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SKYE on AOL

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    (NASA)

    SAN FRANCISCO - It's almost unimaginable: a tsunami more than 1,000 feet high bearing down on the island of Hawaii.

    But scientists have new evidence of these monster waves, called megatsunamis, doing just that. The findings were presented Dec. 5 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

    Unlike tsunamis from earthquakes, the Hawaiian tsunamis strike when the island chain's massive volcanoes collapse in humongous landslides. This happens about every 100,000 years, and is linked to climate change, said Gary McMurtry, a professor at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.

    Sitting about 30 feet away from today's Ka Le (South Point) seashore are boulders the size of cars. Some 250,000 years ago, a tsunami tossed the enormous rocks 820 feet up the island's slopes, said Fernando Marques, a professor at the University of Lisbon in Portugal. (The boulders are closer to the shore now because the main island of Hawaii is one of the world's largest volcanoes, and its massive weight sends it sinking into the Earth at a rate of about 1 millimeter a year.)

    McMurtry's team found two younger and slightly smaller tsunami deposits at South Point on the main island of Hawaii, one 50,000 years old and one 13,000 years old. He suggests the tsunami source is the two Ka Le submarine landslides, from the flanks of the nearby Mauna Loa volcano. The waves carried corals and 3-foot boulders 500 feet inland.

    Deadly, landslide-triggered tsunamis happen at volcanic islands around the world, and are a potential hazard for the Eastern United States. "We find them everywhere, but we don't know of any historical cases, so we have to go back in time," said Anthony Hildenbrand, a volcanologist at the University of Paris-Sud in France, who helped identify the ancient tsunami deposit.

    The falling rock acts like a paddle, giving the water a sudden push. While landslide tsunamis may have a devastating local effect, they lose their power in the open ocean and don't destroy distant coastlines like earthquake tsunamis.

    The giant landslides seem to happen during periods of rising sea levels, when the climate is also warmer and wetter, Hildenbrand told OurAmazingPlanet. Researchers speculate that the change from lower sea level to higher may destabilize a volcanic island's flanks, and heavier rains could soak its steep slopes, helping trigger landslides.

    There are at least 15 giant landslides that have slid off the Hawaiian Islands in the past 4 million years, with the most recent happening only 100,000 years ago, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. One block of rock that slid off Oahu is the size of Manhattan.

    Reach Becky Oskin at boskin@techmedianetwork.com. Follow her on Twitter @beckyoskin. Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Twitter @OAPlanet. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

    Waves of Destruction: History's Biggest Tsunamis
    The World's Five Most Active Volcanoes
    WATCH LIVE: Latest News from the AGU Meeting

    Copyright 2012 OurAmazingPlanet, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Striking Images of Islands, Rivers and Seas from Space

     

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    Bridge Collapse Injures 1 in Turkey

    The weight of the snow proved too much for a pedestrian bridge in Corum, Turkey, on Thursday. One person was injured when the bridge suddenly collapsed. The surprising moment was captured on film by a nearby security camera.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos from 2012

     

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    New footage has emerged of the violent tornado that struck southern Italy Nov. 28. Taranto's Studio100tv on Friday published surveillance camera footage of the twister tearing apart a gas station in the city of Statte as at least two people cower inside.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos from 2012

     

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    More Bodies Found in Philippines Typhoon Wreckage
    NEW BATAAN, Philippines (AP) - Search and rescue operations following a typhoon that killed nearly 600 people in the southern Philippines have been hampered in part because many residents of this ravaged farming community are too stunned to assist recovery efforts, an official said Saturday.

    With another nearly 600 people still missing after Typhoon Bopha struck on Tuesday, soldiers, police and volunteers from outside New Bataan have formed the bulk of the teams searching for bodies or signs of life under tons of fallen trees and boulders that were swept down from steep hills surrounding the town, said municipal spokesman Marlon Esperanza.

    "We are having a hard time finding guides," he told The Associated Press. "Entire families were killed and the survivors are still in shock. They appear dazed. They can't move."

    He said the rocks, mud, tree trunks and other rubble that litter the town have destroyed landmarks, making it doubly difficult to search places where houses once stood.

    On Friday, bodies found jammed under fallen trees that could not be retrieved were marked with makeshift flags made of torn cloth so they can be easily spotted by properly equipped retrieval teams.

    Government authorities have decided to bury unidentified bodies in a common grave after police forensic officers process them for future identification by relatives, Esperanza said.

