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    NASA's Aqua satellite passed over Cyclone Mahasen on May 15 and showed the western edge of the storm skirting the coast of central India on its way to Bangladesh. (NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team)

    COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) - Sri Lanka's top meteorology official on Tuesday apologized for naming a deadly cyclone after a king who built massive irrigation tanks well over a millennium ago and was venerated as a god.

    Political leaders and civil groups have protested the naming of a cyclone after King Mahasen, who ruled Sri Lanka in the 4th century. At least 18 deaths related to Cyclone Mahasen were reported in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka before it weakened by May 16. Bangladesh alone evacuated 1 million people from coastal areas.

    S.H. Kariyawasam, director general of the meteorology department, said Tuesday that he apologizes "if any insult was caused to King Mahasen or the country's proud history."

    Mahasen built 16 large reservoirs, including the massive Minneriya tank, and two irrigation canals that even today are part of the irrigation system in the north-central region. After his demise, people started venerating him as "God of Minneriya."

    Groups such as the National Council for the Protection of Historical Irrigation Cultural Heritage, Buddhist monks and political leaders have said it was an insult to name a cyclone after Mahasen. The council even threatened to take legal action if the meteorlogy department fails to conduct a proper inquiry.

    The department decided to drop the name Mahasen from the cyclone May 13 and requested that other countries follow suit, but the name continued to be used across the region.

    In a letter addressed to the council Tuesday, Kariyawasam said Mahasen was among 23 names submitted by Sri Lanka in 2003 to the Panel on Tropical Cyclones for the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, which is responsible for naming tropical storms in the region. Eight other Asian countries also submitted names.

    He wrote that the names "were merely proposed as Sri Lankan names and their selection did not have any basis, explanation or intention."

    The president of the council, Buddhist monk Kamburugamuwe Vajira, accepted the apology but said Sri Lankans were greatly saddened by the use of the king's name.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Stunning Hurricane Photos from Space

     

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    Tornado Vehicle Shoots Video Inside of a Twister
    Storm chasers Brandon Ivey and Sean Casey captured this wild video shot from the inside of a tornado in Smith County, Kan., on May 27, while in a specialized vehicle called a Tornado Intercept Vehicle (TIV). Similar in appearance to a tank, the TIV allowed the men to travel into the heart of the wedge tornado. Wind speeds reached an astonishing 150 mph to 175 mph before the twister ripped the instruments off the top of the TIV.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Massive Tornado Devastation in Moore, Oklahoma
    Moore, Oklahoma, Tornadoes

     

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    The tornado disaster in Moore, Okla., last week bore some striking similarities to the tornado tragedy that befell Joplin, Mo., in May 2011. Both tornadoes had winds greater than 200 mph. The population of Moore is 55,000; Joplin's was 50,000. Both tornadoes hit in the daylight in late May.

    And yet, the death tolls were markedly different. In Joplin, 161 people were killed. In Moore, 24 people died.

    Meteorologist Mike Smith compared the two disasters last week and, using Joplin as a benchmark, determined that the death toll in Moore should have been higher. So what made the difference?

    As Smith observed in the Washington Post, the warning process didn't go well in the Joplin disaster. The National Weather Service got the location and movement of the Joplin tornado wrong in its warnings. Sirens blared inconsistently. And the rain-wrapped tornado was at times hard to identify. (Smith wrote an entire book about the Joplin disaster called "When the Sirens Went Silent.")

    Not so in Moore. One big lifesaver was the television coverage. All of the TV stations in town covered the tornado as it approached, broadcasting live video of the twister taken by storm chasers and helicopters. Even the Weather Channel showed a live feed from an Oklahoma City station's chopper.

    Moore resident Terimy Miller was at home with her three sons as the twister approached. She heard a local weatherman on TV advise those without underground shelters to vacate their homes. She ushered her sons into their car and fled. The four of them survived, CNN reported. Their house did not. The TV coverage helped.

    My friend James Spann, the lead meteorologist at ABC 33/40 in Birmingham, Ala., agrees. A veteran of more than 30 years in the business, Spann covered the April 2011 tornado outbreak in Alabama that produced 62 tornadoes and killed 247 people. He was impressed by the TV news coverage in Oklahoma.

    "I thought the Oklahoma City meteorologists were professional and strong communicators prior to the tornado moving through Moore," he told me. "There was no panic and they all kept their composure. In my book, they are heroes and to be congratulated on a job well done."

    After numerous tornado outbreaks nationwide in 2011, meteorologists began teaming up with social scientists to better understand the tornado warning process. One important result, Spann said, is that we have a better understanding of how people respond to different kinds of TV reports.

    "The live chopper video was excellent," he said. "We know that people react much better to live video of a tornado as compared to radar images."


