Mid-Atlantic hit by winter storm, tornadoes reported in South

Portions of the mid-Atlantic remained under winter storm warnings on Tuesday morning, a day after snow fell along the East Coast and tornadoes were reported in four southern states.

The National Weather Service issued the warnings in parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina, saying those regions should expect more winter weather this morning. Winter weather advisories were also issued across New England.

The winter weather is expected to transition into rain later today as temperatures rise. Residents of all of the affected states should monitor their local forecasts.

The storm came after several mid-Atlantic and New England communities recorded record low temperatures on Sunday, as bitter cold helped shatter the previous records for Valentine’s Day.

Notably, the National Weather Service said temperatures dipped to -1 degree Fahrenheit in New York’s Central Park, the coldest temperatures recorded on Feb. 14 in the park in 100 years.

In upstate New York, the service said temperatures reached 37 degrees below zero in Watertown and 23 degrees below zero in Syracuse. Those broke Feb. 14 records that had stood since 1979.

Monday’s winter storm brought snow and freezing rain to several states, and the National Weather Service reported a storm-high total of 15 inches fell near Rupert, West Virginia.

Parts of Virginia and Maryland received nine inches of snow, while cities in Kentucky and Tennessee saw more than six inches. Lighter totals were recorded in a broad area from Maine to Georgia, with some areas receiving some freezing rain.

The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center also received 17 reports of tornadoes and high winds in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida on Monday.

The reports mentioned downed trees and power lines, damaged homes and buildings. The extreme weather caused at least one injury in Alabama, where Covington County officials reported a tornado destroyed a mobile home.

Tornadoes damaged nine homes, a school and a chicken house in Copiah County, Mississippi. The service also said a tree fell on a semi truck, briefly entrapping one person.

In Smith County, Mississippi, tornadoes caused “major damage to homes and structures” near Sylvarena, and blew a gas pump away from a grocery store.

Damage from heavy winds and hail was reported in several other southern communities.

The extreme weather, particularly the winter storm, had a significant impact on travel.

Flight monitoring website FlightAware.com reported 1,623 United States flight cancellations on Monday, including about 300 apiece at Washington’s Reagan National Airport and New York’s Laguardia Airport. More than 575 flights were cancelled on Tuesday morning, the site reported.

Historic winter storm causes $2 billion in economic losses, report finds

The deadly winter storm that brought historic snowfall totals throughout the mid-Atlantic last month caused more than $2 billion in economic losses, a reinsurance company said Tuesday.

The storm was just one of the instances of extreme weather chronicled in Aon Benfield’s most recent monthly report on global catastrophes, which recap the economic effects of the events.

The report also detailed the impacts of extreme cold weather in Asia, flooding fueled by the El Nino weather pattern and earthquakes, wildfires and droughts that occurred in January.

The mid-Atlantic snowstorm, which The Weather Channel was calling Winter Storm Jonas, killed 58 people and led 11 states and the District of Columbia to declare states of emergency, according to the Aon Benfield report. The report noted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently named the storm the fourth-biggest winter storm to hit that part of the United States in the past 66 years, according to its Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale.

The National Weather Service has said that snowfall totals reached double digits in 14 states, and portions of Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia all received more than a foot and a half of snow.

That included a storm-high 42 inches near Glengary, West Virginia, the service reported. Totals also topped 30 inches in parts of Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Maryland.

Some areas received record snow, spurring road closures and hundreds of flight cancellations. The Aon Benfield report’s $2 billion figure includes both physical damage and lost business.

Last month, the NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information reported the United States experienced 10 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in 2015. If Aon Benfield’s numbers are accurate, the winter storm appears to be the first such disaster of the New Year.

Aon Benfield’s report also covers events that occurred outside the United States.

The company said Asia saw rare snowfall and some of its coldest temperatures in six decades, which killed at least 116 people in Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and China last month. The report estimated the weather led to $2 billion in losses, $1.6 billion of which were in China.

Aon Benfield’s report also detailed several other January events with high economic impacts:

  • A hurricane-force windstorm led to hundreds of millions of dollars of losses in Europe
  • Severe drought caused South Africa’s agricultural industry to lose at least $250 million
  • Floods that killed 13 people in Ecuador and Brazil caused total losses to top $110 million
  • A five-day stretch of severe storms in California fueled more than $125 million in losses
  • A magnitude 6.7 earthquake in India killed 22 people and spurred $75 million in losses
  • A 176,000-acre wildfire in Western Australia led to $42 million in insurance claims alone

The report linked the California storms, South American flooding and South African drought to the El Nino weather pattern, which several scientists have said is one of the strongest on record.

