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    March 21, 2013

    Groundhog Club co-handler Ron Ploucha holds Punxsutawney Phil after the club said Phil did not see his shadow and there will be an early spring, on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, 2013, in Punxsutawney, Pa. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

    Six weeks after weather-predicting groundhog Punxsutawney Phil signaled that spring would arrive early, much of the country remains in the throes of winter, with more storms on the way.

    Yes, Phil blew his big forecast - big time.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 22 People More Sick of Winter Than You Are
    Man Slips on Live TV
    And while some might just shrug off the mistake, officials in Butler County, Ohio, won't let it go that easily.

    On March 21, the county's prosecuting attorney Michael Gmoser indicted the groundhog, alleging that Phil "did purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the people to believe that Spring would come early."

    The indictment

    Contrary to the Groundhog Day report, a snowstorm and record low temperatures have been and are predicted to continue in the near future, which constitutes the offense of MISREPRESENTATION OF EARLY SPRING.

    What's more, Gmoser alleges that Phil committed an unclassified felony, and he believes the rodent deserves the death penalty. In the words of the indictment:

    The people further find and specify that due to the aggravating circumstances and misrepresentation to the people that the death penalty be implemented to the defendant, Punxsutawney Phil.

    Gmoser needn't look far for support. Internet users far and wide lashed out at the groundhog in recent days, calling him a liar and calling for his head.

    The humorous newspaper "The Onion" even got in on the action, publishing a story on March 18 entitled, "Punxsutawney Phil Beheaded for Inaccurate Prediction on Annual Groundhog Slaughtering Day."

    So, does Gmoser really want to see Phil pay the ultimate price for his failed forecast?

    Not exactly. Regarding any potential litigation, the prosecutor told The Washington Post, "I hope everyone understands it's tongue-in-cheek..."

    RELATED ON SKYE: Internet Users Lash Out Against Punxsutawney Phil


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    The sun sets behind the downtown Kansas City, Mo. skyline as above average temperatures returned to the region Thursday, March 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

    WASHINGTON (AP) - Government forecasters say much of the United States can expect a warm spring and persistent drought.

    The National Weather Service said Thursday above-normal temperatures are predicted across most of the Lower 48 states and northern Alaska. The forecast also calls for little relief for the drought-stricken Midwest and Southwest. Currently, half the country is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought.

    Late snowmelt will bring a threat of river flooding along the upper Mississippi. North Dakota is at the most risk of flooding from the Red River.

    A cooler spring is predicted for the Pacific Northwest and northern Great Plains. Drier-than-normal conditions are on tap for the West and Gulf Coast. Hawaii is expected to be cooler and drier than usual.

    The spring outlook covers April, May and June.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 7 Surprising Health Effects of Drought


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    In this April 11, 2011 file photo floodwaters from the Red River cover fields near Fargo, N.D. (AP Photo/The Forum, Michael Vosburg, File)

    FARGO, N.D. (AP) - With its ominously titled slideshow, "Get ready for a big one," the National Weather Service told flood-weary residents in the Fargo area Thursday to prepare for one of the Red River's five largest crests this spring, an outlook that prompted city and county officials to plead for permanent flood protection.

    The latest weather service flood outlook for Fargo and neighboring Moorhead, Minn., includes a 50 percent chance that the river would top 38 feet later this spring, which would surpass the fifth-highest crest of 37.34 feet in 1969. There's a 10 percent chance of an all-time record.

    "It's March madness again," said Fargo City Administrator Pat Zavoral. He noted that it would be the fourth major flood in five years, including a record crest of 41 feet in 2009.

    Chances of a top-five flood increased with near-record cold temperatures that have delayed the snowmelt, which isn't expected to begin until the first week of April, NWS officials said. The chances of major rainfall totals also increase around that time.

    "That's a volatile mix," said Greg Gust, NWS meteorologist. He added, "The bottom line is that we have a way above normal snowpack sitting out there right now."

    The flood threat comes as Congress is to consider whether to help fund a nearly $2 billion diversion channel around the Fargo-Moorhead area, a project that has come up against roadblocks.

