Cold Snap Tightens Death Grip on Europe

More deaths have been reported from the cold snap across Europe, which has already claimed more than 200 lives.

Ukraine continues to be hardest hit, with another nine deaths overnight. Officials say 131 have now died, most of them homeless people, and 1,800 people have been taken to hospital. Eight people died in Poland overnight, police say, bringing the toll to 53.

At least four have died in France since the Arctic spell began and 43 departments in France have been put on alert for “exceptional” weather conditions. The Italian capital Rome has seen its heaviest snowfall in more than 25 years, with runs on essential goods at supermarkets reported. The Italian national rail operator is facing class action lawsuits after hundreds of people were trapped in trains due to the weather, AFP news agency reports.


Three helicopters were being used over eastern Bosnia on Sunday to deliver food and pick up people who needed evacuation. A state of emergency is in force in the capital, Sarajevo, where snow has paralysed the city.

In neighbouring Serbia, 70,000 people remain cut off and 32 municipalities throughout the country have introduced emergency measures, according to senior emergency official Predrag Maric. The Netherlands marked temperatures of -21.8C in the town of Lelystad on Saturday, the lowest recorded in the country for 27 years.

Source: BBC News

Image: The Washington Post

Storm Dampens Thanksgiving

Two major storms in the Northeast and the Pacific Northwest are complicating matters on one of the busiest travel days of the year. At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have issued a joint intelligence bulletin saying terrorists could choose to strike during the holidays and everyone should stay vigilant.

CNN has obtained a copy of the bulletin which says law enforcement is “not aware of any credible threats to the Homeland specifically timed to coincide with the 2011 holiday season.” These sorts of bulletins have come out at holiday time in past years. But this is the first once since the death of Osama bin Laden.

Meanwhile, rain has prompted flood watches in parts of Pennsylvania; up to 8 inches of snow have fallen in central parts of Maine; showers are soaking northern Florida; and wind gusts of up to 98 mph have been reported along the Oregon coast, CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras said.

Flight delays were spreading Wednesday afternoon, with Newark International, LaGuardia, San Francisco International and Boston’s Logan International airports reporting problems. That’s bad news for those who are on the move for the annual November trek to see family and friends, feast on turkey and pumpkin pie, and rediscover the joys of their hometowns on Thanksgiving.

AAA projects that 42.5 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles during the Thanksgiving weekend, an increase of 4% from last year. Slightly fewer people are choosing to get to their destinations by plane. About 23.2 million travelers will fly over a 12-day period surrounding Turkey Day, a 2% drop from last year, according to a forecast by the Air Transport Association of America.

Unlike last year, when the National Opt-Out Day movement against airport body scanners threatened to snarl security lines across the country, air travelers are not facing the prospect of protest-induced delays. (The Opt-Out Day turned out to be a nonevent.)

The Transportation Security Administration says it has prepared its work force for a “smooth holiday travel experience for travelers.”

The busiest air travel days for the Thanksgiving holiday period are expected to be Sunday and Monday, the Air Transport Association of America said.

If you’re flying into or out of Los Angeles International, Chicago’s O’Hare International or Orlando International, brace yourself for lots of company. Those will be the nation’s busiest airports this Thanksgiving, based on flight bookings, according to Orbitz.com. (And in case you’re wondering, Mineta San Jose International in California and Kahului Airport in Maui, Hawaii, will be the least busy.)

No matter where you start your journey, flight attendants say it’s a week when they see lots of extra-grumpy passengers worried about flight delays and cancellations.

Flying with food or gifts? Check out the TSA’s guide to what you can and cannot bring through an airport security checkpoint. The agency reminds you not to wrap gifts you are taking on the plane because security officers may have to unwrap them if they need to take a closer look.

The TSA also offers tips on how to get through the security line faster, including packing coats and jackets in checked bags whenever possible and putting your shoes directly on the conveyor belt instead of a bin when they go through the X-ray machine.

Then, there are things you can’t control: Snow, fog or rain may mean you won’t fly on time or at all. To avoid being stuck at the airport, sign up for airline alerts and check your flights frequently online before you leave home. If your flight is canceled, get in line for assistance and try your airline by phone or online at the same time to get an edge over other fliers who are trying to rebook.

If you’re driving through an area that’s expecting wintry weather, AAA recommends that you keep at least half a tank of gas in your car at all times and pack a cell phone, plus blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication in case you’re stranded. Stay safe out there, and happy travels!

 

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