Rare deep freeze leaves more than 2 million Texas customers without power

(Reuters) – A rare deep freeze in Texas that raised demand for power forced the U.S. state’s electric grid operator on Monday to impose rotating blackouts that left more than 2 million customers without power.

The PowerOutage.us website – an ongoing project created to track power outages – said 2,629,684 customers were experiencing outages at 9:44 a.m. ET (1444 GMT).

President Joe Biden declared an emergency on Monday, unlocking federal assistance to Texas, where temperatures on Monday ranged from minus 8 to 21 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 22 to minus 6 Celsius).

Apart from Texas, much of the United States from the Pacific Northwest through the Great Plains and into the mid-Atlantic states was in the grip of bone-chilling weather over the three-day Presidents Day holiday weekend.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) sought to cut power use in response to a winter record of 69,150 MW on Sunday evening, more than 3,200 MW higher than the previous winter peak in January 2018.

About 10,500 MW of customer load was shed at the highest point, enough power to serve approximately two million homes, it said, adding that extreme weather caused many generating units across fuel types to trip offline and become unavailable.

As of early Monday, it said over 30,000 MW of generation had been forced off the system, and rotating outages would likely last throughout the morning and could be initiated until the weather emergency ended.

“Every grid operator and every electric company is fighting to restore power right now,” ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said in a statement.

The storms knocked out nearly half the state’s wind power generation capacity on Sunday. Wind generation ranks as the second-largest source of electricity in Texas, accounting for 23% of state power supplies, ERCOT estimates.

Of the 25,000-plus megawatts of wind power capacity normally available in Texas, 12,000 megawatts were out of service on Sunday morning, an ERCOT spokeswoman said.

A level three emergency notice was issued by the regulator, urging customers to limit power usage and prevent an uncontrolled systemwide outage.

The National Weather Service said an Arctic air mass had spread southwards, well beyond areas accustomed to freezing weather, with winter storm warnings posted for most of the Gulf Coast region, Oklahoma and Missouri.

The spot price of electricity on the Texas power grid spiked more than 10,000% on Monday. [NGA/]

(Reporting by Aishwarya Nair and Diptendu Lahiri in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernadette Baum, David Goodman and Howard Goller)

California firefighters make stand to save famed observatory, homes

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Crews fought on Tuesday to defend homes and the famed Mount Wilson Observatory from California’s biggest and most dangerous wildfire, standing their ground at a major highway between the flames and populated areas.

The Bobcat Fire, which broke out Sept. 6 in the Angeles National Forest north of Los Angeles, has already blackened an area larger than the city of Atlanta and its rapid spread prompted worried law enforcement officials to call for new evacuations on Monday evening.

Once home to the largest operational telescope in the world, the Mount Wilson Observatory, which sits on a peak of the San Gabriel mountains near vital communications towers, said in an update that almost all the forest around it had burned.

Firefighters overnight kept the Bobcat from breaching containment lines near the observatory and were preventively burning vegetation ahead of the fire along state Highway 2, which runs northeast from Los Angeles.

This summer California already has seen more land charred by wildfires than in any previous full year, with some 3.4 million acres burned since mid-August.

The fires, stoked by extreme weather conditions that some scientists call evidence of climate change, have destroyed some 6,100 homes and other structures and killed 26 people, three of them firefighters.

Another 2 million acres have burned in Oregon and Washington during an outbreak of wildfires, destroying more than 4,400 structures and claiming 10 lives. But rain showers across the western Cascade mountain range helped fire crews in the Pacific Northwest gain control of those conflagrations.

Although California has seen little rain in September, bouts of high temperatures and gale-force winds have given way in recent days to cooler weather, enabling firefighters to gain ground.

But forecasters predict rising temperatures, lower humidity and a return of strong, erratic winds around midweek in Southern California and by the weekend across the state’s northern half, lending urgency to the firefight.

The Bobcat Fire has now scorched more than 109,000 acres to become one of the largest wildfires in recorded Los Angeles County history and was only 17% contained on Tuesday afternoon.