    At the town's damaged public market, which has been converted into a temporary funeral parlor, a few residents milled around about two dozen sealed white wooden coffins, some containing remains of unidentified victims.

    One resident, Jing Maniquiz, 37, said she rushed home from Manila for the wake of two of her sisters, but could not bring herself to visit the place where her home once stood in Andap village. Her parents, a brother and nephew are missing.

    "I don't want to see it," she said tearfully. "I can't accept that in just an instant I lost my mother, my father, my brother."

    She said that at the height of the typhoon, her mother was able to send her a text message saying they were scared of the howling winds and the pelting rain. Her mother said that trees were falling on their house and its roof had been blown away.

    Maniquiz said her family sought refuge at a nearby health center, but that was destroyed and they and dozens of others were swept away by the raging waters.

    "We are not hopeful that they are still alive. We just want to find their bodies so that we will have closure," she said.

    Mary Joy Adlawan, a 14-year-old high school student from the same village, was waiting for authorities to bury her 7-year-old niece.

    Her parents, an elder sister, five nieces and a nephew are missing.

    "I don't know what to do," she said as she fixed some flowers on the coffin.

    Esperanza said heavy equipment, search dogs and chain saws had been brought in by volunteers from as far away as the capital, Manila, about 590 miles to the north.

    Nearly 400,000 people, mostly from Compostela Valley and nearby Davao Oriental provinces, have lost their homes since Typhoon Bopha struck and are crowded inside evacuation centers or staying with relatives, relying on food and emergency supplies being rushed in by government agencies and aid groups.

    The typhoon plowed through the main southern island of Mindanao, crossed the central Philippines and headed to Vietnam, but it has lingered over the South China Sea for the past two days.

    On Saturday, the weather bureau raised storm warnings over the western part of the main northern island of Luzon after the storm veered northeast. It said weather systems to the east and west had sandwiched Bopha, slowing it down and forcing it to make a U-turn and head toward the western part of the northern Philippines. Forecasters warned that the waters off Luzon would be "rough to very rough."

    President Benigno Aquino III visited New Bataan, ground zero of the disaster, and late Friday declared a "state of national calamity," which would focus government efforts on rescue and rehabilitation, control prices of basic commodities in typhoon-affected areas and allow the quick release of emergency funds.

    In Bangkok, Thailand, where she made a stop after a visit to Myanmar, U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said the Philippines had appealed for international aid. She said many countries have already provided assistance, but did not specify the amounts.

    Officials say 276 people were killed in Compostela Valley, including 155 in New Bataan, and 277 in Davao Oriental. About 40 people died elsewhere and nearly 600 are still missing, 411 from New Bataan alone.

    Davao Oriental Gov. Corazon Malanyaon told the AP that clean water and shelter were the biggest problem in three of the worst-hit towns in her province facing the Pacific Ocean, where the typhoon blew in from.

    She said she has imposed a curfew in the affected towns and ordered police to guard stores and shops to stop looting.

    The economic losses began to emerge Friday after export banana growers reported that 34,600 acres of export banana plantations, equal to 18 percent of the total in Mindanao, were destroyed. The Philippines is the world's third-largest banana producer and exporter, supplying well-known brands such as Dole, Chiquita and Del Monte mainly to Japan and also to South Korea, China, New Zealand and the Middle East.

    Stephen Antig, executive director of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association, said losses had been conservatively estimated at $300 million, including $200 million in damaged fruits that had been ready for harvest, and the rest for the cost of rehabilitating farms, which will take about a year.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Typhoon Bopha Slams into Philippines

     

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    Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012


    Making the situation worse for travelers, blizzard conditions are accompanying the snowstorm invading the Upper Midwest today.

    Snow will continue to spread eastward across the Upper Midwest into tonight, leaving the Dakotas in the process.

    The heaviest snow, totaling 6 to 12 inches, will blanket central Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., and Eau Claire, Wis., lie in the heart of this zone.
    Drivers are urged to use caution as the snow is creating slick and treacherous travel throughout the Upper Midwest, including on Interstates 29, 35, 75, 90 and 94.

    Along the southern end of the snow zone -- south of I-90 in Minnesota and toward Madison, Wis., and Grand Rapids, Mich. -- the majority of the snow will fall on grassy surfaces with roads becoming slushy.

    However, an invasion of bitterly cold air tonight will cause these slushy spots on roads and sidewalks to turn icy.

    It is not just falling snow creating hazards for motorists, but also blizzard conditions as biting winds significantly whip the snow around. Visibility will become dramatically reduced as snow drifts form.

