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Extreme Weather and Climate Updates
Sept. 15, 2021Updated
Sept. 15, 2021, 4:07 p.m. ET
Sept. 15, 2021, 4:07 p.m. ETVideo
Nicholas Threatens More Damage in Flood-Battered Louisiana
At the main plant of Motivatit Seafoods, a family-run oyster farming and processing business in Houma, rain from Tropical Depression Nicholas poured down from the roof, which was already damaged by Hurricane Ida.
Because of the roof, it’s all destroyed. So, not such good news here. Living in South Louisiana, we — you know, we expect certain amount of activity, weather wise. This was just a little over the top. And many people all the way from New Orleans to here have this or more damage. They’re not going to recover quickly or easily.
At the main plant of Motivatit Seafoods, a family-run oyster farming and processing business in Houma, rain from Tropical Depression Nicholas poured down from the roof, which was already damaged by Hurricane Ida.CreditCredit…Gerald Herbert/Associated Press
Tropical Depression Nicholas has unleashed heavy rain across parts of Louisiana this week, raising the risk of severe flooding in an area already battered by Hurricane Ida and still struggling to restore electricity to tens of thousands of customers.
Forecasters warned that the storm, which made landfall early Tuesday as a hurricane over the Gulf Coast of Texas, could also produce life-threatening flash floods in parts of the Deep South, dropping three to six inches of rain on southern Louisiana, southern Mississippi, southern Alabama and the western Florida Panhandle through Friday.
Up to 10 inches of rain is possible in isolated parts of those regions, the National Hurricane Center said on Wednesday.
“Before Nicholas came along, the ground was already saturated,” said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesperson for the National Hurricane Center. “That’s a lot of water that is going to result in some life-threatening flash flooding impacts, especially in urban areas.”
The forecast for heavy rainfall was yet another obstacle to communities struggling to recover from Hurricane Ida, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm near New Orleans two weeks ago.
As rain bore down on Tuesday on the city of Houma, La., which endured some of the worst of Ida’s winds, water leaked through tarps on damaged rooftops and into residents’ homes. Water pooled, too, as drains remain full of debris from Ida.
“It’s terrible to see all of the debris of everybody’s stuff everywhere, but it’s even worse to see that debris sopping wet,” said Jonathan Foret, a Houma resident and executive director of the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center. “It just makes it even more difficult to do the cleaning of everything and trying to put things back together again.”
The forecast has prompted weather-weary officials across the South to brace for another round of dangerous conditions.
In Baton Rouge, La., Mayor Sharon Weston Broome shared on Twitter where residents could get sandbags to defend against the rains of Nicholas, while also promoting how constituents could get federal help for devastation brought on by the previous natural disaster.
We have sand and sandbags prepped at:
?Airline Highway Fairgrounds
?Cadillac Street Park
?Doyles Bayou Park
?Flannery Road Park
?Hartley-Vey at Gardere Park
?Lovett Road Park
Residents should bring their own shovels.#TropicalStormNicholas
— Sharon Weston Broome (@MayorBroome) September 14, 2021
In Mississippi, the state’s emergency management agency told residents how they could flee to higher ground if flooding occurs, underscoring the challenges of a hurricane season intensified by climate change.
About 72,000 customers remained without power in the state, both from Ida and new outages caused by Nicholas.
Nicholas is expected to weaken as it churns eastward, forecasters said. But the storm will still produce strong winds and driving rains, according to the hurricane center.
River flooding across parts of southern Louisiana and Mississippi was also possible, the center said.
In Texas, about 120,000 customers were without power early Wednesday morning, according to Poweroutage.us, a website that tracks and aggregates reports from utilities.
Houston residents were asked by the city’s police department to stay home because dangerous conditions, such as downed power lines and roadways cluttered with debris, were still present after the storm swept through the area with winds of 40 miles per hour.
Read moreCredit…Johnny Milano for The New York Times
NEW ORLEANS — In many ways, Iley Joseph’s one-bedroom apartment was an ideal place to ride out a hurricane. It was on the third floor — much too high to flood — of a building that was sturdy and new, part of a sleek, gated community for older residents like him.
But in the days after Hurricane Ida, his home began to feel like a trap. The huge power failure that cut off electricity to New Orleans rendered Mr. Joseph’s air-conditioner useless and his refrigerator nothing more than a cupboard. Even worse, the outage froze the building’s elevators in place, sealing him inside the building because his health problems prevented him from using the stairs.
Mr. Joseph, 73, insisted in telephone conversations with his sons that he was doing just fine. But in his apartment, No. 312, it kept getting hotter. On Sept. 2, the fourth day after the storm hit — the hottest yet — a friend found him lying still on the side of his bed.
“I call his name, he doesn’t respond,” said the friend, Jared Righteous. “I realized he was gone.”
