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SKYE on AOL

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    A major snowstorm is set to ride the leading edge of cold air over a large part of the West and the northern Plains into Saturday. The storm will evolve into a blizzard as it emerges from the northern Rockies.

    Snow will fall over thousands of square miles of the West initially, then over the northern Plains.

    Snow has already covered the landscape around Boise and Pocatello, Idaho, as well as the Snake River Basin.

    Snow was also spread over the northern and eastern portions of the Great Basin Thursday.

    Over a half foot of snow has fallen in Salt Lake City through late Thursday night.

    The bulk of the snow is heading north of Denver, but enough snow can fall with plummeting temperatures to make for icy roads during Friday. A general 3 to 6 inches of snow is forecast for the Colorado Rockies.

    The latest snow map for is available on AccuWeather.com's Winter Weather Center.

    Motorists should expect slow travel over the major cross-country arteries of the West, including I-15, I-25, I-70, I-80, I-84, I-90 and I-94.

    There is the potential for close to a foot of snow over portions of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, northwestern Nebraska, the Dakotas and into northwestern Minnesota. Heavy snow will also graze Canada from southern Alberta to Northwest Ontario.

    Other cities in the path of the snowstorm include Miles City, Mont.; Grand Junction, Colo.; Casper, Wyo.; Rapid City, S.D.; Bismarck and Fargo, N.D.; and International Falls, Minn.
    More general blizzard conditions will unfold as the storm tracks northeastward over the Dakotas and northwestern Minnesota.

    Very difficult, of not dangerous travel will unfold over portions of I-90 in western South Dakota and I-94 over much of North Dakota Friday.

    Warmth preceding the storm will cause the initial snow to melt on the roadways. However, temperatures will plunge as the storm rolls to the northeast, in some areas temperatures will be 40 to 50 degrees lower than highs experience Thursday. Ice will form in some areas and will be hidden by the snow over the northwestern flank.

    In the wake of the storm, many areas from the northern Rockies to the northern Plains will have highs in the single digits and teens with nighttime lows below zero into next week.

    The snowstorm will ride north Omaha, Des Moines and Minneapolis, but a push of much colder air will follow.

    The storm will drive freezing air into Southern California and Arizona.

    For more weather news, visit AccuWeather.com.


    RELATED ON SKYE: The 10 Snowiest Places on Earth

     

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    In this Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, photo the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia leans on its side after running aground near the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy. (AP Photo/Guardia di Finanza, File)

    ROME (AP) - One can't stand being in a mall: It feels too much like the ship, with no visible exits. Another dreams she's walking on a tilt - a memory of having crawled up walls as the cruise liner rolled onto its side. A 4-year-old boy talks obsessively about the meal he had to leave behind when plates started to fly across the dining room.

    As if the nightmares, flashbacks and anxiety weren't enough, passengers who survived the terrifying capsizing of the Costa Concordia off Tuscany have come in for a rude shock as they mark the first anniversary of the disaster on Sunday: They've been told they aren't welcome at the weekend's commemorations.

    Ship owner Costa Crociere SpA, the Italian unit of Miami-based Carnival Corp., sent several passengers a letter telling them they were not invited to the official anniversary ceremonies on the island of Giglio where the hulking ship still rests. Costa says the day is focused on the families of the 32 people who died Jan. 13, 2012, not the 4,200 passengers and crew who survived.

    "We are sure that you will understand both the logistical impossibility of accommodating all of you on the island, as well as the desire for privacy expressed by the families at this sorrowful time," Costa chief executive Michael Thamm wrote in the letter obtained by The Associated Press.

    He expressed sympathies to the survivors and said he trusted that their thoughts and prayers "will help lead us to a brighter future."

    While some survivors said they understood that the families who lost loved ones deserved particular attention, many of those who are still struggling to get through each day said the letter added insult to their injuries - both physical and psychological. Some speculated that the letter was more about keeping disgruntled passengers, many of whom have taken legal action against Costa, away from the TV cameras that have flooded the island for the anniversary.

    The letter has been the focus of discussions on the closed Facebook group that sprang up in the aftermath of the disaster, where survivors from around the world swap news articles and their personal ups and downs.

    "This, to our family, has not settled well at all," said Georgia Ananias of Downey, Calif., who along with her husband and two daughters were among the last off the ship. "We're trying to deal with this day, and to get something as insulting as this - that there's no room for you there?"

    Costa attorney Marco De Luca said it only made sense to limit the numbers on the island, which opened its doors to the 4,200 shipwreck victims who came ashore that frigid night. "The presence of thousands and thousands of people would create logistical problems - good sense would say you take note of that," he said.

    The Concordia slammed into a reef off Giglio on Jan. 13 after the captain took it off course in a stunt to bring the ship closer to the island. As it took on water through the 70-meter (230-foot) gash in its hull, the Concordia rolled onto its side and came to rest on the rocks off Giglio's port, where teams are still working to remove it.

