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A split Michigan Legislature voted Wednesday to exempt high school graduation ceremonies from the state’s order that restricts crowd sizes due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Republicans who control the Senate and House supported the bills that lawmakers could finalize next week, while all but a few Democrats opposed them.
Under the state health department’s order, outdoor stadiums with enhanced protocols can operate at 20% capacity. Otherwise, 1,000 people can be in outdoor arenas with a fixed seating capacity of up to 10,000 — 1,500 if it is a bigger venue — as long as they do not surpass 50% occupancy. At indoor arenas, the limit is 375, or 750 if the seating capacity is more than 10,000.
“Most local school boards have done a good job of mitigating the risk of COVID. We should trust them to safely manage their own graduations,” said a bill sponsor, Republican Sen. Jim Runestad of Oakland County’s White Lake Township. The risk of the coronavirus spreading outdoors is low, he said, contending that students and their families deserve “this last irreplaceable high school memory.”
But Democratic Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. of East Lansing called the legislation “utter nonsense.” Nobody is trying to prevent commencements, he said.
Sen. Dayna Polehanki, a Livonia Democrat, said K-12 districts are working to plan graduation ceremonies in accordance with health guidance and “what works for their communities.” She unsuccessfully tried to tie the bill to education legislation that would again pause a law allowing third-graders to be held back due to low test scores, given many students have learned online this academic year.
Last week, the state Department of Health and Human Services quietly issued guidance 

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about high school end-of-the-year events such as graduations and proms. Citing a statewide surge in coronavirus cases that is subsiding, it recommended virtual events but said the guidance would be reviewed and updated as the epidemiology evolves.
The state recommended that in-person events be held outside — not indoors — and that schools require all students, staff, volunteers and other attendees to test negative within 24 or 72 hours of the event, depending on the type of test. The use of cohorts or pods was encouraged for social events such as proms and year-end parties.
The state asked school officials to consider shortening the length of events and scheduling students in staggered time slots.
A spokesman for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said in-person graduations are allowed.
“Our administration continues to encourage families and school districts to hold ceremonies to honor students’ incredible achievements while ensuring the safety of all attendees,” Bobby Leddy said. “We wish all of our graduates the best of luck in future endeavors.”


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VIDEO – Tropical Storm Claudette ravages Gulf Coast, tracking northeast

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Heavy rain and gusting winds were expected to continue to pummel the northern Gulf Coast as the storm moved from Louisiana across Mississippi and Alabama.
Tropical storm warnings remained in effect from the Mississippi/Alabama border to the Okaloosa/Walton County line in Florida as of Saturday afternoon.
Tropical storm watches were also issued from Cape Fear to Duck, N.C., and in Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds, according to the National Weather Service.
From there, the storm is expected to turn northeast and weaken into a tropical depression Sunday before regaining strength over the Carolinas late Sunday night or early Monday   morning.

Claudette also spawned a suspected tornado that slammed through at least 50 homes in Alabama just north of the Florida border, flattening a mobile home park, tossing trees through homes and even blew the roof off of a high school gym.
There were no early reports of serious injuries or deaths.
In Florida, whipping winds knocked over an 18-wheeler, which slide through multiple utility poles and caused one to slam into an SUV – and another possible tornado ripped the roofs off of two houses.
Louisiana and Mississippi saw flash flooding and heavy rains.

The National Hurricane Center declared Claudette a named storm at 4 a.m. Saturday, after the storm made landfall southwest of New Orleans. By Saturday afternoon, it was 80 miles north-northwest of Mobile, Alabama, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph. It was moving north-northeast at 14 mph. Most of the heavy weather was happening far to the north and east of the center.
At 7:50 a.m. ET, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Hurricane Center (NHC) said that that the third named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season had shifted “Inland Over Southeastern Louisiana.”
NATIONAL WEATHER FORECAST: HEAT CONTINUES TO THREATEN WEST, TROPICAL STORM WARNINGS ISSUED FOR GULF COAST
“Heavy Rains and Tropical-Storm-Force Winds Continue Along Portions of the u66

“A turn toward the northeast is expected later today, followed by a motion toward the east-northeast tonight or Sunday. On the forecast track, the system should move farther inland over Louisiana during the next few hours, move across portions of the southeastern states later today and on Sunday, and then over the western Atlantic Ocean on Monday,” the agency explained.
Maximum sustained winds for Claudette reportedly remain at around 45 mph with higher gusts and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 205 miles east from the center. 

