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Episode 10
World’s busiest airport loses power; the many winners of Spain’s annual lottery
Plus English vocabulary words ‘stranded’ and ‘fundraiser’

An electrical fire below ground knocked out power at the Atlanta airport—the world’s busiest—for eleven hours just eight days before Christmas. Passengers were left in the dark, wondering what to do; many had to sleep in the airport that night. Spain’s annual Christmas lottery is a national event and has thousands of winners; the results are sung out by children on national television. Plus we review English vocabulary words “stranded” and “fundraiser.”

Listen


Transcript

  • Imagine being stranded in an airport with no electricity. That happened, in Atlanta last week. Hi everyone, this is Jeff and welcome to Plain English for the week of December 28, 2017.

    This week we will talk about the power failure at the Atlanta airport that left thousands of travelers in the dark and hundreds more stranded on planes on the tarmac. In our second story this week, we’ll talk about the annual Christmas lottery in Spain. And the English words that we’ll practice in the second half of the program are “stranded” and “fundraiser.”

    For those of you new to the program, Plain English is a weekly podcast for intermediate learners of English. A full transcript of each episode is available online at PlainEnglish.com—and if your first language is Spanish, then you’re in luck because the transcripts have instant translations of difficult words and phrases from English to Spanish, so you never have to pause to look up the meaning of a word.

    If you’re an English student or teacher and you’d like to connect with the show, you can find me on Twitter and Facebook, both under the user name PlainEnglishPod. You can also send an email to jeff@plainenglish.com and let me know what you think of the podcast so far.


    Atlanta airport suffers power outage

    The busiest airport in the whole world, in Atlanta, Georgia, suffered a debilitating, eleven-hour power outage on December 17, just eight days before Christmas. The outage affected about 30,000 people in total. Some of them were stuck on planes, unable to get off for hours. Others were in the darkened, crowded terminal buildings.

    The outage was caused by an underground fire in the electrical equipment, far below the main terminal buildings of the airport. The airport had redundant power, so that if there were a problem with one electrical substation, another was ready to take over within seconds to minimize the disruption. Unfortunately, in this case, the fire in the electrical equipment knocked out both substations—the primary one and the backup.

    As a result, the airport came to a standstill. Inside, people were caught in the dark as they stood in lines at the gates or waited to go through security. The public address system wasn’t working, so there were no widespread announcements about what was going on. Escalators, elevators, and information screens all shut down. The only light available came from the emergency lights, so many people were using their phones’ flashlights to see. After a while, passengers said the buildings got sweltering hot since, of course, there was no air conditioning. Many people were just laying around with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Without power, many people’s phones ran out of batteries, leaving them unable to get outside information. Sounds like a nightmare, right?

    Although Atlanta isn’t one of the biggest cities in the United States, the airport is actually the busiest in the world, handling over 2,500 flights and 275,000 passengers each day. That’s a quarter of a million passengers every single day. Atlanta is so busy because it’s a hub airport, meaning that many of the passengers were neither starting nor finishing their travel there; instead, they were connecting through Atlanta on their way to another city. For that reason, many had no nearby friends or relatives and had to stay in the airport and wait for a new flight.

    In some ways, though, the people left stranded inside were the lucky ones. That’s because the planes that were on the tarmac—meaning the runways and the taxiways—those planes were full of people when the power went out, 92 planeloads of people in all. And guess what? The jetbridges run on electricity. Jetbridges are those motorized passageways that connect the main airport building to the doors of the planes. Without those, the planes full of people had to wait outside—some of them for up to seven hours. Inside the planes, frustrated passengers had no choice but to wait, even as food and water ran out. They eventually took moveable stairways to each plane and evacuated the planes one by one.

    This was a real calamity. Overall, 1,180 flights were canceled, most of them from Delta, and the effects cascaded through the air travel system in the United States. 400 flights were canceled in Atlanta the next day. Passengers who had checked their bags were told they could pick them up on Tuesday—two days later. In all, the power was out for eleven hours. The fire that caused the outage started at around 12:30 in the afternoon on Sunday, knocking out the lights about a half hour later. Power was finally restored just before midnight.

