Flights axed and floods feared as Storm Ciara clobbers Europe

By Kylie MacLellan

LONDON (Reuters) – Storm Ciara lashed Britain and northern continental Europe with heavy rain and wind speeds that reached more than 90 miles an hour (145 kph) in places on Sunday, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights, train services and sports matches.

More than 200 flood warnings were issued across Britain, which recorded a maximum wind speed of 93 miles an hour at Aberdaron in Wales. One severe flood warning was put in place in Yorkshire, northern England, where water was predicted to overflow flood defenses and potentially threaten lives.

The storm caused major disruption to transport across the region; in the Netherlands, around 240 flights to and from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, one of Europe’s busiest, were canceled as Ciara roared in off the Atlantic with gusts of up to 74 mph (120 kph).

In Germany, where Ciara was named Sabine, about 180 flights to and from Frankfurt airport – about 15% of all planned flights – were axed. Lufthansa <LHAG.DE>, Germany’s largest carrier, said it would cancel short and long-haul flights from Munich airport on Monday until 1200 GMT and 1300 GMT, respectively.

Lufthansa’s budget unit Eurowings said it had suspended flight operations at Hamburg, Berlin, Hanover, Dortmund, Duesseldorf, Cologne and Stuttgart. Meanwhile, some British domestic and international flights were also canceled, from airports including Heathrow and Gatwick.

Train services also fell victim to Ciara’s wrath.

German railway operator Deutsche Bahn warned of severe disruptions and said it would stop long-distance train travel across Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, in the evening.

Britain’s Network Rail said the weather had caused problems across its network, with fallen power lines, trees and even trampolines blocking tracks, and warned people not to travel unless they had to.

SPORT DISRUPTED

All shipping movements in and out of Britain’s Port of Dover on the south coast were suspended and the Humber Bridge in northern England was closed to all traffic for only the second time since it opened in 1981.

London’s eight royal parks, home to more than 170,000 trees, were closed and even the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, a tourist draw, was also canceled.

Sporting events were also hit; Manchester City said its English Premier League soccer match against West Ham was postponed due to “extreme and escalating weather conditions”, while Scotland’s Women’s Six Nations rugby match against England was among the other matches canceled.

All professional Dutch soccer matches were canceled, along with most outdoor sporting events.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan in London, Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt and Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Editing by Pravin Char)

US announces $30 million to bolster coasts from flooding, rising seas

Communities are seen surrounded by water and wetlands in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, August 25, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

US announces $30 million to bolster coasts from flooding, rising seas
By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The U.S. government’s oceans and waterways agency will provide $30 million to improve coastal resilience, officials said, aiming to reduce the impacts of worsening storms, flooding and rising seas in nearly half of U.S. states.

Grants through the program are designed to restore or expand coastal wetlands, dunes, reefs, mangroves and barrier islands that are key to coastal protection, said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in an announcement.

Coastlines worldwide are being damaged or threatened by more extreme and destructive weather, higher temperatures and rising seas that scientists attribute to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Climate change will cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century, said a government report late last year that cited the impact on health, infrastructure and industry, as well as water and ocean resources, sometimes called the “blue economy.”

“The Blue Economy drives our nation’s prosperity and growth, and yet our coastal areas remain vulnerable to extreme events like hurricanes and flooding,” said Neil Jacobs, acting NOAA administrator, in a statement.

President Donald Trump, who has previously dismissed climate change as a hoax, recently notified the United Nations that the United States will leave the Paris climate accord, under which world nations agreed to cut emissions to slow warming.

The NOAA funding, announced Monday, consists of 44 grants for projects such as rebuilding the shoreline and restoring marshland in the southern state of Louisiana.

One funded project will build up wetlands along a Lake Pontchartrain levee adjacent to New Orleans, said John Lopez, director of the coast and community program for Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, a local non-profit group.

Wetlands act as buffers, reducing the energy and surges of powerful storms such as Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the area in 2005.

“The levees can protect communities, but we need our wetlands to protect our levees,” Lopez told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Grants will go to 23 U.S. states, NOAA said.

Partners in the grants, part of the National Coastal Resilience Fund, are the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), created by Congress to provide conservation grants, along with energy giant Shell Oil Company and TransRe, a global reinsurance company.

NOAA did not disclose how much money was being provided by the private concerns.

A Shell spokeswoman said the company finances seven grants with the NFWF, each for several hundred thousand dollars. She did not provide further specifics.

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Laurie Goering

Powerful storm sweeps across northern U.S. plains bringing snow, high winds

(Reuters) – A powerful snowstorm swept across parts of the central and northern U.S. plains in unseasonably cold temperatures and high winds on Thursday, forcing school closures and dozens of vehicle crashes on slick roads across the region.

