West Virginia Flooding Kills 24, Federal Disaster Declared
By Ada Carr
At least 24 people have died and a federal disaster has been declared in West Virginia after heavy rains flooded several towns, prompting search and rescue operations. Both Virginia and West Virginia have declared states of emergency due to the devastating event that has been described as "complete chaos."
"Roads destroyed, bridges out, homes burned down, washed off foundations," said Greenbrier County Sheriff Jan Cahill. "Multiple sections of highway just missing. Pavement just peeled off like a banana. I've never seen anything like that."
West Virginia climatologist Kevin Law told USA Today that this is the third-deadliest flooding event on record for the state. A November 1985 flood that killed 38 ranked second-worst, and the 1972 Buffalo Creek flood that killed 125 was the worst in state history, the report also said.
The news came one day after at least 12 confirmed tornadoes touched down in northern Illinois, Indiana and Ohio Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, the National Weather Service said. Tens of thousands were left without power across the Midwest as a derecho swept through the region, leaving a trail of damage from Illinois all the way to Virginia.
Here are the latest impacts from these storms:
Flooding claimed at least 24 lives in West Virginia.
Sixteen people died in Greenbrier County, at least 15 of them in the town of Rainelle, according to the Associated Press. Greenbrier is the only county where people are believed to still be missing.
Six other deaths were reported in Kanawha, as well as one each in Jackson and Ohio counties.
Eight-year-old Emanual Williams died Thursday at a West Virginia hospital after he slipped into a creek in Ohio County and was swept away by raging waters, The Intelligencer reported. Williams is the only fatality to be identified by authorities so far.
Saturday a news release from Tomblin's office announced that a federal disaster declaration was approved for assistance in Kanawha, Greenbrier and Nicholas counties. The declaration provides people in those counties with individual assistance for emergency medical support, housing and a number of other immediate needs.
Sunday the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began accepting applications for aid from residents in the three hardest hit counties, AP reports.
With the help of 200 National Guardsmen, local crews in eight counties continue to perform swift water rescues, search and rescue efforts and health and welfare checks, AP also reports.
The governor said he planned to fly around the hardest-hit areas, but was unable to because all the state aircraft are being used for rescues.
Saturday officials announced the PGA Tour scheduled for July has been canceled due to the flooding. According to AP, the Old White TPC golf course at the Greenbrier Resort has suffered extensive damage and is "beyond reasonable repair to conduct the tournament."
In Sulphur Springs, Belinda Scott sustained burns over two-thirds of her body after her flooded home exploded. Before the incident, Scott called her husband to tell him their house was filling up with water. She had fled to the attic to wait when she smelled natural gas. Then, the house exploded.
Scott was able to break a vent and get out onto a porch and into a tree, which she clung to for hours before being rescued by state police.
Gov. Tomblin expanded a state of emergency to 44 counties as heavy rain continued into the evening, WSAZ.com reported. Tomblin also authorized the deployment of the West Virginia National Guard to assist local emergency responders.
Some areas of the state are "probably looking at flooding that's going to be the worst in 100 years," said the governor's communications director Chris Stadelman.
Hundreds of people became stranded at the Elkview Crossings Mall after the overpass bridge into the shopping annex was washed away by floodwaters. Some had to sleep in their cars or at businesses overnight.
One of the people rescued, Eric Blackshire, opted for a hotel room.
"It was kind of like a hurricane party," he told AP. "I guess you could call it a flood party. There were lots of beers being drank last night."
Blackshire and others were transported to safety Friday by Pinch Volunteer Fire Department firefighters. They used a rope to guide people down a hillside as crews worked to build a gravel road on the shopping plaza's backside.
The Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority says they are estimating about 500 people are stuck in the plaza. Tomblin said crews are working to build a gravel road to reach those who are trapped.
White Sulphur Springs residents were left reeling as heavy flooding encroached the city, West Virginia Metro News says. Significant flooding knocked a home off of its foundation and it caught on fire, WSAZ-TV reported. The burning house was seen floating down Howard's Creek.
One resident posted a heart-wrenching update to Facebook, saying, "Please pray for our neighbors. They are trapped in their attic with small children. Our other neighbors are on their kitchen counter..it has washed away the barn..cars..buildings. .flooded houses ... My sister has lost her pets … it is devestating … please pray for our small town..'