    Survivors recounted a harrowing and chaotic evacuation, with crew members giving contradictory instructions and the captain delaying the evacuation order for a full hour after impact, until the ship was so far tilted on its side that many lifeboats couldn't be lowered. Thirty-two people died. Two bodies were never recovered.

    The captain, Francesco Schettino, remains under house arrest, accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and leaving the ship before all passengers were evacuated. He hasn't been charged. Schettino says he saved lives after the ship ran into a reef that wasn't on his nautical charts.

    Survivor Claudia Urru says she wouldn't have gone to the ceremony even if she'd been invited. Urru, her husband and two sons haven't left their home island of Sardinia in the year since the grounding: They're still so terrified of boats that they won't go near the ferry that connects Sardinia to mainland Italy.

    Urru sees a therapist each week, takes sleeping pills to get through the night and anti-anxiety medicine to calm her nerves during the day. Since the disaster, her 4-year-old has insisted on sleeping with her and her husband, and their 13-year-old regularly wakes at night. The older child refuses to speak of the disaster, even with his psychiatrist.

    The toddler, on the other hand, insists on recounting his memories to anyone who will listen. Repeatedly.

    "He always wants to tell how he was eating risotto alla Milanese, and how he couldn't finish because we had to yank him from the table to escape because everything was turning upside down," Urru recalled in a telephone interview.

    To this day, she hasn't served the saffron rice dish at home. "I can't bring myself to cook it," she said, breaking into tears.

    Maria Papa has another sort of flashback trigger: She was in her church in Wallingford, Conn., one day last spring when she looked around at the pews and "all I saw were people's heads and life jackets" - a memory of the scene inside Giglio's church where she, her daughter and hundreds of other survivors spent the night after the evacuation.

    In one pew that day in Connecticut, she said, she thought she saw Dayana Arlotti, the 5-year-old Italian girl who was the youngest victim of the Concordia, killed along with her father. Her body wasn't found until Feb. 22 - nearly six weeks after the grounding.

    "I think of that little girl all the time, wondering how scared she was - and to die like that?" Papa said. "I cannot get this out of my head, and being a mother, I never will."

    Papa's daughter, Melissa Goduti, was also on the ship celebrating her Jan. 12 birthday. She doesn't experience flashbacks. She simply can't stand being in malls or casinos anymore: too many people, too many floors, too few exits, just like the ship that night.

    She said she couldn't go to the Giglio anniversary even if she wanted to, having taken a 55 percent cut in her marketing commissions because of the time off she has needed for medical appointments.

    She said she understood the closed anniversary commemorations: "They owe it to the individuals and their families who did pass away."

    Sunday's commemorations, which are being organized by the Giglio municipal government with Costa's support, begin shortly after dawn. The huge rock that pierced the Concordia's hull and remained embedded in its mangled steel is being returned to the reef where it belongs, along with a plaque.

    The local bishop will celebrate a Mass in the island's tiny church where many survivors spent the night, and rescue teams will be honored. A memorial in honor of the 32 dead will be unveiled. After an evening concert, a minute of silence will mark the exact moment, 9:45 p.m., when the Concordia ran aground.

    And the Ananias family will be far away - dealing with their trauma.

    Daughter Cindy, a pre-dental student, dreams she's constantly walking on a tilt; the family clawed their way up nearly vertical hallways - walls that became floors and floors that became walls - as they tried to find a lifeboat in the dark.

    Her father, Dean Ananias feels guilty, wondering why his family survived. Mother Georgia is desperate to find the Argentine family from Mallorca they met during the evacuation. At one horrible moment, when the ship began to roll, the Mallorca father handed Georgia his three-year-old daughter, apparently thinking she could better care for the baby as they all struggled to keep themselves upright.

    Georgia held the baby for some time. But at a certain point, as the ship listed violently, the baby began to slip from her grasp - and she handed the infant back.

    She assumes the family survived, since no one matching their description figured on the list of 32 dead. But she hasn't seen or heard from them.

    "That adds a lot of anxiety to me - just that closure of knowing they're OK," she said. "It was so close to the end for all of us."

     

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    A monstrous dust storm kicked up along Western Australia's shores on Wednesday, bringing winds of up to 75 mph and and a blinding wall of sand and dust to the coast near Onslow. The massive dust storm was caused when the winds and rains from a fierce storm picked up and carried sand and dust while passing over Onslow, then dumped it all upon reaching the ocean. A tugboat worker, Brett Martin, took a series of breathtaking photos of the event.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Dust Storm Hits Australia

     

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    Pinnacles National Park, Manzanita tree on Bear Gultch Trail. (Getty Images)

    Pinnacles National Monument in California was signed into law as the United States' 59th and newest national park, now bearing the name Pinnacles National Park.


