U.S. could face 200,000 coronavirus deaths, millions of cases, Fauci warns

By Doina Chiacu and Tom Polansek

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) – U.S. deaths from coronavirus could reach 200,000 with millions of cases, the government’s top infectious diseases expert warned on Sunday as New York, New Orleans and other major cities pleaded for more medical supplies.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, estimated in an interview with CNN that the pandemic could cause between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths in the United States.

Since 2010, the flu has killed between 12,000 and 61,000 Americans a year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 1918-19 flu pandemic killed 675,000 in the United States, according to the CDC https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-commemoration/pandemic-preparedness.htm.

The U.S. coronavirus death toll topped 2,400 on Sunday, after deaths on Saturday more than doubled from the level two days prior. The United States has now recorded more than 137,000 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, the most of any country in the world.

Click https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS-USA/0100B5K8423/index.html for a GRAPHIC on U.S. coronavirus cases

Jason Brown, who was laid off from his job in digital media due to the pandemic, said Fauci’s estimate was scary.

“I feel like it’s just growing, growing, growing,” said Brown, who is 27 and lives in Los Angeles, one of the epicenters of the outbreak. “There’s no vaccine. It seems like a lot of people don’t take it seriously in the U.S. so it makes me believe that this would become more drastic and drastic.”

Erika Andrade, a teacher who lives in Trumbull, Connecticut, said she was already expecting widespread deaths from the virus before Fauci’s estimate on Sunday.

“I wasn’t surprised that he said the numbers were coming. They were lower than what I actually expected,” said Andrade, 49. “I’m worried for my mother. I’m worried for the people I love.”

In New York, the usually bustling city was quiet except for the sound of ambulance sirens.

“It feels very apocalyptic,” said Quentin Hill, 27, of New York City, who works for a Jewish nonprofit. “It almost feels like we’re in wartime.”

New York state reported nearly 60,000 cases and a total of 965 deaths on Sunday, up 237 in the past 24 hours with one person dying in the state every six minutes. The number of patients hospitalized is slowing, doubling every six days instead of every four, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Stephanie Garrido, 36, a tech worker from Manhattan, said she has not left her home in 15 days, receiving her groceries by delivery. Too many New Yorkers have underestimated the aggressiveness of the virus as many people continue to socialize and congregate, Garrido said.

“Those people are in denial or just don’t think it will affect them. It’s extremely inconsiderate,” Garrido said. “People need to consider that this will be much longer term.”

The governors of at least 21 states, representing more than half the U.S. population of 330 million, have told residents to stay home and closed non-essential businesses.

Maryland arrested a man who repeatedly violated the ban on large gatherings by hosting a bonfire party with 60 guests, Governor Larry Hogan said on Sunday.

One bright spot on Sunday was Florida reporting about 200 more cases but no new deaths, with its toll staying at 56.

President Donald Trump has talked about reopening the country by Easter Sunday, April 12, despite many states such as New York ordering residents to stay home past that date. On Saturday, he seemed to play down those expectations, saying only “We’ll see what happens.”

Tests to track the disease’s progress also remain in short supply, despite repeated White House promises that they would be widely available.

Trump, who is due to hold a news conference at 5 p.m. ET (2100 GMT), bragged on Twitter about the millions of Americans tuning in to watch the daily briefings.

VENTILATOR SHORTAGE

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, whose state has become one the fastest growing areas for the virus, especially in the county that includes Detroit, called the rapid spread “gut-wrenching.”

“We have nurses wearing the same mask from the beginning of their shift until the end, masks that are supposed to for one patient at one point in your shift. We need some assistance and we’re going to need thousands of ventilators,” Whitmer told CNN.

New York City will need hundreds more ventilators in a few days and more masks, gowns and other supplies by April 5, Mayor Bill de Blasio said to CNN.

New Orleans will run out of ventilators around April 4, John Bel Edwards told CBS.

Ventilators are breathing machines needed by many of those suffering from the pneumonia-like respiratory ailment and many hospitals fear they will not have enough.

Dr. Arabia Mollette, an emergency medicine physician at Brookdale and St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, say she now works in a “medical warzone.”

“We’re trying to keep our heads above water without drowning,” Mollette said. “We are scared. We’re trying to fight for everyone else’s life, but we also fight for our lives as well.”

