Crews rescue 2 from plane caught in power lines in Maryland
GAITHERSBURG, Md. (AP) — Two people were rescued early Monday more than six hours after their small plane crashed into live power lines, causing widespread outages in Montgomery County, Maryland.
Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein said the plane got stuck in the lines about 100 feet (30 meters) above the ground at around 5:40 p.m. Sunday. Responders secured it to the tower at 12:16 a.m. Monday, and the first occupant was removed from the plane at 12:25 a.m. The second occupant was out at 12:36 a.m.
Maryland State Police identified them as pilot Patrick Merkle, 65, of Washington, D.C., and passenger Janet Williams, 66, of Marrero, Louisiana. Both suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries and that hypothermia had set in while they waited to be pulled from the plane, Goldstein said.
The single-engine Mooney M20J hMad departed White Plains, New York, and crashed into a power line tower near Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersburg, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement. The FAA, National Transportation Safety Board and Maryland State Police are investigating.
Utility contractors had to disconnect the high-tension wires to make it safe for rescuers to stabilize the plane.
The utility Pepco had reported that about 120,000 customers were without power in Montgomery County, but most of them, outside of the crash site, had their electricity restored before the people were pulled from the plane.
The Montgomery County Public School system decided late Sunday night to close its schools and offices Monday due to the outage’s impact on safety and school operations. The closures extended to child care programs, the system tweeted Monday morning.
China virus protests hit Hong Kong after mainland rallies
HONG KONG (AP) — Students in Hong Kong chanted “oppose dictatorship” in a protest against China’s COVID rules Monday after demonstrators on the mainland issued an unprecedented call for President Xi Jinping to resign in the biggest show of opposition to the ruling Communist Party in decades.
Rallies against China’s unusually strict anti-virus measures spread to several cities over the weekend, and authorities eased some regulations, apparently as part of an attempt to quell that public anger. But the government showed no sign of backing down on its larger COVID strategy, and analysts expect authorities to quickly silence the dissent.
With police out in force on Monday, there was no word of protests in Beijing or Shanghai. But about 50 students sang at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and some lit candles in a show of support for those in mainland cities who demonstrated against restrictions that have confined millions of people to their homes. Hiding their faces to avoid official retaliation, the students chanted, “No PCR tests but freedom,” and “oppose dictatorship, don’t be slaves.”
The gathering and a similar one elsewhere in Hong Kong were the biggest protests there in more than a year under rules imposed to crush a pro-democracy movement in the territory, which is Chinese but has a separate legal system from the mainland.
“I’ve wanted to speak up for a long time, but I did not get the chance to,” said James Cai, a 29-year-old from Shanghai who attended a Hong Kong protest and held up a piece of white paper, a symbol of defiance against the ruling party’s pervasive censorship. ”“If people in the mainland can’t tolerate it anymore, then I cannot as well.”
It wasn’t clear how many people have been detained since the protests in China began Friday, sparked by anger over the deaths of 10 people in a fire. Some have questioned whether firefighters or victims trying to escape were blocked by locked doors or other anti-virus controls.
Without mentioning the protests, the criticism of Xi or the fire, some local authorities eased restrictions on Monday.
The city government of Beijing announced it would no longer set up gates to block access to apartment compounds where infections are found.
“Passages must remain clear for medical transportation, emergency escapes and rescues,” said a city official in charge of epidemic control, Wang Daguang, according to the official China News Service.
Guangzhou, a manufacturing and trade center that is the biggest hotspot in China’s latest wave of infections, announced some residents will no longer be required to undergo mass testing.
Urumqi, where the deadly fire occurred, and another city in the Xinjiang region in the northwest announced markets and other businesses in areas deemed at low risk of infection would reopen this week and public bus service would resume.
“Zero COVID,” which aims to isolate every infected person, has helped to keep China’s case numbers lower than those of the United States and other major countries. But tolerance for the measures has flagged as people in some areas have been confined at home for up to four months and say they lack reliable access to food and medical supplies.
In Hong Kong, protesters at Chinese University put up posters that said, “Do Not Fear. Do Not Forget. Do Not Forgive,” and sang including “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from the musical Les Miserables. Most hid their faces behind blank white sheets of paper.
“I want to show my support,” said a 24-year-old mainland student who would identify herself only as G for fear of retaliation. “I care about things that I couldn’t get to know in the past.”
