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Extreme weather checking Biden’s emergency management capabilities

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Extreme weather checking Biden’s emergency management capabilities

 

Add Mother Nature to the pile of disasters on President Joe Biden’s plate.

A month into the job and concentrating on the coronavirus, Biden is having his disaster management skills tested after winter storms plunged Texas, Oklahoma and neighbouring states into an unusual deep freeze that left millions shivering in homes that lost heat and electricity, and in many homes, water.

At least 59 deaths across the U.S. have been blamed on the blast of unseasonable weather.

Biden came into office Jan. 20 pledging to tackle a series of brewing crises, beginning with the coronavirus pandemic and its ripple impact on the economy. He tacked on structural inequality and climate change as top priorities. And now he’s contending with hurricanes that have not only imperilled Americans but also postponed the shipment and administration of millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines.

Biden said Friday that he plans to fly to Texas next week but doesn’t want his presence and the accompanying presidential entourage to detract from the recovery.

“They’re working like the devil to take care of their folks,” Biden said of Texas officials. He said he’d make a decision early next week about travel.

Biden, who offered himself during the campaign as the seasoned and empathetic candidate the nation needed at this moment in time, is working on many fronts to fix the crisis — and to avoid repeating the mistakes of predecessors who got tripped up by insufficient or insensitive responses in times of tragedy.

Part of the role of becoming president is reacting to the damage left behind by earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters, or incidents like deadly mass shootings, or even acts of terrorism.

Some have treated those circumstances better than others.

George W. Bush received praised for his leadership after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but failed during his administration’s halting response to the humanitarian crisis that occurred in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast four years later.

Barack Obama said he should have expected the blowback he received for going to the golf course right after he condemned the beheading of a kidnapped American journalist by Islamist militants in 2014. Obama was vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard at the time.

Donald Trump was blamed for throwing rolls of paper towels into a crowd of people in Puerto Rico who had experienced Hurricane Maria’s pummeling of the island in 2017. He defended tossing the towels, claiming the people were “having fun.”

Bill Clinton, who famously claimed during the 1992 presidential campaign that “I feel your pain,” was a natural at communicating with disaster victims.

Just this week, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas revealed how easily one bad move during a crisis can become a public relations nightmare for a politician.

Cruz came under attack for travelling to Mexico while his constituents struggled without fuel, heat and running water. He was especially panned by his explanation that his daughters pushed for the getaway because they were out of school. Cruz later said the trip was a mistake.

Biden has tweeted about Texas and the other affected states, while the White House has released several statements aimed at showing that the federal government is in charge of the situation.

The president is getting daily updates from his team and has proclaimed states of emergency in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. He said Friday that he will soon declare a major disaster in the state of Texas and that he has requested federal agencies to identify additional funding to address the suffering.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency also has sent hundreds of generators and supplies, including fuel, water, blankets and ready-to-eat meals, to the affected areas.

Biden has talked to the governors of the seven states most affected by the winter weather. He tweeted a picture of himself on the phone with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas.

Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, a loyal supporter of Trump’s, was quick to applaud Biden for swift action on a disaster declaration.

After speaking with Biden by telephone earlier this week, Stitt directly thanked the president for “taking the time to reach out this afternoon and offer the federal government’s help for Oklahomans. We had a very fruitful call and I look forward to working together to find solutions as we recover from this historic storm.”

Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, said Biden is “well-suited” to deal with the tragedy because of his decades of service in the U.S. Senate and as a former vice president and because of “his genuine concern for people.”

“He’s got to show empathy right off the bat,” Perry said in an interview. “It’s important for a president to go to a place that’s been battered, but be careful about the footprint. He doesn’t want to make it worse.”

Biden, should he decide to visit Texas next week, could also use the trip to stress his argument that climate change is real and must not go unaddressed, and that the state should do things like winterize its power plants to be better prepared for potential storms, Perry said.

But he should take sure to not do so in a scolding kind of way.

“We know he cares about climate change, and this is a way to convince people,” Perry said.