Click https://graphics.reuters.com/CHINA-HEALTH-MAP/0100B59S39E/index.html for a GRAPHIC tracking the spread of the global coronavirus

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch, Doina Chiacu and Chris Sanders in Washington, Karen Freifeld in New York, Tom Polansek in Chicago and Dan Trotta; Writing by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

New Orleans is next coronavirus epicenter, catalyst for spread in south, experts say

By Brad Brooks

(Reuters) – New Orleans is on track to become the next coronavirus epicenter in the United States, dashing hopes that less densely populated and warmer-climate cities would not be hit as hard by the pandemic, and that summer months could see it wane.

The plight of New Orleans – with the world’s highest growth rate in coronavirus cases and where authorities have warned hospitals could collapse by April 4 – also raises fears it may be a powerful catalyst in speedily spreading the virus across the south of the country.

New Orleans is the biggest city in Louisiana, the state with the third-highest case load of coronavirus in the United States on a per capita basis after the major epicenters of New York and Washington. The growth rate in Louisiana tops all others, according to a University of Louisiana at Lafayette analysis of global data, with the number of cases rising by 30% in the 24 hours before noon on Wednesday. On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump issued a major federal disaster declaration for the state, freeing federal funds and resources.

Some 70% of Louisiana’s 1,795 confirmed cases to date are in the New Orleans metro area.

The culprit for the coronavirus in the Big Easy? Some blame Carnival.

“Mardi Gras was the perfect storm, it provided the perfect conditions for the spread of this virus,” said Dr. Rebekah Gee, who until January was the Health Secretary for Louisiana and now heads up Louisiana State University’s health care services division.

She noted that Fat Tuesday fell on Feb. 25 – when the virus was already in the United States but before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and national leaders had raised the alarm with the American public.

“So New Orleans had its normal level of celebration, which involved people congregating in large crowds and some 1.4 million tourists,” Gee said. “We shared drink cups. We shared each other’s space in the crowds. We shared floats where we were throwing not just beads but probably coronavirus off Carnival floats to people who caught it and took it with them to where they came from.”

Gee said that the explosive growth rate of the coronavirus in the Mississippi River port city means “it’s on the trajectory to become the epicenter for the outbreak in the United States.”

RESILIENT, BUT WARY

Dr. Peter Hotez is the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College, a renowned vaccine scientist and an expert on the coronavirus pandemic.

He said that the rapid grip the virus is gaining on New Orleans was deeply worrying and a possible harbinger for worse to come across the south and for less densely populated and warmer cities across America.

“There has been some research and data suggesting that warmer, more humid weather could slow this epidemic,” he said. “The fact that this occurred on the Gulf Coast, which has some of the higher humidity and temperatures in the U.S., is a serious concern.”

Hotez noted that more research into how climate does or does not play a role in the spread of this coronavirus needs to happen, but acknowledged that experts hoped that warm weather and the coming summer months in the northern hemisphere would be natural buffers against it.

“If you look at this epidemic, we’ve not seen much in the hotter parts of the country. Texas has not had a lot. Arizona has not had a lot. Then all of a sudden – bam! – it appears in strength in New Orleans,” he said. “We have to follow this trend closely.”

Having an entirely new coronavirus epicenter kick off means that the United States may soon be dealing with multiple hot spots all at once, Hotez said – a worst-case scenario that could cripple healthcare systems.

If predictions were correct, the hospitals in New Orleans would struggle to manage past next week, Governor John Bel Edwards told a news conference on Tuesday.

New Orleans could well be the first major domino to fall in the south, starting a chain reaction in other metro areas in the region, said Hotez.

That is a serious concern for Houston, the fourth-largest city in the country and a major center for the oil industry. The two cities have historically strong links made even more so by an influx of New Orleans residents into Houston following Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey.

On the ground in New Orleans’ famed French Quarter, residents said they were definitely concerned, but that the virus was an entirely different threat from the natural disasters that routinely befall the city.

Jonathan Sanders, a 35-year-old general manager of the French Quarter brasserie Justine, said the city was calm and residents largely heeding authorities orders to stay inside.

“There is always something going on at all hours of the day or night. Now, without it all, it’s very peaceful,” he said. “You can park anywhere in the French Quarter.”

The virus, Sanders said, was so far easier to deal with than the death and destruction Hurricane Katrina unleashed in 2005, when over 1,800 people died along the Gulf Coast.

“When you think of the total destruction of Katrina… that was gut wrenching,” he said. “We’re fairly more resilient than other places that haven’t had so many tragic things happen to their city.”

