Coronavirus crisis, severe thunderstorms and even tornadoes forecast, spring is here: 5 things to know Thursday

Coronavirus: Stores dedicate time for vulnerable shoppers

As the elderly and people with underlying health conditions are more susceptible to COVID-19, some retailers are dedicating time or opening earlier for senior shoppers. Beginning Thursday, mostWalmart stores will be open from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m local time — stores that open later than 7 a.m. will continue their regular starting hours, according to the retail giant. Walmart stores will introduce a weekly hour-long senior shopping event March 24 for customers 60 and older, which will start one hour before stores open. Meanwhile, Albertsons, which has 2,200-plus stores under banners including Safeway, Acme and Vons, says it is reserving two hours every Tuesday and Thursday morning for vulnerable shoppers, including senior citizens, pregnant women or those with compromised immune systems. Whole Foods Market stores will let customers who are 60 and older shop one hour before opening to the public.

Tornadoes may take aim at central, southern US

Severe thunderstorms and possibly hail and even tornadoes are forecast for portions of the central and southern U.S. on Thursday. Yet another round of severe weather is expected from eastern Texas, eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas to Missouri, Illinois, southern Iowa and eastern Nebraska. “Thursday poses the greatest risk of tornadoes of the entire multiple-day severe weather risk this week,” said AccuWeather’s Alex Sosnowski. Cities in the line of fire Thursday include Indianapolis, St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Cincinnati and Louisville.

Home Depot cutting store hours due to coronavirus

Starting Thursday, Home Depot will close its stores at 6 p.m. during the coronavirus pandemic, joining a slew of other national chains that are paring their hours in response to the outbreak. The company said the reduced hours will give staff time to restock shelves and clean. The stores, which are typically open until 9 or 10 p.m., won’t change their opening times. Home Depot also is giving full-time employees an additional 80 hours of paid sick time or personal time, while part-time workers will get an additional 40 hours.

Queen Elizabeth to temporarily move to Windsor Castle 

Queen Elizabeth II will move to Windsor Castle on Thursday, a week ahead of schedule, and likely stay there beyond Easter in April due to the coronavirus pandemic, Buckingham Palace announced. The queen typically spends most weekends at the castle, located about 25 miles west of London, but this time, she will extend her stay. The queen’s representatives also said that after consulting with medical advisers and the government, upcoming public events with large numbers of people expected will be canceled or postponed. The queen, who turns 94 next month, had already canceled a visit to Cheshire in northwest England this week due to the virus. However, audiences (face-to-face meetings between the queen and dignitaries) took place as scheduled in London on Wednesday. Future audiences will be reviewed in line with “appropriate advice.”

Finally, some good news: Spring is here, and it’s here early

The vernal (spring) equinox — which marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere — happens Thursday in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. The equinox usually falls on either March 20 or 21: 2020 marks the earliest vernal equinox since 1896, according to AccuWeather. It’s earlier this year due to technical reasons involving leap years, century years and the the length of time it takes Earth to revolve around the sun. The equinox, which takes place at 11:50 p.m. ET, is one of two days in the year – the other being the autumnal equinox in September – when there is roughly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness all over Earth.

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