Categories
Weather

Is warm weather headed your way?

AccuWeather meteorologists say that those hoping for an extended stretch of warm weather, especially Americans sick of one-day teases of spring warmth of late, should be happy as a change in the weather pattern will allow more lasting warmth to build over the central United States this weekend. The warmth will then expand into much of the East next week.

“After some recent hints of spring — and another shot of cold air predicted for this weekend in the Northeast — it’s nice to finally forecast a string of days of much warmer spring weather for next week for folks from the Midwest to the East,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist and Radio Broadcaster Dean DeVore exclaimed.

The seeds of the warmth will be planted over parts of the Plains and southern Canada Prairies Friday into early next week. Temperatures are forecast to surge across these regions. In some cases, record highs dating back to the early 1900s may be challenged.

“Even though many records may remain intact, temperatures are expected to range from 15-30 degrees Fahrenheit above normal,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said.

Average high temperatures during the first week of March range from the middle 20s F (3 to 5 below zero C) across the southern tier of Canada to the middle 40s F over western South Dakota.

For example, in Bismarck, North Dakota, highs are projected to be 60 or higher each day from Friday though Monday. Likewise, Chicago is forecast to have high temperatures in the 60s for three consecutive days from Monday to Wednesday.

Even in International Falls, Minnesota, where the temperature dipped to a brutal 42 below zero on Feb. 13, temperatures are forecast to reach 50 degrees for a day or two next week.

And, the warmth is forecast to expand through the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley and all the way to the Atlantic coast as the week progresses.

Following a chilly weekend in the Northeast, the wave of warmth will begin in earnest on Monday, then warmth will swell during the middle of the week.

“Once again, while temperatures are likely to stop short of record levels in most locations of the Midwest and Northeast, most days, temperatures are expected to average at least 10-20 degrees above normal,” Anderson said.

During the second week of March, normal highs range from the lower 30s in the northern parts of Maine and Michigan to near 60 in Kentucky and southeastern Virginia.

It is possible temperatures may even exceed that prediction, especially where the snow totally melts and the ground has a chance to dry out.

“When there is no snow on the ground and the ground is dry versus wet, more of the sun’s energy goes toward warming the ground and the air just above it,” Anderson said.

And, the gradual meltdown will not only be beneficial to warming the weather up — it could also prevent other weather dangers from unfolding.

“This sort of gradual meltdown without rain and with a drying process in most areas is just what the doctor ordered to reduce the risk of spring flooding,” he added.

Categories
Crime

FBI releases more photos of Capitol rioters. Can you identify them?

The FBI has released more photos of the participants in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and is asking for your help identifying the people in the photos. Below are some of the new photos released today.

According to the FBI, the individuals pictured were involved in various assaults on federal officers on Jan 6. Call 1-800-CALL-FBI or visit http://tips.fbi.gov to submit tips. Below are The photos above are phots number.

Additional photos available at https://fbi.gov/wanted/capitol-violence/

The FBI is also searching for information on the people pictured below who authorities say played a role in instigating the violence.

Categories
Government

Sweeping voting rights package could curb state pushes to restrict voting

The House passed sweeping voting rights, redistricting, campaign finance and ethics reform, late Wednesday night along party lines in a 220 to 210 vote, but the historic package will face an uphill battle in the Senate as no Republicans currently support the bill.

Even though Democrats control Congress and the White House, their slim majority in a 50-50 Senate is not enough to enact into law a massive package that tackles dark money in campaigns, voter suppression and election security that requires 60 votes rather than a simple majority. The push to end or reform the Senate filibuster is growing among Democrats who are aiming to get the package on President Joe Biden’s desk in the hopes that some of those changes can be enacted before midterm and gubernatorial races in 2022.

“I’m not optimistic on the Senate side,” Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), the architect of the bill said during a Tuesday press conference. “We built this piece of legislation over a number of years but the urgency for it in this moment could not be greater.”

Republicans have launched attacks on the nearly 800 page legislative package, arguing that the federal government is overreaching by mandating how states carry out elections and that the country needs strict voter identification laws.

During the House floor debate, Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) said that the bill compromises the rights of states to make their own voting laws.

“This bill will weaken what many states are doing to improve election security,” he said.

The package aims to increase voter turnout by restoring voting rights to those with a felony record, expanding early voting and same-day voter registration, getting rid of ID requirements and requiring states to set up automatic voter registration for eligible voters for federal elections. The Biden administration is supportive of the bill.

“In the wake of an unprecedented assault on our democracy, a never before seen effort to ignore, undermine, and undo the will of the people, and a newly aggressive attack on voting rights taking place right now all across the country, this landmark legislation is urgently needed to protect the right to vote and the integrity of our elections, and to repair and strengthen American democracy,” the administration said in a statement.

With historic levels of voting in the 2020 presidential election, many Republican controlled state legislatures have introduced strict voter ID laws, a trend that concerns Democrats.

“Everything is at stake,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cali.) said during a Wednesday press conference ahead of the vote on the bill.

