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Sept 13th 2017
Evacuees from Hurricane Irma were early on Wednesday returning to the Florida Keys, where sunrise will give them a first glimpse of devastation that has left countless homes and businesses in ruins.
Categorized as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record, Irma claimed more than 60 lives, officials said.
At least 18 people died in Florida and destruction was widespread in the Keys, where Irma made initial U.S. landfall on Sunday to become the second major hurricane to strike the mainland this season.
A resort island chain that stretches from the tip of the state into the Gulf of Mexico, the Keys are connected by a bridges and causeways along a narrow route of nearly 100 miles (160 km).
"I don't have a house. I don't have a job. I have nothing," said Mercedes Lopez, 50, whose family fled north from the Keys town of Marathon on Friday and rode out the storm at an Orlando hotel, only to learn their home was destroyed, along with the gasoline station where she worked.
"We came here, leaving everything at home, and we go back to nothing," Lopez said. Four families from Marathon including hers planned to venture back on Wednesday to salvage what they can.
The Keys had been largely evacuated by the time Irma barreled ashore as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of up to 130 mph (215 km/hour).
Initial damage assessments found 25 percent of homes there were destroyed and 65 percent suffered major damage, Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long said.
'SAILBOAT IN OUR BACKYARD'
Authorities allowed re-entry to the islands of Key Largo, Tavernier and Islamorada for residents and business owners on Tuesday. The extent of the devastation took many of the first returnees by surprise.
"I expected some fence lines to be down and some debris," said Orlando Morejon, 51, a trauma surgeon from Miami as he hacked away at a tree blocking his Islamorada driveway. "We were not expecting to find someone else's sailboat in our backyard."
A boil water notice was in effect for the Keys late on Tuesday, while its airports remained closed to commercial flights.
Several major airports in Florida that had halted passenger operations resumed with limited service on Tuesday, including Miami International, one of the busiest in the United States.
All 42 bridges in Monroe County, which includes the Keys, were deemed safe and one of two washed out sections of U.S. 1 Roadway was now navigable, the county said on its Twitter account.
At the end of Islamorada, roughly the halfway point of the Keys, police at a checkpoint turned around returning residents seeking to travel farther south and waved through utility crews, law enforcement and healthcare workers.
Authorities said they were barring re-entry to the remainder of the Keys to allow more time to restore electricity, water, fuel and medical service. U.S. officials have said some 10,000 Keys residents stayed put when the storm hit and may ultimately need to be evacuated.
Across Florida and nearby states, some 5.8 million homes and businesses were late on Tuesday estimated to be still without power, down from a peak of 7.4 million on Monday.
Florida's largest utility, Florida Power & Light Co, said western parts of Florida might be without electricity until Sept. 22.
The state's largest city, Jacksonville, in its northeastern corner, was still recovering from heavy flooding on Wednesday.
While damage across Florida was severe, it paled in comparison with devastation wrought by Irma in parts of the Caribbean, which accounted for the bulk of the hurricane's fatalities.
It destroyed about one-third of the buildings on the Dutch-governed portion of the eastern Caribbean island of St. Martin, the Dutch Red Cross said on Tuesday.
Irma was a post-tropical cyclone late on Tuesday as it drifted north as it brought rain to the Mississippi Valley, the National Hurricane Center said.
It hit the United States soon after Hurricane Harvey, which plowed into Houston late last month, killing about 60 and causing some $180 billion in damage, mostly from flooding.
(Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta in Orlando, Florida; Bernie Woodall, Ben Gruber and Zachary Fagenson in Miami; Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Letitia Stein in Detroit; Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Harriet McLeod in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina; Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; and Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Scott DiSavino in New York; editing by John Stonestreet)
Sept 11th 2017
Hurricane Irma: Where it is now, and what we know so far
Hurricane Irma barreled into Florida on Sunday, crashing through the Florida Keys before making a second landfall near Naples on the Gulf Coast and setting a course for Georgia.
It flooded streets, snapped construction cranes and left 7 million without power as it weakened to a Category 2 hurricane.
At 11 p.m. ET, the center of the storm was about 40 miles east-northeast of Sarasota, Fla., and 30 miles southeast of Tampa, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.Irma is moving to the north at 14 mph with sustained winds of 100 mph.
The hurricane was downgraded on Sunday to a Category 2 storm on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale. Irma is expected to weaken overnight before becoming a tropical storm between northern Florida and southern Georgia on Monday, the center said.
Despite weakening, Irma was expected to remain a hurricane through Monday morning, the hurricane center said. Tropical storm conditions were anticipated within a 220-mile reach, said National Hurricane Center Chief Hurricane Specialist Michael Brennan.
When did Irma hit mainland Florida?
After raking the Keys mid-morning Sunday, Irma made landfall near Naples in the afternoon. The storm was then slated to move inland over northern Florida on Monday before entering Georgia. The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning for both coasts of the peninsula up through central parts of the state.
The worst of Hurricane Irma was forecast along the west coast of Florida, plowing up the state's west coast and battering cities such as Naples, Fort Myers and Sarasota with hurricane-force winds, torrential rain, and devastating storm-surge inundation. “This will be the worst single hurricane to hit Florida since Hurricane Andrew in 1992,” said meteorologist Joel N. Myers, head of AccuWeather.
The storm has killed at least 20 people since roaring out of the open Atlantic Ocean and chewing through a string of Caribbean islands.
When was the last time a hurricane hit the Tampa area?</h2>
The most recent major (Category 3 or above) hurricane to directly hit the Tampa Bay area was on Oct. 25, 1921. That storm came ashore in Tarpon Springs, Fla., just north of Tampa-St.Petersburg, with winds estimated at 120 mph. A storm surge estimated at 11 feet flooded much of the city. The storm killed six people in the Tampa-St.Petersburg area, and damage was estimated at $2 million (in 1921 dollars.) A similar impact today would be a far different story, as the metro area’s population has soared in the past 100 years, from around 50,000 in 1920 to 3 million people. The 1921 hurricane was the most destructive hurricane to hit the Tampa area since 1848, the weather service said.
How strong was Irma at landfall?
The storm hit Cudjoe Key at Category 4 strength, as predicted, with ferocious 130 mph winds. Locations where a Category 4 eye wall hit will see "power outages that will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months," the hurricane center said. It made landfall again Sunday afternoon on Florida's Marco Island, south of Naples, as a Category 3 storm.
How bad can the storm surge be?
Storm surge, the wall of sea water that roars ashore as a hurricane makes landfall, inundating coastal areas, will be "dangerous" and "life-threatening" for people who didn't evacuate. Some areas could see up to 15 feet of sea water pushed ashore from Irma, the hurricane center said. Storm-surge warnings have been hoisted all the wayfrom the Keys to north of Tampa.
What about rain, wind and tornadoes?
Irma will bring all these into play as it delivers a savage blow to nearly the entire state of Florida. Fierce winds could also rip some buildings to shreds across the state. Wind gusts approaching 160 mph are possible in some areas. While the colossal flooding seen during Harvey may not be the primary threat from Irma, some parts of Florida could see as much as 20 inches of rain. In addition, a few brief tornadoes are possible across portions of the Florida Peninsula and coastal Georgia and South Carolina Sunday as Hurricane Irma impacts the region.
How many people are evacuating?
In one of the biggest evacuations ever ordered in the U.S., about 6.3 million people in Florida — more than one quarter of the state’s population — have now been told to clear out from threatened areas and another 540,000 were directed to move away from the Georgia coast. In Florida, 54,000 people had already taken refuge in the more than 320 shelters located in every county outside the highly vulnerable Keys.
How many people could lose power?
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said over 381,000 people had already lost power Sunday morning in Florida as dangerous winds began lashing southern parts of the state. Florida Power & Light officials said as many as 9 million customers could lose power as Hurricane Irma roars ashore. The company provides electricity to 10 million people across nearly half the state.
How many flights have been canceled?
Airline cancellations continued to pile up in Florida and the Southeast as Hurricane Irma was set to make landfall later Sunday. At least 7,000 flights to or from Florida had been canceled because of Irma just by 6 p.m. Saturday, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. Overall, more than 10,600 flights have been canceled since Irma first began affecting flights in the Caribbean. Hundreds more – possibly thousands more – may ultimately be tacked on to that tally as Irma moves inland over Florida and then into Georgia and Alabama.
What about Hurricane Jose?
