Flights axed and floods feared as Storm Ciara clobbers Europe

By Kylie MacLellan

LONDON (Reuters) – Storm Ciara lashed Britain and northern continental Europe with heavy rain and wind speeds that reached more than 90 miles an hour (145 kph) in places on Sunday, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights, train services and sports matches.

More than 200 flood warnings were issued across Britain, which recorded a maximum wind speed of 93 miles an hour at Aberdaron in Wales. One severe flood warning was put in place in Yorkshire, northern England, where water was predicted to overflow flood defenses and potentially threaten lives.

The storm caused major disruption to transport across the region; in the Netherlands, around 240 flights to and from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, one of Europe’s busiest, were canceled as Ciara roared in off the Atlantic with gusts of up to 74 mph (120 kph).

In Germany, where Ciara was named Sabine, about 180 flights to and from Frankfurt airport – about 15% of all planned flights – were axed. Lufthansa <LHAG.DE>, Germany’s largest carrier, said it would cancel short and long-haul flights from Munich airport on Monday until 1200 GMT and 1300 GMT, respectively.

Lufthansa’s budget unit Eurowings said it had suspended flight operations at Hamburg, Berlin, Hanover, Dortmund, Duesseldorf, Cologne and Stuttgart. Meanwhile, some British domestic and international flights were also canceled, from airports including Heathrow and Gatwick.

Train services also fell victim to Ciara’s wrath.

German railway operator Deutsche Bahn warned of severe disruptions and said it would stop long-distance train travel across Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, in the evening.

Britain’s Network Rail said the weather had caused problems across its network, with fallen power lines, trees and even trampolines blocking tracks, and warned people not to travel unless they had to.

SPORT DISRUPTED

All shipping movements in and out of Britain’s Port of Dover on the south coast were suspended and the Humber Bridge in northern England was closed to all traffic for only the second time since it opened in 1981.

London’s eight royal parks, home to more than 170,000 trees, were closed and even the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, a tourist draw, was also canceled.

Sporting events were also hit; Manchester City said its English Premier League soccer match against West Ham was postponed due to “extreme and escalating weather conditions”, while Scotland’s Women’s Six Nations rugby match against England was among the other matches canceled.

All professional Dutch soccer matches were canceled, along with most outdoor sporting events.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan in London, Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt and Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Editing by Pravin Char)

Storm halts flights into Houston, city braces for torrential Imelda rains

HOUSTON (Reuters) – All flights into Houston’s international airport, one of the busiest in the United States, were halted on Tuesday as Tropical Depression Imelda inundated southeastern Texas with heavy rains and triggered flash flood warnings.

The George Bush Intercontinental Airport tweeted that it was under a “full ground stop” while the National Weather Service said flash flood warnings were in effect for the Houston area through the evening.

The National Hurricane Center forecast that up to 35 inches (89 cm) could fall in some coastal areas, while Energy Texas said over 37,000 people were without power so far. Work at oil refineries southeast of Houston was also slowed or halted.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner asked city residents to avoid roads as Imelda’s slow-moving rain bands were expected to hit their peak in the afternoon.

Turner said the city was better prepared to rescue any 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 mayor said that as of mid-morning, a small number of residents had been evacuated because of flooding in northeast Houston.

Millions of people in and around Houston and nearby western Louisiana were under flash flood watches on Thursday as the National Weather Service predicted a final 4 to 10 inches (10 to 25 cm) of rainfall throughout the day.

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

“The community of Winnie is being devastated by rising water,” the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement, advising residents that the Red Cross had opened a shelter and that emergency officials were rescuing people by boat.

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 and Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas; Editing by Will Dunham and Steve Orlofsky)

Hurricane Dorian gains strength as Florida braces for hit, Trump says Florida faces ‘absolute monster’

Shoppers wait in a long line for a Sam's Club store to open before sunrise, as people rushed to buy supplies ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Kissimmee, Florida, U.S. August 30, 2019. REUTERS/Gregg Newton

By Zach Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) – Hurricane Dorian gained strength as it crept closer to Florida’s coast on Friday, raising the risk that parts of the U.S. state will be hit by strong winds, a storm surge and heavy rain for a prolonged period after it makes landfall early next week.

The Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued a hurricane watch for northwestern Bahamas, and said Dorian was likely to remain an extremely dangerous hurricane as it approaches Florida through the weekend.

“The biggest concern will be Dorian’s slow motion when it is near Florida, placing some areas of the state at an increasing risk of a prolonged, drawn-out event of strong winds, dangerous storm surge, and heavy rainfall,” the center said.