The flames came perilously close to the Mount Wilson Observatory last week before they were driven back by crews using air support.

Several more areas, including Pasadena, a city of 140,000 people, remained under evacuation warnings.

California’s fire season historically has run through October. Five of the state’s 20 largest blazes on record have occurred this year.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

2019 was second-hottest year ever, more extreme weather coming: World Meteorological Organization

GENEVA (Reuters) – Last year was the second-hottest year since records began, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Wednesday, warning that heat was likely to lead to more extreme weather events like the Australian bushfires in 2020 and beyond.

The data from the Geneva-based WMO crunches several datasets including from NASA and the UK Met Office. It showed that the average global temperature in 2019 was 1.1 degree Celsius (34°F) above pre-industrial levels.

“Australia had its hottest, driest year on record in 2019, setting the scene for the massive bushfires which were so devastating to people and property, wildlife, ecosystems and the environment,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

“Unfortunately, we expect to see much extreme weather throughout 2020 and the coming decades, fuelled by record levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

The hottest year on record was in 2016, the WMO said, due to the warming impact of a strong El Nino event.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Cyclone batters southwestern India coast killing 14, many missing

Cyclone batters southwestern India coast killing 14, many missing

MUMBAI (Reuters) – Cyclone Ockhi barrelled into the Lakshwadeep islands in southwestern India on Saturday after drenching the neighboring states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, claiming so far around 14 lives with many fishermen still feared trapped at sea.

Authorities including the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), India’s Coast Guard and Navy have rescued about 223 fishermen and evacuated thousands of people from cyclone hit areas, officials said, as they continued their operations on Saturday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken to the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, assuring him of support operations including necessary funds, according to local media.

Ockhi is expected to travel north towards Mumbai and Gujarat in the next 48 hours, according to Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) Director S. Sudevan in Trivandrum, though it is likely to lose intensity.

“The intensity of the wind may come down and the cyclone could change into depression,” Sudevan said adding fishermen have been warned not go to the sea for the next few days as waves are likely to be 3-5 meters (12-15 feet) high.

(Reporting by D Jose in KERALA and Suvashree Dey Choudhury in MUMBAI; Editing by Michael Perry)

Greeks in mourning and disbelief after flood that killed at least 15

Greeks in mourning and disbelief after flood that killed at least 15

MANDRA, Greece (Reuters) – Greeks voiced despair and disbelief on Thursday after a flash flood killed at least 15 people and left hundreds homeless, with many blaming a system that allowed houses to be built on dried up river beds.

In the towns of Nea Peramos and Mandra west of the capital Athens, crumpled cars and mangled furniture lay on roads caked in the thick mud left behind by a raging torrent that smashed through homes on Wednesday morning. [nL8N1NL22V]

“We are ruined. My tavern and my house are gone,” said Paraskevas Stamou, a restaurant owner in Mandra. “Everything is gone, the road is gone, the water is still flowing and we were flooded again last night and this morning.

“We are expecting another downpour tonight. It’s like God hates us,” he told Reuters.

Maria Kriada is comforted outside her destroyed house following flash floods which hit areas west of Athens on November 15 killing at least 15 people, in Nea Peramos, Greece, November 16, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Maria Kriada is comforted outside her destroyed house following flash floods which hit areas west of Athens on November 15 killing at least 15 people, in Nea Peramos, Greece, November 16, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

To escape the lethal floodwaters, residents took desperate measures.

“We had nowhere to sleep. We slept on the roof, we found carpets to cover ourselves,” said a man in Mandra whose house was gutted by the flood but remained standing.

Between sobs, his mother added: “Everything went. We don’t have anyone to help us. I don’t have help from anyone.”

Bad weather continued on Thursday. Officials said they were waiting for conditions to improve before giving a clearer picture of the damage. Five people were still missing.

Flags flew half-mast from state buildings and the Acropolis on Thursday as the government declared three days of national mourning.

Newspapers expressed anger. “A Crime,” was the headline in Ta Nea daily, superimposed on a picture of a woman being comforted next to an overturned car. “The Deeds of Man,” wrote the leftist Avgi, referring to unlicensed constructions.

Experts blamed haphazard construction which the natural path for water runoff, and soil erosion on a mountain range hit by fires.

Both towns were built along an old motorway linking Athens to the Peloponnese city of Corinth. As building crept closer to the road, streams that would have drained runoff from the nearby Pateras mountains were blocked.

“Of course the state wasn’t prepared … we cannot compete with nature,” said Christos Zeferos, head of the research center for Atmospheric Physics and Climatology Academy of Athens, adding that climate change meant people should expect more weather-related disasters.

“We should be prepared for more frequent, and different phenomena,” he told Reuters.

Many of the victims were elderly. The youngest was a 36-year old truck driver who called his mother as the floodwaters rose around his lorry. The line went dead soon afterwards.

General aerial view of a flooded area following flash floods in Mandra, West Attica, Greece November 15, 2017 in this still image taken from social media video.     NATIONAL AND KAPODISTRIAN UNIVERSITY OF ATHENS/via REUTERS

General aerial view of a flooded area following flash floods in Mandra, West Attica, Greece November 15, 2017 in this still image taken from social media video. NATIONAL AND KAPODISTRIAN UNIVERSITY OF ATHENS/via REUTERS

(Reporting By Michele Kambas, Renee Maltezou, Alkis Konstantinidis and Lefteris Papadimas; Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Tiny Montana firm’s Puerto Rico power deal draws scrutiny

A pick up from Montana-based Whitefish Energy Holdings is parked as workers (not pictured) help fix the island's power grid, damaged during Hurricane Maria in September, in Manati, Puerto Rico October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez

By Susan Heavey, Richard Cowan and Scott DiSavino

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Federal emergency officials raised “significant concerns” on Friday about a $300 million contract between Puerto Rico’s storm-hit power utility and a tiny Montana firm, as Democratic lawmakers stepped up calls for an investigation of the deal.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a statement that after its initial review it “has not confirmed whether the contract prices are reasonable” under the agreement between Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and Whitefish Energy Holdings, a two-year-old firm with just two full-time employees.

The contract between PREPA and Whitefish was awarded without a competitive bidding process.

Whitefish spokesman Ken Luce said the deal was secured when its chief executive and co-owner, Andy Techmanski, flew to Puerto Rico on Sept. 26, six days after Hurricane Maria tore into the bankrupt U.S. territory and knocked out power to all 3.4 million residents.

The contract, and the slow restoration of power on the island, has raised questions about who is effectively managing PREPA’s response to the hurricane, as about 75 percent of homes and businesses still lack electricity after several weeks.

Jose Roman, interim chairman of Puerto Rico’s Energy Commission, said the commission is looking into how Whitefish got the contract as part of a larger investigation to “determine the prudence of the actions of PREPA; not just the Whitefish contract,” he said.

PREPA did not respond to requests for comment.

Puerto Rico’s financial oversight board earlier this week said it would appoint an emergency manager to oversee PREPA, though that has met with pushback from Governor Ricardo Rossello, who may challenge such an effort in court.

It took more than a week after Maria hit the island for a damage assessment to be completed by PREPA, the chronically underfunded state utility. Eventually, FEMA put the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in charge of short-term power restoration.

 

ZINKE: I HAD “NOTHING TO DO” WITH CONTRACT

A growing number of U.S. lawmakers have raised questions about the contract, the slow pace of power restoration, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s connections with Whitefish.

Representative Raul Grijalva, the senior Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, and Representative Peter DeFazio, the top Democrat on the Transportation Committee, asked the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general in a letter to investigate the contract’s execution, its terms, and “whether there was any political impetus behind the contract.”

The representatives noted that Whitefish is based in Zinke’s hometown and that Zinke’s son once worked for Whitefish. The letter also stated that a Whitefish financial backer, HBC Investments, was founded by Joe Colonnetta, a contributor to President Donald Trump’s campaign, as well as “many other Republican candidates.”

Zinke said in a release that “I had absolutely nothing to do with Whitefish Energy receiving a contract in Puerto Rico.” After the initial contract was awarded, “I was contacted by the company, on which I took no action,” he said.

White House spokesman Raj Shah said that the administration’s “understanding” was that the contract was awarded solely by PREPA, and they are “not aware of any federal involvement” in the deal.

U.S. Senate Democrats urged FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a letter to unify efforts to restore power on the island.

They also called on FEMA and PREPA to name a top official to oversee all electrical contracts, and urged federal officials to more quickly clear crews from two companies, Fluor Corp <FLR.N> and PowerSecure, so they can begin restoration work.

Several utilities are involved in restoration, including Fluor, Whitefish, JEA, New York Power Authority, and others. Whitefish and its subcontractors have more than 300 people on the island, Luce said.

Techmanski first got in touch with PREPA following Hurricane Irma, during a bidding process to repair damages from that storm, which hit Puerto Rico two weeks before Maria, Luce said.

A copy of the contract surfaced online Thursday night, raising more questions, particularly over language blocking oversight of costs and profits.

“In no event shall PREPA, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the FEMA administrator, the Comptroller General of the United States or any other authorized representatives have the right to audit or review the cost and profit elements,” said the document, published by several media outlets, whose authenticity was confirmed by Democratic staffers for the Natural Resources Committee.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called for the immediate termination of the contract, saying “no federally-funded contract should be immune from routine oversight or circumvent a federal audit.”

Costs listed for hourly wages ranged in the hundreds of dollars and daily per diems of more than $330 for accommodations and nearly $80 for food, according to the “bid schedule” published online. The document put the cost of one-way airline flights for employees at $1,000.

Luce defended the deal, saying the company welcomed an audit or questions from Washington. “The contract was done in good faith with PREPA,” he said.

Rossello has also defended the contract, even as he ordered an audit. Initial results of the audit are expected to be released later on Friday, according to NBC News.

 

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Richard Cowan, Timothy Gardner; additional reporting by Scott DiSavino, Jessica Resnick-Ault and Nicholas Brown; editing by Tom Brown and Diane Craft)

 

Three dead as Storm Ophelia batters Ireland

Three dead as Storm Ophelia batters Ireland

By Clodagh Kilcoyne

LAHINCH, Ireland (Reuters) – Three people died as Tropical Storm Ophelia battered Ireland’s southern coast on Monday, knocking down trees and power lines and whipping up 10-metre (30-foot) waves.

Over 360,000 homes and businesses were without electricity with another 100,000 outages expected by nightfall, Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board said, describing it as an unprecedented event that would effect every part of the country for days.

Around 170 flights from Ireland’s two main airports at Dublin and Shannon were canceled.

Two people were killed in separate incidents when trees fell on their cars — a woman in her 50s in the south east and a man on the east coast. Another man in his 30s died while trying to clear a fallen tree in an incident involving a chainsaw.

The storm, downgraded from a hurricane overnight, was the worst to hit Ireland in half a century. It made landfall after 10:40 a.m. (0940 GMT), the Irish National Meteorological Service said, with winds as strong as 190 kph (110 mph) hitting the most southerly tip of the country. Coastal flooding was likely.

“This storm is still very active and there are still very dangerous conditions in parts of the country. Do not be lulled into thinking this has passed,” the chairman of Ireland’s National Emergency Coordination Group, Sean Hogan, told national broadcaster RTE.

The Galway Atlantaquaria National Aquarium of Ireland building is seen submerged in floodwater during Storm Ophelia in Galway, Ireland October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

The Galway Atlantaquaria National Aquarium of Ireland building is seen submerged in floodwater during Storm Ophelia in Galway, Ireland October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

The armed forces were sent to bolster flood defenses, public transport services and hospitals were closed and schools across Ireland and Northern Ireland will remain shut for a second day on Tuesday.

Hundreds of roads were blocked by fallen trees, Hogan said. Photos on social media showed roofs flying off buildings, including at Cork City soccer club’s Turner’s Cross stadium where the roof of one stand had collapsed.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar advised people to stay indoors. The transport minister said it was not safe to drive.

The storm winds were due to peak between 1600 GMT and 1800 GMT in Dublin and Galway, two of Ireland’s most populous cities, and later on Monday in northern areas.

Britain’s meteorological service put an Amber Weather Warning into effect for Northern Ireland from 1400-2100 GMT, saying the storm posed a danger to life and was likely to cause transport cancellations, power cuts and flying debris.

It is expected to move towards western Scotland overnight and “impactful weather” is expected in other western and northern parts of the United Kingdom, it said.

British media are comparing Ophelia to the “Great Storm” of 1987, which subjected parts of the United Kingdom to hurricane strength winds 30 years ago to the day.

The Irish government said the storm was likely to be the worst since Hurricane Debbie, which killed 11 in Ireland in 1961.

It passed close to a western Ireland golf course owned by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been planning a wall to protect its greens from coastal erosion.

Similar storms in the past have changed the shape of stretches of the Irish coastline, climatologists said.

(Additional reporting and writing by Padraic Halpin and Conor Humphries; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Thousands evacuated in Vietnam as floods, landslides kill 46

Thousands evacuated in Vietnam as floods, landslides kill 46

By Mai Nguyen

HANOI (Reuters) – Heavy rain in northern and central Vietnam triggered floods and landslides that killed 46 people and 33 people were missing in the worst such disaster in years, the search and rescue committee said on Thursday.

Vietnam often suffers destructive storms and floods due to its long coastline. More than 200 people were killed in storms last year.

“In the past 10 years, we haven’t suffered from such severe and intense floods,” state-run Vietnam Television quoted agriculture minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong as saying.

A typhoon tore a destructive path across central Vietnam just last month, flooding and damaging homes and knocking out power lines.

The latest floods hit Vietnam on Monday.

“Our entire village has had sleepless nights…it’s impossible to fight against this water, it’s the strongest in years,” a resident in northwestern Hoa Binh province was quoted by VTV as saying.

Vietnam’s Central Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Control said authorities were discharging water from dams to control water levels.

Some 317 homes had collapsed, while more than 34,000 other houses were submerged or had been damaged.

Earlier reports said more than 8,000 hectares (19,800 acres) of rice had been damaged and around 40,000 animals were killed or washed away.

Hoa Binh province in the northwest declared a state of emergency and opened eight gates to discharge water at Hoa Binh dam, Vietnam’s largest hydroelectric dam, the first time it has done so in years, VTV reported.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc visited northern Ninh Binh province where water levels in the Hoang Long river are their highest since 1985.

Rising sea levels are also threatening Vietnam’s more than 3,260 km (2,000 mile) coastline, resulting in increased flooding of low lying coastal regions, erosion and salt water intrusion.

Floods have also affected seven of 77 provinces in Thailand, Vietnam’s neighbor to the west, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation said on Thursday. More than 480,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) of agricultural land have been hit, the department said.

Thailand is the world’s second-biggest exporter of rice.

“It is still too soon to tell whether there will be damage to rice crops because most of the rice has already been harvested,” Charoen Laothamatas, president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, told Reuters.

In 2011, Thailand was hit by its worst flooding in half a century. The floods killed hundreds and crippled industry, including the country’s key automotive sector.

(Additional reporting by Mi Nguyen in HANOI and; Suphanida Thakral in BANGKOK; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Neil Fullick and Nick Macfie)

In the mountains of Puerto Rico, hurricane recovery is slower

In the mountains of Puerto Rico, hurricane recovery is slower

By Hugh Bronstein

TRUJILLO ALTO, Puerto Rico (Reuters) – In the lowlands of Trujillo Alto, a sprawling suburb of San Juan, clean water once again flows in the homes of most residents. But in the mountainous part of the city, which is largely poor and semi-rural, finding clean water remains a daily struggle.

Across Puerto Rico, officials say, altitude matters. While workers are making steady progress restoring power and running water to coastal regions, where the territory’s largest cities are located, the mountainous regions at the island’s center are proving challenging.

“Are people in the mountains in a worse situation than urban people? Of course,” said Puerto Rico’s minister of public policy, Ramon Rosario, “because they are more distant from the power generators on the coasts.” Without electricity, he noted, the pumps that carry water up into the mountains can’t operate or must rely on generators.

A mix of Puerto Ricans live in the “Cordillera Central,” or central range of Puerto Rico, which is far more sparsely populated than coastal regions. Many residents are poor, living in rural, agrarian-based communities. But the region also has wealthy residents seeking the cooler temperatures and beauty of the cordillera.

In Trujillo Alto, a community of 85,000 that sits partly on flat land but also extends into the mountains, hurricane recovery varies sharply by altitude.

Lydia Perez Molina, 72, still relies on government-provided food and water in her mountain-top home, where she weathered hours of howling winds and hammer-blow rains during the Sept. 20 storm.

“Water came in through the window and the wind was like a monster,” Perez Molina said.

Now, she said, tears welling up in her eyes, her son spends his time “searching and struggling to bring us what we need. He’s standing in line for water at one place and for food at another.”

Debris is seen outside a home damaged by Hurricane Maria is seen in the Trujillo Alto municipality outside San Juan, Puerto Rico, October 9, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Debris is seen outside a home damaged by Hurricane Maria is seen in the Trujillo Alto municipality outside San Juan, Puerto Rico, October 9, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

On Monday, Lourdes Zayas, president of the Trujillo Alto town council, gathered with dozens of other volunteers in the municipality’s basketball gym to put together care packages of rice, beans, milk and other basic foods that are trucked out several times a day to hard-hit parts of town.

“We can keep supplying food and drinking water as long as we need to,” Zayas said. “As for the electricity, who knows.”

Trujillo Alto Mayor Jose Luis Cruz said 70 percent of the richer, low-lying parts of town now have steady supplies of water, but there is no electricity to pump water up to the poorer parts of the municipality.

Moving heavy trucks and machinery into mountain areas to clear hazards and restore electrical lines is proving difficult, too, said a civilian employee of the Army Corps of Engineers, who was deployed to Puerto Rico to work on restoring the electrical grid.

He said he was sent to Florida after Hurricane Irma to work on restoring power, but that the two situations were starkly different.

“Irma was a repair job,” he said, asking that his name not be used as he was not authorized to speak to the press. “This is a rebuild.”

(Reporting by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Sue Horton)

Weakening Nate brings rain, tornado warnings to U.S. South

Weakening Nate brings rain, tornado warnings to U.S. South

By Rod Nickel and Jessica Resnick-Ault

BILOXI/PASCAGOULA, Miss. (Reuters) – Hurricane Nate weakened to a tropical depression on Sunday after coming ashore in Mississippi, flooding roads and buildings but sparing the state from catastrophic damages.

Maximum sustained winds from Nate, the fourth major storm to hit the United States in less than two months, dropped to 35 miles per hour (55 km per hour) as it moved through Alabama and into Tennessee.

The remnants of the storm spawned tornado warnings in those states and the western portions of North Carolina and South Carolina. It is forecast to bring gusty winds and up to 4 inches (10 cm) of rain to parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York on Monday.

The storm made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane, the weakest designation by the U.S. National Hurricane Center. Only a few hours earlier, its winds had been blowing at 70 mph (113 kph) but appeared to lack the devastating punch of its recent predecessors.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant told reporters there had been no deaths or reports of catastrophic damage. “We are very fortunate this morning and have been blessed,” he said.