    Such conditions have unfolded across eastern South Dakota and neighboring southeastern North Dakota, and will develop in a west-to-east fashion across western Minnesota as the day progresses.

    Eastern Minnesota, home to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and western Wisconsin will be subject to the blowing and drifting snow tonight.

    The howling winds will also continue to drive arctic air across the Rockies and Plains today, setting the stage for a second zone of snow to dive southward into New Mexico (including Albuquerque) and West Texas.

    Temperatures will plunge 10 to 20 degrees below Saturday's highs from North Dakota to northern Arizona, New Mexico and the Texas panhandle today.

    The blustery winds will create even colder AccuWeather.com RealFeel(R) temperatures.

    The cold air will spread across more of the southern Plains and Midwest on Monday as the snowstorm reaches Quebec and severe weather threatens some communities in the South.

     

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    Dec. 10, 2012

    A snow plow clears off a road near Winona, Minn., on Sunday. (AP Photo/Winona Daily News, Joe Ahlquist)

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A slow-moving storm has dumped at least 16 inches of snow on parts of Minnesota, blanketing the Twin Cities, making some rural roads impassable and leading to at least one fatal crash.

    The heaviest snowfall the Twin Cities has experienced in two years led to the cancellation of dozens of flights at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Sunday and caused hundreds of traffic accidents around the state.

    Blizzard conditions, blowing and drifting snow made visibility so poor that the state's Department of Transportation pulled snowplows off the highways Sunday afternoon in southwest and west Minnesota.

    The Minnesota State Patrol reported nearly 600 crashes by Sunday night. The patrol says one person was killed in a crash involving a semi on Highway 61 near Red Wing.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Blizzard Blankets the Midwest

     

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    The Fairbanks, Alaska, skyline. (AP)

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Stanford University Medical Center doctors gave Alex Lee a parting gift at the end of his heart operations earlier this year: surgeon's masks.

    They knew Lee, 19, would be returning home to Fairbanks, Alaska, and gave him the masks to protect himself from air polluted with suspended particulate that can cause irregular heartbeat or a heart attack. Diagnosed with Down syndrome, Lee is not in position to take his doctors' stronger suggestion - moving away from his hometown air.

    "They gave us a box of masks and said, 'Stay out of it the best you can,'" said his mother, Patrice Lee.

    The young, the elderly and the weakened in Fairbanks risk accelerated health problems every winter because of particulate. Much of it comes from wood smoke produced by homeowners trying to cut their fuel bills. Municipal officials say natural gas is the long-term solution, but that is years away. The Environmental Protection Agency has taken notice and says it will impose sanctions and a federal attainment plan in two years if state and municipal officials don't come up with an acceptable one of their own.

    Lee and her son do their best to avoid breathing air that ranks among the dirtiest in the country.

    "The only option for us was to stay holed up here in the house with HEPA filters and doing the best we can not to breathe the air," Lee said.

    Air problems in Fairbanks, Alaska's second largest community at around 97,000 people, start with geography. Temperatures every winter reach 40 to 50 below zero. Fairbanks and nearby North Pole are partially surrounded by hills that create a bowl effect, said Cindy Heil, an air planner for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. In a meteorological phenomenon known as an inversion, cold air along the ground can be capped by a layer of warmer air, trapping emissions.

    Carbon monoxide used to be the main concern. A vehicle inspection and maintenance program and newer cars solved that.

    The issue now is particulate, the mix of solid particles and liquid droplets ranging from dust and soot to microscopic pieces.

    A human hair is about 70 micrometers in diameter. The most dangerous particles, according the EPA, are less than 10 micrometers.

    "They get breathed deeper in the lungs and cause more problems," said Kate Kelly, the EPA Region 10 director of air, waste and toxics. Research ties particulate to pollution to heart attacks, decreased lung function and premature death in people with heart or lung disease.

    National air quality standards allow no more than 35 micrograms of particulate per cubic meter averaged over 24 hours. On Nov. 26-28, a monitor at North Pole recorded 24-hour averages of fine particle matter - 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less - at 152, 167 and 151 micrograms per cubic meter, making for "very unhealthy" designation. At least one hour during the three-day period spiked at 245. Those same days, readings at a Fairbanks monitor averaged 71, 58 and 82, an assessment that rated only "unhealthy."

