hurricanes | KERA News

hurricanes

Hurricanes are moving more slowly over both land and water, and that's bad news for communities in their path.

In the past 70 years, tropical cyclones around the world have slowed down 10 percent, and in some regions of the world, the change has been even more significant, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

That means storms are spending more time hanging out, battering buildings with wind and dropping more rain.

Residents of Texas and Puerto Rico are still recovering from the last hurricane season, as the next season is set to start. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration predicts 2018 is going to be an active one.

Four of last season's hurricanes were deemed so destructive and deadly that the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization has decided to retire their names.

While images of destruction caused by last year's battery of hurricanes are still fresh in the minds of many Americans, including those living on Puerto Rico where after six months power is not fully restored, forecasters are cautioning the public to brace themselves for another busy hurricane season.

Courtesy of Allyn Media

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea has been helping his native Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria hit the island in September.

NOAA / Twitter

Hurricane Harvey, which caused massive flooding in Texas, cost $125 billion, making it the most expensive U.S. disaster last year.

With hurricanes, wildfires, hail, flooding, tornadoes and drought, the United States tallied a record-high bill in 2017 for weather disasters: $306 billion.

With the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season finally over, scientists are taking stock of what they say was a monumental year.

A total of 10 hurricanes swept the region. Six were major storms of Category 3 or higher, and three of those were Category 4 or higher when they made landfall, spreading havoc from the Caribbean to Texas.

The Atlantic Ocean is vast and has always made its own weather. But a typical year sees about six hurricanes, not 10. And three strong hurricanes hitting land — Harvey, Irma and Maria — is extraordinary.

So what's going on?

Thursday is the last day of the official 2017 hurricane season. It's been the most destructive year in recorded history, according to the National Hurricane Center, causing what may turn out to be more than $200 billion in damages. It's also the first time that three Category 4 hurricanes have hit the United States in the same year.

For all the ruination in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, at least Americans could see the hurricanes coming. TV networks covered the storm tracks exhaustively. But what happens to an American city when a hurricane strikes without warning?

For the first time since 2013, the five living former presidents appeared together at a concert Saturday night to raise money for hurricane victims.

Democrats Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and Republicans George H.W. and George W. Bush were on stage in College Station, Texas, to try to unite the country after the recent storms.

The concert at Texas A&M's Reed Arena was to raise money for the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

If all goes well, people on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands could have power restored next week for the first time since a pair of devastating Category 5 hurricanes struck in September, the local electric utility says.

"Portions of St. John are scheduled to be restored by the middle of next week," says Jean P. Greaux, Jr., communications director for Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority.

On a scale of 1 to 10, President Trump said Thursday that his administration deserves a "10" for its response to the devastation caused on Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria.

Trump spoke after his meeting in the Oval Office with the U.S. territory's governor, Ricardo Rossello, who — when asked by Trump "did we do a great job?" — said, "You responded immediately, sir."

Updated at 1:15 p.m. ET

The remnants of post-tropical cyclone Ophelia slammed parts of Ireland with wind gusts of more than 90 miles per hour, reportedly causing the deaths of at least three people and bringing strange red skies to the U.K.

Updated at 11:40 p.m. ET

Hurricane season isn't through with us yet.

"We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders" in Puerto Rico "forever," President Trump said Thursday, hinting at a possible limit on federal aid to the island territory where 3.4 million Americans have struggled to recover from two destructive hurricanes.

Here are the president's comments on the issue, compressed from three consecutive tweets:

More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico, the island's power grid remains in shambles, and authorities say it will take months to fully restore electricity.

Nearly 90 percent of the island is still without power, which means millions of people remain without electricity weeks after the storm, says José H. Román Morales, president of Puerto Rico's Energy Commission, which regulates the island's electric power authority.

Updated at 1:50 a.m. ET

Hurricane Nate made landfall for the second time early Sunday, with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph. The National Weather Service said radar data showed it hit near Biloxi, Miss., around 12:30 a.m. local time.

It first made landfall near mouth of the Mississippi River as a Category 1 storm with winds of 85 mph at about 8 p.m. ET Saturday, the National Hurricane Center says.

NOAA

Kevin Simmons is an economist with an unusual specialty: disasters.

The professor at Austin College in Sherman says cities, states and nations can prepare for disasters like hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey.

Updated at 8:24 p.m. ET

President Trump traveled Tuesday to devastated Puerto Rico following his administration's maligned response to Hurricane Maria. But as soon as he stepped off the plane, the president was in a self-congratulatory mood.

In a hurricane briefing Trump praised his Cabinet, contrasted the devastation with "a real catastrophe like [Hurricane] Katrina," threw in an aside about how much Puerto Rico recovery was costing the U.S., and later was filmed throwing paper towels into a crowd as part of efforts to distribute supplies.

Updated 1 p.m. ET Saturday

President Trump heads to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico on Tuesday and, in a series of tweets early Saturday morning, defended his administration's handling of the recovery effort while hitting back at Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan.

"The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump," he wrote.

Danny Bollinger / Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea watched in horror as Hurricane Maria tore through his home island of Puerto Rico. He had to do something.

The Trump administration announced Thursday that it has temporarily waived a U.S. shipping restriction for Puerto Rico known as the Jones Act.

Under the law, only U.S.-flagged ships are allowed to move goods between any U.S. ports. Now foreign-flagged vessels also will be able to move shipments from the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico and between ports there. The move is intended to boost the delivery of much-needed relief supplies after Hurricane Maria battered the U.S. territory last week.

The Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration thanked President Trump in a tweet:

Much-needed supplies are either in Puerto Rico or on the way, officials say, but the island's governor acknowledges that they can't deliver fuel and other material quickly enough. Frustrated residents face long lines for fuel, as millions of people have gone nearly a week without power.

"We need resources and security. We need a quicker logistical deployment," Gov. Ricardo Rossello told NPR's Mary Louise Kelly on Tuesday. "You know, the gas and fuel issue is not a matter of how much do we have — it's a matter of how we can distribute it."

In a tiny sliver of shade, on a hill next to Puerto Rico's Route 65, Kiara Rodriguez de Jesus waves a sparkly pink hand fan to keep cool.

"I trust in God," she says. "Please, come the gas."

Along with her family, parked in a Volvo SUV, she has been in line for gasoline since 3 a.m., she says. Now it's after 1:30 p.m. And like everyone else at this gas station, she has no idea how much longer she'll be waiting.

Officials continued to urge tens of thousands of people living downstream from a precarious, slowly failing dam in northwestern Puerto Rico to evacuate Saturday. But the U.S. territory's severely compromised communications infrastructure meant it was not immediately clear how successful the warnings would be.

Compounding Puerto Rico's devastation in the wake of Hurricane Maria is the fact that so much is still unknown. Because most of the island's cellphone sites are out of service and the power grid is down, it has been difficult or impossible to connect with the people who live there — whether from the mainland or from another part of the island.

Atlanta resident Silkia Babilonia, who lives in Atlanta, says that since the storm, she hasn't been able to reach friends and family on the island's west side.

Back-to-back natural disasters in Mexico and across the Caribbean have left millions of people reeling.

Updated at 2:45 a.m. ET Thursday

Hurricane Maria has damaged Puerto Rico's power infrastructure in ways that, in a worst-case scenario, could take months to repair, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told CNN late Wednesday.

"Our telecommunications system is partially down," he said. "Our energy infrastructure is completely down."

Updated at 5:30 a.m. ET Wednesday

Even though Maria has weakened to a Category 4 storm, it remains a dangerous hurricane. Maria's maximum sustained winds are near 155 mph. The National Hurricane Center says the storm should keep that intensity until it makes landfall. Puerto Rico has long been spared from a direct hit by a hurricane.

Updated at 2:20 a.m. ET Wednesday

Updated at 5:30 a.m. ET

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Maria is an extremely dangerous storm. It was a Category 5 storm when it hit the island of Dominica. Later it was downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane. But a short time ago, forecasters says Maria had regained the strength of a Category 5 hurricane.

Updated at 3:15 a.m. ET Tuesday

Updated at 11:55 p.m. ET

People who live along the U.S. East Coast from North Carolina up to New England should monitor Hurricane Jose, forecasters say. The storm's winds won't get close to land until Sunday or Monday — but it was formally declared a hurricane again on Friday afternoon.

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