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- 08/24/17--14:52: _The 15 most destruc...
- 08/24/17--15:12: _Trump is facing the...
- 08/24/17--18:18: _California's carbon...
- 08/25/17--08:00: _One photo reveals h...
- 08/25/17--11:45: _Here's why a park i...
- 08/25/17--11:57: _The world is on cou...
- 08/25/17--14:06: _Hurricane Harvey is...
- 08/26/17--05:55: _Harvey downgraded t...
- 08/26/17--09:46: _17 facts that show ...
- 08/26/17--11:29: _Hurricane Harvey is...
- 08/28/17--07:53: _Trump has declared ...
- 08/28/17--08:14: _Tracking Harvey: Be...
- 08/28/17--09:55: _Why evacuating majo...
- 08/28/17--10:10: _This map projects w...
- 08/28/17--14:44: _Hurricane Harvey wa...
- 08/29/17--09:51: _Houston police chie...
- 08/29/17--11:27: _Harvey will make a ...
- 08/29/17--16:03: _Kenya just banned p...
- 08/29/17--16:39: _Rains from Hurrican...
- 08/30/17--09:32: _Heartbreaking photo...
- 08/24/17--14:52: The 15 most destructive hurricanes in US history
- 08/24/17--18:18: California's carbon market is roaring back to life
- Hurricane Harvey made landfall between Port Aransas and Port O'Connor in Texas Friday night.
- On Friday, the Category 4 hurricane packed maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, but it has been downgraded to a tropical storm.
- Rainfall and flooding are the biggest threats — as much as 40 inches of rain are expected along the Texas coast.
- 08/28/17--09:55: Why evacuating major cities before a hurricane can be deadly
- Many Texas counties struck by Hurricane Harvey didn't issue evacuation orders ahead of the storm.
- Evacuations are typically ordered in areas prone to storm surges — not flooding by rain.
- A previous hurricane evacuation effort in Texas led to dozens of deaths.
- Climate change was not the cause of Hurricane Harvey, but there's reason to think a warmer planet can make such storms more devastating.
- "Harvey was almost certainly more intense than it would have been in the absence of human-caused warming," said one scientist.
- Understanding the effects of climate on storms can help us better prepare for them in the future.
Hurricane Harvey is currently making its way toward Texas with winds as high as 80 miles per hour in the Gulf of Mexico.
Hurricane season lasts from June to the end of November for the Atlantic Ocean. the US has seen plenty of catastrophic and costly storms throughout history, with single events causing billions of dollars in damage.
Here's a look at some of the most devastating, costly storms ever to hit the US.
Hurricane Opal, 1995: $5.1 billion
In 1995, Hurricane Opal devastated the Florida panhandle before hitting Alabama and Tennessee. The storm caused $5.1 billion worth of damage.
Hurricane Isabel, 2003: $5.3 billion
Hurricane Isabel, the costliest hurricane of the 2003 season, made landfall in North Carolina, impacting much of the Outer Banks. It caused $5.3 billion in damages.
Hurricane Floyd, 1999: $6.9 billion
Hurricane Floyd was a catastrophic storm because of the rain it brought. The downpours caused extreme flooding from North Carolina on up the East Coast as the Category 2 storm traveled north.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
President Donald Trump is on the verge of facing the first non-self-inflicted crisis of his presidency — and it remains a mystery whether he's ready.
The potential crisis comes in the form of a massive hurricane gaining strength off the southeast coast of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. Forecasters predict that Hurricane Harvey could slam the Texas coast right before the weekend as a Category 3 storm, bringing winds in excess of 125 mph and dumping more than 25 inches of rain.
"Trump facing first serious crises with Hurricane Harvey," conservative internet news mogul Matt Drudge tweeted Thursday. "130 mph winds Texas coast, 25-inches of rain Houston. It's about to get real..."
The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was questioned about the hurricane preparations of both Trump and the administration during Thursday's press briefing. She said Trump had been briefed and was keeping "a very watchful eye" on developments.
"You've got acting Secretary Elaine Duke," the acting homeland security secretary, "watching this closely, very involved in the process, along with the acting director for FEMA,"she told reporters. "I think we're in great shape having Gen. Kelly sitting next to the president throughout this process."
There's "probably no better chief of staff for the president during the hurricane season," she continued, praising John Kelly. "And the president has been briefed and will continue to be updated as the storm progresses and certainly something he's very aware of and will keep a very watchful eye on and stands ready to provide resources if needed."
Trump tweeted about the storm soon after the briefing, posting links to Ready.gov, Fema.gov, and Hurricanes.gov. Attached to the tweet was a video of Trump touring the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters earlier this year.
"With Hurricane Harvey approaching landfall, remember, the USA is the most resilient nation on earth because we plan ahead,"Trump said in a statement that was displayed at the bottom of the video. "Preparedness is an investment in our future."
Hurricane Harvey is shaping up to be the first major natural disaster of Trump's presidency.
Some of the agencies tasked with handling the administration's response are in the midst of turnover, as Duke is leading the Department of Homeland Security in an acting role after Kelly became Trump's chief of staff. Trump's nominee to lead FEMA, Brock Long, was confirmed in June, but numerous major positions in the agency remain unfilled or are occupied by acting employees.
Matt Mackowiak, a Texas-based Republican strategist who is president of the Potomac Strategy Group, said Trump was entering the situation without having previously dealt with such a disaster, something he said was "unusual for political figures."
"What's unusual about Trump is that he has, as far as I know, zero disaster-response experience," Mackowiak told Business Insider. "Now, that's true for 99.9% of individuals, but it's unusual for political figures. At some level, no matter what level you're on, you've had some sort of disaster where you live. He hasn't. So he doesn't have the perhaps working knowledge that most people would have."