University security guards videotaped the event but there was no sign of police.
At an event in Central, a business district, about four dozen protesters held up blank sheets of paper and flowers in what they said was mourning for people killed in the fire in Urumqi in China’s northwest and others who have died as a result of “zero COVID” policies.
Police cordoned off an area around protesters who stood in small, separate groups to avoid violating pandemic rules that bar gatherings of more than 12 people. Police took identity details of participants but there were no arrests.
Hong Kong has tightened security controls and rolled back Western-style civil liberties since China launched a campaign in 2019 to crush a pro-democracy movement. The territory has its own anti-virus strategy that is separate from the mainland.
On Monday, the number of new daily cases rose to more than 40,000, including more than 36,000 with no symptoms.
The ruling party newspaper People’s Daily called for its anti-virus strategy to be carried out effectively, indicating Xi’s government has no plans to change course.
“Facts have fully proved that each version of the prevention and control plan has withstood the test of practice,” a People’s Daily commentator wrote.
Protests have also occurred in Guangzhou near Hong Kong, Chengdu and Chongqing in the southwest and Nanjing in the east, according witnesses and videos on social media.
Most protesters have complained about excessive restrictions, but some turned their anger at Xi, China’s most powerful leader since at least the 1980s. In a video that was verified by The Associated Press, a crowd in Shanghai on Saturday chanted, “Xi Jinping! Step down! CCP! Step down!”
The British Broadcasting Corp. said one of its reporters was beaten, kicked, handcuffed and detained for several hours by Shanghai police but later released.
The BBC criticized what it said was Chinese authorities’ explanation that its reporter was detained to prevent him from contracting the coronavirus from the crowd. “We do not consider this a credible explanation,” the broadcaster said in a statement.
A Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Zhao Lijian, said the BBC reporter failed to identify himself and “didn’t voluntarily present” his press credential.
“Foreign journalists need to consciously follow Chinese laws and regulations,” Zhao said.
Swiss broadcaster RTS said its correspondent and a cameraman were detained while doing a live broadcast but released a few minutes later. A journalist for The Associated Press was detained but later released.
Hawaii’s Mauna Loa starts to erupt, sending ash nearby
HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, has started to erupt for the first time in nearly four decades, prompting volcanic ash and debris to fall nearby, authorities said Monday.
The eruption began late Sunday night in the summit caldera of the volcano on the Big Island, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Early Monday, it said lava flows were contained within the summit area and weren’t threatening nearby communities.
“However, lava flows in the summit region are visible from Kona. There is currently no indication of any migration of the eruption into a rift zone,” the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said in a statement. A rift zone is where the mountain is splitting apart, the rock is cracked and relatively weak and it’s easier for magma to emerge.
How long the volcano erupts and whether it could cause lava to flow to populated areas of the island is impossible to predict, said Miel Corbett, a USGS spokesperson.
“But I can tell you, we’re in constant communication right now with Hawaii Civil Defense, and they’re providing updates to community members,” she said.
Even though it noted there is no indication of lava exiting the summit, the civil defense agency said it has opened shelters in Kailua-Kona and Pahala because it has reports of of people self-evacuating along the South Kona coast.
“Multiple images have surfaced on social media indicating lava activity outside of the caldera. At this time, no lava migration into a rift zone has been confirmed,” according to a statement.
The USGS warned residents at risk from Mauna Loa lava flows should review their eruption preparations. Scientists had been on alert because of a recent spike in earthquakes at the summit of the volcano, which last erupted in 1984.
Portions of the Big Island were under an ashfall advisory issued by the National Weather Service in Honolulu, which said up to a quarter-inch (0.6 centimeters) of ash could accumulate in some areas.
Mauna Loa is one of five volcanoes that together make up the Big Island of Hawaii, which is the southernmost island in the Hawaiian archipelago.
Mauna Loa, rising 13,679 feet (4,169 meters) above sea level, is the much larger neighbor to Kilauea volcano, which erupted in a residential neighborhood and destroyed 700 homes in 2018. Some of its slopes are much steeper than Kilauea’s so when it erupts, its lava can flow much faster.
During a 1950 eruption, the mountain’s lava traveled 15 miles (24 kilometers) to the ocean in less than three hours.