The NHC noted that a National Ocean Service station on Petit Bois Island, Miss. had recently recorded maximum winds of 39 mph with a gust to 46 mph.

The NHC said Claudette is expected to weaken to a tropical depression by Saturday night, become a post-tropical cyclone on Sunday and re-develop as a tropical storm over the western Atlantic Ocean on Monday.
Nevertheless, the storm was expected to produce heavy rainfall and life-threatening flash flooding across coastal Mississippi and Alabama, and the far western Florida Panhandle through the afternoon.
Considerable flash, urban and small stream flooding impacts – in addition to “new and renewed minor to isolated moderate river flooding” – were also anticipated to continue throughout the weekend along the Gulf Coast, with flood impacts spreading northeastward into the interior Southeast.

Flooding had already begun on Friday night, with local media reporting high water over roads, stranded vehicles and water rescues; flood warnings and watches were in effect in addition to a widespread tropical storm warning.
“Tropical storm conditions are occurring along portions of the central Gulf Coast from east of Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Okaloosa/Walton County line, Florida, including New Orleans. These winds will spread inland and continue through this afternoon,” the NHC warned in a Twitter post.

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the areas east of Morgan City to the Okaloosa/Walton County line, including Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and Metropolitan New Orleans.
Claudette is expected to produce rainfall totals of five to ten inches and isolated areas of 15 inches across areas in the central Gulf Coast.

By Friday, up to four inches of rain per hour was falling on parts of the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts.
 
Additionally, the NHC said a few tornadoes were possible Saturday across southern Mississippi, southern Alabama, the western Florida Panhandle and southwest Georgia and tornado warnings were widely issued.

All of this comes as the Southwest and western U.S. has been impacted by a sweltering and relentless heatwave and as Mexico was threatened by Tropical Storm Dolores, which was expected to make landfall on its west-central coast Saturday night.

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Oklahoma Senate passes bill that would name highway after former President Donald Trump

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OKLAHOMA CITY —
The Oklahoma Senate passed a revised version of a bill that would name a highway in the Sooner State after former President Donald Trump.
The revised version of Senate Bill 624 addresses memorial bridge and highway designations in Oklahoma. It would remove the requirement that people must be deceased for three years before getting a highway named after them so that a highway in the Oklahoma panhandle can be named after Trump.

The bill proposes to name the section of State Highway 287 beginning at the municipal limits of Boise City extending southeast to the Oklahoma-Texas border in Cimarron County to be designated as the “President Donald J. Trump Highway.” It would direct the Department of Transportation to place suitable permanent markers bearing the name on the highway.
Read the full language of the bill here.
The House of Representatives passed a version of the bill in late April. Because the Senate passed a new version of Senate Bill 624 on Wednesday, the measure heads back to the House again.

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Powerful earthquake rattles Alaska late Sunday night, officials say

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A powerful magnitude 6.1 earthquake shook Alaska on Sunday evening, according to officials.The quake hit just before 11 p.m. local time from an epicenter under the Talkeetna Mountains in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The temblor originated at a depth of 27 miles.
The epicenter was about 45 miles south of Chickaloon and 55 miles north of Sutton, according to the USGS and Alaska Earthquake Center.
Residents felt the quake from as far south as Homer to Fairbanks in the north – about a 580-mile range, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Many residents felt the earth rumble 100 miles away in Anchorage.

Alaskans who felt the earthquake described it as “a long rumble” with a “big jolt in the middle” that sent objects flying off shelves, the paper reported. Another resident said the rumblings lasted for more than a minute and “grew in magnitude in waves.”

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There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

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