“We surely need your prayers, because there's a lot of people hurting right now," Jim Justice, owner of the Greenbrier Resort, said during an interview on The Weather Channel.
In the town of Richwood, where a flash flood emergency was declared, homes and buildings were evacuated as water levels rose quickly Thursday afternoon, according to the Associated Press. Mayor Robert Johnson said the damage will be extensive in the wake of the storms.
"We pretty much live in a bowl, and the bowl filled with water, certainly," he told the AP.
FLOOD EMERGENCY IN RICHWOOD, WV NOW! https://t.co/lxeSgSXn1U— Bryan Hughes (@Bryan Hughes)1466715200.0
Several water rescues were underway Thursday near Jordan Creek, WSAZ reports. High water covering roads was reported in Marmet, Belle and Chesapeake.
The town of Clendenin also experienced severe flooding, and according to local reports, the town was only able to be reached by helicopter Thursday night.
FLOOD EMERGENCY: Clendenin,WV can only be accessed by helicopter. Worst flooding in almost 20 years. Ctsy: Sug Sams https://t.co/m6xZKhRxfY— Bryan Hughes (@Bryan Hughes)1466725762.0
Officials say three emergency workers were injured during a water rescue in Alleghany County.
Botetourt County Battalion Chief Andrew Moore said by telephone Friday that one worker fell in the water during a rescue in Alleghany County on Thursday night. He says the worker is in critical but stable condition. He says two other workers hurt while rescuing their colleague received minor injuries and were released from a hospital.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe tweeted Thursday night that a state of emergency has been declared, allowing state agencies to bypass some time-consuming procedures to quickly help local governments.
Residents of downtown Covington, as well as low-lying areas of the city, were evacuated Thursday night to established shelters, WDBJ reported. Evacuations were ordered as the Jackson River neared record levels.
Roads were closed and several house fires were sparked by lightning as the storms pushed through the Commonwealth.
According to the Roanoke Times, a handful of roads were closedby flooding in Covington and Alleghany County, and a few other roads were shut down in Botetourt County, the state Department of Transportation said.
House fires were blamed on lightning in Read Mountain, Goode and Thaxton, the report added. No injuries were reported in those incidents.
As many as 18 reports of tornadoes came in Wednesday night, and NWS survey crews conducted damage surveys along 3 separate supercell paths Thursday morning.
An EF2 tornado was spotted in Marseilles-Seneca Wednesday night, according to NWS. Two separate EF1 tornadoes were also reported that same night in West Brooklyn and Cissna Park.
Shortly before 10:30 p.m. CDT, a large tornado moved into the town of Pontiac, Illinois. The tornado, which the NWS has preliminarily rated an EF2, was left an 11-mile damage path.
The tornado ripped off the side of a Shell gas station, tossing mangled metal and wood around, ABC7 reports. Some pieces shattered the windows of parked cars. The glass hit one person, but the injuries were minor.
The driver of a semi parked at the gas station suffered a dislocated shoulder after the winds blew his truck over into its side, the station said.
Storm spotters reported seeing power flashes before much of the town of 12,000 lost power, and chasers who followed the storm into Pontiac saw destroyed mobile homes at a trailer park. According to the fire chief in Pontiac, two children inside a mobile home suffered minor injuries, WGN reports.
North of Ottawa, an EF0 tornado was confirmed by the NWS. The twister had maximum winds of 90 mph, measured 100 yards wide and stayed on the ground for 4.5 miles.
In the town of Seneca, fire crews were responding to reports of people trapped in a home, but nobody was believed to be injured inside the dwelling.
Driver of this semi, overturned by the tornado, suffered a dislocated shoulder. #Pontiac #Tornado @ABC7Chicago https://t.co/TsUp7PEftt— Laura Podesta (@Laura Podesta)1466684747.0
This is a strong argument for why you shouldn't take cover in a car when a tornado is about to hit. #Pontiac https://t.co/RaeqvuoA4h— Tonya Francisco (@Tonya Francisco)1466684784.0
The night began when a tornado was observed briefly near Amboy by trained spotters at about 7:15 p.m. CDT Wednesday night. The second tornado was reportedly in progress just minutes later in Lee County, near the towns of Paw Paw and Compton. The NWS reported tree damage in Compton.
