Weather

Rare northern Michigan twister kills 1, injures more than 40

A rare northern Michigan tornado that hammered a small town has killed at least one person and injured more than 40. Munson Healthcare spokesman Brian Lawson said Friday that he had no details about the person who was killed or the conditions of those who were hurt by the tornado that rushed through Gaylord, a city of about 4,200, at about 3:45 p.m. Mike Klepadlo, who owns a car repair shop in Gaylord, says he and his workers took cover in a bathroom, and that he feels lucky to be alive because it blew the back off the building. A National Weather Service forecaster said extreme winds are uncommon in that part of Michigan because the Great Lakes suck energy out of storms, especially in spring when the lakes are very cold.

Extreme fire threats prompt US suspension of planned burns

The head of the U.S. Forest Service is suspending planned burning operations to clear out brush and small trees at all national forests while his agency conducts a 90-day review of protocols and practices. Forest Chief Randy Moore made the announcement Friday. He cited the hot and dry weather and extreme winds that have led to explosive fire behavior across the Southwest. Nearly 6,000 firefighters are battling fires in New Mexico, Texas, Colorado and California. Crews at the biggest fire in northern New Mexico worked to reinforce fire lines as winds gusted to 40 mph. Forecasters say several days of cooler, moister conditions beginning Saturday should provide some relief.

Gusty winds fan wildfires in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado

More than 5,000 firefighters are battling multiple wildland blazes in dry, windy weather across the Southwest. The fires include one that has destroyed dozens of structures in western Texas and another that is picking up steam again in New Mexico. Evacuation orders remained in place Thursday for residents near fires in Texas, Colorado and New Mexico. Dangerous fire weather was forecast to continue through Friday, especially in New Mexico where the largest U.S. fire has burned for more than a month. The governor expects the number of structures that have burned to rise to more than 1,000. That fire has burned more than 473 square miles.

Ex-deputy gets 18 years after detainees drown in locked van

A deputy in South Carolina whose police van was swept away by floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, drowning two women seeking mental health treatment trapped in a cage in the back has been sentenced to 18 years in prison. A Marion County jury found former Horry County deputy Stephen Flood guilty of two counts of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of reckless homicide. Forty-five-year-old Wendy Newton and 43-year-old Nicolette Green had been involuntarily committed for mental help, but weren't dangerous. Prosecutors say Flood was reckless by driving the van into floodwaters in September 2018 with the helpless women in the back. The van was pinned against a guardrail where Flood and a second deputy could not get them out.

Crews slow New Mexico fires, brace for dangerous conditions

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — More than 2,000 firefighters battling the largest U.S. wildfire are digging back-up fire lines and rearranging fire engines around homes in northeast New Mexico. Fire officials say they expedited efforts Wednesday to get ahead of the flames in anticipation of a return to windy, dangerous conditions in the days ahead. High fire danger alerts go back in effect Thursday from southern Nevada through parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. Crews dug contingency lines east of Taos south of the Colorado line. No new evacuations were ordered Wednesday, and some were relaxed. But a fire behavior analyst said: "The next three days are going to be the giddy-up days."

Hawaii hurricane season forecasted to be slow with La Nina

Federal forecasters say Hawaii and the Central Pacific basin should expect two to four hurricanes, tropical depressions or tropical storms this year. The annual National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration outlook predicts there is about a 60% chance of a below-average season. The Central Pacific region sees about four to five tropical cyclones on average annually. Hurricane season in Hawaii lasts from June 1 until the end of November. August and September are historically active months. Officials said below-average sea temperatures associated with La Nina east of Hawaii where storms form factored into this year’s prediction. The last major hurricane to strike the state was Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

New Mexico fires prompt forest closures; governor seeks aid

Three of New Mexico’s five national forests will be off limits to the public starting this week due to active wildfires and extreme fire danger. The announcement came Tuesday as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the damage from a record-setting fire burning in northern New Mexico will be significant with estimates of burned structures likely to range between 1,000 and 1,500 as more assessments are done. The governor stressed that was a rough estimate. The fire has charred more than 468 square miles over the last 42 days and evacuation orders remain in place for some surrounding villages. Wildfires also are burning elsewhere in New Mexico as hot and dry conditions persist.

