AuthorTopic: The Strafing Run of Mother Nature  (Read 7585 times)

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5 killed in Southern California deluge as rivers of mud wipe out homes
« Reply #180 on: January 09, 2018, 10:43:26 AM »
If the Fires don't get you, the Floods will.

Reaqd the story at the link.  CNN doesn't paste well.


5 killed in Southern California deluge as rivers of mud wipe out homes

By Jason Hanna, Stella Chan and Paul P. Murphy, CNN

Updated 1:13 PM ET, Tue January 9, 2018
Mudslide possibility forces evacuations


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Death Toll in CA Mudslides now up to 13 expected to rise
« Reply #181 on: January 09, 2018, 05:40:25 PM »

Thirteen dead amid California heavy rains and mudslides

    19 minutes ago

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mudslides have shut down major roadways in California

At least 13 people are dead amid "waist-deep" mudslides in Southern California, where heavy rains triggered flooding, say officials.

Some 163 people have been taken to hospital. Twenty had "storm-related injuries" and four were critically hurt.

A group of up to 300 people are reportedly trapped in Romero Canyon, east of Santa Barbara.

Police said the scene "looked like a World War One battlefield".
Image copyright Twitter/ @EliasonMike
Image caption Boulders the size of cars rolled down hills and slammed into roadways

The flooding and mudslides, affecting areas scorched by wildfires last month, have shut down more than 30 miles (48km) of the main coastal highway.

Emergency services said a number of people are unaccounted for and they expect the death toll to rise.

Thousands fled the deluge and more than 50 rescues have been performed.

The hardest hit homes were those that were not in the evacuation zone, officials say.
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Heavy rain run-off caused mudflow in the community of Montecito, where some homes were knocked from their foundations, said Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason.

Boulders the size of small cars were rolling down hillsides and blocking roads, reports BBC News Los Angeles correspondent James Cook.

Among those taken to safety was a 14-year-old girl who had been trapped for hours in the ruins of her home.

The fire department published a picture of the girl encased in mud as she was led to safety.
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County Fire Captain Dave Zaniboni said that five people were found dead on Tuesday in Montecito and may have been killed as result of the storm.

The upmarket neighbourhood includes homes owned by celebrities such as actor Rob Lowe and chat show host Ellen DeGeneres.

Oprah Winfrey also has a property in Montecito that is reportedly worth nearly $90m (£66m).
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The US Coast Guard has sent "multiple airships to support rescue operations" and warn the public not to fly drones, otherwise the flights will force to be grounded.

Wildfires in December, including the Thomas Fire, swept through the area burning vegetation that helps prevent flooding and landslides.

Thousands of California residents were asked to evacuate on Monday for the second time in two months.

In Burbank, where waves of mud swept away vehicles, officials issued a mandatory evacuation order.
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Homeowners in the area shared photos of mud in their homes.

Several roads are closed due to mudslides and debris, including the major thoroughfare Highway 101.

After a wildfire, burned vegetation and charred soil create a water repellent layer which blocks water absorption and leads to an increased risk of mudslides and floods.

"Recent burn areas will be especially vulnerable where dangerous mud and debris flows are possible," said the National Weather Service in a statement.
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A search dog looks for victims in damaged homes after a mudslide in Montecito

The Federal Emergency Management Agency shared a warning for California homeowners explaining that homes that had never flooded before were now at risk.

About 30,000 residents were under evacuation orders on Monday.

This comes after a record-setting year of $306bn (£226bn) of weather and climate-related disaster costs in the United States, the third warmest year on record, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The storm over California is expected to produce 4 inches to 7 inches (10 to 18 cm) in the foothills and 9in (23cm) in select areas.

Snow is falling at higher elevations, according to the National Weather Service.


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Death toll rises to 15 Montecito; 100 homes destroyed by mudslides
« Reply #182 on: January 10, 2018, 02:27:11 PM »

Death toll rises to 15 Montecito; 100 homes destroyed by mudslides
By James Queally, Melissa Etehad and Brittny Mejia
Jan 10, 2018 | 1:35 PM

| Montecito, Calif.
Devastation from mudflows in Montecito has sparked debate about what could be done to get more people out of harm's way.

The death toll from a massive debris flow that buried homes and cars under a torrent of mud and boulders rose to 15 in Montecito, where local personnel and the U.S. Coast Guard continued rescue operations Wednesday morning.

About 300 people remained stuck in their homes in Montecito’s Romero Canyon neighborhood and throughout the debris field, where authorities launched helicopter rescues at daybreak.

The mudslides began around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, when intense rains dislodged boulders and caused heavy mudflow along hillsides that were scarred by the sprawling Thomas fire late last year. A number of homes were ripped from their foundations, with some pulled more than a half-mile by water and mud before they broke apart.

“It looked like a World War I battlefield,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said Tuesday.
Sources: Santa Barbara county, Mapzen, OpenStreetMap @latimesgraphics

The death toll rose to 15 overnight, according to Amber Anderson, a public information officer for the multi-agency response to the disaster. At least 28 others had been reported injured, and 24 more are missing, she said. Approximately 100 homes were destroyed and 300 were damaged in the mudslide, according to Anderson. Eight commercial properties were also destroyed, she said.

Officials have yet to publicly identify any of those killed in the mudslides. Mike Eliason, public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, said there were juveniles among the deceased.

With much of the area still inaccessible, officials have said they fear the number of people killed in the mudslides could rise.

PHOTOS | Thousands evacuated as first major rainstorm in a year hits Southern California »
Sheriffs deputies carry a body from the debris near Hot Springs Road in Montecito after a major storm hit the burn area Tuesday. Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Southern California was drenched Tuesday, but nowhere did the rainstorm inflict more pain than in Montecito, just weeks after the coastal community dealt with the devastating Thomas fire.

Some 500 firefighters from across the state rushed to help, with crews struggling through clogged roads, waist-deep mud and downed trees throughout the day in search of victims. Dozens of survivors were hoisted to safety in helicopters.

The rain overwhelmed the south-facing slopes above Montecito, flooding the creek and sending mud and boulders into residential neighborhoods, officials said.

On Wednesday morning, the noise of construction crews using bulldozers to move boulders and fallen trees along Sycamore Canyon Road and Hot Springs road echoed down empty streets. Thick mud and downed power lines filled the streets. As the rescue crews tried to open pathways, some residents walked through the mud hoping to aid in the search for missing relatives and friends.

With a shovel in one hand, a man who asked to be identified only as Mikey smoked a cigarette and then started shoveling mud and debris from the intersection.

He had been out since 5 a.m looking for his girlfriend’s missing sisters: Morgan and Sawyer Corey. He said their house, located roughly a half mile away in Sycamore Canyon Road, had been swept away.

“They are good people,” he said with tears in his eyes. “I’m hoping to find them.”

As he waded through deep mud, Montecito resident Ben Ekler said his friend’s mother and two children were swept away during Tuesday morning’s deluge. The mother and one of the children were found and are recovering at an area hospital, he said.

But the other child is still missing.

At least 7,000 people have been evacuated from the area. As part of ongoing rescue efforts, a “public safety exclusion zone” has been established in Montecito.

Residents in areas west of Sheffield Drive, East Valley Road and Ladera Lane, east of Olive Mill and Hot Springs Road, north of the ocean, and south of the U.S. Forest Service boundary are being asked to shelter in place and not move around the area. The move is designed to ease the task faced by rescue personnel, and those spotted in the area without approval could face arrest, authorities said.

A number of helicopter rescues are planned Wednesday in Romero Canyon, an area where about 300 people remain trapped in their homes. Rescue officials do not believe the people stuck there are injured, but the mudslides have made the area inaccessible by ground.

“So far there isn’t a concern about anybody being in any potential danger in that area,” said Rosie Narez, a spokeswoman for the multi-agency storm response. “There’s no way in or out, so I mean, at some point … you’re going to run out of stuff, so you’re going to need help.”

Wednesday’s rescue efforts will focus on the aerial evacuation of those trapped in Romero Canyon, as well as clearing mud-caked roadways so emergency personnel can access homes that were hit hard by the debris flow, according to Eliason.

Helicopters and rescue workers from the U.S. Coast Guard and National Guard, as well as firefighters and helicopters from fire departments in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties have all descended on Montecito, Eliason said.

An airship with night-vision capabilities hovered over the damaged area through the early morning hours. With the rain stopped, Eliason said rescue crews remain hopeful they can soon reach others who are trapped.

“The weather was favorable. Search and rescue is still very confident that we’re still in that window for rescue mode,” he said. “We’re actively pursuing trying to get in there as quick as we can to get those people to safety.”

Deadly flooding on Santa Barbara coast as fire turns to mud »

Rescuing those trapped in Romero Canyon and reaching other homes that were made inaccessible by the mudslides remains a priority, he said, because many of those people could be without crucial supplies.

“A majority of Montecito and that whole area is in the Stone Age right now,” Eliason said. “There is no water. There is no gas. There is no electricity.”

The storm system that hit Southern California beginning Monday dumped more than 5 inches of rain on some parts of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, and officials had been concerned that sections of the state damaged by last month’s wildfires would be susceptible to heavy mudflows. Soil scorched by fire is less able to absorb water.

Mudflows washed out a nearly 30-mile stretch of the 101 Freeway between Santa Barbara and Ventura, and also prompted evacuations in parts of Burbank and Los Angeles on Tuesday. The heavy weather also caused a surge in motor vehicle accidents across the Southland, according to the California Highway Patrol.