There are currently more than 33 states that have introduced 165 bills to tighten voting requirements, according to a recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. The center also found that 37 states have “introduced, pre-filed or carried over 541 bills” that would expand voting rights.

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Robert Zullo for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

Categories
Crime

Shots fired during Indiana police chase that ended in crash

MUNCIE, INDIANA — A tense police chase in Muncie, Indiana involved shots being fired at residents in the area as well as police and ended in a crash.

Delaware County and City of Muncie Police Officers were involved in a pursuit with a male suspect who was armed. During the pursuit, which occurred at about 1:40 p.m., it was reported that the male suspect fired shots at both residents and officers.

All county and city schools were asked to lock down for safety of students and faculty while this pursuit was active. The pursuit ended in the city and the suspect was taken into custody and transported to Ball Memorial Hospital.

Police say there is no longer a threat to the  public safety and school officials were notified.

The Indiana State Police are investigating multiple crime scenes throughout Delaware County. However local residents are no longer in danger, as the pursuit has ended and the driver has been taken into custody.

Detectives request any witnesses who may have video of the event, or anyone with damage to a residence or vehicle to contact the Indiana State Police Pendleton District at (765) 778-2121 or 1-800-527-4752.

Categories
By The Numbers

Here are the most common superstitions by state

Does your St. Patrick’s Day tradition include kissing a blarney stone or wishing on a four leaf clover?

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Potawatomi Hotel & Casino analyzed Google search volume for more than 200 different superstitions to find the most popular superstitions in every state across the country.

They also surveyed over 1,000 Americans to learn more about their belief in superstitions.

The most popular superstitions in America, according to the report are as follows:

Throwing salt over your shoulder is the top superstition in the nation, followed by the belief that bad luck comes in threes. If you’ve had two bad things happen to you, the number three superstition — carrying a lucky rabbits foot — may stave off that third bad event. The fourth most common superstition is Friday the 13th and rounding out the top five is the belief that Ladybugs are a sign of good luck.

Below are some more findings from the survey.

  • 65% of Americans are superstitious. 83% believe in good luck, 50% believe in bad luck. 
  • 37% of Americans believe Friday the 13th brings bad luck.
  • 34% of Americans believe St. Patricks’ Day is a lucky day. Nearly double that amount (60%) say they wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.

Here’s what the most commonly held superstition was in each state.

Categories
Coronavirus

Texas ends mask mandate and limits on businesses

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he will end Texas’ statewide mask mandate next week and will allowall businesses to operate at full capacity.

“It is now time to open Texas 100%,” Abbott said from a Mexican restaurant in Lubbock, arguing that Texas has fought the coronavirus pandemic to the point that “people and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate” any longer.

Abbott said he was rescinding “most of the earlier executive orders” he has issued over the past year to stem the spread of the virus. He said starting March 10, “all businesses of any type are allowed to open 100%.” A spokesperson later confirmed that includes sporting events, concerts and similar events. Masks will no longer be required in public for the first time since last summer.

Meanwhile, the spread of the virus remains substantial across the state, with Texas averaging over 200 reported deaths a day over the last week. And while Abbott has voiced optimism that vaccinations will accelerate soon, less than 7% of Texans had been fully vaccinated as of this weekend.

Texans and Americans of color have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. More than half of the deaths due to COVID-19 have been Black or Hispanic people, and advocates have reported that these communities have fallen behind in the vaccination efforts in Texas.

Texas will become the most populous state in the country not to have a mask mandate. More than 30 states currently have one in place.

Abbott urged Texans to still exercise “personal vigilance” in navigating the pandemic. “It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed,” he said.

[Read more: Keep wearing your mask, health officials say after Gov. Greg Abbott lifts mask mandate]

Currently, most businesses are permitted to operate at 75% capacity unless their region is seeing a jump in COVID-19 hospitalizations. While he was allowing businesses to fully reopen, Abbott said that people still have the right to operate how they want and can “limit capacity or implement additional safety protocols.” Abbott’s executive order said there was nothing stopping businesses from requiring employees or customers to wear masks.

But soon after the announcement, the grocery chain H-E-B indicated in a statement that it won’t require customers to wear masks.

Acknowledging that some local leaders remain concerned about the spread of the virus in their communities, Abbott laid out a strategy that allows them to take matters into their own hands under certain circumstances. If COVID-19 hospitalizations in any of Texas’ 22 hospital regions rise above 15% of the capacity in that region for seven straight days, a county judge “may use COVID mitigation strategies in their county,” according to the governor.

However, Abbott specified that “under no circumstance” can a county judge jail someone for not following their orders. They also cannot impose penalties on people for failing to wear masks — or on businesses for not mandating that customers or employees wear masks. And if local restrictions are triggered, businesses still must be allowed to operate at 50% capacity at the minimum.

Texas public schools will be allowed to continue offering virtual learning under the new order, and some superintendents have said that they will continue to require masks unless they receive receive word that they can’t. Abbott’s executive order says schools must follow “guidance issued by the Texas Education Agency.” The TEA said Tuesday afternoon that it will provide updated guidance this week.

