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Red alert: WHOLE of England and Wales under flood warning

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The whole of England and Wales was Tuesday placed under flood alert as rain continues to plague the South and tidal surges batter the coast.

Huge waves prompted the Environment Agency to sound its flood siren in Dorset last night - warning of extreme danger to people and property.

The alarm was raised after the sea breached Chiswell Beach in Portland around 10pm and spray crashed over flood defences, the coastguard said.

Police told residents, who had been on high alert, to move to an upstairs room facing away from the sea, as ‘horrendous’ sea conditions were reported.

Three severe flood warnings - the highest level - have been issued by the EA covering Chiswell, nearby Preston Beach and the Lower Stour in Dorset.
 
Some 360 flood warnings or alerts were in place for England, Wales and Scotland - with warnings in all of England and Wales, and three Scottish regions.

The Met Office said that heavy showers, some of them combined with hail and thunder, will continue to affect parts of the South today and tomorrow.

The rain is falling on already-saturated ground, putting added pressure on swollen rivers - while coastal areas also battle high tides and strong winds.

Helicopter footage shows villages cut off by floods in Somerset

Many areas have faced disruption from road closures and cancelled or delayed train services as people returned to work after the Christmas holidays.

Seven people have died and more than 1,700 homes and businesses have been flooded in England since the beginning of the Christmas period.

Some 300 properties have flooded since the New Year. And around 140 properties have been flooded in Wales.

High winds over Christmas also left 250,000 homes without power, with some families waiting days for the electricity to be restored.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said the Government was working closely with councils and insurers to ensure people could quickly get help. Some areas were now focused on recovery after storms and flooding over Christmas and New Year, while others remained at significant risk, he added.

Mr Paterson admitted to the Commons that a few energy network companies were too slow  at restoring power to thousands of homes affected by the storms and floods over Christmas.

Energy Secretary Ed Davey will be meeting the regulator Ofgem and the Distribution Network Operators to see how improvements can be made.

Mr Paterson also said the response from some agencies in helping people whose homes had been affected by the severe weather had been ‘patchy’ and was ‘well worth investigating’, though he praised the response of most of those involved in dealing with the storms.

He told MPs: ‘Flood management is a real priority for this Government. It has a vital role to play in protecting people and property from the damage caused by flooding and in delivering economic growth.’

But environmentalists challenged the Government's claim that it was spending more than ever on flood defences.

Friends of the Earth said analysis of Defra figures showed that some £2.32 billion was being spent over the current spending review period, slightly lower than the £2.36 billion spent in the period 2007-2011.

Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Guy Shrubsole said: ‘Worse still, the coalition's chronic under-investment in flood defences is completely failing to keep pace with climate change, which is increasing flood risk - as the Government's climate envoy Sir David King recently pointed out.

‘Protecting British households from the destructive impacts of climate change is essential - the Prime Minister must intervene to ensure flood defence spending rises to meet the challenge.’

Mr Paterson's statement on the floods over the holiday period came as the misery continued for some communities.

Flooding in the Somerset Levels has left villages cut off, roads and buildings have been damaged, and waves of up to 27ft have been recorded at Land's End, the most southern tip of the UK.

In Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, seafront properties along the promenade were again evacuated to a rest centre at a local school.

Meanwhile, searches are continuing in south Devon for missing 18-year-old university student Harry Martin, who was last seen leaving his home to take photographs of the weather - with more than 100 people volunteering to look for him.

Devon and Cornwall Police said a 20-mile stretch of coastline - 10 miles either side of the 18-year-old's home at Newton Ferrers - has been extensively searched as well as inland areas with the help of a range of groups and emergency services.

Officials around the country have pleaded with people to keep away as dozens put their lives at risk by going to coastal areas to watch as the storm brought waves of up to 40ft high crashing on to land.

Meanwhile, tributes have been paid to the man who died after being washed out to sea in Cornwall on New Year's Day.

Harry Swordy, 27, from Guildford, Surrey, had gone for a paddle with friends at Loe Bar beach after celebrating the new year but was ‘taken out of knee-deep water by a huge wave’.

Friends Tom and Lou Luddington wrote a blog post in tribute to Mr Swordy. They said: ‘He was with his sister and friends, and celebrating the beginning of a new year at the beach.

‘Some of the others were also taken by the wave, but thankfully managed to get ashore. Harry was such an amazing character, so full of life, warmth and plans for the future. He will be so missed.

‘Harry, amongst other talents, was a professional story-teller. His stories were full of beauty, wonder and they were clever and moving.’

Friends have also begun a #StormHarry appeal on Twitter for the UK's ongoing bad weather to be named after him.

‘We are campaigning that the storm, named by the US media as Hercules, be re-named Storm Harry in his memory,’ Mr and Mrs Luddington said.

‘It feels right that a legend begin about wonderful Harry that he danced up the biggest storm ever, barefoot in the sea.’

Concern was growing for an elderly dementia sufferer who was known to love the seafront after she went missing from her coastal home in the middle of last night.

Shirley Coalbran, of Hastings, East Sussex,  was last seen when she went to bed around 11pm but the 76-year-old then got up again and left her home.

Sergeant Jane Batcheler said: ‘Shirley has mild Alzheimer's and is known to like looking at the sea and walks along the seafront. We have had some very high winds overnight so we are concerned for her welfare.’

The pensioner was believed to have been wearing a black parka-style coat with fur around the hood, and black boots. Anyone who saw her was asked to contact Sussex Police.

People have been warned to keep away from cliffs in Hastings, East Sussex, after excessive rainfall, strong winds and high tides lead to a massive rock fall.

The cliff face at Rock a Nore, which forms part of the Hastings Country Park and Nature Reserve, is susceptible to landslides but the fall on January 3 means the area is dangerous in the current weather conditions, Hastings Borough Council said.

Councillor Emily Westley said: ‘We already advise the public not to enter the area with warning and information signs and a fixed barrier to restrict access, but must reiterate the current dangers.

‘Visual inspections are carried out daily of cliffs as part of the beach inspector's checks and this includes ensuring all signage and barriers are in place.

‘In addition, we also visually inspect and photograph this area of cliff as part of our quarterly inspection of coast defence assets.’

A huge ancient stack of rock was destroyed after constant pounding by ferocious waves on the southern tip of Portland in Dorset.

The rock, known as Pom Pom Rock, was said to have weighed hundreds of tonnes and dates back 150 million years to the Jurassic age.

Portland has been badly hit by the weather, with the Environment Agency sounding its flood siren last night in the area to warn of extreme danger.

More than 220,000 properties were protected over the Christmas period and another 800,000 were protected during the coastal flooding in early December, Mr Paterson told the Commons.

Residents of Portland, Dorset, were shocked after flood sirens warning of a breach in sea defences sounded for the first time ever.

The island, connected to Weymouth by a mile-long causeway, was among the worst hit areas of the country overnight. Huge sections of the famous Chesil Beach were washed away as 15ft tall waves pounded the coastline.

The flood sirens were sounded at the village of Chiswell and the causeway shut to traffic at 10.15pm last night when the sea breached the beach's iconic shingle bank at high tide.

The claxon, initiated by the Environment Agency, is a warning of severe flooding with ‘extreme risk to people and property’.

A spokesman for the agency said the warning system had been in place since the 1980s but this was the first time ever it had been used.

Residents of Chiswell were advised to move to an upstairs room facing away from the sea and stay there until told it was safe to come down.

They were warned to take flood kits with them and expect to be stranded for several hours. And around 30 drinkers were evacuated from the Cove House Inn on Chesil Beach.

Landlady Amanda Broughton-South said: ‘It was pretty hair-raising. As the evening went on the weather just got worse and worse. The wind was howling and the waves were about 15ft and began breaching the sea defences.

‘There used to be a big section of pebble beach between the pub and the sea but it's basically been washed away and now the water is right up to our wall.'

Local resident Anne Souster was today mopping up after flood water 2in deep came into her  400-year-old cottage.

She said: ‘We were given the option of evacuating but this cottage has been here since the 1600s so we decided to stay. The only damage it has done is to the carpet.

‘The major worry was the idiots who were going up to the sea wall to look at it. There were a lot of them and the police had to get involved.'

The Met Office has issued a yellow warning - the lowest of its three levels - for ‘heavy showers, some of them combined with hail and thunder’ until tomorrow morning across the South East, South West and East of England.

Forecasters are predicting rainfall of between 0.6in (15mm) and 1in (25mm) but are warning of as much as 1.6in (40mm) in some areas.

Dorset Police urged residents in Chiswell to be prepared for flooding and to listen out for the warning siren.

‘The siren will be sounded should the sea breach Chiswell beach - as it did last night,’ a force spokeswoman said.

Portland Beach Road from Weymouth to Portland remains open but will close should the conditions make it unsafe and Preston Beach Road in Weymouth remains closed.

‘This is a multi-agency operation and follows monitoring of sea levels, tides and waves over the last 24-hour period, the weather forecast indicating further severe weather together with predicted high tides.’

At Palmer's Brewery in nearby Bridport, the Old Brewery building was evacuated when scaffolding was struck by lightning for the second time in 12 months.

‘There was a huge bang and all our alarms went off,’ a brewery spokesman said.

‘We evacuated the building and everyone trooped outside into the pouring rain. Fortunately there was no damage and we were able to return swiftly to brewing today's batch of Copper Ale. All back to usual now and the sun has come out.’

Other parts of the UK continued to suffer from gale-force winds, heavy rain overnight and strong waves.

The Thames Barrier in London will close for the 11th successive tide today. According to the EA it has only closed operationally 135 times since being built in the 1980s.

In Cornwall, waves at Portreath washed away a 100-year-old stone hut on the breakwater and at Porthcothan Bay, between Newquay and Padstow, a huge rock has completely collapsed under the sheer force of huge waves.

In Wales, the coast was once again battered by strong winds and high tides but forecasters say the worst of the storms is over for now.

All buildings along Aberystwyth promenade were evacuated last night as it was hit by an ‘exceptional’ wave swell.

About 150 students in seafront flats were moved out to temporary accommodation at Aberystwyth University and will not return until safety checks are completed.

But strong winds and rain should ease as the weather improves this week.

Natural Resources Wales said one flood warning for the lower Dee Valley and eight flood alerts remain in place.

Across the rail network, there was continuing disruption to services due to the weather.

Rail services between Lincoln Central and Peterborough have been affected because of emergency engineering work taking place to prevent a landslip.

There were also delays on First Great Western services because of signalling problems between Truro and Falmouth Docks following a lighting strike at the docks.

Flooding between Radley and Oxford was causing delays to trains between Didcot Parkway and Oxford, which was disrupting CrossCountry and First Great Western services.

Several services across the Arriva Train Wales network were continuing to be disrupted due to the damage caused by the recent high winds and flooding.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 January 2014 10:09 | Written by CBC NEWS Tuesday, 07 January 2014 09:27


 

Barbados launches virtual HIV research unit

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Barbados has launched a Virtual HIV Research Unit (VHRU) as it seeks to better understand and address issues related to HIV/AIDS.  

Comprising 5,000 scientific publications and reports on HIV in Barbados and the Caribbean, the VHRU will be accessible to researchers, students, non-governmental organisations and others through the www.hivgateway.com portal. 

Social Care Minister, Steve Blackett, said the establishment of the VHRU was a step in the right direction. 

“Barbados continues to be on par with other developed and developing nations in its HIV information gathering, monitoring and evaluating and compiling of journals on the successes we continue to attain,” Blackett told the launch attended by various stakeholders including  Health Minister  John Boyce, and Chair of the NHAC Research Committee, Professor Clive Landis.

He said the island would “push forward” in its national response towards attaining an HIV-free generation by the year 2018.

 “We know that this is an achievable goal,” he said, adding that the VHRU would also be used in other capacities.

Blackett said that the tool would assist “with the coordination of research programmes of the Ministry of Health, NHAC and other relevant research pursued nationally relating to HIV in Barbados and the Caribbean”.

He said the website would complement another tech-based NHAC initiative, namely the free HIV Explained app, which is available for download on both Android and Apple platforms.

Blackett described the VHRU’s arrival as a timely one, which coincided with the beginning of government’s five-year National Strategic Plan for HIV. It aims for zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths by 2018.

During his presentation, Professor Landis said that “this tool provides empowerment to the community for anyone who is curious about HIV and wants to know the facts and not the myths…

“When I joined the NHAC as Chairman in 2011…we felt there was a clear lack of research capacity…We also noted quite significant gaps in behavioural research…and the barriers to seeking care.

“We do feel there are a lot of barriers – fear, stigma, discrimination – that are preventing persons with HIV from accessing the wonderful care that we have on the island,” he said, adding that there was also a need to communicate research among peers, to the public and to translate it into policy.

Professor Landis noted that, while it was previously presumed that certain risk factors increased the likelihood of contracting HIV, the VHRU could now offer conclusive research on how ‘bashment culture’ and intergenerational sex, (sex between young girls and old men, impacted HIV infections).

“(In one national study) we identified high rates of intergenerational sex (in Barbados), and we are in a high income country. I think the assumption was that intergenerational sex was driven by poverty…we did not find that, even though it (the study) was carried out during a recession,” he said, adding that issues such as low self-esteem and being coerced into sex also contributed to the issue.

The HIV Gateway was created by the National HIV/AIDS Commission of Barbados, with financial assistance from the World Bank.

Written by CBC NEWS Wednesday, 02 April 2014 12:45

 

It's 16 to 14 in favour of DLP

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Barbadian voters kept with tradition and provided the incumbent party with a second consecutive term in power following a nerve jangling general elections Thursday. 

According to the results, the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) won 16 of the 30 seats in the elections with the remainder going to the main opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP). In the 2008 general election, the DLP won 20 seats.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart in thanking supporters for the narrow victory, said “we are not here tonight celebrating the victory because of any sponsorship or support from the ...fortune tellers of Barbados, the diviners or even the obeah men of Barbados.

"We are celebrating tonight because of the confidence which ordinary men and women....who have not arrogated to themselves the right to what the future holds,” he told supporters, adding “we are celebrating because this organisation during the last five years touched actual lives by its policies and programmes, not to any sample, but to the population itself”.

The results are in marked contrast to the opinion polls that had predicted that the BLP, led by 63-year-old former prime minister Owen Arthur, would have won as many as 20 seats, while the DLP would have gained 13 seats at most.

“The people have spoken ...we accept the will of the people,” Arthur said, adding “we were up against a number of factors”.

Both Prime Minister Stuart and Arthur comfortably won their seats, but there was defeat for Labour Minister Esther Byer-Sukoo, who lost to newcomer Dwight Sutherland, an engineer.

Prime Minister Stuart 61, has not yet addressed supporters following the results, but he had earlier indicated that he was confident that the DLP would be returned to office.

He insisted that the DLP had conducted a “very efficient campaign” and that it is sure the public had been fully acquainted with the policies of the party going into the election.

Never in the history of this Caribbean Community (CARICOM) island since it attainted its political independence from Britain in 1996, has a government failed to obtain anything more than a 10-year term in office.

 “Clearly there has been a swing against the government,” said political scientist and pollster Peter Wickham, describing the results as “an odd election”.

Another political analyst Hartley Henry said that the electorate had sent a message to both parties and more so raises the question as to the leadership of Arthur, who had sought to regain the government he lost in 2008 by a 20-10 margin.

“The results bring into question the issue of the BLP leadership. If Arthur is unable to get 16 seats today it would be difficult to see him holding power in the future,” he said.

But Arthur told reporters he was not going to comment on his future in the party.

Celebrations broke out at the DLP headquarters and in other areas on the island, after supporters had waited anxiously for the results of the St. Phillip South constituency which was retained by attorney general Adriel Brathwaite by more than 400 votes.

The seat was the last to be declared and earlier supporters of both parties were resigned to a hung parliament after media reports said that the BLP candidate Anthony Wood had won, resulting in a 15-15 tie.

The BLP had made the state of the economy, high cost of living an issue during the three week campaign, but the DLP had countered that it had started the process of reversing the situation by implementing a number of policies.

But Prime Minister Stuart reminded supporters “we are not governing in easy circumstances. We had to govern in the context of the worst crisis the world had seen in over 100 years”.

He said he was always confident that the voters would have rebuffed the policies of the opposition and told supporters that with the election over “we are not going to embark on any revenge”.

Former opposition leader Mia Mottley, who easily retained her St. Michael North-East seat, said the electorate had through the results, sent a message to both parties.

“I think Barbados is in serious, not only economic crisis, but also in terms of our governance. I think people want serious transformation,” she said, describing the poll on Thursday as “30 by-elections”.

But in his address, while he did not name anyone, Prime Minister Stuart said he is perturbed at a new development that had engulfed the local politics where voters were being bribed.

“In this election when these corrupters of the youth no longer feel they have to hide and commit their nefarious deals. I will be looking at all the laws relating to elections and I am going to stiffen them because an example has to be made of those people...”

Written by CBC NEWS Friday, 22 February 2013 14:24

   

'POLAR VORTEX' barrels across the U.S.

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Record-breaking cold weather set in on Tuesday as 187million people across the U.S. braced themselves for the effects from a 'polar vortex' of frigid arctic air.

Much of the East and Northeast has been hit with a historic freeze that shuttered schools, businesses and made road conditions treacherous. More than 70 daily record lows are predicted to be broken today from the Deep South to the Northeast and Midwest.

Flights, trains and bus transportation can again expect disruptions. Parts of the country used to fending off hypothermia and frostbite are being forced to take extra precautions as temperatures plummet.

Single-digits are expected across much of the interior Northeast with slightly temperatures in the I-95 corridor including Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

In the Upper Mississippi Valley, temperatures are set to drop to 20 below zero on Tuesday. Much of the western Great Lakes and Ohio Valley will see teens below zero and below zero as far south as the southern Appalachians.
 
Tuesday's highs won't be as bitterly cold in the Upper Midwest, but may be stuck below zero in parts of the Upper Mississippi Valley and in the single digits across the Great Lakes and upper Ohio Valley.

Brisk west winds will still be in play over the Great Lakes, sending wind chills into the 30s and 40s below zero from western New York to Wisconsin.

On Monday, the temperatures reached such extreme lows across the Midwest that Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago was forced to keep their polar bear Anana indoors in a 'climate-controlled' area.

A zoo spokesman explained polar bears in the Arctic would normally develop a fat blubber layer to deal with sub-zero temperatures but that Anana hasn't done so in the generally warmer environment of the windy city.

In the Deep South, lows in the single digits are possible as far south as Atlanta on Tuesday morning. This would be the first single digit temperature reading in the city since Jan. 24, 2003. If Atlanta reaches 5 degrees above zero or colder, it will be the coldest temperature since the city plunged to 8 below zero on Jan. 21, 1985.

Wind chills on Tuesday morning may drop well into the teens below zero from Atlanta northward into the southern Appalachians. Some of the higher elevations could have wind chill readings 20 to 30 degrees below zero.

Freeze warnings are in effect for Tuesday morning for central Florida. Outlying areas away from urban centers may dip into the 20s for a few hours Tuesday morning.

Fortunately relief is in store. Due to a lack of blocking upper atmospheric high pressure over the north Atlantic Ocean near Greenland, this bitter cold air will quickly sweep out by mid-late next week.

By Wednesday, subzero high temperatures will be virtually gone from the Lower 48 States. Thursday, highs in the 20s or 30s in much of the Great Lakes and Northeast will seem downright balmy compared to earlier in the week. 

The deep freeze is to blame for at least an estimated 13 deaths so far - almost all of them from traffic accidents. A man in Wisconsin died of hypothermia, while an elderly woman with Alzheimer's disease was found dead in the snow about 100 yards away from her home in New York state after wandering out.

PJM Interconnection, who operates the power grid supplying energy to more than 61 million people in parts of the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and South, has asked users to conserve electricity Tuesday because of the cold, especially in the morning and late afternoon.

Recovery will be the focus in several Midwestern states Tuesday, since the subzero cold followed inches of snow and high winds that made traveling treacherous - especially on interstates in Indiana and Illinois - and was being blamed for numerous deaths in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence issued disaster declarations, paving the way to request federal aid.

More than 30,000 customers in Indiana were without power late Monday night. Utility crews worked to restore electricity as temperatures plunged into the negative teens, but officials cautioned some people could be in the cold and dark for days.

'My kids are ready to go home, and I'm ready too,' said 41-year-old Timolyn Johnson-Fitzgerald, of Indianapolis, who faced a second night sleeping on cots at a Red Cross shelter with her three children, ages 11, 15, and 18.

Bob Oravec, a meteorologist at the Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Md., said the blast of frigid air raised concerns that roads wet from melted snow would freeze over.

'In Maryland, we lost a lot of the snowpack and a lot of water is draining off, and the temperatures are dropping fast,' Oravec said.

Monday's subzero temperatures broke records in Chicago, which set a record for the date at minus 16, and Fort Wayne, Ind., where the mercury fell to 13 below.

Records also fell in Oklahoma and Texas, and wind chills across the region were 40 below and colder. Officials in states like Indiana already struggling with high winds and more than a foot of snow urged residents to stay home if they could.

'The cold is the real killer here,' Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said on Monday as he asked schools and businesses to remain closed another day. 'In 10 minutes you could be dead without the proper clothes.'

In Minnesota, officials took the rare step of closing all of the state's public schools on Monday - the first time in 17 years. Schools across Chicago, Milwaukee and St Louis were also closed, while officials in Washington D.C. and as far south as Atlanta have announced school closures for Tuesday.

On Monday the winds made it feel like 55 below zero in International Falls, Minn., and parts of the Midwest accustomed to temperatures that are cold - albeit seldom this cold. But even the coal fields of Virginia and West Virginia, the wind chill was negative 35.

Every major weather-reporting station in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin reported temperatures below zero at 11 a.m. on Monday, and South Dakota would have joined them if not for the reading of 1 at Rapid City.

The coldest temperature reported in a 24-hour period through Monday was -36 degrees at Crane Lake, Minn. The warmest: 84 at Hollywood and Punta Gorda, Fla.

On Monday morning, Nashville was 40 degrees colder than Albany, New York. Memphis, Tennessee, was 20 degrees colder than Anchorage, Alaska. And Atlanta was colder than Moscow - either Russia or Idaho.

In the Great Lakes region, temperatures hovered in the negative 20s - before wind chill, which dropped temps to the negative 50s, making it very dangerous to go outside.

Meteorologists have warned about 'dangerous, life-threatening winds', that can inflict frostbite on exposed skin in just 10 minutes.

Temperatures are so cold across the Midwest that antifreeze in residents' cars could freeze, the National Journal pointed out. The popular brand freezes at 34 degrees - and the coldest temperature on Monday afternoon was minus 35 in Crane Lake, Minnesota.

'Skin freezes in just five minutes with a wind chill of minus 50,' said HLN meteorologist Bob Van Dillen as wind chills are putting temperatures in northern Minnesota at 60 below zero.

For a big chunk of the Midwest, the subzero temperatures were moving in behind another winter wallop: more than a foot of snow and high winds that made traveling treacherous.

More than 3,700 flights - around one out of every 10 domestic departures - were canceled Monday morning, following a weekend of travel disruption across the country. The bulk of those cancellations were in Chicago, Cleveland, New York and Boston.

'It's been one weather system after another,' said Delta Air Lines spokesman Morgan Durrant. 'It's been a challenging 72 hours.'

With wind chills as low as 45 below zero at some airports, workers could only remain exposed on the ramp for a few minutes. That made loading and unloading luggage a challenge.

JetBlue Airways stopped all scheduled flights to and from New York and Boston.

Operations will begin to ramp up again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday and the airline expects to be fully operational by 3 p.m. on Tuesday. It will allow the company to rest crew and give it time to service aircraft.

American Airlines said temperatures were so cold at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport that fuel and de-icing liquids were actually frozen.

United Airlines said its fuel is pumping slower than normal in Chicago.

Passengers reported long lines at airports as they tried to rebook on other flights. United Airlines had so many phone calls that it was suggesting travelers use its website to rebook.

In recent years, airlines have cut the number of flights to ensure that most of their planes depart full. That's been great for their bottom line but leaves very few empty seats to rebook stranded travelers. Sometimes, it takes days to get everybody where they should be.

Planes weren't the only form of mass transportation disrupted by the historic freeze. There also were widespread delays and cancellations in ground transportation - including Amtrak, buses and commuter trains.

Officials with Chicago's commuter rail, Metra, said there were multiple accidents, including one in which 14 passengers reported injuries - and six were taken to the hospital with minor injuries - after a train hit a 'bumping post' at a downtown station.

Weather-related engine problems forced an Amtrak train carrying 200 passengers to stop for more than 8 1/2 hours in southwestern Michigan before arriving early Monday morning in Chicago.

And the Southern Illinois men's basketball team spent the night on a church floor in central Illinois after their bus got stuck in a snowdrift on Interstate 57 following Sunday's storm.

Drivers didn't fare much better. A state emergency official said nearly 400 vehicles - including six semis - were stuck for several hours overnight on Sunday along a snowy stretch of interstate in southern Illinois.

Widespread power outages were being blamed on the storm, including in Indiana, where crews worked to restore services for more than 40,000 customers. Utility officials cautioned some people could be in the cold and dark until Thursday.

'Due to the extreme conditions, damage is significant,' Indianapolis Power & Light spokeswoman Katie Bunton said.

State officials said sites without power included the residential portion of the governor's residence in Indianapolis.

Gov. Mike Pence noted during a news conference on Monday that the house has 'lots of fireplaces' but urged others without power to go to a shelter if necessary.

The city of Indianapolis evacuated more than 400 residents without heat or power, said Marc Lotter, a spokesman for Mayor Greg Ballard. Many found temporary comfort at warming centers set up around the city, while those needing long-term shelter were sent to the American Red Cross.

Utility officials reported more than 1,600 residents in eastern Missouri also remained without power on Monday afternoon.

In Chicago, hospital emergency rooms treated patients with frostbite, weather-related asthma and head injuries from falls on ice.

'It's pretty typical of what we see when it's this cold,' said Dr. Paul Casey, an ER doctor at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. 'Later in the day, the more people are outside working, we may see more cold-related injuries such as frostbite and hypothermia.'

Cook County's health system encouraged patients to reschedule their non-emergency appointments. Cook County's Stroger Hospitals treated one homeless man with frostbite, said health system spokeswoman Marisa Kollias.

‘I'm going to try to make it two blocks without turning into crying man,’ said Brooks Grace, who was bundling up to do some banking and shopping in downtown Minneapolis, where temperatures reached 23 below, with wind chills of minus 48. ‘It's not cold - it's painful.’

The mercury also dropped into negative territory in Milwaukee, St. Louis and Chicago, which set a record for the date at minus 16. Wind chills across the region were 40 below and colder. Records also fell in Oklahoma, Texas and Indiana.

From the Dakotas to Maryland, schools and day care centers shut down.

‘You definitely know when you are not wearing your thermal undergarments,’ said Staci Kalthoff, who raises cattle with her husband on a 260-acre farm in Albany, Minn., where the temperature hovered around 24 below zero and winds made it feel like minus 46. ‘You have to dress really, really warm and come in more often and thaw out everything.’

For a big swath of the Midwest, the subzero cold moved in behind another winter wallop: more than a foot of snow and high winds that made traveling treacherous.

Several deaths were blamed on the snow, ice and cold since Saturday, including the death of a one-year-old boy who was in a car that went out of control and collided with a snowplow on Monday in Missouri and three fatal accidents in Michigan.

It took authorities using 10-ton military vehicles known as 'wreckers' until early Monday to clear all the chain-reaction accidents caused when several semis jackknifed along snowy interestates in southern Illinois.

The crash stranded about 375 vehicles, but there were no fatalities or injuries, largely because motorists either stayed with their cars or were rescued and taken to nearby warming centers if they were low on gas or didn't have enough coats or blankets, said Jonathon Monken, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

Others got stuck in the snowdrifts, including the Southern Illinois men's basketball team, which had to spend the night in a church.

In the eastern United States, temperatures in the 40s and 50s on Monday helped melt piles of snow from a storm last week, raising the risk that roads would freeze over as the cold air moved in Monday night, said Bob Oravec from the Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Md. The snap was set to be dramatic; Springfield, Mass., enjoyed 56 degrees Monday morning but faced an overnight low of 6.

More than 3,700 flights were canceled by late Monday afternoon, following a weekend of travel disruption across the U.S. Airline officials said de-icing fluid was freezing, fuel was pumping sluggishly, and ramp workers were having difficulty loading and unloading luggage.

JetBlue Airways stopped all scheduled flights to and from New York and Boston on Monday. Southwest ground to a halt in Chicago earlier in the day, but by the evening, flights resumed in ‘a trickle,’ a spokesman said.

Authorities in Indiana and Kentucky - where temperatures dropped into the single digits and below, with wind chills in the minus 20s and worse - warned people not to leave their homes at all unless they needed to go someplace safer.

Utility crews worked to restore power to more than 40,000 Indiana customers affected by the weekend storm and cautioned that some people could be in the cold and dark for days.

Ronald G. Smith Sr. took shelter at an Indianapolis Red Cross after waking up the previous night with the power out and his cat, Sweet Pea, agitated in the darkness.

‘The screen door blew open and woke me up, and it was cold and dark. I got dressed and I was scared, thinking, “What am I going to do?” My cat knew something was wrong. He was jumping all over the place,’ Smith said. ‘This is brutal cold. The cold is what makes this so dangerous.’

Even after Indianapolis lifted a travel ban, officials urged residents to stay home for their own safety and that of police and other emergency workers.

‘It's still slick out there,’ said Marc Lotter, a spokesman for the mayor. ‘It's just not safe for people to be out on the streets.’

Officials in Chicago and other cities checked on the homeless and shut-ins for fear they might freeze to death on the street or in their homes.

Between a heater that barely works and his drafty windows, Jeffery Davis decided he would be better off sitting in a downtown Chicago doughnut shop for three hours on Monday until it was time to go to work.

He threw on two pairs of pants, two T-shirts, ‘at least three jackets,’ two hats, a pair of gloves, the ‘thickest socks you'd probably ever find’ and boots, and trudged to the train stop in his South Side neighborhood that took him to within a few blocks of the library where he works.

‘I never remember it ever being this cold,’ said Davis, 51. ‘I'm flabbergasted.’

Elnur Toktombetov, a Chicago taxi driver, hit the road with hot tea and doughnuts, and an hour into his shift, his cab's windows were still coated with ice on the inside.

People are ‘really happy to catch the cab. And I notice they really tip well,’ he said.

Written by CBC NEWS Tuesday, 07 January 2014 09:04

 

St. Lucia records first case of chikungunya disease

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St. Lucia has recorded its first case of the mosquito-borne disease, chikungunya. 

However, the national epidemiologists in the Ministry of Health, Nehum Jn Baptiste, said the authorities were urging the public not to panic.

“We do not want to create any panic. It is because of our efforts with respect to strengthening the surveillance that we are now able to detect much quicker, not only chikungunya but dengue, leptospirosis and some of the other diseases that present with similar symptoms,” Jn Baptiste said.

Symptoms include a sudden high fever, severe pain in the wrists, ankles or knuckles, muscle pain, headache, nausea, and rash. Joint pain and stiffness are more common with chikungunya than with dengue. The symptoms appear between four to seven days after the bite of an infected mosquito. The majority of clinical signs and symptoms last three to 10 days, but joint pain may persist longer. Severe cases requiring hospitalisation are rare.

The first case of the disease in the Caribbean was reported in the French island of St. Martin last year. Since then it has spread to several countries with Dominica Tuesday urging nationals to adhere to measures to prevent the spread of the chikungunya disease on the island.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Johnson said that while there were 81 confirmed cases, more than 500 suspected cases were also being dealt with.

“So far we have confirmed 81 cases and the confirmation I refer to is laboratory confirmation…but these are not all the persons who have the disease. There are a lot more persons who are presented with the disease.

“In fact the numbers that we have so far indicate that we have over 550 suspected cases. So in addition to the 81 confirmed cases…we also have a number of other suspected cases,” he said.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health here said that given the trends of inter-island travel, it has adopted a proactive stance in anticipation of this disease surfacing here.

“Everyone is vulnerable. I want to take this opportunity to reactivate, re-alert, re-sensitise persons with respect to reducing the source of breeding for those mosquitoes.

“The message that we have been constantly speaking to the public with respect to controlling the dengue fever it’s the same control measures that we need to have with respect to chikungunya,” Jn Baptiste said.

Written by CBC NEWS Wednesday, 02 April 2014 11:59

   

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