    Gary Schultz, 58, lived in Fairbanks for more than 30 years but in January was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, the most common form of irregular heartbeat. He went from an active skier to someone who had trouble keeping up with his daughter on a trip back from the mail box. Concerns for his own health and smoke near his daughter's middle school prompted the family to move, reluctantly, outside Seattle.

    Fairbanks particulate likely is underreported, he said. The two Fairbanks monitoring stations are on public buildings downtown, away from neighborhoods burning wood.

    "We essentially gave up on Fairbanks," he said. "I don't think anything is going to improve up there."

    Three winters of Fairbanks noncompliance - an average of 14 days per year - got the attention of the EPA. A compliance plan is due Dec. 14, a deadline Heil and other officials acknowledge will not be met. They hope to complete an acceptable compliance plan within 18 months, before the EPA by law must withhold federal highway construction money. After two years, the EPA must impose its own compliance plan.

    Solutions to air problems, Kelly said, are best tailored close to home but local compliance efforts in Fairbanks have met resistance.

    "Everybody wants clean air," said state Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole. "We just have to make sure that we can also heat our homes."

    Wilson sponsored a citizen initiative passed in October that bans the borough regulation of home heating devices. The borough, she said, has no business stepping in with restrictions when no one knows if they will work.

    "We're still waiting here for a model, a model that shows us that if we do A, B and C, we can then get into attainment," she said. "We have not seen anything from the borough, from the state or from the EPA showing us that that is even possible with the technology that is available to us."

    The borough now can only encourage voluntary measures, such as avoiding the burning of green wood.

    Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins said an acceptable attainment plan might still be possible using incentives such as replacement program for inefficient wood stoves and underwriting fuel oil costs on inversion days. Getting 7,000 homeowners to voluntarily use oil instead of wood on the worst days might do it, he said. The entire borough, he said, has a financial incentive to avoid losing federal road money and living under a federal air quality attainment plan.

    "I don't want that. I don't think anybody wants that," he said.

    Patrice and Alex Lee remained mostly hunkered down last week as temperatures hovered near -40, awaiting a change in the weather or the season. Her son, she said, grew especially close to a Stanford surgeon and anesthesiologist who wanted to see Alaska's northern lights until they heard about the particulate problem.

    "They're not coming," Lee said. "They wanted to come in the winter to see the aurora. They said, 'You're just crazy to live there.'"

     

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    A section of the Spring Lake, N.J., boardwalk that ripped loose during Superstorm Sandy. (AP)

    SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. (AP) - They're the places where generations of families savored fast-melting ice cream cones and chowed down on garlicky slices of pizza, where teens scoped out potential dates, where a tipsy Snooki tottered unsteadily, and under which the Drifters sang about falling in love.

    For all their nostalgia, boardwalks are still a major economic engine for shoreline communities in New Jersey and New York. Tourists and residents alike spend their money on food and drinks there, or on games of skee ball or balloon darts to win a stuffed animal. So, weeks after Superstorm Sandy, towns are racing to rebuild their boardwalks by May, for reasons both sentimental and financial.

    They will need the tourism money this summer more than ever as they try to rebuild homes and other infrastructure. The expensive efforts are forcing decisions not only about how much to spend, but also whether to rebuild with environmentally sensitive wood or more durable materials.

    The destruction in Seaside Heights has become emblematic of the storm because of a roller coaster that plunged into the ocean. Yet Sandy also destroyed the boardwalk where families eat belly-busting foods like zeppoles - fried dough laden with powdered sugar - and where Snooki and company partied their way through the MTV reality show "Jersey Shore.

    Mayor Bill Akers said 75 percent of his town's budget comes from tourism, with the remaining 25 percent raised from local taxpayers.

    "You can see how important it is for us to get the boardwalk back up and running, and to make sure we have a summer season," he said. "It's something we have to get done."

    Seaside Heights, like several other Jersey shore towns, is soliciting bids to rebuild its boardwalk; Akers estimated it will take $10 million to $12 million. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse towns for 75 percent of those costs, but local governments first must front all the money themselves, forcing many to borrow in the short or long term.

    In these towns, even in the many non-commercial sections where boardwalks are merely a non-sandy way to get from here to there, not having one is not an option.

    Terri Bissell moved to Seaside Heights 15 years ago after visiting it each summer for decades. Her parents started vacationing there 70 years ago.

    "It was like heaven, coming down here to the boardwalk," she said. "It was our own little piece of heaven; that's why we bought here. The kids are so happy when they're on that boardwalk. Parents are always dying to bring their kids someplace to keep them busy; the Seaside Heights boardwalk has always been that place."