Hong Kong asks Beijing to step in into row over UK lawyer
HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s leader said on Monday he will ask Beijing to rule whether to let foreign lawyers be involved in national security cases after the city’s top court allowed a prominent pro-democracy publisher to hire a British lawyer for his upcoming trial.
John Lee said the government would ask for a postponement of Jimmy Lai’s high-profile trial that was due to start Thursday. But he did not offer a timetable for the interpretation that could effectively preempt the court judgment.
“At present, there is no effective means to ensure that a counsel from overseas will not have conflict of interest because of his nationality. And there is also no means to ensure that he has not been coerced, compromised, or in any way controlled by foreign governments, associations or persons,” he said.
The move was targeting overseas counsels who do not have the general practice qualification to carry out legal service in Hong Kong, he added.
Lai, the founder of the now-defunct Apple Daily and one of the most prominent figures in the city’s pro-democracy movement, was arrested after Beijing imposed a tough n ational security law to crack down on dissent following widespread protests in 2019. He faces collusion charges and a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
While the city’s secretary for justice was appealing an earlier ruling that approved Lai to hire a veteran British lawyer at the top court, pro-Beijing politicians and newspapers also voiced objections over the last few days.
In a closely watched judgment Monday, the top court ruled that the secretary had raised “undefined and unsubstantiated issues said to involve national security” that were not mentioned or explored in the lower courts.
“No appropriate basis has been made out for the grant of leave to appeal,” the judges said.
Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to China in 1997, uses the same common law jurisdiction as the U.K. Apart from having overseas judges in the city’s courts, lawyers from other common law jurisdictions can work within the city’s legal system, especially when their expertise are needed for some cases.
The lawyer in Lai’s case was Timothy Owen, a London-based legal veteran who specializes in criminal and human rights law.
Owen, of Matrix Chambers, appeared in previous Hong Kong’s high-profile cases. He represented British banker Rurik Jutting, who was convicted for murdering two women, and a police officer who appealed his conviction for assaulting a pro-democracy activist during 2014 protests.
Last month, the lower court granted the approval for him to represent Lai, saying it was in the public interest to have an eminent overseas specialist like Owen involved at the trial. But the secretary of justice insisted on his objections despite other judges rejecting his bids to overturn that ruling. He suggested a blanket ban on overseas lawyers involved in national security cases unless under exceptional circumstances.
Lai is already serving a 20-month prison sentence for his role in unauthorized assemblies. He’s also expecting a sentencing over his fraud conviction next month.
His legal team earlier asked the United Nations to investigate his imprisonment and multiple criminal charges as “legal harassment” to punish him for speaking out.
The National Security Law criminalizes acts of succession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces. It has led to the arrests of many prominent democracy activists and damaged faith in the future of the international financial hub.
Walmart shooting claims teen, young woman, father, mother
CHESAPEAKE, Va. — A 16-year-old helping his family. A custodian and father of two. A mother with wedding plans. A happy-go-lucky guy. A longtime employee.
That’s how friends and family described some of the six people killed at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, when a manager opened fire with a handgun before an employee meeting Tuesday night.
Here are some details about those who were lost:
Randy Blevins, 70, of Chesapeake
Blevins started working for Walmart in the early 1990s after the five-and-dime he owned with his wife, Teresa, went under, his stepdaughter Cassandra Yeatts told The Associated Press.
“When Walmart came to town, they kind of drove their business out of business,” Yeatts said. “My mom contacted the manager of the Walmart at Sam’s Drive and said, ‘Hey, you put us out of business and my husband needs a job.’”
Blevins had an interview and got hired on the spot as an overnight stocker, a job that included unloading trucks, Yeatts said.
He liked the third shift because he had the days to himself. He attended Norfolk Admirals hockey games and watched professional wrestling and Washington Commanders football games on TV.
Blevins also took snapshots of people and places in nearby Isle of Wight County, according to a 1996 story in the Isle of Wight Citizen. The pictures were put on postcards and sold at a different five-and-dime that his brother managed.
Blevins never missed a day of work, his stepdaughter said.
“He never had any complaints about anyone that he worked with, and he enjoyed going into work,” Yeatts said.
Blevins leaves behind three stepdaughters. And although he and his wife Teresa Blevins divorced, they remained best friends, Yeatts said.
“Thanksgiving and Christmas were his favorite holidays,” she said.
