Second wave of twisters in U.S. South turns deadly as storm pushes east

4-19-2019 Twitter photograph of Macron, MS twitter - Bryce Jones

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) – A second wave of tornadoes and thunderstorms to hit the U.S. South and Midwest this week turned deadly on Thursday with three people reported killed, as the storms pushed eastward on Friday, officials and media accounts said.

One person was killed after a tree fell on his vehicle in Neshoba County, Mississippi, Thursday afternoon, the local paper, the Neshoba Democrat, reported.

A second death was reported in St. Clair County, Mississippi, after a tree fell on a home, late Thursday, according to AccuWeather.

A third death was reported late Thursday in the Wattsville community, north of Pell City, Alabama, the National Weather Service (NWS) reported, after a tree fell on a home.

The deaths come in the wake of at least five people, including three children, who were killed last weekend in a storm system that drove more than three dozen tornadoes across the U.S. South.

Communities in central Texas and western Louisiana, already hit by flash floods and twisters in the first round last weekend, were hit once more by high winds, twisters, egg-sized hail and intense rain Thursday and Friday, according to AccuWeather and the NWS.

In the latest storm system, multiple possible tornadoes hit southwest and central Mississippi Thursday night and early Friday, the NWS said, but the damage will have to be surveyed before confirmation of twisters.

“We’re still under some severe storm warnings, tornado watches and flood warnings into this morning and the afternoon across a broad swipe of the U.S.,” said NWS meteorologist Bob Oravec early Friday.

“The severe thunderstorms will impact the deep South and southeastern U.S., through Georgia and the Florida panhandle, before it heads up the Atlantic Coast,” he said.

Flash flooding could remain a threat in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts on Saturday, the weather service said.

The storm system will lose much of its punch late in the weekend, but the East Coast should expect a soggy Easter, Oravec said.

Power outages were reported early Friday in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, affecting a total of about 91,800 homes and businesses, according to the tracking site PowerOutage.Us.

(Reporting by Rich McKay; Editing by Mark Potter)

Second wave of tornadoes, thunderstorms to pummel the U.S. South and Midwest

National Weather forecast for 4-17-19

(Reuters) – Tornadoes and thunderstorms will hit the U.S. South and Midwest for a second time this week, starting Wednesday afternoon and pushing eastward, forecasters said.

At least five people, including three children, were killed over the weekend in a storm system that drove more than three dozen tornadoes across the U.S. South.

Communities in central Texas and western Louisiana, already hit by flash floods and twisters in the first round, will be hit once more by high winds, twisters and intense rain, according to AccuWeather and the NWS.

“This is a dangerous, vigorous storm,” Jim Hayes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in Maryland, said early Wednesday.

The storm is expected to stretch from Iowa and Missouri in the north through Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas to the south, said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist John Feerick.

“Dallas and Oklahoma City, from there on eastward is probably at greatest threat from damaging winds, flooding downpours and tornadoes,” said Feerick.

Northern Oklahoma could be pelted with hail 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, or larger, on Wednesday, the NWS tweeted.

NWS forecaster Hayes said the storm gets its initial fuel from warm, moist air over the Gulf of Mexico.

“It’ll kick-up this afternoon over southern Kansas and about all of Oklahoma, with rain, wind gusts of 65 mph, hail and tornadoes.”

“The worst will hit before midnight,” he added. “By early Thursday it’ll push into Kentucky and Alabama.”

As the storm tracks eastward, it will extend from Indiana south to Florida by late Thursday, hitting the Atlanta area that night and the Atlantic coast the next day.

Picking up moisture from the ocean, the system is likely to produce intense thunderstorms up the eastern seaboard as far north as New York state.

New York City, Philadelphia and Washington may face travel delays from the rain and possibly property damage from high winds, AccuWeather warned.

Flash flooding could remain a threat in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts on Saturday, the weather service said.

(Reporting Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Invasion of big, voracious lizards threatens U.S. South: study

A black and white Tegu lizard is shown in the Florida Everglades in this photo obtained August 2, 2018. Courtesy Emma Hanslowe/USGS/Handout via REUTERS

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – A group of South American lizards that can grow up to four feet long (1.2 meters) has established a home in the Florida wild after being brought to the United States as pets, and the reptiles could begin a voracious march across the U.S. South, according to a new study.

Tegu lizards, which currently live in two large colonies in Florida, could expand into an area from the Carolinas to Central Texas, according to the scientific report published in July on the website for the journal Nature.

“They are voracious, omnivorous predatory lizards that can live in a variety of habitats, but we can’t know what is going to happen or how intense this invasion is going to become until the effects are upon us,” said Lee Fitzgerald, a professor at Texas A&M University and curator of its Biodiversity Research and Teaching Collections.

Fitzgerald, a co-author of the study, said in an interview this week it could take years for the tegu lizards to reach their potential range, but new hot spots pop up as more pet lizards escape or are dumped in the wild by owners.

There are no current estimates of wild populations of tegus in the United States. In South America, the large-bodied lizards range widely east of the Andes and include species such as the Argentine black and white tegu.

Armed with strong jaws and tails that they can wield as thumping weapons, the lizards in Florida devour the eggs of American alligators and ground-nesting birds, wildlife officials said. The reptiles also have a taste for insects, fruit, and birds.

“As far as being a damaging invasive species, it really depends on what the threatened resources are in the areas where you might get tegus,” said Robert Reed, chief of the Invasive Species Science Branch at the U.S. Geological Survey, and another report co-author.

Tegu owners describe their pets as big, calm and occasionally affectionate lizards that like sunning themselves and are not picky about what they eat. But they can also be ornery and tough to handle.

In Florida, local wild populations of breeding tegu lizards are found in at least two counties, Miami-Dade and Hillsborough, home to Tampa, while there have been sightings in other parts of the state, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

On private lands, Florida hunters without a license are allowed to kill tegu lizards if it is done humanely. On public lands, the state is trying to get rid of the lizards through traps.

“The most important thing that the public can do to stop the spread of nonnative species like tegus is to NEVER release nonnative animals into the wild,” commission specialist Jamie Rager said in an email. “Don’t let it loose.”

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Dudley sees Fed rate hikes; inflation weakness ‘fading’

William Dudley, President of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, answers a question, after addressing the Indian businessmen at the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) in Mumbai, India May 11, 2017.

By Jonathan Spicer

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve is on track to gradually raise interest rates given the recent inflation weakness is fading and the U.S. economy’s fundamentals are sound, an influential Fed policymaker said on Monday, reinforcing the central bank’s confident tone.

New York Fed President William Dudley, among the first U.S. central bankers to speak publicly since a decision last week to hold rates steady for now, cited the soft dollar and strong overseas growth among the reasons he expects slightly above-average U.S. economic activity and a long-sought rise in wages.

“With a firmer import price trend and the fading of effects from a number of temporary, idiosyncratic factors, I expect inflation will rise and stabilize around the (Fed’s) 2 percent objective over the medium term,” he told students and professors at Onondaga Community College.

“In response, the Federal Reserve will likely continue to remove monetary policy accommodation gradually,” added Dudley, a close ally of Fed Chair Janet Yellen and a permanent voter on monetary policy.

Dudley’s comments were similar to his speech earlier this month, and reinforced the growing expectation that the Fed is set to raise rates for a third time this year in December. That notion was driven home by Fed forecasts published last week, when the central bank held rates but announced the beginning of a long process of shedding bonds it accumulated to boost the economy.

Still, others at the Fed are less anxious to tighten policy in the face of price readings that have sagged since February, despite strong jobs growth. Futures traders give a December rate hike about a 55-percent probability, according to Reuters data.

Dudley nodded to the three devastating hurricanes that have struck parts of the U.S. south and the Caribbean, noting their effects will likely make it more difficult to interpret economic data in coming months. He said, though, that the effects would likely be short-lived and noted that such events tend to boost economic activity as rebuilding gets underway.

In a speech focused on workforce development, he said the Fed, which is tasked with achieving maximum sustainable employment, “cannot declare success if we have people who want to work but lack the skills to fill available jobs.” Yet he noted that the Fed’s tool kit is limited and best works to provide incentives for firms to invest and grow.

“There are greater incentives for businesses to invest in labor-saving technologies” and the labor market improves, he said. “Investment spending should also benefit from a better international outlook and improvement in U.S. trade competitiveness caused by the dollar’s recent weakness.”

 

(Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)