Death of Alnwick dad inspires son to attempt 76 Half Marathons in 12 months
Loving son Andrew Fletcher has vowed to run 76 Half Marathons in just 12 months in honour of his father who died of lung cancer.
Clive Fletcher passed away in September last year aged 75 and Andrew, a keen amateur runner, decided on the epic challenge both to commemorate his dad and raise cash for the Northumberland hospice that cared for him towards the end of his life.
He explained: “Although I have been a keen runner since 2018, he never had the opportunity to watch me run.
“He had wanted to attend the 40th Anniversary of the Great North Run in September to support me, however, he unfortunately passed away six days before the event. I ran the race in his memory.”
THE FIRST TIME I took a biology class, I sat inside a drab, windowless lab room in my Phoenix high school. The last time, this past November, I was on a boat in the Indian Ocean as conservation biologist Sol Milne tried to convince me not to worry about swimming beside sharks.
Just as the mercury began plummeting in Chicago, where I live now, I’d traveled 9,000 miles and expended every possible Marriott Bonvoy point and air mile to meet a friend at the 100-villa Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands for five days of sunshine and cerulean seas. What I hadn’t expected was a crash course in marine ecology. The resort, which opened last June on a man-made archipelago, is one of the hosts of the Ambassadors of the Environment program, developed by Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society and offered at a handful of Ritz-Carlton resorts. Activities vary by resort, with many geared to kids, but they all share an educational focus. At the Ritz-Carlton Maldives, the program includes complimentary lectures by Dr. Sol (as he’s called) about the sea life of the Indian Ocean, as well as outdoor excursions for additional cost. You can sign up for a snorkeling trip with Dr. Sol (for $150 a person) or a diving excursion with a naturalist and a “dive butler” (from about $130 a person). On some dive trips, guests strategically plant 3D-printed coral around the atoll in effort to seed a new reef.
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After attending two of Dr. Sol’s lively lectures in the dive center, I joined the biologist and a dozen other hotel guests on a half-day snorkeling excursion. Dr. Sol spent the hourlong boat ride over to the drop-off telling us about the devastating bleaching event that befell the Maldives’ reef in 2016. An unfortunate combination of rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification and a terrible El Niño year caused the coral to expel its algae, rendering those exoskeletons barren and white. Fish, lacking nutrients, had to find food elsewhere or perish. In 2019, the Maldives Coral Institute began a reef restoration project in some of the country’s protected marine areas. Dr. Sol told us that the efforts seem to be paying off and the reef is lumbering back to life.
I’ve always been intimidated by the ocean and more than a little afraid of what lurks beneath the surface. But when we finally donned our flippers and jumped off the boat, I was so busy seeking out all the creatures Dr. Sol had mentioned over the past few days that my initial dread dissipated. There went the grouper, the goon of the reef, who keeps the population under control. I spied a cleaner wrasse, one of the doctors of the sea, eliminating parasites from other fishes’ flesh. I cruised around the coral in search of mossy shades overtaking bare patches. I held my breath and dove down deep to look for sea cucumbers and sponges, who soak up marine toxins just as Chicago’s Waste Management picks up my urban trash. I even sought out black-tip sharks, who occupy the C-Suite of the reef, sacking the weak (by, you know, eating them). Sharks, I learned, have survived at least four major extinctions. They predate trees.
After decades of snorkeling reluctantly, I suddenly became hooked on it—not just to see more but to know more, which I now realize may be the real value of a learning vacation. Five days at a luxury resort may not be enough to ace AP Bio, but I can think of worse places to study. (Room rates from $1,500 a night)
Five-Star Field Trips
To take home more than a tan from a water-bound retreat, consider these new immersive programs offered by resorts and cruises.
Kokomo Island, Fiji
At this private island resort, encircled by the Great Astrolabe Reef, guests join marine biologists on snorkel trips and dives to help transplant live coral from seven nearby nurseries into a growing reef. They can also help with the resort’s mangrove reforestation project. From $1,995 a night, including all meals, a spa treatment and a scuba dive
Conrad Bora Bora Nui Resort, French Polynesia
With its thatch-roof over-water and hillside bungalows, Conrad Bora Bora Nui Resort is situated off the coast of Motu To’opua, a small islet near Bora Bora. The resort’s resident marine biologist, Alice Carpentier, conducts research on manta rays through the Manta Trust Program. Since June 2021, Ms. Carpentier has been taking guests of all ages on half-day excursions to witness resident mantas making pit stops at coral gardens around the island where fish “clean” them of parasites, as she shares details on each individual’s behavior, personality and potential.Room rates from $830 a night; excursion, from $150 a person
Amanyara, Turks & Caicos
In partnership with the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in Miami, this posh Caribbean resort recently launched a camp for kids ages 5 to 14. The Science Explorers and Environmental Keepers (SEEK) program focuses on coastal conservation and reef rescue and includes guided excursions like kayaking along the reef and through the mangroves searching for invasive species. Room rates from $3,100 a night; day camp from $95 a day per child
Ponant Cruises, Antarctica
The luxury hybrid electric polar ship Le Commandant Charcot launched in November, making voyages to the North Pole. Passengers can work with a team of scientists to collect data on water temperatures, salinity and health of sea life. Sixteen-day itineraries are slated to set sail July 8, July 23, Aug. 7 and Aug. 22. From $40,730 a person
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Veganuary 2022 – here is all you need to know to give it a go
Over half a million people have taken the pledge to go vegan this month, as the ninth annual Veganuary gets under way.
Walk down any supermarket aisle or high street, and it’s obvious that what was once a very niche diet is now firmly mainstream, no doubt helped by vegan celebrities such as F1 champion Lewis Hamilton and actor Benedict Cumberbatch.
Originally set up in York in 2014 at the kitchen table of its founders, animal rights campaigner Jane Land and entrepeneur Matthew Glover, the first Veganuary attracted just 3,300 supporters.
By the end of January 2022, Veganuary expects to have reached the milestone of two million participants worldwide since its launch and a YouGov poll of 2,079 UK adults for Veganuary found 4% planned to participate this year.
Environment Canada has issued a slew of weather alerts for British Columbia as coastal and interior communities brace for heavy snowfall and frigid temperatures continue to create dangerous conditions in central and northern areas of the province.
Winter storm warnings are in effect Wednesday for several regions including Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, the Central Coast, Howe Sound, the Sunshine Coast, the Okanagan Valley and the West Kootenay.
A low-pressure system is forecast to spread heavy snow across the South Coast starting Wednesday night, with up to 20 centimetres of snow predicted for Metro Vancouver by Thursday and up to 30 centimetres possible over Howe Sound and the Fraser Valley.
On Thursday, the snow will begin to transition to rain across Metro Vancouver as the system brings in milder air and temperatures begin to rise.
Environment Canada is recommending people only travel in Metro Vancouver for essential reasons until conditions improve as rapidly accumulating snow could make road conditions treacherous.
TransLink says crews are preparing for the storm by swapping out its 18 metre-long articulated buses for more agile 12-metre vehicles on steep routes such as up Burnaby Mountain and around the North Shore.
Spokesperson Tina Lovgreen advised transit users to pad their commutes with extra time and check TransLink’s website and Twitter for the latest route conditions.
❄️ WINTER WARNING ❄️<br><br>With winter weather in the forecast, as conditions change, so should your driving. Speed limits are maximums in ideal conditions. Reduce speed and leave more following distance. <br><br>Please drive to conditions. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ShiftIntoWinter?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#ShiftIntoWinter</a> <a href=”https://t.co/FIbFfdVumS”>pic.twitter.com/FIbFfdVumS</a>
Travellers can also expect up to 25 centimetres of snow across most of Vancouver Island before Thursday morning. The northern tip and Haida Gwaii could see a possible 30 centimetres and, along with the central and north coasts, high winds.
Snow on the Island is expected to turn to freezing rain early Thursday. During this transition, there is a risk of freezing rain for central and eastern Vancouver Island, as well as the Malahat Highway.
Extreme cold continues
The federal weather agency has also placed many central and northern communities under extreme cold warnings, with temperatures expected to dip below -40 C in the Peace River area, the Bulkley Valley, Cassiar Mountains, the Chilcotin, Fort Nelson and Prince George.
It says a very cold air mass is hovering over northeastern B.C. and will remain in place for the rest of the week.