Credit…via Iley Joseph Jr.
Only in recent days, as the last lights flickered back on in New Orleans, have officials here discovered the true toll of Hurricane Ida. Unlike in the Northeast, where many who perished were taken by floodwaters and tornadoes, heat has emerged as the greatest killer in New Orleans.
Of 14 deaths caused by the storm in the city, Mr. Joseph’s and nine others are believed to be tied to the heat. Experts say there are probably more. And friends of those who died have begun to ask whether the government or apartment landlords could have done more to protect older residents before they died, often alone, in stiflingly hot homes.
“Heat is a hazard that we simply haven’t given sufficient attention to,” said David Hondula, a professor at Arizona State University who studies the effects of sweltering temperatures. “All cities are in the early stages of understanding what an effective heat response looks like.”
In New Orleans, officials set up air-conditioned cooling centers across the city and distributed food, water and ice around town. But for residents like Mr. Joseph who could not leave their buildings, the aid might as well have been worlds away.
All 10 people whose deaths have been tied to the heat were in their 60s and 70s, and they died over four broiling days, the last of which was Sept. 5, a full week after the storm.
Biden Calls for Action on Climate Change
President Biden highlighted the high numbers of American communities damaged in recent extreme weather events, and the cost of the climate crisis on the U.S. economy, during a speech in Colorado.
Communities that nearly one in 3 Americans call home have been struck by weather disasters in just the past few months. Hurricanes in the Gulf Coast are up to the — and up to the Eastern Seaboard, — wildfires threatening throughout the West and tearing it apart. Droughts and heat waves across the country, devastating farmers and ranchers, and draining the Colorado River. In addition to the lost lives, lives shattered, extreme weather cost America last year $99 billion. $99 billion, extreme weather costs last year, and it’s going to break the record this year. It’s going to be well over $100 billion. We know what the driver is: climate change. I’ve set a course for the United States to achieve 50 to 52 percent reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2030. We can do that. We can do all of this in a way that creates good jobs, lowers cost to consumers and businesses and makes us global leaders in an entirely new industry.
President Biden highlighted the high numbers of American communities damaged in recent extreme weather events, and the cost of the climate crisis on the U.S. economy, during a speech in Colorado.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
ARVADA, Colo. — President Biden warned on Tuesday that the United States had only a decade left to confront a global climate crisis, using his second day touring a wildfire-ravaged West to try to rally the public, and congressional Democrats, to support measures that his administration hopes will reduce the burning of fossil fuels.
Mr. Biden’s stops this week in Colorado; Boise, Idaho; and Long Beach and the Sacramento area in California amounted to more than an opportunity to call attention to the severe destruction of wildfires and other natural disasters that have been exacerbated by climate change. The visits were a last-ditch opportunity to sell the importance of measures aimed at mitigating climate change, some of which appear increasingly at risk in his spending packages.
“A drought or a fire doesn’t see a property line,” Mr. Biden said during remarks at a federal renewable energy laboratory. “It doesn’t give a damn for which party you belong to. Disasters aren’t going to stop. That’s the nature of the climate threat. But we know what we have to do. We just need to summon the courage and the creativity to do it.”
Underscoring the urgency, Mr. Biden added: “We don’t have much more than 10 years.”
Democratic leaders drafting a $3.5 trillion spending bill are struggling to match the urgency of Mr. Biden’s pleas with pushback from energy lobbyists and some key Democrats, who want a far less expansive effort than what Mr. Biden has in mind.
On Monday, during a visit to California’s Office of Emergency Services in the Sacramento area, Mr. Biden appeared to recognize that. Before he received a briefing on the wildfire damage, he reminded dozens of emergency workers in the conference room that he was not able to include all of his proposed investments to combat climate change in a bipartisan agreement that he reached this summer on infrastructure. He said he was focused on including them in the more sweeping $3.5 trillion package but acknowledged that it could fall short of his ambitions.
“Whether that passes or not, exactly how much, I don’t know. But we’re going to get it passed,” Mr. Biden said.
Tax writers in the House have already made a concession of sorts on climate. A bill released earlier this week omits any tax on carbon emissions, even though such revenue could help pay for the giant package, which Democrats plan to pass along party lines and without Republican support. Many Senate Democrats have pushed to include either a direct tax on emissions or an indirect one, like a tariff on goods imported from high-emission countries such as China. But the party is not aligned, and given the slim majorities in the House and Senate, such a plan would probably have trouble gaining the 50 votes needed in the Senate.
Centrist concerns over the size and scope of some proposed tax increases could force party leaders to pare back incentives for low-carbon energy deployment in the plan. So could influential Democrats who have resisted the party’s previous climate legislation, like Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.
