Snow, rain pummel parts of California, Nevada and Oregon

clearing snow from a driveway

(Reuters) – Heavy rain and snowfall hit parts of California, Nevada and Oregon early on Wednesday, causing roads to be closed, schools to cancel classes and widespread flooding along already swollen waterways.

A National Weather Service blizzard warning remained in effect until late on Wednesday morning for ski resort towns in the greater Lake Tahoe area, including Truckee and South Lake Tahoe, California, and neighboring Nevada enclaves of Stateline and Incline Village.

Snow accumulations of 5 to 10 feet (1.5 to 3 meters) were forecast above elevations of 7,000 feet, with fierce wind gusts reaching 100 miles (160 km) per hour along the ridge of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the National Weather Service reported.

An avalanche warning was issued for much of the same mountain regions.

“Those venturing outdoors may become lost or disoriented so persons in the warning area are advised to stay indoors,” the weather service said.

Roadways, including Interstate 80 near the border of California and Nevada, were closed on Wednesday morning.

Schools throughout the region canceled Wednesday classes, including the Portland Public Schools district in Oregon, attended by about 50,000 students.

Several flood warnings remained in effect until Wednesday morning for lower elevations in northern and central California and in western Nevada, where creeks and rivers were expected to overrun their banks.

Several communities in the region opened evacuation centers for people who heeded warnings from officials to move to higher ground to avoid flooding.

Heavy downpours sent a wall of mud down onto a house in Fairfax, California, trapping an elderly couple and their two granddaughters, according to local media. Firefighters rescued the couple and children and no one was injured, an ABC affiliate reported.

A series of floodgates on the Sacramento River, just upstream of California’s capital, were opened for the first time in 11 years on Tuesday to divert high water around the city and into a special drainage channel, said Lauren Hersh, a spokeswoman for the state Water Resources Department.

The cascade of rain and snow marked the fourth round of extreme precipitation unleashed during the past month by a weather pattern meteorologists call an “atmospheric river” – a dense plume of moisture flowing from the tropical Pacific into California.

The storms have brought some sorely needed replenishment to many reservoirs left low by five years of drought, while restoring California’s mountain snowpack to 135 percent of its average water-content level for this time of year as of Tuesday, state water officials said.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; editing by Dominic Evans)

More rain, snow forecast as U.S. storm brings floods to California

Flooded street in Calfornia

(Reuters) – Forecasters expect another half foot of rain to soak central and northern California and the Sierra Nevada mountains through early Tuesday, coming on the heels of powerful storms that walloped the state and other parts of the U.S. west on Sunday.

The drenching rains and blowing snow flooded rivers and shut down roads from mudslides in a state that has struggled with drought for years.

From 3 to 8 inches (7.6 to 20 cm) of rain is forecast in the region while several feet (1-2 metres) of snow are likely for higher elevations, said meteorologist Andrew Orrison at the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in Maryland.

“We’re going to see heavy rain going into (Monday) evening and early morning,” he said.

Heavy snow is expected in Nevada and the northern Rocky Mountains could get several feet of snow over the next day or two.

The weather service said almost 40 rivers or creeks in Northern California and western Nevada were flooded or threatened to top their banks. But an emergency agency spokesman said there had been no reports of fatalities or serious damage.

Authorities said a section of Interstate 80 near Truckee, southwest of Reno, Nevada, was closed by a mudslide.

The upper Napa River north of San Francisco was expected to cause “extreme damage to all towns along the reach,” the California emergency agency said in a statement. Anticipated flooding brought voluntary evacuations in neighboring Sonoma County.

Residents of Cambria, near the famous Hearst Castle along California’s central coast, were advised to move to higher ground due a flash flood warning.

Several other California highways were closed from landslides or high water. In Washington state, high winds, ice and heavy snow shut roads and created hazardous driving conditions.

Iridium Communications said Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket company had delayed Monday’s launch of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 10 of its satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base, north of Los Angeles. The launch was now set for Saturday.

The storm is drawing strength from the interaction between an “atmospheric river,” a plume of water vapor flowing from the tropics toward the West Coast, and a low-pressure area near Oregon, the National Weather Service said.

After years of drought, the storm is the latest in a strong wet season for California that began in the autumn. Another front is expected on Tuesday.

In an encouraging sign, the U.S. Forest Service said the rain had restored moisture levels in Southern California vegetation to a seasonal normal for the first time in five years.

The eastern United States experienced low temperatures on Sunday, the day after a massive storm dumped snow from Georgia to Massachusetts.

(Editing by Chris Michaud)

Thai PM visits flood-battered south: six dead, transport disrupted

People in flood street in Thailand

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha visited flooded parts of the south of the country on Friday where unseasonable downpours have killed six people, cut road and rail links and forced an airport to close.

Thailand’s wet season usually ends in late November and heavy rain and flooding is rare in January, which is high season for beach resorts in the south.

Twenty-six flights to and from the main airport in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat airport were canceled on Friday because the runway was flooded, the Department of Airports said.

“The floods began on January 1 and are due to the unseasonable heavy rain,” said an officer at the National Disaster Warning Center who declined to be identified as she is not authorized to speak to the media.

Six people had been killed in accidents caused by the flooding, she said.

Railway services on the main line linking Thailand to Malaysia have been suspended because the track is flooded.

Southern Thailand is a major rubber-producing region and the wet weather was having a significant impact on production, said Uthai Sonlucksub, president of the Natural Rubber Council of Thailand.

“Farmers began tapping in December because they had to wait for the rainy season to end but now they have to contend with the floods,” Uthai told Reuters.

Flooding in Thailand usually occurs during the May-November rainy season.

Widespread floods in 2011 killed more than 900 people and caused major disruption to industry, cutting economic growth that year to just 0.1 percent.

(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Robert Birsel)

North Dakota governor warns pipeline protesters of possible March flooding

Vehicles and campsites at North Dakota Pipeline Protest

By Timothy Mclaughlin

(Reuters) – North Dakota’s new governor warned on Tuesday that protesters remaining at the construction site of the Dakota Access Pipeline should vacate their main camp before spring because of the risk of flooding.

The site of the $3.8 billion project, which crosses four states, was the scene of demonstrations by Native Americans, environmentalists, military veterans and celebrities who said the North Dakota portion would harm water resources and sacred lands.

In early December, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied an easement needed to allow the pipeline to run under Lake Oahe, a reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River.

The Standing Rock Sioux, whose land is adjacent to the pipeline, asked the thousands of protesters to disperse after the decision. Most did so, but some have remained despite the harsh winter conditions.

“The main protest camp is located directly in the floodplain of the Cannonball-Missouri River confluence. Given the snowfall we’re having this winter and historic data on the Cannonball River, that camp will likely flood in early March,” Governor Doug Burgum said in his State of the State address in Bismarck.

“Anything less than a complete restoration of the area prior to the early March flood will endanger the lives of the protesters and of our first responders,” added Burgum, a Republican who took office last month.

Burgum, who supports completion of the pipeline, reiterated the position of law enforcement officials who have said many of the demonstrators were from outside North Dakota and had undercut genuine concerns over water rights.

“Those original concerns have been hijacked by those with alternative agendas,” he said.

Burgum, a tech industry veteran who was elected in November, pledged to begin meeting with tribal leaders this week. The pipeline, he said, had highlighted the need to address historic injustices against Native Americans.

“The history of American settlement and westward expansion contains many tragic episodes of broken promises, displaced native peoples, and forced assimilation. It is in this context that the Standing Rock situation must be understood.”

Energy Transfer Partners LP, which is building the pipeline, has gone to federal court for a permit to complete the job. It has said the 1,172-mile (1,885-km) pipeline, which is nearly finished, would be a more efficient and safer means to transport oil from the Bakken shale of North Dakota.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Cyclone batters south India coast killing four

Policemen remove a tree that fell on a road after it was uprooted by strong winds in Chennai, India,

HENNAI, India (Reuters) – A cyclone barreled into the southeast coast of India on Monday, killing at least four people and bringing down trees and power lines as authorities moved tens of thousands of people from low-lying areas.

Cyclone Vardah moved west over the Bay of Bengal before hitting Chennai, capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, as well as neighboring Andhra Pradesh, the Indian Meteorological Department said, describing it as a “very severe storm”.

Strong wind of up to 140 kph (87 mph) battered the densely populated coast, uprooting trees and bringing down electricity pylons.

Flights at Chennai airport were canceled, railway services in the area suspended and schools and colleges were closed.

Chennai is home to Indian operations of major auto firms such as Ford Motor, Daimler, Hyundai and Nissan.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said Vardah is passing over Chennai, drenching the city in heavy rain, but is expected to ease in intensity later.

“Winds and rains might still intensify. Do not venture out,” the NDMA said on Twitter, adding that four people had been killed.

More than 23,000 people in Tamil Nadu have been moved to relief centers, with plans for tens of thousands more to be evacuated if needed, a senior state official, K. Satyagopal, told Reuters.

More than 10,000 people from two districts in Andhra Pradesh state had also been moved, its disaster management commissioner, M.V. Seshagiri Babu, said.

The NDMA warned fishermen not to venture out to sea for the next 36 hours, and urged residents to stay in safe places.

Navy ships and aircraft, as well as 30 diving teams, were on standby to help move people and deliver aid if needed, a navy spokesman said.

India’s cyclone season usually runs from April to December, with storms often causing dozens of deaths, evacuations of tens of thousands of people and widespread damage to crops and property.

Wind speeds topped 300 km per hour (186 mph) in an Indian “super-cyclone” that killed 10,000 people in 1999, while a cyclone packing speeds of more than 200 kph (124 mph) lashed the east coast in 2013.

(Reporting by Jatindra Dash, Tommy Wilkes and Anuradha Nagaraj; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Heavy flooding in Thailand kills 14, inundates tourist isles

Onlookers and rescue workers stand on a bridge in a flooded area in Sichon District, Nakhon Si Thammarat province, Thailand December

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Floods in Thailand have killed 14 people and badly affected southern holiday islands as the country heads into the December-January high season for tourism, authorities said on Tuesday.

A low pressure system has brought heavy rain to parts of the south including the islands of Samui and Pha Ngan in the Gulf of Thailand, and floods have also severed the rail link to the south and Malaysia beyond.

Tourism has been a rare bright spot for an economy that has struggled to gain traction since the army seized power in a bloodless coup in 2014 to end months of political unrest.

The death on Oct. 13 of long-reigning King Bhumibol Adulyadej plunged the country into grief and also raised questions about tourist arrivals though authorities say the country is open for business despite a year of mourning.

“There has been heavier rain than usual which has caused drainage problems,” Nongyao Jirundom of the state Tourism Authority of Thailand on Samui island told Reuters.

“Swimming is out of the question.”

The National Disaster Warning Centre said 14 Thai people had been killed in various accidents caused by the weather in different parts of the south.

Southbound trains have been halted in the town of Thung Song in Nakhon Si Thammarat province because of flooding.

Nakhon Si Thammarat has had 447 mm of precipitation in the past 7 days, 380 mm more than the average for this time of year, according to Thomson Reuters data.

December marks the beginning of the dry season when tourists descend on palm fringed beaches to celebrate the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Despite the mourning period for the late king, authorities are bullish about the outlook for tourism, which accounts for 10 percent of gross domestic product.

The tourism ministry expects a record 32.4 million arrivals this year.

Widespread floods in 2011 killed more than 900 people and caused major disruption to industry, cutting economic growth that year to just 0.1 percent.

(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Robert Birsel)

North Carolina estimates $1.5 billion in hurricane damage to buildings

An aerial view shows flood waters after Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina

(Reuters) – North Carolina emergency officials have estimated that the destructive and deadly Hurricane Matthew caused $1.5 billion worth of damage to more than 100,000 homes, businesses and government buildings in the state.

The state’s Department of Public Safety said in a release issued on Saturday that county and state officials were still surveying the damage left behind by the storm.

The department also said more than 33,000 applications for individual assistance to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have been filed and $12.4 million has been approved.

The death toll from Hurricane Matthew stands at 26 in North Carolina, with two more bodies recovered on Saturday as some flood waters receded.

More than 30 deaths in the United States have been blamed on Matthew, which dumped more than a foot (30 cm) of water on inland North Carolina last week. Before hitting the southeast U.S. coast, the fierce storm killed around 1,000 people in Haiti.

On Sunday, North Carolina’s public safety department forecast that all rivers would be below flood levels by October 24, though there was still major flooding in several areas.

In Princeville, believed to be the oldest U.S. town incorporated by freed slaves, water surged to house roof lines on Thursday.

Statewide, power outages had fallen to 2,521 customers by Sunday afternoon, down from more than 800,000 customers without power last Sunday.

In one sign that the crisis was easing, the department only recorded three water rescues between Saturday and Sunday, bringing the total number of rescues to 2,336. The department said 32 shelters are open and are serving nearly 2,200 displaced people.