Fernando “Jesus” Chavez-Barron, 16, of Chesapeake
Chavez-Barron was an honors student in the 11th grade who had just begun driving and had taken a part-time job to help out his family, according to friends and a GoFundMe page set up for the family. The page’s organizer, Tamara Nelson, confirmed by phone that the page was authentic, but she declined to comment further.
“An outstanding son and excellent big brother, he loved building with Legos,” the GoFundMe page states. “He will always be remembered as humble, loving, responsible and hardworking young man. His loss is felt, not only by his family, but by so many others in his community.”
Family friend Rosy Perez told The New York Times that the teen worked the overnight shift at Walmart to assist his family.
“He wanted to help a little bit,” Perez said. “He was a very good child.”
Kellie Pyle, 52, of Chesapeake
Pyle grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, and moved back to the Hampton Roads region from Kentucky after reconnecting with her high school sweetheart on Facebook.
She and Brian Baker planned to marry next year.
“I’ve never seen her this happy, except when she talked about her children,” said a cousin, William Pillar-Gibson.
“This was not just a new chapter for her — it was the best chapter,” Pillar-Gibson told the AP. “She was a grandmother. Her children were thriving. She was with the love of her life. She was back home.”
Pyle had two adult children in their 20s and a young granddaughter who was “the light of Kellie’s life,” her cousin said.
Pyle had been the caregiver for her parents when their health failed and for her brother when he had a stroke.
“She handled everything,” Pillar-Gibson said. “When something needed to be done, she did it. And she experienced a lot of loss.”
Recently, Pyle was extending her generosity and caregiving to the mother of her fiance, Gwendolyn Bowe Baker Spencer.
In a brief statement to the AP, Spencer said: “We love her … She was an awesome, kind individual — yes she was.”
Brian Pendleton, 38, of Chesapeake
Pendleton made sure to be punctual. Although his shift as a custodian started at 10:30 p.m., he was in the break room when the shooting started just after 10, according to his mother, Michelle Johnson.
“He always came to work early so he would be on time for work,” she told The Associated Press Wednesday. “He liked his coworkers.”
Pendleton had recently celebrated his 10-year anniversary working at the store.
His mother said he didn’t have any problems at work, except with a supervisor, Andre Bing, who was identified as the gunman.
“He just didn’t like my son,” Johnson said. “He would tell me that he (Bing) would give him a hard time.”
Pendleton was born with a congenital brain disorder and grew up in Chesapeake, his mother said.
“He called me yesterday before he was going to work,” Johnson said. “I always tell him to call me when gets off work.”
As she was getting ready for bed, Johnson got a call from a family friend telling her there was a shooting at the Walmart.
“Brian was a happy-go-lucky guy. Brian loved family. Brian loved friends. He loved to tell jokes,” his mother said. “We’re going to miss him.”
Lorenzo Gamble, 43, of Chesapeake
Gamble was a custodian on the overnight shift and had worked at Walmart for 15 years, The Washington Post reported.
His parents Linda and Alonzo Gamble said he loved spending time with his two sons.
“He just kept to himself and did his job,” Linda Gamble said. “He was the quiet one of the family.”
His mother said Gamble enjoyed going to his 19-year-old’s football games and cheering for the Washington Commanders NFL team.
She posted on Facebook that she’s having trouble saying goodbye.
“Missing my baby right now, life is not same without my son,” she wrote.
Tyneka Johnson, 22, of Portsmouth
Theodore Johnson, 41, told The New York Times that his cousin lived with her mother.
“She was young and wanted to make her own money,” he said.
When Johnson attended Western Branch High School, Casheba Cannon tutored the student with dreams of college and a supportive family, Cannon told The Washington Post.
“Education was in the forefront. Her family did whatever they had to do to make sure she got assistance,” Cannon said.
Johnson was willing to work to better herself, but she was also cheerful, helped younger students and “gelled” with everyone she encountered at Cannon’s Blessed Tutoring Services, she said. Johnson had a sense of style and love for music and dancing.
“She was that kid. When she came to tutoring, she was very well put together,” Cannon said. “Tyneka was a light in a dim room.”
A makeshift memorial to Johnson was placed in a grassy area outside the Walmart, with the words “Our Hearts are with you” and a basket of flowers.
