Texas: Sahara sand storm's dust cloud tracked
A huge dust cloud that originated in the Sahara has spread into Texas, impairing visibility and reducing air quality, forecasters said.
The dusty veil stretched Tuesday from Cuba and the eastern coast of Mexico to South Texas, and was expected to reach today into North Texas. It wasn't expected to pose serious health concerns, forecasters said.
The origin of the cloud was identified through satellite technology.
"We used to get a haze off the Gulf, and people would call it the Gulf Haze. Nobody was sure where it was coming from," said Ron Wells, a Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission meteorologist. "Now we know what one of the causes is."
Air currents can carry volcanic ash, smoke from forest fires and other matter halfway around the world, said Skip Ely, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
California: Hawk drops snake, setting fire in motion
A hawk dropped a snake onto a power line, sparking a small brush fire that briefly threatened expensive homes northwest of Los Angeles.
The 3-foot gopher snake was found headless and coiled around the top of a power pole, authorities said.
"These are started more often by squirrels or birds. A snake is pretty rare," Southern California Edison spokesman Rudy Gonzales said.
Tuesday's fire knocked out power to 2,800 customers. Firefighters extinguished the blaze in about an hour, and power was restored in several hours.
Alabama: Junior Miss crowned
Carrie Colvin, who won preliminary awards in poise, fitness and talent, was named America's Junior Miss Wednesday night in Mobile.
Colvin, of Birmingham, Ala., plans to attend Vanderbilt University and earned $50,000 in college scholarships in addition to prizes in preliminary contests.
Ronica Licciardello of Mount Laurel, N.J., was named first runner-up, winning $25,000 in scholarship money, and Erin Pettigrew of Lexington, Ky., was second runner-up, earning $15,000 in scholarship money.
In addition to the top three winners, others named as finalists were Amy Yetasook of Valencia, Calif.; Erica Harris of New Milford, Conn.; Candace Wooten of La Grange, N.C.; Kathryn Willoughby of Columbia, S.C.; and Michelle Fortner of Hendersonville, Tenn.
Texas: Portrait of Bowie purchased by state
The state of Texas has bought the only known portrait of Alamo hero James Bowie, officials said Wednesday.
"We had very short notice that this painting was being auctioned, and this presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Gov. Rick Perry said.
Butterfields Auctioneers in San Francisco sold the collection of Bowie family items. The state paid $321,875 for the 35- by 28-inch oil painting.
A descendant of Bowie's brother, Rezin Bowie, had owned the painting since the 19th century. It became the subject of nearly 10 years of litigation after her death in 1991.
A permanent display site for the portrait was not announced.
Bowie and 168 other Texan defenders died March 6, 1836, after troops led by Mexican Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna stormed the Alamo mission after a 13-day siege.