    To the north, Belmar has approved the largest boardwalk rebuilding project so far in the aftermath of the storm, committing $20 million to rebuild its 1.3-mile boardwalk and haul away the remnants of the old one. It is also considering erecting a steel sea wall to be buried under sand dunes to help protect the boardwalk and homes and businesses.

    "The beach and the boardwalk go together," said Mayor Matthew Doherty. "It's who we are; it's part of our identity."

    Yet identity only goes so far in shore towns' calculus. Money is a bigger factor.

    "If there's no boardwalk, people aren't going to come this summer," Doherty said. "They'll go somewhere else, and if they like it there, they won't be back here. We want to be the first in the race to get things started for the summer."

    A 20-foot chunk of boardwalk is all that remains in Belmar, for one reason. It was an experimental section, bolted to underpinnings with the same hurricane tie-down straps that many home builders use to bind homes to their foundations. The entire new Belmar boardwalk will be built this way, Doherty said.

    Other Jersey shore towns including Sea Girt, Asbury Park and Point Pleasant Beach are moving forward with boardwalk rebuilding plans; Spring Lake has to rebuild its boardwalk little more than a year after Tropical Storm Irene wrecked half the old one. New York state parks, including the popular Jones Beach, also are starting to rebuild.

    "We've engaged a contractor to go in and begin repairing it and experiment with some techniques as they go along," said Ron Foley, Long Island regional director for the New York state parks. "The boardwalk damage at Jones Beach was different. The wave action at some places got underneath the boardwalk. They lifted it right up, including the pilings driven into the sand, gave it a roller coaster effect."

    The destruction of late October's Superstorm Sandy will likely result in some changes along the shoreline, with more wooden walkways giving way to concrete or synthetic materials. "Under the Polymerwalk" might not have the same ring to it as The Drifters' 1960s hit "Under The Boardwalk," but in some places there will no longer be boards in the boardwalk.

    New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided wooden boardwalks simply can't cut it anymore. City parks officials say concrete sections of boardwalk in Queens' Rockaways and Brooklyn's Coney Island held up much better in the storm. And the mayor has long wanted to move away from the tropical hardwoods, harvested from endangered rainforests, that were used to build many boardwalks.

    That is an issue Tim Keating, director of Rainforest Relief, has been working on for years. He says coastal communities will be under pressure to quickly rebuild but urges them to resist the temptation to use tropical rainforest wood such as ipe, which is cheaper than synthetic materials and popular for its durability. Belmar is considering ipe for its boardwalk reconstruction.

    Keating says durable synthetic materials are the best choice for boardwalks; Belmar, Spring Lake, Point Pleasant Beach and other places already used it.

    Manasquan, N.J., for decades has paved its beachfront walkway with asphalt. Yet that, too, gets trashed by major storms. A 1992 nor'easter smashed large sections of it, and Sandy wrecked about half of it.

    Wooden boardwalks have staunch defenders, who say nothing else looks, feels or even smells quite like a true wooden boardwalk. A group from Coney Island called Friends of the Boardwalk sued last year to block a New York City plan to replace wooden boardwalks with concrete and plastic.

    Todd Dobrin, the group's leader, isn't convinced concrete will withstand a storm any better than wood.

    "When hurricanes come through, they don't ask whether it's concrete or wood," he said. "They destroy whatever is in their path."

    Doherty, the Belmar mayor, is confident his boardwalk will be replaced before Memorial Day brings its own set of worries.

    "If we rebuild this boardwalk, we'll have plenty of tourists," he said. "And then people will be complaining about parking."

    RELATED ON SKYE: 25 Indelible Images from Superstorm Sandy

     

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    Residents affected by typhoon Bopha beg for aid along a highway in southern Philippines on Sunday. (AP)

    NEW BATAAN, Philippines (AP) - The number of people missing after a typhoon devastated the Philippines jumped to nearly 900 after families and fishing companies reported losing contact with more than 300 fishermen at sea, officials said.

    The fishermen from southern General Santos city and nearby Sarangani province left a few days before Typhoon Bopha hit the main southern island of Mindanao on Tuesday, Civil Defense chief Benito Ramos said. The death toll has already surpassed 600, mostly from flash floods that wiped away precarious communities in the southern region unaccustomed to typhoons.

    Ramos said the fishermen were headed to the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea and to the Pacific Ocean. Coast guard, navy and fishing vessels are searching for them, and some may have sought shelter on the many small islands in the area.

