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SKYE on AOL

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    A grounds keeper picks up practice balls out of bunkers on the practice range before play resumes for the first round of the Match Play Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

    MARANA, Ariz. (AP) - Bundled in a winter jacket in a chilly tent near the snow-covered driving range, Mark Russell was asked where the opening day of the Match Play Championship ranked among his bizarre weather experiences.

    "It's right there," said Russell, the PGA Tour's vice president of competition.

    And Russell has been on the job for more than 30 years.

    First-round play in the World Golf Championships event was suspended Wednesday when rain that came down sideways quickly gave way to snow from a winter storm that dumped close to 2 inches on Dove Mountain in about an hour. The temperature plunged to 33 degrees at the cactus-lined layout 2,800 feet above sea level.

    "I've seen snow on the course when I was a kid, but nothing like that on any of the tours. It was crazy," said top-ranked Rory McIlroy, one of 20 players in the 64-man field who never even made it to the first tee Wednesday at the Ritz-Carlton Club.

    After more snow during the night and morning temperatures around freezing, the course remained coated Thursday morning and play finally resumed at 1 p.m.

    The field is cut in half after each round and, with sunshine in the forecast the rest of the week, it shouldn't be difficult to get caught up.

    "We've got a lot of possibilities with this small field," Russell said.

    Tiger Woods also was in one of the 10 matches that didn't start Wednesday. He opened against Charles Howell III, while McIlroy faced Shane Lowry.

    Sergio Garcia, in the leadoff match, had just holed a 10-foot par putt to win the 15th hole and go 2 up over Thongchai Jaidee when play was suspended Wednesday.

    Ian Poulter's only other tournament this year was on Maui for the Tournament of Champions, where it took four days just to get started because of high wind.

    "I can't believe it. When have we ever seen that?" he said, taking off his rain gear in front of his locker. "The two events I've attempted to play this year have been three days of 50 mph wind and 2 inches of snow in an hour. It's absolutely, flippin' unbelievable."

    What does that say for the rest of the year?

    "Can't get worse," he said. "Just incredible. Bizarre. Have you ever seen it? Especially where we are."

    Maybe he should consider himself lucky. At least he didn't play Torrey Pines, where fog wiped out an entire round Saturday and Woods had to wait until Monday to polish off his 75th career victory. There were frost delays in the opening rounds at Phoenix.

    But snow?

    "I remember one year in Vegas in a collegiate tournament it was sleeting," said Webb Simpson, who played one shot. "We all charged toboggans to our coach in the pro shop and he wasn't too happy about it. This is crazy weather. But we've got a great forecast for the weekend, so hopefully, it will melt tonight."

    Poulter was cold from the start, rubbing his hands together and jumping in place to keep warm in the morning chill.

    The Englishman had a 3-up lead over Stephen Gallacher through 12 holes, then left the course plotting revenge after European Ryder Cup teammate Peter Hanson hit him with a snowball.

    "I'm like an elephant," Poulter said. "I will not forget."

    This was the second time in three years that wintry weather interrupted the Match Play Championship. Light snow covered everything but tee boxes and greens the morning of Luke Donald's victory over Martin Kaymer in the 2011 championship match. It cleared before the match, but there was a brief delay because of sleet that turned greens white.

     

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    Farmer Geronimo Blanco shows his quinoa plants in Patamanta, Bolivia, on Feb. 16. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

    LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) - The growing global demand for quinoa by health food enthusiasts isn't just raising prices for the Andean "super grain" and living standards among Bolivian farmers. Quinoa fever is running up against physical limits.

    The scramble to grow more is prompting Bolivian farmers to abandon traditional land management practices, endangering the fragile ecosystem of the arid highlands, agronomists say.

    Quinoa currently fetches as much as $3,200 a ton, up nearly threefold from five years ago - a surge fed by "foodies" making quinoa a hot health-food product based on its high content of protein and amino acids. It's also gluten free. Though used like a grain, quinoa is actually an edible seed.

    The United Nations has designated 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa, and Bolivian President Evo Morales planned to be at a special session of the world body in New York on Wednesday along with Peru's first lady, Nadine Heredia, to celebrate. Their countries are the world's two biggest producers.

    Quinoa has been cultivated in the Andean highlands since at least 3000 B.C., growing natively from Chile north to Colombia. It grows best at high altitudes in climates with cool days and even cooler nights.

    In December, Morales mounted a tractor and plowed furrows into the soil of his highlands hometown, Orinoca, to promote quinoa as sowing season got under way. Townspeople sacrificed a llama to ask Pachamama, or Mother Earth, for a good harvest.

    But last week, Morales was out chastising farmers for having planted quinoa in pastures where llamas traditionally graze. Without the llamas' manure, little would grow in the arid highlands more than two miles high where the most prized variety of quinoa originates.

    "Quinoa goes hand in hand with the natural fertilizer that llamas produce and there must be a nutritional crossing between the two," said Rossmary Jaldin, an expert in the crop.

    Bolivia's deputy minister of rural development, Victor Hugo Vasquez, said 30 percent of his country's 70,000 quinoa producers are now children of peasants who left the farm but have been drawn back by high quinoa prices.

    He and the president of Bolivia's National Association of Quinoa Producers, Juan Crispin, say many of the growers don't follow traditional farming methods and are depleting soils because they don't rotate crops.

    "We're not going to work with them," said Vasquez. "We are not going to help them."

    Morales' government declared quinoa a strategic priority two years ago and has since disbursed $10 million in credits for increasing yields to cash in on the boom.

    The country's quinoa crop expanded from 240 square miles in 2009 to 400 square miles last year, when it produced a total of 58,000 metric tons, according to the Rural Development Ministry. That is more than 40 times the production in 2000.

    The United States imports 52 percent of Bolivian quinoa while 24 percent goes to Europe, where France and the Netherlands are big buyers.

    Peru, meantime, raised its production to 43,640 metric tons last year from 29,640 tons in 2009 and exported $30 million worth, up 20 percent from the previous year.

    Their gains have caught the attention of potential competitors. Farmers are beginning to plant quinoa in other countries, including Canada, Australia, China, India and Paraguay. A few thousand acres are harvested in a highland valley of the U.S. state of Colorado and also in Minnesota.

    Bolivian farmers are complaining to their government that they need harvesting machinery since most of their quinoa is harvested by hand. Morales' administration has invited South Korean engineers to design the desired machines.

    Duane Johnson, a former Colorado state agronomist who helped introduce quinoa to the United States three decades ago, said quinoa can be commercially planted and harvested just like grain.

    "It's just the size of millet," said Johnson, who now lives in Bigfork, Montana. "I think the problem you get into in South America is getting enough land to justify a combine."

    When he was growing quinoa in the late 1980s, the United States accounted for 37 percent of the world's quinoa crop, Johnson said. Today, it has about 2 percent, he said.

    Environmental concerns about the expansion of quinoa in Bolivia aren't the only problems that experts see.

    Near Lake Titicaca, in some of the highlands' most fertile soils, quinoa is now showing up where it hadn't before been planted, replacing potatoes, beans and oats in some fields.

    Experts fear that trend could harm food stocks in this poor nation where one in five children suffers from chronic malnutrition.

    And with quinoa now costing three times as much as rice in La Paz markets, it isn't eaten much by Bolivians. Its consumption averages a little more than a kilogram, (2.2 pounds) per year for each Bolivian.

    The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization hopes to promote more use of quinoa at home by promoting the serving of quinoa in subsidized school breakfasts.

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    Updated Friday, Feb. 22, 5:40 p.m. ET

    Virginia Hawkins shovels snow from her driveway on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, in Hutchinson, Kan. (AP Photo/The Hutchinson News, Travis Morisse)

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A major winter storm turned Midwest commutes into treacherous challenges Friday before the system petered out over the Great Lakes.

    At least four deaths were linked to the storm, including three from traffic accidents, brought on by gusty winds and snow-covered roadways.

    Places in Kansas and Missouri saw a foot or more of snow on Thursday, and spent Friday digging out and clearing its miles of roadways. Impressive totals included 18 inches in the southern Kansas town of Zenda; 17 inches in Hays, Kan.; 13 ½ inches in northeast Missouri and south-central Nebraska; and 12 inches in parts of Kansas City, Mo.

    The system lost strength as it moved north and east Friday. Illinois' totals ranged from 7.5 inches in west-central Rushville to a mix of sleet and freezing rain in the St. Louis, Mo., suburbs. The town of Truman in southern Minnesota received 8 inches.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Massive Blizzard Slams Plains

    Eulas Henderson was in no hurry Friday morning while clearing still-falling snow from the sidewalk outside his Detroit home. Even as he shoveled, Henderson's work was being covered.

    "It's not frustrating. I enjoy it. It's the normal thing to do in the winter time," said Henderson, a 56-year-old security guard.

    The storm also brought fresh snow for the American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race, which is expected to draw a record field of more than 13,000 competitors and another 15,000 spectators to the northern Wisconsin city of Cable.

    "It's snowing real hard and I'm seeing all kinds of cars in the ditch," said Leslie Maclin, a skier from Evanston, Ill. But she was expecting good conditions for the race Saturday.

    The Minnesota State Patrol blamed the snow for over 500 accidents Friday. One driver was killed when she lost control, came to a stop in oncoming traffic and was broadsided by another vehicle in a St. Paul suburb.

    A 12-year-old boy died from injuries suffered in a collision on an icy highway in northern Nebraska on Thursday. A western Iowa woman was run over Thursday by her car, which had gotten stuck on her steep, slippery driveway. And a 70-year-old woman from Wichita, Kan., died after her car slid and collided with a train.

    In Ohio, which was clipped by the storm, a United plane slid off a slick runway at the Cleveland airport onto a grassy area, but no injuries were reported.

    In some locations, the storm didn't live up to the hype. At the Pilot Flying J station near Interstate 29 in southwest Iowa, shift manager Kelly Malone said Friday his company had taken precautions for employees by reserving rooms at the Super 8 Motel.

    "We were prepared for the worst, but it didn't happen that bad," he said. Iowa's snow totals topped out at 9.7 inches near Sioux City.

    "To me it was just an average storm, but I'm a person who drives through anything," he said.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Massive Blizzard Strikes Plains

     

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    In this June 15, 2010, photo, a rat wanders the subway tracks at Union Square in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)

    NEW YORK (AP) - At the height of Superstorm Sandy, city residents watching seawater pour into the subway system couldn't help but wonder: What will become of all the rats?

