4,000 flee brush fire in Reno

A wind-driven fire raged through parched brush near Reno on Thursday, engulfing homes and prompting residents and livestock to flee by the thousands as belching smoke closed a major highway. The fire cut short a visit to Reno by Vice President Joe Biden, officials said. The blaze erupted about 1 p.m. in the Pleasant Valley area south of Reno and by 5 p.m. had scorched more than 3,000 acres, prompting the evacuation of seven residential neighborhoods and two schools as it burned north toward the city, authorities told reporters. The evacuation orders affected an estimated 4,000 people. No injuries were reported, fire officials said.

WASHINGTON STATE: Big snow, now an ice storm

A monster Pacific Northwest storm coated the Seattle area in a thick layer of ice Thursday and brought much of the state to a standstill, sending hundreds of cars spinning out of control, temporarily shutting down the airport and knocking down so many trees that Washington State Patrol officers brought chain saws to work. Oregon experienced torrential rain that swept away a car from a grocery store parking lot, killing a mother and her 1-year-old son. East of Seattle, a falling tree killed a man as he was backing an all-terrain vehicle out of a backyard shed, authorities said. Officials in Spokane declared a snow emergency, banning parking along arterials and bus routes Thursday evening. Seattle asked people to get home before dark, if possible, fearing even worse icing by nightfall. The last widespread freezing rain in Seattle was in December 1996, the National Weather Service said.

MISSISSIPPI: Barbour's pardons challenged

More than three-quarters of the prisoners and ex-convicts pardoned by former Gov. Haley Barbour did not meet the public notice requirements of the state's constitution, state Attorney General Jim Hood said Thursday. "The attorney general's updated review of the 203 purported pardons . . . shows that 156 have not met the publication requirements," Hood said. Barbour sparked controversy with the pardons, most of which were granted on his final day in office last week. On the list were four convicted murderers and an armed robber who had worked at the governor's mansion on work release.

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