S. Calif. fire forces evacuation of mountain town
View gallery GREG RISLING 58 minutes ago SocietyIdyllwild-Pine Cove, CaliforniaUnited States Forest Service IDYLLWILD, Calif. (AP) — Artist Lewis Millett didn’t need much more than an order to leave his longtime Idyllwild mountain home after seeing 100 foot flames marching toward the mile-high hamlet that draws tourists, summer campers and students to a year-round arts and music school.Millet and his wife scooped up the precious things that matter most from their three-story Southern California home: their two cats, his paintings and sculptures and one of his family’s prized heirlooms — his father’s Congressional Medal of Honor.Millet was among the 6,000 residents and tourists told to evacuate the community in the San Jacinto Mountains about 100 miles from Los Angeles as the wildfire grew to more than 35 square miles Thursday, wreathing a ridge about 2 to 3 miles from town, fire officials said. The blaze also was 2 miles away from Palm Springs, but no homes were threatened there.It had already destroyed at least six houses and mobile homes and several cars when winds shifted Wednesday and sent the blaze toward Idyllwild.”It’s never been this bad, and it’s never been this close,” Millett, 61, said as he sat on a cot in an evacuation center in Hemet, a nearby community. „I have high anxiety.”.”View galleryThe burned remains of one of the homes on Bonita Vista Rd. near Lake Hemet, Calif., from the Mountai …Fire officials said the blaze was just 15 percent contained and had been growing in an atypical manner.”Usually it cools down at night and we get more humidity. That hasn’t happened,” said Tina Rose, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. „It’s been burning like it’s daytime for 72 hours in a row.”Fire officials were worried about the weather during the late afternoon when temperatures peak and the blaze can move more rapidly.”What we’re concerned about is what you see right here,” said U.S Forest Service Fire Chief Jeanne Pincha-Tulley, pointing to a hazy sky. „When you get a column that puts out this much smoke, embers get into the column and can drop anywhere.”She added the column was expected to go right over Idyllwild for the next two days. While authorities said only 5 percent of the town rebuffed evacuating, they cautioned they might not be able to help those who remain if conditions worsen..”View galleryIrene Jenke, evacuates from her home on Morris Ranch Rd. with her pets from the Mountain Fire near L …”We cannot guarantee your safety if the fire runs into town,” said Idyllwild Fire Protection District Chief Patrick Reitz.The 22,800-acre fire spread in three directions through thick brush and trees. Roughly 4,100 houses, condos, cabins and several hotels in Idyllwild and surrounding communities were threatened. Fire crews struggled to carve fire lines around the town to block the towering flames.Authorities said the fire was „human-caused” but they wouldn’t say whether it was accidental or intentional. There have been no reports of any injuries.The small town on the other side of the mountains that tower over the desert community of Palm Springs is known for the arts and is surrounded by national forest popular with hikers and flanked by two large rocks that are favorites for climbers. Popular campgrounds, hiking trails and 30 mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail that runs 2,650 miles from the Mexican border to Canada were closed.”That’s going right down the middle of the fire,” U.S. Forest Service spokesman Norma Bailey said of the trail..”View galleryDoug Dowalter gets in his motor home to evacuate from his home on Morris Ranch Rd from the Mountain …Millett packed his car with as many belongings as he could. The Congressional Medal of Honor was bestowed upon his father Col. Lewis Millett in 1951 for leading the last bayonet charge in U.S. history in the Korean War. Other mementos, however, such as autographed photos signed by several U.S. presidents his father had met were left behind.The evacuation center was alive with music Thursday as four teenage French horn players from Idyllwild Arts Academy rehearsed a piece by Austrian composer Anton Bruckner in a courtyard behind the cafeteria. They said they found it relaxing to play in an uncertain moment. On the other side of the building in the shade, a group of counselors picked at guitars and a ukulele.”There were a lot of people practicing last night. I took out my piccolo and played a little bit,” said Sophia Yurdin, 16, of Los Angeles.Grayson Hall, 17, a counselor at a Center for Spiritual Life camp that rents space from Camp Buckhorn said campers were aware a fire had been burning and were surprisingly calm when first told they had to leave.”We had just done an emotional exercise about acknowledging your emotional baggage and letting it go. And right after we finished that, we got word that we had to evacuate. And we had to literally release our baggage,” he said..”View galleryMap locates Idyllwild where 6,000 people were forced to flee wildfires; 1c x 2 inches; 46.5 mm x 50 …Nearly 3,000 firefighters and more than a dozen aircraft were assigned to the fire. Two large firefighting aircraft were ready to help on request. Temperatures in the area could top 100 degrees.The blaze that began Monday destroyed three houses, damaged another and destroyed three mobile homes, a cabin, a garage and about a half-dozen vehicles, the Forest Service said. Five commercial buildings, 11 other buildings and several smaller structures were also lost.”I’ve lived here for 30 years and built with my own hands,” Lawrence Gotta, whose home in Pine Springs Ranch burned to the ground, told ABC News. „Uninsured. Paid for. Everything in the world I own is gone.”The fire was about 12 miles from the site of the 2006 Esperanza wildfire that killed five U.S. Forest Service firefighters and destroyed 34 homes and burned an area that hadn’t burned in many years.”The slightest little spark is going to make a run and torch trees,” Rose said. „It’s just so bone dry.”Firefighters went door-to-door Wednesday to make sure residents were leaving. Residents said they are fully aware of the constant threat of a major wildfire.”It’s just frightening,” said Steve Hamlet, 65, a recent retiree who moved to Idyllwild three years ago. „It’s in your bones. You know it’s coming and you are hoping and praying it doesn’t. It’s really a helpless feeling.”___AP reporter Raquel Maria Dillon contributed to this report.
Mountain fire in southern California forces 6,000 to fleeSteve Gorman 3 hours ago SocietyNatureSouthern CaliforniaPalm Springs, CaliforniaIdyllwild-Pine Cove, CaliforniaView gallery By Steve Gorman LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A wildfire that chased some 6,000 people from homes, vacation cabins and campgrounds in the mountains of Southern California roared through dry brush and timber for a fourth day on Thursday as crews battled to keep flames away from popular resort areas.The blaze erupted on Monday afternoon about 100 miles east of Los Angeles in the scenic but rugged San Jacinto Mountains overlooking Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage and several smaller low-lying desert towns.No injuries have been reported, but authorities say seven mountain residences, including three mobile homes, have been destroyed, along with five commercial structures, about a dozen outbuildings and several vehicles.Authorities on Wednesday ordered the evacuation of the mile-high resort area of Idyllwild, along with the adjacent village of Fern Valley and all the parks and campgrounds in the vicinity as the blaze burned largely unchecked.A view of the remains of personal items after homes were destroyed during the Mountain Fire near Idy …Several smaller communities in the area had already been evacuated during the first three days of the fire.The latest evacuation notices brought to roughly 6,000 the total number of residents, vacationers and campers displaced by the so-called Mountain Fire, said Steve Gut, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.Gut said the blaze was moving in different directions but that flames were still several miles from the outskirts of Idyllwild, a popular mountain getaway known for its hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding and music scene.Fire incident commander Jeanne Pincha-Telley told a news conference in Idyllwild that one flank of the blaze had reached to within 2 miles of the extreme southern edge of Palm Springs at the foot of the mountain. Palm Springs itself was not under evacuation.Pincha-Telley said the towering column of smoke and cinders pouring skyward from the blaze might complicate efforts to contain the flames as hot embers carried aloft could ignite new spot fires in the area..”View galleryBarbara Lundquist, one of many people who evacuated from Idyllwild yesterday, talks to a reporter du …In the next two days, she said, that column is „predicted to go right over the top of this town.”By early Thursday, the fire had charred some 2,800 acres of drought-parched chaparral and timber, much of it in steep, remote wilderness terrain inside the San Bernardino National Forest.That was more than three times the acreage reported burned two days earlier.With nearly 3,000 firefighters, 17 water-dropping helicopters and 10 air tankers assigned to it, the blaze ranked as one of the most severe of more than a dozen large wildfires that crews were battling to contain in several western states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Idaho.Experts say this year could see one of the worst U.S. fire seasons on record. In recent weeks, a Colorado wildfire ranked as that state’s most destructive on record ravaged more than 500 homes and killed two people. In Arizona, 19 members of an elite „hotshots” crew died while battling a separate fire on June 30..”View galleryBroken windows are seen after homes were destroyed during the Mountain Fire near Idyllwild, Californ …In California, as of Thursday morning, firefighters had managed to carve containment lines around 15 percent of the Mountain Fire’s perimeter. The cause of the blaze remained under investigation, authorities said.(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Christopher Wilson)
The East Coast Heat Wave Is Moving Backwards
Abby Ohlheiser 4 hours ago NatureNational Weather ServiceView galleryThe East Coast Heat Wave Is Moving Backwards The oppressive heat pummeling large portions of the Eastern U.S. this week is all kinds of wrong, with the heat index on Thursday topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Washington D.C., Baltimore, and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. And here’s one more thing to hold against it: the heat is going the wrong way. RELATED: How Severe is the Link Between Hot Weather and Violence?As the Associated Press explains, weather systems in the U.S. usually travel west to east. The system that’s bringing us the current heat wave, however, has been moving east to west starting some time last week. Essentially, as the National Weather Service explained earlier this week to the Press of Atlantic City, this means that a „dome of hot air” has been beating up the east coast without the promise of a normal change-up in air masses. With everything going backwards, the hot air just keeps coming. In other words: the backwards movement is keeping the heat in place, and for longer. „It’s definitely unusual and going the wrong way,” National Weather Service operations chief Jon Gottschalck told the AP, adding, „this is pretty rare.” RELATED: How to Stop Complaining and Love This Heat Wave We can, apparently, blame a cooler weather system for starting the backwards trend with the weather, the AP says: Just before the high pressure moved east to west, a rainy and cooler low pressure system moved from the Mid-Atlantic to Texas, he said. That storm system broke off the jet stream, which is parked up in Canada, and made the U-turn first.That’s supposed to change in the next few days, however, once the system starts moving normally again. So maybe everything won’t be horrible starting some time this weekend. That’ll be good news for the 141 million people living in areas of the country currently under a heat advisory, including the New York Philharmonic fans who complained Tuesday night after the orchestra cut their outdoor concert short thanks to the unbearable heat.
Curiosity rover confirms Martian air is mostly CO2
View galleryThis photo released by NASA shows a self-portrait taken by the NASA rover Curiosity in Gale Crater on Mars. Measurements of the Martian air by the rover found it’s mostly made of carbon dioxide with traces of other gases, according to two studies appearing in the Friday, July 19, 2013 issue of the journal Science. (AP Photo/NASA)ALICIA CHANG 9 hours ago Science, Social Science, & HumanitiesAstronomyCuriosity (rover)LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Curiosity rover has tasted Mars’ air: It’s made mostly of carbon dioxide with hints of other gases.The measurements by the most advanced spacecraft to land on the red planet closely match what the twin Viking landers detected in the late 1970s and what scientists have gleaned from Martian meteorites — rock fragments that fell to Earth.Mars’ atmosphere is overwhelmingly dominated by carbon dioxide, unlike Earth’s air, which is a mix of nitrogen and oxygen.There was a small surprise: Viking found nitrogen to be the second most abundant gas in the Martian air, but Curiosity’s measurements revealed a nearly equal abundance of nitrogen and argon, a stable noble gas.Mission scientists are puzzled, but suspect it might have to do with the different tools used to sample the atmosphere.”It’s more or less an interesting observation” but doesn’t change the notion that Mars lost most of its original atmosphere to space, transforming the planet into a cold desert, said Paul Mahaffy of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, who is in charge of Curiosity’s air sampling experiments.The nuclear-powered, six-wheel rover set down in an ancient crater near the Martian equator almost a year ago. The atmospheric measurements were detailed in two studies appearing in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.While „there’s nothing profoundly different” between what Curiosity found and previous results, the new work is more detailed, said Michael Mumma of Goddard, who is not part of the mission.Neither study dwelled on the issue of methane gas on Mars. Several years ago, telescopes on Earth detected a surprising and mysterious belch of methane in three regions in the Martian western hemisphere. On Earth, methane is mainly a byproduct of life — from animal digestion and decaying plants. The gas can also be produced by non-biological processes.Last year, the Curiosity team reported no definitive whiff of methane near the landing site. Since then, the rover has taken several more air samples. There are also plans to sniff the atmosphere for methane during the monthslong drive to Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-high mountain looming from the crater center.NASA in the fall is set to launch a Mars-orbiting spacecraft aimed at solving the methane mystery.Called Maven, the craft will target the Martian atmosphere. Scientists want to know if it actually exists, determine the abundance and whether that varies by year or location, said mission chief scientist Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado.___Follow Alicia Chang at: http://twitter.com/SciWriAlicia___Online:Science: http://www.sciencemag.org
Monsoon likely to pick up, no dry spell seen
View galleryA boy sells roses while standing on a road divider during monsoon rains in Mumbai July 12, 2013. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui14 hours ago Nature By Ratnajyoti Dutt NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s monsoon rains turned average last week and may pick up over areas that grow cane, oilseed and cotton in northern and western regions next week, weather department officials said, helping most summer crops into their last leg of planting.That could mean India, one of the world’s biggest producers and consumers of grains, has a record harvest this year, a government agricultural expert said.During the last week, rains increased in intensity over areas growing soybean, groundnut and cotton while they eased in the northwest and the northeast regions.The rains, which came in heavily at the start of the June to September season, had slowed to below average in the previous week, allowing the sowing of summer crops to speed up.Most crops except rice are now in their last leg of planting in the country, where 55 percent of farmland is without irrigation and relies on monsoon rains.Seven weeks into this year’s monsoon, rains have so far been average or above, suggesting India will avoid a drought. This will mean higher rural incomes in the world’s second most populous country, improving sales of everything from cars and gold to refrigerators.”The country rarely gets such a kind of well-distributed rains as has happened so far this year,” said J.S. Sandhu, the country’s farm commissioner.The heavy early rains did little damage in crop-producing regions but in some parts of northern and eastern India, flash floods and torrential downpours killed hundreds of people and displaced thousands.In pockets of south and western regions which had drought last year, more intense rains have led to higher coverage this year for crops such as corn, pulses and oilseeds.Sandhu said the planting for most of the crops, except rice, would finish by the month’s end, but rice sowing in some areas of the northeast region could stretch to August, as the areas have received less rainfall so far.”Rice sowing is on everywhere with monsoon rains,” he said.Farm officials said output prospects for crops including soybean and corn appeared strong as most of these crops have already been sown on higher acreage than last year.”The foograin output could surpass the record level that was witnessed two years ago, if the current favourable conditions of monsoon rains continue,” Sandhu said.India recorded the highest ever food grain production in the 2010/11 crop year with 257 million tonnes, including 104 million tonnes of rice, the main grain crop of the South Asian country.(Editing by Jo Winterbottom and David Evans)