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)

Powerful storm hammers eastern United States with heavy snow, wind gusts

residents survey damage of tornado that struck Georgia

(Reuters) – A powerful storm that killed at least 21 people in the southern United States over the weekend was expected on Tuesday to bring heavy snow and wind gusts to the Northeast, causing school closings, treacherous driving conditions and power outages.

The storm, known as a nor’easter, was forecast to bring snowfalls of up to 9 inches (23 cm) along with icy rains and wind gusts of 40 mph (65 kph) to northern Pennsylvania through central New York and into Maine on Tuesday morning, the National Weather Service said.

“Only travel in an emergency,” it said in an advisory.

School districts across the region canceled or delayed the start of classes on Tuesday due to the icy road conditions. Local news outlets showed early-morning footage of vehicles covered with a thick glaze of ice and snow-covered roads.

“I didn’t want a snow day but I didn’t want to drive in this mess either,” Lauren Piechota, a teacher in Vermont, said on Twitter.

Flood advisories and watches were also in effect for coastal areas throughout New England until midday as rain totals for the last couple of days were expected to reach 3 inches (8 cm), the weather service said.

About 15,000 customers were without power early on Tuesday morning, according to online reports by utility companies in the region.

“Scattered power outages are expected as the slushy accumulations and ice will weigh down trees and power lines,” the weather service said.

The storm unleashed deadly twisters in Mississippi and Georgia over the weekend before turning cooler as it advanced on the Northeast on Monday and into Tuesday. It was expected to head into Canada by Wednesday, the service said.

The weather system killed 16 people on Sunday in Georgia, according to a tally by the Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal extended a state emergency declaration to 16 counties and said President Donald Trump had called him on Sunday and promised he would be “ready and willing to respond” to an expected request for federal disaster relief.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Ice storm targets central United States

empty runway at natioanal airport due to ice

Reuters) – An ice storm heading for the central United States is threatening to cause power outages and create treacherous travel conditions on Friday and into the weekend, the National Weather Service said.

Ice, freezing rain and winter storm warnings were in effect for a large swathe of the Plains, from the Texas panhandle north into Iowa and east through central Indiana, the Weather Service said in an advisory.

“Significant amounts of ice accumulations will make travel dangerous or impossible,” the weather service said. “Travel is strongly discouraged. Commerce will likely be severely impacted.”

Ice accumulation could be more than half an inch (1 cm) depending on local temperatures, creating slick roadways especially on bridges and overpasses, and possibly causing scattered power outages across the region, the service said.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for the entire state ahead of the storm.

“Emergency personnel are coordinating with state and local officials to ensure we are prepared and ready for whatever comes our way,” said Fallin.

A handful of public school districts and universities in Idaho, Oklahoma and other parts of the central region have either canceled classes on Friday or had delayed openings due to the impending storm.

Parts of the region could also see as much as 3 inches (8 cm) of snow later in the weekend, according to the forecast.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Bernadette Baum)

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)

Powerful storms head for U.S. West after thousands flee floods

Partially submerged building in California

(Reuters) – Powerful storms packing heavy rain and snow will lash the U.S. West on Tuesday, a day after thousands of people fled their homes to escape floods, forecasters said.

A band of heavy downpours will drench northern California and heavy snow will fall in the Sierra Nevada mountains into Wednesday, exacerbating the threat of flooding, the National Weather Service said.

The storms are part of weather system called the “Pineapple Express” that has soaked a vast area from Hawaii to the typically drought-prone states of California and Nevada.

Just north of San Francisco, the Russian River in Sonoma County flooded early on Monday, forcing the evacuation of more than 3,000 residents, officials said.

In Nevada, residents of about 400 homes in Reno were ordered to leave as rains swelled the Truckee River, which flows through the city, a county official said.

A woman died after she was struck by a falling tree in the San Francisco area, local officials and media reported.

Over the weekend, an ancient giant sequoia tree with a hollowed-out tunnel was toppled by floods in Calaveras Big Trees State Park just southeast of Sacramento.

California’s Napa Valley vinyards largely escaped undamaged and the rain was expected to replenish water supplies after five years of drought, said Patsy McGaughy, Napa Valley Vintners spokeswoman.

California officially remains in a state of drought as water is still scarce in the south.

But northern California’s Lake Oroville, the principal reservoir for the State Water Project, has 2.25 million acre feet of water, more than double the amount it had a year ago, Michael Anderson, state climatologist for the California Department of Water Resources, said.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee)

Snow storm takes aim at U.S. South, Southeast

Semi truck driver removes chains from truck

(Reuters) – A winter storm packing heavy snow, sleet and freezing rain is on track for the U.S. South and Southeast where roads may become impassable and power outages are possible starting on Friday and into the weekend, forecasters said.

A large swath of the United States, from Louisiana northeast through the Appalachian Mountains and into southern Pennsylvania, is expected to get as much as 8 inches (20 cm) of snow with 1 inch (3 cm) of sleet, according to the National Weather Service.

“If you don’t have to travel, don’t travel,” said Matthew Grantham, a NWS meteorologist in Alabama, adding that conditions were expected to worsen after dark on Friday.

A weather warning was in effect until Saturday afternoon for most of North Carolina along with northwest South Carolina and northern Georgia where heavy snow, freezing temperatures and wind gusts of up to 25 miles per hour (40 kph) were expected.

“The heavy snow will make many roads impassable and may produce widespread power outages,” the weather service said.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for 79 counties and Alabama Governor Robert Bentley issued a state of emergency for his entire state.

The poor weather forced the postponement of the inauguration events that were scheduled over the weekend for North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, who was elected in November.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; editing by John Stonestreet)

Record snow and rain stretches across parched U.S. west

(Reuters) – Record snow and rain pummeled the western United States on Thursday, raising the threat of floods and freezing temperatures in some areas across the region, weather officials said.

Winter storm warnings were in effect in parts of California, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah following days of snowfall and cold.

California, where a five-year drought has triggered dozens of wildfires, was bracing for floods after heavy rainfall earlier in the week. Rivers are expected to overflow in northern and central parts of the state at a rate last seen in December 2005, the National Weather Service said.

Snow in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, which provides a critical source of water for California and has receded in recent years, is forecast to be twice the monthly average for January.

Snowstorms battered Oregon, which was in the grips of a moderate drought last year, prompting the closure of highways and schools.

In Medford, Oregon, a winter storm dumped more than eight inches of snow in a single day, the most the city has recorded over a 24-hour period in nearly a century, KTVL News 10 reported.

The Oregon State Police reported that its field office, located about 50 miles southeast of Portland, was buried under at least five feet of snow.

An 8-year-old girl was killed in the coastal area of Otis, Oregon, when a storm bringing high winds and snow caused a tree to crash onto her home earlier in the week, CBS reported.

In Boise, the capital city in the northwestern state of Idaho, 6.5 inches of snow fell on Wednesday, the most ever recorded on that date, the Weather Service said. Snow depth in the area was 15 inches, another record, it said.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Bernadette Baum)