Winter storms batter large swaths of US

More than 450 flight cancelations and 2,900 delays were reported as of Friday morning, December 28, 2018 as the winter storm blanketed areas from the north central plains and the Midwest with eight to 12 inches of snow. (AFP)
Updated 29 December 2018

Winter storms batter large swaths of US

  • As much snow, if not more, was forecast to fall in the coming days in the southwestern state of New Mexico, along with a deluge of rain in some southern and eastern states
  • Millions more in the South were warned of potential flooding from heavy rains

CHICAGO: At least six deaths were attributed to severe weather in the US as heavy snow and high winds snarled air and ground transportation during a busy holiday travel period.
More than 500 flight cancelations and 5,700 delays were reported Friday as the winter storm blanketed areas from the north central plains and the Midwest with eight to 12 inches (20-30 centimeters) of snow.
As much snow, if not more, was forecast to fall in the coming days in the southwestern state of New Mexico, along with a deluge of rain in some southern and eastern states — ruining New Year travel plans for thousands of Americans.
Millions more in the South were warned of potential flooding from heavy rains.
A 58-year-old woman in Louisiana was killed Wednesday evening when lightning struck a tree which then fell on her home, according to TV station WDSU.
In Kansas, police said icy roads caused a fatal car crash Thursday on an interstate highway. Another crash involving a snowplow and a car in North Dakota claimed one life.
A woman on a camping trip in Tennessee with two men died while attempting to cross a creek in the state’s Marion County, a local ABC affiliate reported.
Two people were killed in Minnesota. A 51-year-old man died Thursday when his car was struck by a pickup truck with a plow blade in poor visibility conditions, a local Fox affiliate quoted officials as saying.
A 47-year-old woman meanwhile died in the state’s Sherburne County after a bus she was on collided with an SUV on Thursday, a CBS affiliate station said. Nine others were injured.
More than 6,500 flights were delayed and some 800 more were canceled on Thursday, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.
Some airline passengers reported being stranded for days.
“I didn’t want to spend three days in the airport, missing out on the holidays — New Year’s and all that,” Anthony Scott told Texas television station KDFW at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
“I have to go back to work the first of the year. So this is my time,” he said. “This was my little vacation. I’m not trying to spend it in the airport.”
Numerous roads were closed Thursday in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Kansas and Iowa. Ground crews worked to clear affected areas, but many remained packed with snow and ice Friday.
The South Dakota Department of Transportation said adviseries warning against travel remained in effect.
“Roads are icy, blowing snow is still limiting visibility,” the agency said. “Crews are working but mother nature is making safe travel tough.”
North Dakota on Friday lifted a no-travel advisory that had been issued for the entire east side of the state, even as drifting snow continued to frustrate drivers.
National Weather Service (NWS) officials in Minnesota cautioned that roads in the upper Midwestern state were cloaked in snow.
The weather service predicted the treacherous conditions would continue through the weekend across the country.
Heavy snow was expected in the southwestern state of New Mexico from a new storm, with as much as 18 inches possible, NWS said.
To the south, heavy rains were forecast in the central Gulf Coast, in the Florida Panhandle, and stretching east to the mid-Atlantic.
A risk of flash flooding was possible in a few areas.
The nasty weather was still no match for a colossal blizzard that smothered the eastern United States in January 2016.
That storm shut down New York and Washington, leaving 15 people dead and impacting some 85 million residents.
Forecasters said the storm — dubbed “Snowzilla” — dumped 22.2 inches in Washington and 25.1 inches in New York’s Central Park, the third highest accumulation since records began in 1869.


How humor is helping Italians cope with coronavirus shock

Updated 1 min 6 sec ago

How humor is helping Italians cope with coronavirus shock

  • Italians use wit and irony to stay resilient amid dwindling resources after three weeks of lockdown
  • Italian comedians continue to find creative ways to inject humor during nationwide quarantine

DUBAI: The streets are quiet. The nightly shows on the balcony and from the windows in Italian cities have dissipated.
They have been replaced by the eerie, constant sound of police cars patrolling neighborhoods to ensure that everyone stays home and stays safe. The novelty of being locked in one’s home is no more.
It has now been exactly three weeks since Italians were placed under strict lockdown. Even so, there is still a stream of comedians who are making fun of the situation on social media and YouTube, providing ways to inject humor into an otherwise dark and increasingly tragic situation.
A week into lockdown, actor Paolo Camilli posted “Agenda of a Quarantine” on his Instagram, in which he opens his packed agenda of digital meetings: Work meetings on Zoom, Flashmob on the balcony, Pilates and Zumba classes on Microsoft Teams, dinner and aperitifs on Skype, and movie viewings to keep him busy for an entire week as he tries to find time to meet the person on the other end of the phone for a video call.
“I really believe this quarantine is a time to spend with oneself,” he said before recounting his busy schedule as if the seemingly apocalyptic moment we are all currently facing had not happened.

FASTFACTS

  • Italian literature full of examples of humor’s use as form of resilience.
  • Roman dialect poetry of Trilussa and Belli highlight humor’s place in Italian culture.
  • Playwright Eduardo De Filippo produced masterful tragicomic works in 20th century.
  • Commedia all’Italiana films merged satire, social critique in post-WWII era.

Having difficulty finding time in his overflowing agenda, Camilli added with a smile: “Listen, should we just try and schedule this (interview) for the next end of the world? That way we can speak calmly without too many distractions?”
The message: Will quarantine actually change how we live our lives? No, we keep going on in just the same way.
Living life to the fullest has long been the Italian motto. But now the mood has changed, and the novelty of spending so much time alone has worn off. For many, dread has crept in.
“On one of the first days of the lockdown, everyone in Rome went out on their balconies and sang the Italian national anthem and I got tears in my eyes,” said Carmen Scarpati, a resident of the capital.
“Now the tune is different. We’ve done the singing and dancing on balconies to support one another, and today people are worried about bills they need to pay and about putting enough food on the table.”
There is quiet acceptance that this state will go on for some time. “The positive side? More families are spending time together, whether in the same residence or via Zoom or other social media apps,” said Scarpati, explaining how for birthday parties for her son’s friends, the families still get together on Zoom to celebrate.
“We’re all in this together and we know this, but the notion of togetherness now comes from passing time with your close friends and families,” she said.
Scarpati said all the children in her son’s school were told to make rainbows a few days ago with the words “Andrà tutto bene” (Everything will be OK).
The artworks were hung from the windows and outside on the balconies, endowing the surroundings with child visions of hope.
“Humor, satire and irony are very important to Italian culture, and Italians have always done their best to use humor to help them cope and be resilient as they deal with difficult situations,” said Berenice Cocciolillo, director of web communications and a professor at John Cabot University in Rome.

A week into lockdown, actor Paolo Camilli posted his packed schedule of meetings on his Instagram.

In Italian literature, there are great examples of humor being used as forms of resilience. According to Cocciolillo, from the Roman dialect poetry of Trilussa and Belli to the famous Neapolitan playwright Eduardo De Filippo, whose works are masterful fusions of the comic and the tragic, there have been constant examples of the importance of humor in Italian culture throughout the course of the last century.
Another one is the Commedia all’Italiana film genre of the late 1950s through the 1970s, which united tragedy and comedy, satire and social critique during a challenging time in Italy — post-World War II and during the 1970s, when the country was on the brink of revolution due to waves of political terrorism from both far-right and far-left factions.
“Italians have always had a great love for comic actors such as Totò, Alberto Sordi, Paolo Villaggio, Carlo Verdone and Roberto Benigni,” said Cocciolillo.

Berenice Cocciolillo

“The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Humor is still in the air, as the numerous funny videos and memes being shared on social media show.”
But humor depends on people’s personal situations. As the streets have emptied, grocery stores enact stringent measures upon entry, family members who live in different residences are barred from seeing each other, and the unemployment rate has increased, togetherness now takes the form of other ways of bonding.
“A big part of our culture is about teasing people and situations,” said Francesco Faré, account director of Brandcot, a communications agency in Milan.
“We’ve always poked fun at our government and politicians. It’s how we survive certain situations,” he said from his balcony in Milan during a Zoom call.

“We now have massive production of food. People are cooking all the time. What’s more is that the supermarkets have run out of yeast to make baked goods. We’re all having to be very creative with our cooking,” he added with a chuckle.

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“We laugh, we make fun of the situation and of each other, and we cook, cook and cook. And even after the quarantine ends, we’ll still make fun of the situation because we’ll be all fat.”
Not everyone, however, has access to storing the same amount of food. “Some people can’t afford to stock up on food for several weeks; many have to still shop day by day,” said Scarpati.
“We’re learning once again to be grateful for the small things, for the gifts of each day and for our connection to each other.”
While the initial festivities on the balconies are not as much as before, and the humor does not move people as quickly into explosions of laughter, the resilience now lies with one’s values.
“We’re now all going back to our cultural values. Regardless of a difference in generations, we believe in community, in togetherness, even if we’re physically apart,” said Faré.
“Whether we’re with our families or alone, we Italians are used to going out for dinner nearly every night. That hasn’t changed. No matter what you have, sharing a meal and a laugh is more important now than ever.”