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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

September 09, 2017 - 8:05 PM

'This is your last chance': Irma puts a bull's-eye on Tampa

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — Hurricane Irma's leading edge bent palm trees and spit rain as the storm swirled toward Florida with 120 mph winds Saturday on a projected new track that could expose Tampa — not Miami — to a direct hit.

Tampa has not taken a head-on blow from a major hurricane in nearly a century.

An estimated 70,000 Floridians huddled in shelters as Irma closed in on the Florida Keys, where it was expected to roll ashore Sunday morning and begin making its way up the state's west coast.

"This is your last chance to make a good decision," Gov. Rick Scott warned residents in Florida's evacuation zones, which encompassed a staggering 6.4 million people, or more than 1 in 4 people in the state.

Earlier in the day, Irma executed a westward swing toward Florida's Gulf coast that appeared to spare the Miami metropolitan area of the catastrophic direct hit that forecasters had been warning of for days.

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Irma turns Caribbean island paradises into nightmares

ST. JOHN'S, Antigua (AP) — Strung like beads along the northeast edge of the Caribbean, the Leeward Islands are tiny, remote and beautiful, with azure waters and ocean breezes drawing tourists from around the world.

The wild isolation that made St. Barts, St. Martin, Anguilla and the Virgin Islands vacation paradises has turned them into cutoff, chaotic nightmares in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which left 22 people dead, mostly in the Leeward Islands. Looting and lawlessness were reported Saturday by both French and Dutch authorities, who were sending in extra troops to restore order.

The Category 5 storm snapped the islands' fragile links to the outside world with a direct hit early Wednesday, pounding their small airports, decapitating cellphone towers, filling harbours with overturned, crushed boats and leaving thousands of tourists and locals desperate to escape.

The situation worsened Saturday with the passage of Category 4 Hurricane Jose, which shuttered airports and halted emergency boat traffic through the weekend.

Looting, gunshots and a lack of clean drinking water were reported on the French Caribbean territory of St. Martin, home to five-star resorts and a multimillion estate owned by President Donald Trump.

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With saxophones and sobbing, Mexicans mourn earthquake dead

JUCHITAN, Mexico (AP) — Slow-moving funeral processions converged on Juchitan's cemeteries from all directions on Saturday, so many that they sometimes caused temporary gridlock when they met at intersections.

A monster earthquake and a Gulf coast hurricane have combined to take at least 67 lives in Mexico, and no place suffered more than the Oaxaca state city of Juchitan, where 37 died as buildings collapsed in the magnitude 8.1 temblor.

The graveyard swelled with mourners and blaring serenades for the dead — the sounds of snare drums, saxophones and sobbing. Pallbearers carried the caskets around rubble the quake had knocked from the simple concrete crypts. Jittery amid continued aftershocks, friends and relatives of the deceased had hushed conversations in the Zapotec language as they stood under umbrellas for shade from the beating sun.

Paulo Cesar Escamilla Matus and his family held a memorial service for his mother, Reynalda Matus Martinez, in the living room of her home, where relatives quietly wept beside her body.

The 64-year-old woman was working the night shift at a neighbourhood pharmacy when the quake struck Thursday night, collapsing the building.

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Trump makes nice with Dems, leaving his party confused

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump was in the mood to celebrate after cutting a big deal with opposition Democrats.

Joshing with Northeastern officials in the Cabinet Room, Trump hailed New York Democrat Andrew Cuomo as "my governor" and traded banter with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, another fellow New Yorker.

"If you just dropped in from outer space, you wouldn't know what the last eight months have been like," said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., recalling the friendly exchanges between Trump and Schumer during the meeting with New York and New Jersey lawmakers.

That would be the same Schumer whom the president had previously slammed as a "clown" and "Cryin' Chuck."

And now?

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They've been warned: Some insist on riding out Irma at home

REDINGTON SHORES, Fla. (AP) — Carl Roberts has Chinese food, a case of water and a million-dollar view in his 17th floor Gulf front condo — all he needs, he says, to weather the massive storm coming straight at him.

Authorities have beseeched more than 6 million people in Florida and Georgia to evacuate before Hurricane Irma's storm surge and fierce winds make it impossible to flee or be rescued. Many are staying nevertheless, even boasting about surviving Camille, Andrew, Katrina and other storms.

"No. 1, I don't have anywhere to go," said Roberts, an attorney. "And I'm on the 17th floor. I have security shutters, so I should be quite safe here."

Mandatory evacuation orders apply to all barrier islands around South Florida, including Redington Shores, where Roberts' condo complex towers over a narrow reach of sand. The entire Florida Keys were supposed to be emptied. Firefighters went door to door in mobile home parks, urging residents to get out.

People who refused to evacuate were not being arrested, but were told they wouldn't be rescued once the storm arrives.

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Tank failures in Harvey reveal vulnerabilities in storm

More than two dozen storage tanks holding crude oil, gasoline and other contaminants ruptured or otherwise failed when Harvey slammed into the Texas coast, spilling at least 145,000 gallons (548,868 litres) of fuel and spewing toxic pollutants into the air, according to an Associated Press analysis of pollution reports submitted to state and federal regulators.