    "Maybe they are still alive," Ramos said Sunday.

    Bopha was dissipating finally in the South China Sea after briefly veering back toward the country's northwest on Saturday, prompting worries of more devastation.

    Rescuers were searching for bodies or signs of life under tons of fallen trees and boulders in the worst-hit town of New Bataan, where rocks, mud and other rubble destroyed landmarks, making it doubly difficult to search places where houses once stood.

    Hundreds of refugees, rescuers and aid workers took a break Sunday to watch the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight on a big TV screen, only to be dismayed by their hero's sixth-round knockout.

    Elementary school teacher Constancio Olivar said people fell silent when Pacquiao, a congressman who comes from the southern Philippines where the storm hit, fell heavily to the canvas and remained motionless for some time.

    "It was like a double blow for me - this disaster and this defeat," said Olivar, whose house was destroyed in the storm. "We were all crestfallen. Everyone fell silent, stunned. It was like we saw a tsunami."

    Nearly 400,000 people, mostly from Compostela Valley and nearby Davao Oriental province, have lost their homes and are crowded inside evacuation centers or staying with relatives.

    President Benigno Aquino III has declared a national calamity, which allows for price controls on basic commodities in typhoon-affected areas and the quick release of emergency funds.

    Officials said Sunday that 316 people were killed in Compostela Valley, including 165 in New Bataan, and 301 in Davao Oriental. More than 45 people were killed elsewhere. Nearly 900 are missing, including the fishermen and 440 from New Bataan alone.

    Davao Oriental authorities imposed a curfew there and ordered police to guard stores and shops to prevent looting.

    The typhoon destroyed about 18 percent of the banana plantations in Mindanao, causing losses estimated at 12 billion pesos ($300 million), according to Stephen Antig, executive director of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association.

    The Philippines is the world's third-largest banana producer and exporter, supplying international brands such as Dole, Chiquita and Del Monte.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Typhoon Bopha Slams into Philippines

     

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    Dec. 10, 2012


    A sharp cold front cutting through unseasonable warmth in place over Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia will spark off powerful thunderstorms Monday.

    This is not expected to be a widespread outbreak, but dangerous weather is still expected locally across cities such as Columbia, Gulfport, Atlanta, Birmingham, Montgomery, Huntsville, Athens and Chattanooga.

    Hail larger than quarters, damaging gusts of wind and tornadoes will all be possible in these areas.

    Blinding rains and torrential downpours will cause ponding of water and slow going on parts of I-10, I-65, I-59 and I-85.

    The dangerous storms will also cause travel headaches at the airports as flights are forced to be delayed.

    After the storms pass and in time for Tuesday, temperatures are expected to tumble on the order of 10-15 degrees from where they were Monday.

    If you will be out and about, pay close attention to the weather. Be sure to heed any watches or warnings that may be issued and remember to never drive across a flooded roadway.

    Be sure to stay with us at AccuWeather.com for all the latest details on this impending severe weather event.

    RELATED ON SKYE: The Snowiest Places on Earth


    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    Dec. 10, 2012


    A major blizzard raged across the northern Plains and Upper Midwest over the weekend, resulting in impossible road travel, record snows and airport delays.

    For a while, much of Interstate 90 across South Dakota was shut down by authorities because of white out conditions.

    The snow also disrupted travel to major sporting events, such as the Minnesota Vikings game in Minneapolis and the Green Bay Packers game in Green Bay.

    The heaviest of the snow was across Minnesota and Wisconsin, but the snow was far-reaching and stretched from the Dakotas to Michigan.

    The highest reported total was 17.3 inches in the town of Sacred Heart, Minn. Other impressive totals in Minnesota included Hugo at 15.8 inches, Maplewood at 14.7 inches and Minneapolis at 10.5 inches.

    The 10.5 inches in Minneapolis is slightly less than half of the entire snowfall of last winter, which was about 22 inches.

    This amount is also the 4th largest December snowfall on record for the past 137 years.

    Across Wisconsin, snowfall reached 14 inches in East Farmington and 7 inches in Mondovi.

    Over South Dakota, 11 inches was reported in Madison and 7 inches was reported in Aberdeen.

    Strong winds and bitter cold temperatures combined to produce wind chills of 15-30 degrees below zero over the Dakotas and western Minnesota on Saturday night and Sunday.

