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SKYE on AOL

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    Updated Friday, May 17, 8:45 a.m.
    Pavlof Volcano Erupts
    Photographer Brett Scarola captured this image of Pavlof Volcano erupting while flying from Anchorage to Unalaska on May 15. (Brett Scarola/Life thru a Lens)

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A remote Alaska volcano continues to erupt, spewing lava and ash clouds.

    The Alaska Volcano Observatory said Thursday a continuous cloud of ash, steam and gas from Pavlof Volcano has been seen 20,000 feet above sea level. The cloud was moving to the southeast Thursday.

    John Power, the U.S. Geological Survey scientist in charge at the observatory, estimates the lava fountain rose several hundred feet into the air.

    Onsite seismic instruments are picking up constant tremors from the eruption at Pavlof, located about 625 miles southwest of Anchorage.

    Residents of Cold Bay, 37 miles away, have reported seeing a glow from the summit.

    Pavlof is among the most active volcanoes in the Aleutian arc, with nearly 40 known eruptions, according to the observatory.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Breathtaking Volcanic Eruptions from Space
    Volcanic Eruption

     

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    Crews Assess Texas Tornado Damage
    GRANBURY, Texas (AP) - Raul Rodriguez counts himself a lucky man.

    For two years, the 42-year-old auto mechanic and his family have enjoyed life in his house in the Rancho Brazos Estates subdivision of Granbury, a North Texas town 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth. Built by volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, it was the first home Rodriguez has ever owned.

    On Wednesday evening, he was home with his wife and three children when a storm began to rage.

    "I looked out the window and thought, 'It doesn't look good,'" he said.

    He gathered his family into a hall closet as a savage tornado roared over his neighborhood. All he could hear above the storm's din was the sound of every window in his home shattering.

    Photos: Tornadoes Tear Through North Texas
    After the storm passed, he and his family emerged to find his home damaged but still standing.

    "I'm surprised. I can't believe it. My wife was the first person out, and injured people, bloody people, started coming to our house, asking us to call 911," he said.

    Habitat for Humanity spent years in Granbury's Rancho Brazos Estates subdivision, helping to build many of the 110 homes in the low-income area. But its work was largely undone during an outbreak of 16 tornadoes Wednesday night that killed six people and injured dozens.

    Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds said Thursday afternoon that two of the dead were women and four of them men; one man and one woman were in their 80s. Six or seven people have not been accounted for, he said at a news conference.

    "I'm very confident we'll find those people alive and well," Deeds said, adding that 37 injured people were treated at hospitals. "We're going to keep looking. We're not going to give up until every piece of debris is turned over."

    Granbury bore the brunt of the damage. The weather service said the preliminary storm estimate for the Granbury tornado was an EF-4, based on the Fujita tornado damage scale. An EF-5 is the most severe, but an EF-4 tornado has wind speeds of 166 to 200 mph.

    Another tornado in nearby Cleburne cut a mile-wide path through part of the city Wednesday. The weather service said it was estimated as an EF-3, which has winds between 136 and 165 mph. No deaths or severe injuries were reported from that tornado.

    Harold Brooks, a meteorologist at the weather service's severe storm lab in Norman, Okla., said May 15 is the latest into the month that the U.S. has had to wait for its first significant tornadoes of the year. Brooks said he would expect 2013 to be one of the least lethal tornado years since the agency started keeping records in 1954.

    Habitat for Humanity's website describes the international organization as a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian ministry that has helped build or repair more than 600,000 houses for more than 3 million people who otherwise could not afford home ownership. The ministry was brought to prominence by the participation of former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter.

    Habitat for Humanity homes, built for low-income buyers using volunteer labor and donations, are financed with affordable loans. The nonprofit selects homeowners based on their level of need, willingness to become partners in the program and ability to repay their loan. Homeowners invest their own time into building the homes as well.

    Of the homes in the Rancho Brazos Estates, 61 of them were built by Habitat for Humanity, according to Gage Yeager, executive director of Trinity Habitat for Humanity in Fort Worth. He said most of those homes were damaged, including at least a dozen that were destroyed.

    On Thursday, authorities combed through debris in Granbury, while residents awaited the chance to see what was left of their homes. Witnesses described the two badly hit neighborhoods as unrecognizable, with homes ripped from foundations and others merely rubble.