Already battered and reeling from Hurricane Irma, isolated Caribbean islands lacking infrastructure, communications, medical supplies and other essentials prepared to weather another potent hurricane Saturday as Jose bore down on the region. Jose was headed toward the northern Leeward Islands, which include Antigua and Barbuda, St. Martin and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, with sustained winds of 150 mph — a Category 4 storm. Irma already left a trail of flooded streets, toppled buildings, uprooted trees, upside-down boats and cars, and residents and visitors scrambling to secure shelter, food and clean water. Many people were looking for ways off the islands.
How could Irma impact Florida's economy?
Hurricane Irma is expected to pose at least a temporary setback to Florida's sizzling economy as it takes aim at the heart of the nation’s citrus production and batters its robust tourism industry. But if the storm causes extensive damage that discourages incoming retirees and tempers runaway population growth, the economic effects could be more substantial, analysts say.
Will Irma harm Florida's citrus crops?
Florida is the nation’s top citrus producer and also leads in sugarcane, tomatoes, watermelons and fresh market cucumbers, according to state government data. Farmers are trying to drain fields of excess water, secure equipment and ensure water pumps work in the event of flooding, says Lisa Lochridge, spokeswoman for the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association. The most immediate worry is the vast orange crop in central and south Florida. Risks to the crop have increased since forecasts altered the storm’s projected path westward, says Chris Hyde, agricultural meteorologist at MDA Weather Services.
How will Irma impact other states?
Florida will take the brunt of the storm, but states from Georgia to Indiana will experience Irma's effects in the days ahead. After Florida, Georgia is forecast to suffer the most. Irma may still be a hurricane when it crosses the border early Monday. Tropical storm-force winds of up to 60 mph are possible across the state into early Tuesday morning. Rainfall amounts of up to 20 inches could lead to flash flooding, especially in southern parts of Georgia. Along the coast, storm surge of up to 4 to 6 feet could swamp cities such as Savannah on Monday. Other states will experience heavy rain, tropical-storm force winds, rip currents, and other weather that could cause some flooding, downed trees and power outages.
Sept 10th 2017
Hurricane Irma has begun its assault on Florida as a category 4 storm, lashing the area with winds near 130mph (215km/h) and drenching rain.
Millions of people huddled in shelters or in battened-down homes in preparation as Irma’s northern eyewall – the area just outside the eye of the storm, where the most damaging winds are – reached the lower Florida Keys. The US National Hurricane Center said the hurricane was expected to remain a powerful storm as it moved through the Florida Keys and near the state’s west coast.
The leading edge of the immense storm – one of the most powerful ever recorded in the Atlantic – bent palm trees and spit rain across south Florida, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses, as the eye approached Key West.
The leading edge of the immense storm – one of the most powerful ever recorded in the Atlantic – bent palm trees and spit rain across south Florida, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses, as the eye approached Key West.
“The threat of tornadoes comes from thunderstorms in Hurricane Irma’s violent outer bands, which have been circling over Miami-Dade and Broward counties for most of the day as the storm moves ever closer.
“It’s likely to be a long night in the closet with the kids.”
Donald Trump was monitoring the progress of the storm from the presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland, where he held a cabinet meeting.
In Palm Beach, Trump’s waterfront Mar-a-Lago estate was under evacuation order.
“This is a storm of enormous destructive power, and I ask everyone in the storm’s path to heed ALL instructions from government officials,” Trump said on Twitter.
Irma leaves behind a trail of devastation in the Caribbean, with 25 confirmed killed, including 11 people on French St Martin and St Barts, four in the US Virgin Islands, three on Puerto Rico, two on Dutch St Maarten, one person in Anguilla and a two-year-old in Barbuda.
Its most recent victim, Cuba, experienced 125mph (200km/h) winds on Saturday that damaged hotels in the island’s best-known beach resorts and forced evacuations as far along the coast as low-lying areas of the capital, Havana.
Power was out and mobile phone service was spotty in many regions as Irma, the first category 5 storm to make landfall on the island since 1932, passed over. The island’s communist government ordered the evacuation of more than 1 million people from its path.
Sept 9th 2017 Do not forget your grab-bag see our page detailing this.
Hurricane Irma will batter Florida and ‘devastate US', officials warn
POMPANO BEACH, Fla. — Hurricane Irma continues to hurtle toward Florida’s doorstep, threatening to ravage the state with destruction not seen in a generation.
As the weather forecasts and warnings from officials grew increasingly dire, hundreds of thousands of people across Florida fled their homes before the rapidly closing window to escape Irma’s wrath slammed shut. Forecasters said Irma, a hurricane of remarkable size and power that already has battered islands across the Caribbean, would approach South Florida by Sunday morning and is likely to slam into its southern tip before tracking north across a heavily populated area.
“It’s not a question of if Florida’s going to be impacted, it’s a question of how bad Florida’s going to be impacted,” William “Brock” Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Friday at a news conference.
Officials in Georgia and the Carolinas — where heavy rains and flooding are expected early next week — have declared emergencies, but attention remained focused on Florida. Forecasts call for up to 20 inches of rain and thrashing winds no matter how the storm pivots before hitting the mainland United States.\
“Irma is likely to make landfall in Florida as a dangerous major hurricane, and will bring life-threatening wind impacts to much of the state regardless of the exact track of the center,” the National Hurricane Center said.
The center said that Irma, which had maximum sustained winds near 155 mph and higher gusts on Friday as it passed between the Central Bahamas and north coast of Cuba, was expected to remain a powerful Category 4 hurricane.
Local, state and federal officials have offered ominous warnings as the storm zeroed in on Florida, making clear how much danger they felt the Sunshine State could face in coming days. Long urged people from Alabama to North Carolina to monitor and prepare for the storm, calling it “a threat that is going to devastate the United States, either Florida or some of the southeastern states.”
Floridians are familiar with ominous forecasts and hurricane warnings, and many have painful memories of Hurricane Andrew, which made landfall as a Category 5 monster in 1992, and other storms that brought lashing rain and winds. But when asked about people in South Florida who intend to ride out the storm at home, Long was blunt.
“I can guarantee you that I don’t know anybody in Florida that’s ever experienced what’s about to hit South Florida,” Long said. “They need to get out and listen and heed the warnings.”
Mark DeMaria, acting deputy director of the hurricane center, said Friday afternoon that the latest models showed the storm track shifting slightly to the west, putting southwest Florida in particular jeopardy for the most violent winds, while all of South Florida will have significant impacts.
“We really want to emphasize the very vulnerable Southwest Florida area,” DeMaria said.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has warned people that evacuation zones could expand and said that all Floridians “should be prepared” to leave their homes. Scott also has cited the memories of Andrew, calling Irma “more devastating on its current path” and warning that much of the state could be imperiled.
In addition to having intense power, Irma also is an immense storm, with forecasters reporting hurricane-force winds extending some 70 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extending as far as 185 miles out.
Airports around the state said they would suspend flights and cease operations. Publix, a grocery-store chain, announced plans to close stores across the state in waves and did not say when they would reopen. Tom Bossert, homeland security adviser to President Trump, on Friday said that people need to have enough food and water to get by during a period when the rain and wind will prevent authorities from getting to them.
“We have pre-deployed and pre-staged, but we can’t actually get to that final point of care until conditions permit,” he said Friday during a White House briefing.
The National Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane warning covering all of South Florida, where local officials have ordered evacuations along the coast. In Miami-Dade County, the state’s most populous, mandatory evacuations were issued for about 660,000 people, including for Miami Beach and Key Biscayne. It was the largest evacuation ordered in Miami-Dade history, said Carlos A. Gimenez, the county’s mayor.
Miami City Hall, an Art Deco building on Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove, an evacuation zone, was locked and mostly vacant on Friday. The only vehicle seen in a City Hall parking spot? A black Ford Expedition in the spot labeled for Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado.
Many people ordered to leave Broward and Palm Beach counties were directed to public schools, which Scott has shuttered across the state so they can serve as shelters and staging areas for first responders. Many public schools across the state canceled classes, while colleges had also closed campuses and rescheduled football games.
Pompano Beach High School, which is just a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean and is normally home to the Golden Tornadoes, was transformed Friday into a haven for about 150 people seeking shelter from Irma. Several volunteers said they expected the school, one of about 20 facilities Broward County is using as shelters, to reach its capacity of 280 people by Saturday.
