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SKYE on AOL

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    The HMS Bounty, a 180-foot sailboat, submerged in the Atlantic Ocean during Hurricane Sandy approximately 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, N.C., Oct. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, Petty Officer 2nd Class Tim Kuklewski, File)

    PORTSMOUTH, Va. (AP) - Officials from a Maine shipyard that worked on a replica 18th-century sailing ship that sank during Hurricane Sandy will testify at a Coast Guard hearing in Virginia.

    The HMS Bounty underwent repairs at Boothbay Harbor Shipyard in Maine several weeks before the ship sank 90 miles off Cape Hatteras, N.C., during the October storm.

    One member of the HMS Bounty's 16-person-crew died and the captain was never found. The ship was built for the 1962 film "Mutiny on the Bounty" and appeared in other seafaring dramas.

    Coast Guard officials started hearing testimony on Tuesday from surviving crew members. On Wednesday, Boothbay Harbor Shipyard officials are scheduled to testify.

    The hearing is expected to last through Feb. 21.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 25 Indelible Images from Superstorm Sandy

     

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    Candice Genega, right, loses her footing while helping Charlie McKenna push a stranded motorist out of heavy snow along an unplowed street in Centereach, N.Y., on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Newsday, Thomas A. Ferrara)

    BOSTON (AP) - With schools still closed, cars still buried and streets still blocked by the widespread weekend snowstorm, officials around southern New England are asking people to pick up a shovel and help out.

    In Boston, a "snow angel" campaign is using social media to encourage neighbors and friends to be an angel and help dig out the stranded.

    Hundreds of volunteers carried shovels to downtown Waterbury, Conn., after the mayor promised to pay minimum wage to anyone who helped clear the City Hall area and the schools Tuesday.

    In Rhode Island, dozens of volunteers responded to a call by the volunteer advocacy group Serve Rhode Island to help clear snow.

    Pedro Gonzalez of Cranston, R.I., had done three shoveling jobs for elderly residents by mid-afternoon Tuesday, fueled only by a few sports drinks and the satisfaction he said the work gives him.

    "You feel full, you know?" he said, speaking after his most recent job in Providence. "You feel real good and you sleep better."

    The snowfall Friday and Saturday buried the region in 1 to 3 feet of snow, and communities still are struggling to get back to normal.

    The storm, blamed for at least 18 deaths across the U.S. and Canada, caused flooding that forced coastal evacuations in Massachusetts and carried high winds that downed trees and power lines.

    By early Wednesday, more than 6,800 utility customers still were without power, including 5,539 in Massachusetts, which was hardest hit with outages. More than 650,000 homes and businesses in eight states were without electricity at one point.

    Boston Mayor Thomas Menino's office has encouraged neighbors to help out neighbors after other storms, but this time it's using social media to create a "buzz" and spread the word more broadly, said Emily Shea, the city's Elderly Affairs commissioner.

    Shea said most people who call the mayor's hotline for help clearing snow end up figuring things out themselves. But others don't, and the snow angel campaign aims to make sure they aren't forgotten.

    "We're still just a couple days after the storm, and we still want to make sure folks are looking out for each other," she said.

    The new workforce in Waterbury was formed after Mayor Neil O'Leary took a friend's suggestion to hire kids who are off from school - and possibly getting bored - to clear out City Hall and the schools, which are closed at least until Wednesday.

    O'Leary put the word out, offering Connecticut's $8.25 hourly minimum wage. He said about 500 people, most between ages 14 and 18 with some adults mixed in, showed up at City Hall at noon Tuesday.

    The offer is good again Wednesday, and O'Leary figures the workers will cost the city about $50,000. But he hopes the teens will get more than money in return, he said.

    "We're giving them a little sense of community, a sense of pride," O'Leary said.

    The Providence volunteers were rounded up by Serve Rhode Island in partnership with the United Way. The group recently deployed hundreds of people to help with Rhode Island's Superstorm Sandy cleanup, so it had a list of possible volunteers to alert. It also requested snow-clearing volunteers on its website.

    Share Rhode Island Executive Director Bernie Beaudreau said the group has had some worries over whether people would pose as volunteers and victimize those they were supposed to help. But he said the much larger Sandy operation went well and he expected no problems this time.

    "We're banking on the good will of others," he said,

    Gonzalez, 40, said he's anticipating some aches for his efforts, but added he's glad to offer his time.