For the Peace River region, there will be minimal relief from the cold during the daylight hours due to persistent winds.
At the most northern point of the province, around Dease Lake, wind chill values could drop to near or below -45 C, especially during the morning and overnight hours.
There are also extreme cold warnings for southeast B.C. In the Elk Valley, it will feel like -35 C with the wind chill Wednesday afternoon, Environment Canada said.
“Extreme cold puts everyone at risk,” it warned in a statement.
The agency is reminding people to cover up if they need to go outside, as frostbite can develop within minutes.
A No Travel Advisory has been issued for all of North Dakota’s highways except for the far southwestern portion of the state, where there are still roadways that are covered with snow, or patches of snow. Blowing snow is causing some poor visibility coupled with the issues on the roadways.
I-94 is currently closed from Bismarck to Fargo in both directions, and I-29 is closed from Fargo to South Dakota.
Experts urge to stay home unless absolutely necessary. If traveling, ensure to have a winter survival kit in the vehicle, as there will be some dangerous wind chills that are behind this snow. Wind chills at times can dip to 35 below zero at some points.
We will continue to keep you updated as more advisories come out.
FARGO — A travel alert has been issued for most of central North Dakota, including a large portion of Interstate 94.
The North Dakota Department of Transportation issued the alert at 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 26, due to snow and blowing snow along roads creating reduced visibility and snow covered roads.
The travel alert includes the following counties: Cass, Barnes, Bottineau, Burke, Burleigh, Dickey, Divide, Emmons, Grant, Kidder, LaMoure, Logan, McHenry, McIntosh, McKenzie, McLean, Morton, Mountrail, Oliver, Ransom, Renville, Richland, Sargent, Sheridan, Sioux, Stutsman, Ward, Wells and Williams.
In the Fargo area, the North Dakota Highway Patrol was responding to an accident near Interstate 29 and 19th Avenue North as well as crashes along I-94 in Fargo. Additional information about the crashes was not available but NDDOT said motorists should expect reduced speeds in those areas.
A large winter weather system is expected to move across North Dakota Sunday. Snow is expected to move into the area this afternoon and continue overnight with winds picking up to gust over 30 mph in some areas.
High winds along with the recent snowfall can create zero visibility at times. Regions of North Dakota could receive 5 to 8 inches of snow, while some may see as much as a foot of snow by Monday, Dec. 27.
Across the Intermountain West, “travel will remain dangerous and is discouraged, especially along mountain passes where long duration closures are likely. Dangerous avalanches are also likely in the Sierra Nevada, Washington Cascades, Northern Rockies, and Wasatch,” the Weather Prediction Center said Saturday.
Bitter cold in the coming days will impact states from Montana to Michigan.
“Dangerously cold wind chills. Wind chills as low as 55 below zero,” the National Weather Service office in Great Falls, Montana, said Sunday in an update. “The dangerously cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 5 minutes.” The warning remains in effect until Monday afternoon.
Meantime, unseasonable warmth will continue to toast the South as wildfire risk stretches across the central Plains.
Avalanche warnings in 6 Western states
All this snow may be a ski lover’s dream, but it also covers roads and reduces visibility. Avalanche warnings were in effect Sunday for portions of Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Colorado and California as recent heavy snowfall and wind have made for widespread areas of unstable snow.
“Avalanches may run long distances and can run into lower angle terrain typically thought of as safe,” the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center warned Sunday.
Large snow and rain systems have moved through Western states in the past few weeks, resulting in impressively high snowpack for California. The Golden State by Saturday had recorded 130% of its normal snowpack for that date; it had been at only 18% on December 1.
And more moisture is on the way for much of the West over the next several days. New snowfall will be measured in feet across the Sierras, Cascades and Rocky Mountains. A band of heavier snow has setup in the Seattle metro area Sunday, with snow accumulations of 4 to 6 inches expected, with locally higher total possible.
Heavy rainfall is expected in lower elevations, possibly leading to localized flash flooding in places where the ground is saturated. Las Vegas, for example, has picked up 2 inches of rain since Wednesday — four times its December average. Rain is due to return there Monday, potentially mixing in with some snow on Tuesday.
More rain also is forecast for parts of the West Coast that saw heavy rain the past 24 hours. That includes areas of Santa Barbara County, California, and other northwestern Los Angeles suburbs, which just picked up over an inch of rain. A weather gauge near the University of Southern California campus reported nearly a 10th of an inch in just 2 minutes overnight Saturday, according to the NWS office in Los Angeles.
Frigid conditions for the Midwest
Snow will fall Sunday across the Upper Midwest, with accumulations of over a foot possible from the Dakotas through northern Michigan. Winter storm alerts have been issued for eastern North Dakota, northern Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin.
“Accumulating snow, along with potential drifting will make some roads nearly impossible to traverse,” the weather service office in Grand Forks, North Dakota, said Sunday. “As we head into Monday, blowing snow becomes more of an impact, with reduced visibility likely.”
As this system sweeps over the Great Lakes, lake-effect snow enhancements are certain as most of the lakes remain ice-free. Heavy lake-effect snow coupled with winds gusting to 40 mph will lead to near-blizzard conditions. Blizzard warnings could be issued, according to weather service in Duluth, Minnesota.
“Temperatures outside in the Northern Plains will be frightful this week,” the prediction center said Sunday in a tweet. “A large area will drop below 0F with some areas falling to -30F. Wind will make it feel even colder. Very limited exposure — if any — outside would be ideal.”
Even after this system moves through, the cold temperatures don’t let up.
Morning lows are forecast to be sub-zero across portions of Montana and North Dakota, with daytime highs Sunday struggling to get out of the single digits. By Monday morning, lows are forecast to be bitterly cold, potentially as cold as below 15 to below 25, and wind chills will be even colder.
Fargo, North Dakota, goes from a high of 25 degrees on Monday to a high of only 1 degree on Tuesday. Denver sees a similar drop, from 48 degrees Monday to 34 degrees Tuesday.
Warmth continues further south, as does fire threat
Remarkably warm temperatures remain anchored over the southern US and will continue into the first half of the week. Over 250 total daily record warm lows and highs are expected to be broken in the next few days.
Temperature departures today will be warmest in the southern Plains, with highs in the 70s and 80s — 25 to 40 degrees above normal.
A “critical risk” of fire weather — level 2 out of 3 — is in effect across the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles and in eastern Colorado and western Kansas owing to the unusually warm temperatures, low humidity levels and windy conditions.
Sustained winds of 30 to 50 mph with gusts of 60 to 80 mph could lead to blowing dust and difficult travel conditions across these regions Sunday. High wind warnings and red flag warnings are in place.
Dallas Love Field Airport is seeing 95% of the traveler traffic they had during the holiday season two years ago in 2019, according to Chris Perry, the airport’s communication manager. Dallas-Fort Worth Airport is anticipating similar travel rates.
Perry said the airport is doing its part by taking precautions to sanitize and prevent the spread of viruses.
“Enhanced cleaning of those high-touch areas, ensuring that you know everything looks good that once someone if you sit down and eat at the concessions village that that table is cleaned immediately once you’re done,” Perry said.
High peak travel occurs two days before and two days after Christmas, so he advises getting to the airport 90 minutes before boarding in order to make sure travelers can make it through security and to their gate as comfortably as possible.
AAA predicted a heavy increase in holiday travel to levels not seen in 2020, with the emergence of a COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots.
“Americans who canceled their vacations in 2020 want to gather with family and friends for the holidays this year, although they will still be mindful of the pandemic and the new omicron variant,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel in a news release. “With vaccines widely available, conditions are much different and many people feel a greater level of comfort with travel.”
Airlines are reiterating that travel demand is “very strong”.
“We know there is tremendous pent-up demand for air travel,” said American Airlines representative Matt Miller.
“Domestically, demand is very strong and has been for a while now. We have seen strong demand over the holidays,” Miller added. “Internationally, when travel restrictions and requirements are put into place – quarantines, new testing rules, etc. – it has a dampening effect on demand and we have seen that in some places.”
Airlines and the regional airports remind passengers that the federal mask mandate is still in place, which means travelers must wear a mask while in the airport and aboard the airplane.
Got a tip? Email Haya Panjwani at [email protected] Follow Haya on Twitter @hayapanjw