Those already packed into the school’s cafeteria had one thing in common: They were either unable or unwilling to leave the area, despite a mandatory evacuation order for several sections of the county, including anyone close to the nearby ocean. Only those who had registered starting at noon on Thursday were allowed into the school, and once capacity was reached, others who showed up were directed to venues with larger spaces.
Three Broward County sheriff’s deputies were at the front door on Friday, inspecting all bags for weapons, drugs and alcohol. Two paramedics were assigned to the shelter in three shifts, and two will be in the building 24 hours a day starting Saturday morning, along with at least a half-dozen law enforcement officers. The men, women and children filing inside were greeted by several volunteers and county employees who will be working around the clock starting Saturday at 8 a.m.
They’re staffing a facility that does not quite have all the comforts of home — there are two bathrooms and no showers, cots or WiFi — but there are a few. Two television sets were tuned to the Weather Channel, providing the latest news about Irma’s approach — all of it bad. There also were nine microwave ovens, plugs for cellphones and computers and, eventually, a generator.
Many occupants came fully prepared, with a number of air mattresses, chaise longues and sleeping bags set up in neat rows throughout the cafeteria. Three free meals a day will be served.
Someone brought in stacks of books, and others played checkers, cards, watched TV, read or took naps. An elderly couple came in concerned about keeping their insulin refrigerated. They were quickly assured by a paramedic that the insulin would be stored in a cafeteria fridge and be available any time.
Suzie and Renè Wilhelm were in Florida on vacation from the Netherlands. They were staying at a hotel a block from a nearby Fort Lauderdale beach. Renè Wilhelm, a Mercedes-Benz salesman, said they left Amsterdam for Orlando last Monday, not really aware of the huge storm gathering hundreds of miles away.
“We’ve been coming to Florida since 2000 — Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale — and we had no idea this was happening,” he said. “We’re used to snow, but not this.”
They stayed in Orlando for a day, then drove south on Wednesday, at the time hoping that the storm would veer away from South Florida.
“We didn’t know what to do,” said Suzie Wilhelm, who works in health care. “As we were driving here, I thought, ‘This is a stupid thing to do.’ I called our travel agent in the Netherlands, and also the same company here, to see if they could get us out, but they never even called me back or answered my emails. The woman at our hotel tried to book us somewhere else, but everything was filled.”
They tried one shelter but were told there was no food and that they could not leave if they went in.
“It was terrifying, so we came here,” she said. “You can come and go. People have been very nice to us.”
Not far away, Bill and Jane Borum, both native Washingtonians and retirees, were reading to pass the hours. They live in a condo at the Bay Colony high-rise in Fort Lauderdale, just steps from the ocean, and left when an evacuation order was issued. They thought about driving north to get out of harm’s way, but traffic was horribly jammed and “we really didn’t have any place to go,” said Jane Borum, who attended Alice Deal Junior High and Wilson High School in Northwest Washington “many years ago” and retired to South Florida with her husband.
“Our kids in Maryland wanted us to fly home, but we couldn’t get on a flight, so now we’re here,” she said. “It’s our first time in a shelter, and the last, I hope.”
Some hit the road but did not want to go too far. Joseph “Tony” Vincent, 82, said he has seen many storms and planned to hit the road for Irma, but he was not heading far away from the Naples Mobile Home Park — he has weekend room reservations at a modest motel just outside the park, along the Tamiami Trail.
Vincent said that even if he had the money, he would not leave his home state because of a hurricane.
“Hell, you’d be safer here than taking a car on those roads,” he said. “You might be killed before you get to Atlanta.”
Other Florida fixtures hunkered down. The Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens — otherwise known as Zoo Miami, which sprawls across more than 700 acres and has more than 3,000 animals — closed on Thursday but said it would not be moving its animals.
“We don’t evacuate our animals since hurricanes can change direction at the last minute and you run the risk of evacuating to a more dangerous location,” the zoo said in a statement. “Furthermore, the stress of moving the animals can be more dangerous than riding out the storm. The animals that are considered dangerous will stay in their secure night houses, which are made of poured concrete and welded metal.”
When Hurricane Andrew struck, the zoo was hit hard. Tropical birds were missing, cages torn apart and animals traumatized — although, miraculously, most of the animals were unharmed.
Across the main arteries out of Florida, some trips took more than twice as long as normal. People who fled the state trekked into Georgia and South Carolina, and Atlanta’s downtown was turned into a temporary home for many evacuees. In South Carolina, the attorney general’s office reported more than 200 complaints from residents about price-gouging related to gasoline.
Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms ever recorded, is currently on track to wreak havoc on Florida. Having already made landfall on some small islands, it’s moving perilously towards the densely-populated state, where its 185mph winds would be devestating.
But we’re still not certain of Irma’s path. Weather forecasting is notoriously tricky to get right, even with supercomputers and some of the world’s best scientists on the case. Different approaches to forecasting have led to a mess of different predicted storm paths, with the variance being the difference between a direct hit on Miami from 185mph winds, or a mildly windy day on the beach.
o if you want to keep a close eye on Hurriance Irma and understand how likely different outcomes are, here’s what you need to know.
Know your models
There’s a few different ways that meteorologists use to try and predict the path of a storm. Historically, the most accurate model for predicting the track of a storm is that produced by the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, known as the “European model.” It uses an array of supercomputers to model weather for the entire planet. By knowing what the weather will be like all round the world, the theory goes, it’s easier to predict the path of any one particular storm. The downside to the European model is that it only runs twice a day, thanks to the amount of computational power required.
The American equivalent is called the Global Forecasting System (GFS), run by the National Weather Service. It’s run four times per day at a lower resolution, and although it’s not held in as high regard as the ECMWF, the timely data is still useful to forecasters.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami uses data from both models, as well as other inputs, when producing its reports. The US also has the Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF), which uses real-time data from aircraft and satellites to monitor changing weather conditions faster than the scientific models. The HWRF was recently key in monitoring the intensity of Hurricane Harvey.
Check the National Hurricane Center
Luckily, you don’t have to weigh the pros and cons of different weather forecasts and monitoring services. The National Hurricane Center produces a number of constantly-updated maps and advisories for tracking a hurricane, and should be your first port of call for information.
It has a central page of information on Irma that provides an overview of the hurricane’s current status, predicted track, and areas that should be taking action. The page also shows the most recent public advisory, forecast advisory, and forecast discussion. The public advisory is a one-page statement that tells you about the likely outcome of the storm, and what action you should take; the forecast advisory and discussion give more information and are more technical.
The best visual aide is the interactive warnings/cone map, which shows the current best-guess prediction for the hurricane’s path. The “cone” shown on the map is where the eye of the storm is probably going to pass; anywhere within that cone is possible, with the line down the middle showing the storm’s most likely path — but it’s far from a guarantee. If you want to dive down further into local advisories, it links to the page for the National Weather Service’s local products here.
Be wary of other forecasts
Local weather shows and cable news are liable to show a “spaghetti map” of different types of forecast showing wildly different tracks. Ars Technica did a good breakdown of the different models and how they can be produced by vastly different means. While they’re useful data points for forecasters to interpret, many of the forecasts don’t work well as standalone products, and imply that forecasters have no idea what’s going on.
The opposite is true: weather forecasters have a good idea of how much they don’t know, and the huge area covered by the NHC’s cone of possibility goes to show it. Just because one archaic model shows your town being passed completely by, doesn’t mean you should ignore the advisories being issued by forecasters for your local area.
Sept 8th 2017
Two hundred Royal Marines were scrambled to the Caribbean today as Britain stepped up the rescue mission for islands ripped apart by Hurricane Irma.
A state of emergency was declared in the British Virgin Islands early today and the Category Five storm barrelled across the low-lying Turks and Caicos islands this morning.
At least 87,000 British nationals, including holidaymakers and residents, were believed to have been on four islands lashed by the hurricane. One of the worst storms to hit the region for a century, it left a trail of devastation and at least 14 dead, with fears that the casualty toll could rise sharply.
The UK was racing to deliver aid to its stricken overseas territories amid claims that France and the Netherlands have been quicker to support their dependencies.
Related: Hurricane Irma's relentless path over Caribbean (Sky News)
Two planes, a C17 and a Voyager, were flying from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, carrying around 200 Royal Marines, engineers and life-saving equipment destined for the British Virgin Islands.
Navy ship the RFA Mounts Bay was also sailing towards the islands amid fears that they have been even harder hit than Anguilla, where British military teams worked to reopen the airport so aid could be flown in.