A coal-state moderate, Mr. Manchin is the committee chairman charged with drafting the Senate version of the single largest effort to reduce emissions in the bill: a carrot-and-stick approach to push electric utilities to draw more power from low-carbon sources over the coming decade.
“The transition is happening,” Mr. Manchin said, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “Now they’re wanting to pay companies to do what they’re already doing. Makes no sense to me at all for us to take billions of dollars and pay utilities for what they’re going to do as the market transitions.”
He declined to comment further on Tuesday, telling reporters he preferred to negotiate in private. Senate Democrats used a weekly caucus lunch to provide an update on efforts to cobble together pieces of the legislation during the annual summer break, though it was unclear how swiftly they would reconcile differences within and between both chambers.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
Mr. Biden used his western swing to highlight what his aides hope will be a call to climate action for those who have not committed to a more aggressive plan. Throughout the trip, Mr. Biden heard from emergency officials and governors — including those at odds with the administration on the pandemic and other issues — about the urgent need to address natural disasters. Mr. Biden told the emergency workers in California that he had recently spoken with Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, a Republican, about emergency response.
“Some of my more conservative —” Mr. Biden said before stopping himself and resuming, “some of my less believing friends in this notion of global warming are all of a sudden having an altar call.”
“They’re seeing the Lord,” Mr. Biden said.
When Mr. Biden received his fire briefing later from officials at the Office of Emergency Services, a woman presenting a map of wildfires to him could be heard saying, “That’s why this is so important.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Biden watched a wind turbine demonstration at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Flatirons Campus in Arvada, Colo., then recounted the damage from hurricanes and wildfires he had seen in trips across the United States this month. He called for tax credits to speed deployment of solar power and electric vehicles and for the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps to conserve public lands and help make them more resilient to climate change.
Mr. Biden’s economic team has not clarified whether the president would embrace an emissions tax as part of the package. He refused to agree to a Republican proposal to raise the federal gasoline tax to help pay for infrastructure, citing his pledge not to raise income taxes on anyone earning less than $400,000. But his administration has not objected to a tax increase on cigarettes, which the House included in its tax plan and which would disproportionately hit lower earners.
Administration officials have also not said how far a final agreement must go on emission reduction in order for Mr. Biden to accept it. Asked by a reporter in Arvada if he would sign the $3.5 trillion spending package if it included slimmed-down measures to address climate change, Mr. Biden pumped his fist. “I’m up for more climate measures,” he said.
Karine Jean-Pierre, the principal deputy press secretary, told reporters on Air Force One that Mr. Biden was strongly committed to the climate components of the bill. But, she said, “the Biden climate agenda doesn’t hinge on just reconciliation or infrastructure package alone.”
“We are looking at every sector of the economy for opportunities to grow clean-energy jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” she said, “especially in the decisive — in this decisive decade.”
Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.
Read moreCredit…Tiffany Brown Anderson for The New York Times
In a sign of improving weather and fire conditions in much of California, all but five of the state’s 20 national forests will reopen late Wednesday after they were closed to all visitors for 15 days.
The forests are set to reopen at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, two days earlier than planned, the Pacific Southwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service said in a statement. Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien said “some factors are more favorable now.”
“We are constantly evaluating weather and fire conditions in California, as well as regional and national firefighting resources available to us so that we can ensure the safety of the public and our firefighters,” she said.
Over the past two weeks, including the long Labor Day weekend, hiking, picnicking and camping on Forest Service land — which includes parts of the popular Pacific Coast Trail — were banned. The Pacific Coast Trail Association had advised hikers to leave the trail in late August.
More than 7,000 wildfires have consumed over two million acres in California this year. The largest, the Dixie fire in Northern California, has burned nearly one million acres in the past two months and is 75 percent contained, according to a New York Times wildfire tracker. Several other fires in the state remain active.
The Colony, Paradise and Windy fires were ignited last week by lightning and are threatening sequoia groves containing some of the oldest and biggest trees in the world. Residents in three nearby areas were ordered to evacuate, and others were warned that evacuations could become necessary.
VideoFires ignited last week by lightning in the densely forested areas of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have put sequoia groves, containing some of the world’s largest and oldest trees, at risk.CreditCredit…Associated Press
Though most forests will reopen, the Los Padres, Angeles, San Bernardino, and Cleveland National Forests in Southern California will remain closed for at least another week. Others in the state, including Eldorado National Forest in Northern California, will remain closed under local orders.
The Forest Service said those closures would be extended “due to local weather and fire factors, as well as a temporary strain on firefighting resources supporting large fires in other areas of the state.”
Officials cited several reasons for the early opening, including reduced fire risk in the rest of the country making more firefighters available, the changing seasons, and the passing of peak summer visitation.
But the Forest Service cautioned that fire restrictions remain in place in all of the state’s national forests, and that favorable fire conditions remain in several areas of the state.