The remembrance included a cluster of blue, white and gold balloons tied to a tree, alongside a stark yellow line of police tape.
Cyber Monday deals lure in consumers amid high inflation
NEW YORK — Days after flocking to stores on Black Friday, consumers are turning online for Cyber Monday to score more discounts on gifts and other items that have ballooned in price because of high inflation.
Cyber Monday is expected to remain the year’s biggest online shopping day and rake in up to $11.6 billion in sales, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks transactions at over 85 of the top 100 U.S. online stores. That forecast represents a jump from the $10.7 billion consumers spent last year.
Adobe’s numbers are not adjusted for inflation, but it says demand is growing even when inflation is factored in. Some analysts have said top line numbers will be boosted by higher prices and the amount of items consumers purchase could remain unchanged — or even fall — compared to prior years. Profit margins are also expected to be tight for retailers offering deeper discounts to attract budget-conscious consumers and clear out their bloated inventories.
Shoppers spent a record $9.12 billion online on Black Friday, up 2.3 percent from last year, according to Adobe. E-commerce activity continued to be strong over the weekend, with $9.55 billion in online sales.
Salesforce, which also tracks spending, said their estimates showed online sales in the U.S. hit $15 billion on Friday and $17.2 billion over the weekend, with an average discount rate of 30 percent on products. Electronics, active wear, toys and health and beauty items were among those that provided a big boost, the two groups said.
Meanwhile, consumers who feared leaving their homes and embraced e-commerce during the pandemic are heading back to physical stores in greater numbers this year as normalcy returns. The National Retail Federation said its recent survey showed a 3 percent uptick in the number of Black Friday shoppers planning to go to stores. It expects 63.9 million consumers to shop online during Cyber Monday, compared to 77 million last year.
CONSUMERS ARE SPENDING CAUTIOUSLY
Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks spending across all types of payments including cash and credit card, said that overall sales on Black Friday rose 12 percent from the year-ago. Sales at physical stores rose 12 percent, while online sales were up 14 percent.
RetailNext, which captures sales and traffic via sensors, reported that store traffic rose 7 percent on Black Friday, while sales at physical stores improved 0.1 percent from a year ago. However, spending per customer dropped nearly 7 percent as cautious shoppers did more browsing than buying. Another company that tracks store traffic — Sensormatic Solutions— said store traffic was up 2.9 percent on Black Friday compared to a year ago.
“Shoppers are being more thoughtful, but they are going to more than a few retailers to be able to make a determination of what they are going to buy this year,” said Brian Field, Sensormatic’s global leader of retail consulting and analytics.
Overall, online spending has remained resilient in the past few weeks as eager shoppers buy more items on credit and embrace “buy now, pay later” services that lack interest charges but carry late fees.
In the first three weeks of November, online sales were essentially flat compared with last year, according to Adobe. It said the modest uptick shows consumers have a strong appetite for holiday shopping amid uncertainty about the economy.
Still, some major retailers are feeling a shift. Target, Macy’s and Kohl’s said this month they’ve seen a slowdown in consumer spending in the past few weeks. The exception was Walmart, which reported higher sales in its third quarter and raised its earnings outlook.
“We’re seeing that inflation is starting to really hit the wallet and that consumers are starting to amass more debt at this point,” said Guru Hariharan, founder and CEO of retail e-commerce management firm CommerceIQ, adding there’s more pressure on consumers to purchase cheaper alternatives.
This year’s Cyber Monday also comes amid a wider e-commerce slowdown affecting online retailers that saw a boom in sales during most of the COVID-19 pandemic. Amazon, for example, raked in record revenue but much of the demand has waned as the worst of the pandemic eased and consumers felt more comfortable shopping in stores.
To deal with the change, the company has been scaling back its warehouse expansion plans and is cutting costs by axing some of its projects. It’s also following in the steps of other tech companies and implementing mass layoffs in its corporate ranks. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said the company will continue to cut jobs until early next year.
Shopify, another company which helps businesses set up e-commerce websites, laid off 10 percent of its staff this summer.
Digital Black Friday sales top projections despite inflation, report says
Deal-hunting Americans shrugged off sky-high inflation on Black Friday, spending in record-breaking numbers online even as brick-and-mortar stores enjoyed the fading of COVID-19 concerns.
