Japan struggles to restore water to flood-hit towns

Local residents try to clear mud and debris at a flood affected area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

By Kiyoshi Takenaka and Mari Saito

KURASHIKI, Japan (Reuters) – Municipal workers in western Japan struggled on Friday to restore water supplies a week after floods caused by a record downpour killed more than 200 people in the worst such disaster in 36 years.

Communities that grappled with rising floodwaters last week now find themselves battling scorching summer temperatures well above 30 degrees Celsius (86°F), as foul-smelling garbage piles up in mud-splattered streets.

“We need the water supply back,” said Hiroshi Oka, 40, a resident helping to clean up the Mabi district in one of the hardest-hit areas, the city of Kurashiki, where more than 200,000 households have gone without water for a week.

“What we are getting is a thin stream of water, and we can’t flush toilets or wash our hands,” he added, standing over a 20-liter (4.4-gallon) plastic tank that was only partly filled after almost four hours of waiting.

Water has been restored to some parts of the district, a city official told Reuters, but he did not know when normal operations would resume, as engineers were trying to locate pipeline ruptures.

More than 70,000 military, police and firefighters have fanned out to tackle the aftermath of the floods. There have been 204 deaths, the government said, with dozens missing.

Large piles of tatami straw mats, chairs and bookcases could be seen all over Mabi. The smell of leaked gasoline, mixed with a sour smell of mud and debris, filled the air.

The weather has fueled concerns that residents, many still in temporary evacuation centers, may suffer heat stroke or illness as hygiene levels deteriorate.

Shizuo Yoshimoto, a doctor making the rounds at evacuation centers, said an urgent challenge was to bring necessary drugs to patients with diabetes and high blood pressure who were forced from their homes or whose clinics are closed.

“There are quite a few cases where patients are unable to get a hold of drugs,” he said. “So one issue is how to maintain treatment for those with chronic illness. Another is acute illness, as heatstroke is on the rise.”

A submerged car is seen in a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

A submerged car is seen in a flooded area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Public broadcaster NHK has spread advice on coping with high temperatures and maintain hygiene, such as a video tutorial on how to make a diaper from a towel and plastic shopping bag.

More than 70,000 military, police and firefighters have fanned out to help with the rescue operation.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government spokesman, urged people in flood-hit areas to guard against thunderstorms.

“People still need to be aware of the possibility of further landslides,” he told reporters.

Severe weather has increasingly battered Japan in recent years, including similar floods last year that killed dozens of people, raising questions about the impact of global warming.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who canceled a scheduled overseas trip to deal with the rescue effort, visited Kurashiki on Thursday, and said he aimed to visit other flood-damaged areas on Friday and over the weekend.

(Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Writing by Tim Kelly and Elaine Lies; Editing by Nick Macfie)

U.S. swelters with brutally hot temps on Fourth of July but relief in sight

FILE PHOTO: People sit in the shade and cool off in a fountain during a summer heat wave in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., July 2, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

By Brendan O’Brien

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – Tens of millions of Americans from the Midwest to the East Coast faced brutally hot temperatures and stifling humidity on the Fourth of July holiday on Wednesday, but forecasters said cooler, drier air is on the way by the weekend.

Heat advisories and excessive heat warnings were in effect through Wednesday night, with heat index values – which combine temperature and humidity – in major U.S. cities such as New York and Chicago expected to reach well above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32°C), the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

“Relief is on the way, but don’t expect it before Friday night,” said Richard Bann, a meteorologist with the NWS Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

“But it will cool off,” Bann said. “Instead of being in the 90s (Fahrenheit), it’ll dip into the mid-80s and with less humidity.”

“There’s a system of cool, dry air scooting across Canada and will dip down into the Midwest, parts of New York and New England by this weekend. And there’s a good chance for showers Friday night for much of the area.”

Until then, the dangerous heat wave will continue to sizzle a large swath of the U.S. Midwest and East Coast.

At least four people have died due to the heat over the last week, including a Pennsylvania woman who died while working in her garden on Saturday and a man who was running a race in New York on Sunday, CNN reported.

For the Fourth of July holiday, Dan Petersen, an NWS meteorologist, warned people celebrating outside to remain in the shade and drink plenty of fluids.

