The first tropical storm to hit Los Angeles in more than 80 years unleashed floods across parts of Southern California more accustomed to drought, as officials urged the public to stay safe as they began to count the cost of damage.
The National Weather Service downgraded the hurricane to a tropical depression but not before California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for much of Southern California, with flash flood warnings until at least 3 a.m. on Monday.
Mountain and desert areas could get 12 to 25 cm of rare rain, as much as the deserts typically see in a year, forecasters said.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said she was still worried that people could let down their guard if Hilary left them initially unharmed but later bands of the storm swung back to surprise those who were not prepared.
“We know that it could get much worse,” Bass told a news briefing on Sunday. “My concern is that people will be a little dismissive and go out when we need people to stay at home, to stay safe.”
Hilary’s center was expected to move quickly across Nevada on Monday, with the storm forecast to dissipate later in the day, the weather service said.
The storm had passed northward through Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. It killed at least one person in Mexico, triggering flash flooding and sweeping away roads.
Images on social media showed raging, muddy torrents gushing down eroded streets.
It crossed the border on Sunday afternoon, hitting San Diego county with its first tropical storm ever recorded and becoming the first to pelt Los Angeles county since 1939.
San Bernardino county, to the east of Los Angeles, ordered evacuations of towns in the mountains and valleys where social media images showed torrents of water, mud, rock and trees.
In more populated Ventura county northwest of Los Angeles, the National Weather Service warned of life-threatening flooding from heavy rains, which dumped up to 5 cm of rain within two hours.
U.S. President Joe Biden ordered federal agencies to move personnel and supplies into the region.
Officials said Los Angeles county’s 75,000 homeless people were especially vulnerable, as were hillside canyons and areas recently denuded by wildfires.
As a precaution, the two largest school districts in the state, in Los Angeles and San Diego, canceled school on Monday.
The storm stunned people in the nearby town of Rancho Mirage, where water and debris rushed over closed roads and stranded at least one pickup truck in water that rose nearly to the top of its bed.
“It’s quite amazing. I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Sean Julian, 54, a resident of the town. “I’m seeing a lot more trees down. And there’s a big tree that just fell over there, and I probably shouldn’t be out here.”
China climate envoy says phasing out fossil fuels ‘unrealistic’
The complete phasing-out of fossil fuels is not realistic, China’s top climate official said, adding that these climate-warming fuels must continue to play a vital role in maintaining global energy security.
China is the world’s biggest consumer of fossil fuels including coal and oil, and its special climate envoy Xie Zhenhua was responding to comments by ambassadors at a forum in Beijing on Thursday ahead of the COP28 climate meeting in Dubai in November. Reuters said it obtained a copy of text of Xie’s speech, and a video recording of the meeting,
Countries are under pressure to make more ambitious pledges to tackle global warming after a U.N.-led global “stocktake” said 20 gigatons of additional carbon dioxide reductions would be needed this decade alone to keep temperatures from exceeding the critical threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The stocktake will be at the centre of discussions at the COP28 climate meeting, with campaigners hoping it will create the political will to set clear targets to end coal and oil use.
Xie, however, said the intermittent nature of renewable energy and the immaturity of key technologies like energy storage means the world must continue to rely on fossil fuels to safeguard economic growth.
“It is unrealistic to completely phase out fossil fuel energy,” said Xie, who will represent China at COP28 this year.
At climate talks in Glasgow in 2021, China led efforts to change the language of the final agreement from “phasing out” to “phasing down” fossil fuels. China also supports a bigger role for abatement technologies like carbon capture and storage.
While ending fossil fuel use would not be on the table at COP28, Xie said China was open to setting a global renewable energy target as long as it took the divergent economic conditions of different countries into account.
He also said he welcomed pledges made to him by his U.S. counterpart John Kerry that a $100 billion annual fund to help developing countries adapt to climate change would soon be made available, adding it was “only a drop in the bucket”.
China and the United States, the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters, resumed top-level cliamte talks in July after a hiatus brought about by U.S. politician Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-governing island of Taiwan, which China claims.
China has rejected U.S. attempts to treat climate change as a diplomatic “oasis” that can be separated from the broader geopolitical tensions between the two sides, with U.S. trade sanctions on Chinese solar panels still a sore point.
Xie said protectionism could drive up the price of solar panels by 20-25% and hold back the energy transition, and called on countries not to “politicise” cooperation in new energy.
He also reiterated China’s opposition to the E.U. Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, which will impose carbon tariffs on imports from China and elsewhere.
Storm Lee makes landfall in Canada, downing trees and knocking out power
Lee made landfall as a post-tropical cyclone packing hurricane-force winds in a far western part of Canada’s Nova Scotia province on Saturday, flooding roads, downing trees and cutting out power for tens of thousands of people along the North Atlantic coast.
At least one storm-related fatality was recorded on Saturday. A motorist in the U.S. state of Maine died after a tree fell on his vehicle, local media reported.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its latest advisory that Lee was moving north after it made landfall on Long Island, a small island southwest of Halifax, on Saturday. The still-powerful weather system packed maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 km/h) with higher gusts, forecasters said.
Lee, now located about 60 km east-southeast of Eastport, Maine and about 215 west of Halifax, is expected to weaken steadily during the next couple of days.
It brought strong winds, coastal flooding and heavy rains to parts of coastal Maine and Atlantic Canada.
In the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, around 120,000 people were without power on Saturday as winds knocked down trees and felled power lines. In neighboring New Brunswick, nearly 20,000 people experienced power outages.
“Crews have been able to restore power to some customers … However, conditions are getting worse. In many cases, especially when winds are above 80 km/h, it isn’t safe for our crews,” Matt Drover of the Nova Scotia electric utility said earlier on Saturday.
Winds have reached over 100 km/h in parts of the west and over 90 km/h in downtown Halifax, the largest city in Nova Scotia, he said in a statement. Halifax airport was closed to all flights, Reuters reported.
In Maine, nearly 70,000 customers were out of power as of late Saturday, according to website PowerOutages.us.
Fierce waves lashing Nova Scotia’s shoreline littered flooded coastal roads with debris in some localities.
“The intensity of the storm is strong,” said Paul Mason, the executive director of the Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office. “Storm surge is expected to be the most intense in the afternoon into the early evening.”
The storm may bring an additional 20 to 50 millimeters of rain in parts of eastern Maine and New Brunswick in Canada, the NHC said, highlighting the risk of flooding in these areas.
“Lee will continue to impact the region tonight with rain or showers, strong winds, and high waves along the Atlantic coast,” the Canadian Hurricane Centre said in a statement.
In anticipation of the storm’s impact, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration issued an emergency declaration for Maine and Massachusetts, providing federal assistance for the states.
Lee has been churning as a large hurricane over the Atlantic for more than a week, briefly threatening Bermuda but mostly harmless for anyone on land. It marks the second year in a row that such a powerful storm has reached Canada after Hurricane Fiona ripped into eastern Canada a year ago.
Top global ports may be unusable by 2050 without more climate action
Some of the world’s largest ports may be unusable by 2050 as rising sea levels hit operations, and efforts to speed up decarbonisation of the maritime sector and bring in new technology are vital, a study showed on Friday.
Weather-related disruptions are already impacting ports across the globe. These include a drought which is hampering operations in the Panama Canal, a top waterway.
The Global Maritime Trends 2050 report, commissioned by leading shipping services group Lloyd’s Register and the independent charity arm Lloyd’s Register Foundation, looked at future scenarios.
“Of the world’s 3,800 ports, a third are located in a tropical band vulnerable to the most powerful effects of climate change,” a Lloyd’s Register (LR) spokesperson said as reported by Reuters.
“The ports of Shanghai, Houston and Lazaro Cardenas (in Mexico), some of the world’s largest, could potentially be inoperable by 2050 with a rise in sea levels of only 40 cm.”
Other key ports including Rotterdam are already under pressure, the report said.
“Countries will need to invest in increasing the efficiency and resilience of their ports and logistics infrastructure to keep up with growing demand for imports and consumption,” the report said, which was authored by think tank Economist Impact.
Ports highly susceptible to rises in sea levels such as Shanghai could establish flood defence systems similar to Holland’s Maeslant Barrier and London’s Thames Barrier, the LR spokesperson said.
“This would negate the need to constantly raise existing floodwalls every decade, which is a short-term and costly solution,” the spokesperson added.
Shipping accounts for nearly 3% of global CO2 emissions.
The industry is actively cutting its emissions by reducing its fossil fuel consumption, the LR spokesperson said, adding that it remains fragmented.
“The average shipowner owns circa five ships. As a consequence, not all players are good at gathering data. There can also be a reluctance to share data. Forecasting relies on having access to solid and relevant datasets.”
The report was launched ahead London International Shipping Week, which starts on Sept. 11.
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