MIAMI (AP) — Florida residents picked the shelves clean of bottled water and lined up at gas stations Thursday as an increasingly menacing-looking Hurricane Dorian threatened to broadside the state over Labor Day weekend.
Leaving lighter-than-expected damage in its wake in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, the second hurricane of the 2019 season swirled toward the U.S., with forecasters warning it will draw energy from the warm, open waters as it closes in.
The National Hurricane Center said the Category 1 storm is expected to strengthen into a potentially catastrophic Category 4 with winds of 130 mph (209 kph) and slam into the U.S. on Monday somewhere between the Florida Keys and southern Georgia — a 500-mile (805-kilometer) stretch that reflected the high degree of uncertainty this far out.
„If it makes landfall as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane, that’s a big deal,” said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy. „A lot of people are going to be affected. A lot of insurance claims.”
President Donald Trump canceled his weekend trip to Poland and warned Florida residents to be prepared.
„All indications are it’s going to hit very hard and it’s going to be very big,” Trump said in a video he tweeted Thursday evening, comparing Dorian to Hurricane Andrew, which devastated South Florida in 1992.
With the storm’s track still unclear, no immediate mass evacuations were ordered.
Along Florida’s east coast, local governments began distributing sandbags, shoppers rushed to stock up on food, plywood and other emergency supplies at supermarkets and hardware stores, and motorists topped off their tanks and filled gasoline cans. Some fuel shortages were reported in the Cape Canaveral area.
Josefine Larrauri, a retired translator, went to a Publix supermarket in Miami only to find empty shelves in the water section and store employees unsure of when more cases would arrive.
„I feel helpless because the whole coast is threatened,” she said. „What’s the use of going all the way to Georgia if it can land there?”
Tiffany Miranda of Miami Springs waited well over 30 minutes in line at BJ’s Wholesale Club in Hialeah to buy hurricane supplies. Some 50 vehicles were bumper-to-bumper, waiting to fill up at the store’s 12 gas pumps.
„You never know with these hurricanes. It could be good, it could be bad. You just have to be prepared,” she said.
As of Thursday evening, Dorian was centered about 330 miles (531 kilometers) east of the Bahamas, its winds blowing at 85 mph (137 kph) as it moved northwest at 13 mph (21 kph).
It is expected to pick up steam as it pushes out into warm waters with favorable winds, the University of Miami’s McNoldy said, adding: „Starting tomorrow, it really has no obstacles left in its way.”
The National Hurricane Center’s projected track had the storm blowing ashore midway along the Florida peninsula, southeast of Orlando and well north of Miami or Fort Lauderdale. But because of the difficulty of predicting its course this far ahead, the „cone of uncertainty” covered nearly the entire state.
Forecasters said coastal areas of the Southeast could get 5 to 10 inches (13 to 25 centimeters) of rain, with 15 inches (38 centimeters) in some places, triggering life-threatening flash floods.
Also imperiled were the Bahamas, with Dorian’s expected track running just to the north of Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands.
Jeff Byard, an associate administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, warned that Dorian is likely to „create a lot of havoc with infrastructure, power and roads,” but gave assurances FEMA is prepared to handle it, even though the Trump administration is shifting hundreds of millions of dollars from FEMA and other agencies to deal with immigration at the Mexican border.
„This is going to be a big storm. We’re prepared for a big response,” Byard said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency, clearing the way to bring in more fuel and call out the National Guard if necessary, and Georgia’s governor followed suit.
Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian began rerouting their cruise ships. Major airlines began allowing travelers to change their reservations without a fee.
At the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, NASA decided to move indoors the mobile launch platform for its new mega rocket under development.
A Rolling Stones concert Saturday at the Hard Rock Stadium near Miami was moved up to Friday night.
The hurricane season typically peaks between mid-August and late October. One of the most powerful storms ever to hit the U.S. was on Labor Day 1935. The unnamed Category 5 hurricane crashed ashore along Florida’s Gulf Coast on Sept. 2. It was blamed for over 400 deaths.
Dorian rolled through the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as a Category 1 hurricane on Wednesday.
The initial blow did not appear to be as bad as expected in Puerto Rico, which is still recovering from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria two years ago. Blue tarps cover some 30,000 homes, and the electrical grid is in fragile condition.
But the tail end of the storm unleashed heavy flooding along the eastern and southern coasts of Puerto Rico. Cars, homes and gravestones in the coastal town of Humacao became halfway submerged after a river burst its banks.