The storm began Friday over the Atlantic as a Category 2 but was already expected to be classified a Category 3 later in the day, with sustained winds of at least 110 miles per hour (175 km per hour).

The entire state of Florida was under a declaration of emergency, and Governor Ron DeSantis has activated 2,500 National Guard troops, with another 1,500 on standby.

Forecasters predicted the storm would grow more ferocious as it gained fuel from the warm waters off Florida, slamming into the state late on Monday or early Tuesday. Tropical storm winds could be felt in Florida as soon as Saturday.

No evacuations were ordered as of early Friday, but many were expected as the storm’s path becomes clearer before it makes landfall.

If, as expected, the storm reaches Category 4 over the weekend, its winds will blow at more than 130 mph (210 kph). There was concern that it could slow from its current 12-mph (9-kph) march across the map, giving it more time to draw fuel from warm seas.

Recent NHC weather models show Dorian smacking into the center of Florida. It was trending northwest in the latest advisory issued at 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT) on Friday.

The storm could roll inland toward Orlando on Tuesday or early Wednesday, weakening as it moves away from the sea. Other NHC weather models show it tracking south toward Miami before hitting the peninsula, or heading north to the Georgia coast.

Along with the dangerous winds, the storm was expected to drop 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) of rain on the coastal United States, with some areas getting as much as 15 inches (38 cm).

“This rainfall may cause life-threatening flash floods,” NHC forecasters said.

President Donald Trump on Thursday canceled a planned weekend trip to Poland, sending Vice President Mike Pence in his place, so he can make sure resources are properly directed for the storm.

“Now it’s looking like it could be an absolute monster,” Trump said in a video posted on Twitter, adding that food and water were being shipped to Florida.

Governor DeSantis said Floridians need to take the storm seriously.

“Hurricane #Dorian is moving slowly & gaining strength,” DeSantis wrote on Twitter. “Now is the time to get prepared & have a plan.”

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in 12 counties to assist with storm readiness, response and recovery.

‘NOT LOOKING GOOD’

Angela Johnson, a 39-year-old bar manager in South Florida, said on Thursday, “We’re worried. This is not looking good for us.”

“We woke up a lot more scared than we went to bed last night, and the news is not getting any better,” said Johnson, who manages Coconuts On The Beach, a bar and restaurant on the surfing beach in the town of Cocoa Beach.

Officials were making piles of sand available for Cocoa Beach residents to fill sandbags starting on Friday.

Dorian could churn across dozens of launchpads owned by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Air Force and companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.

(Reporting by Zach Fagenson in Miami and Rich McKay in Atlanta; additional reporting by Gabriella Borter, Andrew Hay, Helen Coster in New York, Alexandra Alper, Joey Roulette and Eric Beech in Washington; writing by Paul Simao; editing by Jane Merriman and Jonathan Oatis)

Puerto Rico closes schools, opens emergency shelters ready for Storm Dorian

A house boat is seen secured to a mangrove as Tropical Storm Dorian approaches Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico August 27, 2019. REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Puerto Rico was bracing on Wednesday for the arrival of Tropical Storm Dorian, closing schools and diverting cruise liners even as it is still struggling to recover from devastating back-to-back hurricanes in 2017.

Those hurricanes killed about 3,000 people just months after the territory filed for bankruptcy to restructure $120 billion of debt and pension obligations.

Having been criticized over the response to the 2017 storms, the White House said in a statement that President Donald Trump had approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico late on Tuesday, allowing for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide assistance in coordination with ongoing disaster preparedness efforts.

“We are better prepared than when Hurricane Maria attacked our island,” Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez said during a televised news conference.

Vazquez, who took office this month after political turmoil led to the resignation of his predecessor, said preparations for the storm were more than 90% complete, culminating with the opening of emergency shelters.

Infrastructure ranging from electric power lines to telecommunications and banking networks were in better shape than they had been in 2017, she added.

Dorian, which passed over Barbados on Tuesday, is expected to move near or over Puerto Rico on Wednesday before approaching the island of Hispaniola, which is shared between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.

The Dominican Republic also ramped up storm preparations on Tuesday. Juan Manuel Mendez, director of the emergency operations center, said authorities have identified 3,000 buildings that can be converted into shelters, with capacity for up to 800,000 people.

In Puerto Rico, public schools will be closed on Wednesday and public workers have been instructed to stay home, Vazquez said.

Royal Caribbean’s cruise liner “Allure of the Sea” canceled a scheduled visit to the island on Thursday, and Carnival Cruise Line also adjusted its itineraries, Vazquez said.

Carnival Cruise Line confirmed the changes. Royal Caribbean did not immediately respond.

By Wednesday morning, the storm was located about 85 miles (140 km) southeast of St. Croix, in the Bahamas, carrying maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kmh), the NHC said.

Dorian is expected to dump 4 to 8 inches of rain on Florida when it reaches the state in the southeast United States, the NHC said.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay; additional reporting by Ezequiel Abiu Lopez and Alex Dobuzinskis; Writing by Julia Love; Editing by Alison Williams)

Floods in India kill 33, displace thousands

Members of a rescue team wade through a water-logged area during heavy rains on the outskirts of Kochi in the southern state of Kerala, India, August 8, 2019. REUTERS/Sivaram V

By Rajendra Jadhav and Derek Francis

MUMBAI/BENGALURU (Reuters) – Floods brought by heavy rains and overflowing rivers across large swathes of western and southern India have killed at least 33 people and forced the evacuation of 180,000 from their homes, officials said on Thursday.

Seasonal monsoon rains from June to September cause deaths and mass displacement across South Asia every year, but they deliver more than 70% of India’s rainfall, crucial for farm output and economic growth.

The tally of dead in the floods was 25 in the western state of Maharashtra by Thursday, officials said, while government data in the neighboring southern state of Karnataka showed eight dead.

Rivers burst their banks in some parts of Maharashtra after authorities released water from dams brimming with as much as 670 mm (26.4 inches) of rain received in a week.

“If we get more rainfall, then we have no option but to release water in rivers,” said administrative official Deepak Mhaisekar, adding that many reservoirs around the state’s industrial city of Pune were full.

A boat full of villagers trying to escape the floods capsized on Thursday, killing at least 9 people, with rescuers searching for three or four still feared missing, he added.

Thousands of trucks were stuck on a national highway linking the financial capital of Mumbai with the southern technology hub of Bengaluru, as waters submerged the road in some places, Mhaisekar said.

In Karnataka, officials said some major reservoirs were nearly full, and warned that nearby villages could be hit by large discharges of water.

“We have sought help from the central government to rescue any people who may get stranded because of the floods,” Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa told media.

Temples and electric poles were underwater as the floods flowed unabated, in video images posted by a journalist in a northern district of Karnataka.

Weather officials have forecast heavy rain in the region, including the nearby states of Kerala and Goa, over the next three to five days.

Kerala weather officials called a “red alert” in four districts they saw at risk of receiving more than 200 mm (8 inches) of rain on Thursday.

Schools and colleges in many places have been shut since Monday and are unlikely to open this week, authorities have said.

(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai and Derek Francis in Bengaluru; Editing by Euan Rocha and Hugh Lawson)

Tropical Storm Barry lands first blow on coastal Louisiana, New Orleans hunkers down

A view of downtown New Orleans pictured with the Mississippi River as Tropical Storm Barry approaches land in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S. July 11, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

By Collin Eaton and Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – Coastal Louisiana felt the first blow from Tropical Storm Barry’s winds early on Friday as the slow-moving tempest was forecast to become the first Atlantic hurricane of 2019 threatening to bring rain and flooding to New Orleans later in the day.

U.S. President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for Louisiana late Thursday, hours after the region’s oil production was cut in half as energy companies evacuated offshore drilling facilities and a coastal refinery.

Tropical Storm Barry packed maximum sustained winds of 50 miles per hour (85 km per hour) early Friday and was centered 95 miles (155 km) southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Barry will likely strengthen into a hurricane, the National Hurricane Center said, with winds of at least 74 mph (119 km) by the time it comes ashore late Friday or early Saturday, but officials warned that torrential rains posed the greatest danger.

Authorities kept a close eye on the levee system built to contain flooding along the lower Mississippi River that winds through the heart of New Orleans and has been running above flood stage for the past six months.

Barry was forecast to bring a coastal storm surge into the mouth of the river that could push its crest to 19 feet (5.79 m)on Saturday. That would be a foot lower than initially predicted but still the highest since 1950 and dangerously close to the top of the city’s levees.

Meteorologists predicted as much as 25 inches (64 cm) of rain could fall, leading to life-threatening flooding along parts of the Gulf Coast on Friday and Saturday.

The brunt of the storm was expected to skirt the western edge of New Orleans, avoiding a direct hit. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the city has not ordered any voluntary or mandatory evacuations. But she added that 48 hours of heavy downpours could overwhelm pumps designed to purge streets and storm drains of excess water in the low-lying city.

“There is no system in the world that can handle that amount of rainfall in such a short period,” Cantrell said on Twitter.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards warned: “The more information we get, the more concerned we are that this is going to be an extreme rain event.”

Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the levees, insisted that no significant breaching of the 20-foot-tall levees in New Orleans was likely.

Some residents, recalling the deadly, devastating floods unleashed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, said they were determined to get out of harm’s way.

Others flocked to supermarkets for bottled water, ice, snacks and beer, thronging grocery stores in such numbers that some ran out of shopping carts.

Throughout the city, motorists left cars parked on the raised median strips of roadways hoping the extra elevation would protect them from flood damage.

A concierge at the luxury Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans noted many cancellations ahead of the storm. The hotel had been hosting the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s 54th national convention and most attendees checked out early, said the concierge, who declined to give her name.

A tropical storm warning was in place for metropolitan New Orleans, and a hurricane warning was issued for a stretch of the Louisiana coast south of the city.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for areas of Plaquemines Parish beyond the levees southeast of the city, and for low-lying communities in Jefferson Parish, to the southwest.

(Additional reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Writing by Scott Malone and Steve Gorman; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Thousands stranded, five killed, as heavy rain lashes south China

Residential houses and cars are seen submerged in floodwaters following heavy rainfall in Taihe county, Jian, Jiangxi province, China June 10, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Thousands of people have been stranded and at least five killed amid torrential rain throughout central and southern China, with authorities bracing themselves for at least another four days of downpours, state media reported on Tuesday.

The official China Daily said floods had wiped out 10,800 hectares of crops and destroyed hundreds of houses in the Jiangxi province by Monday, with a total of 1.4 million people affected and direct economic losses amounting to 2.65 billion yuan ($382.41 million).

In the region of Guangxi in the southwest, 20,000 households had their power cut and roads, bridges and other infrastructures were severely damaged, the China Daily said.

Rainfall in Jiangxi reached as much as 688 millimeters (27 inches), according to a notice by China’s meteorological administration. It said rain in parts of Jiangxi and Hunan had hit record highs for June.

The administration said rainstorms were expected to spread to Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, Yunnan, Sichuan and Taiwan by Thursday. It also warned authorities to be on their guard against severe thunderstorms and the possibility of small rivers bursting their banks in coming days.

(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Paul Tait)

Cyclone Kenneth batters Comoros and heads to Mozambique

Tropical Cyclone Kenneth approaches the coast of Mozambique in this April 25, 2019 handout satellite image. NASA/Handout via REUTERS

By Ali Amir Ahmed

MORONI (Reuters) – Violent winds of up to 140 kph (87 mph) lashed the East African island nation of Comoros overnight, killing three people, authorities said on Thursday, as Cyclone Kenneth swept toward flood-battered Mozambique.

In Comoros, the winds caused widespread power outages in the northern part of the main island, Grande Comore, and the capital Moroni as well as on the island of Anjouan, residents said.

By Thursday afternoon, the cyclone was making its way to Mozambique, just over a month after Cyclone Idai tore through central Mozambique, virtually flattening the port city of Beira, flooding an area the size of Luxembourg and killing more than 1,000 people across the region.

Kenneth may strengthen before it makes landfall on the continent, said Dipuo Tawana, forecaster at the South African Weather Service.

It could bring seven- to nine-meter waves and a three-meter storm surge, she said, and was likely to linger over Mozambique, dumping rain until late Monday evening, bringing a risk of intense flooding.

“The rainfall that we forecast for the next four days in the northeastern part of Mozambique – we have between 500 and 1,000 millimeters (19.5 to 39 inches) of rain,” Tawana said.

FLOODS LOOM FOR MOZAMBIQUE

In Comoros, a Reuters correspondent saw fallen trees and debris from homes scattered over streets, and houses with their roofs torn off.

President Azali Assoumani told reporters that three people had been were killed and several others injured.

A few taxis were driving around the center of Moroni on Thursday morning as police and soldiers cleared blocked roads. Government offices and schools were closed.

In Mozambique, authorities said on Wednesday that five rivers as well as coastal waterways could overflow, putting over 680,000 people at risk from the storm.

Antonie Beleza, deputy national director of Mozambique’s Centre for Emergency Operations, said the center had been telling people for days to move out of 17 at-risk districts.

“There were some people, they didn’t want to move as of yesterday, so now we are just taking them out,” he said by phone from the northern port town of Pemba. At least 5,000 people had moved out.

The energy firm Anadarko, which is developing large natural gas fields off Mozambique, said it had suspended air transportation in and out of the site as a precaution.

