As Wildfires continue Authorities evacuate town in Washington state

Revelation 16:9 “They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Wildfires rage in US: Authorities evacuate town in Washington State. This is what has happened:
  • The Sheriff said six homes and eight other structures had got destroyed in fire. With the help of state and local resources, the authorities are trying to control the fires. The evacuation process is also going on, as per the Sheriff.
  • According to officials at a community meeting on Wednesday night, about 1300 people are being evacuated. Officials have warned that fires could break out again in the next few days as clouds clear and humidity drops.
  • The fires broke out last Friday and charred about 92 square miles. More than a hundred homes and other buildings were burned down, and four bodies were found.

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Gov. Youngkin declares State of Emergency after Virginia flooding

Revelation 16:9 “They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Authorities Report No Deaths in Southwest Virginia Flooding, Clean Up Expected to Take Months
  • Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued a State of Emergency declaration for impacted areas. Residents said their neighborhoods look like a war zone.
  • “Well, it’s just mudslides. Trees in the road. Water in the road. Houses on the road. It’s just a mess,” said Archie White, a flood victim.
  • Flash floods were seen gushing through city streets. Buildings were washed from their foundations and roads were left impassable. In total, more than 100 homes were damaged. The clean-up is expected to take months as crews are still surveying the damage.

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Laguna Beach devastated by Coastal Fire. Evacuation orders are in place

Joel 3:3-4 reads, “Before the great and terrible day of Hashem comes,* I will set portents in the sky and on earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke; The sun shall turn into darkness And the moon into blood.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Grim before and after photos show heartbreaking devastation of California wildfire as up to 20 multimillion-dollar mansions overlooking Laguna Beach are reduced to rubble
  • Before and after photos reveal just how devastating a California wildfire was Wednesday night
  • Dubbed the Coastal Fire, it started at 2.44pm and has, in just a few hours, spread to nearly 200 acres
  • It is being fueled by strong winds and has set 20 homes alight in the Laguna Niguel neighborhood
  • Photos show that one of the homes, listed for sale for nearly $10 million, was completely gutted as a result
  • Evacuations have been ordered in the areas as firefighters battle to get flames under control
  • California is engulfed in a drought: The first three months of 2022 have been the driest on record and March only saw one inch of rainfall, leading firefighters to warn of a summer full of fires

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Kentucky rain turns more tornado survivors out of their homes

By Rod Nickel

MAYFIELD, Kentucky (Reuters) – Jimmy Galbreath counted his blessings too soon. His home in Mayfield, Kentucky, was battered but not broken last week by a tornado, and the 62-year-old former scrap iron worker planned to keep living there.

Then on Thursday rain soaked the state, with another downpour forecast for Friday into Saturday afternoon. As Galbreath watched, water leaked steadily into his kitchen, finding paths opened by two trees that had smashed into his house during the tornado.

“I can’t stay in here, it’s impossible,” said Galbreath, who collects social security. He said he was looking to buy a camper to live in.

“This is going to be a long haul, it’s not going to be no easy fix,” he said of his uninhabitable house.

Rebuilding hard-hit Kentucky cities like Mayfield and Dawson Springs will take years, with entire neighborhoods and numerous workplaces wiped out by the most severe U.S. tornadoes in a decade. At least 74 people in Kentucky and 14 elsewhere died in the storms.

GAPING HOLES

Many homes, businesses and churches in Mayfield, population 10,000, already have blue tarps nailed over their gaping holes, but on other structures, roofs and glass-less windows remain open to the sky.

As the rain began, water quickly pooled in streets as debris from the tornado’s destruction clogged storm drains.

Some residents opted to stay in their damaged homes after tornadoes struck last week instead of moving in with family, or into shelters, as others did.

Nearly all hotel rooms within an hour’s drive of Mayfield are full, forcing even some out of town emergency personnel to drive a long daily commute.

Mayfield expects a further half inch (12.7 mm) of rain on Friday, with potential for heavier amounts, and showers continuing on Saturday, according to The Weather Channel.

Once the rain passes, temperatures are forecast to dip below freezing on Sunday.

David Burke, chief program officer for non-governmental organization Team Rubicon, said the weather is likely to force more Kentucky residents out of their homes.

With rain on the way, he said, Team Rubicon volunteers have accelerated the pace of fixing tarps to homes across the state and helping residents move valuables to more secure areas.

“There are a lot of homes that are a total loss, but a lot of homes that can still be repaired if they can keep the water out,” Burke said.

Some shelter beds are available. Fourteen emergency shelters are open in Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas, enough for 550 people, said American Red Cross spokesperson Jenelle Eli.

One, recently opened in a Mayfield church, was empty when the rain started on Thursday but is expected to fill once the weather turns cold, a worker on duty said.

Mark Bruce, 64, who works for farm machinery dealer John Deere in Mayfield, salvaged sheet metal from tornado debris to patch holes in his roof. As rain fell, he looked up and said he hoped it would be enough.

“We think we’re in the dry. We feel very fortunate.”

(Editing by Gareth Jones)

PM apologizes as Greece counts costs of wildfire catastrophe

By Lefteris Papadimas

PEFKI, Greece (Reuters) -Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis apologized on Monday for failures in tackling the devastating wildfires that have burned across Greece for the past week as the country counted the cost in lost homes and livelihoods.

As fires burned unabated in many parts of the country for a seventh day, the biggest front was on Evia, Greece’s second-biggest island located just off the mainland east of Athens.

“It burned everything, there’s nothing left,” said 77-year-old Makis Ladogiannakis, sitting in a cafe in the seaside town of Pefki, where a ferry waited to evacuate more locals and tourists to safety if needed, as in previous days.

“The fire was the biggest catastrophe for the village,” he said. “People lived off resin production and the olive trees.”

More than 500 fires have been burning across Greece, forcing the evacuation of dozens of villages and thousands of people and there has been growing public anger at delays and breakdowns in the government’s response.

Mitsotakis went on television late on Monday to make a public apology and promised that mistakes would be identified and rectified but called for unity.

“I fully understand the pain of our fellow citizens who saw their homes or property burned,” he said. “Any failures will be identified. And responsibility will be assigned wherever necessary.”

Mitsotakis promised that forests destroyed by the fires would be restored and climate defenses be built up, and he pledged compensation for those whose property was destroyed in the fires.

He approved a 500 million-euro package of aid for Evia and the Attica region around Athens. Ministers were due to meet on Tuesday to discuss further support measures.

CHILDHOOD MEMORIES

Strong winds on Monday fueled flare-ups on Evia after appearing to ease earlier in the day. Water-bombing aircraft struggled to operate because of the large plumes of smoke blanketing the area, authorities said.

The fires broke out last week during Greece’s worst heatwave in three decades, with searing temperatures and dry heat causing tinder box conditions.

“The climate crisis is knocking on the door of the entire planet,” Mitsotakis said, just hours after a U.N. report said global warming was dangerously close to being out of control.

Temperatures had cooled somewhat in Greece, but were forecast to rise again during the week, meaning the risk of flare-ups remained high.

“It’s sad. All my childhood memories are burned right now,” said Richard Konstantine Allen, who lives in Athens but went back to try to save his property. “I used to run in this forest, to cycle to collect fruit, now everything is gone.”

In Athens, officials began to assess the damage from a blaze which tore through several suburbs north of the city last week before beginning to recede on Saturday.

“Our aim is to complete the inventory as soon as possible, in order to immediately begin the process of compensating our affected fellow citizens,” the ministry of infrastructure and transport said in a statement.

The blaze, which broke out on the foothills of Mount Parthina on the outskirts of the capital, sent thousands of people fleeing and damaged homes and businesses as well as thousands of hectares of forest land.

Almost 1,000 firefighters, nine aircraft and 200 vehicles have been sent to Greece from other European countries to help with the wildfires. In addition, Greece said on Monday it was expecting two aircraft from Turkey and an additional plane from Russia.

More than 2,000 residents and tourists have been evacuated by ferry since last Tuesday – the images of them departing against the backdrop of a dark red sky becoming emblematic of the blazes.

(Writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Mike Collett-White and Alison Williams)

Tourists, residents evacuated by boat in Greece as wildfires rage

By Angeliki Koutantou and Karolina Tagaris

ATHENS (Reuters) -Scores of people on the Greek island of Evia fled to the shore to be evacuated by boat on Wednesday as a rapidly spreading wildfire tore through surrounding pine forests, leaving gutted buildings in its wake.

The fire, worsened by changing winds, has forced authorities on the island near Athens to evacuate several villages since late Tuesday.

Coast guard vessels picked up at least 50 people who had been evacuated from a beach close to the seaside village of Rovies on Wednesday and transferred them to a ferry, an official said.

“It was burning all night. The forest has been destroyed, villages were burned. We left behind our homes, we left our pets,” Christina Katsini, a Rovies resident, told Skai TV.

Tassos Baltas, a volunteer rescuer, said it was “raining ashes in Halkida”, Evia’s capital, some 100 km (62 miles) away.

Fires that had threatened houses on the northern outskirts of Athens on Tuesday eased slightly. But with Greece facing its most severe heatwave in 30 years, the risk remained high for the next few days in most parts of the country, authorities said.

Temperatures hovered above 40 degrees Celsius (107 Fahrenheit) for the third day.