Police said an 80-year-old man in the town of Bayamón died after he fell trying to climb to his roof to clear it of debris ahead of the storm.
Dorian caused an island-wide blackout in St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands and scattered outages in St. Croix, government spokesman Richard Motta said.
No serious damage was reported in the British Virgin Islands, where Gov. Augustus Jaspert said crews were already clearing roads and inspecting infrastructure by late Wednesday afternoon.
Back in Florida, Mark and Gisa Emeterio enjoyed a peaceful afternoon sunbathing and wading in the ocean at Vero Beach. The newly retired couple from Sacramento, California, wanted to relax after spending the morning shuttering their home.
Mark, a retired pipe layer, and Gina, a retired state employee, planned to wait it out the storm with local friends more experienced with hurricanes.
„We got each other,” Mark Emeterio said. „So we’re good.”
„I told him, ‘Whatever happens, hold my hand,'” his wife joked.
Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein and Michael Balsamo in Washington; Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Marcia Dunn in Cape Canaveral, Florida; Marcus Lim in Miami; Ellis Rua in Vero Beach and Mike Schneider in Orlando, Florida, contributed to this report.
Hurricane Dorian is on track to strengthen to a powerful Category 4 hurricane with possible life-threatening storm surge and dangerous winds as it slams into Florida’s east coast at the end of Labor Day weekend, forecasters said Thursday.
„Strengthening is forecast during the next few days, and Dorian is expected to become a major hurricane on Friday,” the National Hurricane Center said. Landfall on Monday is possible anywhere between the Florida Keys and southern Georgia, forecasters said.
Dorian is expected to slow as it approaches Florida, but forecasters say it’s too soon to determine where the greatest impacts will be.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for all of the state’s 67 counties in Dorian’s possible path and said he spoke with President Donald Trump about storm preparations.
Your go-to gadgets: The tech you need at hand when disaster strikes
„Every Florida resident should have seven days of supplies, including food, water and medicine, and should have a plan in case of disaster,” DeSantis said in a statement.
Trump said Thursday that he is canceling his planned trip to Poland this weekend to „ensure that all resources of the federal government are focused on” confronting Dorian as it heads toward the East Coast.
„We have the best people in the world ready, and they’re going to help you,” Trump said in a recorded message on Twitter. „We’re shipping food, we’re shipping water. But it may be that you’re going to evacuate. We’re going to see what happens.”
Shoppers in Florida rushed to stores to buy bottled water and wooden boards. Lines began forming at gas stations, too.
Josefine Larrauri, a retired translator, went to a Publix supermarket in Miami only to find empty shelves in the water section and store employees unsure of when new cases would arrive.
“I feel helpless because the whole coast is threatened,” she said. “What’s the use of going all the way to Georgia if it can land there?”
Dorian left the Caribbean relatively unscathed as it pushed past Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands on Wednesday.
At 5 p.m. Thursday, Dorian was about 330 miles east of the southeastern Bahamas and heading northwest at 13 mph. With winds up to 85 mph, Dorian was a Category 1 hurricane but was forecast to reach 130 mph as it approached Florida on Monday.
Back-up batteries, flashlights: What you need when disaster strikes
Threats of storm surge, powerful winds and heavy rains all loomed for Florida and the Bahamas, though the hurricane’s exact path as it nears the U.S. remains uncertain.
In the coastal city of St. Augustine, southeast of Jacksonville, Jay Cannon told the St. Augustine Record he was worried about power outages but not about hurricane preparations.
“If it gets bad, we’ll leave,” Cannon said. “But we’ve got plenty of water and plenty of beer.”
Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center, said Thursday that the storm would be slow moving as it approaches land, meaning it could dump more rain and bring more wind across Florida. He said tropical-storm force winds are set to arrive Sunday, so preparations to board windows and stock up on supplies need to be done through Saturday.
Mark and Gisa Emeterio spent Thursday afternoon sunbathing in Vero Beach after following directions to shutter their home in the morning. The newly retired couple from California planned to wait out the storm with local friends more experienced with hurricanes.
“We got each other,” Mark Emeterio said. “So we’re good.”
“I told him, ‘Whatever happens, hold my hand,’” his wife joked.
Parts of the southeastern U.S. could be drenched in 4 to 8 inches of rainfall, with isolated patches up to a foot, possibly causing „life-threatening flash floods,” the weather service said.
Models of the storm’s possible track after landfall vary, but many maps show a turn north, possibly up the East Coast or out to sea.
In a tweet Thursday morning, Trump described Puerto Rico as „in great shape” after the storm’s fury largely avoided the island. However, he warned Floridians to prepare.
„Florida get ready! Storm is building and will be BIG!” he tweeted.
Officials in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands breathed a sigh of relief as they assessed minimal impacts from Dorian.
„We’re happy because there are no damages to report,” said William Solís, the mayor of Culebra, a small Puerto Rican island. One community lost power, he said.
Too late for insurance?What travelers need to know about Hurricane Dorian
Islandwide blackouts affected St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and St. Croix had scattered outages, government spokesman Richard Motta said.
Similarly, the British Virgin Islands saw no major damage, Gov. Augustus Jaspert said.
Meanwhile, far off the mid-Atlantic coast, Post-Tropical Cyclone Erin continued to move northeast. It could hit parts of Canada as a weaker storm Friday, forecasters said.
Contributing: Jeff Burlew, Tallahassee Democrat; Kristin Lam, USA TODAY; The Associated Press.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hurricane Dorian forecast to hit Florida as Category 4 storm Labor Day
After walloping the Caribbean as a tropical storm, Hurricane Dorian is forecast to hit somewhere along the east coast of Florida this weekend.
And forecasters warn that Dorian could be a treacherous storm.
Along much of Florida’s east coast, as the storm approached, shoppers rushed to stock up on food and emergency supplies at supermarkets and hardware stores and picked the shelves clean of bottled water. Lines formed at service stations as motorists topped off their tanks and filled gasoline cans.
Keep up with Hurricane Dorian: Get USA TODAY’s Daily Briefing in your inbox
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for 26 counties in Dorian’s possible path and said he spoke with President Donald Trump on Wednesday evening about storm preparations.
Here are five things that make Dorian a dangerous hurricane:
It’s forecast to strengthen to a Category 4 hurricane
The latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center said Dorian is expected to reach Category 4 strength as it approaches Florida over the weekend: „With lower shear and very warm waters, all of the intensity models forecast Dorian to begin strengthening again soon, and rapid intensification could occur. … Dorian is likely to reach major hurricane strength in the next day or two and is forecast to maintain that status until it reaches land.”
If it hits as a Category 4, with winds of 130 mph, the damage could be catastrophic: „Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls,” the hurricane center said. „Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed.”
A hit from a Category 4 hurricane means that „power outages will last for weeks to possibly months, and long-term water shortages will increase human suffering. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”
It could hit anywhere along the east coast of Florida – or even Georgia or the Carolinas
Although the current forecast shows landfall along the east coast of Florida, there is a chance the storm could curve up the coast before hitting land, perhaps even tracking into Georgia or the Carolinas.
The hurricane center said that the track guidance becomes less clear beyond 72 hours, primarily because of model differences in the strength of a ridge of high pressure over the Atlantic that will determine Dorian’s path.
„The spread of the … models and the various guidance is still considerable at days 4 and 5, and it is too soon to specify where along the Florida east coast the greatest impacts could occur,” the hurricane center said.
AccuWeather senior meteorologist Adam Douty said that „a very small fluctuation in the overall weather pattern will have a large influence in where Dorian ultimately tracks and how it impacts the continental U.S.”
There’s a risk of life-threatening storm surge
Storm surge – the surge of seawater that comes ashore as a hurricane makes landfall – is often the deadliest and most destructive part of a storm. In fact, only 8% of hurricane-related deaths are caused by strong winds. Almost half are because of storm surge, the Weather Channel said.
The hurricane center warns that „there is an increasing likelihood of life-threatening storm surge along portions of the Florida east coast late this weekend or early next week, although it is too soon to determine where the highest storm surge will occur. Residents should have their hurricane plan in place, know if they are in a hurricane evacuation zone, and listen to advice given by local emergency officials.”
It could make a second landfall
Though it’s forecast to hit somewhere along the east coast of Florida, there „is certainly a chance that the storm could drift into the Gulf of Mexico and produce a second landfall,” noted University of Georgia meteorologist Marshall Shepherd in Forbes.
„For now, the entire Florida and Southeast coastal community should be on alert. Even if you live in the eastern Gulf Coast states, I wouldn’t completely take my eyes off of the storm yet,” Shepherd said.