Mackowiak said Trump must give the perception that he is on top of all of the developments, is concerned, and is using his platform to disseminate critical information.
"What doesn't work is sort of sitting back and hoping that it's not severe and that the state and locals will handle it," Mackowiak said.
If disaster strikes, Mackowiak said, it will be critical for Trump to "rely on experienced people" and be "very specific about what he says."
"You don't want to create a public panic, but you do want people to take it all very seriously," he said. "This is probably not something he's spent a lot of time thinking about. He's probably thought about disaster relief more in terms of terrorism with his national security briefings ... This is going to be an interesting challenge."
The question entering the weekend, Mackowiak said, is whether Trump can "focus on an area like this in a crisis."
"This is going to be a real test of the administration," he said. "It's going to push a lot of things to the back burner. I don't know what else he has the next couple days, but he's not going to be in a position to do a lot of other things publicly. He should be staying at the White House, taking phone calls, getting briefed, talking to his Cabinet, talking to local officials, and putting his administration in a position to respond where needed."
In a column for The Washington Post earlier this month, Ron Klain, who served as chief of staff for the vice presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden, said August could be extremely dangerous for Trump and the administration, highlighting the threat of a major hurricane as a top reason.
"Would the Trump administration respond effectively?" he asked. "The president just stripped the Department of Homeland Security of its leader, was blasted by the outgoing head of hurricane forecasting for how his budget cuts could set back this work, and lacks any experience (as a senator or governor) with navigating a difficult disaster response. As a political matter, a botched hurricane response in the Gulf Coast or Florida would see Trump criticized — not by blue-state leaders he can mock or ignore — but by key members of his own coalition."
Nobody wanted to buy into a program that might die.
But now that the courts have cleared the legal challenges and the legislature has extended a bulletproof version of the policy until 2030, industry has bought up every carbon credit available.
Earlier this month, California and Quebec, working together, auctioned off 64 million carbon credits at $14.75 — the highest price in years. The sale raised nearly a billion dollars. Some $300 million of the proceeds will go to low-income electricity users and pay for energy efficiency programs in California and Quebec.
The balance, $640 million, will go to California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, an all-time high, according to the Environmental Defense Fund’s Erica Morehouse.
California’s cap-and-trade system sets a limit on greenhouse gases then lets the market figure out who gets to emit those gases. You can see a fun explanation in video, here.
So now that the trade part is working, California will have to take a close look at the cap: Is it limiting greenhouse gas emissions enough to meet its goals?
Burning Man is many things.
But as the "leave no trace" rule declares, Burning Man is not a giant garbage can. Everything set up at the start of the week must come down.
To make sure the "leave no trace" rule is upheld, Burning Man relies on a Playa Restoration Team (The "playa" is the land used during the festival).
Crews of people determine which areas have the most trash — or, as Burners call it, "matter out of place," or MOOP.
They color-code the areas based on severity, green being the lightest MOOP areas, yellow being moderate, and red being the most moopy — Burning Man's words, not mine — and have a line of people clean up each area.
Then the transformation back into an ordinary desert is complete.
The United States and Mexico have shared their current international border for nearly 170 years.
Today they cooperate at multiple levels on issues that affect the border region, although you would not know it from the divisive rhetoric that we hear in both countries.
President Trump’s focus on building a border wall threatens to undermine many bi-national initiatives, as well as our shared natural environment.
As a scholar focusing on urban planning and design in the border region, I have worked with communities in both countries to restore deteriorated urban and natural environments.
I see great potential for green infrastructure – projects that use live natural systems to deliver benefits to people and the local environment. This approach can help mitigate air and water pollution, restore soils and habitats and regenerate plant, animal and human communities.
I also see an opportunity for Mexico and the United States to work together on a much larger scale.
Rather than spending billions of dollars on a border wall, here is an alternative vision: regenerating the Rio Grande, which forms more than half of the border, to form the core of a bi-national park that showcases our spectacular shared landscape.
Today the river’s volume is decreasing, thanks to climate change and water diversions for agriculture and municipal uses. It is polluted with fertilizers and sewage, and has lost at least seven native fish species. Restoring it would produce immense benefits for wildlife, agriculture, recreation and communities on both sides.
Environmental challenges along the border
Mexico and the United States have signed numerous agreements regulating the border, starting with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. In 1944 they created the International Boundary and Water Commission to manage water supplies, water quality and flood control in the border region.
Environmental issues that affect communities on the border include raw sewage dumping, agro-chemical pollution and flooding. Loss of riparian habitat – the lush green zones along river banks – has reduced shade and natural cooling in the river’s urban stretches.
Recognizing these issues, the United States and Mexico established the Border Environment Cooperation Commission in a side pact to the North American Free Trade Agreement. This organization funds environmental programs proposed by local communities and governments within a 400-kilometer-wide strip along the border. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Border 2020 program also provides grants focused on environmental issues in the United States and Mexico.
Greening infrastructure along the border
I have coordinated applied collaborative design studios, in which students work with local and state planning authorities to address problems such as flooding and lack of accessible, high-quality public space. These projects seek to improve urban infrastructure systems in ways that increase ecosystem services, such as improving water quality.
For example, as part of the Border 2012 (precedent to Border 2020) program, the EPA provided funding for a pilot program to build flood-prevention detention ponds in Nogales, Mexico, a sister city with Nogales, Arizona. City leaders wanted to assess whether the ponds could also serve as public space amenities. Working with students from Arizona State University, my colleague Francisco Lara Valencia and I produced a report for local planning authorities. In it we proposed creating a network of connected green spaces to absorb storm water and provide park lands, bringing nature into the city. By doing so, EPA and Mexican authorities could have a positive environmental impact on both cities.
I also worked with students at the University of Texas at Austin to create a green corridor master plan for the city of Hermosillo, Sonora in 2015. Green corridors typically run along natural or artificial waterways to soak up storm water and provide places to play. The city is now launching a strategic plan that incorporates these concepts.
In 2015-16 at UT Austin, we developed an urban planning and design strategy for border towns in the state of Tamaulipas that are expected to be impacted by oil and gas production resulting from recent energy reforms in Mexico. Our case study city is Ciudad Miguel Aleman, a border sister city with Roma, Texas, separated only by the width of the Rio Grande.
The plan and designs propose to leverage construction of infrastructure for oil and gas production fields to include detention and filtration ponds and green corridors, which will serve as high-quality public spaces and mitigate flood risks. It also calls for creating natural preserves and recreation areas on the Mexican side of the river, mirroring existing areas on the American side.
An international border park
A green vision for the border region would expand this sister-city-specific approach into a large-scale urban ecology and planning effort. This initiative could integrate streets, parks, industries, towns, cities, creeks and other tributaries, agriculture and fracking fields throughout the Rio Grande’s entire 182,000-square-mile watershed.
One possible starting point would be to restore riparian zones along the river through the bi-national metropolis of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas, redesigning the existing channel. Recreating natural habitat on both sides of the river would cool and clean the air and provide attractive public spaces.
But why stop there? As the Rio Grande advances to the Gulf of Mexico, it cuts through incredibly valuable, beautiful and remote landscapes, including Big Bend National Park in Texas and the Cañon de Santa Elena, Ocampo, and Maderas del Carmen reserves in Mexico. Traveling its length could become a trip comparable to hiking the Appalachian Trail, with opportunities to see recovering natural areas and wildlife and learn from two of the world’s richest cultures.
Together these areas form a vast, potentially binational natural park which could be managed cooperatively, much like Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park on the U.S.-Canadian border. In fact, advocates on both sides of the border have been pursuing this vision for more than 80 years. When Texas officials proposed creating Big Bend National Park in the 1930s, they envisioned an international park. In 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt wrote to Mexican President Manuel Avila Camacho that
“I do not believe that this undertaking in the Big Bend [establishment of Big Bend National Park] will be complete until the entire park area in this region on both sides of the Rio Grande forms one great international park.”
Discussions lapsed in the 1950s, then resumed in the 1980s at the grassroots level, but were drowned out by debates over border security and immigration after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Uniting, not dividing
It is not clear whether Congress will provide the US$1.6 billion that President Trump has requested for work on a border wall. In any case, building a wall on a wide, inhabited river corridor with flood risks is a dubious goal. As experts have pointed out, it is more effective to police the border with technology and human power than to build a barrier.
In fact, restoring river habitat could improve border security by fostering higher and more constant water flow. Making the Rio Grande healthier would also benefit farmers and energy producers on both sides of the border.
In his 1951 essay “Chihuahua as We Might Have Been,” American cultural landscape scholar J.B. Jackson wrote that “rivers are meant to bring men together, not to keep them apart,” and that the border imposes an artificial division on a region that humans accepted as one unified entity for hundreds of years – the Spanish Southwest. This vast shared watershed should remind us that we are fragile in isolation, but powerful when we come together.
Gabriel Diaz Montemayor is an assistant professor of landscape architecture at the University of Texas at Austin.
If you read or listen to almost any article about climate change, it’s likely the story refers in some way to the “2 degrees Celsius limit.” The story often mentions greatly increased risks if the climate exceeds 2°C and even “catastrophic” impacts to our world if we warm more than the target.
Recently a series of scientific papers have come out and stated that we have a 5 percent chance of limiting warming to 2°C, and only one chance in a hundred of keeping man-made global warming to 1.5°C, the aspirational goal of the 2015 Paris United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference. Additionally, recent research shows that we may have already locked in 1.5°C of warming even if we magically reduced our carbon footprint to zero today.
And there’s an additional wrinkle: What is the correct baseline we should use? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) frequently references temperature increases relative to the second half of the 19th century, but the Paris Agreement states the temperature increases should be measured from “preindustrial” levels, or before 1850. Scientists have shown such a baseline effectively pushes us another 0.2°C closer to the upper limits.
That’s a lot of numbers and data – so much that it could make even the most climate-literate head spin. How did the climate, and climate policy community, come to agree that 2°C is the safe limit? What does it mean? And if we can’t meet that target, should we even try and limit climate change?
Fear of ‘tipping points’
The academic literature, popular press and blog sites have all traced out the history of the 2°C limit. Its origin stems not from the climate science community, but from a Yale economist, William Nordhaus.
In his 1975 paper “Can We Control Carbon Dioxide?,” Nordhaus, “thinks out loud” as to what a reasonable limit on CO2 might be. He believed it would be reasonable to keep climatic variations within the “normal range of climatic variation.” He also asserted that science alone cannot set a limit; importantly, it must account for both society’s values and available technologies. He concluded that a reasonable upper limit would be the temperature increase one would observe from a doubling of preindustrial CO2 levels, which he believed equated to a temperature increase of about 2°C.
Nordaus himself stressed how “deeply unsatisfactory” this thought process was. It’s ironic that a back-of-the-envelope, rough guess ultimately became a cornerstone of international climate policy.
The climate science community subsequently attempted to quantify the impacts and recommend limits to climate change, as seen in the 1990 report issued by the Stockholm Environmental Institute. This report argued that limiting climate change to 1°C would be the safest option but recognized even then that 1°C was probably unrealistic, so 2°C would be the next best limit.
