Mad Minute stories from Monday, June 15th - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Mad Minute stories from Monday, June 15th

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 ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) - A giant purple blob from the sea - a slug - is invading East Bay beaches and waterways this summer, and some experts say it may be caused by warmer temperatures near coastal waters.

These California sea hares are harmless plant eaters. But their big size and unusual abundance this year is turning heads at the shorelines in the cities of Crab Cove in Alameda and Miller Knox Regional Park in Richmond, as well as Lake Merritt in Oakland and Tomales Bay in Marin County, the Contra Costa Times reported Saturday.

"We are getting calls from the public asking what the heck is this big weird purple blob," said Carolyn Jones, a spokeswoman for the East Bay Regional Park District. "It's native to our area. It's not endangered, but they are rarely seen other than an occasional one here or there."

Officials have no precise count, but dozens have been seen on some beaches at the same time, and two dozen were spotted last month in an inlet to Lake Merritt in Oakland.

The first ones were spotted last fall. But more have been seen in May and June -- including ones that captured the crowd's attention last weekend at an annual sand castle-building contest at Crown Beach in Alameda.

The slugs can reach 15 pounds or more and 30 inches in length, although the ones in the East Bay are smaller - about the size of a large fist or a heart. They are called sea hares because their thick antennae resemble rabbit ears.

The boom in sea hares may be related to warmer temperatures near coastal waters, said Morgan Dill, a naturalist at the Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda. "We can't say for sure why we're seeing so many, but the Bay temperatures are definitely warmer this year," Dill said.

In Oakland, local resident Joel Peter said he was stoked last month to see about 22 sea hares moving through in a canal into Lake Merritt.

"I had never seen one before, and then all of a sudden there were 22 of them with these brilliant colors," Peter said. "They really caught my eye."

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OCALA, Fla. - A man in Florida spotted a raccoon riding on the back of an alligator in the Ocala National Forest.

Richard Jones says his son took a picture of the bizarre sight while they were walking around the river, watching alligators. He says his son may have scared the raccoon, which then stumbled toward the water, and jumped onto the gator's back. 

Hopefully the raccoon didn't become lunch.

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WRIGHTSVILLE, Pa. (AP) - A bridge has been closed for a second straight night because of swarms of mayflies so thick they caused accidents, authorities said.

Wrightsville fire officials said the Route 462 bridge over the Susquehanna River between Columbia and Wrightsville closed at about 10 p.m. Sunday.

Chief Chad Livelsberger said a vehicle slowing because of the cloud of insects led to a crash, though he didn't believe anyone was seriously hurt. The bridge reopened overnight.

The bridge was also shut down Saturday night after three motorcycle crashes attributed to the flies. Livelsberger says the department was dispatched to deal with one crash and saw two more crashes while on the scene. All three victims were treated at the scene.

"It was just crazy," Livelsberger told the York Dispatch on Sunday afternoon. "It was an inch to 2 inches of mayflies on the road."

Mayflies are attracted by light and congregate on roads, bridges and other surfaces. When cars hit them, the females' eggs release liquid that makes roads slick.

Livelsberger said motorists driving through a mayfly swarm should treat it like an actual blizzard, expecting zero visibility and remains creating a slick coating on the ground.

"If they're going through something like that, err on the side of caution," he said.

Lt. Sean Montgomery of the Columbia Borough Fire Department compared driving on the bug-covered surface to driving on ice or snow - but he said the winter scenario doesn't include the horrendous smell, "like dead fish."

Tom Smith of the Penn State Extension in York County said despite the hazards and annoyance that the swarms are causing, it's actually a good thing in the broad scheme of things.

"They're indicators of clearer water," Smith said. "It's indicating that the Susquehanna River's getting cleaner."

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Police in Sutton, South of London may be feeling a little embarrassed. They found themselves in a one hour standoff with a snake that someone saw in a garden, before a neighbor told them it was just a painted lawn ornament. 

They thought the rattlesnake was keeping very still, because it was scared. And it seemed to blend in with its surroundings for protection. 

The homeowner later said he could have told police it was a fake snake, because the paint is peeling off. 

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BEDFORD, Pa. (AP) -- Police say a man accidentally left a Pennsylvania Turnpike plaza without claiming a $500 prize from a scratch-off lottery ticket, only to have another man claim the winnings.

