Floridians evacuate and grumble as Hurricane Dorian slowly nears

Elderly citizens from an assisted living community board a bus after a mandatory evacuation order ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Kissimmee, Florida, U.S. September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Gregg Newton

By Gabriella Borter and Zachary Fagenson

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (Reuters) -At a retirement community in central Florida, elderly residents waited for a bus on Monday to evacuate to a shelter as one of the most monstrous Atlantic hurricanes on record crawled toward the state.

Mary McNiff, 92, sat in her wheelchair waiting to board at the Good Samaritan Society in Kissimmee, near Orlando, one of more than a million people under evacuation orders along the U.S. East Coast on the Labor Day holiday.

Elderly citizens from an assisted living community board a bus after a mandatory evacuation order ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Kissimmee, Florida, U.S. September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Gregg Newton

Elderly citizens from an assisted living community board a bus after a mandatory evacuation order ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Kissimmee, Florida, U.S. September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Gregg Newton

“Kind of anxious to get it over with,” she said before a rare trip off the property. “I haven’t been out for two years really with this leg,” she said, pointing to a cast on her left leg that she has been wearing since she had complications with a blood clot.

Hurricane Dorian was still miles out to sea, squatting over the Bahamas where it had already destroyed homes with maximum sustained winds of 155 miles per hour (249 kph). Forecasters warned it could still be dangerous as it drew closer to Florida even if its eye did not make landfall in the state.

The National Weather Service warned of hurricane-strength winds, several feet of storm surges and the risk of dangerous flash floods along much of the Florida coastline in the coming days.

Sue Watson, one of McNiff’s neighbors, was reluctant to move from the place she has called home for 14 years.

“I was all set to stay home until they had to turn the water off,” she said as she waited for the bus to pull out. She was not afraid, she said. “God knows what he’s doing and he’s in control.”

Another Florida resident, Randy Hightower, 71, evacuated from his mobile home in Daytona Beach to the Volusia County Fair Grounds shelter on Monday with his wife and dog. He called himself “an old Florida cracker” and said: “I’m more scared of this one than I’ve ever been of one in Florida before.”

MANDATORY EVACUATIONS

Nine counties in Florida have ordered mandatory evacuations, while seven counties have voluntarily evacuations. Farther north, officials in coastal South Carolina and Georgia ordered hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes for shelter.

On what would have usually been a bustling Labor Day holiday, historic downtown St. Augustine was instead filled with the sound of power saws, drills and hammers as bay-front businesses fortified themselves against impending winds and flooding.

It is the third storm Joy Warren and her husband, Andrew, have weathered since buying their 16-bedroom waterfront bed and breakfast more than a decade ago.

“I don’t know how many hurricanes it’s been through,” she said. “It’s still here. I love it. I’m going to get in as soon as I can. If it’s trashed, I’ll rebuild again.”

The Pedro Menendez High School in St. Augustine has been converted into a shelter with space for 500 people. Lee Franco headed inside clutching a pillow and a box of tissues. She had only moved to Florida six months ago but felt prepared.

“Because I was following the news, I knew what I needed, so we have sleeping bags, our papers and everything we need,” she said. “It’s so boring there, there’s nothing to do. You read and play with the telephone and that’s it.”

Steven Apuzzi, 49, was hoping he and his three children would get in. His family has been homeless and arrived at the shelter in a gray Dodge caravan in which they have been sleeping.

“I’m going through it,” he said, describing the problems a single father faces getting access to shelter. “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get into this shelter. I’m hoping and praying.”

The shelter eventually let him in and he called it a blessing. Once the hurricane passed, he was not sure where the family would head next.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in Kissimmee and Zachary Fagenson in St. Augustine; Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Bill Tarrant, Nick Zieminski and Peter Cooney)

Hurricane Florence to become major hurricane soon, forecasters say

A photo taken from the International Space Station by astronaut Ricky Arnold shows Hurricane Florence over the Atlantic Ocean in the early morning hours of September 6, 2018. Courtesy @astro_ricky/NASA/Handout via REUTER

By Rich McKay and Letitia Stein

(Reuters) – Hurricane Florence strengthened early on Monday, packing maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (170 kph), and forecasters warned that it is “expected to become a major hurricane very soon” as it churns toward the U.S. East Coast.

The category 2 hurricane was mustering might as it traveled over warm Atlantic waters, about 625 miles southeast of Bermuda at 5.am. ET, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in an advisory.

It is expected to pickup speed, moving between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday and could make landfall possibly as a category 3 or higher on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, forecasters said.

Landfall could be made between South Carolina and North Carolina on Thursday, according to NHC predictions.

Storm-force winds could begin buffeting the Carolina coast by Wednesday night, forecasters said.

A photo taken from the International Space Station by astronaut Ricky Arnold shows Hurricane Florence over the Atlantic Ocean in the early morning hours of September 6, 2018. Courtesy @astro_ricky/NASA/Handout via REUTERS

A photo taken from the International Space Station by astronaut Ricky Arnold shows Hurricane Florence over the Atlantic Ocean in the early morning hours of September 6, 2018. Courtesy @astro_ricky/NASA/Handout via REUTERS

“Make your plans now,” South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster urged residents during a news conference on Sunday. “Presume that a major hurricane is going to hit right smack dab in the middle of South Carolina.”

McMaster said he had asked President Donald Trump to declare a federal emergency in South Carolina in anticipation of the storm’s arrival.

Residents as far north as Virginia were warned that Florence posed an increasing risk of generating a life-threatening coastal storm surge, as well as flooding from heavy rainfall should the slow-moving storm stall over the southeast.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper also urged his state’s residents to get ready, noting the storm already was generating swelling waves and dangerous currents along the coast.

“Everyone in North Carolina needs to keep a close eye on Florence and take steps now to get ready for impacts later this week,” Cooper said in a statement on Sunday.

The governors of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina have all declared states of emergency.

The storm’s center was on track to pass between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Wednesday, the NHC said.

The NHC was also tracking two other storms farther out in the Atlantic.

Isaac, previously a tropical storm, strengthened into the fifth hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic season on Sunday, the NHC said.

As of early Monday, Isaac was about 1,230 miles east 1,305 miles (1,985 km) east of the Windward Islands with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph), the NHC said.

Hurricane Helene, was spinning in the Atlantic off West Africa’s Cape Verde islands with 85-mph (140-kph) winds on Monday, but did not appear to pose an immediate threat to land.

(This refiled version of the story corrects to show strength of hurricane as category 2 not category 1 in paragraph 2.)

(Reporting by Rich McKay and Letitia Stein; Editing by Alison Williams)

Gordon dumps heavy rains, Florence barrels toward Bermuda

A car passes a sign after Tropical Storm Gordon in Dauphin Island, Alabama, U.S., September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – Tropical Depression Gordon moved north on Thursday, threatening central U.S. states with heavy rain, while Hurricane Florence churned toward Bermuda, packing maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour (185 kph), forecasters said.

Some parts of northwest Mississippi and much of Arkansas could receive up to seven inches (18 cm) of rain, totals that could reach up to 10 inches through Saturday in some areas, raising the risk of flash flooding, the National Hurricane Center said.

The storm, which left flooded streets in Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi, has caused minimal property damage since it made landfall late on Tuesday. A two-year-old girl was killed, however, when a tree fell on a mobile home in Pensacola, Florida, authorities said.

Hillarie Jones, manager at Bob’s Downtown Diner in Mobile, Alabama, said she shut down the restaurant on Wednesday but that luckily the storm did no damage to the business.

“The reason why we closed yesterday was so our employees wouldn’t have to travel to work during the storm,” Jones said.

As of Thursday morning, fewer than 1,000 homes and businesses remained without power, according to PowerOutages.us, as utility companies restored service for tens of thousands of customers across the region.

Energy companies and port operators along the Gulf Coast worked to resume normal operations after Gordon shut 9 percent of the region’s oil and natural gas production.

Oil prices fell about 1 percent on Wednesday after fears about the storm eased.

TRACKING TOWARD BERMUDA

In the Atlantic Ocean, Hurricane Florence, a Category 3 storm on a five-step scale, headed for Bermuda, forecast to affect the island’s surf by Friday. It was too early to say whether the storm would hit land, the NHC said.

“Swells generated by Florence will begin to affect Bermuda on Friday and will reach portions of the U.S. East Coast over the weekend,” the NHC said. “These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.”

Florence, the first major hurricane of the Atlantic season, was 1,170 miles (1,885 km) east-southeast of Bermuda on Thursday morning.

Florence is expected to weaken but remain a strong hurricane for the next several days, the NHC said.

(Reporting by Kathy Finn; additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; editing by Lisa Shumaker, Dale Hudson and Larry King)

Water rescues, flooded roads as rains hammer U.S. mid-Atlantic

National Weather Service Rain forecast map for 7-25-18

(Reuters) – Rescuers pulled people from inundated cars on flooded streets near Baltimore on Wednesday as heavy rain soaked the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast for a fifth day, swelling rivers, closing roads and imperiling homes.

Heavy rains fell overnight from central New York state south through eastern North Carolina, where the National Weather Service forecast that a fresh round of downpours could cause more flooding. Eastern Virginia and Pennsylvania were also hard hit.

Emergency workers around Baltimore pulled people from at least three vehicles stuck in floodwater as deep as 3 feet (0.9 meter), Baltimore County’s Police and Fire Department said on Twitter.

“NEVER go into flood waters,” the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center said on Twitter. “It doesn’t take much water to sweep away a person or vehicle, and water can damage or wash away the underlying road — creating unseen hazards.”

Authorities closed highways and roads in parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia because of flooding.

“With the rainfall we have seen over the last week, the ground is very saturated, so any additional rainfall we receive, especially heavy, really has nowhere to go, resulting in flooding,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Brandon Fling.

Up to 14 inches (36 cm) of rain has fallen along the U.S. East Coast since Saturday, swelling waterways well above flood levels.

Local news video showed water streaming into homes and businesses in some places and reaching the tops of automobiles as rescue crews worked to save motorists.

“It just happened out of nowhere, and next thing my car was just shut off, and I’m like, ‘What do I do now?'” Zachary Reichert told NBC News after being rescued from his flooded Jeep in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. “I can’t swim in the first place, so I wasn’t jumping into those waters.”

Hersheypark, the Pennsylvania amusement park, said it would be closed on Wednesday after the town surrounding it issued a disaster declaration. It also was closed on Monday.

Airports in New York and Philadelphia reported delays of more than an hour, according to Federal Aviation Administration.

The downpours were expected to continue as at least a chance of rain was in the forecast for the area for several more days.

Separately, parts of northwestern Colorado were drenched with rain on Wednesday morning, where officials warned of flash flooding and debris in an area recently scarred by wildfires.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Makini Brice in Washington; Editing by Scott Malone and Will Dunham)

Winter storm to strike U.S. East, snarling traffic, closing schools

A pedestrian walks through a late season snow storm in New York, U.S., March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

(Reuters) – Millions of commuters along the U.S. East Coast will face another round of heavy snow, ice and wind gusts on Wednesday when the fourth major snow storm this month strikes the region, closing schools, grounding flights and halting buses and trains.

The nor’easter storm is on track to dump up to a foot of snow and bring gusts of up to 50 miles per hour (80 kmph) to major cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Boston on Wednesday and into Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

“Significant amounts of snow, sleet and ice will make travel very hazardous or impossible,” the service said in an advisory for New Jersey.

More than 2,000 flights had already been canceled on Tuesday evening at the three major airports that serve New York. Airlines said they were waiving fees to change flights from and to the East Coast.

The storm forced schools across the region including those in Philadelphia and New York, the largest school district in the United States, to cancel classes on Wednesday.

“For everyone’s safety, because it could be such a big storm … we want to be ahead of it,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday.

Both Greyhound bus service and Amtrak passenger train service suspended or abbreviated routes for the day. Throughout the East Coast, local bus and train services that millions of people rely on to commute to and from work and school also canceled service on Wednesday.

Widespread power outages were also expected on Wednesday as heavy snow and ice along winds may topple trees and power lines, the service said.

The latest storm comes after storms on March 2, 7 and 12 left at least 9 people dead across the region and more than 2 million homes and businesses without power.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri)

U.S. Northeast braces for late winter blizzard

A woman is seen through a snow soaked car window walking in the snow at Cunningham Park in the borough of Queens in New York, U.S.

By Chris Michaud and Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Forecasters put the U.S. East Coast from New York City to Boston on a blizzard watch starting as early as Monday night, with authorities warning residents to prepare for the possibility of widespread power outages, road closures and flight disruptions.

Weather experts predicted the region could see 12 to 18 inches of wind-blasted snow from Monday to early Wednesday.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced preparations for the so-called Nor’easter storm, activating the state Emergency Operations Center as of Monday night while also directing state agencies to be on heightened alert.

“I encourage all New Yorkers in affected regions to plan ahead and avoid any unnecessary travel as the storm progresses,” Cuomo said in a statement, adding that commuters should expect road closures, delays and cancellations.

The storm also raised the potential for power outages with damaging winds across eastern Long Island and southeastern Connecticut, the National Weather Service said.

Significant disruption to air travel in the region was also anticipated with the storm.

Blowing snow and strong winds could lead to whiteout conditions with visibility as poor as a quarter mile, the service said. Sub-freezing temperatures were forecast in the upper 20s Fahrenheit.

New York City issued a snow alert for Monday night into Tuesday, expecting snowfall rates of up to 2 to 4 inches per hour Tuesday morning and afternoon, with gusts of up to 50 mph.

Mayor Bill de Blasio warned New Yorkers that “besides the snow, it will be cold,” while officials recommended that people avoid driving and use mass transit when possible.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was installing hundreds of pieces of snow equipment at the three New York area airports. Thousands of tons of salt and sand were prepared for airport roads, parking lots, bridges and tunnels.

As some 50 million people along the Eastern Seaboard came under storm or blizzard watches, Washington, D.C., which often bogs down with even low levels of snow, was expecting 5 inches and twice that in outlying areas.

The storm comes near the end of an unusually mild winter along much of the East Coast, with below-normal snowfalls in some areas, including New York City and Washington. It was the warmest February on record in nearly the entire area, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center.

Last week in New York, temperatures hovered near 70 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Accuweather.com, hitting 60 or higher on six days in February.

Meanwhile, in the western United States, the weather service forecast potentially record-setting heat in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, where temperatures were expected into the 90s in some places.

(Reporting by Chris Michaud and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Randy Fabi)