Forecasters: Hurricane Irene seems headed to Charleston; Fla. would get tropical storm winds

Published: Sunday, August 21, 2011 @ 10:58 AM
Updated: Sunday, August 21, 2011 @ 10:58 AM

Irene's forecast path shifted away from South Florida today and it appeared to aim instead at the Bahamas and South Carolina - as it continues to intensify tonight.

Irene is now a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in its 8:30 p.m. advisory. It is expected to continue to strengthen and could become a major hurricane by Tuesday, the hurricane center said.

The latest advisory moved the forecast cone for Irene - which became the season's first hurricane this morning - east, and off nearly all of Florida. All, except coastal southeast Florida.

Irene was growing not just in punch but in breadth, with tropical storm force winds extending more than 180 miles.

That means that, even if it stays offshore, Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast could come under tropical storm winds later this week, forecasters said.

And with the system still as far away today as is Arkansas, and South Florida still well inside its forecast cone, there was plenty of time for its track to shift back toward Florida - perhaps with little time to react.

"In the middle of the ocean, who cares?" National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said. "But if you've got something that's close to the coastline, a shift of even 100 miles to the left would have a dramatic impact."

If a tropical storm or hurricane watch were to be posted for Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, that would happen some time on Tuesday, the National Weather Service's Pablo Santos said.

"South Florida is definitely not out of the woods on this yet," Santos, meteorologist-in-charge at the weather service's Miami office, said this morning. "Not until it gets past our latitude."

Just in case, earlier today, leaders of towns, agencies and hospitals were pulling out their "emergency plan" binders.

Irene had moved off Puerto Rico, where it downed trees, flooded streets and cut power to more than a million people. There were no reports of deaths or major injuries.

Forecasters had looked to the mountains of Hispaniola to tear up the storm's circulation, but it skirted to the north.

By the time it passes through the central and northern Bahamas on Thursday, top winds were predicted to be around 115 mph. That would make Irene a minimal Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

"All of the ingredients are conducive for Irene to intensify over the next few days," hurricane center specialist Lixion Avila wrote in a 5 p.m. forecast discussion.

Forecasters expressed concern for the impact on Nassau and surrounding islands.

Skinny line heading to the Carolinas

And by Saturday morning, the hurricane center's "skinny line" - and forecasters warn it is only an average of odds - would bring Irene around the South Carolina-North Carolina line.

"Although it is still too early to be certain, the guidance trend continues to lessen the threat to South Florida but increases the threat to the Carolinas," the 5 p.m. forecast discussion said.

While more of Florida was sliding out of the forecast path, meteorologists stressed that storms can carry hidden dangers.

In October 1999, another Irene - a tropical storm - moved up the spine of the Florida peninsula but dropped as much as a foot and a half of rain over parts of coastal Palm Beach County.

And in 2008, Tropical Storm Fay, even as its downpours brought historic flooding to Port St. Lucie, spun off a tornado in Wellington that all but flattened a horse center.

Agencies, hospitals gear up

Across Palm Beach County today, governments were starting to gear up.

They topped off emergency fuel supplies, checked generators, cleaned out storm drains, trimmed trees and policed streets for loose debris.

Several hospitals said they'd cancel elective surgery if the storm became a direct threat.

The 211 telephone referral system moved into hurricane informational mode and already was getting inquiries about special needs shelters.

Palm Beach County Assistant County Administrator Vince Bonvento, who leads emergency management efforts, met Monday afternoon with officials from local governments and fire-rescue departments.

"It's really premature to make any decisions," Bonvento said. "We will wait until Wednesday."

He said two meetings are scheduled for Tuesday - in the morning and the afternoon - for officials to discuss storm projections and preparedness efforts.

Irene's threat aggravated what was already a hectic-as-usual first day of school in Palm Beach County. School officials said they wouldn't decide whether to cancel classes until they had a better idea what Irene was doing.

