they were killed.

    A competing report from the state's occupational safety agency, however, blamed managers for failing to see that the town of Yarnell was essentially doomed and said they should have pulled the crews back hours before the deaths. The agency fined the Forestry Division $559,000 for failing to pull the crew.

    The lack of clarity about mistakes - and what lessons might be learned - left firefighters with little to go on as they examined training and policies in the past year. The fact that all the firefighters with the crew died makes it impossible to understand their decision-making. One member of the crew was alone as a lookout, and survived, but was so far away he doesn't know why his fellow firefighters made the decision that led to their deaths.

    The state has made minor adjustments to its firefighting guidelines.

    The investigation by the state forester called for testing new devices that track crews using global positioning satellites and a communications protocol requiring firefighters to tell managers when weather conditions change. Forestry officials also distributed new instructions on how ground crews should coordinate with new, large flame retardant-dropping aircraft, such as the one that was circling but unused when the Granite Mountain Hotshots were trapped.

    Marshall Krotenberg, the safety agency's lead investigator, told the Industrial Commission of Arizona in December that there should have been officers to ensure firefighters' safety, including a planning section chief and a division supervisor. "There was no plan to move people out of the way," he said during a hearing.

    Dick Mangan, a retired U.S. Forest Service safety official who has investigated wildfire fatalities, cited the organizational mistakes as crucial errors and criticized the new communications guidelines as mere clarifications of standard practices. He also dismissed the use of GPS systems, saying the devices would be overlooked during fast moving fires such as Yarnell. "A GPS unit would have transmitted to who?" he asked.

    The Yarnell Hill Fire was triggered by a lightning strike on a brush-covered mountaintop on the afternoon of June 28, 2013. The next day, a handful of crews were sent to fight the fire, but it wasn't considered a major problem and some were released.

    But as night fell, the fire grew and officials decided to call in more resources - including the Granite Mountain Hotshots. They arrived early on June 30, and headed into the hills surrounding the small former mining town.

    At mid-afternoon, weather reports of a strong thunderstorm boosted fears that winds would shift and send the fire back toward Yarnell - and the 19 Hotshots deployed to the area. As the fire made its move, Granite Mountain superintendent Eric Marsh and crew Capt. Jesse Steed decided to head back to Yarnell. That's when the flames whipped into the canyon, trapping the crew. A 20th member of the Hotshots, acting as a lookout, made a dash to safety.

    Dugger Hughes, a battalion chief who oversees a Hotshot crew for the Northwest Fire district in southern Arizona, said not much can be learned from the fire because no one knows the thinking of Marsh and Steed.

    "The investigation, both of them, I've read them and re-read them numerous times. There were some decisions made, and I'm not sure anybody will ever know why," Hughes said. "A lot of fatality incidents there are some real vivid lessons-learned that come from them. This isn't one of them."

    Kris Bruington, superintendent of the Lone Peak Hotshots in Utah, says other than reinforcing the need to focus on time-tested basics of lookouts, communication, safety zones, escape routes and every crew member's right to speak up about safety concerns, there's little to learn.

    "With the Yarnell reports it's tough, there's nothing that they can say 'hey, this is what happened, and this is why it happened," Bruington said. "Because there's just nobody left to say, 'Well, this is what we were talking about 30 minutes before this happened.'"

    The state is appealing the more than $550,000 fine, and a hearing is scheduled for August. The state Forestry Division has declined to comment on the fire or the investigations.

    Even Gov. Jan Brewer tiptoes about the issue.

    "I don't want to weigh in on litigation issue, because it taints it and creates bigger issues for Arizona," Brewer said in an interview this month. "There were reports done by two or three different agencies, and they did a good job. It was an unfortunate, horrific tragedy that took place, emotions were wild. And I think that eventually it will come to the conclusion that certain, possibly different methods, techniques, call it what you wish, will be improved."

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos of the Yarnell Hill Fire

     

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    Saturday, June 28, 2014

    (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

    Severe weather will push eastward across the Midwest and into part of the Northeast next week.

    "We are fairly confident there will be a severe weather outbreak in the Midwest Monday into Tuesday," AccuWeather Severe Weather Expert Henry Margusity said.

    "The combination of warmth, high humidity and a strong jet stream could create an elevated risk of storms with damaging wind gusts and a few tornadoes."

