Dire warnings to evacuate ahead of Florence

Officials along the coast of the Carolinas warn that this is the last chance to prepare and get out of Hurricane Florence's path. CNN's Martin Savidge reports.

Posted: Sep 13, 2018 4:48 PM
Updated: Sep 13, 2018 5:06 PM

This past week the US military has been preparing for the aftermath of three storms: two in the Pacific and, of course, Hurricane Florence barreling in on the East Coast.

The Navy sortied dozens of ships out of harm's way. Those ships will be equipped and properly stocked to help needy communities on the ground if need be. The Coast Guard is preparing its helicopter and small boat fleet to rescue those in peril. And the National Guard in several states is being called up.

It will comfort many Americans to know their troops are ready to pitch in. This is common practice for our military, coming to the aid of communities when requested by local authorities to do so. Last year was no exception, as servicemen and women helped save lives, clear debris and rebuild after each of the major hurricanes we experienced.

I hope many Americans also understand that many of those same troops will be unable to comfort their own families, leaving them behind and very much in harm's way. I've had to do that myself, back in 1995, catching the last flight out of Pensacola to join my unit just as Hurricane Opal roared ashore. It's a tough thing to do. But, as an old Navy shipmate of mine reminded me today, it comes with the job.

"You prepare your family," he said. "You prepare your ship. Then, you prepare to support the country or our partners if they need our help. This is what hurricane season means for us."

He's right, of course. But I also hope hurricane season reminds us all -- not just the military, not just the Navy -- that we aren't fully prepared for the devastating impacts of climate change. And that lack of preparation is only getting more pronounced as the Trump administration continues to roll back years of responsible and bipartisan efforts to address the challenge.

Just this week, as the President warned people to stay out of Florence's path, his team is preparing to make it easier for energy companies to release methane into the atmosphere. By a level of magnitude, methane is far more capable than carbon dioxide of trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Now, I just can hear the critics. We've been slammed by hurricanes for centuries, they'll say. They come and they go. Thunderstorms off the west coast of Africa move out over warm ocean water, where they run smack dab into converging equatorial winds. Those winds and that warm water fuel a heat exchange that sets it all spinning and -- boom, you've got a hurricane.

It's just nature, right? Inevitable.

Well, no. Not entirely. The water in that ocean is now warmer than it's ever been, fueling bigger, more -- and more frequent -- storms. Since 1972, there have been an average of six Atlantic hurricanes per year. Last year, there were 10. And we humans are much to blame for that.

"Human-induced climate change continues to warm the oceans," claims a recent study published in Earth's Future, an online scientific journal. "The resulting environment, including higher ocean heat content and sea surface temperatures, invigorates tropical cyclones to make them more intense, bigger, and longer lasting and greatly increases their flooding rains."

We're also paying a lot more money to recover from these things. A new estimate out Wednesday predicts Florence may well cost more than $170 billion in rebuilding costs alone. That would make it $45 billion more expensive than last year's Hurricane Harvey, which itself was second only in damages to Hurricane Katrina at $160 billion.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria cost a combined total of $265 billion. That's equal to almost one-third the Defense Department's budget for this year and just about as much as the 2019 budget requests of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and HUD -- combined.

Not to mention, of course, the loss of life. We now know that nearly 3,000 Puerto Rican residents were tragically killed by Hurricane Maria alone, making it the deadliest Atlantic hurricane in almost 15 years.

So, what to do about all this?

Well, yes, batten down the hatches. It's not likely to get any better any time soon, so people living in coastal areas need to make sure they are ready -- and for longer periods of time. We need to invest in better infrastructure: stronger bridges and abutments, better drainage, berms and levies. And we should continue to explore opportunities in renewable energy and encourage climate-healthy policies by our local governments, communities and businesses.

All this will cost more money, no question. But it's a pittance compared to the death and destruction we'll be paying for by ignoring the scientific evidence staring us plainly in the face.

It's not fake news. It's not a Chinese hoax. It's irrefutable.

According to last year's Global Change Research Program Climate Science special report, global temperature has increased by nearly 2.0°F (or 1.0°C) since the turn of the last century, making this the warmest period in the history of modern civilization. The previous three years alone were the warmest ever recorded on Planet Earth. That means more drought, more polar melting, more tidal flooding, more sea-level rise, more forest fires and, yes, more violent storms.

And make no mistake, climate change imparts real national security risk. More destructive weather patterns in various parts of the world mean more famine, more territorial grabs, more refugees and more instability our troops may be required to help alleviate.

The effort and resources we expend to help deal with climate-induced crises, while necessary and even altruistic, also drains resources and time away from other important military missions. To be sure, our troops train for humanitarian assistance and they're very good at it. No one should question the value of such capability. But when they're demonstrating that capability, they're not doing other things.

Then, too, is the threat to our military installations. I remember visiting Norfolk with then-Secretary of State John Kerry back in 2015. He boarded a warship pierside, where Navy officials walked him through all the extraordinary efforts they were taking to stem the effects of sea level rise right there on that base and in that port. It was serious. And it was sobering. By some estimates, the Hampton Roads area -- home to the biggest naval base in the world -- could see more than 12 inches of rising seawater between now and 2050.

Norfolk is by no means alone. A recent Defense Department climate impact study found that nearly half of 1,684 military sites reported damage from climate-related phenomena, calling it an "unacceptable impact" on military operations.

Kerry put his finger on it. "We have a moral responsibility to protect the future of our nation and our world," he said. "That is our charge. That is our duty. And for our shipmates, all of us, the generations that follow in their footsteps, we have to get this right."

Hurricane Florence is coming. That much is inevitable. We'll clean up. We'll rebuild. In the weeks and months to come, we'll all help the people of the Carolinas get back on their feet. We'll all be shipmates.

But we shouldn't be afraid or unwilling to take a longer, larger view of the bigger storm brewing out there. What shouldn't be inevitable is the devastating impact of climate change.

We still have time to get this right.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 159036

Reported Deaths: 3879
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10563104
Hinds10414204
Harrison7397113
Jackson6655128
Rankin6057107
Lee540396
Madison5120107
Forrest394786
Jones376188
Lauderdale3663147
Lafayette341053
Washington3321108
Lamar301950
Oktibbeha255262
Lowndes252867
Bolivar248084
Panola237353
Neshoba2280122
Marshall225051
Leflore211191
Monroe209778
Pontotoc208131
Lincoln200566
Sunflower194155
Warren183058
Tate180451
Union172926
Copiah170840
Pike166760
Scott161330
Yazoo161340
Itawamba159936
Alcorn159328
Pearl River158969
Coahoma155943
Prentiss154931
Simpson154053
Adams147252
Grenada145445
Leake141844
Holmes134461
Covington130040
Tippah130030
George129525
Winston128726
Hancock127641
Wayne123024
Attala122834
Marion121447
Tishomingo114043
Chickasaw110732
Newton110529
Tallahatchie99427
Clay96127
Clarke94853
Jasper87023
Stone82015
Calhoun79513
Walthall79330
Montgomery78426
Carroll75515
Lawrence74614
Smith74216
Yalobusha74228
Noxubee73317
Perry68726
Tunica63019
Greene62422
Jefferson Davis59617
Claiborne59216
Amite57615
Humphreys55219
Quitman5107
Benton50418
Kemper48018
Webster47714
Wilkinson40722
Jefferson38312
Choctaw3637
Franklin3635
Sharkey32917
Issaquena1214
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 256828

Reported Deaths: 3711
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34214511
Mobile20299366
Madison13925150
Tuscaloosa13591156
Montgomery12659238
Shelby1095877
Baldwin9163137
Lee792566
Morgan710851
Etowah677467
Calhoun6695121
Marshall665757
Houston548239
DeKalb504738
Cullman472043
St. Clair451857
Limestone447546
Lauderdale436054
Elmore427564
Walker3818111
Talladega374457
Jackson350723
Colbert336443
Blount310043
Autauga287342
Franklin259734
Coffee254115
Dale242054
Dallas232932
Chilton230841
Russell22813
Covington227934
Escambia206131
Tallapoosa189191
Chambers185950
Pike162214
Clarke161819
Marion146136
Winston141924
Lawrence135336
Pickens127720
Geneva12638
Marengo125224
Bibb123938
Barbour120629
Butler118842
Randolph105922
Cherokee105524
Hale99732
Fayette96316
Clay93525
Washington93319
Henry8946
Monroe83811
Lowndes82129
Cleburne79914
Macon76522
Crenshaw72930
Conecuh72414
Lamar7138
Bullock70919
Perry6927
Wilcox64918
Sumter58922
Greene44218
Choctaw43519
Coosa3724
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