"Safety is our number one priority," spokesman Nat Harrington said. "But we also don't want a 'blue sky' day off."

At the South Florida Water Management District, responsible for flood control in 16 counties, heightened inspections of pumps, levees and other control structures began Monday, and managers wrestled with when and where to release water from the system to prevent possible flooding. No releases had been made as of Monday afternoon.

And new West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, already dealing with budget cuts, used Twitter today to quip, "I have issued an executive order. No hurricanes in WPB this season."

Staff writers Julius Whigham II, Sonja Isger, Willie Howard, Allison Ross, Jason Schultz, Mitra Malek, Andrew Abramson, Christine Stapleton, Stacey Singer and Bill DiPaolo, and the Associated Press, contributed to this story.

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Romney releases tax docs, pays $1.9m last year

Published: Friday, September 21, 2012 @ 2:17 PM
Updated: Friday, September 21, 2012 @ 2:17 PM

Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, paid $1.94 million in federal taxes on last year's income of $13.7 million, for an effective tax rate of 14.1 percent, his campaign said Friday.

That's slightly above the 13.9 percent rate the couple paid in 2010. Most of the 2011 income was from investments.

Campaign officials said the couple filed the return Friday with the Internal Revenue Service, after receiving an extension. They were to publicly release their full 2011 returns late Friday.

Romney's taxes have emerged as a key issue during the 2012 presidential race with President Barack Obama. Romney released his 2010 tax returns and a 2011 estimate in January, but he has declined to disclose his returns from earlier years.

His vast fortune and his long association with Bain Capital, the private equity firm he cofounded, have been much discussed this year.

His campaign earlier estimated that Romney would pay about $3.2 million in taxes for the year, an estimate well above the $1.9 million actually paid. He paid about $3 million in federal income taxes in 2010 — an effective rate of 13.9 percent.

Critics, including Obama, have urged Romney to release more than just the two years of returns and follow his father's model. When George Romney ran for president, he released 12 years of tax returns.

Mitt Romney's campaign did put out a summary Friday by Brad Malt, the trustee of the couple's blind trust, saying that over the 20-year 1990-2009 period, the Romneys owed both state and federal income taxes and paid federal taxes at an effective annual rate of 20.2 percent

Obama's own tax return for last year showed that he and his wife, Michelle, paid $162,074 in federal taxes on $789,674 in adjusted gross income, an effective tax rate of 20.5 percent. Their income plunged from $1.7 million in 2010, with declining sales of the president's books. In 2009, the Obamas reported income of $5.5 million, fueled by the best-selling books.

The Romneys' exact totals for 2011 were federal taxes of $1,935,708 and on income of $13,696.951.

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Aggressive driver caught with ghoulish carpool ‘passenger’

Published: Thursday, January 05, 2012 @ 3:14 PM
Updated: Thursday, January 05, 2012 @ 3:14 PM

            A driver who was stopped on I-5 in Kent in January 2012, had a skeleton strapped into the passenger's seat.
            Washington State Patrol
A driver who was stopped on I-5 in Kent in January 2012, had a skeleton strapped into the passenger's seat.(Washington State Patrol)

A man police say was speeding and driving aggressively was also discovered to be using a plastic skeleton as a passenger while he drove in the carpool lane.


 The Washington State Patrol said that on Dec. 20, a trooper pulled over a silver Mazda for driving at 82 mph and making several unsafe lane changes on northbound Interstate 5 near 272nd Street. 


When stopped, the trooper said he noticed that what he originally believed was a passenger was actually a seat belted plastic skeleton wearing a sweatshirt.


The WSP said one of the lanes that the driver had used as he aggressively worked through traffic was the high occupancy vehicle lane.


Police said the driver did not have any comment concerning his “passenger” and received a ticket for speed, unsafe lane change and the HOV violation.


The WSP uses marked patrol cars and unmarked or unconventional police vehicles equipped with mobile video cameras to detect and apprehend aggressive drivers.

