Hurricane Isaias heads toward Florida with 75-mph winds – Hurricane Center

By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) – Heavy rains from Hurricane Isaias could hit Florida late Friday night before the powerful storm moves up the East Coast into early next week, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned, prompting the closure of COVID-19 testing sites.

The hurricane, packing maximum sustained winds of 75 miles (120.7 km) per hour, is currently lashing the southeastern part of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Miami-based forecaster posted on its Twitter feed on Friday.

“Heavy rains associated with Isaias may begin to affect south and east-Central Florida beginning late Friday night, and the eastern Carolinas by early next week, potentially resulting in isolated flash and urban flooding, especially in low-lying and poorly drained areas” the NHC said on its website.

Miami-Dade County officials closed drive-through and walk-up testing sites for COVID-19. Public beaches, parks, marinas, and golf courses were also set to close on Friday as Isaias strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane and forecasters predicted it would reach Category 2.

Broward County Mayor Dale V.C. Holness had on Thursday also announced testing sites would close, with plans to reopen on Wednesday morning.

As of Friday morning the storm was predicted to most impact Florida’s central, eastern region before moving north.

At full capacity Florida had 162 test sites in all but two of the state’s 67 counties. Some counties will continue testing through their individual health departments.

“We have thousands of tests that will not be conducted until we get these test sites up and running again,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a virtual news conference on Friday morning.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Jonathan Oatis)

Mother and child plus two others killed as Florence swamps Carolinas

A fallen tree lies atop the crushed roof of a fast food restaurant after the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S., September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

 

By Ernest Scheyder

WILMINGTON, N.C. (Reuters) – Hurricane Florence crashed into the Carolinas on Friday, knocking down trees, swamping streets and causing four deaths before slowing to a pace that will lead to a days-long deluge for the region.

The storm’s first casualties, which included a mother and her baby killed when a tree fell on their brick house in Wilmington, North Carolina, were announced about eight hours after Florence came ashore. The child’s father was taken to a hospital.

In Pender County, North Carolina, a woman suffered a heart attack and died because hurricane debris blocking roads prevented paramedics from reaching her. A fourth person was killed in Lenoir County while plugging in a generator, the governor’s office said.

After landfall, Florence slowed to a pace that meant it would plague the area with days of flooding. The hurricane’s storm surge – the wall of water it pushed in from the Atlantic – “overwhelmed” the town of New Bern at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said.

“To those in the storm’s path, if you can hear me, please stay sheltered in place,” he said at a news conference in Raleigh, adding that Florence would “continue its violent grind across the state for days.”

Authorities said more than 60 people, including many children and pets, had to be evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, after strong winds caused parts of the roof to collapse.

The center of the hurricane’s eye came ashore at about 7:15 a.m. EDT (1115 GMT) near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, North Carolina, with sustained winds of 90 miles per hour (150 kph), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

By mid-afternoon the winds had dropped to 75 mph (120 kph) and the center was moving west at 6 mph (10 kph), the NHC said, and parts of North and South Carolina would get as much as 40 inches of rain (1 meter).

Cooper said Florence was set to cover almost all of North Carolina in several feet of water. As of Friday morning, Atlantic Beach, a town on the state’s Outer Banks barrier islands, already had received 30 inches (76 cm) of rain, the U.S. Geological Service said. Twenty inches (50 cm) were reported by early Friday afternoon in the town of Oriental.

Authorities in New Bern, a town of about 30,000 people that dates to the early 18th century, said more than 100 people had to be saved from floods and that the downtown area was underwater. Calls for help kept coming in as the wind picked up and the tide arrived, said city public information officer Colleen Roberts.

“These are folks who decided to stay and ride out the storm for whatever reason, despite having a mandatory evacuation,” she said. “These are folks who are maybe in one-story buildings and they’re seeing the floodwaters rise.”

Video reports from several towns in the Carolinas showed emergency personnel wading through rippling thigh-high floodwaters in residential neighborhoods.

President Donald Trump is expected to travel to areas hit by Florence next week, once it is determined his travel will not disrupt any rescue or recovery efforts, the White House said on Friday.

‘IT’S INSANE’

Florence also blew down trees, including one that went through the roof of Kevin DiLoreto’s home in Wilmington. He said all roads leading to his neighborhood were blocked by fallen trees.

“It’s insane,” he said in a phone interview. “Everybody laughs at the fact that this storm got downgraded … but I’ve never seen tree devastation this bad.

“Afterwards, I’m going to drink a bottle of whiskey and take a two-day nap, but right now I’m walking the neighborhood and making sure my neighbors are fine, because nobody can get in here.”

More than 722,000 homes and businesses were without power in North and South Carolina early on Friday, utility officials said. Utility companies said millions were expected to lose power and restoration could take weeks.

Florence had been a Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds on Thursday but dropped to Category 1 before coming ashore. It is expected to move across parts of southeastern North Carolina and eastern South Carolina on Friday and Saturday, then head north over the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC said. Significant weakening is expected over the weekend.

