China facing global isolation as virus toll rises

By David Stanway and Winni Zhou

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China faced mounting isolation in the face of increasing international travel curbs and flight suspensions on Saturday, as the death toll from a spreading coronavirus outbreak rose to 259.

The epidemic has led to mass evacuations of foreign citizens as world airlines halt flights, and risks exacerbating a slowdown in growth in the world’s second-largest economy.

China’s National Health Commission said there were 2,102 new confirmed infections in China as of Friday, bringing the total to 11,791. Around two dozen other countries have reported more than 130 cases.

All of the reported deaths from the virus have been in China.

The Russian military was to start evacuating Russian citizens from China on Monday and Tuesday, Interfax and TASS news agencies reported. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying the evacuations would be from regions that had been most affected by the outbreak.

Russia, which has already restricted direct flights with its biggest trading partner, also said it was suspending visa-free travel for Chinese visitors and halting work visas.

Most international cases have been in people who had recently traveled to or were visiting from Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Hubei has been under a virtual quarantine for the last week, with roads sealed off and public transport shut down. Elsewhere, Chinese authorities placed growing restrictions on travel and business.

In Beijing, counters were set up at the entrances of housing estates, where volunteers wearing red arm bands and masks noted details of residents coming back from their hometowns after the Lunar New Year holiday.

“As long as I am properly protected and don’t go to crowded places, I don’t feel scared at all about my hometown or Beijing,” said a 58-year-old migrant worker surnamed Sun.

Others were more worried.

“There will be a huge number of people returning to the city. I think it will put Beijing at risk of more infections,” said Zhang Chunlei, 45, another returning migrant worker.

In Hubei, the provincial government extended the holiday break to Feb. 13 in a bid to contain the outbreak, the Hubei Daily reported.

The World Health Organization, which this week declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, has said global trade and travel restrictions are not needed.

But Singapore and the United States announced measures on Friday to ban foreign nationals who have recently been in China from entering their territories. Australia followed suit on Saturday.

“We’re in fact operating with an abundance of caution in these circumstances so Australians can go about their daily lives with confidence,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Sydney.

The Chinese data would suggest the flu-like virus is less deadly than the 2002-03 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people of the some 8,000 it infected, although such numbers can evolve rapidly.


The list of international airlines suspending all or some flights to China is growing.

The latest were Qantas Airways Ltd and Air New Zealand, who said travel bans forced them to suspend their direct flights to China from Feb. 9. All three major U.S. airlines said on Friday they would cancel flights to mainland China.

The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific banned travel to China for all service members and civilian personnel under his authority and ordered those now in China to leave immediately, officials said.

U.S. health officials on Saturday confirmed an eighth case of the virus, a person in Massachusetts who recently returned from Hubei province.

Many nations have sent charter flights to repatriate citizens from China and then place them in isolation for around two weeks, believed to be the incubation period of the virus.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn called for calm and warned against hysteria as more than 100 Germans and family members landed in Frankfurt, none showing any symptoms of the virus. As of Saturday evening Germany had eight confirmed cases.

Britain, which has had two confirmed cases, said it was withdrawing some staff from its embassy and consulates in China.

Many of the private clinics catering to foreigners in China have started to turn away people with fevers.

“I don’t want to go to the local hospital with a sore throat only to catch something else,” said Czech national Veronika Krubner in Tianjin.


Infections have jumped in two cities flanking Wuhan, where the new virus is believed to have originated, raising concerns that new hot spots are emerging despite strict transport restrictions.

In Huanggang, authorities asked households to designate one individual who can leave the home, a local newspaper said. The mayor of the city of about 7.5 million people said there could be a significant rise in cases this weekend.

The northern city of Tianjin, home to some 15 million, suspended all schools and businesses until further notice.

Efforts to contain the virus risk slowing economic growth in China. The virus impact prompted Goldman Sachs to cut its estimate for first-quarter growth to 4% from 5.6%.

China’s central bank said the impact was temporary and economic fundamentals remained sound, but that it would increase credit support, lowering lending costs for affected companies.

Apple Inc said on Saturday it would close all of its official stores and corporate offices in China until Feb. 9, the latest of dozens of major companies, including IKEA and Walmart Inc, to restrict travel and operations due to the outbreak.