The tank failures follow years of warnings that the Houston area's petrochemical industry was ill-prepared for a major storm, with about one-third of the 4,500 storage tanks along the Houston Ship Channel located in areas susceptible to flooding, according to researchers.

More of the massive storage tanks could be put to the test in coming days as Hurricane Irma bears down on Florida. The tanks are prone to float and break during floods, and Harvey's unprecedented rainfalls revealed a new vulnerability when the roofs of some storage tanks sank under the weight of so much water.

Federal and state rules require companies to be prepared for spills, but mandate no specific measures to secure storage tanks at refineries, chemical plants and oil production sites.

Although Florida has no oil refineries, it has more than 20 petroleum product storage terminals in coastal communities and about 30 chemical companies with a presence in the state, including a significant number of facilities in the Tampa Bay area, according to the American Chemistry Council and U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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Hurricanes drive addiction issues into public square

In the whirr of preparations for Hurricane Irma, a needle exchange program in Miami's Overtown neighbourhood handed out extra syringes to heroin users. Others trying to break from the drug's grasp picked up advance medication from methadone clinics.

Disasters cause stress, and stress can cause relapse for people struggling with addiction, whether their problem is alcohol, tobacco, pills or heroin. Authorities planning for the devastating effects of hurricanes now factor in the heightened danger of relapse and overdose.

The problems of alcoholism and addiction become more public in a storm, said researcher Andrew Golub of the National Development and Research Institutes in New York, who studied illicit drug users in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

"During a storm, it becomes harder to hide and cope with one's addiction in private," Golub said.

Scientists learned from Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy . Drug users took chances during storms, researchers found, avoiding evacuation to stay near their dealers or sharing needles with strangers putting themselves in danger of HIV and hepatitis. Those in treatment missed doses of medications and went back to street drugs to avoid withdrawal sickness. During Sandy, clinics that lost power measured methadone by candlelight.

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Son of ex-Fox News host Eric Bolling dies in Colorado

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — The son of former Fox News host Eric Bolling has died, just hours after Fox announced that Bolling was leaving the network.

Bolling said in a tweet on Saturday that he and his wife, Adrienne, were devastated by the loss of their son, Eric Chase Bolling. A sophomore at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Eric Chase Bolling died Friday night.

Eric Bolling said the cause of his son's death is under investigation but that authorities told him there was "no sign of self harm at this point" and that an autopsy was planned next week.

Boulder police were investigating a death near the university, but Sgt. Nick Smetzer said the department would not release the circumstances of the death or identify the person who died.

The coroner's office typically releases the names of people whose deaths are investigated after a few days.

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Stephens tops Keys in US Open final for 1st Grand Slam title

NEW YORK (AP) — Sloane Stephens' remarkably rapid rise from a ranking of 957th in early August to U.S. Open champion on Saturday began with the slow work of coming back from surgery on her left foot.

After being off tour for 11 months because of her injury, Stephens easily beat her close friend Madison Keys 6-3, 6-0 in the first Grand Slam final for both, becoming only the second unseeded woman to win the tournament in the Open era, which began in 1968.

"I mean, there is no words to describe how I got here — the process it took or anything like that," Stephens said, "because if you told someone this story, they'd be, like, 'That's insane.'"

After the operation in January, Stephens couldn't walk for a month. It wasn't until May that she would get back onto a tennis court — and even then she was off her feet, plopped on a wood table at a practice facility at UCLA while aiming her racket at balls tossed by her coach, Kamau Murray. From there, Murray said, Stephens progressed to sitting while rolling around on an armless office chair. Two weeks later, Stephens finally was able to stand in place while working on her swing. Another two weeks, and she was allowed to move.

"Definitely," Murray said Saturday, "not fun for her."

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AP Exclusive: Toxic sites in likely path of Irma

MIAMI (AP) — Dozens of personnel from the Environmental Protection Agency worked to secure some of the nation's most contaminated toxic waste sites as Hurricane Irma bore down on Florida. The agency said its employees evacuated personnel, secured equipment and safeguarded hazardous materials in anticipation of storm surges and heavy rains.

The Associated Press surveyed six of the 54 Superfund sites in Florida before Irma's arrival, all around Miami in low-lying, flood-prone areas. There was no apparent work going on at the sites AP visited this past week. The EPA said that if there was no activity, a site should be considered secured but would be closely monitored. The sites were in various stages of federally directed, long-term cleanup efforts.

At the Miami-Dade Emergency Operations Center on Saturday, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said the EPA workers he's spoken with seem "generally positive" about the prospects for toxic sites remaining secure in the coming hurricane. But "they can't guarantee it 100 per cent," he told AP.

"EPA feels they got a handle on it." he said. "They think that the risk is real but certainly not as severe as some other places. Not to minimize it — it's something to think about."

AP was not able to fully evaluate each site's readiness for the hurricane.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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