    Four months later, that's still a mystery.

    And experts aren't so sure about stories of hoards of displaced rodents fleeing the flood zone and taking up residence in buildings that were previously rat-free.

    TV stations and newspapers have been rife with reports about rats infesting parked cars and fleeing the East River waterfront for the brownstones of Brooklyn Heights and exterminators enjoying a boom in business.

    For some city officials, the last straw came a week ago when a rodent problem forced a two-day closure of Magnolia Bakery, a Manhattan landmark often credited with starting a national cupcake craze. Within days, a city councilwoman floated a proposal to create a $500,000 emergency rat mitigation program for storm-impacted neighborhoods.

    But the city's health department, which collects reams of data about the rat population and maps infestations looking for trends, said rodent complaints actually had declined since the late October storm, which was spawned when Hurricane Sandy merged with two other weather systems.

    "The Health Department conducted extensive inspections in flood zones after Hurricane Sandy, provided guidance to home owners and baited the area. But we did not see an increase in the rat population," the agency said in a statement. "Large storms can flush out rats, but they also drown many rats, and the net effect of large storms is often a decrease in the rat population."

    The number of rodent-related citations issued by health inspectors has dropped, as well.

    The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the city's subway system, the nation's largest, also dismissed tales of rats being stirred up by Sandy.

    "We noticed no unusual rat activity or rodent activity in the wake of the storm," agency spokesman Charles Seaton said.

    He also said that when water was pumped out of flooded tunnels and stations, there weren't large numbers of rat carcasses left behind.

    The idea of a mass rat migration drew ridicule from Richard Reynolds, who leads a group of dog owners who conduct urban rat hunts.

    "What happened to the rats? Nothing! We're finding rats right where we've always found them," he said. "I think this whole idea that there has been some kind of major relocation of rats is just good news media fodder."

    He noted, as did other experts, that Norwegian rats, the species found in New York, are known for being especially strong swimmers.

    "I have seen them dive over 70 feet, swim 500 yards, give me the finger and head for the hills," he said. "Hurricane Sandy is not going to affect these critters."

    Hard scientific data, though, is still largely lacking, and there is plenty of room for debate.

    Retired pest control expert Dale Kaukeinen, who spent 30 years in the extermination business, said his first instinct was that Sandy probably decimated the rodent population in some neighborhoods. But he said he couldn't rule out the possibility that displaced rats had moved into new territory.

    "They are adaptable. They can swim. They can move distances," he said, citing radio telemetry studies showing that rats can move several miles if displaced by environmental conditions.

    Also, because rats live in a world of smell, their former homes might have been rendered unfamiliar by a flood, he said, even if the buildings, parks or tunnels they had been living in suffered little permanent damage.

    "To a rat, it wouldn't look the same, it wouldn't smell the same," he said.

    Jessica Lappin, the councilwoman who proposed the emergency extermination program for flood-damaged neighborhoods, said she was skeptical when she first started hearing stories about rat infestations since the storm but has come to believe the problem is real.

    "We are used to seeing rats. But it definitely seemed to be getting worse," Lappin said.

    She noted that even though the health department's citywide rat complaint numbers show no increase, there has been a rise in select Manhattan neighborhoods near where flooding occurred.

    Those neighborhoods include the West Village, where mice first turned up in a basement storage area at Magnolia Bakery in the weeks after the storm, company spokeswoman Sara Gramling said Thursday. The bakery was cited by city health inspectors in January, then was closed down Feb. 14 after a follow-up inspection. It reopened two days later, with lines even longer than usual.

    Gramling said she was sure the storm was a factor in the infestation, although she noted that there is also a large construction project taking place down the block.

    "At the building, and in the West Village, there has been an influx across the board," she said. "We don't feel like it's an isolated incident. Clearly there is a trend."

    Thomas King, a manager at M&M Pest Control, an extermination business based in Chinatown, said his company's rat calls are up 20 percent to 30 percent since the storm.

    Recent media coverage of the supposed rat scamper caused by Sandy has focused on Brooklyn Heights, a historic district perched on a hill above the East River. But the neighborhood's rat problem is hardly new. Nearly every year has brought a new newspaper story about rats in the neighborhood, usually linked to trash left by visitors to the Brooklyn Promenade, the neighborhood's elevated esplanade.

    The Brooklyn Heights Association, a civic group, did get some reports after the storm about new rat burrows being dug in gardens along the Promenade, but city park officials took quick action, and there have not been any complaints since.

    So the mystery remains.

    At least one notable rat population perished for sure: 7,000 lab rats and mice at a New York University research facility died when the building flooded during the storm.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 25 Indelible Images from Superstorm Sandy

     

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    Lightning streaks across the sky in Tyler, Texas, in this Jan. 29, 2013, file photo. (AP Photo/Dr. Scott M. Lieberman)

    HEMPHILL, Texas (AP) - One woman is dead after savage winds whipped through rural East Texas and weather officials say a team will be sent to determine if a tornado struck the area.