    Residents downstream of the north-flowing river are protesting about a holding area that would flood homes and farmland in times of high water. And the North Dakota Legislature's House Majority Leader Al Carlson, who is from Fargo, has said he wants to see a federal commitment before the state ponies up money for the diversion.

    "Frankly, the fourth major flood in five years really emphasizes that we need to continue to work toward permanent flood protection so we're not here in this emergency mode every year," Keith Berndt, Cass County administrator, said.

    Berndt said he expects "significant damage" in rural areas if the river reaches 38 feet.

    Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said the city will "do whatever's necessary" to protect its residents. The city is asking for volunteers to help make 500,000 sandbags, which would add to a reserve of 750,000 bags.

    The operation, tabbed "Sandbag Central," is expected to open on April 3. The city expects to place 1.1 million sandbags and the county plans to utilize 500,000 sandbags to protect structures.

    Fargo-Moorhead residents battled three straight major floods beginning in 2009, when the record crest forced thousands to evacuate and caused an estimated $100 million in damage. The river crested at 36.99 feet in 2010, and 38.75 feet in 2011 - the fourth highest crest on record.

    "I know it's getting old. Extremely old for everybody," Walaker said.

    Fargo has spent $100 million on flood protection since the 2009 flood, buying out hundreds of homes in low-lying areas and building about 20 levees. Moorhead has invested more than $88 million on similar projects in the last four years.

    Walaker said it's not enough.

    "The only solution to this process is very simple. A diversion has to go through," he said.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Incredible Natural-Disaster Photos from Space


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    A pickup truck is sandwiched between two vehicles following a multi-vehicle crash in snowy conditions Thursday, March 21, 2013 south of Edmonton, Alberta. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Derek Fildebrandt)

    EDMONTON (AP) - A blizzard sweeping across the Canadian plains caused a chain of traffic crashes south of Edmonton, Alberta, injuring about 300 travelers, officials said Thursday.

    One person was seriously hurt and about 80 were treated at the site, said Kerry Williamson of the Alberta Health Services office. Another official had earlier estimated as many as 300 people were hurt, four seriously. About 22 people were taken to hospitals in nearby communities, Williamson said.

    The Royal Canadian Mounted Police closed part of Highway 2, the main road between Edmonton and Calgary, and were directing traffic away from the collision scene, said RCMP Staff Sgt. Grant MacDonald.

    He said the crash involved several vehicles, including a large passenger bus and several semi-trailer trucks.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 15 Photos of Monster Blizzards


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    Officials in Chile's central Concepcion province are baffled after thousands of red prawns washed ashore along the beach. The flood of crustaceans have made the shores appear to be colored pink. Investigators are unsure what may have caused the situation, and are investigating sea conditions in the region. Still, they haven't ruled out the possibility of an environmental crime.
    RELATED ON SKYE: Could a Trip to Your Favorite Beach Make You Sick?


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    Another major storm has begun to cross the nation with areas of heavy snow, flooding rain and severe thunderstorms. The worst conditions with the storm may center over the Palm Sunday weekend.

    Like many storms during the second half of the winter, this first major storm of the spring could threaten lives and property, bring significant travel disruptions and foil outdoor plans.

    The storm will drive cold air southward over the Rockies and part of the Great Basin.

    After bringing drenching rain and heavy mountain snow to the Northwest and part of the Rockies late this week, a storm from the Pacific will reorganize over the Central states this weekend.

    The exact track of the main storm as it heads from the Rockies to the Atlantic coast will determine the portions of states along the way that will be on the receiving end of heavy snow versus drenching rain.

    The storm will move eastward along a strong temperature contrast from south to north. Almost midwinter cold will linger in the northern tier states, while warmth and humidity build over the Deep South. This temperature contrast will likely be compressed in the middle with a distance of a couple hundred miles or less potentially separating temperatures in the 80s from the 20s and low 30s.

    The temperature contrast will make for very challenging forecasts when determining which areas near the storm track will get snow versus rain. However, this stored energy can yield very dramatic results ranging from a foot or more of snow in some areas to a half a foot of rain with flooding and a severe weather outbreak.