For a graphic comparing this with previous coronavirus outbreaks, see

(Reporting by Winni Zhou, Brenda Goh and David Stanway in Shanghai, Judy Hua, Se Young Lee, Yilei Sun and Gabriel Crossley in Beijing, Scott Murdoch in Hong Kong, Joori Roh in Seoul, Nick Mulveney in Melbourne, Chris Helgren in Toronto, and Vera Eckert in Frankfurt; Writing by Nick Macfie and Rosalba O’Brien; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Frances Kerry and Bill Berkrot)

New York protesters camp out at Goldman Sachs to oppose Trump

Protesters in NYC

By Elizabeth Dilts

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Dozens of protesters gathered outside of Goldman Sachs Group Inc headquarters on Tuesday to rally against President-elect Donald Trump’s picking several former executives of the Wall Street bank for top jobs in his administration.

Some of the 50 or so protesters wore swamp-monster masks in reference to Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp” that he said Washington has become and get rid of special interests. About 20 of them brought sleeping bags, intending to camp outside 200 West Street until Trump’s inauguration on Friday.

Goldman Sachs security guards sent employees and guests to entrances on the north side of the building on the rainy evening as protesters unrolled green sleeping bags on the southwest corner.

In an emailed statement, Goldman Sachs spokeswoman Tiffany Galvin said the bank respects “every individual’s rights to assembly and free speech.”

She declined to comment on the protesters’ objections to Trump’s nominations of ex-Goldman employees including Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Treasury Department. Others include Gary Cohn, who had been chief operating officer before becoming Trump’s economic adviser, and Dina Powell, who left her position as Goldman’s head of philanthropic investing to do the same.

Goldman Sachs had long been viewed as Wall Street’s most prestigious and profitable bank with so many executives leaving for high-profile government positions it earned the nickname “Government Sachs.” But in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Goldman instead found itself blamed by politicians and activists for profiting from the implosion of the mortgage market.

In response, the bank embarked on a public relations campaign to clean up its image and launched initiatives to help small businesses, prisoners and female entrepreneurs. But the string of Trump appointments has renewed some of public contempt it received during the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011. (

Nelini Stamp, 29, an organizer with a group called Working Families, said she also participated in that movement and Trump’s appointments drove her to come back.

“We’re here to make sure that people realize that Goldman Sachs is running our government,” Stamp said.

Holding a sign with the image of a swamp monster biting down on a gold bar emblazoned with #GovernmentSachs and “foreclosures,” Ethan Cantor, 25, said it was his first time at a protest.

The New Jersey native said Trump’s embrace of Goldman Sachs contradicted criticism the president-elect had leveled against Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton for speaking fees she received from the bank.

“He used Goldman as a dig against Hillary,” said Cantor, who said he reluctantly voted for Democratic candidates in the last election. “One good thing about (Trump’s) campaign was that it was populist. Now he’s lying to his own voters.”

(Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts; Editing by Lauren Tara LaCapra and Cynthia Osterman)

More than 170,000 without power after New England snowstorm

More than 170,000 homes and businesses were without power on Friday afternoon after a winter storm brought more than a foot of snow to parts of southern New England.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency reported 99,439 customers were without power, while Eversource indicated 48,149 of its Connecticut customers were experiencing outages. National Grid said the lights were off for 22,585 of its customers in Rhode Island.

The outages came after a winter storm dumped double-digit snowfall totals in all three states, according to the National Weather Service. That included 13 inches near Stafford Springs, Connecticut, 12.5 inches near Worcester, Massachusetts, and a foot in Burrillville, Rhode Island.

The Weather Channel is calling the storm Winter Storm Lexi.

Selected cities in New York, New Hampshire and Maine had received more than 7 inches of snow as of 3 p.m. local time, according to the National Weather Service, and counties in Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts were still under winter storm warnings at 4:30.

In a statement, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy said he was receiving updates from local utility companies and “remained concerned” about the power outages. Temperatures were expected to dip into the teens and 20s overnight, according to the National Weather Service.

“They are working to restore power to those who have lost it and continue to deploy crews to alleviate the situation,” Malloy said in his statement, referring to the utility companies. “However, we urge patience – the situation may take time to resolve.”

The storm also disrupted travel in the region.

More than 200 flights to or from Boston Logan International Airport had been cancelled, according to flight monitoring website, and another 213 were delayed. There were more than 300 cancellations and 300 delays at LaGuardia Airport, FlightAware reported.

The Connecticut State Police tweeted it had responded to 341 crashes and a portion of Interstate 84 was temporarily closed. It encouraged drivers to stay off the road if possible.

Tornadoes reported, flood warnings issued as powerful storm continues east

The powerful storm that shut down major highways and knocked out power to thousands of people across the United States continued to make its presence felt on Wednesday morning.

Portions of northern Wisconsin and Michigan remained under winter storm warnings and various flooding and flash flooding watches and warnings were issued in the mid-Atlantic and South as a storm that brought heavy snow and rain, high winds and tornadoes moved east.

According to the National Weather Service, double-digit snow totals have been recorded in 14 states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming — since Saturday, while wind gusts have surpassed 50 mph in eight states in the southwest, Rocky Mountains and Great Plains.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center received 15 reports of tornadoes in Alabama and Mississippi late Tuesday and early Wednesday. It’s possible that some of those are referring to the same tornado, as they stemmed from just six counties.

The accounts indicated that roofs were blown off houses in Beaverton, Alabama, and near Collinsville, Mississippi. Other reports said twisters toppled trees and damaged buildings.

Alabama Power said about 14,000 of its customers were without power early Wednesday morning, though was down to 6,400 a few hours later. Georgia Power reported about 1,700 customers near Atlanta were without power, and there were scattered outages in Mississippi.

The tornadoes and power outages were the latest impacts of the powerful storm, which had previously been blamed for thousands of power outages in California and Nebraska.

On Wednesday, National Weather Service showed rain stretching from Alabama all the way northeast to Maine. Heavy rain was falling in parts of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, where flash flood watches were issued. Other flood watches or warnings are scattered along the east coast, including the Washington and Baltimore areas that were recently hit by a major blizzard.

The Weather Channel is calling this storm Winter Storm Kayla.

Those in the storm’s path are encouraged to monitor their local forecasts.

Parts of Mississippi have received more than seven inches of rain since Saturday, according to the National Weather Service, including 7.73 inches near New Hebron. Selected cities in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee have all recorded more than three inches of rain.

Snow totals were far larger.

Some mountain passes in Colorado received more than 30 inches of snow, including 41 inches at Coal Bank Pass and 40 inches near Wolf Creek Pass. Denver was hit by 22 inches of snow.

Heavy winds were expected to generate blizzard conditions in some parts of the midwest.

The Colorado Department of Transportation shut down several roads as a result of the storm, including a 300-mile stretch of Interstate 70 that began in Denver and stretched into Kansas, though most reopened later Tuesday. Some state highways remained closed in Kansas and Nebraska on Wednesday morning, their state transportation departments reported, and many roads in southern Minnesota and Northern Iowa were still completely covered with snow or ice.

Parts of Minnesota received more than a foot of snow, the National Weather Service reported.

The Minnesota State Patrol said that Interstate 90 and many other highways in the southern part of the state were closed on Tuesday, though they were open again on Wednesday morning. A spokesman tweeted that troopers responded to 449 accidents in a 24-hour period statewide.

Flight monitoring website indicated that more than 240 flights to or from Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport were cancelled on Tuesday and Wednesday morning.

While some interstates reopened, others were still closed.

That included a 200-mile stretch of Interstate 80 in Nebraska that spanned from North Platte to Beaver Crossing, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The National Weather Service’s flood warnings and watches issued for the mid-Atlantic and South warned rivers and streams could breach their banks, which may cause additional road closures.

Ex-government employee pleads guilty in nuclear secrets cyber attack scheme

A former government employee who was accused of trying to orchestrate a cyber attack against computers that contained information about nuclear weapons pleaded guilty to a federal computer crime, the Department of Justice announced in a news release on Tuesday afternoon.

Prosecutors said 62-year-old Charles Harvey Eccleston, a former employee of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, admitted his guilt in the attempted “spear-phishing” attack that took place last January. Eccleston was arrested after an undercover operation in which prosecutors said the accused dealt with FBI employees who had been posing as foreign government officials.

Spear-phishing is a type of cyber attack in which people send authentic-looking emails to their targets, encouraging the recipients to open them. However, the emails contain malicious code.

According to the Department of Justice, Eccleston sent an email that he believed contained a virus to about 80 Department of Energy employees, thinking the code would allow a foreign country to infiltrate or harm their computers. Prosecutors said Eccleston targeted employees “whom he claimed had access to information related to nuclear weapons or nuclear materials.”

The code was harmless and was actually crafted by the FBI, according to the release.

Eccleston, who thought he would be paid roughly $80,000 for sending the spear-phishing email, was arrested last March during a meeting with an undercover FBI employee, prosecutors said.

“Eccleston admitted that he attempted to compromise, exploit and damage U.S. government computer systems that contained sensitive nuclear weapon-related information with the intent of allowing foreign nations to gain access to that information or to damage essential systems,” Assistant Attorney General John P. Carlin said in a statement announcing the guilty plea.

Prosecutors said Eccleston was fired from his job with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2010. He moved to the Philippines the following year and had been living there until his arrest.

The alleged cyber attack wasn’t the first time that law enforcement heard Eccleston’s name.

Prosecutors said the FBI first learned about Eccleston in 2013 after he walked into an embassy in the Philippines and offered to sell a list of 5,000 U.S. government email accounts for $18,800. If the nation wasn’t interested, Eccleston said he would offer the list to China, Iran or Venezuela.

That November, the FBI sent undercover employees to meet with Eccleston and had them pose as foreign government officials. One FBI employee bought a list of 1,200 email addresses for $5,000, prosecutors said, though an investigation found the accounts were publicly available.

Prosecutors said Eccleston communicated with the employees for “several months,” and offered to help design the spear-phishing emails during a meeting with an undercover FBI employee in June 2014. He made the bogus emails look like advertisements for a nuclear energy conference.

Eccleston pleaded guilty to attempted unauthorized access and intentional damage to a protected computer and faces 24 to 30 months in prison and a $95,000 fine when he is sentenced in April, prosecutors announced.

Blizzard pummels midwest, knocking out power and shutting down interstates

Parts of the midwest were bracing for blizzard conditions on Tuesday morning as a powerful winter storm continued east, knocking down power lines and shutting down major highways.

The National Weather Service issued winter storm or blizzard warnings in portions of nine states and wind advisories in several more as the storm brought more heavy snow to the nation.

Radar showed precipitation falling over Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota on Tuesday morning. The storm was expected to reach Wisconsin and northern Michigan this afternoon.

Blizzard warnings were issued in parts of Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.

The National Weather Service warned that those areas could receive between six to 15 inches of snow and wind gusts of up to 50 mph, which could reduce visibility and lead to road closures.

Notably, a roughly 300-mile stretch of Interstate 70 between Denver International Airport and Hays, Kansas, was closed, according to the Colorado and Kansas transportation departments. A 225-mile stretch of U.S. 36 that largely parallels the interstate highway was also closed down.

The Colorado Department of Transportation blamed the closures on “whiteout conditions.” The National Weather Service said one mountainous part of the state received 33 inches of snow.

The Weather Channel is referring to the storm as Winter Storm Kayla.

Portions of Colorado and Wyoming were under winter storm warnings, as were other parts of the five states in which blizzard warnings were issued. The storm wasn’t expected to bring snow to the south, though the National Weather Service issued wind advisories in parts of Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina because strong sustained winds were expected in those regions.

Some states should expect severe thunderstorms, the National Weather Service warned, and there was a possibility that tornadoes could touch down in Alabama, Mississippi and the Ohio River Valley later tonight. The service had yet to issue any thunderstorm or tornado watches.

Residents of all of the above states are encouraged to monitor their local forecasts.

The storm has already brought wind gusts of at least 70 mph to six states, according to the National Weather Service, including 90-mph-plus gusts in Texas, California and New Mexico.

About 143,000 people in Southern California were without power on Sunday, according to local utility companies Southern California Edison and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, though those numbers were down to about 12,000 as of early Tuesday morning.

The National Weather Service reported that gusts reached 40 mph in Nebraska, and parts of the state received between seven and 12.5 inches of snow as of 8 a.m. Tuesday. More was expected.

The Omaha Public Power District said about 20,000 customers were without power, while the Lincoln Electric System said it was working to turn the lights back on for about 1,800 customers.

The Nebraska Department of Transportation said it closed a 112-mile stretch of Interstate 80 between Kearney and York, and several other state routes were impassible or fully covered.

Some parts of Kansas received 10 inches of snow as of Tuesday morning, the National Weather Service reported. Several state and U.S. highways in the state’s northwest corner were closed to traffic, the state Department of Transportation reported.

More than 130 flights to or from Denver International Airport were cancelled as of mid-day Tuesday, according to flight monitoring website The Colorado Department of Transportation said it also closed a 159-mile stretch of Interstate 76 and several state highways.

The storm also brought a foot or more of snow to several locations in Wyoming, according to the National Weather Service, including 24.3 inches near Driggs.

Totals weren’t yet available for Iowa, though the state Department of Transportation reported that a part of Interstate 29 was closed near Sioux City and many roads were fully covered.

Chipotle E. Coli outbreaks appear to be over, CDC says

Two E. Coli outbreaks linked to Chipotle restaurants appear to be over, officials said Monday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it still doesn’t know what specific ingredient was behind the outbreaks, though it hasn’t received word of any illnesses since Dec. 1.

The CDC said 60 people in 14 states fell ill last October and November, and 22 were hospitalized. The organization interviewed 59 of those people, and 52 of them said they had eaten at Chipotle.

The CDC collected food from several Chipotle restaurants, though none of its tests showed signs of the bacteria. The organization said a food source is only identified in 46 percent of outbreaks, and it can be hard to determine the exact item responsible for the illnesses in cases where restaurants cook several ingredients together and serve them in different menu items.

According to the CDC, the first E. Coli outbreak affected 55 people in Washington, Oregon, California, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, New York Ohio and Pennsylvania. The second outbreak, which featured a different strain of the bacteria, sickened five people in Kansas, Oklahoma and North Dakota. None of the 60 people died or developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure that sometimes occurs following E. Coli infections.

Chipotle has said it has since implemented new food safety protocols, and announced earlier this month that it will close all of its restaurants for four hours on Feb. 8 for a food safety meeting.

The outbreaks were just a part of the recent struggles for Chipotle.

The restaurant also told investors earlier this month that it was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in connection with an “isolated norovirus incident” in August at a California restaurant. The same message indicated a norovirus outbreak in December at a Boston restaurant “worsened the adverse financial and operating impacts” Chipotle experienced from the E. Coli outbreaks.

Norovirus and E. Coli are both foodborne illnesses that can cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps, according to the CDC.

Chipotle’s stock was trading at $750.42 on Oct. 13, near an all-time high, but tumbled to $404.26 on Jan. 12 amid the E. Coli and norovirus concerns. That was a 54 percent drop.

The stock has rebounded slightly and was trading at $472.64 on Monday afternoon.

Quakes in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas rise as global averages remain constant

The central United States saw a rise in seismic activity last year, seismologists said Monday.

Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas combined to witness 32 earthquakes of at least magnitude 4.0 in 2015, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said in a news release announcing last year’s global earthquake totals, nearly doubling the 17 quakes of that size that hit those states in 2014.

The news will hardly surprise residents of Oklahoma, which has seen a dramatic rise in quake frequency and magnitude since 2009. Officials have linked the surge to wastewater from oil and gas companies operating in the state, and regulators have taken steps to reduce its production.

Globally, however, the USGS said last year’s quake totals were “on par with prior year averages.”

The world usually sees about 14,500 earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 or greater and 18 earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater every year, according to the USGS. Last year, those totals were 14,588 and 19, respectively, though the numbers may change pending a final review.

While earthquake totals might not have increased, the USGS reported they were far deadlier.

The organization said earthquakes killed 9,612 people last year, up from the 2014 total of 664.

Nearly 9,200 of them were killed in magnitude 7.8 and 7.3 earthquakes that hit Nepal in April and May, the USGS said. The first and more powerful quake on April 25 killed 8,964 people, and 218 died in the May 12 quake. Another 430 died in quakes in Afghanistan, Malaysia and Chile.

While Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas saw some powerful earthquakes, they didn’t see the most powerful one to hit the United States last year. A magnitude 6.9 earthquake off the coast of Alaska’s remote Unmak Island in July holds that distinction, according to the USGS.

However, Oklahoma’s trend of increased activity appears to be carrying over into the New Year.

The state has already seen seven earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 or greater in 2016, USGS data indicates. This year’s quakes include a Jan. 6 magnitude 4.8 earthquake near Fairview that is one of the strongest in the state’s history, according to Oklahoma Geological Survey records.

Oklahoma experienced just 21 earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 or greater in a 64-month stretch from January 2009 to May 2014, the USGS said in a news release at the time. That included a magnitude 5.6 quake that hit near Prague in November 2011, the state’s strongest on record.

Both the USGS and Oklahoma Geological Survey have cautioned the rise in Oklahoma’s earthquake activity increases the risk that the state could see an even bigger quake.

Oklahoma isn’t the only state where earthquakes pose a risk to the public.

The USGS reported last August that about 143 million people in the continental United States live in areas where they could be exposed to potentially damaging earthquake tremors. That was nearly double its previous estimate of 75 million people, published in 2006. The organization said the rise was the result of population shifts and a better understanding of seismic activity.

