New front opens in Australian bushfires, power cut to thousands

By Colin Packham

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Electricity firms cut off power to thousands of people, more than 100 schools were closed and residents in high risk regions sought shelter on Wednesday as Australia’s devastating bushfires opened up a new front.

Australia has been battling wildfires across several states for days, endangering thousands of people in many communities. Blazes so far this month have killed at least four people, burnt about 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) of farmland and bush and destroyed more than 300 homes.

On Wednesday, a fresh battle line was drawn as 50 fires sprung up in South Australia state, where officials lifted the fire danger warning to “catastrophic” as temperatures passed 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

A catastrophic warning means that should a fire start, it will not be possible for firefighters to control it, given the weather conditions.

“From sunrise until well past midnight, this state is going to experience very difficult fire conditions,” Brenton Eden, assistant chief officer at the South Australian Country Fire Service, told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.

More than 600 firefighters attended to incidents across the state on Wednesday, and most were expected to keep battling fires throughout the night.

As some of fires approached electricity transmission lines, provider SA Power Networks cut power to over 12,000 customers.

With strong winds stoking blazes, authorities put residents near four of the fires on high alert to flee in case the flames spread rapidly.

“This is the worst of the weather from a fire behaviour point that we will have seen,” Eden told reporters in Adelaide, the state capital.

Australia is prone to bushfires in its dry, hot summers, but the recent series of fierce blazes have been sparked early, in the southern spring, after a three-year drought that has left much of the country tinder-dry.

While the immediate threat was in the south on Wednesday, firefighters continued to battle about 100 fires that have been burning for several days across Australia’s east coast.

Sydney, the country’s most populous city with around 5 million residents, was covered with thick smoke for the second day running. Health officials on Tuesday warned people in the harbour city to stay inside as the smoke reached hazardous levels.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; editing by Jane Wardell and Gerry Doyle)

Cyclone hit millions across Africa in record disaster: U.N.

A general view shows destruction after Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, March 16-17, 2019 in this still image taken from a social media video on March 19, 2019. Care International/Josh Estey via REUTERS

MAPUTO/HARARE (Reuters) – Cyclone winds and floods that swept across southeastern Africa affected more than 2.6 million people and could rank as one of the worst weather-related disaster recorded in the southern hemisphere, U.N. officials said on Tuesday.

Rescue crews are still struggling to reach victims five days after Cyclone Idai raced in at speeds of up to 170 kph (105 mph) from the Indian Ocean into Mozambique, then its inland neighbors Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Aid groups said many survivors were trapped in remote areas, surrounded by wrecked roads, flattened buildings and submerged villages.

“There’s a sense from people on the ground that the world still really hasn’t caught on to how severe this disaster is,” Matthew Cochrane, spokesman for International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told a U.N. briefing in Geneva.

“The full horror, the full impact is only going to emerge over coming days,” he added.

The official death count in Mozambique stands at 84 – but its president Filipe Nyusi said on Monday he had flown over some of the worst-hit zones, seen bodies floating in rivers and now estimated more than 1,000 people may have died there.

The cyclone hit land near Mozambique’s port of Beira on Thursday and moved inland throughout the weekend, leaving heavy rains in its wake on Tuesday.

Studies of satellite images suggested 1.7 million people were in the path of the cyclone in Mozambique and another 920,000 affected in Malawi, Herve Verhoosel, senior spokesman at the U.N World Food Programme said. It gave no figures for Zimbabwe.

WORST FEARS

Several rivers had broken their banks, or were about to, leaving a huge area covered by the waters, and only accessible by air and water, Lola Castro, WFP regional director for Southern Africa, told the U.N. briefing by phone from Johannesburg.

Heavy rains preceded the cyclone, compounding the problems, said Clare Nullis of the U.N. World Meteorological Organization said .

A general view shows destruction after Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, March 16-17, 2019 in this still image taken from a social media video on March 19, 2019. Care International/Josh Estey via REUTERS

A general view shows destruction after Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, March 16-17, 2019 in this still image taken from a social media video on March 19, 2019. Care International/Josh Estey via REUTERS

“It the worst fears are realized … then we can say that it is one of the worst weather-related disasters, tropical-cyclone-related disasters in the southern hemisphere.” Droughts are classed as climate-related not weather-related.

In Beira, a low-lying coastal city of 500,000 people, Nullis said the water had nowhere to drain. “This is not going to go away quickly,” she said.

Beira is also home to Mozambique’s second largest port, which serves as a gateway to landlocked countries in the region.

The control room of a pipeline that runs from Beira to Zimbabwe and supplies the majority of that country’s fuel had been damaged, Zimbabwe’s Energy Minister Jorum Gumbo told state-owned Herald newspaper on Tuesday.

“We, however, have enough stocks in the country and I am told the repairs at Beira may take a week,” he was quoted as saying.

(Reporting Manuel Mucari in Maputo and Macdonald Dzirutwe in Harare; Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva and Mfuneko Toyana and Emma Rumney in Johannesburg; Editing by Catherine Evans and Andrew Heavens)

‘Monster’ Hurricane Florence to pummel U.S. Southeast for days

Hurricane Florence is seen from the International Space Station as it churns in the Atlantic Ocean towards the east coast of the United States, September 10, 2018. NASA/Handout via REUTERS

By Ernest Scheyder

WILMINGTON, N.C. (Reuters) – Hurricane Florence, on track to become the first Category 4 storm to make a direct hit on North Carolina in six decades, howled closer to shore on Tuesday, threatening to unleash deadly pounding surf, days of torrential rain and severe flooding.

Sailors cast off mooring lines to the Command hospital ship USNS Comfort as the ship evacuates Naval Station Norfolk in preparation for Hurricane Florence in Norfolk, Virginia, U.S., September 11, 2018. Jennifer Hunt/US Navy/Handout via REUTERS

Sailors cast off mooring lines to the Command hospital ship USNS Comfort as the ship evacuates Naval Station Norfolk in preparation for Hurricane Florence in Norfolk, Virginia, U.S., September 11, 2018. Jennifer Hunt/US Navy/Handout via REUTERS

Fierce winds and massive waves are expected to lash the coasts of North and South Carolina and Virginia even before Florence makes landfall by early Friday, bringing a storm surge as much as 13 feet (4 meters), the National Hurricane Center in Miami warned. Catastrophic floods could follow if the storm stalls inland, it said.

Although Florence was still days from arrival, authorities took extraordinary measures to move people out of harm’s way. More than 1 million residents have been ordered to evacuate from the coastline of the three states, while university campuses, schools, and factories were being shuttered.

The U.S. Coast Guard closed ports in Wilmington and Morehead City, North Carolina and Hampton Roads, Virginia to inbound vessels greater than 500 tons and was requiring vessels of that size to leave if they did not have permission to be in the ports.

Packing maximum sustained winds of 140 miles per hour (225 km per hour), the storm ranked as a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale and was expected to grow stronger and larger over the next few days, the NHC said.

“This storm is a monster,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said. “Even if you’ve ridden out storms before, this one is different. Don’t bet your life on riding out a monster.”

He cited forecasts showing Florence was likely to stall over North Carolina, “bringing days and days of rain.”

To hasten evacuations from coastal South Carolina, officials reversed the flow of traffic on some highways so all major roads led away from shore.

Kathleen O’Neal, a resident of Ocracoke Island in North Carolina’s Barrier Islands, said she, her husband and son would ride out the storm. “A lot of local people are staying,” she said of the island, which is reachable only by ferry or plane.

John Muchmore helps to lay sandbags at the Afterdeck condos ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Garden City Beach, South Carolina, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill

John Muchmore helps to lay sandbags at the Afterdeck condos ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Garden City Beach, South Carolina, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill

LONG-TERM POWER OUTAGES POSSIBLE

Maps of Florence’s trajectory showed its center most likely to strike the southern coast of North Carolina. The last Category 4 hurricane to plow directly into North Carolina was Hazel in 1954, a devastating storm that killed 19 people and destroyed some 15,000 homes.

NHC forecasts showed the effects of Florence would be widely felt, with tropical storm-force winds extending nearly 300 miles across three states. A hurricane warning was posted for most of the Carolina coast north to the Virginia border.

In addition to wind-driven storm surges of seawater, Florence could dump up to 35 inches (89 cm) in some spots as it moves inland, forecasters said.

Communities in Florence’s path could lose electricity for weeks due to downed power lines and flooded equipment, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long said.

Utilities deployed crews and gear in advance, with workers en route to the region from at least 15 states, according to trade group, the Edison Electric Institute.

Crews also prepared 16 nuclear reactors in the three-state region for the storm. One power station, Duke Energy Corp’s Brunswick plant, the closest to the area where landfall is forecast, faced a likely shutdown as a precaution. Shutdowns also were possible at two more plants in the path of predicted hurricane-force winds.

The American Red Cross said more than 700 workers were headed to the region while shelters were set up to house those unable to flee. A hospital in Hampton, Virginia, was transferring patients to safer places.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed declarations of emergency for North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, freeing up federal resources for storm response.

“We are sparing no expense. We are totally prepared,” Trump said at the White House.

Trump faced severe criticism for his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria last year in Puerto Rico. Some 3,000 people died in the aftermath of that storm.

 

U.S. President Donald Trump holds an Oval Office meeting on hurricane preparations as FEMA Administrator Brock Long points to the potential track of Hurricane Florence on a graphic at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

U.S. President Donald Trump holds an Oval Office meeting on hurricane preparations as FEMA Administrator Brock Long points to the potential track of Hurricane Florence on a graphic at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

COMMERCIAL OPERATIONS

Days before its arrival, Florence was already disrupting commercial operations.

Boeing Co suspended work on Tuesday at the South Carolina plant where it assembles 787 widebody jetliners, and a Volvo automobile plant in South Carolina’s evacuation zone was also closed, company officials said.

Smithfield Foods Inc [SFII.UL] said it would shut down the world’s largest hog-slaughtering facility in Tar Heel, North Carolina, on Thursday and Friday due to the hurricane.

Residents prepared by boarding up their homes and stocking up on food, water and other essentials, stripping grocery store shelves of merchandise. Many gasoline stations were running low on fuel.

“I’m scared we’ll get 30 inches or more of rain,” said Carol Trojniar, 69, a longtime Wilmington resident and retired real estate agent who has never experienced a Category 4 hurricane. “What is flooding going to do to our home, our city?”

Trojniar said she and her husband were packing up belongings and plan to stack sandbags around their single-floor home in Wilmington’s eerily named Landfall neighborhood near the ocean before checking into a hotel to ride out the storm, with plenty of wine.

“Where else can we go? If we try to leave, we’ll just get stuck in the rain,” she said.

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Additional reporting by Anna Driver in Holden Beach, North Carolina, Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina, Liz Hampton in Houston, Susan Heavey in Washington, Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Scott DiSavino and Alden Bentley in New York, Nichola Groom and Alex Dobzinskis in Los Angeles and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Nick Zieminski, Bill Trott and Steve Gorman; Editing by Bill Tarrant, Lisa Shumaker and Michael Perry)

‘Ash fallout’ alert after Hawaii volcano erupts in 30,000-foot plume

People watch as ash erupts from the Halemaumau crater near the community of Volcano during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., May 15, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

By Terray Sylvester

PAHOA, Hawaii (Reuters) – An explosive eruption spewed ash 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) into the air above Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano on Thursday and residents of the Big Island were warned to take shelter as the plume engulfed a wide area, authorities said.

The wind could carry the ash plume as far as Hilo, the Big Island’s largest city and major tourism center, the County of Hawaii Civil Defense warned in an alert.

“Protect yourself from ash fallout,” it said.

The 4:15 a.m. (10:15 a.m. ET) blast that sent ash and smoke nearly six miles into the atmosphere was followed by other emissions of up to 12,000 feet, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a statement.

USGS geologists and staff were evacuated from the summit shortly before the blast and a webcam showed a gray plume of ash and chunks of magma known as pyroclasts that showered the volcano’s slopes.

An aviation red alert was issued due to risks that ash could be carried into aircraft routes and damage jet engines, USGS said.

The eruption could not only enshroud large areas of the Big Island in volcanic ash and smog but other Hawaiian Islands and potentially distant areas if the plume reaches up into the stratosphere and ash is carried by winds.

National Guard troops donned gas masks to protect themselves from toxic sulfur dioxide gas at the intersection of highways 130 and 132, the main exit routes from the village of Pahoa, 25 miles (40 km) east of the volcano, where many of the ground fissures have erupted, a Reuters reporter in the village said.

Schools were closed in the area due to “elevated sulfur dioxide (SO2) levels,” according to a phone alert from emergency authorities

The volcano has destroyed at least 37 homes and other structures in a small southeast area of the island where lava has oozed from fissures, forcing around 2,000 people to evacuate their homes.

Geologists had warned explosive eruptions could begin once Kilauea’s falling lava lake descended below the water table, allowing water to run on to the top of the lava column and create steam-driven blasts.

The powerful explosions could hurl “ballistic blocks” the size of refrigerators across a distance of more than half a mile (1 km) and shoot pebble-sized projectiles and debris up to a dozen miles, the USGS has warned.

Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, last experienced explosive eruptions in 1924.

(Additional reporting by Jolyn Rosa in Honolulu; writing by Andrew Hay; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

2 Dead as Fire sweeps across Western Oklahoma

aerial view of fires burning in Oklahoma.

By Kami Klein

With winds gusting at 30mph, low humidity and very dry conditions, fire officials in Oklahoma say that as bad as it is now, things are looking worse for the week. So far there have been two deaths reported and several counties are ordering evacuations as the flames burn mostly out of control in the Northwest areas of Oklahoma.  

According to KOCO News 5 the fires have burned more than 400,000 acre in western Oklahoma, and dry, windy weather has severely hindered firefighting efforts.  Today the counties of Dewey, and the towns of Selling, Talogo and Putnam have been order to evacuate.

In a news release late Sunday night Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain stated that  61-year-old Jack Osben died Thursday in Roger Mills County. He was driving a motor grader to help firefighters put out the fire that began southeast of Leedey,about 110 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. Cain said a woman also died as a result of a fire near Seiling, about 90 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. The woman had been visiting at a residence, near Seiling, Okla., when the fire caused the people there to evacuate the area.The residents made it away from the area and reported to the authorities that the woman was missing. A search was made in the area well within the burn area where a Jeep Cherokee was found with the woman inside.

Because the fire began during the governor’s burn ban and if it should be proven the fire was intentionally set, the person who set the fire could be charged in the woman’s death.

Oklahoma News 4 reported that some volunteer fire departments are asking for donations to help, as fire heads toward many farming and rural towns.  “The wind’s horrible,” Weatherford Fire Chief Mike Karlin said. “We had wind all through the night. Typically, in the night, we get higher humidities, we get lower winds. The only thing that we’ve had is cooler temperatures, and that hasn’t affected the fire conditions at all.”

Weather conditions will be feeding the fire this week as dozens of fire departments attempt to gain control of the flames.  Warnings are out in 19 counties of Oklahoma for severely hazardous fire conditions, prohibiting fires and asking that people be vigilant throughout the state.    

 

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)

Cyclone wreaks havoc in Tonga’s capital, parliament flattened, homes wrecked

The aftermath of cyclone Gita is seen in Nuku'alofa, Tonga, February 13, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. Twitter Virginie Dourlet/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

By John Mair

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Tonga’s neighbors scrambled to deliver emergency relief on Tuesday after Cyclone Gita tore across the Pacific island nation in the middle of the night, flattening the parliament, tearing roofs off homes and causing widespread flooding.

There were no confirmed reports of deaths from the Category 4 storm that bought winds of around 200 km (125 miles) per hour, but there were a lot of injured people, some seriously, said Graham Kenna, an Australian government adviser at Tonga’s National Emergency Management Office.

Photos posted on social media showed a wrecked Parliament House building in the capital, as well as extensive flooding and downed power lines. Access to areas outside the capital were hindered by the storm damage and debris.

“The full extent of damage caused by Cyclone Gita is still being assessed but there is an immediate need for assistance on the ground,” NZ Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said in a statement.

“About 5,700 people sought shelter in evacuation centres overnight, and it is expected these numbers will increase substantially tonight.”

New Zealand is donating NZ$750,000 ($545,000) in aid, and a NZ Air Force Hercules aircraft was due to fly emergency relief supplies into Tonga on Tuesday.

Australia is donating A$350,000 ($275,000) worth of emergency shelter, kitchen and hygiene kits, while the country’s foreign minister said the Australian Defence Force personnel would assist with clean-up efforts.

The cyclone was heading towards Fiji’s southern islands on Tuesday, with some forecasts reporting it intensifying towards a Category 5 storm. Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama warned residents to “heed warnings and prepare”, although the storm is expected to bypass heavily populated areas.

Gita had pummeled Samoa and American Samoa, about 900 km (560 miles) to the northeast, over the weekend, flooding the Samoan capital, Apia.

The aftermath of cyclone Gita is seen in Nuku'alofa, Tonga, February 13, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. Facebook Noazky Langi/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

The aftermath of cyclone Gita is seen in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, February 13, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. Facebook Noazky Langi/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

POWER DOWN

Tonga’s clean-up began in the early hours of Tuesday as the tail of the cyclone was still over the capital, Nuku’alofa.

“Every second power pole has been knocked over and the lines are just everywhere,” Kenna said, saying it would likely be days before power could be restored. Water supplies and radio networks were also disrupted.

“They turned the power off very early before the cyclone came, knowing that the power lines would be blown down, which was a good move.”

The worst of the cyclone hit around a low tide, so there were no reports of storm surges worsening the impact of the wind and rains.

Kenna estimated around 40 percent of houses in the capital had suffered some damage, many with roofs blown off.

“A lot of the older houses, especially some of the older heritage houses, have been badly damaged or destroyed, which is very sad, they’re quite historical,” he said. “They’ve been through cyclones before, but this is the biggest cyclone this island has had for at least 60 odd years.”

($1 = 1.3776 New Zealand dollars)

($1 = 1.2718 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by John Mair in Wellington.; Additional reporting by Colin Packham in Sydney; Editing by Jane Wardell and SImon Cameron-Moore)

In blizzard’s wake, northeastern U.S. brace for intense cold

A pedestrian walks through blinding snow across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City.

By Scott Malone and Jonathan Allen

BOSTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Street crews in the U.S. Northeast raced through the night into Friday to clear snow-clogged streets after a powerful blizzard and restore power to homes ahead of a brutal cold spell that has killed more than a dozen people.

From Baltimore to Caribou, Maine, efforts were under way to clear roadways of ice and snow as wind chill temperatures were to plunge during the day, reaching -40 F (-40 C) in some parts after sundown, according to the National Weather Service.

The brutal cold was forecast to reach from New England across to the Midwest and down to the Carolinas, forecasters warned, adding that low-temperature records could be broken across the broad region in the coming days.

“In a lot of New England, the highs will be in the single digits and the teens today, with intense wind chills,” said Dan Pydynowski, a meteorologist with private forecasting service Accuweather. The cold will extend down to the mid-Atlantic states, he said.

“It can be very dangerous,” Pydynowski said. “Any kind of exposed skin can freeze in a couple of minutes.”

The cold also raised the risk that road salt would not work to melt ice, possibly leaving highway crews to shift over to sanding roads to improve traction, Massachusetts transportation officials said.

Utility companies across the East worked to repair downed power lines early on Friday as about 31,000 customers remained without electricity, down from almost 80,000 the day before, and issued warnings that temperatures may become dangerously low.

“If the temperature in your home begins to fall, we recommend taking shelter elsewhere until service can be restored,” National Grid power company, which serves Massachusetts, said on Twitter. “You can find warming centers by contacting local authorities.”

People walk in Times Square during a winter storm in Manhattan. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

17 DEATHS

The storm, with winds gusts of more than 70 miles per hour (113 kph), dumped a foot (30 cm) or more of snow throughout the region, including Boston and parts New Jersey and Maine, where heavy snow continued to fall early on Friday.

The wintry weather has been blamed for at least 17 deaths in the past few days, including three in North Carolina traffic accidents and three in Texas because of the cold.

Schools in Boston and Baltimore canceled classes Friday while New York was open and Newark, New Jersey, schools were to open two hours late.

Commuter railways serving New York and Boston’s suburbs were reporting extensive delays, as they worked to repair frozen equipment and clear snow-covered tracks.

The storm on Thursday caused a 3-foot (0.9-metre) tidal surge that flooded the area around Boston’s historic Long Wharf with icy seawater. Firefighters used an inflatable raft to rescue one motorist from a car submerged in water up to its door handles, Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn told reporters.

Communities outside Boston, including Scituate, also saw extensive flooding, with parking lots filled with water damaging unoccupied vehicles.

New York’s John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports resumed flights on Friday after closing in whiteout conditions a day earlier. More than 1,000 U.S. flights had been canceled early on Friday with New York’s three major airports and Boston Logan International Airport seeing the most cancellations.

The storm was powered by a rapid plunge in barometric pressure that some weather forecasters called a bombogenesis, or a “bomb cyclone.” It brought high winds and swift, heavy snowfall.

Nearly 500 members of the National Guard were activated along the East Coast to assist with emergency response, including 200 in New York state, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a statement.

Officials reported traffic accidents throughout the Northeast and the storm’s reach extended to eastern Canada.

(Additonal reporting by Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Bill Trott)

New York City’s JFK Airport temporarily closed due to snowstorm: FAA

People are seen in silhouette inside the Trans World Airlines Flight Center at John F. Kennedy Airport in the Queens borough of New York, October 18, 2015.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport was temporarily closed on Thursday due to heavy snow, ice and harsh winds in the area, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The airport, which suspended operations shortly before 11 a.m. local time (1600 GMT), was expected to reopen at 3 p.m. (200 GMT), FAA officials said.

(Reporting by Gina CherelusEditing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Storm Eleanor causes flood damage on Ireland’s west coast

People view large waves and high winds associated with Storm Eleanor as they hit the lighthouse and seawall at Porthcawl in south Wales, Britain January 3, 2018.

GALWAY (Reuters) – Homes and business on Ireland’s west coast suffered flood damage and 27,000 were still without electricity on Wednesday after Storm Eleanor brought heavy rain and winds of up to 155 kilometers per hour.

A car drives along a flooded road in New Brighton, on the coast of the Wirral peninsula, in Merseyside, Britain, January 3, 2018.

A car drives along a flooded road in New Brighton, on the coast of the Wirral peninsula, in Merseyside, Britain, January 3, 2018. REUTERS/Phil Noble

 

The storm hit Ireland’s fourth largest city, Galway, particularly hard as high tides late on Tuesday forced road closures and wreaked havoc for shop owners.

Cars are seen in a flooded multi-storey car park as flood waters reached up to 1.5 meters and destroyed multiple cars, in Galway, Ireland January 3, 2018.

Cars are seen in a flooded multi-storey car park as flood waters reached up to 1.5 meters and destroyed multiple cars, in Galway, Ireland January 3, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board (ESB) said at one stage on Tuesday 150,000 homes and business were without electricity.

“We’re really hopeful, given that it’s the last week of a lot of people’s Christmas holidays, that we will have power back to pretty much everybody by tonight,” Derek Hynes, Operations Manager for ESB, told national broadcaster RTE.

The weather service’s second highest level of alert remained in place for the west and northwest of the country. Met Eireann said a combination of high tides and exceptionally high seas would result in coastal damage and further flooding.

Three people died in October when Tropical Storm Ophelia battered every corner of Ireland, bringing down trees and power lines and whipping up 10-meter (30-foot) waves.

(Writing by Padraic Halpin in Dublin; editing by Stephen Addison)