“Anyone outside in locations with expanded areas of heat is going to have to take precautions,” he said. “This is the peak of summer – the hottest time of the year.”

Later this week, a storm front is expected to roll through and cool down the Eastern Seaboard for the weekend, Petersen said. It is likely to provide relief to Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia on Friday night before heading down to the Carolinas.

In a reversal of normal patterns, Petersen said, the hot weather will head west, hitting the central United States late in the week before reaching Los Angeles and San Diego on Friday.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Phil Berlowitz)

Heavy rains due to drench Texas Gulf Coast, Midwest

6-20-18 National Weather Service precipitation map

(Reuters) – Heavy downpours were expected to drench the Gulf Coast of Texas and the U.S. Midwest on Wednesday and could cause flooding especially along already swollen rivers and in low-lying areas, forecasters warned.

Up to 5 inches (13 cm) of rain was forecast for parts of the Texas coast along the Gulf of Mexico and in the Middle Mississippi Valley states of South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas throughout the day and into Thursday, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

“Be prepared for water over roads due to rapid rises on creeks and streams or even water flowing from farm fields,” the NWS in Des Moines, Iowa, said in an advisory.

Authorities closed roadways early Wednesday in several communities along the Des Moines and Mississippi rivers in the Midwest where intense rains have already fallen over the last few days, according to the NWS.

Showers and thunderstorms were also expected for Rockford, Illinois, where five inches of rain fell in less than four hours on Monday night. Emergency crews rescued people from numerous submerged vehicles.

In Corpus Christi, Texas, where more than 2 inches of rain was forecast after more than a foot of rain has fallen, crews conducted several high-water rescues on Tuesday while police closed roadways, local media reported.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

Heat wave wilts much of U.S. Midwest, Northeast

A man sits in the shade at Riverbank State Park during very hot weather in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

By Suzannah Gonzales

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Chicago and St. Louis sweltered on Monday at the center of a heat wave that stretched across the U.S. Midwest and Northeast, although relief could come as soon as Monday evening in some areas.

After a hot weekend, the temperature reached 91 Fahrenheit (33 Celsius) in Chicago and 92F in St. Louis by early afternoon, the National Weather Service said, with both cities opening air-conditioned cooling centers to the public.

The heat index, which factors in humidity, hit 100F in St. Louis. Similar heat in Detroit compelled the city to announce it would close many public schools three hours early on Monday, the Detroit News reported.

“This type of heat wave is typical for early summer,” said Bob Oravec, a weather service forecaster, adding everywhere from Kansas City, Missouri, to Boston and Washington were experiencing above-average temperatures. “It’s not astronomical.”

Cleveland, Ohio, broke a record on Sunday for its hottest June 17 on record with the mercury reaching 94F, Oravec said.

A Chicago native, Sharonda Williams, 31, carried a frozen drink as she returned to work at an outdoor kiosk for a bus tour company on Monday afternoon.

“It’s hot, but you really can’t complain,” she said. “When it’s freezing cold, you’re wishing for the hot weather. But now that we got it, you want the freezing cold. You can’t win.”

The National Weather Service forecasts a rapid cool-down on Monday evening in Chicago as cooler weather blew in off Lake Michigan, with the possibility of scattered thunderstorms.

The Great Lakes and Northeast regions, where many local governments issued warnings of poor air quality, will also cool down as the week goes by with the arrival of thunderstorms as a cold front presses south, the weather service said.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen and Diana Kruzman in New York; Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Uncovered losses hurt U.S. small business in wake of 2017 storms: Fed

FILE PHOTO: The corner stone of the New York Federal Reserve Bank is seen surrounded by financial institutions in New York City, New York, U.S., March 25, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

By Reade Levinson

(Reuters) – Small businesses in the United States struggled with uninsured damages and lost revenue following a record-breaking year of hurricanes and wildfires, according to a Federal Reserve survey published on Tuesday.

The report by the Dallas, New York, Richmond, and San Francisco Fed banks examined 1,800 businesses with fewer than 500 employees in zip codes with disasters designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It found, 40 percent of small firms in these areas had natural-disaster related losses, and 35 percent lost more than $25,000 in revenues.

The report paints a worrisome picture for local economies after a record-breaking year of weather and climate-related disasters that cost the United States an estimated $306 billion in 2017, the third-warmest year on record, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

To see the report,  click here  .

“Small businesses are primary drivers of job growth and their ability to rebound from disasters is critical to regional economic recovery,” said Claire Kramer Mills, assistant vice president at the New York Fed.

Small businesses employ half of private-sector workers and are the primary creators of new jobs in the United States, according to a 2015 U.S. Census Bureau study.

The survey found last year’s storms hit minority communities particularly hard. Some 54 percent of Hispanic-owned firms in affected areas reported natural disaster-related losses, compared to 40 percent of White-owned firms and 35 percent of Black or African American-owned firms.

The storms hit lodging and retail businesses hardest. Some 52 percent of leisure and hospitality firms and 47 percent of retail firms in affected areas reported natural disaster-related losses, the highest shares of all industries.

Small and young businesses are especially vulnerable to extreme weather and other natural disasters compared to their larger counterparts. Financing options are limited: federal relief funds can take months to reach communities and few small business are insured against such storms.

The report found firms’ insurance holdings did not match the sources of their losses, which stemmed more from disrupted business than from damaged assets. Sixty-five percent of disaster-affected firms cited loss of power or utilities as the source of their losses. However, only 17 percent of affected firms had business disruption insurance at the time of the disaster.

Federal Reserve Bank officials who worked on the report said local governments can help bridge this insurance gap by helping business understand their vulnerabilities and purchase the relevant coverage beforehand.

(Reporting by Reade Levinson in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Nick Zieminski)

Travel snarled, power outages as storm bears down on U.S. Northeast

A woman walks during rain while the New York skyline and the One World Trade Center are seen from Exchange Place in New Jersey, U.S., March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The second winter storm within a week crept into New York and surrounding states on Wednesday, with forecasters predicting intensifying snowfall that could snarl the evening commute as thousands remained without power from the last nor’easter.

Between 4 and 12 inches (10 and 30 cm) of snow were forecast for New York City and the surrounding suburbs in New Jersey and Connecticut through to Thursday morning, with wind gusts creating “near-whiteout conditions” for commuters, the National Weather Service said on Wednesday.

The storm will spread with varying degrees of intensity across the Northeast, from western Pennsylvania up into New England, and officials took precautions.

New York’s three major airlines reported a total of 1,431 canceled flights on Wednesday morning, about 40 percent of their normally scheduled flights.

All schools were closed in Philadelphia while schools across the region canceled classes or shortened the school day ahead of the storm, local news media reported. Schools stayed open in New York City.

This week’s storm was not forecast to have the hurricane-strength winds whipped up at times by the storm last week, but forecasters say strong gusts of 60 miles per hour (96.56 km per hour) and accumulated snow will still be enough to knock down more power lines.

Last week’s storm brought major coastal flooding to Massachusetts, killed at least nine people and knocked out power to about 2.4 million homes and businesses in the Northeast.

Some 100,000 homes and businesses in the region remained without power on Wednesday. A nor’easter is an East Coast storm in which winds blow from the northeast.

The governors of New Jersey and Pennsylvania declared states of emergency, giving them access to support from the U.S. government if needed.

The Amtrak passenger train service canceled some Wednesday trains between Washington and Boston, as well as some services in Pennsylvania, New York state and other parts of the Northeast.

The storm got off to an uncertain start in New York City, where the air was damp, and the odd stray snowflake could be spotted, but many early commuters saw no reason to unfurl the umbrellas stashed under their arms.

“I was expecting more than this,” Michelle Boone, 50, said as she waited for a bus to get to her job at a Manhattan homeless shelter. “I’m happy it’s not doing what they said it was going do. This evening could be different, though.”

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; additional reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York and Barbara Goldberg in Maplewood, New Jersey; editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)

Flooded streets and evacuations as storm pounds Boston and U.S. Northeast

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) – Seawater on Friday flowed onto some coastal streets around Boston, where businesses set up flood barriers and piled sandbags around their doors as a powerful storm threatened to flood pockets of the U.S. coast from Maine to Virginia.

Over 700,000 homes and businesses were without power in the U.S. Northeast, hundreds of flights were canceled at New York’s three major airports and Boston’s Logan International, and the federal government closed offices in Washington.

It was the second time this year that Boston streets, including areas around the Long Wharf and the rapidly developing Seaport District, flooded in a winter storm.

