Grasshoppers take Vegas by swarm, disrupting weather radar, tourism

FILE PHOTO: A grasshopper lands on a window in Encinitas, California, U.S. October 29,2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

(Reuters) – Swarms of grasshoppers have descended upon America’s Sin City in unusual abundance this week, disrupting weather radars, deterring tourists and invoking hysteria on social media.

The clouds of buzzing insects, whose migration through the Las Vegas Valley scientists say is the result of a wetter-than-normal winter, were big enough that the National Weather Service detected them on its radar.

“Radar analysis suggests most of these echoes are biological targets. This typically includes birds, bats, and bugs, and most likely in our case…grasshoppers,” the National Weather Service in Las Vegas said on Friday on Twitter.

Such migrations occur every few years and should not cause alarm since the insects are not dangerous, Jeff Knight, state entomologist for the Nevada Department of Agriculture, said on Thursday at a news conference.

Some locals were not placated.

“This is the wildest thing in nature I’ve ever seen,” one resident, Caitlin Sparks, wrote on Twitter on Sunday, posting a photograph of a street lamp illuminating a night sky filled with grasshoppers.

Attracted to ultra-violet light, the insects have been clustering around the city’s brightly lit tourist district, a concentration of resort hotels and casinos along The Strip. The Luxor Sky Beam, a pillar of light that rises from the Luxor Hotel, has attracted huge swarms at night, according to videos posted to Twitter.

The Best Western Plus Casino Royale on the Strip shut off its lights on Friday and Saturday to avoid attracting the bugs, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Climate records tumble as Europe swelters in heatwave

A temperature indicator outside of a pharmacy indicates 42 degres Celsius (107.6 Fahrenheit) in Brussels, Belgium, July 25, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

PARIS/LONDON (Reuters) – Soaring temperatures broke records in France, Britain and the Netherlands on Thursday as a heatwave gripped Europe for the second time in a month, in what scientists said were becoming more frequent events as the planet heats up.

Tourists shield themselves from the sun with umbrellas as temperatures reach new record highs in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, July 25, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Tourists shield themselves from the sun with umbrellas as temperatures reach new record highs in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, July 25, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

As a cauldron of hot air from the Sahara desert moved across the continent, drawn northwards by high pressure, Paris recorded its highest temperature since records began and Britain reported its hottest weather for the month of July.

The unusual conditions brought a reduction in French and German nuclear power output, disrupted rail travel in parts of Britain and sent some Europeans, not habitual users of air conditioning in their homes, out to the shops in search of fans.

Health authorities issued warnings to the elderly, especially vulnerable to spikes in temperature.

“It’s very hot at the moment. I saw 42 degrees (Celsius) is forecast for today,” said 19-year-old French tourist Ombeline Massot in the capital’s Montmartre district, where visitors drank chilled bottles of water and fanned themselves.

Shortly after she spoke, the mercury touched 40.6 Celsius (105.08° Fahrenheit) in the French capital, above the previous Paris record of 40.4 C (104.72) recorded in July 1947.

In Britain, the temperature reached its highest for July, hitting 36.9 C (98.42 F), said the Met Office, the national weather service. The temperature, recorded at Heathrow, London, beat the previous July record of 36.7 C (98.06°F).

In the southern Netherlands, the temperature peaked at 40.4 Celsius (104.7 Fahrenheit), topping 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) for the first time on record, Dutch meteorology institute KNMI said. That broke the national record of 39.3 Celsius set the previous day. Before this week, the national heat record of 38.6 degrees had stood for 75 years.

The heat is expected to persist until Friday.

A boy plays with water in a fountain on a hot summer day in Brussels, Belgium, July 25, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

A boy plays with water in a fountain on a hot summer day in Brussels, Belgium, July 25, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

GLOBAL WARMING

Climate specialists said such heatwaves are becoming more frequent as a result of global warming from greenhouse gas emissions.

Britons were facing travel disruption, with trains being forced to slow down to prevent tracks buckling in the heat. Several train operators asked commuters not to travel or set off very early.

A Met Office study found that a heatwave like one that broke records last year was 30 times more likely to occur than in 1750 because of the high amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Since the pre-industrial period, the Earth’s surface temperature has risen by 1 degree Celsius.

