Bahamas hurricane survivors tell of children swept away; death toll reaches 30

FILE PHOTO: A man walks through the rubble in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian on the Great Abaco island town of Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Dante Carrer

By Dante Carrer

MARSH HARBOUR, Bahamas (Reuters) – Richard Johnson said his six-year-old brother Adrian was just too small to withstand Hurricane Dorian. The boy was blown into churning storm surge and is among thousands of people missing, many of them children, after the worst hurricane to hit the Bahamas.

It was one of many harrowing stories emerging on Thursday as residents searched for loved ones and widespread looting was reported on the islands, where the United Nations estimates 70,000 people are in immediate need of food, water and shelter.

An international relief effort was trying to overcome formidable logistical challenges to help the Bahamas, where the health minister predicted a “staggering” death toll from Hurricane Dorian, now churning northward off the coast of South Carolina.

“I guess within seconds the gusts of the wind blew the little boy off the roof into the water,” Johnson said of his brother. “Given the circumstances, I’m not that hopeful.”

Aerial video of the Abaco Islands in the northern Bahamas, worst hit by the then-Category 5 hurricane, showed widespread devastation, with the harbor, shops and workplaces, a hospital and airport landing strips damaged or decimated.

FILE PHOTO: Aerial image of the island Great Abaco, shows the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian, Bahamas, September 3, 2019. UK Ministry of Defence/Handout via REUTERS

FILE PHOTO: Aerial image of the island Great Abaco, shows the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian, Bahamas, September 3, 2019. UK Ministry of Defence/Handout via REUTERS

The death toll from Dorian stood at 30 on Thursday evening, officials told CNN, The final toll is expected to be much higher.

“Let me say that I believe the number will be staggering,” Health Minister Duane Sands was quoted by The Nassau Guardian as telling Guardian radio. “… I have never lived through anything like this and I don’t want to live through anything like this again.”

Dorian turned a shantytown known as The Mud near Marsh Harbour into shredded wreckage, with bodies believed to be still below the ruins, based on the smell coming from the debris, according to a Reuters photographer who visited the area.

The photographer witnessed widespread looting in Marsh Harbour, seeing residents breaking into liquor stores and supermarkets, carrying off goods in bags or filling their vehicles.

$7 BILLION IN DAMAGE

The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) said on Thursday it was organizing an airlift from Panama of storage units, generators and prefab offices for two logistics hubs, as well as satellite equipment for emergency responders, and has bought eight metric tonnes of ready-to-eat meals.

The U.N. agency has allocated $5.4 million to a three-month emergency operation to support 39,000 people, said WFP Senior Spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel.

Displaced Haitian nationals take refuge on the grounds of the Government complex in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian on the Great Abaco island town of Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, September 4, 2019. REUTERS/Dante Carrer

Displaced Haitian nationals take refuge on the grounds of the Government complex in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian on the Great Abaco island town of Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, September 4, 2019. REUTERS/Dante Carrer

A flight from the U.S. Agency for International Development landed early on Thursday with enough relief supplies to help 31,500 people, bringing hygiene kits, water containers and buckets, plastic sheeting and chain saws.

Total insured and uninsured losses in the Bahamas amounted to $7 billion, including buildings and business interruptions, according to a preliminary estimate by Karen Clark & Co, a consultancy that provides catastrophic modeling and risk management services.

With telephones down in many areas, residents posted lists of missing loved ones on social media. One Facebook post by media outlet Our News Bahamas had 2,500 comments, mainly listing lost family members.

One survivor on the Abaco Islands, Ramond King, said he watched as swirling winds ripped the roof off his house, then churned to a neighbor’s home to pluck the entire structure into the sky.

“‘This can’t be real, this can’t be real’,” King recalled thinking. “Nothing is here, nothing at all. Everything is gone, just bodies.”

FILE PHOTO: Families react as they are reunited after a church group was evacuated from the Abaco Islands after Hurricane Dorian made landfall in Nassau, Bahamas September 4, 2019. Picture taken September 4, 2019. REUTERS/John Marc Nutt

FILE PHOTO: Families react as they are reunited after a church group was evacuated from the Abaco Islands after Hurricane Dorian made landfall in Nassau, Bahamas September 4, 2019. Picture taken September 4, 2019. REUTERS/John Marc Nutt

RELIEF EFFORTS

The Netherlands’ ambassador to the United Nations tweeted the country was sending two naval ships with supplies from St Maarten, a Dutch island about 1,100 miles (1,770 km) southeast of the Bahamas.