Customers spent $14.42 billion between Thanksgiving and Black Friday — up from a combined $14.04 billion initially projected, according to Adobe Analytics.
Online holiday season shopping was projected to rack up $210 billion, up from last year’s $205 billion, which was itself a marked increase from 2020′s $188 billion, Adobe Analytics reported.
Still, the rise did not keep up with an annual inflation rate that was near 8% in October.
Of the $159 billion spent between Oct. 1 and Friday, more than 55% was spent on desktop and other devices, compared to the 45% spent on mobile purchases, according to Adobe.
Digital sales for electronics, toys and clothing have all declined from the start of October to Black Friday, with all three increasing and then dipping by early October, Adobe reported.
Toys suffered the sharpest decline over the past nearly two months.
Nintendo Switch, Roblox, Paw Patrol, video game “God of War Ragnarok” and Instapots were among this Thanksgiving’s most popular products, with Xbox Series X, Bluey, MacBooks and “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II” topping sales for Black Friday.
Risk of season’s first lowland snow in Seattle area
The Seattle area’s first snowfall of the season is expected this week, and travelers through mountain areas should expect hazardous conditions and take extra precautions.
The mountain areas in Snohomish and King counties are under winter storm warnings until 10 a.m. Monday.
There is a chance of rain and snow after 5 a.m. Monday in Seattle proper, but little or no accumulation is expected. Highs will struggle to get out of the 40s in Seattle on Monday, said Maddie Kristell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.
The risk for lowland snow grows from minor on Monday and Tuesday to moderate on Wednesday and Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
“It is the first lowland snow potential we have had in the season,” Kristell said.
With temperatures overnight Monday and Tuesday expected in the 20s in Snohomish County, cold weather shelters will be open at night and community libraries are open during the day for warming in both King and Snohomish counties. Overnight lows in the Seattle area were expected to be 28 degrees Monday and 34 on Tuesday, according to the Weather Service.
The mountain areas in Snohomish and King counties are under winter storm warnings until 10 a.m. Monday.
With heavier snow accumulation likely in the mountains this week, travelers are advised to take extra precautions. Heavy snow was expected on Snoqualmie Pass on Sunday night, and drivers were warned to expect slippery road conditions. Chains were required on all vehicles except those equipped with four-wheel drive. On Blewett Pass, traction tires were advised and oversized vehicles were prohibited. Traction tires were required Sunday evening on White Pass, with chains required on vehicles over 10,000 pounds. On Stevens Pass, chains were required on all vehicles except those equipped with all-wheel drive.
Cayuse and Chinook passes are closed for the season. The North Cascades Highway, state Route 20, is closed for the winter between mileposts 134 and 178 — that’s from Ross Dam Trailhead and Early Winters gate.
Drivers planning to cross the mountains this week would be wise to first check the state Department of Transportation website ( wsdot.com/travel/real-time/mountainpasses ) for an update on conditions.
The National Weather Service said light snow showers were possible Sunday night and into Monday morning along Interstate 5 north of Everett and U.S. 101 on the northern Olympic Peninsula. Drivers were advised slow down and leave extra room ahead of them.
High winds were expected in the north interior of the state and in the San Juan Islands on Monday.
Kristell said the Olympic Mountains will get a decent amount of snow, and higher elevations on the Olympic peninsula could get 2 to 4 inches. Hurricane Ridge Road, heading into Olympic National Park, is still open with all vehicles required to carry chains. However, the road may close in the event of severe weather. The Staircase Road is closed because of snow.
It’s possible another storm system will blow into the region at the end of the week, bringing another round of wintry weather to the lowlands, according to the weather service.
Kristell said that given the nature of predicting lowland snow, travelers and residents should stay tuned to the forecast.
“This is going to be a week where the forecast is going to change, and timing is going to change,” Kristell said.
Palmer: Holiday survival tips from 5 financial pros
For Ryan Decker, surviving the holiday shopping season is all about planning ahead. In fact, if he sees a gift for one of his two young sons in March, he’ll go ahead and buy it, instead of rushing through his shopping list in December.
“It very much eases the burden,” he says, making his December bills more manageable because he spreads holiday costs throughout the year.
Decker, a certified financial planner and director of the Center for Financial Literacy at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, says that without that kind of advance planning, the costs this time of year can quickly overwhelm budgets. “Inflation is eating away at our purchase power, so once you throw in the holiday season, it’s a very stressful time.”