During the late 1990s and early 21st century, there was increasing concern that the climate system might encounter catastrophic and nonlinear changes, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Points” book. For example, continued carbon emissions could lead to a shutdown of the large ocean circulation systems or massive permafrost melting.
This fear of abrupt climate change also drove the political acceptance of a defined temperature limit. The 2°C limit moved into the policy and political world when it was adopted by the European Union’s Council of Ministers in 1996, the G8 in 2008 and the UN in 2010. In 2015 in Paris, negotiators adopted 2°C as the upper limit, with a desire to limit warming to 1.5°C.
This short history makes it clear that the goal evolved from the qualitative but reasonable desire to keep changes to the climate within certain bounds: namely, within what the world had experienced in the relatively recent geological past to avoid catastrophically disrupting both human civilization and natural ecosystems.
Climate scientists subsequently began supporting the idea of a limit of 1°C or 2°C starting over three decades ago. They showed the likely risks increase with temperatures over 1°C, and those risks grow substantially with additional warming.
And if we miss the target?
Perhaps the most powerful aspect about the 2°C threshold is not its scientific veracity, but its simplicity as an organizing principle.
The climate system is vast and has more dynamics, parameters and variations in space and time than is possible to quickly and simply convey. What the 2°C threshold lacks in nuance and depth, it more than makes up as a goal that is understandable, measurable and may still be achievable, although our actions will need to change quickly. Goals and goal-setting are very powerful instruments in effecting change.
While the 2°C threshold is a blunt instrument that has many faults, similar to attempting to judge a quarterback’s value to his team solely by his rating, its ability to rally 195 countries to sign an agreement should not be discounted.
Ultimately, what should we do if we cannot make the 1.5°C or 2°C limit? The most current IPCC report shows the risks, parsed by continent, of a 2°C world, and how they are part of a continuum of risk extending from today’s climate to a 4°C.
Most of these risks are assessed by the IPCC to increase in steady fashion. That is, for most aspects of climate impacts we do not “fall off a cliff” at 2°C, although considerable damage to coral reefs and even agriculture may increase significantly around this threshold.
Like any goal, the 2°C limit should be ambitious but achievable. However, if it is not met, we should do everything we can to meet a 2¼°C or 2.5°C goal.
These goals can be compared to the speed limits for trucks we see on a mountain descent. The speed limit (say 30 mph) will allow trucks of any type to descend with a safety margin to spare. We know that coming down the hill at 70 mph likely results in a crash at the bottom.
In between those two numbers? The risk increases – and that’s where we are with climate change. If we can’t come down the hill at 30 mph, let’s try for 35 or 40 mph. Because we know that at 70 mph – or business as usual – we will have a very bad outcome, and nobody wants that.
In addition to winds that have reached 125 miles per hour, Harvey is expected to dump between 15 and 30 inches of rain on much of Texas.
The projected rainfall is going to be so heavy, in fact, that the National Weather Service had to add an extra color to its scale to mark the areas expected to get 20+ inches of rain, the Washington Post reports.
The middle and upper part of the Texas coast could get as much as 40 inches of rain — more than 3 feet — according to forecasts as of 5 p.m. ET on Friday.
That rain could create major damage in Texas and Louisiana.
Jeff Masters, a meteorologist at The Weather Company and the co-founder of Weather Underground, told Business Insider that the damage could total as high as $10 billion, placing it among the most costliest storms in US history. The rain could break records.
"There is an unusual amount of moisture available to this storm, and it is large and powerful, so rainfall records could topple," he said.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall between Port Aransas and Port O'Connor in Texas on Friday night, packing sustained wind speeds as high as 130 mph. The storm later made a second landfall on the northeastern shore of Copano Bay, Texas around 2 a.m. ET Saturday morning.
It has since been downgraded to a tropical storm with maximum winds of 60 mph. At 1 p.m. CDT on Saturday, the storm was sitting about 45 miles northwest of Victoria, Texas. But the National Hurricane Center is still warning of "life-threatening and devastating flooding." Forecasters predict that the storm will stall until Tuesday, dumping up to 40 inches of rain onto parts of Texas.
"There is an unusual amount of moisture available to this storm, and it is large and powerful, so rainfall records could topple," Jeff Masters, a meteorologist at The Weather Company who cofounded the weather-data website Weather Underground, told Business Insider.
A storm surge warning is still in effect from Port Aransas to High Island, Texas, which means "there is a danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the coastline," according to the National Weather Service. (The storm surge is the quick rise in water caused by a hurricane's strong winds.)
Rockport, Texas seems to have sustained extreme damage. Cell service is out in the area, and residents have been told it is not safe to return for the time being (a mandatory evacuation was put in place there). Rockport Mayor Charles Wax told CNN that "there's been widespread devastation."
As the storm approached on Friday, Rockport Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Rios requested that people who chose not to evacuate write their names and social security numbers on their arms, in case rescuers later need to identify them.
Port Aransas, Texas was also impacted heavily. Mayor Charles Bujan told KIII TV that there are likely a few fatalities there, but a number cannot be confirmed. The city's Pioneer Trailer Park, he said, suffered a "100-percent loss."
So far, no deaths have been confirmed. Strong winds, flooding, and debris on roadways have kept emergency crews from reaching of many areas, so comprehensive surveys of the damaged areas have yet to be completed.
In a tweet Saturday morning, President Donald Trump commended the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for his handling of the hurricane. In a message addressed to FEMA head Brock Long, Trump said: “You are doing a great job - the world is watching! Be safe.”
