Commemorative Va. voyage begins

JAMESTOWN, Va. - A group of modern-day John Smiths rowed away yesterday in a small, open boat from the site of the first permanent English settlement in America, which Smith helped found 400 years ago this weekend.

The replica of a boat like one Smith used to explore Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries shoved off as the commemoration of Jamestown's anniversary entered a second day filled with concerts, cultural and artistic demonstrations and military drills.

President Bush is to speak today, the closing day of the festivities and the actual anniversary of the settlers' arrival at this swampy island on the James River on May 13, 1607.

The boat's 121-day voyage over 1,500 miles will retrace much of Smith's journey and inaugurate the Capt. John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the country's first national historic water trail. - AP

Fire threat abated, residents go home

AVALON, Calif. - Residents yesterday began returning to this picturesque town off the Southern California coast after firefighters and favorable weather halted a wildfire's advance into Catalina Island's most populated area.

Nearly 4,000 evacuated residents began heading back to inspect their homes and apartments and reopen businesses that largely cater to tourists.

Elsewhere, smoke from a mammoth wildfire in Georgia and northern Florida closed sections of Interstates 75 and 10 yesterday morning. The fire has burned 212,000 acres - or more than 330 square miles - since lightning ignited it eight days ago. - AP

Mo. River flooding less than feared

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - The Missouri River neared its highest point in the state capital city yesterday after a week of flooding towns upstream, but hydrologists said it was not nearly as bad as feared.

The river reached about 29 feet yesterday morning, 6 feet above flood stage. That was high enough to flood stretches of the riverside Katy Trail hiking and biking route and some low-lying roads, plus nearly 1,400 acres of farmland.

However, it was short of the predicted 34-foot peak, which could have wiped out many farmers' crops for the year and inundated the Jefferson City Airport. - AP

Elsewhere:

Minnesota will ban smoking in bars, restaurants and other establishments under a bill approved yesterday by the Legislature. Gov. Tim Pawlenty has said he will sign it.

A plane crash killed five members of a group of skydivers yesterday in northwestern Montana, the Flathead County sheriff said.

The Navy Blue Angels performed in public yesterday for the first time since a crash killed a fellow pilot last month in South Carolina. Yesterday's show was at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.

A 62-year-old Brighton, Colo., woman, June Candelario, was sentenced Friday to three years in prison for locking her grandson in a dog kennel every night for three years while she went to work as a jail counselor.