Thursday, September 29, 2022

Wake-Up Call: Ian Still Packing A Punch

Hurricane Ian barreled ashore in southwest Florida Wednesday with a massive and deadly surge of water and catastrophic winds that are poised to make it one of the costliest storms in US history.

The Category 4 hurricane made landfall west of Fort Myers near Cayo Costa shortly after 3 p.m. Wednesday local time. Nearly all of Florida, home to 21 million people, braced for widespread blackouts and floods. More than 2 million people have been ordered or urged to flee. The storm is expected to cause more than $67 billion in damages and losses and global shipping is already diverting from its path.  Florida's Tourism Economy alone could take $7 Billion hurricane hit

“This is going to be a tragic event,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said during a briefing as the storm neared shore. “It’s something that is going to be there for days, weeks, months and unfortunately in some circumstances even years.”

A storm of this magnitude is a severe test for Florida’s infrastructure due to its low-lying and densely populated coastal areas that are prone to flooding. It comes as climate change has fueled extreme weather worldwide this year, including deadly flooding in Kentucky and Pakistan, a European heat wave that killed more than 2,000 people in Portugal and Spain, and relentless drought in the US west.

Storm Stats:
  • Ian Forecast to Emerge Over Atlantic Waters  (2 a.m. Thursday)
The storm is about 55 miles (89 kilometers) south-southeast of Orlando and is forecast to move across central Florida and emerge over the Atlantic Ocean later Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said. Winds are about 75 miles per hour, down from a peak of 150 mph earlier. About 2.3 million homes and business are without power.
  • Storm Weakens to Category 1 Hurricane (11 p.m. Wednesday)
Ian’s wind speeds fell to 90 mph at 11 p.m., meaning it’s now a Category 1 on the Saffir-Simpson scale, according to the National Hurricane Center. 
  • 2.4 Million Customers Without Power in Florida (10 p.m.)
More than 2 million homes and businesses were without power in Florida late Wednesday even as Hurricane Ian’s winds continued to calm, according to

The storm, now a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, was about 80 miles south of Orlando at 10 p.m. local time. The winds had weakened to 100 mph from a peak of 150 earlier, according to the National Hurricane Center. 

Crews Like this one near The Villages are ready to restore power

The economic ripples radiate far beyond the storm’s path. As the US and the state begin shifting to storm response and then recovery, Bloomberg notes some of the threats to monitor.

➤Wall of water

Hurricanes push water in front of them as they move over the ocean. This is known as “storm surge,” which can cause significant coastal destruction. Low-lying geography and the shallow continental shelf in parts of western Florida make it particularly vulnerable. Ian’s projected storm surge of 12 feet (4 meters) to 18 feet could send seawater far inland.

The surge and winds Ian bring ashore will deliver a devastating blow to the cities and towns along the coast. But the heavy rains it wrings out across Florida and into Georgia, South Carolina and beyond will spread the misery — and the damages. Case in point: Walt Disney World, in the Orlando area of central Florida, issued a shelter-in-place order for hotel guests despite being about 140 miles from where the storm made landfall.

More than 2 feet of rain may fall across central Florida. The National Weather Service warns there could be record-breaking flooding on rivers throughout the state. In the next seven days flooding rain could fall from Florida to southern New Jersey and throughout the Appalachian Mountains, according to the US Weather Prediction Center.

➤The Sunshine State Could Go Dark for Days

Category 4 storms wreak such damage on power grids — such as snapping poles — that the National Hurricane Center says blackouts can last weeks or even months. Florida Power & Light, the state’s biggest electric utility, told customers to brace for “widespread outages” from Ian and cautioned they could linger for days. The NextEra Energy Inc. utility spent billions of dollars fortifying its system after a rash of hurricanes struck the state more than a decade ago, but now faces the prospect of having to rebuild parts of it. More than 30,000 utility workers from 26 states were mobilized to help restore power once the storm passes, according to the Edison Electric Institute, a trade group. But doing so will require access to equipment and communities that may be cut off by flooding or downed trees.

➤Out of Gas

Many Florida fuel terminals are shut, while high winds and flooding make truck deliveries impossible in many areas. Fuel distributors in the state are warning of lengthy wait times to resupply businesses and homes with diesel for generators. Prolonged disruption in waterborne transportation could risk the state's supply of fuel — 90% of which comes on barges into 4 ports.

➤Breakfast Getting Even More Expensive

Orange juice futures soared as Ian neared the Florida shore. And if crop damage of Florida’s famed crop is as extensive as feared — potentially 90% of its citrus belt, according to Maxar — it will further worsen food inflation plaguing consumers.

➤Risk of Chemical Spills and Dead Fish

Florida produces much of the US’s phosphate fertilizer, in a process that yields a radioactive and toxic byproduct called phosphogypsum, which is stored in stacks — or big mounds. Last year, one of them suffered a catastrophic failure due to heavy rain, causing a red tide that killed about 1,800 pounds (816 kilograms) of sea life and forced evacuations in nearby towns. Environmental experts fear a potential repeat with Ian, whose path may approach where Mosaic has the bulk of its phosphate facilities. A spokesperson for the company said it has made improvements to its facilities to help prevent any such issues, including “a more comprehensive internal dike system.”

➤Good Luck Getting Insurance

Florida’s insurance market was already chaotic before Ian. But the storm arrives in the wake of six insolvencies among insurers that write homeowner policies in the state. The largest insurers had pulled back from the market after previous natural disasters, while smaller firms still active there have struggled to endure losses.

Flood damages aren’t generally covered in home policies. Instead, they fall under policies managed by the U-S Federal Emergency Management Agency.

➤AMERICANS URGED TO LEAVE RUSSIA: The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has urged that U.S. citizens leave Russia immediately. The alert follows U.S. government warnings to Americans to avoid traveling to Russia or leave it immediately if they’re there now. The warning shows a particular concern for dual nationals. The embassy alert said: “Russia may refuse to acknowledge dual nationals’ U.S. citizenship, deny their access to U.S. consular assistance, prevent their departure from Russia, and conscript dual nationals for military service.” The repeated warnings follow turmoil in Russia after President Vladimir Putin announced a mobilization of Russian civilians to fight in Ukraine.

➤EUROPE SUSPECTS RUSSIA SABATOGED NORD STREAM PIPELINE: European officials suspect that Russia is behind three separate and simultaneous leaks in the Nord Stream pipeline that carries Russian natural gas to Europe. The leaks appeared to have been caused by underwater explosions, CNN reported. The Kremlin brushed off the accusation, calling it “predictably stupid and absurd.” Europe normally gets about 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia via the pipeline, but Russia stopped the flow of gas early this month, raising concerns about an energy crisis in Europe this winter.

➤6 INJURED IN OAKLAND CAMPUS SHOOTING: Six people were injured in a shooting at an East Oakland, California, school campus. Two of the victims were reported to have life-threatening gunshot wounds. The shooting occurred at a campus that houses four middle schools and high schools. One or more suspects are being sought.

➤STOCKS SPRING BACK FROM 2022 LOWS: The stock market recovered a bit yesterday from its long slide. The S&P 500 Index, the Dow Jones Average and the Nasdaq all rose about two percent in a broad-based rally.

➤AMAZON RAISES WAREHOUSE PAY: Amazon is raising its average starting pay for warehouse and delivery workers to more than $19 from $18 an hour. The pay range for various positions will be from $16 to $26 per hour. The company needs to staff up for the holiday season in a tight labor market.

➤STUDY: DRUG OFFERS BREAKTHROUGH FOR ALZHEIMER'S PATIENTS: A drug called lecanemab has shown promise during a large patient trial. The drug, which is being tested to treat Alzheimer's, is given as a shot and fights toxic build-up in the brain. The drug slowed cognitive and functional decline by 27%. Dr. Susan Kohlhaas said the results offer "new hope to people affected by this cruel and devastating disease." "We hope today's news will spark renewed investment in dementia research across the globe," Dr. Kohlhaas said.

➤MORTGAGE RATE RISES TO 6.52%: The average interest rate on a 30-year mortgage climbed to 6.52 percent from 6.25 for the week that ended last Friday. That is the highest interest rate for mortgages since the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

⚾AARON JUDGE GETS HIS 61ST HOME RUN: New York Yankees star Aaron Judge hit his 61st homer of the season yesterday, putting him in a tie with Roger Maris for the American League record set in 1961. The hit came in the seventh inning of the game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Maris, in turn, broke a record set by Babe Ruth in 1927. Judge’s mother and Roger Maris’ son were in the front row when it happened. The Yankees defeated the Blue Jays 8-3.

🏈CHARGERS BOSA AND SLATER ON INJURED RESERVE: Two Los Angeles Chargers were put on injured reserve yesterday. Outside linebacker Joey Bosa suffered a groin tear in the first quarter of Sunday’s 38-10 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’ll need surgery but the team is hopeful he’ll be back later in the season. Offensive tackle Rashawn Slater tore his left biceps tendon during the same game and is expected to need season-ending surgery. Replacements have been lined up: Chris Rumph II and Kyle Van Noy will step in for Bosa. Rookie Jamaree Salyer will sub for Slater.

🏀THE RICH LIST: Forbes magazine named L.A. Clippers owner Steve Ballmer the richest team owner in professional sports for the eighth consecutive year. The former Microsoft CEO is worth about $83 billion. Denver Broncos owner Rob Walton is second on the list. He’s a Walmart heir and is worth about $56.7 billion. Carolina Panthers owner and hedge fund manager David Tepper ranks third with a fortune of about $18.5 billion.

➤PICKLEBALL HITS THE BIG LEAGUES: A group of NBA stars is investing in Major League Pickleball, the league announced yesterday. The investor includes L.A. Lakers superstar LeBron James, the Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love. The name of their pickleball team has not been revealed. Pickleball is said to be one of America’s fastest-growing sports.

🏈ZACH WILSON IS BACK: New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson has recovered from a preseason knee injury and has been cleared to start in Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, head coach Robert Saleh announced Wednesday.

🎿SKI MOUNTAINEER HILAREE NELSON HAS DIED: Pioneering ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson has been confirmed dead in an avalanche near the summit of Manaslu in the Himalayas. She was the first female captain of the North Face athlete team and the first woman to climb to the top of both Mount Everest and Lhotse peak within 24 hours. Nelson was named National Geographic’s Explorer of the Year in 2018.

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