“There is a 40-50% chance that this will be the warmest July on record. This heatwave is exactly in line with climate change predictions,” said Dr. Karsten Haustein at the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford.

Peter Inness, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Reading, said: “The fact that so many recent years have had very high summer temperatures both globally and across Europe is very much in line with what we expect from man-made global warming.”

The heatwave in Britain is expected to come to an abrupt end on Friday with thunderstorms forecast for several parts of the country, the Met Office said.

Very high temperatures across Europe coupled with prolonged dry weather has reduced French nuclear power generation by around 5.2 gigawatts (GW) or 8%, French power grid operator RTE’s data showed.

Electricity output was curtailed at six reactors by 0840 GMT on Thursday, while two other reactors were offline, data showed. High water temperatures and sluggish flows limit the ability to use river water to cool reactors.

In Germany, PreussenElektra, the nuclear unit of utility E.ON, said it would take its Grohnde reactor offline on Friday due to high temperatures in the Weser river.

(Reporting by Nina Chestney in London, Richard Lough in Paris, Alexandra Regida in Brussels and Bart Meijer in Amsterdam; Editing by William Maclean and Peter Graff)

Heatwave broils eastern, central U.S., utilities poised for demand

Visitors from Chile, Emilia Aguirre, 14, Beatriz Catalan, 14, and Magdalena Chahuan, 15, walk during a hot day in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. July 18, 2019. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert

By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A massive heat wave that has enveloped the U.S. Midwest pushed into the Northeast on Friday, ushering in temperatures that could top 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38°C) in Washington, D.C., and leading utilities to take steps to prevent power outages.

The huge blob of warm air is likely to blanket the region, home to a third of the U.S. population, through Sunday with little overnight relief, said meteorologist David Roth of the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.

“There are 124 million people under a heat advisory or excessive heat warning – that’s a third of the population,” Roth said.

As of Friday, the heatwave sprawled from Kansas to the Atlantic Coast, and from South Carolina north to Maine. It was expected to intensify on Saturday and Sunday.

Utilities in the eastern half of the United States expect to have enough resources to meet power demand on Friday but asked consumers to turn down air conditioners to avoid putting stress on the system, which could cause outages.

“I’m very confident,” Consolidated Edison Inc President Tim Cawley said when asked at a press conference in New York, if the utility, which serves New York City, could quickly respond to any outages in the country’s largest city. He said 4,000 employees were poised to work 12-hour shifts over the weekend.

On Saturday, parts of Manhattan lost power for hours, darkening Broadway theaters and closing restaurants and shops in a partial blackout blamed on a faulty piece of equipment.

There were no major outages Friday morning anywhere in the United States, according to the PowerOutage.US website.

Temperatures on Friday were forecast to reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Washington, 97 degrees F in Philadelphia and 91 degrees F in New York, where it would feel more like 110 degrees F with high humidity, Roth said.

The dangers posed by extreme heat and humidity prompted officials to scrap outdoor competitions, including Saturday’s horse races at Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York and Sunday’s New York City Triathlon.

To keep cool during past heat waves, suburban children typically run under lawn sprinklers and city kids frolic in the spray of fire hydrants but the New York City Fire Department warned special spray caps that firehouses hand out should be used to avoid creating a hazard.

“If you open a fire hydrant without these caps, you endanger your neighbors because the water pressure drops and our firefighters are not able to fight fires,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said on social media.

(Additional reporting by Scott DiSavino and Henry Nichols in New York; Editing by Bill Trott and Marguerita Choy)

Remnants of storm Barry dump more rain in the U.S. southeast

Crews clear debris from Highway 23 during Hurricane Barry in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, U.S. July 14, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

By Collin Eaton

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – The remnants of the once-mighty storm Barry, the first hurricane of the 2019 season, dumped dangerous amounts of rain as it crawled north through the United States on Monday after coming ashore west of New Orleans at the weekend.

Barry, now downgraded to a tropical depression, still packed winds of up to 25 mph and could drop 5 inches or more of rain on a water-logged Louisiana, forecaster Andrew Orrison of the National Weather Service said.

That brings the risk of dangerous flash floods from already bloated rivers across much of the gulf region and Mississippi Valley, he said.

