NATION IN BRIEF

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Hurricanes Forecast For the Gulf Coast

NEW YORK -- Powerful tropical storms and hurricanes are forecast to strike the Gulf Coast during the June-November hurricane season, threatening an area still recovering from the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, AccuWeather.com said.

"This year's stronger storms are likely to cause the kind of disruption that will be felt in wallets and pocketbooks," said Joe Bastardi, chief forecaster for State College, Pa.-based AccuWeather.

Bastardi expects this year to yield fewer storms than the record-breaking 27 that formed in 2005, although he did not forecast a specific number. Warm Atlantic Ocean temperatures and historical weather cycles will drive the storms, he said.

"We are in a cycle where weather extremes are more the norm and not the exception," Bastardi said. "Last year was just a breather, because the overall pattern shows no sign of reversing." Atlantic Ocean temperatures are warming as part of a natural weather pattern that could last 15 to 20 more years, Bastardi said.

San Francisco Moves To Curb Plastic Bags

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Board of Supervisors voted to make San Francisco the first U.S. city to ban plastic bags from large supermarkets to help promote recycling. Under the legislation, large grocery and drug stores will not be allowed to offer bags made from petroleum products starting in six months. A spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom, who must approve or veto the legislation, called it sensible. "Chances are good that he is going to sign it," Nathan Ballard said.

Hundreds of Pets Suffer Kidney Failure

ALBANY, N.Y. -- At least 471 cases of kidney failure in pets have been reported in the 10 days since a nationwide recall of dog and cat food, and 104 animals have died, a veterinarians' information service said. The maker of the recalled pet food has confirmed the deaths of 16 pets. Paul Pion, founder of the Veterinary Information Network, which counts 30,000 veterinarians and veterinary students as members, said only 10 to 20 percent of the people who belong to his Web site had responded to a request for information.

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· COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A yellow haze of pollen descended on the Southeast in the past week, coating cars and porch furniture and making people miserable in one of the worst allergy seasons in years. Atlanta's pollen count hit 5,499 particles per cubic meter of air Monday, the highest this season and the fourth-highest in the 12 years that the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic has kept records. In South Carolina, the pollen count hit 4,862, according to the Allergic Disease and Asthma Center in Greenville. A reading of 120 is considered extremely high in the Southeast. A lack of rain, which scrubs pollen from the air, is blamed for the high count.

· GREENSBURG, Pa. -- A state senator was charged with improperly storing a handgun and lying about it to authorities after a 14-year-old neighbor used the gun to kill himself. Louis Farrell was found shot to death with state Sen. Robert Regola's 9mm handgun on July 22 near the two families' homes. The teenager had a key to Regola's house so that he could take care of the legislator's pets while Regola was at the statehouse. Regola; his 17-year-old son, Bobby; and their attorneys have denied wrongdoing in connection with the boy's death. Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha this month ruled the death a suicide.

· DALTON, Ga. -- Lynn Turner, who nearly eluded detection in the antifreeze-poisoning deaths of her husband and boyfriend, will spend the rest of her life in a Georgia prison for the two murders. The jury that convicted her Saturday of murder deliberated five hours before sparing her the death penalty and sentencing her to life in prison without parole. Prosecutors said Turner poisoned Randy Thompson, a Forsyth County firefighter, in 2001. He was her boyfriend and the father of her two children, now ages 11 and 8. His death raised suspicions about the 1995 death -- previously thought to be from natural causes -- of Turner's police-officer husband, Glenn Turner. Tests on the victims' bodies showed they were poisoned with ethylene glycol, a sweet but odorless chemical in antifreeze.

-- From News Services


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