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Forecast podcast: California’s tolls rise as new storms threaten millions with flooding risk

Capitola Wharf in Santa Cruz, California is missing a stretch of about 50' feet

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Joe Veyera discuss the deadly storms wreaking havoc in California, plus more on the presidential election in the Czech Republic, the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, North Korea’s parliament holding a session and nurses striking in the UK.

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These stories and others are also available in our free weekly Forecast newsletter.

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Alex Moore, Owen Bonertz, Hua Hsieh, Jess Fino and Joe Veyera.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe

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Factal Forecast podcast transcript

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.


Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is January 12.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got a presidential election in the Czech Republic, the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, North Korea’s parliament holding a session, nurses striking in the UK and a look at the storms wreaking havoc in California. 

You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.

Czech Republic presidential elections

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: The first round of the Czech Republic’s presidential election begins on Friday. 

Three candidates have emerged as favorites in the race. 

The first and, perhaps most divisive, is former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who was just this week acquitted on charges of fraud relating to EU subsidies. 

Former army chief Petr Pavel, who also served a leading role in NATO, is another favorite.

Finally, there’s Danuše Nerudová. If she comes out on top, she would become the country’s first female head of state and its youngest.

Now, the vote will serve as a unique referendum on the Czech Republic’s past and future in multiple ways. 

Despite a decorated military career, Pavel continues to face criticism over his involvement with the Communist Party prior to the Velvet Revolution that brought Prague independence. 

Babiš faces similar accusations alongside the various charges of fraud and conflict of interests. 

As such, Nerudová has positioned herself as a break from the past and champion of the future. 

She’s pairing strong pro-western views with pro-LGBT+ and green energy policies that have made her popular among young voters. 

She will attempt to make history, mirroring the similar candidacy of neighboring Slovakia’s first female head of state Zuzana Čaputová who won in 2019 on a similar platform. 

If no candidate secures over 50 percent of the votes in the first round, the top two will go to a second round two weeks later. 

World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos

Information compiled by Owen Bonertz

JIMMY: Roughly 2,500 global power brokers will meet in the Swiss ski town of Davos starting Monday. They’re gathering for the World Economic Forum’s annual summit on the state of the world economy. 

The theme of this year’s conference is “cooperation in a fragmented world.” 

Of course, the first forum was held in 1971 and every year has attracted a larger roster of presidents, CEOs and billionaires. 

While the conference consists mainly of high-concept presentations and art, Davos has seen several diplomatic achievements. 

The 1988 Davos Declaration brokered peace between Turkey and Greece, and the first draft of Israel and Palestine’s 1994 Cairo agreement were also reached at the conference.

Now, the Davos forum has been criticized for its private-jet-inflated carbon footprint and the excessive promotion of globalization; the latter of those leading to conspiracies about its founders and intentions. 

Needless to say, security will be on high alert for some of the world’s most influential people. 

Global issues at the top of the agenda for the conference include the war in Ukraine, rising food and energy prices, and pandemic preparedness. 

Notably, a Russian delegation will not attend the conference. 

All in all, 52 heads of state and 600 CEOs will participate in what is expected to be the most attended Davos forum ever.

North Korea holds Supreme People’s Assembly session

Information compiled by Hua Hsieh 

JIMMY: North Korea’s parliament will hold a session on Tuesday. Members of the Supreme People’s Assembly will gather to discuss government budgets and other issues. 

The session follows a key party meeting in late December last year, where the party set out policy goals for the new year, including “strengthening self-defensive capabilities” amid mounting international sanctions on its weapon program and the impact of coronavirus. 

And because North Korea’s parliament rarely meets and the majority of the members are from the state’s ruling Workers’ Party, parliamentary meetings usually serve to approve major policies and agendas set out by the party. 

According to state media, the agenda of this session will include work of the Cabinet, government budgets, organizational matters and “the law on the protection of the cultured Pyongyang dialect.”

Now, following an unprecedented number of missile tests and international sanctions last year, the hardline goals North Korea has set out for the new year have led many to predict that the isolated country will continue its military buildup. 

While this will indeed add to the possibility of escalation, North Korea has always been anything but predictable and analysts will be closely watching the decisions that come out of this parliamentary meeting.

New nursing strikes in UK

Information compiled by Jess Fino

JIMMY: Nurses across England will stage strikes on Wednesday and Thursday. This, after tens of thousands of nurses took part in strikes in December to demand better pay conditions and improved patient safety. 

The Royal College of Nursing accused the government of having “failed to act” following the first round of action. 

The union said it will not be striking in Wales and Northern Ireland this time, but it might do so in the future.

Now, the government has invited unions to hold talks to discuss “the coming year,” but it is unclear if salaries will be a topic. 

Unions said they were open to calling off strikes if the government negotiates this year’s pay, but according to reports, the government has ruled that out due to the closeness of the end of the financial year, with public sector pay already settled. 

The strikes come at the busiest time of the year for the national health system, with the number of trusts taking part this time rising from 44 to 55.

California storms

Information compiled by Joe Veyera

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the deadly storms wreaking havoc in California. For more on that I spoke with our lead for The Americas desk, Joe Veyera.

JIMMY: Hello, Joe.

JOE: Hey, Jimmy, thanks for having me.

JIMMY: You know, lately when we think about California weather, the big concern is the multi year drought they’ve had. But that’s not the big story at the moment, is it? 

JOE: No and we will get into that later. Instead, it has been a very wet couple of weeks for the Golden State, after a series of severe winter storms have brought historic rainfall to the San Francisco Bay Area and parts of the Central Coast. You may have heard the term “atmospheric river” associated with these systems, and the simplest way to describe this is to think of them as rivers in the sky, carrying moist air from the tropics and bringing heavy rainfall once they reach land. This is usually not as extreme and disruptive as we’ve seen recently. Atmospheric rivers actually bring between 30 and 50 percent of the precipitation on the West Coast each year, but these systems have been on the stronger side, so we’ve seen pretty widespread impacts, ranging from hundreds of 1000s of people in the dark in the Sacramento area, to evacuation orders impacting tens of thousands along the coast, and sadly, the deaths of at least 18 people as of Wednesday afternoon.

JIMMY: So I guess, is the worst behind us?

JOE: Well, at this time, it doesn’t appear that the next round of storms will be as strong, and the longer range forecast suggests the spate of severe weather will come to a welcome end sometime later next week. In the meantime, there’s the potential for more flooding, fallen trees and power outages. And while we’re recording, officials just warned of the potential for the Monterey Peninsula to be cut off from the rest of the state due to flood waters for the first time in nearly 30 years. The big concern here is with additional rainfall on top of what has already fallen, particularly in central California, there’s just not the capacity for the ground to absorb it, raising the risk of landslides and debris flow.

JIMMY: Well, I suppose my last question for you then is what do you think folks should be watching for next?

JOE: In the short term, we’ll see just how impactful these next storms are. But in the coming months, we may get insight into whether this stormy month has had any notable impact on drought conditions. There are some positive signs there with water levels up in reservoirs in the Sacramento region and along parts of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Sierra Nevada snowpack is more than 200 percent of normal for this time of year, and that’s the supplier of around 30 percent of the state’s freshwater supply. That said, a dry spell like the one California experienced in the early months of 2022 would undo most of that progress. So we’ll see what happens.

JIMMY: Well, I guess we’ll leave it there for now, and hopefully not have to revisit this in the coming weeks, but I thank you very much for catching us up to speed and all the info. 

JOE: Anytime. 

JIMMY: Take care

JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.  

Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Alex More, Owen Bonertz, Hua Hsieh and Jess Fino. Our interview featured editor Joe Veyera and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

Copyright © 2023 Factal. All rights reserved.

Music: ‘Factal Theme’ courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Top photo: Severe storms damaged the pier at Capitola Wharf in Santa Cruz, Calif., earlier this week. (Photo: J. Maughn / Flickr)

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