Storm barrels through U.S. Midwest with snow and frigid temperatures

Satellite image from the National Weather Service. 2-9-18

By Brendan O’Brien and Suzannah Gonzales

MILWAUKEE, Wis./CHICAGO (Reuters) – A major winter storm barreled into Chicago and Milwaukee early on Friday, dumping heavy snow and dropping temperatures well below freezing as it forced schools to close and threatened to leave travel at a stand still across the Midwest.

The storm system stretches from western Montana across the Dakotas and parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois, and reaches as far east as southern Michigan. The storm could drop up to 14 inches (36 cm) of snow in some areas, the National Weather Service said.

Chicago was anticipating six to 12 inches of snow early on Friday morning with more snow expected over the weekend, according to the service’s weather forecast.

“The city is ready for this,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said during a news conference about the city’s preparedness on Thursday. “Make no mistake though, this is a heavy snow, heavier than we’ve seen in a number of winters.”

City officials announced school closures in Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee because of the weather.

Wind chill temperatures were expected to drop below 0 Fahrenheit (-18 C) in many areas across the region, and officials warned of limited visibility on roads.

Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway international airports canceled more than 200 flights on Thursday before the storm hit, and several airlines were also anticipating delays or cancellations.

United Airlines said on Twitter that waivers were in effect for snow-hit areas this week allowing travelers to change flights without charges, and Delta Air Lines offered to rebook flights on Friday for 18 Midwest cities.

Winter weather across the United States this week killed several people in accidents in the Midwest, including six in Iowa, two in Missouri and one in Montana, local media in those states reported.

(Editing by Peter Graff)

At least six dead in Southern California flooding, mudslides

A search dog looks for victims in damaged homes after a mudslide in Montecito, California, U.S. in this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, January 9, 2018.

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – At least six people died and thousands fled their homes in Southern California on Tuesday as a powerful rainstorm triggered flash floods and mudslides on slopes where a series of intense wildfires had burned off protective vegetation last month.

The heavy downpours subsided early Tuesday after prompting evacuation orders for residents along the Pacific Coast north of Los Angeles, but forecasters warned of more rain throughout the day. Rainfall totals ranged from 2 inches to 4-1/2 inches (5 to 11 cm) in the area, said the National Weather Service.

At least six people died in the storm and mudslides in Santa Barbara County, the hardest-hit county in the region, incident command spokeswoman Amber Anderson said in a telephone interview. She did not specify the cause of the fatalities, but said they occurred in several locations in Santa Barbara where there were mudslides.

The threat of mudslides prompted the county to order 7,000 residents to leave their homes before the rains came and to urge 23,000 others to evacuate voluntarily.

Boulders block a road after a mudslide in Montecito, California, U.S. in this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, January 9, 2018.

Boulders block a road after a mudslide in Montecito, California, U.S. in this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, January 9, 2018. Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department/Handout via REUTERS

The county set up an evacuation shelter at Santa Barbara City College, and also gave residents a place to take their animals. The weather in Southern California was mild this week, so residents who fled their homes did not have to endure the cold snap that has gripped the U.S. Midwest and East Coast in recent weeks.

A neighborhood in the upscale community of Montecito, where mudslides ravaged homes near the city of Santa Barbara, residents had not been put under mandatory evacuation orders before mud from a creek cascaded toward their homes, Anderson said.

But she could not immediately say whether any of the fatalities were in the area that was not evacuated.

An unknown number of people in the county were unaccounted for, Anderson said, and 25 residents have been injured.

Photos posted by the local fire department showed a teenager covered in black mud being led away from the rubble of a house that had been destroyed by the Montecito mudslide. She had been trapped in the home for hours before rescuers came to her aid, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department said on Twitter.

Other pictures showed ankle-deep mud, logs and boulders in residential areas.

Emergency workers, using search dogs and helicopters, have rescued dozens of people stranded in rubble, Anderson said.

Emergency personnel search through debris and damaged homes after a mudslide in Montecito, California, U.S. in this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, January 9, 2018.

Emergency personnel search through debris and damaged homes after a mudslide in Montecito, California, U.S. in this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, January 9, 2018. Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department/Handout via REUTERS

Last month’s wildfires, the largest in California history, left the area vulnerable to mudslides. The fires burned away grass and shrubs that hold the soil in place, and also baked a waxy layer into the earth which prevents water from sinking deeply into the ground.