“We’ll see the winds coming down as the day progresses,” he said. “But the big story is the rain. This is still capable of very heavy rains through the next 24 hours.”

Through Monday and Tuesday, the storm will bring 3-to-5 inches of rain with spots of 10-to-15 to eastern Arkansas, western Tennessee, and parts of Missouri and Mississippi, as it heads north toward Ohio, he said.

As of early Monday, about 50,000 homes and businesses in Louisiana were without electricity, according to the tracking site PowerOutage.us.

Barry, which made landfall on Saturday as a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of intensity and then quickly weakened to a tropical storm, was expected to break up into a post-tropical depression by Monday afternoon, forecasters said.

Fears that Barry might devastate the low-lying city of New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina did in 2005 were unfounded, but rain in the forecast could still cause dangerous flooding into Monday, meteorologists said.

The additional rainfall could cause life-threatening conditions, the NWS said in a bulletin.

New Orleans saw light rain on Sunday, and churches and several businesses were open, including some on Tchoupitoulas Street along the flooded Mississippi River. Streets in the city’s Garden District were quieter than usual but some joggers and dogwalkers ventured out.

A concert by the Rolling Stones scheduled for Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which served as an emergency shelter during Katrina, was postponed until Monday because of the weather forecast, the venue said.

Barry has shut in 73%, or 1.38 million barrels per day (bpd), of crude oil production in the U.S.-regulated areas of the Gulf of Mexico, officials said on Sunday.

(Reporting by Collin Eaton in New Orleans; Additional reporting by Gabriella Borter and Rich McKay; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Hawaii’s Maui Island wildfire forces evacuations

A thick plume of smoke hovers over a wildfire next to a road in Maui, Hawaii, in this still image taken from a July 11, 2019 video from social media. Drumnicodotcom/via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Thousands of residents and visitors on Hawaii’s Maui Island were ordered to evacuate two communities on Thursday as a spreading wildfire sent smoke billowing high into the sky, officials and local media said.

The 3,000 acre brush fire in Maui’s central valley was uncontrolled Thursday night, Maui Mayor Mike Victorino told a news conference. He said firefighters would monitor it overnight but that it was too dangerous to battle the blaze in the dark.

Smoke blankets the sky as a wildfire spreads in Maui, Hawaii, in this July 11, 2019 photo obtained from social media. Roger Norris/via REUTERS

Smoke blankets the sky as a wildfire spreads in Maui, Hawaii, in this July 11, 2019 photo obtained from social media. Roger Norris/via REUTERS

“We can’t fight the fire tonight,” he said. “We’re not going to send any firefighters into harm’s way.”

A National Weather Service satellite photo showing smoke hanging over the island was posted on local media and social media sites.

The brush fire was reported about 10:30 a.m., local time, and steady winds of up to 20 mph fanned the flames, officials said. It jumped a highway and spread across fallow fields and more brush. Two helicopters from the fire department also dropped water on the blaze to try to contain it.

While thousands were ordered evacuated, it was unclear how many people fled the west Maui coastal communities of Maalaea and Kihei. But three shelters housed about 500 people late Thursday, media reports said.

The Maui High School housed about 200 cats and dogs moved from a local animal shelter, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Kahului Airport was briefly closed and flights were diverted because of the smoke, which also forced the closure of two major roads. But operations were back to normal around 7 p.m. local time, media reported.

No injuries or damage to structures were reported, but some farm equipment burned, Hawaii News Now reported.

Neither Maui County officials nor a representative with the county’s Emergency Operations Center were available for comment early on Friday.

(Reporting by Rich McKay; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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)

Tropical storm brewing off U.S. Gulf Coast, likely to hit Louisiana as hurricane

A flooded area is seen in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., July 10, 2019 in this image obtained from social media. David Mora via REUTERS

(Reuters) – A storm churning in the Gulf of Mexico and aimed at water-logged New Orleans was expected to make landfall as the first Atlantic hurricane of the 2019 season by late Friday or early Saturday, forecasters said.

A waterspout is seen on Lake Pontchartrain off New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S. July 10, 2019 in this image obtained from social media. Bryon Callahan via REUTERS

A waterspout is seen on Lake Pontchartrain off New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S. July 10, 2019 in this image obtained from social media. Bryon Callahan via REUTERS

The storm, which forecasters said might escalate to a tropical storm by late Thursday, had maximum sustained winds of 35 miles per hour (55 kph) as of Thursday morning, the National Weather Service 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 West Texas through New Orleans and the Louisiana coast.