    The new park, with its spectacular rock formations, beautiful spring wildflowers and group of endangered condors, is a popular tourist attraction, located in the Gabilan Mountains east of central California's Salinas Valley, according to a statement from the Department of the Interior. The park encompasses 27,000 acres of wild lands.

    The stunning rock formations, called pinnacles and from which the park gets its name, are the remnants of half an ancient volcano, worn down by erosion over the eons. The matching half of the volcano lies 195 miles (314 kilometers) to the southeast, on the other side of the San Andreas Fault. (The 1976 discovery that the halves were connected showed the degree of offset along the fault.)

    "This ancient and awe-inspiring volcanic field with its massive monoliths, spires, cave passages and canyons is a place that restores our souls and energizes our bodies with its beauty and abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation," Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in the statement announcing President Obama's signing of the legislation making Pinnacles a national park.

    More than 30 miles (48 kilometers) of trails lead to the park's various geological formations, which are popular with climbers.

    Pinnacles is also one of three release sites in the country for the endangered California condor and the only one in a national park, the Interior statement notes. Thirty-one free-flying condors live within the park, and all chicks born and condors released there are monitored by park biologists and volunteers. The biologists check blood and feather samples for signs of lead poisoning, one of the key threats to the critically endangered bird.

    The park was first designated as a national monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. The Pinnacles National Park Act calls out the importance of the various ecosystems found in the park, the unique geological setting, and the historical and cultural significance it has to Native American groups and early American explorers and settlers, the Interior statement said.

    Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Twitter @OAPlanet. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

    All Yours: 10 Least Visited National Parks
    Best National Parks to Visit During Winter
    8 Amazing National Park Structures

    Copyright 2013 OurAmazingPlanet, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

     

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    Friday, Jan. 11, 2013

    Fiona Chiang shields her face from blowing sand as she walks in Carlsbad, Calif. Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. Southern California is bracing for a cold snap that is expected to drop temperatures to a six-year low. (AP Photo/U-T San Diego, Bill Wechter)

    SAN DIEGO (AP) - The bright sun and clear skies were routine, but the cold was not, as Californians bundled up with sweaters and gloves and stocked up on firewood Friday to brace for several nights of freezing temperatures.

    Zookeepers turned up the heat for chimpanzees in San Diego, and tourists covered their hands on Hollywood walking tours. Still, the cold snap wasn't enough to throw many off their strides.

    "We love our 75-degree weather," said Tami Walker, 50, of Ventura. "Any time it gets cooler than that, everyone says, 'Oh, it's getting cooler.' If it starts to drizzle, people call each other and say, 'Run to the window.'"

    Walker, part-owner of Urban Adventure Quest, which does self-guided walking tours in California's tourist meccas, said customers wore gloves and told her they expected a warmer vacation.

    The National Weather Service is forecasting morning frost on San Diego beaches for several days. Big Sur, on the central coast, prepared for daytime highs almost 20 degrees below Boston's. Even the snowbird haven of Palm Springs faced the possibility of freezing temperatures at night.

    In Sonoma County, homeless shelters started handing out extra warm clothes to protect people from freezing overnight temperatures.

    Some customers drove more than an hour to buy firewood.

    "It's crazy busy here, at least 50 percent more," said Renea Teasdale, office manager at The Woodshed in Orange, south of Los Angeles.

    Still, it was business as usual as much of the state contended with temperatures in the high 40s and low 50s.

    "It's still sunny Southern California, and I'm going to work on my legs all year long," said Linda Zweig, a spokeswoman for the Del Mar Fairgrounds, which is hosting a 5-kilometer run north of San Diego on Sunday. The lifelong San Diego-area resident is prone to wearing two sweatshirts when the temperature drops but refuses to give up on shorts.

    Rae Walaska, a San Diego writer, was happy to return home Thursday night after spending the holidays with family in Boone, Iowa.

    "I didn't even have my coat on at the airport, it was so nice," said Walaska, 32. "I'm walking out to the car and my husband is all bundled up in a jacket. I'm like, 'Are you for real?'"

    In the San Joaquin Valley, the heart of California's citrus production, growers saw little crop damage.

    They ran wind machines and water to protect their fruit, which can raise the temperature in a grove by up to 4 degrees, said Paul Story, director of grower service at California Citrus Mutual. Existing moisture, sporadic rain and cloud cover also helped keep in heat.

    A 40-mile stretch of a major highway north of Los Angeles reopened some 17 hours after snow shut the route and forced hundreds of truckers to spend the cold night in their rigs.

    The California Highway Patrol shut the Grapevine segment of Interstate 5 on Thursday afternoon, severing a key link between the Central Valley and Los Angeles.

    "There must have been 1,000 Mack trucks lined up," said traveler Heidi Blood, 40.

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

     

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    Roads Melt in Australia as Heatwave Hits


    Record temperatures in the Australian Outback are causing roads to melt, while bush fires in the country's southeast pose a threat. In the Outback town of Birdsville, the temperature hit 48 degrees Celsius - 118 Fahrenheit.

