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  • 01/25/13--01:04: Watch: The People vs. Winter

  • In the age-old battle of man versus nature, let's face it: nature has us beat, every time. Come winter, things get especially hairy. From icy roads sending cars into a tailspin, to slick pavement that leaves us sprawling, Mother Nature puts up a solid fight as we, mere mortals, struggle to carry on with even a wee bit of dignity. Check out the slips, slides, shouts and inevitable laughter as we, the people, take on winter.

    Via 5 Things I Learned Today

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

    RELATED ON SKYE: Breathtaking Photos of Antarctica


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    Prescott McCarthy steams a jacket while setting up the Arcteryx display at the Outdoor Retailer show Tuesday, Jan. 22, in Salt Lake City. (AP)

    SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Wool instead of synthetic fleece, carbon skis and a spoon-shaped sleeping bag are among the hottest products at the world's largest expo for outdoor equipment and apparel, where vendors are vying for a share of the $289 billion Americans spend every year on outdoor gear, travel and services.

    The Outdoor Retailer Winter Market show that runs through Saturday is a merchandise bazaar for a lifestyle of outdoor adventure. Bringing together 1,000 of the world's manufacturers and distributors, it is a showcase for the latest gear and fashions before they hit the mainstream.

    One hardware company, Salt Lake City-based Black Diamond, put models on stage late Thursday for its inaugural 24-piece line of jackets and stretch-woven pants. It plans to jump into wool a year from now.

    Wool was rubbed out by fleece decades ago, but many exhibitors said it's back without the itch, still warm and quick to dry and it doesn't hold body odors, a big drawback of fleece.

    "Natural fibers is where it's at," said Matt Skousen, of Everest Designs. "It's the real deal. Wool has had millions of years to figure itself out."

    Skousen founded Everest Designs with his Nepalese wife, Choti Sherpa. They hire workers in Nepal to stitch beanies from New Zealand wool, run the company out of Missoula, Mont., and were hoping for a sales boost at a trade show also crowded with Merino wool sweaters, undergarments and socks.

    Shoppers aren't allowed inside the expo and no cash sales are conducted. Instead, the four-day show brings together retailers making orders for next year's inventory. Suppliers range from industry giants like Patagonia and Mountain Hardwear to perhaps the smallest player, a former Army Ranger hawking "Combat FlipFlops" from his duffel bag.

    Matthew Griffin, who calls himself a micro-manufacturer, didn't have a booth of his own.

    New products range from sunglasses with magnetic pop-out lenses to a thermo-electric camp stove that does double duty boiling water and charging electronic devices.

    Another company showed off a line of sleeping bags with a roomy hourglass shape for camper comfort.

    "Nobody sleeps like a mummy," said Kate Ketschek of New Hampshire-based NEMO Equipment Inc., which is receiving industry attention for its extra-wide Spoon Series of sleeping bags, an alternative to mummy and rectangular bags. She called it a "completely new category" of sleeping bags, made for side sleepers.

    The jam-packed expo underscores a thriving corner of the economy. Outdoor-gear sales grew 5 percent annually throughout recent years of recession, analysts said.

    The show favors Utah, a place of rugged mountains and canyons and a cottage industry for innovators like DPS, a maker of expensive carbon-fiber skis that recently shifted production from China to safeguard and refine its technology.

    Drake was an English major from New York in 2005 when he launched DPS with $100,000, a trip to China and a design for a featherweight carbon ski.

    "Man, we were in over our head," said Drake, 36, who teamed up with an engineer. "It's almost ridiculous what we tried to do with so little money, building carbon skis with new technology." DPS now handcrafts several thousand pairs a year for retail prices up to $1,300 from a factory in Ogden.

    That's too much for a ski, said Mark Wariakois, founder of Voile, which sells a hybrid-carbon model for $600 adopted by backcountry professionals in the Rocky Mountains. Voile laminates 3,000 skis and snowboards a year at a factory in a Salt Lake City suburb.

    "Everybody is trying to figure out how we make these big skis" for that price, said Wariakois. "We make all of our own tools. That's probably the biggest secret to our success."

    Attendance is up 40 percent since 2006, with more than 20,000 flocking to Winter Market, said Nielsen Expo Outdoor Group, the organizer. A twin show in August brings out a larger crowd and is dominated by equipment for water sports.

    Nielsen announced Tuesday it was keeping the shows in Salt Lake City through August 2016. The decision suspended a political standoff that had the Outdoor Industry Association threatening to leave over Gov. Gary Herbert's policies. Herbert, a Republican, unveiled a 59-page "vision" for outdoor recreation in the state, which calls for the creation of a state office devoted to the $5.8 billion economic sector.

