Rain threatens U.S. Midwest as flooding force hundreds from homes

Long Creek Bridge on 86 highway, flooding Photo By Austin Metcalf

(Reuters) – Unrelenting rain will drench the already saturated U.S. Midwest on Thursday and Friday, forecasters said, after floods in the region killed at least five people and forced residents in vulnerable areas to evacuate their flooded communities.

Parts of Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Indiana and Oklahoma could see as much as an additional 4 inches (10 cm) of rain as a slow-moving system is expected to hover over the region for at least one more day, the National Weather Service said in flood warnings and watches.

“The flooding in the middle part of the county has been unbelievable over the last couple of days … and we have more rain on the way, if you can believe that,” Weather.com meteorologist Ari Sarsalari said during his forecast on Wednesday night.

The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings and watches along waterways from eastern Texas north through Indiana and into northwestern Ohio as forecasters expected most of the rivers across the U.S. Midwest to crest over the weekend.

Branson Landing in Branson, Missouri. Photo by Austin Metcalf

Branson Landing in Branson, Missouri.
Photo by Austin Metcalf

The rain comes after five people were killed in flooding in Missouri, the last two of them swept from their cars on Monday and Tuesday, after a storm dumped almost 12 inches (30 cm) of rain in the region over the weekend, the National Weather Service said.

Schools throughout the Midwest canceled classes on Thursday as dozens of roadways and parts of interstate highways remained under water. Amtrak also suspended service in Missouri until at least Saturday, it said in a statement.

The heavy rains have caused levees to fail or to be breached along the Missouri, Mississippi and Ohio rivers and their tributaries over the last few days.

Hundreds of people in places like Eureka, Missouri and Pocahontas, Arkansas have heeded evacuation orders and advisories after building walls of sandbags to protect their homes and businesses from the rising waters.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Torrential rains, damaging winds on tap for U.S. midsection

Stormy weather Courtesy of Pixabay

(Reuters) – A dangerous storm front will thrash the U.S. midsection over the weekend with torrential rainfall, damaging winds and large hail that will leave behind the threat of flooding throughout the region, the National Weather Service warned.

On Friday night, thunderstorms had already clobbered several communities in the southern Midwest with winds that took down trees and power lines while a reported rain-wrapped tornado in Lawrence, Illinois damaged a house, destroyed a structure and caused power outages, the weather service said.

On Saturday, a large swath of the region – from northern Texas up through Michigan – can expect torrential downpours that will produce 7 inches (18 cm) of rain, large hail and damaging wind gusts of 60 miles (95 km) per hour, the weather service predicted.

“The widespread and very heavy rain may produce life threatening flash flooding,” the weather service said in an advisory.

Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma told travelers on Twitter to “expect delays” and to check their flight with their airline as severe weather moves through the area.

The region has already received about 400 percent or more of normal moisture in the last week and will be highly sensitive to additional rainfall, the service said.

Evacuations could be necessary as areas along swollen waterways could see widespread flooding as the weather service issued flood warnings and watches for the weekend and into next week.

“Be very careful if out in the flooding rain. Many road closures. Never drive through a flooded road,” tweeted Ben Pine, a meteorologist for an ABC affiliate in Louisville, Kentucky.

To the west, a winter storm was expected to dump as much as a foot of wet, heavy snow (30 cm) in parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and Texas, the National Weather Service said.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Toby Chopra)

U.S. Southeast, Midwest face threat of severe storms, potential tornadoes

Stock photo of a thunderstorm that could produce tornadoes. Courtesy of Pixabay

(Reuters) – A dangerous weather system packing severe thunderstorms was expected to roll through the U.S. Southeast and parts of the Midwest on Wednesday, bringing with it the threat of tornadoes, forecasters said.

The region faced the threat of supercells developing throughout the day as very large hail and damaging straight-line wind appear to be likely, the National Weather Service said in an advisory.

At about 5:30 a.m. local time, a thunderstorm was moving northeast of Anniston, Alabama, at 55 miles (89 km) per hour, bringing with it hail the size of golf balls and 60 mile (98 km) per hour wind gusts, the Weather Service reported.

