Storm to clobber U.S. Midwest with snow, wind and frigid temps

A jogger runs through the rain past the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, U.S., February 7, 2018.

By Brendan O’Brien

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – A storm is expected to clobber Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee with heavy snow, gusty winds and freezing temperatures that will slow travel for millions of commuters on Thursday evening and Friday.

The storm system that stretches from western Montana across parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois and east into southern Michigan will drop as much 12 inches (30 cm) of snow and produce 35 miles per hour (56 kph) winds, the National Weather Service said in several advisories.

“Periods of snow will cause primarily travel difficulties. Be prepared for snow covered roads and limited visibilities,” the service said in an advisory for southern Wisconsin.

Wind chill temperatures were expected to drop below 0 Fahrenheit (-18 C) in many areas across the region on Thursday night and into Friday morning.

United Airlines said on Twitter the storm was expected to impact operations this week and that travel waivers were in effect for areas affected by the snow.

Winter weather across the United States over the last several days has killed several people in accidents in the Midwest since Monday, including six in Iowa, two in Missouri and one in Montana, local media in those states reported.

(Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

Deadly winter storm delays travel in U.S. Midwest, Northeast

Weather conditions for winter storm 2-6-18 National Weather Service

(Reuters) – A winter storm will dump snow and freezing rain on the U.S. Midwest and the Northeast beginning on Tuesday after it caused several deaths as it snarled highways and spurred the cancellation of hundreds of flights at Chicago’s main airport.

The National Weather Service warned commuters in northern Texas, east through southern Illinois and Indiana, and New York and Massachusetts, to watch for icy road conditions, wind gusts and reduced visibility throughout the day and into Wednesday.

“The ice and snow will result in difficult travel conditions,” the NWS said in an advisory. “Motorists are strongly urged to slow down and allow plenty of time to reach their destinations.”

Winds of 40-miles an hour(65 kph) and as much as 4 inches (10 cm) of snow are expected across the affected regions, with parts of New York and Vermont getting as much as a foot of snow, the NWS said.

The storm was responsible for the death of six people on Monday in crashes throughout Iowa, the Des Moines Register reported.

Two people also died in southwest Missouri and more than 70 others were injured after icy roads caused a high number of crashes, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

At Chicago’s busy O’Hare International Airport, the storm caused the cancellation of more than 460 flights, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Blizzard roars into U.S. Northeast, snarling travel

A lone visitor takes a picture near the brink of the ice covered Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls, Canada.

By Gina Cherelus and Scott Malone

NEW YORK/BOSTON (Reuters) – The first major winter storm of 2018 bore down on the U.S. Northeast on Thursday, closing schools and government offices and disrupting travel as work crews scrambled to clear roads of snow before plummeting temperatures turn it to treacherous ice.

After bringing rare snowfall to the southeast a day earlier, the storm carried rapid accumulation and high winds to New York, where subway systems appeared less crowded than usual as many commuters heeded officials’ warnings to stay home.

Blizzard warnings were in place along the coast from North Carolina to Maine, with the National Weather Service forecasting winds as high as 55 miles per hour (89 kph) that may bring down tree limbs and knock out power.

More than a foot (30 cm) of snow was forecast for Boston and coastal areas in northern New England.

The storm is the product of a rapid and rare plunge in barometric pressure that some weather forecasters are referring to as bombogenesis, or the so-called “bomb cyclone.”

The term comes from the merging of two words: bomb and cyclogenisis, according to private forecaster AccuWeather.

On Wednesday, the storm dumped snow on Florida’s capital Tallahassee for the first time in 30 years, and was expected to last through the day.

About 3,000 airline flights within, into or out of the United States were canceled ahead of the storm’s arrival on Thursday, with New York’s three major airports and Boston’s Logan International seeing as many as three out of four flights called off, according to tracking service FlightAware.com.

Federal government offices planned to delay opening for two hours on Thursday, while state officials in Connecticut and Massachusetts ordered non-essential workers to stay home. In Maine, Governor Paul LePage ordered state offices closed for the day.

“Travel conditions are expected to be treacherous,” LePage said in a statement. “Avoiding unnecessary travel will keep accidents to a minimum and allow state and municipal road crews to safely go about their work.”

The snow storm brought a break in extreme cold temperatures that have gripped much of the region since Christmas, frozen part of the Niagara Falls, played havoc with public works and impeded firefighting in places where temperatures barely broke 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 6 centigrade).

But forecasters warned temperatures would drop sharply on Friday and into the weekend. That left work crews scrambling to clear snow off roadways and sidewalks on Thursday before it freezes to ice and makes conditions more treacherous for pedestrians and drivers alike.

“These are tough conditions to move around in, so if you don’t need to be on the road … you shouldn’t,” said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Twitter. “Everyone needs to take this weather very seriously.”

Schools were ordered to close in New York, many parts of New Jersey, Boston and other cities through the region.

A woman walks down the street during a blizzard in Long Beach, New York, U.S. January 4, 2018.

A woman walks down the street during a blizzard in Long Beach, New York, U.S. January 4, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

SOUTHERN SNOW

Private forecaster AccuWeather said snow would fall quickly during the day, at a rate of several inches per hour, with the storm intensified by the bombogenesis effect.

The phenomenon occurs when a storm’s barometric pressure drops by 24 millibars in 24 hours. As a result, the accumulation of snow and winds intensifies, which can cause property damage and power outages.

More than 35,000 customers were without power in Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia early on Thursday, utilities reported online.

A part of US-13 at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in Virginia was closed due to high winds early on Thursday while state transportation departments throughout the region reported dozens of delays due to deteriorating roads conditions.

Late on Wednesday, a baggage car and two sleeper cars on an Amtrak train traveling from Miami to New York, with 311 passengers aboard, derailed as it was slowly backing into a station in Savannah, Georgia. No one was injured, an Amtrak spokesman said.

The cold has been blamed for at least nine deaths over the past few days, including those of two homeless people in Houston.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Alison Williams and Bernadette Baum)

U.S. airport immigration computers go down temporarily

People queue at the immigration lines during a systems outage at Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle, Washington, U.S. in this January 1, 2018 picture obtained from social media

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Immigration desk computers at various airports went down for about two hours on Monday, causing long lines for travelers entering the United States after year-end holidays, according to Customs and Border Protection and posts on social media.

The processing system outage began at about 7:30 p.m. EST and was resolved about 9:30 EST, the customs agency said in a statement. All airports were back on line after wait times for travelers that were longer than usual, it said.

“At this time, there is no indication the service disruption was malicious in nature,” the agency said. It gave no explanation for the disruption and said travelers were processed using alternative procedures.

Travelers entering the United States from overseas posted photos on social media of long lines at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

“No one has been getting past JFK Airport immigration for the last hour. Line is a few 100 deep. Seems like their system did completely go down. Happy New Year!” said Jessica Yang, a program manager at Microsoft, in a Twitter post.

Other airports, including Denver International Airport, also said they were affected. A similar computer outage occurred a year ago.

“Operations returning to normal as @CustomsBorder computer issue resolved. Issue affected other US airports. Thanks for your patience,” Miami International Airport said in a Twitter post.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Paul Tait)

More flights canceled after Atlanta airport’s day without power

More flights canceled after Atlanta airport's day without power

(Reuters) – Hundreds of flights were canceled into and out of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Monday, a day after a paralyzing 11-hour power outage at the world’s busiest airport left passengers marooned on airplanes idling on the tarmac.

More than 400 planned flights to or from Atlanta were scrapped and another 86 were delayed, according to the FlightAware tracking service.

The airport lost power on Sunday morning after what Georgia Power <GPJA.N> believes was an equipment failure and subsequent fire in an underground electrical facility. Power for essential activities was restored by 11.45 p.m., the utility company said.

By then, miserable would-be passengers had posted pictures and videos that were widely shared online of their confinement inside planes stuck outside darkened terminals as boredom and hunger mounted. They were all disembarked safely by about 10 p.m., nine hours after the outage began. More than 1,100 flights were canceled on Sunday.

Officials at the airport, which is run by the city of Atlanta, sought to mollify customers on Sunday with thousands of free meals, water and parking spots as power began to return.

While some stranded travelers found rooms in hotels, city authorities also provided shelter at the Georgia International Convention Center.

Delta said customers whose travel was disrupted could make a one-time change to travel plans within certain guidelines. Other airlines also offered waivers for flight changes. Delta said its flight schedule in Atlanta was expected to return to normal by Monday afternoon.

More than 100 million trips and connections began or ended at the airport in 2015, according to Airports Council International.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Record number of Americans to travel during Christmas holiday: AAA

Record number of Americans to travel during Christmas holiday: AAA

By Jarrett Renshaw

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. travelers will hit the roads, rails and skies this Christmas holiday in their largest numbers on record, lured by cheap plane tickets and a growing economy, the nation’s largest motor advocacy group said on Thursday.

Roughly 107.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles (80 km) or more from home during Dec. 23 through Jan. 1, a 3.1 percent increase from a year earlier and the most ever recorded, AAA said in a report.

That would be the sixth consecutive record high for the holiday season, the Heathrow, Florida-based organization said.

“More expensive gas prices are not swaying holiday revelers to stay home,” AAA Senior Vice President Bill Sutherland said. “We’ve seen the strong economy and growing consumer confidence fuel holiday travel all year long.”

The largest share of travel, roughly 90.7 percent, will be on U.S. roads. Energy traders watch this activity closely because it accounts for 10 percent of global oil demand.

U.S. motor trips will rise to 97.3 million for this holiday season, the seventh consecutive annual increase, AAA said.

The group expects air travel to grow by 4.1 percent to 6.4 million trips, the highest since 2004 as passengers take advantage of lower ticket prices.

Air travel now accounts now for 5.9 percent of all travel, following four consecutive years of share increases, AAA said.

For 2017, motorists are on pace to break the record for most vehicle miles driven on U.S. roads, helping spur potential record demand for gasoline.

U.S. gasoline demand and vehicle miles traveled both set records in 2016. [nL1N1OC196]

Gas prices jumped more than 10 percent after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, peaking on Sept. 8 at an average of $2.67 a gallon. Prices were at $2.45 a gallon on Thursday, up about 9 percent from a year earlier, AAA said.

(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

Second federal judge blocks Trump’s curbs on travel to U.S.

Protesters gather outside the White House for "NoMuslimBanEver" rally against what they say is discriminatory policies that unlawfully target American Muslim and immigrant communities, in Washington, U.S., October 18, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A second U.S. federal judge has blocked parts of President Donald Trump’s latest travel ban on people entering the United States from eight countries, dealing another legal blow to the administration’s third bid to impose travel restrictions.

U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland, in a ruling issued overnight, said the policy as applied to six majority-Muslim countries likely violates the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on religious discrimination. He also ruled the ban ran afoul of immigration law.

Trump’s ban would have taken effect on Wednesday but was blocked on Tuesday by a U.S. federal judge in Hawaii in a separate challenge.

Together, the pair of rulings set up a high-stakes battle over the president’s executive authority that is expected to ultimately wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trump’s latest order targeted people from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, as well as certain government officials from Venezuela. Neither of the court rulings lifts the restrictions on North Korea and Venezuela.

In the Maryland ruling, Chuang questioned the government’s argument that the restrictions are needed until the affected countries provide more information on travelers to the United States.

He cited various statements made by Trump, including his 2015 call for a “total and complete shutdown on Muslims entering the United States.”

Chuang wrote that the president’s public statements “not only fail to advance, but instead undermine, the position that the primary purpose of the travel ban now derives from the need to address information sharing deficiencies.”

The latest ban, announced last month, was the third version of a policy that targeted Muslim-majority countries but had been restricted by the courts. The Maryland case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents several advocacy groups, including the International Refugee Assistance Project.

“Like the two versions before it, President Trump’s latest travel ban is still a Muslim ban at its core. And like the two before it, this one is going down to defeat in the courts,” said ACLU lawyer Omar Jadwat.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu said Hawaii was likely to succeed in proving that the policy violated federal immigration law. The White House called the ruling flawed and said it would appeal.

Unlike the Hawaii ruling, the Maryland decision would lift the restrictions only for people with family connections to the United States.

White House representatives had no immediate comment.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Winter weather to make holiday travel treacherous in northern U.S.

A person walks along Chambers Street during morning snow in Manhattan, New York City,

By Brendan O’Brien

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – Heavy snow, freezing rain and wind gusts will make holiday travel treacherous in swaths of the northern United States.

A storm is expected to bring rain and then snow to the Pacific Northwest as temperatures hover around freezing on Friday night.

The same system will also dump heavy snow in the Rockies and High Plains late into Saturday, the National Weather Service said in its forecast.

Snow and freezing rain are also in the forecast for much of the Midwest and Northeast late on Friday and through Saturday as temperatures are to dip around freezing, the weather service said.

The deteriorating weather may derail travel plans for some of the 94 million Americans who the American Automobile Association say will hit the roads during the holidays.

“Christmas, for travelers, is going to be a little dicey in some portions of the country,” meteorologist Justin Povick said during his forecast on Accuweather.com.

Accuweather warns that blizzard conditions in the northern Plains over the weekend could cause treacherous white-outs along major interstate highways, power outages and airline delays.

“People from the central Plains and middle Mississippi Valley to the central Plains will need to keep an eye out for rapidly changing weather conditions,” Meteorologist Brett Rossio said on AccuWeather.com.

Signs of how bad weather may cause disruptions for holiday travelers were seen as early as Thursday morning as nearly 250 flights were delayed or canceled in and out Los Angeles International Airport due to high winds and high volume.

A blizzard watch is in effect for the area around Bismarck, North Dakota, where as much as a foot (30 cm) of snow fall and heavy winds will lead to “dangerous Christmas travel conditions”, the National Weather Service said.

To the east, in northern Wisconsin and Michigan, motorists are told to “exercise caution” as snow and freezing drizzle are expected to limit visibility and make roads slick, the National Weather Service said.

Tornadoes, thunderstorms and hail are also in the forecast in the southern U.S. Plains, Accuweather said.

As their neighbors to the north deal with winter weather, people in southern Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee will enjoy unseasonably warm weather on Christmas Day as temperatures are likely to soar into the 60s, according to the National Weather Service.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Alison Williams)

Three countries urge caution traveling to U.S. amid protests

Demonstrators block traffic to protest the shooting death of Alton Sterling near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Three countries have warned their citizens to stay on guard when visiting U.S. cities rocked by sometimes violent protests that erupted after a string of police shootings of black Americans.

The United States regularly issues travel warnings urging Americans to either avoid or exercise caution in countries marred by violence or political instability.

Now America is the focus of concern by foreign governments in the Middle East and Caribbean as protesters marched in U.S. cities throughout the weekend after police killed black men in Louisiana and Minnesota.

The protests have led to numerous arrests, scuffles and injuries in confrontations between police and demonstrators. America was also tense after a lone black gunman on Thursday shot dead five police officers during a protest in Dallas.

The U.S. embassy of Bahrain, a tiny Middle Eastern island nation, on Saturday urged citizens via twitter to “be cautious of protests or crowded areas occurring around the U.S.”

Bahamas, a Caribbean nation where most people identify as being of African heritage, on Friday warned its people to be careful when visiting U.S. cities rocked by “shootings of young black males by police officers.”

“In particular young males are asked to exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police. Do not be confrontational and cooperate,” Bahamas foreign ministry said in a travel advisory.

The United Arab Emirates urged its students and other citizens in the United States to also be careful, using similar language the U.S. State Department employs when warning Americans about countries that have fallen victim to attacks by extremists.

“Please be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid crowded places when possible,” the UAE embassy said in a statement that urged people to stay away from any U.S. demonstrations. “Exercise particular caution during large festivals or events, be alert and stay safe.”

In July alone, the United States has issued travel warnings for Bangladesh, Venezuela, Iraq and Mali.

On Sunday, some tourists in New York’s bustling Times Square said they were nervous about the tension and recent violence in America. “I don’t like to be in crowded places anymore,” said Eleanor Fairbrother, who was visiting from Ireland.

(Reporting by Jason Lange in Washington; Additional reporting by Lauren Hirsch in New York; Editing by David Gregorio)

Motorists to hit U.S. roads in record numbers on July 4th weekend

Motorists wait in line to cross the San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridge during morning commute hours in Oakland, California

By Jarrett Renshaw

NEW YORK (Reuters) – With gasoline costing the least since 2005, U.S. motorists will hit the road this upcoming July 4 holiday weekend in record numbers, according to the nation’s largest motoring group.

AAA projects 36.3 million people will drive 50 miles (80 km) or more from home during the holiday period, the third consecutive year of record-breaking forecasts. That is up 1.2 percent from last year, continuing what is expected to be a historic summer driving season.

Despite recent seasonal increases, gasoline prices remain well below the levels of recent years. The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $2.31, which is 47 cents less than one year ago. AAA expects most U.S. drivers will pay the lowest Independence Day gas prices since 2005.

“Spurred by the lowest gas prices since 2005, more people than ever are planning to travel this Independence Day weekend,” said Marshall Doney, AAA president and CEO. ““We are well on our way for 2016 to be a record-breaking year for summertime travel.”

Including airplanes and trains, AAA projects nearly 43 million Americans will travel this Independence Day weekend, the highest July 4 travel volume on record and five million more travelers than over Memorial Day weekend. The holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, June 30 to Monday, July 4.

Americans used an average of 9.72 million barrels of gasoline a day in the four weeks ending June 17, the highest level recorded since the Energy Information Administration started collecting weekly consumption data in 1991.

The most recent data from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows the U.S. road renaissance, spurred in part by the crude oil rout and lower unemployment, remains strong.

U.S. road travel rose 2.6 percent in April, compared with a year ago, according to data released last week by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The April figures mark the 26th consecutive month of year-over-year increases in vehicle miles traveled, according to DOT data, reflecting the surge in U.S. driving activity fueled by low pump prices.

Driving in the United States is closely watched since the country accounts for about 10 percent of global gasoline demand.

(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Dan Grebler)