South Florida is already sodden from an extremely wet August
It’s been a soggy month and summer in south Florida, so any rain that falls from Dorian will hasten and exacerbate flooding. How wet? Both Miami and West Palm Beach have seen over a foot of rainfall this month, which is about twice as much as average, the National Weather Service said.
And regardless of the exact track of Dorian, heavy rains are expected to occur over portions of the Bahamas, Florida and elsewhere in the southeastern United States this weekend and into the middle of next week. The hurricane center warns that as much as a foot of rain could fall from Dorian across the southeastern U.S.
„Dorian’s slower movement as it nears the coast could cause major flooding,” the Weather Channel said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hurricane Dorian: Dangerous storm forecast to become Category 4
(Bloomberg) — As the fires ravaging Brazil’s Amazon stoke global outrage, its neighbors are also scorching, ripping up and poisoning their forests — largely under the radar.
Bolivia and Peru have seen faster growth in the number of fires this year than Brazil, as illegal miners, ranchers and cocaine producers continue to wreak havoc.
The 2.5 million square-mile Amazon is being attacked on all sides, with fires claiming an area equivalent to dozens of soccer pitches every hour in Brazil alone. At the deforestation rates seen in recent years, the whole forest will lose an area about the size of Virginia over the next decade according to Michael T. Coe, senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center.
That’s endangering an eco-system that not only hosts a vast and largely unknown share of the world’s biodiversity but also helps regulate the continent’s climate.
Fires have multiplied in Brazil as loggers and farmers, emboldened by President Jair Bolsonaro’s disdain for environmental oversight, set ablaze land cleared earlier this year. Countries like Colombia, Peru and Bolivia aren’t encouraging deforestation, but lack resources and political will to enforce existing regulations, according to Carolina Gil, an attorney for environmental protection group Amazon Conservation.
“The current crisis in Brazil is just the tip of the iceberg,” Gil said.
Continued destruction threatens to turn dense forests into scrub-land covered in shrubs and weeds, she added, wrecking a region which provides a home to tens of thousands of animal and plant species, and roughly one-fifth of the world’s fresh water.
Colombia, which has the largest swath of the Amazon after Brazil and Peru, lost 530,400 acres (215,000 hectares) of the rainforest in 2017, according to satellite data monitored by Amazon Conservation. Brazil, which has about six times as much of the jungle, has been losing about 1.58 million acres a year.
Meanwhile, cultivation of coca plants, the raw material for cocaine, more than quadrupled in Colombia between 2012 and 2017. Farmers often slash down forest in national parks to plant illegal crops in remote parts of the country where the government’s presence is weak or non-existent.
Mercury used by informal gold miners also continually seeps into the rivers in Colombia’s Amazon, poisoning fish.
Colombia’s environment ministry didn’t reply to a written request for comment.
Brazil has experienced more than 83,000 fires so far this year, up 77% from the same period last year, according to the country’s National Institute for Space Research, known as Inpe. Meanwhile, Bolivia and Peru have seen their number of fires roughly double during the same period.
In Bolivia, where nearly 19,000 fires have destroyed more than 1 million acres of forest this year, left-wing President Evo Morales has mobilized firefighters and used a Boeing 747 Supertanker to fight the blazes.
Bolivia’s environment ministry and presidential press office did not return phone calls and emails seeking comment. Morales on Sunday said he was open to international help to put out fires and called for a summit between countries that make up the Amazon to “coordinate immediate actions and long-term plans,” according to a statement.
Peru’s environment ministry didn’t reply to an email seeking comment.
Brazil’s neighbors don’t share Bolsonaro’s belligerence, or hostility to environmental protection, but their record isn’t much better, said Rodrigo Botero, director for the Foundation for Conservation and Sustainable Development in Colombia.
“You can see across the region that the pressures in countries like Bolivia, which is suffering huge losses, or Paraguay are the same as in Brazil,” he said. “It’s not a question of left or right.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Matthew Bristow in Bogota at firstname.lastname@example.org;Ezra Fieser in Bogota at email@example.com
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RABAT, Morocco (AP) — A flash flood swept across a soccer field in a southern Moroccan village, killing at least seven people watching a local match, the official MAP news agency said Thursday.
Heavy rainfall caused a nearby river to swell Wednesday, pushing torrents of water over the field in Tizert, in the Taroudant region, where an amateur match was being played.
Spectators scrambled for their lives, some climbing on roofs, but at least seven people died, including a 17-year-old boy, MAP reported. An elderly man was injured.