The system was expected to produce up to 2 feet (61 cm) of snow in parts of central and eastern North Dakota and up to 10 inches of snow in portions of Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana through Saturday evening, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

“It is significant, historic amounts for this time of year” in North Dakota, said NWS meteorologist Renee Wise.

The heavy, wet snow was accompanied by sleet and ice, making road travel treacherous if not impossible in some areas, the weather service said.

“It makes it more difficult to shovel and travel in. Some people were saying that with the snow on the roads this morning it was little bit like wet concrete mix,” Wise said.

Temperatures were forecast to dip into the teens while wind gusts were expected to reach 40 mph (65 kph) in parts of the region, the NWS said.

A blizzard warning was issued for communities in northern North Dakota from 10 a.m. Friday until 1 p.m. Saturday. The NWS said it expected three feet of snow and wind gusts to reach 60 mph, causing whiteout conditions and impassable drifts.

Winter storm, high wind and freeze warnings were also in effect for much of the U.S. Plains, from North Dakota south through Kansas and into Oklahoma and into northern Texas as of Thursday afternoon, with some warnings extending into Saturday.

In the Denver metro area, icy roads on Thursday caused dozens of crashes and semi-trucks to jackknife, closing some highways. Conditions were expected to worsen throughout the day as the city was expecting three inches of snow, the Denver Post reported.

“Tons of cars sliding everywhere, even trucks – really scary and unsafe!!,” said a Twitter user named Mehgan Russell, who said they lived in Denver.

The snowstorm forced schools to close in Denver on Thursday after schools were closed in Spokane, Washington, on Wednesday.

Some 136 flights were delayed and another 24 were canceled at Denver International Airport due to snow and ice, the online tracking site FlightAware.com reported.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago)

Storm halts flights into Houston, city braces for torrential Imelda rains

HOUSTON (Reuters) – All flights into Houston’s international airport, one of the busiest in the United States, were halted on Tuesday as Tropical Depression Imelda inundated southeastern Texas with heavy rains and triggered flash flood warnings.

The George Bush Intercontinental Airport tweeted that it was under a “full ground stop” while the National Weather Service said flash flood warnings were in effect for the Houston area through the evening.

The National Hurricane Center forecast that up to 35 inches (89 cm) could fall in some coastal areas, while Energy Texas said over 37,000 people were without power so far. Work at oil refineries southeast of Houston was also slowed or halted.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner asked city residents to avoid roads as Imelda’s slow-moving rain bands were expected to hit their peak in the afternoon.

Turner said the city was better prepared to rescue any stranded residents and deal with flooding than when Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017, leading to dozens of deaths in Houston and billions of dollars in damage.

The mayor said that as of mid-morning, a small number of residents had been evacuated because of flooding in northeast Houston.

Millions of people in and around Houston and nearby western Louisiana were under flash flood watches on Thursday as the National Weather Service predicted a final 4 to 10 inches (10 to 25 cm) of rainfall throughout the day.

The small town of Winnie, about 60 miles (100 km) east of Houston, was badly hit. Officials there evacuated Riceland Hospital and tried to rescue people marooned in their vehicles after roads turned into lakes.

“The community of Winnie is being devastated by rising water,” the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement, advising residents that the Red Cross had opened a shelter and that emergency officials were rescuing people by boat.

Parts of Interstate 10, a major east-west highway, were closed near Winnie.

Imelda made landfall as a tropical storm near Freeport, Texas on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Gary McWilliams in Houston, Jonathan Allen in New York and Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas; Editing by Will Dunham and Steve Orlofsky)

Dorian to hit Bahamas as ‘devastating’ hurricane, then menace Georgia and Carolinas

Hurricane Dorian is seen from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA's GOES-East Satellite, over the Atlantic Ocean, August 31, 2019 in this handout image obtained from social media. NOAA/Handout via REUTERS

By Zachary Fagenson

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Reuters) – Hurricane Dorian punched northwest on Saturday to threaten Georgia and the Carolinas, possibly sparing Florida a direct hit, as the Bahamas braced for catastrophic waves and wind from the muscular category 4 storm.

Florida towns told residents to remain vigilant despite forecasts they might dodge a Dorian landfall, as a tropical storm watch was issued for the state’s south Atlantic coast.

Communities in northeast Florida, Georgia and South Carolina raised alert levels, with residents filling sandbags as authorities tested infrastructure and hurricane drills. South Carolina on Saturday joined Georgia, North Carolina and Florida in declaring a state of emergency.

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis begged residents of Abaco and Grand Bahamas to head for the main island to escape the “devastating, dangerous” storm.

Hurricane Dorian is seen from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA-42 WP-3D Orion aircraft during a reconnaissance mission over the Atlantic Ocean, August 30, 2019 in this handout image obtained from social media. Picture taken August 30, 2019. LCDR Robert Mitchell/NOAA/Handout via REUTERS

“I want you to remember: homes, houses, structures can be replaced. Lives cannot be replaced,” Minnis told a news conference, adding that 73,000 people and 21,000 homes were at risk to storm surges of up to 15 feet (4.6 meters).

At 5 p.m. ET (2100 GMT)The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Dorian was packing maximum sustained winds of 150 mph (240 kph) and would hit the Bahamas on Sunday with more than two feet of rainfall in places, threatening deadly flash floods.

Dorian could then veer northwest and possibly remain at sea as it moved up the U.S. eastern seaboard late on Monday through Tuesday, the NHC said.

A tropical storm watch was issued for a more than 120-mile stretch (193 km) of Florida coast from Deerfield Beach to around Palm Bay, meaning sustained winds of up to 73 mph (117 kmh)were possible within 48 hours.

North Carolina authorities warned residents Dorian was heading their way, while counterparts in Florida told towns to remain alert.

“While obviously for us it’s a better forecast, we can’t assume that there’s not going to be hazardous weather,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber.

BAHAMAS ON SUNDAY

Central Florida towns urged residents to remain alert after past hurricanes like 1992’s Andrew slammed the Bahamas and then barreled straight into the peninsula’s southeast coast.

“Don’t start taking down your shutters, don’t start disassembling your emergency plan,” said Eric Flowers, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office in Indian River County.

On Tybee Island, a Georgia coastal barrier island, authorities put out sand for sandbags to protect against possible flooding in the marshy area.

“Our biggest concern is storm surge because the tides are really high right now,” said the manager of a local restaurant, who asked not be named as he was not authorized to speak to media.

Further north, Dorchester County in South Carolina raised its alert level to make sure infrastructure and public safety crews were ready for the hurricane in the area near the historic city of Charleston.

North Carolina Emergency Management (NCEMA) said the storm was forecast to keep moving in the state’s direction for the next 48 hours.

“Now is the time to prepare and assemble disaster supplies,” said Katie Webster, an NCEMA meteorologist, urging people to prepare a week’s supply of food and water.

(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson in Jacksonville, Andrew Hay in New Mexico; Additional reporting by Daniel Wallis in New York; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Franklin Paul)

NHC sees 80% chance of cyclone off North Carolina

Location map, National Hurricane Center

(Reuters) – A low pressure area located about 280 miles (451 km) south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina has an 80% chance of becoming a tropical cyclone over the next 48 hours, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said on Monday.

The system is forecast to move slowly north-eastward, well offshore of the southeastern United States, the Miami-based weather forecaster added.

(Reporting by K. Sathya Narayanan in Bengaluru; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

Back-to-back hurricanes churn towards Hawaii

Hurricanes Erick and Flossie 7-31-19

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) – Back-to-back hurricanes churned in the eastern Pacific on Wednesday towards Hawaii, with one set to lose punch when it reaches the U.S. archipelago state even as its mate gains might.

The closest to Hawaii was Hurricane Erick, which swelled from a tropical storm on Monday to a Category 4 hurricane on Tuesday on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale.

But it has since weakened to Category 3 with sustained winds of 125 mph (205 kph), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami said on Wednesday.

It was about 695 miles (1,115 km) from Hawaii’s Big Island.

Erick is expected to continue to lose its might, dwindling back into a tropical storm by the time it makes its closest approach to Hawaii.

It is forecast to skirt south of the Big Island on Friday morning. Meteorologists see a higher chance of gale-force winds from the storm on the Big Island later this week.

Meanwhile, farther east in the Pacific, Hurricane Flossie, a Category 1 with sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph), is expected to gradually gain power and speed over the next few days, the NHC said early on Wednesday.

It was about 1,150 miles (1,850 km) southwest of the Mexican state of Baja California, an advisory said, and was slowly headed west, getting stronger over the next few days.

The latest forecast shows it approaching the island by 8 p.m. Sunday, a forecaster at the NHC said.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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)

After Cyclone Idai, thousands still cut off, many more in need: aid agencies

FILE PHOTO: Women wait to receive aid at a camp for the people displaced in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai in John Segredo near Beira, Mozambique March 31, 2019. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – One month after Cyclone Idai tore through southern Africa bringing devastating floods, aid agencies say the situation remains critical with some communities in worst-hit Mozambique only just being reached with aid.