Financial educators like Decker are often busy during the holiday shopping season, sharing tips with their audiences about how to avoid debt and save money while still being festive. We asked five of them how they personally navigate the season with their finances intact.
MAKE A LIST AND STICK TO IT
“I know I’m going to be setting a budget so I don’t suffer after the holidays,” says Christine Whelan, clinical professor of consumer science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She makes a list of those she needs to buy gifts for and assigns a spending cap for each person’s gift.
Part of that strategy means limiting purchases to what she can comfortably afford out of savings instead of turning to credit card debt, Whelan says. “One of the ways we can use our limited resources to maximize our happiness is to pay now, rather than get socked with a credit card bill in February, which undermines our financial and emotional well-being.”
GIVE (AND RECEIVE) MORE CREATIVE GIFTS
Jerry Graham, Atlanta-based co-founder of the website KindaFrugal.com, mentioned to his brother that he’d prefer a handmade gift this year. “He is so talented at art and woodworking, I told him I would appreciate a cutting board or something. A DIY gift is more memorable and comes from the heart,” he says. It can often save money, too, and Graham knows his brother is on a budget.
Similarly, Felipe Arevalo, community outreach coordinator for the San Diego Financial Literacy Center, collects family photos throughout the year, then, as soon as he sees a promo code pop up, creates a photo calendar for family members. “I got the idea from my wife’s uncle, but no one had done it in my family yet,” he says. Not only does it save money, but it also helps family members stay in touch and see how his sons, ages 4 and 9, are growing.
The DIY strategy also applies to kids. Says Whelan: “I’m encouraging my kids to give coupons for in-kind gifts instead of things. Kids can give a card for walking the dog or other chores, cooking dinner for the family, even if it’s just pasta or babysitting. It trains kids to think about other people rather than just buy their way out of a gift.”
THINK BEYOND THE HOLIDAY SEASON
The holiday season is the perfect time to make financial plans for the upcoming year, says Bruce McClary, spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “Right now, I’m putting together a rough outline of financial goals and priorities for 2023,” he says. Focusing on things like travel plans or savings goals helps put holiday expenses in perspective. “You can tune out a lot of the advertising and emails related to the sales,” he says, and instead zero in on what’s most important to you.
One of the biggest obstacles to achieving financial goals is debt, which is easy to accrue during the holiday season. In fact, the 2022 Holiday Shopping Report from NerdWallet found that almost one-third of last year’s holiday shoppers who used a credit card to buy gifts (31%) are still paying off their credit card balances.
Given the current economic climate and rising interest rates, McClary says, “It’s probably a better idea than ever to avoid relying on loans and lines of credit to get through the holiday season, and to be as resourceful as possible about how you spend the money you have.”
START SAVING IN JANUARY
Graham applies a similar plan-ahead approach as Decker, but with savings. “We put away money starting in January,” he says. He and his wife Sara estimate costs for the holiday season based on the previous year’s spending, then divide by 12 and set aside that amount in a dedicated savings account each month using automated transfers.
“By December, we have enough money to cover holiday spending, including decor, food and gifts,” he says. That’s been especially useful this year, as their incomes have fluctuated due to job changes. Tracking your expenses this year will let you begin this approach first thing in 2023.
NerdWallet: 2022 holiday shopping report
This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll on behalf of NerdWallet from Sept. 15-19, 2022, among 2,075 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 1,751 plan to purchase gifts this holiday season (2022 holiday shoppers). The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within +/- 2.8 percentage points using a 95% confidence level.
“Holiday shoppers” refers to Americans who plan on purchasing any gifts during the 2022 holiday season. “Holiday season” refers to the period between Sept. 15 and the end of 2022.
We used U.S. Census Bureau population estimates and survey responses to calculate the total number of Americans who plan to buy gifts this holiday season, as well as the total gift spending and the total gift spending charged to credit cards.
We used the most recent average annual percentage rate data from the Federal Reserve of St. Louis (18.43% as of August 2022) to calculate total credit card interest.
Kimberly Palmer is a personal finance expert at NerdWallet and author of “Smart Mom, Rich Mom.” Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @KimberlyPalmer.
Portland retailer Rains PDX closes permanently, cites break-ins and safety
The business's owner said it had been broken into more than a dozen times.