“It’s crazy. I guess this is sea-level rise in action,” said Bob Flynn, 38, who had stepped out from his work at Boston’s Children’s Museum to survey a partially submerged walkway along the city’s Fort Point Channel.

Heavy rains, extreme high tides and a wind-driven storm surge could combine to cause several feet of water to flow onto streets in coastal Massachusetts, with government and private weather forecasters warning of a repeat of an early-January storm that drove a couple of feet of icy seawater onto Boston’s streets. High winds gusting up to 60 miles per hour (97 kph) could also bring extensive power outages.

“The winds are going to keep on increasing and the seas are going to go higher and higher for the next three high tide cycles,” said Bill Simpson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts. Floodwater surged in during high tide around 11 a.m. ET (1600 GMT), and forecasters warned that strong winds coming in off the ocean could keep levels high through the next two high tides.

Residents of coastal areas that regularly flood in storms, including the towns of Newburyport, Duxbury and Scituate had been encouraged to evacuate their homes and head to higher ground, said Chris Besse, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

He added that it is hard to predict where the storm will take its heaviest toll.

“It could be that the first high tide washes away dunes from one beach and the second washes away houses,” Besse said.

Sarah Moran, a 59-year-old mother of six, was fretting whether her family’s oceanfront home in Scituate, Massachusetts, south of Boston, would survive the storm.

“Every house south of mine has been washed away since the 1978 blizzard. That risk is part of the package – the house comes complete with ocean views, taxes, maintenance and risks,” she said in a phone interview from Burlington, Vermont, where she owns a catering business.

The National Weather Service had coastal flood watches and warnings in place from southern Maine through coastal Virginia, including New York’s eastern suburbs, and was also tracking a snowstorm heading east from the Ohio Valley that could drop significant amounts of snow in northern New York State. It forecast storm surges of up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) for eastern Massachusetts.

More than 700,000 homes and businesses were without power across the region, with the largest number of outages in New York, utilities said.

Federal offices closed on Friday in Washington, while dozens of schools throughout the region canceled classes. More than a quarter of flights into and out of New York’s three major airports and Boston’s airport were canceled, according to tracking service Flightaware.com.

Southern California was also facing weather dangers, with risks of rain-driven mudslides prompting mandatory evacuations ordered for some 30,000 people living near fire-scarred hills around the Santa Barbara coast.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg and Gina Cherelus in New York and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; editing by Phil Berlowitz and Jonathan Oatis)

Snowstorms shut down Ireland, Britain calls in army for hospitals

People walk along the street through the snow near Sterling Castle, Scotland, Britain, March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

By Conor Humphries and Elisabeth O’Leary

DUBLIN/EDINBURGH (Reuters) – Snowstorms shut most of Ireland on Friday and forced Britain to call in the army to help battle some of the worst weather seen for nearly 30 years.

After a blast of Siberian cold dubbed “the beast from the east”, southern Britain and Ireland were battered by Storm Emma that arrived from the south and blocked roads, grounded planes and stopped trains.

Overnight blizzards left snow drifts up to three feet (90 cm) deep across Ireland and Scotland. The storm knocked out Ireland’s entire public transport network, closing its airports and leaving roads “extremely dangerous,” the government said.

Women take pictures of a statue of horses that is frozen over in the city centre of Dublin, Ireland, March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Women take pictures of a statue of horses that is frozen over in the city centre of Dublin, Ireland, March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

At the peak of the storm, over 100,000 homes and businesses were left without power. On Friday the Irish stock exchange was shut, as were all schools and most government offices as a status Red weather alert remained across most of Ireland.

“The country needs to more or less stay in hibernation today,” deputy prime minister Simon Coveney told state broadcaster RTE. “Hopefully we can continue to get through these freak weather conditions without tragedy.”

In Britain, a seven-year-old girl was killed in the far southwestern county of Cornwall after a car crashed into a house in icy conditions, the BBC reported. Dozens of passengers were stranded on trains overnight in southern England.

The army was summoned to help rescue hundreds of drivers stuck in the snow and to transport National Health Service workers. Roads and schools were closed and many flights canceled across Britain.

Weather conditions in Scotland, which initially bore the brunt of the Siberian cold front, improved slightly, but the authorities warned people not to travel on Friday and during the weekend.