    The Outdoor Retailer show has taken place in Utah since 1996 and pours $40 million annually into the local economy.


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    Once upon a time, people simply walked. Then at some point, if those people were on a trail, we gave that walking a special name: "hiking." People who liked to hike became "hiking enthusiasts," and an entire industry evolved to supply them with gear. Mountains and mountains of gear. The whole enterprise is rife for spoofing, right?

    Enter the brilliant minds behind television's "Portlandia."

    (Via The Adventure Blog)


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    Friday, Jan. 25, 2013
    Car Accident
    Overturned vehicle on I40 westbound at Oxford School Road in Catawba County. The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for most of the state until late Friday night or early Saturday. (AP Photo/The Charlotte Observer, Jeff Willhelm)

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Freezing rain and sleet have closed schools and offices and caused hundreds of wrecks across North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky.

    The icy weather snarled traffic across much of western and central North Carolina. The Department of Transportation reported traffic moving under 30 mph on much of Interstate 40 from Winston-Salem to Raleigh and Interstate 85 from Charlotte to Durham.

    Charlotte Police were responding to dozens of calls of cars overturned as the heaviest freezing rain moved through.

    The storm has caused no deaths, and only scattered power outages have been reported.

    Tennessee had declared a state of emergency as a precaution and the eastern part of the state is seeing significant icing.

    An ice storm warning was issued from the Smoky Mountains, northward through Knoxville, Cumberland Gap and well into Kentucky.

    RELATED ON SKYE: How to Drive in Any Weather Condition


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    Last time we posted a video from the International Space Station, it revealed Commander Chris Hadfield's wristwatch had taken on a life of its own. On Jan. 25, the Canadian astronaut posted another video demonstrating the lighter side of space life. This time zero-g has mixed nuts going wild.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Best New Tweets from Space (Seriously)


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    Prior to the return of warmer weather, an ice storm will affect areas from northern and eastern Missouri to Michigan, southern Ontario and the mid-Atlantic spanning this weekend into the start of next week.
    A storm bringing rain to Southern California to end this week will roll into a zone of departing Arctic air and cold ground over the Midwest.
    As AccuWeather.com Staff Writer Grace Muller alluded to on Thursday, a broad area of freezing rain and sleet is in store, lasting from a couple of hours in some locations to an entire day in others.
    Major cities that have the potential for a period of freezing this weekend include Omaha, Neb.; St. Louis, Mo.; Des Moines, Iowa; Madison, Wis.; Chicago, Ill.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Detroit, Mich.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; and London, Ontario.

    On the southern and western fringe of the ice/wintry mix area, the ice is likely to be brief, but even a thin coating can lead to a few hours of dangerous travel. Farther north and east, an extended period of freezing rain and sleet is possible. If mostly freezing rain occurs, widespread icy roads are likely and the risk of power outages will increase.
    There is the potential for a serious ice storm from central and northern Illinois to southern Michigan with this setup. There is the potential for 0.25-0.50 of an inch of buildup of freezing rain on exposed surfaces in some locations.
    According to Meteorologist Andy Mussoline, "Even in areas where the air temperature manages to get a bit above the 32-degree mark, the ground is very cold and will cause some of that rain to freeze on contact."
    Freezing rain is much more dangerous than sleet.
    According to Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams, "In many cases, the road or sidewalk appears wet, but in fact it can be covered with a thin sheen of ice, called clear ice or black ice."
    "For travel and power considerations, sleet would be a better outcome than freezing rain," Abrams added.
    Pockets of sleet, freezing rain and freezing drizzle are possible farther east late Sunday night into Monday morning from Buffalo, N.Y., to New York City, Philadelphia, Pa., Washington, D.C., and Roanoke, Va. In part of the Northeast, the period of ice can begin as a bit of snow.
    The same problems may then advance across portions of upstate New York and New England later in the day Monday into Monday night.


    The ice storm will precede a brief warmup for a several-day period next week, before arctic air makes a comeback from the northern Plains into the Midwest and Northeast during early February.
    AccuWeather.com will continue to update the potential ice storm situation throughout the weekend.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Breathtaking Photos of Antarctica


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    Freezing rain this week in Utah caused hundreds of highway accidents... as well as this spill on a sloped driveway in Layton, Utah.


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    Australian Floods: Toddler Rescued from Submerged Truck

    Rescuers airlifted to safety a 14-month-old toddler and two women after their truck became submerged in fast-moving floodwaters in Australia's Queensland region Saturday. All three were distressed but unhurt, the Brisbane Times reported. Several parts of Queensland were declared disaster areas after being hit by flooding and five tornadoes, with more flooding expected.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Temps Plunge as Arctic Blast Hits Eastern U.S.


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    Breaking Weather: Rain, Ice in the Plains

    An ice storm was causing travel problems and slick conditions through the Midwest on Sunday, with roads glazing over in Iowa and cars spinning out of control. The ice storm was expected to hit northern Illinois at 11 a.m. and last until 4 p.m., leaving a sheet of ice on untreated roads. Sidewalks and walkways "could also turn to sheets of ice, making walking difficult and potentially dangerous," the National Weather Service warned.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Icy Photos of the Deep Freeze


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    Catalina Mountains, Arizona. (AP Photo/Ann Levin)

    TUCSON, Arizona (AP) - Teams on the ground and in the air rescued dozens of hikers who were stranded in an Arizona canyon after heavy rains flooded trails, authorities said.

    Forty to 50 adults and children were stranded Saturday along various sections of Bear Canyon northeast of Tucson as the waters rushed down mountainsides, the Pima County Sheriff's Department said.

    A series of emergency calls from hikers sparked a rescue operation involving teams on the ground and in a helicopter,

    The first group of hikers was led out of the canyon in the Catalina Mountains in the late afternoon and the last group well after dark, deputy Tom Peine told the Arizona Daily Star.

    Some of the hikers said they were stranded when a river swelled to a raging torrent in a matter of minutes.

    "I've never seen anything like this," hiker Jesse Boyd told KGUN-TV. "I've gotten caught in rain out here, but nothing to the point where I had to be rescued."

    With some hikers, rescuers used a technique that involved roping them together with flotation devices to help get them through high water. Some of the hikers were flown out by helicopter.

    "(A) rescue team member was behind us with a hand on that flotation device," Michael Rolland told KVOA-TV after being aided by rescuers. "They strung a rope across, and so we had to grab the rope and sidestep across the river."

    Peine said that the hikers might not have realized that rains at higher elevations could cause canyon flooding long after the downpour ends.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 10 Amazing Survival Stories from Mount Everest


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    The Empire State, MetLife and Chrysler buildings are seen against a hazy backdrop in New York, in this July 18, 2012, photo. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

    WASHINGTON (AP) - Heat rising up from cities such as New York, Paris and Tokyo might be remotely warming up winters far away in some rural parts of Alaska, Canada and Siberia, a surprising study theorizes.

    In an unusual twist, that same urban heat from buildings and cars may be slightly cooling the autumns in much of the Western United States, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, according to the study published Sunday in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.

    Meteorologists long have known that cities are warmer than rural areas, with the heat of buildings and cars, along with asphalt and roofs that absorb heat. That's called the urban heat island effect and it's long been thought that the heat stayed close to the cities.

    But the study, based on a computer model and the Northern Hemisphere, now suggests the heat does something else, albeit indirectly. It travels about half a mile up into the air and then its energy changes the high-altitude currents in the atmosphere that dictate prevailing weather.

    "Basically, it changes the flow," said Guang Zhang of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif. He wrote the paper with Aixue Hu at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

    This doesn't change overall global temperature averages significantly, unlike man-made greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Instead it redistributes some of the heat, the scientists said.

    The changes seem to vary with the seasons and by region because of the way air currents flow at different times of the year. During the winter, the jet stream is altered and weakened, keeping cold air closer to the Arctic Circle and from dipping down as sharply, Hu explained.

    The computer model showed that parts of Siberia and northwestern Canada may get, on average, an extra 1.4 degrees to 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 to 1 degree Celsius) during the winter, which "may not be a bad thing," Zhang said. The effect isn't quite as much in northern North Dakota and Minnesota, where temperatures might be about half a degree warmer (0.3 degrees Celsius), and even less along the East Coast.

    In contrast, Europe and the Pacific Northwest are cooled slightly in the winter from this effect. The jet stream changes prevent weather systems from bringing warmer air from the Atlantic to Europe and from the Pacific to the U.S. Northwest, thus cooling those areas a bit, he said.

    The biggest cooling occurs in the fall, but Hu said he's not quite sure why that happens.

    Several outside scientists said they were surprised by the study results, calling the work "intriguing" and "clever." But they said it would have to be shown in more than one computer model and in repeated experiments before they could accept this theory.

    "It's an interesting and rationally carried out study," said David Parker, climate monitoring chief of the United Kingdom meteorology office. "We must be cautious until other models are used to test their hypothesis."

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


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    Breaking Weather: Sluggish Monday Commute

    Ice and snow are making their way through the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast today, spreading across New Jersey and into upstate New York. The snow is expected to change into freezing rain further west and south into Pennsylvania, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Icy Photos of the Deep Freeze


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    The arctic blast that gripped much of the central and eastern U.S. is on its way out and a significant warm-up is on the way to much of the eastern half of the country.

    After a winter storm produced travel problems from the Midwest to the East on Friday, a large warm-up is expected to thaw out much of this region early next week.

    This warm-up will be preceded by a significant ice storm from the Midwest to the mid-Atlantic.

    A warm front will lift through Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit and Pittsburgh into tonight, potentially producing a period of significant icing as temperatures struggle to rise at the surface.

    On the other side of that ice storm and the warm front is the beginning of a several day warm-up with temperatures rising into the 40s in Chicago and 50s in Indianapolis by Monday afternoon.

    Though some rain and fog may linger through the day on Monday, the real mild weather is expected on Tuesday as highs approach 55 in the Windy City and near-record levels in Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

    Farther to the East, the aforementioned warm front will move though the Carolinas Monday morning with perhaps a brief period of freezing drizzle across cities like Raleigh, Lynchburg and Greensboro.

    The warm-up will take until Tuesday to get into the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic, when temperatures rise into the 60s all the way northward to the Mason/Dixon line.

    The 70s will be common as far north as Fayetteville, N.C., on Tuesday, where the high temperature yesterday was just 30!

    Even residents of central and northern New England who haven't experienced a 32-degree temperature in over a week will turn much milder Tuesday into Wednesday.

    High temperatures in NYC, Boston and Albany will rise into the 50s by Tuesday and Wednesday.

    However, similarly to areas farther south, this warmup will come after another period of frozen precipitation. Some icing will be possible on Monday across central and northern New England as the warm front lifts through, and that could lead to significant travel problems during the morning commute.

    Below is a chart of high temperatures expected over the next few days from the Midwest to the Carolinas:

    The warm weather will end across the Midwest Tuesday night as a potent cold front moves through with one more warm day expected in the East on Wednesday before the cooler air overtakes the region by Thursday.

    AccuWeather.com meteorologists are also concerned about a potential severe weather outbreak beginning late Tuesday in the lower Mississippi Valley and continuing through Wednesday in the Southeast.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos


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    The towboat Nature Way Endeavor banks a barge against the western bank of the Mississippi River, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Vicksburg Post, Eli Baylis)

    A barge laden with 80,000 gallons of oil struck a railroad bridge in Vicksburg, Miss., over the weekend, spilling light crude into the Mississippi River and closing the waterway for miles each way, the Coast Guard said. A second barge was damaged.

    Although an oily sheen was reported up to three miles downriver from Vicksburg, investigators were uncertain how much of the oil had spilled when the bridge was hit early Sunday, Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Ryan Gomez said.

    "Investigators are still trying to figure out what happened," he said by telephone from Coast Guard offices in Memphis, Tenn.

    The oil sheen from Sunday's incident was unlikely to pose a threat to the Gulf of Mexico, located more than 340 river miles south of Vicksburg.

    Authorities were still trying to pinpoint the leak's source, but it appeared to be coming from one or two tanks located at the stern of the first barge, Gomez added. He said there was no indication that any oil was leaking from the second vessel, and said it was still unclear whether the second barge also hit the bridge or was damaged through a collision with the first.

    United States Environmental Services, a response-and-remediation company, was working to contain the oil with booms before collecting it, Gomez said.

    He could not say how long the river would remain closed in the area. Five northbound and two southbound vessels were waiting to pass, he said. A message seeking a Coast Guard update early Monday was not immediately returned.

    Railroad traffic was allowed to continue after the bridge was found safe for trains, Petty Officer Carlos Vega said Sunday.

    The barges are owned by Third Coast Towing LLC, Gomez said. According to a website listed under that name, the company is located in Corpus Christi, Texas. No one answered the telephone at the company Sunday night.

    Both vessels were being pushed by the tugboat Nature's Way Endeavor. The website for Nature's Way Marine LLC of Theodore, Ala., identifies the vessel as a 3,000-horsepower, 90-foot-long boat. It was built in 1974 and underwent a complete rebuild in 2011, according to the company.

    A company manager referred calls to the Coast Guard command center at Vicksburg.

    The last time an oil spill closed a portion of the lower Mississippi River, it was for less than a day last February after an oil barge and a construction barge collided, spilling less than 10,000 gallons of oil. In 2008, a fuel barge collided with a tanker and broke in half, dumping 283,000 gallons of heavy crude into the waterway, and closing the river for six days.

    Residents and businesses in Gulf Coast states are still recovering from the April 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig, which killed 11 workers and spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos


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    People use umbrellas to fend off the rain as they walk through a park in Sydney, Australia, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

    BRISBANE, Australia (AP) - Torrential rains have left thousands of homes flooded in eastern Australia, with more rain and high winds expected in Queensland and New South Wales.

    The disaster has claimed four lives, including a 3-year-old boy who was hit by a falling tree in the Queensland state capital, Brisbane, the Australian Associated Press said Monday.

    It said officials were preparing for another day of evacuations along the eastern coast, where hundreds of homes have been cut off by floodwaters.

    State Emergency Services Deputy Commissioner Steve Pearce told the AAP that some areas in northern New South Wales had been hit by more than 20 inches of rain, with more than 2,000 people isolated by floodwaters.

    "We're expecting flash flooding, we're expecting trees to be brought down, wires to be brought down by these winds," Pearce said. "We're expecting a very challenging 24 hours in front of us."

    Floodwaters have also cut off all roads between New South Wales and Queensland.

    More than 2,000 homes are underwater in the worst-affected city of Bundaberg 240 miles to the north of Brisbane. The same area was hit by serious flooding two years ago, leaving 35 dead.

    AAP said military helicopters with pilots using night vision equipment were being used to evacuate stranded residents.


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    Jan. 28, 2012

    Waves of frothy sea foam inundated a stretch of Australia's Sunshine Coast today. The foam was created when organic matter in the water was churned up by tropical cyclone Oswald. It then washed ashore in Maroochydore. In some places, the suds reached nine feet high, blanketing beachside roads.

    The phenomenon also occurred last June off the coast of Victoria, where a couple of body surfers took advantage of the bubbly mix and spent the day frolicking in the foam.

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


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  • 01/28/13--05:29: Warning: Icy Beards Ahead

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    Monday, Jan. 28, 2013

    The space shuttle Challenger is destroyed by an explosion shortly after it lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on Jan. 28, 1986. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

    Today marks the 27th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger disaster, in which the mission's seven crew members were killed after the shuttle broke apart over the Atlantic Ocean 73 seconds into the flight.

    According to the Report of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident, weather conditions were likely one of the factors that contributed to the incident.

    STS-51-L was the 25th American Space Shuttle Program flight. It was also the first mission to have a civilian on board, American teacher Sharon Christa McAuliffe.

    The Report of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident said the cause of the loss was a failure of the right Solid Rocket Booster, or SRB. SRBs are positioned to the right and left of the shuttle to help thrust the orbiter into space.

    More specifically, a seal designed to prevent gasses from leaking during liftoff failed. This seal is an O-ring made of a type of rubber that is designed to keep a joint in the booster sealed.

    Once the seal failed, hot gas began to leak from it, which can be seen in video footage of the launch.

    AccuWeather: Second Arctic Outbreak on the Way

    As the shuttle ascended in the atmosphere, it encountered expected high-altitude wind shear conditions that lasted for about 30 seconds of the flight. These wind shear conditions were sensed and countered by the navigation, control and guidance systems.

    However, the leak led to an eventual structural failure of the external tank. When the tank failed, the orbiter broke up. Contrary to popular belief, the shuttle did not explode, but rather disintegrated due to aerodynamics.

    The commission determined in its findings that a faulty design "unacceptably sensitive to a number of factors" was to blame. These factors included the materials used, physical dimensions, and the temperature conditions.

    According to the report, "The weather was forecast to be clear and cold, with temperatures dropping into the low 20s overnight."

    Melbourne, Fla., located about 35 miles from Cape Canaveral, recorded a record low temperature of 26 degrees; the normal low on Jan. 28 is 50 degrees.

    AccuWeather: Giant Snowball Injures Teenage Girl in the UK

    Likewise, Orlando also had a record low of 26 degrees that morning. Both records still stand, and both locations broke their record lows the following morning as well.

    As a result of the cold, gusty winds, ice accumulated on the launch pad area overnight. The ice was removed by crews, and multiple ice checks took place prior to launch.

    According to the report, the air temperature at the time of launch, 11:38 a.m. EST, was 36 degrees. This temperature was 15 degrees colder than any previous launch.

    A written recommendation existed advising against a launch at temperatures below 53 degrees for fear of O-ring and joint failure, according to the report, but those in charge of making the decision to launch were not aware of it.

    The report continues, "If the decision-makers had known all of the facts, it is highly unlikely that they would have decided to launch 51-L on Jan. 28, 1986."

    More weather news on AccuWeather.com


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