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More Than 950,000 Households Without Power After Winter Storm

A powerful winter storm is sweeping across the United States this week, pummeling areas from Southern California to the Northeast with bitter cold and snowstorms. As of Thursday morning, around 990,000 households across the country were without power, and more than 1,700 flights have been canceled.

On Wednesday, the storm system unleashed powerful winds, heavy snow, freezing rain and frigid temperatures onto much of the Midwest, damaging powerlines and leaving hundreds of thousands in the dark.

The National Weather Service in Los Angeles issued a winter storm warning for the mountains of Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties until early Friday. A rare blizzard warning is in effect for the same areas from Friday through Saturday, cautioning people of wind gusts of up to 80 mph, near zero visibility and heavy snow.

It has been decades since the Los Angeles National Weather Service office issued a blizzard warning, with the last one being issued in 1989. Forecasters predict up to 7 feet of snow in areas more than 6,000 feet above sea level and 1-4 inches in elevations less than 2,500 feet. Areas along the coast and valleys could see a few inches of rain.

The Los Angeles Weather Service tweeted that the growing storm was “cold and dangerous” earlier this week.

“Now is the time to prepare for a COLD AND DANGEROUS winter storm expected for much of the week. Several FEET of snow is expected in the mountains with a few inches possible as low as 1000 feet. Gusty and potentially damaging winds are also expected.”

As of Thursday morning, the forecast remains the same.

“We are still on track for our DANGEROUS winter storm. Expect blizzard conditions in the mountains with FEET of snowfall. A few inches of rain are expected in lower elevations. Be weather ready!”

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Andrew Rorke, a senior forecaster for the Los Angeles National Weather Service, said the storm would be “a snowmaker of the likes we have not seen for many years.”

David Sweet, a meteorologist at National Weather Service’s Oxnard office, said that between late Thursday and early Saturday, the area was “looking at a storm delivering more snow than any other storm in recent decades.” The “cold core” of the storm will center in on Los Angeles on Saturday.

“It’s going to be a wild and woolly kind of day — the lightning, the thunder, the hail, the graupel. No one is going to be spared.”

More than 41,000 people were without power on Thursday morning across the state. The powerful winds have already downed trees and damaged roofs.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services advised Californians on how to prepare for the growing storm. Instructions include preparing a go-bag containing important documents, cash, medications, food, water, clothing and pet supplies. The office also advised people not to use a gas stove or oven to heat their homes.

On Wednesday, meteorologists in the Midwest reported that heavy snow and strong winds originating in the Northern Rockies were making their way east across the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest. Blizzard warnings were in place for people living near the Twin Cities and across large portions of Minnesota and the Dakotas.

Hundreds of schools canceled classes on Thursday in Minneapolis. In Michigan, Grand Rapid Public Schools canceled class for the second day.

By Thursday morning, 900,000 households were without power across Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, with 772,000 of those outages being in Michigan.

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The National Weather Service Twin Cities tweeted that the storm was starting to wind down, with most nearby areas receiving about a foot of snow.

“Thankfully, this storm didn’t produce the amounts it had the potential to, but it still produced a lot, and combined with the windy conditions it is simply not safe to travel right now. Many roads remain completely snow-covered and in some cases closed. Stay safe out there!”

Parts of the Northeast also experienced snowstorms and flat ice accumulation this week. A winter watch is in effect for parts of Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.

Snow totaling up to a foot is likely in areas of high elevation like the Adirondacks and the Green and White Mountains. Lower elevation areas, like upstate New York and central New England, will receive up to 4 inches.

Governor Kathy Hochul issued a statement cautioning, “New Yorkers in impacted regions should take action now to prepare for the incoming snow and ice, as power outages and hazardous travel are a concern this week.”

As of Thursday morning, 22,000 households across New York do not have power.

Rising Sea Level

Rising Sea Levels Pose Greater Threat to Cities Than Previously Thought

Scientists have known for some time that global warming will lead to the melting of the ice caps, and in turn the rising of sea levels, threatening coastal cities. But scientists have disagreed over the timing and the extent of the impact of rising sea levels. New research, however, suggests that three times more people than previously thought could be affected by rising sea levels by 2050. The research was conducted by Climate Central, which is based in New Jersey, and was published in Nature Communications.

The new research, which uses advanced techniques based on satellite readings of land elevation, shows that previous predictions about the scope of rising sea levels were too optimistic. According to the new research, 150 million people currently live in areas that by 2050 will be below the high-tide line. Southern Vietnam, for instance, is at risk of disappearing almost entirely. Ho Chi Minh City, the nation’s economic center, could collapse.

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Another country predicted to be strongly impacted by rising sea levels is Thailand, where the city of Bangkok is expected to be all but underwater in 2050. More than 10 percent of Thai residents live on land that will experience inundation in 2050, as do a quarter of Vietnamese residents, totaling more than 20 million people in those two countries alone.

Rising sea levels are expected to affect even those people who do not live in areas prone to flooding, as inundation of economic centers will have a drastic impact on the places that people work and live. Many of the world’s cities developed on coasts, putting them at particular risk for the effects of rising sea levels. Shanghai, for instance, is under direct threat of being consumed by water, as is much of the surrounding area. Mumbai, India’s financial capital and one of the world’s largest cities, is at high risk, as is the ancient city of Alexandria.

Also at risk are places where few people live, but have great historical significance, as they contain artifacts created by humans who lived centuries ago.

While the reality of rising sea levels is all but confirmed, there are measures that cities can take to combat the effects of climate change. Already, 110 million people live in places below the high tide line, as seawalls and other barriers prevent flooding. In order to combat this particular threat of climate change, many of the world’s cities previously unaffected by flooding will have to invest in technologies like seawalls in order to survive the end of the 21st century. As these massive infrastructure projects can be costly and take a long time to complete, particularly vulnerable cities would be wise to make such investments as soon as possible.

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That being said, protective measures can only go so far and are prone to human error, as infamously occurred in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Also at risk are places where few people live, but have great historical significance, as they contain artifacts created by humans who lived centuries ago. Unfortunately, these places are the least likely to be shielded by the effects of rising sea levels over the rest of this century, as the cost of doing so is great and offers little economic return.

Rising sea levels, of course, are not the only effects of climate change. Another major environmental consideration for cities as time progresses is the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, which pose a threat to both infrastructure and human life. Already, these effects are felt in the form of unprecedented, raging wildfires in California, which many experts believe to be exacerbated by the effects of climate change. Additionally, climate change has increased the intensity of hurricanes and other storms, as in the case of Hurricane Dorian, which devastated the Bahamas. While the reality of anthropogenic climate change is not in dispute among reputable scientists, ongoing research continues to reveal the various ways in which climate change affects and will continue to affect human life, oftentimes revealing that the impact will be more severe than previously thought.