Nation roundup for March 3


Wintry conditions are affecting half of nation

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tourists flocked to the monuments in the nation’s capital Sunday to enjoy spring-like 50 degree temperatures after a winter of one blast of snow and sub-zero temperatures after another.

Joggers were out in shorts and T-shirts on the National Mall, home to treasured Smithsonian museums and landmarks like the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. Families flew kites around the mall while tour guides led groups around the memorials. Cherry blossom trees were growing new buds for the spring.

But oh how so much can change in a matter of hours. More snow and ice, perhaps as much as 2 inches falling every hour, were on the way ahead of Monday’s morning commute.

A round of wintry precipitation moved across much of the nation Sunday, bringing a mix of freezing rain and heavy snow to central and eastern states. Authorities warned of possible power outages and flight disruptions from weather that could affect millions.

Much of the worst weather was expected to pound the East Coast. In Washington and the Mid-Atlantic region, forecasters predicted a layer of ice and 8 to 12 inches of snow possible on Monday. That could be enough to shut down schools and offices yet again this season.

The National Weather Service called for 6 to 8 inches of snow across parts of southern Pennsylvania. Nearly a foot of snow was expected in parts of New Jersey.

In Pittsburgh, snow began falling about dawn and was expected to taper off before another band of snow hits early Monday. Forecasters were expecting 3 to 6 inches total. Philadelphia was expected to get four to 8 inches through Monday. More than 6 inches would make it the city’s second snowiest winter, surpassing 65.5 inches that fell in 1995-96. Nearly 1,600 flights in the United States were canceled and another 1,515 delayed Sunday afternoon, according to flight tracking site FlightAware.com.

Evacuation orders are lifted after Calif. storm

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Residents in three California foothill communities headed home Sunday after a powerful storm that threatened to unleash mud on neighborhoods beneath unstable hills scarred by recent wildfires.

With the storm reduced to sprinkles, residents in the Los Angeles County cities of Glendora and Azusa were allowed back into their homes. Monrovia residents were allowed back late Saturday, officials said.

The storm — the largest since 2010 — kept emergency planners and rescue crews busy, but it didn’t produce enough rain to pull California out of a crippling drought that has grown to crisis proportions for the state’s vast farming industry.

The precipitation will bring the Los Angeles region to about half its normal rainfall for the season, Bill Patzert, a climatologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge.

“This is no drought-buster, but it’s a nice, fat down payment” in the water bank, he said.

In downtown Los Angeles, the skies cleared in time for the red carpet arrivals at the Academy Awards, but rescue teams and cleanup crews were still busy.

A swift water rescue team plucked four hikers from rising waters in a risky overnight rescue Sunday in Malibu.

The hikers, who were trapped between a high wall and the rising waters in Malibu Creek State Park, were whisked out by helicopter uninjured but cold and exhausted.

In San Diego County, search and rescue teams continued to look for a 55-year-old man whose kayak was found floating upside down in stormy weather at Lake Sutherland Dam in Ramona.

High surf breached a sand berm in Long Beach late Saturday during an usually high tide, said Will Nash, a spokesman for the Long Beach Fire Department. The water caused minor damage in the parking garages and lower levels of about 20 homes there, he said.

As of Saturday evening, the storm had dropped more than 3 inches of rain in downtown Los Angeles, nearly 4.5 inches in Van Nuys and almost 12 inches at Cogswell Dam in the Angeles National Forest, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm wasn’t all bad news, though.

Ski resorts were delighted with fresh snow that promised to extend their season, and in northern California, the rain boosted a local creek where endangered coho salmon spawn. Rainfall over the last month has helped facilitate the salmon’s return to their spawning grounds, said the local water district officials who track their numbers.

“Coho season is wrapping up, and thankfully it’s ending with more of a bang than a whimper,” Eric Ettlinger, aquatic ecologist with the Marin Municipal Water District told The Marin Independent Journal (http://bit.ly/1pQiMql).

‘Non-Stop’ lands at No. 1 at weekend box office

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Liam Neeson has grounded the “The Lego Movie.”

The action star’s airliner thriller “Non-Stop” arrived in first place at the weekend box office, effectively ending the Warner Bros. animated film’s three-week blockade at the top spot. The Universal film stars Neeson as a federal air marshal on a doomed flight. “Non-Stop” ascended in its first weekend with $30 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

“I think the fact that audiences were ready for a suspense thriller was a lot to do with the film’s success, and obviously Liam is an absolute box office draw,” said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal. “One of the main reasons people were coming to see the film was Liam.”

Fox’s “Son of God” debuted closely behind “Non-Stop” in second place with $26.5 million. The film recounts the story of Jesus’ life using footage from the production of History Channel’s 10-part miniseries “The Bible.” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak, noted it was a strong showing because box office predictions for “Son of God” were wildly varied.

“It’s difficult to track religious- and faith-based films, as we learned with ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ ” Dergarabedian said. “If the expectation is that Hollywood should make more movies like this, then the audiences who want these movies have to vote with their dollars. It’s only then that Hollywood will wake up and see this as a viable genre that people will want to see.”

“Son of God,” which features Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado as Jesus, is the first of several religious-themed films set for release this year, including next month’s “Noah” starring Russell Crowe and “Exodus” with Christian Bale planned for December.

“The Lego Movie,” which features the voices of Chris Pratt and Elizabeth Banks as characters from the block-building toy franchise, came in third place with $21 million in its third weekend, bringing its total domestic haul to $209.3 million.

A few contenders up for Oscars at Sunday’s 86th annual Academy Awards received a boost at the box office. Dergarabedian said the box office for “12 Years a Slave” was up 72 percent and for “Dallas Buyers Club” was up 44 percent over last weekend. Both films are vying for the best-picture trophy at the Oscars, as well as several other honors.

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