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MythBusters stunt sends cannonball flying through Bay Area home

Published: Tuesday, December 06, 2011 @ 8:15 PM
Updated: Tuesday, December 06, 2011 @ 8:15 PM

A reality television stunt that went awry sent a cannonball careening into a residential Dublin, Calif., neighborhood late Tuesday afternoon, punching holes through the front door and a wall of a home and smashing a minivan's window, but luckily leaving area residents unharmed.

The cannonball was fired as part of an experiement for the Discovery Channel show MythBusters.

The Alameda County Sheriff's Department confirmed that at around 4 p.m. a cannonball was "misfired" from the Alameda County bomb range at Camp Parks and struck a home blocks away on Cassata Place.

"This cannonball was supposed to pass through several barrels of water and a cinder block wall to slow its inertia," said J.D. Nelson of Alameda County Sheriff's Department. "When the shot was fired, it misfired. The cannon lifted."

The cannonball apparently hit something that caused it to shoot over the hillside that protects the neighborhood below.

The projectile bounced in front of the house on Cassata Place, through the front door and up through the second floor before it finally exited through the back wall.

Then it flew over Tassajara Road and ricocheted off the roof of another house before smashing through the window of a minivan where it came to rest.

"I kind of looked inside and seen a big old cannonball. And I had just got out of the van five minutes earlier," said Jasbar Gill, the owner of damaged van. "I'm glad my kids weren't inside the van. So lucky."

The sheriff's office spoke with the Discovery Channel which airs MythBusters.

"They're very sorry that this happened. And they have safety measures that are in place," said Nelson, who works as a consultant for the show, managing the tests run at the county bomb range. "They did have a misfire. And they have insurance for these kinds of things."

Remarkably, no one was hurt in the incident.

In fact, the family whose home sustained the most damage was asleep at the time and didn't realize anything had happened until the dust started to settle.

Nelson said the TV crew responded by sending a senior producer to the home and to the home of the car owner. The producer arranged to meet with their insurance carriers, Nelson said.

Nelson said the television show has used the county's bomb range more than 50 times for experiments and filming.

"We never even had any kind of an incident let alone anything this terrible," Nelson said.

Pratima Dsouza, who lives next door to the house that was hit, said she heard a loud noise and later saw police responding to her neighbor's home but thought there had been some sort of accident inside the house.   

It wasn't until she saw it on the news that she learned what had  happened.   

"Nobody came to our door and told us there was a cannonball that went through our neighbor's house," Dsouza said.

She said the bomb range where the cannonball came from is some distance from her neighborhood.   

"We can hear the sounds but we've never had an experience like that before," she said.

She said a family lives in the home that was struck.   

Another resident, Mark Hawthorne, said the cannonball bounced off of Cassata Place, leaving a dent in the concrete before crashing into his neighbor's house.   

He said neighborhood kids -- including his own -- often play outside in the cul-de-sac around where the cannonball landed.   

"It's a little scary," said Hawthorne, who has watched MythBusters on occasion. "It's easy to laugh at after it's done and no one's hurt."

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A look at Joe Paterno's legacy

Published: Wednesday, November 09, 2011 @ 11:19 AM
Updated: Wednesday, November 09, 2011 @ 11:19 AM

            Nittany Lions head coach Joe Paterno (left) and Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban greet each other after the game.
            Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE
Nittany Lions head coach Joe Paterno (left) and Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban greet each other after the game.(Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE)

Joe Paterno's contract was set to expire at the end of the season.   He is a legend in happy valley and the world of college football. 
  •  889 coaches have been hired in division one football since Paterno was hired in 1966.
  • He has 408 wins throughout his tenure, which is the most victories in division one history.  
  • He has two national championships under his belt.  
  • He has more bowl appearances than any other coach, more bowl victories than any other coach. 
  • Paterno has 5 undefeated seasons. 

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