Thousands still forced from homes by flooding in California tech hub

Vehicles are seen partially submerged in flood water at William Street Park after heavy rains overflowed nearby Coyote Creek in San Jose, California. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) – The mucky water flooding a section of San Jose in Northern California forced officials on Wednesday to widen the area under mandatory evacuation orders, with about 14,000 people barred from returning to their homes following drenching rains.

San Jose, a hub of high-tech Silicon Valley, suffered major flooding on Tuesday triggering evacuation orders when Coyote Creek overran its banks, swamping the Rock Springs neighborhood. Water at some sites engulfed the entire first floor of residences while in other places it reached waist-high.

Officials said the city of about 1 million residents has not seen a flood approaching this magnitude since 1997.

The gush of water inundating San Jose flowed down from the Anderson Reservoir, which was pushed to overflowing by a rainstorm that pounded Northern California from Sunday to Tuesday, officials said.

The reservoir’s operators have been releasing water at maximum levels since Jan. 9 but it was not enough to avoid a spillover because of recent storms, Rachael Gibson, a spokeswoman for the Santa Clara Valley Water District, said at a news conference.

Trash-strewn floodwaters inundated city blocks in California’s third-largest city, as firefighters in inflatable boats on Tuesday ferried stranded residents to dry ground.

Aside from 14,000 people whom officials said were placed under mandatory evacuation orders, with many taking up residence in emergency shelters, the city has issued a less severe evacuation advisory to 22,000 people, urging them to leave their homes as well.

“This is nothing you ever want to see in your community,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo told a news conference.

Residents of the flooded area, which is near downtown and is made up of apartment buildings and townhomes, would not be allowed to return to their properties on Wednesday, Liccardo said. “We’re not out of this yet,” he said.

The Weather Service forecasts light rain to resume this weekend in the area.

It was not immediately clear how many homes suffered flood damage.

A section of the 101 Freeway in San Jose and another strip of the thoroughfare south of the city were closed by flooding, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Coyote Creek crested at a record-breaking 14.4 feet (4.4 meters) on Tuesday evening, said National Weather Service forecaster Bob Benjamin.

The previous record was in 1922, at 12.8 feet (3.9 meters), Benjamin said.

“Quite possibly we won’t see a return to a flood this weekend because the (weather) system does not look terribly imposing,” Benjamin said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Sandra Maler)

Flooding forces hundreds from homes in San Jose, California

Rescuers from the San Jose Fire Department pilot boats while evacuating residents of Nordale Avenue after the Coyote Creek flooded parts of San Jose, California, U.S. February 21, 2017. Courtesy of Chris Smead/Csmeadphotography/Handout via REUTERS

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) – Murky, waist-high floodwaters swamped neighborhoods along a rain-swollen creek in the northern California city of San Jose on Tuesday, prompting authorities to issue evacuation orders or advisories for more than 1,000 homes, city officials said.

The state’s third-largest city, a hub of the high-tech Silicon Valley corridor south of San Francisco, has about 1 million residents and declared an emergency as Coyote Creek overflowed its banks from days of heavy showers.

The trash-strewn floodwaters inundated whole city blocks, submerging parked cars and lapping at the walls of apartments and townhouses, as firefighters in inflatable boats ferried stranded residents to dry ground.

About 300 homes were ordered evacuated in low-lying Rock Springs, and city officials urged residents of roughly 200 dwellings in the Williams Street neighborhood downstream to leave their homes, city spokesman David Vossbrink said.

After dark, fire department crews began going door to door advising residents of three creek-side mobile home parks, consisting of about 600 trailers, to move to higher ground, Vossbrink said, adding that the stream was continuing to rise.

At a news conference earlier in the day, Mayor Sam Liccardo acknowledged that municipal officials should have moved more quickly in evacuating the Rock Springs area.

“As I sit here today and I look out at a neighborhood that’s completely inundated with water … there’s no question in my mind there was a failure of some kind,” he said.

City officials had no reports of injuries, deaths or people missing, said Vossbrink, who estimated at least 300 homes were damaged by flooding.

The San Jose Fire Department advised a decontamination cleansing for those immersed in floodwaters to get rid of hazardous pollutants.

The latest series of downpours that swept northern California on Sunday and Monday weakened on Tuesday, the National Weather Service said. Meteorologists said the storms were spawned by an “atmospheric river” bringing moisture from the Pacific Ocean.

Last week a string of storms triggered a crisis near the Lake Oroville Dam about 100 miles (160 km) northeast of San Francisco, where damage to two spillways prompted an evacuation of more than 100,000 people downstream.

California is slowly recovering from five years of drought thanks to several months of unusually wet weather.

At least 3 inches (8 cm) of rain fell in many areas, though some received far more, such as the sparsely populated Big Sur region and outside the city of Santa Rosa, which got more than 8 inches (20 cm), the weather officials said.

The next heavy storm is expected to hit Northern California this weekend, they added.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Additional reporting and Writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by James Dalgleish and Clarence Fernandez)

California faces more rain, snow as deadly storm moves south

People with umbrellas walk along street in Los Angeles

(Reuters) – California was bracing on Saturday for another wave of torrential rain as well as heavy snow as a massive storm triggered flooding, mudslides and power outages and killed two people, officials said.

The National Weather Service warned that rain totals could reach 10 inches (25 cm) in parts of southern California and 2 feet (60 cm) of snow in higher areas to the east as the storm continues to roll through the region.

The severe storm has brought California its heaviest rainfall in six years and comes after months of wet weather that has dramatically eased a years-long drought in the key agricultural state.

The rain and melting snowpack also are threatening to undermine a spillway at one of the largest dams in the country. Some 188,000 residents were evacuated from the area earlier this week.

Utility crews were working to restore electricity to more than 78,000 customers affected by power outages throughout the Los Angeles area.

Early on Saturday, an evacuation order remained in effect for 180 homes in Duarte, a city about 20 miles (32 km) east of Los Angeles, because of fears of mudslides.

One man died after he was electrocuted by a downed wire, the Los Angeles Fire Department said, adding that it had responded to 150 reports of downed wires on Friday. Another person was found dead in a submerged vehicle in Victorville, about 100 miles east of Los Angeles, fire officials said on Twitter.

A woman was injured when the car she was in fell into a 20-foot sinkhole in Studio City on Friday night. A second car fell into the sinkhole after the woman was rescued, an ABC affiliate reported.

Local television news also showed video footage of a San Bernardino County fire truck tumbling over the side of a freeway as the road gave out.

“All firefighters confirmed safe. The lane under the fire engine has failed, and the engine has gone over the side,” the San Bernardino County Fire Department said on Twitter.

Amtrak railroad service was suspended for trains between the cities of Oxnard and San Luis Obispo in the central and southern areas of the state due to extreme weather conditions, according to the transportation service’s website.

In higher areas of eastern California and western Nevada, snowfall and wind gusts of up to 50 mph (80 kph) were in the forecast until Saturday night, the National Weather Service said.

“This will make travel hazardous or impossible,” the service said in an advisory.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee Editing by Ed Osmond and Paul Simao)

Storm to dump heavy rain and snow on U.S. West

warning sign

(Reuters) – A major storm packing intense rain and heavy snow and winds will pound California and southern Oregon on Friday and through the weekend, forecasters said.

The National Weather Service said the system is expected to dump as much as 10 inches (25 cm) of rain at a rate of 1 inch (3 cm) per hour in parts of southern California on Friday.

“This looks to be the strongest storm to hit southwest California this season,” the service said, adding that rainfall totals could be the highest in the area over the last six years.

The downpours in heavily populated counties of Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles where wildfires recently burned could create the risk of mud and debris flows, the weather service said.

“There will likely be widespread urban roadway flooding,” it said. “There will also be a significant threat of rock and mudslides, especially near canyon roadways.”

Rain was also forecast for northern California and southern Oregon, where the weather service issued a flood warning until Friday afternoon.

In areas of higher elevations in eastern California and western Nevada, as much as 2 feet (60 cm) of snow could cause whiteout conditions, forecasters said.

The area should also expect winds gusts of 75 mph (120 kph), potentially causing widespread power outages on Friday and Saturday, the service said.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; editing by John Stonestreet)

U.S. weather service says hit by first-ever data system outage

residents dig out winter snow

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. National Weather Service said on Tuesday it suffered its first-ever outage of its data system during Monday’s blizzard in New England, keeping the agency from sending out forecasts and warnings for more than two hours.

The weather service’s Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System Network Control Facility failed Monday afternoon when the primary and backup routers lost power, the NWS said in a statement. The outage lasted two hours and 36 minutes.

“The AWIPS communications system is a very reliable configuration and this is the first time both routers failed simultaneously,” the weather service said.

The outage came as a blizzard was pummeling New England and engineers in Northern California were trying to repair problems at the United States’ tallest dam ahead of more rain.

The failure prevented the NWS from putting out forecasts, warnings, current conditions, satellite and radar imagery and updates to its main public site.

The director of the agency’s Office of Central Processing, David Michaud, called the impact “significant” in an email to weather service employees. The NWS’ Network Control Facility also was unable to connect with a backup system, he said.

During the outage, the weather service sent out forecasts, watches and warnings through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Radio and the social media accounts of local offices.

The routers at the main site were replaced and service restored. The cause of the outage is under investigation.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Paul Simao)

Two die as winter storm wallops northeastern United States

Pedestrians walk in Times Square as heavy snow falls

By Scott Malone and Jonathan Allen

BOSTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – The fiercest snowstorm of the winter slammed the northeastern United States on Thursday, leaving a foot (30 cm) of snow in places, canceling thousands of flights and shutting down schools. At least two deaths were blamed on the storm.

The storm, which came a day after temperatures had been a spring-like 50 to 60 degrees (10 to 16C), had wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour (80 kph) and left roads and sidewalks dangerously slick in densely populated cities such as New York, Boston and Hartford, Connecticut.

The storm’s winds reached as far south as Virginia, where a truck driver died after his tractor-trailer was blown off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, Tom Anderson, the facility’s deputy director, said in a phone interview.

A New York City doorman died while shoveling snow as he slipped and fell down a flight of stairs, crashing into a window that cut his neck, police reported.

Some areas experienced “thunder snow,” violent bursts of weather featuring both snow and lightning.

Nearly two-thirds of the flights into or out of the three major New York-area airports were canceled, as were 69 percent of those at Boston Logan International Airport, according to Flightaware.com.

Nationwide, about 4,000 flights were canceled and 5,700 delayed.

“The roads are dangerous,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters. “I don’t care if you have a four-wheel-drive car and you think you’re a super hero … if you don’t have to be out, don’t be out.”

David Hassan, 50, attested to the ugliness of the weather as he packed up his mobile coffee cart in New York’s Times Square.

“I don’t like coming out in this weather but I have three kids going to school and I have to work,” Hassan said as he prepared for the two-hour trip back to his home in Parsippany, New Jersey.

New York received about a foot of snow, while Boston was braced for up to 20 inches.

Many schools systems were closed in the area, and Boston schools would remain closed on Friday, Mayor Marty Walsh said.

Many government offices also were shuttered with Massachusetts and Connecticut ordering non-emergency workers to stay home.

Blizzard warnings were in effect for the New York’s eastern Long Island suburbs, southern Connecticut and Rhode Island, as well as the Massachusetts coast.

Temperatures were expected to fall to single-digit Fahrenheit levels overnight in the Boston area.

(Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus and Daniel Trotta in New York, Ian Simpson in Washington and Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Providence, Rhode Island; Editing by Larry King and Bill Trott)

A foot of snow, icy cold forecast for northeastern U.S.

woman walks through snow in New York City

By Scott Malone and Joseph Ax

BOSTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – The heaviest storm the northeastern United States has seen this year was bearing down on the region on Thursday, forcing schools in major cities to cancel classes and airlines to ground thousands of flights.

Forecasters predicted the storm could bring more than a foot (30 cm) of snow and wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour (80 kph) from Pennsylvania through Maine.

New York City schools, the largest public school system in the United States, with more than 1 million students, canceled classes on Thursday. So did districts in Boston and Philadelphia.

More than 2,700 flights in and out of the region were also canceled, according to Flightaware.com, as airlines told passengers to check the status of their flights before heading to the airport.

Blizzard warnings were in effect for the eastern end of New York’s Long Island, Cape Cod, Massachusetts and the island of Nantucket.

“Early start. Getting Ready to go out and battle the snow storm so that I can do what I need to do,” tweeted IT professional Andy Quayle in New York City.

With the storm expected to dump as much as to three inches (8 cm) per hour and start before the morning rush hour and last into the evening, mayors of major cities, including New York and Boston, warned residents to stay off the roads.

“Visibilities will become poor with whiteout conditions at times. Those venturing outdoors may become lost or disoriented. So persons in the warning area are strongly advised to stay indoors,” the National Weather Service said in an advisory.

Temperatures were expected to fall to single-digit Fahrenheit levels (below -12.8°C) overnight in the Boston area.

The forecast comes a day after much of the northeast saw spring-like weather, with temperatures of 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 16°C).

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life, you know, what feels like a summer day, almost, now, and then tomorrow a blizzard,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told WCBS-AM radio. “But it’s going to be a blizzard and New Yorkers should get ready.”

While temperatures had been mild for much of the region on Wednesday, New England highways were clogged with scores of car crashes that morning after an early rain storm coated roads in ice. At least one person was killed in Massachusetts when he was struck by a car as he tried to help another motorist..

“We want people to stay indoors as much as possible,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told reporters on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Scott Malone, editing by Larry King)

Thirty-one reported injured after tornadoes pummel Louisiana

Cleanup crews pick up New Orleans area after tornado

By Bryn Stole

BATON ROUGE, La. (Reuters) – Some 31 people were reported injured after six tornadoes tore through New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana, pounding across highways and streets and leaving trees, power lines and homes leveled by Wednesday morning.

Federal and state damage assessment teams on Wednesday began working to see if Louisiana can qualify for federal assistance, Mike Steele, communications director for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said.

Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency throughout Louisiana, as search and rescue teams scoured the landscape for survivors from Tuesday’s tornadoes.

“The width of the devastation was unlike any that I have seen before,” Edwards told a news conference on Tuesday. “When you see it from the air you’re even more impressed that so few people were injured and that nobody’s life was lost.”

The storm system battered New Orleans and suburban Baton Rouge, marking the fourth time in a year the state has been jolted by natural disasters.

A string of tornadoes struck in February 2016 and four people died in widespread floods in March. Louisiana was then devastated by major flooding in August, when more than 60,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in 20 parishes, or territorial districts, marking the state’s worst disaster since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

One twister carved out a swath of destruction about two miles (3 km) long and about half a mile (1 km) wide, affecting an area with 5,000 properties, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said.

“It’s devastating and a lot of families have lost everything that they have,” Landrieu said.

Thirty-one injuries have been reported, according to the mayor’s office. Six of them were moderate or severe injuries, and there have been no reported fatalities, the office said in a statement.

At least 8,100 customers were without power in the New Orleans area by early Wednesday, according to Entergy New Orleans Inc <EYNOO.PK>. About 150 workers from the energy company assisted in recovery efforts on Wednesday.

Nancy Malone, communications director for the Red Cross of Louisiana, said damage was reported in about six parishes, where the Red Cross was assisting first responders.

“While this was not expected, communities in southeast Louisiana have been affected numerous times in the last 12 months,” Malone said. “Here we are again.”

(Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus, Mike Cooper and Irene Klotz; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Alistair Bell)

At least one dead in numerous car crashes in icy New England

connecticut state police

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) – An unexpected bout of icy weather on Wednesday morning caused scores of accidents around New England, with 55 vehicles colliding in a series of crashes outside Boston and a man killed in a separate incident.

Police in Needham, Massachusetts, said a vehicle struck and killed a 63-year-old man who had been trying to help another motorist stuck on the ice in the suburb about 18 miles (29 km) west of Boston.

“It appears as though the vehicle was sliding on the ice and was unable to stop before striking the victim, pinning him between the two vehicles,” the Needham Police Department said in a statement. It did not identify the victim.

North of Boston, some 55 cars were involved in a series of crashes in the suburb of Wakefield, Massachusetts, with multiple motorists injured, though none seriously, state police said.

It was the start of a forecast whipsaw of weather over 48 hours. Temperatures around Boston are expected to pass 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10°C) on Wednesday before dropping back below freezing overnight, when a snowstorm is expected to begin.

The National Weather Service was forecasting 8 to 14 inches (20-36 cm) of snow on Thursday.

Wednesday’s ice, the result of an overnight rainstorm, may have caught commuters off-guard since earlier forecasts had anticipated temperatures would rise above freezing before the snow begins, said National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Simpson.

The result was chaos on roads around Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire.

Photos from the Wakefield area showed vehicles spun at strange angles and entirely blocking the roadway, with emergency responders having trouble maintaining their footing on icy roads.

The Massachusetts State Police had not yet counted the total number of traffic collisions around the state, a dispatcher said.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker ordered a two-hour opening delay for state offices.

“Exercise extreme caution,” Baker said, “as driving is very difficult due to icy conditions.”

Farther north, all but one lane of a major interstate highway in Maine was closed after a tractor-trailer that ran off the road and flipped on its side due to the ice. Work crews were removing its cargo, bags of potatoes, before attempting to lift the vehicle off its side, a state police spokesman said.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

Tornadoes tear path of destruction through Louisiana, at least 20 hurt

By Bryn Stole

BATON ROUGE, La. (Reuters) – Six tornadoes tore through New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana on Tuesday, injuring at least 20 people as the storm roared across highways and streets, leveling trees, power lines and homes.

Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency throughout Louisiana, while search and rescue teams scoured the landscape for survivors.

“The width of the devastation was unlike any that I have seen before,” Edwards told a news conference. “When you see it from the air you’re even more impressed that so few people were injured and that nobody’s life was lost.”

The Louisiana National Guard said it was conducting search-and-rescue operations, looking for injured people who may be stranded, and assessing damage.

The storm system battered New Orleans and suburban Baton Rouge, marking the fourth time in a year the state has been jolted by natural disasters.

A string of tornadoes struck in February 2016 and four people died in widespread floods in March. Louisiana was then devastated by major flooding in August, when more than 60,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in 20 parishes, or territorial districts, marking the state’s worst disaster since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu told reporters that one twister carved out a swath of destruction about two miles (3 km) long and about half a mile (1 km) wide, affecting an area that holds 5,000 properties.

“It’s devastating and a lot of families have lost everything that they have,” Landrieu said.

Edwards estimated the number of injured at 20, some of them he termed “not life-threatening, but very serious.”

Storm reports on the National Weather Service website said some 29 people suffered injuries.

One person was injured and about 200 cars damaged at a National Aeronautics and Space Administration assembly building in New Orleans, but flight hardware for NASA’s new heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule appear to have escaped damage, associate administrator Bill Gerstenmaier said.

Nearly 7,800 customers were without power in the New Orleans area by early Wednesday, according to Entergy New Orleans Inc <EYNOO.PK>.

Nancy Malone, communications director for the Red Cross of Louisiana, said damage was reported in about six parishes, where the Red Cross was assisting first responders.

“While this was not expected, communities in southeast Louisiana have been affected numerous times in the last 12 months,” Malone said. “Here we are again.”

(Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus, Mike Cooper and Irene Klotz; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and David Gregorio)