Troopers from the Bedford barracks say the York man accidentally left the voucher displayed on a machine at the South Midway Service Plaza on Friday morning.

The man had scanned the ticket to verify his winnings, but didn't want to take a paper voucher - though he left with his winning information still displayed on the lottery machine.

That's when another man walked up, claimed the winnings, and used them to buy $78 worth of tickets and the other $422 in a money order.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- A Republican lawmaker accidentally cast his party's first vote for the California budget in years because he was distracted by Facebook.

Assemblyman Scott Wilk was the sole Republican to vote for California's record $117.5 billion spending plan Monday.

The Santa Clarita lawmaker later clarified he accidentally supported the bill in the Capitol while opposing it on Facebook. He posted on Twitter "My wife is right - I can't multitask!"

California's budget is being negotiated between Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders. They have yet to reach a final deal.

Wilk's blunder won't show up on the official legislative record because the Assembly allows lawmakers to change their official votes.

He did so after session ended, receiving applause from fellow Republicans and boos from Democrats.

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DANA POINT, Calif. (AP) - Tiny tuna crabs have been washing up by the thousands on some Orange County beaches.

The Orange County Register reports that the crustaceans, which look like tiny lobsters or crawfish, created a bright red rim along the shoreline of Dana Point, San Clemente, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach on Sunday.

Experts say the 1- to 3-inch long crabs, which normally live off Mexico's Baja Peninsula, are going farther north because of the warm water that has lingered off Southern California for the past year.

In recent weeks, blue, jellyfish-like creatures known as "by-the-wind sailors" have been spotted, and tropical fish such as yellowtail and Bluefin tuna are showing up earlier than normal this year.

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The owners of a Bay Area nudist resort have been charged with stealing water during the state's historic drought.

Seventy-seven-year old Glyn Stout and his wife 53-year-old Lori Kay Stout, co-owners of Lupin Lodge, were charged Friday with felony conspiracy to commit trespassing for the purpose of injuring a property right. Officials say they repeatedly diverted water from a section of a local creek that they did not own, according to a statement from the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office.

Two employees are also facing charges. If convicted, all four could face up to three years in county jail.

The resort's owners have said they are entitled to use the waterfall, which they need to keep their water tank full in case of a fire and to top off their pool for both skinny-dipping and as a backup water source for a fire. They were not immediately available for comment Friday.

Dramatic Photos of California's Drought

All four defendants are facing misdemeanors of trespassing, substantially diverting water, operating and/or leaving a motorized vehicle on MROSD property, trespassing by driving a vehicle on a closed property and performing maintenance or clearance on MROSD property, Raabe said.

Lupin Lodge is a 110-acre clothing-optional resort in the Santa Cruz Mountains that was founded in 1936, according to the business's website.

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(CNN) A Washington State Patrol trooper provided a special escort to a lost elderly woman on a motorized scooter. She had apparently been riding around for miles.

Trooper Dave Hintz took extreme measures to make sure the woman made it safely home.

Dash cam video shows the process. This was a first for the trooper who has been with the state patrol for 24-years.

Witnesses spotted the woman heading down the highway and then saw the trooper following what appeared to look like a low-speed chase.

"I see this woman come across on a little scooter and then I'm like, "oh," and then I see the cop car and I'm like, "ooooohhhh!" said Andrea Ruth.

The woman was four miles away from home.

"I just treated her the way I would've wanted somebody to treat my mom," said Trooper Hintz.

He escorted the woman home at six miles an hour. It took an hour and they made it. Trooper Hintz took it in stride. 

"Our motto with the state patrol is service with humility. It took a lot of patience and humility (laughs) to take care of this lady."

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A woman is so afraid of caterpillars, they run her life. 

Jane Cohen says she once found one in her dinner at a restaurant, and couldn't eat lettuce for the next year as a result. 

For the last 40 years, Cohen says she hasn't let clothes air-dry outside, she won't sit on grass or under trees, and she won't buy lettuce unless it's in a bag and washed. 

If she sees one outside, she won't leave her home. Once a friend had to come and remove one, so she could go through her front door. 

Her whole life, Cohen says she hoped the phobia would go away, but instead it's just gotten worse. 

She tried to beat her fear by writing a childrens book called Book Worms, but she still hates caterpillars.
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