California, Washington, Utah, Tennessee, Oregon, South Carolina, Nevada, Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois are the states with the most people exposed to potentially damaging shaking, the USGS said.

U.S. braces for winter storm as thousands remain without power in California

Portions of 13 states were under winter storm warnings on Monday morning as a powerful storm that was already being blamed for thousands of power outages was set to move east.

More than 143,000 customers in southern California were without power on Sunday, local utility companies reported, after high winds toppled trees and knocked over power lines.

As of Monday morning, Southern California Edison reported about 40,000 customers were still in the dark (down from 80,000 earlier on Sunday) and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said it had turned the lights back on for 51,000 of its 63,000 affected customers.

Other parts of the country were bracing for the arrival of snow and high winds.

The National Weather Service issued blizzard warnings in parts of Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa, saying those areas could see between 8 and 13 inches of snow between tonight and Wednesday. The service called for wind gusts of up to 45 mph, which could blow snow and reduce visibility.

The broader winter storm warnings covered parts of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Residents in the warning areas should monitor local forecasts. The National Weather Service said some cities could receive 4 to 8 inches of snow, while higher elevations could see 1 to 2 feet.

The Weather Channel is referring to the impending storm as Winter Storm Kayla.

High wind warnings were issued for parts of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The service warned gusts of 70 to 75 mph were possible in some areas and could damage property.

Several areas already reported gusts far above those levels.

The National Weather Service said gusts reached 95 mph at San Augustin Pass near Las Cruces, New Mexico. In California, Malibu and Harrison Park saw gusts of 87 and 85 mph, respectively.

The wind gusts knocked down trees, in some cases blocking traffic.

The California Highway Patrol tweeted a downed tree temporarily blocked four lanes of the Ventura Freeway on Sunday. The agency also reported that snow shut down a stretch of Interstate 5 near Grapevine on early Monday morning, though the freeway later reopened.

The storm was complicating air travel, too.

According to flight monitoring website, 508 flights to or from Denver International Airport had been cancelled as of 11:45 a.m. ET on Monday.

Some 225 miles southwest of the airport, the National Weather Service reported Colorado’s Kebler Pass was hit with 23 inches of snow between Saturday night and Monday morning. Snowfall totals reached 16 inches near California’s Mammoth Lakes, located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, while other parts of the state received more than two inches of rain.

Coalition now training brigades that will fight ISIS in Mosul, spokesman says

The United States-led coalition against the Islamic State is currently helping the Iraqi Security Forces put together the force that will try to retake the city of Mosul, a spokesman said Friday.

Col. Steve Warren, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, made the announcement while addressing a news briefing in Washington. He was speaking via video link from Baghdad.

Warren told reporters it would still be “many months” before the Iraqi Security Forces began their campaign to recapture Mosul, which the Islamic State has occupied since June 2014.

“Right now our focus is ‘Let’s start training some brigades. Let’s start building some combat power. Let’s continue to train some police and start building up some combat power,’” he said.

Mosul is the capital of Nineveh province in northern Iraq and is one of the nation’s largest cities.

Warren told reporters the coalition still needs to assemble approximately 10 brigades, consisting of some 2,000 to 3,000 people in all, and wanted to first place them through additional training.

A basic training process takes eight weeks, Warren told reporters, with supplemental options for people like medics or snipers. But the number of troops that can be trained at once has varied.

“Over the last month or so, we’ve gotten about 900 police officers and roughly two brigades through training,” Warren told reporters. “This was the most graduates that we’ve had in a month. There’s been weeks or months where it’s been significantly less.”

He said the coalition has trained about 20,000 members of the Iraqi Security Forces, including police and tribal fighters. But he said even the ones who helped secure a key victory at Ramadi, a city that had been under Islamic State control, should receive additional training before Mosul.

“We believe that all of the forces that we’ve already trained and run through Ramadi are certainly capable of moving to Mosul, but we have made a decision that we want to run them through another cycle of training,” Warren told reporters. “Are they trained? Yes. Could they go to Mosul now? Yes. But we would prefer to give them additional training before they go.”

Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, was captured by the Islamic State last year.

Iraqi officials announced that the military had raised the nation’s flag over a key government complex in Ramadi late in December, and forces have been working to secure outlying parts of the city ever since. On Friday, Warren told reporters that those efforts were continuing.

Warren also told reporters the coalition launched 676 airstrikes against the Islamic State in January, 522 of them in Iraq and 154 in Syria. Most of them were concentrated near Ramadi, Mosul and Raqqa, the Syrian city which the Islamic State considers its capital.