     

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    Bundled up against the elements, a boy catches a football as frigid, gusting winds blow sand in drifts across a boardwalk on a nearly-deserted beach near the pier at Santa Monica, Calif., Thursday. AP Photo.

    SAN DIEGO (AP) - Californians are bundling up with sweaters and gloves and stocking up on firewood as they brace for several nights of very unseasonable freezing temperatures.

    The National Weather Service is forecasting morning frost on San Diego beaches. Big Sur, on the central coast, prepared for daytime highs almost 20 degrees below Boston's. Even the snowbird haven of Palm Springs faced the possibility of freezing temperatures at night.

    In addition, San Diego zookeepers turned up the heat for chimpanzees, tourists covered their hands on Hollywood walking tours, and some farmers broke out wind machines and took other steps to protect crops from freezing.

    Freeze warnings were in effect in San Diego County valleys and deserts Saturday morning with lows in the 20s and 30s, the weather service said.

    In Sonoma County, homeless shelters started handing out extra warm clothes on Friday to protect people from freezing overnight temperatures.

    Morning temps fell into the 20s and 30s in many areas, and much lower in the mountains. A low of 12 degrees was recorded in the Big Bear mountain resort east of Los Angeles.

    Some customers drove more than an hour to buy firewood.

    "It's crazy busy here," said Renea Teasdale, office manager at The Woodshed in Orange, south of Los Angeles.

    Still, it was business as usual as much of the state contended with temperatures in the high 40s and low 50s.

    "It's still sunny Southern California, and I'm going to work on my legs all year long," said Linda Zweig, a spokeswoman for the Del Mar Fairgrounds, which is hosting a 5-kilometer run north of San Diego on Sunday. The lifelong San Diego-area resident is prone to wearing two sweatshirts when the temperature drops but refuses to give up on shorts.

    In the San Joaquin Valley, the heart of California's citrus production, growers prepared for another round of freezing temperatures late Friday after seeing little crop damage Thursday night.

    They run wind machines and water to protect their fruit, which can raise the temperature in a grove by up to 4 degrees, said Paul Story, director of grower service at California Citrus Mutual. Existing moisture, sporadic rain and cloud cover can also help keep in heat.

    Snow shut a 40-mile stretch of a major highway north of Los Angeles on Thursday afternoon, forcing hundreds of truckers to spend the cold night in their rigs and severing a key link between the Central Valley and Los Angeles.

    The California Highway Patrol reopened the Grapevine segment of Interstate 5 some 17 hours later.

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

     

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    Rescuers work at the mud-inundated debris Friday after a landslide hit Zhaojiagou in Zhenxiong County, southwest China's Yunnan Province. AP Photo/Xinhua Zhang Guangyu

    BEIJING (AP) - Authorities have pulled out the bodies of all 46 people, including 19 children, who were buried by a landslide that swept through a village in the steep, snow-dusted mountains of southern China, state media said Saturday.

    The landslide smothered 14 homes in Zhaojiagou village in Yunnan province on Friday, burying 46 people, the local county government of Zhenxiong said on its website.

    The state-run China Central Television said Saturday that all the bodies had been recovered.

    The official Xinhua News Agency reported the identities of all of the victims, including 19 children and seven people who were more than 60 years old.

    The Zhenxiong government said in a statement that the mudslide was caused by soil that had become heavily saturated from continuous rain and snow over the past month.

    There were other factors, including the slope's steepness, its poor soil composition and the impact from an earthquake, the government said.

    The statement denied any direct relation between the disaster and mining activities in the area and concluded that the mudslide was a natural disaster.

    Photos posted on the website of the Yunnan Daily, the official newspaper of the provincial government, showed rescuers in orange jumpsuits using construction machinery to sift through massive piles of mud and earth. Behind them stood hillsides and pine trees covered in snow, signs of the unusually cold winter that has hit all of China.

    Mudslides occur periodically in the region, which is prone to earthquakes and heavy rains. In a nearby county, 81 people died in an earthquake in September. A month later, a landslide buried a primary school, killing 18 students and one other person.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Photos: Dust Storm Hits Australia

     

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    Breaking Weather: Heavy Rain in the Midwest

    A cold front moving across the country will make it feel a lot more like winter on Sunday, driving temperatures down by about 20 degrees. The front is bringing with it heavy rain, which people in the Interstate 95 corridor can expect by evening.

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

     

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    Visitors gather near an entrance to the Forbidden city during a very hazy day in Beijing Sunday. AP Photo

    BEIJING (AP) - People refused to venture outdoors and buildings disappeared into Beijing's murky skyline on Sunday as the air quality in China's notoriously polluted capital went off the index.