“For your protection move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a building,” the National Weather Service warned in an advisory.

Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina faced a heightened chance of tornadoes and potential flash flooding during the day.

The 5.7 million people who live in the Atlanta metro area should expect as much as 2-1/2 inches (6 cm) of rain throughout the day and into the evening, the service said.

Dozens of school districts in Alabama and Georgia canceled classes while Alabama Governor Robert Bentley issued a state of emergency ahead of the storm front.

“Alabama is no stranger to the impact severe weather can have on communities and the devastation that can occur when the weather takes a turn for the worse,” Bentley said in a statement.

The severe weather comes days after a powerful storm system in the southeastern U.S. killed four people, including a woman who was swept away by flood waters while she called 911.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Four dead, about 200,000 without power after Texas, Oklahoma storms

Stock photo of a thunderstorm that could produce tornadoes. Courtesy of Pixabay

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – Four people were killed and nearly 200,000 customers were without electric power on Wednesday morning after overnight storms pounded Texas and Oklahoma, bringing tornadoes, torrential rain and hail to large parts of the states.

Three of those killed were storm chasers trying to track tornadoes in the Texas Panhandle region. They died after their cars slammed into each other near Spur on Tuesday night, police said.

In Oklahoma, a truck driver was killed near El Reno in a roll-over crash likely caused by high winds, police said.

There were 15 reports of tornadoes from the storms in Texas, with most of the twisters in the Panhandle and western parts of the state, the National Weather Service said. Hail, some as large as baseballs, pounded Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas overnight causing damage to cars.

The storm system weakened on Wednesday and was forecast to hit the Houston area.

The system took a heavy toll on utilities in North Texas, where provider Oncor said about 150,000 of its customers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area were without power on Wednesday morning. There were also tens of thousands of other customers in Texas and Oklahoma without power, various utilities reported.

The storms did not cause any major delays in flights through Dallas and Houston, two of the nation’s busiest air hubs, tracking service FlightAware.com reported.

But it did cause a number of school closures in North Texas where schools were without electricity. Elementary schools in Dallas and Tarrant County, home to Fort Worth, were closed. This caused delays for students taking an annual achievement test in the state known as STAAR, or the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness.

“Storms throughout Texas yesterday and today? Proof that God doesn’t like #STAAR either! #imateacher,” Twitter user @kekis26 wrote on the social media site.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Additional reporting by Lisa Maria Garza in Dallas; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Blizzard blows into northeast U.S.; flights canceled, schools shut

Cars are covered in snow in a general parking lot during the snowstorm at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 13, 2017. Some Chicagoland areas received up to 5 inches of snow, and more than 400 flights were cancelled at O'Hare. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

By Daniel Trotta and Scott Malone

NEW YORK/BOSTON (Reuters) – Snow piled up rapidly in parts of the northeastern United States on Tuesday as a blizzard began blowing in, with residents being advised to stay at home, airlines grounding flights and schools canceling classes.

The National Weather Service (NWS) warned some 50 million people from Pennsylvania to Maine of a “rapidly intensifying nor’easter” that was unusual for so late in the winter. Some could expect to find themselves surrounded by up to 2 feet (60 cm) of snow by early Wednesday, the federal agency predicted.

Governors in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia declared states of emergency.

New York City was expected to escape the worst of it after the NWS withdrew its blizzard warning for the city on Tuesday morning, replacing it with a mere “winter weather advisory.” The service sharply reduced its snowfall forecast for the city to between 4 and 8 inches (10 and 20 cm).

Still, city life already was disrupted with many New Yorkers already planning to stay home with hard-won groceries picked up from crowded stores the night before.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suspended above-ground portions of the city’s subway service and said the Metro-North commuter service to the suburbs would shut down at noon. Transit officials warned that more bus and train routes might be suspended throughout the day.

“Normally, with the geography of New York, we normally have it on the east side or the west side. But this is statewide,” Cuomo told MSNBC in an interview.

“We’ve been through this a number of times so we’re prepared for it. Airports are basically closed … Government is basically closed, schools are basically closed, so there’s no real reason to be on the roads and we made that clear yesterday.”

