- - Monday, May 30, 2011

CALIFORNIA

Spat over seals awaits judge’s ruling

SAN DIEGO — A squabble over a Southern California cove has people fighting in the name of two unlikely, but equally adorable, causes.

On one side are residents trying to return the La Jolla beach known as Children’s Pool to the days when it was a swimming hole for youngsters. On the other side are advocates for the plump seals that go there to sunbathe with their young pups.

Now a judge is expected to decide whether the cove where a sea wall was built in the 1930s to calm the Pacific waters so children could play there needs to be cordoned off year round to protect harbor seals.

Friday’s hearing comes a year after it appeared that the city had ironed out its long dispute with seal advocates.

The City Council voted last May for a year-round rope barrier to keep back the thousands of visitors who come to see the federally protected seal colony, which can number as many as 200 at certain times.

The city also hired a part-time park ranger to diffuse the situation but to no avail.

FLORIDA

Shuttle leaves space station to begin final trip home

CAPE CANAVERAL — Space shuttle Endeavour has departed the International Space Station, clearing the way for a final cargo run to the outpost before NASA retires its three-ship fleet.

As the spacecraft sailed 215 miles above Bolivia, pilot Greg Johnson gently pulsed Endeavour’s steering jets at 11:55 p.m. ET Sunday to back away from the docking port that has anchored the shuttle since its arrival May 18.

Endeavour delivered the station’s premier science experiment — the $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer particle detector — and a pallet of spare parts intended to tide over the orbital outpost after the shuttle program ends.

Endeavour maneuvered to within about 950 feet of the station to test a new automated rendezvous system being developed for NASA’s next spaceship, the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, intended to fly astronauts to the moon, asteroids and eventually to Mars.

HAWAII

High-tech parking meters get trial run in Chinatown

HONOLULU — A new parking system is being introduced for Honolulu’s Chinatown that parking officials said will help boost business while cutting down on parking tickets.

New high-tech meters could eliminate the need for coins and reduce the risk of parking tickets by letting drivers add additional time to their meters through credit cards and smartphone apps, said Wayne Yoshioka, director of the city’s Department of Transportation Services.

The new system, which officials hope to have installed at 232 parking spaces by the end of the year, would eliminate the need for people to walk back to their cars to put coins into the meter.

MISSISSIPPI

Residents return to flood-damaged homes

CUTOFF — Residents in this tiny enclave of homes and fishing camps returned Monday for the first time since evacuating nearly a month ago, getting their first glimpse of the putrid mud and soaked debris left behind now that the Mississippi River’s floodwaters have started to recede.

The tally of the damage is just beginning in places like Cutoff, an unincorporated community on the unprotected side of the river in Mississippi’s Tunica County. The Mississippi River has displaced thousands on its march to the sea. The rising waters led the Army Corps of Engineers to blow up a Missouri levee to save Midwest communities and open spillways in Louisiana to lessen the risk in heavily populated places such as New Orleans.

In Cutoff, Javier Campos couldn’t quite get to his own home. So he pulled on a pair of gloves and started helping a neighbor salvage what he could.

“It’s terrible, man. Everybody needs help,” he said. “So I’m helping my neighbors, and when I can get back to my house, maybe they will help me.”

About 225 households are permanent residences in a series of fishing camps in Tunica County.

MONTANA

Floods cut phones; rains continue

BILLINGS — Flooding disrupted emergency phone service across a broad swath of eastern Montana on Monday as areas of the state remained inundated and downstream communities prepared for the worst.

Residents of Dakota Dunes in southeast South Dakota were told to be ready to leave their homes by Thursday as the Missouri River continued to rise. Gov. Dennis Daugaard stressed that no evacuation had been ordered, but the town’s 2,500 people were told to prepare for the worst.

Authorities say northwestern Montana and the Dakotas are next in line for high water problems as mountain snow melts and record flows are released from the Missouri’s swollen reservoirs.

“This could be a pretty significant week for flooding, and it might expand,” said Monique Lay, spokeswoman for the Montana Emergency Coordination Center.

TENNESSEE

Rescue crews try to free man from cave

WINCHESTER — Rescue crews were trying to save a man who injured his back, pelvis and wrist when he fell in a cave in southern Tennessee.

Franklin County Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Guess told WRCB-TV in Chattanooga that the 51-year-old Huntsville, Ala., man has been trapped in Sinking Cove Cave since Sunday afternoon and has broken bones.

Sgt. Guess said Monday afternoon that crews worked throughout the night to get the man out. He said the man, whose name was not released, was about 2,000 feet underground.

Sheriff Tim Fuller says the cave’s opening is very low and narrow. Crews were cutting through rock to try to reach the man.

TEXAS

Wildfires destroy 12 homes in panhandle

AMARILLO — Two wildfires have destroyed at least 12 homes on the outskirts of the Texas Panhandle city of Amarillo.

Texas Forest Service spokesman Marq Webb says the fires began burning early Sunday evening as low humidity, temperatures in the 100s and high winds created favorable conditions for fires.

He says firefighters still were battling wildfires across Texas on Monday. About 2.8 million acres have burned in the state since November.

The Forest Service reported that a fire on the southern edge of Amarillo burned about 200 acres, destroying five homes and damaging four others; it was about 90 percent contained Monday.

Another fire to the northwest hit 1,243 acres and destroyed seven homes; it was about 80 percent contained Monday.

Evacuations orders have been lifted in both areas.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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