Storm Barry bears down on New Orleans with ‘extreme rain,’ flooding risk

Tropical Storm Barry is shown in the Gulf of Mexico approaching the coast of Louisiana, U.S. in this July 11, 2019 NASA satellite handout photo. NASA/Handout via REUTERS

By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – Some residents and visitors prepared to flee New Orleans on Thursday as Tropical Storm Barry closed in and officials warned of “extreme rain” and flooding if the storm makes landfall by early Saturday as the first Atlantic hurricane of 2019.

City officials urged residents to shelter in place rather than evacuate as the storm had maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour (64 kph) as of 2 p.m. CDT (1900 GMT) on Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

Forecasters issued a storm-surge warning of up to 6 feet (1.8 m) for a stretch of Louisiana coastline south of already-sodden New Orleans stretching from the mouth of the Atchafalaya River to Shell Beach. Rain was an equal danger, given that the lower Mississippi River, which runs through New Orleans, has been above flood stage for six months.

The lower Mississippi is forecast to peak at 19 feet (5.9 m) on Saturday, the highest it has been since 1950, according to the National Weather Service.

“The more information we get, the more concerned we are that this is going to be an extreme rain event,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said at an afternoon news conference. “If Tropical Storm Barry becomes a hurricane, it would be the first time we’ve had the hurricane hit the state with rising rivers.”

He said he expected the storm to measure a Category 1, the lowest rung on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane wind strength, when it comes ashore.

The slow-moving storm was located about 90 miles (145 km) south of the mouth of the Mississippi River at 2 p.m., the National Hurricane Center said.

Meteorologists predicted between 10 and 20 inches (25 and 50 cm) of rain would fall on the Gulf Coast on Friday and Saturday from East Texas through New Orleans and the Louisiana coast.

‘CANNOT PUMP OUR WAY OUT’

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell warned that 48 hours of heavy rainfall could overwhelm the pumps the city uses to fight floodwater, leading to flooding as early as Friday morning.

“We cannot pump our way out of the water levels that are expected to hit the city of New Orleans,” Cantrell said. “We need you to understand this.”

Richard Vasquez packs his car with belongings as Tropical Storm Barry approaches land in Port Sulphur, Louisiana, U.S. July 11, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

Richard Vasquez packs his car with belongings as Tropical Storm Barry approaches land in Port Sulphur, Louisiana, U.S. July 11, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

Water pumps already were working at capacity after heavy rains, she said.

Oil companies have shut a third of offshore Gulf of Mexico production ahead and a coastal refinery was set to shut down due to an evacuation order prompted by the storm, pushing oil and gasoline prices higher.

Cantrell said no official evacuation orders were being issued but urged people to gather supplies, secure their property and shelter in place.

But some in New Orleans, hard hit when Hurricane Katrina swamped the city in 2005 and killed 1,800 across the region, were getting out.

In the city’s Bywater neighborhood a block from the Mississippi River, Betsey and Jack Hazard were preparing to repair a fence around their house and flee with their two small children to Mississippi.

“It’s really the river that has us worried,” said Betsey Hazard, saying she feared it could overtop the nearby levee. “They say that the river won’t flood in New Orleans but we have a 5-year-old and a 10-month-old, and we don’t want to take any chances.”

In the normally bustling French Quarter, popular with tourists, only a couple of tables were occupied at the coffee-and-beignet restaurant Café du Monde.

Kate Clayson of Northampton, England, and her boyfriend Maxx Lipman of Nashville, Tennessee, said they had arrived on Wednesday for a vacation but were planning to depart on Thursday.

“The woman at our Airbnb said the water came up to the first step of our house yesterday so we’ve just decided we’d better get out,” Clayson said.

The storm will become Hurricane Barry if it reaches wind speeds of 74 mph (119 km) as expected when it makes landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River and just west of New Orleans.

The National Weather Service said the city had received 6 to 9 inches (15 to 23 cm) of rain by Thursday morning, causing dramatic flooding in the area, including on Bourbon Street in the city’s historic French Quarter.