    Sabine County Sheriff Tom Maddox says the storm streaked across the southwestern corner of the county on the Louisiana border about 1:30 p.m. Thursday. Maddox says the storm dropped a tree limb onto a mobile home about 145 miles northeast of Houston, fatally injuring 74-year-old Louise Pillow Stringer.

    Maddox says 25 homes were damaged and debris patterns look like those left behind by a tornado, rather than straight-line winds.

    National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Hansford in Shreveport, La., says the agency has no conclusive evidence of a tornado, but a survey team will be sent to investigate the area Friday.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 18 Incredible Photos of Tornadoes

     

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    The 2013 "Great American Race", the Daytona 500, will take place Sunday, Feb. 24, at 1 p.m. The forecast for this weekend has higher temperatures and smaller rain chances for the last practice races on Saturday. Temperatures will be in the mid-80s that day. Sunday, however, the day of the race itself, will be 8 to 10 degrees cooler, sitting at a high of about 77 degrees. The temperature difference could mean necessary adjustments to fuel for optimal performances.

    Sunday also has greater rain chances than Saturday, though AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski says an exact time for showers cannot be determined.

    "It's possible there could be some showers, even a slight thunderstorm chance, during the race," Kottlowski said. "Showers could also come before the race starts. If it rains hard, it could cause the race to be delayed or postponed."

    If the showers do interfere with the race enough to cause it to be postponed, the shower chance for Monday, though still there, is significantly lower than for Sunday's daylight hours.

     

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    A storm that brought over a foot of snow to parts of the Plains will reorganize on the East Coast this weekend and will deliver heavy snow to part of New England by Sunday.

    It will be the third weekend in a row that a snowstorm will impact parts of the region.

    Heavy snow is also a possibility from northern Connecticut and northwestern Rhode Island to southern Maine. Boston has a chance at breaking a February snowfall record with this storm.

    So far 32.0 inches of snow has fallen this month. The February record is 41.6 inches.

    Other cities that have the potential for 6 inches of snow or more include Worcester, Mass., Portsmouth, N.H., and Portland, Maine.

    Marginal temperatures will cause the snow to be wet in much of southern and central New England. In these areas, the first part of the storm will be rain Saturday.

    However, colder air will invade the storm while it strengthens near Cape Cod late Saturday night and Sunday. Snowfall accumulation rates could increase to 1-2 inches per hour in some locations, and road conditions will quickly turn from wet to slushy to snow-covered.

    As the storm strengthens later Saturday night into Sunday, winds will pick up in central and southeastern New England causing a plastering effect in some areas and blowing and drifting snow in colder locations.

    RELATED:
    February 2013 Could Finish Snowiest on Record in Boston
    Big Snow from Kansas to Nebraska; Snow to Reach Chicago
    I-81 Could be Icy Friday Morning in Virginia


    Accumulating snow is likely to extend westward into the Hudson Valley region of New York and northward into central portions of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Some snow could reach as far southwest as the Poconos in northeastern Pennsylvania and as far north as northern Maine.

    Odds favor mostly rain in New York City, Long Island and along the south coast of New England Saturday, with a wintry mix possible at the tail end Sunday. However, if the storm were to greatly strengthen, heavy accumulating snow could be pulled this far south.

    The storm will bring primarily rain in the swath from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., Friday night and Saturday. A few wet snowflakes could mix in at the tail end late Saturday night.
    Another storm aiming for the Plains late this weekend has the potential to bring coastal rain and inland snow to the mid-Atlantic Tuesday and New England Tuesday night into Wednesday.

    Details will follow in the coming days on AccuWeather.com.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Massive Blizzard Strikes Plains

     

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    Rye, N.H., fisherman Mike Anderson says he pulled up a mammoth tooth from the depths of the
    ocean on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. ( AP Photo/Portsmouth Herald, Ioanna Raptis)


    RYE, N.H. (AP) - A New Hampshire fisherman has discovered whale vertebrae, porpoise skulls and an old fuel tank that he thought was a treasure chest. Now, he may have hit the big time: a possible mammoth tooth.

    Mike Anderson of Rye was fishing for scallops near Rye Harbor on Tuesday when he winched up the dredge he trawls behind his boat and noticed a 6-inch, triangular object amid the scallop shells and rocks.

    "We knew right off it was a tooth because it has a nerve at the top," he told the Portsmouth Herald.

    Will Clyde, a University of New Hampshire associate professor of geology, said it may be a fossilized mammoth tooth.

    He said mammoth and mastodon bones have been dragged up before in nearby waters, although they're more commonly found in the western and southern parts of the country. He wants to take a closer look, he told Anderson's co-worker, Shane Nicols, in an email.

    But closer examination will have to wait. Clyde is in Argentina on sabbatical until June.

    Anderson said he pulled the odd object from a depth of about 120 feet about eight miles south of the harbor. He said it was the weirdest thing he has ever snared, although previous finds include whale vertebrae and porpoise skulls. He also has found the body of a drowned kayaker.

    Anderson said he would really like to find a tusk next.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Amazing Cold Weather Creatures

     

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    Earthquake damage. (Credit: USGS)

    The world's favorite places to live often owe their popularity to local geology that provides benefits - like earthquake faults that line up valleys and trap groundwater - but that also pose a hazard to the nearby population.

