David Shepherd: News Blog

Journalist's Notebook

State of Emergency! Floods Submerge Midwest Towns

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Friday, September 24, 2010

Photo from CNN.COM

Severe flooding is gripping parts of the Midwest as torrential rains force rivers to overflow, submerging entire towns.

The worst of the weather stretches from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, where flood warnings continue to be in effect.  Evacuations are still going on in several towns as forecasters predict flooding could be a problem through the weekend.  Water from swollen rivers and streams will continue to push southward, pushing rivers over their banks.

Governors in Minnesota and Wisconsin have declared a state of emergency for areas affected by the flooding.

Schools remained closed in many flooded-out towns in the Midwest Today.

In Black River Falls, Wisconsin, a Red Cross shelter has been set up at a local church to house the evacuees.  KARE-TV reports 11 inches of rain fell there as 18 counties in Minnesota continue under the flood warnings.

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September 24, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Earl Re-Strengthens Back to CAT 4, Warnings Issued Up and Down the Coast

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Wednesday, September 1, 2010

PHOTO: Gerry Broome / AP

Hurricane Earl re-strengthened Wednesday back to a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 135 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

“Tropical storm-force winds are expected to reach the North Carolina coast within the warning area by Thursday afternoon with hurricane-force winds occurring by late Thursday,” the National Hurricane Center said in its 5 p.m. ET advisory. “Tropical storm-force winds will likely reach the coast from Virginia northward to New Jersey by early Friday.”

North Carolina’s governor declared a state of emergency Wednesday as the forecast track of hurricane Earl pushes the storm very close to the east-coast of the United States.

Residents and visitors are on high alert on North Carolina’s Ocracoke and Hatteras islands after the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning for most of the state’s eastern coastline Wednesday morning.

[NOTE:  A hurricane WARNING means hurricane conditions are expected within the next 36-hours.]

Both islands are now under an evacuation order as more than 5-thousand tourists, and some year-round residents, pack-up and get out of the massive storm’s path.  While residents there are being urged to leave, only visitors are being required to evacuate.

The bridge leading from Hatteras to the mainland has been packed with west-bound cars, some pulling campers and trailers, as a mass exodus continues as Earl continues to pack a powerful punch, churning toward the United States with maximum sustained winds of 125 MPH.

On Ocracoke Island, the only passage to the mainland is by ferry.  Evacuees began lining up early Wednesday morning, trying to get on the first ferry off the island.

Dare County, N.C., issued a statement saying the evacuation of visitors to Hatteras was ordered “before high seas produce over-wash on N.C. Highway 12 which will impede safe travel.”

By early Wednesday afternoon, cars were backed up on N.C. Highway 12.  It’s the only way to get from the Outer Bank’s barrier islands to the mainland.

“Our two biggest concerns,” National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read told NBC’s “TODAY” show, are “the coast of North Carolina and extreme southeast Virginia on early Friday morning, late Thursday night, and then on Friday into Saturday for southeastern New England. Just a small change in the direction of the storm could raise an impact, and the large waves, beach erosion and rip currents will be a problem along the East Coast.”

 While the North Carolina coastline is often subject to hurricane conditions, some officials say there has not been an evacuation, on this scale, for a very long time.

“I don’t remember the last time there was a mandatory evacuation order for the island,” Hyde County Commissioner Kenneth Collier told NBC News Wednesday.

Current Track

Photo: Gerry Broome / AP

 The current track has Earl nearing the eastern United States sometime late Thursday – early Friday morning.  As we’ve seen with other hurricanes, the track can change at any minute.  Right now, it appears Earl with just hug the coast as it heads north past the Carolinas, up toward the Delmarva, eventually possibly making landfall on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. 

Even a slight westward shift in the track of this powerful category 3 hurricane could dramatically change the potential damage the storm could cause.  Residents up and down the east-coast are being urged by local officials to continually monitor the situation for any late-breaking developments.  Officials warn more evacuations could be ordered if the storm changes its current track.

The National Hurricane Center said Wednesday Earl’s hurricane-force winds extend 90 miles from the center of circulation, and tropical storm force winds extend out more than 200 miles.  Even if Earl doesn’t make landfall, the storm’s center is expected to hug the coastline as it moves north, circulating those hurricane force winds inland.

September 1, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Powerful Hurricane Earl Has U.S. In His Sight

By: David Shepherd [dshepherd@wtwo.com] – Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Officials in North Carolina announced an evacuation for the Ocracoke Island beginning at 5 a.m.  NBC News is reporting tourists are being ordered to leave the barrier island which is only accessible by ferry.  At this time, year-round residents on the Ocracoke Island are being urged to evacuate but have the option to stay.  That could change if the powerful storm shifts from its current path.

Hurricane Earl, a powerful Category 4 hurricane is forcing officials up and down the east coast to get a plan ready in case the monster storm makes landfall.

On Tuesday, NBC News reported gusty winds from Earl’s outer fringes are creating waves that are pounding the Grand Turk shore. 

“We can hear the waves crashing against the reef really seriously,” Kirk Graff, owner of the Captain Kirks Flamingo Cove Marina told NBC News, Tuesday.  “Anybody who hasn’t secured their boats by now is going to regret it.”

The hurricane’s wrath is two-fold this go around.  First, the usual damage and risk of injury or death that comes with any powerful hurricane.  But Earl is whipping up a second problem.  His expected arrival comes on the heels of the busy Labor Day Weekend; beach-front businesses usually do a great deal of business on a hot, sunny Labor Day Weekend.  But with a powerful force of nature eyeing North Carolina’s coast, tourists appear to be checking out.

Forecasters say it’s too soon to know exactly what path Earl with take over the next few days.  The likely track would take the storm’s center just along the east coast, possibly making partial landfall somewhere along North Carolina’s coastline.  This storm doesn’t appear to be taking direct aim at the east coast.  But, as it rides north, just barley hugging the coastline by Thursday night, coastal areas can expect hurricane conditions.

But at the same time don’t forget, these storms can, and often do, change paths.  Hurricanes are very unpredictable and can change at any time.  Everyone along the east-coast, including places like North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware should keep a close eye on this storm as it may affect those areas with powerful hurricane-force winds, storm surge and flooding.

September 1, 2010 Posted by | News & Current Events, Polls, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment