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Storm punishes swath of U.S. with snow, ice and freezing rain

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Denise Lavoie, The Associated Press


Published Saturday, January 12, 2019 5:36PM EST


Last Updated Sunday, January 13, 2019 11:35PM EST

A winter storm that contributed to at least five deaths in the Midwest pummeled the mid-Atlantic region for a second day Sunday, bringing with it an icy mix that knocked out power, cancelled flights and contributed to hundreds of car accidents.

Virginia State Police said the driver of a military surplus vehicle was killed late Saturday after he lost control on Interstate 81 because of slick road conditions.

Police said Ronald W. Harris, 73, of Gainesville, Georgia, died after his vehicle was struck by two tractor-trailers. The two tractor-trailer drivers were taken to a hospital for injuries that were not life-threatening. The state medical examiner determined Sunday that Harris’ death was storm-related, police said.

Virginia State Police said they responded to more than 300 traffic crashes and helped nearly 200 disabled vehicles in Virginia from midnight to late Sunday afternoon.

The storm knocked out power to nearly 200,000 people in Virginia and North Carolina at its height Sunday, according to PowerOutage.us.

In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency Sunday to help utility crews restore electricity more quickly after power lines fell because of freezing rain, ice and toppled trees. The state’s western mountains and foothills were hardest-hit along with the western Piedmont region and nearly 1,000 state transportation workers were called out to clear ice and snow.

The National Weather Service reported nearly a half-inch of ice in some sections of western North Carolina, leading to fallen trees and power lines but other areas of the state got mostly a cold rain or freezing precipitation.

Meanwhile, the storm caused headaches for travellers into and out of airports in the region, including more than 250 flight cancellations Sunday at the three main airports serving the nation’s capital. Washington’s Dulles International Airport tweeted that the Federal Aviation Administration had implemented a ground stop there on Sunday evening, impacting both inbound and outbound flights.

For air travellers, the Dulles airport authority subsequently tweeted tips for flying on a snow day, including frequently checking for airline flight changes and packing “patience, a good dose of snow humour & a packet of hot chocolate.”

By late Sunday afternoon, the Washington, D.C. metro area, northern Virginia and parts of Maryland had total snowfall accumulations ranging from five to eight inches (12-20 centimetres). Central Virginia, including Richmond, had much smaller accumulations — as little as one inch (2.5 centimetres)– but the snow was followed by hours of sleet and freezing rain.

Marc Chenard, a meteorologist with the Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, said parts of the region could expect snow to continue falling into Sunday evening.

“At this point, it is just going to head out to sea once it exits here this evening,” Chenard said.

Most public school systems in northern Virginia and Prince George’s County schools in suburban Maryland said classes would be cancelled Monday.

The storm also was affected parts of Maryland. In Baltimore, a man was fatally shot as he shovelled snow early Sunday morning. Police said a 43-year-old man was outside shovelling at 4:40 a.m. when an unidentified suspect shot him in the head and shoulder. The victim died at a hospital.

Meanwhile, Illinois was trying to dig out from under heavy snowfall in some areas.

Springfield’s State Journal-Register reports the state capital broke a 55-year record for daily snowfall on Saturday. It cited the National Weather Service as saying the 8.4 inches (21.3 centimetres) of snow that day in Springfield broke the previous record for a Jan. 12 in 1964 of 6.6 inches (16.7 centimetres). Some 11.5 inches (29 centimetres) of snow fell on Springfield over three days.

Among those killed in the Midwest during the storm was an Illinois state trooper struck by a car when he responded to a three-vehicle crash Saturday in suburban Chicago.

State Police Director Leo Schmitz told reporters that 34-year-old Christopher Lambert was headed home when he pulled over and got out of his squad car to respond to the accident. Schmitz said Lambert positioned his squad car to protect the other three cars and “took on the danger himself.”

For Kansas City Chiefs offensive guard Jeff Allen, there was a bright spot hen a Good Samaritan helped pull his vehicle out of the snow after he got stuck en route to Arrowhead Stadium for the divisional playoff game Saturday.

