TIME weather

This State Has Record Low Snowfall This Year

snow oregon mountains
Getty Images/Flickr RF

Snowpacks are as low as 16% of their normal levels

As the East Coast continues to bear the brunt of winter weather, the western state of Oregon is struggling with record low levels of snow.

Snowpack levels are as low as 16% of what they usually are in the state’s western regions, the Associated Press reports. The colder, eastern part is a little better off, with snowpack levels at 47-79% of normal levels.

Still, that’s bad news for Oregon, which relies on mountain snowpack levels to eventually melt and feed its streams. “We are really kind of staring climate change right in the eye right now,” said Kathie Dello, associated director of the Oregon Climate Change Institute at Oregon State University.

2014 was officially the hottest year on record, and the future also looks warm for Oregon, with the U.S. Drought Monitor predicting even more intense drought to come to some parts of the state. In San Francisco, just over 300 miles south of Oregon’s border, there has been no rain at all in January.

[AP]

TIME Military

Hagel: Ground Troops May Be Needed in Iraq

'I would say we're not there yet'

Departing defense secretary Chuck Hagel said it’s possible the United States may need to send non-combat ground troops to Iraq to help deter the Islamic State.

Hagel, who resigned as Pentagon chief on Nov. 24, told CNN in an interview Friday that he thinks the deployment of American troops for intelligence-gathering and locating targets is a possibility, reports Reuters.

He said he wasn’t sure, however, that it would come to that. “I would say we’re not there yet,” he said. “Whether we get there or not, I don’t know.”

MORE: Obama’s Awkward Farewell to Hagel

Currently, 4,500 troops are already committed to roles in Iraq including training and advising. President Obama sent reinforcements to Iraq in advising roles in September.

President Barack Obama has nominated Ashton Carter to replace Hagel as defense secretary.

[Reuters]

 

TIME weather

Winter Storm Will Make it a White Groundhog Day

Winter Storm
A man walks through the snow in Brooklyn the morning after a major winter storm on January 27, 2015 in New York City. Another Winter storm is forecast for the weekend. Spencer Platt—Getty Images

Here we go again

Groundhog Day is going to seem very familiar to many folks in the Midwest and Northeast, as another winter storm crosses the country over the weekend, just days after a historic blizzard.

Snow is expected to hit parts of the Midwest late Saturday, the Weather Channel reports, with several inches forecast from Nebraska and South Dakota to western Pennyslvania on Sunday.

Then early on Monday morning—Groundhog Day—the snow will move eastwards to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, with snow accumulating in New York City and in Boston, where a severe storm covered the city in up to two feet of snow earlier this week.

Totals are currently forecast to be between eight and twelve inches of snow in Chicago, Detroit, and New York City, with more in Boston. Although, as many learned last week, early forecasts aren’t always accurate.

But no one should be surprised if Punxsutawney Phil predicts six more weeks of winter.

[Weather Channel]

TIME States

Now There’s a Day in Texas Celebrating American Sniper Chris Kyle

Chris Kyle
Chris Kyle Paul Moseley—MCT/Getty Images

Monday is Chris Kyle day

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas is declaring Monday Chris Kyle Day in honor of the Navy SEAL sniper featured in the Oscar-nominated Clint Eastwood film.

“In honor of a Texas son, a Navy SEAL and an American hero – a man who defended his brothers and sisters in arms on and off the battlefield – I am declaring Feb. 2 Chris Kyle Day in Texas,” Abbott said Friday in a speech to the Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars Mid-Winter Convention, KWTX-TV news reports.

Kyle is said to have been the deadiliest sniper in U.S. military history with 160 confirmed kills. He was shot to death in February 2013 at the age of 38 at a North Texas shooting range along with another veteran.

Iraq War veteran Eddie Ray Routh was charged in their deaths.

[KWTX-TV]

TIME Super Bowl

The Best of Phoenix: Top 7 Things Not To Miss Super Bowl Weekend

Phoenix, Ariz.
Phoenix, Ariz. Getty Images

If you are headed to Phoenix for the Super Bowl, here’s the inside scoop on the best of what the Valley of the Sun has to offer beyond the Big Game. And take it from a Phoenix-native: remember to drink lots of water and wear sunscreen. You are in the desert.

La Grande Orange Grocery. “LGO,” as locals call it, has the best breakfast in the Valley—get the Commuter. Or go later in the day to get the best burger. And the best salted chocolate chip cookie.

Camelback Mountain. Hiking the signature Echo Canyon or Cholla Trails is always a must, or you could head up north to the Tom Thumb Trail in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve for a less crowded, and equally breathtaking, outdoor desert experience.

Desert Botanical Garden. If you aren’t up for hiking, you can still enjoy the desert landscape. The flora of the Sonoran Desert is unto its own.

The Sanctuary Resort and Spa on Camelback Mountain. No one does relaxation and spa treatments better.

The Camelback Inn. The back patio with fire pits, cocktails, and mountain sunset views is an Arizona classic and hidden gem.

The Henry. It’s a new hip spot for a swanky night out.

Sky Harbor Airport Terminal 4. The Airport is now packed with the Valley’s top restaurants—Chelsea’s Kitchen, Blanco, Tammie Coe Cakes, Lola Coffee, and more. So, no worries if your Phoenix adventure was entirely Game Face—you can enjoy a last minute taste of Phoenix on your way home.

TIME Research

Why You’re Less Likely to Die in a Car Than Ever Before

Traffic
Heavy automobile traffic on the Harbor Freeway is viewed at sunset on Jan. 27, 2012 in Los Angeles. George Rose—Getty Images

'Motor vehicles are safer than they ever have been in the past'

The chances of dying in a car crash in a new vehicle have declined dramatically in recent years to their lowest point ever, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Improvements to vehicle safety technology since the mid-1980s saved 7,700 lives in the United States in 2012 alone, the study found.

“There’s all the bad news about recalls, which make it sound like vehicles are getting less safe,” says IIHS president Adrian Lund. “What these results show is that motor vehicles are safer than they ever have been in the past. This is a huge reduction of people dying as occupants of motor vehicles in crashes.”

The study, which looked at data on deaths in 2011 model year vehicles, found that no one died in nine vehicle models. The death rate per million registered vehicle years, a number that represents how many people died per the number of years a car is registered to be on the road, declined to 28 for 2011 model cars. That rate was 87 for cars made a decade earlier, Lund says.

The report attributed much of that improvement to changes in technology. Electronic stability control, for instance, has been incorporated into many vehicles and prevented deaths when vehicles roll over. The effect of the technology has been particularly noticeable in SUVs. Once among the most dangerous cars on the road, many SUVs are now among the safest vehicles. Six of the nine vehicles without a death were SUVs.

Lund says he anticipates that car safety will improve along with the introduction of new technology in the near future, but he also acknowledges that movements by governments and regulators to cut down on traffic deaths have the potential to reduce traffic deaths dramatically. In particular, Vision Zero—a movement adopted by various cities and countries aimed at eliminating such deaths—has the potential to save lives, he says.

“If we’re really going to get to zero, then we’re really going to need action on a lot of fronts,” he says. “We don’t have to wait just for vehicle technology to achieve Vision Zero.”

Nonetheless, Lund notes that car manufacturers are “closing in on their target” of making their cars free of death and serious injury.

The nine models that were fatality-free were Audi A4 (four-wheel drive), Honda Odyssey, Kia Sorento (two-wheel drive), the Lexus RX 350 (four-wheel drive), Mercedes-Benz GL-Class (four-wheel drive), Subaru Legacy (four-wheel drive), Toyota Highlander hybrid (four-wheel drive), Toyota Sequoia (four-wheel drive) and Volvo XC90 (four-wheel drive).

Three cars had more more than 100 deaths per million registered vehicle years: Kia Rio, Nissan Versa sedan and Hyundai Accent.

TIME The Brief

#TheBrief: Why America Could Change How It Puts People to Death

3 Inmates in Oklahoma are challenging the use of certain drugs in executions

A new Supreme Court case could mean a change in the chemicals that prisons use for lethal injections. Watch #TheBrief to find out more.

TIME Crime

Assault Charges Against George Zimmerman Dropped After Ex-Girlfriend Recanted

George Zimmerman walks in handcuffs during a first appearance at the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford, Fla., on Jan. 10, 2015.
George Zimmerman walks in handcuffs during a first appearance at the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford, Fla., on Jan. 10, 2015. Stephen M. Dowell—Orlando Sentinel/AP

Zimmerman first made headlines after the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012

ORLANDO, Fla. — The ex-girlfriend of George Zimmerman gave a sworn statement in which she said she didn’t want any charges to be filed in the aggravated assault investigation that started when she told police officers he threw a wine bottle at her.

Brittany Brunelle said in the document, made public Friday, that she was under no pressure and had been offered no money to make the statement.

Officials had not previously identified Brunelle.

Prosecutors said Friday that Brunelle’s refusal to cooperate contributed to their decision not to file a formal charge in the case. Beyond her name and statement, prosecutors didn’t release any other details about her.

It was the latest run-in with authorities for Zimmerman since his 2013 acquittal in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. The killing of the unarmed black teen touched off protests across the country.

TIME Crime

Suge Knight Arrested on Suspicion of Murder After Fatal Hit and Run

Incident took place on the set of Straight Outta Compton

Marion “Suge” Knight has been arrested on suspicion of murder, CBS reports, and is being held on $2 million bail. The former hip-hop mogul had previously turned himself in to the Los Angeles Country Sheriff’s Department in West Hollywood early on Friday for questioning over a fatal hit-and-run.

According to authorities, the Death Row Records co-founder is suspected of running two men over with his truck after an argument on Thursday that took place on the film set of the NWA biopic, Straight Outta Compton.

Capt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department detectives unit told the LA Times that the two victims were in a parking lot of a burger joint shortly after the argument, when Knight is believed to have run them over after following them in his truck. Witnesses have reported that the truck struck the men, then backed over them before driving off. One of the men was killed and the other suffered undisclosed injuries.

James E. Blatt, indentified by the LA Times as a staff member at the office of Knight’s attorney, told the paper that “we are confident that once the investigation is completed, he will be totally exonerated.”

[LA Times]

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