Tornado!! 730 east of amboy, IL ~10 Miles. @NWStornado @NWSChicago @JWSevereWeather #tornado #ilwx https://t.co/uwYdixEpUU— Ethan Mulnix (@Ethan Mulnix)1466642022.0
"I was thinking I was going to die. I was really thinking that something bad was going to happen. It was just bad. I was about to cry," Eason said. "The rain... I couldn't even see when I was driving, the road.
A home in the north Chicago suburb of Evanston is "uninhabitable" after a lightning strike sparked a fireWednesday evening, CBS Chicago reported. A neighbor called to report the two-story home had been struck by lightning and fire crews arrived to find smoke coming from the eaves with the attic on fire, the fire department said. No injuries were reported.
The storms then marched toward Chicago, and at Soldier Field, some 50,000 soccer fans attending the Copa America semifinal game between Chile and Colombia were asked to clear the stands and seek shelter Wednesday evening, according to the AP. The teams were allowed to play the first half, but storms moved in at halftime, forcing stadium officials to activate the storm safety plan.
@PaulKonrad @WGNNews The neighborhood kids love the new lake in Palatine. #GetOffMyLawn! https://t.co/aDeu4janfr— Jennifer Murphy (@Jennifer Murphy)1466646667.0
Severe storms rolled eastward through Indiana late Wednesday evening, damaging several buildings, a radio tower and downing numerous trees across the state.
A tornado spotted 5 miles south-southeast of Huntington was rated EF1 by NWS. It was quickly followed by another tornado, rated an EF2, which traveled in the same area just minutes later. The second tornado crossed the path of the first, according to the damage survey.
A large outbuilding on a farm near Brookston containing several tractors, a combine and other farm equipment had its roof completely ripped off, WTHR reports.
Storm damage southeast of Brookston #INwx https://t.co/4PEdvdr1Sq— WTHR.com (@WTHR.com)1466684961.0
The high winds during knocked over a radio tower in Russiavilleearly Thursday morning.
"Just all of a sudden it was raining sideways and blowing so hard, you couldn't see in front of your face," Russiaville Town Marshal Roger Waddell told Fox 59. "We heard tree limbs snapping and I heard some stuff blowing around."
Check this out. A radio tower down in Russiaville. Damage to some RV's but otherwise blocking roadway. https://t.co/9SBzNjr7SM— Joe Melillo (@Joe Melillo)1466673156.0
The tower, which was mostly used for a broadband internet service, landed on some power lines and was resting on the roof of an RV business.
The Indianapolis Power & Light Company reported Thursday morning that more than 10,000 customers were without powerin the Indianapolis area.
The NWS has confirmed a pair of EF0 tornadoes hit the Buckeye State during the severe weather outbreak, with damage surveys ongoing. One tornado was confirmed in Fayette County, east of the Washington courthouse, while the other occurred in Clinton County, southwest of Wilmington.
No injuries have been reported, WLWT.com said, but photos and video from the area showed a variety of damage to trees, wires and some buildings between Waynesville and Wilmington. Trees were also reported down on houses in West College Corner, Madison Township and Hyde Park.
Around 34,000 Duke Energy customers were left without power at one point during the storm.
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By Alexander Freund
The World Health Organization, along with its global partners in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, has announced that it will provide 120 million rapid-diagnostic antigen tests to people in lower- and middle-income countries over the next six months. The tests represent a "massive increase" in testing worldwide, according to the Global Fund, a partnership that works to end epidemics.
Quick Test Can Break Infection Chains<p>"These tests provide reliable results in approximately 15 to 30 minutes, rather than hours or days, at a lower price with less sophisticated equipment," said WHO head Tedros, adding that the tests would cost as little as $5 each, and could become cheaper still. He said the rapid tests would help expand testing to hard-to-reach areas which aren't as well-equipped, or which are lacking trained health workers.</p><p>"High-quality rapid tests show us where the virus is hiding, which is key to quickly tracing and isolating contacts and breaking the chains of transmission," said Tedros. "The tests are a critical tool for governments as they look to reopen economies and ultimately save both lives and livelihoods."</p><p>Catharina Boehme, head of FIND, also welcomed the widespread rollout of cheap test kits. "This really shows what can be achieved when the world and leading global health partners come together with a common priority," she said.</p>
How Do COVID-19 Antigen Tests Work?<p>There are currently three different types of coronavirus diagnostic tests on the market: antigen tests, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and serology tests (ELISA). </p><p>Rapid antigen tests target virus proteins, and somewhat resemble pregnancy tests. They aren't yet available at pharmacies and can only be administered by trained medical personnel. With a nasal or throat swab, testers can find out within approximately 15 minutes whether a patient has contracted the SARS-CoV-2 virus and is infectious and must be quarantined.</p><p>The advantage of rapid antigen tests is that they can be conducted quickly and on the spot. <br></p><p>It's hoped that this will help save the lives of thousands of people and slow the spread of the pandemic in the world's poorest countries. Rapid antigen tests can be used to carry out mass screenings among health care workers in low-income countries, who are at greater risk of death from COVID-19. These tests could also be used in schools, in the workplace and in nursing and retirement homes.</p><p>The major disadvantage of rapid antigen tests is that they're less reliable than PCR tests, which are conducted in labs and designed to detect the virus' genetic material. Rapid antigen tests may also be less effective in detecting infections in the early stages.</p><p>Still, a growing number of medical experts are backing the mass rollout of antigen tests, as they allow infected people to be identified even before they show symptoms, when individuals have a high viral load and are especially infectious.</p>
Not All Rapid Test Kits Are Reliable<p>Hundreds of rapid COVID-19 test kits have come on the market recently. Many of them are reliable, but not all. In March, for example, Spain sent back two batches of unlicensed Chinese test kits because they were flawed.</p><p>The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control has pointed out that even though many tests have been approved for sale on the European market, very few clinical studies show whether they are actually effective.</p><p>The 120 million test kits set to be rolled out by the WHO are the first to meet all of the organization's standards; test makers SD BioSensor and Abbott were granted emergency approval by the WHO last week.</p><p>The manufacturers claim their tests are up to 97% reliable in lab conditions; in the real world, the tests are said to be between 80% and 90% reliable. While this is good, it also means some 20% of patients will receive negative results despite being infected, which could lead to further spread of the virus.</p>
What Are the Alternatives to Antigen Tests?<p>Rapid antigen tests are ideal to test scores of patients quickly, simply and cheaply. Lab-based PCR tests, however, are superior in terms of reliability.</p><p>The PCR test detects genetic material, or RNA, from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Patients are asked to provide a throat swab. One part of the person's genetic material is then synthesized, after which a biochemical process known as agarose gel electrophoresis is used to detect if the sample contains virus RNA. These tests are highly reliable but can only be conducted in specialized labs.</p><p>Serologic testing, on the other hand, detects antibodies in a person's blood that form when the immune system responds to a certain pathogen. This indicates that a person has already been exposed to the virus. While quick test kits are available for this method, these are mainly used for scientific studies.<br></p>
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By Mark Hertsgaard
What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.
Will the White House Turn Green?<p>Whether the White House changes hands is the most important climate question of the 2020 elections. President Donald Trump rejects climate science, is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, and has accelerated fossil fuel development. His climate policy seems to be, as he tweeted in January when rejecting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to protect New York City from storm surges, "Get your mops and buckets ready."</p><p>Joe Biden, who started the 2020 campaign with a climate position so weak that activists gave it an "F," called Trump a "climate arsonist" during California's recent wildfires. Biden backs a $2 trillion plan to create millions of jobs while slashing emissions—a Green New Deal in all but name. Equally striking, his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, has endorsed phasing out fossil fuel production—a politically explosive scientific imperative.</p><p>The race will be decided in a handful of battleground states, five of which already face grave climate dangers: Florida (hurricanes and sea-level rise), North Carolina (ditto), Texas (storms and drought), Michigan (floods), and Arizona (heat waves and drought). <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/" target="_blank">Public concern is rising</a> in these states, but will that concern translate into votes?</p>
