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SKYE on AOL

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    The Kaskaskia Rver has overtaken the parking lot to Smitty's at the Marina in New Athens, Ill., Monday, June 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Belleville News-Democrat, Derik Holtmann)

    Sirens sounded around 8:30 p.m. CDT on Monday evening in the community of West Alton, Mo., as emergency management officials warned nearly 500 residents to head to higher ground. A breach in the levee protecting the town occurred near U.S. Highway 67 and Lincoln Shields. It only took a matter of minutes before water was inundating areas surrounding the breach.

    According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, West Alton officials and the Rivers Pointe fire chief issued an alert advising residents of the small community to leave immediately following a flash flood warning issued by the National Weather Service.

    Dozens of sandbag volunteers were out in full force during the day on Monday in an attempt to reinforce the levee as water began topping it in several places, but by the end of the day, the Mississippi River had risen to over 12 feet above flood stage, proving to be too much for their efforts.

    Flood gauges at Alton near Mel Price Lock and Dam measured the water level at 34.22 feet as of early Tuesday morning. According to the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, this is classified as "major" flood stage for this station. It is the highest water level measured since 1995, when the river reached 35.10 feet.

    According to the National Weather Service, major damage begins in the town of Alton when the river hits 34.0 feet, and this is expected to be compounded by the levee breach as flood waters enter normally protected areas.

    The river is expected to remain at major flood stage through at least early Wednesday, and will not subside below flood stage thorough at least the middle of June.

    To make matters worse, another round of soaking showers and thunderstorms will move through the area on Wednesday and Thursday. While a repeat of last week's heavy rain is not expected, these showers and thunderstorms could still dump 1-2 inches of rain, and at this point, every drop can make the flooding situation worse as the soil is too moist to absorb anything more.

    Much of the Mississippi River basin has been stuck in an exceptionally wet weather pattern over the last 90 days. Some areas around St. Louis and the Alton area have had nearly double the normal rainfall for the period, which is quite a turnaround from last year when the region was in the grips of a devastating drought.

    RELATED:
    More Dangerous Storms From OKC to Kansas City
    AccuWeather.com Severe Weather Center


    Current indications are that near-normal rainfall will fall across the area through the middle of June, and this should allow for a gradual fall of water levels along the Mississippi River and surrounding waterways. Even if that is the case, it will still take months, if not years for areas affected by the massive flooding to recover.

    Members of the Missouri National Guard work to shore up a temporary levee in an effort to hold back the swollen Mississippi River Saturday, April 20, 2013, in Clarksville, Mo. Communities along the Mississippi River and other rain-engorged waterways are waging feverish bids to hold back floodwaters that may soon approach record levels.

    For more weather news, visit AccuWeather.com.


    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Stunning Photos from the 2013 Tornado Season
    Kansas Torndao

     

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    Tuesday, June 4, 2013


    Severe storms and flooding are underway across portions of Oklahoma this morning. A thunderstorm wind gust of 58 mph was stirred 7 miles northwest of Velma, Okla., at 6:00 a.m. CDT.

    The main severe storm threat Tuesday will be northwest of the Oklahoma City area during the day; however, the area will be at risk again by the late evening and night.

    A new week is underway and another round of severe weather is unfolding, including the risk of tornadoes over the Plains.

    The overall storm system projected to bring the violent storms to the Plains is not as intense or as slow-moving as that of last week. However, the system is strong enough to threaten lives and property with severe weather, including some of the same areas hit hard by last week's destructive and deadly storms.

    The storms are more likely to hit during or shortly after the evening rush hour, rather than first thing in the morning.

    A quick-moving band of intense thunderstorms dropped several inches of rain in already waterlogged areas around Moore, Okla. This is also the same area hit hard with tornadoes over the past several weeks.



    Late Monday, severe storms were found from the northern Texas Panhandle northward into western parts of Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska.

    On Tuesday, the worst of the weather will be found from Oklahoma City, Okla. to Kansas City, Mo.; Tulsa, Okla.; Wichita, Kan., and Liberal, Kan.

    Even though this is not expected to be a major outbreak of severe weather, it should be noted that even isolated thunderstorms can wreak havoc on the locations they affect.

    The greatest impacts from these storms will be large hail and strong wind gusts. A few of the strongest storms could produce a tornado.

    The chance of a tornado will be quite low for any particular area. However, it is impossible to predict in advance of several minutes which local areas will be hit the hardest.

    Golf ball-to tennis ball-sized hail can injure or kill exposed livestock and people, damage vehicles and shatter windows. Hail of this size can also destroy crops.

    RELATED:
    Storm Chasers Among the Dead from Friday's Tornadoes
    AccuWeather.com Severe Weather Center


    Wind gusts of 60 mph can cause damage to power poles and down trees and large tree limbs. Loose debris can also be easily picked up, and dust can be lofted into the air, leading to low visibility.

    If you will be out and about in the alerted area this week, keep an eye to the sky, monitor radars on your smart phone and pay attention to weather bulletins.

    Once thunderstorms develop, they will strengthen quickly, and dangerous conditions could follow soon after.