The order also lifts a previous mandate that halted inmate visitation at county and municipal jails, though it was not immediately clear how that would affect individual jails. The new order specifically kept in place, however, a controversial order to restrict who can be released from jail without paying cash bail during the pandemic.

Abbott’s announcement prompted outcry from local leaders in Texas’ biggest cities. The head of Texas’ most populous county, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, responded to Abbott’s moves by saying “now is not the time to reverse the gains we’ve worked so hard to achieve.”

OtherDemocrats swiftly denounced Abbott’s announcement, with the state party chairman, Gilberto Hinojosa, calling his actions “extraordinarily dangerous” and saying they “will kill Texans.” Beto O’Rourke, a potential Abbott challenger in 2022, used similar rhetoric, calling Abbott’s moves a “death warrant for Texans” and claiming the governor is “killing the people of Texas.”

Abbott’s critics also noted the announcement was coming in the wake of the winter weather crisis that left millions of Texans in the cold and the dark, exposing deep flaws in Texas’ electrical grid under GOP leaders including Abbott.

“Unfortunately, Gov. [Abbott] is desperate to distract from his recent failures during the winter storm and is trying to change the subject,” state Rep. Chris Turner of Grand Prairie, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said in a statement.

In a radio interview after his announcement, Abbott said he had wanted to move even faster to fully reopen businesses and lift the mask mandate. He told Lubbock host Chad Hasty that he wanted to make the announcement over a week ago — the last Monday in February — but held off to allow the vaccination distribution process to get “back up and running at full speed” following the storm.

It is not just Democrats who have been critical of Abbott’s pandemic management. He has also faced criticism from some in his own party who say he has been too slow to reopen Texas, especially compared to other GOP-led states. Allen West, the Texas GOP chairman who has been critical of some of Abbott’s pandemic handling, reacted to the governor’s announcement by saying he was “glad Gov. Abbott is following the example of” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. Both DeSantis and Noem are widely seen as potential 2024 presidential candidates; Abbott has not ruled out a White House bid of his own.

In Lubbock, Abbott defended his reopening decision by saying Texas is “far better positioned now” than when he issued his last executive order on the pandemic in October. That order set up a system under which business reopenings would automatically roll back in a hospital region if its COVID-19 patients went over 15% of capacity for seven consecutive days.

Abbott further argued that the state is in a “completely different position” than it was in when the pandemic first prompted him to take statewide action nearly a year ago. He said the state now has an “abundance” of personal protective equipment, the ability to do over 100,000 tests a day, medicines to treat coronavirus patients and wide awareness of protocols such as social distancing and hand-washing. Most importantly, he said, vaccines are available and the supply “will continue to increase rapidly,” with Texas preparing to expand the categories of people eligible to get vaccinated. Abbott told Hasty that “announcements will be made this week” about opening up the categories.

Despite Abbott’s optimism, only 6.5% of Texans had been fully vaccinated as of Sunday, and more broadly, the current trajectory of the virus has been difficult to measure in recent days due to last month’s winter storm, which forced many large counties to close their testing centers and not report any cases. Daily confirmed cases and deaths are clearly down compared to a statewide peak in January. Hospitalization data has been less disrupted, though, and has shown a consistent decline since late January.

When it comes to vaccinations, experts say Texas is a long way from reaching herd immunity. Hitting the 70% to 80% level that many estimate is needed would mean vaccinating some 22 million people, or nearly 100% of adults in the state, according to census numbers. The vaccines are currently not approved for children under 16, who make up about 23% of the population. More than 40,000 people have died in from the virus in Texas since the pandemic began.

Scientists do not yet know for sure whether or how well the vaccines prevent the spread of the virus, though some preliminary research has suggested that some vaccines might be able to do so to some extent.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that people who have received two doses of the vaccine continue to avoid crowds, stay at least 6 feet away from people who live outside their households and wear masks to cover their nose and mouth.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease doctor, has repeatedly said that he does not know when Americans will be able to return to normal, but that they may still need to continue wearing face masks into 2022.

Texans have been under a statewide mask mandate since July of last year — and they have grown widely comfortable with it, according to polling. The latest survey from the University of Texas and Texas Tribune found that 88% of the state’s voters wear masks when they’re in close contact with people outside of their households. That group includes 98% of Democrats and 81% of Republicans.

The absence of statewide restrictions should not be a signal to Texans to stop wearing masks, social distancing, washing their hands or doing other things to keep the virus from spreading, said Dr. John Carlo, CEO of Prism Health North Texas and a member of the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 task force.

Carlo declined to react specifically to Abbott’s order, saying he had not had a chance to read it. He also expressed concern that new virus variants, specifically the U.K. variant, could still turn back the positive trends cited by Abbott.

“We’re facing unacceptably high rates, and we still hear every day about more and more people becoming sick. And it may be less than before, but it’s still too many,” Carlo said. “Even if businesses open up and even if we loosen restrictions, that does not mean we should stop what we’re doing because we’re not there yet.”

Abbott’s announcement Tuesday was not entirely surprising. He said Thursday that his office was looking at when it could lift all statewide coronavirus orders and that he would have announcements “pretty soon.”

Prior to the announcement, Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner sent a letter to Abbott asking him to keep the mask requirement in place. Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown separately sent the same letter.

Reference

Read Gov. Greg Abbott’s full order lifting Texas’ mask mandate and business capacity limitations.(147.4 KB)

“We believe it would be premature and harmful to do anything to lose widespread adoption of this preventive measure. Scientific studies have shown repeatedly that the widespread wearing of face masks slows down the virus,” the letter reads. “Especially with the arrival of new variants of the virus to Texas and our cities, with the associated spike in cases, preserving the most effective of our existing safety measures is even more important.”

In Hidalgo County, where the hospitalization number has dropped from around 500 to under 200 in the last month, the eased restrictions could threaten the progress that has been made, said Dr. Ivan Melendez, Hidalgo County health authority and a local physician. The Rio Grande Valley community, which at one point was one of the nation’s hot spots, still has some of the highest rates of risk indicators in the country, Melendez said.

“All of a sudden, instead of having a scenario that facilitates what we’re trying to do, we have another scenario that causes us to have greater difficulty in our goal, which is to eradicate this disease,” Melendez said. “Although I believe the governor is well intended and I understand he has a lot more criteria that he has to filter through, I believe that this should have been the last step, not the first. … It’s too much, too soon.”

Aliyya Swaby, Karen Brooks Harper, Jolie McCullough, Chris Essig and Juan Pablo Garnham contributed reporting.

Disclosure: Steve Adler, a former Tribune board chair, the University of Texas and the Texas Medical Association have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

 The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Categories
Coronavirus

Could the U.S. have enough coronavirus vaccines for every American adult by the end of May?

President Joe Biden announced today that the United States expects to have enough COVID-19 vaccine supply to vaccinate every adult in America by the end of May.

According to Biden, the administration is already half way to its goal to have 100 million shots available within Biden’s first 100 days in office and is now on track to have enough supply for all adults by the end of May.

The new estimate is two months earlier than the previous estimate, which would have had vaccines for all adults by the end of July.

The administration is also adding to the number of places people can get vaccines. “We’re also increasing the places where people can get vaccinated,” Biden said. “We’ve sent millions of vaccines to over 7,000 pharmacies to make it easier for folks to get their COVID-19 vaccine shot like they would their flu shot.”

As of Tuesday, the United States had reported 28.7 million total cases of COVID-19 and 515,000 total deaths.

California leads the nation in the total number of cases. with more than 3.5 million, followed by Texas with more than 2.6 million, next is Florida with 1.9 million and New York with 1.6 million.

In terms of vaccinations, the United States has administered more than 76.8 million shots of the vaccine and 25.4 million people have now been fully vaccinated.

Categories
Weather

Here’s what you can expect from Spring weather this year

Finally, spring is here. Well, sort of. March 1 marks the first day of meteorological spring, but astronomical spring — which is more widely regarded as the start of the season — is still about three weeks away.

Meteorologists recognize spring as spanning March, April and May for consistency’s sake in weather record-keeping and also based on temperature trends in the U.S. Astronomical spring will officially begin at the vernal equinox, which will occur at 5:37 a.m. EST on March 20, 2021. The Earth’s elliptical orbit around the sun and other factors like leap year can affect the start date and length of astronomical seasons, making it more difficult to compare one season to the next. And the weather in March can be quite the weather roller coaster for many regions of the country, but warmer air typically starts reaching southern areas this month.

This year, after a tumultuous and late onset of cold and wintry weather, the Northeast experienced a brief taste of spring weather during the middle of February’s final week, and tame weather will briefly be in store during the first week of March. However, AccuWeather forecasters warn in an update to the 2021 spring forecast released this week that Americans living across this region shouldn’t disregard the potential for some last hurrahs from winter just yet. The month of March may yield more wintry precipitation and rounds of cold for the region.

Meanwhile, other areas of the nation that typically don’t experience winter’s worst in terms of bitter Arctic cold, snow and ice were dealt devastating blows in February. Texas is still reeling from calamitous back-to-back winter storms and historically low temperatures — and many communities will be cleaning up from the mess for weeks to come. The weather pattern will be unsettled in the South in the coming week, but the weather disruptions will unfold in a more typical variety, in the form of rain and thunderstorms, for the region. Although some isolated severe weather may be possible, there could be a delayed onset to the typical tornado season across the central and southern U.S. — and there is likely to be a shift in areas that are tornado-prone this season, compared to normal.

A driving factor behind spring weather this year will be a continuation of a phenomenon known as La Niña. This is a phase during which the water of the tropical Pacific Ocean is cooler than normal, which, in turn, affects the atmosphere. It officially set in during October 2020 and was a major player in the historic and unprecedented hurricane season last year. AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said the pattern may finally weaken before the transition to summer occurs this year.

Take a look at the complete region-by-region breakdown below.

