President Trump on Tuesday told Puerto Rico officials they should feel “very proud” they haven’t lost thousands of lives like in “a real catastrophe like Katrina,” while adding that the devastated island territory has thrown the nation’s budget “a little out of whack.”
“Every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous — hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here, with really a storm that was just totally overpowering, nobody’s ever seen anything like this,” Trump said, before turning to a local official to ask how many people had died in storm. “What is your death count as of this moment? 17? 16 people certified, 16 people versus in the thousands.”
“I think it’s now acknowledged what a great job we’ve done, and people are looking at that,” he said. “And in Texas and in Florida, we get an A-plus. And I’ll tell you what, I think we’ve done just as good in Puerto Rico, and it’s actually a much tougher situation. But now the roads are cleared, communications is starting to come back. We need their truck drivers to start driving trucks.”
Video, just in case anyone is making up quotes that show the President as a sociopathic man-child:
It's one thing to make a joke. It's quite another to make a joke like that, in that place, when so many people are already unhappy with your cavalier attitude.
The New York Times talked to people on the American island of Vieques and has this report on the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria two weeks ago:
The 9,000 people living on this island eight miles east of the Puerto Rican mainland have been largely cut off from the world for 11 days since Hurricane Maria hit, with no power or communications and, for many, no running water. People scan the skies and the sea hoping to sight the emergency aid that has been arriving drip by drip, on boats, in helicopters or in the bellies of eight-seat propeller planes.
“We’re on this island, we can’t get off it,” Aleida Tolentino, 56, said on Saturday, as she gazed out over the brown hillsides of uprooted trees and branches stripped of every leaf, with rain rolling in from the east.
The grinding lack of electricity and communications services has created archipelagos of isolation across Puerto Rico. Dozens of towns and neighborhoods, from the coffee-growing mountains to the industrial shoals of the capital, are now virtual islands unto themselves, stranded by destroyed roads, downed cables and splintered cellphone towers.
Even death is an emergency. On Saturday morning, Marlon Esquilín, the funeral director in Isabel Segunda, opened the doors of his hearse to pull out the blackbagged body of an older woman who had died of natural causes the night before.
Someone stole his generator, so he has no power to embalm bodies, and no way to keep them cold in storage. The hospital’s backup generator was also stolen, he said, so he cannot keep bodies there either.
The island has been blasted back to the 19th Century. If only it were part of the United States, then maybe we could help them. Oh, wait...
Chicago is having its 7th consecutive day of 32°C-plus heat, including 5 straight days above 33°C, a new record for this late in the season. Fortunately, a cold front is marching across the prairie and promises to bring a 15°C temperature drop overnight and high temperatures in the 20s for the rest of the week.
We didn't have a horrible summer here. So we're not thrilled that the crisp, cool days of autumn have been delayed a full month. But tomorrow we can open our windows again.
It can get warm in Chicago in September, but not usually this warm. The forecast today calls for 34°C with a dewpoint above 21°C, the epitome of the worst July weather we get here.
The culprits are the tropical systems currently destroying islands in the Atlantic. A dome of unseasonably warm air has stalled over the eastern US and Canada, because Jose and Maria are dumping energy into the air right off shore.
So, today's temperatures will be 12°C above normal and will likely surpass the record 33°C set in 1970. Same tomorrow. Saturday and Sunday will also be hot but probably not quite as hot—though, I have to say, 31°C still really sucks the day after the September equinox.
The gross weather pattern should clear out by Wednesday. I really hope so; I want autumn.
Update: Yesterday's 33.3°C high also broke a record (32.7°C set in 1933).
Hurricane Maria's eye passed directly over Vieques earlier this morning and has now struck Puerto Rico proper:
Hurricane Maria roared ashore Wednesday as the strongest storm to strike Puerto Rico in more than 80 years, knocking out power to nearly the entire island and leaving frightened people huddled in buildings hoping to ride out withstand powerhouse winds that have already left death and devastation across the Caribbean.
The storm first slammed the coast near Yabucoa at 6:15 a.m. as a Category 4 hurricane with 250 km/h winds — the first Category 4 storm to directly strike the island since 1932. By midmorning, Maria had fully engulfed the 160-km-long island as winds snapped palm trees, peeled off rooftops, sent debris skidding across beaches and roads, and cut power to nearly the entire island.
In an unfortunate twist, some residents of Vieques had stocked up on critical supplies in advance of Irma only to donate what they had left to harder-hit areas such as Tortola and St. Thomas. Residents rushed to restock before deliveries to the island stopped and the power flickered off yet again.
There isn't much news coming out of Vieques yet, but having been there less than a year ago, I can't imagine that much of it remains standing. The shops and restaurants on Calle Flamboyan are (were?) less than 50 m from the beach, and barely 3 m above the Caribbean. I hope everyone got out OK.
This hurricane season may not break records for numbers or aggregate storm severity, but it will probably do so for destruction and cost. With St Martin and Barbuda all but destroyed, it looks like Vieques and Culebra are next:
Hurricane Maria went through an astonishingly quick transformation from a minimal hurricane to a Category 5 monster in less than 24 hours. As of 9 p.m. ET [Monday], Maria had maximum sustained winds of 250 km/h, and the island of Dominica was right in the path of the worst of the storm's winds.
The National Hurricane Center has warned Maria is now a "potentially catastrophic" storm. This is the only Category 5 storm to strike Dominica on record, and may be among the fastest rates of intensification of any hurricane on record.
