Hurricane Rick loses steam as it moves further inland Mexico

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -Hurricane Rick’s strong winds lost some steam as the storm moved further inland on Monday, though its heavy rains still had the potential to trigger flash flooding and mudslides, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) and local authorities said.

Rick was packing maximum sustained winds of 80 miles per hour (130 km/h), down from 105 mph, and was some 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of the port of Lazaro Cardenas in Michoacán state as of 10:00 A.M. local time (1500 GMT), the Miami-based NHC said in a public advisory.

The storm came ashore on Mexico’s Pacific coast earlier in the day.

“Rapid weakening is expected today while Rick continues to move over land, and Rick is forecast to dissipate over the mountainous terrain of southern Mexico tonight or Tuesday,” the NHC said.

Rick is forecast to move farther inland over southern Mexico throughout Monday and possibly into Tuesday, and is expected to produce 5 to 10 inches of rain, with isolated storm total amounts of 20 inches across parts of the Mexican states of Guerrero and Michoacán through Tuesday.

The heavy rains “will likely produce flash flooding and mudslides,” the NHC said.

The heavy rains may trigger landslides, raise the water levels of rivers and streams, and cause flooding in low-lying areas, Mexico’s National Water Commission, CONAGUA, said in a statement.

CONAGUA urged residents in the southern parts of those states to heed the civil protection agency warning to stay indoors as of Sunday evening.

Guerrero’s education ministry said classes in the coastal area would be suspended on Monday, warning of intense rain, strong gusts of wind and high waves in the Costa Grande region.

Officials in Guerrero and Michoacán as well as the coastal states of Colima, Jalisco and Nayarit were opening shelters in areas expected to get downpours, a government official told Televisa News.

(Reporting by Anthony Esposito; editing by Barbara Lewis and Chizu Nomiyama)

NY, NJ governors say aid is coming as Ida death toll rises to 46

By Maria Caspani and Julia Harte

(Reuters) – The governors of New York and New Jersey said on Friday they expected to receive significant funding and assistance from the federal government after flash flooding from Hurricane Ida left a trail of destruction, killing at least 46 in the Northeast.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced $10 million in state grants to help small businesses that suffered damage and flagged expected federal aid after U.S. President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for the state.

“This was a deadly and dangerous storm and we continue to face its after-effects,” Murphy told a news conference in Millburn, a suburban town west of Newark that was hit hard by flooding. “Help is coming.”

Murphy said there had been 25 fatalities in the state, up 2 from Thursday, and that at least 6 people remain missing. A total of 16 people have been confirmed dead in New York state.

Officials have also confirmed four deaths in Pennsylvania and the death of a state trooper in Connecticut.

In a separate briefing, New York Governor Kathy Hochul also said federal assistance was on the way after Biden approved her request to declare a federal emergency.

Like several other leaders in New Jersey and New York, Hochul stressed the need for better preparation for extreme weather events, which are increasing in frequency due to climate change.

Hochul said she would convene a task force that will submit an after-action report discussing shortcomings in New York’s response to Ida and suggest improvements.

“Some people have called this a 500-year event. I don’t buy it,” she said. “No longer will we say, that won’t happen again in our lifetime. This could literally happen next week.”

Biden was scheduled to travel to Louisiana on Friday to meet with Governor John Bel Edwards and survey damage wrought by Ida, which left residents there scrambling for water, food and basic services, with more than 800,000 households still without power.

The hurricane, which made landfall in Louisiana on Sunday, may ultimately claim more lives in the Northeast, where flash flooding caught residents off guard, causing some to perish in their basements and others to drown in their cars.

(reporting by Maria Caspani in New York, Julia Harte in Washington and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut)

Australian floods turn fatal as Sydney shivers through cold snap

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australians across the east of the country awoke to wild and frosty winter conditions on Thursday, with flash flooding causing at least one fatality while large snow dumps fell across neighboring New South Wales.

Cold air from the Antarctic dropped temperatures in Sydney, the country’s most most populous city, to just 10 degrees Celsius (50 degree Fahrenheit), a 37-year record.

“I’m quite sure all of us want to get out and build a snowman,” Kevin Beatty, the mayor of Cabonne Shire, one of the inland towns to receive a snow dump, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

A subsequent low pressure weather system brought flooding in some areas, leading to at least one fatality in Victoria state.

Authorities urged 26,000 residents in the town of Traralgon, some 161.9 KM (100.6 miles) west of Melbourne to evacuate. Police later reported they had found the body of a man in a vehicle submerged in flood waters.

(Reporting by Colin Packham and James Redmayne; editing by Jane Wardell)

Torrential Imelda rains kill 2, flood homes, snarl travel around Houston

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Tropical Storm Imelda dumped torrential rains over the Houston-area, killing at least two people, while rescuers in boats pulled hundreds from flooded cars, the airport temporarily halted flights and tens of thousands of people lost power.

Heavy rains had abated by Thursday evening, although flash flood watches remained in effect through Friday morning and rescuers were still working to reach stranded motorists and those trapped in homes late into the night as floodwaters were slow to drain off.

The National Hurricane Center said in a late Thursday bulletin that up to 45 inches of rain will have fallen in some areas by the time the storm blows off on Friday afternoon.

Ed Gonzalez, sheriff for Harris County, which includes Houston, confirmed the second death from the storm.

He tweeted on Thursday that he was at the scene where first-responders tried to save a man who had driven his white van headlong into deep waters.

“The water level was about 8′ (8 feet) high,” Gonzalez wrote, describing the incident. “The driver paused briefly, then accelerated into it the water, causing his van to go under.”

Gonzalez said the man driving the van was pulled from the vehicle after some 20 minutes underwater and was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

The other victim of the storm was electrocuted southeast of Houston while trying to move his horse to safety, according to a statement on the Facebook page of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. No other details were provided.

George Bush Intercontinental Airport halted all flights for about two hours, and Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster covering more than a dozen counties.

Hundreds of motorists were stranded in their vehicles as some of Houston’s main roadways flooded, submerging cars. Firefighters, police and ordinary citizens were out in boats and all-terrain vehicles to pick up people trapped in their homes by the rising waters.

The storm knocked out power to around 100,000 people in Houston and southeast Texas, according to reports from energy companies, while work at oil refineries in the area was slowed or halted.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city was better prepared to rescue stranded residents and deal with flooding than when Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017, leading to dozens of deaths in Houston and billions of dollars in damage.

The small town of Winnie, about 60 miles (100 km) east of Houston, was also badly hit. Officials there evacuated Riceland Hospital and tried to rescue people marooned in their vehicles after roads turned into lakes.

Parts of Interstate 10, a major east-west highway, were closed near Winnie.

Imelda made landfall as a tropical storm near Freeport, Texas, on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Gary McWilliams in Houston, Jonathan Allen in New York, Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas, and Liz Hampton in Denver; Editing by Scott Malone, David Gregorio and Tom Hogue)

U.S. south ‘still under the gun’ after deadly storms

A storm cloud formation is seen in Collinsville, Oklahoma, U.S., May 20, 2019 in this picture obtained from social media on May 21, 2019. BRI'ANNE WALTON/via REUTERS

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) – A storm system that blasted the U.S. South was weakening on Tuesday but another was on its way after thunderstorms and tornadoes left a swath of destruction, killed at least two people and tore up a NASCAR grandstand.

More than 30 tornadoes struck on Monday and Tuesday from Texas, Oklahoma and across the southern plains into Missouri, said meteorologists with the National Weather Service.

While this weakening storm system is expected to roll into the Great Lakes region early Wednesday, another system is brewing Wednesday night into Thursday, said Brian Hurley, a forecaster with the NWS Weather Prediction Center.

“The Southern Plains can’t catch a break,” Hurley said. “More storms will develop overnight into Thursday morning.”

Rainfalls are predicted to be about 2 inches across eastern Kansas, Oklahoma, and into western Missouri, with localized spots getting up to 5 inches, he said.

“That whole area is still under the gun,” Hurley said.

In Wheatland, Missouri, at the Lucas Oil Speedway, a reported tornado injured 7 people, flipped over cars, toppled campers and damaged the grandstands, with local media images showing piles of twisted metal and upside down vehicles.

The Memorial Day weekend “Lucas Oil Show-Me 100” races at the speedway, about 120 miles southeast of Kansas City, were canceled indefinitely. A crowd topping 3,000 fans of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) had been expected, track officials said on Tuesday.

Dozens of people were rescued from rising floodwaters and felled trees that smashed homes and blocked roadways in Oklahoma on Tuesday.

Crews using boats pulled at least 50 people from rising water as heavy downpours inundated roads and homes, Oklahoma Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Keli Cain said.

Two deaths from a traffic accident on a rain-slicked Missouri highway were reported by police late Monday.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson declared a state of emergency on Tuesday for the state, out of concern for floods from cresting rivers and streams, with forecasts of more rain on the way.

Forecasters said the Missouri River is expected to crest on Thursday at more than 32 feet at the state capital of Jefferson City. Local media including NBC News said that is two feet higher than the city’s levees.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Graff)

Dozens rescued from Oklahoma floods as storms swamp central U.S.: officials

A tornado spins during stormy weather in Mangum, Oklahoma, U.S., May 20, 2019, in this still image taken from video from social media. Clint Lively via REUTERS

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) – Dozens of people were rescued from rising waters and felled trees that smashed homes and blocked roadways in Oklahoma, as severe storms generating tornadoes and heavy rain roared through central United States on Tuesday.

Rescue crews in boats pulled at least 50 people from flood waters as heavy downpours inundated roads and homes, said Oklahoma Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Keli Cain. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries, she said.

Only the tops of cars engulfed by water were visible on roadways near Oklahoma City, and some houses were entirely surrounded by floods, video footage of the location showed.

“It’s real dangerous,” said Ross Reuter, a spokesman for Canadian County, where 10 people were rescued. “Motorists get out into the swift water, thinking they can get across and it ends up being deeper than they think.”

Parts of the state have received six to eight inches (15-20 cm) of rain since Monday, and some 4 million people remained under a flash flood warning or watch in the region, the National Weather Service said.

A twister that touched down early on Tuesday near Tulsa International Airport was among more than two dozen that have ripped through the region since Monday, according to the NWS.

“We have lots of reports of damage coming in. There is a lot of tree damage. Very large trees have been uprooted that are blocking roads and that have landed on houses,” said Sarah Corfidi, an NWS meteorologist.

The NWS said 22 million people were in the path of the severe weather system that was expected to move across Texas and Louisiana, into Alabama and as far north as Iowa and Nebraska all day and into the night on Tuesday.

On Monday, the NWS said the risk of tornadoes in the region was higher than at any time in years.

A new storm system was brewing and could hit the same southern states later this week.

“The whole area is in the bull’s eye, with more rounds of severe storms possible,” the forecaster said.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Scott Malone, Jeffrey Benkoe and Bernadette Baum)

Hurricane Lane lashes Hawaii with heavy rain, winds

A chicken hops through floodwaters in Hilo, Hawaii, U.S. August 23, 2018, in this still image from video obtained from social media. Kehau Comilla/via REUTERS

By Jolyn Rosa

HONOLULU (Reuters) – Hurricane Lane, a powerful Category 3 storm, lashed Hawaii on Thursday with high winds and torrential rain, causing flash floods, landslides and raging surf as residents hunkered down to ride out the storm.

The storm spun in the Pacific Ocean about 165 miles (260 km) southwest of Kailua-Kona and nearly 20 inches (51 cm) of rain had fallen on the eastern side of the Big Island of Hawaii, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

“There’s lots and lots of rain, torrential rain, with a lot of moisture in the atmosphere,” NWS meteorologist Chevy Chevalier said, noting there were reports of 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) wind gusts. “We’re in it now.”

There were no reports of injuries, but roads were closed because of flash floods and landslides in the Pacific island state. Tourists were advised to stay away from a popular attraction on the island of Maui called the Seven Sacred Pools, a scenic cluster of waterfalls and grottos.

“Life threatening flash floods. This is a very dangerous situation. Avoid unnecessary travel,” Governor David Ige said on Twitter.

Evacuations were underway on parts of Molokai and Maui islands while power outages were being reported on social media.

The latest predictions showed the eye of the storm twisting west of the Big Island on Friday morning before glancing past Maui and several other islands later in the day on its way to Oahu. But authorities warned the islands could still expect to be hit hard.

Lane shifted from heading northwest and was headed north at 6 miles per hour as the Category 3 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale was packing winds of 120 mph (195 kph), the service said in an evening advisory.

“We’re telling everybody to take the storm seriously, make your final preparations, and be prepared to ride out what is going to be a prolonged rain event,” said Andrew Pereira, communications director for the city and county of the state capital Honolulu.

Incoming waves tower over bystanders in Kona, Hawaii, U.S. August 23, 2018 in this still image from video obtained from social media. Ryan Leinback/via REUTER

Incoming waves tower over bystanders in Kona, Hawaii, U.S. August 23, 2018, in this still image from video obtained from social media. Ryan Leinback/via REUTERS

REMEMBERING INIKI

The National Hurricane Center warned storm surges could raise water levels 3 to 5 feet (1 to 1.5 meters) above normal along the western shores of the Big Island and that extreme rainfall could mean “numerous evacuations and rescues.”

Ige has urged residents to set aside a 14-day supply of water, food, and medicine. All public schools, University of Hawaii campuses and non-essential government offices on the islands of Oahu and Kauai were closed at least through Friday.

“We are in our room at Alohilani Resort waiting for Hurricane Lane to arrive,” said Janina Ballali on Twitter. “Hopefully, the hurricane will have mercy with our beloved Oahu.”

Par Pacific Holdings Inc said it had shut its 93,500 barrel-per-day refinery in Kapolei due to the storm.

In Hanalei on Kauai, rain fell Thursday as residents and businesses prepared for the hurricane while tourists continued to shop and dine in places that were still open.

Dave Stewart, owner of Kayak Hanalei, had boarded up the windows on his shop by mid-afternoon and moved the company’s rental kayaks to high ground.

He said he wasn’t taking any chances, having lived through severe flooding on Kauai’s North Shore in April and through Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

“That was total destruction,” he said of Iniki. “Seven out of 10 telephone poles were down, so even if your house was OK, you couldn’t get out.”

Iniki was the most powerful hurricane on record to hit Hawaii, making landfall on Kauai island on Sept. 11, 1992, as a Category 4. It killed six people and damaged or destroyed more than 14,000 homes.

The shelves of a downtown Honolulu Walmart were stripped of items ranging from canned tuna to dog food, bottled water and coolers full of ice.

Video footage showed whipping palm trees and darkening skies in Maui. In the Manoa Valley neighborhood in Honolulu, sidewalks typically full of joggers and dog walkers were empty as residents stood outside their homes watching the skies and businesses closed early for the day.

President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for Hawaii and ordered federal authorities to help supplement state and local responses, the White House said on Thursday.

The Coast Guard has ordered all harbors to close to incoming vessels and the U.S. Navy moved most of its fleet out of Pearl Harbor, where ships could provide aid after the storm.

Since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico last year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has made changes to how it works, FEMA Administrator Brock Long said at a briefing in Washington, making sure generators are in place so they can provide power to residents and quickly restart the water system.

“It’s not just providing food and water. If you fix the power first, you solve 90 percent of the problems,” he said.

(Reporting by Jolyn Rosa; Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Doina Chiacu and Lisa Lambert in Washington and Steve Gorman and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Raissa Kasolowsky)

Approaching hurricane sparks runs in Hawaii on plywood, water and gasoline

Paul Akamine fills propane tanks for customers as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

By Sue Horton

HANALEI, Hawaii (Reuters) – Micco Godinez, who rents out kayaks on the island of Kauai and loves surfing, said he was twice tempted to hit the waves on Wednesday but kept his focus on a more pressing concern – getting ready to board up his home for a major hurricane.

With forecasts calling for Hurricane Lane to strike or brush past Hawaii’s “Garden Isle” on Friday, Godinez, 66, has joined tens of thousands of others on Kauai, and across the state, in the rituals of disaster preparation.

A long line of cars wait as people fill up their vehicles with gasoline as Hurricane Lane approaches Kauai, Hawaii, U.S., August 22, 2018. REUTERS/ Sue Horton

A long line of cars wait as people fill up their vehicles with gasoline as Hurricane Lane approaches Kauai, Hawaii, U.S., August 22, 2018. REUTERS/ Sue Horton

Lane, wavering between Category 4 and Category 5 strength on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, churned toward the U.S. Pacific island state with sustained winds of up to 155 miles per hour (250 kph) on Wednesday, as authorities urged residents to stock up on water, food and medicines.

Across Hawaii, jittery residents lined up at hardware centers, gasoline stations and grocery stores. But nowhere was the sense of urgency perhaps more palpable than on Kauai, where torrential rains four months ago triggered widespread flooding that destroyed homes and washed out roads.

“Some people here were just wiped out in that flood. It rained 50 inches (127 cm) in 24 hours,” said Hanalei resident Charlie Cowden, who owns several surf shops on the island. “Now there is this.”

Many older residents recalled even greater devastation from the last Category 4 storm to pummel Hawaii, Hurricane Iniki, which made landfall on Kauai in September 1992, killing six people and leveling or damaging more than 14,000 dwellings.

Luke Yamanuha loads plywood into his truck as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

Luke Yamanuha loads plywood into his truck as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

‘SLIM PICKINGS’

Godinez, who lives two blocks from the ocean in the bayside town of Hanalei on Kauai’s north shore, said he spent part of his day shopping for lumber and a recharging device for his portable drill.

He described the mood in town as “pleasantly apprehensive” and said he even felt the familiar pang of one of his favorite pastimes. “Twice the surf was up, and twice I wanted to go surfing, but I had other things pressing on my mind.”

He recalled getting up early to drive to a Home Depot building-supply outlet before it opened at 6 a.m., only to find two dozen others already lined up ahead of him.

“There’s a run on plywood,” he said. “It was slim pickings when I was there.”

Pausing later after filling up jugs of water, Godinez said he and his wife would spend the rest of the day taking measurements and cutting plywood to fit over more than 18 windows on their two-story house.

“Measure twice, cut once, and away we go,” he said, adding they would wait until Thursday for the latest forecasts before deciding whether to go ahead with fastening the boards to the windows.

Since Hanalei is on the opposite side of Kauai from where the hurricane is most likely to come ashore, Godinez said he was less concerned about ocean storm surge than ferocious winds.

Godinez said he, his wife and two guests planned to “hunker down” in a first-floor laundry room at the height of the storm, should it make landfall by late Thursday or early on Friday.

With two small laundry windows sealed up and probably no electricity, except for battery-powered flashlights, “It’s going to be hot and dark,” he said.

(Reporting by Sue Horton; Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Peter Cooney)

Heavy rains due to drench Texas Gulf Coast, Midwest

6-20-18 National Weather Service precipitation map

(Reuters) – Heavy downpours were expected to drench the Gulf Coast of Texas and the U.S. Midwest on Wednesday and could cause flooding especially along already swollen rivers and in low-lying areas, forecasters warned.

Up to 5 inches (13 cm) of rain was forecast for parts of the Texas coast along the Gulf of Mexico and in the Middle Mississippi Valley states of South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas throughout the day and into Thursday, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

“Be prepared for water over roads due to rapid rises on creeks and streams or even water flowing from farm fields,” the NWS in Des Moines, Iowa, said in an advisory.

Authorities closed roadways early Wednesday in several communities along the Des Moines and Mississippi rivers in the Midwest where intense rains have already fallen over the last few days, according to the NWS.

Showers and thunderstorms were also expected for Rockford, Illinois, where five inches of rain fell in less than four hours on Monday night. Emergency crews rescued people from numerous submerged vehicles.

In Corpus Christi, Texas, where more than 2 inches of rain was forecast after more than a foot of rain has fallen, crews conducted several high-water rescues on Tuesday while police closed roadways, local media reported.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

Greece to give millions in compensation to flood victims

Greece to give millions in compensation to flood victims

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece said on Monday it would offer emergency compensation worth millions of euros to hundreds of households affected by flash flooding west of Athens that killed at least 20 people on Nov. 15.

Hundreds of homes and businesses were extensively damaged in the coastal towns of Mandra and Nea Peramos when a torrent of mud and water smashed into the settlements, built along dry gullies on the foothills of a mountain range.

Twenty people died and two remain missing from the early-morning deluge, the worst casualty toll from flooding since 1977 when more than 30 people died.

The disaster has prompted recriminations and finger-pointing over a perceived inability of Greek authorities to act on prior warnings that areas with poor infrastructure and unlicensed construction were vulnerable to flooding. Critics also asked why flood prevention projects had been delayed.

Authorities will offer flood victims up to 5,000 euros ($5,896.50) for households and 8,000 euros for businesses, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said.

It was not immediately clear how much the state had budgeted for compensation. Tzanakopoulos told Reuters the amount would come from the national budget.

That assistance would be over and above compensation residents were entitled to, comprised of 60 percent government aid and 40 percent interest-free loan, he said.

The flash flooding hit many areas of the country, including housing settlements where town planning regulations are often flouted.

(Reporting by Michele Kambas; editing by Mark Heinrich)