    While the situation this week does not favor a broad area of new flooding problems, storms at the local level can cause incidents of flash and urban flooding. Additional rainfall onto area streams and rivers can lead to new rises on the waterways.

    For more weather news, visit AccuWeather.com.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Stunning Photos from the 2013 Tornado Season
    Kansas Torndao

     

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    Updated Tuesday June 4, 2013, 9:52 a.m. ET

    A boat waits in front of the flooded old centre of Passau, southern Germany, on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Matthias)

    BERLIN (AP) - Germany dispatched thousands of soldiers Tuesday to help cities and towns cope with flooding from the rain-soaked Danube and other southern rivers - reinforcements that came a day after the Bavarian city of Passau saw its worst flooding since 1501.

    The death toll rose to at least 10, including seven in the neighboring Czech Republic, where a man was found dead in the water in eastern Bohemia. Another nine people have been reported missing in the floods that have also swept through Austria and Switzerland.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Massive Flooding in Central Europe
    Germany FloodingChancellor Angela Merkel toured flooded German regions, pledging at least 50 million euros ($65 million) in immediate federal help and holding out the possibility for more. She told reporters in Passau, a city of 50,000 on the Austrian border, that the damage looked even worse than during the massive flooding that hit central Europe in 2002.

    Some 4,000 German soldiers were called in, as well as more than 2,000 federal disaster workers and 600 federal police to sandbag areas in danger of flooding and provide other assistance. Water levels were still rising in major rivers such as the Danube and Elbe as well as tributaries.

    In the Czech Republic, authorities evacuated animals from the Prague zoo and closed a major bridge in the capital on Tuesday.

    The rain in Prague has halted but the Vltava river that runs through the city and flows into the Elbe was still raging, with currents and water levels far exceeding the norm. The famous Charles Bridge was closed as a precaution.

    On the outskirts of Prague, a major Staropramen beer brewery on the river bank was closed as a protective measure - as were several major chemical factories. One of them - Spolana - released dangerous toxic chemicals into the Elbe during the devastating floods of 2002.

    Authorities said the level of the Vltava in Prague has now begun to drop but excess water was expected to soon hit the Elba river, into which it flows downstream.

    This year's spike in water levels has been far less than in 2002 so far, but still forced the Prague Zoo to evacuate animals after the lower side of the park was submerged and will once again need major reconstruction.

    Passau, a city built around the intersection of the Danube, the Inn and the Ilz rivers, has been one of the worst hit by the flooding in central Europe.

    After hitting the highest level in more than 500 years in Passau on Monday, the floodwaters there had dropped by an estimated 2.5 meters (nearly 8 feet) Tuesday but cities downstream like Regensburg were bracing for the water's arrival.

    Peak floodwaters coursing out of the Czech Republic were expected to hit Dresden, capital of the German province of Saxony, along the Elbe in three to four days. Already, the German cities of Pirna and Meissen were reporting flooding in their historic centers.

    Cities and towns in the German states of Saxony Anhalt, Thuringia and Brandenburg were also hit with flooding.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Massive Flooding in Central Europe
    Flooding Germany

     

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    (Getty Images)

    WASHINGTON (AP) - If worry about skin cancer doesn't make you slather on sunscreen, maybe vanity will: New research provides some of the strongest evidence to date that near-daily sunscreen use can slow the aging of your skin.

    Ultraviolet rays that spur wrinkles and other signs of aging can quietly build up damage pretty much any time you're in the sun - a lunchtime stroll, school recess, walking the dog - and they even penetrate car windows.

    Researchers in sunny Australia used a unique study to measure whether sunscreens really help amid that onslaught. Participants had casts made of the top of their hands to measure fine lines and wrinkles that signal sun-caused aging.

    The research found that even if you're already middle-aged, it's not too late to start rubbing some sunscreen on - and not just at the beach or pool. The study of 900 people under 55 compared those randomly assigned to use sunscreen daily to those who used it when they deemed it necessary.

    Daily sunscreen use was tough - participants did cheat a little. But after 4½ years, those who used sunscreen regularly had younger-looking hands, with 24 percent less skin aging than those who used sunscreen only some of the time.

    Both young adults and the middle-aged experienced skin-saving effects, concluded the study, financed by Australia's government and published Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

    "These are meaningful cosmetic benefits," lead scientist Dr. Adele Green of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research said in an email interview. More importantly, she added, less sun-caused aging decreases the risk of skin cancer in the long term.

    Dermatologists have long urged year-round sunscreen use - especially for constantly exposed skin on the face, hands and women's neck and upper chest - but say too few people heed that advice. Women may have better luck, as increasingly the cosmetics industry has added sunscreen to makeup and moisturizers. Skin experts hope the new study draws attention to the issue.

    "Regular use of sunscreen had an unquestionable protective effect," said Dr. Richard Glogau, a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco, who has long studied sun's skin effects. He wasn't involved with the Australian research.

    The consumer message: "They can get a two-for-one with sunscreen. They can do something that will keep them healthier and also keep them better-looking," Glogau said.

    In his clinic near Philadelphia, Dr. Eric Bernstein lectures patients who insist they're not in the sunshine enough for it to be causing their wrinkles, brown spots and dilated blood vessels. Even 15 minutes every day adds up over many years, he tells them - and if they're using one bottle of sunscreen a year, they're probably not using enough.

    "No one thinks they're in the sun, and they're in the sun all the time," said Bernstein, also a clinical professor at the University of Pennsylvania. "I say, 'How did you get here - did you tunnel here?'"

    The news comes just as tougher Food and Drug Administration rules for U.S. sunscreens are taking effect. For the first time, they ensure that sunscreens labeled "broad-spectrum" protect against both the ultraviolet-B rays that cause sunburn and those deeper-penetrating ultraviolet-A rays that are linked to premature wrinkles and skin cancers.

    Sunburns, especially in childhood, have been linked to a greater risk for melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer. But overall UV exposure plays a role both in melanoma and in other skin cancers that usually are curable but can be disfiguring if not caught early.

    Australia has one of the world's highest rates of skin cancer, and Monday's aging research actually stems from a larger cancer-prevention study done in the 1990s. Researchers tracked participants for a decade before concluding that regular sunscreen use indeed lowered their cancer risk.

    Green's team dug back through old study files to examine what's called photoaging, using those casts that had been made of some participants' hands.

    Skin stretches and recoils thanks to elastic fibers supporting it. UV rays damage that elasticity, something scientists previously have measured using biopsies of the tissue just under the skin's top layer. With enough damage, the skin on top starts to sag and wrinkle. Young people have very fine, barely visible lines on their skin. Sun-damaged fibers correlate with increasingly visible lines, in a sort of cross-hatch pattern. Hand casts allowed the Australian researchers to grade that amount of damage.

    The researchers figured out who really used sunscreen by periodically weighing the bottles donated by a sunscreen maker. Green's team calculated that three-quarters of the people assigned to daily sunscreen use actually applied it at least three to four days a week. Only a third of the comparison group said they used sunscreen that often.

    The study also tested whether a dietary supplement, beta carotene, might slow photoaging, and found no evidence that it helped.

    Sunscreens aren't perfect, so don't forget dermatologists' other advice: Limit exposure during the peak UV hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and wear a hat, sunglasses and protective clothing when possible.

    UCSF's Glogau noted that today's sunscreens are superior to those used two decades ago when the study started - meaning people who regularly use it now might see more benefit.

    "I'm fond of telling people that if they start using sunscreen on a regular basis and don't do anything else, over a period of time they'll see an improvement in the appearance of their skin," Glogau said. "It's never too late."

    RELATED ON SKYE: The 30 Best Places to Watch the Sunset

     

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    Justin Rendich, a firefighter from Santa Clarita, hoses a hot spot at a wildfire in Lancaster, Calif., Monday, June 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

    PALMDALE, Calif. (AP) - Dennis Immel's neighbors, even his wife, followed official orders and fled as a huge wildfire approached his lakeside neighborhood in northern Los Angeles County.

    But Immel, after stocking up on fire hoses and nozzles, remained. His house still stood on Monday as many of his neighbors returned to find their houses destroyed.

    "I made the maybe foolish choice to stay and maybe fight it," said Immel, 59, at his house in Lake Hughes, one of two communities where evacuation orders were lifted for nearly 3,000 people Monday as the fire that consumed 50 square miles was 60 percent contained.

    Immel, who had evacuated the home in the past, said he used the fire hoses and a garden hose to keep the flames back, while four of the five houses around him went up in flames.

    "All my neighbors' homes were on fire, and I had spot fires all over my property," Immel said. "The heat was such that my window panes are all cracked."

    Fire officials repeatedly warned people like Immel to evacuate not only for their own safety but for firefighters who may have to save them, and Immel's wife left after arguing with him over whether or not to leave.

    He later managed to call her.

    "As soon as she heard me say 'It's me,' she just started to cry," Immel said. "Then as soon as she composed herself she goes, 'Is our house gone?' I said, 'No, our house is here.'"

    Cooler, moist air on Monday helped thousands of firefighters catch up with the blaze in the Angeles National Forest that had doubled in size over the weekend and spread rapidly through old, dry brush with help from gusty winds and soaring temperatures.

    "What a difference a day makes," said LA County Deputy Chief David Richardson.

    Better conditions were expected to continue overnight and into Tuesday.

    "We're supposed to have a good marine layer into the morning, we're hoping for it not too heat up too early," said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Ed Gililland.

    Immel's friend and neighbor Gregg Johnson evacuated on Saturday with his wife and 12-year-old son after watching the fire race down and surround their mountaintop home.

    "At that point, you know, the deal was done," Johnson said Monday.

    "Of course I was holding out hope," he said, "maybe the people who told me my house had burned down were wrong."

    Johnson's was one of six houses that were destroyed. Nine more were damaged.

    Residents in Lake Hughes and Lake Elizabeth were allowed to return to some 700 homes Monday in the rural communities 45 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

    About 275 homes remained under threat, but all evacuation orders had been canceled.

