U.S. measles cases in 2019 highest since 1992

FILE PHOTO: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Tami Chappell/File Photo/File Photo

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) – The United States recorded 971 cases of measles in the first five months of 2019, surpassing the total for any year since 1992, which was before the disease was declared eradicated in the country, federal officials said on Thursday.

The United States declared measles eradicated from the country in 2000, but officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Thursday that the country risks losing its measles elimination status.

There were a total of 2,126 U.S. cases of measles in 1992, the CDC said in a statement.

The disease has spread mostly among school-age children whose parents declined to get them vaccinated.

Public health officials blame the resurgence on the spread of misinformation about vaccines. A vocal fringe of parents opposes vaccines, believing, contrary to scientific studies, that ingredients in them can cause autism.

“Measles is preventable and the way to end this outbreak is to ensure that all children and adults who can get vaccinated, do get vaccinated,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement.

“Again, I want to reassure parents that vaccines are safe, they do not cause autism,” Redfield said.

When measles was declared eradicated in the United States in 2000, it meant the virus was no longer continually present year-round although outbreaks have still happened via travelers coming from countries where measles is common.

Communities in New York City’s Brooklyn borough and Rockland County, an area of New York state about 30 miles (50 km) north of Manhattan, are dealing with measles outbreaks that have lasted nearly eight months.

Other measles cases have occurred in Oklahoma and Washington state.

Decades ago, before widespread use of the measles vaccine, about 3 million to 4 million people a year became sick with the disease in the United States with 400 to 500 deaths a year.

(Reporting by Rama Venkat in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Chang and Diane Craft)

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)

Rescuers search for survivors after Oklahoma tornado kills at least two

Debris covers the American Best Value Inn after it was destroyed by a tornado which touched down overnight in El Reno, Oklahoma, U.S. May 26, 2019. REUTERS/Alonzo Adams

By Alonzo Adams

EL RENO, Okla. (Reuters) – Rescue workers on Sunday searched for survivors in the rubble left by a tornado that devastated parts of a small community near Oklahoma City, killing two people, injuring more than two dozen and leaving hundreds homeless, officials said.

The tornado that hit El Reno on Saturday night was the latest in a barrage of violent weather that is expected to continue after pounding the Central Plains states last week with deadly tornadoes, high winds, drenching thunderstorms and widespread flooding.

In addition to the two fatalities, 29 people suffered minor to critical injuries in the El Reno twister and hundreds more were displaced, the city’s mayor said.

Emergency personnel search an area of destruction after a tornado touched down overnight in an aerial photo in El Reno, Oklahoma, U.S. May 26, 2019. REUTERS/Richard Rowe

Emergency personnel search an area of destruction after a tornado touched down overnight in an aerial photo in El Reno, Oklahoma, U.S. May 26, 2019. REUTERS/Richard Rowe

“It’s a very trying time for us but we’re going to get through it,” a sometimes emotional Mayor Matt White told reporters on Sunday. “There are several hundred people affected by this. People have absolutely lost everything.”

Rescue workers searched the debris field that had been a mobile home park and an Americas Best Value Inn motor lodge where the tornado did its worst damage in the community about 25 miles (40 km) west of Oklahoma City.

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Norman, Oklahoma, classified the tornado, which cut a 2.2-mile (3.5 km) path, as an EF3, meaning its rotating winds ranged from 136 to 165 miles per hour (219 to 266 km per hour). It initially estimated its strength at 111 to 135 mph (179 to 217 kph).

El Reno was among several areas in Oklahoma and Missouri to be hit with heavy rains and river flooding last week, with local media reporting that first responders had made some two dozen boat rescues.

Forecasters expect a moderate risk of more tornadoes and flooding in the central states on Sunday.

“The ground is pretty saturated so it doesn’t take a whole lot of rain to get some additional flooding,” said NWS meteorologist Mark Chenard at the Weather Prediction Center in College Park.

The weather pattern that has set off violent storms and flooding from the Texas Panhandle north to Iowa will remain in place for at least the next three or four days, he said.

