Hurricane Irene Could Impact Pennsylvania Weather, Depending on Track

Hurricane Irene  potential path may bring it close enough that it could impact parts of Pennsylvania this weekend. The latest forecast has it taking a slightly more westward track.

Walter Drag, with the National Weather Service in Mount Holly New Jersey, says it’s a large storm that could have some impact on Pennsylvania, depending on the track it takes up the coast.

Drag says some areas that had heavy rain recently, in Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Northern Delaware and Northeastern Maryland could be facing another bout of heavy rain as the result of Irene.

Drag says even if the storm passes off to the east, a predecessor rainfall event could still bring some rain to eastern parts of the state.  Predecessor events can be associated with tropical systems.  They are not part of the bands of rain directly caused by the hurricane or tropical storm.

Drag says if the storm comes closer, it could bring squally winds and heavy rainfall. The Philadelphia area could get anywhere from a fraction of an inch to more than five inches, depending on the track of the storm.

Drag says people who have weekend plans along the coast should pay special attention to the National Hurricane Center forecasts.   The head of FEMA says people along the entire Eastern Seaboard need to pay attention to Hurricane Irene. 


**Chart courtesy of the National Hurricane Center

Lake Closed for E. Coli Investigation Reopens to all but Swimming

The lake at Cowans Gap State Park in Fulton County has reopened to fishing and boating, two weeks after it was closed for investigation of E. coli cases among people who reported swimming there.  The lake is still closed to swimming.

The lake was reopened after an investigation and widespread water testing failed to uncover the bacteria linked to 15 cases of the illness.  Officials say the illnesses resulted specifically from swimming, so they feel there’s no current health threat associated with other activities on the lake.

Testing did show the presence of E. coli in raw, untreated water from one of the wells at the park. However, it was not the same strain linked to the illnesses. The well was shut down temporarily and large-scale chlorination was undertaken.

Health officials still caution against drinking untreated water and they saw fish caught at the lake should be cooked and handled properly.

State Flag Stamp Unveiled, Dedicated

Pennsylvania’s new stamp is a part of the Postal Service’s “Flags of Our Nation” series, but officials say it’s much more than a flag.  “It’s a representation of the people, the heritage, the history and the future of Pennsylvania.  So it’s much more than just the flag,” explains Central PA District Manager Kevin McAdams. 

The new Pennsylvania state flag stamp was unveiled and dedicated at a state capitol ceremony on Tuesday.

In addition to the Commonwealth’s flag, the new stamp includes artwork that depicts several whitetail deer.  “The whitetail deer is our neighbor, it’s an economic driver and it’s also very important to us,” says State Rep. Mike Peifer.  As a representative of Pike and Wayne counties, Peifer is no stranger to deer.  Peifer helped to unveil the new stamp at a state capitol ceremony. 

The whitetail deer became the official state animal back in October of 1959.

VA Quake Felt at PA Capitol

Today’s magnitude 5.8-earthquake may have been centered in Virginia, but it was felt across the Keystone State.  That includes the state capitol complex in Harrisburg.  Minutes before 2pm, fire alarms sounded in several buildings, prompting an evacuation.  “All of a sudden we just heard a big boom, it sounded like someone had dropped something off of a crane,” says Kathy Hale, who was working at the State Library circulation desk. 

Hale did not feel any shaking, but over in the Finance building Auditor General Jack Wagner did.  “I immediately felt a shaking of the room, visually seeing the walls vibrate, and actually the table that I was sitting at,” recalls Wagner.  This was the Auditor General’s first earthquake experience.  While parts of the capitol complex were evacuated, state workers were given the all clear after about 40-minutes outside.

“Fragments from 9/11” on Display

Everyday items recovered from Ground Zero are on display at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology & Anthropology.  “In this case, the small things are not really small because they are mixed up in our own personal reflections of what happened that day,” says Williams Director of the Penn Museum Richard Hodges, who says the goal is to draw attention to the small items that came from the Ground Zero excavations, rather than the monumentality of the towers themselves.

Excavating Ground Zero: Fragments from 9/11

A charred computer keyboard is just one of the items included in "Excavating Ground Zero: Fragments from 9/11."

The exhibit features 15 small, but poignant objects.  “Perhaps the most telling item is a keyboard from a computer that’s partially burnt and just barely recognizable,” Hodges says.  Other objects on display include paperwork, eyeglasses, visitors’ badges and more.  “Minor objects that in themselves tell you nothing, but in the context of this story – as is often the case in archeology – tell you a great deal.” 

In this particular case, those objects harbor an enormously emotional experience.  They’re on display at the Penn Museum through November 6th.  The exhibit also invites visitors to share their own memories of 9/11.  Several special events are also planned at the Penn Museum on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Once “Excavating Ground Zero: Fragments of 9/11” closes at the Penn Museum, the items will be returned to the National September 11th Memorial Museum collection.

Special Impaired Driving Enforcement Underway through Labor Day Holiday in Pennsylvania

A special DUI enforcement campaign is underway in Pennsylvania heading into the Labor Day holiday weekend.  PennDOT has distributed federal funds to state and local police departments to help crackdown on impaired driving. The campaign is called the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” initiative. It’s part of a nationwide enforcement effort to crackdown on drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters says more than 600 municipal departments and state police are involved in the effort.  She says they want to draw attention to the fact that police will be out there doing checkpoints and roving patrols, looking for impaired drivers.

Waters says the campaign started on August 19th and will continue through Labor Day. She says they typically see an uptick in impaired driving during nicer weather and large holidays.  She says people go to social functions, then get behind the wheel when they shouldn’t drive.

During the Labor Day holiday weekend last year, there were 169 alcohol-related crashes and five fatalities.

Tips for Coping with the Back to School Blues

On the calendar, its summer for another month, but for school kids, the season is coming to an end.   If you’re youngster is not eating much and seems out of sorts or your college bound teen is irritable, it could be a sign of the back to school blues. Transitions involve change which can lead to some anxiety.

Dr. Nicole Quinlan, a licensed psychologist at Geisinger Medical Center, says practicing the first day of school routine with younger children and talking it out with those of any age can help them and you deal with that anxiety.  She says parents can help by practicing the first day of school routine, talking about what the child might expect, and having their things together ahead of time, such as backpacks and binders.

Dr. Quinlan says helping kids get to know other children if it’s a new area or new school, finding out more about the school, and practicing a walk-through of the new school, if that’s possible, can be helpful.

 Dr. Quinlan says a parent can empathize with their child, talking through the kinds of things they’d want their child to know to cope.  She says this will also help parents who may be anxious over the transition.

Dr. Quinlan says students heading off to college for the first time can also show some signs of anxiety She says for teens headed to college for the first time, talking it over and spelling out expectations ahead of time can be helpful.  If parents have more serious concerns, colleges have support services on campus.  

To learn more about back to school anxiety, parents can get tips at the Pennsylvania Psychological Association’s website the National website   

Cancer Information Service Wants to Help People Facing a Cancer Diagnosis

When people are diagnosed with cancer, they may have a lot of questions from treatment to emotional support.  There’s an information service offering free and confidential advice. The Cancer Information Service is an arm of the National Cancer Institute, which supports research into the disease.

Cancer Information Specialist Maia Low says anyone can call at 1-800-4-cancer or go on line to She says the service can take as much time as a caller needs to understand what’s going on with them.   The phone lines are open each week day from 8 am until 8 pm.

 Low says  so many complicated concepts that can be introduced when someone is diagnosed with cancer.  She says it can take awhile for the person to process that information to know what kind of questions to ask.

Low says the service wants to help people understand what’s really going on when they’ve been diagnosed. They can talk about standard treatment options, give the caller information on locating treatment centers near them, or resources for getting a second opinion.

Low says the service can provide referrals to national or state organizations that can provide financial assistance to people undergoing cancer treatment.

Low says the service can help with the emotional aspect of diagnosis. She says they have supportive publications that talk about being diagnosed, having a recurrence of cancer or having a loved one who is newly diagnosed.  She says these help with the different emotions that can arise and ways to cope with those.

The National Cancer Institute can also be found on Facebook .

Random Octane Testing of PA Gasoline

Libya Impacts the Crude Oil Market

How will Moammar Gadhafi’s potential ouster impact your wallet?  “Libya is one of the top 20 oil producers and exporters in the world,” explains AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Jana Tidwell.  “Since the civil war began, Libya has cut off all exports of crude oil.  That’s about 1.6-million barrels of crude oil a day that have not made it to market.” 

Many experts predict that Libya could resume exports soon, thus bringing down the price of crude oil, and easing the pain at the pump.  “In theory that’s correct,” Tidwell says, “But we also see some unrest in Syria right now.”  So, there’s a potential for a catch-22 on the global oil market. 

Oil prices are mixed as of mid-Monday, but Tidwell says it’s too soon to predict the short or long-term impact on the price we pay for gasoline.  “If we see crude oil hold in the $80-dollar a barrel range, as we have seen in the last week or so, gas prices should continue to trickle down.”

AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Survey pegs the statewide average for regular gasoline at just over $3.56 a gallon.  That’s about a nickel better than this time last month, but still 87-cents higher than this time last year, in the Keystone State.

Flight 93 Memorial Fundraising Not Finished Yet

Phase I of the Flight 93 National Memorial will be dedicated during next month’s 10th anniversary commemoration, but another $10-million dollars is still needed to complete the project.  “I think we have to build this memorial here… so that we don’t forget… but also to create a context for teaching visitors about what happened here that day,” says King Laughlin, Vice President of the National Park Foundation for the Flight 93 National Memorial. 

$52-million dollars in public and private funds have already been raised toward the $62-million dollar project.  When Phase I is dedicated, visitors will get to see the black granite walkway that traces the path the plane took before it crashed, and a wall listing the names of the 40-passengers and crew who died on Flight 93.  “Really for the first time in ten years, visitors and the public will have the opportunity to come within a few feet of where the crash took place,” Laughlin says.  Phase II will include a visitors center and 40-groves of trees for the 40-heroes aboard the plane, among other features.  It is expected to open by 2014.

Laughlin says the public can contribute to the memorial online or by texting the world “MEMORIAL” to the number 90999.  By sending that text message, donors will be making an automatic $10-dollar contribution.  The National Park Foundation has launched a public service campaign, and will match all donations, up to $2-million dollars.  Large crowds and numerous dignitaries are expected during the two-day 10th anniversary commemoration in Somerset County.  

Flight 93 National Memorial

Phase I of the Flight 93 National Memorial will be dedicated during the 10th anniversary commemoration next month.