    The Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center said on its website that the density of PM2.5 particulates had surpassed 700 micrograms per cubic meter in many parts of the city. The World Health Organization considers a safe daily level to be 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

    PM2.5 are tiny particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in size, or about 1/30th the average width of a human hair. They can penetrate deep into the lungs, so measuring them is considered a more accurate reflection of air quality than other methods.

    The Beijing center recommended that children and the elderly stay indoors, and that others avoid outdoor activities.

    The U.S. Embassy also publishes data for PM2.5 on Twitter, and interprets the data according to more stringent standards.

    In the 24-hour period up to 10 a.m. Sunday, it said 18 of the hourly readings were "beyond index." The highest number was 755, which corresponded to a PM2.5 density of 886 micrograms per cubic meter. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's air quality index goes up to only 500, and the agency advises that anything greater than 300 would trigger a health warning of "emergency conditions," with the entire population likely affected.

    While some people vowed to stay indoors with air purifiers turned on, Beijing's streets were still fairly busy Sunday, and there was the familiar sight of heavy traffic on main thoroughfares.

    A young couple strolled along hand in hand in the central business district, both with matching white masks strung around their faces. Two Taiwanese tourists wore masks they said they had brought with them because they heard Beijing's pollution was so bad.

    "I don't know why there is such heavy haze these past days. It's really quite serious compared with the air quality three days ago," said a 33-year-old lawyer, who would give only his surname, Liu, as he adjusted his own mask. He said he had ventured out only because he needed to go shopping.

    Beijing's air started to worsen on Thursday. The Beijing monitoring center has said the pollution is expected to linger until Tuesday.

    PM2.5 can result from the burning of fuels in vehicles and power plants.

    Weather conditions are a factor in the recent poor air quality, as a lack of wind means pollutants can easily accumulate and fail to dissipate, said Pan Xiao Chuan, a professor at Peking University's public health department.

    "Recent pollution doesn't mean there is an increase in the discharge of pollutants," he said.

    Experts say they thought the PM2.5 readings were the highest since Beijing started publishing that data early last year. Public pressure forced the publication of the more detailed air quality data, as a growing Chinese middle class is increasingly vocal about the quality of the environment in which it lives. Hourly air quality updates are now available online for more than 70 cities.

    Air pollution is a major problem in China due to the country's rapid pace of industrialization, reliance on coal power, explosive growth in car ownership and disregard to environmental laws. It typically gets worse in the winter because of heating needs.

    Several other cities, including Tianjin on the coast east of Beijing and southern China's Wuhan city, also reported severe pollution over the last several days.

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

     

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    Relatives of the 32 victims of the Costa Concordia shipwreck aboard a ferry pass near the ship leaning on its side Sunday during ceremonies marking the one-year anniversary of the grounding. AP Photo

    GIGLIO, Italy (AP) - Survivors of the Costa Concordia shipwreck and relatives of the 32 people who died marked the first anniversary of the grounding Sunday with the unveiling of memorials to the victims, a Mass in their honor and a minute of silence to recall the exact moment that the cruise ship rammed into a reef off Tuscany.

    The first event of Sunday's daylong commemoration was the return to the sea of part of the massive rock that tore a 230-foot gash into the hull of the ocean liner on Jan. 13, 2012. The boulder remained embedded in the mangled steel as the 112,000-ton vessel capsized along with its 4,200 passengers and crew.

    As fog horns wailed, a crane on a tug lowered the boulder onto the reef off Giglio, returning it to the seabed affixed with a memorial plaque. Relatives of the dead threw flowers into the sea and embraced as they watched the ceremony from a special ferry that bobbed in the waves under a slate gray sky.

    A land-based memorial was being unveiled after a Mass and ceremony honoring rescue crews. A minute of silence was scheduled for 9:45 p.m., the exact moment when the Concordia slammed into the reef after the captain took the ship off course in a stunt to bring it closer to Giglio.

    The captain, Francesco Schettino, is accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and leaving the ship before all passengers were evacuated. He hasn't been charged but is living under court-ordered restrictions pending a decision on whether to indict him. Schettino maintains he saved lives by bringing the ship closer to shore rather than letting it sink in the open sea, and claims the reef he hit wasn't on his nautical charts.

    In an interview broadcast Sunday with RAI state television, Schettino again defended his actions and said he wanted to "share in the pain of all the victims and the families of the victims."

    Taking part in the anniversary commemoration was Capt. Gregorio De Falco of the Italian coast guard, who became something of a hero to survivors after his recorded conversations with Schettino during the evacuation were made public. In them, De Falco excoriated Schettino for having abandoned the ship before all passengers were off and ordered him to return, shouting the now-infamous order "Go on board (expletive)!"

    De Falco said he wanted to go to Giglio to "embrace the victims, and the relatives of the victims." De Falco, who has shied from all media attention since the disaster, said he did so out of respect for the victims.

    "I'm not a hero," he told reporters in Giglio on Sunday. "I just did my job."

    Also on hand was Kevin Rebello, brother of Costa waiter Russel Rebello, one of the two victims whose bodies were never recovered. Kevin Rebello spent weeks on Giglio in the aftermath of the disaster awaiting word of the fate of his brother and said he couldn't sleep ahead of Sunday's anniversary.

    "I have been constantly thinking it is going to be again the same agony, even tonight, because it is going to be the same exact moment when all this happened," he told Associated Press on Sunday. "So my heart is beating a bit faster I guess."

    The Concordia remains on its side, grounded off Giglio's port. Officials now say it will take until possibly September to prepare the ship to be rolled upright and towed from the rocks to a port to be dismantled. The cost has also swelled to €400 million ($530 million).

    While Sunday's commemoration was focused on the relatives of those who died, Giglio's residents were also being remembered for having opened their doors to the survivors who came ashore that night, cold, wet and traumatized after a chaotic evacuation.

    "It was something that was too big for us," said Giglio resident Silvana Anichini. "We are just not used to things like this, and then it turned out to be one of the biggest shipwrecks in the world."

    Italian President Giorgio Napolitano sent a message of thanks to the island, praising its people for their "high sense of civic duty and humanity."

    Many survivors have stayed in touch with their Giglio hosts, connected in ways they didn't ever expect. Claudia Urru, who stayed home in Sardinia on the anniversary, says she speaks monthly with the Giglio family that took her family and the two other families she was traveling with into their home that night, giving them warm clothes and food.

    For Christmas, her Giglio family sent a package of local sweets, and they have discussed having a reunion in Sardinia.

    "This is the only thing good that has come of it," Urru said by phone last week.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    Visitors to the pier at Santa Monica, Calif., battle strong winds and frigid temperatures Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

    LOS ANGELES (AP) - Southern California residents worked to stay warm and growers in the Central Valley fought to protect citrus crops from overnight lows as a regional cold snap entered another day Monday.

    Alerts predicting freezing temperatures and frost that started late last week were becoming familiar in much of the state, with new high wind warnings in place for the mountains around Los Angeles.

    In Hollywood, film fans brought heavy coats and scarves as they waited along the red carpet hoping to catch glimpses of stars arriving for the Golden Globes ceremony Sunday evening. Some of the actors shivered but they weren't complaining.

    "I'd rather be nippy than boiling hot," said actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who arrived in a strapless dress. "No, I'm not wearing any leggings or long underwear."

    Farmers hoped for another night of successful crop protection, as they ran wind machines and water to shield their fruit.

    Spokesman Paul Story of California Citrus Mutual, a growers' trade association, said so far most orange and lemon crops probably avoided significant damage despite temperatures early Sunday in the high 20s.

    "For the navel oranges, that's not cold enough to do a measurable amount of damage," said Story.

    He said more sensitive mandarin oranges may have suffered some minimal damage.

    In the Los Angeles area, famously torrid Woodland Hills, which usually makes news for its triple-digit temperatures, hit a low of 30 degrees Sunday morning. That was warm compared to Lancaster in north Los Angeles County, which hit 15 degrees.

    Temperatures were predicted to reach the low 20s for the second straight night in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    In the East Bay city of Walnut Creek, the National Weather Service reported a weekend low of 23 degrees, while in the Santa Clara County community of Scotts Valley, the temperature dropped to 26.

    Meanwhile, in the Sierra Nevada, another subzero night was expected after a day in the 20s.

    In San Diego, zookeepers offered extra heat and shelter for some animals.

    The cold air was flowing east into neighboring Arizona, where metropolitan Phoenix was marking one of its coldest stretches in year. Temperatures over the weekend dipped to 30 degrees at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. They fell well below zero in mountainous Flagstaff.

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

     

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    Skyscrapers are obscure by heavy haze in Beijing, on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

    BEIJING (AP) - Beijing schools kept children indoors and hospitals saw a spike in respiratory cases Monday, following a weekend of off-the charts pollution in China's smoggy capital, the worst since the government began being more open about air-quality data.

    City authorities, who began releasing figures about some of the worst kinds of pollutants early last year, ordered many factories to scale back emissions and were spraying water at building sites to try to tamp down dust and dirt worsening the noxious haze hanging over the city.

    Demand spiked for face masks and air purifiers, and hospitals saw surges of up to 30 percent in residents seeking help for breathing problems, state-run media outlets reported. Schools in several districts were ordered to cancel outdoor activities such as flag-raisings and sports classes, and in an unusual public announcement, Beijing authorities advised all residents to "take measures to protect their health."

    "It's really terrible. I'm extremely upset, but there's really nothing much I can do," said a Beijing resident out for a morning stroll. Like many Chinese, the man would give only his surname, Kang.

    Another man, a 60-year-old retiree surnamed Chen, said his elderly relatives had moved to stay with family members outside the city to avoid the pollution.