    "I tell you, it has just broken my heart," said Habitat for Humanity volunteer Elsie Tallant, who helped serve lunch every weekend to those building the homes in a Granbury neighborhood and those poised to become homeowners.

    "We were going to dedicate a house this weekend, and her home was destroyed," she said.

    The homes, built primarily for low-income people, were insured and can be rebuilt, said Habitat for Humanity volunteer Bill Jackson.

    Raul Rodriguez said he will rebuild. Aside from shattered windows, lost roof shingles and a garage that caved in on his car, Rodriguez feels fortunate.

    "My neighbors to the right, they lost everything," he said.

     

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    A firefightier watches a backfire set in Hungry Valley State Park to halt the prgress of the Grand fire, which charred more than 3,000 acres of wildlands near Frazier Park on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Luis Sinco)

    FRAZIER PARK, Calif. (AP) - Firefighters had to battle terrain as much as flames as they worked to surround a wildfire entering its third day in harsh hills and mountains north of Los Angeles.

    Temperatures dipped Thursday and were expected to remain cool on Friday, but winds upwards of 20 mph continued to swirl, and much of the blaze that has blackened some 3,800 acres was in rocky, rugged, difficult-to-reach places, making containment a challenge.

    After a heavy aerial effort Thursday, the fire was 25 percent contained by nightfall.

    The fire broke out near Interstate 5 when temperatures were in the 80s, and though they've dropped to the 60s, winds were still a problem.

    "It's definitely gusty, but we're lucky, the winds are blowing away from homes," Kern County Fire Department spokesman Corey Wilford said. "It would be better if we didn't have winds at all though."

    Lower temperatures are expected to persist into the weekend.

    The fire has spread to three counties, Los Angeles, Kern and Ventura, but burned in mostly populated areas and threatened no homes or buildings.

    A Kern County high school was closed as a precaution.

    The fire started early Wednesday afternoon for reasons that remain under investigation. It initially burned thick brush, seasonal grasses and sage, but then moved into the trees.

    The cooler weather helped firefighters overnight clear brush and create breaks in hopes of slowing the blaze. Efforts on Thursday were focused on the southern edge of the fire.

    The cause of the fire is under investigation.

     

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    This Oct. 30, 2012 file photo shows an aerial view of damage to the New Jersey shoreline following Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen, File)

    SAYREVILLE, N.J. (AP) - Some 350 homeowners in the central New Jersey towns of Sayreville and South River whose properties have flooded repeatedly will be eligible to sell their homes in the first phase of a new federally funded buyback program, Gov. Chris Christie announced Thursday.

    Christie returned to the community of Sayreville, which was heavily flooded during Superstorm Sandy, to announce the $300 million buyback. The money will be enough to buy back nearly 1,000 homes in targeted communities along the Raritan River, Passaic River basin and the Jersey Shore. The homes that the government buys will be razed and the property maintained as wetlands to help protect against future floods. The program is voluntary.

    A second round of funding is expected in September, Christie said. It will allow the program to expand to other flood-prone areas. Woodbridge was one community mentioned, where 200 willing homeowners have already applied.

    Christie said Environmental Protection Department would target clusters of homes or whole neighborhoods, not individual homes, so neighbors might need to get together, perhaps throw a party, to convince holdouts in the target zone to go along.

    "I think you know what I'm saying," the governor told the capacity crowd at an elementary school, "use the gentle persuasion that New Jerseyans are known for to get things going.'"

    Property appraisals will begin in June, the governor said. Offers to willing sellers will start in July and all closings will happen within a year. Christie did not say how much homeowners would be offered, other than that they would be given "fair value."

    The buyout program will begin with about 350 eligible properties in Sayreville and neighboring South River.

    Sayreville, surrounded by the Raritan River, Raritan Bay and the South River in Middlesex County, was among the first towns Christie visited after Superstorm Sandy in late October. About 270 homes in the town were destroyed or severely damaged, and a wastewater pumping station was wrecked.

    Christie said when he toured the wreckage afterward, devastated homeowners told him, "Get us out of here. We can't take it anymore."

    "When the folks of New Jersey tell you that, you have to listen," Christie said.

    On the other hand, no one will be forced to sell and no community will be required to participate.