But Santa Barbara County clearly took the brunt of the damage, where mud, boulders, husks of cars and housing frames were common sights. The section of Montecito that was hit hardest was actually south of the Thomas fire’s burn scar, and not subject to mandatory evacuation, according to Eliason.

But a creek that feeds the Pacific Ocean swelled early Tuesday morning, raining boulders and flood waters onto residents as they slept.

The rains were like a starter’s gun for many in Montecito and nearby Carpinteria. Peter Lapidus said the sound of droplets pummeling his home forced him out of bed around 4 a.m. Tuesday.

“It was like a bomb went off,” he said. “It wasn’t raining hard, and then it was like you flipped a switch.”

Maude Feil, who was traversing the mud on Olive Mill Road with a walking stick Wednesday morning, said the area looked “like an apocalypse happened” when she first emerged from her home the day before.

As she walked, she made a grim discovery when she spotted what she thought was a mannequin beneath railroad tricks

“It was a woman’s body,” she said.

Feil had to evacuate during the Thomas fire, and said she was worried survivors who managed to get through the wildfire unscathed may have lost everything they own in Tuesday’s debris flow

“I’ve never been so close to a fire in my whole entire life, then this,” she said. “People who didn’t lose their house in the fire — they just lost huge things in the mud. It’s like a war zone or something.”

Etehad and Mejia reported from Montecito. Queally reported from Los Angeles. Times Staff Writers Joseph Serna, Alene Tchhekmedyian and Hailey Branson-Potts contributed to this report.

Follow @JamesQueallyLAT @brittny_mejia & @melissaetehad for breaking news in California.

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« Reply #183 on: January 14, 2018, 12:24:15 AM »

January 12, 2018

by John Davis

Photo by The National Guard | CC BY 2.0

At some time in the 1970s, it became obvious that homo politicus, the propertied white male that our dearly beloved Founding Fathers had originally entrusted with the vote, and others over the centuries that were begrudgingly allowed to join them in the privilege, had been transmuted into homo economicus. Now treated as human capital, we are but factors in GDP enhancement, our political lives curtailed by the rise of neoliberalism.

When I turned the key in my car’s ignition recently to flee the Thomas Fire, California’s largest and almost certainly exacerbated by global warming, I was both victim and perpetrator, caught in the ouroboric moment of the snake eating its own tail. When, in October 2016, I cast my postal vote for Jill Stein, I was supporting the sham of American democracy in full knowledge that the institutions supported by this byzantine mechanism regularly victimize my economic, social and recreational opportunities while at every moment endangering life on the planet.

How can I show solidarity with others in our shared and authentic political interest? What level of energy sacrifice is necessary to escape the pay-back of geo-historical forces? What level of anarchic action is required to amend our democracy’s dysfunction without disastrous personal reprisals imposed by the state? Can we do good within a corrupt system with which we are complicit? Or, as Adrian Parr notes, in her startling new book, Birth of a New Earth – The Radical Politics of Environmentalism, 2017, “political awareness arises from the realization that” (quoting Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari) “the reality I see is never ‘whole’ – not because a large part of it eludes me, but because it contains a stain, a blind spot which indicates my inclusion in it.” That stain, that blind spot includes each of us and our profound enmeshment within the global entanglements of neo-liberalism. Remarkably, she sees emancipatory and egalitarian promise within a movement of radical environmentalism that traverses “the identity barriers of race, class, gender, sexuality, geography, age, physical ability and speciesism”.

When a friend suggested to me that the New Year was just a continuation of the annus horribilis of 2017, and all hope for any sort of new beginning must be deferred until the mid-term elections this coming November, I felt very alone. Had he learnt nothing from the remarkably clarifying revelations of the last twelve months? Was he still looking for solutions from within a system that promises freedom, choice and individualism but delivers militarism, exploitation, suffering and oppression along with epochal planetary degradation? Had he not, in 2017, recognized the stain that was his culpability in the horror show of neoliberalism?

Was he, for instance, momentarily buoyed by the victory of Doug Jones over Roy Moore in the recent Alabama senate race? Should we even care to follow the news of such contrived events knowing full well that they are a part of the theater of the surreal whose reality is imposed upon us by our consumption of its tawdry performances? How significant is it that a decent human being fielded by the Democratic Party was able to defeat, by less than two percentage points, a Republican candidate whose reputation places him, on the historical spectrum of evil, somewhere between Rasputin and Adolf Hitler?

Why have any faith in an electoral process that is itself intensely ouroboric in its selection of congress people and senators who, whatever their altruistic ambitions, secure victories ensured by the contributions of the very wealthy and whose interests they then serve legislatively, to ensure their future electability? What solace can possibly be found in the coliseum of our politics? Better, of course, that Jones won, but he too will sink into the quagmire of corruption that is the U.S. senate – an institution that passed a tax bill, at the end of 2017, that will be deeply injurious to the economic and physiological health of the vast majority of the country’s population; ironically the Golden Goose’s base fully expects its reward when they ascend to the ranks of the uber wealthy, eagerly anticipated with every purchase of a lottery ticket. More disturbingly, Adrian Parr raises the following specter: what, she asks, “if the masses desire their own oppression?”