Allen said he made it on time for the Chiefs’ victory over the Indianapolis Colts because of the assistance. The man who helped Allen didn’t know he was a Chiefs player at the time.

Allen turned to Twitter to track down the Good Samaritan. When they connected Sunday morning, Allen thanked him and promised him tickets to next week’s AFC Championship game.

——

Associated Press writer Gary D. Robertson in Raleigh, North Carolina, contributed to this report.

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Federal Budget 2021: Ottawa adds $1B to broadband fund for rural, remote communities

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The federal government will add $1 billion to a fund for improving high-speed communications in rural and remote areas of Canada, bringing the total to $2.75 billion by 2026, the Liberals said Monday in their first full budget since the pandemic began last year.

The money is going to the Universal Broadband Fund, which is designed to support the installation of “backbone” infrastructure that connects underserved communities to high-speed internet.

It’s one of many government and private-sector initiatives that have gained urgency since the pandemic began, as Canadians became more dependent on internet service for applications ranging from e-learning to daily business operations.

Ottawa says the additional money will keep it on track to have high-speed broadband in 98 per cent of the country by 2026, and 100 per cent by 2030.

Money spent on high-speed communications will be good for a recovering economy, said Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, a non-partisan think-tank.

The latest data from Statistics Canada says there were about five million people working from home during the pandemic, up from about two million prior to that, Antunes said in an interview.

“That’s a quarter or so of the workforce,” he added. “And I think a fair number of those people are going to continue to work from home, at least in some part-time way.”

Improved connections to high-speed broadband and mobile communications will add to the productive capacity of the economy overall, especially as it reaches beyond Canada’s cities, Antunes said.

He said there’s been a “real issue” with economic growth outside major urban centres and the improved connectivity “is something that can help stimulate that.”

The Universal Broadband Fund was initially mentioned in the 2019 budget, though specifics were not available until last November’s fiscal update.

The $1-billion top-up to the broadband fund announced today is in addition to $1.75 billion promised to the fund by the federal government’s November fiscal update.

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COVID-19: What you need to know for April 19

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Provincewide

  • Per today’s government report, there are 4,447 new cases in Ontario, for a total of 421,442 since the pandemic began; 2,202 people are in hospital, 755 of them in intensive care, and 516 on ventilators. To date, 7,735 people have died.
  • According to data from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, there are 40 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 36 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 127 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 3,755 confirmed resident deaths and 11 confirmed staff deaths.
  • Per the government’s report on Ontario’s vaccination program, as of 7 p.m. yesterday, Ontario has administered 66,897 new doses of COVID-19 vaccines, for a total of 3,904,778 since December 2020. 3,212,768 people have received only one dose, and 346,005 people have received both doses.

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Federal budget 2021 highlights: Child care, recovery benefits, OAS increases – everything you need to know

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The federal government’s first budget in more than two years certainly looks the part: At 739 pages, it is a hefty document chock full of billions in new spending.

Those funds will be spread among a number of key groups – students, seniors, parents and small-business owners, to name a few – as Ottawa looks to bolster Canada’s recovery from COVID-19 but also plan for life beyond the pandemic.

To that end, the deficit is projected to hit $354.2-billion in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which just ended – better than expected about five months ago, given the economy’s resilience over the winter months. It is estimated to fall to $154.7-billion this fiscal year, before dropping further in the years to come as pandemic spending recedes from view.

Here are some of the highlights from Monday’s budget.

The budget outlines tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies for a national child-care program, a promise the Liberal Party has made in some form since the early 1990s. Child-care supports became a point of national debate during pandemic lockdowns as parents with young children struggled to juggle work and family responsibilities.

In total, the government proposes spending as much as $30-billion over the next five years, and $8.3-billion each year after that, to bring child-care fees down to a $10-a-day average by 2026. The proposal, which requires negotiation with the provinces and territories, would split subsidies evenly with those governments and targets a 50-per-cent reduction in average child-care fees by the end of 2022.

The federal program is largely modelled on Quebec’s subsidized child-care system, implemented in the 1990s in an effort to increase women’s access to the labour market. Since then, labour participation rates for women aged 25 to 54 in the province have grown to exceed the national average by four percentage points.

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