The overnight rains forced road closures, including a 30-mile (48-km) stretch of U.S. Highway 101, essentially cutting off traffic between Santa Barbara and Ventura counties northwest of Los Angeles. Ventura County escaped with little damage, the county sheriff’s office said.

(Additional reporting by Peter Szekely in New York and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Jonathan Oatis)

In blizzard’s wake, northeastern U.S. brace for intense cold

A pedestrian walks through blinding snow across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City.

By Scott Malone and Jonathan Allen

BOSTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Street crews in the U.S. Northeast raced through the night into Friday to clear snow-clogged streets after a powerful blizzard and restore power to homes ahead of a brutal cold spell that has killed more than a dozen people.

From Baltimore to Caribou, Maine, efforts were under way to clear roadways of ice and snow as wind chill temperatures were to plunge during the day, reaching -40 F (-40 C) in some parts after sundown, according to the National Weather Service.

The brutal cold was forecast to reach from New England across to the Midwest and down to the Carolinas, forecasters warned, adding that low-temperature records could be broken across the broad region in the coming days.

“In a lot of New England, the highs will be in the single digits and the teens today, with intense wind chills,” said Dan Pydynowski, a meteorologist with private forecasting service Accuweather. The cold will extend down to the mid-Atlantic states, he said.

“It can be very dangerous,” Pydynowski said. “Any kind of exposed skin can freeze in a couple of minutes.”

The cold also raised the risk that road salt would not work to melt ice, possibly leaving highway crews to shift over to sanding roads to improve traction, Massachusetts transportation officials said.

Utility companies across the East worked to repair downed power lines early on Friday as about 31,000 customers remained without electricity, down from almost 80,000 the day before, and issued warnings that temperatures may become dangerously low.

“If the temperature in your home begins to fall, we recommend taking shelter elsewhere until service can be restored,” National Grid power company, which serves Massachusetts, said on Twitter. “You can find warming centers by contacting local authorities.”

People walk in Times Square during a winter storm in Manhattan. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

17 DEATHS

The storm, with winds gusts of more than 70 miles per hour (113 kph), dumped a foot (30 cm) or more of snow throughout the region, including Boston and parts New Jersey and Maine, where heavy snow continued to fall early on Friday.

The wintry weather has been blamed for at least 17 deaths in the past few days, including three in North Carolina traffic accidents and three in Texas because of the cold.

Schools in Boston and Baltimore canceled classes Friday while New York was open and Newark, New Jersey, schools were to open two hours late.

Commuter railways serving New York and Boston’s suburbs were reporting extensive delays, as they worked to repair frozen equipment and clear snow-covered tracks.

The storm on Thursday caused a 3-foot (0.9-metre) tidal surge that flooded the area around Boston’s historic Long Wharf with icy seawater. Firefighters used an inflatable raft to rescue one motorist from a car submerged in water up to its door handles, Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn told reporters.

Communities outside Boston, including Scituate, also saw extensive flooding, with parking lots filled with water damaging unoccupied vehicles.

New York’s John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports resumed flights on Friday after closing in whiteout conditions a day earlier. More than 1,000 U.S. flights had been canceled early on Friday with New York’s three major airports and Boston Logan International Airport seeing the most cancellations.

The storm was powered by a rapid plunge in barometric pressure that some weather forecasters called a bombogenesis, or a “bomb cyclone.” It brought high winds and swift, heavy snowfall.

Nearly 500 members of the National Guard were activated along the East Coast to assist with emergency response, including 200 in New York state, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a statement.

Officials reported traffic accidents throughout the Northeast and the storm’s reach extended to eastern Canada.

(Additonal reporting by Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Bill Trott)

Fierce storm knocks out power in U.S. Northeast

A man uses a snowblower to clear snow from a street during a snowstorm in Port Washington, New York, U.S. January 4, 2018.

By Scott Malone and Gina Cherelus

BOSTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – A powerful blizzard battered the Northeast on Thursday, knocking out power for tens of thousands of people and snarling travel amid a long cold snap that has gripped much of the United States for more than a week and killed more than a dozen people.

Thousands of flights were canceled, snow plows and salt trucks rumbled along roads and highways, and New York City’s two main airports halted flights due to whiteout conditions.

Commuters who braved the storm in the morning worried that they could be stranded during the storm’s peak expected later in the day.

