National Weather Service head retires amid controversy

The head of the National Weather Service has suddenly retired, and the agency is seeking an emergency $35.6 million from Congress because of allegations of financial mismanagement and money shifting within the agency.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco, who oversees the weather service, said in a memo investigators found that agency officials moved tens of millions of dollars around without congressional approval, as required by law. The money went from being appropriated for technology improvements to meeting shortfalls in payroll and operations at local weather offices.

Weather service director Jack Hayes retired Friday. His chief financial officer was already on administrative leave.

Agency spokesman Scott Smullen said investigators found no evidence of corruption or personal financial gain. The agency will soon release a report on the issue.


Problems with power supply detected at nuclear plant

The troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant in San Diego County operated for three decades with equipment that might have temporarily cut off the plant’s emergency power supply in the event of an earthquake, government filings revealed Tuesday.

The disclosure by Southern California Edison about a possible backup power problem comes amid a probe into excessive wear on tubing that has sidelined the seaside plant for nearly four months.

The company disabled the equipment, a vibration sensor, and reported to federal regulators that the problem was being analyzed as a threat to plant safety. Other back-up systems were in place during that time.

“Engineers are continuing to analyze the condition and have not reached a final conclusion if the sensor would actually cause a shutdown during an earthquake,” a company statement said.

A steady supply of electricity is a critical issue at nuclear plants, which need power to control heat in the reactors. A tsunami destroyed backup generators at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant — setting off the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

At issue at San Onofre is a vibration sensor in use since 1981 on emergency diesel generators, which start if the plant’s outside power is cut – a possibility during an earthquake.


16 dead and one missing after quake in northern Italy

Rescue officials in Italy said late Tuesday that 16 people had been confirmed dead while one person was listed as missing in the 5.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the northern region of Emilia Romagna.

The National Civil Protection Agency in figures said 350 people were injured. Earlier, seven people were listed as unaccounted for.

A 65-year-old woman who had been previously listed as missing was pulled alive from the rubble of her home, 12 hours after the quake struck, state television RAI reported. The rescue operation took place in Cavezzo near Modena, one of the worst hit-areas.

The woman was trapped while she was collecting some belongings from the building, which had been abandoned after it was damaged in a devastating earthquake that struck the region on May 20.

The earlier earthquake, which measured 6 magnitude, claimed seven lives and left more than 5,000 people homeless.

Earlier Tuesday, government undersecretary Antonio Catricala said Prime Minister Mario Monti planned to declare June 4 a national day of mourning for Emilia Romagna. The number of newly homeless stood at 8,000, Catricala told Parliament.

“Many people were so afraid that they were refusing to return to their homes, even if these had not been damaged,” Civil Protection agency chief Franco Gabrielli told RAI.