    Many television stations nationwide don't employ helicopters in their severe weather coverage, whether for budgetary reasons or because tornadoes in the Southeast are obscured by rain. "We generally can't fly helicopters here in Alabama due to the high precipitation nature of our storms," Spann said.

    Instead, stations have added more roof-mounted sky-cams. Still, there is a need for more. "We must all do a better job of getting cameras on tornadoes, since we know the reaction will be stronger and more immediate," Spann said. "Of course, we know that isn't always possible due to terrain, rain-wrapped tornadoes, and the ones that come at night."


    Another issue is that many people in tornado-prone areas have become desensitized to tornado warnings. There have been too many false alarms. The more often people believe they are in danger and no tornado materializes, the less likely the are to respond to a warning in the future. But here, too, things are improving.

    "The good news," Spann said, "is that most National Weather Service offices in tornado-prone areas have worked hard to lower the false alarm ratio over the past two years."


    The Moore tornado death toll could have been much higher. The warning process worked well. But our work isn't done. More improvements need to be made so we can reach our ultimate goal when a powerful tornado strikes: not a single life lost.

    Meteorologist Renny Vandewege has worked as a television meteorologist at WTOK in Meridian, MS, and KCTV in Kansas City, Mo. He's an instructor of broadcast meteorology at Mississippi State University. He covered Hurricane Katrina, and as a storm chaser, he has witnessed more than 40 tornadoes.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Massive Tornado Devastation in Moore, Oklahoma
    Moore, Oklahoma, Tornadoes

     

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    Michael Tackett pushes tornado debris to the curb as he helps clean up the home of Brian McAlister, in Moore, Okla., on May 26. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

    MOORE, Okla. (AP) - Before residents of Moore can rebuild, they'll have to deal with the debris from the deadly tornado that devastated the Oklahoma City suburb: crushed wood, mangled siding and battered belongings that could make a pile reaching more than a mile into the sky.

    The splintered remains' first stop is a landfill where items will be sorted, then recycled or burned. Bricks, for instance, will go to charity projects such as Habitat for Humanity; wood, paper and clothing will be incinerated.

    "I could be sad about it, but it's not going to make anything come back. It's just a house. It's just stuff. We have each other," Jessie Childs said as bulldozer and backhoe operators reduced her house near the Plaza Towers Elementary School to a 10-foot pile of rubble.

    The school was destroyed in the top-of-the scale EF5 tornado that carved a 17-mile path of destruction on May 20. In all, 24 people were killed, including seven children in the school.

    With each load of debris, Moore moves another step closer to recovering from the storm that damaged or destroyed 4,000 homes and businesses. Against a cacophony of snapping lumber, crunching metal and the beep-beep of bulldozers in reverse, Clayton Powell sorted through the listing remains of his Moore home.

    "You're sifting through rubble piles trying to find that one photo, memories you can't restore," Powell said. "I'm sure there are a few things I haven't even thought of and won't miss."

    Presidential approval of a major disaster declaration typically covers 75 percent of the cost for communities to remove debris. In Moore's case, President Barack Obama approved even more assistance. Under a pilot program, the federal government will pay 85 percent of debris removal costs for the first 30 days and 80 percent for the next 60. The expectation is that quicker debris removal speeds up the overall recovery.

    The Oklahoma Department of Transportation brought in 400 of its workers and 250 pieces of equipment, including dump trucks and front-end loaders, to help with the process, said Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley.

    As residents pick through the remains of their homes for the few surviving personal treasures, they've developed a way for crews to know when it's OK to take stuff away. "If it's out on the curb, anybody can come out and get it," said Charlie Baker of Blanchard, watching a bulldozer raze his daughter's house and push it to the street.

    A relative found her Tiffany necklace, but there's not much else worth salvaging. Jumping into the pile quickly after the storm, Kathy Duffy struggled to even find things that actually belonged to her sister, who was out of town when the storm hit.

    "None of the clothes we found is theirs. None of the pictures we found is theirs," Duffy said last week. "That's definitely not theirs," she said, pointing to a pair of large black sweatpants draped over a chair.

    Paul Borges, who lives on the east side of Moore, found a crowbar and a 1979 baseball card featuring a player he had never heard of. A neighbor found one-half of a $100 bill. A field near the Abundant Life church was littered with canceled checks from 1980 - and from a town 16 miles away. Along Eagle Street was a pink, fuzzy slipper and a gray bra, with no sign they traveled together.

    After debris arrives at the landfill, workers will go through it, Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis said. Wood, paper and clothing will be placed in a "burner box," a device that uses its own scraps to generate heat to the point that it eventually consumes itself, Lewis said. Hazardous material will likely go out of state.

    Albert Ashwood, Oklahoma's emergency management director, could not estimate the cost or the amount of the debris beyond "I can tell you there will be plenty." His agency on Monday estimated that just under 4,000 homes and businesses were destroyed or seriously impacted by storms May 19 and 20 - a figure about half that from a similar EF5 tornado in Joplin, Mo., two years ago.