    "I'm in pretty good shape, but the older folks have a lot of problems with their hearts, breathing and high blood pressure," Chen said.

    Levels of PM2.5 particle pollution over the weekend reached the highest levels since the Beijing government began publicly releasing figures following a public outcry. In separate monitoring by the U.S. Embassy, level were at 886 micrograms per cubic meter in a reading that was labeled "beyond index."

    By Monday, levels had declined to about 350 micrograms on the Beijing government scale - down from a high above 700 but still way above the level of 25 considered safe by the World Health Organization.

    PM2.5 are tiny particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in size, or about 1/30th the average width of a human hair. They can penetrate deep into the lungs, and measuring them is considered a more accurate reflection of air quality than other methods.

    The Beijing Shijitan Hospital received 20 percent more patients than usual at its respiratory health department, Dr. Huang Aiben said. Most patients were coughing and sought treatment for chronic bronchitis, asthma and other respiratory illnesses, Huang said.

    "Because these dust particles are relatively fine, they can be directly absorbed by the lung's tiny air sacs. The airway's ability to block the fine dust is relatively weak and so bacteria and viruses carried by the dust can directly enter the airway," Huang said.

    Huang said exposure to such high levels of pollution over the short term can cause bacterial and viral infections, and prolonged exposure could result in tumors.

    Beijing's air started to worsen on Thursday, and Beijing's monitoring center said the pollution was expected to linger until Tuesday.

    Weather conditions are a factor, as a lack of wind means pollutants can easily accumulate and fail to dissipate, said Pan Xiao Chuan, a professor at Peking University's public health department.

    "Recent pollution doesn't mean there is an increase in the discharge of pollutants," he said.

    The government started publishing PM2.5 readings last year after public demands for more detailed air quality data, prompted in part by a Twitter feed from the U.S. Embassy that reported readings from the building's roof. A growing Chinese middle class has become increasingly vocal about the quality of the environment. Hourly air quality updates are now available online for more than 70 cities.

    Air pollution is a major problem in China due to the country's rapid pace of industrialization, reliance on coal power, explosive growth in car ownership and disregard for environmental laws. It typically gets worse in the winter because of weather conditions and an increase in coal burning for heating needs.

    Several other cities, including Tianjin on the coast east of Beijing and southern China's Wuhan city, also reported severe pollution over the last several days.

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

     

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    Wild weather across Louisiana and Mississippi has taken a turn for the cold side as a major ice storm takes shape for Monday into Tuesday.

    The worst of the ice will fall from northern Louisiana into southeast Arkansas and northern Mississippi, where many locations will see a freezing glaze up to 1/2 inch thick.

    This amount of ice build-up on area tree limbs and power lines will add a tremendous weight to them, and the strain could lead to widespread power outages and heavily damaged trees.

    RELATED ON ACCUWEATHER: Southeast Short-Range Regional Forecast

    In addition, elevated surfaces, such as bridges and overpasses, will become more like skating rinks than roadways. Travel across them will become very dangerous.

    The same can be said for those walking across parking lots, sidewalks, and any surfaces left untreated.

    The ice will come mainly in the form of freezing rain, which is plain rain that freezes on contact.
    It will begin around the mid-morning hours Monday and become steadier and heavier after midday.

    RELATED ON ACCUWEATHER: Cold Front to Erase Eastern Warmth Today

    The freezing rain will continue into Monday afternoon before tapering off during the evening hours. There will be a brief end to the ice Monday night, but another wave of freezing rain will push into the region on Tuesday.

    While northern Louisiana and northern Mississippi will be the most heavily impacted region, and icy mess will also effect locations from western Tennessee into central Kentucky and southern Pennsylvania.

    Stay with the AccuWeather.com Winter Weather Center for the latest updates on this impending ice storm.



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    As forecast, warmth has peaked across the East this weekend, but a change is on the way. Waves of cold air with the potential of major arctic outbreaks may follow beginning this week and continuing beyond.

    Temperatures have already crashed in the northern Plains and as far east as Chicago and Indianapolis.

    Following a batch of rain associated with an advancing cold front, this colder air will reach Detroit and Cincinnati on Monday. Cooler air will return to Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

    This story written by AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Brian Edwards talks about the dramatic 15 to 30 degree temperature drop expected from the Great Lakes to the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

    In the South, the chilly air has returned to Dallas and it will move on to Nashville and Jackson, Miss., Monday. Cooler air will even invade Raleigh, N.C., and Atlanta on Tuesday.

    What About the Brutal Cold?

    Colder air will continue to spread through the West through Monday while frigid air has already set up for the next few days over the northern Plains.

    That may not be the end of the cold outbreaks for the U.S., however.

    Another sizable batch of Arctic air is projected to take aim from the Upper Midwest to the Northeast later next week.

    Additional waves of Arctic air may continue later in the month into February from portions of the Plains to the East with the potential for the coldest weather in years for northern areas as the pattern gets rolling.