New York takes new steps against coronavirus as impact spreads across U.S.

New York takes new steps against coronavirus as impact spreads across U.S.
By Maria Caspani and Susan Heavey

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – While the burdens of the coronavirus intensified across the United States, New York City on Wednesday took aggressive new steps to battle the crisis, closing streets and asking people to stop playing basketball and other contact sports in public parks.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said more than 30,800 people had tested positive for the virus in his state, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, and more than 17,800 in New York City alone. The state has reported 285 deaths and roughly half the country’s reported infections.

State measures to control the coronavirus appear to be working as the rate of hospitalizations has slowed in recent days, Cuomo said. “Now that is almost too good to be true,…” he said. “This is a very good sign and a positive sign, again not 100% sure it holds, or it’s accurate but the arrows are headed in the right direction.”

He described street closures in New York City, where more than 8 million people live, as a pilot program and said sports like basketball would be banned in city parks, first on a voluntary basis as long as people comply.

With closures to vehicles, the intention is to allow pedestrians to walk in the streets to enable greater “social distancing” to avoid infections.

“Our closeness makes us vulnerable,” said Cuomo, who has emerged as a leading national voice on the coronavirus.

“We will overcome. And we will show the other communities across this country how to do it.”

Even as city officials struggled to contain the health crisis, the impact was increasingly being felt beyond the hot spots of New York, California and Washington state as Louisiana and others faced a severe crush on their healthcare systems.

U.S. President Donald Trump issued the latest major federal disaster declarations for Louisiana and Iowa late on Tuesday, freeing up federal funds to help states cope with the increasing number of cases of the dangerous respiratory disease caused by the virus that threaten to overwhelm state and local resources.

That brings to five the number of states receiving major disaster declarations from the Republican president. New York – the state with by far the most infections and deaths – was given such status last weekend as well as California and Washington state.

Louisiana, where large crowds last month celebrated Mardi Gras in New Orleans and other locations, reported a spike in infections with 1,388 total confirmed cases and 46 deaths as of mid-Tuesday, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

Dr. Rebekah Gee, who until January was Louisiana’s health secretary and now heads up Louisiana State University’s healthcare services division, said that it was the Mardi Gras, when 1.4 million tourists descended on New Orleans, that fueled the city’s outbreak.

“It’s a highly infectious virus and Mardi Gras happened when the virus was in the United States but before the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and national leaders had really educated the public or even acknowledged the extent to which it was in the U.S.,” Gee said. “We had the president saying, ‘It’s just a few people, don’t worry about it.'”

‘FREAKING OUT’

New Orleans restaurant owner Ronnie Evans said everyone in New Orleans was “freaking out.”

“People don’t know what to expect or how long this will last. Everyone is worried about their jobs,” said Evans, 32, whose restaurant Blue Oak BBQ is just few steps from the city’s renowned Bourbon Street. The restaurant is offering takeout orders only.

“People are still coming out, but they’re scared. This is as bad as Katrina or worse,” referring to the hurricane that devastated the city in 2005.

The governors of at least 18 states have issued stay-at-home directives affecting about half the U.S. population of roughly 330 million people. The sweeping orders are aimed at slowing the spread of the pathogen but have upended daily life as schools and businesses shutter indefinitely.

A number of other U.S. states have also applied for major disaster relief status in recent days including Florida, Texas, New Jersey, North Carolina, Missouri, Maryland and South Carolina, as well as Northern Mariana Islands U.S. territory.

Nationwide, more than 53,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus that is particularly perilous to the elderly and people with pre-existing medical conditions, with at least 730 deaths. World Health Organization officials have said the United States could become the global epicenter of the pandemic, which first emerged late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

World Health Organization expert Dr. Bruce Aylward told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program: “The U.S. is a gigantic country so it is very difficult to say something is going to happen right across the whole country. You are going to see this evolve differently in each part of the country.”

Trump on Tuesday said he wanted to re-open the country by Easter Sunday – far sooner than public health officials have said is warranted – but later told reporters he would listen to recommendations from the nation’s top health officials.

Wall Street on Wednesday was unable to sustain strong gains from Tuesday’s session as fears about the pandemic’s economic toll overshadowed optimism about sweeping fiscal and monetary stimulus to aid businesses and households.