Some 2,000 members of the National Guard and 5,000 plows were deployed across the state, Cuomo said.

Workers clear frozen precipitation from a walkway at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Workers clear frozen precipitation from a walkway at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

AIR TRAFFIC SNARLED

Airlines canceled about 5,500 flights across the United States, according to tracking service FlightAware.com. The airports with the most cancellations were Newark in New Jersey, LaGuardia in New York and Boston Logan International Airport.

American Airlines <AAL.O> canceled all flights into New York’s three airports – Newark, LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International Airport – and JetBlue Airways <JBLU.O> reported extensive cancellations.

Delta Air Lines <DAL.N> canceled 800 flights for Tuesday for New York, Boston and other northeast airports. United Airlines <UAL.N> said it would have no operations at Newark or LaGuardia.

“We’re keeping a close eye on things and depending on how things go, will plan to ramp back up Wednesday morning,” United said in a statement.

New York City public schools – the largest U.S. school system – canceled classes on Tuesday as did schools in the Washington, D.C., area, Boston, Philadelphia and northern New Jersey.

Federal agencies in Washington said they were opening three hours later than normal on Tuesday.

The storm comes near the end of an unusually mild winter along much of the East Coast, with below-normal snowfalls in cities such as New York City and Washington.

Boston was braced for up to a foot of snow, which forecasters warned would fall quickly during the storm’s peak. The double-murder trial in Boston of former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez was suspended for the day because of the weather.

Washington, a city that functions badly with even small amounts of snow, was expecting 5 inches (13 cm) and twice that in outlying areas.

Snow fall was to be heavy at times with as much as 4 inches an hour expected to fall with winds reaching up to 60 mph (100 kph) in parts of the northeast, the National Weather Service warned.

Coastal flood warnings were also in effect for several parts of the region as a storm surge is expected during high tide on Tuesday, the weather service said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was due to meet President Donald Trump in Washington on Tuesday, postponed her trip until Friday, the White House said.

Shelves are seen scarce with bread at a Trader Joe's grocery store ahead of a fast-moving winter storm expected to hit the northeastern United States, in the borough of Manhattan in New York, U.S., March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Shelves are seen scarce with bread at a Trader Joe’s grocery store ahead of a fast-moving winter storm expected to hit the northeastern United States, in the borough of Manhattan in New York, U.S., March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Laila Kearney and Jonathan Allen in New York and Scott Malone in Boston; Editing by Louise Ireland and Bill Trott)

U.S. Northeast braces for late winter blizzard

A woman is seen through a snow soaked car window walking in the snow at Cunningham Park in the borough of Queens in New York, U.S.

By Chris Michaud and Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Forecasters put the U.S. East Coast from New York City to Boston on a blizzard watch starting as early as Monday night, with authorities warning residents to prepare for the possibility of widespread power outages, road closures and flight disruptions.

Weather experts predicted the region could see 12 to 18 inches of wind-blasted snow from Monday to early Wednesday.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced preparations for the so-called Nor’easter storm, activating the state Emergency Operations Center as of Monday night while also directing state agencies to be on heightened alert.

“I encourage all New Yorkers in affected regions to plan ahead and avoid any unnecessary travel as the storm progresses,” Cuomo said in a statement, adding that commuters should expect road closures, delays and cancellations.

The storm also raised the potential for power outages with damaging winds across eastern Long Island and southeastern Connecticut, the National Weather Service said.

Significant disruption to air travel in the region was also anticipated with the storm.

Blowing snow and strong winds could lead to whiteout conditions with visibility as poor as a quarter mile, the service said. Sub-freezing temperatures were forecast in the upper 20s Fahrenheit.

New York City issued a snow alert for Monday night into Tuesday, expecting snowfall rates of up to 2 to 4 inches per hour Tuesday morning and afternoon, with gusts of up to 50 mph.

Mayor Bill de Blasio warned New Yorkers that “besides the snow, it will be cold,” while officials recommended that people avoid driving and use mass transit when possible.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was installing hundreds of pieces of snow equipment at the three New York area airports. Thousands of tons of salt and sand were prepared for airport roads, parking lots, bridges and tunnels.

