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Severe weather threatens 17 million on East Coast

ATLANTA - More than 17 million people on the East Coast are in the path of what could be severe thunderstorms, damaging winds and tornadoes on Sunday.

In Florida, the governor and top emergency officials are keeping an eye on a system developing near Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula that could bring anywhere from 5 to 10 inches of rain beginning Sunday. The wacky weather comes at the end of a week of scorching temperatures out West and flooding that killed nine soldiers when their military vehicle got caught in the rushing waters of a rain-swollen creek at Fort Hood, Texas.

In Southern California, nine people were sickened by the heat during a high school graduation ceremony as temperatures flirted with triple digits. In Ohio, the third round of the Memorial PGA tournament was delayed by thunderstorms.

Here's a look at what people are doing to prepare and recover from the various types of weather:

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TROPICAL RAINS

The hurricane season is just a few days old, and its third named storm may be developing near Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says the system has a good chance of forming into a tropical cyclone, and even if it doesn't, it will still bring heavy rains along the Gulf Coast.

Police in St. Petersburg distributed sandbags and Gov. Rick Scott warned residents, tourists and businesses to be prepared.

Florida's emergency management director Bryan Koon said they expected a fast-moving storm, which means it could mature rapidly. The severe weather could last through Tuesday.

"Even if this system does not develop into a named storm, it still poses significant risks from flooding, damaging winds and tornadoes, and rip currents," he said.

If the storm does develop, it would be named Colin.

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HEAT SICKNESS

Nine people were sickened from the heat at Palm Desert High School's graduation ceremony, which was held outside.

Two people had to be taken to the hospital for treatment, said Jennifer Fuhrman, a spokeswoman for the Riverside County Fire Department.

The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory and warnings for the suburbs south and east of Los Angeles through Sunday and urged residents to take extra precautions when spending time outside. Temperatures in the area could reach triple digits on Saturday.

Similar heat warnings were issued in Las Vegas and Phoenix, where the mercury could climb to 118 degrees Saturday.

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TAKING AIM AT THE NATION'S CAPITAL

More than 17 million people in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Raleigh, North Carolina, are looking at an "enhanced" risk of severe thunderstorms Sunday, according to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center.

Damaging winds, a tornado or two and marginally severe hail are expected from the Southeast to as far north as New York.

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BRUSHFIRES AND WILDFIRES

Firefighters are spending the weekend battling blazes in California, New Mexico and Arizona.

A wildfire sparked by lightning burned nearly 12 square miles in the San Mateo Mountains near Magdalena, which is about 100 miles southwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In Arizona, firefighters are fighting a much larger blaze. The Juniper Fire just south of the town of Young is now burning on over 28 square miles in the Tonto National Forest. It too was caused by lightning.

Officials say the extreme heat and a dry winter mean there's a high risk of wildfires. Summer has typically been considered wildfire season but experts now say blazes happen year-round.

In Southern California, a brush fire burned 30 acres near Temecula, forcing the closure of the southbound I-15 freeway. No homes were immediately threatened.

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UNYIELDING TEXAS FLOODING

It's been several days since deadly flooding began in parts of southeast and central Texas, and the rain just started to let up Saturday.

In its wake, Army officials investigated a training exercise that went horribly wrong at Fort Hood, leading to the deaths of nine soldiers whose vehicle was swept into rushing waters of a rain-swollen creek. Three soldiers were pulled from the water and survived.

Coryell County emergency medical services chief Jeff Mincy told the Killeen Daily Herald that only the wheels of an Army troop-transport truck were visible after swift flood waters washed the 2½-ton vehicle from a low-water crossing on the installation. He surmised the waters were about 8 feet deep.

The Brazos River is causing trouble for communities in Fort Bend County, especially near where the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico. County Judge Robert Hebert said floodwaters are receding but warned some neighborhoods are still cut off and many local streets are impassable.

"As water levels recede we will be able to get into these inundated areas and assess the damage," he said.