    The cause of the fire was under investigation. Three firefighters had minor injuries, but no one else was hurt.

    Meanwhile in northern New Mexico, two major wildfires were burning, and weather conditions there were not expected to be helpful to firefighters.

    A fire north of Pecos in Santa Fe National Forest had grown to 12 1/2 square miles, causing smoke to spread across much of the region.

    It previously prompted the evacuation of about 140 houses, mostly summer residences, but no structures had been burned, though windier weather was approaching.

    "It's going to be challenging," said interagency fire management team spokeswoman Denise Ottaviano.

    Another fire near Jemez Springs remained at nearly 3 square miles. Forty to 50 houses were evacuated late last week.

    In Evergreen, Colo., about 30 miles west of Denver, sheriff's officials made about 9,900 automated calls telling people to evacuate as gusts carried sparks a half-mile from where a fire burned an estimated 25 to 35 acres. The exact number of evacuees wasn't known because some homes receive calls to multiple numbers.

    The fire was settling down Monday night and authorities said some evacuees will be able to return home.

     

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    Updated, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, 7:16 p.m. ET
    Oklahoma Tornado
    The massive tornado that touched down near El Reno, Okla., Friday, May 31, was the widest ever recorded, experts said Tuesday. (AP Photo/The Omaha World-Herald, Chris Machian)

    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The deadly tornado that plowed through an area near Oklahoma City last week was even larger and more powerful than previously estimated - a record 2.6 miles wide with winds that reached nearly 300 mph, just shy of the strongest winds ever measured.

    The National Weather Service on Tuesday announced that the twister that hit El Reno was a top-of-the-scale EF5 twister - the second to strike the area in less than two weeks.

    Friday's tornado was initially rated as an EF3. But the agency upgraded that ranking after surveying damage and concluding that the storm had winds of 295 mph. Nineteen people died in the storm and subsequent flooding, including three storm chasers.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Stunning Photos from the 2013 Tornado Season
    The Oklahoma City area also saw an EF5 tornado on May 20. That one raked Moore, a suburb 25 miles southeast of El Reno, and killed 24 people. Moore was hit in 1999 by another EF5, which had the strongest winds ever measured on earth: 302 mph.

    The massive tornado that formed Friday avoided highly populated metro areas, a fact that almost certainly saved lives.

    Winds were at their most powerful in areas devoid of structures, said Rick Smith, chief warning coordination meteorologist for the weather service's office in Norman.

    "Any house would have been completely swept clean on the foundation," Smith said.

    The twister marched through the countryside between El Reno and Union City, a region of largely rural farm and grazing land. Most of the destruction came toward the end of the tornado's 16.2-mile path along Interstate 40, where several motorists were killed when their vehicles were tossed around.

    Like many Midwestern cities, the Oklahoma City metropolitan area continues to expand in the suburbs, but the rapid growth hasn't quite reached as far west as where Friday's tornado tracked.

    William Hooke, a senior policy fellow of the American Meteorological Society, said the continued growth of cities in tornado-prone areas makes it only a matter of time before another monstrous twister hits a heavily populated area.

    "You dodged a bullet," Hooke said. "You lay that path over Oklahoma City, and you have devastation of biblical proportions.

    In El Reno, the city of 18,000 suffered significant damage, including to its vocational-technical center and a cattle stockyard that was reduced to a pile of twisted metal. But Mayor Matt White said it could have been worse had the twister passed to the north.

    "If it was two more miles this way, it would have wiped out all of downtown, almost every one of our subdivisions and almost all of our businesses," White said. "It would have taken out everything."

    The EF5 storm that hit Moore decimated neighborhoods.

    "It's very scary ... I don't think a normal person can fathom just how scary," White said. "I don't think they realize how lucky El Reno was."

    The storm's 2.6-mile-wide path surpassed a record set in 2004 in Hallam, Neb. And it would have made the storm hard to recognize up close, Smith said.

    "A 2 ½-mile wide tornado would not look like a tornado to a lot of people," Smith said, explaining that the twister would not have a tapered funnel and would instead resemble a dark cloud hanging below the horizon.

    Greg Carbin, a meteorologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, said May in Oklahoma is a time of weather transition, offering the perfect fuel for violent thunderstorms that can produce tornadoes - a combination of warm, moist air combined with cooler jet stream energy that causes massive instability in the atmosphere.

    "In these past two events, we've had a lot of unstable air sitting around, a lot of moisture and warm air," Carbin said. "That provides the fuel for thunderstorm development."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Stunning Photos from the 2013 Tornado Season
    Kansas Torndao

     

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    Tuesday, June 4, 2013


    Tahiti's epic surf spot, Teahupoo, is known for its thick, powerful waves. "The heaviest wave on Earth," some surfers maintain. It's not the kind of place you want to wipe out, yet bodyboarder Dan Ryan did just that last month, and pretty spectacularly.

    (Via Adventure Journal)

    SEE ON SKYE: 15 Gut-Wrenching Wipeout Photos

     

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    Tuesday, June 4, 2013

    This Tuesday, June 4, 2013 aerial photo shows flooding at the intersection of Illinois Routes 100 and 3 in the center of Grafton, Ill. (AP Photo/The Telegraph, John Badman)

    ST. LOUIS (AP) - Mississippi River communities scrambling Tuesday to fend off the rain-engorged waterway got discouraging news: More rains looming across much of the nation's midsection threatened to slow the potential retreat of the renegade river.

    Such an outlook may not be welcomed in the northeast Missouri town of West Alton, where a makeshift levee's breach Monday fanned worries that the 570-resident town - which was mostly swept away by a flood in 1993 - would be inundated again. A voluntary evacuation advisory before the breach was fixed was heeded by just 15 percent of the town's residents, but "everyone else is ready to go at a moment's notice" if the hastily shored-up barrier shows signs of giving way, Fire Chief Rick Pender said Tuesday.

    For now, he said, "everything is stable," with much of the flooding corralled in a railroad bed acting as a town-protecting channel.

    "There are some spots not looking pretty (as defenses), but they're still holding the water back," Pender told The Associated Press by telephone. "Everyone is just monitoring the sandbags and barriers, waiting for this water to come down."

    The latest National Weather Service forecasts suggest that was to happen later Tuesday. But more rains expected in coming days, from St. Louis north to Minnesota and westward across some of the Great Plains, stood to drop another inch of precipitation here and there, adding more water to the Missouri River and the Mississippi River into which it feeds, National Weather Service hydrologist Mark Fuchs said.

    "We're not talking about huge amounts, but any amount when the soil already is wet is going to slow the rivers' retreat," Fuchs said from his St. Louis-area office. "If you take that into account, there's not going to be a big drop in the river levels any time soon."

    Across the river in Illinois, in the 28,000-resident city of Alton north of St. Louis, floodwaters already forced the closure of the local casino and the scenic "Great River Road" leading out of it to the north. By late Monday, floodwaters had swamped some of the Clark Bridge linking the city to West Alton, halting traffic from making it into Missouri.

    Yet there was reason for optimism: The National Weather Service as of Tuesday afternoon said the river at Alton was expected to crest that evening, some 13 feet above flood stage.

    The worst was yet to come south of St. Louis near Cape Girardeau, Mo., where the river was to continue to swell higher until reaching a peak Thursday night, again some 13 feet above flood stage.

    That rapid rise has produced a feverish sandbagging effort in nearby Dutchtown, where the river threatened to send water into about a third of the homes in the tiny town of about 100 people. It also was threatening to make another nearby community - Allenville, population 117 - an island. In Dutchtown, dozens of prison inmates bussed in were working shoulder to shoulder with other volunteers Tuesday, working to bolster the makeshift barrier.

    "So far, the levees are doing fine," Dutchtown Alderwoman Shirley Moss said. "We still have a lot of water coming this way, and we're still all out here working. It's very treacherous, and you just don't know how much you need to do to prevent this water from coming into town.

    "We're doing all we can, with all the help we can get."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Stunning Photos from the 2013 Tornado Season
    Kansas Torndao

     

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    (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams, File)

    While not a major outbreak, the threat for severe weather will persist across the southern Plains on Wednesday.

    Locally strong-to-severe thunderstorms could impact Dallas, Amarillo and Lubbock, Texas, Little Rock, Ark., and Oklahoma City on Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday night.

    Leftover thunderstorms from the overnight hours will continue to move eastward during the morning hours through portions of eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas.

    As some breaks of sunshine return and temperatures start to rise, the atmosphere will destabilize ahead of a cold front pressing down from the north.

    Scattered showers and thunderstorms will break out across New Mexico, West Texas and Oklahoma during the day on Wednesday, with storms pushing southeastward into northeastern Texas and Arkansas by Wednesday night.

    Severe weather will not be widespread, but some of the stronger thunderstorms will produce damaging wind gusts, large hail and even an isolated tornado. A handful of tornadoes were reported in eastern Colorado and southwestern Kansas on Tuesday evening.

    RELATED:
    Storm Chasers Among the Dead from Friday's Tornadoes
    AccuWeather.com Severe Weather Center

    Flash flooding will continue to be a problem as well, especially across Oklahoma. Oklahoma City has received more than 8 inches of rain in just the past week. After another round of rain moves through on Wednesday morning, any additional rainfall during the afternoon and evening will likely cause more flooding.

    Luckily, some quieter weather is in store for the rest of the workweek.

    As the cold front responsible for the storms pushes southward on Wednesday, cooler and drier air will push into Kansas, gradually ending the chance for thunderstorms.

    Thursday will be a quieter day from Kansas and Missouri down into Oklahoma. The threat for thunderstorms will shift southward into Texas and southern Arkansas as the cold front moves south.

    Even Friday will be a fairly quiet day across the southern Plains before the threat for thunderstorms returns on Saturday. For more weather news, visit AccuWeather.com.



    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Stunning Photos from the 2013 Tornado Season
    Kansas Torndao

     

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    Updated Wednesday, June 5, 2013, 11:49 a.m. ET

    Members of the German Life Saving Association DLRG patrol onboard a boat through the flooded streets in Deggendorf, Bavaria, June 5, 2013, after the Danube river broke its banks. (Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/AFP/Getty Images)

    USTI NAD LABEM, Czech Republic (AP) - Families in southern Germany scrambled to their rooftops and were airlifted to safety by helicopter Wednesday after two levees broke and raging floodwaters swept through their village.

    The drama in the southern German town of Deggendorf was being echoed in various degrees across vast tracts of central Europe. Authorities said at least 16 people have died and at least four others were missing in the surge of water overflowing river banks.

    Thousands of people have had to be evacuated, chemical plants along the swollen rivers have been hastily closing down and emergency workers were bracing for new flood crests at cities along the mighty Danube and Elbe rivers.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Massive Flooding in Central Europe
    Germany FloodingThe dpa news agency said helicopters started evacuating residents Wednesday after two levees along the Danube and Isar rivers broke and huge masses of water poured into the Bavarian village of Deggendorf.

    Four farmers were rescued at the very last minute by helicopter as floods submerged their tractor, firefighter Alois Schraufstetter said, adding that water was already 3 meters (nearly 10 feet) high in the village.

    "This is a life-threatening situation," he told dpa.

    Overall, the death toll included eight people in the Czech Republic, five in Germany, two in Austria and one in Slovakia. At least four other people were missing in the Czech Republic.

    An emergency committee in Prague said the water in the Elbe was expected to reach 11 meters (36 feet) early Thursday morning in the northern Czech Republic, almost four times its usual height.

    Firefighters said more than 19,000 people were evacuated from the flooding in the Czech Republic. Floodwaters in the Elbe, after inundating parts of Prague, were now roaring north toward Germany, particularly the city of Dresden.

    In villages around Usti nad Labem, a northern Czech city of 100,000 people, police in boats were handing out drinking water and medicine to those who had not evacuated.

    Alena Lacinova despaired at how much she would have to rebuild after watching the water wash into her home. In many places, even protective barriers were unable to stop the surge.

    "At the moment, we have about 2.5 meters (8 feet) of water inside. The cellar and the house are flooded," she told The Associated Press, adding that she was expecting another meter (3 feet) of water soon. "It's a pity for all those who have the same problem and have not enough money to fix it anytime soon."

    Lower parts of Usti nad Labem - built around a valley - looked like a ghost town. About 3,000 people had evacuated, while others remained inside their homes on higher ground. Some stood on hilltops, watching the water as it rose. Police also patrolled to make sure no looting occurred.

    Downstream, hundreds of people were being evacuated in the eastern German city of Dresden, where the Elbe was expected to crest Wednesday evening. Early in the day the river was running about 7 meters (21 feet) over normal levels.

    In addition to hundreds of German police officers and volunteers who were helping fight the floods, some 5,600 soldiers and 2,000 members of Germany's national disaster response team were deployed across the country, filling sand bags, reinforcing levees and building elevated walkways to flooded homes.

    "In Dresden, we have dozens of members instructing some 300 volunteers on how to build a temporary dam to hold the water back from one of the city's main thoroughfares," said Carolin Petschke from the national disaster response team.

    In the eastern German city of Halle, the downtown area was already flooded.

    In the Czech capital of Prague, Environment Minister Tomas Chalupa said the city's sewage treatment plant - which had to be shut down days ago due to high water - might be operational again in the next 24 hours. Since the shutdown, the city's effluence has gone straight into the Vltava River, which runs through the city, a top tourist destination.

    Authorities were also concerned about the safety of chemical plants next to the overflowing rivers. Some plants have been shut down and their chemicals removed.

    "It's not over yet," Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas said Wednesday. "There're tough moments still ahead of us."

    He pledged more than 5 billion koruna ($250 million) for cleanup work.

    Czech public television said a barrier that protects one major fertilizer plant in Lovosice was leaking Wednesday but Necas visited the plant and downplayed the danger.

    "The anti-floods measures are functioning well. The protective means have fulfilled their purpose," he said, adding that all dangerous chemicals had been transported to safety.

    The water was slowly receding in the hard-hit Bavarian city of Passau, leaving behind vast amounts of debris. Flooding earlier this week in Passau was the worst in 500 years.

    While most parts of Prague, including its historical landmarks, were protected by high metal barriers, Prague's Zoo was particularly badly hit for a second time in 11 years by the floods. The lower side of the park was submerged and its animals had to be evacuated.

    The zoo estimated the damage at $8 million but insisted it would reopen its higher parts shortly.

    "The flood will not break us," the zoo said in a statement.


    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Massive Flooding in Central Europe
    Flooding Germany

     

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    Deadly 56-Vehicle Crash in China
    Heavy fog is being blamed for this 56-vehicle smash in central China. At least nine people lost their lives and many others have been injured. Some of the victims were trapped in the wreckage. State broadcaster CCTV said the pile-up happened on a section of the Beijing-Hong Kong-Macau expressway in Henan province. The incident brought the route to a standstill creating a traffic jam of nearly 1,000 vehicles.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 25 Mesmerizing Photos of Fog

     

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    Getty Images

    PAHALA, Hawaii (AP) - The U.S. Geological Survey is revising the magnitude of an earthquake off the southeast coast of Hawaii to 5.3.