Rain brings relief to massive, record-wildfire in New Mexico

Lightning has sparked a few new small fires in the drought-stricken Southwest. But the thunderstorms brought welcome rain Monday to the monster blaze that’s been churning for a month in New Mexico. It's now the largest in the state's recorded history. The fire east of Santa Fe and south of Taos has destroyed at least 260 homes and burned an area about one-quarter the size of Delaware. Forecasters say crews should have another chance Tuesday to to make progress battling the flames from the ground and the air. Officials at another big fire west of Santa Fe are preparing to relax evacuation orders around the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Deputy stands trial after SC women drowned in police van

A prosecutor says a deputy in South Carolina charged in the deaths of two women who drowned in a locked police van in 2018 ignored barricades and drove into rapidly rising flood waters against advice from his supervisors. Former Horry County deputy Stephen Flood is on trial on two counts of involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide for the drownings. He was taking the women to mental health facilities under a court order as rain from Hurricane Florence inundated eastern South Carolina. Flood's lawyer on Monday said his client is a scapegoat for supervisors who wanted him to take the shortest route and officials who let him drive around a barricade.

New Mexico governor seeks more US aid for wildfire response

New Mexico’s governor is asking for additional federal assistance to respond to wildfires burning across the state’s north, including one that is the second-largest in the state’s history and that officials estimate has destroyed hundreds of homes. The governor said Friday in a letter to President Joe Biden that New Mexico needs more help than is being provided under a recent disaster declaration. Officials said Saturday that weather conditions still included unhelpful high temperatures and low humidity but that less smoke allowed firefighting aircraft to take to the skies for a second straight day. Elsewhere, a fire burning southwest of Colorado Springs grew to 1.5 square miles overnight.

Storm chasers face host of dangers beyond severe weather

The deaths of four storm chasers over the last two weeks have underscored the inherent dangers of pursuing severe weather events and navigating traffic. A meteorologist from Mexico was killed in a car crash on Wednesday while chasing violent weather in Minnesota. Three University of Oklahoma students were killed on April 30 when a semitrailer struck their vehicle while they were returning from chasing a tornado in Kansas. Greg Tripoli is an atmospheric and oceanic scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He says storm chasing can produce useful data but more often students want the thrill of seeing a tornado. He says the biggest danger that chasers face is a car accident as people travel at high speeds pursuing storms.

Agency unanimously rejects California desalination project

The California Coastal Commission has rejected a long-standing proposal to build a $1.4 billion seawater desalination plant to turn ocean water into drinking water. The commission on Thursday unanimously voted to deny a permit for construction of a plant designed to produce 50 million gallons of water a day in Huntington Beach, southeast of Los Angeles. Gov. Gavin Newsom had supported the plant, arguing it was needed as the state grapples with persistent drought that is expected to worsen in coming years. But opponents said it would kill billions of tiny marine organisms that form the basis of the food chain and called the plant costly and unnecessary. Poseidon said it was disappointed in the decision.

Severe storms blamed for 2 deaths in South Dakota, Minnesota

Strong winds and possible tornadoes caused widespread damage in parts of the Midwest, where officials said another round of severe weather during a stormy week left two more people dead. Authorities say a grain bin fell onto a car Thursday in Minnesota and killed a passenger, while a person died in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, as a result of severe weather. Winds gusted Thursday above 100 mph in parts of South Dakota, where a nursing home and school were damaged. Earlier in the week, severe weather hit Minnesota, where a storm-chasing meteorologist from Mexico City died Wednesday in a car crash. More storms were forecast for Friday from the Upper Great Lakes to the southern Great Plains that could bring damaging winds and hail.