Will Democrats Flip the Senate, and by Enough to Pass a Green New Deal?<p>With Democrats all but certain to maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate will determine whether a potential Biden administration can actually deliver climate progress. Democrats need to pick up three seats to flip the Senate if Biden wins, four if he doesn't. But since aggressive climate policy is shunned by some Democrats, notably Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia, Democrats probably need to gain five or six Senate seats to pass a Green New Deal.</p><p>Environmentalists, including the League of Conservation Voters, are targeting six Republicans who polls suggest are vulnerable.</p><ul><li>Steve Daines of Montana, who denies climate science</li><li>Martha McSally of Arizona</li><li>Thom Tillis of North Carolina</li><li>Susan Collins of Maine</li><li>Joni Ernst of Iowa (bankrolled by Charles Koch)</li><li>John James of Michigan (also a Koch beneficiary)</li></ul><p>Republican Senators are even at risk in conservative Kansas and Alaska. In both states, the Democratic candidates are physicians—not a bad credential amid a pandemic—who support climate action. In Kansas, Barbara Bollier faces an incumbent funded by Charles Koch. In Alaska, Al Gross urges a transition away from oil, though his openness to limited drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve dims his appeal to green groups. He faces incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan, who receives an 8 percent lifetime voting record from the League of Conservation Voters.</p>
Will Local and State Races Advance Climate Progress?<h4>THE CLIMATE HAWKS</h4><p>Under Democratic and Republican leadership alike, Washington has long been a graveyard for strong climate action. But governors can boost or block renewable energy; the Vermont and New Hampshire races are worth watching. Attorneys general can sue fossil fuel companies for lying about climate change; climate hawks are running for the top law enforcement seats in Montana and North Carolina. State legislatures can accelerate or delay climate progress, as the new Democratic majorities in Virginia have shown. Here, races to watch include Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado.</p><h4>THE CLIMATE POLICY MAKERS</h4><p>Perhaps the most powerful, and most overlooked, climate policy makers are public utility commissions. They control whether pipelines and other energy infrastructure gets built; they regulate whether electric utilities expand solar and energy efficiency or stick with the carbon-heavy status quo. Regulatory capture and outright corruption are not uncommon.</p><p>A prime example is Arizona, where a former two-term commissioner known as the godfather of solar in the state is seeking a comeback. Bill Mundell argues that since Arizona law permits utilities to contribute to commissioners' electoral campaigns, the companies can buy their own regulators. Which may explain why super-sunny Arizona has so little installed solar capacity.</p><p>In South Dakota, Remi Bald Eagle, a Native American U.S. Army veteran, seeks a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which rules on the Standing Rock oil pipeline. And in what <em>HuffPost</em> called "the most important environmental race in the country," Democrat Chrysta Castaneda, who favors phasing out oil production, is running for the Texas Railroad Commission, which despite its name decides what oil, gas, and electric companies in America's leading petro-state can build.</p>
Will the Influencers Usher in a Green New Era?<h4>THE UNCOUNTED</h4><p>The story that goes largely under-reported in every U.S. election is how few Americans vote. In 2016, some 90 million, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly four out of every 10 eligible voters</a>, did not cast a ballot. Attorney Nathaniel Stinnett claims that 10 million of these nonvoters nevertheless identify as environmentalists: They support green policies, even donate to activist groups; they just don't vote. Stinnett's <a href="https://www.environmentalvoter.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Voter Project</a> works to awaken this sleeping giant.</p><h4>THE SUNRISE MOVEMENT</h4><p>Meanwhile, the young climate activists of the <a href="http://www.sunrisemovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sunrise Movement</a> are already winning elections with an unabashedly Green New Deal message. More than any other group, Sunrise pushed the Green New Deal into the national political conversation, helping Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey draft the eponymous congressional resolution. In 2020, Sunrise has helped Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in Democratic primaries, with Markey dealing Representative Joe Kennedy Jr. the first defeat a Kennedy has ever suffered in a Massachusetts election. But can Sunrise also be successful against Republicans in the general elections this fall?</p><h4>THE STARPOWER</h4><p>And an intriguing wild card: celebrity firepower, grassroots activism, and big-bucks marketing have converged behind a campaign to get Latina mothers to vote climate in 2020. Latinos have long been the U.S. demographic most concerned about climate change. Now, <a href="https://votelikeamadre.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vote Like A Madre</a> aims to get 5 million Latina mothers in Florida, Texas, and Arizona to the polls. Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayak, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are urging mothers to make a "pinky promise" to vote for their kids' climate future in November. Turning out even a quarter of those 5 million voters, though no easy task, could swing the results in three states Trump must win to remain president, which brings us back to the first category, "Will the White House Turn Green?"</p>
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