Categories
Travel News

Video: New York wakes up to major snowstorm

New York City wakes up to major snowstorm On Monday morning, six inches of snow had already fallen in New York City, as officials braced for widespread power losses and high winds. The winter storm is expected to produce more than a foot of snow in some areas, according to the New York Times.

Categories
Travel News

Major winter storm brings snow, heavy rain and wind to east coast

The first major winter storm of the season is expected to bring heavy snowfall, widespread rains and “heavy to severe” thunderstorms on the East Coast through Wednesday, National Weather Service forecasters said. Some areas were already experiencing scattered power outages.

Heavy rains were possible across New England from Monday evening through Tuesday, and heavy snowfall was likely from the lower Great Lakes to the Ohio Valley on Monday evening and Tuesday, as forecasters monitored the strong system storms that were causing “widespread bad weather” across the eastern United States, the National Weather Service said Monday.

Snow is expected to start falling at 1 a.m. Tuesday in southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia, with accumulations estimated at four to seven inches, according to the National Weather Service. Winter storm warnings in these areas will remain in effect until 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Warnings were also issued for the same period for Garrett County, Md., Where about four to eight inches of snow was expected. The mountains of eastern Tennessee could also see two to eight inches until noon Tuesday.

Snow was expected to cover parts of north-central and northeastern Ohio, where storm warnings were in effect from 7 p.m. Monday to 10 a.m. Wednesday.

“Travel could be very difficult,” the National Weather Service said of conditions in southwestern Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia and Garrett County, Maryland. “Dangerous conditions could impact the morning or evening commute.”

Heavy snowfall was also forecast for southern Lake Erie in northeastern Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania, where nine inches of snow could fall.

“The snow is expected to reach as far south as the higher elevations of the southern Appalachians under a cold, blustery northwest wind as a result of the storm,” according to the Weather Service.

Georgia also received a winter storm warning from 5 p.m. Monday to 7 a.m. Tuesday, as snow showers are expected to fall about two inches in the northern and northeastern parts of the state. “Expect slippery road conditions,” the National Weather Service said.

The storm is expected to strengthen and grow through Monday evening, producing high winds with heavy rain reaching New England.

Wind gusts and damaging tornadoes could accompany scattered thunderstorms from parts of Florida to the Carolinas and southern New Jersey until 6 p.m. Monday.

In the New York metropolitan area, the storm will bring heavy rain and high winds. “It’s a low pressure system that travels up the East Coast,” said James Tomasini, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s office in Upton, NY, which oversees the Hudson Valley, New York, Long Island and the north. -est of New Jersey. “The biggest thing with this system is the heavy rain and the winds. ”

He said wind advisories were issued Monday morning for Long Island, Brooklyn and Queens as well as for southern Connecticut. Peak sustained winds were estimated at 25 to 30 miles per hour, with gusts between 45 and 55 mph

Mr. Tomasini added that Long Island can see up to 1.5 inches of rain and Connecticut, up to two inches of rain.

“Almost the whole region will experience heavy rains,” he said.

The storm was already causing scattered blackouts. About 600 customers of New Jersey’s Public Service Enterprise Group were without power as of Monday afternoon, company spokeswoman Rebecca Mazzarella said.

PPL Electric Utilities had about 1,250 customers in Pennsylvania without power as of Monday, according to the company. And FirstEnergy had more than 2,000 customers in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey without power.

Categories
Travel News

Thanksgiving parade, insensitive to snow or wind, takes on a pandemic

Neither snow, rain, gusts of wind or the Great Depression caused Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade to be canceled in its 96-year history. On Thursday, he looks set to come to power through a pandemic.

The other New York City parades fell one by one as city and state officials determined that it would not be safe to conduct the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the March of the prides and at the Puerto Rican party parade as they draw huge crowds. The West Indies Day Parade on Labor Day was forced to go virtual for similar reasons.

But the Thanksgiving parade continues, in large part because the millions of people who typically attend have been invited to stay home and the event has been reduced to a TV show, though many see it as a marker. ritual of the holiday.

The parade route will therefore last one block, not two miles. These high school bands from across the country will not be marching, and instead of some 2,000 balloon handlers to coordinate, there will only be about 130.

But anyone who thinks the staging of this year’s parade was a staging, not a single logistical feat, has sunk too deep into the holiday oomph.

Starting in March, the parade planners at Macy’s and NBC, which airs the event, had to tear up the carefully calibrated script and come up with a whole new plan, which evolved as new questions arose day after day. .

What is the physics of piloting balloons, typically handled by people, if squat utility vehicles are used instead?

How and when to do coronavirus tests and temperature checks for the 960 people working on the parade?

How do you organize socially distant stage numbers that capture the magic of Broadway without endangering anyone’s health?

How do you tell the balloon handlers and marching bands, some of whom see the parade as somewhere between a lifelong dream and a religious event, that they won’t be involved this year?

“What I knew about Thanksgiving a month ago is different from what I know now,” said Susan Tercero, who is the executive producer of the event for Macy’s. “How do you foresee something in June that will happen in November when you don’t know where the country will be at that time?”

History has set the bar high for the cancellation of the parade, which has taken place every year since 1924, except for three years during World War II.

“Maybe we were crazy to think this way from the start, but I think we just tried never to go,” said Doug Vaughan, executive vice president of specials at NBC Entertainment.

Instead, planners kept in touch with city and state officials and responded as evidence of a second wave in New York City, reducing the number of attendees a second time by 25% of their hand. -typical work at 12%. Instead of around 8,000 people working on a crowded parade route in a typical year, the efforts of 960 people are spread over three days of filming.

The giant balloons were cut at 12 from 16, the floats at 18 from 26.

At one point, the parade planners envisioned a shortened route that still allowed for the streets of Manhattan. But even that was determined to be too much of an invitation to the crowds, and officials eventually landed on a parade stretch of road on 34th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. The result, in fact, is a broadcast set based around Macy’s flagship department store, where much of the parade was pre-recorded.

Macy’s is adamant that there will be nothing to see for spectators on Thursday and police have been tasked with dispersing any crowds that may develop. Still, police officials cut the details that usually work on the parade by 80%, said Terence A. Monahan, the department head.

“It’s a lot less work for us, for sure,” he says. “But I’d rather be challenged to protect hundreds of thousands of people while enjoying the parade rather than protecting a show people are watching on TV.”

The high school and college bands that had been selected for the lineup are also disappointed. Usually, Wesley Whatley, the show’s creative producer, flies across the country to surprise the band members with the news that they’ve scored spots on the parade route.

This year, her tour ended before it started.

Parade planners toyed with the idea of ​​sending film crews to capture the marching bands on their own grounds, but that idea was scrapped as it would involve a lot of travel across the country, and in many cases young people. Group members are said to have been learning remotely, away from school for several months and unable to practice in person.

Finally, Mr Whatley called the directors of the groups scheduled to perform this year telling them that they could not come in November, but that they were reserving seats for them for the 2021 parade. The installments set for 2021 would pass. to 2022.

Most balloon handlers will also stay at home. Typically, each giant balloon – from the 49-foot-tall Astronaut Snoopy to the 53-foot-tall Pikachu is guided by 80 to 100 uniformed handlers. These numbers were untenable during a pandemic.

The parade team therefore devised a plan to offset the weight of the balloon handlers with a formation of five utility vehicles (in a typical year, each giant balloon would have only one of these vehicles anchoring it in the center) . The parade’s engineering team used the vehicle’s weight plus two “standard” 175-pound people – a total of 2,985 pounds – to calculate the proper training for under-ball handlers, said Kathleen Wright, director of the balloon. production of the parade.

Each of the large balloons will have approximately 25 humans assigned to them, walking or riding in the utility vehicles along the parade route.

Kathy Kramer, a Macy’s employee who has been on the ball team for 36 years, was the handler. She is a balloon pilot, who walks back about 30 meters in front of the balloon and directs handlers using hand signals and a whistle.

But this year Ms. Kramer will be wearing a mask and she found out during practice races that it was too difficult to operate a whistle, so Macy’s switched to portable electric whistles.

The balloons are inflated overnight on the broadcast set before flying down 34th Street. Some will make the trip live on Thanksgiving Day. Others will have had pre-registered flights.

“Even though it’s a short parade this year, my stomach will start to turn on Monday and it will continue to do so until we deflate,” Ms. Kramer said.

In another arc to a special year, Macy’s organized it so that certain groups whose parades were canceled will now have a place in the Thanksgiving event. Parade viewers on TV can therefore expect to see the New York Fire Department’s Emerald Society band with their bagpipes and bearskin hats and the Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps Marching Band, in their scarves. rainbow, all pre-recorded.

Dancers, stilt walkers and steel pot players who would have lit Eastern Parkway for the carnival are recorded on Wednesday. But they’ll start putting on makeup on Tuesday night because the process can take hours, said Anne-Rhea Smith, vice president of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association. She said she hopes the makeup shoot will be like the preparations and feel of a typical Brooklyn carnival eve.

“Nothing takes the place of that feeling,” she says, “but we’re doing our best to get as close as possible.”

By replacing the absences from the parades of the past months, this event will become in a way an ode to New York, both the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States and the cultural beacon that has largely obscured in recent months. So while visitors to Lincoln Center may not see “The Nutcracker by George Balanchine,” this year parade viewers will be able to see Ashley Bouder, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, perform the role of Sugarplum Fairy in a tutu. pink. Likewise, the numbers of four Broadway shows, which have been closed since March, were taped in Times Square ahead of Thanksgiving week and will be part of the parade.

And despite the cancellation of the “Christmas Spectacular” at Radio City Music Hall, 18 of the 80 Rockettes will appear in their wooden soldier costumes with custom masks. (This Rockettes number was chosen because the dancers have limited contact with each other, which means no kick line.)

Skimming through the hectic planning process has been the feeling that New Yorkers and Americans need this display of lively joy at a time when there is a lot to be sad about.

This mission was also evident in 1963, six days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, when in the midst of national mourning, Macy decided not to cancel the parade.

The parade resumed in 2001, as New York City struggled to recover from the 9/11 attacks. The thrill of the moment was noted in a few patriotic touches: a Lady Liberty float replaced Tom Turkey, for example, and the red and white candy canes in Santa’s sleigh wore ribbons of red, white and blue.

As this year’s parade wraps up on Thursday, planners say they’ll start thinking about next year’s parade almost immediately. Will it be another pandemic version, of the socially distant kind, wearing a mask, cheerful but downsized, or will it be something that people can bring their children?

“Hopefully,” NBC’s Mr. Vaughan said, “the 95th anniversary of the parade will be very different from this year.

Categories
Travel News

How the virus slowed the booming wind power business

Even as businesses around the world close this spring, EDF Renewable executives were hoping to complete the installation of 99 wind turbines in southern Nebraska before the year-end deadline. Then, at the beginning of April, the pandemic dealt a heavy blow to the company.

A manager in a the factory that built the giant cylinders on which the turbines are based had died of the coronavirus, shutting down the factory and delaying EDF’s work of five weeks. That and other setbacks – including construction workers at the Nebraska site who contracted the virus – hampered EDF’s efforts to complete the $ 374 million project by the end of the year. . A prolonged delay could increase costs, threatening the financial viability of the project.

The company’s struggles are emblematic of how the pandemic has disrupted global supply chains and jeopardized tens of billions of dollars in investment and millions of jobs, retail stores and oil companies and gas being among the hardest hit. But EDF’s challenges show how the pandemic has hit even booming industries such as renewable energies.

The American Wind Energy Association estimates that the pandemic could threaten a total of $ 35 billion in investment and about 35,000 jobs this year. Losses could increase if the coronavirus continues to disrupt the economy well into next year.

“Every part of the supply chain has been impacted by this,” said John Hensley, vice president of research and analysis for the wind association. “Of course, if we see significant delays, it can have significant economic consequences.”

Wind turbines provide over 7% of America’s electricity and are the second largest source of carbon-free energy after nuclear power plants. Nebraska derives about 20% of its electricity from wind power, and when completed, EDF’s project will have the capacity to meet the electricity needs of approximately 115,000 homes.

The wind energy sector was growing by around 10% per year before the pandemic. But industry officials are now worried that projects under construction will be postponed or canceled due to the pandemic. The industry had hoped Congress could provide some help for renewable energy, but it did not get much from the stimulus bills passed in the spring.

The industry received help from the Treasury Department, which in May gave wind power developers more time to complete construction in order to qualify for a federal tax credit. Companies must now complete the projects they launched in 2016 and 2017 within five years, up from four years previously. EDF started its project in 2016.

“Everyone is trying to figure out how everything is going to land,” said Benoit Rigal, vice-president of engineering and construction at EDF.

On March 13, EDF prepared the site to receive three dozen blades that harness the wind. These are some of the first components the company expected to arrive in the village of Milligan, Neb., Less than an hour southwest of Lincoln.

But three days before the expected arrival of the blades, Dwynne Igau, EDF’s planning and construction manager in charge of the project, received worrying news: one of his workers had fallen ill. Ms Igau quickly canceled the delivery and ordered the quarantine of around 30% of her crew.

Areas around Milligan have seen an early increase in coronavirus cases, in part due to infections at meat packing plants. Only a few hundred people live in the village, a railroad community incorporated in 1888 which is surrounded by rows of cornfields and is known as the “Hospitality Capital of Nebraska” because it offers services like a salon and spa.

According to EDF, at least three workers have tested positive for the virus this year. Several people who worked as contractors and equipment suppliers also fell ill.

“We didn’t really think it would spread so much and so quickly,” said Gilles Gaudreault, director of transportation and logistics who is also overseeing the project.

Normally, Ms. Igau would have been on the construction site to manage the work. But the pandemic had forced her to work from her home in a suburb of Austin, Texas, more than 800 miles away. Ms Igau has also had to deal with an outbreak closer to home: her daughter’s college roommate caught the coronavirus, forcing the family to travel back and forth with her daughter multiple times from Texas A&M University , about a two hour drive.

Ms. Igau had spent seven years leading the operations of the project but had never encountered anything like it. It was the first time she had lost access to her crew for days.

“There was so much uncertainty in the March-April period about what our deliveries would look like,” Ms. Igau said. “Do we have components within that time frame to start putting these components together?”

The blades that were delayed in mid-March were en route from China and sat for days in a yard in central Nebraska. But this delay was not the last of Ms Igau’s problems.

Another set of blades, from India, were delayed when the government shut down a factory due to a coronavirus outbreak. The plant eventually reopened, but the shutdown had a lasting impact, and the last seven of those blades just arrived at a port in Houston last week.

Ms. Igau and EDF had to make many other changes on the site which also slowed down the work. Teams of four or five workers could no longer cram into a van to drive around a construction site. Each worker should drive alone. Some inspections that were typically done by teams of workers would now require a drone to reduce the need for people to be close to each other.

A large weekly meeting on Wednesday, which previously involved some 300 people standing side by side in a parking lot, has been dropped. Instead, managers encountered groups of 10 workers who had to stay at least six feet apart. EDF has also eliminated the daily meetings at 8 am in a manager’s trailer. Everyone was required to wear masks in addition to gloves. And EDF has started to carry out regular temperature checks.

As the work teams adapted to these changes, EDF was faced with another challenge: heavy rains which made it difficult for delivery men and construction workers to travel.

“If you’re trying to get components, you really have to have peak roads,” Ms. Igau said. “We had difficult conditions and we took a number of people out.”

In the first week of April, EDF learned from the Mexico-based cylinder manufacturer that a logistics manager had died from the coronavirus.

“This whole team was quarantined for two weeks,” Ms. Igau said, adding that for a while she couldn’t even get the contractor to confirm when “they would be able to return to work. “.

She spent days researching other suppliers and worrying that the setback would mean the project wouldn’t be completed by the end of the year. But few companies make the cylinders, which must be strong enough to support heavy turbines and withstand high winds. There was little capacity available and even though she had found another factory there was no guarantee she could have arranged transport as shipping routes had also been disrupted by the pandemic.

“How will we end up by the end of the year?” Ms. Igau remembers wondering. Another concern: what should she do with the construction workers if there were no towers to erect?

Even once the cylinder plant was back up and running, new problems arose. The bottles had to be sent by rail. But the delay meant there was no room on a train heading in the right direction, so they would now have to be trucked out.

The cylinders, which are typically as tall as a five-story building, require a special class of trucks that can only be used by drivers with special training and permits. Drivers are typically over 50, which makes them more vulnerable to the coronavirus. In addition, most of the drivers and their trailers were already busy transporting other massive cargo.

But it wasn’t just the cylinders that Ms. Igau had to worry about. She was also having trouble securing the blades of her turbines.

Supplies of balsa wood, a major component of wind turbine blades, have been scarce this spring as around 95% of it comes from Ecuador, which has been overwhelmed by the pandemic. At one point, so many people were dying there that bodies wrapped in plastic bags were lying in the streets.

At just over two months of the year, the first five turbines started running last week, giving EDF hope of meeting its deadline. But the number of coronavirus cases is on the rise across the country and the flu season is beginning, leaving leaders uncertain.

“Something could happen on site every day, which means our entire team could go into quarantine,” Ms. Igau said. “I don’t know how we’ll end up by the end of the year.”