“I don’t know where I’ll stay tonight if I get stuck, probably with my boss,” said Ran Richardson, 55, of Malden, Massachusetts, as he waited for a Boston subway to take him to training for his job as a Chinese-English translator.

Schools were ordered closed in New York City, many parts of New Jersey, Boston and elsewhere throughout the region.

Blizzard warnings were in effect along the East Coast from North Carolina to Maine. The National Weather Service forecast winds as high as 70 miles per hour (113 km per hour), which downed power lines.

Some 65,000 homes and businesses in the Northeast were without power, though that number was expected to rise as the storm intensified across the region.

More than a foot (30 cm) of snow was forecast for Boston and coastal areas of northern New England, with as much as 3 inches (7.6 cm) per hour forecast, a pace that made it difficult for plow crews to keep roads clear. Officials feared that fast-dropping temperatures after the storm passed would turn remaining snow on roadways to ice.

High tides also caused flooding in parts of coastal Massachusetts, with seawater rising near buildings, including a hotel and along Boston’s historic Long Wharf, a popular tourist attraction. The water tied a four-decade-old flood record, the National Weather Service’s office said.

Live television images showed multiple fire trucks responding to the area. Boston Fire Department officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The storm was powered by a rapid plunge in barometric pressure that some weather forecasters were referring to as bombogenesis or a “bomb cyclone” and which brought fast, heavy snowfall and high winds.

The bombogenesis phenomenon occurs when a storm’s barometric pressure drops 24 millibars in 24 hours.

The wintry weather has been blamed for at least 13 deaths in the past few days, including three fatalities in North Carolina traffic accidents and three in Texas due to cold.

More than 3,500 U.S. airline flights were canceled. New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport temporarily halted all flights due to whiteout conditions, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

At those airports, the metropolitan area’s third major airport in Newark, New Jersey, and Boston’s Logan International Airport, as many as three out of four flights were called off, according to tracking service FlightAware.com.

Passenger train operator Amtrak was running reduced service in the Northeast. Sporadic delays were reported on transit systems, including New York state’s Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North commuter lines, as well as the Boston area’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) system.

“The MBTA is always going to have problems because so much of its track is outdoors,” said Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban policy and planning at New York University who is an expert on transit issues. Frozen switches and high winds interfere with above-ground train operations, he said.

Officials reported road accidents throughout the Northeast, including in Manchester, New Hampshire, where a 32-year-old woman crashed a vehicle through the wall of a nursing home, according to local police. No one was injured in the incident.

The storm’s impact extended to eastern Canada.

In the Southeast, historic cities saw their heaviest snowfall in nearly 30 years on Wednesday, according to AccuWeather.com senior meteorologist Alan Reppert. Charleston, South Carolina, received 5.3 inches (13.46 cm) of accumulation, within an inch of its record.

Thursday’s power outages raised fears that people would be left without electricity and heat on Friday and during the weekend when temperatures are forecast to plunge.

“Due to strong wind gusts, any power outages are expected to be prolonged because bucket trucks cannot withstand the winds,” Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy told reporters.

(Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Jonathan Allen and Scott DiSavino in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis)

Storm cuts power to 225,000 households in France, one dead

Waves break on the Brittany coast as storm Eleanor approaches Esquibien, France, January 2, 2018.

PARIS (Reuters) – One man died on a ski slope and at least 15 were injured across northern and eastern France on Wednesday in a storm that has cut power to some 225,000 households, local authorities said.

Emergency services said the skier was killed when a tree fell on him.

Storm Eleanor, with winds of more than 120 kph (75 mph), also led to the suspension of ferry lines between the island of Corsica and mainland France.

Households in the eastern regions of Alsace, Franche-Comte and Lorraine were among the worst hit by the storm, Enedis, a unit of state-controlled EDF, said. The area around Paris, northeastern Picardie and Champagne-Ardenne were also affected.

Winter storm Carmen battered western France on Jan. 1, with some 40,000 households in the Brittany region temporarily losing power on Monday.

(Reporting by Sarah White, Simon Carraud, Ingrid Melander; Editing by Alison Williams)

Landslides kill 26 in storm-hit Philippine province

A general view shows search, retrieval, and relief operations ongoing at the flooded areas at Tzu Chi Village in Barangay Liloan, Phillipines, December 17, 2017 in this picture obtained from social media. ORMOC CITY POLICE OFFICE/via REUTERS

MANILA (Reuters) – At least 26 people were killed while several residents were missing in an island province in central Philippines after tropical storm Kai-tak brought heavy rains that triggered landslides, local authorities and media said on Sunday.

Kai-tak cut power supplies in many areas, forced the cancellation of several flights, stranded more than 15,000 people in various ports in the region and prompted nearly 88,000 people to seek shelter in evacuation centers.

An aerial shot shows an impassable Caraycaray Bridge after it was destroyed when Typhoon Kai-tak, locally name Urduja, ravaged Biliran Province, Philippines December 18, 2017. Malacanang Presidential Photo/Handout via REUTERS

An aerial shot shows an impassable Caraycaray Bridge after it was destroyed when Typhoon Kai-tak, locally name Urduja, ravaged Biliran Province, Philippines December 18, 2017. Malacanang Presidential Photo/Handout via REUTERS

The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office of Biliran island said 26 residents had died, but the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has yet to make any official announcement about fatalities.

Biliran Governor Gerardo Espina Jr confirmed the deaths in an interview with DZMM radio, with 23 people still missing, he said.

“We received reports of three deaths coming from the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) but these are for confirmation,” said NDRRMC spokeswoman Romina Marasigan. “We are still trying to check the others.”

Many areas were flooded, damaging crops and infrastructure.

Kai-tak has weakened to a tropical depression after barrelling through the eastern region of Visayas on Saturday, hitting islands and coastal towns such as Tacloban City where supertyphoon Haiyan claimed 8,000 lives in 2013.

Locally known as Urduja, Kai-tak was packing winds of 55 kilometers (31 miles) per hour with gusts of up to 80 km/h, according to a weather bureau bulletin issued at 2000 GMT.

(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz, editing by David Evans)

Windy rainstorm whips U.S. Northeast, cutting power to hundreds of thousands

Storm Summary has been initialized for the deep low pressure system which is bringing damaging winds, heavy rain across the Northeast, even some snow over West Virginia.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Fierce winds and heavy rain downed trees and knocked out power across the U.S. Northeast, halting trains during the Monday morning commute and leaving neighborhoods from Boston to Washington in the dark.

Wind gusts of 82 miles (131.97 km) per hour were reported on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod, while steady rain from Sunday into Monday dumped up to 4 inches (10.16 cm) of water across New England, said National Weather Service meteorologist Marc Chenard.

“There has been quite a bit of wind, and when the ground gets wet like this, trees fall,” Chenard said.

Amtrak train service between Boston and New Haven, Connecticut, was suspended early on Monday as crews scrambled to clear branches and restore power, authorities said.

Connecticut commuters piled onto buses or sought alternative routes after Metro-North Railroad suspended service on its New Canaan line and on its Danbury line, which it said on Twitter was hampered by a mudslide and related signal problems.

More than 800,000 homes and businesses lost electricity overnight throughout the Northeast, including about 300,000 customers in Massachusetts, 270,000 in New Hampshire, 142,000 in Rhode Island, 30,000 on New York’s Long Island, 56,000 in Maine and 35,000 in Vermont, according to local media.

Early on Monday, traffic lights in parts of Washington remained dark due to power outages.

The storm hit the East Coast on the fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. That late-season hurricane killed at least 159 people in New York, New Jersey and other parts of the East Coast on Oct. 29, 2012, and damaged or destroyed more than 650,000 homes.

The National Weather Service said the heaviest rains and winds ended late on Monday morning, but lighter precipitation and some gusts would persist throughout the day.

“The biggest potential now is for more trees to come down and for minor-to-moderate river flooding in eastern New York and much of New England today into tomorrow,” Chenard said.

It was not immediately known how long it would be until power is fully restored.

 

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

 

Tiny Montana firm’s Puerto Rico power deal draws scrutiny

A pick up from Montana-based Whitefish Energy Holdings is parked as workers (not pictured) help fix the island's power grid, damaged during Hurricane Maria in September, in Manati, Puerto Rico October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez

By Susan Heavey, Richard Cowan and Scott DiSavino

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Federal emergency officials raised “significant concerns” on Friday about a $300 million contract between Puerto Rico’s storm-hit power utility and a tiny Montana firm, as Democratic lawmakers stepped up calls for an investigation of the deal.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a statement that after its initial review it “has not confirmed whether the contract prices are reasonable” under the agreement between Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and Whitefish Energy Holdings, a two-year-old firm with just two full-time employees.

The contract between PREPA and Whitefish was awarded without a competitive bidding process.

Whitefish spokesman Ken Luce said the deal was secured when its chief executive and co-owner, Andy Techmanski, flew to Puerto Rico on Sept. 26, six days after Hurricane Maria tore into the bankrupt U.S. territory and knocked out power to all 3.4 million residents.

The contract, and the slow restoration of power on the island, has raised questions about who is effectively managing PREPA’s response to the hurricane, as about 75 percent of homes and businesses still lack electricity after several weeks.

Jose Roman, interim chairman of Puerto Rico’s Energy Commission, said the commission is looking into how Whitefish got the contract as part of a larger investigation to “determine the prudence of the actions of PREPA; not just the Whitefish contract,” he said.

PREPA did not respond to requests for comment.

Puerto Rico’s financial oversight board earlier this week said it would appoint an emergency manager to oversee PREPA, though that has met with pushback from Governor Ricardo Rossello, who may challenge such an effort in court.

It took more than a week after Maria hit the island for a damage assessment to be completed by PREPA, the chronically underfunded state utility. Eventually, FEMA put the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in charge of short-term power restoration.

 

ZINKE: I HAD “NOTHING TO DO” WITH CONTRACT

A growing number of U.S. lawmakers have raised questions about the contract, the slow pace of power restoration, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s connections with Whitefish.

Representative Raul Grijalva, the senior Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, and Representative Peter DeFazio, the top Democrat on the Transportation Committee, asked the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general in a letter to investigate the contract’s execution, its terms, and “whether there was any political impetus behind the contract.”

The representatives noted that Whitefish is based in Zinke’s hometown and that Zinke’s son once worked for Whitefish. The letter also stated that a Whitefish financial backer, HBC Investments, was founded by Joe Colonnetta, a contributor to President Donald Trump’s campaign, as well as “many other Republican candidates.”

Zinke said in a release that “I had absolutely nothing to do with Whitefish Energy receiving a contract in Puerto Rico.” After the initial contract was awarded, “I was contacted by the company, on which I took no action,” he said.

White House spokesman Raj Shah said that the administration’s “understanding” was that the contract was awarded solely by PREPA, and they are “not aware of any federal involvement” in the deal.

U.S. Senate Democrats urged FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a letter to unify efforts to restore power on the island.

They also called on FEMA and PREPA to name a top official to oversee all electrical contracts, and urged federal officials to more quickly clear crews from two companies, Fluor Corp <FLR.N> and PowerSecure, so they can begin restoration work.

Several utilities are involved in restoration, including Fluor, Whitefish, JEA, New York Power Authority, and others. Whitefish and its subcontractors have more than 300 people on the island, Luce said.

Techmanski first got in touch with PREPA following Hurricane Irma, during a bidding process to repair damages from that storm, which hit Puerto Rico two weeks before Maria, Luce said.

A copy of the contract surfaced online Thursday night, raising more questions, particularly over language blocking oversight of costs and profits.

“In no event shall PREPA, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the FEMA administrator, the Comptroller General of the United States or any other authorized representatives have the right to audit or review the cost and profit elements,” said the document, published by several media outlets, whose authenticity was confirmed by Democratic staffers for the Natural Resources Committee.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called for the immediate termination of the contract, saying “no federally-funded contract should be immune from routine oversight or circumvent a federal audit.”

Costs listed for hourly wages ranged in the hundreds of dollars and daily per diems of more than $330 for accommodations and nearly $80 for food, according to the “bid schedule” published online. The document put the cost of one-way airline flights for employees at $1,000.

Luce defended the deal, saying the company welcomed an audit or questions from Washington. “The contract was done in good faith with PREPA,” he said.

Rossello has also defended the contract, even as he ordered an audit. Initial results of the audit are expected to be released later on Friday, according to NBC News.

 

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Richard Cowan, Timothy Gardner; additional reporting by Scott DiSavino, Jessica Resnick-Ault and Nicholas Brown; editing by Tom Brown and Diane Craft)

 

Typhoon leaves flooding, four dead in Japan before moving out to sea

A collapsed road is seen following torrential rain caused by typhoon Lan in Kishiwada, Japan in this photo taken by Kyodo on October 23, 2017. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) – A rapidly weakening typhoon Lan made landfall in Japan on Monday, setting off landslides and flooding that prompted evacuation orders for tens of thousands of people, but then headed out to sea after largely sparing the capital, Tokyo.

Four people were reported killed, hundreds of plane flights canceled, and train services disrupted in the wake of Lan, which had maintained intense strength until virtually the time it made landfall west of Tokyo in the early hours of Monday.

At least four people were killed, including a man who was hit by falling scaffolding, a fisherman tending to his boat, and a young woman whose car had been washed away by floodwaters.

Another casualty was left comatose by injuries and a man was missing, NHK public television said. Around 130 others suffered minor injuries.

Rivers burst their banks in several parts of Japan and fishing boats were tossed up on land. A container ship was stranded after being swept onto a harbor wall but all 19 crew members escaped injury.

Some 80,000 people in Koriyama, a city 200 km (124 miles) north of Tokyo, were ordered to evacuate as a river neared the top of its banks, NHK said, but by afternoon water levels were starting to fall. Several hundred houses in western Japan were flooded.

“My grandchild lives over there. The house is fine, but the area is flooded, and they can’t get out,” one man told NHK.

Lan had weakened to a category 2 storm when it made landfall early on Monday, sideswiping Tokyo, after powering north for days as an intense category 4 storm, according to the Tropical Storm Risk monitoring site.

Lan is the Marshall islands word for “storm”.

By Monday afternoon the storm had been downgraded to a tropical depression and it was in the Pacific, east of the northernmost main island of Hokkaido, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

Around 350 flights were canceled and train services disrupted over a wide area of Japan, although most commuter trains were running smoothly in Tokyo.

Toyota Motor Corp canceled the first shift at all of its assembly plants but said it would operate the second shift as normal.

 

(Additional reporting by Junko Fujita and Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Michael Perry & Simon Cameron-Moore)

 

One dead as Storm Ophelia batters Ireland

A lighthouse is seen as storm Ophelia approaches South Stack in Anglesey, Wales, Britain, October 16, 2017

By Clodagh Kilcoyne

LAHINCH, Ireland (Reuters) – A woman was killed as Tropical Storm Ophelia battered Ireland’s southern coast on Monday, knocking down trees and power lines and whipping up 10-metre (30-foot) waves.

Over 230,000 homes and businesses were without electricity with more outages expected and almost 150 flights were canceled from Ireland’s two main airports at Dublin and Shannon.

The woman in her 50s was killed by a tree falling on her car in the southeastern county of Waterford, police said. A female passenger in her 70s was injured. Police corrected an earlier report that the victim was in her 20s.

The storm, downgraded from a hurricane overnight, was the worst to hit Ireland in half a century. It made landfall after 10:40 a.m. (0940 GMT), the Irish National Meteorological Service said, with winds as strong as 176 kph (110 mph) hitting the most southerly tip of the country and flooding likely.

“These gusts are life-threatening. Do not be out there,” the chairman of Ireland’s National Emergency Coordination Group, Sean Hogan, said on national broadcaster RTE.

Schools, hospitals and public transport services were closed and the armed forces were sent to bolster flood defences. Photos on social media showed the roof of a stand at Cork City soccer club’s Turner’s Cross stadium had collapsed.

Hurricane Ophelia image captured by NASA is seen in space, October 14, 2017 in this still obtained from social media.

Hurricane Ophelia image captured by NASA is seen in space, October 14, 2017 in this still obtained from social media. NASA SPORT/ via REUTERS

Hurricane force winds are expected in every part of the country, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said, advising people to stay indoors. The transport minister said it was not safe to drive.

“While the storm in some parts of the country is not yet that bad, it is coming your way,” Varadkar told a news conference.

Britain’s meteorological service put an Amber Weather Warning into effect for Northern Ireland from 1400-2100 GMT, saying the storm posed a danger to life and was likely to cause transport cancellations, power cuts and flying debris.

“Impactful weather” is expected in other western and northern parts of the United Kingdom, it said.

British media are comparing Ophelia to the “Great Storm” of 1987, which subjected parts of the United Kingdom to hurricane strength winds 30 years ago to the day.

The storm is expected to move towards western Scotland overnight.

The Irish government said the storm was likely to be the worst since Hurricane Debbie, which killed 11 in Ireland in 1961.

It is likely to pass close to a west of Ireland golf course owned by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been planning a wall to protect its greens from coastal erosion.

Similar sized storms in the past have changed the shape of stretches of the Irish coastline, climatologists said.

 

(Additional reporting and writing by Padraic Halpin and Conor Humphries; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Robin Pomeroy)