The pattern occurs when a portion of the Pacific Ocean is warmer than usual, setting off a far-reaching ripple effect that brings atypical and often extreme weather across the world.

Cleanup from historic winter storm expected to last days

An exceptionally powerful and reportedly deadly winter storm that brought historic snowfall totals to large portions of the mid-Atlantic and New England finally moved out to sea on Sunday evening, though the fallout from the winter weather was still being felt on Monday morning.

The National Weather Service reported parts of six states received more than 30 inches of snow, including a whopping storm-high total of 42 inches near Glengary, West Virginia. Another seven states saw at least a foot of snow, and five states experienced wind gusts that exceeded 60 mph.

There were conflicting media reports on the death toll, though Reuters reported 31 people died.

Schools in several states remained closed on Monday as the cleanup process continued. The National Weather Service’s office for Baltimore and Washington, where some of the storm’s record totals were posted, said it would likely take several days to clear all roads and sidewalks.

The Weather Channel is referring to the storm as Winter Storm Jonas.

Record snow totals were seen in parts of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland, the National Weather Service said, and in some cases the previous marks were obliterated.

The service reported that Lehigh Valley International Airport in Allentown, Pennsylvania, saw 31.9 inches of snow in two days, including 30.2 on Saturday alone. The previous single-day and two-day records were 7.7 inches and 25.6 inches, respectively, and records dated back to 1922.

The service noted that Allentown usually only sees 32.9 inches of snow in a year, meaning the recent storm came within three-tenths of an inch of exceeding the region’s yearly snow total.

The storm also set snowfall records in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, (30.2 inches total, 26.4 inches on Saturday), Baltimore-Washington International Airport (25.5 inches on Saturday), JFK International Airport in New York (30.3 inches on Saturday), Laguardia Airport in New York (27.9 inches on Saturday), and Newark, New Jersey, (27.5 inches on Saturday), the service reported.

More than 8,000 United States flights were cancelled on Friday and Saturday, according to flight monitoring website FlightAware.com, a large percentage of them in the areas impacted by the storm. Another 1,509 U.S. flights were cancelled as of noon ET on Monday, the site reported.

Cities or airports that didn’t quite see record amounts were still busy digging out from the snow.

More than 22 inches of snow fell in Washington, the National Weather Service reported, and the city’s suburbs saw between 19 and 39 inches. The Office of Personnel Management said all federal government offices were closed Monday, and the city’s public schools were also closed.

In West Virginia, where the storm’s highest snow totals were posted, the state Department of Education reported that schools were closed entirely in more than 50 of the state’s 55 counties.

The storm also created hazardous travel conditions, in some cases stranding motorists.

In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf’s office reported that two trucks jackknifed while trying to climb a mountainous stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, blocking traffic behind them. According to a news release, 250 first responders helped evacuate the motorists, and authorities also set up warming stations, passed out food and gave away gas to allow cars to remain warm.

The Virginia State Police responded to 1,410 crashes and 2,040 disabled vehicle calls between Friday and Sunday morning, according to a Twitter post. The agency reported five people in the state died from hypothermia.

Major winter storm begins hitting South, record blizzard possible for D.C. area

Some cities in the path of a powerful winter storm headed for the mid-Atlantic could face even more snow than the two feet originally predicted, the National Weather Service said Friday.

The service, which issued updated blizzard warnings for several major cities along the East Coast, said that some parts of Virginia and Maryland could receive up to 39 inches of snow.

The updated forecasts were issued after the storm began dumping snow, sleet and freezing rain across the south overnight, including 9 inches of snow in 10 hours in one part of North Carolina.

The National Weather Service’s radar showed more precipitation falling across a large stretch of the southeast on Friday morning. The storm, which The Weather Channel is calling Winter Storm Jonas, was expected to pummel Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia later today before arriving in New York, Long Island and southern New England early Saturday morning.

Watches, warnings or advisories were in effect in portions of 22 states from Arkansas to Massachusetts, including blizzard warnings for parts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York and the entire District of Columbia.

Residents in the storm’s path are encouraged to monitor their local weather forecasts.

The storm is expected to hit suburbs of Washington and Baltimore the hardest, with more than three feet of snow possible in those areas. Updated forecasts from the National Weather Service on Friday said 32 inches were possible in Washington and Baltimore could receive 30 inches.

If those totals materialize, they could break snowfall records for those cities.

The National Weather Service said the current three-day mark for Washington is 28 inches, and was set in January 1922. Baltimore had 26.8 inches of snow in three days in February 2003.

Many other cities were expecting double-digit totals.

Blizzard warnings issued for Philadelphia and New York said those cities could see up to 18 and 12 inches, respectively. One-to-two-foot totals were possible in large parts of the nation, and high winds were expected to make travel next-to impossible where the storm was at its worst.

In Washington and Baltimore, the service warned the storm could pack wind gusts of 60 mph in addition to the significant snowfall totals. The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority is shutting down all subway and bus service on Saturday and Sunday, according to a news release.

All federal offices in the Washington area closed at noon Friday, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

Winds were expected to be lighter in Philadelphia, though the National Weather Service warned that 40 mph gusts and wet, heavy snow could still trigger power outages and block local roads.

While forecasts were saying the worst of the storm had yet to be seen, states from Arkansas to Virginia reported significant snowfall totals overnight. According to the National Weather Service, more than 5 inches of snow fell in Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas, including an overnight national high of 9 inches near Waynesville, North Carolina. Parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Carolinas also saw measurable amounts of freezing rain.

Nearly 800 flights into or out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport had been cancelled as of 11:15 a.m. local time Friday morning, according to flight monitoring website FlightAware.com.

The airport is a major hub for American Airlines, which cancelled 789 flights across the country — about 24 percent of those it had scheduled, according to FlightAware. The airline was offering to waive rebooking fees for travelers going through many airports in the storm’s path.

Several states declared states of emergency or preparedness ahead of the storm, urging would-be travelers to stay off the roads and take necessary precautions to prepare for its potential impacts.

The states where the National Weather Service issued watches, warnings or advisories for the storm include Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Blizzard watch expanded as major winter storm threatens U.S.

A powerful winter storm is expected to slam large portions of the country over the next four days, with people from Arkansas to New York potentially in its path.

The National Weather Service on Thursday issued updated watches, warnings and advisories for a storm it’s calling “potentially crippling,” saying it could bring two feet of snow to certain areas.

High winds could also create blizzard conditions in some parts, the service said, and “significant” amounts of ice are expected in Kentucky and North Carolina.

The Weather Channel is referring to the storm as Winter Storm Jonas.

Warnings, watches or advisories had been issued for portions of 18 states as of Thursday morning, including an expanded blizzard watch that included parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and New York. Previously, the service had only issued the blizzard watch in areas surrounding Washington and Baltimore.

The updated blizzard watch includes major cities like Philadelphia and New York.

Other watches, warnings and advisories had been issued in portions of Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi.

Residents of those states should monitor their local forecasts.

The National Weather Service had previously said the storm could impact the entire I-95 corridor, which also includes Boston, though on Thursday indicated that it did not know exactly how much snow is expected to fall north of New York, which is expecting 8 to 12 inches.

The service is calling for 18 to 24 inches of snow near Washington and Baltimore, while other regions in the storm’s path could see double-digit totals. Wind gusts of up to 55 mph are forecast in blizzard watch areas, which may lead to whiteouts and snarl travel.

The storm should begin dropping snow in eastern Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi tonight and continue to travel east before leaving the United States on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service forecast. The service’s office in Memphis warned travel will be “difficult if not impossible” by mid-morning on Friday, as 4 to 6 inches of snow and high winds could create near-blizzard conditions.

Similar forecasts about travel impacts were issued throughout the storm’s path.

The Maryland State Police and Virginia Department of Transportation both encouraged motorists to stay off the roads, according to news releases. West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of preparedness and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency.

“All Virginians should take the threat of this storm seriously and take necessary precautions now to ensure they are prepared for travel disruptions and possible power outages during a cold weather period,” McAuliffe said in a statement.

The storm follows more winter weather that moved through the southern United States over the past few days. The Virginia State Police tweeted that troopers responded to 767 vehicle crashes on Wednesday alone.

Blizzard watch issued ahead of ‘potentially paralyzing’ snowstorm

The National Weather Service on Wednesday issued its first watches for a winter storm that could wreak havoc on the northeastern United States this weekend.

The blizzard watch includes the cities of Baltimore and Washington and surrounding areas in Maryland and Virginia. It will formally go into effect on Friday afternoon and remain valid through Saturday night, the service said.

The National Weather Service said it’s “monitoring the possibility” that a storm could drop 1 to 2 feet of snow along the I-95 corridor this Friday and Saturday.

The stretch includes other major cities like Philadelphia, Boston and New York, though no watches for those areas had been issued as of mid-day Wednesday.