Northeast

There may be more than just a few April showers across the Northeast this year as a stormy pattern that is expected to take shape at the end of winter will carry over into the new season.

Residents across the Northeast and Midwest can expect “more or less a continuation of winter through the month of March,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Samuhel said.

For some big East Coast cities such as Philadelphia, New York City and Boston, the transition into the new season could feature a few big winter storms, which could threaten further disruptions to ongoing coronavirus vaccination efforts.

There will still be the potential for big wintry storms to impact the Northeast well into March, Pastelok said, adding that the active pattern will carry over into April when winter’s last gasps will bring about the final chances of snow.

Last year, a major snowstorm blanketed the northern tier of the U.S. on Easter Sunday, leading many to declare “Merry Easter” on social media due to the spring holiday weather’s resemblance to weather people normally associate with Christmas.

With Easter arriving on April 4 this year, about a week earlier than last year, a snowy Easter Sunday may not be out of the question for some places, but Pastelok cautioned that the chances of snow happening on Easter Sunday two years in a row are statistically low.

The prospects for snowy weather during the first half of spring will benefit the ski resorts across the Northeast that faced an abridged ski season in the winter of 2019-20 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think they’ll be able to stay open later in the Northeast,” Pastelok said, noting that the active pattern will lead to opportunities for snow in the higher elevations well into April.

On the flip side of the coin, businesses relying on outdoor areas to operate at a higher capacity amid the pandemic may not like Old Man Winter’s extended stay.

In November, AccuWeather conducted a poll asking people “What is the lowest temperature that you would consider dining outdoors?” and nearly half of respondents said that anything below 60 degrees Fahrenheit was too cold.

Businesses such as drive-in movie theaters that have seen a spike in popularity during the pandemic might have to wait until later in April or May before milder, more comfortable conditions return with any regularity.

Midwest

Much of the winter passed by without Arctic intrusions across the Midwest, and a low extent of ice across the Great Lakes when it typically peaks in February was evidence of that, but once winter finally roared in, it did so without abandon.

Up until early February, Chicago, Indianapolis and Minneapolis experienced AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures in the single digits on occasion, but long-duration Arctic cold had not materialized.

In AccuWeather’s initial spring 2021 forecast, released on Feb. 3, Pastelok warned that it was not quite time to put away the heavy winter coats just yet. “We do have more cold air coming in February and into early March,” he added. And come it did.

Brutal cold spread across the Plains, reaching as far south as Texas and Louisiana during the middle of February. Low-temperature records fell as the mercury plummeted to below zero in southern cities like Oklahoma City and Dallas. However, in a week’s time, a dramatic swing in the opposite direction brought temperature rises of 83 and 86 degrees respectively.

Parts of the northern Plains and Midwest, including some areas that spent more than a week with temperatures below zero during mid-February, also experienced an extreme temperature turnaround. On Monday, Feb. 22, the temperature in Rapid City, South Dakota, soared to 57 degrees in the afternoon after bottoming out at 24 degrees below zero a week prior, making for an 81-degree temperature difference.

Despite the late-season cold intrusion, ice coverage on a whole remained significantly lower than normal at 16.2% across the Great Lakes on March 1.

The low ice coverage on the lakes could have implications on the region’s weather later during spring. Since water was not particularly cold in the lakes as of early March, Pastelok explained, the air temperatures across the Midwest could go through a significant rise at the end of spring. He added that spring in the Midwest could play out like a bit of a roller-coaster ride, and conditions can change dramatically from chilly in March and April to unusually warm in May.

As the cold air begins to loosen its grip, the risk of flooding will be on the rise across portions of the Midwest. “We do think it’s gonna get pretty wet later in March and April,” Pastelok said.

The primary concern is river flooding with some of the region’s larger rivers potentially reaching moderate flood stage for a period of time, but it does not look like there will be widespread, record-breaking flooding across the region, Pastelok said.

Southeast

Snowand ice made visits to the Southern U.S. this winter, and while the weather will warm up, there could be some chilly days early on in spring. This will be especially true across across the Tennessee Valley and mid-Mississippi Valley, according to Pastelok. However, a deep penetrating cold is likely off the table for Florida and the immediate Gulf Coast.

The overall warmer pattern will be a favorable one for farmers from Arkansas to western Georgia, but potential dryness farther east could lead to some pockets of drought from the Carolinas into southeastern Georgia. Not only would this be bad for farmers, but it would also raise the risk of brush fires on breezy days.

However, it may not be time to bet the farm on the chances for a drought to develop in the spring, especially if the tail end of winter ends on a wet note.

“We’ll see how the rest of winter goes if some moisture can reach down there,” Pastelok said. However, even if some late-season rain arrives, the southeastern corner of the country has “been missing out on the big” precipitation events during much of the winter, he said.

Severe weather

Storm chasers may have their hands full during the upcoming severe weather season in the central U.S., but it may take some time for the storms to get going.