    Thousands of travelers had to sleep in the airport or at the city’s convention center, which opened as a place for stranded travelers to spend the night. There are a couple of positives, though. For one thing, there was no real panic; nobody was injured and no fights broke out. Chick-Fil-A, an American fast-food chain that’s usually closed on Sundays, opened its doors just to serve meals to stranded travelers. And speaking of Sundays, it’s probably a good thing that this happened on a Sunday, which tends to be the slowest travel day of the week.

    I can sympathize with those people. I was actually in Atlanta the week before, on business. A snowstorm hit the day I was supposed to come home; since snow is relatively rare in that part of the United States, the airports aren’t as prepared as they are in the north, where I live. My flight was delayed from 3:00 on a Friday afternoon until almost 1:00 the following afternoon. Luckily, I was able to find a hotel, albeit kind of far from the airport. But when I came back on Saturday morning, I could see a lot of people had slept on the floor overnight. That’s no fun; I can only imagine doing that without any light to see.


    Christmas lottery in Spain

    Like every year since 1812, Spain celebrated its national Christmas lottery on December 22, and winners throughout the country shared El Gordo, or the winning prize. Spaniards take their Christmas lottery seriously; although there are other traditional lotteries throughout the year, this one is the most famous and about 75 percent of adults participate.

    The lottery is unlike any other in the world. A whole ticket costs 200 euros, or about 237 US dollars. But each paper ticket is perforated into ten smaller tickets, or décimos, so many people prefer to buy one of these tenths of a ticket, for just 20 euros. The grand prize this year was 4 million euros, but there were 170 full tickets that each won the grand prize. If each ticket is split into ten décimos, then up to 1,700 people could each win a 400,000-euro share of El Gordo. What’s more, these décimos can be further divided into ten, and each one of these small tickets is a 1% claim on the total winnings of the ticket. These small tickets are often used as fundraisers. Charities sell them for a modest 3 euros, two for the ticket and one for the charity.

    But El Gordo isn’t the only prize. There are drawings for second, third, fourth, and fifth prize—plus la Pedrea, the smallest prize, which is awarded to over 1,700 tickets (again, each one potentially split into ten décimos). In total, over 2.4 billion euros were distributed to Christmas lottery winners, making the Spanish Christmas lottery the biggest in the world in terms of total prize money.

    Part of the fun in the Spanish lottery is how many people actually win a small share of the prize. And, since the winning tickets are divided into ten, the winners often know each other. They often either live in the same town, or work for the same company. In fact, in 2011 every single person in a small village of 250 people won a share of El Gordo, with each person taking home between 100,000 and 1 million euros. Every person except one, that is; just a single person in the whole town didn’t win the lottery that year.

    The annual drawing is a daylong affair. The ticket numbers and the prizes are etched onto wooden balls and entered into two large cages. One cage has all the winning ticket numbers—100,000 of them in all—and the other cage has one ball for each prize to be awarded. About 40 children between the ages of eight and fourteen, all from the same school every year, take turns picking the winning numbers. One child picks a ball from the cage with ticket numbers, while another child picks a ball from the other cage, which has a prize amount written on it. They then sing out the winning numbers and show them to the cameras. The process repeats over and over until all the prizes have been awarded; the whole thing takes hours and is televised nationwide each year.

    The Spanish lottery is considered the oldest continuously-running lottery in the world; this one started in 1812 and has taken place each year since, even continuing through a civil war, two world wars, and the Franco regime. The first Christmas lottery in Spain was established in the year 1763 as a fundraiser for charity. Today, the lottery just funds the government.


    Before we get started on the second part of the program, I wanted to let you know that you can now find Plain English on Apple Podcasts, which is the world’s biggest podcast directory. If you have an iPhone, you probably already have the Podcasts app installed. And if you have iTunes on your computer, you can find the show in there. If you think Plain English is helpful in your learning, then I’d be very grateful if you left a review in Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. You can leave a review in whatever language is most comfortable for you. Leaving a review helps other English learners discover the program.

    All right, we are ready to begin the second half of the program, where we’ll talk a little more about two words you heard earlier, words I think you should know as a new English speaker. The words I selected this week are “stranded” and “fundraiser.”

    Stranded

    As you heard earlier, thousands of people were left stranded in the Atlanta airport when the power went out. They found themselves without any way of getting to their destination. If you’re stuck somewhere, with no way of moving or getting out of your current situation, you’re stranded. We’ve all been there. I was stranded in the Atlanta airport during the snowstorm just a week before the power outage. If you missed the last train of the night, you might be stranded at the train station until the next morning; that has happened to me before also. As a kid, I sometimes missed the bus home from school; I was stranded at school until someone could finally come pick me up.

    Here are a few more instances where you can be stranded. What if you’re at the mall and you shop until closing time, but you get to your car and you discover that it won’t start. You don’t have a ride home. You’re stranded there. It’s actually possible to be stranded at home. One year at Christmas, my town got a huge snowstorm. I was supposed to be with family that Christmas, but there was so much snow I couldn’t leave my driveway. I was stranded at home; I wanted to go somewhere else, but I couldn’t. Incidentally, if you saw the Christmas movie “Home Alone”, then you remember that eight-year-old Kevin was stranded at home while his family went on vacation to Paris.

    Fundraiser

    The second word this week is fundraiser. We learned earlier that some groups in Spain sell hundred-shares of Christmas lottery tickets as a fundraiser. A tenth of a décimo goes for 2 euros, but these groups sell them for 3 euros, and keep the extra one for their organization. In that way, it raises money for the charity. And that’s what a fundraiser is—it’s any activity that helps an organization get extra money. I’m not sure how it is in other parts of the world, but here in the United States, there are all kinds of fundraisers. When I was a kid, we’d sell magazine subscriptions as a fundraiser for my school and Christmas wreathes as a fundraiser for an after-school group I was in. Other popular fundraisers are concerts and 5K road races, where a portion of each ticket or entrance fee sold goes to an organization. Sometimes organizations will host a raffle or an auction, both of which are good fundraisers because they can generate a lot of money.

    In my experience, a fundraiser is an activity that costs money, and a portion of that money goes to a good cause. So, you might say, I’m raising funds for cancer research. Would you consider giving money? But if you organized a concert and sold tickets for $10 each, you would tell your friends that the concert is a fundraiser, and you’d ask them to buy tickets instead of just giving you money directly.

    What are some common fundraisers where you live? I’d love to hear from you either on social media or through email. I’m on both Twitter and Facebook at PlainEnglishPod. Speaking of which, I wanted to say hi to Guillermo from Spain and Frances from Brazil; they both connected on Twitter last week. If you’re interested in sending an email, my email address is jeff@plainenglish.com

    That brings us to the end of this week’s program; thanks for listening and have a happy and safe new year!

  • Imagine being stranded in an airport with no electricity. That happened, in Atlanta last week. Hi everyone, this is Jeff and welcome to Plain English for the week of December 28, 2017.

    This week we will talk about the power failure at the Atlanta airport that left thousands of travelers in the dark and hundreds more stranded on planes on the tarmac . In our second story this week, we’ll talk about the annual Christmas lottery in Spain. And the English words that we’ll practice in the second half of the program are “stranded” and “fundraiser.”

    For those of you new to the program, Plain English is a weekly podcast for intermediate learners of English. A full transcript of each episode is available online at PlainEnglish.com—and if your first language is Spanish, then you’re in luck because the transcripts have instant translations of difficult words and phrases from English to Spanish, so you never have to pause to look up the meaning of a word.

    If you’re an English student or teacher and you’d like to connect with the show, you can find me on Twitter and Facebook, both under the user name PlainEnglishPod. You can also send an email to jeff@plainenglish.com and let me know what you think of the podcast so far.


    Atlanta airport suffers power outage

    The busiest airport in the whole world, in Atlanta, Georgia, suffered a debilitating, eleven-hour power outage on December 17, just eight days before Christmas. The outage affected about 30,000 people in total. Some of them were stuck on planes , unable to get off for hours. Others were in the darkened , crowded terminal buildings.

    The outage was caused by an underground fire in the electrical equipment, far below the main terminal buildings of the airport. The airport had redundant power, so that if there were a problem with one electrical substation , another was ready to take over within seconds to minimize the disruption . Unfortunately, in this case, the fire in the electrical equipment knocked out both substations—the primary one and the backup .

    As a result, the airport came to a standstill . Inside, people were caught in the dark as they stood in lines at the gates or waited to go through security. The public address system wasn’t working, so there were no widespread announcements about what was going on. Escalators , elevators, and information screens all shut down. The only light available came from the emergency lights, so many people were using their phones’ flashlights to see. After a while, passengers said the buildings got sweltering hot since, of course, there was no air conditioning. Many people were just laying around with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Without power, many people’s phones ran out of batteries , leaving them unable to get outside information. Sounds like a nightmare, right?

    Although Atlanta isn’t one of the biggest cities in the United States, the airport is actually the busiest in the world, handling over 2,500 flights and 275,000 passengers each day. That’s a quarter of a million passengers every single day. Atlanta is so busy because it’s a hub airport , meaning that many of the passengers were neither starting nor finishing their travel there; instead , they were connecting through Atlanta on their way to another city. For that reason, many had no nearby friends or relatives and had to stay in the airport and wait for a new flight.

    In some ways, though, the people left stranded inside were the lucky ones. That’s because the planes that were on the tarmac —meaning the runways and the taxiways —those planes were full of people when the power went out , 92 planeloads of people in all. And guess what? The jetbridges run on electricity. Jetbridges are those motorized passageways that connect the main airport building to the doors of the planes. Without those, the planes full of people had to wait outside—some of them for up to seven hours. Inside the planes, frustrated passengers had no choice but to wait, even as food and water ran out. They eventually took moveable stairways to each plane and evacuated the planes one by one.

    This was a real calamity . Overall , 1,180 flights were canceled, most of them from Delta, and the effects cascaded through the air travel system in the United States. 400 flights were canceled in Atlanta the next day. Passengers who had checked their bags were told they could pick them up on Tuesday—two days later. In all, the power was out for eleven hours. The fire that caused the outage started at around 12:30 in the afternoon on Sunday, knocking out the lights about a half hour later. Power was finally restored just before midnight .

    Thousands of travelers had to sleep in the airport or at the city’s convention center, which opened as a place for stranded travelers to spend the night . There are a couple of positives, though. For one thing, there was no real panic ; nobody was injured and no fights broke out . Chick-Fil-A, an American fast-food chain that’s usually closed on Sundays, opened its doors just to serve meals to stranded travelers. And speaking of Sundays, it’s probably a good thing that this happened on a Sunday, which tends to be the slowest travel day of the week.

    I can sympathize with those people. I was actually in Atlanta the week before, on business . A snowstorm hit the day I was supposed to come home ; since snow is relatively rare in that part of the United States, the airports aren’t as prepared as they are in the north, where I live. My flight was delayed from 3:00 on a Friday afternoon until almost 1:00 the following afternoon. Luckily , I was able to find a hotel, albeit kind of far from the airport. But when I came back on Saturday morning, I could see a lot of people had slept on the floor overnight . That’s no fun; I can only imagine doing that without any light to see.


    Christmas lottery in Spain

    Like every year since 1812, Spain celebrated its national Christmas lottery on December 22, and winners throughout the country shared El Gordo, or the winning prize . Spaniards take their Christmas lottery seriously; although there are other traditional lotteries throughout the year, this one is the most famous and about 75 percent of adults participate.

    The lottery is unlike any other in the world. A whole ticket costs 200 euros, or about 237 US dollars. But each paper ticket is perforated into ten smaller tickets, or décimos, so many people prefer to buy one of these tenths of a ticket, for just 20 euros. The grand prize this year was 4 million euros, but there were 170 full tickets that each won the grand prize. If each ticket is split into ten décimos, then up to 1,700 people could each win a 400,000-euro share of El Gordo. What’s more, these décimos can be further divided into ten, and each one of these small tickets is a 1% claim on the total winnings of the ticket. These small tickets are often used as fundraisers. Charities sell them for a modest 3 euros, two for the ticket and one for the charity.

    But El Gordo isn’t the only prize. There are drawings for second, third, fourth, and fifth prize—plus la Pedrea, the smallest prize, which is awarded to over 1,700 tickets (again, each one potentially split into ten décimos). In total, over 2.4 billion euros were distributed to Christmas lottery winners, making the Spanish Christmas lottery the biggest in the world in terms of total prize money.

    Part of the fun in the Spanish lottery is how many people actually win a small share of the prize. And, since the winning tickets are divided into ten, the winners often know each other. They often either live in the same town , or work for the same company. In fact , in 2011 every single person in a small village of 250 people won a share of El Gordo, with each person taking home between 100,000 and 1 million euros. Every person except one, that is; just a single person in the whole town didn’t win the lottery that year.

    The annual drawing is a daylong affair . The ticket numbers and the prizes are etched onto wooden balls and entered into two large cages . One cage has all the winning ticket numbers—100,000 of them in all—and the other cage has one ball for each prize to be awarded . About 40 children between the ages of eight and fourteen, all from the same school every year, take turns picking the winning numbers. One child picks a ball from the cage with ticket numbers, while another child picks a ball from the other cage, which has a prize amount written on it . They then sing out the winning numbers and show them to the cameras. The process repeats over and over until all the prizes have been awarded; the whole thing takes hours and is televised nationwide each year.

    The Spanish lottery is considered the oldest continuously-running lottery in the world; this one started in 1812 and has taken place each year since, even continuing through a civil war, two world wars, and the Franco regime. The first Christmas lottery in Spain was established in the year 1763 as a fundraiser for charity. Today, the lottery just funds the government.


    Before we get started on the second part of the program, I wanted to let you know that you can now find Plain English on Apple Podcasts, which is the world’s biggest podcast directory . If you have an iPhone, you probably already have the Podcasts app installed . And if you have iTunes on your computer, you can find the show in there. If you think Plain English is helpful in your learning, then I’d be very grateful if you left a review in Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. You can leave a review in whatever language is most comfortable for you. Leaving a review helps other English learners discover the program.

    All right, we are ready to begin the second half of the program, where we’ll talk a little more about two words you heard earlier, words I think you should know as a new English speaker. The words I selected this week are “stranded” and “fundraiser.”

    Stranded

    As you heard earlier, thousands of people were left stranded in the Atlanta airport when the power went out. They found themselves without any way of getting to their destination. If you’re stuck somewhere, with no way of moving or getting out of your current situation , you’re stranded. We’ve all been there. I was stranded in the Atlanta airport during the snowstorm just a week before the power outage . If you missed the last train of the night, you might be stranded at the train station until the next morning; that has happened to me before also. As a kid , I sometimes missed the bus home from school; I was stranded at school until someone could finally come pick me up.

    Here are a few more instances where you can be stranded. What if you’re at the mall and you shop until closing time , but you get to your car and you discover that it won’t start. You don’t have a ride home. You’re stranded there. It’s actually possible to be stranded at home. One year at Christmas, my town got a huge snowstorm . I was supposed to be with family that Christmas, but there was so much snow I couldn’t leave my driveway . I was stranded at home; I wanted to go somewhere else, but I couldn’t. Incidentally , if you saw the Christmas movie “Home Alone”, then you remember that eight-year-old Kevin was stranded at home while his family went on vacation to Paris.

    Fundraiser

    The second word this week is fundraiser. We learned earlier that some groups in Spain sell hundred-shares of Christmas lottery tickets as a fundraiser. A tenth of a décimo goes for 2 euros, but these groups sell them for 3 euros, and keep the extra one for their organization. In that way, it raises money for the charity. And that’s what a fundraiser is—it’s any activity that helps an organization get extra money. I’m not sure how it is in other parts of the world, but here in the United States, there are all kinds of fundraisers. When I was a kid, we’d sell magazine subscriptions as a fundraiser for my school and Christmas wreathes as a fundraiser for an after-school group I was in. Other popular fundraisers are concerts and 5K road races , where a portion of each ticket or entrance fee sold goes to an organization. Sometimes organizations will host a raffle or an auction , both of which are good fundraisers because they can generate a lot of money.

    In my experience , a fundraiser is an activity that costs money, and a portion of that money goes to a good cause . So, you might say, I’m raising funds for cancer research. Would you consider giving money? But if you organized a concert and sold tickets for $10 each, you would tell your friends that the concert is a fundraiser, and you’d ask them to buy tickets instead of just giving you money directly.

    What are some common fundraisers where you live? I’d love to hear from you either on social media or through email. I’m on both Twitter and Facebook at PlainEnglishPod. Speaking of which , I wanted to say hi to Guillermo from Spain and Frances from Brazil; they both connected on Twitter last week. If you’re interested in sending an email, my email address is jeff@plainenglish.com

    That brings us to the end of this week’s program; thanks for listening and have a happy and safe new year!

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