- Created on 09 December 2013
AP Photo/Matt Rourke
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A powerful storm that crept across the country dropped snow, freezing rain and sleet on the Mid-Atlantic region and headed northeast Sunday, turning NFL playing fields in Pennsylvania into winter wonderlands, dumping a foot of snow in Delaware and threatening a messy Monday commute in the northeast corridor.
The storm forced the cancellation of thousands of flights across the U.S. and slowed traffic on roads, leading to a number of accidents, including a fatal crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Morgantown that led to a series of fender-benders involving 50 cars that stranded some motorists for up to seven hours. More than two dozen vehicles were involved in another series of crashes on nearby Interstate 78.
What was forecast in the Philadelphia area to be a tame storm system with about an inch of snow gradually changing over to rain mushroomed into a full-blown snowstorm that snarled mid-afternoon traffic along Interstate 95 in Pennsylvania from the Delaware to New Jersey state lines.
Paul Jones, 24, a youth hockey coach from Warminster in the Philadelphia suburbs, was on his way to a game in Lancaster when he got stuck - along with his fiancee, another coach and three players - in a major backup on the turnpike.
The roadway was "snow-covered, slick," Jones said in an interview from the car, where he was a passenger and had been at a standstill for more than an hour.
"People are in and out" of their vehicles, he said. "Kids are having a snowball fight on the side of the road, making snow angels, people are walking their dogs."
The National Weather Service said the low pressure system from North Carolina north to New England was being fed by disturbances from the southwest and moist air off the Atlantic.
A foot of snow was reported in Newark, Del. Philadelphia International Airport received 8.6 inches Sunday, more than it had all of last year. Other areas received far less: a little over an inch was reported in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, which usually is hit harder than downtown Philadelphia.
The forecast for early Monday remained up in the air for the northeast, depending on how quickly the system moves and temperatures rise, according to the National Weather Service.
The expectation was for another weather system moving out of Virginia to follow the same path as Sunday's storm overnight. It was expected to dump icy drizzle and eventually freezing rain from Philadelphia northward through the New York City area and into Boston, National Weather Service meteorologist Greg Heavener said.
"The commute for people in the Philadelphia area and north, to northern New Jersey and New York will likely be disrupted by freezing rain," Heavener said.
The snow fell so heavily in Philadelphia on Sunday that yard markers at Lincoln Financial Field - where the Eagles beat the Detroit Lions - were completely obscured. It was almost as bad in Pittsburgh, where the snow intensified after the opening kickoff.
Philadelphia fan Dave Hamilton, of Ivyland, layered up for the game, wearing an Eagles shirt topped with an Eagles sweatshirt and Eagles winter coat.
"Twenty-seven years I've been a season-ticket holder, I've never seen snow at the game like this," he said. "It just kept coming down. But we are all having fun out there."
The tracking website Flightaware.com estimates more than 2,500 flights were cancelled nationwide as of Sunday evening and more than 6,000 flights were delayed. That follows two days of similarly difficult travel conditions.
Philadelphia International Airport had a temporary ground stop Sunday afternoon with snow totals around 4 to 6 inches. Spokeswoman Stacey Jackson said a number of passengers were expected to remain in the airport overnight since area hotels had been full for several days. She said staff would hand out pillows and blankets to travelers to make them "feel at home even though they are not."
Air passengers in the Washington-area experienced increasing delays as the season's first real snowstorm set in. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said many flights had been delayed at Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports.
Virginia, parts of West Virginia and the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area braced for blackouts under steady freezing rain, wet snow and sleet. Parts of northwest and southwest Virginia and southern West Virginia were getting snow, while sleet and freezing rain prevailed west and north of Richmond.
In Maryland, a chain-reaction accident on Interstate 81 in Washington County involving more than 20 vehicles delayed snow removal efforts for hours. The highway was closed for more than three hours after a tractor-trailer ran into the median to avoid cars that had spun out. It was hit by another tractor-trailer that overturned and spilled its load. Several other tractor-trailers ran off the road and jackknifed as their drivers tried to avoid the crash.
North Texas started to thaw out slightly Sunday after two days of a near standstill with icy roads and low temperatures. About 400 departures from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport were canceled Sunday. It will likely be a couple of days before the ice that's coated the region melts completely.
The snowstorm raised fears about a potentially dangerous Monday morning commute, with snow-laden cars and perilous, icy roads. New Jersey's new U.S. senator, Cory Booker, tweeted a promise to a Mount Holly resident to help him shovel out his car if he still needed the help in the morning.
But the heavy snow wasn't limited to the East Coast. A snowstorm that hit along the Utah-Arizona border left hundreds of travelers stranded on Interstate 15 overnight into Sunday. The Arizona Highway Patrol said passengers in about 300 vehicles became stranded after up to 10 inches of snow and slick road conditions prompted the closure of part of the highway. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries.
- Created on 06 December 2013
Photo by AP/Huffington Post
President Barack Obama ordered flags at the White House and other public and military facilities to be flown at half-staff through sunset on December 9 to honor the passing of Nelson Mandela.
The South African icon, who was the country's first black president, passed away Thursday at the age of 95 after a long battle with a lung infection.
"We've lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with," Obama said of Mandela after news of his death broke. "He no longer belongs to us, he belongs to the ages ... His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to."
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- Created on 06 December 2013
Photo by AP
The U.S. economy added 203,000 jobs in November, as the unemployment rate falls to 7.0 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.
The Associated Press reports:
A fourth straight month of solid hiring cut the U.S. unemployment rate in November to a five-year low of 7 percent. The gains in the job market could spur greater economic growth.
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- Created on 06 December 2013
Photo by CNN
In a symbol befitting a nation in mourning, dark gray clouds swept over Johannesburg on Friday.
Under overcast skies that threatened to rain any minute, South Africans draped in flags and images of Nelson Mandela gathered on the streets to sing and dance.
Children spelled out "we love you Mandela" on the grass using rocks near his home in the suburb of Houghton. Nearby, stuffed animals and flowers sat in a heap.
Others wept as they lit candles.
Mandela, 95, died Thursday. The nation's first black president battled health issues in recent years, including a recurring lung infection that led to numerous hospitalizations.
President Jacob Zuma announced the loss late Thursday night, long after many South Africans had gone to bed.
They didn't find out until Friday morning.
"I woke up and was shocked when I saw it on television," said Wilson Mudau, a cab driver in Johannesburg. "It's sad, but what can we do? Let him rest in peace. It's time ... Madiba has worked so hard to unite us."
South Africans affectionately refer to him as Madiba, his clan name.
In Soweto township, where Mandela lived before he was thrown into prison for 27 years, giant posters of his face adorned walls. Residents surrounded his former red brick house on a busy street and crooned freedom songs.
Around the world, memorials popped up from Los Angeles to Chicago, where flowers and candles were laid in front of murals bearing his likeness. In Washington, crowds gathered in front of the South African Embassy.
Australian and English cricket fans observed a moment of silence in Adelaide, Australia.
"I admired Mandela (because) he had not poisoned his heart," said Leo Udtohan of Bohol, Philippines. "He learned to forgive despite the horror he experienced while in prison."
Man of complexities
Mandela helped South Africa break the shackles of racial segregation and do away with white minority rule.
Imprisoned for nearly three decades for his fight against apartheid, he emerged from prison in 1990, determined to unite the nation.
Instead of anger and bitterness at the white government that imprisoned him, he chose forgiveness and reconciliation.
"As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison," Mandela said after he was freed.
His call to avoid vengeance inspired the world. It also set him on a path of evolving roles, from freedom fighter, to prisoner, to a world symbol of the struggle against racial oppression.
But one role remained dominant: father of modern South Africa.
And four years after he left prison, he became the nation's first black president, cementing his place in the consciousness of the nation and the world.
"I'm just glad he finally found his place of rest," said Omekongo Dibinga of Washington. "From the family drama to his health problems, it just seemed like he could never get a break in his later years. Now I hope be can finally rest but he'll probably still be watching down on us in frustration. "
With his recent bouts of illnesses, South Africans seemed prepared for the worst.
"We all knew he'd leave us at some point," said Tony Karuiru, a Johannesburg resident. "But we were hoping that he would be with us during the festive season. It's the holidays, we're all expecting a bonus. I just wish God would have given him a bonus of a few more days with us as well. "
Thomas Rabodiba said even that though Mandela's death was expected after so many years of illness, he's having a hard time accepting it.
"At first, I heard rumors and thought it was the usual rumors I'd heard before," he said. " After I heard the president's announcement later that the old man has departed, then I believed that he's really gone."
Mandela will be remembered for many things, but his message of forgiveness and reconciliation will resonate the most.
"Mandela's biggest legacy ... was his remarkable lack of bitterness and the way he did not only talk about reconciliation, but he made reconciliation happen in South Africa," said F.W. de Klerk, South Africa's last white president and Mandela's predecessor.
His casket will lie in state for several days in Pretoria. Next week, it will be flown to his ancestral hometown of Qunu for a state funeral and burial, sources said.
Until that funeral, Zuma has ordered flags around South Africa to be flown at half-staff.
"He is now resting. He is now at peace," Zuma said late Thursday. "Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father."
The United States followed suit while Buckingham Palace said it will fly the Union flag at half staff when Queen Elizabeth II leaves Friday morning.
"We must pay tribute to Mandela, the best state leader of all time," said Zaid Paruk, 23.
Mandela has been hailed by leaders near and far.
"Nelson Mandela achieved more than could be expected of any man," Obama said Thursday. "Today, he has gone home. And we have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth. He no longer belongs to us - he belongs to the ages."
In the final years of his life, secret plans were hammered out between the government, the military and his family as they prepared for a fitting farewell.
Events will be held over the next 10 days, culminating in a state funeral to be broadcast worldwide and a private farewell for those closest to him.