    With the planet's growing population crowding more and more into these earthquake-prone regions, a new study predicts that 3.5 million people will have died in catastrophic earthquakes between 2001 and 2100. The toll will add additional stress to strapped aid agencies, said study author Tom Holzer, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif.

    "The more people [there are] on the planet, the higher the probability of more catastrophic earthquakes," Holzer told OurAmazingPlanet. "Most earthquakes don't actually kill anybody. What is required is a concentration of people in harm's way."

    Massive population growth

    Four catastrophic quakes (those that kill 50,000 or more people) have already hit since 2001. There was only one per century before 1900, and seven between 1900 and 2000. The total death toll from temblors so far this century is more than 700,000. [10 Biggest Earthquakes in History]

    Holzer and USGS colleague James Savage analyzed historic records of earthquake deaths dating back to A.D. 856, then compared those events to world population estimates. Depending on which death catalog they used, the expected number of fatalities from catastrophic earthquakes in this century will be 2.3 million to 5 million, the study found. The most reliable catalog gives an estimate of 3.5 million, from 21 catastrophic earthquakes, Holzer told OurAmazingPlanet.

    The results are detailed in the February 2013 issue of the journal Earthquake Spectra.

    Holzer, whose expertise is in earthquake risks from different soils, said his interest was sparked by a scientific talk on earthquake fatality rates. He said he was intrigued that there wasn't a one-to-one correlation between total global population growth and earthquake deaths. In fact, the ratio of global earthquake fatalities to world population has been steadily decreasing. "I kept looking until I knew what was driving this," he said.

    More people, not more quakes

    The researchers attacked the problem in a new way, with a statistical method that accounts for the planet's changing population. Holzer cautions that the increase in killer quakes isn't from more frequent earthquakes, but from more people living in poorly constructed buildings in shake-prone regions.

    "There are places, like along the front of the Himalayas, that are just waiting for another disaster," he said. "China, the Middle East and many of the cities in these places just don't design to resist earthquakes. If we don't address this, we're going to see many more catastrophes than we've seen historically, and humanitarian aid efforts are going to be stressed even more over this century. We're going to see more Haiti-type situations."

    Remote areas at risk, too

    But urban growth isn't all to blame. In 2005, more than 50,000 people died when and earthquake in the Kashmir region of Pakistan devastated a string of villages. And the broad reach of tsunamis can sweep away multitudes in sparsely populated areas.

    About 62 percent of the world's population lives in countries with a significant seismic hazard, or risk of earthquakes.

    In a study published in 2009, scientists calculated that an earthquake with a million fatalities could be expected once a century if the world's population reaches 10 billion, as the United Nations predicts will happen in 2083.

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

    Image Gallery: This Millennium's Destructive Earthquakes
    Video: Rock 'n' Roll Building Will Survive Violent Earthquakes
    Top 10 Deadliest Natural Disasters in History

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


    RELATED ON SKYE: Incredible Natural-Disaster Photos from Space

     

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    By Renny Vandewege

    Source: SKYE Weather + Photo

    Weather forecasts often call for a 40 percent chance of rain, but what does that really mean?

    Despite all of our technological advances, the truth is that we still can't say with certainty whether one particular spot will get rain, so we use percentages.

    But here's the thing: Most people don't understand how forecasters arrive at the chance of rain - the "40 percent" part. It's not too complicated, so let me explain.

    The equation used to determine the probability of precipitation uses two variables: the confidence that precipitation will form and the areal coverage of precipitation if it does form. These two variables are multiplied together and the product is the percent chance of precipitation.

    For example, if a meteorologist is 100 percent confident that rain will form, but only 40 percent of the people in the area will receive rain, the probability of precipitation is 40 percent. At the same time, if the forecaster is only 40 percent confident that storms will form but they will cover 100 percent of the area if they do form, the probability of precipitation is also 40 percent.

    Meteorologists have determined that probability of precipitation occurring in one particular spot provides the most scientifically accurate way to produce a forecast. Technology has yet to advance far enough to give meteorologists total confidence in precipitation occurring in one spot at one given time.

    Though probabilities are the most accurate way to forecast - meteorologists have become roughly 90 percent accurate - they are also largely responsible for the general idea that meteorologists are often wrong. That's because probability forecasts are often misinterpreted by the general public. There are two common scenarios in which the public misunderstands the forecast.

    Scenario 1

    There is a 40 percent chance of rain in the forecast.

    Person A believes that every single day there is a 50 percent chance of rain. Either it rains or it doesn't rain.

    Person B believes that a certain location might receive rain one out of every 10 days over a long period of time, so that any given day's chance of rain is 10 percent.

    Person A is likely to view a 40 percent chance of rain as lower than normal and may not expect much rain. Person B is likely to view a 40 percent chance of rain as higher than normal and may even change their plans because of this threat.

    If there is a 40 percent chance of rain and it has rained in 40 percent of the area on that day, Person A thinks the forecast was wrong and Person B thinks the forecast was right. It is a no-win situation for meteorologists when a large segment of their viewers think they were wrong even when their probabilities were right.

    Scenario 2

    The second problem forecasters face is the notion that "if it didn't happen to me, it didn't happen at all."