AccuWeather meteorologists are calling for a slow start to the severe weather season across the United States this spring, and they are warning of the possibility that severe weather and tornado activity could abruptly fire up and rival one of the most notorious severe weather seasons ever, due to some atmospheric similarities current weather patterns bear to that devastating season.

Tornado activity is forecast to be slightly above but near normal for the entirety of the year with the number of tornadoes expected to reach 1,350-1,500 in 2021 across the United States, according to AccuWeather long-range meteorologists. Annually, the number of tornadoes averages between 1,250 and 1,400, according to U.S. government statistics. 

Last year was a below-average year for tornadoes across the U.S. According to preliminary figures, there were 1,075 reports of tornadoes in 2020. It’s worth noting, however, that these numbers have not been finalized by the SPC and may be adjusted. Even though tornado reports were below average in 2020, the 76 fatalities blamed on tornadoes were nearly double the three-year average, according to SPC statistics.

Cold air from the north clashing with warm, moisture-rich air from the Gulf of Mexico is the primary driver of severe weather during spring. It could take a while for these ingredients for severe thunderstorms to come together in 2021, limiting the number of severe weather events in March. However, this is expected to change as the calendar flips to April.

“We think that April, for the third year in a row, could be a very active month,” Pastelok said.

The number of severe thunderstorms can drastically increase during the months of April and May, which can also lead to an increase in the number of tornadoes that develop. AccuWeather meteorologists are predicting between 275 and 350 tornadoes will occur during the month of April alone, which could make April 2021 the third April in a row with more than 300 tornadoes.

“I agree with the AccuWeather experts,” Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer said during an AccuWeather Network special spring preview. “It’s going to be a late start to the severe weather season, but it’s going to be incredibly active. I think we’re going to be storm chasing a lot in April and May.”

However, Timmer may find himself chasing storms farther to the east this severe weather season compared to years past.

“I think the severe weather season is more shifted toward the central Gulf states and the mid- to- lower Mississippi Valley,” Pastelok said.

St. Louis; Little Rock, Arkansas; Jackson and Tupelo, Mississippi; Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee; Lexington and Paducah, Kentucky; and even Indianapolis are all in the area where AccuWeather is projecting the highest risk of severe thunderstorms from March through May.

The overall weather pattern this spring in the central U.S. has some similarities to that of 2011, which was an extremely active year for severe weather. More than 800 tornadoes were reported in April of 2011, a record for the most tornadoes in a single month. The deadly 2011 Tornado Super Outbreak accounted for more than 40% of these twisters.

The positioning of thejet stream this April is forecast to be very similar to that of April 2011, but Pastelok explained that there are “just a few other factors that I think will hold things back.”

One of the factors is the drought over the Four Corners and into part of the High Plains, including eastern Colorado, western Kansas, western Nebraska and part of the Texas Panhandle.

These areas of dryness will inhibit some of the thunderstorm development and are one reason AccuWeather is predicting the focus of tornado activity to occur over an area farther east than the traditional Tornado Alley. Traditionally, Tornado Alley is a tornado-prone swath of the Plains stretching from central Texas to South Dakota.

Western U.S.

March may yield some storm chances, especially early on in California, including southern areas of the state, and areas across the interior Southwest, according to Pastelok.

Even with some rain chances across the interior Southwest, long-term drought conditions will set the stage for early-spring conditions, and it could feel like the season will jump ahead straight into summer for some areas.

Exceptional drought conditions were present in Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report on Feb. 25. That’s the worst level of drought on the drought intensity scale.

“There are a lot of possibilities for early heat waves in the Southwest,” Pastelok said.

Death Valley, California, one of the hottest places on Earth, has already hit 90 F this year on Jan. 16, the earliest 90-degree day on record. Similar records could fall elsewhere across the interior Southwest this spring.

Skiers and snowboarders will have to head to California if they want to hit the slopes later in the season as the warm, dry pattern may spell an early end to snow sports at the resorts across Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.

As most of the Southwest will bask in abnormal warmth and dry weather this spring, the fire hose of Pacific moisture will keep on targeting the Pacific Northwest into the northern Rockies throughout the duration of the season.

“I think [the storms] come back in, and it keeps going through April at full blast,” Pastelok said about the upcoming weather pattern for the Northwest. Even as the calendar flips to May, “I still don’t think the unsettled pattern will end. I just think that it will just ease back considerably.”

Areas along the Interstate 5 corridor from Medford, Oregon, through Seattle will face a high risk of flooding due to the parade of spring storms, which could end up being a benefit later in 2021. “Remember, these places dried out pretty good [last spring], then we ended up having a really bad fire season in parts of Oregon,” Pastelok recalled. “This year is a different setup.”

As the spring transpires, residents farther inland, especially those who live at higher elevations, may begin to wonder if spring will ever arrive, or if 2021 will be the year of a never-ending winter.

“I can still see some snow falling in parts of the northern Rockies and the higher elevations and the interior Northwest all the way into early June,” Pastelok said.

Categories
Civics 101

What exactly is the 10th Amendment?

Pete Hegseth, the host of Fox and Friends, raised eyebrows over the weekend during his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference when he suggested that when he sits down to talk with people, they talk about — among other things — their families, the First Amendment, the Second Amendment and the 10th amendment.

The assertion drew quite a bit of pushback on Twitter because — while the first and second amendments are well known — the 10th Amendment just doesn’t get as much press.

Chances are, if you have landed on this article, you aren’t quite sure what the 10th Amendment is either, so let’s dig in.

About Those Amendments: First, there is some significance to the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. The first 10 amendments are known as the Bill of Rights. These were the set of personal liberties and states’ rights that the original states required before they would sign on to forming a union and submitting to the Constitution. These 10 amendments specifically grant individual and states’ rights and limit the power of the federal government.

The 10th: The 10th Amendment — despite it’s low profile — is the quintessential Republican amendment. If you are a fan of small government or prefer state government to federal government, this amendment is the one you can always fall back on.

Below is the text of the 10th Amendment:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The 10th Amendment means the federal government only has the powers it is granted in the Constitution. It cannot impose further powers or prohibitions on it than what is Constitutionally outlined. Any power not given to the federal government is reserved for the states or the people of the United States.

Are people talking about it?: While Hegseth was widely mocked on social media for saying people were discussing the 10th Amendment with him, chances are since he travels in Republican circles, they were. They just might not have been calling it the 10th Amendment.

If Hegseth was hearing form people concerned about government overreach and states’ rights, then he was in fact talking to people about the 10th Amendment.

Categories
Coronavirus

Are homeless people in your state being overlooked for coronavirus vaccinations?

Frank Galloway falls into the most vulnerable categories for COVID-19: He is 87, he is Black, and he is experiencing homelessness.

“It ain’t no joke,” Galloway said of the coronavirus, which has killed some of his friends in Greensboro, North Carolina. “I don’t mind taking something that will help my life to keep going.”

He’s waiting for a vaccine while staying in an emergency shelter. Although the state began vaccinating people age 65 and up in mid-January, Galloway, like many others without housing, doesn’t have access to the technology and transportation that people in many places need to get a shot.

Many homeless people have underlying medical conditions. They are more likely to be people of color, and many are older adults—all groups disproportionately at risk for serious harm from the virus. 

“If you look at the highest vulnerable population, it’s the homeless,” said Brooks Ann McKinney of Cone Health, a health care network that has provided regular coronavirus testing and medical care at the shelter where Galloway is staying. 

Yet at least 20 states don’t include people living in homeless shelters in their vaccine distribution plans, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy, a nonpartisan research organization with offices in Washington, D.C., and Portland, Maine. Few state plans even mention homeless people not in shelters.

And some states that did prioritize shelter residents in early plans changed tack, moving them further down the list.

Advocates for homeless people want states to put this group at the top of the vaccine distribution list. Prioritizing those experiencing homelessness would allow medical providers to bring vaccines directly to shelters, advocates say, creating a more efficient system that could inoculate more people, keep track of who has which shot and confront vaccine hesitancy. 

“There has been trust built with the shelters where we’ve been doing testing regularly,” said McKinney, director of vulnerable populations at Cone Health. “They’re more apt to take the vaccine because they trust the clinicians.”

Last week, the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, a Nashville, Tennessee-based membership organization for groups that provide health care to homeless people, sent a letter to governors and state and local health authorities urging them to make adults experiencing homelessness eligible for the vaccine and to begin targeted outreach.

Advocates for those experiencing homelessness are one of many groups petitioning state officials, though. That and the lagging vaccine supply put enormous pressure on state agencies.

When the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered guidance in December on vaccination priorities, it listed health care workers and long-term care residents at the top.

Separately, the agency issued interim guidance on Feb. 2 focusing on the logistics of vaccinating people experiencing homelessness. The guidance noted that some states have prioritized those residents, but it didn’t say that states ought to do so.

The CDC did not respond to a request for comment from Stateline on whether the February guidance was its first on homeless people. 

Hee Soun Jang, a University of North Texas associate professor who is studying care for homeless people during the pandemic, said the CDC was “silent on vaccinating homeless” until then and thinks the delayed guidance may have hindered states in prioritizing homeless people. “We waited so long to have any federal guidance for vaccinating the homeless population.” 

Changing Plans

Roughly half a million people are experiencing homelessness in the United States—two-thirds of whom are at emergency shelters or in transitional housing, according to a 2020 report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Little is known about how homeless people have been affected by the pandemic, aside from a patchwork of state and city research. 

Because of those knowledge gaps and the lack of federal guidelines, each state went its own way on where to place homeless people in the vaccine line. Researchers tracking states’ plans said they have seen the priorities change—but rarely in a way that benefits people experiencing homelessness. 

“We’ve seen a big wave of states moving populations around, moving elderly up, moving teachers and grocery store workers up,” said Ariella Levisohn, a research analyst with the National Academy for State Health Policy. “With individuals experiencing homelessness, there hasn’t been much of a pattern.”

In North Carolina, for example, an October distribution plan included people in homeless shelters in the first phase. But the current plan classifies homeless shelter staff as frontline essential workers, putting them in the state’s third group, and shifts people living in homeless shelters into group 4.

“We are further marginalizing an already marginalized population by moving them to a later category. That’s upsetting to me,” said Ryan Fehrman, director of Families Moving Forward, a short-term housing shelter for about 50 people in Durham. 

Fehrman also criticized the decision to place shelter staff before shelter residents. “To create a power disparity between folks providing a basic service and the folks receiving those services is completely unnecessary.”

Fehrman, along with almost 90 organizations and 300 individuals, sent a letter from the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness to the state’s secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mandy Cohen. They asked for people experiencing homelessness to be prioritized for vaccines.

The state’s current prioritization of homeless people aligns with the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, said North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Catie Armstrong in an email.

The state’s framework is “designed to save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19 by first protecting health care workers, people who are at the highest risk of being hospitalized or dying, and those at high risk of exposure to COVID-19.”

But the state’s decision doesn’t match with its generally good track record on homeless issues, said Trisha Ecklund, vulnerable population program coordinator at Blue Ridge Health Services in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

“They have made a lot of great decisions for the homeless, especially during the pandemic,” she said. “That’s why it’s so disappointing.”

Health and housing officials in Denver also don’t understand why Colorado moved people experiencing homelessness down the priority list. 

“It makes no sense that they would not be included early on,” said Bob McDonald, executive director of Denver’s Department of Public Health and Environment. “You can make an argument that it is very much like assisted living situations.”

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has asked Gov. Jared Polis, a fellow Democrat, for more discretion in vaccine distribution to allow the city to inoculate people experiencing homelessness. 

But during a news conference earlier this month, Polis said that “it would cost lives to divert vaccine from people that are in their 70s to younger, healthier people just because they happen to be homeless.” Polis’ office did not respond to Stateline’s requests for comment.

In the meantime, Denver officials are sending teams to shelters to vaccinate homeless people age 65 and older—even though it’s inefficient, McDonald said, as they turn younger people away. 

About 4,200 people are experiencing homelessness in the city and county of Denver, according to a 2020 survey from the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, an organization that coordinates services and housing for people experiencing homelessness.

“It’s not that many people,” said Britta Fisher, executive director of Denver’s Department of Housing Stability. 

Yet homeless people have been hospitalized at three times the rate of others who have tested positive for COVID-19, she said. “When you look at the numbers, it’s pretty compelling.

“We understand that it is very difficult to make decisions, as there is not enough vaccine,” Fisher said. “We are also persistent in our values around equity.”

Facing Vaccine Hesitancy

Even in places where the vaccine has been made available to homeless people of all ages, medical teams face logistical hurdles.

“It’s been a massive endeavor,” said Dr. Denise De Las Nueces, medical director for Boston Health Care for the Homeless, which provides health care to homeless people. Massachusetts included homeless shelters in the first round of its vaccine distribution. 

De Las Nueces’ team is working with about 40 shelters and as of early last week had vaccinated 1,076 people, or about 50% of eligible adults in shelters.

But many are hesitant to get the vaccine, she noted. During the first clinic in late January, the team vaccinated only about 90 people at a shelter with twice as many residents. De Las Nueces is hopeful the trend is changing with time: At one of their first clinics for second doses, a few dozen came looking for a first shot.

“There is still work to be done in terms of particularly supporting communities of color who are experiencing homelessness,” she said. “That’s not wholly unexpected, of course, because of all of the historical injustices, particularly against African American or Black communities in America.”

Her team is beginning a COVID-19 peer ambassador program for homeless people to encourage others to get vaccinated.

In Washington, D.C., city health officials are trying to overcome vaccine hesitancy by holding presentations at homeless shelters a few days before bringing vaccines. At these sessions, health experts answer questions and share stories like that of Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, an African American scientist who helped develop the Moderna vaccine. 

“Compounding the need to offer the vaccine was the need to recognize the history of exploitation that some of these folks would have experienced … regarding vaccines or medical environments,” said Dr. Anne Cardile of Unity Health Care, which is working with Washington, D.C.’s Department of Health and Human Services to distribute the vaccine to those experiencing homelessness.

By last week, over 1,000 people in D.C. shelters had been vaccinated, Cardile said. Each person was offered a waterproof wallet to hold their vaccine record card. The district is starting a round of second shots this week.

“It is deeply powerful to watch the investment in making sure that they are the first, or among the first, to get the vaccine,” Cardile said.

North Carolina advocates have seen the same hesitancy, said Helen Mangum, who previously experienced homelessness and is a board member of Durham’s Families Moving Forward.

“Of course, there’s the lack of trust in our community,” she said of Black and low-income people. “Are you really surprised by that when you’ve been treating us this way?”

But not being a priority on the vaccine list feels like another hit, Mangum said. “The coronavirus vaccine is another message to us that ‘We’ll get to you. You’re not that important.’”

Still, Mangum, who is in her 50s, plans to get the vaccine when she can.

Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts.