Millions in path of Winter Blizzard

Luke 21:25,26 “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Important Takeaways:

  • Nor’easter, winter storm to threaten millions along East Coast, New England
  • Heavy snow, strong winds and potential blizzard conditions are being forecast starting later today for the East Coast.
  • “Blizzard conditions” and wind gusts as high as 75 mph.
  • “Significant beach erosion and coastal flooding will also be a concern,” the NWS says, adding that the looming onslaught of wintry weather – which could also cause widespread power outages during below-freezing temperatures — “will make travel nearly impossible.”

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East Coast snowstorm leaves thousands without power

Luke 21:25,26 “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Important Takeaways:

  • ‘Downright Dangerous’: Thousands Without Power After Snowstorm Sweeps Through Parts of Virginia, Carolinas
  • Winter weather advisories and ice warnings were in effect for dozens of counties from South Carolina to Virginia with some areas getting over five inches of snow.
  • “Power outage threat is going to increase dramatically as these northeasterly winds continue to increase, and the freezing rainfall rates are also going to increase,” Timmer stated.
  • Over 203,000 customers were reported in Virginia Beach, 102,000 in Norfolk, and 106,000 are without power in Chesapeake, according to PowerOutage.US.

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Winter Storm slams East Coast knocking out power

Luke 21:25,26 “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Important Takeaways:

  • Powerful storm slams East Coast with snow, winds and freezing rain
  • A powerful winter storm that slammed the Southeast over the weekend was moving north Monday, causing widespread power outages and covering roads in a mix of snow and ice.
  • More than 125,000 customers were in the dark in Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and West Virginia, according to the website PowerOutages.us.
  • As the system moves north, Pittsburgh could see more than a foot of snow and some parts of New York could see 2 to 3 inches of snow falling every hour.

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East Coast winter blast leaves many without power

Important Takeaways:

  • Virginia winter storm leaves 180,000 without power days after hitting area
  • Electric utility company in the state, tweeted that crews have been working through the night to restore power to residents after the storm
  • However, crews have been faced icy roadways, road closures and downed trees.

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Biden says East Coast fuel shortages to end in days as pipeline reopens

By Stephanie Kelly

(Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday said that U.S. motorists can expect filling stations to begin returning to normal this weekend even as shortages gripped some areas amid restart of the top U.S. fuel pipeline after it was shut by a ransomware attack.

The Colonial Pipeline, which carries 100 million gallons per day of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, will take some time to fully recover and could still suffer “hiccups,” he said. Colonial began supplying some fuel to most regions along its 5,500 mile (8,850 km) route.

The pipeline resumed computer-controlled pumping late Wednesday after adding safety measures.

The shutdown caused gasoline shortages and emergency declarations from Virginia to Florida, led two refineries to curb production, and spurred airlines to reshuffle refueling operations.

The pipeline’s restart should bring supplies to some hard-hit areas as soon as Thursday, said U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

“Relief is coming,” added Jeanette McGee, a spokeswoman for motor travel group AAA.

Motorists’ tempers frayed as panic buying led stations to run out even where supplies were available. On Thursday about 70% of gas stations in North Carolina were without fuel, while around 50% of stations in Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia had outages, tracking firm GasBuddy said.

The average national gasoline price rose above $3.00 a gallon, the highest since October 2014, the American Automobile Association said, and prices in some areas jumped as much as 11 cents in a day.

Nicole Guy, 36, a leasing agent in Atlanta, was at her fourth gas station Thursday morning, trying to find gas. The station ran out of gas early Wednesday and the manager wasn’t sure when deliveries would resume.

Guy said she wished she had gone out the night before to refuel.

“My sister paid $3.50 at the pump last night for her car,” she said. “I thought if I went looking today I’d find a better deal. I never paid that much at the pump.”

Even as the pipeline resumes pumping, it will take time to replenish stocks. Gasoline inventories in the Northeast likely will fall to five-year lows this week, said Richard Joswick, an analyst with S&P Global Platts.

HACKERS RESURFACE

As FBI cyber sleuths dug into an attack that paralyzed a large part of the U.S. energy infrastructure, the group believed to be responsible said it was publishing data from breaches at three other companies, including an Illinois technology firm.

Biden on Thursday said officials do not believe the Russian government was involved in this attack.

“But we do have strong reason to believe that the criminals who did the attack are living in Russia,” he said. “That’s where it came from.”

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday urged companies that are victims of cyberattacks not to pay a ransom.

Colonial has not publicly said how much money the hackers were seeking or whether it paid the ransom. Colonial has a type of insurance that typically covers ransom payments, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday.

To stem fuel shortages, four states and federal regulators relaxed fuel driver restrictions to speed deliveries of fresh supplies.

The U.S. also issued a waiver to an undisclosed shipper allowing it to transport gasoline and diesel from the U.S. Gulf Coast to East Coast ports on foreign-flagged vessels. The U.S. restricts deliveries between domestic ports to U.S.-built and crewed vessels.

Gulf Coast refiners that move fuel to market on the Colonial Pipeline had cut processing as an alternative pipeline filled to capacity last weekend. Total SE trimmed gasoline production at its Port Arthur, Texas, refinery and Citgo Petroleum pared back at its Lake Charles, Louisiana, plant.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc on Thursday said it was seeking alternative supply points to tackle challenges from the incident.

Airlines were refueling planes at their destinations, instead of usual departure points. On Wednesday, Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Ed Bastian said more fuel would be available “hopefully by the end of the week and as long as those predictions come true, hopefully we’ll be OK.”

(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly in New York; additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

U.S. agency again delays key permit for first major U.S. offshore wind farm

By Nichola Groom

(Reuters) – A federal agency said on Thursday it has again delayed a long-awaited environmental study crucial to permitting the first major U.S. offshore wind project, but final approval of the project is expected by mid-January.

The study of the 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind project planned for the waters off the Massachusetts coast is expected to be released by Dec. 11, according to a government timeline. It had been anticipated later this week.

The document has been repeatedly pushed back since April of 2019 due to concerns that the project’s wind turbines will harm fisheries and navigation.

The delays have been a setback to President Donald Trump’s efforts to fast-track big energy infrastructure projects and have stymied the administration’s plans to launch a promising new domestic industry.

A December publication of the study would pave the way for the administration to issue a final decision on the project by Jan. 15, according to the timeline, just days before Trump leaves office.

A spokesperson for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is overseeing the permitting process, said the agency was still reviewing the more than 13,000 public comments submitted in response to a supplemental review issued earlier this year.

That study was ordered in 2019 to consider the environmental impacts of many offshore wind farms due to the growing number of projects planned for the East Coast.

“Minor delays like this are not uncommon,” Vineyard Wind spokesman Andrew Doba said in an emailed statement.

Doba said the company was confident that the project would be delivered on time. It is scheduled to be completed in 2023 at the earliest.

Once constructed, the project is expected to generate enough power for more than 400,000 homes. The lease area is located 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

Vineyard Wind is a joint venture between Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Inc, the U.S. arm of Iberdrola SA.

(Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by David Gregorio)

Remnants of Hurricane Laura drench Arkansas as storm heads east

(Reuters) – The remnants of Hurricane Laura were dousing Arkansas on Friday morning and due to bring rain to the East Coast over the weekend.

Now a tropical depression, Laura had proved less damaging than feared, despite arriving in Louisiana this week as one of the most powerful hurricanes recorded in the United States.

The storm killed at least six people in Louisiana, including four who were killed when trees fell into homes, damaged buildings in Louisiana and Texas and knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of residents.

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to head to the Gulf Coast over the weekend to survey the damage.

The storm was forecast to drop heavy rain over Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri and Kentucky as it headed out to the East Coast, the National Weather Service said.

At its peak upon making landfall on Thursday morning, Laura had maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour (241 km per hour), faster than even Hurricane Katrina, which sparked deadly levee breaches in New Orleans in 2005 after arriving with wind speeds of 125 mph.

What would have been a dangerous 20-foot (6-m) storm surge that forecasters had predicted could move 40 miles (64 km) inland was avoided when Laura tacked east just before landfall, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said. That meant a mighty gush of water was not fully pushed up the Calcasieu Ship Channel, which would have given the storm surge an easy path far inland.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

‘Everything’s gone’: Tornadoes rip U.S. South, kill at least 26

By Brendan O’Brien

(Reuters) – Rescue workers and homeowners across the U.S. South on Monday sifted through what remained of hundreds of structures destroyed by a series of tornadoes that killed at least 26 people, as the deadly weather system churned up the East Coast.

Nearly 51 million people from Florida to New England were in the path of the system, with National Weather Service forecasters warning of strong winds, torrential rain and possibly more tornadoes on Monday afternoon.

The system had already spawned about 60 reported tornadoes that left a path of destruction from Texas to the Carolinas on Sunday and Monday, the weather service reported.

Powerful winds in the upper atmosphere combined with a strong cold front to make the system particularly dangerous, said weather service meteorologist Aaron Tyburski.

“This was very typical of the spring season – definitely not something out of the ordinary – but it is very active,” he said.

Damaged buildings and vehicles are seen in the aftermath of a tornado in Monroe, Louisiana, U.S. April 12, 2020, in this still image obtained from social media. Courtesy of Peter Tuberville/Social Media via REUTERS

At least 11 people were killed in Mississippi, eight in South Carolina, six in Georgia and one in Arkansas in the storms, local media and state officials reported.

Five of the people who were killed in Georgia were in two Murray County mobile home parks that were leveled as tornadoes rolled through the area, Murray County Fire Chief Dewayne Bain told a Fox News affiliate in the region.

Among the dead in Mississippi were Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Robert Ainsworth and his wife, Paula.

“Robert left this world a hero, as he shielded Mrs. Paula during the tornado,” the sheriff’s department said on Facebook.

Local media across the region showed images and video clips of homeowners and rescue workers picking through piles of rubble as flattened homes, overturned vehicles and downed power lines covered the landscape.

“It just tore everything. Everything’s gone,” Latesha Dillon, whose brother was killed in Walthall County, Mississippi, told a local ABC affiliate.

Firefighters in Orangeburg County, South Carolina, found a handful of people trapped in two homes on Monday, the Times and Democrat, the local newspaper, reported.

In Upson County, Georgia, 65 miles (105 km) south of Atlanta, homeowner Paul McDaniel and his wife raced to an interior part of their home as a reported tornado rolled through their neighborhood early on Monday.

“I heard it and grabbed her and we ran into the hall and … it was something like I never heard before,” McDaniel told a Fox News affiliate in the region.

Nearly 580,000 million homes and businesses in North and South Carolina, Arkansas, New York and Virginia were without power on Monday, Poweroutage said.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Thousands flee fires in Australia, navy helps evacuate the stranded

Thousands flee fires in Australia, navy helps evacuate the stranded
By Jill Gralow and Sonali Paul

BATEMANS BAY, Australia/MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of holiday makers fled seaside towns on Australia’s east coast on Thursday as bushfires approached, and military ships and helicopters began rescuing thousands more trapped by the blazes.

Fuelled by searing temperatures and high winds, more than 200 fires are burning across the southeastern states of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria, threatening several towns.

The NSW state government declared a state of emergency, beginning on Friday, giving authorities the power to forcibly evacuate people and take control of services.

“It is hell on earth. It is the worst anybody’s ever seen,” Michelle Roberts said by telephone from the Croajingolong Cafe she owns in Mallacoota, a southeastern coastal town where 4,000 residents and visitors have been stranded on the beach since Monday night.

Roberts hoped to get her 18-year-old daughter onto a naval ship, which arrived off the town on Thursday, in order to escape the fires and thick smoke engulfing the town.

The HMAS Choules is expected to make two or three voyages over the coming days, state authorities said.

Elsewhere, long queues formed outside supermarkets and petrol stations as residents and tourists sought supplies to either bunker down or escape the fires, emptying shelves of staples like bread and milk.

More than 50,000 people were without power and some towns had no access to drinking water.

“Everyone’s just on edge,” said Shane Flanagan, a resident of Batemans Bay on the NSW coast.

Authorities urged a mass exodus from several towns on the southeast coast, an area popular with tourists during the summer holiday season, warning that extreme heat forecast for the weekend will further stoke the fires.

“The priority today is fighting fires and evacuating, getting people to safety,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Sydney. “There are parts of both Victoria and New South Wales which have been completely devastated, with a loss of power and communications.”

Eight people have been killed by wildfires in NSW and Victoria since Monday and 18 are missing, officials said on Thursday.

Temperatures are forecast to soar above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) along the south coast on Saturday, bringing the prospect of renewed firefronts to add to the around 200 current blazes.

“It is going to be a very dangerous day. It’s going to be a very difficult day,” NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

Following are highlights of what is happening across Australia:

* Naval officials said they would open registration forevacuation on Thursday afternoon, with the HMAS Choules able tocarry up to 1,000 people on the first trip. * “It’s 16-17 hours to the closest boat port, then we’ve gotto come back,” HMAS Choules Commander Scott Houlihan said onThursday afternoon. He said that leaving by boat was the onlyway out of the town. * Thousands of people had already been evacuated from theadjoining region of East Gippsland in Victoria, one of thelargest such operations in the country since the northern cityof Darwin evacuated over 35,000 people in the aftermath ofcyclone Tracy in 1974. * Five military helicopters were en route to the south coastto back up firefighters and bring in supplies like water anddiesel, the Australian Defence Force said. The aircraft willalso be used to evacuate injured, elderly and young people. * A contingent of 39 firefighters from North America landedin Melbourne, bringing the number of U.S. and Canadian expertswho have flown in to help deal with the crisis to almost 100. * Traffic on the main highway out of Batemans Bay on the NSWcoast was bumper-to-bumper after authorities called for the townto be evacuated. Residents of the town reported there was nofuel, power or phone service, while supermarket shelves had beenstripped bare of staples. * NSW’s Kosciuszko National Park, home to the SnowyMountains, was closed and visitors were ordered to leave due toan extreme danger of fire. * Morrison urged those waiting for help and those stuck intraffic jams “to be patient … help will arrive.” * Morrison, forced to defend his government’s limited actionon climate change, blamed a three-year drought and lack ofhazard reduction for the unprecedented extent and duration ofthis year’s bushfires. * Bushfires so far this season have razed more than 4million hectares (10 million acres) of bushland and destroyedmore than 1,000 homes, including 381 homes destroyed on thesouth coast this week.

(Reporting by Sonali Paul in Melbourne and Jill Gralow in Batemans Bay; Editing by Jane Wardell, Neil Fullick and Mike Collett-White)

Thousands trapped on Australian beaches by dangerous bushfires

By Sonali Paul and Swati Pandey

MELBOURNE/SYDNEY (Reuters) – Thousands swarmed to beaches on Australia’s east coast on Tuesday to escape fierce wildfires bearing down on several seaside towns, as the government readied naval vessels and military helicopters to aid firefighting and evacuations.

Government officials called for Australian military support and assistance from U.S. and Canadian fire crews as authorities confirmed two people had died overnight, taking to 11 the total deaths in wildfires since the beginning of October.

The huge bushfires have destroyed more than 4 million hectares (10 million acres), with new blazes sparked into life almost daily by extremely hot and windy conditions in bushland left tinder dry after a three-year drought.

Fueled by searing temperatures and high winds, more than 200 fires are now burning across the southeastern states of New South Wales and Victoria, threatening several towns and snapping their power, mobile and internet links.

“This is absolutely one of the worst fire seasons we’ve seen,” Shane Fitzsimmons, commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service, told a briefing in Sydney.

“It’s going to be a very long, difficult dangerous night still ahead. It’s going to be another difficult day again tomorrow.”

Authorities said the main firefront was moving up the coast and warned those in its path to seek shelter close to the beach.

About 4,000 people in the town of Mallacoota in Victoria headed to the waterfront after the main road was cut off. Those who could not make it there scrambled for shelter in a gymnasium and other public buildings, as emergency sirens wailed.

Some of those trapped in the town posted images of blood-red, smoke-filled skies on social media. One beachfront photograph showed people lying shoulder-to-shoulder on the sand, some wearing gas masks.

It looked “a lot like Armageddon,” said David Jeffrey, the owner of the Wave Oasis guesthouse, adding, “It’s terrifying.”

Fisherman Steve Casement said he had lost his house in Mallacoota to the fires.

“We are stuck here now,” he told Reuters by telephone. “Everyone is pretty shocked at the moment, most of my mates are in the same position.

“Right now, I am on a trailer watching the town burn down, listening to gas bottles explode at some poor bugger’s home and seeing smoke all around me.”

Authorities said that by late afternoon the worst danger had passed.

DARKNESS IN THE AFTERNOON

Several hundreds of kilometers north, the Jervis Bay tourist spot famed for having the whitest sand beach in the world, was shrouded in darkness in the afternoon as massive fires burned, with conditions expected to worsen.

The blazes were also generating their own weather patterns, with erratic winds, dry lightning and a significantly faster spread in different direction, fire authorities said.

Ellie Morello took refuge at a beachside motel with her mother, some neighbors, friends at pets as fires approached Batemans Bay, a town on the New South Wales coast.

“My throat’s hurting from the smoke,” she told Reuters by telephone. “Burned leaves and sparks were falling on me like rain.”

Another small fire was closing in behind her as she spoke, she added.

“Helicopters are flying right overhead and dropping ocean waters a couple of hundred meters from where I am. But we have nowhere to go so we are still here.”

Morello and others said they had run out of food and were unable to replenish supplies as shops had shut.

James Findlay, a Melbourne-based broadcaster, said his parents’ home in the town was gutted after palm trees on the lawn caught fire. The couple were vacationing in New Zealand.

“There were a lot of family heirlooms in there,” he told Reuters. “A lot of priceless memories.”

The fires have been spread across four states, with fronts stretching hundreds of kilometers in some cases, affecting many towns and rural areas.

The two people who died overnight were believed to have been a father and son protecting their property near the town of Cobargo in New South Wales, police said, with a third missing, feared dead, while in Victoria, four more were unaccounted for.

Bushfires burned on the outskirts of Sydney, cloaking the harbor city in smoke ahead of a fireworks display planned for New Year’s Eve.

Authorities said the fireworks would go ahead, despite some public calls for cancellation in solidarity with fire-hit areas in the state.

“Many of us have mixed feelings about this evening, but the important thing we take out of this is that we’re a resilient state,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.

(Reporting by Sonali Paul in Melbourne; additional reporting by Jonathan Barrett and Paulina Duran in Sydney; Writing by Jane Wardell; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Clarence Fernandez)