As some 50 million people along the Eastern Seaboard came under storm or blizzard watches, Washington, D.C., which often bogs down with even low levels of snow, was expecting 5 inches and twice that in outlying areas.

The storm comes near the end of an unusually mild winter along much of the East Coast, with below-normal snowfalls in some areas, including New York City and Washington. It was the warmest February on record in nearly the entire area, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center.

Last week in New York, temperatures hovered near 70 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Accuweather.com, hitting 60 or higher on six days in February.

Meanwhile, in the western United States, the weather service forecast potentially record-setting heat in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, where temperatures were expected into the 90s in some places.

(Reporting by Chris Michaud and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Randy Fabi)

California faces more rain, snow as deadly storm moves south

People with umbrellas walk along street in Los Angeles

(Reuters) – California was bracing on Saturday for another wave of torrential rain as well as heavy snow as a massive storm triggered flooding, mudslides and power outages and killed two people, officials said.

The National Weather Service warned that rain totals could reach 10 inches (25 cm) in parts of southern California and 2 feet (60 cm) of snow in higher areas to the east as the storm continues to roll through the region.

The severe storm has brought California its heaviest rainfall in six years and comes after months of wet weather that has dramatically eased a years-long drought in the key agricultural state.

The rain and melting snowpack also are threatening to undermine a spillway at one of the largest dams in the country. Some 188,000 residents were evacuated from the area earlier this week.

Utility crews were working to restore electricity to more than 78,000 customers affected by power outages throughout the Los Angeles area.

Early on Saturday, an evacuation order remained in effect for 180 homes in Duarte, a city about 20 miles (32 km) east of Los Angeles, because of fears of mudslides.

One man died after he was electrocuted by a downed wire, the Los Angeles Fire Department said, adding that it had responded to 150 reports of downed wires on Friday. Another person was found dead in a submerged vehicle in Victorville, about 100 miles east of Los Angeles, fire officials said on Twitter.

A woman was injured when the car she was in fell into a 20-foot sinkhole in Studio City on Friday night. A second car fell into the sinkhole after the woman was rescued, an ABC affiliate reported.

Local television news also showed video footage of a San Bernardino County fire truck tumbling over the side of a freeway as the road gave out.

“All firefighters confirmed safe. The lane under the fire engine has failed, and the engine has gone over the side,” the San Bernardino County Fire Department said on Twitter.

Amtrak railroad service was suspended for trains between the cities of Oxnard and San Luis Obispo in the central and southern areas of the state due to extreme weather conditions, according to the transportation service’s website.

In higher areas of eastern California and western Nevada, snowfall and wind gusts of up to 50 mph (80 kph) were in the forecast until Saturday night, the National Weather Service said.

“This will make travel hazardous or impossible,” the service said in an advisory.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee Editing by Ed Osmond and Paul Simao)

U.S. weather service says hit by first-ever data system outage

residents dig out winter snow

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. National Weather Service said on Tuesday it suffered its first-ever outage of its data system during Monday’s blizzard in New England, keeping the agency from sending out forecasts and warnings for more than two hours.

The weather service’s Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System Network Control Facility failed Monday afternoon when the primary and backup routers lost power, the NWS said in a statement. The outage lasted two hours and 36 minutes.

“The AWIPS communications system is a very reliable configuration and this is the first time both routers failed simultaneously,” the weather service said.

The outage came as a blizzard was pummeling New England and engineers in Northern California were trying to repair problems at the United States’ tallest dam ahead of more rain.

The failure prevented the NWS from putting out forecasts, warnings, current conditions, satellite and radar imagery and updates to its main public site.

The director of the agency’s Office of Central Processing, David Michaud, called the impact “significant” in an email to weather service employees. The NWS’ Network Control Facility also was unable to connect with a backup system, he said.

During the outage, the weather service sent out forecasts, watches and warnings through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Radio and the social media accounts of local offices.