Government spokesman Mostapha El Khalfi said the dead include one person whose body was still missing. He said the government is set to take flood-control measures to better handle adverse weather conditions. He didn’t elaborate.
An official investigation has been opened.
Among the victims was recently married Hanafi Hilali, 35, who was seeking refuge on top of a dressing room but was swept away by the raging waters, his brother Mohamed Hilali told The Associated Press.
The two had become trapped on the field, but Mohammed raced to rescue his son and his cousin, both young children.
„What happened was horrific, shocking. I could not return to rescue my brother,” he said in a phone interview, weeping as he recounted the scene.
Ahmad Afif, organizer of the game, described how he was on the roof of the changing rooms alongside a group of dozens of fans when they received phone calls from a nearby village warning them of the flooding river.
„We were actually excited. The river didn’t fill up for decades and we wanted to capture it in videos. As we were filming, some of us realized that the river was actually very strong and could lead to damages and so they fled to safety. Those who remained got swept away by it.”
Afif was one of those who had fled to a safe space away from the river, but near enough to see those he left behind struggle for their lives.
„We saw our brothers, our sons, our cousins dying. They were screaming at us for help, looking at us in desperation, but we couldn’t do anything to help.”
Morocco’s national weather service had warned of the risks of bad weather in several regions of the country.
Heavy rains in remote regions of the North African kingdom left 15 people dead in July. Their van was buried under 20 meters (65 feet) of earth in a landslide triggered by heavy rainfall on a route south of Marrakech.
DETROIT (AP) — The number of people killed by drivers running red lights has hit a 10-year high, and AAA is urging drivers and pedestrians to use caution at traffic signals.
In 2017, the latest figures available, 939 people were killed by vehicles blowing through red lights, according to a AAA study of government crash data.
It’s the highest death toll since 2008 and 28% higher than in 2012. AAA says two people are killed every day in the U.S. by drivers who don’t stop for the signals.
„Drivers who decide to run a red light when they could have stopped safely are making a reckless choice that puts other road users in danger,” David Yang, executive director of AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety, said Thursday.
AAA isn’t sure why the numbers are on the rise or why they have increased at a far higher rate than overall U.S. roadway deaths. Since 2012 the overall number of highway fatalities rose 10%, far short of the 28% increase in red-light running deaths.
There are more people driving more miles since the Great Recession, but that doesn’t explain why red-light deaths are increasing at a faster rate, said Brian Tefft, senior researcher for the AAA Foundation. He said he suspects distracted driving played a role, as did traffic lights that weren’t timed optimally, perhaps with a yellow caution cycle that’s too short.
„I wish we had a better answer than we do,” he said, adding that the answer was beyond the scope of the data in the study of fatal crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In its analysis, AAA also found that 28% of crash deaths at intersections with signals happened because a driver ran a red light.
The automobile club recommends that governments increase use of red light cameras directly supervised by authorities in order to boost enforcement where needed and not to raise revenue.
It also says drivers should prepare to stop as they are entering an intersection and tap their brakes while approaching a light to warn other drivers of a possible stop. AAA also recommends waiting a second after a light changes to green before proceeding, and checking to make sure crossing traffic has stopped.
For pedestrians and cyclists, AAA recommends taking a few seconds to make sure traffic has stopped before crossing a street. It also says to be visible, make eye contact with drivers and stay alert by not wearing headphones while walking or riding.
(Bloomberg) — After slipping past Puerto Rico, Hurricane Dorian is heading with gathering force toward Florida’s east coast where it may bring 115 mile-per-hour winds and drenching rain when it hits there sometime early next week.
Dorian is set to be the first major hurricane to slam into Florida’s east coast in 15 years. It reached St. Croix and St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands Wednesday afternoon, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, and is expected to stay over the water, gaining strength in its northwest march toward Florida.
While Puerto Rico’s east end saw heavy rain from the storm’s outer bands, the main part of the island remained largely unaffected, easing concern Dorian might further devastate an island still recovering from Hurricane Maria’s 155 mph winds in 2017. Now, Florida is in Dorian’s crosshairs, spurring concern from residents, vacationers and citrus farmers.
“Really anybody from Miami to Myrtle Beach has to be on guard for this,” said Jake Sojda, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. The error rate for storm projections five days out is usually about 200 miles, he said.
While the official forecast has Dorian reaching Category 3 strength, Ryan Truchelut, president of Weather Tiger LLC in Tallahassee, Florida, said it could grow stronger as it approaches central or southern Florida early next week.