Nate killed at least 30 people in Central America before entering the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and bearing down on the U.S. South. It has also shut down most oil and gas production in the Gulf.

Nate follows hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which have devastated areas of the Caribbean and southern United States.

The tropical depression’s center will move up through Alabama into Tennessee and Kentucky through Monday, the hurricane center said. Heavy rainfall and storm-surge flooding remained a danger across the region, and the hurricane center said Florida’s Panhandle and parts of Alabama and Georgia might feel tropical storm-force wind gusts.

The storm was expected to bring three to six inches of rain to parts of western North Carolina through midday Monday, with up to 10 inches possible in isolated spots. Power outages, damaged homes and roads closed by debris were all reported in the region.

Nate made its first U.S. landfall on Saturday evening near the mouth of the Mississippi River and then made a second one early on Sunday near Biloxi, Mississippi.

In Biloxi, water surged over roads during the storm and quickly receded on Sunday, leaving a boat that broke loose marooned on the beach. At a Waffle House restaurant, the storm surge deposited a dumpster in its parking lot.

Jeff Pickich, a 46-year-old wine salesman from D’Iberville, Mississippi, was counting his blessings. Heavy winds left only minor damage, blowing down part of a fence on his rental property in Biloxi.

“I’m just glad,” he said, digging fresh holes for fence posts. “I was afraid of the water. The water is Mother Nature. You can’t stop it.”

Water flowed through Ursula Staten’s yard in Biloxi, pushing over part of her fence and scattering debris, but did not breach her house.

“I have a mess,” the retired massage therapist said. “If we had got Irma, I would have lost everything.”

At the Golden Nugget Casino, one of eight Biloxi gaming establishments, workers rushed to clean up mud, debris and minor damage from 3 feet (1 m) of water sloshing into an entrance and the parkade. The gaming room stayed dry.

Three hundred guests remained in the hotel, some eager to try their luck after surviving Nate.

But dangers from the storm remain, with Florida Governor Rick Scott warning of tornadoes springing up in the Panhandle region and Alabama Governor Kay Ivey urging residents to prepare for strong winds and storm surges.

U.S. President Donald Trump declared federal emergencies in Alabama and Florida on Sunday, which provides additional funding for disaster relief.

Mississippi Power had restored electricity to 10,000 customers, but 4,800 were still without it. More than 1,000 people had arrived at shelters, the state Emergency Management Agency said.

Alabama Power said it had restored electricity to 58,000 of 146,000 customers who lost it.

Rainfall of 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 cm), with a maximum of 10 inches (25 cm), was expected east of the Mississippi River in Alabama and Tennessee, the hurricane center said.

NEW ORLEANS THREAT DOWNGRADED

Forecast at one point to make landfall in Louisiana, Nate headed farther east and spared many New Orleans parishes that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina 12 years ago.

“I had prayed for this – that we would be spared,” said Amos Cormier, president of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana’s equivalent to a county.

Bernice Barthelemy, a 70-year-old Louisiana resident, died from cardiac arrest overnight after telling Reuters on Saturday that she did not mind having to evacuate, Cormier said on Sunday. He attributed her death to the stress of the move.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said he expected that evacuated residents could return home soon.

Vessel traffic and port operations at New Orleans resumed on Sunday afternoon, while the Port of Mobile in Alabama remained closed. Oil ports, producers and refiners in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were planning reopenings as the storm moved inland on Sunday.

The storm curtailed 92 percent of daily oil production and 77 percent of daily natural gas output in the Gulf of Mexico, more than three times the amount affected by Harvey.

The storm doused Central America with heavy rains on Thursday, killing at least 16 people in Nicaragua, 10 in Costa Rica, two in Honduras and two in El Salvador.

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Biloxi, Miss. and Jessica Resnick-Ault in Pascagoula, Miss.; Additional reporting by Marianna Parraga, Erwin Seba and Gary McWilliams in Houston; Jonathan Allen in New York; Writing by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Peter Cooney)