    The Missouri storm generated 3 million cubic yards of debris. If Moore's debris field winds up about half that, the pile would cover an NBA-sized basketball court, like the one where the Oklahoma City Thunder play, to a depth of 1.7 miles.

    Not everything will be taken away, however, either by accident or by design.

    At a slab on a street behind the Plaza Towers school, the heaviest debris was already on its way to the landfill. Left behind were dining room chairs and an interesting collection of videotapes: "Twister" (but not the Helen Hunt version), a documentary "Real Stories of Tornadoes" and the children's thriller "Something Wicked This Way Comes."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Massive Tornado Devastation in Moore, Oklahoma
    Moore, Oklahoma, Tornado

     

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    MIAMI (AP) - Forecasters have issued a tropical storm warning for coastal areas in the southernmost parts of Mexico after a storm formed in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

    The National Hurricane Center said late Tuesday that Tropical Storm Barbara was about 120 miles (193 kilometers) south-southwest of Salina Cruz, Mexico.

    The storm has maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (72 kph) and was moving north-northeast at 3 mph.

    However, forecasters said the storm is expected to strengthen over the next day or two. The storm's center should reach the coast of southern Mexico during the day on Wednesday.

    A tropical storm warning is in effect in Mexico from Lagunas de Chacahua to Boca de Pijijiapan.

    The storm is expected to bring 3 to 6 inches of rain over southern Oaxaca, Mexico.

     

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    Updated Wednesday, May 29, 9:16 a.m. ET


    MIAMI (AP) - Tropical Storm Barbara is nearing hurricane strength in the Pacific and a hurricane warning has been issued for a portion of Mexico's coast.

    The hurricane warning issued Wednesday morning covers an area in the Gulf of Tehuantepec from Puerto Angel to Barra de Tonala.

    Barbara's maximum sustained winds have increased to near 65 mph. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says the storm is expected to become a hurricane before it reaches land. But it's expected to start weakening after the center moves inland.

    The storm is centered about 70 miles south of Salina Cruz, Mexico, and is moving northeast near 8 mph.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Stunning Hurricane Photos from Space

     

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    (Getty Images)

    The next significant round of severe thunderstorms is forecast to erupt over the High Plains Wednesday and will shift eastward over the Central states later in the week. The pattern could bring a number of tornadoes.

    Indications are the movement of this storm and strong upper-level winds will interact with a zone of building heat and humidity over the Plains in such a way to produce an outbreak of powerful and dangerous thunderstorms.

    Areas from Chicago to Des Moines, Omaha, Kansas City, Wichita, St. Louis, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Dallas and Little Rock could be impacted by violent storms through late this week.

    In addition to the risk of large hail, damaging wind gusts and frequent lightning, there is the risk for several tornadoes. Some of these tornadoes could be particularly long-lived and intense, especially across Kansas, Oklahoma and south-central Nebraska.

    The first storms Wednesday associated with the outbreak will begin in the swath from West Texas and western Oklahoma, western Kansas, western and central Nebraska and western and central South Dakota.

    Look for the potential for these storms, including a few tornadoes, to shift northeastward central and northeastern Oklahoma, eastern Kansas, eastern Nebraska and eastern South Dakota to northwestern Arkansas, much of Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and southern Minnesota during the latter part of the week.

    RELATED:
    Dangerous Storms Tuesday From Plains to the Midwest
    Central Plains Flood Risk Expanding
    Severe Weather Center


    Another pocket of severe thunderstorms will be over part of the Northeast Wednesday afternoon and evening.

    Essentially areas from New York state and northeastern Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey to western and southern New England are at risk for damaging wind gusts, large hail and frequent lightning strikes. There is also the risk of a tornado from the strongest couple of storms.

    Flooding Concerns Continue

    In addition to the risk for violent thunderstorms, there is the likelihood of flooding problems, especially over parts of the central Plains to the Midwest that have already received heavy rain over the Memorial Day weekend and/or will do so into the end of this week.

    Flooding problems have expanded from that of flash and urban concerns to major rivers centered on Iowa.

    Portions of states that could be hit hard with flooding problems not only at the beginning of this week, but the end of the week include Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    (Getty Images)

    A warm front lifting northward across the Northeast on Wednesday will act as a gateway to warm and humid weather, but not before a few rounds of powerful thunderstorms roll through the region.

    The worst of the weather will be found in places such as Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, Scranton, New York City, Hartford, Providence, Worcester and Boston, to name a few.

    Hail as large as quarters or even golf balls and damaging thunderstorm wind gusts to 60 or 70 mph are the biggest threats, but an isolated tornado is not out of the question.

