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    (AP Photo)

    By: Lindsey Konkel, MyHealthNewsDaily Contributor


    A pregnant woman's exposure to outdoor air pollution may increase the risk of her baby being born at a lower birth weight, according to a large multinational study.

    Researchers from 14 sites in nine countries, including Seoul, South Korea; Atlanta; and Vancouver, British Columbia, compiled the average levels of particulate air pollution to which women were exposed during the course of their pregnancy. Sources of particulate air pollution include traffic exhaust, power plants and even dust.

    Researchers then looked at the birth weights of infants that were carried to term. Altogether, researchers analyzed data from roughly 3 million pregnancies and births, making this the largest study to date to assess the relationship between maternal air pollution exposure and low birth weight.

    The researchers found that for every 10-microgram increase of pollution particles per cubic meter of air, birth weight decreased by 8.9 grams, roughly one-third of an ounce, and infants were 3 percent more likely to be a low birth weight. An infant is considered low birth weight if he or she weighs less than 5 pounds 8 ounces at birth.

    Low birth weight is a known risk factor for infant mortality as well as heart, breathing and behavior problems later in life.

    Pollution levels at study sites ranged from approximately 10 to 70 micrograms per cubic meter of air. "These are definitely exposures that people would have in many places around the world," said study author Tracey Woodruff, Ph.D., a reproductive health scientist in the division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center. "This study increases our confidence that the impact of air pollution on birth weight is real."

    The study, led by Dr. Payam Dadvand at the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, Spain, was published today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

    Previous studies assessing the relationship between maternal exposure to air pollution and a variety of adverse pregnancy outcomes, including low birth weight, preterm birth, stillbirth and congenital abnormalities, have turned up mixed results. While some of the studies have found a strong association between outdoor air pollution and fetal growth, others have not.

    The authors of this latest study cannot say for sure whether the lower birth weights were due to air pollution levels or some other factor that they were unable to fully account for, such as the mother's socioeconomic status and whether or not she smoked, two variables that have been linked to low birth weight in previous studies.

    In the study, infants were considered full-term if their mother's pregnancy was 37 to 42 weeks. As a result, some babies were up to six weeks older than others at delivery, which could partially explain the results, according to the researchers. A fetus can gain up to eight ounces a week during the last weeks of pregnancy.

    "The clinical significance of these changes in birth weight remains unclear," said Carrie Breton, Ph.D., an environmental epidemiologist at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Because the changes were small, it is difficult to interpret what the study results would mean for an individual pregnancy, she added. Breton was not involved in the new study.

    Still, the fact that the researchers found a small but consistent shift in birth weight across so many pregnancies shows there is something significant going on at the population level, according to Virginia Guidry, Ph.D., who studies the impact of air pollution on children's respiratory health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Guidry was not involved in the study.

    "This study indicates that birth weight should be considered when air pollution policies are made," she said.

    Nobody knows for sure exactly how a mother's air pollution exposure may influence her infant's birth weight. Some scientists hypothesize that air pollution can affect the attachment of the fetus to the placenta, the organ that connects the growing child to the wall of the uterus and allows nutrients to pass between the mother and fetus.

    Air pollution may also stress the mother's body, which could affect fetal growth, said Woodruff. Particulate air pollution has been linked to a number of adverse health outcomes in adults, including asthma, heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

    It's impossible to say from this study what impact reducing personal air pollution exposure may have on individual pregnancies. However, "there are so many studies showing the negative health effects of air pollution that it is always a good idea to try to reduce exposure when possible," said Guidry.

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that people reduce their exposure to air pollution particles by avoiding strenuous exercise outdoors in areas and at times when air pollution is high. Local air quality conditions and forecasts can be viewed at airnow.gov.

    Last August, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., struck down a rule imposed by the EPA that was designed to curb the spread of harmful emissions from power plants across state lines.

    Pass it on: Air pollution may cause low birth weight in babies.

    Follow MyHealthNewsDaily on Twitter @MyHealth_MHND. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

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

     

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    Feb. 6, 2013

    Tom Cwick cross country skis on machine-made snow at the Weston Ski Track in Weston, Mass., Wednesday. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

    CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A midwinter storm headed to the Northeast on Friday could drop more than a foot of snow, setting up a weekend of skiing, sledding and snowmobiling in places that have been stuck with bare ground for much of the season.

    The storm comes just after the 35th anniversary of the historic blizzard of 1978, which paralyzed the region with more than 2 feet of snow and hurricane force winds from Feb. 5-7. This week's storm isn't expected to come even close, but those who've been disappointed with the season so far say they'll take what they can get.

    "We'll be here with bells on," said Christopher Kitchin, inside operations manager at Nashoba Valley Ski Area in Westford, Mass. "People are getting excited. They want to get out in the snow and go snow-tubing, skiing and snowboarding."

    Small scattered snowstorms have kept business up at Nashoba Valley, but the upcoming storm could be "the icing on the cake," Kitchin said.

    The National Weather Service says the snow will start falling Thursday night, with the heaviest snowfall Friday afternoon and night. Strong wind gusts may create near blizzard conditions. And depending on the storm's path, parts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire could get more than a foot of snow.

    Tom Meyers, marketing director for Wachusett Mountain Ski Area in Princeton, Mass., said that at an annual conference of the National Ski Areas Association in Vermont this week, many participants were "buzzing" about the storm. He said the snow will arrive at an especially opportune time - a week before many schools in Massachusetts have February vacation.

    "It is perfect timing because it will just remind everybody that it is winter, it's real, and get out and enjoy it," Meyers said.

    Thanks to the ability to make their own snow, the region's larger ski resorts aren't as dependent on natural snowfall, though every bit helps. At Mount Snow in Vermont, spokesman Dave Meeker said the true value of Friday's storm will be driving traffic from southern New England northward.

    "It's great when we get snow, but it's a tremendous help when down-country gets snow," he said. "When they have snow in their backyards, they're inspired."

    Snowmobilers, who have no choice but to rely on Mother Nature, were hoping the storm restores trails that have deteriorated after a promising start to the season. After rain and warm temperatures, many trails in Maine turned essentially to thick sheets of ice, said Maine Snowmobile Association Executive Director Bob Meyers, who gets calls and emails daily from people seeking the best locations.

    "People got a taste of it, and there's no question they want some more," he said.

    Nearly all of Vermont's snowmobile trails opened after Christmas but riding lately has been limited to hard-to-reach mountain areas. Riders hope this week's storm will bring enough snow to cover bare and icy patches.

    "I'd say maybe 75 percent of the trail system may be back up and running if we got a good 8-inch storm," said Matt Tetreault, trails administrator for the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers.

    Still that may be too late for Michael Amarello, director of the Horse Hill 7K snowshoe race, which is scheduled for Saturday in Merrimack, N.H. He said Wednesday that he hadn't yet decided whether to postpone the race, but was leaning in that direction. Race organizers wouldn't have time to mark the course if it's snowing hard Friday afternoon, he said.

    "We want snow, but we don't want snow Friday night - we want snow today or tomorrow!" he said.

    Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., is going ahead with its 102nd Winter Carnival, But the snow comes too late to revive several events that have already been canceled, including a snow sculpting contest and an amateur ski race, said Eric Ramsey, director of the Collis Center and Student Involvement Office.

    Still, the fresh snow will ensure the continuation of another tradition - the "human sled dog" event on the college green.

    RELATED ON SKYE: The World's Most Extreme Sports

     

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    Feb. 6, 2013

    With the museum grounds covered with leaves and bare of snow, J Lajik shovels the snow-covered walkway outside the National Center of Afro-American Artists after overnight flurries in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Wednesday. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

    CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A blizzard heading to New England could make travel nearly impossible and dump up to 2 feet of snow on a region that has seen mostly bare ground this winter.

    The snow will start Friday morning, with the heaviest amounts dumped on the region that night and into Saturday as the storm moves through New England and upstate New York, the National Weather Service said.

    A blizzard watch for parts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island said travel may become nearly impossible because of high winds and blowing snow.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos
    ice covered car"This has the potential for being a dangerous storm, especially for Massachusetts into northeast Connecticut and up into Maine," said Louis Uccellini, director of the weather agency's National Centers for Environmental Prediction.

    Uccellini, who has written two textbooks on northeastern snowstorms, said Wednesday it was too early to tell if the storm would be one for the record books. But he said it will be a rare and major storm, the type that means "you can't let your guard down."

    The storm would hit just after the 35th anniversary of the historic blizzard of 1978, which paralyzed the region with more than 2 feet of snow and hurricane force winds from Feb. 5-7.

    No one is wishing for a repeat, but skiers, snowmobilers and other outdoor enthusiasts were hoping for just enough snow to turn around a disappointing season.

    The snowmobile season in northern New England started off strong, but after rain and warm temperatures last month, many trails in Maine turned essentially to thick sheets of ice, said Maine Snowmobile Association Executive Director Bob Meyers.

    "People got a taste of it, and there's no question they want some more," he said.

    Nearly all of Vermont's snowmobile trails opened after Christmas but riding lately has been limited to hard-to-reach mountain areas. Riders hope this week's storm will bring enough snow to cover bare and icy patches.

    "I'd say maybe 75 percent of the trail system may be back up and running if we got a good 8-inch storm," said Matt Tetreault, trails administrator for the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers.

    Thanks to the ability to make their own snow, the region's larger ski resorts aren't as dependent on natural snowfall, though every bit helps. At Mount Snow in Vermont, spokesman Dave Meeker said the true value of Friday's storm will be driving traffic from southern New England northward.

    "It's great when we get snow, but it's a tremendous help when down-country gets snow," he said. "When they have snow in their backyards, they're inspired."

    Assuming the snow clears out by the weekend with no major problems, ski areas in Massachusetts also were excited by the prospect of the first major snowstorm they've seen since October 2011.

    "We'll be here with bells on," said Christopher Kitchin, inside operations manager at Nashoba Valley Ski Area in Westford, Mass. "People are getting excited. They want to get out in the snow and go snow-tubing, skiing and snowboarding."

    Tom Meyers, marketing director for Wachusett Mountain Ski Area in Princeton, Mass., said that at an annual conference of the National Ski Areas Association in Vermont this week, many participants were "buzzing" about the storm. He said the snow will arrive at an especially opportune time - a week before many schools in Massachusetts have February vacation.

    "It is perfect timing because it will just remind everybody that it is winter, it's real, and get out and enjoy it," Meyers said.

    Still that may be too late for Michael Amarello, director of the Horse Hill 7K snowshoe race, which is scheduled for Saturday in Merrimack, N.H. He said Wednesday that he hadn't yet decided whether to postpone the race, but was leaning in that direction. Race organizers wouldn't have time to mark the course if it's snowing hard Friday afternoon, he said.

    "We want snow, but we don't want snow Friday night - we want snow today or tomorrow!" he said.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Winter's 50 Shades of Gray

     

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    Feb. 6, 2013

    Emergency workers and firemen are at the scene of a pileup on Interstate 16 near Jeffersonville, Ga., Wednesday. (AP Photo/The Macon Telegraph, Woody Marshall)

    MONTROSE, Ga. (AP) - More than two dozen cars, pickup trucks and tractor-trailers collided Wednesday morning in a fiery pileup on a foggy Georgia interstate, killing at least four people and sending nine others to a hospital, officials said.

    Work crews on Interstate 16 were still clearing charred and twisted wreckage from the crash scene, which covered nearly a quarter-mile of the roadway, hours after the chain of crashes occurred at about 8:10 a.m. Crews initially reported three deaths before finding another person dead in the wreckage later Wednesday.

    The Georgia State Patrol was still trying to piece together what started the series of wrecks involving 27 vehicles. Capt. Kirk McGlamery said even drivers who dodged to the side of cars crashing in front of them weren't safe from getting rear-ended off the highway's shoulder.

    "It was just a chain-reaction," McGlamery said. "I talked to two individuals involved who had come to a stop and had pulled off, one was on the shoulder and the other was trying to get out of the way, when they were struck by vehicles coming up behind them."

    Officials said poor visibility likely played a big part. Weather forecasts called for dense fog Wednesday morning, and McGlamery said motorists reported smoke across the highway. He said a controlled burn had been permitted nearby the day before, and troopers were trying to find out if burning continued into Wednesday.

    The crash shut down I-16 in both directions for several hours, though a single eastbound lane had opened Wednesday afternoon. The highway covers only 170 miles between nearby Macon in central Georgia and Savannah on the coast. But it's heavily traveled by commercial trucks hauling goods between Atlanta and Savannah's busy seaport, and is often used by travelers as a route to Interstate 95 along the Eastern Seaboard.

    McGlamery said seven tractor-trailers were involved in the pileup, including an empty fuel tanker. Fumes inside the tanker exploded and caught fire, though the driver of the rig survived.

    Joseph White, a soldier in the Army National Guard, told The Courier Herald of Dublin he was heading to work when he drove into heavy traffic clouded by black smoke. He was rear-ended before he saw a fuel tanker hit an 18-wheeler.

    "I'm looking back and the tanker exploded," said White, who ran from the scene after his car came to a halt. "Pieces of the tanker flew toward me on the freeway, barely missing me. A piece of the tanker landed like 10 feet behind me as I was running. It almost fell on my head."

    Martha Strickland, who passed through the smoky scene shortly after the crashes, said she could see the tanker burning but not engulfed in flames.

    "We had to creep by because, you know, it was just so much smoke and to keep us from getting in a wreck, and we were on eastbound and that was in westbound," Strickland said.

    A Georgia Department of Transportation crew was on the way to place caution signs warning of low visibility on the interstate when the crash happened, DOT spokeswoman Jill Goldberg said. A 911 operator had called the DOT to say motorists were calling to complain of poor visibility, Goldberg said, though she didn't know if it was fog or smoke that prompted the calls.

    The DOT crew in Dublin, roughly 10 miles from the crash scene, was called within a minute of the 911 operator's call and had loaded the caution signs into a truck and was en route when the Laurens County sheriff called the agency to report the crash, Goldberg said.

    "There was less than 30 minutes between the time we got the 911 operator's call to when the sheriff said there was a crash," Goldberg said.

    Laurens County EMS director Terry Cobb, who was among the first emergency officials at the scene, said at least six vehicles were still on fire when crews arrived. Emergency officials encountered fog on the way to the crash site, though it seemed to lift one they arrived, Cobb said.

    Authorities said nine people injured in the crash were taken to Fairview Park Hospital in nearby Dublin. Jeff Bruton, a hospital administrator, said all were treated and released except for one patient who was transferred to a hospital in Macon.

    The dead were identified as: Michael Jarome Smith of Covington; Jeff Moore of Effingham County; and Clayton and Josephine Warnock of Dublin.

    The area was under a dense fog advisory at the time of the pileup, said Laura Belanger, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Peachtree City. In some areas, visibility was only a quarter-mile or less, Belanger said.

    RELATED ON SKYE: How to Drive in Any Weather Condition

     

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    Updated Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, 8:22 p.m. ET

    Ryan Maue/WeatherBELL

    BOSTON (AP) - A blizzard of potentially historic proportions threatened to strike the Northeast with a vengeance Friday, with up to 2 feet of snow feared along the densely populated Interstate 95 corridor from the New York City area to Boston and beyond.

    From Pennsylvania to Maine, people rushed to stock up on food, shovels and other supplies, and road crews readied salt and sand, halfway through what had been a merciful winter.

    Before the first snowflake had even fallen, Boston, Providence, R.I., Hartford, Conn., and other New England cities canceled school Friday, and airlines scratched more than 1,700 flights, with the disruptions certain to ripple across the U.S.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos
    ice covered carForecasters said this could one for the record books.

    "This one doesn't come along every day. This is going to be a dangerous winter storm," said Alan Dunham, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass. "Wherever you need to get to, get there by Friday afternoon and don't plan on leaving."

    The snow is expected to start Friday morning, with the heaviest amounts falling at night and into Saturday. Wind gusts could reach 65 mph. Widespread power failures were feared, along with flooding in coastal areas still recovering from Superstorm Sandy in October.

    Boston could get more than 2 feet of snow, while New York City was expecting 10 to 14 inches. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said plows and 250,000 tons of salt were being put on standby. To the south, Philadelphia was looking at a possible 4 to 6 inches.

    "We hope forecasts are exaggerating the amount of snow, but you never can tell," Bloomberg said, adding that at least the bad weather is arriving on a weekend, when the traffic is lighter and snowplows can clean up the streets more easily.

    Amtrak said its Northeast trains will stop running Friday afternoon. The organizers of New York's Fashion Week - a closely watched series of fashion shows held under a big tent - said they will have extra crews to help with snow removal and will turn up the heat and add an extra layer to the venue.

    Blizzard warnings were posted for parts of New Jersey and New York's Long Island, as well as portions of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, including Hartford, New Haven, Conn., and Providence. The warnings extended into New Hampshire and Maine.

    In New England, it could prove to be among the top 10 snowstorms in history, and perhaps even break Boston's record of 27.6 inches, set in 2003, forecasters said. The last major snowfall in southern New England was well over a year ago - the Halloween storm of 2011.

    Dunham said southern New England has seen less than half its normal snowfall this season, but "we're going to catch up in a heck of a hurry." He added: "Everybody's going to get plastered with snow."

    Diane Lopes was among the shoppers who packed a supermarket Thursday in the coastal fishing city of Gloucester, Mass. She said she went to a different grocery earlier in the day but it was too crowded. Lopes said she has strep throat and normally wouldn't leave the house but had to stock up on basic foods - "and lots of wine."

    She chuckled at the excitement the storm was creating in a place where snow is routine.

    "Why are us New Englanders so crazy, right?" she said.

    At a Shaw's supermarket in Belmont, Mass., Susan Lichtenstein stocked up, with memories of a 1978 blizzard on her mind. "This is panic shopping, so bread, milk, a snow shovel in case our snow shovel breaks," she said.

    In New Hampshire, Dartmouth College student Evan Diamond and other members of the ski team were getting ready for races at the Ivy League school's winter carnival.

    "We're pretty excited about it because this has been an unusual winter for us," he said. "We've been going back and forth between having really solid cold snaps and then the rain washing everything away."

    But he said the snow might be too much of a good thing this weekend: "For skiing, we like to have a nice hard surface, so it will be kind of tough to get the hill ready."

    Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick ordered non-emergency state employees to work from home on Friday and urged private employers to do the same.

    Terrance Rodriguez, a doorman at a luxury apartment complex in Boston, took the forecast in stride.

    "It's just another day in Boston. It's to be expected. We're in a town where it's going to snow," he said. "It's like doomsday prep. It doesn't need to be. People just take it to the extreme."

    RELATED ON SKYE: 15 Photos of Monster Blizzards

     

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    Olympic rings for the 2014 Winter Olympics are installed in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, southern Russia, late Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Ignat Kozlov)

    SOCHI, Russia (AP) - Exactly one year before the opening ceremony of the Winter Games, Sochi organizers are promising there will be enough snow during the Olympics, even if temperatures in the subtropical region are high.

    Russia is marking the one-year countdown Thursday to the Sochi Games, which are considered a matter of national pride.

    Temperatures at Sochi's Krasnaya Polyana ski resort hovered about 50 degrees this week, after a cold snap the previous week when athletes competed in test events amid snowstorms with temperatures dipping to 20 degrees.

    On Thursday, temperatures reached 66 degrees in Sochi and 59 in the mountains.

    Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of the Sochi organizing committee, said Sochi's snow-making system and other technologies will enable organizers to "cope with any challenges of the weather."

    He said "we can guarantee that the snow will be there."

    RELATED ON SKYE: The world's most extreme sports

     

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    The destroyed Venga village, following a tsunami on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, in Temotu province, Solomon Islands. (AP Photo / World Vision)

    SYDNEY (AP) - Aid workers struggled to reach remote, tsunami-ravaged villages in the Solomon Islands on Thursday, as the death toll rose with more bodies found in wrecked homes and debris in the South Pacific island chain.

    At least nine people, including a child, were killed when a powerful earthquake set off a small tsunami that sent 1.5-meter (4 foot, 11-inch) waves roaring inland on Santa Cruz Island, in the eastern Solomons, on Wednesday. Around 100 homes across five villages were damaged or destroyed.

    The waves proved deadly for five elderly villagers and a child, who weren't fast enough to outrun the rushing water, said George Herming, a spokesman for the prime minister. Three more bodies were found Thursday, but Herming said details of how those victims died were not immediately available.

    Several others are missing and dozens of strong aftershocks were keeping frightened villagers from returning to the coast, Herming said.

    "People are still scared of going back to their homes because there's nothing left, so they are residing in temporary shelters on higher ground," Herming said.

    The tsunami was generated by an 8.0-magnitude earthquake that struck near the town of Lata, on Santa Cruz in Temotu, the easternmost province in the Solomons.

    Disaster officials were en route to the isolated area Thursday after the local airport, which was flooded by the tsunami, was finally cleared of debris.

    The Solomons comprise more than 200 islands with a population of about 552,000 people. They lie on the "Ring of Fire" - an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones that stretches around the Pacific Rim and where about 90 percent of the world's quakes occur.

    More than 50 people were killed and thousands lost their homes in April 2007 when a magnitude-8.1 quake hit the western Solomon Islands, sending waves crashing into coastal villages.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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  • 02/07/13--00:40: Blizzard to Bury New England


  • Two storms will merge quickly enough to bring colder air, heavy snow and increasing wind to New England. Some areas will be hit with an all-out blizzard and a couple of feet of snow.

    The worst of the storm will hit the Boston-area late Friday and Friday night and will wind down Saturday morning. However, lingering effects from blowing and drifting snow, blocked roads and other travel delays are likely to linger into much of the weekend.

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    Numerous flight delays and cancellations are possible centered on New England, but these problems will be felt elsewhere across the nation. Strong winds will not only cause white-out conditions but can result in massive drifts and power outages. If the power goes out, it could take a while for crews to repair the lines.

    At the height of the storm, snow can fall at the rate of 2 to 4 inches per hour and may be accompanied by thunder and lightning.

    The intense snowfall rate anticipated is making the forecast especially challenging. A matter of an hour of intense snow versus 8 hours of intense snow will make the difference between a manageable few inches and a debilitating few feet of of snow. Nearby to the southeast of this intense snow, rain will be falling for a time.

    A person traveling northeastward from New York City Friday evening along I-95 would encounter progressively worse and potentially dangerous weather conditions.

    With such snowfall intensity, vehicles can become stuck and people can become stranded.
    The hardest-hit areas are likely to include Hartford and Providence to Boston, Worcester, Concord, Portsmouth and Portland.

    Coastal flooding is another concern with this storm along the coast of eastern Massachusetts. The period of strong northeast winds will be occurring within a couple of days of the new moon and high astronomical tides.

    Warm air will play a major role in the storm from New York City, Long Island and central New Jersey on south and west in the mid-Atlantic, resulting in rain during part or all of the storm, depending on location.

    Only if the two storms sync up completely would heavy snow wrap around into New York City for an extended period, bringing a foot of the white stuff. Even so, without complete phasing of the storms, New York City and Long Island will get significant snow.

    Meanwhile, a fresh injection of arctic air will fuel the blizzard over New England. The colder air will cause rain to change to snow on Cape Cod and along the South Coast, as well as cause wet snow to become more dry and powdery with time, making it subject to blowing and drifting in central and southern areas.

    In northernmost New England from northern Maine to along the Canada border of New Hampshire, Vermont and northern upstate New New York, too much dry air feeding in from the north may limit snowfall or cut off the storm completely.

    Snow from the Alberta Clipper part of the storm will still deliver enough snow to shovel and plow over much of upstate New York.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Winter's 50 Shades of Gray

     

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    New York City and the northern mid-Atlantic are on the edge of a major storm that will hit New England as a blizzard Friday and Friday night.

    Only if two storms, an Alberta Clipper from the west and a storm from the South, merge very quickly will there be more than a manageable amount of snow (a foot) in New York City, northern New Jersey, southwestern Connecticut, Long Island, northeastern Pennsylvania and upstate New York.

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    According to winter weather expert Rob Miller, "While this is a possibility, it would be difficult for a storm to do this without a blocking area of high pressure to the northeast."

    Such an area of high pressure would slow the forward speed of the storm down long enough to cause it to strengthen into an intense area of low pressure.

    Warm air will be the issue in the New York City metropolitan area and Long Island causing part of the storm to be rain or a wintry mix. Odds favor wet roads around the city to a few slippery spots north and west for morning rush hour Friday. However, as more snow starts to mix in later in the day and a change to all snow likely by Friday evening, road conditions could rapidly deteriorate for the drive home Friday.

    Low cloud ceilings and increasing winds during Friday may lead to building flight delays and cancellations even if snow were to stay away from the several major airports in the New York City area.

    Farther south, the warm air may bring all or mostly rain to Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., southern New Jersey, the Delmarva Peninsula, much of the Maryland mainland and much of Virginia.

    The southern part of the storm will drench the south with beneficial rain, but also urban flooding problems and locally strong thunderstorms Wednesday night into Friday.

    Long Island is a unique spot as the area could be far enough to the east Friday night as to enter into the 2- to 4-inch per hour snow as the storm intensifies before pulling away. If the storm manages this for a few hours, there would be a foot of snow.

    As far as coastal flooding is concerned, the strongest winds will be blowing offshore as the storm strengthens. There may be some problems along the north shore of Long Island, but the greatest risk of coastal flooding from the storm is along the east coast of New England (from Cape Cod to Boston).

    In the central Appalachians, most areas will be south (and north) of the heavy precipitation, with a punch of dry air from the southwest being a factor, and warm enough for rain or a wintry mix for at least part of the event.

    Across upstate New York and part of southern Ontario, moderate snow will fall from a substantial Alberta Clipper cruising in from the Midwest Friday into Friday night.

    Enough snow to shovel and plow is likely over much of this area which can reach as far south as parts of western and northern Pennsylvania into the higher elevations of West Virginia and western Maryland.

    A brief shot of blustery, seasonably cold conditions are in store for Saturday in the wake of the storm. Temperatures will moderate Sunday, setting the stage for the next storm system Monday to bring mostly rain to the region with a wintry mix over northern upstate New York and northern New England.

    Another winter weather event may follow later next week around Valentine's Day, but the exact nature of the storm and precipitation is complex. Details will follow as the time draws nearer.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Winter's 50 Shades of Gray

     

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    Herring worth billions in exports are seen floating dead on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, in Kolgrafafjordur, a small fjord in west Iceland, for the second time in two months. (AP Photo/Brynjar Gauti)

    REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) - Researchers in Iceland are blaming low oxygen levels in a shallow fjord for the deaths of tens of thousands of tons of herring.

    Masses of dead herring have been found in Kolgrafafjordur fjord for the second time this winter, raising concerns about Iceland's fishery.

    The Morgunbladid newspaper estimated the value of the 10,000 tons of fish found dead this week at 1.25 billion kronur ($9.8 million). An even larger number of fish died in December.

    Roughly one season's worth of herring has been lost, Johann Sigurjonsson, director of Iceland's Marine Research Institute, said Wednesday.

    He said herring tend to winter in large populations and may have depleted the oxygen in the shallow fjord. The danger should ease in spring when the herring spread out into a wider area, he said, downplaying fears that the entire herring fishery is in danger.

    "We regard this as a serious event," he said. "We are investigating; we would like to find out if it is necessary to try to step in somehow."

    The government's economic minister has increased funding for monitoring in the area to determine what can be done to prevent more fish from dying off. Some blame recent construction in the region for the kills.

    Schoolchildren, town workers and volunteers have been cleaning up the dead fish, which can be turned into feed for mink and other animals.

    Revenue from the sale is expected to go to local children and to area schools.

     

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    Thinkstock

    According to Fleetwood Mac's hit song, "Dreams," thunder only happens when it's raining. I know it's just a line from a song, but is there anything to it?

    In Stevie Nicks' world, maybe. The atmosphere, however, sings a different lyric. Thunder can occur during snowstorms, volcanic eruptions, forest fires, dry thunderstorms and in clear blue skies, none of which includes rain falling to the ground.

    In its most common occurrence, thunder is a result of lightning striking inside a cumulonimbus cloud - a tall, puffy cloud resembling cauliflower that forms when the atmosphere is unstable. Cumulonimbus clouds are often referred to as "thunderheads" for their unique shape and their association with producing thunder. As a cumulonimbus cloud intensifies, it becomes charged with positive electrical charges. Those charges connect to negative charges along the ground and create an intense current of electricity we know as lightning.

    Each lightning strike can be as hot as 55,000 degrees F, over five times as hot as the surface of the sun. This intense heat causes the air to rapidly expand, which forms a sonic sound wave that travels through the atmosphere in the form of thunder.

    Although most of us hear thunder only when it's raining, science provides brilliant forms of lightning and thunder in cases where no rain is present.

    Snow and thunder seem like the least likely of weather marriages but find themselves paired together in rare situations. During major snowstorms, enough atmospheric instability exists to allow the air to rise similar to that of a thunderstorm, causing the electrical charges to be present and lightning to strike. The thunder, however, sounds much different during cases of "thundersnow," as snow acts to dampen the accoustics. This limits the sound of thunder from traveling farther than three miles from the lightning strike, as opposed to over 10 miles in a typical thunderstorm. In cases of thundersnow, snowfall rates may exceed 2 inches of accumulation per hour, thanks to the added instability in the atmosphere. The combination of thunder and intense snow accumulation makes thundersnow a cool story for those lucky enough to experience it.

    In the rare event you find yourself staring down an erupting volcano, chances are that you could hear thunder admist the roaring sound of magma blasting onto the landscape. During explosive volcanic eruptions, incredible amounts of heat cause particles to be lofted into the atmosphere. These particles acquire high levels of electrical charge during the eruption process and become separated when rising in the atmosphere. Volcanoes are known to be prolific lightning and thunder producers, though few people are often close enough to see or hear the thunder due to the danger of the volcano eruption itself. Instead, scientists are relegated to using lightning detection technology to detect lightning strikes within the eruption. Occasionally, photographers have been able to capture stunning pictures of volcano lightning.

    Forest fires are commonplace to those in the western United States and are another inducer of unique forms of thunder and lightning. Within forest fires, intense heat from burning trees and vegetation rise and create a pyrocumulonimbus cloud - a cumulonimbus cloud formed directly in the smoke of a fire.

    One leading cause of forest fires is lightning itself. Not all thunderstorms produce rain that hits the ground. In the desert southwest, including Arizona and New Mexico, thunderstorms form during the summer months in an atmosphere characterized by warm and humid conditions above the ground but hot and dry conditions at the surface of the earth. This results in thunderstorms forming with cloud bases up to two miles above the ground. Rain forms as normal but falls into an extremely dry atmosphere, evaporating any trace of rain before it hits the parched ground. These are most commonly known as "dry thunderstorms" and are a major headache to firefighters in the southwest.

    Bolts from the blue may be the scariest form of thunder and lightning, and they appear when least expected. These bolts of lightning strike after rain has ended and tend to come out of the back side of the thunderstorm. They have been known to strike as far as 25 miles away from the parent thunderstorm. They are termed "bolts from the blue" as they appear to strike in areas of clear blue sky. This is why meteorologists suggest waiting at least 30 minutes from the last rumble of thunder before venturing outside.

    Of course, I don't think Stevie Nicks was too concerned with the science of weather when she wrote the song, and that's just fine.

    Got a question for our weather expert? Ask SKYE.

     

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  • 02/07/13--12:26: Breaking News 2/7/13
  • Major Blizzard Heads for NYC, New England. Read More.

     

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    Feb. 7, 2013

    (Thinkstock)

    With a potentially-historic blizzard aiming for New England, it is important to be aware of the threats of the storm and to prepare in advance.


    With snowstorms this powerful, it's not uncommon for power outages and structural damage to occur throughout the hardest-hit areas.

    Areas like Boston and Providence are forecast receive 12 to 24 inches of snow Friday through Saturday.

    RELATED:
    Survival Guide For Power Outages
    Safe Snow Driving
    How to Keep Your Roof from Collapsing

    Areas West of Boston and across southern New Hampshire could receive 24 or more inches.

    "In some areas the snow will cling to trees and power lines as the strong winds occur. The extra weight and strain can bring limbs and lines down," AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.

    A loss of power means a loss of heat for many people, which could quickly become a life-threatening situation for those that are not prepared.

    "As far as preparation goes, charge your cell phone ahead of the storm. Have batteries on hand, blankets, etc.," Sosnowski said.

    "Do not use portable generators indoors or in an attached garage to your home. Keep kerosine heaters away from items that can easily combust such as clothing, papers, etc."

    The heavy snow being forecast could also cause structural damage to homes and roof collapse.
    Often during blizzards, there is blowing and drifting snow, which is often the culprit for uneven distribution.

    "The greater the angle of the roof, the more weight it can generally handle. When snow gets uneven, it unevenly distributes the weight and can cause roofs to give way days after the storm."
    Strong winds could create a dangerous set up for this situation.

    But most healthy roofs, even flat ones, can handle a couple feet of snow, he added.

    Should the white stuff begin to pile up, it's best to wait out the storm before removing it.

    "People should not venture on their roofs during the storm and should only do so if physically able and safety measures have been taken," Sosnowski said.

     

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    Updated Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, 1:38 a.m. ET

    (NASA)

    BOSTON (AP) - A storm that forecasters warned could be a blizzard for the history books, with a potential for up to 3 feet of snow, clobbered the New York-to-Boston corridor on Friday, grounding flights, sending office workers home early and knocking out power to half a million customers across the Northeast.

    By Friday night, more than 18.5 inches of snow had fallen in parts of central Connecticut, and more than 16 inches covered parts of Mansfield, Mass., a half-hour drive southwest of Boston. Throughout the Northeast, more than 500,000 homes and businesses lost electricity as wet, heavy snow, freezing rain and howling winds caused havoc.

    Earlier, as meteorologists warned of the impending blizzard conditions, shoppers from New Jersey to Maine crowded into supermarkets and hardware stores to buy food, snow shovels, flashlights and generators, something that became a precious commodity after Superstorm Sandy in October. Others gassed up their cars, another lesson learned all too well after Sandy. Across much of New England, schools closed well ahead of the first snowflakes.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 15 Photos of Monster Blizzards
    "This is a storm of major proportions," Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said. "Stay off the roads. Stay home."

    The wind-whipped snowstorm mercifully arrived at the start of a weekend, which meant fewer cars on the road and extra time for sanitation crews to clear the mess before commuters in the New York-to-Boston region of roughly 25 million people have to go back to work. But it could also mean a weekend cooped up indoors.

    Rainy Neves, a mother of two in Cambridge, just west of Boston, did some last-minute shopping at a grocery store, filling her cart to the brim.

    "Honestly, a lot of junk - a lot of quick things you can make just in case lights go out, a lot of snacks to keep the kids busy while they'd be inside during the storm, things to sip with my friends, things for movies," she said. "Just a whole bunch of things to keep us entertained."

    In heavily Catholic Boston, the archdiocese urged parishioners to be prudent about attending Sunday Mass and reminded them that, under church law, the obligation "does not apply when there is grave difficulty in fulfilling this obligation."

    Halfway through what had been a mild winter across the Northeast, blizzard warnings were posted from parts of New Jersey to Maine. The National Weather Service said Boston could get close to 3 feet of snow by Saturday evening, while most of Rhode Island could receive more than 2 feet, most of it falling overnight Friday into Saturday. Connecticut was bracing for 2 feet, and New York City was expecting as much as 14 inches. East of New York City, nearly a foot of snow had fallen before midnight Friday.

    Early snowfall was blamed for a 19-car pileup in Cumberland, Maine, that caused minor injuries. Most of the region's power outages were in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

    Forecasters said wind gusts up to 75 mph could cause more widespread power outages and whip the snow into fearsome drifts. Flooding was expected along coastal areas still recovering from Superstorm Sandy, which hit New York and New Jersey the hardest and is considered Jersey's worst natural disaster.

    Meteorologist Jeff Masters, of Weather Underground, said the winter storm was a collision of two storms and may end up among the Boston area's Top 5 most intense ever.

    "When you add two respectable storms together, you're going to get a knockout punch with this one," he said.

    RELATED ON SKYE: How to Survive a Winter Storm

    It could break Boston's all-time snowstorm record of 27.6 inches, set in 2003, forecasters said. The storm also comes almost 35 years to the day after the Blizzard of '78, a ferocious storm that dropped 27 inches of snow, packed hurricane-force winds and claimed dozens of lives.

    Masters said the region could get a break from warmer air trailing behind that is expected to push temperature up to the 40s by Monday.

    "It's going to be not that difficult to dig out, compared to maybe some other nor'easters in the past, where it stayed cold after the storm went through," he said.

    Drivers were urged to stay off the streets lest their cars get stuck, preventing snowplows and emergency vehicles from getting through. New York City ran extra commuter trains to help people get home before the brunt of the storm hit.

    Amtrak stopped running trains in cities around the Northeast on Friday afternoon. Airlines canceled more than 4,300 flights through Saturday, and New York City's three major airports and Boston's Logan Airport shut down.

    Interstate 95 was closed to all but essential traffic in Rhode Island, where the governor said power outages remained the biggest threat.

    "With tree branches laden with heavy, wet snow, the winds picking up and the temperatures plunging all at the same time, it's a bad combination," Gov. Lincoln Chafee said.

    In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick enacted a statewide driving ban for the first time since the Blizzard of '78. Hours before the ban went into effect at 4 p.m., long lines formed at gas stations, some of which were almost out of fuel.

    James Stone said he was saving the remaining regular gas at his station in Abington, south of Boston, for snowplow drivers.

    "It hasn't snowed like this in two years," Stone said. "Most people are caught way off-guard."

    In New York, Fashion Week, a series of designer showings with some activities held under tents, went on mostly as scheduled, though organizers put on additional crews to deal with the snow and ice, turned up the heat and fortified the tents. The snow did require some wardrobe changes: Designer Michael Kors was forced to arrive at the Project Runway show in Uggs.

    For Joe DeMartino, of Fairfield, Conn., being overprepared was impossible: His wife was expecting their first baby Sunday. He stocked up on gas and food, got firewood ready and was installing a baby seat in the car. The couple also packed for the hospital.

    "They say that things should clear up by Sunday. We're hoping that they're right," he said.

    Said his wife, Michelle: "It adds an element of excitement."

    The snow was too much of a good thing in some places. In New Hampshire, the University of Connecticut's Skiing Carnival was canceled because of the snowstorm. In Maine, the National Toboggan Championships in Camden were postponed from Saturday to Sunday, and the Camp Sunshine Polar Plunge was put off until March.

    At Rosie's Liquors in Abington, customers were lined up eight to 10 deep Friday, snapping up rum, wine and 30-packs of beer.

    "We've been absolutely slammed. It's almost been like Christmas here," manager Kristen Brown said. "A lot of people are saying, 'I'm going to be stuck with my family all weekend. I need something to do.'"

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Massive Blizzard Bears Down on Northeast

     

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    Updated Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, 8:15 p.m.

    (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

    Most airlines were giving up on flying in and out of New York, Boston and other cities in the Northeast Friday as a massive storm threatened to dump snow by the foot on the region.

    Airlines were generally shutting down operations in the afternoon at the three big New York-area airports as well as Boston, Providence, R.I.; Portland, Maine; and other Northeast airports. They're hoping to resume flights on Saturday, although schedules weren't expected to be closer to normal until Sunday.

    Flight-tracking website FlightAware said airlines canceled more than 4,300 flights on Friday and Saturday in advance of the storm.

    RELATED ON SKYE: How to Survive a Winter Storm

    Many travelers were steering clear of that part of the country altogether. Airlines waived the usual fees to change tickets for flights in the affected areas.

    Airlines try to get ahead of big storms by canceling flights in advance rather than crossing their fingers that they can operate in bad weather. They want to avoid having crews and planes stuck in one area of the country. They also face fines for leaving passengers stuck on a plane for more than three hours under a rule that went into effect back in 2010.

    Airlines began canceling Saturday flights on Friday.

    "That's when the meteorologists start to have reliable predictions and the FAA holds conference calls to discuss which airports are shutting down," said Daniel Baker, CEO of FlightAware.

    Airlines are also at the mercy of mass transit in each city they fly to. They'll often wrap up flying around the same time that commuter trains and subways begin shutting down, he said.

    Storms like this one jam up airline call centers, so airlines are increasingly automating the process of re-booking passengers.

    Delta is rolling out software it calls "VIPER" - Virtual Inconvenienced Passenger Expedited Reprotection - to find a replacement flight for passengers whose flights have been canceled.

    As any frequent traveler knows, during a bad storm, the fastest route from, say, New York to Minneapolis may be through Atlanta, or Salt Lake City. Airline workers are adept at finding such routes manually. The new Delta system looks for such "creative routings" automatically and sends a message to the traveler telling them about their new flight, Delta Air Lines Inc. CEO Richard Anderson said on an employee hotline message last week.

    "We need the ability to use automation to figure out for our passengers the quickest and fastest way to (re-accommodate) them on Delta or other carriers," he said. "Our goal is to get them to their destination as promptly as possible."

    More than any other airline, JetBlue Airways Corp.'s route network is centered around the East Coast. Its meteorologist gives JetBlue executives a rolling seven-day forecast, and by Thursday it was canceling flights that had been planned for Friday. It has scrubbed 640 flights scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

    Waiting too long to cancel flights means "customers are headed for the airport, they're in their cars, they get to the airport and if your flight's canceled that's when bad things start to happen from a customer standpoint," said Rob Maruster, Jet Blue's chief operating officer.

    The snow was snarling air travel in Canada, too, with 240 flights canceled on Friday at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips said Toronto hasn't seen a snowfall exceeding 5 inches since Dec. 19, 2008. The current storm was expected to dump up to 11 inches of snow as it moves along.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Massive Blizzard Bears Down on Northeast

     

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    Long Island Braces For Another Weather Blast

    People on Long Island are bracing themselves - they're right in the storm's bullseye. After extreme power disruptions in the area following Superstorm Sandy, the Long Island Power Authority is giving up control and handing it over to the national grid, making it the first time in LIPA's history that it has ceded control. The area is also at risk for coastal flooding as the storm bears down.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Massive Blizzard Bears Down on Northeast

     

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    (AP Photo)

    NEW YORK (AP) - As the Northeast braces for its largest winter storm in more than a year, airlines are already employing a strategy that has served them well in recent years: Cancel flights early and keep planes and crews - and passengers - away from snowed-in airports.

    Up to 3 feet of snow are forecast along the densely populated Interstate 95 corridor from the New York City area to Boston and beyond. In response, airlines canceled hundreds of flights for Friday, a figure likely to eventually surpass 2,600.

    That means emergency planning for Boston's Logan International Airport, the three major airports in the New York Metropolitan area and smaller airports around the region.

    Here are some questions and answers about what the airlines are doing:

    Q: What are the airlines doing differently?

    A: Just a few years ago, a powerful storm dumping two feet of snow on the Northeast would have brought havoc to some of the region's busiest airports. Passengers would sit on a plane for hours, hoping to take off. Families slept on the airport floor with luggage piled up around them. The only meal options came from vending machines.

    Now, having learned from storm mismanagement and the bad public relations that followed, U.S. airlines have rewritten their severe weather playbooks. They've learned to cancel flights early and keep the public away from airports, even if that means they'll have a bigger backlog to deal with once conditions improve.

    Travelers can still face days-long delays in getting home, but the advanced cancellations generally mean they get more notice and can wait out the storm at home or a hotel, rather than on a cot at the airport.

    Q: Why is it smarter to cancel early?

    A: It allows the airlines to tell gate agents, baggage handlers and flight crews to stay home - keeping them fresh once they're needed again.

    And by moving planes to airports outside of the storm's path, airlines can protect their equipment and thereby get flight schedules back to normal quickly after a storm passes and airports reopen.

    These precautions make good business sense. They also help the airlines comply with government regulations that impose steep fines for leaving passengers stuck on planes for three hours or more. And they reduce the chance of horror-story footage of stranded passengers showing up on the nightly news.

    Q: When did airlines change their storm preparations?

    A: Things changed almost exactly six years ago. JetBlue was late to cancel flights as a massive snowstorm hammered the East Coast on Valentine's Day weekend in 2007. Passengers were stranded on planes for hours. When the storm finally cleared, other airlines resumed flights but JetBlue's operations were still a mess.

    Other airlines took note. Severe weather manuals were updated. Reservation systems were programmed to automatically rebook passengers when flights are canceled. And travelers now receive notifications by email, phone or text message.

    Q.: What should passengers know?

    A.: First off, don't rush to the airport in hopes of getting a flight before the snow falls. Check with your airline, which will likely cancel your flight before the storm is near your airport.

    The good news is that if you miss your connection, the airlines will automatically rebook you on the next available flight. The bad news is that next flight could be a while if you're traveling to or from a city that is buried under a foot or more of snow.

    If you're unhappy with your rebooked flight pick up the phone and call the airline directly. Or go onto the airline's website and even consider sending a Tweet.

    Q.: How tough is it for the airlines to get operations back to normal?

    A.: Once the clouds clear, flights won't start up immediately.

    When Superstorm Sandy hit the New York area, JetBlue's Rob Maruster, the airline's chief operating officer, equated starting up the airline again to putting together a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. It's not about staffing levels, but an overall game plan that makes sense. "At a certain point, putting more hands on the table doesn't help get it solved faster," he said.

    The airlines will need to ask a lot of questions before bringing in planes.

    First, are the runways open?

    Next, is there public transit to get workers to the airport? If not, does the airline have enough staff staying at nearby hotels that can be bused in?

    Finally, the airline has to check on all the other people needed to run an airport: the Transportation Security Administration, customs officials, caters, fuel trucks and even the people who push wheelchairs through the terminal.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Massive Blizzard Bears Down on Northeast

     

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