A total of 570 roads remained closed in the state because of damage from the flooding.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Historic town swamped, 22 dead in North Carolina flooding

Flooded motor homes

By Jonathan Drake

TARBORO, N.C. (Reuters) – Floodwaters inundated the historic black town of Princeville, North Carolina, on Thursday, leaving homes submerged to their roof lines as the state’s death toll in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew climbed to 22.

Flooding from the Tar River had been expected in Princeville, which was founded in 1885 and believed to be the oldest U.S. town incorporated by freed slaves, and most of its 2,000 residents evacuated.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory described a dramatic rise in the water level in the town, long been plagued by flooding and devastated by floods after Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

Areas that had about a foot of water on Thursday morning were covered in up to 12 feet by afternoon, he said.

“Princeville is basically under water at this time,” McCrory told a news conference after flying over the town. “You gotta see it to believe it.”

The governor praised the town’s residents for heeding evacuation orders, saying no one there had died.

However, McCrory announced two additional fatalities after the storm death toll rose to 20 late on Wednesday. The latest victims included someone who drowned in Lenoir County after driving around a barricade for a washed-out roadway. Most of the state’s deaths from the hurricane have been drownings, he said.

“Stay off the roads,” McCrory said. “Stay out of the water.”

More than 30 deaths in the United States have been blamed on Matthew, with a fourth death announced in South Carolina by that state’s governor on Thursday. Before hitting the southeast U.S. coast, the fierce storm killed around 1,000 people on its rampage through Haiti last week.

The recovery effort in central and eastern North Carolina is expected to take weeks or months. So far, the federal government has disbursed about $2.6 million to individual flooding victims and approved $5 million for emergency road repairs.

(Additional reporting and writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Tom Brown)

Drownings push hurricane death toll to 19 in flooded North Carolina

Flooding waters of theTar River cover the Riverwalk Apartments due to rainfall caused from Hurricane Matthew in Greenville, North Carolina,

By Nicole Craine

KINSTON, N.C. (Reuters) – Rivers swollen by rainfall from Hurricane Matthew rose dangerously higher in North Carolina on Wednesday, prompting officials to go door to door urging residents to leave as a wide swath of the state faced its worst flooding in 17 years.

Floodwaters have swamped areas across the central and eastern part of the state, where drownings in recent days have brought the death toll to 19.

That figure represents more than half of the deaths in the U.S. Southeast linked to the fierce Atlantic storm, which killed around 1,000 people in Haiti and displaced hundreds of thousands as it tore through the Caribbean last week.

Matthew caused an estimated $10 billion in total U.S. property losses, about $5 billion of which are insured, according to a preliminary estimate by Goldman Sachs.

The damages continue to mount in North Carolina. Flooding has killed up to 5 million poultry birds, most of them chickens, in a blow to the local economy, said North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Donald van der Vaart.

The floodwaters have forced more than 3,800 residents to flee to shelters, closed down stretches of major interstate highways and shuttered 34 school systems, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory told reporters in Raleigh.

Emergency officials rescued dozens of people on Wednesday from flooded homes in areas including Robeson and Pender counties. There were no official estimates as to the number of people and homes still in harm’s way in the state.

Matthew’s aftermath drew comparisons to Hurricane Floyd, which triggered devastating floods in North Carolina in 1999 and caused more than $3 billion in damages in the state.

In Kinston, where the Neuse River is expected to peak on Saturday at almost twice the 14-foot (4.3 meter) flood stage and just shy of the Floyd record, city officials warned residents not to be fooled by the water’s gradual rise.

“It’s not like it’s a tidal wave that’s coming. It’s a slow rise,” city manager Tony Sears said in a phone interview.

But, he added, “in the next 24 hours, it’s not whether I should go or not, it’s when you should go.”

Residents should be prepared to be out of their homes for more than a week, Sears said, with river levels expected to remain elevated into next week.

Nazareth Gray (4) sits on the edge of a cot at the Carver Heights Elementary School shelter after her and her grandmother Margaret (not pictured) were displaced by the effects of Hurricane Matthew in Goldsboro, North Carolina,

Nazareth Gray (4) sits on the edge of a cot at the Carver Heights Elementary School shelter after her and her grandmother Margaret (not pictured) were displaced by the effects of Hurricane Matthew in Goldsboro, North Carolina, U.S. October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Randall Hill

Kinston resident Toby Hatch, 60, who lived through Floyd and Hurricane Irene, which destroyed his home in 2011, heeded the city’s evacuation order this week and headed to a shelter.

“I didn’t really want to leave, but I was already looking at enough water that I was trapped,” he said.

Evacuations also continued in Greenville, where the Tar River was 10 feet (3 meters) above flood stage and forecast to crest even higher by Friday. Flooding has forced the city’s airport to close and classes were canceled for the week for East Carolina University’s 28,000 students.

In Goldsboro, where the Neuse River peaked on Wednesday at a record level, Tony Rouse, 56, had taken refuge at an elementary school with his wife. His home lost power and all the roads leading to it were inundated, he said.

“It’s kind of boring,” he said of life at the shelter, “but it beats not being able to eat.”

(Additional reporting by Gene Cherry; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Bill Trott and Tom Brown)

Death toll climbs as floods swamp North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew

rescue workers during floods in North Carolina

(Adds additional death and other details on flooding)

By Carlo Allegri and Gene Cherry

LUMBERTON, N.C./KINSTON, N.C., Oct 11 (Reuters) – Flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew has displaced several thousand people in North Carolina, and authorities were helping more evacuate on Tuesday as swollen rivers threatened a wide swath of the state.

Governor Pat McCrory warned of “extremely dangerous” conditions in the coming days in central and eastern North Carolina, where several rivers were at record or near-record levels.

Matthew, the most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007, killed at least 1,000 people in Haiti last week before barreling up the U.S. southeastern coast and causing at least 30 deaths in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

McCrory’s office said four additional deaths were confirmed on Tuesday in North Carolina, raising the death toll in the state to 18. One person was reported as missing.

An additional U.S. death occurred on Monday night in Lumberton, North Carolina, where officials said a highway patrol officer fatally shot a man who became hostile and flashed a handgun during search-and-rescue efforts in fast-running floodwater.

Nearly 4,000 people have taken refuge in North Carolina shelters, including about 1,200 people in the hard-hit Lumberton area, where the Lumber River had crested at almost 4 feet (1.2 meters) above the prior record set in 2004 after Hurricane Frances.

Water blanketed the city of 21,000 people, leaving businesses flooded, homes with water up to their roof lines and drivers stranded after a stretch of Interstate-95 became impassable.

“We lost everything,” said Sarah McCallum, 62, who was staying in a shelter set up in an agricultural center after floodwaters drove her from her home of 20 years.

State officials are particularly concerned about victims like McCallum, who have no flood insurance because they do not live in areas typically prone to inundation. U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday signed a disaster declaration for North Carolina, which will make federal funding available to people in the hardest-hit areas.

Obama approved a similar declaration on Tuesday for South Carolina, where Matthew made landfall on Saturday. State officials are now urging residents to prepare for potential flooding from the Waccamaw and Little Pee Dee rivers.

About 532,000 homes and businesses remained without power in the U.S. Southeast on Tuesday, down from the peak of around 2.2 million on Sunday morning when the storm was still battering the Carolina coasts.

WORST FLOODING SINCE FLOYD

Matthew dumped more than a foot (30 cm) of rain in areas of North Carolina already soaked from heavy September rainfall. Ithas triggered the worst flooding in the state since Hurricane Floyd in September 1999, the National Weather Service said.

That storm caused devastating floods in North Carolina, resulting in 35 deaths, 7,000 destroyed homes and more than $3 billion in damages in the state.

In Matthew’s wake, officials are monitoring a number of overtopped or breaching dams in addition to the threat of inland river flooding, the governor’s office said.

Concerns about a potential breach of the Woodlake Dam, which led to overnight evacuations in the central North Carolina town of Spring Lake, had eased by Tuesday afternoon after it was reinforced with 700 sandbags, but a mandatory evacuation was still in effect for nearby residents.

McCrory warned that the Tar River was expected to crest on Wednesday in Greenville, where a mandatory evacuation order is already in place.

Officials remain concerned about Kinston, where significant flooding was already occurring from the Neuse River, which is expected to crest at about 27 feet (8 meters) on Saturday, just shy of the Floyd record.

Retired construction worker Wesley Turner, 71, said he fled his home near Kinston with his dogs on Friday after his power went out and the water quickly rose to about chest deep.

After several nights in a shelter, he did not know on Tuesday whether he had anything to return to.

“I can’t get to my house because it is under water,” Turner said.

(Additional reporting by Letitia Stein and Joseph Ax; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Bill Trott, Tom Brown and Bill Rigby)