Hurricane Maria Category 5 Obliterating Dominica, Puerto Rico Will Receive “Catastrophic” Damage

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Hurricane Maria’s destructive tear across the Caribbean is well underway, with the storm obliterating parts of Dominica and threatening “catastrophic” damage to Puerto Rico.

“No generation has seen a hurricane like this since San Felipe II in 1928,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Tuesday. “This is an unprecedented atmospheric system.”
He urged Puerto Ricans to find safe shelters immediately, as emergency workers “will not be available to help you once the winds reach 50 mph.”
Hurricane Maria track
“We need to keep in mind that we must also protect the lives of these first responders. It’s time to act and look for a safe place if you live in flood-prone areas or in wooden or vulnerable structures,” Rosselló said.
Maria has already has pounded Dominica with 160 mph (257 kph) winds and caused “widespread devastation,” Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said Tuesday.
The Category 5 hurricane shredded the prime minister’s house overnight and left much of the island — population 73,000 — in ruins.
“So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace,” Skerrit posted on Facebook Tuesday. He said his greatest fear was “news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains.”
A few hours earlier, the Prime Minister posted, “My roof is gone. I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane. House is flooding.”

Hurricane Maria battered Guadeloupe and flooded a street in Pointe-a-Pitre.

Maria is now the strongest hurricane on record to make landfall in Dominica, a former French and British colony whose economy relies heavily on tourism and agriculture.
Now, Maria is taking aim on Puerto Rico and Islands already crippled by Hurricane Irma.

‘Don’t go out under any circumstances’

As of midday Tuesday, Maria was centered about 150 miles (240 kilometers) southeast of St. Croix and was headed west-northwest at 10 mph.
While Maria moves closer to St. Croix, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, preparations against life-threatening storm surge, flooding and destructive winds “should be rushed to completion,’ the National Hurricane Center said.
Puerto Rico said its biggest airport, the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport near San Juan, will close at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday. Airports in Ponce and Aguadilla will close today at 6 p.m.
A hurricane warning is in effect Tuesday for Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, the US and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Culebra, and Vieques.
“A dangerous storm surge accompanied by large and destructive waves will raise water levels by as much as 7 to 11 feet above normal tide levels in the hurricane warning area near where the center of Maria moves across the Leeward Islands and the British Virgin Islands,” the hurricane center said.
Guadeloupe’s regional government tweeted a stern warning to residents Tuesday: “Don’t go out under any circumstances.”

Puerto Rico says Maria ‘will be catastrophic’

Maria will pummel the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Tuesday night and Wednesday as “an extremely dangerous Category 4 or 5 hurricane,” the National Hurricane Center said.
That would make Maria the first Category 4 or 5 hurricane to make landfall in Puerto Rico in 85 years.
In the capital city of San Juan, residents cleared store shelves of water and other supplies.
Gov. Rosselló has declared a state of emergency. And US President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico to aid with federal assistance.
Puerto Rico sheltered many of the evacuees who fled from other Caribbean Islands during Hurricane Irma earlier this month. Now those evacuees and native Puerto Ricans are bracing for devastation.
“This is an event that will be damaging to the infrastructure, that will be catastrophic,” Rosselló said. “Our only focus right now should be to make sure we save lives.”
The governor said 500 shelters are available on the island.
“We expect to feel storm winds, tropical storm winds, (from) Tuesday up until late on Thursday. That’s about two-and-a-half days of tropical storm winds,” Rosselló said.
“On Wednesday we will feel the brunt — all of the island will feel the brunt of sustained Category 4 or 5 winds.”
The Puerto Rico Convention Center in the capital San Juan to the north — which is still housing Hurricane Irma evacuees from other Caribbean islands — is preparing to accept thousands of residents as the worst of the storm is felt.

Martinique largely spared

One bit of good news emerged from the Caribbean: The French island of Martinique suffered no major damage, the French Interior Ministry tweeted Tuesday.
Maria knocked out power to about 50,000 homes, and 10,000 homes had no water. But overall, the damage assessment was “reassuring,” the French Interior Ministry said.
The director general of French civil security, Jacques Witkowski, said only two people on Martinique suffered minor injuries.

Rapid intensification

In just 30 hours, Maria’s intensity exploded from 65 mph on Sunday to 160 mph by Monday night, the National Hurricane Center said.
The British Foreign Office said more than 1,300 troops are on standby, either on affected islands or in nearby locations, ready to help after Maria tears through.
One military team has been deployed to the British Virgin Islands, and a British military reconnaissance team is on standby to go to the British territory of Montserrat.
The HMS Ocean is set to arrive in the area at week’s end with 60 tons of government supplies.
Another hurricane, Jose, is also churning in the Atlantic and has spawned tropical storm warnings for part of the US East Coast.
While forecasters don’t anticipate Jose making landfall in the US, it’s still expected to cause “dangerous surf and rip currents” along the East Coast in the next few days, the hurricane center said.

Maria, following Irma’s path, is now a Category 1 hurricane

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Maria, following Irma’s path, is now a Category 1 hurricane

  •  Maria is getting closer to islands devastated by Hurricane Irma
  • Hurricane Jose could bring “dangerous surf and rip currents” to the US East Coast

(CNN) Hurricane Maria was upgraded from a tropical storm Sunday afternoon as it takes aim at Caribbean islands devastated less than two weeks ago by Hurricane Irma.

As of Sunday afternoon, Maria was about 140 miles (225 kilometers) east northeast of Barbados, according to the National Hurricane Center. It had strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane, hurling winds of 75 mph, and is forecast to continue moving toward the eastern Caribbean at 15 mph.
“Maria has strengthened to a hurricane and could be near major hurricane intensity which it affects portions of the Leeward Islands over the next few days, bringing dangerous wind, storm surge and rainfall hazards,” the hurricane center said.