“I am looking at the environment that this is going to be in, and I don’t see what is going to limit it to just a Category 3,” Truchelut said by telephone. “A Category 3 is probably a fairly conservative estimate at this point.”
Heavy rain was hitting the U.S. Virgin Islands Wednesday afternoon, with sustained winds of around 80 mph, the National Hurricane Center reported at 5 p.m. New York time. The high winds extended outward up to 15 miles, according to the center, with lesser winds reaching 80 miles outward. The storm’s outer bands are expected to produce 4 inches to 6 inches of rain in eastern Puerto Rico, the center reported.
Once it gets north of the islands, “all indications are it will go through at least one period of rapid intensification over the next two days, and be a major hurricane by the end of the week,” said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground, an IBM business.
The last major hurricane to make landfall along the central coast of Florida carrying winds of 111 mph or more was Jeanne in 2004, said Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher with Colorado State University. Dorian is threatening to become the strongest storm to hit anywhere in Florida since Hurricane Michael last year.
If Dorian moves into central Florida, citrus growers “should be concerned because the event would bring a lot of rain and probably strong winds,” said Donald Keeney, senior agricultural meteorologist at Gaithersburg, Maryland-based Maxar. The state’s biggest producing counties include Hendry, DeSoto, Polk and Highlands, all located in that region.
Dan Richey, president and chief executive officer at Riverfront Packing Co. in Vero Beach, has reasons to be concerned. His company, which has 4,000 acres planted mostly with grapefruit, oranges and lemons, was last hit badly in 2004 by hurricanes Jeanne and Frances, when the company lost between 60% to 70% of the crop.
While Dorian is a smaller storm, “if it follows the current path, it will be quite devastating and impactful to the entire industry,” he said in a telephone interview. His company is draining fields in preparation for a deluge, he said. Orange-juice futures in New York rose to a seven-week high as crop concerns escalated.
SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. said it has no plans to close its central Florida theme parks at this point. Walt Disney Co. didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.
Carnival Corp., the world’s largest cruise line, has changed the schedules of four of its ships, steering clear of San Juan, for example, as well as the Dominican Republic.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the industry’s second-largest player, has closed its recently remodeled private island in the Bahamas, CocoCay, and won’t reopen it until Sept. 4. The company said over 400 people work on the island, and they need to go home to secure their homes and take care of their families. Passengers who prepaid for activities on that island will get refunds.
Plates and other artifacts sitting on shelves next to a mess table where a group of lower-ranking crew members would have taken their meals
Ottawa (AFP) – Almost two centuries after descending to its watery grave, the HMS Terror could offer up new clues to its demise — and solve one of the most enduring mysteries in the history of Arctic discovery.
Canadian parks department officials announced Wednesday the results of a survey of the shipwreck’s near-pristine interior — and revealed that artifacts preserved in the deep might help explain what happened to the polar exploration vessel.
The Terror vanished alongside the HMS Erebus during explorer Sir John Franklin’s storied Arctic expedition that left Britain in 1845 to discover the Northwest Passage linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
After passing two whaling boats in Baffin Bay in August of that year, the ill-fated ships would never be seen afloat again.
The Erebus was found in Victoria Strait in 2014, while the Terror was located under 24 meters (80 feet) of water two years later in what is now known as Terror Bay, off King William Island, Nunavut.
Underwater archeologists spent seven days exploring the Terror this summer and in a statement said they were stunned to discover its „extraordinary state of preservation” during the dives.
They believe that the captain’s desk, map cabinets with closed drawers and boxes could contain charts and logs preserved by the cold deep water, which may shed light on what exactly happened to the expedition.
– ‘Tantalizing’ –
„Sedimentation provides the best conditions for preservation as it allows for an environment with less oxygen, which helps preserve organics, like paper,” the statement said.
Project director Ryan Harris told a news conference the prospect of learning its secrets from what was left behind was „very tantalizing.”
„Written materials could shed all kinds of light on what happened, the chronology of events, when the ships parted company and how they got to where they were found abandoned,” he said.
Harris noted that the ship was upright on the sea floor, its propeller in place. No anchors were deployed, and skylights were not boarded over to protect from harsh Arctic conditions.
„It looked like it was in operating condition, and suggests with other clues that the ship sank unexpectedly and was deserted very, very quickly,” he said.
The archeological team earlier this month „focused on 3D structural mapping and exploring the interior” of the Terror during the first systematic exploration of the vessel.
They obtained clear images of more than 90 percent of the lower deck, which includes the crew’s living quarters.
Only the sleeping quarters of Captain Francis Crozier remained inaccessible, behind a closed door.
Video shows beds and desks in place, shelves with plates, glass bottles, tumblers and stemware in what is believed to have been the officers’ mess pantry.
– Grim message –
Rows of shelves with plates, bowls and glasses –- all intact -– can also be seen in the common sailors’ quarters.
Sediment that seeped through the stern gallery windows covers most of the captain’s cabin. A tripod and a pair of thermometers were identified there.
Harris said the team hopes to return to the site next year to resume exploration of the vessel.
When the two ships set sail, they were well-equipped and prepared with stout, iron-sheathed hulls and steam engines, and enough food and supplies for three years in the high Arctic.
Following their disappearance, a vessel chartered by Franklin’s widow Lady Jane in 1859 came across a grim message on King William Island: Franklin and 23 crew members had died on June 11, 1847 in unspecified circumstances.
It seems the ships had become stuck in ice and, on April 22, 1848, 105 survivors left in an attempt to reach solid ground on foot, but none survived.
Canadian researchers in the 1980s said the remains of expedition members found on Beechey Island indicated they had died of cold, hunger and lead poisoning from canned food.
Idaho artifacts show human presence in Americas 16,600 years ago
By Will Dunham
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Artifacts including stone tools and animal bone fragments found in Idaho dating back about 16,600 years represent what may be the oldest evidence of humans in the Americas and offer insight into the routes people took as they spread into the New World.
Scientists on Thursday said they used a technique called radiocarbon dating to determine the age of artifacts unearthed at an archeological site called Cooper’s Ferry along the Salmon River in western Idaho near the town of Cottonwood.
People were present there at a time when large expanses of North America were covered by massive ice sheets, and big mammals such as mammoths, mastodons, saber-toothed cats, the giant short-faced bear, horses, bison and camels roamed the continent’s Ice Age landscape.
„The Cooper’s Ferry site contains the earliest radiocarbon-dated archaeological evidence in the Americas,” said Oregon State University anthropology professor Loren Davis, who led the study published in the journal Science.
Based on this evidence, people first lived at the site, which was situated south of the continental ice sheets present at the time, between about 16,600 and 15,300 years ago and returned to live there multiple times until about 13,300 years ago, Davis added.
The oldest artifacts included four sharp stone flake tools used for cutting and scraping and 43 flakes of stone left over from making stone tools, as well as animal bone fragments and horse tooth fragments. Also found at the site were charcoal, fire-cracked rock, a hearth and food-processing evidence.
Our species first appeared in Africa roughly 300,000 years ago and later trekked worldwide. There has been a scientific debate about when humans first entered the Americas, crossing the former land bridge that connected Siberia to Alaska.
The new findings bolster the hypothesis that people in the initial migration into the Americas followed a route down the Pacific coast rather than a route through an inland ice-free corridor as some scientists have argued.
„Cooper’s Ferry is located in the upper Columbia River basin. The Columbia River would provide the first Americans their first route to interior lands south of the continental ice sheets,” Davis said.
With headwaters in British Columbia, it is the biggest river flowing into the Pacific Ocean from North America, opening into the ocean near Astoria, Oregon.
„The people who occupied the Cooper’s Ferry site pursued a hunting and gathering lifeway most likely as small groups of people, likely fewer than 25 people in a group, who made multiple movements each year to access key resources as they were available,” Davis said.
Certain stone projectile points, which would have been attached to the ends of spears or dart shafts, closely resembled examples found in northern Japan dating a bit earlier than at the Cooper’s Ferry site, the researchers said.
„We hypothesize that this may signal a cultural connection between early peoples who lived around the northern Pacific Rim, and that traditional technological ideas spread from northeastern Asia into North America at the end of the last glacial period,” Davis said.
(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)
The supposed remains of French General Charles Etienne Gudin in Smolensk
Moscow (AFP) – Archaeologists are set to unveil the answer to a 200-year-old question over the remains of a French general who died during Napoleon’s 1812 campaign in Russia.
Charles Etienne Gudin was hit by a cannonball in the Battle of Valutino on August 19 near Smolensk, a city west of Moscow close to the border with Belarus.
His leg was amputated and he died three days later from gangrene, aged 44.
The French army cut out his heart, now buried at the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, but the site of the rest of his remains was never known, until researchers found a likely skeleton this summer.
„As soon as I saw the skeleton with just one leg, I knew that we had our man,” the head of the Franco-Russian team that discovered the remains in July, Marina Nesterova, told AFP.
Genetic analysis is being carried out to confirm the identity, using DNA from one of the general’s descendants, with the results to be announced on Thursday.
Gudin is said to have been one of Napoleon’s favourite generals and the two men attended military school together. His name is engraved on the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris.
The fresh search for his remains has been underway since May, funded by a Franco-Russian group headed by Pierre Malinowski, a historian and former soldier with ties to the French far-right and support from the Kremlin.
The team in Smolensk first followed the memoirs of a subordinate of Gudin, Marshall Davout, who organised the funeral and described a mausoleum made of four cannon barrels pointing upward, said Nikolai Makarov, the director of the Russian Institute of Archaeology.
When that trail ran cold, they checked another theory by a witness of the funeral and found pieces of a wooden casket buried under an old dance floor in the city park.
A preliminary report concluded that the skeleton belonged to a man who died aged 40-45.
Gudin’s death near Smolensk came near the beginning of Napoleon’s march toward Moscow, 400 kilometres (250 miles) further east.
Napoleon had hoped to defeat the Russian army at Valutino and sign an advantageous treaty, but it managed to escape and Russian Tsar Alexander refused to discuss peace.
„This battle could have been decisive if Napoleon hadn’t underestimated the Russians,” Malinowski said.
„Heavy losses in this battle showed Napoleon that he was going to go through hell in Russia.”
Napoleon’s march on Russia ended in a disastrous retreat as Russians used scorched earth tactics and even ordered Moscow to be burnt to sap Napoleon’s resources.
Less than 10 percent of his Grand Armee survived Russian invasion.
Israel Underground Necropolis
JERUSALEM (AP) — Under a mountain on the outskirts of Jerusalem, workers are completing three years of labor on a massive subterranean necropolis comprised of a mile (1.5 kilometers) of tunnels with sepulchers for interring the dead.
Up above, the Har Hamenuchot Cemetery dominates the hillside overlooking the main highway leading into Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. But in October, the cemetery’s management plans to open the first section of a sprawling catacomb complex which, when completed, will provide 23,000 gravesites for an increasingly crowded country.
„People will die probably forever,” said Arik Glazer, chief executive of Rolzur Tunneling, the company building the tunnel tombs, „so you have to get space for that.”
Land is in short supply in Israel, and Jewish and Muslim burial customs require interring the dead in the ground and prohibit cremation. The hilltop cemetery is almost at capacity, with nearly a quarter million graves. The first underground section opening in October will have capacity for 8,000. The remaining sections are slated to open in the coming years.
Like other increasingly crowded metropolises, Tel Aviv has embraced vertical cemetery structures to accommodate growing demand, but now Israel is looking for solutions below ground.
Even in the blazing summer heat, the labyrinthine vaults maintain their steady year-round temperature of 23 degrees Celsius (73 degrees Fahrenheit).
The limestone walls are lined four-high with tombs that resemble small Japanese capsule hotels. Giant flame-hued polyhedron light fixtures designed by German artist Yvelle Gabriel dangle at intersections between the avenues and streets deep in the mountain.
The entire project cost an estimated $50 million and took just over three years to complete. The tunnels take up just 5% of the total subterranean area of the mountain available for future tombs, Glazer said.
Part of the inspiration behind this project was the ancient Jewish custom of cave burials found at sites around the Holy Land, from the UNESCO heritage site of Beit Shearim near Haifa, to rocky hillsides around Jerusalem.
„The basic blueprints for this project were the cemetery at Beit Shearim,” said Adi Alphandary, head of Rolzur’s business development. Those catacombs, active between the second and fourth centuries, were recognized by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site in 2015.
Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Amit Reem said that families would inter the deceased’s remains in the catacombs, then seal the door with a rock for eight months.
„When they opened the door of the cave, inside the cave was only the skeleton with no flesh,” Reem said. The bones were then collected and often placed in stone boxes, known as ossuaries, inside the cave chamber.
While the modern-day burial chambers will simply be sealed with a grave marker, Hananya Shahor, executive director of the Jewish burial association in Jerusalem, said that Orthodox rabbis they consulted said the sprawling site is „100% acceptable according to Jewish tradition.”
„We are almost sure that people will like this way much, much more than the old systems of burial,” he said.