    The storm will gather enough cold air to begin producing a swath of heavy snow over parts of the central and southern Plains later Saturday and Saturday night. Parts of Kansas and Missouri appear to be in the middle of several different potential tracks at this time.

    During Sunday, the band of heavy snow will nose eastward, most likely impacting some of the Ohio Valley states. A small shift in the storm track could mean the difference between heavy snow in Kansas City, St. Louis, Indianapolis and Dayton versus Omaha, Chicago and Cleveland.

    By Monday, the zone of heavy snow will be impacting part of the central and southern Appalachians and could be aiming all the way to part of the mid-Atlantic coast and the I-95 corridor. Not only will the same challenges remain in the north-south orientation of the storm, but warm air from the Atlantic Ocean may play a role.

    Severe Weather

    There is the potential for severe weather to develop in portions of the Deep South from Texas and Louisiana to Mississippi, Alabama, southern Georgia and northern Florida with the storm system this weekend.

    Denver Heavy Snow Could Reach Midwest This Weekend
    South Severe Weather Risk Palm Sunday Weekend
    Midwest, East: More Snow, Cold Despite Spring Arrival

    Humid air will nose northward along the Gulf Coast as the storm tracks eastward to the north.
    According to Severe Weather Expert Henry Margusity, "Such a setup can deliver thunderstorms with large hail, damaging wind and perhaps a few tornadoes.

    The exact character of the potential severe weather event (straight-line winds and hail versus tornadoes) is not certain at this time but will be monitored closely through the expected date by AccuWeather.com meteorologists.

    Flooding Rain

    With the temperature contrast zone suppressed so far to the south and the potential for humid (very moist) air to surge northward into cool air, there is a risk of tremendous rainfall occurring south of the heavy snow area.

    This zone will most likely occur over the interior South, beginning somewhere near the lower Mississippi River and shifting eastward with the storm track. However, it is not likely to be a brief event and can fire a day or two ahead of a dry sweep of air on the storm's southwestern flank.

    "This means some areas could have rounds of heavy rain over a two- or three-day period beginning as early as Friday or Saturday in some locations," Margusity added.

    While any non-disruptive rainfall would be welcomed in areas of ongoing or building drought from South Carolina to Georgia and Florida, it has the potential to get ugly.

    The setup could bring low-lying and urban area flooding to significant rises on some of the rivers and will be monitored closely.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 22 People More Sick of Winter Than You Are


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    Tornadoes Tear Through Australia

    The aftermath of a tornado strike in Australia, which left at least 20 people hospitalized. Two tornadoes swept through communities in Victoria state on Thursday night, damaging homes and destroying woodland. Two people are in a critical condition. Officials say the tornadoes packed winds of up to 155 mph.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 18 Incredible Photos of Tornadoes


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    Photographer Michael Shainblum pulls back the curtain on the art of the time-lapse in this behind-the-scenes video. Shot in time-lapse itself, Shainblum's video shows mounted cameras as they capture several different scenes. He then follows up with the stunning videos they've created.


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    A woman in Maryland shared videotape of the apparent meteor

    NEW YORK (AP) - East Coast residents were buzzing on social media sites and elsewhere Friday night after a brief but bright flash of light streaked across the early-evening sky - in what experts say was almost certainly a meteor coming down.

    Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environmental Office said the flash appears to be "a single meteor event." He said it "looks to be a fireball that moved roughly toward the southeast, going on visual reports."

    "Judging from the brightness, we're dealing with something as bright as the full moon," Cooke said. "The thing is probably a yard across. We basically have (had) a boulder enter the atmosphere over the northeast."

    He noted that the meteor was widely seen, with more than 350 reports on the website of the American Meteor Society alone.

    "If you have something this bright carry over that heavily populated area, a lot of people are going to see it," he said. "It occurred around 8 tonight, there were a lot of people out, and you've got all those big cities out there."

    Matt Moore, a news editor with The Associated Press, said he was standing in line for a concert in downtown Philadelphia around dusk when he saw "a brilliant flash moving across the sky at a very brisk pace... and utterly silent."