On the night of November 8, 2016, I was genuinely thrilled that Hillary had failed in her entitled bid for the U.S. presidency. There was nothing I feared more than another eight years of my life in America overseen by an administration that wrapped itself in hypocrisy while pursuing the most pernicious principles of neoliberalism – having already suffered through sixteen years of Democratic National Committee rule, headed by Presidents Clinton and Obama, in which I saw the country pushed ruthlessly to the right; towards the neo-liberal ideals of globalism, competition, militarism and the commodification of everything.

We are done with the elegant and smooth-talking Obama (and long done with Clinton) and are now exposed to the crude, but refreshingly un-hypocritical brutalities of Trump. How could this not be an improvement within the polity? How could this not be an opportunity to understand the true nature of our predicament? How could this not be a much-sought-after revelation?

2017 was also the year that Americans were fulsomely reminded of the power of weather terrorism – that frightening derangement of the climate that Bruno Latour calls “a profound mutation in our relation to the world”. As Hurricane Maria raped the Island of Borikén (or colonially, Puerto Rico); as Harvey exposed the petro-chemical sink-hole that is the low-lying prairie surrounding Houston, cutting a swathe through suburbs already condemned by environmental racism; as Florida’s doomed Atlantic coast-line was roiled, and Tampa was ravaged by Irma; as brush-fires destroyed over half a million acres of California wildlands, adjacent suburbs, mountain houses, beach houses, and commercial and industrial infrastructure, the connections between these revelations and the disequilibrium in our environment spawned by the systems of global capitalism may have finally dawned on a few. Certainly, many survivors established meaningful solidarity with each other in ways that transcend difference. But it was the spectacle of these events, framed by the media, that absorbed most of us and vitiated, as Parr writes, “our social energies and forces in the simplified representation of history”.

Amidst police brutality, the relentless incarceration of minorities, the poor and the mentally ill, and alongside the other social and economic savageries of neoliberalism, environmental emergencies exacerbate social fault lines, the crisis of health care and endanger the material and the psychological well-being of increasing numbers of American residents; such oppressive social and environmental disasters are often rendered as apocalyptical entertainment. Parr writes, “A diabolical faith in individualism has fractured us as a society. The sensuality of human beings has been reduced to the narcissistic pleasures of a spectacle culture”. Yet it is within the revelatory truth of such events, as Parr suggests, that we may also move towards solidarity with future generations, other species, and most immediately, with our fellow humans.

2017 provided many such potentially emancipatory revelations in politics, climate and beyond for my friend, and for each one of us. 2018 will doubtless be replete with further expository pantomime from Trump and many moments in other realms that are pregnant with elucidation. As I write, fifteen deaths have been confirmed in the tragic mud-slides of Montecito, a consequence of the recent Thomas Fire which burnt the mountains above this wealthy enclave and made the soils vulnerable to the extraordinary rain-fall of the last two days. Twenty-four people remain missing.

These are deaths, like most incurred in globally-warmed weather events, of extreme terror. As we continue our modern lives, stained by our complicity in an economic and political system which is nourished by the degradation of our terrestrial and atmospheric environment, we might bear witness to their short-lived screams as they were enfolded within the airless horror of mud which bore them towards the ocean at speeds of up to 50 m.p.h. The fact of their deaths, promulgated in the media as a frisson of spectacle and disaster, might be dedicated instead, to emancipatory and egalitarian purpose.

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Murders in Puerto Rico Surge as Hurricane Maria Recovery Continues
« Reply #184 on: January 14, 2018, 12:36:59 AM »

    Puerto Rico

Murders in Puerto Rico Surge as Hurricane Maria Recovery Continues

A forensic worker photographs a crime scene where a man was found fatally shot, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, . Thirty-two people have been slain in Puerto Rico in the first 11 days of the year, double the number killed over the same period in 2017.
Carlos Giusti/AP/REX/Shutterstock
By Danica Coto / AP January 11, 2018

(CAROLINA, Puerto Rico) — Before the sun rose on the first day of 2018, someone called 911 to report the charred, bullet-riddled body of a man with a snake-like tattoo on his left hand, lying beside a road in the Puerto Rican town of Vega Baja.

The next day, two men were found dead with their feet and hands bound in Bayamon, a working-class city southwest of the capital. Another man was shot to death before dawn in nearby Vega Baja while trying to stop thieves from stealing his generator.

Thirty-two people have been slain in Puerto Rico in the first 11 days of the year, double the number killed over the same period in 2017. If the surge proves to be more than just a temporary blip, January could be the most homicidal month on the island in at least two years, adding a dangerous new element to the island’s recovery from Hurricane Maria, its worst disaster in decades.

While the number of homicides did not immediately spike in the weeks after the hurricane struck on Sept. 20, police and independent experts say many killings appear at least partly related to its aftereffects.

The storm has plunged much of the island into darkness, increased economic hardship and contributed to a sickout by police, all fueling lawlessness. What’s more, officials say a turf war has broken out among drug gangs looking to grab territory after the storm’s disruption.

“Hurricanes affect everyone, including criminals,” said criminologist Jose Raul Cepeda.

Already bankrupt, the island’s overwhelmed government has fallen behind with millions of dollars in overtime payments owed to police officers, who have begun calling in sick in big numbers to protest. The sickout has taken about 2,000 police off the street each day in a territory that has 13,600 officers. It has forced more than a dozen police stations to close for several hours to a couple of days during the holiday period because of a lack of officers. No arrests have been made in the 32 killings this year.

Maria, which hit as a Category 4 storm, destroyed much of the island’s electrical grid. For those police on duty, the streets are darker and more dangerous because power has been restored to only 60 percent of customers in the U.S. territory. Drug gangs are fighting to re-establish territory they lost in the disruption from Maria, which pushed thousands from their homes and left entire neighborhoods uninhabitable for weeks.

Police Chief Michelle Hernandez resigned Monday after only a year on the job, and local and federal authorities are rushing from meeting to meeting to debate how to best protect 3.3 million Puerto Ricans, especially those still living in the dark.

“This has been devastating,” said Ramon Santiago, a retiree who lives less than a block from where three bodies were discovered Sunday near a basketball court. “You can’t sleep peacefully in so much darkness.”

Puerto Rico’s homicide rate is roughly 20 killings per 100,000 residents, compared with 3.7 per 100,000 residents on the U.S. mainland. In the last two years, Puerto Rico has seen an average of 56 homicides a month, a rate that held through December. Then after New Year’s, the killings started accelerating.

A man was shot Jan. 3 by a security guard while trying to rob a bakery. Two double homicides were reported Jan. 8 — two men found shot to death in a car near an upscale resort on the north coast and two other men discovered sprawled on the street near a public housing complex on the west coast. Five killings alone were reported Monday, in addition to three people wounded by gunfire during a shootout that night in the parking lot of a strip mall in Bayamon. This week, police say, the son of a former judge was killed after trying to write down the license plate number of a car whose occupants were firing a gun.

“The lack of police is increasing Puerto Rico’s safety issues,” said legislator Denis Marquez, who was mugged at gunpoint last month. “Everybody is feeling that insecurity.”

Besides policing and getting the lights back on, he said, the government needs to address long-standing issues such as social inequality on an island with a 10 percent unemployment rate, where nearly 45 percent of its inhabitants lived in poverty before the hurricane.

More immediately, the post-storm conditions have fueled a deadly struggle over drug gang territory, said Fernando Soler, vice president of a police officers’ advocacy group.

“There’s a war over the control for drugs,” he told The Associated Press. “They are taking advantage of all the situations occurring in Puerto Rico. There’s no power and they believe there’s a lack of police officers. … Criminals are taking care of business that was pending before the hurricane.”

Inspector Elexis Torres heads a unit that is investigating eight homicides in a jurisdiction that includes the working-class city of Carolina near Puerto Rico’s north coast, bordering the island’s main airport.

One of Puerto Rico’s largest cities with nearly 160,000 people, Carolina had the triple homicide reported Sunday; a motel employee and a friend were found slain Tuesday in neighboring Trujillo Alto. Like nearly all the killings this year, they involve men in their 20s who were shot to death. Torres said he suspects both cases are drug related.

He worries the number of killings will only increase as criminal gangs enter into cycles of revenge.

“Those victims likely belonged to some organization,” Torres said of the triple homicide. “This can have consequences.”

Cepeda, the criminologist, said drug traffickers have been entering rival territories to increase sales and recover losses after the storm disrupted their business.

Hurricane Maria caused an estimated $95 billion in damage, with 30,000-plus jobs lost in an economy that was already struggling from an 11-year-old recession.

The last time Puerto Rico saw a spike in violent crime was in 2011, when a record 1,136 killings were reported on an island of nearly 4 million people. Puerto Rico had seen a drop in killings, to 700 in 2016 and 679 last year.

Hector Pesquera, secretary of the newly created Department of Public Safety, met this week with top police officials and federal authorities.

“We’re in a process of analysis and of committed work to fight criminality in Puerto Rico,” he said.

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🐎 The Old Guy Lineman Retiree Calvary Rides to the Rescue in Puerto Rico!
« Reply #185 on: January 20, 2018, 01:32:41 AM »
This is a heartwarming story.  :icon_sunny:

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After Four Months Without Power, A Puerto Rico Town Strings Its Own Lines
Adrian Florido

Rosa Cruz and Luis Felipe Colón standing beneath the newly illuminated light on their front porch. The couple had been without electricity for four months.
Adrian Florido/NPR

Four months after Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico, nearly 40 percent of the island's electricity customers remain without power.

Rosa Cruz and her husband, Luis Felipe Colón, both retired, are among them. They've eaten mostly canned food and prayed that Rosa doesn't have an asthma attack, because they can't plug in her nebulizer.

Their little house in a rural part of western Puerto Rico sits on a hillside. From their porch, they look down on the town of San Sebastián.

"When there was no electricity," Colón says, "it looked really beautiful at sunset."

But slowly, the lights are coming back on. Colón says as power is restored to the town below, it's looked even more beautiful.

"I tell him, 'look there's light down there,' Rosa says. 'It's getting closer to us!'"

This morning, the couple woke up and saw that a crew had re-hoisted the downed utility pole in front of their house. Colón says he literally jumped.

"What joy!" he said. "It's our turn!"

Volunteers with the Pepino Power Authority repair electrical lines on the outskirts of San Sebastián de las Vegas del Pepino, Puerto Rico.
Adrian Florido/NPR

San Sebastián takes charge

The men working out front were not with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the island's sole utility. Nor with the Army Corps of Engineers. Nor any of the official government crews working to restore electricity to Puerto Rico.

They were San Sebastián's police chief - a retired employee of the utility - and a bunch of other men from this municipality, all volunteering to restore power to their town.

San Sebastián's city hall is on a picture-perfect plaza with a fountain and a church. In his office, Mayor Javier Jiménez says that back in November, after nearly two months of waiting for the electric utility to start grid repairs in his town, he couldn't take it anymore.

"The first thing I did," he says, "was find out which of our employees were electricians." Jiménez said he then put out a call for help for linemen and others who used to work for the utility but were now retired.

"And so we started these brigades," he said. The volunteers gave themselves a name: the Pepino Power Authority, the PPA, after the town's full name, San Sebastián de las Vegas del Pepino. They designed a logo and slapped it on their helmets and utility trucks.

Official logo of the unofficial Pepino Power Authority. Pepino is Spanish for cucumber.
Adrian Florido/NPR

The Pepino Power Authority (pepino is Spanish for cucumber) started fixing electric lines in the center of town, and has been working its way out to the hills.

They have met resistance. The The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority accused Jiménez of circumventing its monopoly. He admits he did. But he objects to another accusation — that what he's doing is unsafe.

"One of the first things we did," Jiménez says, "was establish a safety protocol, and we brought in a government inspector."

Pressure builds on the government

Across Puerto Rico, mayors still waiting for repair crews to arrive in their municipalities have started pressuring the governor to allow them to legally restore their own power. So this week, the legislature announced a bill that would permit cities to hire their own contractors.

In San Sebastián, the Pepino Power Authority has already restored service to about 2,500 homes. Joaquín Cruz, a volunteer, says the goal is to restore 100 percent of the town's homes before the end of January.

"Yesterday we did between 60 and 80," Cruz says, "and today will be the same."

One of those is the little hillside home of Rosa Cruz and Luis Felipe Colón, who've been watching the progress from their porch all day. Every time the workmen of the Pepino Power Authority are ready to turn the power back on to a new home, they get giddy with excitement.

Félix Avilés, the police chief turned electrician, races up to the house, switches on the breaker and then flips the switch for the porch light.

It turns on.

"Thank you!" Rosa Cruz tells the workers. "We're so blessed!"

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Puerto Rico will privatize its power utility
« Reply #186 on: January 25, 2018, 01:13:23 AM »
Who would buy this White Elephant? ???  :icon_scratch: The Puerto Ricans can't AFFORD to buy electricity at prices that would make this profitable.


Stuff that matters

Public vs. Private

RICARDO ARDUENGO / Contributor / Getty Images

Puerto Rico will privatize its power utility.

Governor Ricardo Rosselló announced Monday that he will begin the process of selling the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, pending the approval of a federal judge and the island’s legislature.

Before Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on the U.S. territory last September, PREPA was already saddled with $9 billion of debt and aging infrastructure. After the hurricane, the utility came under fire for a series of blunders — from hiring and then firing Whitefish Energy to allegedly hoarding necessary supplies. Today, 30 percent of the island is still without power.

“What we know today is the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority does not work and cannot continue to operate like this,” Governor Rosselló said in a statement.

But not everyone agrees that privatizing PREPA is the best solution. “[It’s] a recipe for Puerto Rico being raked over the coals by private interests,” Tom Sanzillo, director of finance for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, told Reuters.

“I’m in Puerto Rico now and it’s not really a surprise, they have been laying the groundwork for this for years,” tweeted journalist Naomi Klein, referring to how “disaster capitalism” lets corporations profit off a society still reeling from a disaster. “The chaos post-storm was the perfect opening,” she said.

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Paris Floods: French capital going through extreme flooding
« Reply #187 on: January 28, 2018, 01:11:33 AM »
Paris is the new Venice.


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🔥 Fire, explosion at power plant causes blackout in northern Puerto Rico
« Reply #188 on: February 12, 2018, 12:04:14 AM »
What a surprise!  ::)


Fire, explosion at power plant causes blackout in northern Puerto Rico

Last Updated Feb 12, 2018 12:34 AM EST

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- An explosion and fire at an electric substation threw much of northern Puerto Rico into darkness late Sunday in a setback for the U.S. territory's efforts to fully restore power more than five months after Hurricane Maria started the longest blackout in U.S. history. The island's Electric Power Authority said several municipalities were without power, including parts of the capital, San Juan, but they were optimistic it could be restored within a day as they worked to repair a substation that controls voltage.

The blast illustrated the challenges of restoring a power grid that was already crumbling before it was devastated by the Category 4 hurricane.

Officials said the fire was quickly extinguished. Officials said the explosion knocked two other substations offline.

Carlos Monroig, an administrator for the Press Office of the Electric Power Authority told CBS News that the cause of the explosion was due to mechanical failure.

"We are trying to restore that as quickly as possible," the company said.

Monroig told CBS News that power should be restored by Monday night at the latest.

CBS News' David Begnaud cited officials as saying 400 megawatts of generation were lost after an explosion/fire at the Monacillos power plant:

Heavy black smoke billowed from the substation as neighbors in the area described on social media seeing the sky turn orange following a loud explosion. San Juan Mayor Carmen Cruz tweeted that no injuries had been reported.

Video posted to social media apparently showed flames at the power plant in San Juan earlier in the night:

Begnaud also tweeted out more information Sunday night to describe the areas impacted by the blackout:

The blackout occurred as more than 400,000 power customers remain in the dark more than five months after Hurricane Maria. The Category 4 storm destroyed two-thirds of the island's power distribution system and caused up to an estimated $94 billion in damage.

Puerto Rico's governor announced last month that he plans to privatize the state-owned power company, which relies on infrastructure nearly three times older than the industry average. It would be the largest restructuring of a public entity in U.S. history.

One week after his announcement, a federal control board overseeing the island's finances asked that a judge authorize a loan of up to $1.3 billion so the power company can keep operating. The board said the company could see an estimated $1.2 billion loss in revenue in the first six months after Hurricane Maria.

CBS News' Jorge Mitssunaga contributed to this report.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2018, 12:46:12 AM by RE »

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🌀 Tropical Cyclone Gita described as the 'strongest to ever hit Tonga' video
« Reply #189 on: February 12, 2018, 12:41:36 AM »
Get your boats out of the Tonga Marinas!  :o


Tropical Cyclone Gita described as the 'strongest to ever hit Tonga' video


Last updated 15:14, February 12 2018

    Raw: Brown floodwaters gush into house in Apia, Samoa

    Raw: Brown floodwaters gush into house in Apia, Samoa
    Charlotte Dawson found dead

    Up next: Charlotte Dawson found dead
    Samoa faces months of cleaning up after cyclone hits

    Samoa faces months of cleaning up after cyclone hits
    Play now
    Cyclone Gita leaves devastation across Pacific

    Cyclone Gita leaves devastation across Pacific
    Play now

Current Time 0:12
Duration Time 0:12

A state of emergency has been declared in Tonga, and there's worry and uncertainty as the Kingdom braces for cyclone Gita.

The people of Tonga are preparing for what's being described as the strongest cyclone to ever hit the island kingdom.

It's a situation being made more stressful by the uncertainty of what Tropical Cyclone Gita will bring and efforts to prepare being hampered by religious laws closing trading on Sundays.

Gita is expected to hit the tiny country sometime between 7pm on Monday and Tuesday morning. About 11am Monday, a state of emergency was declared ahead of the category 4 cyclone's arrival.
Tropical Cyclone Gita is expected to head west for several days, hitting Tonga overnight and strengthening to a category ...

Tropical Cyclone Gita is expected to head west for several days, hitting Tonga overnight and strengthening to a category 5 storm.

Tagata Pasifika reporter John Pulu is in Tonga's capital, Nuku'alofa, staying in the Tanoa International Dateline Hotel - right on the waterfront.

* Samoa battles flooding, landslides, power outages
* West Coast storm 'like a fire hose' tore down coastline
* Tonga declares state of emergency ahead of Gita

He was at a press conference on Monday morning when the state of emergency was announced.
The declaration of a state of emergency by the Tongan Government as Tropical Cyclone Gita approaches the country.

The declaration of a state of emergency by the Tongan Government as Tropical Cyclone Gita approaches the country.

"At the moment ... Tonga is in preparation for what is being described as the strongest cyclone to ever hit [the country]," Pulu said.

The fact it was likely to hit overnight - combined with the potential for it to knock out power and communications networks - made it even more frightening.

"We don't know how strong the cyclone is going to be. That's the pain of all of this."

Residents in Tonga are bracing themselves for the impending category 4-strength Cyclone Gita.

With the powerful storm came "potentially a loss of human life and huge damage to buildings," Pulu said.
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"The advice from the minister in charge of the emergency department is that everyone go home and prepare."

People were told to seek shelter in Mormon churches and school halls present in most villages as they were the most robust structures.
Tagata Pasifika reporter John Pulu is staying in the Tanoa International Dateline Hotel in Nuku'alofa - right on the ...

Tagata Pasifika reporter John Pulu is staying in the Tanoa International Dateline Hotel in Nuku'alofa - right on the waterfront.

There were also instructions to keep track of where people had gone in the case of fatalities.

But efforts to prepare were hamstrung on Sunday due to a religious ban on trading.

One hardware store opened for a short time, with people travelling from the other side of the island to stock up, only for police to close the shop, Pulu said.

When asked if the rules preventing trade on a Sunday were frustrating given the situation, Pulu said: "absolutely."

Making an exception in emergencies was an issue to consider after the cyclone passed.
Among the infrastructure that could be affected was Nuku'alofa's central business district and the royal palace - both located on the waterfront.

Low-lying and coastal villages were also threatened.

Pulu said while some of the newer buildings were well-constructed, a lot of the housing was traditional and not likely to hold up well.

Some stores and houses were being boarded up ahead of Gita's arrival.

Regardless of the efforts, Pulu had his doubts.

"I don't think the country is quite prepared for something that is supposed to be the strongest on record...

"I think some [people] seem to have that island mentality of 'we've been through this before, we know what it's like'. I don't know if they are prepared..."

To make matters worse, there's been an outbreak of dengue fever in Tonga this summer.

There had been 50 cases and one death, Pulu said. That death was 12-year-old Auckland girl, Toafei Telefoni. She'd been on a family holiday.

She died in hospital on January 24, six days before she had been due to arrive home in New Zealand.

MetService tropical cyclone forecaster Micky Malivuk said Gita had the potential to grow to a category 5 cyclone, but that was not expected to happen until later Wednesday into Thursday, when it would be on its way out from southern Fiji and on its towards the south of New Caledonia.

Its track on Monday morning suggested it would pass close to the main Tongan island of Tongatapu. The centre would probably pass just to the south, with the area just to the north exposed to the strongest winds.

"If you're just a little bit away from the centre, that's where the strongest winds are," Malivuk said. Tongatapu would be "pretty much exposed to the full brunt of the cyclone".

Gita was starting to form an eye. "It just implies it's becoming a very intense storm when you have an eye forming."

 - Stuff

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Fast Collapse ARRIVES in Tonga
« Reply #190 on: February 12, 2018, 03:02:21 PM »

Tropical Cyclone Gita is a monster Category 4, and it’s hammering Tonga
By Angela Fritz February 12 at 11:47 AM Email the author

Cyclone Gita brings flooding to Samoa, heads toward Tonga

Cyclone Gita hit Samoa Feb. 11 and is posed to make landfall in Tonga Feb. 12. (Taylor Turner/The Washington Post)

Trees are stripped bare and roofs are torn off on the largest, most-populated islands of Tonga in the South Pacific. Tropical Cyclone Gita is on a rampage, whipping up destructive winds and storm surge in the Polynesian state.

A New Zealand reporter is in Tonga, holed up in a hotel. She told her home station that, on the small islands in the middle of the ocean, “you’re completely at its mercy.”

“Compared to storms at home, this just doesn’t compare,” Barbara Dreaver told the station. “It’s like someone screaming out of control, the palm trees are bent over sideways, there’s a lot of variables in play.”

The cyclone’s eye brushed south of the islands in southern Tonga on Monday night, local time. The U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center, which issues forecasts for the western Pacific, said winds were around 145 mph at the time.

Gita will remain at least a Category 4 — perhaps strengthen to a Category 5 — as it tracks west toward southern Fiji. It is not expected to directly strike Fiji’s populated islands. By Thursday, Tropical Cyclone Gita is expected to turn south away from Vanuatu and New Caledonia and continue to track out to sea.

Tropical Cyclone Gita passed over southern Tonga on Monday night, local time. (NOAA)

The government of Tonga declared a state of emergency Monday. Tongans were “very fearful” before the storm struck, according to Tonga’s Red Cross communications manager, reported the Guardian.

While Tonga is solidly in the tropics of the Pacific Ocean, a Category 4 cyclone is not common. In its historical database of hurricane and cyclone tracks, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has record of only one other storm Category 4 or stronger passing within 200 nautical miles of the capital, Nuku’alofa.


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