Body of missing man believed found after deadly flash flood in Arizona

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) – The remains of a 27-year-old man were believed to have been recovered on Wednesday, four days after a flash flood rushed down a rain-swollen canyon in central Arizona killing his wife and eight other family members, a local sheriff said.

Authorities said the body of Hector Miguel Garnica was spotted by a state helicopter surveying the area on Wednesday afternoon during a search near Payson, Arizona, about 90 miles northeast of Phoenix.

“We have located remains that we believe to be involved in this tragic flooding incident,” said Gila County Sheriff Adam Shepherd, during a news conference at the search site.

Sheperd said family members have been notified and a formal confirmation is pending a DNA analysis by state officials.

The remains were recovered on the fifth day of an intense search launched on Saturday, when a group of family members were swept away by what authorities described as a wall of water that crashed down the canyon at a popular swimming spot in the Tonto National Forest.

The 14-member group was celebrating Garnica’s wife’s birthday, authorities said.

Five children and five adults were killed in the incident ranging from two to 57 years old, sheriff’s officials said. Four family members were rescued.

Authorities said the group was engulfed by a sudden flash flood when a thunderstorm dumped as much as 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) of rain in 20 to 30 minutes about 8 miles (13 km) away from an area that had been burned by a nearly 7,200-acre (2,914 hectares) wildfire last month.

A video posted on social media showed the muddy, debris-filled torrent rushing down a canyon on Ellison Creek where the family was taking in the cool waters at a swimming spot frequented by dozens that day.

Some 130 searchers from 24 agencies took part in the search at its peak, including divers and cadaver dogs, authorities said.

(Reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

Search for Arizona man after flash flood kills 9 of his family

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) – Authorities searched on Monday for a missing man after a flash flood crashed down an Arizona canyon, law enforcement officials said, reportedly killing his wife and eight other family members at a popular swimming spot north of Phoenix.

Searchers scoured an area of the Tonto National Forest for an unidentified 27-year-old man who officials said was among 14 members of an extended family hit by a wall of flood water on Saturday afternoon.

Nine of the family, ranging in age from 2 to 57, died in the floodwaters on Saturday afternoon, according to a statement on Monday from the Gila County Sheriff’s Department.Four others from the Phoenix family, aged between 1 and 29, were rescued and survived the incident.

The Arizona Republic newspaper identified the missing man as Hector Miguel Garnica and said that the dead included Garnica’s wife, Maria Raya, 25, and her three children, Emily, 3, Mia, 5, and Hector Daniel, 7. Also killed was Selia Garcia, who authorities said was 57 and whom the Republic identified as Raya’s mother.

The group of 14 was swept down the creek after a thunderstorm hit about eight miles away in an area that had been burned by a nearly 7,200-acre wildfire last month, according to authorities.

Officials with the National Weather Service said one to 1.5 inches fell in 20 to 30 minutes in the area near Payson, about 90 miles (145 km) northeast of Phoenix.

A video posted on social media showed a muddy, debris-filled torrent that hit Ellison Creek, rushing down a narrow canyon where the swimmers were taking in the cool waters at the popular spot.

Three bodies were recovered on Saturday, with the other six recovered on Sunday, officials said.

Forecasters said they were concerned about additional possible flash flooding projected for central and southern Arizona.

The National Weather Service in Phoenix said that most of Arizona was under flash flood watch until Monday evening, warning that the monsoon air mass over the region was very wet and conducive to heavy thunderstorm rain that could lead to flood or flash flooding.

(Reporting by David Schwartz, additional reporting by Taylor Harris; Editing by Andrew Hay and Patrick Enright)

Tropical storm Cindy heads inland in Louisiana; one dead in Alabama

This graphic shows an approximate representation of coastal areas under a hurricane warning (red), hurricane watch (pink), tropical storm warning (blue) and tropical storm watch (yellow). The orange circle indicates the current position of the center of the tropical cyclone. The black line, when selected, and dots show the National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecast track of the center at the times indicated. The dot indicating the forecast center location will be black if the cyclone is forecast to be tropical and will be white with a black outline if the cyclone is forecast to be extratropical. Courtesy of NOAA and the National Weather Service

(Reuters) – Tropical storm Cindy was headed inland near the Louisiana-Texas border on Thursday morning and continued producing heavy rainfall and life-threatening conditions over the northern Gulf Coast, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The storm caused its first reported fatality on Wednesday when a 10-year-old boy struck by a log that a large wave dislodged while he stood near shore in Fort Morgan, Alabama, the Baldwin County coroner said.

Cindy is about 30 miles (45 km) west-southwest of Lake Charles, Louisiana, with maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour (65 km/h), is expected to weaken into a tropical depression later on Thursday, the Miami-based weather forecaster said.

“Now is the time to hide from the wind. Remain sheltered until the hazardous wind subsides,” the National Weather Service said in an advisory early on Thursday warning.

Cindy could drop six to nine inches (15-23 cm) of rain and bring as much as 15 inches to some parts of southeastern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, the NHC said.

The storm could cause a surge of up to three feet (1 meter) in isolated areas and possibly spawn tornados from southern Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle, the NHC said.

Two tornados were reported about four miles (6.4 km northwest of Biloxi, Mississippi. Two more were reported on the northwest coast of Florida, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the largest privately owned crude storage terminal in the United States, suspended vessel offloadings but expected no interruptions to deliveries from its hub in Clovelly, Louisiana.

Energy companies with operations in the Gulf of Mexico reported little impact on production. Shell suspended some well operations and Anadarko Petroleum, ENI and Enbridge said they had evacuated non-essential personnel.

The Gulf of Mexico region is home to about 17 percent of U.S. crude and 5 percent of dry natural gas output, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, editing by Larry King)

Four die from heat in sweltering U.S. Southwest: reports

FILE PHOTO: A sign warns of extreme heat as tourists enter Death Valley National Park in California June 29, 2013. REUTERS/Steve Marcus/File Photo

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Four people, including a homeless person and two hikers, have died from the record-breaking heat in the U.S. Southwest, media reports said, where triple-digit temperatures have driven residents indoors and canceled airline flights.

The first two fatalities recorded in the three-day heatwave took place on Monday in Santa Clara County, California, south of San Francisco, and included a homeless person found in a car, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

The victims were identified only as a 72-year-old man and an 87-year-old woman.

“It is tragic when someone dies of hyperthermia since in most every case it could have been prevented,” Dr. Michelle Jorden of the Santa Clara County Coroner’s Office told the newspaper.

“Hyperthermia and heat stress happen when a body’s heat-regulation system cannot handle the heat. It can happen to anyone, which is why it is so important to be in a cool location, drink plenty of water and take a cool bath or shower if you are getting too hot,” Jorden said.

The extreme heat, brought on by a high-pressure system parked over the Four Corners region where Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona meet, has boosted temperatures well above normal across much of the Southwest.

The bodies of a 57-year-old father and his 21-year-old son from Corpus Christi, Texas, were found earlier this week in the Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, where they were hiking, media reported.

New Mexico State Police told an NBC affiliate in New Mexico that the scorching temperatures, which were over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius), contributed to the deaths of the men.

The National Weather Service and local authorities issued heat advisories and warnings, urging residents to stay indoors and to drink plenty of water if they were outdoors. Power grid operators encouraged customers to use electricity sparingly to avoid a shutdown or blackout.

The sizzling weather forced the cancellation of more than 20 flights at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and delays at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. Aviation experts say the hotter, thinner air saps power from airline engines.

The heat can also create issues for ground crews, where pavement temperatures can reach more than 150 degrees F (66 C), a life-threatening condition if workers are exposed to it too long.

Temperatures reached 127 F (52.8 C) in California’s Death Valley at the peak of the heat wave on Tuesday afternoon but cooler weather was expected across the region by the end of the week.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb and Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Leslie Adler and Paul Tait)

U.S. Gulf Coast braces for Tropical Storm Cindy

This graphic shows an approximate representation of coastal areas under a hurricane warning (red), hurricane watch (pink), tropical storm warning (blue) and tropical storm watch (yellow). The orange circle indicates the current position of the center of the tropical cyclone. The black line, when selected, and dots show the National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecast track of the center at the times indicated. The dot indicating the forecast center location will be black if the cyclone is forecast to be tropical and will be white with a black outline if the cyclone is forecast to be extratropical. Courtesy of NOAA and the National Weather Service

By Liz Hampton

(Reuters) – Communities and oil refining and production facilities from Texas to Florida braced on Tuesday for potential disruptions as Tropical Storm Cindy strengthened over the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, threatening to bring flash floods across parts of the northern Gulf Coast.

Cindy was located about 230 miles (365 km) south of Morgan City, Louisiana late Tuesday with maximum sustained winds of 60 miles (95 km) per hour, the National Hurricane Center said.

The storm was moving toward the northwest near seven miles (11 km) per hour, and this motion was expected to continue through Wednesday.

On the forecast track, the center of Cindy will approach the coast of southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas late Wednesday, and move inland over southeastern Texas on Thursday, the Miami-based weather forecaster said.

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for San Luis Pass, Texas to the Alabama-Florida border, Metropolitan New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain.

“The winds aren’t looking to get much stronger than they are now,” but some areas east of Houston and toward Florida could see as much as 12 inches of rain, said Stephen Strum, vice president of extended forecast services at Weather Decision Technologies in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“It’s moving fairly slow, so it’s going to produce rain for a long time,” he added.

Heavy rains and wind could disrupt oil supplies at the massive refining and production centers along the U.S. Gulf Coast, which could drive up prices for consumers. The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), the largest privately owned crude storage terminal in the United States, suspended vessel offloading operations ahead of the storm, but said it expected no interruptions to deliveries from its hub in Clovelly, Louisiana.

Royal Dutch Shell said it suspended some offshore well operations but production was so far unaffected. Anadarko Petroleum said it had evacuated non-essential staff from its Gulf of Mexico facilities.

Exxon Mobil Corp, Phillips 66, and Motiva Enterprises said the storm had not affected their refining operations.

Cindy was expected to produce six to nine inches (15-23 cm) of rain with isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches over southeastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi, southern Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle through Thursday, the NHC said.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency. Officials in Houston, New Orleans and other cities along the Gulf Coast said they were monitoring developments. Florida Governor Rick Scott warned residents in the northwest part of his state to stay alert for flooding and heavy rain.

The storm could cause a surge of one to three feet along the coast and possibly spawn tornados from southern Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle, the NHC said.

The Gulf of Mexico is home to about 17 percent of U.S. crude output and 5 percent of dry natural gas output, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. More than 45 percent of the nation’s refining capacity is along the U.S. Gulf Coast, also home to 51 percent of total U.S. natural gas processing capability.

Crude oil prices for physical delivery along the U.S. Gulf Coast were relatively stable, but cash gasoline prices rose as traders expected heavy rains and possible flooding to hit refineries in the region.

Prompt U.S. Gulf Coast conventional gasoline firmed to trade as little as 2 cents per gallon under the RBOB futures contract, its strongest in four months.

WeatherBell Analytics LLC forecast 11 to 13 named tropical storms in the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season, according to a May outlook.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, and has an annual average of 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes.

Southeast of the Gulf of Mexico, a second tropical storm, Bret has been downgraded into a tropical wave.

(Reporting by Koustav Samanta, Nallur Sethuraman, Swati Verma, Apeksha Nair and Arpan Varghese in Bengaluru, Catherine Ngai and Devika Krishna Kumar in New York and Liz Hampton in Houston; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Chris Reese and David Gregorio)

Bangladesh raises highest danger warning as cyclone takes aim

A woman looks on inside her flooded house in Dodangoda village in Kalutara, Sri Lanka May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

By Ruma Paul and Dinuka Liyanawatte

DHAKA/AGALAWATTE, Sri Lanka/ (Reuters) – Bangladesh raised its storm danger signal to the highest level of 10 on Monday as a severe and intensifying cyclone churned toward its low-lying coast and was expected to make landfall in the early hours of Tuesday.

Impoverished Bangladesh, hit by cyclones every year, warned that some coastal areas were “likely to be inundated by a storm surge of four to five feet (1.2 to 1.5 meters)” above normal because of approaching Cyclone Mora.

The Disaster Ministry ordered authorities to evacuate people from the coast, the ministry’s additional secretary, Golam Mostafa, told reporters in Dhaka. About 10 million of Bangladesh’s population of 160 million live in coastal areas.

River ferries had suspended operations and fishing boats called in to safety.

“Maritime ports of Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar have been advised to lower danger signal number seven but instead hoist great danger signal number ten (repeat) ten,” a government weather bulletin said.

“The coastal districts of Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Noakhali, Laxmipur, Feni, Chandpur and their offshore islands … will come under danger signal number ten (repeat) ten.”

Bangladesh is hit by storms, many of them devastating, every year. Half a million people had their lives disrupted in coastal areas such as Barisal and Chittagong in May last year.

It is still recovering from flash floods that hit the northeast, affecting millions of people, in April. Rice prices have reached record highs and state reserves are at 10-year lows in the wake of flooding that wiped out around 700,000 tonnes of rice.

The cyclone formed after monsoon rains triggered floods and landslides in neighboring Sri Lanka, off India’s southern tip, which have killed at least 177 people in recent days, authorities said, with 24 killed in storms in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, either by lightning strikes or under collapsed village huts.

India warned of heavy rain in the northeastern states of Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh as Mora moved further up the Bay of Bengal.

RUBBER AND TEA PLANTATIONS HIT

Floods reached roof level and cut off access to many rural Sri Lankan villages, disrupting life for 557,500 people, many of them workers on rubber plantations, officials said. Nearly 75,000 people had been forced out of their homes.

Villagers in Agalawatte, in a key rubber-growing area 74 km (46 miles) southeast of the capital, Colombo, said they were losing hope of water levels falling soon after the heaviest rain since 2003. Fifty-three villagers died and 58 were missing.

“All access to our village is cut off. A landslide took place inside the village and several houses are buried,” Mohomed Abdulla, 46, told Reuters.

Some areas in the southern coastal district of Galle, popular with foreign tourists, have not received relief due to lack of access.

“My entire village is cut off and nobody can come to this village,” C.M. Chandrapla, 54, told Reuters by phone from the tourist village of Neluwa.

“There have been no supplies for the past two days. Water has gone above three-storey buildings and people survive by running to higher ground.”

The Sri Lankan military has sent in helicopters and boats in rescue efforts in the most widespread disaster since the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. About 100 people were missing in total.

The meteorology department forecast torrential rains over the next 36 hours.

Residents in seven densely populated districts in the south and center of Sri Lanka were asked to move away from unstable slopes in case of further landslides.

The wettest time of the year in Sri Lanka’s south is usually during the southern monsoon, from May to September. The island also receives heavy rains in the North West monsoonal season from November to February.

Reuters witnessed some people stranded on the upper floors of their homes. Civilians and relief officials in boats distributed food, water and other relief items.

One of the worst-hit areas was the southern coastal district of Matara which is home to black tea plantations. Rohan Pethiyagod, head of the Tea Board in the world’s largest exporter of top quality teas, said supplies would be disrupted for the next auction due to a lack of transportation.

Sri Lanka has already appealed for international assistance from the United Nations and neighboring countries.

(Additional reporting by Ranga Sirilal in Colombo; Writing by Shihar Aneez and Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Sri Lanka landslides, floods kill at least 25; dozens missing

Military officials work during a rescue mission at the site of a landslide in Bellana village in Kalutara, Sri Lanka May 26, 2017. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Floods and landslides in Sri Lanka have killed at least 25 people while dozens are missing after torrential rain, officials said on Friday, as soldiers fanned out in boats and in helicopters to help with rescue operations.

The early rainy season downpours have forced hundreds of people from their homes across the Indian Ocean island.

“There are at least five landslides reported in several places in Kaluthara,” said police spokesman Priyantha Jayakody, referring to the worst-hit district on the island’s west coast.

“Rescue operations are still taking place.”

The disaster management center said 25 people had been killed and 42 were missing.

Military Spokesman Roshan Senevirathne said about 400 military personnel had been deployed with boats and helicopters to help the police and civilian agencies.

The wettest time of the year in Sri Lanka is usually during the southern monsoon, from May to September.

(Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Robert Birsel)

U.S. weather forecasters predict above-normal hurricane season

A hurricane seen from space. Courtesy of Pixabay

By Laila Kearney

(Reuters) – U.S. weather forecasters on Thursday predicted more tropical storms in 2017 than normal for the Atlantic hurricane season, which last year brought one of the deadliest recorded storm systems that killed several hundred people.

Meteorologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center said there was a 70 percent chance of seeing between 11 and 17 named tropical storms this season, which begins on June 1 and runs for six months.

“There is a potential for a lot of storm activity this year,” Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator, said at a press conference in College Park, Maryland.

Five to nine of the storms could become hurricanes, with winds of 74 miles per hour or higher, including two to four major hurricanes, with winds of at least 111 miles per hour, Friedman said.

A normal season consists of an average of 12 tropical storms and six hurricanes, including three considered major.

U.S. residents along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast could be affected by the storms, as well as Mexico and the nations surrounding the Caribbean Sea.

The figures for 2017 are higher than last year’s prediction of 10 to 16 storms, with four to eight likely to become hurricanes.

A weak or non-existent El Nino, which typically suppresses the development of Atlantic hurricanes, and warmer sea surface temperatures factor into the predictions, said Gerry Bell, a NOAA hurricane climate specialist.

Forecasters will deploy more sophisticated tools this season to accurately track, image and predict the intensity of storms. They also will revise their model for communicating with the public, in part by sending alerts about storm surge, which is often the most dangerous element of tropical storms.

Despite forecasting advancements, Friedman warned residents, especially in coastal areas, to get ready ahead of time with evacuation plans and emergency supplies.

“We cannot stop hurricanes, but we can prepare for them,” Friedman said.

Last October, Hurricane Matthew killed hundreds of people when it hit Haiti and 34 more in the United States, and caused $10 billion in damage, making it one of the deadliest and most costly storms on record.

NOAA will update its outlook again in August, just before the peak storm season.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Diane Craft and Grant McCool)

At least one killed as tornado tears though dozens of Oklahoma homes: media

(Reuters) – A tornado tore through western Oklahoma on Tuesday evening, destroying or damaging dozens of homes and killing at least one person, media reported.

As many as 70 homes in Elk City, a town of about 12,000 people around 110 miles (180 km) west of Oklahoma City, were damaged or destroyed by the storm, CBS affiliate KWTV reported, citing officials.

One person in a car was killed, the station reported, citing an emergency response official. It was unclear how many people were injured, KWTV said.

The majority of damage occurred on the south side of the city, the Elk City Police Department said in a statement. The department told residents to stay home because power lines were down across the city. The department’s phone lines were also down, it added.

Elk City Public Schools were canceled for Wednesday, the school system said in a statement.

“My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the tornado in Elk City tonight,” Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said on Twitter.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Nick Macfie)