Climate change may not be the easiest subject to laugh about, but a group of late-night hosts are teaming up in hopes of raising awareness about the issue and even finding some humor in it.
On Sept. 22, seven of the network and cable late-night shows will take part in Climate Night, during which each of these programs will have a focus on climate change and produce their own original content on the topic.
The shows that plan to participate in Climate Night are “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night With Seth Meyers” on NBC; “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” and “The Late Late Show With James Corden” on CBS; “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” on TBS; “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on ABC; and “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” on Comedy Central.
Samantha Bee said in an interview that she could not recall another occasion during her tenure as a late-night host when so many of programs coordinated their efforts like this.
“And really, what’s a more compelling cause to combine forces on than the climate, which we require in order to do our shows?” she said. “We need to not be submerged underwater in order to have successful late-night shows. The need is great.”
The initiative is organized by Steve Bodow, a veteran late-night writer and producer and a former showrunner at “The Daily Show” and Netflix’s “Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj.”
Bodow said in a phone interview that the event was organized to coincide with Climate Week NYC, which begins on Monday, and to call attention to the subject by having these shows focus on it simultaneously.
“Climate change, obviously, is something we’re all dealing with,” he said. “We’re all talking about it. We all need to be talking about it. What if these shows all talked about it at once? It makes a statement that they’re all willing to do this.”
Bodow said that his outreach to the showrunners and producers at these late-night programs was met with a spirit of cooperation, for the most part.
As he explained: “Everyone, before committing, wanted to be assured that, really, we’re all jumping into the pool at the same time? If I jump, you’re not going to be standing at the edge of the pool, laughing at me and I’m all wet?”
Each program, he said, will address climate change in its own segments and its own voice. “Some of the shows will really dive in all the way,” Bodow said. “They may have other ideas they want to do that night. But they’ll be doing some meaningful part of their show, at a minimum, and others will do even more.”
Bodow said his request to each program was: “Please do your show the way that you do your show. The shows have different styles and vibes, and that’s how they’ll approach this. There’s plenty to talk about.”
Bee said that, despite the inherently comedic tone of these late-night shows, they could still offer a constructive platform to address such an ominous topic.
“It’s a really overwhelming conversation to have because so much has to happen, so urgently,” she said. “I do think that we, individually, each do a great job of breaking down stories in ways that are palatable. Comedy is a great delivery system for actual information.”
She added: “And I expect, probably by the end of the show, we will have solved the climate crisis. So that’s exciting.”
Read moreCredit…Ash Ponders for The New York Times
This summer was unusually hot in the United States, especially at night. Minimum temperatures were the hottest on record for every state on the West Coast and parts of the Northeast. Most other states neared their record highs for overnight temperatures this meteorological summer (June through August).
This is part of a trend that aligns with the predictions of climate models: Across the U.S., nights are warming faster than days. This effect is amplified in cities, which are typically warmer than their surroundings.
“At nighttime, the deserts cool off really, really fast, but our city does not,” said Jennifer Vanos, a professor in the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University, referring to Phoenix.
“Not having that break from the heat is really hard on the human body — it builds up,” she said. “And knowing the temperatures in Phoenix, we’re going to be in the 90s overnight and we’re going to be up to 110 sometimes in the day. None of those are safe for a person that doesn’t have access to air-conditioning.”
To see how summer nights have gotten hotter in recent decades, The New York Times charted 60 years of daily weather data from nearly 250 U.S. airports that have kept consistent weather records.
Credit…Taylor Glascock for The New York TimesCredit…Taylor Glascock for The New York Times
Demand for backup generators soared over the last year, as housebound Americans focused on preparing for the worst just as a surge of extreme weather ensured many experienced it.
The vast majority are made by a single company: Generac, a 62-year-old Waukesha, Wis., manufacturer that accounts for roughly 75 percent of standby home generator sales in the United States. Its dominance of the market and the growing threat posed by increasingly erratic weather have turned it into a Wall Street darling, Matt Phillips reports for The New York Times.
Generac’s stock price is up almost 800 percent since the end of 2018, and its profit has roughly doubled since June 2020. Need is driving the demand. The United States suffered 383 electricity disturbances last year, according to the Energy Department, up from 141 in 2016. As of the end of June — the most recent data available — there had been 210 this year, a 34 percent leap from the same point in 2020.
“We’re not climate scientists, but weather events have become a lot more severe,” said Aaron Jagdfeld, the chief executive of Generac. He ticked off a list of headline-grabbing weather events over the past year, from freezes to floods to droughts.
“The air is hotter, the water is warmer,” he said. “And the combination of those two things is producing weather events that are more extreme.”
Even after opening a new plant in Trenton, S.C., demand and pandemic-related supply chain snarls have pushed customers’ wait times to roughly seven months. READ THE ARTICLE →