Drought-rattled California welcomes weekend storm
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Californians are welcoming a robust weekend storm that's soaking the northern half of the drought-stricken state but meteorologists say it will not solve the problem.
However, the rain and snow is threating to produce avalanches, flooding and rock slides.
The storm that moved in Thursday is powered by a warm, moisture-packed system from the Pacific Ocean known as a Pineapple Express.
The National Weather Service says the storm has so far dropped more than 11 inches of rain on Marin County's Mt. Tamalpais and on the Sonoma County town of Guerneville. Meanwhile, San Francisco, San Jose and other urban areas recorded 1 to 3 inches of rain.
Areas north of San Francisco are forecast to see another few inches by Sunday,
The storm deposited a foot of snow of on the top of Lake Tahoe ski resorts that have relied on man-made snow for much of the season, and elevations above 7,500 feet are forecast to get another foot or two by Sunday.
Less than 100,000 in Pa. remain without power
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Thousands of Pennsylvanians are returning home as power is restored after an ice storm that downed trees and electrical lines.
Less than 100,000 customers in Pennsylvania and Maryland remain without power Saturday evening.
The majority of them are in the Philadelphia area. The utility PECO is reporting about 93,000 outages, down nearly 60,000 from Saturday morning.
The latest outages include nearly 39,000 customers in hard-hit Chester County, or more than one in five customers.
Montgomery County has about 22,000 customers without electricity, while Bucks County has 19,000.
PECO spokesman Greg Smore says weakened trees and limbs continue to fall, creating new obstacles. The company expects to restore power to everyone by Monday.
In Maryland, officials report about 2,000 outages.
More than 1 million customers lost power at the storm's peak.
2 jump into Ark. river to avoid wreck; 1 missing
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A person who jumped from an interstate bridge in southwestern Arkansas into an icy river to avoid a jackknifed 18-wheeler remains missing Saturday night.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission spokesman Keith Stephens said the search for the person in the Little Red River was called off shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday because of darkness. He said the search would resume Sunday.
State police say three people were outside their vehicles after an earlier accident on the icy bridge when the truck jackknifed and slid toward them. Two people leapt over the guardrail and into the water during 29-degree weather.
The other person was quickly rescued.
GREAT LAKES-ICE COVER
Cold temps cover 79 percent of Great Lakes in ice
CHICAGO (AP) - This winter's bitter cold temperatures in the Midwest have covered a stunning 79 percent of the Great Lakes in ice.
It's not a record, but it's well above the long-term average of about 51 percent.
Lake Michigan is about 63 percent frozen. And the largest lake in the system, Huron, is about 85 percent covered.
Lake Erie, at 93 percent, has the most ice cover.
The data comes from the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.
It tracks the ice cover because of its potential impacts on everything from hydropower generation to commercial shipping and fishing.
Studying the ice cover also helps determine climate patterns and water levels.
Massive Ga. blaze is contained but still burning
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) - Fire officials say a massive fire at the Port of Savannah in Georgia is contained but could take a while to burn out.
Savannah Fire and Emergency Services spokesman Mark Keller says the fire fueled by 5,600 tons of rubber is contained, but there's no telling how long it will take to burn it out.
He says firefighters were using industrial pumps to suck up river water and blast it through water cannons at the fire.
Crews will continue soaking into the night and Sunday if necessary.
A towering column of black smoke could be seen from miles away.
The fire was burning inside a warehouse covering 226,000 square feet at the port's Ocean Terminal just west of downtown Savannah. All port workers were accounted for and unharmed.
Holder applies same-sex marriage ruling to Justice
WASHINGTON (AP) - Attorney General Eric Holder is applying a landmark Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage rights to the Justice Department.
Speaking Saturday night to the Human Rights Campaign in New York, Holder says that same-sex spouses cannot be compelled to testify against each other and should be eligible to file for bankruptcy jointly. He also says that same-sex spouses are entitled to the same rights and privileges as federal prison inmates in opposite-sex marriages.
The Justice Department runs a number of benefits programs, and Holder says same-sex couples will qualify for them.
Last year, the Supreme Court struck down a provision in the Defense of Marriage Act defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Its decision applies to legally married same-sex couples seeking federal benefits.
Calif. company recalls 8.7 million pounds of meat
PETALUMA, Calif. (AP) — A Northern California company is recalling more than 8.7 million pounds of beef products because it processed diseased animals without a full federal inspection.
That's a whole year's worth of meat processed by Petaluma-based Rancho Feeding Corp.
The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service said Saturday that without the full inspection, the recalled products are unfit for human consumption.
They were processed from Jan. 1, 2013, through Jan. 7, 2014, and shipped to distribution centers and retail stores in California, Florida, Illinois and Texas. They include beef carcasses, oxtail, liver, cheeks, tripe and tongue.
Last month the company recalled more than 40,000 pounds of meat products produced on Jan. 8 that also didn't undergo a full inspection.
A call to the company went unanswered.
There have been no reports of illnesses.
FATAL DOG ATTACK
Ohio cat lover mauled to death by 2 dogs
DAYTON, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio woman known for her love of cats was found in front of her home Friday fatally mauled by two neighborhood dogs.
Police say they found 57-year-old Klonda Richey unclothed, with her coat apparently torn off by the mixed-breed dogs.
Authorities said Richey's next-door neighbors, 28-year-old Andrew Nason and 23-year-old Julie Custer, were taken into custody and being held pending a formal charge of reckless homicide.
Results of an autopsy being conducted by the Montgomery County coroner weren't expected before Monday.
The Dayton Daily News reports police were forced to kill the two male dogs after they charged officers.
The newspaper reported Richey, of Bruce Avenue, owned and cared for at least 20 cats. She worked as a part-time supply clerk at the county children's' services office.
U.S. shows well
SOCHI, Russia (AP) — The U.S. is fourth in the overall Olympic medal count after winning one gold and one bronze in Sochi.
Idaho's Sage Kotsenburg won the first gold medal of the 2014 Games, taking first in the men's snowboarding slopestyle. Staale Sandbech of Norway takes home the silver. Mark McMorris of Canada got the bronze.
In women's moguls, American Hannah Kearney (KAHR'-nee) won the bronze.
In other action Saturday, the U.S. women's hockey team defeated Finland 3-1 in the opening game.
The U.S. stands in third place after the free skate portion of the new team figure skating competition.
Coming up Sunday will be the men's and women's free skates and the free dance.
One of the premier events is set for Sunday when the men's downhill takes place. Bode (BOH'-dee) Miller of the U.S. is one of the medal favorites along with Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal. The 36-year-old Miller is a five-time Olympic medalist.
CHINA-US-SOUTH CHINA SEA
China rejects US criticism on South China Sea
BEIJING (AP) — China has rejected U.S. allegations that it is using vague territorial claims unsupported by international law to gradually assert control in the disputed South China Sea.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei is urging the U.S. to take a "rational and fair attitude." He said Saturday that playing up tensions is not conducive to maintaining peace and stability.
According to him, China has been committed to resolving maritime disputes directly with its neighbors.
The United States said Wednesday that actions by China have raised concerns it was trying to assert control over an area covering roughly 80 percent of the South China Sea based on Chinese maps despite the objections of its neighbors.
Obama, first lady out on town for Mexican dinner
WASHINGTON (AP) - Three days before they throw a state dinner for the president of France, President Barack Obama and his wife are whetting their appetite for - Mexican food.
The first couple is enjoying what could be a pre-Valentine's Day dinner Saturday night at the Washington restaurant Oyamel. The restaurant is owned by chef Jose Andres, who is well known in foodie circles.
The president and first lady Michelle Obama will spend most of Valentine's Day apart.
His schedule Friday is taking him to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to address House Democrats. Afterward, he heads to California to meet with King Abdullah II of Jordan.
Obama is scheduled to spend the rest of the weekend in California.
The state dinner for French President Francois Hollande is Tuesday night.
Border collie wins Westminster show agility trial
NEW YORK (AP) — A border collie named Kelso has won the first-ever agility competition at the Westminster Kennel Club show.
And a husky mix called Roo! got a special award for the best mixed-breed dog at Saturday's event. It marked the first time mixes have appeared at the nation's premier dog show since early in its 138 years.
About 225 dogs competed in the agility trial at Pier 94 in New York City.
They spanned 63 different breeds, from tiny papillons and toy poodles to such big dogs as Doberman pinschers and Rottweilers.
The dogs raced through a course of jumps, tunnels, ramps, and other obstacles as handlers guided them with signals and calls. The dogs were judged on both accuracy and speed.
The traditional breed judging begins Monday.