Hurricane Maria is expected to keep strenghening as it heads toward the Caribbean.

Maria is one of three storms churning in the Atlantic Ocean, but it poses the most danger to the hurricane-battered Caribbean.
Maria has prompted a hurricane warning for Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat. A tropical storm warning is in effect for Martinique, Antigua and Barbuda, Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Lucia. A warning is typically issued 36 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds.
The warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected within 36 hours.
A hurricane watch is in effect for the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, St. Maarten/St. Martin, St. Barthelemy and Anguilla — many of which were devastated when Irma blew through the Caribbean, killing 44 people. A hurricane watch is typically issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds.
“Maria is likely to affect the British and US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by mid week as a dangerous major hurricane,” the NHC said.
Torrential rainfall could cause deadly flash flooding and mudslides. Maria could dump 6 to 12 inches of rain across the Leeward Islands — including Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands — through Wednesday night.

Hurricane Jose

Meanwhile, Hurricane Jose intensified as it churned north on Sunday, threatening “dangerous surf and rip currents” along the US East Coast in the next few days, the hurricane center said.
As of Sunday afternoon, the Category 1 hurricane was about 335 miles (535 kilometers) southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and moving north at 9 mph.
While the center of Jose is expected to stay off from the US East Coast, “swells generated by Jose are affecting Bermuda, the Bahamas, and much of the US east coast,” the NHC said.
“These swells are likely to cause dangerous surf and rip current conditions for the next several days in these areas.”

Tropical Depression Lee

Lee, the third storm in the Atlantic, fizzled from a tropical storm to a tropical depression Sunday, the hurricane center said.
As of Sunday afternoon, the storm was about 910 miles west of the Cabo Verde Islands.
Lee’s maximum sustained winds sputtered to 35 mph, and are expected to further weaken in the coming days.

More Hurricanes On The Way For The Caribbean

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

(CNN) Tropical Storm Maria formed Saturday in the western Atlantic Ocean, prompting a hurricane watch for areas battered by Hurricane Irma last week.

Maria is about 590 miles east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles and is packing maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. The storm is moving toward the Caribbean at 19 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Tropical Storm Maria forms in the Atlantic.

Maria is expected to gain strength through the weekend and become a hurricane by late Monday, forecasters said.
Tropical storm watches are posted for Barbados, St. Lucia, Martinique, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The hurricane watch covers Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat and Guadeloupe.

Tropical Storm Maria is expected to become a Category 1 hurricane as it impacts the Caribbean.

That means areas devastated by Irma could again be dealing with hurricane conditions by Tuesday or Wednesday.
Maria joins Tropical Storm Lee, which formed earlier Saturday in the eastern Atlantic Ocean.
Lee is spinning about 720 miles west-southwest of Cape Verde off northwest Africa and packing maximum sustained winds of 40 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Lee isn’t expected to gain much strength over the next 48 hours and will likely fade to a tropical depression by Wednesday without affecting land, the center said.
These new Atlantic systems join Hurricane Jose, a Category 1 storm spinning about 480 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
Jose could bring rain and wind to the US Northeast early next week.

The tiny islands ravaged by Irma are in trouble as Hurricane Jose looms

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

The tiny islands ravaged by Irma are in trouble as Hurricane Jose looms

 September 7 at 4:25 PM
 Play Video 1:00
Island of Barbuda ‘barely habitable’ after Irma

As Hurricane Irma departed Antigua and Barbuda’s usually pristine reef-ringed beaches with the pink and white sand, islanders struggled to grasp the destruction to Barbuda’s schools, churches and the homes that many had used their life savings to build.

Irma somehow spared Antigua, which was open for business by Thursday morning. But on Barbuda, the smaller of the two islands, the ferocious and historic Category 5 hurricane had turned the typically gentle Caribbean winds into violent gusts that decimated Codrington, the sole town on the 62-square-mile island.

“Barbuda right now is literally a rubble,” Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said.

Browne said nearly all of the government and personal property on Barbuda was damaged — including the hospital and the airport, which he said had its roof completely blown away. At least one person, a young child, was killed on the island — one of numerous deaths reported across the Caribbean in Irma’s horrific aftermath.

Now, these victims face yet another threat — a second hurricane, Jose, which appears to be coming for the same islands that are trying to dig out from Irma’s devastation.

The National Hurricane Center released an ominous bulletin Thursday about the new menace looming in the Atlantic: “JOSE EXPECTED TO BECOME A MAJOR HURRICANE BY FRIDAY … WATCHES ISSUED FOR THE NORTHERN LEEWARD ISLANDS.” By early afternoon, Jose had gained Category 2 status, and Antigua and Barbuda issued a new hurricane watch.

“We are very worried about Hurricane Jose,” Browne said Thursday in a phone interview with The Washington Post, adding that Irma left about 60 percent of Barbuda’s nearly 2,000 residents homeless and destroyed or damaged 95 percent of its property.

Browne will make a determination by Thursday night about whether to order a mandatory evacuation ahead of Jose’s potential landfall, but added that those who want to leave Barbuda now are being ferried to nearby Antigua.

As Irma continues its merciless churn toward the U.S. mainland, the first islanders left in its wake are only beginning to decipher the scope of the storm’s ravages.

Deaths have been reported throughout the Leeward Islands, a vulnerable, isolated chain arcing southeast from Puerto Rico, which reported at least three deaths of its own.

Officials throughout the Caribbean expect the body count to rise.