    The storms will sweep through and impact cities from Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis Monday and Monday night then will move into Detroit, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

    Anyone traveling or staying home during the first part of the Independence Day week will need to keep an eye on the weather situation, as the storms could have damaging and life-threatening consequences.

    In addition to the risk of frequent lightning strikes, thunderstorms with the forecasted severe weather outbreak next week will be strong enough in some areas to down trees, cut power and cause property damage. Travel delays are likely on the roads and possibly at major airport hubs as the storms move through.

    "The severity of the storms by the time they reach the I-95 corridor at midweek is uncertain at this point," Margusity said.

    Warm and very humid conditions will build over the Ohio Valley, Great Lakes and Northeast during the first part of the week, ahead of much cooler air.

    While the heat will not set any records, the combination of warmth and high humidity will send AccuWeather RealFeel(R) temperatures well into the 90s. The conditions could pose issues for those with respiratory problems or in ill health.

    The steamy air will settle over the Midwest Monday into Tuesday and move into the Northeast Tuesday into Wednesday.

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    However, the changeable weather pattern will continue. Much cooler air will then push first across the Great Lakes at midweek and then into the Northeast toward the end of the week.

    "There may be two pushes of cool air that occur, and each could be preceded by a round of thunderstorms," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist John Gresiak said. "Enough energy could remain with the system to bring severe weather to the coastal Northeast."

    How cool it becomes will depend on the amount of sunshine.

    Some areas around the Great Lakes and northern Appalachians, that manage to hold onto clouds in the wake of the storms, could have highs in the 60s for a day or two.

    Looking ahead to Independence Day, the early indications are that the storms will have cleared the Northeast coast so that most areas from Chicago to Washington, D.C., New York City and Boston are free of rain for festivities, including fireworks.

    Meanwhile, people along the southern Atlantic coast will need to keep an eye on the nearby Atlantic for possible tropical development.

    Breaking weather events are discussed in this video.

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

     

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    Sunday, June 29, 2014


    (U.S. Geological Survey)

    A magnitude-5.2 earthquake occurred late Saturday night in the Southwest United States.

    The temblor's epicenter was reported in Arizona at 9:59 p.m. PDT Saturday, about 31 miles northwest of Lordsburg, New Mexico, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. It had a depth of 3.1 miles.

    A 3.5-magnitude aftershock occurred nine minutes later, the USGS said.

    There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

    A University of Arizona seismograph records the magnitude-5.2 earthquake that struck Saturday night near the Arizona-New Mexico border. A magnitude-3.5 temblor also registered on the seismograph nine minutes later. (Photo/University of Arizona)

    The quake could be felt in Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona and El Paso, Texas, the USGS reported on its website.


    The quake was felt moderately in the Silver City area of southwestern New Mexico, the National Weather Service at El Paso said. None of the reports indicated any damage. The USGS website also reported that it was felt in Las Cruces, Deming, Lordsburg, Truth or Consequences and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

    The earthquake's epicenter was along the Arizona-New Mexico border about 31 miles northwest of Lordsburg, New Mexico.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Incredible Natural-Disaster Photos from Space

     

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    Sunday, June 29, 2014

    This file photo shows an approaching twister in Nebraska. (AP Photo/Mark 'Storm' Farnik)

    Severe storms will focus around the Midwest heading into the new week with thunderstorms eventually reaching the Northeast.

    Those looking to spend the second half of the weekend in the outdoors from Wisconsin through eastern Nebraska should prepare for the severe weather as thunderstorms ramp up during the afternoon and evening hours.

    "The impacts of the storms will be damaging winds, hail, heavy rain and tornadoes," said AccuWeather.com Severe Weather Expert Henry Margusity.

    Southern Iowa and northern Missouri appear to be the areas at greatest risk of being slammed by these severe storms on Sunday afternoon and the areas most likely to have significant tornadoes.

    Sunday will be only the first of a multiple-day severe-weather outbreak over the Midwest.

    "The storms will sweep through and impact cities from Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis Monday and Monday night, then will move into Cleveland, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh on Tuesday." said AccuWeahter.com Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

    Similar to the storms on Sunday, damaging winds, hail, flooding downpours and even a few tornadoes should be expected on Monday and Tuesday with Monday being the more active of the two days.

    The timing of these storms can lead to high impacts around the major travel hubs in the Midwest on Monday and Tuesday.

