Over 100 people are dead in Florida after Hurricane Ian ripped through the state, making landfall on September 28 as a Category 4 storm. Over 202,000 Florida homes and businesses are still without power. The hurricane caused damage that Biden claimed could rank as “the worst in the nation’s history,” with economic damage that could cost up to $75 billion—possibly among the five costliest storms in US history. The death toll combined with the imagery of utter destruction paints a harrowing picture of the fate of Floridians after this storm. Cities such as Fort Myers were leveled, Sanibel Island completely cut off from the mainland, and 3.4 million homes and businesses experienced power outages across several states and a boil water notice was issued in the hardest hit county.
How is it that there were only two lives lost during a level 4 Hurricane that affected Nicaragua beginning Nov. 2 on the Caribbean Coast? Nicaragua is constantly preparing and training people to save lives in disasters: thousands of people have participated in simulations for hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and more, and this happens a number of times during the year in every municipality. Nicaragua is among the first countries in Latin America and the Caribbean with the best disaster risk management, according to a study conducted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in August 2020.
Pick almost any slice of time in the recent past and you can find clues to how climate change is jacking up dangerous weather extremes. In the 10 days after the potential global heat record in Death Valley, an unusual lightning storm blasted California with more than 11,000 lightning strikes that sparked hundreds of fires; more heat records were set in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres; unprecedented flooding in Asia washed away villages and threatened China's Three Gorges Dam; and twin hurricanes threatened the Gulf of Mexico, with Hurricane Laura generating a storm surge as high as 11 feet that pushed far inland along the Texas and Louisiana coast.
Hurricane Florence lumbered toward the Carolinas on Thursday as a slow-moving giant, churning up a powerful storm surge that could reach 13 feet at high tide and devastate hundreds of miles of shoreline. Adding to forecasters' fears was the storm's potential to bring days of torrential rain to the already saturated region. The hurricane was unusual for a variety of reasons—and it was being made worse by climate change, a team of scientists said Wednesday. The scientists—from Stony Brook University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the National Center for Atmospheric Research—compared the storm's real-time forecasts to what would be expected if the ocean temperature wasn't so warm and the atmosphere lacked today's additional heat and moisture fueled by climate change.
As the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season begins, scientists are worried that U.S. coastal communities could face more super storms with winds, storm surges and rainfall so intense that current warning categories don't fully capture the threat. This year's forecast is about average and much more subdued than last summer's hyperactive season turned out to be, partly due to cooler ocean temperatures in the tropical Atlantic, as well as a nascent El Niño pattern. But that doesn't mean an individual storm won't blow up to exceptional strength, as Andrew did before striking Florida in 1992, an otherwise relatively quiet year. Heat trapped by the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is raising the chances of that happening, said Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann.
The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, tore into President Donald Trump after a study released this week estimated Hurricane Maria’s death toll was at least 70 times higher than the government’s official count. Carmen Yulín Cruz blamed the Trump administration for not doing more to save the 4,645 people estimated by Harvard University researchers to have died as a result of last year’s historic storm. The government’s official death toll remains at 64. “It was about creating a narrative that made him and his administration look good,” Cruz said in an interview on Wednesday with the Latino Rebels radio program. “And many in the political class in Puerto Rico looked the other way, disregarded the truth and played into his narrative, that he gets a 10 out of a 10” for the federal response to the storm.
DONALD TRUMP: Every death is a horror. But if you look at a real catastrophe, like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here with really a storm that was just totally overpowering, nobody’s ever seen anything like this. What is your death count as of this moment, seventeen? Sixteen people certified, sixteen people, versus in the thousands. You can be very proud of all of your people, all of our people working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people.
Yabucoa is a municipality located in the southeastern part of Puerto Rico. On Wednesday September 20th, 2017 at 2 AM, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. Now, six months later, only 35 percent of Yabucoa has access to some form of power, which is provided by generators. Of this 35 percent, it is mostly comprised of municipality buildings (i.e. grocery stores, hospitals and local businesses), and the very few families who can afford a generator. A generator is used to run household utilities such as a few lights, a refrigerator (a place where medicine & food is stored), as well, if fortunate enough, a washer and dryer.
By Dipika Kadaba for The Revelator - A difficult hurricane season unearths issues ranging from cancer hotspots to deadly bacteria. Ah, Florida — home to famous natural landscapes and amazing wildlife, but also to more than 20 million people and billion-dollar industries. Decades of booming development in Florida — all of it built in the path of Atlantic hurricanes — have brought to a head some toxic problems the state still struggles to solve. Every major flooding event, like the one following this year’s Hurricane Irma, leaches toxic waste into people’s homes and drinking water. Florida is particularly vulnerable to storm surges and flooding from hurricanes like Irma. The EPA’s “Superfund” program oversees the cleanup of hazardous waste sites. Ahead of Hurricane Irma, the EPA worked to secure about 80 sites ranked at the highest priority for cleanup from Miami to North Carolina — but Florida alone contains more than 50 Superfund sites at this priority level, with approximately 500 hazardous waste sites in total. Superfund sites in Florida have been linked to increased cancer risk, and experts worry that these sites are vulnerable to flooding and spreading toxic pollution.