“The whole area is in for a soaking, the worst of it on Saturday,” said David Roth, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.

The storm remained a tropical disturbance early on Thursday about 115 miles (185 km) south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, the National Hurricane Center said.

The storm will be named Barry if it strengthens into a tropical storm with winds of 39 mph or more on the Saffir Simpson hurricane scale. It 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.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency on Wednesday.

“The storm system will likely produce storm surge, hurricane-force winds,” he said at a news conference. “No one should take this storm lightly.”

 

A flooded area is seen in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., July 10, 2019 in this image obtained from social media. David Mora via REUTERS

A flooded area is seen in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., July 10, 2019 in this image obtained from social media. David Mora via REUTERSNational Guard troops were in place across the state, the governor said.

U.S. oil producers on Wednesday cut nearly a third of Gulf of Mexico crude output ahead of the storm.

Fifteen production platforms and four rigs were evacuated in the north-central Gulf of Mexico, according to a U.S. regulator as oil firms moved workers to safety.

New Orleans was already hit with widespread flooding on Wednesday from a weather system that might inundate the low-lying U.S. city.

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.

Officials advised residents on Wednesday to stock up on emergency supplies and ordered evacuations in some vulnerable residential areas.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Peter Sezekely and Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Toby Chopra and Bill Trott)

Life-threatening rains pound U.S. capital; White House basement offices leak

Flood waters are pictured in North Arlington, Virginia, U.S., July 8, 2019 in this picture grab obtained from social media video. Twitter/Hope Hodge Seck/@hopeseck/via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Driving rains flooded parts of Washington, D.C., on Monday, shattering a daily record in just an hour, forcing 15 swift-water rescues from stranded cars and causing an undeniable leak in the White House.

“This is a life-threatening situation. Seek higher ground now!” the National Weather Service warned amid torrential rains that dropped 3.3 inches (8.4 cm) at Reagan National Airport from 9 a.m. through 10 a.m. ET (1200-1300 GMT), shattering in one hour the previous record of 2.2 inches (5.6 cm) set in 1958.

It was the seventh-wettest July day since record-keeping began in 1871, said NWS meteorologist Marc Chenard.

“They broke their daily record in an hour,” he said.

Even more rainfall was recorded further northwest, in Arlington, Virginia, where about 5 inches (12.7 cm) fell from 9 to 10 a.m., Chenard said.

The rains eased by late morning and were expected to end by midday, Chenard said.

Torrents of water streamed through the ceiling of Metro stations, and major arteries serving Washington’s top museums and memorials shut down due to high water as local emergency personnel reported rescuing several people from cars. By midday, DC Fire and EMS said it had saved 15 drivers.

Firefighters used yellow rubber lifeboats to rescue those trapped by the flood waters.

Twitter images showed a photograph of a very wet floor beneath office chairs and desks on the basement level of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

“White House is leaking,” CNN journalist Betsy Klein tweeted with the picture.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington, additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Scott Malone and Dan Grebler)

Rains ease, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana still face flood of ‘historic magnitude’

A mattress and dresser drawer are among the debris scattered on a lawn near a damaged house after several tornadoes reportedly touched down, in Linwood, Kansas, U.S., May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Nate Chute

By Alex Dobuzinskis and Rich McKay

(Reuters) – Thousands of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana residents braced for more flooding on Thursday as swollen rivers continued to rise, although the threat of rain was expected to ease by the afternoon, officials said.

Many in the U.S. Southern states have already evacuated homes, as of further flooding drove fears that decades-old levees girding the Arkansas River may not hold.

There were no reports of major levee breaks early on Thursday, said Dylan Cooper, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s office in Little Rock, Arkansas.

“The rivers and tributaries are still rising from all that water flowing downstream from up north,” said Cooper.

“We call it the bathtub effect. There’s only so much water that the levees and reservoirs can hold before that water just spills over,” he said.

The only good news is that it looks like the area is going to have a dry few days into the weekend, said Bob Oravec, a meteorologist with the NWS Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

“They can use any dry weather they can get,” said Oravec.