Thousands of Britons on holiday, or visiting friends and family, in the Caribbean were caught up in the catastrophe. With phone masts brought down on several islands, many have been unable to contact relatives in the UK, raising fears over their safety.
British Virgin Islands governor Gus Jaspert declared a state of emergency, with roads impassable and rescue services unable to reach some areas. “We are aiming to provide some level of access to communities while we wait for help,” he said. “Please keep off the roads unless absolutely necessary to allow access to emergency services. International assistance has been requested from the United Kingdom.”
There are more than 40 islands with over 30,000 residents.
Briton Emily Killhoury, who lives on the isle of Tortola with her husband Michael and their two young children, told how Irma struck. “Our downstairs doors suddenly blew out, which was terrifying. We just stayed hiding,” she said. “We eventually emerged at about 7pm to see total devastation. Everybody is shocked, but trying to be practical.”
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warned: “There are now further storms moving in. Hurricane Jose. We have sent, as you know, RFA Monts Bay which will be moving from Anguila to the British Virgin Islands later on this morning to distribute humanitarian aid there. We’ve announced a £32 million aid package for the area. We’re sending a Foreign Office team as well as DFID teams and UK troops.”
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon was due to chair another meeting of Whitehall’s emergency Cobra committee this afternoon. HMS Ocean was also heading for the region and the Foreign Office set up a hotline for those worried about relatives or friends in the Caribbean on 0207 008 0000.
Sept 8th 2017
Video by The Associated Press
MIAMI — Florida officials urged residents in flood-prone coastal communities to get out while they can, ordering evacuations in the face of oncoming Hurricane Irma, which could make landfall Sunday and inflict massive destruction not seen in the state since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Hurricanes have lashed South Florida many times, but officials here at the National Hurricane Center said this is shaping up as a once-in-a-generation storm. Forecasters adjusted their advisory late Thursday, projecting Irma to hit the tip of the peninsula, slamming the population centers of South Florida before grinding northward.
“This storm has the potential to catastrophically devastate our state,” Gov. Rick Scott (R) said in a late-day news briefing. Earlier, he implored people to evacuate. “If you live in any evacuation zones and you’re still at home, leave.”
The state’s highways were jammed, gas was scarce, airports were packed and mandatory evacuations began to roll out as the first official hurricane watches were issued for the region. Irma, which has been ravaging the Caribbean islands as it sweeps across the Atlantic, is expected to hit the Florida peninsula with massive storm surges and crippling winds that could affect nearly every metropolitan area in South Florida.
The hurricane center said Thursday afternoon that should Irma’s eye move through the center of the state, extreme winds and heavy rains could strafe an area that has millions of residents, from Miami in the east to Naples on the Gulf Coast. Because the eastern side of the storm is the most powerful, numerous cities along the east coast could face extreme conditions.
“EVACUATE Miami Beach!” Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine tweeted, later noting in a news release that once winds top 40 mph, first responders will no longer be dispatched on rescue missions here.
Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said evacuations in coastal areas were slated for Thursday. Lee County, on the Gulf Coast, announced Thursday afternoon that all the barrier islands — Sanibel, Captiva, Pine Island, Bonita Beach and Fort Myers Beach — will be under mandatory evacuation orders Friday.
Scott on Thursday night ordered that all state offices, public schools, state colleges and state universities be shut down from Friday through Monday “to ensure we have every space available for sheltering and staging.”
Scott has declared a statewide emergency and warned that in addition to potentially forcing large-scale evacuations, Irma could batter areas that last year were flooded by Hurricane Matthew. States of emergency also were declared in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. On Thursday, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) expanded his declaration from six coastal counties to 30 total counties, issuing a mandatory evacuation for some areas.
Residents in Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C., began to barricade their homes and flee the coast Thursday. Gov. Henry McMaster (R) warned South Carolinians that a mandatory evacuation of the state’s coastline will probably come Saturday morning at 10 a.m. Such an evacuation would come with a reversal of all eastbound lanes of four major roadways, including Interstate 26, which would be converted for a westbound escape from Charleston to Columbia.
Irma on Thursday remained a Category 5 storm, with 175 mph sustained maximum winds, and it is a big storm, with hurricane-force winds extending 60 miles from its center. If the eye does not make landfall, many of the people who haven’t evacuated from South Florida could find themselves in hurricane conditions anyway, forecasters say.
Residents are closely watching the “the spaghetti” — the dozens of computer models showing possible storm tracks, which vary widely. Computer models say that by Sunday, Irma will make a hard right turn, heading due north into Florida.
The timing of that turn will make all the difference.
If sooner, the storm’s center could stay offshore, between Miami and the Bahamas. If later, it could blow through the Florida Keys and come up the southwest side of Florida. Or it could find a middle path straight up through the Everglades and the central spine of the peninsula.
“The wild card here is the turn. Anytime a hurricane makes a turn it introduces uncertainty,” Mark DeMaria, acting deputy director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, told The Washington Post in the center’s headquarters in west Miami-Dade County. He noted that the computer models have fluctuated modestly, with adjustments in the consensus track of only 50 miles or so every day. “But 50 miles onshore versus right of the coast makes a huge difference in impact,” he said.
The combination of Florida’s geography, the pattern of urban settlement in narrow bands along the coasts and the projected northerly path of the hurricane presents a particularly ominous picture.
“This is a large storm coming from the south,” said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the hurricane center. “That’s the worst-case scenario because it takes in the entire Gold Coast population and you have the greatest impact from storm surge from that direction.”
Irma’s sustained winds were the strongest recorded for an Atlantic hurricane making landfall, tied with the 1935 Florida Keys hurricane.
“Look at the size of this storm,” Scott said. “It’s powerful and deadly.”
Many Floridians were heeding warnings to escape but found themselves sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic in an effort to reach points north.
A little after 10 a.m. at the National Hotel on Miami Beach, a manager announced in four languages — English, Spanish, Portuguese and French — that guests needed to evacuate because of a city order. At the front desk, guests were given a sheet listing the locations of emergency shelters, none of which were likely to be as nice as the beachfront Art Deco hotel, which was restored a few years ago.
“This morning as I walked to work I could see the things that could become projectiles,” said Natalya Garus, 35, lead concierge at the National. “Street signs. Coconuts. All the trash cans. Smoking stations. All the decorations.”
As she spoke, workers used a ladder to dismantle a decorative light fixture hanging over the hotel entrance.
Ruben Vandebosch, 28, and Wim Marten, 26, both of Belgium, and Jim Van Es, 24, of the Netherlands, said their plan is to drive to Atlanta.
“Atlanta has a nice ring to it,” Vandebosch said. “It sounds cool.”
Among those evacuating: Forty dogs from the Miami-Dade County animal shelter. They’re being flown to New York on a private plane owned by a dog lover named Georgina Bloomberg, according to Lauree Simmons, president and founder of the Big Dog Rescue shelter in Loxahatchee, Fla.
Big Dog staff went to Houston after Hurricane Harvey, rescuing 60 dogs from the floodwaters. Those dogs are awaiting adoption at the no-kill shelter. Simmons’s 33-acre rescue center has 457 dogs and puppies living in air-conditioned bunkhouses. Staff members were working frenetically Thursday packing up the contents of offices trailers. The dog bunkhouses, meanwhile, are fitted with hurricane impact glass built to withstand 200-mile-an-hour winds, Simmons said.
“The dogs will be very comfortable,” she said. “We’ll stay here with them through the storm, and just keep hoping for the best.”
Popular shopping and dining areas of Fort Lauderdale, north of Miami, were nearly completely empty, the businesses buttoned up with metal curtains and new plywood protecting their front windows.
At the Coral Ridge Yacht Club on the Intracoastal Waterway, General Manager Jay Wallace and Greg Bennett, the club’s president, were walking up and down its docks making sure all the vessels, including some 90- and 100-footers valued at $2 million or more, were securely tied down. The club decided Tuesday to cease regular operations — meetings, lunch, dinner and a popular Wednesday happy hour — so that many employees would have time to evacuate.
“Just making sure everything is okay,” Wallace said. “We’re hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. You have to.”
Less than a mile away, Fort Lauderdale’s mostly spotless sandy beaches were virtually deserted, despite the green flags attached to all its lifeguard stands indicating “low hazard” for anyone wanting to take a dip in the ocean. The water was dead calm, not a wave in sight, and the shimmering sand was desolate on a postcard 90-degree day.
In Orlando, four Stetson University students prepared to fly out of town on cheap tickets bought Monday, before prices skyrocketed and seats vanished. One of the students, Draven Shean, is a freshman who has been at school for three weeks and is heading home to Houston, where his family had evacuated in advance of Hurricane Harvey.
“I keep making this joke that God keeps sending hurricanes after me,” said Shean, who was wearing a long-sleeved gray shirt with black block letters that said “EVAC.” He picked it up two days ago at a thrift store. “I thought it was appropriate.”
Others were preparing to ride out the storm. Some were fully prepared, others seemed to have only a vague plan, or none at all.
At a Costco in Naples, in southwest Florida, almost every morning shopper left the store with a flat or two of bottled water. At Costco’s gas station, vehicles jammed the six lanes for fuel. Several customers said the 24 cars waiting at 11 a.m. were nothing compared with the lines during the past two days. Some customers were on their third or fourth gas station seeking to fill up.
“As soon as they said you should consider evacuating, things got way worse,” said Michelle Anderson, who was waiting for gas in her Volvo. “I’m from Southern California, where earthquakes get you at random, so the fact that you have the ability to prepare for this is pretty awesome.”
Vicki Sargent, a Florida resident since 2003, lives in an RV park in Venice and had driven miles in search of gas Thursday. She said she has to ride out the storm because she takes care of about 70 units owned by people gone for the summer. She won’t stay in her own trailer, though.
“Only a fool would do that,” she said, saying she’ll stay with a friend. “I’m more worried about flooding than the hurricane. We have had rain and were about at saturation point.”
Tatiana Wood, 33, a waitress at a restaurant in Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road Mall, said she has a friend of a friend who lives in Oklahoma, but she was unclear of the distance or whether she would try to get there.
“If you try to escape, you may lose money,” Wood said. “If you stay, you might lose your life.”
Sullivan reported from Naples, Fla., and Berman reported from Washington. Kimberly Kindy in Orlando, Lori Rozsa in Palm Beach County, Dustin Waters in Charleston, S.C., and Leonard Shapiro and Perry Stein in Fort Lauderdale, contributed to this report.
Sept 6th 2017
The most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history has made landfall in the Caribbean.
The eye of Hurricane Irma passed over Barbuda around 1.47am local time, the National Weather Service said.
Nearly 30,000 Britons in path of hurricane (Daily Mirror)
Eye of a monster: Terrifying images of Irma (The Washington Post)
Why female hurricanes are deadly than males (Independent)
Irma was maintaining category five strength with sustained winds near 185mph (295kmh), the US National Hurricane Centre said.
The storm bought fierce winds, surf and rain to the Leeward Islands on Wednesday.
"We are hunkered down and it is very windy... the wind is a major threat," said Garfield Burford, the director of news at ABS TV and Radio on the island of Antigua, south of Barbuda.
"So far, some roofs have been blown off."
Most people on Antigua and Barbuda were without power and 1,000 people on Antigua were spending the night in shelters, Burford reported.
"We are hunkered down and it is very windy... the wind is a major threat," said Garfield Burford, the director of news at ABS TV and Radio on the island of Antigua, south of Barbuda.
"So far, some roofs have been blown off."
Most people on Antigua and Barbuda were without power and 1,000 people on Antigua were spending the night in shelters, Burford reported
Sept 5th 2017
Hurricane Irma strengthened into a dangerous Category 5 storm.
The hurricane moved toward the northeast Caribbean on a path that could take it to the United States.
The US National Hurricane Center said Irma had sustained winds of 175mph (280 kph) and was centered about 270 miles (440 kilometers) east of Antigua. It was moving west at 14 mph (22 kph).
A spokesman for the centre said there was a growing possibility that the storm's effects could be felt in Florida later this week and over the weekend, though it was still too early to be sure of its future track.
"Everyone in hurricane-prone areas should ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place," the centre said.
Irma's was expected to move near or over the northern Leeward Islands late on Tuesday or early Wednesday.
The eye was then expected to pass about 50 miles (80km) from Puerto Rico late on Wednesday.
Experts warned the storm could dump up to 10 inches of rain, cause landslides and flash floods and generate waves of up to 23ft.
Shelves emptied at shops in Puerto Rico as officials began evacuations.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said: "The decisions that we make in the next couple of hours can make the difference between life and death. This is an extremely dangerous storm."
Residents on the US East Coast were urged to monitor the storm's progress in case it should turn northward toward Florida, Georgia or the Carolinas.
Evan Myers, chief operating officer of AccuWeather, said: "This hurricane has the potential to be a major event for the East Coast. It also has the potential to significantly strain governmental resources occurring so quickly on the heels of Hurricane Harvey."
Sept 1st 2017
Britain is to be battered by the remains of a tropical storm which will unleash autumn misery this weekend.
Swathes of the country are braced for heavy rain on Sunday while gales threaten to hammer the Scottish coasts.
The remains of Potential Tropical Cyclone Ten (PTC10) are due to arrive to UK shores from the US late on Saturday.
As coastal Texas cleaned up from Hurricane Harvey, the storm shifted its attention to Houston, bringing intense rainfall that threatened “historic” flooding as freeways turned into rivers and water rushed into homes.
The waters rose so high that people in many of those homes were advised to climb to their roofs rather than take refuge in attics, unless they had “an axe or means to break through”.
Heavy rains were predicted to linger for several days. The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a flash flood emergency warning and said on Sunday “catastrophic flooding in the Houston metropolitan area is expected to worsen and could become historic”.
More than 6.5 million people live in the region.
Several deaths were reported overnight as the rain worsened and roads rapidly came to resemble lakes. Cars were abandoned while stranded residents tweeted rescue requests to Ed Gonzalez, the Harris County sheriff.
“We need help it’s like 12 adults and 10 toddlers,” one said.
Gonzalez reported on Twitter that a woman and child had died in a submerged vehicle on Interstate 10 – the deaths were unconfirmed, because the location was unreachable. Texas governor Greg Abbott told CBS on Sunday he was “not capable at this time of confirming” the number of fatalities caused by the hurricane.
In an indication of just how high water was rising in some neighbourhoods, local officials advised flooded residents to go on to their roofs and call for help if necessary, though 911 services were said to be at capacity before dawn.
“Have reports of people getting into attic to escape floodwater,” Houston police chief Art Acevedo tweeted. “Do not do so unless you have an ax or means to break through onto your roof.”
Among hundreds of rescues, police evacuated two apartment complexes overnight in the Greenspoint neighbourhood, rescuing more than 50 children from rising water. The US coast guard reported more than 300 requests for urban search and rescue in the Houston area. Five coast guard helicopters were working the emergency calls and New Orleans had been asked to send more.
The NWS said on Sunday morning that the Houston area had received 24.1in of measured rain in a 24-hour period, testing flood defences to their limits and sending water levels soaring in the network of bayous that meander through the core of the city. Some areas were expected to receive as much as 7in of rain in an hour.
— NHC Atlantic Ops (@NHC_Atlantic) August 27, 2017
“Obviously there will be rain that will continue to come down, those bayous will continue to rise, those rescue missions will continue,” Abbott told CNN. “Do not get out on to the road, make a plan where you can elevate in your own home or find a place of safety.”
Abbott said he had asked Donald Trump to add Harris County, which covers Houston, to the federal disaster declaration which was signed on Friday, releasing funds. “The indications are that it will be granted,” he said.
The president was following events and tweeting his thoughts from Camp David. He would visit Texas, he wrote, “as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption. The focus must be life and safety.”
Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast on Friday night as a Category 4 hurricane with 130mph winds, the most powerful to hit the US since 2004, and wrought destruction on Corpus Christi and the small seaside towns of Rockport and Port Aransas. At least one person died in Rockport and more than 300,000 people lost power.
Harvey rapidly weakened to a Category 1, then tropical storm status, as it meandered inland and slowed. But rotating bands of rain began to pummel the Houston area, some 200 miles north-east. In a place famous for its lack of building zone regulations, thousands of homes are located in floodplains and next to bayous and creeks. The area is also home to vast oil refineries, vulnerable to flooding and potentially the source of serious pollution.
Storms spawned small tornadoes that damaged structures in the suburbs on Saturday. More official tornado warnings came early on Sunday. But water, rather than the kind of winds seen on the coast, was clearly the primary threat.
Houston is one of the country’s most flood-prone cities and endured severe storms in the spring of 2015 and 2016 that caused loss of life and widespread property damage. But Harvey’s longevity means its effects are likely to be even worse. Some suburban areas near rivers were under evacuation orders issued on Saturday.
“It’s a serious storm, it’s going to last four or five days,” Houston mayor Sylvester Turner said at a media conference on Saturday.
In Fort Bend County, south-west of downtown Houston, the county judge warned residents living near a large reservoir that expected rain totals would mean “many streets will become impassable and the water will begin to threaten several thousand homes as it advances past the reservoir boundaries”.
Aug 27th 2017
VICTORIA, Tex. — Harvey pummeled Texas on Saturday, destroying buildings and causing widespread power outages as residents evacuated towns and prepared for historic flooding that could keep them from their homes for days.
After the storm pounded the Texas coast, it crept inland and then stopped moving, as if mired in mud, and its torrential rains are not expected to abate for many days. Rising rivers have started to trigger evacuations across a broad section of the state, and computer models are forecasting record flooding.
Officials confirmed one fatality near the small coastal town of Rockport, which took a direct hit from the storm, as search and rescue operations continued in ravaged areas that are still largely inaccessible. Officials said Rockport could receive as much as 60 inches of rain through midweek.
“We’ve been devastated,” Rockport Mayor C.J. Wax said in a telephone interview. “There are structures that are either significantly disrupted or completely destroyed. I have some buildings that are lying on the street.”
In the nearby island town of Port Aransas, officers conducted a search and rescue mission for eight people who have been reported missing, an Aransas County sheriff’s deputy said.
In the coming days, forecasters expect the storm to meander south and east, and possibly slip back out over the warm gulf waters, allowing it to restrengthen to some extent. All the while, it will dump what could be historic quantities of rain — 15 to 30 inches in many areas, with as much as 40 inches in isolated areas, according to the National Weather Service.
As many as 300,000 people across the state were without power Saturday afternoon, and wastewater and drinking-water treatment plants were offline.
The National Weather Service predicted “major flood” conditions at some 49 river locations across a vast expanse of coastal Texas.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said he had declared 50 counties disaster areas. With the storm now ashore, he said that “our primary concern remains dramatic flooding.” He urged residents to follow the familiar advice: “Turn around, don’t drown.”
Many coastal Texans ignored mandatory evacuation orders and hunkered down for Harvey.
“We’ve always stayed. Daddy taught us well how to ride out a storm,” said Melissa Stewart, 41, of Victoria. “It’s always better to stay than to run.”
That city was directly in the line of fire of Harvey and emerged Saturday looking trashed, with the streets deserted and trees and power lines down all over the city. The once-stately oaks in the public square by the historic courthouse had lost many of their limbs. On the main drag through town, the Exxon station looked demolished, along with a Valero station nearby.Plywood that had been nailed to storefronts littered the streets. Shingles had been blown off roofs.
The Tres Palacios River has risen more than 20 feet near Midfield, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The San Bernard River near the town of Sweeny is expected to rise more than 10 feet above its 1998 record flood stage. The Brazos River is expected to break a flood record set last year, and officials have ordered mandatory evacuations in low-lying areas of Fort Bend County.
Among the cities at risk of major flooding is Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest, with a population in excess of 2 million. Saturday evening, the city was buffeted by mammoth rains and nonstop lightning. The National Weather Service was keeping much of the area under tornado watch into the evening.
In the southwest part of the city, Brays Bayou was swelling with fast-flowing, debris-filled brown water, and a tornado touched down in a suburban neighborhood.
Montry Ray was staying up late to ride out the storm with his wife and two children when the roaring sound of the tornado sent them running for cover in a bathroom. Just as they bolted from the master bedroom, the storm exploded through its wall, embedding bricks in the drywall across the room. The storm ripped open the roof.
“You know how they say you hear the train noise?” said 12-year-old Caden Hill, who lives down the street. “I heard it.”
He, along with about 50 neighbors, turned out Saturday morning to help clean up. Volunteers chopped fallen trees, hauled away crumpled fences and gathered debris while roofers went to work.
To the west, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg urged residents to continue to stay off the roads as Harvey neared the city and brought wind gusts of op to 60 mph and heavy rain. The city is under a flash flood watch and tropical storm warning.
“We don’t want anyone in San Antonio to let their guard down,” Nirenberg said.
The city closed 10 roads because of high water, and officials expect that number to grow.
The storm made landfall at 10 p.m. Central Time on Friday with 130 mph winds — the first Category 4 storm to hit the United States since Charley in 2004. By late morning Saturday, it had lost some of its punch, but still had hurricane-force winds of 80 mph, having drifted to about 25 miles west of the inland city of Victoria. Shortly after noon, the National Hurricane Center downgraded Harvey to a tropical storm, with sustained winds of 70 mph.
Weather officials took to social media and the airwaves Saturday in an effort to persuade people not to become complacent because of the relatively muted impact so far in places away from the Rockport area.
In Galveston, a city that lived through the last big Texas hurricane — Ike, in 2008 — residents seemed unconcerned Saturday morning.
At the packed Waffle House — one of the few businesses open in the area — Galveston residents Dottie and Kevin Bowden ate breakfast with their 16-year-old granddaughter, Savannah Stewart.
“This ain’t nothing,” Kevin Bowden said.
All the houses in their neighborhood are built on stilts, so the Bowdens and their neighbors weren’t worried about flooding, and local officials did not issue a mandatory evacuation order. Everyone in the neighborhood stayed to ride out the storm.
“We’re not crazy,” said Dottie, 63, who runs a business cleaning rental properties. “If they told us to leave, we would have.”
“And this isn’t our first rodeo,” added her husband, 56, who manages personal investments. He said the biggest problem so far was that “we’re running low on Corona.”
Farther east, the hurricane has put officials in New Orleans and across Louisiana on alert, and Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said Saturday that it could be a week before the state has to cope with flooding. He said the pumping system in New Orleans, which flooded earlier this month after a heavy downpour, is steadily improving. “We’re a long ways from being out of the woods, but we are very thankful it hasn’t been more severe up to now,” he said of the storm.
President Trump signed a disaster proclamation on Friday night after Abbott, the governor, sent him a written request saying that “Texas is about to experience one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the state.” White House aides said Trump will visit Texas soon.
Trump said in a series of tweets Saturday morning that he is closely monitoring the situation from Camp David and that federal officials have been on the ground since before the storm hit. He urged residents to “be safe” and pledged a thorough federal response. “We are leaving nothing to chance,” he wrote. “City, State and Federal Govs. working great together!”
Aug 26th 2017
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas coast on Friday as a Category 4 storm, bringing life-threatening winds and the likelihood of catastrophic flooding as the most powerful storm in over a decade hit the mainland United States.
The hurricane made landfall northeast of Corpus Christi around 10 p.m. CDT (0300 GMT) with maximum winds of 130 miles per hour (209 km per hour). The storm is expected to move slowly over the Texas and Louisiana coasts for days, with forecasts for storm surges of up to 13 feet (4 meters) and over 3 feet (90 cm) of rain.
As many as 6 million people were believed to be in Harvey's path, as is the heart of America's oil refining operations. The storm's impact on refineries has already pushed up gasoline prices while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lifted some rules on gasoline to reduce shortages.
Fueled by the warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, Harvey became the first Category 4 hurricane to wallop the United States since Charley in 2004 and the first to hit Texas since Carla in 1961.
About 30 miles (45 km) from Corpus Christi and moving northwest, Harvey caused scattered power outages both on the coast near Galveston and 100 miles (160 km) inland.
Donald Trump, facing the first large-scale natural disaster of his presidency, said on Twitter he signed a disaster proclamation which "unleashes the full force of government help" shortly before Harvey made landfall.
While thousands fled the expected devastating flooding and destruction, many residents defied mandatory evacuation orders and stocked up on food, fuel and sandbags, drawing the ire of local authorities.
"We’re suggesting if people are going to stay here, mark their arm with a Sharpie pen with their name and Social Security number," Rockport Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Rios told reporters Friday, according to media reports. "We hate to talk about things like that. It's not something we like to do but it’s the reality. People don’t listen."
There were initial reports of extensive damage in Rockport, near the eye of the hurricane, including structural damage to a high school, hotel and other buildings being used as shelters, according to local media.
As a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, Harvey could uproot trees, destroy homes and disrupt utilities for days. It is the first major hurricane, of Category 3 or more, to hit the mainland United States since Hurricane Wilma struck Florida in 2005.
Related: Hurricane Harvey in pictures
In Corpus Christi, a city of 320,000 under voluntary evacuation, strengthening winds buffeted the few trucks and cars that continued to circulate on the streets. The storm toppled wooden roadwork signs and littered the streets with pieces of palm trees as white caps rocked sailboats in their docks.
About 85 miles (137 km) north in Victoria, Mayor Paul Polasek told CNN he estimated that 60 percent to 65 percent of the town’s 65,000 residents defied the mandatory evacuation order.
Jose Rengel, a 47-year-old who works in construction, said he was one of the few people in Jamaica Beach in Galveston that did not heed a voluntary evacuation order.
“All the shops are empty,” he said as the sky turned black and rain fell. “It’s like a tornado went in and swept everything up.”
With the hurricane lashing the Texas coast, at least three cruise ships operated by Carnival Corp with thousands of passengers aboard were forced to change their plans to sail for the Port of Galveston.
Two of them headed New Orleans to pick up fresh supplies, while the third delayed its departure from Cozumel, Mexico.
Louisiana and Texas declared states of disaster, authorizing the use of state resources to prepare.
The NHC's latest tracking model shows the storm sitting southwest of Houston for more than a day, giving the nation's fourth most populous city a double dose of rain and wind.
The city warned residents of flooding from close to 20 inches (60 cm) of rain over several days.
But Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner advised residents not to leave en masse, saying "no evacuation orders have been issued for the city." Chaotic traffic from a rushed evacuation in 2005 with Hurricane Rita proved tragic. "Calm and care!" he said in a tweet.
GASOLINE PRICES SPIKE
Gasoline stations on the south Texas coast were running out of fuel as thousands of residents fled the region. U.S. gasoline prices spiked as the storm shut down 22 percent of Gulf of Mexico oil production, according to the U.S. government.
At a Willis, Texas, station, about 50 miles (77 km) north of Houston, Corey Martinez, 40, was heading to Dallas from his Corpus Christi home.
"It has been pretty stressful. We're just trying to get ahead of the storm," he said. "We've never been through a hurricane before."
More than 45 percent of the country's refining capacity is along the U.S. Gulf Coast, and nearly a fifth of the nation's crude oil is produced offshore. Ports from Corpus Christi to Texas City, Texas, were closed to incoming vessels and Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Anadarko Petroleum Corp, Exxon Mobil Corp and others have evacuated staff from offshore oil and gas platforms.
Concern that Harvey could cause shortages in fuel supply drove benchmark gasoline prices to their highest in four months, before profit taking pulled back prices. Meanwhile, U.S. gasoline margins <RBc1-CLc1> hit their strongest levels in five years for this time of year.
The U.S. government said it would make emergency stockpiles of crude available if needed to plug disruptions. It has regularly used them to dampen the impact of previous storms on energy supplies.
Feb 1st 2017
Not a hurricane but prepare.
Britain will be battered by 70mph winds at the end of this week, the Met Office has warned as forecasters said Storm Doris may be on the way.
A yellow "be aware" weather warning covering the south of the country as well as Wales and north west England was issued by the forecaster on Tuesday amid fears the conditions may cause damage to trees and buildings.
Power supplies and travel may also be disrupted, the warning said, as winds reach up to 80mph in exposed coastal areas.
Last night, forecasters at the Met Office said the system would be named if it was upgraded to an amber "be prepared" warning.
They said it was possible that would happen on Wednesday when more details are known about the system's progress, as it may instead move towards France.
Speaking about the warning, the chief forecaster added: "A number of potentially vigorous low pressure systems are likely to move quickly towards northwest Europe later this week.
A couple exercise their dogs along a foggy Weymouth seafront on MondayCredit: Stuart Fretwell/REX/Shutterstock
"One of these, on Friday, may affect parts of southern parts of the UK. However, it is worth stressing that there are a number of scenarios in which the strongest winds miss the UK altogether."
The Met Office also warned of potential surface flooding, but said properties near rivers should not be affected as it had been unexpectedly dry in recent weeks.
The hurricane, the most powerful Caribbean storm in nearly a decade, took aim at Florida on Thursday after carving a punishing path through the region, also striking Cuba and the Bahamas.
A helicopter tour Thursday ofLes Cayes, a port city on Haiti’s southwestern coast, showed extensive damage, with cinder-block buildings knocked to the ground and metal roofs peeled back like tin can lids. Everywhere, trees were flattened, and the main river that runs through town was swollen to the top of its banks and running the color of milk chocolate.
Aid workers rushing to the scene to assess the damage feared that some towns were still cut off from the outside world, since bridges have been swept away and trees have fallen across rural roads. Thousands of people have been displaced.
“Flying over, we were able to see quite a lot of destruction. Storm surges, downed trees, crop damage, farm damage,” said Margaret Traub, head of global initiatives for International Medical Corps, who landed in Les Cayes with two colleagues and a journalist Thursday afternoon. “If I had to estimate, I would say at least 80 percent of buildings saw damage. Many of them were destroyed.”
The World Food Program also reported that in some areas up to 80 percent of the harvest has been lost threatening the country’s ability to feed itself in the aftermath.
Meanwhile, other alarming signs were emerging.
At least three cases of cholera were reported in Jeremie, on the tip of Haiti’s southwestern peninsula, said Holly Frew, a spokeswoman for the aid group CARE in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. At a central hospital in Les Cayes, two people with cholera had shown up Thursday, but the hospital staff didn’t have the intravenous fluids or antibiotics to treat the disease.
Cholera, a potentially deadly disease spread by contaminated water, is a main concern for relief agencies struggling with how to bring clean water and emergency sanitation systems to areas now accessible only by air.
“This is a very great danger for the city,” said Tony Guillaume, an orthopedic surgeon in the hospital in Les Cayes. “They can contaminate others.”
Only one nurse was available to treat the crowd that showed up in one of the muddy hospital waiting rooms. Some sat waiting with broken limbs. A young man vomited on the floor. Some residents had cuts from metal roofing that blew off in the storm and sliced into people.
Doctors said they hoped to soon reopen the cholera ward, which had closed before the storm swept in, dumping waist-high water around the hospital.
Cholera was once unknown in Haiti until its apperance after the 2010 earthquake and is believed to be linked to the presence of U.N. peacekeepers.
More than 800,000 people were infected and 10,000 died in that outbreak.
Aerial images provided by the U.S. Coast Guard showed scenes of near-total damage in some areas: wooden homes now just scattered timbers, roofs sheared off and palm groves leveled by the Category 4 storm. In some areas of Haiti, people have been living in makeshift structures since a major earthquake six years ago that killed 200,000 people.
Haitian officials said 38 of the hurricane deaths occurred in the department of Grand Anse in the southwest of the country, which was especially hard hit.
About 80 percent of the buildings were destroyed in Jeremie, said Frew, the CARE spokeswoman.
The U.N. deputy special representative for Haiti, Mourad Wahba, has described the hurricane as the country’s worst humanitarian crisis since the earthquake in 2010.
Matthew slammed eastern Cuba before churning Thursday over the Bahamas, where residents were urged to move to high ground and the capital, Nassau, was battened down for the strongest hurricane in the Caribbean since Felix struck in 2007.
In Les Cayes, white United Nations trucks drove through the streets Thursday afternoon carrying heavy machinery, such as bulldozers and earthmovers, to serve the rescue and rebuilding efforts. Residents were out clearing away debris and beginning their repairs. Many roads were flooded, but some main thoroughfares were passable.
Across the hurricane-hit region, many Haitians sought shelter in schools where votes were meant to be cast on Sunday. Haiti’s electoral council on Wednesday postponed a presidential election that has already been delayed several times. Authorities said the situation would be evaluated over the next week before a new date was announced.
The U.S. Navy has sent three ships to Haiti, including an aircraft carrier and a hospital ship. About 300 Marines were aboard the USS Mesa Verde, an amphibious transport vessel.
The Haitian Embassy in Washington described the next few days as “critical to the recovery process” and urged governments, organizations and private individuals to coordinate their aid efforts to avoid overlap and waste.
“It is expected that many will want to engage and take initiatives toward recovery and relief efforts,” the statement said. “The state of Haiti strongly encourages all individuals who are in the process of organizing specific responses and action plans, to work with the local organizations and institutions in Haiti.”
Murphy reported from Washington. Paul Schemm in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, contributed to this report.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Hurricane Matthew pelted Florida with heavy rains as the deadly storm steamed ever closer to the coast with potentially catastrophic winds of 130 mph Thursday. Two million people across the Southeast were warned to flee inland.
It was the most powerful storm to threaten the U.S. Atlantic coast in more than a decade, and had already left more than 280 dead in its wake across the Caribbean.
"This storm's a monster," Gov. Rick Scott warned as it started lashing the state with periodic heavy rains and squalls around nightfall. He added: "I'm going to pray for everybody's safety."
As it moved north in the evening, Matthew stayed about 100 miles or more off South Florida, sparing the 4.4 million people in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas from its most punishing effects.
By Thursday night, more than 60,000 homes and businesses were without power. Streets in Vero Beach were partially covered with water, and hotel guests in Orlando were told to stay inside, though a few sneaked out to smoke or watch the rain.
The hurricane was expected to blow ashore — or come dangerously close to doing so — early Friday north of West Palm Beach, which has about 1.1 million people, and then slowly push north for the next 12 hours along the Interstate 95 corridor, through Cape Canaveral and Jacksonville, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Forecasters said it would then probably hug the coast of Georgia and South Carolina over the weekend before veering out to sea — perhaps even looping back toward Florida in the middle of next week as a tropical storm.
Millions of people in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina were told to evacuate their homes, and interstate highways were turned into one-way routes to speed the exodus. Florida alone accounted for about 1.5 million of those told to clear out.
"The storm has already killed people. We should expect the same impact in Florida," the governor warned.
Haiti’s death toll has soared after rescue crews began reaching remote corners cut off when Hurricane Matthew slammed into the country’s south-west peninsula – the first Category 4 storm to hit the country in more than 50 years.
At least 283 people died in just one part of Haiti’s south west, the region that bore the brunt of the storm, Emmanuel Pierre, an Interior Ministry co-ordinator in Les Cayes, said.
The overall death toll in Haiti is not clear. Shortly before Mr Pierre spoke, the headquarters for Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency had put the number of confirmed deaths for the whole country at 122.
Authorities expect the number of deaths to rise, with mayors and other local officials in marooned areas reporting higher numbers. Most deaths are thought to have occurred in the south west region.
Bodies started to appear as waters receded in some places two days after Matthew’s 145mph winds smashed concrete walls, flattened palm trees and tore roofs off homes, forcing thousands of Haitians to flee.
Hurricane Matthew is bearing down on Haiti.
Towns and villages are bracing for “catastrophic” floods and mudslides that forecasters fear will be triggered by the storm’s 230 kph winds and a metre of rainfall.
Where is the hurricane now?
Winds and rain have begun to pick up in the southwest of the Caribbean nation.
The US National Hurricane Center says the centre of the intense Category 4 storm was due late Monday evening.
Is anywhere else affected?
Matthew is forecast to hit Cuba and the Bahamas on Tuesday.
The main airports have been closed in Jamaica and Haiti.
Evacuation operations are underway in Cuba. Tourists in the eastern town of Santiago de Cuba have been moved inland and told where to shelter in hotels during the hurricane.
The storm may also reach Florida by Thursday as a major hurricane.
It is one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in recent history and was about 155 km south of the westernmost tip of Haiti at 0300 GMT on Monday.
Matthew is expected to drop between 30 and 101 cm of rain on parts of the island.
Is Haiti particularly vulnerable?
Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas.
A combination of weak government and precarious living conditions for most of its people make it particularly vulnerable to natural disasters.
More than 200,000 were killed when a 7-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti in 2010.
Many survivors are still living in flimsy, temporary accommodation.
Haiti is also prone to flash floods and mudslides because most of its hillsides have been stripped bare by people cutting down trees to make charcoal to sell for fuel.
The authorities are ferrying 3,000 people off Ile-a-Vache by helicopter. The low-lying island is off Haiti’s southwest coast.
Interior Minister Francois Anick Joseph says 30,000 are affected.
150,000 also need to be moved to safety from Haiti’s largest slum, Cite Soleil in the capital, Port-au-Prince.
What they are saying
“It has the potential to be catastrophic,” – Dennis Feltgen, meteorologist
“After the hurricane, we will be miserable. We’ll be hungry..the houses will be destroyed,” – 44-year-old resident Rosette Joseph.
Oct 4th 2016
Hurricane Matthew, the category 4 storm currently lashing western Haiti with 145mph winds, is likely to at least brush the east coast of the US by the weekend, weather forecasters say. In Haiti, the storm is likely to drop as much as three feet of rain across hills where trees have been cut down, increasing the likelihood of flash floods and mudslides, threatening villages as well as shanty towns in the capital, Port-au-Prince. One person has already been killed. Matthew is forecast to sweep over Cuba to the Bahamas on Tuesday and possibly reach Florida – where a state of emergency has been declared – by Thursday as a major hurricane, though weaker than at present.
Oct 2nd 2016
Hurricane Matthew has turned deadly off Colombia’s Caribbean coast, killing at least one person as it heads north. Houses have been damaged and some of them submerged in ocean surges.
With winds peaking at 160 miles per hour Matthew is now at the highest level, five, meaning it’s the most powerful hurricane in the Atlantic ocean since Felix in 2007.
By Monday it will reach Cuba and Haiti and may eventually reach the United States.
Forecasters said up to 38cm (15 ins) of rain could fall across Jamaica and on southern Haiti.
Jamaica was hard hit by hurricane Gilbert in 1988, and the last major hurricane in the region was Sandy, in 2012. Matthew could be the most powerful storm to cross the island since records began, meteorologist Eric Holthaus said on Twitter.
Even though Matthew will only clip Haiti it’s likely to be most deadly there, where most people live in flimsy shacks with corrugated iron roofs that have little chance against high winds.
Worse, thousands still live in tents
after a vicious earthquake in 2010.
“They’ve announced a hurricane. We’re keeping watch. We can’t do anything,” Marcel Dervil, a slum dweller in the capital Port-au-Prince said.
“We could have repaired our homes, but we do not have money. We can’t do anything but watch.”
Food and other aid is being stocked up by the authorities as Haitians pray that they’ll be spared another deadly natural disaster.
A hurricane wind is a system of rotating storm clouds that are very strong, they are called cyclones in the Indian and South Pacific regions, in the Atlantic and the northern parts of the Pacific they are called by this name and the name given in the northwestern Pacific is a typhoon.
These storms rotate anti-clock wise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere due to the rotation of the earth and are classified in metrology on the synoptic scale which is a simple linear scale that measures the width.
Here is an eyewitness account of experiencing a storm like this.
BEFORE THE STORM WINDS COME
Store an adequate supply of food and clean water.
Prepare foods that will not need cooking.
Keep flashlights, candles,matches and battery-powered radios within easy reach.
Examine your house and repair any unstable parts.
Always keep yourself updated with the latest weather reports.
Make sure you can receive warnings from buzcall.com
Harvest any crops that you can.
Secure domestic animals in a safe place.
Place all boats in a safe area moored so they don’t drift away but not tied down so that they sink
Should you need to evacuate, bring your grab-bag, clothes, first aid kit, candles/flashlight, battery-powered radio, food, etc. as recommended by buzcall.com
DURING THE STORM
Stay inside the house.
Always keep yourself updated with the latest weather reports.
If safe drinking water is not available, boil water for at least 20 minutes. Place it in a container with cover.
Keep an eye on lighted candles or gas lamps.
Do not wade through floodwaters; this avoids being electrocuted and contracting diseases.
If there is a need to move to an evacuation centre, follow these reminders.
Evacuate very calmly do not panic.
Close all the windows and turn off the gas and electric main power switch.
And we recommend putting important appliances and belongings as high as possible to avoid water damage.
Avoid the way leading to the river.
AFTER THE STORM
If your house was damaged, make sure that it is already safe and stable when you enter.
Beware of dangerous animals such as snakes that may have entered your house.
Check for live wires or outlets immersed in water before switching on the electricity.
Report damaged electrical cables and fallen electric posts to the authorities.
Also we recommend that you do not let water accumulate in tires, cans or pots to avoid creating favorable conditions for mosquito breeding.
Fortunately with modern radar systems the formation and path of these storms can be monitored easily and warnings issued by local government, civil defense, police, local radio and television.
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