    By Monday morning, temperatures had plunged into the teens across the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, and Goodland, Kan., came close to zero. A quick burst of snow was moving across northern Texas, reducing the visibility to as low as zero in Dallas.

    The cold air will keep the snow in the ground for much of the week in the Upper Midwest, but a warming trend is expected to begin by the latter part of the work week.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Blizzard Blankets Midwest

     

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    (Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC)

    Even as reports emerged showing 2012 could be one of the warmest years on record, NASA images of southwestern Alaska reminded researchers that winter's deep freeze was still imminent.

    With winter's official start still a month away, on November 21, NASA's Aqua Satellite and its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) captured this true-color image showing Alaska's Arctic sea ice just beginning to form, turning water off the coast a dull white color.

    Gaze closely at the image, and you'll detect only a few areas of tan-colored land and a few green specks of forest peeking through - it appears most rivers are frozen. Arctic ice grows and recedes throughout the year, typically increasing during January and reaching a peak in late February or March.

    RELATED ON SKYE: The Snowiest Places on Earth

     

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    She may be small, but 10-year-old climber Ashima Shiraishi scales boulders like a full-grown pro. In March 2012, she climbed two challenging routes -- Barefoot on Sacred Ground and Crown of Aragorn -- in Hueco Tanks, Texas. On a scale of V0 to V16, Barefoot on Sacred grown is a V11 and Crown of Aragorn is a V13 -- a level that few female climbers have reached.

    (via The Goat)

    RELATED ON SKYE: The World's Most Extreme Sports

     

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    A man and his son take advantage of the snow by sledding in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Richard Tsong-Taatarii)

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - After enduring last year's snowless winter, skiers and snowmobilers may have despaired of ever seeing a decent snowfall again.

    But fans of the wintry outdoors got their wish this weekend when a slow-moving storm dumped up to 16 inches of snow on parts of the Upper Midwest.

    "With global warming in the back of your mind, you think, 'Jeez, is it ever going to snow again?'" John Munger of Minneapolis said Monday, after a morning of cross-country skiing in a western Twin Cities park.

    The dearth of snow has been tough on cross-country skiers, said Munger, who heads The Loppet Foundation - the "evangelists of cross-country skiing," as he explains it.

    The Twin Cities saw only meager bursts of snow this season before the weekend storm, and the Twin Cities' heaviest snowfall last winter was 4.2 inches on Dec. 3.

    But with the fresh blast, "I think people are pretty excited," he said.

    At Lutsen Mountains 90 miles northeast of Duluth, Minn., marketing director Jim Vick said you could "hear the hoots and hollers" as skiers took to the slopes amid the falling snow. The ski resort got up to 8 inches Sunday.

    Vick said Monday that "folks really felt cheated by last winter because they just didn't get the snow and they are dying for it."

    Mike Frattallone, co-owner of a Twin Cities hardware store chain, said Monday his 18 stores are have sold a lot of snow shovels, ice melt and "hundreds" of snowblowers since Sunday's snow.

    With a dry winter like last year's, Frattalone said, "You just really look at your million dollars' worth of snowblowers and say, 'What are we going to do with you?'"

    In central Wisconsin, Randy Thurs of the Trailmates Snowmobile Club in Wausau said the burst of snow has him thinking about the upcoming snowmobile season.

    "Hopefully we'll have a better season than we did last year," Thurs said Monday. The club of about 150 families grooms 80 miles of area snowmobile trails.

    Normally, the trails would be open for a couple months, but were open only five days last year, Thurs said.

    The system dropped 10.6 inches of snow at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and up to 14 inches on parts of the Twin Cities on Sunday, Minneapolis' heaviest snow since 11.8 inches on Feb. 20, 2011.

    A blizzard two years ago dumped 16.3 inches and caused the Metrodome roof to collapse. This time around, stadium officials resorted to blasting the heat in an effort to melt snow from the roof as quickly as possible; it stayed intact.

    Slippery roads were blamed for hundreds of crashes and at least two deaths from Minnesota to Oklahoma, and two other deaths were related to the wintry weather.

    The Minnesota State Patrol reported more than 600 crashes by Monday morning, and at least 1,140 spinouts. One person was killed Sunday in a crash involving a semi near Red Wing, Minn. And in New Prague, school officials said a 54-year-old social studies teacher at the middle school died while shoveling snow at his home Sunday, KSTP-TV reported.

    In southern Oklahoma, a Dallas man was killed early Monday when he lost control of his sport utility vehicle on an icy bridge on Interstate 35, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said.