U.S. lawmakers and the Trump administration reached a deal for a bipartisan $2 trillion stimulus package to help businesses and millions of Americans hit by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Senate was due to vote on the legislation on Wednesday. The House of Representatives was not expected to act before Thursday.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Brad Brooks, Maria Caspani, Stephanie Kelly, Richard Cowan, Doina Chiacu, Patricia Zengerle and Stephanie Nebehay; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Howard Goller)

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)

Tropical Storm Barry lands first blow on coastal Louisiana, New Orleans hunkers down

A view of downtown New Orleans pictured with the Mississippi River as Tropical Storm Barry approaches land in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S. July 11, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

By Collin Eaton and Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – Coastal Louisiana felt the first blow from Tropical Storm Barry’s winds early on Friday as the slow-moving tempest was forecast to become the first Atlantic hurricane of 2019 threatening to bring rain and flooding to New Orleans later in the day.

U.S. President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for Louisiana late Thursday, hours after the region’s oil production was cut in half as energy companies evacuated offshore drilling facilities and a coastal refinery.

Tropical Storm Barry packed maximum sustained winds of 50 miles per hour (85 km per hour) early Friday and was centered 95 miles (155 km) southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Barry will likely strengthen into a hurricane, the National Hurricane Center said, with winds of at least 74 mph (119 km) by the time it comes ashore late Friday or early Saturday, but officials warned that torrential rains posed the greatest danger.

Authorities kept a close eye on the levee system built to contain flooding along the lower Mississippi River that winds through the heart of New Orleans and has been running above flood stage for the past six months.

Barry was forecast to bring a coastal storm surge into the mouth of the river that could push its crest to 19 feet (5.79 m)on Saturday. That would be a foot lower than initially predicted but still the highest since 1950 and dangerously close to the top of the city’s levees.

Meteorologists predicted as much as 25 inches (64 cm) of rain could fall, leading to life-threatening flooding along parts of the Gulf Coast on Friday and Saturday.

The brunt of the storm was expected to skirt the western edge of New Orleans, avoiding a direct hit. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the city has not ordered any voluntary or mandatory evacuations. But she added that 48 hours of heavy downpours could overwhelm pumps designed to purge streets and storm drains of excess water in the low-lying city.

“There is no system in the world that can handle that amount of rainfall in such a short period,” Cantrell said on Twitter.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards warned: “The more information we get, the more concerned we are that this is going to be an extreme rain event.”

Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the levees, insisted that no significant breaching of the 20-foot-tall levees in New Orleans was likely.

Some residents, recalling the deadly, devastating floods unleashed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, said they were determined to get out of harm’s way.

Others flocked to supermarkets for bottled water, ice, snacks and beer, thronging grocery stores in such numbers that some ran out of shopping carts.

Throughout the city, motorists left cars parked on the raised median strips of roadways hoping the extra elevation would protect them from flood damage.

A concierge at the luxury Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans noted many cancellations ahead of the storm. The hotel had been hosting the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s 54th national convention and most attendees checked out early, said the concierge, who declined to give her name.

A tropical storm warning was in place for metropolitan New Orleans, and a hurricane warning was issued for a stretch of the Louisiana coast south of the city.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for areas of Plaquemines Parish beyond the levees southeast of the city, and for low-lying communities in Jefferson Parish, to the southwest.

(Additional reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Writing by Scott Malone and Steve Gorman; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Flights canceled, schools closed across snowy U.S. South

Snow falls through a picture frame in the Boston Public Garden during a winter storm in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., January 17, 2018.

By Gina Cherelus

(Reuters) – A bitter winter storm gripped much of the South on Wednesday, prompting schools to close and causing thousands of flight delays and cancellations as snow, ice and record-breaking cold hit the region.

The storm led to a least one death when a vehicle in Austin, Texas, plunged more than 30 feet off a frozen overpass late on Tuesday, killing a man in his 40s, Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Service said on its Twitter feed.

Winter weather advisories were in effect from the Northeast to the Mid-Atlantic states and Southeast, as well as over the central Gulf Coast of Texas, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Winter storm warnings were also in effect for portions of the Carolinas, southern Virginia and the New England area.

More than 360 outgoing flights at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport were canceled or delayed on Wednesday, according to Flightaware.com, and another 60-plus were canceled or delayed at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

The governors of Georgia, North Carolina and Louisiana declared states of emergency due to severe winter weather conditions, which caused multiple car accidents during rush-hour traffic, officials said.

NWS meteorologist Dan Petersen said snowfall in central and north Georgia had ended, and the arctic cold front would now bring snow, frigid temperatures and frozen roadways across central North Carolina on Wednesday.

“The rain in central North Carolina will eventually turn into snow later today and is predicted to dump 6 to 8 inches of snow over central North Carolina and about 1 to 3 inches over east North Carolina,” he said.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned at a news briefing that cold temperatures Wednesday night would make travel conditions even more hazardous.

“The snow is pretty, but don’t be fooled,” Cooper said.

In Houston, the nation’s fourth most populous city, most freeways were closed on Wednesday morning after icing over, the city’s Office of Emergency Management said.

“Not a good idea to be out on the roads. Conditions are still unsafe,” the Texas Department of Transportation Houston Division said on its Twitter feed.

New Orleans had record-breaking cold temperatures Wednesday morning with 20 degrees Fahrenheit in the area, beating its previous record 23 degrees set in 1977, according to the NWS. Hattiesburg, Mississippi, also broke temperature records with 12 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday, beating its 14 degrees also set in 1977.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and David Gregorio)

Weakening Nate brings rain, tornado warnings to U.S. South

A man sits on a bench overlooking a beach covered in debris scattered by Hurricane Nate, in Biloxi, Mississippi, U.S.,

By Rod Nickel and Jessica Resnick-Ault

BILOXI/PASCAGOULA, Miss. (Reuters) – Hurricane Nate weakened to a tropical depression on Sunday after coming ashore in Mississippi, flooding roads and buildings but sparing the state from catastrophic damages.

Maximum sustained winds from Nate, the fourth major storm to hit the United States in less than two months, dropped to 35 miles per hour (55 km per hour) as it moved through Alabama and into Tennessee.

The remnants of the storm spawned tornado warnings in those states and the western portions of North Carolina and South Carolina. It is forecast to bring gusty winds and up to 4 inches (10 cm) of rain to parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York on Monday.

The storm made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane, the weakest designation by the U.S. National Hurricane Center. Only a few hours earlier, its winds had been blowing at 70 mph (113 kph) but appeared to lack the devastating punch of its recent predecessors.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant told reporters there had been no deaths or reports of catastrophic damage. “We are very fortunate this morning and have been blessed,” he said.

Nate killed at least 30 people in Central America before entering the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and bearing down on the U.S. South. It has also shut down most oil and gas production in the Gulf.

Nate follows hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which have devastated areas of the Caribbean and southern United States.

The tropical depression’s center will move up through Alabama into Tennessee and Kentucky through Monday, the hurricane center said. Heavy rainfall and storm-surge flooding remained a danger across the region, and the hurricane center said Florida’s Panhandle and parts of Alabama and Georgia might feel tropical storm-force wind gusts.

The storm was expected to bring three to six inches of rain to parts of western North Carolina through midday Monday, with up to 10 inches possible in isolated spots. Power outages, damaged homes and roads closed by debris were all reported in the region.

Nate made its first U.S. landfall on Saturday evening near the mouth of the Mississippi River and then made a second one early on Sunday near Biloxi, Mississippi.

In Biloxi, water surged over roads during the storm and quickly receded on Sunday, leaving a boat that broke loose marooned on the beach. At a Waffle House restaurant, the storm surge deposited a dumpster in its parking lot.

Jeff Pickich, a 46-year-old wine salesman from D’Iberville, Mississippi, was counting his blessings. Heavy winds left only minor damage, blowing down part of a fence on his rental property in Biloxi.

“I’m just glad,” he said, digging fresh holes for fence posts. “I was afraid of the water. The water is Mother Nature. You can’t stop it.”

Water flowed through Ursula Staten’s yard in Biloxi, pushing over part of her fence and scattering debris, but did not breach her house.

“I have a mess,” the retired massage therapist said. “If we had got Irma, I would have lost everything.”

At the Golden Nugget Casino, one of eight Biloxi gaming establishments, workers rushed to clean up mud, debris and minor damage from 3 feet (1 m) of water sloshing into an entrance and the parkade. The gaming room stayed dry.

Three hundred guests remained in the hotel, some eager to try their luck after surviving Nate.

But dangers from the storm remain, with Florida Governor Rick Scott warning of tornadoes springing up in the Panhandle region and Alabama Governor Kay Ivey urging residents to prepare for strong winds and storm surges.

U.S. President Donald Trump declared federal emergencies in Alabama and Florida on Sunday, which provides additional funding for disaster relief.

Mississippi Power had restored electricity to 10,000 customers, but 4,800 were still without it. More than 1,000 people had arrived at shelters, the state Emergency Management Agency said.

Alabama Power said it had restored electricity to 58,000 of 146,000 customers who lost it.

Rainfall of 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 cm), with a maximum of 10 inches (25 cm), was expected east of the Mississippi River in Alabama and Tennessee, the hurricane center said.

Residents walk down a street covered in debris scattered by Hurricane Nate, in Biloxi, Mississippi, U.S., October 8, 2017.

Residents walk down a street covered in debris scattered by Hurricane Nate, in Biloxi, Mississippi, U.S., October 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

NEW ORLEANS THREAT DOWNGRADED

Forecast at one point to make landfall in Louisiana, Nate headed farther east and spared many New Orleans parishes that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina 12 years ago.

“I had prayed for this – that we would be spared,” said Amos Cormier, president of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana’s equivalent to a county.

Bernice Barthelemy, a 70-year-old Louisiana resident, died from cardiac arrest overnight after telling Reuters on Saturday that she did not mind having to evacuate, Cormier said on Sunday. He attributed her death to the stress of the move.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said he expected that evacuated residents could return home soon.

Vessel traffic and port operations at New Orleans resumed on Sunday afternoon, while the Port of Mobile in Alabama remained closed. Oil ports, producers and refiners in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were planning reopenings as the storm moved inland on Sunday.

Heavy rain is seen at Orange Beach, Alabama, U.S. as Hurricane Nate approaches, on October 7, 2017 in this still image taken from a video obtained via social media. Jacob Kiper, Owensboro, KY/Social Media via REUTERS

Heavy rain is seen at Orange Beach, Alabama, U.S. as Hurricane Nate approaches, on October 7, 2017 in this still image taken from a video obtained via social media. Jacob Kiper, Owensboro, KY/Social Media via REUTERS

The storm curtailed 92 percent of daily oil production and 77 percent of daily natural gas output in the Gulf of Mexico, more than three times the amount affected by Harvey.

The storm doused Central America with heavy rains on Thursday, killing at least 16 people in Nicaragua, 10 in Costa Rica, two in Honduras and two in El Salvador.

 

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Biloxi, Miss. and Jessica Resnick-Ault in Pascagoula, Miss.; Additional reporting by Marianna Parraga, Erwin Seba and Gary McWilliams in Houston; Jonathan Allen in New York; Writing by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Peter Cooney)

 

New Orleans removing last of four statues linked to pro-slavery era

The Robert E. Lee Monument, located in Lee Circle in New Orleans. REUTERS/Ben Depp

By Jonathan Bachman

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – New Orleans will remove a statue on Friday of Confederate military leader Robert E. Lee, the last of four monuments the city is taking down because they have been deemed racially offensive, officials said.

Since May 11, crews have removed monuments to Jefferson Davis, president of the pro-slavery Confederacy and P.G.T. Beauregard, a Confederate general.

Last month, a monument was taken down that commemorated an 1874 attack on the racially integrated city police and state militia by a white supremacist group called the “Crescent City White League”.

Crews will remove the statue of Robert E. Lee, who was the top military leader in the Confederacy, on Friday sometime after 9 a.m., the city said in a statement.

Earlier this month, dozens of supporters of the monuments clashed with hundreds of demonstrators near the site of the Robert E. Lee statue.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is expected to give a speech marking the removal of the last of the four monuments on Friday afternoon.

The monuments that pay homage to the Confederacy, made up of states which attempted to preserve slavery in the South and secede from the United States in the Civil War of 1861 to 1865, have been denounced by critics as an affront to the ideals of multi-racial tolerance and diversity in the majority-black Louisiana city.

But doing away with them has met with staunch resistance from groups who argue the statues are nevertheless important symbols of the city’s Southern heritage.

Statues and flags honoring the Confederacy have been removed from public spaces across the United States since 2015, after a white supremacist murdered nine black parishioners at a South Carolina church.

In 2015, New Orleans decided to take down the four monuments, and a U.S. appeals court ruled in March that it had the right to proceed.

(Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Catherine Evans)

New Orleans crews begin removing statue of Confederate general

A construction crew works to remove a monument of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard at the entrance to City Park in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S. May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Cheryl Gerber

By Cheryl Gerber

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – New Orleans authorities began dismantling a statue honoring Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard on Tuesday night, marking the third of four historical monuments the city slated for removal because they were deemed racially offensive.

Crews laboring under the glare of floodlights began what appeared to be the work of sawing the bottom of the 14-foot-tall statue – a bronze likeness of Beauregard on horseback – from its pedestal while some 200 bystanders looked on near the entrance of City Park.

A crane that was expected to eventually lift the statue from its base was moved into position, along with other heavy equipment, after workers cleared the area around the monument.

The crowd of onlookers, about evenly divided between statue supporters and opponents, were mostly subdued, though a few individuals shouted at one another across the police barricade separating them. Some members of the pro-statue group waved Confederate flags.

The public memorials to Beauregard and other heroes of the U.S. Civil War’s pro-slavery Confederacy have been denounced by critics as an affront to the ideals of multi-racial tolerance and diversity in the majority-black Louisiana city.

But doing away with the monuments has met with staunch resistance from groups who argue that the statues are nevertheless important symbols of the city’s Southern heritage.

The City Council voted in 2015 to remove monuments honoring two of the Confederacy’s best-known generals – Beauregard and Robert E. Lee – as well as Confederate President Jefferson Davis and a 19th-century white supremacist militia.

The Crescent City White League monument was taken down on April 24 and the Davis statue on May 11. The Lee memorial is scheduled to go next, though officials have not publicized precise removal dates in advance.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu wrote an editorial published on Monday in The Washington Post defending his decision to support bringing down the statues, which he characterized as one of his proudest moments in public office.

“Removing New Orleans’s Confederate monuments from places of prominence is an acknowledgment that it is time to take stock of, and then move past, a painful part of our history,” Landrieu wrote.

The Louisiana House of Representatives passed a measure on Monday that would require local governments to hold referendums before removing any Confederate monuments.

But the bill would not keep New Orleans from proceeding with its plans, said Richard Marksbury, a Tulane University professor and member of the Monumental Task Committee that fought to keep the Confederate monuments in place.

(Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Michael Perry)

New Orleans crews remove second Confederate statue amid protests

A construction crew works to remove a monument of Jefferson Davis in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

By Jonathan Bachman

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – New Orleans authorities dismantled a statue honoring president of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis amid cries by protesters waving Confederate flags and cheers from a group that said the monument glorified racism in the U.S. South.

Police watched the two groups taunt each other early on Thursday as crews used a crane to pluck the 8-foot (2.4 m) bronze statue from the granite pedestal where it had sat for more than a century on a piece of land near an intersection in the Mid-City neighborhood.

“I am here to witness this debacle, taking down this 106-year-old beautiful monument,” said Pierre McGraw, president of the Monumental Task Committee, which restored the statue as one of its first projects 29 years ago. “It hurts a lot.”

Quess Moore said he came out “to celebrate the victory in the battle against white supremacy, particularly in New Orleans.”

Confederacy statues and flags have been removed from public spaces across the United States since 2015, after a white supremacist murdered nine black parishioners at a South Carolina church.

Critics of the monuments say they foster racism by celebrating leaders of the Confederacy in the pro-slavery South during the U.S. Civil War.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu posted photos on Twitter of the removal of the Jefferson Davis Monument.

“This historic moment is an opportunity to join together as one city and redefine our future,” Landrieu tweeted.

McGraw’s committee rejected that, saying in a statement that the mayor “cannot be inclusive, tolerant, or diverse when he is erasing a very specific and undeniable part of New Orleans’ history.”

A committee member sued on Monday to stop the city from removing a statue of Confederate States Army General P.G.T. Beauregard.

The Davis monument had been frequently vandalized, according to the New Orleans Historical website that showed a photo of the words “slave owner” sprayed in red paint on its base.

The statue will be stored in a city warehouse until a permanent location can be determined, officials said.

The Davis and Beauregard monuments are among four in New Orleans that critics have been pushing to have dismantled. In 2015, the city decided to take them down, and a U.S. appeals court ruled in March that it had the right to proceed.

The first of the monuments was removed last month.

On Sunday, dozens of supporters of the monuments clashed with hundreds of demonstrators near the site of a statue honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee that is also slated for removal.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Laila Kearney in New York; Editing by Toby Chopra and Lisa Von Ahn)