Heat wave: 1,000+ records fall in US in a week

Posted June 27, 2012, at 9:35 p.m.

Across the United States, hundreds of heat records have fallen in the past week.

From the wildfire-consumed Rocky Mountains to the bacon-fried sidewalks of Oklahoma, the temperatures are creating consequences ranging from catastrophic to comical.

In the past week, 1,011 records have been broken around the country, including 251 new daily high temperature records on Tuesday.

Those numbers might seem big, but they’re hard to put into context — the National Climatic Data Center has only been tracking the daily numbers broken for a little more than a year, said Derek Arndt, head of climate monitoring at the center.

Still, it’s impressive, given that records usually aren’t broken until the scorching months of July and August.

“Any time you’re breaking all-time records in mid- to late-June, that’s a healthy heat wave,” Arndt said.

If forecasts hold, more records could fall in the coming days in the central and western parts of the country, places accustomed to sweating out the summer.

The current U.S. heat wave “is bad now by our current definition of bad,” said University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver, but “our definition of bad changes. What we see now will be far more common in the years ahead.”

Debby floods more neighborhoods in northern Fla.

SOPCHOPPY, Fla. — Debby destroyed homes and businesses, washed away roads and flooded neighborhoods in Florida before the once-large tropical storm drifted out to sea Wednesday, leaving behind a sopping mess.

At least three people were killed in the storm. More than 100 homes and businesses were flooded and officials warned the waters may not recede until next week in some places. The storm knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of customers, though most had electricity restored by the time Debby left the state.

The tropical storm formed in the Gulf on Saturday and gradually made its way across the Florida, drenching the state for several days before it weakened to a depression.

Chicago decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana

CHICAGO — The Chicago City Council overwhelmingly voted Wednesday to decriminalize marijuana possession, joining a wave of states and big cities that have opted for fines instead of arrests for small amounts of the drug.

Starting Aug. 4, police can issue tickets of between $250 and $500 for someone caught with 15 grams or less of pot — the equivalent of about 25 cigarette-sized joints. Given that more than 18,000 people are arrested for pot possession in Chicago each year, the new law could generate millions of dollars for the city.

In making the case for the city’s new approach, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said charges are dropped against the “vast majority” of people arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana. And each arrest takes up to four hours of police time, compared with about half an hour to issue a ticket and test the confiscated weed.

McCarthy estimates the new ordinance will free up more than 20,000 hours of police time, the equivalent of about $1 million in savings.

Restricting teen drivers also cuts down on teen drunk drivers

Teenagers in states with stiff limits on teen driving are less likely to drink and get behind the wheel or ride in a car with a driver who has been drinking, according to a new study.

The risk of a teen driver getting in a fatal accident multiplies when other teens are in the car. A study recently reported by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, meanwhile, indicates that state laws restricting teen driving contribute to lower crash rates.

Teen driving restrictions can also cut down on the number of teens who drink and drive, the study says.

The study, published online last week, will appear in the September issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. It examined 16- and 17-year-old students from 1999 to 2009.

Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. More than 1,900 drivers ages 15 to 20 were killed nationwide in 2010, and 22 percent of young drivers involved in fatal accidents were drinking.

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