Drought worsens after improvement
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The worst U.S. drought in decades has deepened again after more than a month of encouraging reports of slowly improving conditions, a drought-tracking consortium said Wednesday, as scientists struggled for an explanation other than a simple lack of rain.
While more than half of the continental U.S. has been in a drought since summer, rain storms had appeared to be easing the situation week by week since late September. But that promising run ended with Wednesday’s weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report, which showed increases in the portion of the country in drought and the severity of it.
The report showed that 60.1 percent of the lower 48 states were in some form of drought as of Tuesday, up from 58.8 percent the previous week. The amount of land in extreme or exceptional drought — the two worst classifications — increased from 18.3 percent to 19.04 percent.
The Drought Monitor’s map tells the story, with dark red blotches covering the center of the nation and portions of Texas and the Southeast as an indication of where conditions are the most intense. Those areas are surrounded by others in lesser stages of drought, with only the Northwest, Florida and a narrow band from New England south to Mississippi escaping.
Record weekend at movie theaters
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Bella Swan, James Bond and Abe Lincoln have combined to lift Hollywood to record Thanksgiving revenue at the box office.
Kristen Stewart’s finale as Bella in “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2” was No. 1 again with $64 million during the five-day holiday stretch that began Wednesday, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Daniel Craig’s Bond adventure “Skyfall” came in at No. 2 with $51 million, while Daniel Day-Lewis and Steven Spielberg’s Civil War saga “Lincoln” finished third with $34.1 million.
According to box-office tracker Hollywood.com, the three films paced Hollywood to an all-time Thanksgiving week best of about $290 million from Wednesday to Sunday.
That tops the previous record of $273 million over Thanksgiving in 2009, when “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” led the weekend.
This Thanksgiving also was a huge 25 percent jump from a year ago, when domestic revenues were a weak $232 million as some big holiday releases fizzled. With a strong December lineup ahead, Hollywood has resumed its record revenue pace for the year after a brief box-office lull in late summer and early fall.
Lady Liberty won’t reopen in 2012
NEW YORK (AP) — The National Park Service says the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island will not reopen to visitors this year.
Both sites have been closed since Superstorm Sandy hit the region Oct. 29. Cleanup and repairs have been ongoing.
The Statue of Liberty itself received little or no damage. The pedestal and base, including the main floor and exhibits upstairs, are OK. But docks, a brick promenade, railings and other facilities on Liberty Island were damaged.
At Ellis Island, the storm damaged doors, windows and exhibits in the ferry building among other sites.
Park Service spokeswoman Daphne Yun said Wednesday no projected reopening date has been established.
Both the statue and Ellis Island, which served as an entry point for immigrants for a half-century, are among New York’s top tourist attractions.
N.J. roller coaster could stay put
SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. (AP) — The remains of a roller coaster that was knocked off a New Jersey amusement pier by Superstorm Sandy and partially submerged in the Atlantic Ocean might be left there as a tourist attraction.
Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers said officials have not made a decision on whether to tear down the coaster. But the mayor says he’s working with the Coast Guard to see if the coaster is stable enough to leave it alone because he believes it would make “a great tourist attraction.”
Meanwhile, efforts to rebuild the storm-ravaged town are continuing.
Demolition crews have removed the resort’s damaged boardwalk. And Akers says construction on a new boardwalk is expected to begin in January and be ready by Memorial Day.