    Hail the size of quarters can cause minor damage to vehicles and it could cause injury to exposed people or animals. Golf ball-sized hail is capable of more significant damage. It can crack windshields, dent vehicles, damage crops or gardens and cause severe injury to people or animals caught outside.

    Wind gusts of 60 to 70 mph can snap off large tree branches, uproot trees and blow down power poles. Spotty power outages are also possible.

    As warm southerly winds push into stubborn northeasterly winds lingering across parts of New York state and New england, a twisting motion of the lower atmosphere will exist, leading to the potential for isolated tornadoes.

    Though tornadoes are fairly rare in the Northeast, this is not expected to be a major tornado outbreak by any stretch of the imagination. Especially compared to the central Plains.

    If you will be out and about this afternoon and evening, keep an eye to the sky, keep an eye on radar on your smart phone and pay attention to weather bulletins.

    RELATED:
    Dangerous Storms Tuesday From Plains to the Midwest
    Central Plains Flood Risk Expanding
    Severe Weather Center


    Once thunderstorms develop, they will strengthen quickly, and severe weather could follow soon after.

    Be sure to understand the difference between a watch and a warning. A watch means that an area is being monitored for dangerous weather. A warning means that dangerous weather is imminent.

    Keep in mind that lightning is one of Mother Nature's most dangerous killers. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning, even if the sun is still shining.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    Massive Dust Storm Shuts Down Highway
    A sandstorm whipped by powerful winds forced officials to close California's 14 Freeway in Lancaster. Officers arriving at the scene encountered several vehicle crashes amid a blistering sandstorm that reduced visibility to dangerous levels, the California Highway Patrol said.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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    Valery Rozov Performs World's Highest BASE Jump from Mount Everest
    Russian extreme sports star Valery Rozov has performed the world's highest BASE jump -- off the north face of Everest -- to mark the 60th anniversary of Edmund Hillary's first ascent. Watch his incredible plunge and wingsuit flight from peak to Earth.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Daredevil Skydiver's Incredible Leaps

     

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    In this image taken from video provided by NASA, the Soyuz TMA-09M carrying three new Expedition 36 crew members approaches the International Space Station Wednesday, May 29, 2013. (AP Photo/NASA-TV)

    MOSCOW (AP) - A Soyuz capsule carrying an American, Russian and Italian successfully docked Wednesday with the International Space Station, where the new crew will spend six months conducting a variety of experiments.

    The docking took place at 8:10 a.m. (0210 GMT, 10:10 p.m. EDT) less than six hours after the Russian spacecraft lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which Russia leases in Kazakhstan.

    Live footage provided by NASA TV showed it soaring into the clear night sky. About four minutes later, the announcer said the Soyuz was traveling at 4,700 miles per hour (about 7,500 kilometers per hour).

    The cramped capsule carrying NASA's Karen Nyberg, Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and Italy's Luca Parmitano orbited the Earth four times before docking with the space station.

    After docking, two hours passed before pressure equalized between the capsule and the station, allowing safe entry.

    The three new arrivals were greeted by NASA's Chris Cassidy and Russians Alexander Misurkin and the station's commander Pavel Vinogradov, who have been aboard the space station since late March.

    "It was a pretty cool ride," Nyberg said upon arrival.

    Cassidy had shaved his head clean to match Parmitano's look and got a thumbs-up from the Italian.

    Yurchikhin, 54, is a veteran of three previous spaceflights, while the 36-year-old Parmitano, a former test pilot, is making his first trip into space. Nyberg, 43, spent two weeks in space in 2008 as part of a U.S. space shuttle crew.

    Shortly after their arrival, the incoming team spoke via video link with their relatives and officials back in Baikonur. Parmitano's mother wept throughout the chat with her son.

    Four spacewalks are planned during the expedition, including what NASA said would be the first by an Italian.

    The International Space Station is the biggest orbiting outpost ever built and can sometimes be seen from Earth with the naked eye. It consists of more than a dozen modules built by the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan and the European Space Agency.

     

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    Sections of an ice jam approach cabins on the banks of the Yukon River upstream from Galena, Alaska in this Wednesday, May 12, 2010 photo. (AP Photo/City of Galena, Tom Corrigan)

    FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - The National Guard has helped evacuate residents from a small community in Alaska's interior where a river ice jam caused major flooding, washing out roads and submerging homes and other buildings.

    State officials estimate several hundred people have left the town of Galena, which remained mostly underwater Tuesday with the Yukon River ice jam firmly in place, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

    National Weather Service meteorologist Christopher Cox said 90 percent of the community's roads were flooded, and many buildings had 7 feet of water in them. Some of the people who were displaced said they escaped in rafts battered by ice chunks and floating debris.

    After rising floodwaters breached a wall protecting the Galena airport, the National Guard flew in to evacuate any remaining residents who wanted to leave the community of nearly 500, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

    Evacuee Shane Edwin stepped off a flight to Fairbanks on Tuesday afternoon and described the scene he left behind as "a whole bunch of chaos."