Masters estimated on Thursday that Harvey could cause $10 billion in damage, but more recent estimates are higher. The last major hurricane to hit the Texas Gulf coast was Ike, a Category 4 storm that caused $38 billion in damage in 2008.
Why hurricane scales don't tell the full story
Hal Needham, a hurricane scientist at Louisiana State University, wrote in a blog post on the weather site WXshift that a storm's category doesn't fully convey how dangerous rainfall could be and how much damage it could cause.
"Hurricanes and tropical storms throw three hazards at us: wind, rainfall, and storm surge," he wrote. "Think of the impacts separately. Storms with weaker winds are more likely to stall and dump heavier rainfall. This shocks people, as it would seem intuitive that a Category 5 hurricane would tend to dump more rain than a Category 1 hurricane. But the opposite is true."
While strong winds can rip shingles off roofs and tear down power lines, flooding often causes more widespread, costlier damage — and can be more dangerous for humans. Needham said that the scale used to distinguish a hurricane from a tropical storm was based solely on maximum sustained wind but that "storms are too complex to define by one number."
How Texas prepared
Hurricane Harvey is President Donald Trump's 'first serious' crisis of his presidency. The White House said in a statement on Friday afternoon that the president is closely monitoring the storm.
"President Donald J. Trump continues to closely monitor Hurricane Harvey and the preparedness and response efforts of State, local, and Federal officials. Today, the President received a briefing from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke, his Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor Thomas P. Bossert, and his Chief of Staff John F. Kelly. Yesterday, the President spoke with Governors Greg Abbott of Texas and John Bel Edwards of Louisiana and committed to providing assistance as appropriate."
Before the hurricane hit, many areas — including Rockport and Port Aransas — issued mandatory evacuation orders. The Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority began busing evacuees to San Antonio on Thursday. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster on Wednesday for 30 counties in Harvey's path, freeing up state money and resources to respond to the storm. Abbott told the New York Times that his government was preparing to assist up to 41,000 evacuees.
The Health and Human Services Department said it was deploying assets to Texas and Louisiana ahead of Harvey's landfall, moving six Disaster Medical Assistance Teams to the Dallas area, and Incident Response Coordination Teams to support medical personnel in both states.
DON'T MISS: Full Harvey coverage here
NOW WATCH: These houses can survive natural disasters
At that steep a price tag, you might assume buying the bottled stuff would be worth it. In most cases, you'd be wrong.
For the vast majority of Americans, a glass from the tap and a glass from the bottle are virtually identical as far as their health and nutritional quality are concerned. In some cases, publicly-sourced tap may actually be safer since it is usually tested more frequently.
There are exceptions, however — people living near private wells do not enjoy the same rigorous testing as those whose water comes from public sources, and some public sources are not properly screened, as was recently seen in Flint, Michigan.
But if you don't get your water from a private well, there are plenty of reasons to stop shelling out for bottled water. Read on to find out all the things you didn't know about your drinking water.
The first documented case of bottled water being sold was in Boston in the 1760s, when a company called Jackson's Spa bottled and sold mineral water for "therapeutic" uses. Companies in Saratoga Springs and Albany also appear to have packaged and sold water.
Across the globe, people drink roughly 10% more bottled water every year, but Americans consume more packaged H2O overall than people in every other country in the world besides China. On a per capita basis, the US ranks #6.
At 12.8 billion gallons, or 39 gallons per person, Americans today drink more bottled water than milk or beer.
Source: Beverage Marketing Corporation
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Hurricane Harvey made landfall between Port Aransas and Port O'Connor in Texas on Friday night, with wind speeds as high as 130 mph.
The storm continues to move inland, and has been downgraded to a tropical storm. As of 7 a.m. CDT Saturday, it was still packing maximum winds of 80 mph.
Officials anticipate that Harvey will continue dumping rain on Texas through the weekend, with expected rainfall between 15 and 30 inches in many places. A few isolated spots could see up to 40 inches.
The National Hurricane Center is warning that flooding will be "catastrophic and life-threatening."
Here's what the area looks like.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall just before 10 p.m. Friday as a Category 4 hurricane.
Some areas of in the storms path are estimated to have gotten more than 15 inches of rain already, according to the National Weather Service. The Weather Channel reported that Harvey has pushed water 2 to 7 feet above average tide levels near Corpus Christi.
Source: The Weather Channel
Rockport, Texas has been hit especially hard. Reports suggest many buildings, including a senior center, court house, and high school, have been badly damaged. Houston's local ABC affiliate reported that 10 Rockport residents have been treated for injuries.
Source: ABC 13
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Washington (AFP) - US President Donald Trump on Monday declared an emergency in Louisiana as part of the southern state was pelted with rain from tropical storm Harvey.
The declaration allows the federal government, specifically the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate relief efforts. It also provides federal funding for disaster relief.
"This action will help alleviate the hardship and suffering that the emergency has inflicted on the local population," the White House said in a statement.
"Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency."
As of Monday morning, Harvey was hovering on the Gulf coast of Texas, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southwest of Houston.
It was expected to start moving toward the northeast on Tuesday, bringing heavy rains through Friday to already inundated parts of east Texas and into neighboring southwestern Louisiana.
The forecast suggests Houston will get 50 inches of rain — as much as the city of 2.3 million people usually receives in an entire year.
The deluge has turned the city's roads into rivers, covered in feet of water:
Here's what Houston looked like before and after Hurricane Harvey:
Since the storm's landfall on Friday, Houston received over 25 inches of rain by Monday, with some areas seeing over 30 inches.
Before the flood and after on Buffalo Bayou in Houston. Just an unreal amount of water https://t.co/8CcdEdKhtEpic.twitter.com/J33MHpA80R
Source: The Weather Channel
The National Hurricane Center projects Houston will get 50 inches of rain total, causing "catastrophic and life-threatening flooding."