    "Personally, I really love it," said Gonzalez, who helps manage his family's convenience store. "I believe that a blessing is useless if you don't share it."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 20 Epic Photos From the Big Blizzard

     

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    President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, gestures as he gives his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Tuesday Feb. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, Pool)

    WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is telling Congress that he will take action to combat climate change if lawmakers don't do it themselves.

    In his State of the Union address Tuesday, the president said Congress should write legislation that would give polluters market-based incentives to reduce the emissions blamed for global warming. He said if lawmakers don't do that, his administration will craft executive actions that would cut pollution, help get communities ready for the effects of climate change and encourage increased use of cleaner sources of energy.

    Obama says progress can be made against climate change without interrupting economic growth.

    The president says that with extreme weather getting more intense and increasingly frequent, lawmakers can believe those events are a coincidence or they can act before it's too late.

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

     

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    A house is damaged in Hattiesburg, Miss., after a tornado passed through the city on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Hattiesburg American, Ryan Moore)

    JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Brian Bernard has spent hours since Sunday's tornado sifting through the wreckage of his family's house in search of his daughter's flute. It's not worth a lot of money, but it's important to her and that makes it invaluable to him.

    Like dozens of families across Mississippi, the 51-year-old Bernard devoted hours Tuesday to rummaging through broken boards and other debris. They try to salvage whatever is left from destroyed homes, though family pictures and other items with sentimental value often mean the most.

    "Some people might think I'm crazy, but you know how kids are," Bernard said of his 13-year-old daughter, Brooklee, who plays in the band at Petal Middle School. "She loves that flute."

    The search for the flute paid off even before the instrument turned up, when Bernard found the family's kitten under a bed Monday. They had thought the pet had been lost to the storm.

    With more than 800 homes destroyed or damaged in several counties, scenes of people rummaging through debris are as familiar as the blue tarps being stretched over battered roofs to keep the rain out.

    Cleanup also continues at the University of Southern Mississippi, where six buildings were damaged in the storm. And crews throughout the area are still working to clear roads and repair power lines.

    More rain and a slight risk for damaging winds and tornadoes late Tuesday afternoon threatened to complicate those efforts and deliver even more misery.

    "There is a small concern of tornadoes across the southern portion of the state. It's not a huge concern like the other day, but it is a concern nonetheless," said Alan Campbell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson. He said there's also the possibility of straight-line winds of 60 miles per hour.

    Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Jeff Rent said any storms and strong winds could be dangerous, especially because damaged trees that are still standing could be knocked down.

    Rent said emergency crews hustled Tuesday morning to assess damages while there was a break in the rain. Rent said officials already know of more than 800 damaged and destroyed homes and that number is likely to increase. At least 80 people were injured in the storms.

    David Dean spent Tuesday rounding up the last of the items he could salvage from his demolished home in Petal.

    "It's really just kind of sinking in today. The first time in 54 years of my life, I'm homeless," Dean said Tuesday. "But God is going to take care of it."

    Dean and his wife were at church when the tornado hit, but his two adult daughters and a future son-in-law were in the house when it was demolished.

    "As soon as I got here and found out my daughters were all right, I was happy. I said don't worry about the house," Dean said.

    Dean said his family will stay with relatives and friends until they figure out what to do.

    "We lost a lot of sentimental stuff, but there ain't nothing we can do about it," he said.

    Officials said despite dozens of injuries blamed on the storm, no one died. They said the human toll could have been much worse, but the nature of the storm allowed forecasters to give people ample warning. Furthermore, the University of Southern Mississippi - which was in the tornado's path - was emptier than usual because of Mardi Gras. And some businesses were either closed or quieter than normal because it was a Sunday.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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    A storm bringing snow to the southern Plains and a rain/snow mix to the Ohio Valley will reach the mid-Atlantic and southern New England coast during the middle of the week.

    While the event will is not likely to translate into a major storm, it will bring a couple of inches of wet snow and slippery travel to part of the I-95 and I-81 corridors.

    Marginal temperatures will continue to be an issue with rain versus snow for this storm as it pushes toward the upper coast of the mid-Atlantic later Wednesday and Wednesday night. The track of the system will also be crucial as to how much moisture is thrown into the region.

    The first part of the storm would be rain for areas from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia and perhaps as far north as New York City, Long Island and southern New England. However, it is possible that just like over part of the central Appalachians earlier in the day, that a change from rain to a period of wet snow takes place.

    If the snow comes down hard for a short time, it could quickly cause roads to transition from wet to slushy to snow covered in some cases in time for part of the evening drive Wednesday.

    At any rate, it does not appear that the storm will bring a widespread heavy accumulation of snow from Kentucky to the mid-Atlantic, but pockets of a few inches of snow are indeed possible.

    Only a storm tracking farther north in the East would mean a band of moderate to locally heavy snow setting up from the central Appalachians to southern New England, because such a storm would be somewhat stronger than a system passing by farther south.

    AccuWeather.com meteorologists continue to weigh the storm's track to keep aware of the potential for a larger storm during the coming weekend in much of the eastern half of the nation.

    Even if the storm this weekend swings wide of the coast, additional large storms are likely for the eastern half of the nation through the end of February.

    Cold air will push into the Deep South and could even bring a couple of nights of frosty temperatures to central Florida.

    The atmosphere appears to be building a pipeline of storms for the next few weeks.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 20 Epic Photos From the Big Blizzard

     

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    This image released by Starpix shows cover model Kate Upton at the 2013 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue launch party at Crimson on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Starpix, Andrew Toth)

    Model Kate Upton has been talking all week about the epic voyage to Antarctica that landed her the coveted spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated's 2013 Swimsuit issue.

    It was, it turns out, an arduous journey. Antarctica gets cold. Very cold. Despite being outfitted with a top-of-the-line white Dolcessa Swimwear bikini to protect her from the sub-freezing temperatures and frigid winds, Upton still suffered from frostbite.

    "I'm from Florida," she told the "Today" show, "so it wasn't easy for me."

    It's no wonder that Sports Illustrated Senior Editor M.J. Day returned from the journey with a bold suggestion: "We should name a passageway after her down there."

    Of course we should. After all, the great Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton had an inlet named after him, and when you think about it, Upton and Shackleton have a lot in common.


    Let's look at a few of similarities between their two experiences in Antarctica.

    Shackleton: After his ship, The Endurance, sank, Shackleton and his men spent two months camped on an ice floe.

    Upton: After Upton got chilled while posing in her bikini, members of the crew threw blankets around her to warm her, creating what she called a "little blanket cave."

    Shackleton: At one point, when Shackleton and his men were nearly starving to death, he gave the only biscuit he was rationed that day to a sick crew member.

    Upton: During the photo shoot, Upton posed next to a guy dressed like a giant Oreo.

    Shackleton: "On Shackleton's return home," according to one account, "public honours were quickly forthcoming. King Edward VII received him ... and invested him as Commander of the Royal Victorian Order."

    Upton: On Upton's return home, she was received by broadcaster Al Roker, who invested her with an offer to co-host "Wake Up With Al."

    See? The answer is obvious.

     

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    Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013

    A US Airways jet takes off as an American Airlines jet is prepped for takeoff at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

    DALLAS (AP) - American Airlines and US Airways will merge and create the world's biggest airline. The boards of both companies approved the merger late Wednesday, according to four people close to the situation.

    The carrier keeps the American Airlines name but will be run by US Airways CEO Doug Parker. American's CEO, Tom Horton, will become chairman of the new company, these people said. They requested anonymity because the merger negotiations were private.

    A formal announcement is expected Thursday morning.

    The deal has been in the works since August, when creditors forced American to consider a merger rather than remain independent. American has been restructuring under bankruptcy protection since late 2011.

    Together, American and US Airways will be slightly bigger than United Airlines. Travelers won't notice immediate changes. It will likely be months before the frequent-flier programs are merged, and possibly years before the two airlines are fully combined.

    If the deal is approved by American's bankruptcy judge and antitrust regulators, the new American will have more than 900 planes, 3,200 daily flights and about 95,000 employees, not counting regional affiliates. It will expand American's current reach on the East Coast and overseas.

    The merger is a stunning achievement for Parker, who will run the new company. Parker's airline is only half the size of American and is less familiar around the world, but he prevailed by driving a wedge between American's management and its union workers and by convincing American's creditors that a merger made business sense.

    Just five years ago, American was the world's biggest airline. It boasted a history reaching back 80 years to the beginning of air travel. It had popularized the frequent-flier program and developed the modern system of pricing airline tickets to match demand.

    But years of heavy losses drove American and parent AMR Corp. into bankruptcy protection in late 2011. The company blamed bloated labor costs; its unions accused executives of mismanagement.

     

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    In this Jan. 3, 2013, photo, the conical drilling unit Kulluk sits grounded 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Painter, File)

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A multi-agency group formed to deal with the New Year's Eve grounding of a Royal Dutch Shell PLC drill barge near an Alaskan island says the rig is safe to tow to its next port and the unified command is disbanding.

    Coast Guard on-scene coordinator Capt. Paul Mehler said Wednesday that his agency will continue to monitor the activities involved in getting the Kulluk ready to move.

    Shell spokesmen say independent analysis confirms the barge is safe to tow to Dutch Harbor. From there it will be "dry towed" aboard a larger vessel to an unspecified Asian shipyard for repair.

    Wednesday's final update from the response team says the inner hull of the Kulluk was not breached and all four fuel tanks are intact. The outer hull was damaged and some windows and hatches were breached. Those portals have been secured to make sure the rig is weather tight.

    Three ocean-going tugs and a response vessel plan to accompany the Kulluk on its estimated 10-day trip to Dutch Harbor.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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    A couple cross West Arlington Loop in Hattiesburg, Miss., Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, after a tornado damaged the area on Sunday afternoon. (AP Photo/Chuck Cook)

    JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday declared a federal disaster in Mississippi following a massive tornado that tore through a college campus and destroyed or damaged more than 800 homes in the southern part of the state.

    Obama ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in Forrest and Lamar counties, which were severely affected by Sunday's tornado and resulting severe weather. The National Weather Service says the tornado had maximum winds of 170 mph and forged a path three-quarters of a mile wide.

    The disaster assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover.

    Authorities say damage surveys are continuing, and more counties may be included after those are completed.

    Officials estimate it will take tens of millions of dollars to repair damage by the tornado at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.

    The College Board voted unanimously Wednesday to allow Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds to sign contracts and take other actions without board approval to help the 16,000-student school recover. Officials say USM plans to resume classes Thursday, although 87 sections will be in temporary quarters.

    The tornado damaged eight or nine buildings at the southern edge of the school's campus. One of those, a former fire station converted to house the jazz program, will have to be torn down, Bounds says.

    Most of the damage to the school is expected to be covered by a $500 million insurance policy. The policy carries a $100,000 deductible.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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    In a Feb. 12, 2013, photo, two tugs, left, tow and steer the 893-foot Carnival Triumph cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, Ensign Chris Shivock)

    MOBILE, Ala. (AP) - After days stranded in the Gulf of Mexico in conditions some have described as dismal, most passengers aboard the disabled Carnival Triumph can look forward to an hours-long bus ride Thursday after they reach dry land.

    The company announced its plan for passengers late Wednesday as the Triumph was being towed to a port in Mobile, Ala., with more than 4,000 people on board, some of whom have complained to relatives that they have limited access to food and bathrooms.

    But passengers' stay in Alabama will be short. Carnival said in a statement late Wednesday that passengers were being given the option of boarding buses directly to Galveston, Texas, or Houston, or spending the night in a hotel in New Orleans, where the company said it booked 1,500 rooms. Those staying in New Orleans will be flown Friday to Houston. Carnival said it will cover all the transportation costs.

    Speaking by phone to NBC's "Today" show Thursday morning, passenger Jamie Baker said conditions on the ship were "extremely terrible." There has been no electricity and few working toilets, she said.

    Baker also described having to use plastic bags to go to the bathroom and wait in line for hours to get food and once saw a woman pass out line.

    "It's just a nightmare," she said.

    Baker said she and her friends slept with their life vests one night because the ship was listing and they feared it would tip over.

    Vivian Tilley, whose sister, Renee Shanar, is on the ship, said Shanar, of Houston, told her the cabins were hot and smelled like smoke from the engine fire, forcing passengers to stay on the deck. She also said people were getting sick.

    The company has disputed the accounts of passengers who describe the ship as filthy, saying employees are doing everything to ensure people are comfortable.

    Meanwhile, officials in Mobile were preparing a cruise terminal that has not been used for a year to help passengers go through customs after their ordeal. The Triumph is expected to arrive Thursday afternoon.

    Mobile Mayor Sam Jones questioned the plan to bus passengers to other cities late Wednesday, saying the city has more than enough hotel rooms to accommodate passengers and its two airports are near the cruise terminal.

    "We raised the issue that it would be a lot easier to take a five-minute bus ride than a two-hour bus ride" to New Orleans, Jones said. Jones said Carnival employees will be staying in Mobile, adding he was not told of the company's reasoning for putting passengers on extended bus rides after their experience at sea.

    "I don't know if the passengers even know that," Jones said.

    Earlier Wednesday, Carnival Cruise Lines canceled a dozen more planned voyages aboard the Triumph and acknowledged that the crippled ship had been plagued by other mechanical problems in the weeks before the engine-room blaze. The National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation into the cause.

    "We know it has been a longer journey back than we anticipated at the beginning of the week under very challenging circumstances," Carnival President and CEO Gary Cahill said. "We are very sorry for what our guests have had to endure."

    Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen acknowledged the Triumph's recent mechanical woes, explaining that there was an electrical problem with the ship's alternator on the previous voyage. Repairs were completed Feb. 2.

    Testing of the repaired part was successful and "there is no evidence at this time of any relationship between this previous issue and the fire that occurred on Feb. 10."

    Debbi Smedley, a passenger on a recent Triumph cruise, said the ship had trouble Jan. 28 as it was preparing to leave Galveston. Hours before the scheduled departure time, she received an email from Carnival stating the vessel would leave late because of a propulsion problem. Passengers were asked to arrive at the port at 2 p.m., two hours later than originally scheduled.

    The ship did not sail until after 8 p.m., she said.

    "My mother is a cruise travel agent so this is not my first rodeo. I have sailed many, many cruises, many, many cruise lines. This was, by far, I have to say, the worst," said Smedley, of Plano, Texas.

    Communication with passengers on the Triumph has been limited to brief windows when other cruise ships with working cellular towers have rendezvoused to deliver supplies, but some relatives have reported being told of uncomfortable and unsanitary conditions.

    Robert Giordano, of the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond, said he last spoke to his wife, Shannon, on Monday. She told him she waited in line for three hours to get a hot dog and that conditions on the ship were terrible.

    "They're having to urinate in the shower. They've been passed out plastic bags to go to the bathroom," Giordano said. "There was fecal matter all over the floor."

    Even more distressing, Giordano said, has been the lack of information he has been able to get from Carnival, a complaint shared by Tilley of San Diego.

    Carnival, she said, has not told families what hotel passengers will be put in or provided precise information about when they will arrive in Mobile. And that came after the cruise line switched the ship's towing destination from Progreso, Mexico, to Mobile.

    Passengers are supposed to get a full refund and discounts on future cruises, and Carnival announced Wednesday they would each get an additional $500 in compensation.

    Once docked, the ship will be idle through April. In addition to the dozen voyages canceled Wednesday, two other cruises were called off shortly after Sunday's fire.

    Jay Herring, a former senior officer with Carnival Cruise Lines who worked on the Triumph from 2002 to 2004, said the ship was not problematic when he was on it.

    The Triumph takes five generators - with one on backup - to power the ship, and 80 percent of that energy is needed to simply push the massive vessel through the water, Herring said.

    Each of those generators is the size of a bus, so it's unrealistic to think that the ship could have enough backup power on board to run services when the engines die, Herring added.

    "It's one of their bigger ships. It's certainly on the top end of Carnival's fleet," he said of the Triumph. "There are so many moving parts and things that can go wrong."

     

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    Winds of change will come east the next several days as a shot of cold air seeps southward out of Canada.

    The cold air will follow in the wake of an Alberta Clipper, which will track through the Great Lakes Thursday before moving across southern Quebec Friday.

    The storm system will bring a light accumulation of snow from the Great Lakes into parts of Ontario and southern Quebec. Most locations will pick up between 1-2 inches of snow, but there will be a corridor of 2-4 inches across the parts of northern Michigan, central Ontario and southern Quebec. Locally higher amounts will be possible.

    The bigger story from this system will be the gusty, cold winds that will accompany the storm's cold front. These winds will signal the arrival of much colder air as it sweeps toward the East Coast this weekend.

    Although this shot of cold air won't be nearly as cold as the one experienced a few weeks back, the winds will result in AccuWeather.com RealFeel(R) temperatures 15 to 25 degrees lower than the actual air temperature.

    The coldest air will be located across the northern Plains and Upper Midwest Thursday before sliding into the northern and western Great Lakes Friday. High temperatures will remain in the teens across parts of the eastern Dakotas, Minnesota and northern Wisconsin.

    Many cities across the interior South may see their coldest temperatures of the winter season thus far.

    The coldest spots in central Florida Saturday night into Sunday morning will likely dip slightly below freezing for a couple of hours, which could pose some problems to farmers in these areas.

    The cold shot of air will be short-lived across the South as warmer air returns Sunday and early next week.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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    This Friday (Feb. 15), the asteroid 2012 DA14 will fly by Earth in an unprecedented close approach.

    The event marks the closest-ever known approach by such a large near-Earth asteroid, and gives scientists a rare chance to take a good look at a space rock as it whizzes by our planet.

    To prepare for the historic event, here are some frequently asked questions about asteroid 2012 DA14, how it's monitored and what to expect during the flyby:

    What is asteroid 2012 DA14?

    At 150 feet wide, asteroid 2012 DA14 is about half the size of a football field. It's also moving quickly. NASA researchers think the asteroid is making its way through the solar system at a blistering 17,450 mph. The asteroid is a stony space rock made of silicate material, making it an S-type asteroid. [See Photos of Asteroid 2012 DA14]

    How close will the asteroid come to Earth?

    During its closest approach over Sumatra, Indonesia, the space rock will be 17,200 miles from Earth's surface on Friday at 2:24 p.m. EST.

    The asteroid will not only pass between Earth and the moon's orbit, but also fly lower than the ring of geosynchronous satellites high above the planet. Asteroid 2012 DA14 will be about 5,000 miles closer to Earth than those satellites.

    Will asteroid 2012 DA14 hit us?

    There is no way the asteroid will hit the Earth or any of the satellites in orbit around the planet on this pass. Astronomers have mapped out the path of the asteroid so precisely that they know it cannot come within 17,100 miles (27,520 km) of the Earth's surface even given uncertainties about its trail.

    NASA provided satellite operators with information about the asteroid's flyby well ahead of time just to be sure that no communications, weather or GPS satellites will be in the way of the asteroid as it passes.

    What would happen if the asteroid hit, if it did?

    NASA astronomers have compared the size of this asteroid with the one that caused the "Tunguska Event" over Siberia in 1908 that leveled trees across 825 square miles.

    Instead of smacking into the Earth's surface, asteroid 2012 DA14 would likely explode in midair, likely destroying whatever happens to be underneath it over a wide swath. [Asteroid 2012 DA14's Close Shave Explained (Infographic)]

    Will the Feb. 15 flyby aim the asteroid back at us?

    No, the flyby will not aim asteroid 2012 DA14 back in Earth's direction. NASA researchers have determined that the space rock will not make another close approach like this one in the foreseeable future.

    How will NASA observe asteroid 2012 DA 14 during the flyby?

    Because the space rock is too dim to see with the naked eye, researchers need to use sensitive ground-based telescopes to observe 2012 DA14. By observing in the infrared spectrum, researchers can see the heat of the sun reflected off the space rock to track its path.

    NASA scientists are planning on using the Goldstone Solar Systems Radar located in California's Mojave Desert to keep tabs on the asteroid after it makes its closest approach.

    Who monitors asteroids?

    Assteroid 2012 DA14 was spotted last year by astronomers in Spain with the La Sagra Sky Survey at the Astronomical Observatory of Mallorca, and various space agencies around the world are responsible for keeping tabs on near-Earth objects that could pose a threat to the planet.

    Experts heading NASA's Near Earth Object Program work closely with other agencies to monitor asteroids and comets that could be on a collision course with the planet. All the information they collect using radar imaging is transferred to a central database that astronomers around the world can use to help keep tabs on bodies that might be heading dangerously close Earth.

    Amateur astronomers - like those who spotted 2012 DA14 - take part by watching out for asteroids that NASA adds to the list. After a certain number of observations, researchers can map the trajectory of the space rock to see exactly where and when an asteroid will fly by.

    How often does an asteroid flyby like 2012 DA14's happen?

    NASA researchers have estimated that a close approach for an object this size happens every 40 years, with a 2012 DA14-size space rock impacting Earth every 1,200 years.

    How can I watch 2012 DA14's flyby?

    The asteroid's closest approach happens during daylight for most skywatchers in the Western Hemisphere, but stargazers in many parts of the Eastern Hemisphere could catch a glimpse of its flyby.

    Although it can't be seen with the naked eye, a small telescope pointed in the right part of the sky could help amateur astronomers see the fast-moving rock. It will look like a small pinprick of light moving quickly from north to south.

    NASA will also be live-streaming the flyby via a telescope at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. ET (2200 to 200 Feb. 16 GMT) on Friday.

    You can follow SPACE.com's complete coverage of asteroid 2012 DA14 flyby here.

    Follow Miriam Kramer on Twitter @mirikramer or SPACE.com @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

    Asteroid's Alarmingly Close Flight Path Depicted In Animation
    Asteroid Basics: A Space Rock Quiz
    The 7 Strangest Asteroids in the Solar System
    Asteroid 2012 DA14 Misses Satellites (and Earth) - Fortunately! | New Animation

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


    RELATED ON SKYE: Breathtaking New Photos of Earth From Space

     

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    Professional skier Svere Liliequist triggered a frightening avalanche during his run at the 2013 Swatch Skiers Cup in Zermatt, Switzerland. Amazing, Liliequist kept his cool, executing a pretty wild backflip as he outruns the snow crashing down around him. Thankfully, the move was a success. Check out :42 to see the incredible move.

    RELATED ON SKYE: The world's most extreme sports

     

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    By Renny Vandewege

    Alamy

    How in the world do scientists measure a tornado's power?

    Tornadoes come in many shapes and sizes - from skinny, needle-shaped tornadoes to large, mile-wide, wedge-shaped twisters. Many people assume that the largest tornadoes are the strongest, but that's not always the case. When ranking the strength of a twister, meteorologists evaluate wind speed alone. But determining the wind speed of a churning tornado isn't easy.

    In a perfect world, meteorologists could place wind measurement devices in every tornado's path. But that would be dangerous, expensive and, quite frankly, impossible, because tornadoes rarely follow easily accessible roads and highways.

    Instead, scientists rely on another indicator to rate a tornado's strength: damage.

    Dr. Ted Fujita introduced the Fujita scale in 1971 to rate a tornado's wind speed, based on varying levels of damage it causes.

    In 2007, noticing a few flaws in the original methods, engineers and meteorologists developed the Enhanced Fujita scale to replace the prototype Fujita scale. The new scale focuses on more accurate wind assessments based on the construction materials used to build the structures that were damaged. For example, the destruction of a shopping mall requires a higher wind speed than the destruction of a manufactured home.

    The EF scale uses 28 damage indicators, including structures and vegetation, with varying levels of degree-of-damage to determine wind speed. Once a tornado has passed, survey teams from the local National Weather Service office visit sites along its path to evaluate any destruction and match it to the EF scale using a software program.

    SEE ON SKYE: 18 Incredible Photos of Tornadoes

    Once the survey is complete, the National Weather Service generates a report that highlights maximum wind speed based on damage indicators. Then they give it a final rating. Reports also include information on path length and width to give an overall evaluation of the tornado, but these values do not influence the EF scale's rating.

    The EF scale has six rankings - EF0 to EF5 - with EF5 being the most powerful.

    EF0 and EF1 tornadoes are classified as "weak." EF2 and EF3 tornadoes are classified as "strong," and EF4 and EF5 tornadoes are classified as "violent." Roughly 80 percent of tornadoes are rated as EF0 or EF1. Less than 1 percent are classified as EF4 or EF5.

    WATCH ON SKYE: The Web's Wildest Tornado Videos

    The EF scale has one big flaw: The tornado must hit structures in order to get an accurate rating. In most cases in the U.S., tornadoes occur over open fields in the Great Plains. It's very possible that many tornadoes are not rated as highly as their true intensity would justify because they do not hit significant structures.

    A few tornadoes have made direct hits on wind measuring devices. In these cases, the wind readings have been used instead of damage indicators alone. On May 19, 2012, for example, a tornado that ripped through a wind farm near Spivey, Kansas, was originally rated an EF1 due to damage to a wind turbine. But a wind measurement device at the top of the turbine recorded a 166 mph wind gust; the tornado was upgraded to an EF3.

    The Enhanced Fujita scale isn't perfect, but for now it's the best system we have.

    Got a question for our weather expert? Ask SKYE.

    Follow SKYE on Twitter @SKYEonAOL and Facebook.

     

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    Feb. 15, 2013


    A major storm may come together to bring wind-whipped snow to the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes region early next week, while severe storms could ignite on the southern edge.

    Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio may get travel-disrupting snow from the storm during the Monday-Tuesday time frame of next week.

    There is potential for snow to fall in Chicago, Green Bay, Indianapolis and Detroit. Gusty winds up to 40 mph could reduce visibility further and add to travel impacts from the storm.

    RELATED:
    Weekend Snowstorm to Hit Part of I-95
    Snow Precedes Cold in Ohio, Tennessee Valleys


    On the back edge of the storm, some snow may even reach areas farther south such as St. Louis and Cincinnati.

    By Tuesday night and Wednesday, the storm may swing across Canada, bringing snow from the northern mid-Atlantic and much of New England to Quebec. Again, gusty winds may accompany the round of snow, adding to travel disruptions.

    Strong to severe storms may also be a threat along the southern edge of the storm; however, a limiting factor will be cold air that will surge south over this weekend. The cold air will flush out moisture that has been in place recently to fuel severe thunderstorms.

    "The Gulf Coast is most likely to regenerate conditions favorable for severe weather," AccuWeather expert senior meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said.

    Southeastern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and perhaps Tennessee may be in the path of damaging thunderstorms on Tuesday.

    The parade of storms will continue through late next week.

    Another, potentially bigger, storm will strengthen across the Plains next Thursday. A round of heavy snow may be in store for portions of the Plains, Midwest and Great Lakes. Chicago may get a second round of snow.

    The storm could move on to spread snow into the mid-Atlantic and New England by next Friday.

    See more weather news at AccuWeather.com

     

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    Feb. 15, 2013


    A swath of snow will streak northeastward across the coastal mid-Atlantic to southern New England spanning late Friday night into Saturday, ahead of a major snowstorm for coastal areas of the Northeastern states a bit later in the weekend.

    The snow will not fall along I-95 in the mid-Atlantic until after the evening rush hour.
    The snow will start as rain in portions of the mid-Atlantic but will end as snow.

    The disturbance producing the snow is an early part of a developing storm just offshore this weekend.

    Related on AccuWeather: Cold and Snowy Weekend in East

    While the snow from the preliminary disturbance may not last long, the snowfall rate could be close to an inch per hour in a few locations, causing road conditions to change rapidly.

    This map only shows snowfall for the preliminary disturbance and not the main storm. Most of the snowfall will be on non-paved surfaces.

    A quick 1 to 3 inches of snow can result in wet and slushy travel by Saturday morning along I-95 from Philadelphia, New York City and Hartford. A slushy coating of snow is possible around Washington, D.C., with a coating to an inch farther northeast around Baltimore, Md., and Wilmington, Del.

    The bridges along I-95 and other elevated surfaces will cool the fastest and would become slippery first.

    Many secondary roads and streets in the suburbs are likely to have conditions ranging from slushy to snow covered.

    Mixed rain and snow showers will transition to snow showers Friday evening over the central Appalachians, which can also bring a coating to an inch and perhaps a bit more in the snowiest spots over the ridges.



    The main storm will organize quickly Saturday afternoon and evening just off the Virginia Capes.

    From this point, the storm may begin to put down accumulating snow in portions of northeastern North Carolina, southeastern Virginia, the Delmarva Peninsula, the Jersey Cape and central and eastern Long Island.


    Related on AccuWeather: Florida Finally Sees Rain

    It is a close call with additional snow over the coastal mid-Atlantic from the main part of the storm Saturday night from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia and New York City. Odds favor the heaviest and perhaps all of the snow during this time staying to the east of these cities.

    However, areas from eastern Long Island and Cape Cod northeastward through Maine and the Canada Maritimes are most likely to experience a significant snowstorm with conditions trending nastier farther north. Blizzard conditions are possible from Maine northward.

    Additional information and updated snow accumulation maps on the complex snowstorm this weekend are coming soon on AccuWeather.com.

     

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    Feb. 15, 2013
    Russia Meteor Crash
    Municipal workers repair damaged electric power circuit outside a zinc factory building with about 6000 square feet of a roof collapsed after a meteorite exploded over in Chelyabinsk region on Friday. (AP Photo/ Oleg Kargapolov, Chelyabinsk.ru)

    Amid the damage caused by Friday's meteorite, residents around Chelyabinsk, Russia, are scrambling to find shelter from the impending bitter cold nights.

    Temperatures in Chelyabinsk are expected to drop to 4 degrees F Friday night, then plummet to 1 below zero F Saturday night.

    During the daylight hours, temperatures will recover to a high of 27 degrees F on Saturday. Further warming will send temperatures approaching 35 degrees F on Sunday.

    RELATED:
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    AccuWeather.com Astronomy

    Cleanup efforts will benefit from the dry weather that will prevail through the weekend, but residents must now take extra steps to protect themselves from the bitter cold.

    Many glass windows shattered in the Chelyabinsk region as the crashing meteorite caused an intense explosion that shook the ground, much like an earthquake, AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Matt Alto reported.

    In less than six hours, according to RT.com, residents bought out plastic wrap to block out the cold.

    RIA Novosti (Russian International News Agency) also reported that the sales of building materials and plastic windows have increased dramatically in some stores throughout Chelyabinsk.

     

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