Jamaica was sending a 150-member military contingent to help secure Abaco and Grand Bahama, officials said.

Volunteers also ferried supplies to the islands in a flotilla of small boats.

Cruise lines responded as well.

The Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line said it would transport first responders, medics and journalists for free to Freeport on Thursday, returning to Florida on Friday with any Bahamians who have documents to enter the United States.

“It’s a humanitarian trip. We’re also taking donations that have arrived in the port (in Palm Beach),” said Francisco Sanchez, a sales representative for the cruise line.

Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the Seas said it was delivering 10,000 meals of chicken, rice and fruit to Grand Bahama.

Dorian hovered over the Bahamas for nearly two days with torrential rains and fierce winds that whipped up 12- to 18-foot (3.7- to 5.5-meter) storm surges.

On Thursday, the storm was barreling north-northeast just off the southeastern U.S. coast, moving at about 7 miles per hour (11 kph), with maximum sustained winds fluctuating between 110 and 115 mph (175-185 kph), between a Category 2 and Category 3 storm on the five-point Saffir-Simpson wind scale.

(Reporting by Nick Brown in Nassau, Bahamas and Dante Carrer in Marsh Harbor Bahamas, Nick Carey in Charleston, South Carolina, Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Rebekah Ward in Mexico City, Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Grant McCool)

Floodwaters rise on Charleston’s streets as Hurricane Dorian skirts U.S. coast

Nathan Piper, 11, is swamped by increasingly rough waves while body surfing as Hurricane Dorian approaches, in Carolina Beach, North Carolina, U.S., September 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

By Nick Carey and Amanda Becker

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – Deserted, rain-lashed streets in Charleston, South Carolina, vanished beneath water on Thursday as Hurricane Dorian churned a few dozen miles offshore after reducing parts of the Bahamas to rubble.

Water pooled a few inches deep near the centuries-old waterfront. In certain low-lying blocks, it rose to a foot or more, as high tide approached and forecasters warned of storm surges of up to 8 feet (2 meters).

John Rivers, 74, and his three children were among the few to be seen in the streets on Thursday. They cleared drains of branches, leaves and debris, using a shovel, a rake and their bare hands.

“We’re giving the water somewhere to go,” Rivers said, sheltering temporarily from the driving rain and gusts of wind under a covered walkway. His daughter Caroline, 12, pulled off her rubber boots one at a time, emptying a stream of water from each. “I see this as a good life lesson for my kids,” Rivers said.

Officials said Thursday afternoon that more than 7 inches (18 cm) of rain had fallen in parts of Charleston.

Dorian was about 50 miles (80 kilometers) off Charleston on Thursday, wavering in strength between a Category 2 and 3 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson wind scale. It was forecast to possibly make landfall in North Carolina late Thursday or early Friday.

Life-threatening storm surges and dangerous winds were possible in much of the coast of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, the National Weather Service said.

Dorian whipped up at least three tornados in the region, officials said. One in North Carolina damaged scores of trailers in a campground in Emerald Isle, but no one was injured, North Carolina’s News & Observer reported.

Governors in the region declared states of emergency, closed schools, opened shelters, readied national guard troops and implored residents to take warnings seriously, as fresh images of the devastation wrought by the storm in the Bahamas earlier this week continued to circulate in the media.

At least 70,000 Bahamians needed immediate humanitarian relief after Dorian became the most damaging storm ever to hit the island nation.

In the Carolinas alone, more than 900,000 people had been ordered to evacuate their homes. It was unclear how many did so.

In Kill Devil Hills, in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Mark Jennings decided to ignore the order, lining his garage door with sandbags and boarding up his home with plywood.

The retired firefighter planned to stay put with his wife and two dogs: “We are ready to go. If something happens, we can still get out of here.”

FOUR DEATHS IN THE U.S.

At least four storm-related deaths have already been reported. Three people died in Orange County, Florida, during storm preparations or evacuation, according to the Orange County mayor’s office. In North Carolina, an 85-year-old man fell off a ladder while barricading his home for Dorian, the governor said.

More than 210,000 homes and businesses were without power in South Carolina and Georgia early on Thursday, according to local electric companies.

On Charleston’s historic South Battery Street, which runs down to the harbor, Brys Stephens tried to keep the water away from his stately home, built in the veranda-wrapped Southern style that lures crowds of tourists to the city.

He and his family pumped water out of the yard and tried to reattach metal flood gates into the perimeter wall.

“The gates worked pretty well so far and we’ve managed to keep water away from the house,” Stephens said. “But we’ve got another storm surge coming later on, so we’ll see then if it holds.”

(Reporting by Nick Carey in Charleston, South Carolina, and Amanda Becker in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen, Peter Szekely, Matt Lavietes and Scott DiSavino in New York; Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Scott Malone and Bernadette Baum)

‘Everything is gone:’ Bahamians struggle in Dorian’s devastating wake death toll 20

Patients and their families crowd the entrance of the Marsh Harbour Medical Clinic in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian on the Great Abaco island town of Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, September 4, 2019. REUTERS/Dante Carrer

By Nick Brown

NASSAU, Bahamas (Reuters) – Stunned residents of the Bahamas surveyed the wreckage of their homes and officials struggled to assess the number killed by Hurricane Dorian, as the storm bore down on the South Carolina coast, threatening record flooding on Thursday.

The United Nations said 70,000 people in the Bahamas needed immediate humanitarian relief after the most damaging storm ever to hit the island nation.

Aerial video of the worst-hit Abaco Islands in the northern Bahamas showed widespread devastation, with the harbor, shops, workplaces, a hospital and airport landing strips damaged or decimated, frustrating rescue efforts.

One of the most powerful Caribbean storms on record, Dorian was rated a Category 5 hurricane when it killed at least 20 people in the Bahamas. Authorities expect that number to rise, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said at a news briefing, as retreating floodwaters revealed the scope of destruction.

“My island of Abaco, everything is gone. No banks, no stores, no nothing,” said Marsh Harbour resident, Ramond A. King as he surveyed the wreckage of his home, which had its roof ripped off and debris scattered throughout. “Everything is gone, just bodies.”

With telephones down in many areas, residents posted lists of missing loved ones on social media. One Facebook post by media outlet Our News Bahamas had 2,500 comments, mainly listing lost family members.

Hurricane Dorian's destruction is seen on the Marsh Harbour in Abaco Islands, Bahamas, September 4, 2019 in this photo grab obtained from a social media video by Reuters on September 5, 2019. Ramond A King via REUTERS

Hurricane Dorian’s destruction is seen on the Marsh Harbour in Abaco Islands, Bahamas, September 4, 2019 in this photo grab obtained from a social media video by Reuters on September 5, 2019. Ramond A King via REUTERS

Dorian killed one person in Puerto Rico before hovering over the Bahamas for two days with torrential rains and fierce winds that whipped up 12- to 18-foot (3.7- to 5.5-meter) storm surges.

POSSIBLE RECORD SURGE

South Carolina was preparing for a record storm surge, potentially reaching a height of 8 feet (2 meters) at the popular vacation destination of Myrtle Beach, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory.

The storm was located about 70 miles (115 km) south-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina, at 8 a.m. EST (1200 GMT) on Thursday and was headed north-northeast at about 8 miles per hour (13 kph), the NHC said. It was packing 115 mph (185 kph) winds.

About a foot (30 cm) of rain will drop on flood-prone Charleston and many parts of the coasts of the Carolinas on Thursday and Friday, said Bob Oravec, a forecaster with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

“It’s pretty substantial,” he said early Thursday. “It’s already raining heavy in Charleston and up and down the coast.”

More than 185,000 homes and businesses were without power along the South Carolina and Georgia coastal areas, according to the tracking site poweroutage.us.

The streets of downtown Charleston were all but deserted early Thursday as driving rain and strong winds lashed the city.

On South Battery Street, a block away from the water, Brys Stephens and his family worked hard to keep the water away from a large gray home with white verandas along the front, the type of home that has made Charleston famous and is a major tourist draw.

He was working to reattach metal flood gates to a sturdy high wall fronting the property.

“The gates worked pretty well so far and we’ve managed to keep water away from the house,” Stephens said. “But we’ve got another storm surge coming later on, so we’ll see then if it holds.”

The NHC’s storm surge warning covered parts of the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina stretching from the Savannah River and extending to southern Virginia.

More than 2.2 million people in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina have been ordered to evacuate, although Florida has avoided a direct hit.

Damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian on the Great Abaco island town of Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, September 4, 2019. REUTERS/Dante Carrer

Damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian on the Great Abaco island town of Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, September 4, 2019. REUTERS/Dante Carrer

RELIEF EFFORTS

An international relief effort was underway for the Bahamas, with a British Royal Navy vessel providing assistance and Jamaica sending a 150-member military contingent to help secure Abaco and Grand Bahama, officials said.

Volunteers also ferried supplies to the islands in a flotilla of small boats.

“Let us give of our best in this moment of historic tragedy,” Minnis said.

He also encouraged international tourists to visit the Bahamas, which relies heavily on its hospitality industry.

As many as 13,000 homes in the Bahamas may have been destroyed or severely damaged, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.

Norwegian energy company Equinor said it had discovered a spill on the ground outside tanks at its damaged storage terminal in the Bahamas, but was unclear on volumes and had not seen any oil at sea.

The State Department said it did not believe any U.S. citizens who were in the Bahamas during the storm were killed.

President Donald Trump said the United States was sending supplies, including materials originally intended for any Dorian victims in Florida.

(Reporting by Nick Brown in Nassau, Bahamas, additional reporting by Nick Carey in Charleston, South Carolina, Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Rebekah Ward in Mexico City, Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico and Rich McKay in Atlanta, writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Peter Graff and Bernadette Baum)

Hurricane Dorian pounds Bahamas, menaces U.S. southeast coast

Hurricane Dorian is viewed from the International Space Station September 1, 2019 in a still image obtained from a video. NASA/Handout via REUTERS

By Gabriella Borter

Titusville, Fla. (Reuters) – Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas on Monday, peeling off roofs and snapping power lines as rising floodwaters threatened to engulf houses, and was expected to edge closer to the U.S. coast, where more than a million people were ordered evacuated.

The second-strongest Atlantic storm on record, now packing maximum sustained winds of 165 miles per hour (270 km/h), was forecast to pound Grand Bahama Island through the day before veering northwest in the next day or so.

The hurricane will move dangerously close to Florida’s east coast tonight through Wednesday evening, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its latest advisory.

There were no immediate estimates of casualties as Dorian, a life-threatening Category 5 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale, covered the northwestern islands of Great Abaco and Grand Bahama with twisted metal and splintered wood. The Bahamas Press reported on Twitter that a 7-year-old boy had drowned in the northern Bahamas, becoming the first recorded fatality of Dorian.

Winds gusting up to 200 mph (320 kph) destroyed or damaged more than 13,000 homes, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.

Residents posted images online of water rising up the side of their houses. The NHC warned of a possible storm surge that could push destructive waves higher than many roofs in the islands.

As of 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT), Dorian was stalled over the Grand Bahama Island barely drifting westward at 1 mph, according to the NHC, which said a prolonged period of “catastrophic winds and storm surge” would affect the island today.

It was about 120 miles (190 km) from the Florida coast, where residents said they were already experiencing strong winds and high surf.

Palm Beach County, the state’s third most-populated county and home to President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, was among those with partial mandatory evacuations. Other counties announced voluntary evacuations.

“This looks like it could be larger than all of them,” Trump said during a briefing with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Sunday.

EVACUATIONS

Julia Eaddy, 70, in Titusville, about halfway up Florida’s east coast, said she and her husband had ridden out several hurricanes before and were not fazed by the forecast. “I think it will be more of the same,” she said.

Several gasoline stations around Titusville were closed. Many grocery stores were open but boarded up. Inside, shelves emptied out fast.

Farther north, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster ordered mandatory evacuations for parts of eight coastal counties effective at noon on Monday. More than 830,000 people were under evacuation orders in Charleston and other coastal communities in South Carolina, emergency management officials announced.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp ordered evacuations in six coastal counties, including all of Savannah’s 150,000 residents, also effective at noon on Monday, Kemp’s office said on Twitter.

Evacuations ordered in Florida included 14,000 people in St. Augustine. Authorities said they would release more details during the day as the hurricane’s path became clearer.

Dorian was tied with Gilbert (1988), Wilma (2005) and the 1935 Labor Day hurricane for the second-strongest Atlantic hurricane on record, based on maximum sustained winds. Allen in 1980 was the most powerful, with 190 mph (306 kph) winds, the NHC said.

