- - Sunday, April 8, 2012

CHARLESTON, N.Y. — Seven months after the deluge of Tropical Storm Irene, cleanups continue and worries remain in upstate New York and Vermont.

Farmers are still grappling with crop-smothering rocks, trees, gravel and sand left behind when the floodwaters receded. And they’re also concerned that the gray or even sandy white soil left behind by Irene will affect yields.

Some local governments worry about new floods as they continue to clear piles of trees, rocks and household debris from stream banks.

Rural, hilly areas in New York and Vermont were hit especially hard-hit by flooding when Irene soaked the East Coast last August.

In the Adirondacks, Essex County officials say there is still a “tremendous amount of debris” to remove along rivers and tributaries.


Largest city breaks seasonal snow record

ANCHORAGE — A spring snowfall has broken the nearly 60-year-old seasonal snow record of Alaska’s largest city.

Inundated with nearly double the snow they’re used to, Anchorage residents have been expecting to see this season’s snowfall surpass the record of 132.6 inches set in the winter of 1954-55.

The 3.4 inches that fell by Saturday afternoon brings the total to 133.6 inches. National Weather Service meteorologist Shaun Baines said forecasters don’t expect more than an inch of additional accumulation.

Before a dumping of wet snow Friday, none had fallen since mid-March, and the seasonal measure hovered at 129.4 inches, or nearly 11 feet. The halt gave residents a chance to clear their snow-laden roofs and city crews an opportunity to widen streets squeezed by mountains of snow.

Extreme weather has hit not only Alaska. It’s also struck the lower 48, where the first three months of 2012 has seen twice the normal number of tornadoes and one of the warmest winters on record.

Two different weather phenomena - La Nina and its northern cousin, the Arctic Oscillation - are mostly to blame, meteorologists say. Global warming could also be a factor, because it is supposed to increase weather extremes, according to climate scientists.


Woman pleads not guilty in ‘toxic tush’ case

FORT LAUDERDALE — A Florida woman accused by authorities of illegally injecting toxic substances into other women’s buttocks as an enhancement procedure has pleaded not guilty.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel reports Oneal Ron Morris sent a written plea of not guilty to a Broward County judge on Thursday.

The suspect faces charges of unlicensed practice of medicine and related charges in Broward County. Morris, who police say was born a man but identifies as a woman, was arrested in November on similar charges in Miami-Dade County.

Morris’ attorney says his client maintains innocence.

Authorities say Morris injected flat-tire sealant, glue, caulk and cement into women’s buttocks. All three victims suffered medical complications and infections.


No injuries in military helicopter mishap

EL CENTRO — A British Chinook helicopter made an emergency landing during an exercise in the Arizona desert, U.S. and British military officials said. Seven people were sent to the hospital for evaluations, but all were reported uninjured.

The crew was practicing how to land the aircraft 15 miles northeast of Yuma on Saturday afternoon when “something went wrong,” said Michelle Dee, a spokeswoman for Naval Air Facility El Centro in California.

The British Defense Ministry in London on Sunday confirmed it was an emergency landing during an exercise.

“The incident is under investigation. No personnel were injured,” a statement said.

Ms. Dee had said earlier that the seven suffered minor injuries and were sent to the hospital for evaluations as a precaution.

The spokeswoman said she didn’t know how many people were aboard the aircraft or their nationalities. The Defense Ministry also did not provide those details.

The helicopter sustained damage, but Ms. Dee said she didn’t know the extent.

The officials didn’t provide any information on what prompted the emergency landing.

The Chinook was operating out of the naval base in California’s Imperial Valley. The facility hosts allied troops throughout the year for training over the California-Arizona border because the area’s craggy mountains and hot, dusty conditions are similar to Afghanistan’s harsh environment. The clear weather also allows for constant flying.

In February, seven Marines were killed when two helicopters crashed in flight during a routine exercise over the Yuma Training Range Complex.

The Yuma County Sheriff’s office didn’t immediately return a call for comment.


Cost to pack state park artifacts will cut savings

SAN FRANCISCO — Shuttering dozens of California state parks to trim millions from the state budget will take more than simply hanging a “Closed” sign on trailheads and beach parking lots July 1. Many on the closure list house thousands of historical treasures that must be packed up, catalogued and stored if deals are not reached to save them.

California officials concede they have been overwhelmed by the unprecedented move to close 70 of the state’s 278 parks.

They are working to catalog the important pieces of state history so they can undertake a massive packing, moving and storage effort should a deal not be reached to keep them open.

The state does not know how much of its projected $22 million in savings it will lose to packing and long-term storage.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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