About 10 million people could be affected by the storm and more than 1 million were ordered to evacuate the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia. Some of those who stayed went to shelters while others stuck it out in their homes.

Maysie Baumgardner, 7, and her family sheltered at the Hotel Ballast in downtown Wilmington as Florence filled the streets with floodwaters.

“It looks heavy outside,” she said. “I’m a little bit scared right now, but I have my iPad and I’m watching Netflix.”

Florence was one of two major storms on Friday. In the Philippines, evacuations were under way with Super Typhoon Mangkhut expected to hit on Saturday in an area impacting an estimated 5.2 million people.

(Additional reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh; Scott DiSavino and Gina Cherelus in New York; Makini Brice in Washington; Andy Sullivan in Columbia, South Carolina; and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Bill Trott; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)

Study cites longer dry spells as fueling U.S. wildfires

FILE PHOTO - A general view of the aftermath from the Holy fire, in McVicker Canyon, California, U.S., August 11, 2018 in this still image from social media obtained on August 12, 2018. CARLA HARPER/via REUTERS

By Laura Zuckerman

PINEDALE, Wyo. (Reuters) – Less rain and longer droughts are the major cause behind larger and more intense wildfires in the U.S. West, not higher temperatures and early snowmelt as previously thought, according to research released on Monday.

The findings by the U.S. Forest Service and University of Montana could help scientists better predict the severity of fire seasons, said the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study comes as tens of thousands of firefighters battle more than 100 blazes that have charred more than 1.9 million acres (770,000 hectares) in the Western United States. California is marking one of the most destructive fire seasons on record.

The researchers compared snowmelt timing and warming summer temperatures to fluctuations in the amount and distribution of summer rains on lands scorched by wildfires and determined that the latter were drivers.

Lack of summer rain and the extended duration of droughts foster warmer, drier air during fire seasons, leading to more surface heating, which, in turn, sucks moisture from trees, shrubs, and vegetation, the study found.

“This new information can help us better monitor changing conditions before the fire season to ensure that areas are prepared for increased wildfire potential,” Matt Jolly, USDA Forest Service research ecologist and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “Further, it may improve our ability to predict fire season severity.”

The research also comes amid heated public debate ignited by high-ranking officials within the Trump administration about the cause of California’s wildfires, which have killed at least 11 people, destroyed homes and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people.

The administration has alternately rejected or downplayed the role of climate change in the worsening wildfire picture. After recently visiting some of California’s major fire zones, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke blamed “gross mismanagement of forests” because of timber harvest restrictions that he said were supported by “environmental terrorist groups.”

Authorities in California have reported an increase in large, explosive and swiftly spreading wildfires over a longer, virtually year-round fire season.

Fire officials say that trend has been fueled by several years of drought-stricken vegetation and stoked by frequent and persistent bouts of erratic winds and triple-digit temperatures, in keeping with scientists’ forecasts of changing climate conditions.

Ninety-five percent of wildfires are human-caused, from campfires left unattended to careless smoking, to sparks from vehicles and improperly maintained power lines, fire managers say.

(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Peter Cooney)

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)

Blizzard bears down on New England, knocking out power

A tractor stands covered in snow during a snowstorm in Huntington, New York, U.S., March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) – Driving snow enveloped the U.S. Northeast on Tuesday in its third winter storm in two weeks, closing schools, canceling flights and knocking out power to about 140,000 homes and businesses.

The nor’easter was forecast to drop up to 20 inches (51 cm) of snow. It followed two storms that rumbled up the East Coast this month, killing at least nine people and knocking out power to about 2.4 million homes and businesses at their peak.

The storm stretched from New York state to Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine. Forecasters warned of blizzard conditions, where high winds make travel dangerous, from coastal Massachusetts through Maine.

“We’re anticipating that we’ll be seeing through the mid- to late morning and probably into midafternoon snowfall rates of 1 to 3 inches per hour (up to 7.6 cm),” said Bob Thompson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts.

About 140,000 homes and businesses in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Jersey lost power as the storm downed trees and power lines.

“As soon as the snow stops and the wind stops blowing, we will be pushing the utilities to give people a sense of when the power will come back on,” Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker told reporters on Tuesday. “They will move quickly and aggressively to deal with this once the snow stops.”

Schools in Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, were shut on Tuesday, Maine’s state legislature canceled its session, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy closed all government offices and the Amtrak passenger rail line halted service between Boston and New York.

More than 1,500 U.S. flights were canceled, according to tracking service FlightAware. The hardest-hit airport was Boston Logan, where about four out of five flights were called off.

Nor’easters are storms that typically bring strong winds from the northeast, and they tend to occur most often and most violently between September and April along the East Coast, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says.

Some nor’easters carry hurricane-force winds. Winds were expected to reach 65 miles (105 km) per hour, forecasters said.

This storm’s heavy snow could down trees weakened by the last two storms and bring a fresh wave of power outages, officials warned.

Lower tides meant the storm would probably not bring a repeat of the flooding that sent icy water pouring into the streets of Boston during a storm early this month, forecasters and officials said.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; additional reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York; editing by Bill Rigby and Jonathan Oatis)

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)

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)

Fierce California winds expected as crews fight to tame wildfire

A home's remains are seen, next to a burnt out truck, after they were destroyed, during a wind-driven wildfire in Ventura.

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Crews battling a devastating California wildfire that now ranks as the state’s second-largest on record may face another round of fierce winds on Wednesday after they made progress corralling the flames.

Wind gusts were expected to whip back up to 50 mph (80 kph) on Wednesday evening and into Thursday morning as the so-called Thomas fire burned in the coastal mountains, foothills and canyons of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties northwest of Los Angeles, the National Weather Service said in an advisory.

A firefighter is working on extinguishing the Lilac Fire, a fast moving wildfire in Bonsall.

A firefighter is working on extinguishing the Lilac Fire, a fast moving wildfire in Bonsall.
REUTERS/Mike Blake

On Tuesday, officials scaled back evacuation orders, cut firefighting personnel to 6,800 from about 8,500 and reported improved air quality.

Higher humidity combined with diminished winds and temperatures to ease the firefighters’ job since Sunday. But the region remains “critically dry,” a group of agencies said in a statement.

More than 1,000 homes and other buildings have gone up in flames and about 18,000 structures remained listed as threatened from a late-season firestorm that has kept crews on the defensive for the better part of two weeks.

One firefighter died last Thursday near the town of Fillmore in Ventura County.

Still, fire managers were “cautiously optimistic” that they have gained sufficient ground this week to protect populated areas against the return of the high winds forecast.

By Tuesday night, firefighters had carved containment lines around 55 percent of the blaze’s perimeter – up from 50 percent earlier in the day. But the fire has still spread by several hundred acres a day since the weekend.

In total the fire has scorched 272,000 acres (110,074 hectares) of drought-parched chaparral and brush since igniting on Dec. 4, covering an area equivalent to nearly a third of Rhode Island.

The latest tally makes the Thomas blaze second only in scale in California to the 2003 Cedar fire in San Diego County, which consumed a record 273,246 acres and killed 15 people.

The Thomas fire was initially stoked by hot, dry Santa Ana winds blowing with rare hurricane force from the eastern desert, spreading flames across miles of rugged coastal terrain faster than firefighters could keep up.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

One dead as Storm Ophelia batters Ireland

A lighthouse is seen as storm Ophelia approaches South Stack in Anglesey, Wales, Britain, October 16, 2017

By Clodagh Kilcoyne

LAHINCH, Ireland (Reuters) – A woman was killed as Tropical Storm Ophelia battered Ireland’s southern coast on Monday, knocking down trees and power lines and whipping up 10-metre (30-foot) waves.

Over 230,000 homes and businesses were without electricity with more outages expected and almost 150 flights were canceled from Ireland’s two main airports at Dublin and Shannon.

The woman in her 50s was killed by a tree falling on her car in the southeastern county of Waterford, police said. A female passenger in her 70s was injured. Police corrected an earlier report that the victim was in her 20s.

The storm, downgraded from a hurricane overnight, was the worst to hit Ireland in half a century. It made landfall after 10:40 a.m. (0940 GMT), the Irish National Meteorological Service said, with winds as strong as 176 kph (110 mph) hitting the most southerly tip of the country and flooding likely.

“These gusts are life-threatening. Do not be out there,” the chairman of Ireland’s National Emergency Coordination Group, Sean Hogan, said on national broadcaster RTE.

Schools, hospitals and public transport services were closed and the armed forces were sent to bolster flood defences. Photos on social media showed the roof of a stand at Cork City soccer club’s Turner’s Cross stadium had collapsed.

Hurricane Ophelia image captured by NASA is seen in space, October 14, 2017 in this still obtained from social media.

Hurricane Ophelia image captured by NASA is seen in space, October 14, 2017 in this still obtained from social media. NASA SPORT/ via REUTERS

Hurricane force winds are expected in every part of the country, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said, advising people to stay indoors. The transport minister said it was not safe to drive.

“While the storm in some parts of the country is not yet that bad, it is coming your way,” Varadkar told a news conference.

Britain’s meteorological service put an Amber Weather Warning into effect for Northern Ireland from 1400-2100 GMT, saying the storm posed a danger to life and was likely to cause transport cancellations, power cuts and flying debris.

“Impactful weather” is expected in other western and northern parts of the United Kingdom, it said.

British media are comparing Ophelia to the “Great Storm” of 1987, which subjected parts of the United Kingdom to hurricane strength winds 30 years ago to the day.

The storm is expected to move towards western Scotland overnight.

The Irish government said the storm was likely to be the worst since Hurricane Debbie, which killed 11 in Ireland in 1961.

It is likely to pass close to a west of Ireland golf course owned by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been planning a wall to protect its greens from coastal erosion.

Similar sized storms in the past have changed the shape of stretches of the Irish coastline, climatologists said.

 

(Additional reporting and writing by Padraic Halpin and Conor Humphries; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Robin Pomeroy)