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This “bizarre” creature is a massive sunfish spotted near Laguna Beach

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This “bizarre” creature is a massive sunfish spotted near Laguna Beach

A pair of paddlers encountered a massive sunfish just a few hundred yards off Laguna Beach’s shoreline that could rival in size a Guinness World Record set in 1996.

Rich German and friend Matt Wheaton, both of Laguna Beach, set out on Thursday, Dec. 2, to enjoy the clear waters off the coast. They came across a massive mola mola, also known as sunfish, floating on the ocean’s surface.

“We were just paddling and all of a sudden we were like ‘Oh my god.’ That thing was massive,” said German, author of the book “Blue Laguna” and founder of the ocean conservation nonprofit Project O.  “Most of my encounters are with dolphins and whales, but you never know what you’re going to see.”

German, comparing to Wheaton’s 14-foot stand-up paddleboard, guessed the fish was close to 9 feet in length.

Once home, he found a Guinness World Record set in 1996 when a fisherman caught an 8-foot-11 mola mola that weighed 5,070 pounds off the coast of Japan. While that record was for the heaviest fish, which would be tough to compare with the sunfish the pair encountered off Laguna Beach, German said he thinks theirs could be longer in length and is hoping to consult with marine scientists to see if it could be measured based on the size of the board.

Julianne Steers, founding board member of the Beach Ecology Coalition, said the sunfish was larger than most seen here – she’s seen fish about 6- to 7-feet long. But whether it was a record-holder would be tough to tell.

“The only true way to know is if it was out and weighed and officially measured,” she said, noting that there’s some records up in Northern California of sunfish reaching 13-foot long. “But it does look much larger than what we typically see out here.”

She called the mola mola a “lumbering” fish that likes to lazily float on the ocean’s surface to bask in the sun, hence their nickname, eating jellyfish and salps.

The species looks like a mad scientist put them together with spare parts, Steers said. “It’s such an oddball kind of assembly of parts.”

The mola mola is also the largest fish in the world that has a skeleton structure, she said.

Scientists once thought the mola mola drifted with ocean currents, but they’ve been tracked in Southern California swimming 16 miles a day at a top speed of 2 mph, the Monterey Bay Aquarium says on its website.

“With its tank-like body, the mola was clearly not built for life in the fast lane. But it holds its own against faster and flashier fish and is able to live in almost all of the world’s oceans,” the aquarium says. “It’s known to spend time near the surface, but tagging shows that the mola is also a prolific diver and migrates long distances at depth.”

German said he has seen many mola molas through the years, but typically further offshore and about half the size of the one encountered just south of Main Beach.

“The first time I saw one, I didn’t know what it was. I thought it was a mutilated shark,” he said, noting the fish’s fin often stands up above the surface. “They are so bizarre looking. They just lay there.”

Even if it’s not an official record-setter, German is still soaking in the interesting encounter.

“I just know it was really big,” he said. “It was a unique and very cool thing to experience, and another example of why we need to protect the ocean and the amazing life that calls it home.”

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Pearl Harbor survivors gather on 80th anniversary of attack

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Pearl Harbor survivors gather on 80th anniversary of attack

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — A few dozen survivors of Pearl Harbor and other veterans gathered Tuesday at the site of the bombing 80 years ago to remember those killed in the attack by Japan that launched the U.S. into World War II.

The USS Chung-Hoon, a guided missile destroyer, passed in front of the pier with its sailors “manning the rails,” or lining the ship’s edge, to honor the World War II veterans present.

David Russell, a 101-year-old from Albany, Oregon, who survived the attack while on the USS Oklahoma, stood to salute to the destroyer on behalf of the veterans.

Herb Elfring, 99, said he was glad to return to Pearl Harbor considering he almost didn’t live through the aerial assault.

“It was just plain good to get back and be able to participate in the remembrance of the day,” Elfring told reporters over the weekend.

Elfring was in the Army, assigned to the 251st Coast Artillery, part of the California National Guard on Dec. 7, 1941. He recalled Japanese planes flying overhead and bullets strafing his Army base at Camp Malakole, a few miles down the coast from Pearl Harbor.

Elfring, who lives in Jackson, Michigan, said he has returned to Hawaii about 10 times to attend the annual memorial ceremony hosted by the Navy and the National Park Service.

About 30 survivors and about 100 other veterans of the war joined him this year. Veterans stayed home last year due to the coronavirus pandemic and watched a livestream of the event instead. Most attendees this year wore masks.

They observed a moment of silence at 7:55 a.m., the same minute the attack began decades ago.

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro recounted in his keynote address how Petty Officer 1st Class Joe George tossed a line to the USS Arizona that six men trapped by fire in the battleship’s control tower used to cross to his ship, the USS Vestal. Five of the six survived. Among them was Donald Stratton of Red Cloud, Nebraska, who died last year. Del Toro said he recently met with Stratton’s family.

“We sometimes talk about our victory in World War II as though it was inevitable. Only a matter of time. But there was nothing inevitable about one sailor’s decision to toss that line,” Del Toro said.

He said it took millions of individual acts of valor and courage at home and overseas to get the nation through the war.

The bombing killed more than 2,300 U.S. troops. Nearly half — or 1,177 — were Marines and sailors serving on the USS Arizona.

David Dilks, 95, traveled to Hawaii from Hatfield, Pennsylvania, with his son-in-law. Dilks enlisted out of high school in 1944, going from playing basketball one day to serving in the Navy the next.

Dilks said his battleship, the USS Massachusetts, bombarded targets like Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the Philippines during the war.

He recalls one day in March 1945 when he and his shipmates were watching the movie “Stage Door Canteen” on the ship’s fantail when a loud noise interrupted the film. They then saw a Japanese kamikaze plane crash into the USS Randolph aircraft carrier next to them.

“We never had a movie up topside after that,” he said.

Sitting at Pearl Harbor on the 80th anniversary of the attack, he said he’s thinking in particular about those that died.

“All of the sailors and soldiers who fought here — you should be proud of them. But more proud of those who didn’t make it,” he said.

Several women who helped the war effort by working in factories have come to Hawaii to participate in the remembrance this year.

Mae Krier, who built B-17s and B-29s at a Boeing plant in Seattle, said it took the world a while to credit women for their work.

“And we fought together as far as I’m concerned. But it took so long to honor what us women did. And so of course, I’ve been fighting hard for that, to get our recognition,” said Krier, who is now 95. “But it was so nice they finally started to honor us.”

This year’s ceremony took place as a strong storm with extremely heavy rains hit Hawaii, flooding roads and downing power lines. The ceremony was conducted under a pier with a metal roof. Skies were overcast but it was not raining during the ceremony.

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Denver weather: Will it finally snow this week? Here’s what to expect.

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Denver weather: Pleasant Saturday, windy Sunday, chance for snow Tuesday

It’s been a long time coming but Denver may finally get its first snow of the season. Although it’s very late and we’ve waited nearly a record number of days in between accumulating snows, the streak could come to an end this week.

The weather this season has been concerning. The overall lack of snow and precipitation, in general, is enough to have sent Denver back into severe drought. While the upcoming storm isn’t going to be a blockbuster, it is at least something and any kind of moisture is very much needed.

Denver as of Tuesday has gone 231 days without seeing measurable snow. The only year with a longer span between measurable snows in Denver was all the way back in 1887 when the city went 235 days without accumulating snow. With the way this forecast may pan out, it’s possible we could get a tenth of an inch of snow Thursday, which would snap the streak at 233 days. It is more likely Denver will receive measurable snow Friday, meaning we will fall one day shy of the all-time record. Regardless of when snow officially happens, it has been a very long time since Denver has seen snow.

The record latest date of the first snow in Denver has come and gone and is almost a distant memory at this point.

Latest first snow dates in Denver

1) 2021 — TBD
2) 1934 — Nov. 21
3) 1931 — Nov. 19
4) 2016 — Nov. 17
5) 1894 — Nov. 16

FORECAST

A cold front associated with this system will push across the region late Thursday night into Friday morning. Above-average temperatures are expected Thursday before the cold front moves in, so we have nice weather expected until then.

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