After first making landfall in Barbuda, then strafing several other Leeward Islands, Irma raked the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, leaving nearly 1 million people without any electricity. The Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands are next in its path. Closer to Florida’s southern tip, the Bahamas remain in danger, and mass evacuations are underway.

The United Nations has said that Irma could affect as many as 37 million people. The majority are on the U.S. mainland, but the residents of tiny islands in the Eastern Caribbean were hit first — and hardest.

Browne, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, told local media that Barbuda was left “barely habitable.”

Aerial footage showed homes with walls blown out and roofs ripped away.

“It was emotionally painful,” he told The Post. “It was sad to see such beautiful country being destroyed over a couple of hours.”

It is, he told The Post, “one of the most significant disasters anywhere in the world” on a per capita basis: Browne said it would take an estimated $100 million to rebuild — a “monumental challenge” for a small island government.

Ghastly images from St. Martin and St. Barthelemy (also known as St. Barts) showed cars and trucks almost completely submerged in the storm surge, and several buildings in ruin.

Witnesses on other islands described horrific destruction and a breakdown in public order: no running water, no emergency services, no police to stop looters — and a never ending tide of newly homeless people wandering the streets amid the devastation.

“It’s like someone with a lawn mower from the sky has gone over the island,” Marilou Rohan, a Dutch vacationer in Sint Maarten, which is part of the Kingdom of Netherlands, told the Dutch NOS news service. “Houses are destroyed. Some are razed to the ground. I am lucky that I was in a sturdy house, but we had to bolster the door, the wind was so hard.”

There was little sense that authorities had the situation under control, she said.

Supermarkets were being looted and no police were visible in the streets. Occasionally, soldiers have passed by, but they were doing little to impose order, she said.

“People feel powerless. They do not know what to do. You see the fear in their eyes,” she said.

Paul de Windt, the editor of the Daily Herald of Sint Maarten, told the Paradise FM radio station in Curaçao that “Many people are wandering the streets. They no longer have homes, they don’t know what to do.”


An image released Wednesday shows severe flooding in St. Martin. (AFP)

In Anguilla, part of the British West Indies, the local government is “overwhelmed” and desperate for help, Anguilla Attorney General John McKendrick told The Post late Wednesday. Officials were barely able to communicate among one another and with emergency response teams, he said. With most phone lines down, they were dependent on instant messaging.

It appears that at least one person died in Anguilla, he said.

“Roads blocked, hospital damaged. Power down. Communications badly impaired. Help needed,” McKendrick wrote in one message. In another, he said, “More people might die without further help, especially as another hurricane threatens us so soon.”

The Dutch government said that it was sending two military ships carrying smaller emergency boats, ambulances and emergency equipment to Sint Maarten.

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said 100,000 rations — or about four days’ worth of food — are en route to the victims to St. Barts and St. Martin.

“It’s a tragedy, we’ll need to rebuild both islands,” Collomb told reporters Thursday, according to the Associated Press. “Most of the schools have been destroyed.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May said the government is allocating more than $41 million (U.S. dollars) for hurricane relief efforts.

Britain’s international development secretary, Priti Patel, announced Wednesday that the British navy, along with several Royal Marines and a contingent of military engineers, had been dispatched to the Caribbean with makeshift shelters and water purification systems. While some in England criticized the response, McKendrick told The Post that he’s worried that they, too, will quickly become overwhelmed by the amount of work that must be done to restore a sense of normalcy.

Elsewhere on Anguilla, some informal reports were less bleak. The Facebook page for Roy’s Bayside Grill, for instance, remained active as Irma passed.

Around 7:30 a.m., the page broadcast a brief live video of the storm captured from inside an unidentified building. With rain pelting the windows and wind whipping the treetops, a narrator calmly described the scene outside. “Can’t see very far at all,” he said. “We’ve got whitecaps on the pool. Water is spilling out. And it’s quite a ride. But thought I’d check in and let everyone know we’re still good.”

Phone lines to the restaurant appeared to be down by the afternoon, and messages left with the Facebook page’s administrator were not immediately returned.

About 1 p.m. Wednesday, the restaurant posted a panoramic photo on Facebook that appeared to show several buildings. The decking on one appeared to be ripped apart, and debris was scattered about the beach. One industrial building had a hole in its roof, but by and large everything was still standing.

“We made it through,” the caption read, “but there is a lot of work to be done.”


Destruction in a street in Gustavia on the French island of St. Barthelemy after Hurricane Irma. (Kevin Barrallon/AFP/Getty Images)

Michael Birnbaum and Annabell Van den Berghe contributed to this story from Brussels. Cleve Wootson and J. Freedom du Lac contributed from Washington. This post has been updated.

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Hurricane Irma Now A Category 5: Looks To Hit Puerto Rico Tomorrow

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

(CNN)Hurricane Irma has strengthened into an “extremely dangerous” Category 5 storm, the National Hurricane Center said, threatening to slam into northeastern Caribbean islands and Puerto Rico by Wednesday before possibly taking aim at the US mainland.

Irma was churning Tuesday morning in the Atlantic about 270 miles east of Antigua and Barbuda, heading west with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph — well above the 157 mph threshold for a Category 5 — the hurricane center said.
The storm’s forecast track currently has it near or over Antigua and Barbuda by late Tuesday or early Wednesday, and the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Wednesday afternoon.

“Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or two, but Irma is forecast to remain a powerful Category 4 or 5 hurricane during the next couple of days,” the center said.
It is still too early to tell the exact impact Irma will have on the United States.
Computer models show the system eventually heading toward Cuba and possibly turning north toward Florida by the weekend.
While Irma’s exact path is uncertain, several islands in the Caribbean as well as Florida are bracing for the storm.
After declaring a state of emergency all across Florida, Gov. Rick Scott said President Donald Trump had “offered the full resources of the federal government as Floridians prepare for Hurricane Irma.”