Although Dorian is expected to weaken gradually, forecasters said it likely would remain a powerful hurricane for the next couple of days.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in Titusville, Florida; Additional reporting by Peter Szekely in New York, Steve Holland in Washington, Anthony Esposito in Mexico City and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Writing by Paul Simao; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Steve Orlofsky)

Hurricane Dorian gains strength as Florida braces for hit, Trump says Florida faces ‘absolute monster’

Shoppers wait in a long line for a Sam's Club store to open before sunrise, as people rushed to buy supplies ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Kissimmee, Florida, U.S. August 30, 2019. REUTERS/Gregg Newton

By Zach Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) – Hurricane Dorian gained strength as it crept closer to Florida’s coast on Friday, raising the risk that parts of the U.S. state will be hit by strong winds, a storm surge and heavy rain for a prolonged period after it makes landfall early next week.

The Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued a hurricane watch for northwestern Bahamas, and said Dorian was likely to remain an extremely dangerous hurricane as it approaches Florida through the weekend.

“The biggest concern will be Dorian’s slow motion when it is near Florida, placing some areas of the state at an increasing risk of a prolonged, drawn-out event of strong winds, dangerous storm surge, and heavy rainfall,” the center said.

The storm began Friday over the Atlantic as a Category 2 but was already expected to be classified a Category 3 later in the day, with sustained winds of at least 110 miles per hour (175 km per hour).

The entire state of Florida was under a declaration of emergency, and Governor Ron DeSantis has activated 2,500 National Guard troops, with another 1,500 on standby.

Forecasters predicted the storm would grow more ferocious as it gained fuel from the warm waters off Florida, slamming into the state late on Monday or early Tuesday. Tropical storm winds could be felt in Florida as soon as Saturday.

No evacuations were ordered as of early Friday, but many were expected as the storm’s path becomes clearer before it makes landfall.

If, as expected, the storm reaches Category 4 over the weekend, its winds will blow at more than 130 mph (210 kph). There was concern that it could slow from its current 12-mph (9-kph) march across the map, giving it more time to draw fuel from warm seas.

Recent NHC weather models show Dorian smacking into the center of Florida. It was trending northwest in the latest advisory issued at 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT) on Friday.

The storm could roll inland toward Orlando on Tuesday or early Wednesday, weakening as it moves away from the sea. Other NHC weather models show it tracking south toward Miami before hitting the peninsula, or heading north to the Georgia coast.

Along with the dangerous winds, the storm was expected to drop 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) of rain on the coastal United States, with some areas getting as much as 15 inches (38 cm).

“This rainfall may cause life-threatening flash floods,” NHC forecasters said.

President Donald Trump on Thursday canceled a planned weekend trip to Poland, sending Vice President Mike Pence in his place, so he can make sure resources are properly directed for the storm.

“Now it’s looking like it could be an absolute monster,” Trump said in a video posted on Twitter, adding that food and water were being shipped to Florida.

Governor DeSantis said Floridians need to take the storm seriously.

“Hurricane #Dorian is moving slowly & gaining strength,” DeSantis wrote on Twitter. “Now is the time to get prepared & have a plan.”

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in 12 counties to assist with storm readiness, response and recovery.

‘NOT LOOKING GOOD’

Angela Johnson, a 39-year-old bar manager in South Florida, said on Thursday, “We’re worried. This is not looking good for us.”

“We woke up a lot more scared than we went to bed last night, and the news is not getting any better,” said Johnson, who manages Coconuts On The Beach, a bar and restaurant on the surfing beach in the town of Cocoa Beach.

Officials were making piles of sand available for Cocoa Beach residents to fill sandbags starting on Friday.

Dorian could churn across dozens of launchpads owned by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Air Force and companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.

(Reporting by Zach Fagenson in Miami and Rich McKay in Atlanta; additional reporting by Gabriella Borter, Andrew Hay, Helen Coster in New York, Alexandra Alper, Joey Roulette and Eric Beech in Washington; writing by Paul Simao; editing by Jane Merriman and Jonathan Oatis)

Dorian forecast to become highly dangerous Category 4 hurricane

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis talks to the media during a news conference as Hurricane Dorian approaches the state, at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, U.S. August 29, 2019. REUTERS/Marco Bello

(Reuters) – Hurricane Dorian is forecast to strengthen and become a highly dangerous Category 4 hurricane on Sunday, threatening the Atlantic coast of central and south Florida, the National Hurricane Center said on Thursday.

Spurred on by warm Atlantic waters, Dorian is predicted to pack winds reaching 130 mph (209 kph) in 72 hours, the Miami-based forecasting center said.

That would make it a Category 4 storm, the second-strongest type on the Saffir-Simpson scale for measuring hurricane intensity. The center describes Category 4 storms as capable of causing “catastrophic damage” including severe damage to well-built homes. It said in such storms, “Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed.”

Dorian is likely to make landfall on Florida’s eastern coast on Monday, before lingering over central Florida on Tuesday, forecasters at the hurricane center said in an advisory.

Currently a Category 1 hurricane, Dorian took aim at the Bahamas and the Florida coast on Thursday after sideswiping the Caribbean without doing major damage. Dorian is expected to strengthen and slam the Bahamas and the southeastern United States with rain, strong winds and life-threatening surf over the next few days.

U.S. President Donald Trump urged Floridians to heed official warnings. Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency on Wednesday and asked residents along the state’s east coast to stock up with at least seven days worth of supplies such as food and water.

“Hurricane Dorian looks like it will be hitting Florida late Sunday night,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Be prepared and please follow State and Federal instructions, it will be a very big Hurricane, perhaps one of the biggest!”

The U.S. Coast Guard said all pleasure boats at the Port of Key West should seek safe harbor before the Labor Day weekend begins and ocean-going vessels should make plans to leave the port ahead of the storm.

‘EXTREMELY DANGEROUS’

“Dorian is expected to become a major hurricane on Friday, and remain an extremely dangerous hurricane through the weekend,” the hurricane center said, warning of an increasing likelihood of life-threatening storm surge along portions of Florida’s east coast late in the weekend.

The storm was packing maximum sustained winds of 85 miles per hour (137 km per hour) on Thursday morning some 220 miles (355 km) north-northwest of San Juan, and about 370 miles (600 km) east of the Bahamas, the hurricane center said.

“On this track, Dorian should move over the Atlantic well east of the southeastern and central Bahamas today and on Friday,” forecasters said, “and approach the northwestern Bahamas Saturday.”

The storm could affect big population centers as well as major Florida tourist destinations.

The Universal Orlando Resort theme park, owned by Comcast Corp, said it was following the approaching storm closely.

“We are closely monitoring the weather. At this time our park operations and hours are continuing as normal. We have plans and procedures for serious weather that are time-proven and we will continue to make operating decisions as we learn more,” a theme park representative said in an email.

Dorian is expected to become a major hurricane by Friday afternoon and continue to gain strength until it makes landfall.

Local residents fill their cars with gas after waiting in line ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Kissimmee, Florida, U.S. August 29, 2019. REUTERS/Gregg Newton

Local residents fill their cars with gas after waiting in line ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Kissimmee, Florida, U.S. August 29, 2019. REUTERS/Gregg Newton

Trump issued an emergency declaration on Wednesday night for the U.S. Virgin Islands, ordering federal assistance with disaster relief for the U.S. territory. On Tuesday, he made a similar declaration for Puerto Rico, and also renewed a feud with island officials over how disaster relief funds from previous hurricanes.

Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover from back-to-back hurricanes in 2017 that killed about 3,000 people soon after the island filed for bankruptcy. On Wednesday, it escaped fresh disaster as Dorian avoided the territory and headed toward Florida.

Preparations were mounting in the Bahamas, which could be hard hit.

Jeffrey Simmons, the country’s acting director of the Department of Meteorology, said severe weather could strike the southeast Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands on Friday.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Additional reporting by Helen Coster in New York; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Will Dunham)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meteorologists predicted between 10 and 20 inches (25 and 50 cm) of rain would fall on the Gulf Coast on Friday and Saturday from West Texas through New Orleans and the Louisiana coast.

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

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

The storm will be named Barry if it strengthens into a tropical storm with winds of 39 mph or more on the Saffir Simpson hurricane scale. It will become Hurricane Barry if it reaches wind speeds of 74 mph (119 km) as expected when it makes landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River and just west of New Orleans.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

The National Weather Service said the city had received 6 to 9 inches (15 to 23 cm) of rain by Thursday morning, causing dramatic flooding in the area, including on Bourbon Street in the city’s historic French Quarter.

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

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

U.S. oil firms cut nearly a third of Gulf of Mexico output ahead of storm

FILE PHOTO: A massive drilling derrick is pictured on BP's Thunder Horse Oil Platform in the Gulf of Mexico, 150 miles from the Louisiana coast, May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jessica Resnick-Ault/File Photo

By Collin Eaton and Erwin Seba

HOUSTON (Reuters) – U.S. oil producers on Wednesday cut nearly a third of offshore Gulf of Mexico crude output as what could be one of the first major storms of the Atlantic hurricane season threatened production.