    Evening commutes can turn treacherous as torrential downpours significantly reduce visibility for those driving on the roadways, as well as increase the risk of hydroplaning.

    Those headed to the airports should also prepare for delays not only because of the extreme weather, but also the higher volume of travelers for the Independence Day week.

    As storms roll through, temporary ground stops may be put in place at major airports such as O'Hare International in Chicago. This can backup flight departures through the rest of the day as airplanes become backed up on the tarmac.

    Wind gusts associated with the storms will also lead to power outages and property damage as they are expected to be strong enough to blow over trees and power poles.

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    Looking ahead to Wednesday, showers and thunderstorms are in the forecast for much of the Northeast as the storm system continues to shift eastward.

    However, severe weather on Wednesday is not expected to be as widespread as Monday and Tuesday as the system responsible for the thunderstorms weakens.

    Soaking downpours will still be possible which can lead to urban flooding.

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

     

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    Sunday, June 29, 2014

    This file photo shows a similar flood in Memphis in 2011. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

    Torrential rainfall has prompted a Flash Flood Emergency for Memphis, Tennessee, and surrounding counties.

    Rain totals at the Memphis International Airport eclipsed 5 inches at 7 a.m. CDT on Sunday as the city has become the target of rounds of heavy rain and thunderstorms since Saturday evening.

    Doppler radar estimates indicate that 4 to 6 inches has fallen throughout southern Shelby County, home to Memphis. The same can be said for nearby southwestern Fayette County.

    There are also estimates of 5 to 8 inches of rain near the borders of the eastern Arkansas counties of Woodruff, St. Francis and Monroe.

    This radar image of the Memphis area was taken shortly before 8 a.m. CDT Sunday.

    The torrential rain prompted the National Weather Service in Memphis to issue a Flash Flood Emergency for Shelby County, as well as Desoto and Tunica counties in northwestern Mississippi.

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    Additional heavy rain will push rain totals in Memphis to around 7 and 8 inches through Sunday morning with another drenching shower or thunderstorm to follow for the afternoon.

    Flooding in and around the city will worsen--further rising rivers and creeks, inundating more roads and putting more lives and property at risk.

    Remember to never cross a flooded road and do not let children and pets play near swollen waterways. Just 6 inches of fast-moving flood waters is needed to knock down an adult, while it only takes 2 feet of rushing water to carry away most vehicles.

    At 7:24 a.m. CDT, rescue crews stated that multiple vehicles were submerged in water just east of the Memphis International Airport. People were reportedly trapped.

    The Nonconnah Creek at Farrisview Boulevard on the southeastern side of Memphis rapidly rose from around 12 feet at 3 a.m. CDT Sunday to 30.25 feet in less than four hours. Minor flood stage is 31.0 feet.

    Welcome dry weather will follow for Monday and Tuesday.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 10 U.S. Cities Most at Risk from Rising Sea Levels

     

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    Sunday, June 29, 2014

    (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

    Building heat and humidity will create a tropical steambath for the Ohio Valley and East as June transitions to July.

    The return of 90-degree heat is in the offing for many communities across the Ohio Valley, Carolinas and mid-Atlantic to start the week of Independence Day.

    Even parts of the Northeast will crack the 90-degree mark during the first couple days of July.

    All of the Northeast, however, will join the rest of the East and Ohio Valley in enduring oppressive humidity, which will add to the discomfort and danger of the soaring temperatures.

    The building heat and humidity will come after an area of high pressure keeps humidity levels comfortably low in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic this weekend with widespread highs in the 80s.

    The exception to the low humidity will be places toward the eastern Great Lakes with steamy air already present this weekend throughout the Ohio Valley and Midwest, helping to fuel daily thunderstorms.

    Highs in the 80s will also dominate the Ohio Valley this weekend.

    As the high shifts eastward, the door will open for warmer and more humid air to pour toward the East Coast. At the same time, tropical development will continue to be monitored off the coast of the Southeast.

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    Tropical is actually how some will describe the upcoming weather in the Ohio Valley and East.

    With high humidity already in place, 90-degree heat will become widespread throughout the Ohio Valley Monday and Tuesday.

    Humidity will steadily increase across the East from Monday through Wednesday. Highs in the 90s will build over the Carolinas on Monday, then the mid-Atlantic and parts of the Northeast Tuesday and Wednesday.

    New York City will come close to recording its first 90-degree day of the year Tuesday and Wednesday. The current record for the latest such occurrence is July 26, 1877.

    However, when the humidity is factored in, AccuWeather.com RealFeel(R) temperatures at midweek may be approaching 100 F in New York City.

    Dangerous triple-digit RealFeel temperatures are also in store for Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Roanoke and Richmond, Virginia; Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina; Charleston and Huntington, West Virginia; Louisville, Kentucky; and Nashville, Tennessee, for the first part of the new week.

    While actual temperatures will fail to do so in many Northeast communities, RealFeel temperatures will have no trouble cracking the 90-degree mark to start July.

    The heat and oppressive humidity will create dangerous conditions for those planning to engage in strenuous outdoor activities. Remember to drink plenty of water, wear light clothing and avoid such activities during the midday and afternoon hours (the hottest time of the day).

    When the blazing sun is shining, remember that vehicles can become death traps for children and pets.

    As is the case over the Ohio Valley this weekend, cooling thunderstorms will be around daily across most of the East and Ohio Valley to help ease the heat.

    However, the threat of severe weather will shift from the central Plains and western Great Lakes on Monday to the Ohio Valley on Tuesday as a cold front slices into the tropical steambath.

    AccuWeather.com meteorologists will be monitoring the potential for drenching and gusty thunderstorms to reach the East at midweek as the front pushes toward the coast.

    Latest indications point toward the front clearing the Northeast and mid-Atlantic coasts by Friday, giving way to a comfortable Independence Day for both these regions and the Ohio Valley.

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

     

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    Sunday, June 29, 2014

    (NOAA)

    While obstacles lie in its path, an area of low pressure off the Southeast coast will attempt to end the void of organized tropical systems in the Atlantic Basin this week.

    The AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center is keeping a close eye on an area of low pressure tracking south-southwestward toward the Florida Peninsula.

    The low is currently disorganized and fighting dry air from the north and wind shear, strong winds at high speeds over the middle layers of the atmosphere.

    "These winds can prevent tropical systems from forming, limit intensification or lead to their demise," stated AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

    The low is expected to reach or make its closest approach to the eastern coast of Florida later on Monday or Tuesday, leading to enhanced thunderstorm activity across the central and South Florida Peninsula these two days. The resultant locally flooding downpours could foil vacation plans in Orlando.

    The low being monitored for possible tropical development was captured in this satellite image midday Sunday EDT.

    At midweek, there are indications that the low will turn back to the north and spend the second half of the week tracking near or off the coast of the Carolinas.

    If the wind shear can diminish enough and the low stays far enough away from land, the window may open for the first tropical depression of the Atlantic to form.

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    The Atlantic waters offshore of the Southeast are sufficiently warm enough for tropical development.

    However, AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Evan Duffey states that the prospect of development is not a guarantee.

    "I feel this system has a lot more going against it than it has going for it with dry air working in from the north and the wind shear never really relaxes as much as what I would like to see for development," Duffey said.

    Even if development takes place, Duffey feels that it will remain a rather small and compact system with at most moderate tropical storm strength.

    Residents and visitors headed to the beaches of the Carolinas later this week should monitor the low for potential development and impacts as the Independence Day holiday approaches.

    The low may stay well offshore but could still stir up dangerous surf along the Southeast coast if it develops and strengthens.

    Latest indications point toward the cold front set to sweep through the Northeast later this week directing the system away from the Northeast coast.

    "Across the remainder of the Atlantic, the train of tropical waves continues to be battered by choking dry air and Saharan dust from the north," Duffey added.

    This hurricane season marks the first time since 2004 that a tropical depression or storm has failed to develop before July. The long-term average for the Atlantic Basin's first named tropical storm is July 9.

    The first named tropical storm in the Atlantic this year would acquire the name "Arthur."

    The formation of Arthur will commence what AccuWeather.com Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski feels will evolve into a below-normal Atlantic Hurricane Season.

    However, Kottlowski stresses that coastal residents should not let their guard down.

    "All we need is one hurricane," Kottlowski said. "Just because we are saying this is going to be an inactive season doesn't mean we couldn't have a couple of very intense hurricanes."

    "All it takes is one storm or hurricane to ruin your vacation or your property."

    Meanwhile, the eastern Pacific has come alive with the formation of Tropical Depression Four-E and the development of another tropical system possibly in the works.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Stunning Hurricane Photos from Space

     

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