(Additional reporting by Gabriella Borter and Jonathan Allen in New York and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Bill Trott)

Philippines evacuates coastal areas ahead of typhoon Yutu

A general view of the damage after Super Typhoon Yutu hit Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, U.S., October 25, 2018 in this picture taken through a cracked vehicle window, obtained from social media. Brad Ruszala via REUTERS

MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines raised storm warning levels on Monday and began evacuating some coastal communities in the path of a typhoon that threatened storm surges, landslides and floods triggered by heavy winds and rain.

Typhoon Yutu, which caused havoc last week with a direct hit on the U.S. Northern Mariana islands, was set to make landfall on Tuesday morning and move across the main island of Luzon before leaving the Philippines 24 hours later, the state weather agency PAGASA said.

By mid-morning on Monday, Yutu was about 400 km (249 miles)east of the mainland and had weakened to sustained wind speeds of 150 km per hour (93 mph), with gusts of 185 kph, from 170 kph recorded a few hours earlier.

That was less intense than four days ago, when as a super typhoon with wind speeds of over 270 kph barreled through the Marianas, a U.S. Western Pacific archipelago of 52,000 people, tearing off roofs, overturning vehicles and cutting off power and water.

Authorities in Isabela and Cagayan provinces started moving residents in coastal towns to evacuation centers while the mountainous Cordillera region was put on red alert for landslides.

Three provinces in north Luzon were elevated to warning signal 3 on the severity scale of 5, and 28 more put on the earliest warnings of 1 and 2, with strong winds and rains expected later on Monday.

Known locally as Rosita, the typhoon will be the 18th to hit the Philippines this year and comes six weeks after super typhoon Mangkhut tore across Luzon, triggering landslides that killed dozens of people and damaged about $180 million of crops.

School classes were suspended in at least five provinces and fishermen in Luzon and the eastern seaboard advised not to go to sea, with warnings of storm surges of up to three metres in six provinces.

All boat services in the port city of Batangas, about 83 km (52 miles) south of Manila, were suspended on Monday.

About half of the Philippines’ 105 million population live in the Luzon region. The country is hit by an average 20 typhoons each year.

(Reporting by Martin Petty and Karen Lema; editing by Darren Schuettler)

Typhoon leaves flooding, four dead in Japan before moving out to sea

A collapsed road is seen following torrential rain caused by typhoon Lan in Kishiwada, Japan in this photo taken by Kyodo on October 23, 2017. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) – A rapidly weakening typhoon Lan made landfall in Japan on Monday, setting off landslides and flooding that prompted evacuation orders for tens of thousands of people, but then headed out to sea after largely sparing the capital, Tokyo.

Four people were reported killed, hundreds of plane flights canceled, and train services disrupted in the wake of Lan, which had maintained intense strength until virtually the time it made landfall west of Tokyo in the early hours of Monday.

At least four people were killed, including a man who was hit by falling scaffolding, a fisherman tending to his boat, and a young woman whose car had been washed away by floodwaters.

Another casualty was left comatose by injuries and a man was missing, NHK public television said. Around 130 others suffered minor injuries.

Rivers burst their banks in several parts of Japan and fishing boats were tossed up on land. A container ship was stranded after being swept onto a harbor wall but all 19 crew members escaped injury.

Some 80,000 people in Koriyama, a city 200 km (124 miles) north of Tokyo, were ordered to evacuate as a river neared the top of its banks, NHK said, but by afternoon water levels were starting to fall. Several hundred houses in western Japan were flooded.

“My grandchild lives over there. The house is fine, but the area is flooded, and they can’t get out,” one man told NHK.

Lan had weakened to a category 2 storm when it made landfall early on Monday, sideswiping Tokyo, after powering north for days as an intense category 4 storm, according to the Tropical Storm Risk monitoring site.

Lan is the Marshall islands word for “storm”.

By Monday afternoon the storm had been downgraded to a tropical depression and it was in the Pacific, east of the northernmost main island of Hokkaido, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

Around 350 flights were canceled and train services disrupted over a wide area of Japan, although most commuter trains were running smoothly in Tokyo.

Toyota Motor Corp canceled the first shift at all of its assembly plants but said it would operate the second shift as normal.

 

(Additional reporting by Junko Fujita and Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Michael Perry & Simon Cameron-Moore)