The storm made landfall in Mozambique on March 14, flattening the port city of Beira before moving inland to batter Malawi and Zimbabwe.

It heaped rain on the region’s highlands that then flowed back into Mozambique, leaving an area the size of Luxembourg under water. More than 1,000 people died across the three countries, and the World Bank has estimated more than $2 billion will be needed for them to recover.

FILE PHOTO: Survivors of cyclone Idai arrive at Coppa business centre to receive aid in Chipinge, Zimbabwe, March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/File Photo

Over the weekend, aid agencies said thousands of people were still completely cut off and warned of the potential for a catastrophic hunger crisis to take hold, especially as aid appeals went largely underfunded.

Dorothy Sang, Oxfam’s humanitarian advocacy manager, said an aid drop was being planned for an isolated area where just last week 2,000 people were found for the first time since the storm. They had been surviving on coconuts, dates and small fish they could catch.

Oxfam estimates there are 4,000 people still cut off. Sang added that while often these weren’t the worst-hit by the disaster, they were already living in chronic poverty and now face huge challenges to survive.

“They risk becoming utterly forgotten,” she said.

On Sunday, Care International said the destruction of crops would compound existing food security problems across the region, and called on donors to find additional funds for the response.

Mozambique’s $337 million humanitarian response plan, largely made up of an appeal for $281 million after the cyclone hit, remained only 23 percent funded on Monday.

The United Nations has also requested $294 million for Zimbabwe, an appeal currently 11 percent funded. The government has separately asked for $613 million to help with the humanitarian crisis.

Meanwhile, U.N. children’s agency Unicef warned at least 1.6 million children need some kind of urgent assistance, from healthcare to education, across all three countries. Save the Children also said many are traumatized after witnessing the death and destruction wrought by the storm.

Machiel Pouw, Save the Children’s response team leader, said children and their families needed long-term help to recover.

“After a disaster of this scale, the world must not look away.”

(Reporting by Emma Rumney; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Deadly storms leave thousands without power in eastern U.S

A view of clouds, part of a weather system seen from near Franklin, Texas, U.S., in this still image from social media video dated April 13, 2019. TWITTER @DOC_SANGER/via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Tornadoes, wind gusts of up to 70 mph and pounding hail remained threats early on Monday from eastern New York and into New England, as the remnants of a deadly storm push out to sea, the National Weather Service said.

More than 79,000 homes and businesses were without power in Virginia, according to the tracking site PowerOutage.US, with 89,000 more outages reported across Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan, Maryland and New York.

The affected areas will get heavy rains, winds with gusts of up to 70 mph (110 kph) and the possibility of hail, NWS Weather Prediction Center in Maryland said.

“This is an ongoing threat,” said Brian Hurley, from the center.

“There are short spin-ups, pockets of heavy rain and damaging winds that can still hit before this pushes off shore.”

The weekend’s storm brought tornadoes that killed at least five people, including three children, in the U.S. South, officials said.

The massive storm system sped from Texas eastward with dozens of twisters reported as touching down across the South from Texas through Georgia into Pennsylvania.

Nearly 2,300 U.S. flights were canceled by Sunday evening, more then 90 percent of them at airports in Chicago; Houston, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Pittsburgh; Columbus, Ohio and a dozen major airports on the Eastern Seaboard, according to FlightAware.com.

But no major flight delays were reported on the east coast before 6 a.m. Monday.

The storm’s cold front brought snow to Chicago on Sunday, with 1 to 3 inches (2.5-7.6 cm) reported in central Illinois.

Two children, siblings aged three and eight, were killed on Saturday when a tree fell on the car in which they were sitting in Pollok, Texas, said a spokeswoman for the Angelina County Sheriff’s Department.

A third child, Sebastian Omar Martinez, 13, drowned late on Saturday when he fell into a drainage ditch filled with flash floodwaters near Monroe, Louisiana, said Deputy Glenn Springfield of the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office.

In another storm death nearby, an unidentified victim’s body was trapped in a vehicle submerged in floodwaters in Calhoun, Louisiana, Springfield said.

In Mississippi, Governor Phil Bryant said one person was killed and 11 injured over the weekend as tornadoes ripped through 17 counties and left 26,000 homes and businesses without electricity.

In addition, three people were killed when a private jet crashed in Mississippi on Saturday, although Bryant said it was unclear whether it was caused by the weather.

Soaking rains could snarl the Monday morning commute on the East Coast before the storm moves off to sea.

“The biggest impact rush hour-wise probably will be Boston, around 7 to 8 o’clock in the morning, and around New York City around 5 or 6 o’clock, before sunrise,” NWS meteorologist Bob Oravec said.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, and Barbara Goldberg and Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Alison Williams)