    RELATED ON ACCUWEATHER: Learn more about stratospheric warming

    How much progress these cold presses make into the South are uncertain at this point.

    Such outbreaks of arctic air would produce significant lake-effect snow events and could provide the cold ingredients necessary for more general snowfall, provided the pattern does not become so bold as to drive away Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic coast storms.

    The bottom line is while the expansion of warmth will continue through the weekend in the East and will bounce back next week for a time in parts of the Plains and East, the lasting memory of the season may be remembered for a return to more traditional winter conditions with significant outbreaks of cold air in much of the same area.

    For more weather news, visit AccuWeather.com.

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    "Beyond cold." "Absolutely freezing." "Freezing cold weather." "Cold, cold, cold!"

    They must be reporting from Northern Wisconsin, right? Nope. This is what local news in Los Angeles has been saying about a recent drop in temperatures. So, it must be insanely cold in SoCal? Well ... sure, if you consider the 40s and 50s freezing. Jimmy Kimmel even "had to wear two tank tops to work today."

    The reporting may be a little hyperbolic, but the Los Angeles cold snap really has brought abnormally cold weather: The temperature dropped to 34 degrees in downtown L.A., the coldest temperature recorded in the city in more than 22 years.

    RELATED ON SKYE: The 10 Craziest Weather Videos from 2012

     

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    Jan. 14, 2012

    View of the Sugar Loaf hill in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images)

    RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - Meteorologists in Rio de Janeiro will have to go back to predicting weather the old-fashioned way - through traditional scientific methods - after the weekend resignation of a medium who says she can tap into an ancient spirit to figure out when it's going to rain, and even control weather patterns.

    Medium Adelaide Scritori ended her decade-long collaboration with Rio's City Hall over the weekend after the government failed to share an annual report detailing its efforts to curb damage caused by weather events, Osmar Santos, spokesman of Scritori's Cacique Cobra Coral Foundation, said Monday. He said the report should have been sent in October.

    The foundation could lift the suspension if the report is received soon, Santos said. He added that the foundation's work for Rio City Hall has been free.

    Santos said the foundation will continue to work with the Rio state government, as well other Brazilian cities and the federal government. Brazil currently faces a potential energy shortage due to the low water levels in hydroelectric facilities, and Santos said Scritori is working on arranging rain to fill the reserves.

    Brazilian authorities frequently call upon the foundation to help influence the weather ahead of important events, like Rio's annual Carnival festivities and its New Year's fireworks display, as well as state and papal visits. Santos says Scritori has also worked in 16 other countries on three continents.

    Scritori's followers believe that through her contact with an ancient Native American spirit called Cacique Cobra Coral, or Chief Coral Cobra, she can predict and sometimes influence weather patterns - which would be a helpful skill in a country like Brazil, where torrential seasonal rains regularly trigger mudslides that cost scores of lives.

    In exchange for her free-of-charge interventions to supposedly help shape the weather, Scritori requires authorities to undertake infrastructure projects aimed at limiting damage from storms and other extreme weather events.

    Despite Brazil's status as the world's largest Roman Catholic country, and inroads by Protestant denominations, Afro-Brazilian religions like Candomblé and other spiritual sects continue to flourish here.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Surprising Ways to Predict the Weather

     

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    (iStockphoto)

    With one of the worst flu seasons in history under way, it is critical employees take the necessary steps to avoid getting themselves, or others, sick.

    A recent study found that 84 percent of employed adults have gone to work while sick, and nearly half of those employees make no attempt to warn others of their illness.

    In order to stay healthy, NSF International Public Information Officer Cheryl Luptowski advises employees to follow some simple guidelines, including:

    • Beware of common items: Studies have shown that germiest areas in offices were sink faucet handles in the break room, microwave door handles and keyboards. Employees should wipe down their workplace with a disinfectant on a daily basis, as well as wash their hands after touching common items like the refrigerator, microwave, door handle and faucets.
    • Wash hands: Workers needs to make an effort to wash their hands before eating, after reading magazines in the break room and after meetings where they're sharing office equipment or shaking hands with people. Hands should be washed with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. [Why Is This Year's Flu Season So Bad?]
    • Stay hydrated: In order to avoid dehydration, which when combined with a lack of sleep and stress compromises an immune system, employees should keep a jug of water at their desk.
    • Vitamins: When workers start to feel under the weather, they need to consult with their health care provider about taking a supplement such as vitamin C or zinc.
    • No touching: Employees must make a conscious effort to not touch their face during the workday. Touching eyes, noses and mouths gives germs direct access to the body and further compromises the immune system.
    NSF International is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides standards development, product certification, auditing, education and risk management for public health and the environment.

    Follow Chad Brooks on Twitter @cbrooks76 or BusinessNewsDaily @BNDarticles. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

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    Copyright 2013 BusinessNewsDaily, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

     

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