NEW ZEALND – Storm sparks evacuations and cuts power
Gale-force winds battered New Zealand’s North Island on Friday, tearing off roofs, bringing down trees, cutting power and forcing residents to flee flooded seaside towns.
The storm, which began on Thursday, was easing in the upper part of the North Island but would continue to wreak havoc as it moved south and hit the capital, Wellington, forecasters said.
A tree smashed into a car in the eastern town of Rotorua, killing a woman, police said.
“We ask that people avoid low lying roads and coastal areas across Bay of Plenty as water levels are high, making conditions extremely dangerous,” the statement added.
In Kaiaua, a seaside town south of Auckland, authorities called for residents to evacuate as strong tides submerged the coast.
“My husband said ‘I think we need to go’ and I looked to see where he was pointed and the sea was coming in like a tsunami. It came in real fast,” Kaiaua resident Diana Gausden told the New Zealand Herald.
New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, was pummelled by two months’ worth of rain in 24 hours, according to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, prompting authorities to shut major roads and cancel ferry services and dozens of flights.
Winds of up to 128 kph (80 mph) an hour tore off roofs, felled trees and ripped boats from their moorings overnight, according to media.
More than 20,000 households had been left without power on Friday, including 12,000 in Auckland, according to media.
Electricity providers said they were working to fix dozens of separate power outages centring on Auckland.
The storm was a dramatic interlude in an unusually dry summer, which has led to drought in many farming regions and curbed production of milk.
CHINA – China warns of second wave of snow after lifting blizzard alert
China warned of a second wave of snow and sleet hitting northern, central and eastern parts of the country on Friday after record snowfall paralysed parts of the country.
The National Meteorological Centre lifted a blizzard alert and said light to moderate snowfall was expected to sweep across much of the north between Friday and Sunday, with heavy snow in some parts and sleet in others.
The weather bureau issued an alert on Wednesday, with snow disrupting public transport and energy supplies, damaging power lines and forcing authorities to shut down roads, airports and schools in parts of central China.
All power in Suizhou, a small city of 2.5 million people in the north of central Hubei province, was down due to heavy snow, state broadcaster China Central Television reported.
Temperatures in Suizhou are expected to plunge as low as minus 5 degrees Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit) on Friday.
Hubei, which does not have central heating infrastructure unlike northern provinces, has seen a spike in electricity consumption for heating, according to CCTV.
In Wuhan, capital of Hubei, the local government has loosened restrictions on gas use for residents battling freezing temperatures.
On Thursday, at least three airports were shut and nine were experiencing extensive delays because of heavy snowfall.
Several high-speed trains from Shanghai and Beijing were also delayed or cancelled on Thursday, and highways in the provinces of Jiangsu, Henan, Shaanxi and Hubei have also been closed off, the China Daily reported.
The ceilings of several bus stations in Hefei, the capital of Anhui province, had collapsed as a result of snow, resulting in at least one death, the newspaper said. The province saw a record 30 cm (12 inches) of snow on Thursday.
The roof of a factory in Xiangyang, also in Hubei province, collapsed, trapping five people, and traffic in the city ground to a halt, according to the state broadcaster, China National Radio.
CCTV footage on Friday also showed collapsed roofs of factories in Henan and Anhui provinces.
By contrast, Beijing has been dry, with many parts of northern China experiencing little to no snowfall.
UNITED STATES – Blizzard pounding U.S. Northeast
A powerful blizzard battered the U.S. Northeast on Thursday, knocking out power for tens of thousands of people and snarling travel amid a cold snap that has gripped much of the United States for over a week and killed more than a dozen people.
Thousands of flights were canceled, firefighters scrambled to rescue motorists from flooded streets in Boston, National Guard troops were mobilized in the Northeast and New York City’s two main airports halted flights because of whiteout conditions.
“Today, I thought Manhattan was going to have the streets cleaned up, but I see not,” said Valentine Williams, who usually operates an electric scooter to deliver food in New York City.
The snow forced Williams, 28, to make deliveries on foot. No customers complained that he was slower than usual. “They’re just surprised that I’m out here,” he added.
Officials feared fast-dropping temperatures after the storm passed would turn snow on roadways to ice.
Ahead of that threat, snow plows and salt trucks were dispatched along streets and highways, and schools were closed through much of the region. In Boston, Mayor Marty Walsh said schools would remain closed on Friday.
Blizzard warnings were in effect along the East Coast from North Carolina to Maine. The U.S. National Weather Service measured wind gusts of more than 70 miles per hour (113 kph), which downed power lines.
Almost 80,000 homes and businesses in the Northeast and Southeast, where the storm struck on Wednesday, were without power.
The Boston area received 12 inches of snow, with more on the way, according to the National Weather Service. Parts of New Jersey were buried under nearly a foot and a half of powder.
The storm was powered by a rapid plunge in barometric pressure that some weather forecasters called a bombogenesis, or a “bomb cyclone.” It brought high winds and swift, heavy snowfall.
The wintry weather has been blamed for at least 14 deaths in the past few days, including four in North Carolina traffic accidents and three in Texas because of the cold.
Nearly 500 members of the National Guard were activated along the East Coast to assist with emergency response, including 200 in New York state, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a statement.
More than 5,000 U.S. airline flights were canceled. At New York’s John F. Kennedy (JFK) and LaGuardia airports, all flights were temporarily halted because of whiteout conditions, the Federal Aviation Administration said. LaGuardia on Thursday evening announced on Twitter that the suspension had been lifted. But the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said flights at JFK would not resume until 7 a.m. Friday.
Passenger train operator Amtrak ran reduced service in the Northeast. Sporadic delays were reported on transit systems, including New York’s Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North commuter lines, as well as the Boston area’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority system.
“Years of Band-Aid solutions create nightmare situations when storm damage occurs,” said Joseph Schwieterman, a professor of public policy and specialist in transportation systems at DePaul University in Chicago. “Replacement parts are tough to find and maintenance process turns into major headache.”
In New York’s Fort Greene neighborhood, Mohammed Farid Khan said his morning commute took three times as long as usual because of train woes.
“There were only local trains, no express,” Khan, 30, said as he hunched with an electric drill trying to fix the handle of his snow shovel inside the convenience store where he works.
A 3-foot (0.9-metre) tidal surge flooded the area around Boston’s historic Long Wharf with icy seawater. Firefighters used an inflatable raft to rescue one motorist from a car submerged in water up to its door handles, Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn told reporters.
The flooding tied a 40-year record, the National Weather Service said.
Boston officials briefly thought they would need to a evacuate a shelter near the flooded areas, Walsh said.
CANADA – Storm causes power outages, canceled flights in Nova Scotia
More than 80,000 customers were hit by power outages in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia on Thursday evening, leaving parts of the city of Halifax in the dark, as eastern Canada was battered by a massive storm arriving from the United States.
More than 85,000 customers were affected in Nova Scotia as of 6 p.m. EST, according to data from the Nova Scotia Power utility website.
Most departing and arriving flights were also cancelled or delayed at Halifax Stanfield airport.
In Montreal, 85 flights were cancelled on Thursday because of snowstorms affecting airports in Canada’s so-called “Maritime” provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island and through much of the eastern United States, an airport spokeswoman said.
“For the Maritimes, it is a cocktail of precipitation and strong winds,” Environment Canada meteorologist Jean-Philippe Begin said by telephone.
Parts of Nova Scotia were pummeled with winds of around 100 kilometres (62 miles) per hour and heavy rain, according to a notice by Environment Canada. The storm closed schools and businesses in Nova Scotia, while downing road signs and littering streets in Halifax with tree limbs and other debris.
Working in the pelting rain, Halifax resident David Harris used a chain saw on Thursday evening to help remove parts of an entire tree that had fallen on a neighbor’s house, obstructing the entrance.
The fast-developing storm has been dubbed by forecasters as a “weather bomb,” a “bombogenesis” or “bomb cyclone.” Through Friday, as much as 45 centimetres (17.72 inches) of snow is expected in parts of New Brunswick, while more than 50 centimetres (20 inches) of snow could be dumped on the eastern tip of the Gaspe Peninsula in the province of Quebec, according to Environment Canada.