    In a scenario in which there is a 70 percent chance of rain in the forecast, those who live in the 30 percent area that didn't receive rain are likely to believe the forecast was completely wrong without realizing that 70 percent of the forecast area did receive rain and the forecast was right.

    Some meteorologists have decided to use word descriptors to better communicate their forecast. Such words as "isolated," "scattered," or "numerous" have replaced the traditional percentage-based forecasts. Other meteorologists use phrases such as "splash-and-dash storms," "pop-up storms," or "hit-and-miss storms" to indicate the uncertainty in the exact location where storms will form.

    Forecasting has come a long way in recent years with advances in technology, but not far enough to pinpoint the exact location where precipitation will form on a given day. Probabilities provide the most accurate way to deliver a forecast - as long as the end user understands its meaning.

     

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    Northeast Regional Weather Forecast

    The third storm in as many weekends is on the way for New England and can bring a fresh foot of snow to some areas.

    While rain will dominate the storm along the South Coast and will occur in part in central areas early, enough snow will fall Saturday night into Sunday to cause travel disruptions, power outages and foiled plans. As the storm strengthens, colder air will invade the storm and winds will pick up substantially in southeastern areas. Taken separately, this storm will not rank anywhere close to the worst of them. However, added in with the other storms this month, including the blizzard on Feb. 8 and 9, it will try the patience of many hardy New Englanders. The storm is forecast to bring rain from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia and mostly rain around New York City. Snow will try to mix in at the tail end of the storm in New York City, Long Island and along the South Coast of New England. The duration and intensity of this snow will dictate the amount of accumulation.

    The storm has the potential to bring a foot of snow from part of northern Connecticut and northwestern Rhode Island through central Massachusetts, southeastern New Hampshire and southern Maine.

    RELATED ON ACCUWEATHER:
    Rain Possible at Daytona Sunday
    Kansas Slammed by Snow
    Even Chicago Got Snow


    For New England, the snow will be wet and heavy in south but will trend drier and more powdery farther north. Where the snow clings to trees and power lines, increasing wind Saturday night into Sunday can lead to power outages.

    In what started as another lost winter in terms of snowfall and temperature, February 2013 is making up for lost time in New England. Some cities, including Boston, have this month in the running for their snowiest February on record and already well within the top ten.

    Mounting Problems

    Winter maintenance budgets are being stretched to the max.

    Finding places to put the additional snow as the storms continue is becoming increasingly difficult. Piles of snow near intersections, at the end of driveways and in parking lots are creating hazards. Line of sight for motorists and pedestrians is being hindered. Patches of ice due to freeze/thaw cycles can lead to slip-and-fall incidents.

    While strong wind from the blizzard pushed snow off most roofs in the region, the snow load on some roofs was uneven. Where the snow has remained on roofs, the added weight from ongoing rain and snow events could lead to failure. As the snow continues to gain mass by absorbing rain or additional snowfall (no, the pattern will not end with this weekend's storm), the risk of flooding from rapid runoff increases for a date later in this season or during the spring.

    Fun in the Snow

    Many businesses and workers that rely on snow in the winter to survive are having a bumper month.

    For those who love to play in the snow, this weekend will offer more opportunities for skiing, snowmobiling, tubing, sleighing and boarding.

    More to Come

    There is no sign of spring for New England through next week. The pattern looks cold through the first part of March.

    For those wanting a break, the siege of storms will not stop with this weekend.The next storm will gather moisture over the Central states to start the new week and could soon follow up with heavy snow over the Appalachians Tuesday into Wednesday.
    The next storm is not likely to wait until next weekend. The storm for the middle of next week could target areas with heavy snow farther west and north in the Northeast than its predecessors.

    However, in keeping up with tradition, yet another snowfall could target coastal areas next weekend as well.

    For those heading to the South for Spring Break, a chill will settle as far south as Florida and much of the Gulf Coast into early March. Details will unfold in the coming days for the new storms and cold weather lurking on the horizon.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 20 Epic Photos From the Big Blizzard

     

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    Joseph Spinzola removes frozen sea water from his front steps on Rebecca Road, which is covered in about a foot of sand and boulders in Scituate, Mass., Sunday, Feb. 10. AP Photo/Charles Krupa.

    WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) - A Massachusetts state lawmaker has come up with a way to help cities and towns boost their strained snow removal budgets.

    With a winter storm bearing down on the state for the third consecutive weekend, Worcester Democrat John Bineinda has introduced legislation that would establish a $2 scratch-off lottery ticket the proceeds of which would go to a statewide snow removal fund.

    He suggests calling the ticket the "snow bank" lottery.

    Cities and towns running snow removal deficits could request funds from the account, subject to review by the state comptroller.

    Bineinda says the fund could help smaller towns that often have to cut into other areas of their budget during harsh winters when they blow through their snow removal budget.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Epic Photos from the Big Blizzard

     

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    Snow Plow Driver Brags About Covering Cars

    Bragging about burying cars in snow has cost a Lowell, Mass., snow plow driver his job - but he might have the last laugh.

    Blackdoggxxx posted a 2 1/2 minute video on YouTube, shot through the windshield of his Mack truck, showing him laughing as he pushing snow banks to the curb.

    "Watch this one," he says in the profanity-laced video, "now you see it, oh! That's snow going up over it... over the roof of the car!"

    "Ha haaaaa! You want to find your car? You come see me, I'll let you know where it is. Maybe. Ha ha ha ha ha!"

    After WBZ-TV found the clip and it went viral, "Dogg" defended himself to a radio talk show Friday morning, saying he'd been working 22 hours straight.

    "If I can get some kind of enjoyment out of it, why not?" he told the Karlson & McKenzie show. "I really don't care if I make more enemies."

    But his bosses at RSG Contracting of Lowell didn't see the humor in it and fired the driver - identified by WCVB-TV as Mark Hussey of Billerica - from what he called the best job he's had in 30 years.

    There may be a silver lining for the man who calls himself "Dogg," though. He says he's fielded three phone calls from television producers in New York and Los Angeles, saying he'd make a good reality TV star. He's thinking about it.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 15 Photos of Monster Blizzards

     

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    Another significant snowstorm will affect cities and towns from the Plains to the Great Lakes early next week, producing blizzard conditions from Oklahoma through Missouri.

    This blizzard is following a storm which just dumped a whopping 14.2 inches of snow on Wichita and 11.0 inches on Kansas City.

    After dropping 6-10 inches of snow on Denver through Sunday, the storm will cause heavy snow to develop late Sunday night from the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles through Dodge City and Wichita, Kan. to near the Nebraska border.

    Snow will quickly increase in intensity on Monday with snowfall rates of 2 inches per hour occurring from Enid, Okla., through Wichita and Topeka, Kan, and even to near Kansas City, Mo., by the end of the day.

    As this storm strengthens, blizzard conditions will develop Monday as well along a corridor from near Oklahoma City through Kansas City.

    Wind gusts to 50 mph will create dangerous travel conditions along Interstates 70, 35, and 44 with significant blowing and drifting along with near zero visibility.


    Blizzard conditions will then expand north and eastward into Monday night through the rest of eastern Kansas and much of northern and central Missouri.

    The heaviest snowfall accumulations which will approach a foot will fall along a corridor from northwest Oklahoma through much of central and eastern Kansas and northern Missouri.
    This zone of heaviest snow includes the cities of Wichita, Topeka, and Kansas City.

    RELATED ON ACCUWEATHER: Monday Severe Weather Outbreak For New Orleans, Mobile

    Snowfall amounts which could approach half a foot will be common for Enid, Dodge City, Jefferson City and even Tulsa.

    A couple of inches of snow is even expected as far south and west as Amarillo and perhaps to Fort Smith, Ark.

    Accumulating snow will expand farther north and east into the Great Lakes on Tuesday, bringing several inches of accumulation for the cities of Chicago, Milwaukee, Grand Rapids, and even Detroit.

    See AccuWeather.com for more on the impending blizzard.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 15 Photos of Monster Blizzards

     

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    Tucker the kitten wanted to go outside - so his humans plopped him down onto their deck, on top of his very first snowfall. But they didn't expect he would try to make his way to the grill...

    RELATED ON SKYE: 15 Photos of Monster Blizzards

     

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    Updated Monday, Feb. 25, 8:42 p.m. ET

    Blowing snow creates whiteout conditions Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 near Ingalls, Kan. (AP Photo/Courtesy Jeff Powers)

    LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) - The nation's midsection again dealt with blizzard conditions Monday, closing highways, knocking out power to thousands in Texas and Oklahoma and even bringing hurricane-force winds to the Texas Panhandle. Two people have died.

    Already under a deep snowpack from last week's storm, Kansas was preparing for another round of heavy snow Monday evening and overnight, prompting some to wonder what it could do for the drought.

    "Is it a drought-buster? Absolutely not," National Weather Service meteorologist Victor Murphy said. "Will it bring short-term improvement? Yes."

    The storm is being blamed for two deaths on Monday. In northwest Kansas, a 21-year-old man's SUV hit an icy patch on Interstate 70 and overturned. And in the northwest town of Woodward, Okla., heavy snow caused a roof to collapse, killing one inside the home.

    Earlier on Monday, blizzard warnings extended from the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles into south-central Kansas. The blizzard warnings were dropped Monday evening for the far western portion of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles.

    PHOTOS: Intense Blizzard Slams Central Plains
    Blizzard, TexasMeanwhile to the east, lines of thunderstorms crossed Arkansas, Louisiana and Florida, bringing heavy rain and an occasional tornado warning.

    As many as 10,000 people lost power in Oklahoma, as did thousands more in Texas.

    "I have a gas cooking stove and got the oven going," said Ann Smith, owner of the Standifer House Bed and Breakfast in Elk City, Okla., late Monday afternoon. Her daughter and grandchildren had come over because they lost power.

    "If it gets cold tonight, I guess we'll have to put pallets in the kitchen," Smith said with a laugh.

    Colorado and New Mexico were the first to see the system Sunday night, with up to 2 feet falling in the foothills west of Denver.

    As it moved into the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles Monday, the storm ground travel to a halt, closing miles of interstates and state highways.

    Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Daniel Hawthorne said about a dozen motorists had to be rescued, but no one was injured. The National Weather Service in Lubbock reported at one point that as many as 100 vehicles were at a standstill on Interstate 27.

    Extremely strong winds whipped around at least a foot or more of snow in the Texas Panhandle, and a hurricane-force gust of 75 mph was recorded at the Amarillo airport. Amarillo recorded the biggest snowfall total in Texas - 19 inches, just short of the record of 19.3 - while Fritch was second with 16.

    The Oklahoma Highway Patrol closed all highways in the Panhandle and much of the state's northwest because of blizzard conditions. Trooper Betsy Randolph said several dozen motorists have reported being stranded or have abandoned their vehicles.

    VIDEO ON SKYE: Intense Blizzard Bears Down on Amarillos, Texas

    Chris McBee, a storm chaser, got stuck outside Woodward in northwest Oklahoma in the mid-afternoon. By then, the city was leading Oklahoma's snow totals with 15 inches of snow.

    "We were planning to go back to Oklahoma City tonight, but the road was just impassable," McBee told The Associated Press. "You couldn't see 50 feet in front of you." A man with a bulldozer dug out McBee's vehicle.

    "He's just helping people," McBee said, adding he assumed the man was still out there. "We tried to pay him and he refused."

    While the wintry precipitation is "a shot in the arm," National Drought Mitigation Center climatologist Mark Svoboda said, the drought in the Plains and Midwest is far from over. Svoboda, speaking from Lincoln, Neb., said 12 inches of snow is equivalent to about 1 inch of rain.

    "We would need 2-4 feet of snow to just erase the October to present deficits," in Kansas, he said.

    Jim Shroyer, a wheat specialist with Kansas State University Extension, said snow is more efficient than summer rain in replenishing soil moistures because rain tends to run off or evaporate during the summer months.

    But it can take months or years for pastures and rangeland to recover to the point where there is good forage there for livestock.

    "There is a lag coming out of drought where some of these impacts will linger on long after 'climatological drought' is gone," Svoboda said. "And there is always a sense of false security there."

    Texas rancher Jay O'Brien warned the storm could be deadly for grazing cattle, with the wind pushing animals into a fenced corner where they could suffocate from the drifts.

    "This type of snow is a cattle-killer," he said.

    Parts of Kansas are bracing for anywhere from 8 to 24 inches of snow as the system moves through the state overnight. Wichita figures to take another hit after last week's storm that dumped about a foot and a half of snow.

    In preparation, many Kansas school districts already have called off Tuesday classes, as has the University of Missouri-Columbia. And Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Sly James declared a state of emergency Monday, as another foot or more could fall, adding to last week's 10 or so inches.

    "This one has the potential to be quite serious," James said at a news conference.

    Through the day Tuesday, the storm is forecast to spin toward the upper Midwest, bringing snow to Chicago and eventually Detroit before heading toward Buffalo, N.Y, and northern New England in the middle of the week.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Intense Blizzard Slams Central Plains
    Blizzard, Central Plains

     

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    Updated Monday, Feb. 25, 7:23 p.m. ET

    MONTEREY, California (AP) - Crews searched by sea and air and sought the public's help Monday as they ramped up their efforts to find a husband and wife and two young children who sent a series of distress calls to the Coast Guard the day before, saying their sailboat was sinking far off the Central California coast and they were fashioning a raft from a cooler and a life ring.

    The unidentified family had been sailing a small vessel west of Monterey Bay, where strong winds, cold water and big swells made for perilous conditions. Forecasters had issued a weekend advisory warning boaters of rough seas in the area.

    The group - which included two children under 8 - made its first distress call late Sunday afternoon, Coast Guard Lt. Heather Lampert said. Investigators used the boat's radio signal and radar to determine the call came from an area about 60 miles (100 kilometers) west of Monterey, she said.

    The boaters reported that their 29-foot (10 meter) sailboat was taking on water and the electronics were failing.

    An hour later, the family members reported they had to abandon the boat and were trying to make a life raft out of a cooler and life-preserver ring, Lampert said. The Coast Guard then lost radio contact.

    The agency looked for the family through the night and on Monday, with help from the California Air National Guard.

    The Coast Guard on Monday also released one of the family's recorded distress calls (http://bit.ly/W90cyv ), in hopes that it will lead to new information from the public that could help in the search. So far the agency has received no reports of missing persons in the case.

    The agency believes the boat may have been called "Charmblow." In the crackling recording, a man's voice is heard saying, "Coast Guard, Coast Guard, we are abandoning ship. This is the (Charmblow), we are abandoning ship."

    The agency has not identified the family, although investigators were able to determine from the broken distress calls that they were a husband and wife, their 4-year-old son and his cousin, Lampert said.

    The family's location initially was reported farther north, but Lampert said investigators using the boat's radio signal and radar now believe the call came in west of Monterey Bay, which is about 100 miles (160 lkilometers) south of San Francisco. The boat did not have a working GPS system.

    The National Weather Service had issued an advisory throughout the weekend warning boaters of strong winds and rough seas around the San Francisco Bay Area. Water temperatures in the area typically are in the 40s and 50s, making long-term survival difficult.

    Mariners "operating smaller vessels should avoid navigating in these conditions," the advisory said.

    Calls to harbors in California have failed to locate the boat, and database searches have come up empty too, Lampert said. The Coast Guard was expanding its search to Hawaii, the Seattle area and north into Canada.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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