    "It was clearly high up in the atmosphere," he said. "But from the way it appeared, it looked like a plane preparing to land at the airport."

    Moore said the flash was visible to him for about two to three seconds - and then it was gone. He described it as having a "spherical shape and yellowish and you could tell it was burning, with the trail that it left behind."

    "Set as it was against a cloudless sky over Philadelphia, it was amazing," he said.

    Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer at Philadelphia's Franklin Institute, agreed that the sightings had all the hallmarks of a "fireball." These include lasting 7-10 seconds, being bright and colorful, and seeming to cross much of the sky with a long stream behind it.

    He said what people likely saw was one meteor - or "space rock" - that may have been the size of a softball or volleyball and that fell fairly far down into the Earth's atmosphere.

    He likened it to a stone skipping across the water - getting "a nice long burn out of it."

    Robert Lunsford of the American Meteor Society told USA Today "it basically looked like a super bright shooting star."

    The newspaper reports that the sky flash was spotted as far south as Florida and as far north as New England.

    Pitts said meteors of varying sizes fall from the sky all the time, but that this one caught more eyes because it happened on a Friday evening - and because Twitter has provided a way for people to share information on sightings.

    He said experts "can't be 100 percent certain of what it was, unless it actually fell to the ground and we could actually track the trajectory." But he said the descriptions by so many people are "absolutely consistent" with those of a meteor.

    RELATED ON SKYE: East Coast Meteor Sets Twittersphere Abuzz


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    Breaking Weather: Colorado Steady Snow Spreads East

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A major weekend storm could give new meaning to March Madness for the thousands of fans in Kansas City for the men's college basketball tournament, blanketing northern areas of the nation's heartland in up to a foot of snow and bringing downpours and possibly, tornadoes, to parts of the South.

    Forecasters said Friday that the storm expected to come down from the Rocky Mountains could dump 8 or more inches of snow on Kansas City and could also blanket Indianapolis, Omaha, Neb., and Springfield, Ill. More snow is expected to hit parts of the Northeast early next week, and the cold air may stick around for even longer.

    "Baseball season's about to start. Let's hope this is it," said John Hart, a meteorologist with Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.

    Farther south, tornadoes are possible in Louisiana and Mississippi as the storm system moves east, while strong winds and low humidity levels could lead to forest fires and wildfires in parts of New Mexico and west Texas.

    The new system could pose headaches in winter-weary Kansas City over the Palm Sunday weekend because of the thousands of people in town for the college basketball tournament at the Sprint Center. But a spokesman for Kansas City's public works department said it has more than enough resources to handle whatever the new storm brings.

    "We are ahead of the game," spokesman Sean Demory said. "We have more than $1 million left in our snow budget, 17,000 tons of salt, and our crews are set for 24-hour activity on arterials and at least 12 hours a day on residential streets."

    After two mild winters, this will be the third major snowstorm in about a month for the Midwest. Weather Service meteorologist Chris Bowman in Pleasant Hill, Mo., said this weekend's storm will be similar to one in late February that brought white-out conditions, dumped more than a foot of snow in some areas, and forced the cancellation of several flights in and out of Kansas City International Airport.

    "We're going to have a pretty major late winter-early spring snowstorm," Bowman said. "Right now, with the models trickling in, my preliminary thinking is a good swath of 8 to 12 inches of snow will fall along the I-70 corridor."

    He said Kansas City will get rain Saturday afternoon, then snow in the early evening that will likely continue until around noon on Sunday.

    Only last week, some areas enjoyed record high temperatures in the 80s for a March 15 that seemed to signal the end of a winter that saved its worst for last, with two major snowstorms in late February.

    "It's fairly rare to get this powerful of a system this late in the year with the potential to drop that much snowfall," Bowman said.

    Weather Service meteorologist Vanessa Pearce in Wichita, Kan., said the storm system will start moving into northwest Kansas on Friday night and march eastward on Saturday. The state's highest predicted snowfall is expected along the Colorado border, where a foot or more could fall.

    Goodland is expected to get 12 inches of snow in northwest Kansas, while Wichita was expecting 2 to 5 inches and Topeka was forecast to get about 6 inches, she said.

    The storm will start with rain before turning entirely to snow, accompanied by strong winds that could hamper visibility and create some drifting, Pearce said.

    "A rain or snow mix could create a little bit of a challenge and hazardous driving potential," she said. "But for the most part, it's going to be just snow once major precipitation gets to some of those areas."

    Pearce said Wichita has had 24.5 inches of snow since Jan. 1, more than 10 inches above normal, while Topeka has seen about 7 inches more than normal. In northwest Kansas, the nearly 28 inches so far this winter is about normal, but the additional foot expected on Saturday will push that well above average, she said.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 22 People More Sick of Winter Than You Are


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    Pedestrians are shrouded in heavy snow as they cross a downtown street on Saturday in Kansas City, Mo. A winter storm warning is in effect for the area. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - An early spring snowstorm forced the cancellation of more than 100 flights at Denver International Airport and closed several roads Saturday as it moved eastward, dumping more than a foot of snow in some places.

    The snow started falling around midnight in northeast Colorado and then moved into northwest Kansas and southwest Nebraska.

    Ten to 15 inches of snow had fallen by Saturday afternoon north of Interstate 70 in northwest Kansas and northeast Colorado, with another 1 to 2 inches expected in the area, said Ryan Husted, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Goodland, Kan., where 15 inches of snow had fallen.

    The storm also dropped up to 7 inches of snow in southwestern Nebraska before tapering off Saturday afternoon, said David Pearson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service near Omaha, Neb.

    "But the wind is really blowing, so visibility in those areas is still going to be pretty low," Pearson said.

    Husted said winds gusting at speeds of up to 45 mph were creating snow drifts of 2 to 3 feet in parts of Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska.

    I-70 had been shut down Saturday from Denver to Colby, Kan., because of poor visibility. The northbound lanes of Interstate 25 also were closed south of Fort Collins, Colo., because of multiple accidents.

    "It's a mess here," said Jerry Killingsworth, a National Weather Service meteorologist also based in Goodland, Kan. "Heavy, wet snow, tree limbs down."

    At the Goodland 24/7 truck stop, truckers milled around. With roads in the area closed, they are "just waiting," said Samantha Lamb, the truck stop's assistant manager.

    "Our hotel across the street from us is pretty full," Lamb said. "Our parking lot has a good 35, 40 trucks in it."

    As the system moved eastward, it threatened to inconvenience fans attending the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Kansas City.

    Scott Blair, a meteorologist in Pleasant Hill, Mo., said light showers and drizzle began switching over to snow Saturday afternoon in Kansas City and western Missouri. The heaviest snowfall was expected overnight, with up to 6 inches forecast for the Kansas City metropolitan area.

    "If people don't need to be out driving tomorrow that would certainly be recommended," he said.

    Dan Gavitt, vice president of the NCAA men's basketball championships, said teams and officials already are onsite and that no game delays are anticipated.

    "This region routinely has winter snow and has the appropriate equipment and procedures to manage these winter conditions," Gavitt said in a written statement. "We encourage fans planning to attend games to pay attention to the weather, use good judgment and follow any directions from local authorities regarding travel and weather."

    North Carolina coach Roy Williams was nonplussed.

    "It's no distraction, unless the roof goes off, we'll still be able to play and the whole bit like that," Williams said.

    Elsewhere, some churches and other organizations were calling off events. Among them, the final game of the Emporia State baseball series with Southwest Baptist was canceled.

    Denver International Airport spokesman Heath Montgomery said about 106 flights have been canceled, many of which involved commuter jets headed to nearby destinations or to mountain towns.

    The Colorado Avalanche Information Center said up to a foot of new snow in the mountains could create dangerous avalanche conditions.

    Colorado State Patrol troopers also spent part of Saturday working a crash near Johnstown involving a tractor-trailer that burst into flames. An estimated 20 to 50 vehicles, including four tractor-trailers, crashed or slid off the roadway in the area. The patrol said several people were hospitalized, but no fatalities have been reported.

    The system will move into Illinois and Indiana overnight and into Sunday.

    Meteorologist Dan Smith with the National Weather Service in Lincoln, Ill., said snowstorms aren't uncommon in early spring. The latest the area has seen snow, he said, was April 23, in 1910.

    "One good thing about (the snowstorms) is it doesn't matter how much you get, it usually doesn't stick around too long because temperatures start to warm up pretty good," he said.

    Farther south, tornadoes were possible in Louisiana and Mississippi, while strong winds and low humidity could lead to forest fires and wildfires in parts of New Mexico and West Texas.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos of the Midwest Snowstorm


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    Heavy Snow Blankets Kiev

    KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - The city of Kiev has declared a state of emergency after the Ukrainian capital was paralyzed by an unprecedented snowstorm that has stalled car, railway and air traffic.

    The city was hit by about 20 inches of snow in the past day, more than it usually receives per month during this season.

    Tractors, armored vehicles and other heavy equipment were dispatched Saturday to clear roads blocked by kilometers-long traffic jams. Desperate to get home, some Kiev drivers simply abandoned their stalled cars on the roads and set out on foot.

    Kiev's main airport, Boryspil, was working with delays, the smaller Zhulyany airport was closed and Ukraine's International Airlines grounded all its planes until Sunday morning.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 15 Photos of Monster Blizzards


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    Updated: Monday, March 25, 2013, 11:36 a.m., ET

    A man clears the parking lane in front of his home near St. Louis with his lawn tractor on Sunday, March 24, 2013, as a new blanket of wintry weather hits the St. Louis region early in Spring. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Christian Gooden)

    PITTSBURGH (AP) - A wide-ranging storm is hitting the East Coast after blanketing the Midwest and burying thoughts of springtime weather under a blanket of heavy wet snow and slush, though less snow was predicted to fall as the storm moves eastward.

    Light rain and snow fell in New Jersey on Monday morning after as the storm dropped 2 to 6 inches in Ohio.

    Similar accumulations were expected in some areas of Pennsylvania, except for higher elevations like the Laurel Mountains southeast of Pittsburgh, where 6 to 10 inches were forecast. No major problems reported.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 22 People More Sick of Winter Than You Are
    Wan Slips on Ice on Live TVIn the mid-Atlantic, Heather Sheffield, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va., said more than 3 inches of snow had been reported by 8 a.m. Monday at Washington Dulles International Airport, and more than an inch at Reagan National Airport.

    Sheffield said most of that region's expected snowfall had already occurred, but "it happened at the worst time for the morning commute. I know I had a tough time."

    The winter-like early spring weather forced the cancellation of more than 500 flights.

    And, the slushy morning commute and widespread school delays as the storm moved eastward were minor compared to the storm's impact on the Midwest, where it was blamed for separate crashes in Illinois, Kansas and Missouri on snow-slicked roads.

    Springfield, in central Illinois, got slammed with a record 17 inches of snow, and several central Indiana counties declared snow emergencies after getting hit with up to 8 inches of snow.

    Slick roads were also being blamed for a series of crashes on Interstate 60 north of Indianapolis that sent two people to area hospitals with life-threatening injuries. The Indiana State Police reported late Sunday that two people in a 2012 Subaru were hurt when the driver lost control while coming upon the scene of a previous crash involving a semitrailer. The Subaru hit the tractor-trailer and ended up in a ditch, police said. Authorities said both driver and passenger had life-threatening injuries and were taken to area hospitals. An update on their conditions was not immediately available.

    Earlier Sunday night, a jack-knifed semi and subsequent fuel leak required a hazardous materials response outside Indianapolis, officials said. The Fishers Department of Fire and Emergency Services said a tractor-trailer was southbound on Interstate 69 when its driver lost control. No one was injured.

    The storm was expected to weaken as it moved east. Before it exits off the coast of New Jersey on Monday night, the storm was forecast to leave 2 to 4 inches in that state as well as Delaware, northern Maryland and southern New York.

    To the west, parts of Colorado and northwest Kansas spent Sunday digging out from 10 to 15 inches of snow that were dumped there Saturday. Southwestern Nebraska got up to 7 inches. Winds gusting at speeds of up to 45 mph created snow drifts of 2 to 3 feet in the three states, said Ryan Husted, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Goodland, Kan.

    "We have pretty much cleared out. Sunny skies. It's starting to melt a little bit," Husted said Sunday. Transportation officials reopened several closed highways, including a stretch of Interstate 70 spanning from Denver to Colby, Kan.

    Authorities on Sunday also released the names of two people killed in separate crashes. In northeast Kansas, Anthony J. Hinthorne, 40, of Topeka, was killed Saturday afternoon in a single-vehicle crash and rollover on the Kansas Turnpike as snow was falling in Shawnee County, the Kansas Highway Patrol said. Later that night, Joshua J. French, 24, of Naperville, Ill., was killed when he lost control of his vehicle on a wet stretch of Interstate 35 in eastern Missouri's Clay County.

    In the central Missouri town of Columbia, TV station KOMU was briefly evacuated Sunday morning because of high winds and a heavy buildup of snow on the broadcast tower next to the building. And Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced he was cancelling a couple events planned for Monday because of the weather.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Snowstorm Strikes Midwest, Heads East


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    In Coney Island in New York, a maintenance worker inspects the Cyclone roller coaster sign in this Tuesday, June 26, 2012 photo. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

    NEW YORK (AP) - While some New Yorkers prayed in churches, the folks on Coney Island had their amusement rides blessed for the season opening five months after Superstorm Sandy.

    The October storm destroyed homes and businesses, and damaged rides. Sandy flooded the electrical equipment of Deno's Wonder Wheel, at a cost of close to a half million dollars.

    Valerio Ferrari, president of the company that operates Luna Park, says the beachfront community has been "to hell and back."

    On Sunday morning, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz helped open the attractions with the 29th annual blessing of the rides.

    The Cyclone Rollercoaster got an "egg cream christening."

    RELATED ON SKYE: 25 Indelible Images from Superstorm Sandy


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    The dramatic fireball that lit up skies over the U.S. East Coast Friday evening (March 22) was caused by an asteroid just 3 feet or so wide, scientists say.

    Such boulder-size asteroids slam into Earth's atmosphere every two or three days, so Friday's "Manhattan meteor" - which shone as brightly as the full moon and was apparently visible from Maine to North Carolina - isn't a terribly rare event. But the sensation it created on Twitter and other social media outlets is understandable nonetheless, said NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke.

    "When you have something like this occur at 8 o'clock at night over one of the most populated regions of the United States, it's going to get people's attention," Cooke, head of the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., told reporters today (March 23).

    Indeed, a similar meteor caused a stir last month when it blazed through the skies above California's densely populated Bay Area. [5 Amazing Fireball Videos]

    The Manhattan meteor entered our planet's atmosphere over eastern Pennsylvania Friday and streaked southeast from there, flaming out over the Atlantic Ocean. While space rocks of this size sometimes produce meteorites (rocks that survive to reach Earth's surface), Cooke said, it's unlikely that scientists or collectors will snag any pieces of this one.

    "The eyewitness accounts indicate that this meteor was last seen about 43 miles into the Atlantic, so I do not believe there are any meteorites on land from this event," Cooke said.

    Some eyewitnesses have posted videos of the meteor to YouTube, which Cooke and his colleagues have been poring over. NASA runs a network of fireball cameras, but the instruments were apparently all clouded out or too far away to observe the event, Cooke said.

    Friday's meteor follows closely on the heels of several other dramatic space rock events. For example, a huge fireball detonated without warning over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk on Feb. 15, wounding more than 1,200 people. Just hours later, a 130-foot-wide asteroid called 2012 DA14 gave Earth an uncomfortably close shave, coming nearer than our planet's ring of geosynchronous satellites.

    But people shouldn't start worrying that the sky is falling, Cooke stressed.

    "If you look at the actual number of fireballs for this month so far, it's normal - it's the same as every other year before this one," he said. "It's just that people are paying more attention and looking up, I think, because of recent events."

    Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published on SPACE.com.

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