    Authorities in Kansas said freezing overnight temperatures may have contributed to the death of a 30-year-old woman whose body was found in a field early Monday.

    Even Texas got a taste of winter, as an arctic blast dumped up to 5 inches of snow in parts of West Texas and dropped temperatures into the teens in part of the Panhandle. Strong winds cut electricity to about 3,000 homes and businesses in Austin, but Austin Energy reports all but a handful of customers had power restored by midday Monday.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Blizzard Blankets the Midwest

     

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    As many as six tornadoes slammed four southern states on Monday. In Florida, at least 40 homes were reported damaged and 12 were completely destroyed.

    The National Weather Service has also confirmed that storm damage in Birmingham, Ala., was caused by a tornado with maximum winds estimated at 90 mph.

    Forecasters say the tornado hit at about 4:45 a.m. Monday near the Birmingham farmer's market.

    Mayor William Bell says there are no reports of injuries. However, the storm damaged roofs and broke windows. He says the city provided tarps to residents whose roofs were damaged.

    Tornadoes were also reported in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.

    Despite this unusual uptick in tornadoes, 2012 still ranks as having the fewest tornadoes in the United States in a given year, with less than 890 confirmed as of November 25. In contrast, there were 1,897 tornadoes reported in the U.S. in 2011.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 18 Incredible Photos of Tornadoes

     

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    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - More than two dozen sea turtles stressed by cold ocean waters have been airlifted from New England to recover in balmy Florida.

    The Coast Guard flew the turtles to Orlando on Friday. The Daytona Beach News Journal reports that 20 turtles were taken to SeaWorld Orlando. Five loggerhead turtles were taken to the Volusia County Marine Science Center. Three other facilities in Florida also took in turtles.

    A New England Aquarium spokesman says a record number of endangered and federally protected sea turtles have been treated this year for cold stress.

    SeaWorld officials say an unseasonably warm November delayed the turtles' exit from Cape Cod Bay. When water temperatures suddenly dropped, the turtles developed hypothermia and washed ashore.

    The turtles will be returned to their natural habitat when water temperatures are warmer.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Amazing Cold Weather Creatures

     

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    (AP Photo)

    By Meghan Evans, Meteorologist

    From Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" to Bing Crosby's "White Christmas," Christmas is portrayed as a snowy time. However, many areas of the United States do not necessarily have a high probability of a white Christmas*.

    * - Since many people may have a different idea of what constitutes a white Christmas, it is being defined in this story as a snow depth of an inch or more on Christmas Day.

    Normal December snowfall and temperatures are both critical factors that play a role in who gets a white Christmas. This is due to the fact that snow needs to fall and stay put on the ground to meet the definition.

    RELATED ON ACCUWEATHER: Climate Origins of a White Christmas

    Based on data from 1981 to 2010, northern New England, the Upper Midwest, Rocky Mountains and Intermountain West have the highest chance, more than 75 percent, of a white Christmas.
    Minneapolis, Minn., Green Bay, Wis., Buffalo, N.Y., and Burlington, Vt., are among the cities in the U.S. that have the highest chance for a white Christmas.

    "It tends to stay colder across the northern tier during the day and night, so when snow falls, it's less likely to melt," AccuWeather Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.

    Farther south, Chicago has less than a 40 percent chance of having a white Christmas.

    RELATED ON ACCUWEATHER: Do the Math: Probability of a White Christmas

    "By the time Christmas comes around, there is a pronounced temperature difference from north to south [across the Midwest]," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jim Andrews said. "The 'refrigeration' needed to keep the snow from melting is less reliable in Chicago compared to somewhere like International Falls, Minn."

    While December is not typically the snowiest month for Denver, it is the month with the lowest average high temperature. This means that any snow that falls may be less likely to melt. Denver has nearly a 50 percent chance of a white Christmas.

    RELATED ON ACCUWEATHER: Where to Go for a White Christmas

    Meanwhile, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. have less than a 25 percent chance of having a white Christmas. Mild air from the Atlantic Ocean plays a role in the low probability.

    In the West, Seattle also has less than a 25 percent chance at a white Christmas due to the influence of milder air from the Pacific Ocean. However, snow can still often be seen by Seattle residents, since the Washington Cascades have more than a 75 percent chance of a white Christmas.

    There is a very low chance of a white Christmas in San Francisco to Los Angeles, as well as across central and southern Florida.

    RELATED ON SKYE: The 10 Snowiest Places on Earth

     

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