A home on Route 66 is damaged after a tornado touched down overnight in El Reno, Oklahoma, U.S. May 26, 2019. REUTERS/Alonzo Adams

A home on Route 66 is damaged after a tornado touched down overnight in El Reno, Oklahoma, U.S. May 26, 2019. REUTERS/Alonzo Adams

“There could be a brief break but the pattern still looks like it remains favorable for some type of thunderstorm activity across the central part of the country pretty much through the week,” said Chenard.

At least seven people were killed by storms last week.

(Reporting by Alonzo Adams; Additional reporting and writing by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Bill Trott)

Death toll from storms lashing central U.S. rises to seven

A member of the Jefferson City Fire Department checks houses for people on Woodland Avenue following a tornado touchdown overnight in Jefferson City, Missouri, U.S. May 23, 2019. REUTERS/Antranik Tavitian

By Antranik Tavitian

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Reuters) – The latest in a line of destructive storms pounding the central United States killed at least three people as tornadoes raked across Missouri while heavy rain flooded rivers in Oklahoma, authorities said on Thursday.

The three deaths and several injuries were recorded in and around Golden City, Missouri, some 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Joplin where a tornado touched down on Wednesday evening, the Missouri Department of Public Safety said on Twitter.

A damaged car is parked on Woodlawn Avenue following a tornado touchdown overnight in Jefferson City, Missouri, U.S. May 23, 2019. REUTERS/Antranik Tavitian

A damaged car is parked on Woodlawn Avenue following a tornado touchdown overnight in Jefferson City, Missouri, U.S. May 23, 2019. REUTERS/Antranik Tavitian

The casualties brought the week’s weather-related death toll to at least seven, as forecasters said the rain and threat of damaging winds were not expected to let up.

“It looks to stay quite wet over the next week across the central portion of the country,” said meteorologist Mark Chenard of the National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

A system of showers stretched from the Texas Panhandle and western Oklahoma north to Nebraska on Thursday, threatening to bring more flooding, Chenard said. A diminished threat of tornadoes will persist from the Texas Panhandle through Kansas, he said.

In Jefferson City, the state capital of Missouri, officials said a “massive” twister caused widespread damage but no fatalities.

“Many, many buildings have significant damage, and there’s a lot of them that just have small damage as well, so it’s just very widespread,” Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin told CNN.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson said at least 20 people were treated at hospitals but that most had been released.

A firefighter and FEMA employee survey damage on Woodlawn Avenue following a tornado touchdown overnight in Jefferson City, Missouri, U.S. May 23, 2019. REUTERS/Antranik Tavitian

A firefighter and FEMA employee survey damage on Woodlawn Avenue following a tornado touchdown overnight in Jefferson City, Missouri, U.S. May 23, 2019. REUTERS/Antranik Tavitian

“The damage tornadoes & severe storms cause is devastating, but I am encouraged & inspired by storm survivors. In a time of tragedy, Missourians came together and cared for their neighbors, and our first responders acted with speed & skill to rescue survivors,” Parson wrote on Twitter.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter that his heart went out to the people of Missouri.

“You are strong and resilient, and we are here to assist,” he wrote.

Trump also urged Oklahomans to stay safe and listen to the warnings of local officials. “We are with you!” he tweeted.

Earlier this week, a tornado killed at least one person in Iowa, while two people in Oklahoma died in accidents on rain-slicked roads and a third in flooding.

The Arkansas River town of Webbers Falls was ordered evacuated on Thursday, while residents of several other communities were advised to leave, Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Caine said by phone.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Tom Brown)

Tornadoes kill three, hit U.S. Plains state capital

Damage is seen on a street after a tornado in Jefferson City, Missouri, U.S. May 23, 2019, in this image taken from social media. Tyler Thompson/via REUTERS T

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) – Tornadoes killed at least three people in southwest Missouri and slammed into the state capital just before midnight on Wednesday, with rescue workers in Jefferson City searching into the morning for the injured, officials said.

The St. Louis office of the National Weather Service confirmed that reported twisters hit near Joplin, Mo., late Wednesday, and local media including the Joplin Globe reported at least three dead.

No other information about the deaths was immediately available from officials early Thursday.

The NWS reported that a “massive” twister also hit the southeastern part of Jefferson City, damaging buildings, toppling trees and power lines and tossing around parked cars.

There were no immediate reports of fatalities in the city as of early Thursday, said Jared Maples, a meteorologist with the NWS St. Louis office.

A damaged sign is seen after a tornado in Jefferson City, Missouri, U.S. May 23, 2019, in this still image taken from video obtained from social media. Jared Sheneman/via REUTERS

A damaged sign is seen after a tornado in Jefferson City, Missouri, U.S. May 23, 2019, in this still image taken from video obtained from social media. Jared Sheneman/via REUTERS

The Jefferson City Fire Department was sending rescuers house-to-house searching for people in need, officials posted on social media, with reports of people trapped in debris.

“We’re doing okay but praying for those that were caught in damage, some still trapped,” Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said on Twitter early Thursday.

Maples said, “As of this morning, the main parts of the storms have pushed eastward, thank goodness,” leaving the region to deal with just another expected two inches of rain through Friday.

At least three other people have been killed since Monday in Oklahoma and Iowa in a string of at least 30 tornadoes, heavy rains and floods that hit a swath from Texas to Illinois since Monday.

Residents in sections of Jefferson were under orders to evacuate Thursday ahead of the expected crest of the Missouri River at least 2 feet above the 30-foot high levees.

Rainfall is predicted to be about 2 inches (5 cm) across eastern Kansas, Oklahoma, and into western Missouri, with localized spots getting up to 5 inches (13 cm), forecasters said.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, Editing by William Maclean)

U.S. south ‘still under the gun’ after deadly storms

A storm cloud formation is seen in Collinsville, Oklahoma, U.S., May 20, 2019 in this picture obtained from social media on May 21, 2019. BRI'ANNE WALTON/via REUTERS

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) – A storm system that blasted the U.S. South was weakening on Tuesday but another was on its way after thunderstorms and tornadoes left a swath of destruction, killed at least two people and tore up a NASCAR grandstand.

More than 30 tornadoes struck on Monday and Tuesday from Texas, Oklahoma and across the southern plains into Missouri, said meteorologists with the National Weather Service.

While this weakening storm system is expected to roll into the Great Lakes region early Wednesday, another system is brewing Wednesday night into Thursday, said Brian Hurley, a forecaster with the NWS Weather Prediction Center.

“The Southern Plains can’t catch a break,” Hurley said. “More storms will develop overnight into Thursday morning.”

Rainfalls are predicted to be about 2 inches across eastern Kansas, Oklahoma, and into western Missouri, with localized spots getting up to 5 inches, he said.

“That whole area is still under the gun,” Hurley said.

In Wheatland, Missouri, at the Lucas Oil Speedway, a reported tornado injured 7 people, flipped over cars, toppled campers and damaged the grandstands, with local media images showing piles of twisted metal and upside down vehicles.

The Memorial Day weekend “Lucas Oil Show-Me 100” races at the speedway, about 120 miles southeast of Kansas City, were canceled indefinitely. A crowd topping 3,000 fans of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) had been expected, track officials said on Tuesday.

Dozens of people were rescued from rising floodwaters and felled trees that smashed homes and blocked roadways in Oklahoma on Tuesday.

Crews using boats pulled at least 50 people from rising water as heavy downpours inundated roads and homes, Oklahoma Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Keli Cain said.

Two deaths from a traffic accident on a rain-slicked Missouri highway were reported by police late Monday.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson declared a state of emergency on Tuesday for the state, out of concern for floods from cresting rivers and streams, with forecasts of more rain on the way.

Forecasters said the Missouri River is expected to crest on Thursday at more than 32 feet at the state capital of Jefferson City. Local media including NBC News said that is two feet higher than the city’s levees.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Graff)

Dozens rescued from Oklahoma floods as storms swamp central U.S.: officials

A tornado spins during stormy weather in Mangum, Oklahoma, U.S., May 20, 2019, in this still image taken from video from social media. Clint Lively via REUTERS

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) – Dozens of people were rescued from rising waters and felled trees that smashed homes and blocked roadways in Oklahoma, as severe storms generating tornadoes and heavy rain roared through central United States on Tuesday.

Rescue crews in boats pulled at least 50 people from flood waters as heavy downpours inundated roads and homes, said Oklahoma Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Keli Cain. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries, she said.

Only the tops of cars engulfed by water were visible on roadways near Oklahoma City, and some houses were entirely surrounded by floods, video footage of the location showed.

“It’s real dangerous,” said Ross Reuter, a spokesman for Canadian County, where 10 people were rescued. “Motorists get out into the swift water, thinking they can get across and it ends up being deeper than they think.”

Parts of the state have received six to eight inches (15-20 cm) of rain since Monday, and some 4 million people remained under a flash flood warning or watch in the region, the National Weather Service said.

A twister that touched down early on Tuesday near Tulsa International Airport was among more than two dozen that have ripped through the region since Monday, according to the NWS.

“We have lots of reports of damage coming in. There is a lot of tree damage. Very large trees have been uprooted that are blocking roads and that have landed on houses,” said Sarah Corfidi, an NWS meteorologist.

The NWS said 22 million people were in the path of the severe weather system that was expected to move across Texas and Louisiana, into Alabama and as far north as Iowa and Nebraska all day and into the night on Tuesday.

On Monday, the NWS said the risk of tornadoes in the region was higher than at any time in years.

A new storm system was brewing and could hit the same southern states later this week.

“The whole area is in the bull’s eye, with more rounds of severe storms possible,” the forecaster said.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Scott Malone, Jeffrey Benkoe and Bernadette Baum)

High Risk for Dangerous Storms, Flooding and Tornadoes In Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas

Severe Weather outbreak potential. May 20,2019

By Kami Klein

A dangerous and potent spring weather system is expected to bring severe weather to parts of the plains today bringing hail, damaging winds, flash flooding, and large, violent tornadoes.  According to the National Weather Service, these strong tornadoes are possible from western portions of Texas into western and central Oklahoma. A major threat of flash flooding is expected from northwest Texas into Oklahoma, Kansas, western Missouri, and northwest Arkansas.

Many school systems, including Oklahoma University in Norman, Oklahoma canceled classes for the day due to the strong possibilities of this weather system. Since the disastrous 2013 F5 tornado that hit Moore Oklahoma killing 23 and injuring 337 people, school authorities have taken a very cautious approach when advised by the National Weather Service.  

“We believe this is the best decision for our students, staff and families as their health and safety are priority,” Moore Public Schools officials posted to Facebook. “Please ensure safety plans are in place for your family in case needed for severe weather.”

According to the Weather Channel, this highest threat level of severe weather was last issued by SPC just over two years ago on May 18, 2017.

There have been 545 tornadoes nationally through May 6, according to NOAA. Historically, an average of 321 tornadoes occur in the U.S. through the end of April, based on a 25-year average.

These warnings are rare both for the flooding potential and chances of very powerful tornadoes. Please stay tuned to weather alerts and take appropriate action by staying away from windows and seeking shelter in basements, closets or bathrooms in the middle of your home or in storm shelters.   

 

 

Measles outbreak spreads to Oklahoma as U.S. reports 41 new cases

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: A vial of the measles, mumps, and rubella virus (MMR) vaccine is pictured at the International Community Health Services clinic in Seattle, Washington, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo/File Photo/File Photo

(Reuters) – The worst measles outbreak in the United States in 25 years has spread to Oklahoma, federal health officials said on Monday as they reported 41 new cases nationwide, raising the total number sickened this year to 880 people.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a 4.9% increase in the number of measles cases from May 10 to May 17 in an outbreak that has now reached 24 states. The agency has been providing weekly updates every Monday.

The CDC said there had been one confirmed case in Oklahoma.

Most of the new cases were in New York, CDC spokesman Jason McDonald said, with 21 cases recorded in New York City and nine in Rockland County.

Health experts say the virus has spread among school-age children whose parents declined to give them the vaccine, which confers immunity to the disease. A vocal fringe of U.S. parents, some in New York’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, cite concerns that the vaccine may cause autism, despite scientific studies that have debunked such claims.

Although the virus was eliminated from the country in 2000, meaning the disease was no longer a constant presence, outbreaks still happen via travelers coming from countries where measles is still common, according to the CDC.

Experts warn that the outbreak is not over as the number of cases approaches the 1994 total of 958. That was the highest number since 1992, when the CDC recorded 2,126 cases.

More than 40 people in 2019 brought measles to the United States from other countries, most frequently Ukraine, Israel and the Philippines, federal officials said.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York, Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Berkrot)