Archive for October, 2012

Eastern US braces for dangerous superstorm

Monday, October 29th, 2012

 

Eastern US braces for dangerous superstorm

 IMAGE: A car goes through the high water Sunday in Ocean City, Md.
  By Allen G. Breed of Associated Press
Schools are closing and transportation services are shutting down on the East Coast as tens of millions of people are prepping for a rare hybrid storm expected to cause havoc across a wide area.

NEW YORK — From Washington to Boston, big cities and small towns Sunday buttoned up against the onslaught of a superstorm that could endanger 50 million people in the most heavily populated corridor in the nation, with forecasters warning that the New York area could get the worst of it — an 11-foot wall of water.”The time for preparing and talking is about over,” Federal Emergency Management Administrator Craig Fugate said as Hurricane Sandy made its way up the Atlantic on a collision course with two other weather systems that could turn it into one of the most fearsome storms on record in the U.S. “People need to be acting now.”

Airlines canceled more than 5,000 flights and Amtrak began suspending train service across the Northeast. New York and Philadelphia moved to shut down their subways, buses and trains Sunday night and announced that schools would be closed on Monday. Boston, Washington and Baltimore also called off school. And non-essential government employees in the nation’s capital were told not to report for work in the morning.

As rain from the leading edges of the monster hurricane began to fall over the Northeast, hundreds of thousands of people from Maryland to Connecticut were ordered to evacuate low-lying coastal areas Sunday, including 375,000 in lower Manhattan and other parts of New York City, 50,000 in Delaware and 30,000 in Atlantic City, N.J., where the city’s 12 casinos were forced to shut down for only the fourth time ever.

“We were told to get the heck out. I was going to stay, but it’s better to be safe than sorry,” said Hugh Phillips, who was one of the first in line when a Red Cross shelter in Lewes, Del., opened at noon.

“I think this one’s going to do us in,” said Mark Palazzolo, who boarded up his bait-and-tackle shop in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., with the same wood he used in past storms, crossing out the names of Hurricanes Isaac and Irene and spray-painting “Sandy” next to them. “I got a call from a friend of mine from Florida last night who said, ‘Mark, get out! If it’s not the storm, it’ll be the aftermath. People are going to be fighting in the streets over gasoline and food.'”

 

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East Coast braces for monster ‘Frankenstorm’

Saturday, October 27th, 2012

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WASHINGTON — When Hurricane Sandy becomes a hybrid weather monster some call “Frankenstorm” it will smack the East Coast harder and wider than last year’s damaging Irene, forecasters said Friday.

The brunt of the weather mayhem will be concentrated where the hurricane comes ashore early Tuesday, but there will be hundreds of miles of steady, strong and damaging winds and rain for the entire Eastern region for several days, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The hurricane has killed at least 20 people in the Caribbean, and just left the Bahamas. It is expected to move north, just off the Eastern Seaboard.

As of Friday morning, federal forecasters were looking closer at the Delaware shore as the spot it will turn inland and merge with a wintry storm front. But there is a lot of room for error in the forecast and the storm could turn into shore closer to New York and New Jersey and bring the worst weather there.

Wherever Sandy comes ashore will get 10 inches of rain and extreme storm surges, Louis Uccellini, NOAA’s environmental prediction director, said in a Friday news conference. Other areas not directly on Sandy’s entry path will still get 4 to 8 inches of rain, maybe more, he said. Up to 2 feet of snow should fall on West Virginia, with lighter snow in parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania, regardless of where Sandy first hits.

A wide swath of the East, measuring several hundreds of miles, will get persistent gale-force winds in the 50 mph area, with some areas closer to storm landfall getting closer to 70 mph, said James Franklin, forecast chief for the National Hurricane Center.

“It’s going to be a long-lasting event, two to three days of impact for a lot of people,” Franklin said. “Wind damage, widespread power outages, heavy rainfall, inland flooding and somebody is going to get a significant surge event.”

That storm surge will only be magnified by the full moon this weekend to make it a “dangerous period,” Uccellini said.

Last year’s Hurricane Irene was a minimal hurricane that caused widespread damage as it moved north along the coast after making landfall in North Carolina. With catastrophic inland flooding in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Vermont, federal officials say Irene caused $15.8 billion in damage.

Sandy is “looking like a very serious storm that could be historic,” said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the forecasting service Weather Underground. “Mother Nature is not saying, ‘Trick or treat.’ It’s just going to give tricks.”

Government forecasters said there is a 90 percent chance — up from 60 percent two days earlier — that the East will get pounded.

Utilities are lining up out-of-state work crews and canceling employees’ days off to deal with expected power outages. From county disaster chiefs to the federal government, emergency officials are warning the public to be prepared. And President Barack Obama was briefed aboard Air Force One.

Boat owners were yanking their vessels out of the water Friday at the Southside Marina in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., about 60 miles south of New York City.

“We’re taking them out as fast as we can,” said marina employee Jim Martin.

Atlantic City’s casinos made contingency plans in case they have to close, as they did for three days last year when Tropical Storm Irene approached.

Eastern states that saw outages that lasted for days after last year’s freak Halloween snowstorm and Hurricane Irene are already pressuring power companies to be more ready this time.

Asked if he expected utilities to be more prepared, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick responded: “They’d better be.”

Jersey Central Power & Light, which was criticized for its response to Irene, notified employees to be ready for extended shifts. In Pennsylvania, PPL Corp. spokesman Michael Wood said, “We’re in a much better place this year.”

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday said the city was striking a tone of calm preparedness.

“What we are doing is we are taking the kind of precautions you should expect us to do, and I don’t think anyone should panic,” Bloomberg said. The city has opened an emergency situation room and activated its coastal storm plan.

Sandy was expected to deal only a glancing blow to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where Lori Hilby said she planned to ride out this storm at home, unlike past storms such as Irene. Hilby, the manager at Tommy’s Natural Foods Market and Wine Emporium in Duck, N.C., said the shop would remain open throughout the storm. She said she sold a fair amount of beer and wine to people who planned to ride out the storm on the barrier island.

“I’ll never evacuate again,” Hilby said. She said most of the power lines there are underground, so the power often stays on even during powerful storms.

“Whenever I evacuate, I always end up somewhere and they lose power and my house is fine. So I’m always wishing I was home instead of at somebody else’s house with no power.”

There are still plenty of stores open in Duck, and Halloween decorations and displays were still on houses despite the rain that started to roll in Friday. Few homes were boarded up.

Some have compared the tempest to the so-called Perfect Storm that struck off the coast of New England in 1991, but that one hit a less populated area. Nor is this one like last year’s Halloween storm, which was merely an early snowfall.

“The Perfect Storm only did $200 million of damage and I’m thinking a billion” this time, Masters said. “Yeah, it will be worse.”

___

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Skydiver survives 24 mile high jump

Monday, October 15th, 2012

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Extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner landed gracefully on Earth after a 24-mile jump Sunday from the stratosphere in a daring, dramatic feat that officials said made him the first skydiver to fall faster than the speed of sound.

Baumgartner came down safely in the eastern New Mexico desert about nine minutes after jumping from his capsule 128,100 feet, or roughly 24 miles, above Earth. He lifted his arms in victory, sending off loud cheers from jubilant onlookers and friends inside the mission’s control center in Roswell, N.M.

“When I was standing there on top of the world, you become so humble, you do not think about of breaking records anymore, you do not think of about gaining scientific date. The only thing you want is to come back alive,” he said after the jump.

Brian Utley, a jump observer from the International Federation of Sports Aviation, said preliminary figures show Baumgartner reached a maximum speed of 833.9 mph. That amounts to Mach 1.24, which is faster than the speed of sound. No one has ever reached that speed wearing only a high-tech suit.

Baumgartner says that traveling faster than sound is “hard to describe because you don’t feel it.” With no reference points, “you don’t know how fast you travel,” he told reporters.

“Sometimes we have to get really high to see how small we are,” he said.

The altitude he leapt from also marked the highest-ever for a skydiver. Organizers said the descent lasted just over nine minutes, about half of it in free fall. Utley said he traveled 119, 846 feet in free fall.

Three hours earlier, Baumgartner, known as “Fearless Felix,” had taken off in a pressurized capsule carried by a 55-story ultra-thin helium balloon. After an at-times tense ascent, which included concerns about how well his facial shield was working, the 43-year-old former military parachutist completed a final safety check-list with mission control.

As he exited his capsule from high above Earth, he flashed a thumbs-up sign, well aware that the feat was being shown on a live-stream on the Internet.

During the ensuing jump — from more than three times the height of the average cruising altitude for jetliners — Baumgartner was expected to hit a speed of 690 mph. He was believed to have reached speeds that exceeded 700 mph.

Any contact with the capsule on his exit could have torn his pressurized suit, a rip that could expose him to a lack of oxygen and temperatures as low as minus-70 degrees. That could have caused lethal bubbles to form in his bodily fluids.

But none of that happened. He activated his parachute as he neared Earth, gently gliding into the desert east of Roswell and landing without any apparent difficulty. The images triggered another loud cheer from onlookers at mission control, among them his mother, Eva Baumgartner, who was overcome with emotion, crying.

He then was taken by helicopter to meet fellow members of his team, whom he hugged in celebration.

Coincidentally, Baumgartner’s attempted feat also marked the 65th anniversary of U.S. test pilot Chuck Yeager successful attempt to become the first man to officially break the sound barrier aboard an airplane.

At Baumgartner’s insistence, some 30 cameras recorded the event Sunday. Shortly after launch, screens at mission control showed the capsule as it began rising high above the New Mexico desert, with cheers erupting from organizers. Baumgartner could be seen on video, calmly checking instruments inside the capsule.

Baumgartner’s team included Joe Kittinger, who first attempted to break the sound barrier from 19.5 miles up in 1960, reaching speeds of 614 mph. With Kittinger inside mission control Sunday, the two men could be heard going over technical details during the ascension.

“Our guardian angel will take care of you,” Kittinger radioed to Baumgartner around the 100,000-foot mark, and noted that it was getting “really serious” now.

An hour into the flight, Baumgartner had ascended more than 63,000 feet and had gone through a trial run of the jump sequence that will send him plummeting toward Earth. Ballast was dropped to speed up the ascent.

Kittinger told him, “Everything is in the green. Doing great.”

As Baumgartner ascended in the balloon, so did the number of viewers watching on YouTube. Nearly 7.3 million watched as he sat on the edge of the capsule moments before jumping. After he landed, Red Bull posted a picture of Baumgartner on his knees on the ground to Facebook, generating nearly 216,000 likes, 10,000 comments and more than 29,000 shares in less than 40 minutes.

On Twitter, half the worldwide trending topics had something to do with the jump, pushing past seven NFL football games.

Among the tweets was one from NASA: “Congratulations to Felix Baumgartner and RedBull Stratos on record-breaking leap from the edge of space!”

This attempt marked the end of a five-year road for Baumgartner, a record-setting high-altitude jumper. He already made two preparation jumps in the area, one from 15 miles high and another from 18 miles high. It also was the end of his extreme altitude jumping career; he has promised this will be his final jump.

Baumgartner has said he plans to settle down with his girlfriend and fly helicopters on mountain rescue and firefighting missions in the U.S. and Austria.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2012/10/14/supersonic-skydiver-hopes-to-break-sound-barrier/#ixzz29LOK7wvN

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‘South Park’ Set to Tackle ‘Honey Boo Boo’

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

It was only a matter of time until Trey Parker and Matt Stone clamped their satirical teeth down on a hunk of Honey Boo Boo Child. (Yep, that sentence just happened.) On Wednesday night’s episode of “South Park,” titled “Raising the Bar,” Cartman decides he’s tired of being harangued about his body image and is going to be a proud advocate for obesity. But the portly elementary schooler soon discovers he’s not alone in wanting to hog the spotlight. Literally.
In one of a few “Raising the Bar” scenes made available via Comedy Central’s website, none other than “Here Comes Honey Boo” starlet Alana Thomspon herself makes an appearance. Aided by Mama June and “Sugar Bear” Mike, HBB parses through a neighborhood sty, looking for a swine with “pizzazz,” as she’s now entering “pageants with a pig heart.” We’re not sure what that really entails (or entrails), but are positive we’ll find out when the episode airs at 10 p.m. Meanwhile, enjoy the below clip, and to quote Parker and Stone’s caricature of Sugar Bear, “Work it Girl.”
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