    "The roads are all gone," he said. "The houses are flipped over. It's just trashed. I couldn't grab anything, not even my ID. The water came so fast."

    State emergency management spokesman Jeremy Zidek told The Associated Press water went over low areas of the dike at about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday. The water level fell after that, but he said there was still the threat of the water topping the dike again. He said that's why the state was took the step of bringing in military aircraft to aid in the evacuations of anyone else who wanted to leave.

    Evacuations have been running for several days, with many residents flying to Fairbanks 270 miles to the east. Gov. Sean Parnell's office said in a release that the sewer and water systems at the Galena shelter failed, forcing additional evacuations.

    Parnell's office put the number of evacuations at 300, as of noon Tuesday. Zidek said that number was fluid. He could not say how many people remained.

    Parnell surveyed the flooding Tuesday afternoon with Maj. Gen. Thomas Katkus, commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Department personnel have been aiding the Tanana Chiefs Conference in evacuations, Parnell's office said.

    The flooding in Galena should clear when the ice jam breaks. But the forecaster, Cox, said it's unclear when that will occur.

    Parnell said the flooding is expected to worsen before the waters begin to recede.

    When the jam breaks, the downriver community of Koyukuk will be at risk of flooding.

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

     

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    National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb talks in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in early May 2013. As the 2013 Atlantic Hurricasn season begins, forecasters are asking which computer model predicting storms is best. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter, File)

    ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (AP) - When forecasters from the National Weather Service track a hurricane, they use models from several different supercomputers located around the world to create their predictions.


    Some of those models are more accurate than others. During Hurricane Sandy last October, for instance, the model from the European Center for Medium-range Weather Forecasting in the United Kingdom predicted eight days before landfall that the large storm would hit the East Coast, while the American supercomputer model showed Sandy drifting out to sea.

    The American model eventually predicted Sandy's landfall four days before the storm hit - plenty of time for preparation - but revealed a potential weakness in the American computer compared to the European system. It left some meteorologists fuming.

    "Let me be blunt: the state of operational U.S. numerical weather prediction is an embarrassment to the nation and it does not have to be this way," wrote Cliff Maas, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington on his weather blog.

    Meteorologists agree that the two American supercomputers that provide storm models are underpowered - which is why the National Weather Service plans on upgrading those computers in the next two years. The two main forecasting computers - one in Orlando, Florida and the other in Virginia - will receive $25 million in upgrades as part of the Hurricane Sandy supplemental bill that was recently approved by Congress.

    "This will improve weather forecasting across the board," said Christopher Vaccaro, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Certainly one area of concern that has received some attention were these larger high-impact extreme weather events. The European model is able to pick up on those storms earlier than our model."

    Jeff Masters, meteorology director at the online forecasting service Weather Underground, said that other than Hurricane Sandy, the American model outperformed the European model during the 2012 hurricane season - but if you look at a three-year period, the European model still comes out on top.

    "If the U.S. did invest more money and people into making the model better, then the forecast would be better," Masters said. "The money we spend on weather forecasts and improving them pays for itself."

    Still, with hurricane season starting Saturday, forecasters say the average person living in a coastal area shouldn't worry about the capability gap between the computers.

    "I really could care less which is the better model because we have access to them both," said James Franklin, branch chief of the hurricane specialist unit. "It's immaterial to us."

    And forecasters say that hurricane modeling and forecasting has become more accurate overall in the last 10 years.

    Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami use both American and European models - and other models - then average them together for a storm's projected path. The computers take data from weather satellites, observations and weather balloons, then plug the data into complex algorithms.

    The fact that the American supercomputer is lacking in processing power does need to be addressed. In the long run, improving its computing power will increase the overall quality of data for scientists drawing from multiple sources.

    Experts also say the quality of a nation's computer capability is emblematic of its underlying commitment to research, science and innovation.

    "If you just bought a bigger computer, it will help but it will not solve the problem. There are many other aspects that need to be addressed," said Richard Rood, a professor at the University of Michigan's department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Science.

    Rood said that the meteorologists who run the European computer have invested time, effort and money into developing algorithms.

    Another issue, he said, is the long-term maintenance of the satellites run by NASA and NOAA.

    "If they fail to continue to deliver the observations, then our forecast is going to be less good," he said "We all use the same set of raw data. For the most part, we all start from the same observations. If there is a threat to safety and property and people, it is far more related to the state of the observing system than it is to any deficiencies or any gap we might have with the Europeans on the predictive model."

    There are other reasons why the European model has outperformed the American model, many of them having to do with the structure of the two agencies that run each computer, according to NOAA:

    -The European model focuses on medium-range weather prediction, while the American model does a lot more - it looks at short-, medium- and long-range global weather, along with atmospheric, ocean, coastal, hurricaneand space weather.

    -The European center has one budget that focuses only on research and development relating to medium-range weather, while NOAA has a fragmented budget and multiple research and development projects "loosely" managed under multiple organizations.

    -The European center doesn't build observational systems while NOAA does.

    "There's some differences in the basic goals and purposes of these different centers," said Chris Davis, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. "That often has to be kept in mind when trying to understand differences in the performance models used."

    SEE ON SKYE: Stunning Hurricane Photos from Space

     

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    Severe Storm, Plains

    Thunderstorms wasted no time firing up over the Plains Wednesday with a major severe weather outbreak.

    The storms are producing not only large hail, damaging wind gusts and frequent lightning strikes, but also a number of tornadoes. The pattern favors large tornadoes that could be on the ground for an extended period of time.

    The severe weather outbreak is forecast to continue Thursday and Friday, while shifting slowly to the east.

    A separate severe thunderstorm area is affecting part of the Northeast during Wednesday ahead of a zone of building heat. A funnel cloud was reported northeast of Sherburne, N.Y. and a possible tornado impacted Schenectady, N.Y.

    RELATED:
    Plains Severe Storm, Tornado Risk Wednesday
    Severe Storms From New York and Pennsylvania to New England
    Current Severe Weather Watches and Warnings


    UPDATES:

    9:55 p.m. CDT Wednesday: There have been numerous reports of flash flooding in the Rapid City, S.D., area. Three to five inches of rain has fallen in the span of a few hours, with more rain still falling. Water up to three feet deep has been reported against Meadowbrook School.

    9:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday: Thunderstorms across southern New England have been weakening over the past hour, but gusty winds and heavy rainfall are still possible south of Boston down to Cape Cod and back through southern Connecticut and Rhode Island.

    9:15 p.m. CDT Wednesday: There have been numerous reports of wind gusts over 50 mph with one cluster of thunderstorms in northern Kansas and another cluster in the southeastern portion of the state. Trees were reported down in the towns of Eureka and Independence.

    8:24 p.m. CDT Wednesday: A wind gust of 60 mph was reported 1 mile north of Logan, Kan.

    7:38 p.m. CDT Wednesday: The National Weather service reported a possible tornado moving toward Manchester, Iowa.

    7:12 p.m. CDT Wednesday: Baseball-sized hail fell 8 miles northwest of Vinson, Okla.

    7:00 p.m. CDT Wednesday: A possible tornado is developing southwest of Larkin, Kan., and is moving northeast.

    6:57 p.m. CDT Wednesday: A flash flood caused a mudslide in Herkimer, NY. Route 28 is closed between Herkimer and Middleville.

    6:26 p.m. CDT Wednesday: Rainfall measuring 3.43 inches in Calmar, Iowa, has flooded homes. Several county roads and state Highway 24 are also flooded.

    6:08 p.m. CDT Wednesday: A tornado touched down 3 miles southwest of Bartlett, Neb.

    6:00 p.m. CDT Wednesday: A tornado was reported 3 miles northeast of Rising City, Neb.

    5:55 p.m. CDT Wednesday: Conditions are right for the possible development of a tornado near Schenectady, N.Y. Residents near the area should take cover now.

    5:23 p.m. CDT Wednesday: A wind gust of 65 mph was reported 2 miles west of Cyril, Okla.

    5:08 p.m. CDT Wednesday: Winds gusting to 70 mph sent a 24x30 barn airborne 3 miles northwest of Walters, Okla.

    5:00 p.m. CDT Wednesday: A tornado is reported to be on the ground 2 miles northwest of Benedict, Neb. Seek shelter now.

    4:57 p.m. CDT Wednesday: A line of severe weather is tracking through Nebraska producing large hail and tornadoes. Stay alert for rapidly changing weather conditions.

    4:46 p.m. CDT Wednesday: A tornado is confirmed 1/2 mile west of Comstock, Neb. People should seek shelter now.

    4:40 p.m. CDT Wednesday: One mile north, northeast of Sherburne, N.Y. a funnel cloud was reported.

    4:33 p.m. CDT Wednesday: A tornado is on the ground and approaching Stockham, Neb. Seek shelter.

    4:27 p.m. CDT Wednesday: A tornado is 4 miles north of Clay Center, Neb., near Highway 6 and Road P. The tornado is reported to be rain wrapped.

    4:21 p.m. CDT Wednesday: Two miles north of Clay Center, Neb., a tornado is reported to be on the ground. Take cover now in the area.

    4:20 p.m. CDT Wednesday: A rope tornado made a brief touchdown then lifted 7 miles west of York, Neb.

    4:00 p.m. CDT Wednesday: Multiple trees and wires are down in Syracuse, N.Y. A tree is on a car in the Assumption Cemetery and trees and wires are down near the Webster School.

    3:45 p.m. CDT Wednesday: A tornado was reported 6 miles north of Sutton, Neb.

    2:30 p.m CDT Wednesday: Thunderstorm winds gusted to 65 mph near Greensburg, Kan.

    2:01 p.m. CDT Wednesday: Three miles south of Greene, Iowa, a tractor trailer and a small car were blown off a highway. Large trees are down on houses and power lines are down in the city. The entire city is without power.

    1:40 p.m. CDT Wednesday: A funnel cloud was reported 5 miles north of Bird City, Kan.

    1:22 p.m. CDT Wednesday: Thunderstorm winds gusted to 60 mph and brought down 4- to 5-inch-thick tree limbs in Borger, Texas.

    11:41 a.m. CDT Wednesday: Golf ball-sized hail fell near Ogden, Iowa.

    11:15 a.m. CDT Wednesday: Thunderstorm winds gusted to 62 mph in Willmar, Minn.

    11:00 a.m. CDT Wednesday: Quarter-sized hail fell 7 miles south of Ravenna, Neb.

    9:51 a.m. CDT Wednesday: Hail 1.00 inch in diameter fell near Franklin, Neb.

    9:21 a.m. CDT Wednesday: Golf ball-sized hail fell on Plymouth, Neb.

    8:00 a.m. CDT Wednesday: More than 6.40 inches of rain fell near Nemaha, Kan., since Tuesday afternoon.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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    This image released by NBC Universal shows country singer Blake Shelton during the Healing in the Heartland: Relief Benefit Concert at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla., Wednesday, May 29,2013. (AP Photo/NBC, Trae Patton)

    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Donations are pouring into Oklahoma as people around the country look to help residents affected by last week's violent tornado outbreak, but charities also are receiving plenty of items they don't need - tons of used clothes, shoes and stuffed animals that take up valuable warehouse space and clog distribution networks.

    Charity organizers say monetary donations are far more flexible and useful, and many organizations are expected to see an infusion of cash donations after a benefit concert Wednesday night in Oklahoma City that featured country music stars with Oklahoma ties, including Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Vince Gill and Reba McEntire.

    At the Abundant Life Church in Moore, just a few blocks from the Plaza Towers Elementary School where seven children died in the May 20 tornado, Sunday school classrooms are overflowing with donated clothes and other used items.

    "I don't want to come across at all like we don't appreciate people's generosity, because we do," said Norma Clanton, a longtime church member who is helping coordinate volunteer efforts at the church. "To be honest, we've had very few people that have even come and looked at clothes.

    "The people who have lost their homes, many of them aren't even in a permanent dwelling. They don't have room for a closet full of clothes or anything like that."

    The American Red Cross says it's not equipped to handle a large influx of donations like household items - which take time and money to sort, process and transport. Officials with major relief organizations encourage people to send money instead.

    "We spend that money locally to help energize the local economy ... and it allows us to spend it on items we need," said Salvation Army spokeswoman Jennifer Dodd.

    Organizations helping displaced residents are expected to see an influx of cash from the "Healing in the Heartland: Relief Benefit Concert" at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in downtown Oklahoma City that was held Wednesday. The money goes directly to the United Way of Central Oklahoma, which will distribute funding agencies helping in relief and recovery efforts for those affected by the May 20 tornado, said Karla Bradshaw, a spokeswoman for the United Way of Central Oklahoma.

    "Those are the ones that are dealing right now with the immediate needs," Bradshaw said.

    People who lined up outside the arena in heavy rain before the telethon said they were happy to have an opportunity to help their neighbors and enjoy a night of country music.

    "I told my husband I wanted to help, and what better way than to do something fun too," said 29-year-old Kara McCarthy of Oklahoma City, who attended the concert with a friend.

    Shelton, a native of Ada, kicked off the concert with a version of his song "God Gave Me You."

    The televised event also included recorded video pleas from Oklahoma native Garth Brooks and his wife, Trisha Yearwood, Moore native Toby Keith, Ellen Degeneres and Jay Leno.

    "I'm here tonight with some of my closest friends from Oklahoma and beyond," Shelton told the sold-out crowd before the concert began. "It's going to be awesome. We're doing a TV show so we can raise as much money as humanly possible."

    Donations have poured in to Oklahoma since two major tornadoes ripped through the state last week, killing 26 people and affecting nearly 4,000 homes, businesses and other buildings in five counties. Twenty-four people, including 10 children, were killed in the May 20 tornado that hit the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore.

    In just the first three days after the tornado hit Moore, the Red Cross reported raising about $15 million in donations and pledges for its response to the Oklahoma tornados, including about $3.8 million in pledges from text donations.

    The Salvation Army reported Tuesday afternoon it already has raised more than $5 million in monetary donations, as well as in-kind food donations from numerous corporations.

    Before Wednesday night's concert, the United Way of Central Oklahoma reported raising $3 million for tornado relief, and the governor also asked the charity to administer an additional $2 million from a separate Oklahoma Strong disaster fund, said Debby Hampton, president and CEO of United Way of Central Oklahoma.

    Dodd, with the Salvation Army, said many people are holding clothing drives to help benefit local residents, but that can pose problems for charities and other groups that might not have the room to store the items.

    "Just the logistics of shipping a hundred pounds of clothing from across the country, it's terribly expensive and then you have to worry if you have space on the ground," Dodd said.

    Ken Sterns, who spent years researching the best and most effective charities for his book, "With Charity for All," said donating to reputable, well-established charities also helps victims of the next disaster.

    "I think most charity experts recommend giving cash donations, but I also tell people that in fact the most valuable contributions are not the contributions made after the fact, but contributions that allow charities, especially disaster relief organizations, to prepare for helping the victims of the next disaster," Sterns said. "We don't know who they are. We don't have a face on them. But we know they are coming."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 10 Amazing Things Found in the Tornado Rubble

     

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    Galena, Alaska Residents Evacuated After Major Flooding and Ice Jam

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A colossal river ice jam that caused major flooding in a remote Alaska town was starting to churn Wednesday as water finally chewed ice chunks away from the stubborn, frozen mass after most of the residents were forced to flee from the rising water.

    An aerial survey Wednesday afternoon revealed chunks of ice have broken off at the front of the 30-mile ice jam on the Yukon River, National WeatherService hydrologist Ed Plumb said. That means the jam will move soon and waters will begin to recede in the waterlogged town of Galena.

    The flooding lifted homes off foundations and has threatened to break a dike protecting the airport, virtually the only dry spot left in the community of 500 where floodwaters washed out roads and submerged homes. There are no reports of injuries.

    The National Guard flew 32 more people and 19 dogs to Fairbanks Tuesday night. Other residents were evacuated earlier.

    Now that the water is trying to push through the jam, conditions could change quickly. When the jam breaks, the downriver community of Koyukuk will be at risk of flooding.

    In an earlier flight Wednesday, Plumb said, the ice was locked firmly in place, despite temperatures of 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The hot weather is expected to last a couple days before cooling slightly.

    The damage has left the town without power, fresh water and cell phone reception. When the ice jam knocked out the bridge leading to the airport, evacuees had to be taken there by boat or helicopter, according to Ray, who said the flooding began with a trickle Sunday. In a place where spring flooding is nothing new, many homes are built on stilts, but the fast rising water reached them, too.

    The disaster has left people feeling traumatized and vulnerable, Ray said.

    "We didn't have any idea how vast the flood was going to be," he said.

    Zidek said the damage is being assessed and a disaster policy cabinet will forward recommendations to Gov. Sean Parnell, who visited the area Tuesday. Recommendations are likely to include issuing a disaster declaration.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Breathtaking Images of Rivers, Islands and Seas from Space

     

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    Thursday, May 30, 2013

    (Shutterstock)

    In a week that has produced hundreds of reports of severe weather and over 60 reports of tornadoes, the threat for more damaging storms will continue Thursday across the Plains and the Midwest.

    The threat of severe storms will extend over a large area from North Texas northward into Wisconsin and Minnesota, including Minneapolis, Des Moines, Omaha, Wichita and Oklahoma City. The greatest threat for tornadoes will extend from northern Missouri southwestward into northeastern Oklahoma, including Kansas City, Springfield, Mo., and Tulsa, Okla.

    By Thursday night, strong to severe storms will move eastward, potentially impacting Milwaukee, Chicago and St. Louis.

    The storms will develop in advance of a cold front associated with a potent storm system sitting over the Dakotas. The clash between the cool air behind the front and the building warm, humid air over the Midwest and East will provide an environment that is ripe for severe thunderstorms.

    Large hail, damaging winds, heavy rainfall and frequent lightning will accompany some of the storms.

    As has been the case for the past several days, there is also the risk for tornadoes. If the atmosphere destabilizes enough, some strong, long-lived tornadoes are possible.

    Another major concern will be flooding, especially over portions of the Midwest where several inches of rain has already fallen this week. Some of the worst flooding has been across Iowa, where record high water levels have been reached on a couple of rivers in the state.

    RELATED:
    Flooding Forecast for Mississippi River
    Heat Wave on the Way for Midwest, East
    Severe Weather Center


    Additional rainfall will lead to more flash flooding and washed out roadways in these areas.

    The slow-moving front will continue to crawl eastward on Friday, keeping the threat for more severe weather and flooding downpours across the Midwest.

    Drier weather will finally move in over the weekend as the front moves eastward into the Ohio Valley and East.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Massive Tornado Devastation in Moore, Oklahoma
    Moore, Oklahoma, Tornadoes

     

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