“The weather conditions are extreme,” Deputy Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said in a televised address. “We should remain on alert. We should avoid any – but any – activity that could cause a fire.”

Reinforcements arrived from Cyprus, and firefighters from France and two aircraft from Sweden were expected by Thursday, a Civil Protection Authority spokesperson said.

Fires were also burning in Halkidiki in northern Greece, the Peloponnese, in the regions of Messinia and Mani, and in Ilia, close to Ancient Olympia, which was the site of the first Olympic Games and was ordered to be evacuated.

Europe has been experiencing extreme weather this summer, from heavy flooding in the north to severe heatwaves and fires in parts of the Mediterranean, with Turkey hit by its most intense blazes on record.

Athens residents were told to stay indoors as a thick cloud of smoke hung over the city.

Fires near the town of Varympompi, north of the capital, damaged scores of buildings and destroyed more than 80 cars after breaking out on Tuesday.

“I saved my pets, that’s why I stayed,” said one Varympompi resident, Panagiotis, standing among burned cars and blackened pine trees. “I have goosebumps just talking about it; all the homes around me burned, nothing’s left.”

(Additional reporting by Giorgos Moutafis and Lefteris Papadimas, Writing by Karolina Tagaris)

More U.S. children die in mass shootings at home than at school: study

By Brad Brooks

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – Three out of four U.S. children and teens killed in mass shootings over the past decade were victims of domestic violence and generally died in their homes, according to a study released on Thursday by the gun control group Everytown.

While the specter of school shootings looms darkly in the minds of American parents who remember massacres in Newtown, Connecticut; Parkland, Florida, and around the country, the group’s review of shootings from 2009 through 2018 found far more children are killed in their own homes.

“These are not random acts of violence, yet people have the perception that the killings come out of nowhere,” said Sarah Burd-Sharps, Everytown’s research director. “That is simply not the truth.”

The Everytown report, based on police and court records, as well as media reports, found that 54% of mass shootings involved the shooter killing a family member or intimate partner.

A total of 1,121 people were killed in 194 mass shootings in the decade examined – one-third of whom were children or teens.

Nearly two-thirds of all mass shootings took place entirely inside homes, the study found.

Burd-Sharps said Everytown hopes that its report helps the public gain more understanding about the statistical realities of mass shootings, which it defines as an incident that kills at least four people, excluding the shooter.

The federal government and other groups set a lower threshold for what constitutes a mass shooting. Those definitions can result in higher totals than Everytown’s count.

Only 1% of the nearly 35,000 gun deaths averaged in the United States each year in the past decade involved mass shootings, but Burd-Sharps said she believes public interest in them can help propel gun-safety legislation that could cut gun deaths across the board.

At the top of Everytown’s wish list is a “red flag” law that would allow family members or law enforcement officers to petition a judge to seize firearms from a person they think is a threat to themselves or others.

The group also believes a comprehensive federal law requiring background checks on all gun sales would quickly be effective in decreasing gun deaths.

The link between domestic violence in mass shootings was seen this week in San Diego, when a man who had a restraining order against him killed his wife and three of their four young sons before taking his own life.

“When you look at all these cases of kids who lost their lives, if some family member had been able to heed the warning signs and temporarily had guns removed from the home, many of those children would still be alive,” Burd-Sharps said.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Berkrot)

California’s PG&E customers face new round of mass outages

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – Power supply to about 150,000 California homes and businesses is expected to be shut off on Wednesday, in the latest precautionary outage planned by utility giant PG&E against wildfire risks posed by extremely dry, windy weather.

Late on Tuesday, the company said it would go forward with the shutoffs from 9 a.m., with some customers likely to be unaffected until late afternoon.

The mass blackout will be the fourth imposed by Pacific Gas & Electric Co, a unit of PG&E Corp, since Oct. 9, when about 730,000 customers were left in the dark as a preventive measure called a “public safety power shutoff.”

A precautionary outage initiated on Oct. 23 hit an estimated 179,000 customers, while another run in phases from Oct. 26 through Nov. 1 affected a record 941,000 homes and workplaces, according to PG&E.

The latest mass shutoff is likely to run through midday Thursday and could ultimately affect 181,000 customers across portions of 16 counties in northern and central California, PG&E spokeswoman Katie Allen told Reuters.

The outages are a response to forecasts for humidity levels to drop and heavy desert winds to howl through the region, a scenario that strengthens the risk of wildfires ignited by downed power lines.

Wind gusts will reach between 35 mph and 55 miles (56 km to 89 km), with isolated areas of higher gusts, National Weather Service forecasters said.

PG&E, California’s largest investor-owned utility, filed for bankruptcy in January, citing $30 billion in civil liability from major fires sparked by its equipment in 2017 and 2018.

That tally includes the state’s deadliest fire on record, the Camp fire that killed 85 people in and around the northern town of Paradise last year.

The recent wave of precautionary shutoffs has provoked criticism from Governor Gavin Newsom, state regulators and consumer activists as being too broad.

Newsom blames PG&E for doing too little to properly maintain and secure its power lines against wind damage and has accused the utility of poorly managing some of the mass outages.

Utility executives have acknowledged room for improvement while defending the sprawling cutoffs as a matter of public safety.

The California Public Utilities Commission recently opened a formal investigation of whether PG&E and other utilities violated energy regulations by cutting power to millions of residents for days at a time during periods of high winds.

Even as northern California braced for heightened wildfire risks, parts of Southern California, including Los Angeles, were expected to be doused by their first substantial showers after months of little or no rainfall.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Culver City, Calif.; Additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Clarence Fernandez)

U.S. mortgage requests rise as loan rates hold near 10-month low: MBA

A view of single family homes for sale in San Marcos, California October 25, 2013. PROPERTY REUTERS/Mike Blake

(Reuters) – U.S. mortgage applications increased for the first time in five weeks as most home borrowing costs hovered near their lowest in 10 months, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Wednesday.

The Washington-based industry group said its seasonally adjusted gauge of loan requests to buy a home and to refinance one rose 3.6 percent to 365.3 in the week ended Feb. 15. The prior week’s reading was the lowest in a month.

“Mortgage rates held steady on mixed economic news, as core inflation remained firm, while retail sales in December were much weaker than expected. However, overall application activity picked up over the week,” Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of industry surveys and forecasts, said in a statement.

Interest rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances of $484,350 or less ticked up to 4.66 percent from the prior week’s 4.65 percent, which was the lowest since March 2, 2018.

U.S. Treasury yields, which are benchmarks for most mortgages, rose last week as underlying inflation trends remained intact and traders reduced their safe-haven bond holdings on optimism that China and the United States would resolve their trade conflict.

The other mortgage rates that MBA tracks were unchanged to 8 basis points higher on the week.

“Most rates remained close to 10-month lows, which allowed some borrowers with an incentive to refinance to capitalize,” Kan said.

The group’s seasonally adjusted barometer on home refinancing requests rose 6.4 percent to 1,084.4.

The refinance share of total mortgage applications was 41.7 percent last week, compared with 41.8 percent the prior week.

MBA’s seasonally adjusted gauge on applications to buy a home, which is seen as a proxy on future housing activity, climbed 1.7 percent at 232.7 last week.

(Reporting by Richard Leong in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

Man arrested for starting Colorado wildfire burning over 38,000 acres

Flames rise past a ridge during efforts to contain the Spring Creek Fire in Costilla County, Colorado, U.S. June 27, 2018. Costilla County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS

TAOS, New Mexico (Reuters) – A man was arrested on Saturday on charges of starting a forest fire in Colorado that has destroyed structures and forced hundreds to evacuate their homes in one of dozens of wildfires raging across the drought-hit U.S. southwest.

Jesper Joergensen, 52, was taken into custody for suspected arson that started the Springs Fire, the most active of around 10 blazes in Colorado, the state hardest hit by fires, according to Costilla County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.

Joergensen is not a U.S. citizen and will be handed over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement once he has faced arson charges, said a Costilla County detention officer. The officer could not immediately say what nationality Joergensen held.

The fire has scorched over 38,000 acres (15,378 hectares) between the towns of Fort Garland and La Veta in southern Colorado, forcing more mandatory evacuations of homes and ranches on Saturday in a mountainous area of public and private land. The fire continued to grow, fueled by temperatures in the mid 80s Fahrenheit (27 Celsius) and had zero percent containment as of Saturday afternoon.

Air tankers and helicopters dropped fire retardant and water on the blaze. Authorities asked evacuated residents not to fly drones to check on their properties as the devices posed a danger to aircraft and would force them to be grounded.

An unknown number of structures were consumed by the fire, said Bethany Urban, a public information officer. No injuries have been reported.

Gusty winds, single-digit humidity and hot temperatures have fueled the fires and could ignite new blazes in the U.S. West, the National Weather Service said in several warnings.

The largest wildfire in Colorado, the 416 Fire, has charred almost 47,000 acres about 13 miles (21 km) north of Durango in the southwest corner of the state, and is 37 percent contained, said public information officer Brandalyn Vonk.

About 10 smaller wildfires were burning in New Mexico and three in Arizona, with much of the two states suffering extreme or exceptional drought conditions.

All but the northeastern corner of Colorado is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Grant McCool)