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March 20, 2013 at 10:22 PM
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Spring begins with winter chill in U.S.

WASHINGTON, March 20 (UPI) -- The first day of spring brought snow and freezing temperatures Wednesday to much of the northern tier of the United States.

Forecasters warned of possible freezing weather in some southern areas as well, CNN reported.

In the Midwest, subzero wind chills were reported at Chicago-area airports at about 8 a.m. Wednesday, the Chicago Tribune said. The area was getting a blast of arctic air with highs forecast in the mid 20s.

This vernal equinox is the second in a row with abnormal weather in the Windy City. Last year, the high was a sultry 85 degrees while normal for the day is around 50.

In Maine, a late-winter storm dumped inches of snow, CNN said.

The National Weather Service warned of freezing temperatures in an area from Alabama to North Carolina, advising farmers to do what they can to protect crops.

The equinox is an astronomical phenomenon, the day the sun crosses the equator bringing days and nights of equal length around the world. The weather depends on factors including latitude and elevation as well as the length of the day.

Senate OKs spending resolution

WASHINGTON, March 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate Wednesday voted 73-26 in favor of a bill to keep the federal government running for another six months.

The measure to head off a government shutdown that would have occurred March 27 is expected to clear the House as well, Politico reported. The House is expected to take up the continuing resolution Thursday, the Washington publication said.

The Senate passed the bill easily after final adjustments were made to make sure food safety inspectors keep getting paid as spending cuts required under sequestration go into effect.

Politico said the Senate went much farther than the House in delineating how money will be spent this year, covering the departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Justice, Commerce, Agriculture and Homeland Security, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Science Foundation and NASA.

Politico said more than two-thirds of all discretionary funding for 2013 will now be subject to relatively detailed appropriations.

The Senate made no attempt to overturn the sequestration cuts, however, and it remains to be seen whether those cuts can be sustained through Sept. 30, Politico said.

For example, billions were shifted to the military under the Senate measure, but the Army is still left with 14 percent less than it had budgeted for the next six months, Politico said.

Polish miners trapped by quake rescued

POLKOWICE, Poland, March 20 (UPI) -- Nineteen miners were rescued from an underground copper mine in Poland after being trapped for more than eight hours following an earthquake, officials said.

The European Seismological Center said a 5-magnitude earthquake struck Tuesday night about 250 miles from Warsaw, Polskie Radio reported.

"Eighteen of the men are completely unscathed, and they were able to go to the locker room, take a shower and return home," KGHM Polish Copper Group spokesman Dariusz Wyborski told TVN24 news channel. "One of the men sustained a 3-centimeter [just more than an inch] gash to the head that will need several stitches."

The rescue team located the miners, who had with oxygen masks, shortly after 5 a.m., about five hours after the earthquake. All the miners were freed about two hours later.

The Rudna mine in Polkowice is KGHM Polish Copper's deepest mine. In February 2010, five men were killed following an earthquake.

Residents of Polkowice and nearby communities told TVN24 how the earthquake caused houses and household items to rattle as the ground shook.

One person, identified by TVN24 as Agnieszka, a resident of Lubin, said Tuesday's earthquake felt stronger than previous temblors.

"I saw dangling chandeliers, things falling off the shelves," he said.

Target drone drifts 800 miles to Keys

KEY LARGO, Fla., March 20 (UPI) -- An Air Force target drone drifted about 800 miles from the Florida Panhandle to Key Largo, officials say.

The 20-foot unmanned aircraft was pulled from the water by Steve Powers of Sea Tow-Key Largo after it was spotted Sunday, Keysnet.com reported. The 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, based at Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City, dispatched a truck to pick it up.

"I've never seen one like it," Powers said. "This is a first for me."

Powers described the drone as looking like a large model airplane that happens to have a jet engine. Without a load of fuel, it is very light.

The drone, valued at $570,000, will be fixed up so it can fly again.

Lt. Col. Lance Wilkins, the squadron commander, said since 2007 about 30 BQM-167A Air Force Subscale Aerial Targets have participated in more than 600 launches at Tyndall. Most have come down in the target area, and nine of the 16 that were lost eventually resurfaced somewhere.

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