    "It's up to these communities to make the tough decisions on whether to sell or rebuild," DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said. He said the decision is personal and emotional for people "who were decimated by Sandy and may have also suffered damage in previous storms, but who still love where they live."

    Christie, who wore a trademark fleece jacket in the days after Superstorm Sandy, was presented with a fleece Thursday by Elaine Konopka, who attended the town hall. She said she was "really appreciative" of the governor's efforts in the aftermath of the storm.

    The buyback will be part of the state's Blue Acres program, which was established more than 15 years ago to buy lands in the Delaware, Passaic and Raritan river basins.

     

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    Severe weather will continue into the weekend across the Plains.

    Thunderstorms will develop in South Dakota and Nebraska late in the day Friday and will continue into Friday night as an area of low pressure gathers in the Plains.

    These thunderstorms will be capable of producing torrential downpours, large hail and damaging wind gusts.

    Heavy downpours from these storms can lead to localized flash flooding, especially in low-lying areas and areas with poor drainage.

    Tornadoes are not expected with these storms; however, wind gusts up to 65 mph may knock over trees and power lines.

    The threat of severe weather will expand across the Plains heading into the weekend as the area of low pressure continues to develop.

    The area that will be affected by severe weather on Saturday will stretch from South Dakota down into the Texas Panhandle.

    RELATED:
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    AccuWeather.com Severe Weather Center
    Texas Outbreak Shows It Only Takes One


    The severe weather threat Saturday will be similar to that of the storms Friday, producing hail and damaging winds.

    This area of severe weather will shift east Sunday with hail, damaging winds, and the added threat of tornadoes.

     

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    The Pavlof volcano erupts Thursday, May 16, 2013, as seen from the air from the southwest in Cold Bay, Alaska. (AP Photo/Alaskan Volcano Observatory, Theo Chesley)

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - One of Alaska's most restless volcanoes shot an ash cloud 15,000 feet into the air Friday in an ongoing eruption that is visible for miles when the weather allows.

    An air traffic controller in the region said small planes have flown around the plumes from Pavlof Volcano. Ash would have to rise tens of thousands of feet to threaten larger planes.

    The eruption began Monday, and a photograph shows lava spraying out from the summit of the volcano, located 625 miles southwest of Anchorage. The Alaska Volcano Observatory said clouds of ash, steam and gas have occasionally reached the 20,000-foot level and have been visible from the nearby communities of Cold Bay and Sand Point.

    Onsite seismic instruments have detected an increase in the force of tremors from the 8,262-foot volcano.

    "It's definitely kicking right along," John Power, the U.S. Geological Survey scientist in charge at the observatory, said Friday.

    A mining camp 50 miles northeast of the volcano reported a light ash fall Tuesday evening, according to the observatory.

    Residents of Cold Bay, about 40 miles from Pavlof, are concerned the ash could damage their power generators, air traffic controller John Maxwell said Friday. But so far, the wind has blown the ash away from the area, he said.

    "Everybody is thinking about it," Maxwell said. "Not that anybody is afraid they're going to be like Mount Vesuvius and turned into little mummies."

    Mike Tickle, manager of the local fuel terminal, said his wife woke him up Wednesday night to tell him she saw a splatter of lava spurting from Pavlof. He hustled to get his camera, but by the time he went to have a look, all that remained was a red glow.

    "It's been overcast since then," he said.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Stunning Aerial Photo Shows Erupting Alaska Volcano

    Typically, Pavlof eruptions are gas-rich fountains of lava that can shoot up to a few thousand feet. But its ash clouds are usually less dense than the plumes of more explosive volcanoes that pose a greater hazard to aircraft, scientists say.

    Pavlof is among the most active volcanoes in the Aleutian arc, with nearly 40 known eruptions, according to the observatory.

    The volcano last erupted in 2007. During the 29-day eruption, Pavlof emitted mud flows and erupting lava, as well as ash clouds up to 18,000 feet high, according to Power.

    In early May, Cleveland Volcano, on an uninhabited island in the Aleutian Islands, experienced a low-level eruption. Satellite imagery shows the volcano has continued to discharge steam, gas and heat in the past week. New analysis of earlier images showed a small lava flow going over the southeast rim of the summit crater, the observatory said.

    There has been no new imagery in recent days because of overcast skies in the area, Power said.

    No ash clouds have been detected in more than a week from Cleveland, which is not monitored with seismic instruments.