Exxon Mobil , also involved in the fields, said its operations were normal for now, but that it was monitoring the situation.

(Additional reporting Emma Rumney and Alexander Winning in Johannesburg and Stephen Eisenhammer in Luanda; Writing by Elias Biryabarema and Alison Williams; Editing by Hereward Holland and Kevin Liffey)

‘Pineapple Express’ storm douses California with rain, snow

Snow capped mountains are seen behind the downtown Los Angeles skyline, California, U.S., February 12, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

By Andrew Hay

(Reuters) – A Pacific storm system known as the “Pineapple Express” threatened to dump up to 8 inches of rain and 8 feet of snow on areas of California, raising risks of flooding and mudslides, meteorologists said on Wednesday.

“The (Pineapple) Express is no joke,” said Bob Oravec, meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland of the strongest weather system of the season.

The weather system, also known as an atmospheric river, gets its name from the flow of moisture that periodically heads east from waters adjacent to the Hawaiian Islands to soak the U.S. West Coast. It blanketed parts of Hawaii with snow over the weekend and is expected to drench California.

The San Francisco Bay area could be hit by flash flooding and falling trees as saturated ground gets up to 8 inches more rain and strong winds blow in, the weather service said.

“We’re talking 3 to 5 inches of rain in San Francisco and coastal areas in just the next 24 hours, and more on into Friday,” Oravec said.

To the northeast in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, passes could see between 80 and 100 inches (approximately 7 to 8 feet) of snow through Friday.

Valley areas face flood watches over fears the relatively warm Pineapple Express system could initially drench areas as high as Lake Tahoe with rain, melting snow and swelling rivers.

WILDFIRE BURN AREAS

The Central and Southern California coast can expect flash flooding and possible mudslides near recent wildfire burn areas, the NWS reported.

Oravec said that the problem is not just the amount of rain, but the fact that it will hit in a short amount of time.

“It’s going to be heavy and fast,” he said. “Debris flows and mudslides are a risk in any area scorched by the wildfires. There’s little to no vegetation to slow that water down.”

Up to 2 inches of rain was expected in the Los Angeles area between Tuesday evening and Thursday morning, the weather service said.

A string of winter storms has swelled snowpack in California to above-average levels, delighting farmers in need of water and skiers in search of powder.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay, additional reporting by Rich McKay, editing by Louise Heavens)

Death toll from Philippine landslides, floods climbs to 85

Rescue workers carry a body bag containing remains of victims following a landslide at Cisolok district in Sukabumi, West Java province, Indonesia, January 1, 2019 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Picture taken January 1, 2019. Antara Foto/Nurul Ramadhan/ via REUTERS

MANILA (Reuters) – The death toll from landslides and devastating floods in the central Philippines triggered by a tropical depression climbed to 85, officials said on Wednesday, and 20 people were missing as rescuers slowly reached cut-off communities.

The casualties, including young children, were mostly killed when their homes collapsed in landslides after days of heavy rain in several provinces in the central Philippines, said Ricardo Jalad, executive director of the national disaster agency.

“If we don’t recover the missing or we recover them dead, that is 105 deaths, which we hope not,” Jalad said.

A resident carries his livestock following a landslide at Cisolok district in Sukabumi, West Java province, Indonesia, January 1, 2019 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Picture taken January 1, 2019. Antara Foto/Nurul Ramadhan/ via REUTERS

A resident carries his livestock following a landslide at Cisolok district in Sukabumi, West Java province, Indonesia, January 1, 2019 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Picture taken January 1, 2019. Antara Foto/Nurul Ramadhan/ via REUTERS

The tropical depression, which weakened into a low pressure system before leaving the Philippines on Sunday, brought heavy rain that triggered landslides and flooding in the Bicol and eastern Visayas regions.

Officials put three provinces under a “state of calamity” to give them access to emergency funds.

Bicol, with a population of 5.8 million, was the hardest hit, with 68 killed in intense rains and landslides. Damage to agriculture in Bicol, which produces rice and corn, was estimated at 342 million pesos ($6.5 million).

Rescuers, including the police and military, used heavy-lifting equipment to clear roads leading to landslide sites and entered flooded communities using rubber boats.

“The sun is already out, with occasional light rains. We hope floods will subside,” Ronna Monzon, a member of the operations personnel at the disaster agency in Bicol, told Reuters.

About 20 tropical cyclones hit the Philippines every year, with destroyed crops and infrastructure taking a toll on human lives and weighing down one of the fastest growing economies in Asia.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema; Editing by Paul Tait)