Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag:

Another Snowstorm Wallops Northeast; Thousands Of Flights Canceled

By Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

It didn’t take a groundhog to predict six more weeks of winter as the second major storm in a week created near whiteout conditions in much of New England on Monday after dumping more than a foot and a half of snow in the Chicago region and spreading a blanket of thick snow through the Midwest.

The storm was expected to bring up to 16 inches of fresh snow to the Boston area, when the precipitation stops on Monday, Groundhog Day, less than 24 hours after the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl. Boston officials on Monday announced that the victory parade would be held on Tuesday, proving that the post office is not the only institution to brave snow, sleet and rain.

The latest storm cut a wide swath through the Midwest, bringing 19.3 inches to Chicago, the city’s fifth-largest storm ever. About 2,400 customers remained without power Monday morning, down from the 51,000 who lost electricity when the storm began.

More than 5,300 flights have been canceled from Sunday through Monday because of the storm, according to flight tracking service FlightAware. Schools in states across the upper tier of the nation were closed. Four deaths related to traffic or shoveling were reported in Ohio, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

Detroit reported its largest snowfall in four decades. The National Weather Service said 16.7 inches fell at Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus on Sunday and Monday, the third-largest storm ever and the largest since a 19.3-inch storm in December 1974.

Also in Michigan, the Battle Creek area got 12 to 18 inches and Ann Arbor, 14.1 inches.

From the Midwest, the storm churned its way East, bringing six to 10 inches to the Buffalo region and eight to 14 inches in the Albany area.

In downstate New York, Long Island, especially hit hard last week, was bracing for an additional three to five inches.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned residents of snow and ice, but the output was expected to be less than last week when nine to 15 inches fell on different parts of the city.

A blizzard brought up to three feet of snow to some parts of Massachusetts last week. On Monday, the state planned to work a normal day despite predictions of up to 16 more inches of snow. Schools in many areas including Boston were closed.

“We are very concerned about this current storm and its implications. Working with city departments and our private partners, we will take every precaution necessary to keep our residents safe,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “I ask that every Boston resident look out for their neighbor, whether it be in the home next door, or on our city’s streets.”

“I’d encourage everyone to stay off the roads today,” Walsh said.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil reportedly saw his shadow, indicating six more weeks of winter, according to legend.

The Weather Service routinely notes that the Groundhog Day test has no predictive value, though it spawned a hit movie and rodent imitators around the country.

Photo: David Cislinski, whose car is buried in snow parked on Stockton Drive, tries to shovel it out despite high winds and blowing snow on Feb. 1, 2015 in Chicago. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Economy Was Hit Harder By Severe Winter Than Initially Feared

By Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — The economy stumbled badly during the severe winter, much more than first estimated, according to a government report, and stalled a recovery that appeared poised to take off this year.

Economists, however, see the quarterly drop more as a delay in the nation’s long revival from the Great Recession. Other recent data indicate economic growth has picked up significantly this spring, putting the recovery back on a slowly improving track.

Total economic output shrank at an annual rate of 1 percent from January through March, the first quarterly contraction in three years and just the second since the recession ended nearly five years ago, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

The department’s revised figure for what is known as gross domestic product was far worse than the 0.1 percent growth initially reported last month. And the revision was steeper than the 0.5 percent contraction economists had anticipated.

The new reading also makes it unlikely that the economy will expand this year at the 3 percent rate economists previously projected.

“We’ve got to climb out of that hole” in the first quarter, said Brian Bethune, chief economist at consulting firm Alpha Economic Foresights. “You can think of it as a temporary setback, but it is going to pull down growth projections for this year.”

Investors shrugged off the report. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 65.56 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,698.74.

It typically takes two straight quarters of contraction to signal a recession, and projections are for growth to return in the second quarter.

The economy expanded at a 2.6 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter last year. And heading into this year, the recovery appeared ready to reach what economists call takeoff velocity, which has been an elusive pace in the recovery.

“If the economy can demonstrate it can grow better than 3 percent on a sustained basis, it will motivate many more companies to accelerate business capital spending and also increase the pace of hiring,” said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group.

This winter, bitter cold and heavier-than-normal snowfall swept across much of the nation, chilling economic activity.

The big factor in the contraction was a larger decline than originally estimated in how much businesses spent to restock their shelves.

Companies increased their stockpiles of goods by just $49 billion in the first quarter, down sharply from $111.7 billion in the fourth quarter. The falloff shaved first-quarter economic growth by 1.62 percentage points.

The weather didn’t slow down consumers much. Their spending was revised up slightly to 3.1 percent Thursday, though still down from 3.3 percent in the fourth quarter. Even so, spending was strong, which bodes well for the rest of the year.

But it wasn’t enough to boost first-quarter growth.

“Companies were not able to generate more inventory to offset that consumption because trucks were stuck on the road and employees couldn’t get back to the factories,” Baumohl said.

Still, what he called the “historically harsh winter” didn’t alter the improving fundamentals of the recovery.

Baumohl forecast growth of 3.5 percent to 4 percent in the second quarter as businesses rebuild inventories. And he projects 3 percent growth in the second half of the year.

Alan MacEachin, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union, also is expecting a “decent snapback” in growth this quarter. He’s forecasting 3.7 percent annualized growth, with the economy then “back on track for 3 percent going forward.”

Economists point to improving economic data in recent weeks to bolster their view that the first quarter was a weather-related anomaly.

Orders for airplanes, motor vehicles, computers and other durable goods, a key indicator of future factory output, rose in April for the third straight month, the Commerce Department said this week.

And on Thursday, the Labor Department reported that initial jobless claims dropped last week by 27,000 to 300,000. The figure was near the lowest level in seven years.

In addition, the number of people receiving unemployment benefits for the week that ended May 17, the most recent data available, fell to 2.6 million, the lowest level since November 2007.

And the robust gain of 288,000 net new jobs in April indicated that the labor market was rebounding after a winter slowdown.

But caution flags are still out on the recovery.

As bad as the winter was, it wasn’t the only cause for the first-quarter contraction. Higher mortgage rates, for instance, contributed to the slowdown in the housing market. And a weaker global economy resulted in fewer exports.

AFP Photo/Davis Turner

Wretched Winter Grips Northeast; Huge Pennsylvania Turnpike Pileup

WASHINGTON — Mother Nature had scant love for the eastern part of the United States on Valentine’s Day, continuing a streak of miserable and deadly weather that has turned much of the nation into a snowy, icy mess and caused a major pileup on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

On Friday, one side of the Pennsylvania Turnpike outside Philadelphia, an area that got more than a foot of snow, was blocked by collisions that caused minor injuries.

At least 16 motorists were injured, including five trauma victims, in a series of crashes involving dozens of vehicles on the Pennsylvania Turnpike that began just after 8 a.m. Friday. Traffic along the turnpike was backed up for miles, the Associated Press reported.

As the South and mid-Atlantic regions continued to dig out Friday, the storm, carrying heavy snows and gusty winds, moved through New England, according to the National Weather Service. Despite sunny skies in previously hard-hit regions, hundreds of thousands of people remained without electricity, mainly in the South, and more than 20 people have died, including a pregnant woman killed by a plow in Brooklyn. Her baby son was delivered by emergency cesarean section Thursday.

Snowfalls, already at record levels after a series of storms this season, continued to accumulate. More than 22 inches of snow was reported in Somerset County, Pa., and parts of upstate New York received more than 2 feet of snow.

The nation’s airline system was beginning to recover. More than 10,000 flights had been canceled in recent days since the storm came roaring out of the Southwest, through the Deep South and following the traditional track of a nor’easter up the East Coast. On Friday, cancellations dropped to about 1,100 from 6,500 on Thursday, according to Flightaware.com, a website that monitors the airline system.

One of the biggest concerns remained the power outages, caused by heavy ice that coated and weighed down power lines and trees. More than 1 million utility customers lost power as the storm moved across the country. By Friday morning, it had dropped to about 440,000 outages mostly in South Carolina and Georgia.

The treacherous weather was blamed for nearly two dozen deaths, many of them in motor vehicle accidents that began earlier in the week in Texas.

In Brooklyn, 36-year-old Min Lin died after she was struck by a utility vehicle with an attached snow plow that was moving in reverse. Lin, who had been putting groceries into the trunk of her car, was pronounced dead at a hospital, where her son was born via a cesarean section. The nearly full-term, 6-pound, 6-ounce baby remained in critical condition on Friday.

Washington received nine inches of snow Thursday; Westminster, Md., reported 19 inches; and Newark, Del., had 14 inches. New York City received nearly 10 inches, and parts of New Jersey had more than 11.

Washington on Friday was digging out of its biggest storm of the season.

Federal offices and airports were open Friday, and the District of Columbia government lifted its snow emergency, though many schools were closed another day.

The commute was dicey and icy around the nation’s capital.

A stretch of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway was closed for 2 hours because of icy conditions. More buses were put back into service, but the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority warned commuters to expect detours in order to keep buses “off of hilly terrain, narrow side streets and other problem areas.”

Contributing to the difficult commute was that more snow fell Thursday night after plows cleared roads earlier in the day.

And something remarkable happened: The sun came out.

But wait. More snow is forecast to hit the D.C. region Friday night and Saturday morning.

In New York, the teachers union and TV weatherman Al Roker harshly criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision Thursday to keep schools open. Roker, who was in Russia for the Winter Olympics but has a daughter in New York’s public schools, said on Twitter: “It’s going to take some kid or kids getting hurt before this goofball policy gets changed.”

Roker stood by his criticism on Friday but apologized on NBC’s Today show for a tweet forecasting “one term” for De Blasio, saying that was “below the line.”

AFP Photo/Davis Turner

U.S. Braces For Another Crippling Winter Storm

Chicago (AFP) – Grocery shelves were emptied Tuesday as the United States braced for another crippling winter storm that threatened to dump heavy snow and freezing rain from Texas to New England.

The National Weather Service warned a “mammoth dome” of artic air pressure would begin to “consume” the eastern two-thirds of the country on Tuesday and would result in a “paralyzing ice storm” in North Carolina and Georgia.

“The ice accumulations remain mind-boggling, if not historical,” the weather service warned, adding that a foot of snow was forecast to hit New England on Thursday as the massive storm pulled moisture in off the Atlantic.

The governor of Georgia — still smarting from a disastrous storm response that stranded thousands of people on icy freeways in Atlanta two weeks ago — declared a state of emergency and deployed a fleet of trucks to salt roads before the storm arrived.

President Barack Obama also signed an emergency declaration Tuesday to send federal support to Georgia.

The governor of Alabama also declared a state of emergency to better deploy state resources, including the National Guard.

More than 1,000 U.S. flights were cancelled by midday Tuesday and airlines had also protectively cancelled nearly another 900 on Wednesday, according to specialty website FlightAware.com.

AFP Photo/Davis Turner