The National Weather Service office in San Juan issued a statement on Monday afternoon warning of the massive threat this storm poses to the island. The winds alone could cause locations to be "uninhabitable for weeks or months," the Weather Service stated, in addition to warning of a potentially deadly storm surge along the coast.
I visited Vieques in November, and I've visited St Martin twice before. I hope both islands recover quickly.
Note to Scott Adams and other climate-change deniers: The intensity and destruction of this year's hurricanes don't prove human-caused climate change. They are predicted consequences of human-caused climate change. By "predicted" I mean that, 20 or 30 years ago, climatologists warned this is exactly what would happen as the planet got warmer.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said yesterday that Hurricane Irma caused "enormous devastation," leaving the island without gas or electricity:
Most communications with the outside world are being conducted via the military, he said, adding that there was “no clarity” on victims.
The Dutch navy, which has two ships stationed off the coast of the island, tweeted images gathered by helicopter showing damaged houses, hotels and boats.
French authorities have counted at least eight dead on the French side of the island.
Photo of Princess Juliana Airport, looking south; Dutch Dept. of Defense.
An official said that 95% of the island was destroyed, rendering the island uninhabitable.
Irma's winds, estimated at 280 km/h when it hit St Martin, mean it had the strength of an EF4 tornado.
And Hurricane Jose, with sustained winds of 240 km/h, is forecast to hit St Martin by 8pm AST tomorrow—about 12 hours before Hurricane Irma hits Florida head-on.
I've visited St Martin/Sint Maarten twice, once in 2009 and again in 2014. It's unclear when I or anyone will spend a vacation there in future, because this morning the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic smashed directly into the island.
At 8:43 AST, the Guardian posted these videos.
Twitter user Kurt Siegelin posted this video at 9:12 AST.
As of 9:30 AST,
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb also said that government buildings on the island of Saint Martin - the most sturdy built there - had been destroyed.
“We know that the four most solid buildings on the island have been destroyed which means that more rustic structures have probably been completely or partially destroyed,” he told reporters.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico is bracing for impact as most models forecast the eye to pass just north of San Juan:
This is the first Category-5 storm to hit Puerto Rico since 1928, and is significantly more powerful.
The forecast track puts the storm in South Florida on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Jose is right behind Irma, but forecast to pass northeast of the Windward Islands over the weekend. And Tropical Storm Katia is about to blow across southern Mexico.
I'll be following all three closely this week.
A new paper in the journal Theoretical and Applied Climatology tries to replicate the most-referenced papers in the 3% minority that find alternate explanations for human-caused global warming. Turns out, the deniers are still looking for their Galileo:
This new study was authored by Rasmus Benestad, myself (Dana Nuccitelli), Stephan Lewandowsky, Katharine Hayhoe, Hans Olav Hygen, Rob van Dorland, and John Cook. Benestad (who did the lion’s share of the work for this paper) created a tool using the R programming language to replicate the results and methods used in a number of frequently-referenced research papers that reject the expert consensus on human-caused global warming. In using this tool, we discovered some common themes among the contrarian research papers.
Cherry picking was the most common characteristic they shared. We found that many contrarian research papers omitted important contextual information or ignored key data that did not fit the research conclusions.
We found that the ‘curve fitting’ approach also used in the Humlum paper is another common theme in contrarian climate research. ‘Curve fitting’ describes taking several different variables, usually with regular cycles, and stretching them out until the combination fits a given curve (in this case, temperature data). It’s a practice I discuss in my book, about which mathematician John von Neumann once said, "With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk."
This represents just a small sampling of the contrarian studies and flawed methodologies that we identified in our paper; we examined 38 papers in all. As we note, the same replication approach could be applied to papers that are consistent with the expert consensus on human-caused global warming, and undoubtedly some methodological errors would be uncovered. However, these types of flaws were the norm, not the exception, among the contrarian papers that we examined.
You can count the insurance industry among the groups that believe the science is settled. Insurers appear to have started looking at climate change as an inevitability, not a risk, which changes their models radically:
[F]lood insurance was not a lucrative business to begin with. Congress set up the National Flood Insurance Program in 1968 as it became clear that private companies couldn’t profitably provide coverage. Now, nearly half a century later, the program is—ahem—under water by $24.6 billion. As a result, there’s a push to move flood insurance toward the private market. That could mean less building in flood-prone areas, as they become effectively uninsurable thanks to sky-high rates. Says Morningstar’s Brett Horn: “Frankly, that’s not a bad outcome.”
Meanwhile, the second major hurricane of the season is heading for Florida...
Via WGN-TV, the fourth-largest city in the U.S. has received more rain in the last week than Chicago receives in an average year.
Chicago's average annual precipitation is 910 mm. Since last Friday, Houston has gotten 1,070 mm. The wettest year in Houston history (1900) dumped 1,851 mm on it. So far this year, with 4 months left to go, Houston has gotten 1,798 mm. Of course, the odds are pretty good that the city will get another 53 mm of rain before December 31st.
We have no idea how bad the damage is yet. The entire Houston Chronicle website is about the flood. At least the rain has stopped for now—but officials worry about additional reservoir overflows and levee breaks.
We're just beginning to understand the magnitude of this disaster. And with key Federal posts, including FEMA Director, yet to be filled, President Trump is so out of his depth one can only hope that state and local governments can help.