Hurricane Irma is shown in the Atlantic at 7:12 a.m. ET Tuesday.

“In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared,” Scott said in a statement.

Puerto Rico

Hundreds of people rushed to the stores, emptying shelves of food and drinking water just as Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard on Monday.
For hours, people also lined up outside hardware stores hoping to get plywood, batteries and power generators. If Irma knocks out power, Puerto Ricans said they are worried it would take weeks or months before the power is restored.

Crowds wait outside a store in Puerto Rico as Hurricane Irma nears.

“It (power) is something absolutely necessary, especially due to Puerto Rico’s weather. We need to have the A/C or a fan on all night,” a woman told CNN affiliate WAPA.
Last month, the director of Puerto Rico’s power utility, Ricardo Ramos Rodríguez, said several factors have made the island’s electric system “vulnerable and fragile,” WAPA reported.
One of those factors is the shortage of employees. Many workers recently retired or left their jobs for better prospects in the US mainland, Ramos Rodríguez said.
Public schools and officials at the University of Puerto Rico campuses have canceled classes, and many businesses remain closed.

Lines stretch through a Puerto Rico store as people try to buy generators.

Puerto Rico and a string of Caribbean islands are under hurricane warnings, including Antigua and Barbuda; the British and US Virgin Islands; Anguilla; Montserrat; St. Kitts; Nevis; Saba; St. Eustatius; St. Martin/Sint Maarten; and St. Barts, the hurricane center said.
The warnings are usually issued to areas that are expected to eventually experience hurricane-force winds (at least 74 mph), with the expectation that they would get tropical-storm-force winds of at least 39 mph about 36 hours after the alert goes into effect.
“Make a U-turn and die in the ocean, Irma. The Caribbean islands don’t need more problems!” Twitter user mujertropical wrote about the storm.

‘Better safe than sorry’

By the weekend, it’s possible that Irma could start heading to eastern Florida and also farther up the East Coast, CNN meteorologist and weather anchor Pedram Javaheri said.

See Hurricane Irma from inside an airplane

See Hurricane Irma from inside an airplane 00:34
“Everyone wants to see this at least meander away from the United States. The strength, the positioning, the timing of that troughs coming in to the eastern coastline will dictate exactly where Irma ends up,” Javaheri said.
In Miami, supermarkets are already selling out on water and nonperishable food. People are trying to beat the rush in case Irma makes landfall.
“I’ve been through hurricanes and they’re like ‘Oh it’s going to hit right here’ and then it hits 30, 40 miles up the coast and it kind of changes the way everything goes so better safe than sorry,” Greg Andrews told CNN affiliate WPLG.

Why Irma could be especially intense

Irma is a classic “Cape Verde hurricane,” meaning it formed in the far eastern Atlantic, near the Cape Verde Islands (now known as the Cabo Verde Islands), before tracking all the way across the Atlantic, CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said.
And Cape Verde storms frequently become some of the largest and most intense hurricanes. Examples include Hurricane Hugo, Hurricane Floyd and Hurricane Ivan.

Hurricane Irma Now Category 4 Storm: Florida And Puerto Rico Declare Emergencies

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

(CNN)Hurricane Irma strengthened to a Category 4 storm Monday afternoon, churning west in the Atlantic Ocean and prompting emergency declarations in Florida and Puerto Rico.

Although Irma’s path remains uncertain, the possibility it could threaten the United States led Florida Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency in all 67 counties in his state.
“In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared,” Scott said in a statement released late Monday afternoon. “This state of emergency allows our emergency management officials to act swiftly in the best interest of Floridians without the burden of bureaucracy or red tape.”
The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard after the National Hurricane Center declared a hurricane watch for Puerto Rico due to Irma. Classes will not be held on Tuesday in the public education system nor in the University of Puerto Rico, according to a release from the governor’s office. Rosselló warned the public on Sunday that the island could feel Irma’s wrath around noon Wednesday.
As of 5 p.m. ET, Monday, Irma was about 490 miles (790 kilometers) east of the Leeward Islands, the National Hurricane Center said. It is packing maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215 kph) as it heads west at 13 mph (20 kph). Landfall is expected early Wednesday on the island of Anguilla.
Computer models show the system moving through the Caribbean, and by the end of week, it will turn right toward the north, said CNN meteorologist and weather anchor Tom Sater.
“There is a small window. If it turns sooner rather than later, we could maybe see the system slide by the East Coast into the ocean, but that window is shutting quickly,” Sater said. “It definitely looks like we will be impacted by a major hurricane that is a Category 3, 4 or 5.”

Hurricane watches are in effect for the Nrn Leeward Islands. TS force winds are most likely to begin late Tuesday. http://hurricanes.gov/#Irma 

The hurricane center said swells generated by Irma would begin impacting the northern Leeward Islands on Monday.
“These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions,” the hurricane center said.
A string of Caribbean islands are now under hurricane warnings, including Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Martin/Sint Maarten and St. Barts, the hurricane center said.
“A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area,” the hurricane center said. “A warning is typically issued 36 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.”
And Irma will only strengthen this week, CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar said. “Over the coming days, it’s going to get into that warmer water. That’s going to help the storm intensify.”

Puerto Ricans warned

Hurricane Irma expected to gain strength, size

Hurricane Irma expected to gain strength, size 01:51
Irma is expected to remain a “dangerous major hurricane” through the week and could directly affect the British and US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Turks and Caicos, and the Bahamas, the agency said.
Puerto Rico’s disaster management agency, AEMEAD, is monitoring Irma and has opened an information hotline.

Florida governor says be prepared

It’s too soon to know the impact Irma could have on the continental United States, where no warnings or watches are in effect.
“Regardless, everyone in hurricane-prone areas should ensure that they have their hurricane plan in place, as we are now near the peak of the season,” the hurricane center said.
Chinchar said Irma could affect not just the eastern coast of Florida, but also farther up the East Coast.
“If there was a US landfall, we’re talking a week from today,” Chinchar said Monday.
Gov. Scott urged the state’s residents to ensure their disaster supply kits were ready. “Disaster preparedness should be a priority for every Florida family,” he tweeted Sunday

Why Irma could be especially intense

Irma is a classic “Cape Verde hurricane,” meaning it formed in the far eastern Atlantic, near the Cape Verde Islands (now known as the Cabo Verde Islands), before tracking all the way across the Atlantic, CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said.
And Cape Verde storms frequently become some of the largest and most intense hurricanes. Examples include Hurricane Hugo, Hurricane Floyd, and Hurricane Ivan.

California Governor Jerry Brown Declares State Of Emergency Due To L.A. County Fires

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGLES TIMES)

 

Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles County as firefighters continue to battle a 5,900-acre brush fire in the Verdugo Mountains north of downtown Los Angeles that has destroyed three homes and shut down a stretch of the 210 Freeway.

The governor’s declaration will ensure that state and federal assistance will be provided as quickly as possible. It came at the urging of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who said the fire is the largest in the city’s history in terms of sheer acreage.

Fire officials said cooler temperatures and calmer winds Sunday should help firefighters tame the La Tuna fire, but warned that favorable weather conditions could change quickly.

“The biggest challenge and risk is the wind,” Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said.

Firefighters were hoping for some relief from a heat wave that has gripped much of the state for days. Temperatures are expected to cool somewhat Sunday to 90 to 94 degrees, with a chance of some showers and lightning, as monsoonal moisture from Tropical Storm Linda moves into the region. Winds are expected to blow 3 to 8 mph, with gusts of up to 12 mph.

“That can change in a moment’s notice and the wind can accelerate very quickly,” Terrazas warned.

By 12:30 p.m. Sunday, the National Weather Service was tracking a thunderstorm about 10 miles north of Burbank and there was a brief shower in the Sunland area, officials said. Scattered rainfall was expected throughout the region.

The blaze has destroyed three homes in Tujunga at the end of an isolated road. Two firefighters were transported to hospitals Saturday for dehydration, according to the L.A. Fire Department.

On Sunday afternoon, Tujunga resident Frankie Fronk, 46, sat on an easy chair in front of his single-story ranch style house on McGroarty Street, staring up at the recently burned ridgeline. He was looking for puffs of smoke, any sign of a flare up.

And he’s seen a few.

Fronk said he was ordered to evacuate on Saturday about 2:30 p.m. He and his wife grabbed a few mementos and their pitbull mix, Harley, and started calling around for a hotel. After checking about 10 different places, charging between $200 and $300, he finally found a place in Burbank for $135. But he returned home Sunday morning.

Fronk said that the fire later kicked up in the neighborhood, with the wind driving flames into a home up the street on Glenties Way.

The fire was only 10% contained Sunday, officials said. Evacuations were temporarily lifted Saturday night in Burbank. But officials said a flare-up caused them to issue new evacuation orders in the Burbank Estates and Castleman Lane areas.

Evacuation orders remain in effect in Glendale and Los Angeles. “Please — have your belongings ready and prepared in the event that you are asked to evacuate,” L.A. City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez urged residents at a news briefing Sunday.

The blaze broke out Friday, with shifting winds sending flames in multiple directions. Fire crews confronted the same erratic conditions Saturday.

Terrazas said the number of people battling the flames had doubled since Saturday morning, with more than 1,000 firefighters on the scene Sunday. The chief said they hope to fully contain the fire within three to four days. The cause of the fire is not yet known, but officials said there is no evidence of arson.

Two of the three destroyed homes are believed to have lacked brush clearance, which Terrazas stressed was crucial for firefighters to be able to protect houses.

As of Sunday morning, Terrazas said about 25% of the fire was burning north of the 210 Freeway and the rest south of the freeway, which remained closed Sunday from the 2 Freeway to Wheatland Avenue.

Hundreds of residents in Burbank, Glendale and the Sunland-Tujunga area were ordered to evacuate on Saturday.

One of those ordered to leave Saturday was Chris Hall, 37, who was spraying the roof of his Sunland home with a garden hose when two police officers pulled up to his driveway.

“Now it’s mandatory,” one of the officers told him. “Get your stuff and go.”

Hall said he wanted to stay but did not argue. He piled important documents and cherished belongings — including photos of his daughter’s birth, birthdays and visits to the zoo — into the trunk of his Nissan Sentra.

“Everything else can be replaced,” he said, sitting behind the wheel of his car.

In Tujunga, music teacher Valerie Keith frantically loaded her pets in her car, along with her two best violins, spilling the yogurt she had taken for breakfast. Before she left, she remembered something, dashing back inside to grab a framed photograph of her mother and a banjo made from a tambourine.

“When you have to leave for safety, then you suddenly realize what’s important,” she said.

Evacuation centers were opened in Burbank, Glendale and Sunland-Tujunga. Terrazas said Sunday that 1,000 people had shown up to at the centers and that 900 had been released so far. They were not allowed, however, to return to the evacuated zones.

The fire has also displaced cats, dogs and horses: Councilwoman Rodriguez urged residents to donate hay and water buckets for horses and to consider fostering pets that have been separated from their families.

To the east, a fast-moving brush fire west of Beaumont in Riverside County that erupted Saturday afternoon has grown to 3,300 acres and forced some residents to evacuate their homes.

The Palmer fire started around 1:30 p.m. near San Timoteo Canyon Road and Fisherman’s Retreat. The fire was 15% contained as of Sunday morning.

Two small brush fires were also put out Saturday in Malibu. Another one hit near a toll plaza on the 73 Freeway in Newport Beach.

The La Tuna fire has already stoked worries that mudslides could threaten the area this winter. California State Assemblywoman Laura Friedman said Sunday that she was determined to make sure that restoration efforts begin quickly to minimize the chance of mudslides, saying it was going to be “a huge concern.”

Times staff writers Alene Tchekmedyian, Ruben Vives, Andrea Castillo and David Zahniser contributed to this report.


UPDATES:

1:50 p.m.: This article has been updated with the governor’s declaration.

1:15 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from an evacuee.

12:40 p.m.: This article was updated with new information from the National Weather Service.

11:45 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from city and fire officials.

10:55 a.m.: This article was updated with the latest weather conditions.

9 a.m.: This article was updated with news of a local disaster declaration.

7 a.m.: This article was updated with a new Burbank evacuation order.

Originally published at 5:50 a.m.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times

Powerful Hurricane Irma could be next weather disaster

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Powerful Hurricane Irma could be next weather disaster

Story highlights

  • Hurricane Irma is a powerful Category 3 and has rapidly intensified on Thursday
  • Irma is in the open Atlantic, and it’s too early to know where it will hit

(CNN)While much of the United States’ focus is still on Texas and the destruction left behind by Hurricane Harvey and it’s historic rainfall, powerful Hurricane Irma is rapidly intensifying in the open Atlantic and poses a major threat to the Caribbean and potentially the United States next week.

Irma was named as a tropical storm on Wednesday morning and by Thursday afternoon it had strengthened into a large Category 3 hurricane, with winds of 115 mph.

Hurricane Irma satellite image

Such explosive strengthening is known as “rapid intensification,” defined by the National Hurricane Center as having its wind speed increase at least 30 knots (35 mph) in 24 hours.
“Irma has become an impressive hurricane,” the National Hurricane Center said on Thursday, noting the rapid intensification, and saying “this is a remarkable 50 knot [58 mph] increase from yesterday at this time.”

How are hurricanes named?

Hurricane Harvey underwent rapid intensification last week, just before landfall, which brought it from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane when it moved onshore near Corpus Christi.
Irma is a classic “Cape Verde hurricane,” a type of hurricane that forms in the far eastern Atlantic, near the Cape Verde Islands (now known as the Cabo Verde Islands) and tracks all the way across the Atlantic. Cape Verde storms frequently are some of the largest and most intense hurricanes. Examples are Hurricane Hugo, Hurricane Floyd, and Hurricane Ivan.
Hurricane Irma is forecast to continue to strengthen as it moves westward over the next five days and the official forecast from the National Hurricane Center puts a dangerous Category 4 Hurricane Irma on the doorstep of the Caribbean by the end of the five-day forecast on Tuesday afternoon.
A strong high-pressure ridge to the north of Irma, over the Atlantic, is steering the storm to the west and limiting the wind shear in the upper levels of the atmosphere, which has allowed the storm to grow so quickly. Wind shear is like hurricane kryptonite, and prevents storms from forming or gaining strength.
Unfortunately, Irma will remain in a low-shear environment for the next several days, so there isn’t much hope that Irma will weaken any time soon.
There is considerable confidence that Hurricane Irma will track to the west through the weekend and then take a slight jog to the southwest early next week in response “to a building ridge [of high pressure] over the central Atlantic.”
From there the forecast becomes a lot less clear, with some major differences among some of the key models meteorologists use to forecast hurricanes, differences so drastic that in one instance Irma slides harmlessly back out to sea and in another it makes multiple disastrous landfalls in the Caribbean and likely the United States after that.
The European model, or ECMWF, and the American GFS model have had some notable showdowns before, most notably with Hurricane Sandy.
With Sandy, the ECMWF correctly predicted a landfall in the northeast nearly a week ahead, while the GFS continually kept the storm offshore in what became a major black eye for the US weather modeling industry. There have been other examples where the GFS model has performed better than the European model, such as with a few major snowstorms in the northeast.
Right now, the GFS has Irma taking a more northerly track that curves to the north before it reaches the Caribbean, thus making a US landfall much less likely.
The European model keeps the storm tracking further west and into the Caribbean by the middle of next week.

European vs American weather models

Ryan Maue, a meteorologist with WeatherBell Analytics, said, “The ECMWF sees a much stronger ridge or Bermuda High [than the GFS] which forces Irma west, whereas the GFS has a weaker ridge and a more rightward, parabolic track.”
“The prospects for major impacts anywhere from Cuba to Carolinas is concerning for this very reliable model,” Maue said.
Irma is still more than 1,700 miles east of the Leeward Islands and any impacts from the storm shouldn’t be felt until Tuesday or Wednesday for the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico.
The forecast picture should become clearer after the weekend as we see which model correctly predicts Irma’s path.
Bottom line: Hurricane Irma is already a powerful hurricane and looks to only become more so. Those with interests in the Caribbean and southeast US coast should pay close attention to the forecast.

‘Pops,’ Followed By Black Smoke And Fire, Reported At Storm-Crippled Texas Chemical Plant

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

‘Pops,’ followed by black smoke and fire, reported at storm-crippled Texas chemical plant

 August 31 at 9:56 AM

The flooded Arkema Inc. chemical plant is seen on Wednesday. (Godofredo A. Vasquez/Houston Chronicle via AP)

CROSBY, Tex. — The operators of a chemical plant left without power by floodwaters said Thursday that possible explosions have been reported at the facility, and they warned that more problems could occur as rising temperatures make the highly flammable compounds inside volatile and dangerous.

Arkema, the French chemicals group that runs the plant, said in a statement that it was notified by the Harris County Emergency Operations Center “of two explosions and black smoke” coming from the facility, which was under about six feet of water from the relentless rains unleashed by Harvey.

Local authorities later said there weren’t explosions at the facility, but rather “pops” followed by smoke and fire. But Arkema urged residents to stay clear of a temporary evacuation zone set up Wednesday, and said in its statement that “a threat of additional explosion remains.”

The Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office reported “a series of chemical reactions” and “intermittent smoke” at the facility, about 25 miles northeast of Houston.

Bob Royall, assistant chief for emergency operations for the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office, said there were “small container ruptures that may have a sound” — like “a series of pops.”

“I don’t want the public thinking these are massive explosions,” Royall told reporters.

“I want to be very clear: It was not an explosion,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.

He added: “It is not anything toxic; it is not anything that we feel is a danger to the community at all.”

The plant in Crosby manufactures organic peroxides, a family of compounds used in everything from pharmaceuticals to construction materials such as counter tops and pipes.

A variety of federal agencies have warned about the dangers of organic peroxides. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration warns that “contact of organic peroxides with the eyes should be avoided. Some organic peroxides will cause serious injury to the cornea, even after brief contact, or will be corrosive to the skin.”

It added that “many organic peroxides also burn vigorously.”

An earlier study done for the Environmental Protection Agency found that organic peroxides are skin and eye irritants and could also cause liver damage.

Smoke from the plant left at least one sheriff’s deputy in need of medical treatment. A total of 15 deputies were evaluated by medical teams as a precaution, and most were later released from the hospital after experiencing what Gonzalez, the sheriff, referred to as respiratory irritation. “We believe the smoke is a non-toxic irritant,” he said.

The incident was reported between midnight and 1 a.m. on Thursday, and local authorities and Arkema officials had warned earlier that such problems were likely.

The material at the plant must remain cold — otherwise it can combust. “The material naturally degrades and some types can be unstable unless refrigerated,” Arkema explained.

The facility’s coolant system and inundated backup power generators failed, according to the company. Primary power at the plant went out on Sunday, and two sources of emergency backup power were lost shortly thereafter.

At that point, Richard Rowe, chief executive of Arkema’s North American unit, warned that trouble was likely.

“We have lost critical refrigeration of the materials on site that could now explode and cause a subsequent intense fire,” Rowe said in a statement Wednesday. “The high water and lack of power leave us with no way to prevent it. We have evacuated our personnel  for their own safety. The federal, state and local authorities were contacted a few days ago, and we are working very closely with them to manage this matter.  They have ordered the surrounding community to be evacuated, too.”

In the statement, Rowe apologized “to everyone impacted by our situation.”

A mandatory evacuation zone was established for a 1.5-mile radius Wednesday as the last remaining workers at the facility attempted to resolve the problem. Police cruisers and SUVs sealed off access to the plant on Highway 90, which connects Houston and Beaumont. Parts of the highway nearby were underwater.

A continuous flow of trucks, many hauling boats to participate in flood rescue efforts, approached the police barricade near the facility Wednesday afternoon only to be turned away as Crosby Volunteer Fire Department trucks crisscrossed the highway cut-through roads.

A Crosby, Tex. volunteer fireman with an evacuee in tow answers questions on road closures from bystanders near a chemical plant authorities said is going to explode. (Alex Horton/The Washington Post)

The facility, the company noted, “is in a rural area with no hospitals, schools, correctional facilities or recreational areas or industrial/commercial areas in the vicinity.” Arkema said the plant, which employs 57 people, “has never experienced flooding of this magnitude before.”

Ahead of Harvey’s arrival, “the plant made extensive preparations,” bringing extra backup generators to the facility, along with diesel-powered refrigerated tank trailers, Arkema said. But the generators were inundated by water and failed. At that point, the company said, “temperature-sensitive products” were transferred into the diesel-powered refrigerated containers.

Still, the company said Wednesday, “the most likely outcome is that, anytime between now and the next few days, the low-temperature peroxide in unrefrigerated trailers will degrade and catch fire. There is a small possibility that the organic peroxide will release into the floodwaters but will not ignite and burn. … In the alternate, there could be a combination event involving fire and environmental release. Any fire will probably resemble a large gasoline fire. The fire will be explosive and intense. Smoke will be released into the atmosphere and dissipate. People should remain clear of the area.”

The Associated Press reported that Arkema was previously required “to develop and submit a risk management plan to the Environmental Protection Agency, because it has large amounts of sulfur dioxide, a toxic chemical, and methylpropene, a flammable gas.”

The plans are supposed to detail the effects of a potential release, evaluate worst-case scenarios and explain a company’s response. In its most recently available submission from 2014, Arkema said potentially 1.1 million residents could be impacted over a distance of 23 miles (37 kilometers) in a worse case scenario, according to information compiled by a nonprofit group and posted on a website hosted by the Houston Chronicle.

But, Arkema added, it was using “multiple layers of preventative and mitigation measures” at the plant, including steps to reduce the amount of substances released, and that made the worst case “very unlikely.”

On Wednesday, James and Deborah Hyer sat, frustrated, in a white pickup truck with a plant water tower in view. They were waiting with their three young children for the police to clear out so they could return to their home in Dayton, about 10 miles north of the barricade.

They were out of milk and water, with local stores either closed or cleaned out of supplies.

Their newly purchased double-wide trailer on top of a hill escaped much of the floodwaters, Deborah Hyer said, but some of their friends living at the bottom experienced complete devastation.

“They lost everything,” she said. One friend of hers, a single mother of five children, lived in a house on 17-foot stilts, but the water rose so high she had to evacuate, she said.

In tiny Kenefick to the northeast, neighborhoods built on the floodplains and banks of the Trinity River were destroyed, and relatives of friends who tried to evacuate were still missing.

 Play Video 0:54
Houston hero rescues neighbors from Harvey’s floodwaters
Howard Harris purchased a boat last time his hometown of Cypress, Tex., flooded. Now, as Harvey unleashes record levels of rain on Houston and surrounding areas, Harris is making sure his neighbors can evacuate safely. (Kurt Kuykendall, Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

As in other areas like Houston and its western suburb of Katy, residents remarked on the quick response of volunteers with fishing boats fanning out as self-deputized rescue units.

“Some authorities are helping, but civilians like the Cajun Navy are helping the most,” James Hyer said.

A Crosby Volunteer Fire Department truck with flashing lights stopped as another man flagged him down to get updates on alternate routes to Dayton.

“We have nowhere to go,” James Hyer pleaded to the firefighter.

“I’d go away from here,” the firefighter responded, though he conceded he did not know which nearby back roads were flooded or, like Highway 90, sealed by police. The Hyer family, resigned, turned around with their backs to Dayton.

Cleveland Walters, Jr. waits for a police barricade to close down on Highway 90 in Crosby, Tex. Police sealed off the highway following reports of an imminent explosion at a chemical plant after floodwaters damaged its coolant systems. (Alex Horton/The Washington Post)

Cleveland Walters Jr., who also lives in Dayton, waited more than an hour outside his black GMC pickup to get home, where his wife and elderly 92-year old father needed to be cared for, he said.

“Dayton is where all my medicine is,” he said, ticking off the medical issues stemming from Agent Orange he said he was exposed to while serving in the U.S. Air Force in Guam during the final years of the Vietnam War.

The runways for B-52 Stratofortress bombers taking off were choked with jungles, and the defoliant sprayed around his tent sparked skin and gastrointestinal problems. He takes about 30 pills a day, he said, and had only a limited supply with him as he sat on Highway 90.

But Walters wasn’t overly concerned about the plant’s reported impending explosion, after working in the oil industry for many years after his service.

“I drive by it about every day. It is what it is,” he said. He left soon after, and like the Hyer family, put more distance between himself and Dayton as rescue vehicles roared to Beaumont.

Mufson and du Lac reported from Washington. Brian Murphy and Mark Berman contributed to this report, which has been updated.

Trump Makes Devastating Hurricane All About Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)

 

Trump Makes Devastating Hurricane All About Trump

“What a crowd, what a turnout.”

X

Crises like major weather disasters offer presidents the chance to unify the country and rise above partisan politics. Although a significant amount of aid work is done at the state and local levels, the president still has a major role in coordinating the response and setting the tone for the country.

But for Donald Trump, Hurricane Harvey has been a golden opportunity to promote himself.

“We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now as, this is the way to do it,” the president said on Tuesday. “We want to do it better than ever before.”

Right now, however, Trump wants to be looked at in a way that makes people say, “I would really like to wear that hat, and I’d be willing to pay that man $40 for it.”

The president has repeatedly worn his own campaign merchandise, which is on sale at his website, to Hurricane Harvey events.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Trump has used his Harvey meetings as product placement for hats he sells for $40 two days in a row now…

For a third time, Trump is using Hurricane Harvey as product placement for a hat he sells for $40

Nearly every chance he gets, Trump brags about the size of his hurricane. He doesn’t have to deal with just any old storm like his predecessors did ― he is confronting a huge storm. The biggest storm you’ve ever seen. A storm that only he could handle. And of course, he wants everyone to know that he and his administration are doing a heckuva job.

HISTORIC rainfall in Houston, and all over Texas. Floods are unprecedented, and more rain coming. Spirit of the people is incredible.Thanks!

Going to a Cabinet Meeting (tele-conference) at 11:00 A.M. on . Even experts have said they’ve never seen one like this!

Wow – Now experts are calling  a once in 500 year flood! We have an all out effort going, and going well!

Trump also continued to tout how many supporters he has, and the size of his crowds, which he also does at nearly every campaign rally. On Tuesday, he remarked on the crowd size while visiting Corpus Christi, saying, “What a crowd, what a turnout.”

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He was at a fire station to meet with local officials about the disaster response. It was not a rally.

Reporters at the event heard no mention from the president of the dead, suffering or displaced Texans, nor did they hear Trump express any sympathy for them, according to a Dallas Morning News reporter.

Trump seems to be taking a certain amount of satisfaction from the attention he and the hurricane are getting on TV, where cable news has nearly non-stop coverage.

On Tuesday, Trump boasted that Federal Emergency Management Director Brock Long “has really become very famous on television over the last couple of days.” And he defended his decision to pardon controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio during Harvey, saying he did so because of how many people were tuning in: “I assumed the ratings would be far higher.”

On the same day that Trump was tweeting about the size of the hurricane, his great rescue operation, NAFTA and his insistence that Mexico will pay for the border wall, former President Barack Obama tweeted a donation link to the Red Cross.

I worked for his opponent in 2012 and had many differences but this really is how a president should respond. In substance & tone. https://twitter.com/barackobama/status/901946021437206528 

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