It was still raining Monday morning, and the deluge isn't expected to stop until at least Tuesday. Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said officials were still focusing on rescue and recovery and would have to wait until the storm passed to evaluate the damage.
The left is Memorial Parkway on Saturday.
The right is Memorial Parkway Sunday morning. #Harvey#HoustonFloodhttps://t.co/88qQ8fcKZ4pic.twitter.com/RKevt6b92A
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
"We are anticipating over 30,000 people being placed in shelters temporarily," Brock Long, who leads the US Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in a statement Monday morning. "We are expecting over 450,000 potential registers of disaster victims. That is a huge number."
Harris County, Texas, is one of the hardest hit so far by the storm, which made landfall on Friday as a Category 4 hurricane but has been downgraded to a tropical storm. The region is home to some 2.3 million people in Houston, plus about 2.3 million others in the surrounding area.
Footage of people stuck on rooftops without food, water, shelter, or signs of rescue raises the question: Why weren't mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders issued for the region ahead of the storm?
"We always say, 'Run from water, hide from wind.' When we say that, we mean storm surge, not rain," Harris County Judge Ed Emmett told reporters during a press conference on Friday. "In this case, we'll have a lot of water, but it's not the kind of water that we would ask people to evacuate from."
The biggest reason Houston officials didn't tell residents to evacuate was to avoid clogging highways and other roads at dangerous levels.
"Traffic jams stretched across hundreds of miles over two days, and many people ran out of gas," reporters Jim Malewitz and Brandon Formby wrote in The Texas Tribune. "Dozens died from accidents and heat-related illnesses, all before Rita even made landfall."
Had Harris County issued an evacuation order even several days in advance, a similar backup may have ensued — and it could have happened on roads that quickly got flooded with several feet of fast-moving water.
As The Tribune and other outlets have reported, most flood deaths (about two-thirds) happen in vehicles. This is because many people drive into what appears to be shallow water on a roadway only to be swept away by deceptively strong currents and deeper-than-expected flooding.
Michael Lowry, a scientist with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, underscored this point in a tweet on Sunday.
"Evacuation plans are predicated on storm surge, not rainfall flooding," Lowry said. "Rain evacuations difficult to impossible due to forecast limitations."
In a press conference on Sunday morning, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner defended his decision not to evacuate residents en masse.
"You literally cannot put 6.5 million people on the road," Turner said, according to CNN. "If you think the situation right now is bad, you give an order to evacuate? You are creating a nightmare."
Officials in Harris County did ultimately issue evacuation orders in some areas early Monday morning, according to The Daily Beast. But at this point, many people will not be able to comply with them.
Aisha Nelson, who moved to Houston after Hurricane Katrina devastated her home, talked about her situation from a rooftop in a "Good Morning America" live broadcast Monday morning. She said about 30 other people were on the roof with her.
"It's not going good for us. Across the street, the building is caving in, and it's water everywhere," Nelson said. "We tried to leave, but there was nowhere for us to go ... Please help us. I'm scared." (One of the show's hosts said the program notified the US Coast Guard about Nelson's location.)
The full extent of Harvey's devastation is not yet known, though several people have died. Some 50 Texas counties have declared a state of disaster, and insurance research groups estimate that damage may exceed that of Hurricane Katrina, which totaled more than $100 billion.
Louisiana, meanwhile, is not out of Harvey's crosshairs. President Donald Trump recently approved emergency declarations for both Texas and Louisiana to direct federal aid toward those states.
A report published in June in the journal Science predicted that climate change would hit America hard but unevenly, with Texas among states bearing the brunt of the damage.
The findings highlighted flooding as a major risk factor for the region (as have dozens of other previous reports on climate change). Those warnings now ring particularly salient as Hurricane Harvey wreaks havoc on Texas— though it's difficult to determine exactly how much climate change contributed to the disaster.
The report estimated that for every degree Celsius the temperature rises between now and the end of the century, America could see roughly 5.4 more deaths per 100,000 people. Those figures were far higher in many southern counties in Texas and Florida, however — the numbers there reach 20 to 40 deaths per 100,000.
"Past models had only looked at the United States as a single region," Robert Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers who was a lead author of the report, told The New York Times on June 29. Those models, he said, "missed this entire story of how climate change would create this large transfer of wealth between states."
Several factors will contribute to the rising death toll, which were previously documented by many other reports on climate change. A 2012 report by the Climate Vulnerability Monitor cited flooding, heat waves, wildfires, and crop shortages as some of the primary issues. Other problems expected to affect America's South include elevated energy use (to cool homes and buildings during heat waves) and increasing costs related to weather damage on the nation's coast.
While Southern states will most likely face dire consequences as a result of the planet's warming, others — mostly in the north — could emerge virtually scot-free, according to the report's map.
An interactive map of temperatures and emissions based on the report is available on the Climate Impact Lab website.
Madeleine Sheehan Perkins wrote an earlier version of this post.
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As the storm swirled and took shape in the Gulf of Mexico, warmer-than-normal waters allowed the weather system to absorb more moisture than it otherwise would have. That led it to drop an unprecedented amount of rain over Texas — some areas are expected to have up to 50 inches by the time the storm is over.
Additionally, higher sea levels — due to climate change and to human disturbances like oil drilling that have changed the sea and land levels — created more devastating flooding as the storm caused waters to rise.
"Harvey was almost certainly more intense than it would have been in the absence of human-caused warming, which means stronger winds, more wind damage, and a larger storm surge,"Mann wrote on his Facebook page.
How climate change and human activity make storms hit harder
There's nothing new about hurricanes hitting the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, as climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe said on Twitter. Hurricanes are natural and their causes are complicated.
But a recent draft of a major government report on the state of the climate (which Hayhoe contributed to) noted that a warmer climate increases ocean temperatures, raises sea levels, and creates more atmospheric water vapor — which makes heavy precipitation events more likely.
Harvey and other hurricanes are exacerbated by these factors, Hayhoe said. That's why meteorologists were so concerned about this storm as it approached the coast.
"If you look at the ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, they're at near-record warm levels, about 87 Fahrenheit underneath Harvey right now, that's about 2 degrees Fahrenheit above average for this time of year. That's a lot of extra heat energy available to evaporate water vapor into the air," Jeff Masters, a meteorologist at The Weather Company who cofounded the weather-data website Weather Underground, told Business Insider on Thursday.
As Harvey picked up more moisture, it rapidly strengthened from a tropical storm to a category 4 hurricane before making landfall, after which it stalled as a tropical storm, dumping so much rain that the National Weather Service had to add more colors to its map.
Harvey has been described as a once-in-500-years-event, though some spots could hit the once-in-a-million-years benchmark. But such events seem to be becoming more common, as evidenced by major recent storms like Allison in 2001, Rita in 2005, and Ike in 2008. By some definitions, the Houston area faced 500-year floods in both 2015 and 2016.
As ProPublica and the Texas Tribune reported in 2016, the way that we've traditionally calculated how rare these events are may no longer be valid, largely because of climate change.
"Houston's perfect storm is coming — and it's not a matter of if but when," the authors of that story wrote. One researcher told ProPublica that more people die from floods in the Houston region than anywhere else.
ProPublica and the Texas Tribune pointed out that Houston doesn't have enough regulations in place to mitigate flood risk, and that prairies that used to absorb water have been paved over. For these and other reasons, Houston was ill-prepared for a major storm.
And a recent executive order by the Trump administration rolled back Obama-era regulations that would have required new infrastructure built in flood-prone regions to be climate resilient. So Houston and other cities won't have to take such factors into account when considering future development.
Why this matters
Some argue that it's too soon to talk about whether climate change contributed to the ongoing Harvey situation, or suggest that doing so politicizes the event.
But the evidence we have indicates that climate is likely to have had an effect on the severity of the storm, as did human development and other factors. And understanding those things is vital for future preparation.
As Hayhoe said on Twitter, scientists care about the way that climate affects hurricanes because climate change can make storms stronger and more devastating. Action on climate (or lack thereof) could therefore make a difference for people vulnerable to storms like this in the future. One of the reasons the Department of Defense cares so much about climate change is because severe weather can have a big impact on human lives.
That's not about politics, it's about preparation.
Right now, of course, the most important story is what's happening to people in southeast Texas and what's being done to help those suffering in the storm.
But as meteorologist Eric Holthaus said on Twitter, understanding the effects humans have on climate is important, both now and in the future.
If we don't talk about the social context of Harvey, we won't be able to prevent future disasters. It's our moral duty to talk climate *now*— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) August 28, 2017
Rebecca Harrington contributed to this post.
On the fifth day of Harvey, it's still raining in Houston.
The storm, which made landfall on Friday as a Category 4 hurricane but has been downgraded to a tropical storm, has caused devastating, catastrophic flooding in southeastern Texas. A rain gauge southeast of Houston on Tuesday morning broke the state record for rainfall from a tropical storm or hurricane, measuring 49.32 inches.
The city's first responders and many volunteers are using boats, aircraft, and dump trucks to pull people from their flooded homes.
Houston's police chief, Art Acevedo, said over 3,500 people had been rescued from the water as of Tuesday morning, and a Red Cross representative said 9,000 had arrived at the city's convention center seeking shelter.
Officials are still focused on rescue, Acevedo said, not recovery. The former means saving people who are still alive, while the latter means finding people who died in the storm.
At least 15 deaths have been reported, and many seem to be people who were trying to escape the floodwaters in vehicles. Citing three police department officials, the Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday that an officer died in his patrol car after he took a wrong turn and got caught in the high water.
Acevedo on Monday said he was concerned that the death toll would rise once the waters finally recede.
"We know in these kind of events that, sadly, the death toll goes up historically," Acevedo told The Associated Press. "I'm really worried about how many bodies we're going to find."
Houston didn't declare mandatory evacuations before the storm, encouraging residents to stay put unless they were in immediate danger. Some areas issued evacuation orders when bayous overflowed on Monday. Mayor Sylvester Turner has defended that decision, saying it's often more dangerous to evacuate a city during a hurricane.
The flood levels throughout downtown Houston and the surrounding metro area have crested 10 feet in many places, covering one-story buildings and stranding tanker trailers.
The National Weather Service director, Louis Uccellini, said on Monday that the floodwaters would be slow to recede, which means it will most likely take days or weeks for the streets to regain some normalcy.
"The breadth and intensity of this rainfall are beyond anything experienced before," the NWS's Weather Prediction Center said over the weekend. "Catastrophic flooding is now underway and expected to continue for days."
The bulk of Tropical Storm Harvey may be deteriorating and drifting back over the Gulf of Mexico, but meteorologists say its threat is far from over.
After making landfall as a category-4 hurricane last week, the record-breaking storm stalled over southeast Texas and drenched parts of the greater Houston area in more than 30 inches of rain. By Monday, many of Harvey's remnants had moved back over the ocean, soaking up moisture and regaining strength.
Harvey doesn't have a core and is not a "zombie hurricane" that will regain enough strength to become a categorized storm again. However, it will make something of a second "landfall" on Wednesday. (Some consider this to be a third landfall, since the storm technically made two landfalls within hours during its first approach.)