DIGGING OUT SNOWBOUND ROADS

Around 30 vehicles were stuck on a road near Aberdeen, the local council said, with many other roads closed due to snow drifts. Residents of the Scottish border area were asked to help dig out roads where a number of motorists were stranded. Care workers in rural areas were moving around in tractors.

“In the current bad weather, I want to say thank you to everyone going the extra mile to keep our country moving – and to keep us safe,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said.

Airbus said its Filton plant in Bristol, which helps make wings for passenger jets, was closed on Friday due to the heavy weather.

Audit firm PwC estimated that the cost of insurance claims by consumers and businesses in United Kingdom to date as a result of the severe weather was at least 15 million pounds, though it was too early to forecast the final bill.

“We have already had over 8,000 road accidents in the past three days and this could increase significantly with more snow set to fall today,” said Mohammad Khan, head of PwC’s general insurance business in Britain.

Social media across the British Isles was dominated by the weather, as some mocked the authorities’ struggles to manage the snowfall while others showed near misses on slippery roads and people abandoning their cars.

People stand and watch rough seas as Storm Emma makes landfall in Dublin, Ireland March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

People stand and watch rough seas as Storm Emma makes landfall in Dublin, Ireland March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

In Dublin, which last saw a major snowfall in 2010, videos posted on social media showed people used bathtubs and baking trays as improvised sleds. Panic-buying of bread left shelves empty across the capital.

Snow and icy conditions continued to cause disruption in southern Europe too. In the Liguria and Emilia-Romagna regions of northern Italy, the weather forced the closure of key sections of major highways and paralyzed rail traffic.

Train service between major cities such as Genoa and Milan and Genoa and Turin, the three points in Italy’s north known as the industrial triangle, was either suspended or suffered from long delays because of ice.

Traffic on secondary, regional roads was backed up after vehicles were diverted onto them from closed highways.

(Additional reporting by Alistair Smout and Carolyn Cohn in London, Tim Hepher in Paris and Philip Pullella in Rome; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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)

Thaw on the way in southern United States

National Weather Service High and Low Temperature Map 1-19-18

By Rich McKay

ATLANTA (Reuters) – Commuters in the southern United States will wake up to more frigid temperatures and slick roads Friday, but a thaw is expected by the weekend, forecasters say.

Many schools in Atlanta, northeastern Georgia and western North Carolina remained closed Friday after a mid-week storm dumped snow across the region, whipped up winds that snapped power lines and led to at least a dozen deaths.

Sub-freezing temperatures overnight left many roads with ice that is difficult for drivers to detect, but that’s expected to melt soon, said Laura Belanger, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Atlanta.

“We’re looking at a warm-up for the southeast and mid-Atlantic with daytime temperatures up in the 40s and 50s (Fahrenheit) and hitting the low 60s in some areas by Saturday,” Belanger said.

Areas as far north as Boston will inch up to the low 40s (Fahrenheit) but dip below freezing at night, she said adding, “This is still winter.”

Through the early morning hours, NWS freeze warnings remained in effect over much of the Deep South as far as Tampa, Florida.

The winter storm sent blasts of cold air as far south as Mississippi, Lousiana, Texas and Oklahoma.

In Houston, 22-year-old Cynthia Chavez said she walked on ice for the first time in her life on Wednesday, and fell on her second step.

“I was, like, coming out of our house and there was a little step and what I thought was water,” Chavez said by phone from Olde Towne Kolaches in Houston where she is a cashier. “Two steps and I was on my butt. At first, I was nervous but then I was like, ah, THIS is ice.”

More than 9 inches (23 cm) of snow have fallen this week in Durham, North Carolina, since Monday, with 7 inches (18 cm) or more in various places across southern Virginia, the NWS said.

In Virginia on Thursday, a six-year-old boy on a sled slid onto a road and was struck and killed by a car, CBS affiliate WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Virginia, reported.

On Thursday in North Carolina’s Washington County, a 26-year-old man was killed when his vehicle went off a snowy road and overturned in a canal, officials said.

In Oklahoma, two people died on Wednesday in a fire apparently caused by the use of electrical space heaters, media reported.

(Reporting by Rich McKay; additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Editing by Larry King)