Fifteen oil production platforms and four rigs were evacuated in the north central area of the Gulf of Mexico, according to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), ahead of a storm expected to become a hurricane by Friday.

Exxon Mobil Corp, Chevron Corp, Anadarko Petroleum Corp and others withdrew staff, and some cut production from deepwater platforms as a safety precaution.

The withdrawals helped push U.S. oil futures up 4% to more than $60 a barrel, and lifted gasoline prices. The U.S. Gulf of Mexico produces 17% of U.S. crude oil and 5% of natural gas. Gasoline futures climbed more than 3.5% in New York trading.

A tropical depression is expected to form in the Gulf by Thursday, with the potential to strengthen to a hurricane by the weekend, according to the National Hurricane Center. The system could produce a storm surge and heavy rainfall from Louisiana to the upper Texas coast.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards on Wednesday declared a state of emergency, warning that the storm system could bring up to 15 inches of rain and hurricane-force winds to parts of Louisiana. A state of emergency allows for the activation of the state’s National Guard and the setting of curfews.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June through November.

BSEE said more than 600,000 barrels per day of Gulf oil production and 17% of the region’s natural gas production were shut by producers.

Exxon has evacuated nonessential staff from three platforms in the Gulf, but anticipates little effect on its production, spokeswoman Julie King said.

Anadarko, the third largest U.S. Gulf producer by volume, said it is stopping oil and gas production and removing workers from its four central Gulf facilities: the Constitution, Heidelberg, Holstein and Marco Polo platforms. It said it is also evacuating nonessential staff from eastern Gulf platforms.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc expanded an earlier offshore evacuation to seven platforms and shut more production, the company said on Wednesday.

Operations at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the only U.S. port where the largest crude tankers can load and unload, were normal on Wednesday morning, a spokeswoman said.

Oil refiners Motiva Enterprises and Marathon Petroleum Corp said they were monitoring the developing storm and prepared to implement hurricane plans.

Motiva’s Port Arthur, Texas, refinery was one of four refineries in east Texas inundated by more than 5 feet (1.52 m) of rain in a single day during 2017’s Hurricane Harvey.

Chevron, Phillips 66, Exxon and Royal Dutch Shell were preparing for heavy rain and wind at refineries along the Gulf Coast, company representatives said. Exxon reported operations at its Gulf Coast refineries were normal on Wednesday morning.

Chevron has shut production at five Gulf platforms – Big Foot, Blind Faith, Genesis, Petronius and Tahiti – and has begun to evacuate all workers at those offshore facilities, spokeswoman Veronica Flores-Paniagua said.

BP Plc, the second-largest oil producer in the Gulf by volume, is shutting all production at its four Gulf platforms – Thunder Horse, Atlantis, Mad Dog and Na Kika – which produce more than 300,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

BHP Group Ltd was also removing staff from its two offshore energy platforms, according to a company statement.

Two independent offshore producers, Fieldwood Energy LLC and LLOG Exploration Company LLC, declined to comment.

(Reporting by Collin Eaton and Erwin Seba in Houston; Editing by Gary McWilliams, Matthew Lewis and Leslie Adler)

Cyclone kills one, leaves trail of destruction across Mozambique

Damaged properties are pictured after Cyclone Kenneth swept through the region in Cabo Delgado province, Mozambique April 26, 2019 in this image obtained from social media. Picture taken from inside a vehicle. UNICEF via REUTERS

By Emma Rumney and Stephen Eisenhammer

JOHANNESBURG/LUANDA (Reuters) – Cyclone Kenneth killed at least one person and left a trail of destruction in northern Mozambique, destroying houses, ripping up trees and knocking out power, authorities said on Friday.

The cyclone brought storm surges and wind gusts of up to 280 km per hour (174 mph) when it made landfall on Thursday evening, after killing three people in the island nation of Comoros.

It was the most powerful storm on record to hit Mozambique’s northern coast and came just six weeks after Cyclone Idai battered the impoverished nation, causing devastating floods and killing more than 1,000 people across a swathe of southern Africa.

The World Food Programme warned that Kenneth could dump as much as 600 millimeters of rain on the region over the next 10 days – twice that brought by Cyclone Idai.

One woman in the port town of Pemba died after being hit by a falling tree, the Emergency Operations Committee for Cabo Delgado (COE) said in a statement, while another person was injured.

In rural areas outside Pemba, many homes are made of mud. In the main town on the island of Ibo, 90 percent of the houses were destroyed, officials said. Around 15,000 people were out in the open or in “overcrowded” shelters and there was a need for tents, food and water, they said.

There were also reports of a large number of homes and some infrastructure destroyed in Macomia district, a mainland district adjacent to Ibo.

A local group, the Friends of Pemba Association, had earlier reported that they could not reach people in Muidumbe, a district further inland.

Mark Lowcock, United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, warned the storm could require another major humanitarian operation in Mozambique.

“Cyclone Kenneth marks the first time two cyclones have made landfall in Mozambique during the same season, further stressing the government’s limited resources,” he said in a statement.

FLOOD WARNINGS

Shaquila Alberto, owner of the beach-front Messano Flower Lodge in Macomia, said there were many fallen trees there, and in rural areas people’s homes had been damaged. Some areas of nearby Pemba had no power.

“Even my workers, they said the roof and all the things fell down,” she said by phone.

Further south, in Pemba, Elton Ernesto, a receptionist at Raphael’s Hotel, said there were fallen trees but not too much damage. The hotel had power and water, he said, while phones rang in the background. “The rain has stopped,” he added.

However Michael Charles, an official for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said heavy rains over the next few days were likely to bring a “second wave of destruction” in the form of flooding.

“The houses are not all solid, and the topography is very sandy,” Charles said.

In the days after Cyclone Idai, heavy inland rains prompted rivers to burst their banks, submerging entire villages, cutting areas off from aid and ruining crops. There were concerns the same could happen again in northern Mozambique.

Before Kenneth hit, the government and aid workers moved around 30,000 people to safer buildings such as schools, however authorities said that around 680,000 people were in the path of the storm.

(Reporting by Emma Rumney and Stephen Eisenhammer; Writing by Emma Rumney; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Alexandra Zavis)

Cyclone Kenneth batters Comoros and heads to Mozambique

Tropical Cyclone Kenneth approaches the coast of Mozambique in this April 25, 2019 handout satellite image. NASA/Handout via REUTERS

By Ali Amir Ahmed

MORONI (Reuters) – Violent winds of up to 140 kph (87 mph) lashed the East African island nation of Comoros overnight, killing three people, authorities said on Thursday, as Cyclone Kenneth swept toward flood-battered Mozambique.

In Comoros, the winds caused widespread power outages in the northern part of the main island, Grande Comore, and the capital Moroni as well as on the island of Anjouan, residents said.

By Thursday afternoon, the cyclone was making its way to Mozambique, just over a month after Cyclone Idai tore through central Mozambique, virtually flattening the port city of Beira, flooding an area the size of Luxembourg and killing more than 1,000 people across the region.

Kenneth may strengthen before it makes landfall on the continent, said Dipuo Tawana, forecaster at the South African Weather Service.

It could bring seven- to nine-meter waves and a three-meter storm surge, she said, and was likely to linger over Mozambique, dumping rain until late Monday evening, bringing a risk of intense flooding.

“The rainfall that we forecast for the next four days in the northeastern part of Mozambique – we have between 500 and 1,000 millimeters (19.5 to 39 inches) of rain,” Tawana said.

FLOODS LOOM FOR MOZAMBIQUE

In Comoros, a Reuters correspondent saw fallen trees and debris from homes scattered over streets, and houses with their roofs torn off.

President Azali Assoumani told reporters that three people had been were killed and several others injured.

A few taxis were driving around the center of Moroni on Thursday morning as police and soldiers cleared blocked roads. Government offices and schools were closed.

In Mozambique, authorities said on Wednesday that five rivers as well as coastal waterways could overflow, putting over 680,000 people at risk from the storm.

Antonie Beleza, deputy national director of Mozambique’s Centre for Emergency Operations, said the center had been telling people for days to move out of 17 at-risk districts.

“There were some people, they didn’t want to move as of yesterday, so now we are just taking them out,” he said by phone from the northern port town of Pemba. At least 5,000 people had moved out.

The energy firm Anadarko, which is developing large natural gas fields off Mozambique, said it had suspended air transportation in and out of the site as a precaution.

Exxon Mobil , also involved in the fields, said its operations were normal for now, but that it was monitoring the situation.

(Additional reporting Emma Rumney and Alexander Winning in Johannesburg and Stephen Eisenhammer in Luanda; Writing by Elias Biryabarema and Alison Williams; Editing by Hereward Holland and Kevin Liffey)