More than a week of violent weather, including downpours and deadly tornadoes, has lashed the central United States, bringing record-breaking floods in parts of the states, turning highways into lakes and submerging all but the roofs of some homes.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson told a news conference on Wednesday, that the state is experiencing a “flood of historic magnitude.”

Flooding has already closed 12 state highways, he said, and 400 households have agreed to voluntary evacuations.

Hutchinson sent a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday asking for a federal emergency declaration for Arkansas.

The levee system along the Arkansas River “has not seen this type of record flooding” before, Hutchinson said in his six-page letter.

Hutchinson said Trump had promised assistance in an earlier conversation, several media outlets reported.

Rivers were expected to crest by early June to the highest levels on record all the way down to Little Rock, Arkansas, forecasters said.

“We’ve had river highs of 44.9 feet in places,” said Cooper of the Arkansas River. “We’re blowing through records.”

In Tulsa, Oklahoma’s second largest city, Mayor G.T. Bynum warned that the city’s levees were being tested “in a way that they have never been before.”

He said the 20-mile (32 km) levee system, which protects some 10,000 people, was working as designed so far and being patrolled around the clock by the Oklahoma National Guard.

At least six people have died in the latest round of flooding and storms in Oklahoma, according to the state’s Department of Health.

More than 300 tornadoes have touched down in the Midwest in the past two weeks. Tornadoes pulverized buildings in western Ohio on Monday, killing one person and injuring scores.

In Louisiana, the Mississippi River was also at record flood levels due to record-breaking rainfalls this spring, forecasters said.

Trump authorized emergency aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the state late on Wednesday.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the Mississippi rose above flood stage in early January and has remained there since, forecasters said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Rich McKay in Atlanta, and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Arkansas, Oklahoma brace for historic flooding in storm-hit U.S. Midwest

A storm cloud is seen in Shawnee, Kansas, U.S. in this still image taken from a May 28, 2019 video obtained from social media. Daniel Hogue/via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Communities along the swollen Arkansas River in Oklahoma and Arkansas prepared on Wednesday for further flooding, with the mayor of Tulsa urging thousands of residents behind the city’s aging levees to be ready to evacuate in the event of a “worst-case scenario.”

More than a week of stormy weather, including violent downpours and deadly tornadoes, has devastated the central United States, bringing record-breaking floods in parts of the two states, turning highways into lakes and submerging all but the roofs of some homes.

More rain is forecast, and the floods are expected to spread, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) and local officials.

A tornado and storm cloud is seen in Eudora, Kansas, U.S. in this still from a video taken May 28, 2019 obtained from social media. AJ SCOTT /via REUTERS

A tornado and storm cloud is seen in Eudora, Kansas, U.S. in this still from a video taken May 28, 2019 obtained from social media. AJ SCOTT /via REUTERS

“The rain has been coming fast and furiously and it all has to drain through the rivers,” Patrick Burke, a meteorologist at the NWS Weather Prediction Center, said in an interview on Wednesday. More heavy downpours were forecast through Wednesday night over much of the two states, with between 1 and 3 inches (2.5 to 7.6 cm) expected, he said.

By early June, rivers are expected to crest to the highest levels on record all the way down to Little Rock, Arkansas, Burke said.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma’s second largest city, Mayor G.T. Bynum warned that the city’s 70-year-old levees were being tested “in a way that they have never been before.”

“Please prepare for the worst-case scenario that we’ve had in the history of the city,” he said on Tuesday. So far, he added, the 20-mile (32 km) levee system, which protects some 10,000 people, was working as designed.

At least six people have died as a result of the latest round of flooding and storms in Oklahoma, according to the state’s Department of Health.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has raised the release of water from the Keystone Dam, in northeastern Oklahoma on the Arkansas and Cimarron rivers about 23 miles from Tulsa, into the river system to 275,000 cubic feet per second to stop the dam from overflowing.

A plague of extreme weather has upended life in the region, with more than 300 tornadoes touching down in the Midwest in the last two weeks.

Several tornadoes touched down on Tuesday evening in Kansas, damaging homes, uprooting trees and ripping down power lines, according to the NWS. Tornadoes also pulverized buildings in western Ohio, killing one person, and injuring scores of others.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Jeffrey Benkoe)