The routers at the main site were replaced and service restored. The cause of the outage is under investigation.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Paul Simao)

No return home in sight for thousands of Californians sheltering from dam

Oroville Dam flooding in Calfornia

By Deborah M. Todd and Sharon Bernstein

OROVILLE, Calif. (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Californians faced an indefinite stay in shelters as engineers worked for a second day on Tuesday to fix the United States’ tallest dam before more storms sweep the region.

After what looks set to be the wettest winter in Northern California following years of drought, more rain was forecast for as early as Wednesday and through Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.

Crews were working to shore up an overflow channel and drain the reservoir at the Lake Oroville Dam but authorities gave no indication of when it would be safe for people to go home.

Late on Sunday, about 188,000 residents were ordered to evacuate their homes in the Feather River valley below the dam, 65 miles (105 km) north of Sacramento.

Authorities say they had averted the immediate danger of a catastrophic failure at the dam that could unleash a wall of water three stories tall on towns below.

“We’re doing everything we can to get this dam in shape that they can return and they can live safely without fear. It’s very difficult,” California Governor Jerry Brown told reporters during a news conference on Monday evening.

On Monday, Brown sent a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump asking him to issue an emergency declaration, which would open up federal assistance for the affected communities, after an emergency overflow channel appeared on the brink of collapse.

Yolanda Davila, 62, of Thermalito, ended up at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico, one of only five in the area taking people with pets. She left home without medicine and dog food in the rush to find shelter before the evacuation deadline.

She said that areas such as Sacramento had been issued flood warnings earlier in the week and that authorities should have warned residents near Oroville much sooner.

“We didn’t have a plan, all we knew is to head north toward Chico,” Davila said. “If I knew we had to get out earlier I would have went to the Bay Area.”

The earth-filled dam is just upstream and east of Oroville, a town of about 16,000 people. At 770 feet (230 meters) high, the structure, built between 1962 and 1968, it is more than 40 feet taller than the Hoover Dam.

On Monday afternoon, crews dropped large bags filled with rocks into a gap at the top of the emergency spillway to rebuild the eroded hillside.

The main spillway, a separate channel, is also damaged because part of its concrete lining fell apart last week. Both spillways are to the side of the dam itself, which has not been compromised, engineers said.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Flights canceled, roads hazardous as winter storm pummels New England

A man clears snow off his vehicle following a winter snow storm in Somerville,

BOSTON (Reuters) – Hundreds of flights were canceled, scores of vehicle crashes reported and schools and government offices shuttered as the third winter storm in five days slammed New England on Monday.

Government offices were closed throughout Maine, with much of the state’s coast expecting to see 18 inches to 24 inches (46-61 cm) of snow by the day’s end, according to the National Weather Service.

“Travel conditions are expected to remain treacherous throughout Monday,” said Maine Governor Paul LePage. “Stay off the roads and avoid traveling unless it is an absolute emergency.”

Substantially less snow fell further south, though wind gusts of up to 55 miles per hour (89 kph) threatened to down tree limbs and power lines, forecasters warned.

Courts were closed throughout New Hampshire and Massachusetts, prompting a one-day delay in the start of jury selection for the double murder trial of former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez.

Some 675 U.S. flights were canceled on Monday, with Boston’s Logan International Airport the hardest hit with more than one of every five flights called off, according to tracking service FlightAware.com.

Residents dig out following a winter snow storm in the Boston suburb of Wakefield, Massachusetts, U.S.

Residents dig out following a winter snow storm in the Boston suburb of Wakefield, Massachusetts, U.S. February 13, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

At least one storm-related death was reported in Bedford, Massachusetts, about 15 miles (24 km) northwest of Boston, where a 60-year-old man died after he was struck and killed by a snowplow in the parking lot of the Veterans Administration hospital where he lived, police said.

The recent flurry of snowstorms follows a winter that has been mild throughout New England.

National Weather Service data on Monday showed that even with the most recent snowfall, Boston had recorded just 32.4 inches (82 cm) of snow so far this year.

That’s less than half the amount the city had experienced by this time of year in the record-setting winter of 2014-2015, when more than 9 feet (2.74 m) of snow fell and some snowbanks lingered on until the summer.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Bernadette Baum)