    Tuesday afternoon's earthquake was centered about 34 miles southeast of Pahala on the Big Island, at a depth of about 25 miles. Officials say it's not expected to generate a tsunami.

    Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira says there are no immediate reports of damage.

    The USGS reported earlier that the quake's magnitude was 5.6.

    People as far away as Maui and Oahu reported weak shaking to the USGS. The Oahu Department of Emergency Management says some areas may have experienced strong shaking.

    Kevin Dayton, the executive assistant to the mayor, says he felt a large jolt in the county building in Hilo.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Incredible Natural-Disaster Photos from Space

     

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    (Getty Images)

    An area of disturbed weather will track along at least part of the Atlantic Seaboard after affecting Florida in the coming days.

    AccuWeather.com meteorologists expect the system to produce a swath of heavy rain from parts of the Florida Peninsula into portions of the mainland South this week.

    Depending on the track of the system, a dose of heavy rain will fall on part of the mid-Atlantic coast and eastern New England toward the weekend.

    Flooding is a concern in the southeastern corner of the nation, where slow movement of the Gulf system is likely.

    Downpours could affect ground and air travel and lead to urban flooding problems along the heavily populated I-95 corridor Friday and Saturday.

    Drenching showers and locally gusty thunderstorms were affecting western Cuba, the Keys, South Florida and the eastern coastline of Yucatan, Mexico, Tuesday midday. Cabo de San Antonio, on the western tip of Cuba, has received nearly 8 inches of rain in the past three days. During the same period, Marathon, in the Florida Keys, has received nearly 5.50 inches of rain.

    Rainfall will gradually propagate northeastward over the next couple of days impacting more of Florida.

    According to Tropical Weather Expert Dan Kottlowski, "There will be a window of opportunity for the system to develop tropically Wednesday into Thursday as it begins to drift northeastward."



    Kottlowski stated that strong upper atmospheric winds, which are currently hindering development, could drop off enough to allow more of a circulation near the surface of the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

    Tropical systems are storms that inhabit the lowest part of the atmosphere. Since they are warm weather (warm core) storms, they can strengthen over warm water and tend to weaken over land or cold water. Strong winds near the top of the storm can also prevent development or tear a tropical storm or hurricane apart.

    Indications are that steering winds will guide the system, whether it has fully developed tropically or not, on a general northeastward path during the second half of the week into the weekend.

    RELATED:
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    The first name on the list of tropical storms and hurricanes for the Atlantic Basin 2013 season is "Andrea."

    While the exact path will depend on how much development occurs, rainfall along parts of the Atlantic Seaboard from Florida to the coastal Carolinas and eastern New England could be enhanced as the system moves along.

    "It is possible this system never has enough time to become a well-organized tropical storm or hurricane," Kottlowski said.

    The first stage of development of a warm core would be a tropical depression. However, even if the system were to reach that phase, it does not guarantee that a tropical storm or hurricane would follow.

    Even weak tropical or sub-tropical systems can bring tremendous rainfall, on the order of several inches or more. Weak systems can also bring locally severe thunderstorms and dangerous surf conditions.

    Over the weekend in the East, the Gulf system could interact with another storm system coming in from the Plains. That system over the central part of the nation will bring another round of severe weather to storm-weary residents in Oklahoma and surrounding states into Wednesday.

    The heaviest rain is forecast to fall mainly east of the track of the Gulf storm system.

    While a zone with little rainfall can occur in between both the Gulf and Plains systems during Friday into Saturday, some areas along the Atlantic coast could receive 3 inches or more with a zone of 1 to 3 inches possible centered over the Appalachians. If both systems were to merge or the Gulf system were to track farther west, heavy rain could fill in from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia, New York City and the Appalachians.

    According to Expert Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity, "The Gulf system is likely to pick up forward speed later in the week and over the weekend, which should work to shorten the duration of the rainfall and could lessen problems caused by flooding farther north."

    As long as the Gulf system remains weak and picks up forward speed, few or no problems related to coastal flooding would occur along the Atlantic Seaboard.

    Most areas could handle a dose of drenching rain without widespread stream or river flooding, as long as the rain does not continue for days on end.

    According to Canada Weather Expert Brett Anderson, "The area that could receive the heaviest rain in the north may be eastern Maine, Nova Scotia and parts of New Brunswick and Newfoundland later in the weekend."

    "This is the area where the two systems may really get together," Anderson added.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Stunning Hurricane Photos from Space

     

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    Rising Mississippi River Threatening Towns
    Mississippi River communities scrambling to fend off the rain-engorged waterway got discouraging news on Tuesday: More rains looming across much of the nation's midsection threaten to slow the potential retreat of the renegade river. Residents in many small towns along the river are waiting to learn whether they'll need to evacuate their homes.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Stunning Photos from the 2013 Tornado Season
    Kansas Torndao

     

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    El Reno, Oklahoma, Tornado
    The El Reno, Okla., tornado, which touched down on Friday, May 31, 2013, was up to 2.6 miles wide. That is comparable to the distance between the World Trade Center and the Empire State Building, which are 2.8 miles apart, in New York City.

    Senior Vice President of AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions and tornado expert Mike Smith described the El Reno, Okla., tornado, which is considered the widest tornado in recorded history, as a "super tornado."

    He fears that one of these super tornadoes could hit a major city, and it would require a much more upscale search, rescue and recovery response than has been done with less intense tornadoes or devastating tornadoes hitting rural or suburban areas.

    "A super tornado, as I have defined it, is F5 and 2 miles or wider," Smith said. "Less than one tornado in 50,000 would be categorized as a super tornado. Put one of these [super tornadoes] into a major city such as Dallas, Wichita and Kansas City, and it would be a major disaster."

    RELATED:
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    Friday in El Reno: A 'Super Tornado'
    AccuWeather Severe Weather Center

    There would be the potential for thousands of casualties. Smith stated that a super tornado could cost tens of billions of dollars if it hit a major city.

    Smith recently held an exercise in Atlanta, where he described the potential impacts of super tornadoes to FEMA representatives and emergency managers.

    Although the Moore, Okla., tornado was not a super tornado, with a width of 1.3 miles, it was the second F5 tornado in less than two weeks to strike central Oklahoma.

    Including the El Reno, Okla., tornado, there have been 60 F5 tornadoes since 1950. A small percentage of these have reached Smith's super tornado status.

    Smith named the 2007 Trousdale, Kan., with a width of about 2 miles. The 2004 Hallam, Neb., tornado was officially an F4 but had a width of 2.5 miles and was the prior record width holder.

    Smith stated his recent presentation that super tornadoes occur, on average, about once every decade.

    "Thus far they have all hit relatively rural areas," Smith said, "But, we know that statistically, whether it is 50 years from now or five weeks from now, it will occur and it is going to require a completely different type of response."

    Content contributed by AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Meghan Evans.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Stunning Photos from the 2013 Tornado Season
    Tornado

     

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    Wednesday, June 5, 2013
    Oklahoma Tornado Scar, Satellite

    NASA has released a satellite image of the elongated scar left behind by the deadly tornado that hit Moore, Okla., May 20. With winds exceeding 200 mph, the twister tore across 17 miles, spinning on the ground for nearly 40 minutes. It killed 24 people, injured 300 and destroyed nearly 13,000 structures.

    NASA's Earth Observatory decodes the image:

    In this false-color image, infrared, red and green wavelengths of light have been combined to better distinguish between water, vegetation, bare ground and human developments. Water is blue. Buildings and paved surfaces are blue-gray. Vegetation is red. The tornado track appears as a beige stripe running west to east across this image; the color reveals the lack of vegetation in the wake of the storm.


    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Devastating Tornado Strikes Moore, Okla.
    Moore, Oklahoma, Tornado

     

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    Updated Wednesday, June 5, 2013, 8:56 p.m. ET
    Tropical Storm Andrea

    MIAMI (AP) - The first tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, Andrea, formed Wednesday over the Gulf of Mexico and was expected to bring wet weather to parts of Florida's west coast over the next few days.

    Forecasters issued a tropical storm warning for a swath of Florida's west coast starting at Boca Grande, an island to the northwest of Fort Myers, and ending in the Big Bend area of the state.

    In Alabama, authorities said that 13 people had to be rescued from rough surf kicked up by the storm on Wednesday at beaches in two coastal towns. Most of those rescued didn't require medical treatment.

    Andrea (AN'-dree-ah) had maximum sustained winds near 40 miles per hour as of 8 p.m., and winds are forecast to reach 45 mph over the next day. It was located about 300 miles southwest of Tampa. A watch has been issued for most of northeast Florida up to North Carolina.

    Andrea was moving to the north at about 3 miles per hour and forecasters expected the storm to continue moving northeast at a faster speed on Thursday.

    The center of Andrea was expected to reach Florida's coast on Thursday afternoon, then travel over land and bring foul weather to parts of Georgia and the Carolinas by Friday. Forecasters say Andrea could bring three to six inches of rain to parts of Florida and Georgia, with isolated areas seeing as much as eight inches.

    In Florida, Gulf Islands National Seashore closed its campgrounds and the road that runs through the popular beach-front park on Wednesday. The national seashore abuts Pensacola Beach and the park road frequently floods during heavy rains. On Pensacola Beach, condominium associations asked people to remove furniture on high balconies because of the expected high winds and beach lifeguards warned tourists of possible high surf.

    A forecast map predicts the storm will continue along the East Coast through the weekend before heading out to sea again, though a storm's track is often hard to predict days in advance.

    A National Hurricane Center advisory also says coastal areas north of Tampa could also see storm surge of several feet.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Stunning Hurricane Photos from Space

     

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