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Oregon residents told to be ready to evacuate



Published: Tue, July 30, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Oregon residents toldto be ready to evacuate

SELMA, Ore. -- Two wildfires charring almost 90,000 acres in southwestern Oregon threatened to combine as they marched toward a string of towns, prompting thousands of homeowners to be ready to evacuate.

The fires formed a front 25 miles long stretching from the communities of O'Brien to Selma, 20 miles north of the California line. All 17,000 residents of the Illinois Valley were on notice to prepare to evacuate.

Both fires originated in the Siskiyou National Forest. The first was reported at 68,000 acres and continued to push south on a course to link up with another 20,000 acre blaze. Three homes have been destroyed.

Meanwhile in Colorado, officials closed the Mesa Verde National Park on Monday and evacuated 2,000 employees and visitors as a fast-moving wildfire grew to more than 700 acres.

Four air tankers and two helicopters were on scene, fire information officer Larry Helmerick said. The park, 240 miles southwest of Denver, has an estimated 25,000 archaeological sites left by the Ancestral Pueblo Indians, a civilization that vanished more than 700 years ago.

No collision threat

PASADENA, Calif. -- Astronomers said they have determined that a newly discovered, 1.2-mile-wide asteroid will miss the Earth in 2019.

Last week, preliminary calculations of the orbital path traveled by asteroid 2002 NT7 suggested the space rock had about a 1-in-250,000 chance of plowing into the Earth on Feb. 1, 2019. Such an impact would cause devastation on a continental scale.

Follow-up observations during the weekend showed the asteroid and the Earth won't meet -- at least for now, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Monday.

Astronomers initially calculated at least seven potential impact dates beginning in 2019. Only one -- Feb. 1, 2060 -- has yet to be ruled out, but astronomers expect to dismiss that threat as well after more observations of the asteroid are made.

Nine beached whalesdie on Cape Cod

DENNIS, Mass. -- More than 50 pilot whales beached themselves here on Cape Cod Monday before hundreds of volunteers converged in a rescue effort that returned 46 of them to open waters. But nine of the highly social marine mammals died or had to be euthanized due to trauma or injury.

As rescuers tagged and measured two of the casualties on Chapin Beach, Sallie K. Riggs, president of the National Marine Life Center in nearby Buzzards Bay, called the event "a significant mass stranding," as well as a successful recovery effort.

"To get 46 animals back in the ocean is 46 success stories," said Riggs, who noted there was "a high probability" that the whales would return within 24 hours.

The appearance of the 1- to 2-ton black sea mammals -- which often travel in groups of up to 100 -- marked the largest beaching of pilot whales in at least a decade. Two years ago, when a dozen pilot whales stranded themselves on Nantucket, Mass., the event was considered noteworthy, Riggs said. All the whales in the Nantucket beaching died.

Pilot whales take their name from their habit of following one or two dominant members of their pod, said Tony LaCasse of the New England Aquarium in Boston. "Commonly the leaders are mature females," LaCasse said. "A good matriarchy."

Senate wrangles overprescription drug bill

WASHINGTON -- Senators continued making last-minute changes to a compromise Medicare prescription drug plan, hoping to pick up enough votes to pass a measure they can tout before the November election.

Democrats were lined up behind a scaled-back plan, already endorsed by AARP, to help primarily low-income seniors and those facing catastrophic pharmacy bills. Lawmakers decided in late-night meetings Monday to lower the threshold for government support and make more seniors eligible.

It was unclear whether they could pick up enough Republicans to have the 60 votes needed to pass the measure. To complicate matters, GOP leaders were trying to revive a plan -- to be run by private insurers -- that was rejected last week.

"I think we're in a big mess," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, declared Monday.

The new, scaled-back compromise, estimated to cost around $400 billion over 10 years, is likely to emerge on the Senate floor today. Democratic leaders have made moves to end debate and have a final vote on the issue sometime Wednesday.




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