    The volcano is a 5,675-foot peak on a remote island 940 miles southwest of Anchorage. Cleveland's most recent significant eruption began in February 2001 and sent ash clouds up to 39,000 feet above sea level. It also produced a rocky lava flow and hot debris that reached the sea.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Pavlof Volcano's Breathtaking Eruption

     

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    While there is a threat for a shower in spots in Baltimore, on Saturday, it should not be a washout like the day of the Kentucky Derby.

    The best chance for spotty showers will be during the afternoon and evening hours, so a shower at the time of the Preakness Stakes, which is 6:20 p.m. EDT, is not out of the question.

    "It will not compare to the Kentucky Derby, where the track was soaking wet and muddy," AccuWeather Expert Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said. "Expect a fast track."

    The high will reach 70 degrees, which is about 5 degrees shy of the normal high in Baltimore.

    "It will be very comfortable temperature-wise," Anderson said. People enjoying the Infieldfest will not need to worry about bringing jackets or layers as temperatures from opening time, 8:00 a.m. EDT Saturday, will already be around 60 degrees.

    Oxbow, with an exercise rider aboard, gallops at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Friday, May 17, 2013. The Preakness Stakes horse race is scheduled to take place May 18. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Incredible Natural-Disaster Photos from Space

     

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    Rising Sea Levels May Threaten River Thames
    Rising sea levels fueled by climate change could cause the River Thames to breach barriers and regularly flood the city of London, scientists say. Estimates vary widely, but melting ice is thought to be a contributing factor in the gradual rise of sea levels worldwide. European scientists at the Ice2Sea project estimate that the sea level will rise somewhere between 1.3 inches and 14.4 inches by the year 2100.

     

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    Robin and Scott Spivey earlier this month walk past the wreckage of their Tudor-style dream home they had to abandon when the ground gave way causing it to drop 10 feet below the street in Lakeport, Calif.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

    A subdivision of 29 homes located in Lakeport, Calif., is being threatened by ground that is moving a few inches to a few feet every day. Thirteen of the homes are in imminent danger.

    "Seven of the homes have been red-tagged, meaning do not occupy, and six others are under a voluntary evacuation order," said Kevin Ingram Administration Analyst with the Lake County Administration Office.

    The problem started in mid-March, according to Ingram. "We became aware of the ground moving in mid-March while we were doing repairs to water pipes."

    He said the ground has been moving a foot here and a foot there ever since. Occasionally, the ground will shift up to 6 feet for a couple of days, Ingram said.

    The problem causing the landslide is an excess of ground water. Ingram said when the neighborhood was proposed in the 70s, reports came back that there was high ground water in the area.

    Recently, leaks to the water pipes in the neighborhood were found. They were repaired on May 10. "We are still seeing an excess of ground water," said Ingram.

    The Lake County Administration Office has requested that Governor Jerry Brown declare an emergency and approve a resource request.

    Since the requests, a geotechnical engineer arrived last week to do soil test and ground tests at the site. Ingram said they are waiting for the report. Ingram hopes that a requested hydrologist will be coming out to the site shortly.

    "With reports from the geotechnical engineer and hopefully the hydrologist, we may be able to determine the extent of the soil erosion and the cause of the slide," Ingram said.

    As a temporary solution for the unaffected homes, Ingram said they have put bypasses of the water, sewer and electric systems in place. "But we need to know the extent of the slide before we can formulate a permanent solution," said Ingram.

    ALSO ON ACCUWEATHER:

    RELATED ON SKYE: Breathtaking Images of Earth from Space
    Earth from Space

     

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    Raw: Tornadoes Spotted in KansasSevere weather moved through the Plains states over the weekend, bringing high winds, heavy rains and tornadoes. Two twisters were spotted Saturday evening near Rozel, a sparsely populated area in central Kansas.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 18 Incredible Photos of Tornadoes

     

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    WATCH: TV Staff Take Cover From Tornado
    Here's something you don't often see on the local news: With the National Weather Service reporting a "large, violent and extremely dangerous" tornado moving through Wichita Sunday afternoon, the forecaster at KSN-TV tried to stay on air. But as the camera rolled and concern grew, he sought shelter in the basement, leaving the weather map behind.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Tornadoes Wreak Havoc in Oklahoma and Beyond

     

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