According to a National Hurricane Center forecast issued Tuesday morning, the storm's center is expected to reach southwestern Louisiana around 7 a.m. CDT Wednesday, with sustained winds of more than 39 mph. Parts of southeast Texas are also projected to be in the giant rainstorm's crosshairs once again.
The US government has called Harvey an unprecedented weather event due to its "relentless, torrential" rainfall, which has inundated the Greater Houston region and overcome at least one reservoir designed to hold back 1,000-year floods. By Friday, however, another one to two feet of rain may fall, totaling perhaps 50 inches of rain in parts of Houston.
Evacuations were not ordered for many areas ahead of the storm to avoid trapping millions of people inside their cars on soon-to-be-flooded roadways. Also, many people who might have preferred to leave likely couldn't due to financial, health, and other constraints.
Becuase of that, tens of thousands of people have sought emergency shelter in Harris County (of which Houston is a part), and up to half a million more people are expected to register as disaster victims.
As of Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of miles of coastline are still under a tropical storm warning. New Orleans and Baton Rouge — areas that suffered through Hurricane Katrina in 2005 — are also under a flash flood warning. (Up to 10 inches of rain may fall in some parishes of New Orleans this week.)
Harvey's dangers may soon extend to the midwest, too, as pieces of the storm migrate inland.
"The threat for dangerous flash flooding will push northeast over the coming days," the NWS wrote in a tweet on Tuesday.
Plastic bags have become an epidemic in Kenya, but as of today they are banned from use in the country by one of the most stringent laws in the world. Violations of the law are punishable by fines of up to $38,000 and up to four years in prison.
Kenya's Plastic Bag Ban
Kenya’s ban on plastic bags went into effect on August 28, with offenders subject to serious fines or jail time. The ban covers the use, importation, or manufacture of plastic bags. Although it was passed in February, the new ban didn’t go into effect until this month so that Kenyan consumers would have the chance to adjust to the change. The delay also gave importers a chance to challenge the ban in court, which were ultimately rejected by the country’s High Court.
This makes Kenya one of dozens of countries and cities (such as New Delhi, India) that have restricted, levied, or completely banned the use of plastic bags. Kenya’s law, however, is notably harsh: imposing fines of up to $38,000 (32,000 euros) and prison sentences of up to four years. Neither plastic bin liners nor plastic-wrapped goods violate the law.
Plastic Waste Epidemic
The law is an important step in Kenya, where supermarkets alone distribute as many as 100 million plastic bags annually, according to UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Throughout the country, roads and trees are often covered with discarded plastic bags — which end up blocking drains and choking wild and livestock animals. Off the Kenyan coast, islands of plastic waste are detrimental to fish and other aquatic life.
This plastic waste problem is not limited to Kenya, though: a recent study found that almost 75 percent of British beaches were polluted with deadly plastic waste. A huge, Texas-sized patch of plastic waste was found in the Pacific recently, and this isn’t the only such example of plastic pollution in our oceans. While researchers are working to come up with creative solutions —such as recycled plastic roads and use of plastic-eating caterpillars — it is essential for other countries to follow Kenya’s example.
As its murky waters continue to flood homes and overwhelm barriers, Tropical Storm Harvey has already set a major record: the most rainfall ever from a single storm in the continental United States.
In less than a week, Harvey's rainfall total reached 49.32 inches in Friendsworth, Texas, southeast of Houston. That's about as much rain as the metropolitan region normally sees in a year. As of Tuesday evening, Cedar Bayou, Texas (east of Houston) recorded 51.88 inches, the Associated Press reported.
The record rainfall has caused the Houston metro area's 2017 total to soar — likely above 80 inches, and climbing. Here's how that compares to past years:
How the rains got so bad
In the 56 hours before Harvey made landfall, it transitioned from a tropical depression to a major hurricane. Its move across a pocket of warm water in the Gulf launched it into a Category 4 storm.
Between Saturday evening and Sunday morning, a string of storms east of the center of the hurricane remained over Houston, bringing repeated bursts of rain — up to six inches in some areas.
Those storms continued to pour down precipitation through Tuesday evening. The city of Beaumont, for example, received just over an inch of rain in just 26 minutes early Tuesday morning, The Weather Channel reported.
Unlike earlier tropical storms, which have generally dissipated or moved, Harvey has been wedged in place by two high-pressure areas which essentially act as buffers.
"Even compared to other tropical cyclones, the rain from Harvey has been very hard, and gone for a very long time," Russ Schumacher, an associate professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University, wrote in a post for The Conversation.
Experts think the storm should head northeast later in the week, however, as one of those high pressure systems finally gives way. Still, it's not over yet. Meteorologists expect to see several more days of heavy rain, mostly in regions that are already inundated.
Harvey has pummeled Texas with rain since the storm made landfall on Friday, leaving Houston and other areas underwater.
By Tuesday, more than 49 inches of rain had fallen in parts of Houston. Tens of thousands of people have taken refuge in shelters while they wait for the floodwaters to recede. The coastal areas of Rockport and Port Aransas, which are close to where the storm first made landfall, were heavily damaged; the second landfall on Wednesday morning caused dramatic flooding in Beaumont and Port Arthur as well.
The Associated Press flew over the Houston area on Tuesday — here's what the destruction looked like from the air.
The storm submerged entire neighborhoods, like this area in Humble, Texas, next to Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Some homes, like this one in Houston, were covered up to their roofs on Tuesday.
Houses built on a higher elevation, like this one in Houston, fared better — though the surrounding land and roadways were still inundated.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider