Monday 28 December 2015

MORE extreme weather

Northern Territory floods: woman dies, hundreds evacuated and saltwater crocs in town
Woman’s car was caught in flood east of Katherine, while almost 500 residents of Nauiyu have been evacuated and crocodiles roam the community

27 December, 2015

A woman has died after her car got caught in Northern Territory floods that have forced the evacuation of hundreds of people and brought saltwater crocodiles into remote communities.

A police helicopter spotted the vehicle in floodwaters about 4km from the remote Beswick community, east of Katherine, on Sunday night. It is believed the elderly woman was one of five people in the car.

Hundreds of residents from Northern Territory town of Daly River airlifted to Darwin after severe flooding.

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This is the second person who has been washed away in a flooded creek since Christmas,” NT police, fire and emergency commander Bruce Porter said.

Again I urge people to avoid taking unnecessary risks on the roads and avoid driving into floodways.”

Hopes were fading in the search for a 28-year-old man missing from Peppimenarti in the Daly River region since Christmas Day.

Residents of the remote Nauiyu community – also known as Daly River – reported saltwater crocodiles had made their way into town in the floodwaters. The crocodiles were seen on the local football field and the NT News reported one had been seen taking two dogs.

Submerged street signs in the community of Nauiyu in the Northern Territory, where crocodiles were seen on the local football field.

Submerged street signs in the community of Nauiyu in the Northern Territory, where crocodiles were seen on the local football field. Photograph: Stuart Brisbane/Daly River Barr Resort

Stuart Brisbane, owner-operator of the Daly River Barra Resort, said he had seen a large croc “swimming past the paddock about 50-80 metres away” from the resort.

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Almost 470 people have been evacuated by helicopter from Nauiyu since an evacuation order was issued on Boxing Day. They were transported more than 150km to Batchelor where an evacuation centre had been established, before being bussed to Darwin.

Nauiyu resident Nadine Maloney told the ABC adults took turns watching the water rise overnight as it approached the doorstops of houses.

Brisbane said the flood was the second highest of the three he had experienced in the 10 years he had lived there.

We normally like floods because the bigger the wet the better the fishing’s going to be,” said Brisbane, who had not been evacuated.

Brisbane’s family home and the fishing resort’s holiday accommodation sit on high ground and the water had not reached any buildings, but they were cut off from all road access, he told Guardian Australia.

We just sit here and watch the world go by. We can get out by boat if we want to,” he said.

I said to my wife this morning, at least we didn’t have to spend $15-20m dollars to get our own island.”

The floodwaters had reached the bottom of the property and as a precaution against the saltwater crocodiles, he had locked up his dogs.

We were sitting on the verandah last night having a couple of bevvies with a mate and there was one swimming past the paddock about 50-80 metres away. It was quite a big one,” Brisbane said.

On Sunday Brisbane took his boat into the now evacuated Daly River community, about 6km away. He said some houses, the medical centre and the water treatment facility had all escaped flooding, but many other houses were partially submerged.

We’ve seen a couple of police boats there keeping an eye on the place where there’s no one there,” he said.

Nadine Daly and her family from the remote Nauiyu community on the Daly River spent Saturday night in Darwin’s Foskey Pavilion after being evacuated due to floodwaters.

Nadine Daly and her family from the remote Nauiyu community on the Daly River spent Saturday night in Darwin’s Foskey Pavilion after being evacuated due to floodwaters. Photograph: Avani Dias/ABC News
Severe thunderstorms, heavy rain and winds were forecast for areas including Katherine on Monday, as a tropical low pressure system moved across the state towards Queensland.

There was still the chance of a cyclone in the Gulf of Carpentaria, experts said.

About 134mm of rain had fallen in the Daly Waters region in the 24 hours to 9am on Monday. The Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe weather warning for the Daly, Tiwi, Arnhem, Carpentaria, Gregory, Barkly and Simpson areas, with fears of flash flooding.

Abnormally high tides and heavy surf were forecast for coastal areas. Residents in affected areas have been warned to take precautions.

Create your own sandbags if there is flooding by using pillow cases or shopping bags filled with sand and place them around doorways to protect your home,” the latest BoM warning advised.

Emergency kits should also be ready with a battery-operated radio, torch, spare batteries and first aid kits.

Police advised motorists to take extra precautions.

I continue to urge everyone to exercise extreme caution on the roads and to consider the necessity of their travel plans,” Porter said. “The last thing we want is for anyone to become an unnecessary statistic.”

Dozens killed as wild weather sweeps across southern and central US
  • At least 43 people have been killed in Christmas weekend storms
  • State of emergency declared in Missouri and New Mexico
  • Tornadoes rip through Dallas area, killing 11 people
  • Another 13 die in Illinois and Missouri flash flooding
© Marvin Gentry
27 December, 2015

At least 43 people have been killed after storms hit southern and central US states over the Christmas holiday, unleashing floods and tornadoes, flattening buildings, blowing vehicles off highways and snarling transportation for millions.

The weather prompted the governors of Missouri and New Mexico to declare a state of emergency for their states on Sunday.

In the Dallas area, 11 people were left dead by tornadoes over the weekend, including one packing winds of up to 200 miles per hour (322 kmh). The twister hit the city of Garland, killing eight people and blowing vehicles off highways.

A tornado of that strength is very rare in a metropolitan area,” National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Bishop told Reuters. Powerful tornadoes are a staple of spring and summer in central states but occur less frequently in winter, according to U.S. weather data.

It is total devastation,” Garland police spokesman Lieutenant Pedro Barineau said. “It is a very difficult time to be struck by such a horrible storm the day after Christmas.”

It was the latest of a succession of powerful weather events across the country, from heavy snow in New Mexico, west Texas and the Oklahoma panhandle to flash flooding in parts of the plains and midwest.

In addition to the Texas fatalities, flash flooding killed at least 13 people in Illinois and Missouri, officials and local media reported on Sunday.

Six adults drowned when they drove their cars into flooded waterways in Missouri’s Pulaski county, said county sheriff Ron Long.

In neighboring Illinois, Salem-based radio station WJBD reported a family of three adults and two children was driving near the village of Patoka, 85 miles (137 km)east of St. Louis, Missouri, when their car was washed away by floodwaters.

The death toll in the south-east linked to severe weather rose to 19 on Sunday when Alabama authorities found the body of a 22-year-old man whose vehicle was swept away while attempting to cross a bridge; a five-year-old died in the same incident. Ten people have died in Mississippi, and six died in Tennessee. One person was killed in Arkansas.

The full extent of damage along a nearly 40-mile stretch near Dallas was becoming clear Sunday: houses destroyed, vehicles mangled, power lines down and trees toppled. Heavy rain and wind hampered cleanup efforts on Sunday afternoon.

The weather service said an EF-4 tornado, which is the second-most powerful with winds up to more than 200mph, hit the community at about 6.45pm on Saturday. It was near the intersection of Interstate 30 and George Bush Turnpike, which is a major route in the region. At least three people who died were found in vehicles, said Barineau, who also noted that some cars appeared to have been thrown from the interstate, though it wasn’t known whether that was the case for the people found in the vehicles.

Natalie Guzman, 33, took photos of her family’s home in a Garland neighborhood. The garage wall had collapsed and the roof fell in. The only part of the house that appeared to be spared was the master bathroom, where her brother-in-law took shelter Saturday night. He was the only one at home and told her he had just enough time to get himself and his dogs into the bathroom.

It was worse than I thought,” Guzman said, comparing the scene to the photos her brother-in-law had sent the night before.

The destruction in Garland was so overwhelming that Dallas County judge Clay Jenkins declared the city a disaster within mere minutes of seeing the toll first-hand.

I don’t declare local disasters lightly,” Jenkins said. “But I looked at the scene for 10 minutes, spoke to the incident commander and then called the lawyers to bring the paperwork.”

In the nearby town of Rowlett, city manager Brian Funderburk said Sunday morning that 23 people were injured, but that there were no deaths and no reports of missing people. The weather service said damage indicated it was likely an EF-3 tornado, which has winds up to 165 mph.

Dale Vermurlen lived in a Rowlett neighborhood that sustained heavy damage. His house only had minor damage, but was next to that were flattened.

I grabbed both dogs by the collars and held on to the toilet. I said ‘OK, this could be it, boys.’”

Homes in the neighborhood that had been searched by emergency responders were marked with a black X. In some instances, it looked like homes had been picked up and set back down in a big pile. State troopers were blocking off roads, utility crews were restoring power and people were walking around hushed and dazed.

Three other people died in Collin County, about 45 miles northeast of Dallas, according to sheriff’s deputy Chris Havey, although the circumstances were not immediately clear.

Weather service meteorologist Matt Bishop in the Fort Worth office said the tornado outbreak at this time of the year for North Texas occurs “from time to time ... but it’s certainly not something that happens regularly”.

On the other side of the state, a snowstorm was accompanied by plunging temperatures. In far west Texas, up to four inches of snow fell overnight in the Alpine area, with foot-deep drifts reported. Parts of Interstate 40 on the Texas-New Mexico border were closed Sunday due to snow. Texas department of transportation spokesman Paul Braun told the Amarillo Globe-News that crews are doing what they can to plow the drifts, which occurred even though there were only about 3in of snow. They “go through and it blows it right back,” he said.

Albuquerque, New Mexico, received about 6in of snow and saw nearly 200 weather-related accidents Saturday. Meanwhile, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency as there were blizzard conditions and an ice storm warning out west and flood warnings in the east.

Bob Moore stands in his house in Rowlett, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, the morning after it was damaged by a tornado. At least 11 people died and dozens were injured in apparently strong tornadoes that swept through the Dallas area and caused substantial damage this weekend. (AP Photo/Rex C. Curry)

Christmas weather apocalypse kills at least 43 over weekend

A Christmas holiday weather-armageddon claimed the lives of over 40 people across the US over the weekend, with winter storms unleashing deadly floods and tornadoes that created havoc for travelers.

Storms in the South, Southwest, and Midwest killed at least 43 people, with severe weather conditions prompting Missouri and New Mexico to declare states of emergency.

At least 13 people perished in flash flooding in Missouri and Illinois, where up to six inches of rain fell over the weekend, while in Texas at least 11 people were killed in the Dallas area by tornadoes.

Advisories from the National Weather Service are still in effect for the central United States, and blizzard warnings remain for parts of New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. Flash flood warnings have been announced in a number of counties stretching from Texas to Indiana.

In North Texas, some 600 homes were damaged in the Dallas suburb of Rowlett on Sunday as the result of a tornado, with as many as 1,450 houses destroyed by tornadoes in the state overall. As many as a dozen tornadoes were seen around northern Texas

At least eight people suffered injuries in Oklahoma as a severe blizzard pounded the state. The Emergency Management Department says that snow and powerful winds knocked out power to as many as 60,000 homes and businesses.

In New Mexico, a massive winter storm slamming the southeastern part of the state shut down Interstate 40’s eastbound lanes from Albuquerque to the Texas state line. A state of emergency was declared on Sunday, with the National Guard mobilized to rescue stranded drivers, as high winds and blowing snow led to dangerous and life-threatening conditions. As many as 10,000 homes in eastern New Mexico were without power on Sunday.

According to tracking service, more than 1,100 flights were canceled nationwide on Sunday, about half of which were scheduled to or from Dallas, a major US transit hub.

Prior to this weekend’s disasters, at least 18 people, including 10 in Mississippi, were killed just two days before Christmas. Bad weather is expected to continue through Monday.

Failed flood defences cast doubt on UK readiness for new weather era
An extra 1,000 soldiers are on standby as thousands of people are evacuated amid the threat of more heavy rain to come this week in northern England

28 December, 2015

Britain’s ability to cope with the “unprecedented” flood crises that hit several urban centres simultaneously over the weekend has been called into question after the failure of key flood defences in the north led to thousands of homes being put at risk.

Three cities were hit by the severe weather, alongside scores of towns and villages, forcing the evacuation of thousands in what David Cameron described as an unprecedented situation. The prime minister was expected to visit the stricken areas on Monday.

With more heavy rain predicted for the middle of the week, the situation could worsen and an extra 200 troops have been dispatched to the worst-hit areas to join the 300 already helping communities cope with the flooding.

A Downing Street spokesperson said on Sunday night that a further 1,000 military personnel were on standby “should the situation worsen”.

Aerial photographs of York city show the large scale of flooding which hit Yorkshire, with rising floodwater engulfing properties and vehicles and leading to the evacuation of some 4,000 stranded residents

More rain will batter the north of England on Wednesday with up to 80mm (3in) falling on high ground and as much as 120mm (4.7ins ) in exposed locations.

Amid warnings that climate change would lead to more frequent and severe flooding, the state of the large-scale defences was brought into sharp relief after pumping equipment in York was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of water.

In a move that apparently sacrificed some areas in order to prevent greater d
evastation elsewhere, officials decided at the weekend to raise the river Foss flood barrier in order to prevent it from becoming stuck. Hundreds of homes were evacuated and entire streets were submerged. York’s barrier, completed in 1987 following serious flooding in 1982, also experienced problems in 2012 when four of its eight pumps failed due to overheating, resulting in flood warnings for hundreds of householders.

Floods continued to bring chaos to thousands of homes and businesses elsewhere across the north of England. In Leeds, main roads in the city centre remained under water. In Greater Manchester, 7,000 homes were still without power after rivers topped their banks.

While experts have cautioned that it is too early to give precise figures for the losses caused by Storm Desmond and Storm Eva, the accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers said that an initial analysis showed that they could run as high as £1.3bn.

Facing questions about Britain’s readiness to cope with severe weather events after cuts to the government’s flood spending over the past five years, the environment secretary Liz Truss pledged that flood defences would be reviewed.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell called for a cross-party consensus to ensure that investment in flood resilience does not fall victim to politics, while a council leader in a flood-hit part of Yorkshire said measures needed to extend beyond spending on major flood defence schemes. Mr McDonnell said he was ready to agree levels of spending on measures to adapt to climate change with chancellor George Osborne to ensure that investment continues whoever wins the next election.

Calderdale council leader Tim Swift said: “It’s just obvious that the scale of flooding events over the last 10 years has been dramatically greater than anything we’ve had before, and without getting into an argument, even if you put the most generous interpretation on what the government is doing, the level of flood resilience funding hasn’t increased to match that.

One of the big questions we will be asking is what the most effective response is. We’re pretty clear it needs to be about the whole system. There is still a case for major flood defence schemes, but we also want to look at land management and drainage as well. Calderdale needs a comprehensive solution.

In York, where 3,500 homes were at risk near the rivers Ouse and Foss, there were calls for the state of flood defences and funding to be reviewed. Among the worst affected was the area around Huntingdon Road, close to the city centre, where vehicles and homes were partially submerged.

Problems arose at the weekend at the Foss barrier and pumping station, which controls river levels by managing the interaction between the rivers Foss and Ouse. In a model that is commonplace around the country, pumps behind the barrier are supposed to pump the water clear. The station became inundated with floodwater after the volume exceeded the capacity of the pumps and flooded some of the electrics, according to an Environment Agency spokesperson, who said that a helicopter was due to airlift in parts to complete repairs on Monday.

The barrier gate was opened to let the river Foss flow into the river Ouse to prevent very high water levels in the Foss from backing up and creating dangerous levels of flooding, which would have created a serious risk to the public,” the spokesperson added.

Just before Christmas, the government published figures on flood spending levels over the past five years. They tumbled nearly 30% after 2010-11, and have only now picked up thanks to “exceptional” funding as a result of the 2013-14 floods. By 2014-15, capital investment on flood defences had fallen to £228m, supplemented by a further £125m.

Innes Thomson, a former flood chief at the Environment Agency who heads the Association of Drainage Authorities, whose job is to manage water levels and keep water flowing, called for more money to be spent on maintenance rather than on big new defence projects.

If we were to spend more just maintaining and managing water levels, it would be money well spent,” he said. “If we spent a slug of money now cleaning up rivers, it would help. All sorts of work needs to be done. We have £22bn of flood risk assets, but [we need to ask] have we got the right standard? Are they in good condition? Should we upgrade our pumps? Do we need to ensure all our embankments are sound? Are our watercourses clear of obstacles? I think we are talking about tens of millions of pounds. Now is an opportunity to reconsider where we spend our money.”

More than 200 flood alerts and warnings were in place for England, Wales and Scotland on Sunday afternoon, including more than 20 severe warnings, indicating danger to life. Among the most seriously affected areas were Pennine towns between Leeds and Manchester that saw rivers hit record levels – up to 5ft above their previous peak in some places.

In Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, hundreds of homes and businesses were flooded, with residents piling sodden furniture, Christmas presents and other belongings in the street. A few miles down the valley in Hebden Bridge, residents were coming to terms with their third devastating flood in the past four years.

Truss told the BBC: “Every single river [in Lancashire] was at a record high,” adding that in Yorkshire, some rivers were a metre higher than ever before. “Clearly in the light of that, we will be reviewing our flood defences.”

Glen Minikin / SWNS

An investigation has been launched into the decision as experts warned the worst of the weather may be yet to come - with torrential flood waters expected to reach new heights on Monday

  • It was York's turn to bear the brunt of this winter's freak rainfall yesterday, bringing fresh havoc and misery
  • Saturday's downpour was still flowing off the hills and in to the rivers which meet in the city – the Ouse and the Foss
  • To make matters worse, the flood barrier which usually controls the Foss was left open ahead of yesterday's surge
  • As a result, the two rivers ended up flowing in to each other and swamping part of the great medieval city

In Ireland

Diana Johnsky makes her way to work through the River Shannon floods in Athlone, Co Westmeath. Photo: Hany Marzouk

Communities living along the Shannon were on high alert for more floods last night, but a new storm will just miss most of the country tomorrow, forecasters say.

Met √Čireann downgraded its forecast for the expected storm tomorrow, believing it will stay mostly in the Atlantic and head for Iceland instead of Ireland.

"It is a rapidly developing low-pressure system," said Met √Čireann forecaster Harm Luijkx.

"We believe the centre of the storm will stay in the Atlantic but the outer edges will clip the North West so it will be still be a very windy day but we have now amended our forecast and reduced warnings as a result."

SLOVENIA - December 27, 2015 - mountains above lake Bohinj, Slovenia - about 13°C

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