Published: 4:04 am, Sat. Sep. 15th, 2018Updated: 7:04 pm
Florence pours on the rain amid fears of catastrophic floods
NEW BERN, N.C. (AP) — The Marines, the Coast Guard, civilian crews and volunteers used helicopters, boats and heavy-duty vehicles Saturday to rescue hundreds of people trapped by Florence’s onslaught, even as North Carolina braced for what could be the next stage of the disaster: widespread, catastrophic flooding inland.
The death toll from the hurricane-turned-tropical storm climbed to 11.
A day after blowing ashore with 90 mph (145 kph) winds, Florence practically parked itself over land all day long and poured on the rain. With rivers swelling toward record levels, thousands of people were ordered to evacuate for fear the next few days could bring the most destructive round of flooding in North Carolina history.
More than 2 feet (60 centimeters) of rain had fallen in places, and the drenching went on and on, with forecasters saying there could be an additional 1½ feet (45 centimeters) by the end of the weekend.
“I cannot overstate it: Floodwaters are rising, and if you aren’t watching for them, you are risking your life,” Gov. Roy Cooper said.
2 storms, Florence and Mangkhut, different as water and wind
WASHINGTON (AP) — Nature expresses its fury in sundry ways. Two deadly storms — Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut — roared ashore on the same day, half a world apart, but the way they spread devastation was as different as water and wind.
Storms in the western Pacific generally hit with much higher winds and the people who live in their way are often poorer and more vulnerable, Princeton University hurricane and climate scientist Gabriel Vecchi said Saturday. That will likely determine the type of destruction.
Mangkhut made landfall Friday on the northeastern tip of Luzon island in the Philippines with top-of-the-scale Category 5 winds of 165 mph. Florence had weakened to a Category 1 storm with 90 mph winds by the time it arrived at North Carolina’s coast.
Yet a day after landfall the faster-moving Mangkhut was back out over open water — weakened, but headed across the South China Sea toward China. Florence, meanwhile, was still plodding across South Carolina at a pace slower than a normal person walks. By Saturday morning, it had already dumped more than 30 inches (76 centimeters) of rain, a record for North Carolina.
Experts say Mangkhut may well end up being the deadlier storm. As of Saturday afternoon, the death count in the Philippines was a bit higher, although still far below that of other storms that have hit the disaster-prone island nation. And with Mangkhut now headed toward the densely populated southeast coast of China, it is likely to cause more death and destruction. But Florence’s watery insured damage total will eventually be higher, Ernst Rauch, head of climate research for the world’s largest reinsurer Munich Re, told German media.
Sheriff: Border Patrol agent suspected of killing 4 women
HOUSTON (AP) — A U.S. Border Patrol agent suspected of killing four women was arrested early Saturday after a fifth woman who had been abducted managed to escape from him and notify authorities, law enforcement officials said, describing the agent as a “serial killer.”
Juan David Ortiz, 35, an intel supervisor for the Border Patrol, fled from state troopers and was found hiding in a truck in a hotel parking lot in Laredo at around 2 a.m. Saturday, Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar said at a news conference in the border city about 145 miles (235 kilometers) southwest of San Antonio.
Cuellar said investigators have “very strong evidence” that he is responsible for the deaths of the four women, who are believed to worked as prostitutes.
“We do consider this to be a serial killer,” said Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz.
In a statement, Andrew Meehan, assistant commissioner for public affairs for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said his agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility, the U.S. Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General are fully cooperating with all investigators.
Police: Man dies after shark attack off Cape Cod
WELLFLEET, Mass. (AP) — A man was bitten by a shark Saturday in the water off a Cape Cod beach and died later at a hospital, becoming the state’s first shark attack fatality in more than 80 years.
The 26-year-old man from Revere succumbed to his injuries following the attack off Newcomb Hollow Beach in Wellfleet at around noon, Wellfleet Police Lt. Michael Hurley said.
Joe Booth, a local fisherman and surfer, said he was on shore when he saw the man and his friend boogie boarding when the attack happened.
He said he saw the man aggressively kick something behind him and a flicker of a tail from the water. He realized what was happening when the friend came ashore dragging his injured friend.
“I was that guy on the beach screaming, ‘Shark, shark!” Booth said. “It was like right out of that movie Jaws. This has turned into Amity Island real quick out here.”
Report: Trump going ahead with plans for new China tariffs
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is going ahead with plans to impose new tariffs on about $200 billion of Chinese imports, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.
Both sides were preparing to hold new talks on their tariff dispute. Last week Trump told reporters such a move could come “very soon.”
The Journal cited unnamed people familiar with the matter who said the tariff level will likely be set at about 10 percent, below the 25 percent announced earlier this year.
The two governments have already imposed 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion of each other’s goods. Beijing has issued a list of another $60 billion of American products for retaliation if Trump’s next tariff hike goes ahead.
White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters declined comment on the timing of a possible announcement, but said: “The President has been clear that he and his administration will continue to take action to address China’s unfair trade practices. We encourage China to address the long standing concerns raised by the United States.”
Typhoon aims at south China after killing 12 in Philippines
TUGUEGARAO, Philippines (AP) — Typhoon Mangkhut roared toward Hong Kong and southern China on Sunday after ravaging across the northern Philippines with ferocious winds and heavy rain that left at least 12 dead in landslides and collapsed houses.
The strongest storm so far this year in the world sliced across the northern tip of Luzon Island on Saturday, a breadbasket that is also a region of flood-prone rice plains and mountain provinces with a history of deadly landslides. More than 5 million people were in the typhoon’s path, which the Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center downgraded from a super typhoon. Mangkhut was still punching powerful winds and gusts equivalent to a Category 5 Atlantic hurricane when it hit the Philippines.
China and the Philippines agreed to postpone a visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that was to start Sunday due to the typhoon’s onslaught, which caused nearly 150 flights, a third of them international, to be canceled and halted sea travel.
The Hong Kong Observatory said although Mangkhut had weakened slightly, its extensive, intense rainbands were bringing heavy downfall and frequent squalls. Storm surge of about 3 ½ meters (9.8 feet) or above is expected at the city’s waterfront Victoria Harbour, the observatory said, appealing on the public to avoid the shoreline.
Francis Tolentino, an adviser to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, said the 12 died mostly in landslides and houses that got pummeled by the storm’s fierce winds and rain. Among the fatalities were an infant and a 2-year-old child who died with their parents after the couple refused to immediately evacuate from their high-risk community in a mountain town in Nueva Vizcaya province, Tolentino said.
Former Colorado nuke site opens to public as wildlife refuge
DENVER (AP) — Cyclists and hikers explored a newly opened wildlife refuge at the site of a former nuclear weapons plant in Colorado on Saturday, while a protester in a gas mask brought signs warning about the dangers of plutonium.
With no fanfare, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened the gates of Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge on the perimeter of a government factory that made plutonium triggers for nuclear bombs for nearly four decades.
Spread across a rolling, wind-swept plateau 16 miles (26 kilometers) northwest of downtown Denver, the refuge is a rare oasis of tallgrass prairie, with bears, elk, falcons, songbirds and hundreds of other species. The refuge offers sweeping panoramas of the Rocky Mountain foothills and Denver’s skyscrapers.
“You get these incredible views,” said Jerry Jacka, who spent two hours mountain biking at the refuge Saturday.
Jacka said he was not worried about his safety, despite lawsuits and protests by people who argued the government has not tested the refuge thoroughly enough to make sure people are safe using it.
Gunmen wearing mariachi garb kill 5, wound 8 in Mexico City
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexicans heading into the weekend’s Independence Day celebrations were jolted by a brazen shooting by men dressed as mariachi musicians who killed five people and wounded eight in Garibaldi Plaza, an iconic square in the capital where the bands serenade tourists.
The Mexico City prosecutors’ office said at least one foreigner was among those wounded in Friday night’s attack, which local media said was staged by three gunmen. Four people died initially and a fifth died of her wounds at a hospital Saturday afternoon, authorities said.
The news outlet La Silla Rota circulated surveillance video of the alleged assailants wearing traditional embroidered jackets and pants as they fled on motorcycles.
The shooting cast a bloody pall over Independence Day festivities. Many Mexicans will wear mariachi costumes, a symbol of national pride, on Saturday night to commemorate the launch of the revolt against Spanish rule on Sept. 16, 1810. It is also the busiest time of year for Garibaldi Plaza, a beloved but seedy square that draws heavily on Mexican folklore.
Lisa Sanchez, director of Mexicans United Against Delinquency, described the shooting as a “piercing portrait” of Mexico. The shooting in a crowded public square demonstrates that impunity prevails in the country, she said.
AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s blustery myths on hurricanes, income
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a stormy week, President Donald Trump blustered and distorted reality, denying massive deaths from a hurricane that scientists believe to be one of the nation’s deadliest and blowing out of proportion U.S. economic growth and his role in spurring it.
He’s insisting the federal response to Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico last September, was “incredibly successful,” even though blackouts there remain common and several forms of federal aid have been slow to arrive compared with past disasters. Independent researchers have estimated the death toll was nearly 3,000 people. Trump is rejecting that work, claiming it’s a conspiracy by Democrats and isn’t true.
And as the November elections near, Trump is citing record-breaking middle-class income that isn’t so and exaggerating progress on his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
At the same time, some of Trump’s critics were not entirely immune from hyperbole.
Former President Barack Obama asserted “healthy” economic growth during his administration that is in dispute and a Democratic lawmaker blamed all the estimated deaths from Puerto Rico’s hurricane on the Trump administration, as if the storm itself took no one.
No. 2 Clemson avoids bad weather as storm batters coast
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — No. 2 Clemson and Georgia Southern got a sunny sky, mild breezes and plenty of tailgaters at the start of the only major conference football game played Saturday in the Carolinas and Virginia while Tropical Storm Florence dumped dangerous amounts of rain elsewhere across the region.
Clemson officials moved up the start time to noon from 3:30 p.m. because forecasts called for a more significant impact from Florence on Saturday night and Sunday. By halftime of the Tigers’ 38-7 victory , conditions were changing. Grey clouds hovered over the stadium, with the wind picking up enough to blow around papers and knock ballcaps off heads.
Around Memorial Stadium, about 250 miles from the coast, it otherwise looked like a typical gameday, which made it a rarity in the region, where games were moved, played earlier in the week or canceled because forecasts called for Florence, once a Category 4 hurricane, to bring devastation.
More than 2 feet of rain already had fallen in places, and the drenching continued as Florence practically parked itself over the Carolinas. Forecasters said the torrents could continue for days, and with rivers rising toward record levels, thousands of people were ordered evacuated for fear the next few days could bring the most destructive round of flooding in North Carolina history.
It was the specter of those conditions that caused widespread schedule juggling.