By Lara Merling and Jake Johnston for CEPR - Already in the midst of a fiscal crisis, Puerto Rico faces a long road to recovery from Hurricane Maria, a devastating storm it was ill-equipped to handle. The urgent efforts to address both the humanitarian needs and damage caused by the storm must also extend to solving the island’s imminent Medicaid crisis, a preexisting condition that plagued Puerto Rico before the hurricane and that has been exacerbated by it. This paper examines the inadequate federal support received by Puerto Rico for its Medicaid program, and shows that ― barring immediate action from the US Congress ― the territory will not have sufficient funds to continue operating in 2018. While the cost of living is higher in Puerto Rico than the US average, health care services are the only item that is significantly less costly on the island. Using 2016 Medicaid costs and looking at known migration patterns, we calculate what the federal government and states are likely to pay for providing Medicaid for Puerto Ricans moving to US states from 2018 to 2027 using two different migration scenarios.
By Bill Moyers for Moyers and Company - As people in Puerto Rico are dying and President Trump lashes out at San Juan's mayor, Bill talks with social anthropologist Yarimar Bonilla about the challenges Puerto Ricans face in the wake of the storm. Puerto Rico is devastated. Two hurricanes plunged the island into darkness and despair. Crops perish in the fields. The landscape of ruined buildings and towns resemble Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped on it. Over 3 million people are desperate for food, water, electricity and shelter. After a slow start, the Trump administration is now speeding up the flow of supplies to the island. A top US general has been given command of the relief efforts. And, like so many others, Yarimar Bonilla watches with a broken heart as her native Puerto Rico struggles. This noted social anthropologist — a scholar on Caribbean societies — says the hurricanes have made an already bad fiscal and economic crisis worse, and she sees darker times ahead unless major changes are made in the structure of power and in Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States. Last night on NBC, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz made a spontaneous statement expressing her frustration with insufficient relief efforts that went viral. Before you read my interview with Yarimar Bonilla please take two minutes to watch this video.
By Mark Weisbrot for Buzz Feed News - More than 40 percent of Puerto Rico is without clean water, and the vast majority has no electricity. Many hospitals and operating rooms are not functioning, and the threat of a public health crisis looms. On Wednesday, 145 members of Congress took the unusual step of writing to President Trump and asking for more Department of Defense resources to be immediately deployed. Puerto Ricans are US citizens, and Puerto Rico is legally entitled to the same federal relief and reconstruction aid as Texas or Florida. But Puerto Rico is also an “unincorporated territory” of the United States ― or, as many would say, a colony. Although Puerto Ricans can be drafted to serve in the US military, and are subject to other obligations of US citizenship, they do not have voting representation in the US Congress. Therein lies the problem: Puerto Rico’s political status not only prevents these US citizens from securing their legal rights, but even worse, it allows them to be treated very badly, over and over again, and not have the sovereignty to chart a different course. That different course is desperately needed, because if Puerto Rico is to have a future, it will need a whole new economic plan that allows it to recover. This would include, at a minimum, the cancellation of most of its debt, which is not going to be paid in any case.
By Sabrina Shankman for Inside Climate News. The devastation from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria—plus dozens of wildfires that raged across the West in early August—could result in the costliest string of weather events in U.S. history, according to a new report. Over the course of a few weeks, the hurricanes and wildfires left a trail of damage that could add up to nearly $300 billion, according to early estimates from the authors of "The Economic Case for Climate Action in the United States," a report released on Wednesday by the nonprofit Universal Ecological Fund. If they're right, the cost of the damage would be equivalent to nearly half the president's proposed 2018 budget for the Department of Defense.
By Wenonah Hauter for Food and Water Watch - It’s been one week since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, and nearly half of Puerto Ricans now lack access to safe drinking water and much of the island is still without power. This is a calamity that means lives are still at risk today, long after the disaster itself. Hospitals there are running off of generators, and fuel to power them is running out. Puerto Rico needs immediate humanitarian assistance before many more lives are lost thanks to America’s latest climate catastrophe, and reconstruction aid to help them rebuild their infrastructure. The hurricane only made a bad situation much, much worse: Puerto Rico has been reeling from austerity measures for years that were put in place by Wall Street, which has been calling to recoup the debt. One of Donald Trump’s first responses to the mounting humanitarian crisis was to remind people of the “billions of dollars” the territory owes to the bank, “which must be dealt with” – signaling what the priorities will be. Given the role the banks have played in guiding our decision makers to put profits before people, it’s not surprising. For the past 100 years, Wall Street and the massive corporations they back have guided policy on everything from energy to agriculture, with disastrous effects for our food and water. It has come with toxic pollution, higher prices for consumers, massive wealth inequality and a warming planet.
By David Dayen for The Intercept - PUERTO RICO HAS rejected a bondholder group’s offer to issue the territory additional debt as a response to the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Officials with Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority said the offer was “not viable” and would harm the island’s ability to recover from the storm. The PREPA (Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority) Bondholder Group made the offer on Wednesday, which included $1 billion in new loans, and a swap of $1 billion in existing bonds for another $850 million bond. These new bonds would have jumped to the front of the line for repayment, and between that increased value and interest payments after the first two years, the bondholders would have likely come out ahead on the deal, despite a nominal $150 million in debt relief. Indeed, the offer was worse in terms of debt relief than one the bondholder group made in April, well before hurricanes destroyed much of the island’s critical infrastructure. Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority suggested that profit motive rather than altruism was the bondholder group’s real goal. “Such offers only distract from the government’s stated focus and create the unfortunate appearance that such offers are being made for the purpose of favorably impacting the trading price of existing debt,” the agency said in a statement.