The service’s Weather Prediction Center warned of a “potentially paralyzing winter storm for portions of the Mid-Atlantic,” including possible blizzard conditions in Baltimore and Washington, and said more than a half-inch of ice was possible in Kentucky and North Carolina. Coastal flooding was also possible.

The blizzard watch cautions that the area could receive more than a foot of snow, with a wintry mix possible on Friday night. The storm is also expected to bring 40 mph wind gusts, which could lead to whiteouts and power outages.

“Heavy snow and blowing snow will cause dangerous conditions and will be a threat to life and property,” the watch states. “Travel is expected to be severely limited if not impossible during the height of the storm Friday night and Saturday.”

The blizzard watch encourages people to stock up on necessary items.

The service also issued less-severe winter storm watches for portions of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia, though still warned that a foot of snow was possible in some areas and said blowing snow could pose travel hazards.

The Weather Channel is calling the potential storm Winter Storm Jonas.

The threat came as another winter storm was moving across the country.

National Weather Service radar showed precipitation falling throughout the south, and winter weather advisories or winter storm warnings were in effect for portions of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia and the Carolinas.

On Tuesday, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for 15 counties affected by winter weather.

It’s official: NOAA, NASA confirm 2015 is warmest year on record

The average global temperatures last year were the warmest on record, two United States agencies announced on Wednesday, officially confirming what had long been anticipated.

NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) both announced that Earth’s average temperatures in 2015 were the highest they’ve been since 1880, which is as far as records date back.

The agencies conducted separate analyses, but both reached the same conclusion.

The NOAA said global temperatures were 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average and beat last year’s record by .29 degrees.

It didn’t surprise the agency that 2015 set a new record, since it reported that record-high temperatures were recorded in 10 out of the 12 months of the year.

NASA calculated the temperatures in other ways, and had slightly different values than the NOAA, but agreed that 2015 was the warmest year since 1880.

The NOAA said an unseasonably warm December set some records of its own.

Average global temperatures during that month were 2 degrees above the 20th-century average. Not only was it the warmest December on record, but it was the only time since 1880 that any month has seen temperatures that far above its historic averages.

Though global temperatures reached new highs, not everywhere saw record warmth.

The United States, for example, experienced its second-warmest year on record, the NOAA said earlier this month. The nation’s average temperatures, while still well above average, were just shy of the all-time high established in 2012.

But record-high averages were recorded in parts of Russia, Europe, South America, and the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, the NOAA said Wednesday.

The latter is currently the site of one of the strongest El Nino weather patterns on record, which is known for producing extreme weather throughout the world. NASA officials said the phenomenon, paired with human-induced climate change, contributed to the new records.

“Last year’s temperatures had an assist from El Niño, but it is the cumulative effect of the long-term trend that has resulted in the record warming that we are seeing,” Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in a statement.

Despite the overall increases, the NOAA said some isolated areas witnessed cooler-than-average temperatures, including a swath of ocean near Greenland that posted record cold levels.

Aid agencies call for funds to save lives in El Nino-hit countries

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – An inadequate response to El Nino would put tens of millions of people at risk of hunger, water shortages and disease, a group of leading aid agencies said, calling on donors for funding to save lives in countries hit by the weather phenomenon.

The United Nations launched a record humanitarian appeal in December, asking for $20.1 billion to help 87 million people in 37 national and regional crises in 2016.

But some countries affected by El Nino, including Malawi, Zimbabwe, Papua New Guinea and El Salvador, were not included in the appeal, the humanitarian agencies said.

The aid groups, including Oxfam and World Vision, said “urgently required” funding should go into disaster preparedness, resilience building and crisis response, which would save money in the future.

“According to the United Nations, every $1 that is invested in disaster preparedness and resilience now could save up to $7 in emergency relief if a disaster unfolds over the coming months,” World Vision’s El Nino response director, Kathryn Taetzsch, said in a statement.

El Nino – a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific – affects wind patterns and can trigger both floods and drought in different parts of the world, leading to reduced harvests.

Ethiopia is one of the hardest hit countries and is experiencing its worst drought in decades. Some 8.2 million Ethiopians – out of a population of nearly 100 million – need food aid.

In Malawi, some 2.8 million people are struggling to feed themselves.

In Asia, poor harvests caused by lower than average rainfall linked to El Nino have hit Papua New Guinea particularly badly.

Central America, particularly El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, along with Haiti and southeastern Brazil, have recorded below average rainfall this year, while heavy rains caused flooding in parts of Argentina and Peru.

According to the World Food Programme, an estimated 2.3 million people in Central America, mostly subsistence farmers, day laborers and their families, will need food assistance because of widespread damage to crops and rising food prices due to a prolonged drought exacerbated by El Nino.

The agencies said it was important to apply lessons learned from the 2011 Horn of Africa drought in which 258,000 died in Somalia alone. They cited a 2012 report which said that the response to the drought in Somalia was “too little, too late”.

“If the world acts now, we can help prevent disaster and suffering for millions of people – rather than waiting for people to start dying,” said Nigel Timmins, Oxfam International’s humanitarian director.

(Reporting by Magdalena Mis; Editing by Ros Russell)

United States sees one of its warmest, wettest and wildest years on record

The continental United States experienced one of its warmest and wettest years in history in 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Thursday.

Temperatures and precipitation totals were well above long-term averages, according to the year-end report published by the NOAA’s National Centers for Climate Information, and the final numbers indicated the nation had its second-warmest and third-wettest year on record.

The nation also was hit by five different types of weather and climate disasters — flooding, droughts, wildfires, extreme cold and severe storms — a variety the NOAA said is not usually seen. There were 10 disasters in total, and each of them caused at least $1 billion in losses.

The NOAA reported the average temperature in the United States last year was 54.4 degrees Fahrenheit, 2.4 degrees above the nation’s 20th-century average, but .88 degrees lower than the record-setting year of 2012. The average precipitation total in the lower 48 states was 34.47 inches, 4.53 inches above the average level, and the influx of rainfall helped reduce the national drought footprint by about 10 percent. The only wetter years on record are 1973 and 1983.

Every single one of the lower 48 states posted above-average yearly temperatures, the NOAA said, and Washington, Florida and Oregon all posted their warmest years on record. The same can be said of southeastern Louisiana and western Montana.

The temperature and precipitation records date to 1895.

The NOAA also said 10 weather and climate disasters occurred across the nation last year, including wildfires and droughts in the west, flooding in South Carolina, Texas and the midwest, a cold wave in the northeast, tornadoes in Oklahoma and Texas, and severe thunderstorms across the Great Plains. Together, the NOAA said the disasters killed 155 people nationwide.

It’s not common, but also not unheard of, for the United States to see that many different kinds of disasters causing $1 billion in losses in a year. According to the NOAA, the nation usually sees three or four kinds of disasters every year, but five have occurred five other times since 1989.

The overall total of 10 billion-dollar disasters was slightly below the nation’s five-year average of 10.8, the report indicates, but it was still nearly double the 35-year average of 5.2.

The NOAA added the United States has now been the victim of 188 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters since 1980, and they have cumulatively caused more than $1 trillion in losses.

California Rattled By Heavy Rains, Snow, Earthquake

Large portions of California were bracing for more heavy rain and snow Wednesday as El Niño pushed powerful storms toward the state, threatening to cause flash flooding and other damage.

The National Weather Service issued numerous flash flood watches along the California coastline and also issued winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories for areas in higher elevations. The service’s office in San Diego also warned of a chance for mudslides, particularly in areas where recent wildfires burned.

National Weather Service forecasts called for 2 to 4 inches of rain to fall across Southern California on Wednesday, accompanied by peak wind gusts of up to 60 mph that could be strong enough to topple trees and power lines. The rain comes a day after 1.42 inches fell at Los Angeles International Airport, smashing a daily rainfall record that stood for more than 36 years. Other parts of California received more than 3 inches of rain, National Weather Service data indicated.

The National Weather Service was calling for 5 to 10 inches of snow in higher elevations on Wednesday, but said mountain peaks could see 18 inches. Near-blizzard conditions were expected in some places. More storms were expected to drop additional precipitation tonight and Thursday.

Meanwhile, the United States Geological Survey reported a magnitude 4.5 earthquake occurred just outside of Banning, California, at 6:42 a.m. local time. The California Highway Patrol’s website indicated it received reports of small rocks and mud across state Route 243 a few minutes after the earthquake, though it wasn’t clear if the earthquake triggered the landslide.

Banning is located about 80 miles east of Los Angeles.

The National Weather Service also issued a flash flood warning for parts of Ventura County, just northwest of Los Angeles, cautioning that heavy rain could cause mud and debris to slide across busy Highway 101.

The storms were being blamed on El Niño, a weather pattern known for producing atypical and extreme weather throughout the world. It occurs when part of the Pacific Ocean is warmer than usual, which sets off a ripple effect that has a wide-reaching result. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has said that the United States is expected to see the effects of this El Niño over the next three months as one of the strongest instances of the phenomenon on record may sway temperatures and precipitation totals across significant portions of the nation.

Los Angeles opened up several shelters to help the city’s homeless population weather the storms.