Wind, Water, Fire, Earthquake
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Wind, Water, Fire, Earthquake

Irma Races Toward Florida; Western States on Fire; Major Quake in Mexico … and Another Big Data Hack

Evacuation. Hurricane Irma could hit the Miami metropolitan area of 6 million people this weekend and move into Georgia and South Carolina. More than a half-million people in Miami-Dade County were ordered to leave. The hurricane could become the costliest storm in U.S. history. Irma was north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Thursday night.

The storm was downgraded to an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 hurricane on Friday, with winds reaching a sustained maximum of 155 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. At its peak, winds reached sustained maximums of 180 mph.

At least 11 people have died in the Caribbean islands, and thousands are homeless. French President Emmanuel Macron said his country was “grief-stricken” by the destruction on St. Martin. Macron tied the destruction to climate change, saying the world must act now “so we can avoid such natural disasters in the future.”

A Thursday morning NASA satellite photo of the three storms in the region. Hurricane Irma is the center storm. Hurricane Jose is to the right and Tropical Storm Katia is at the left.

Irma passed just north of Puerto Rico. More than 1 million Puerto Ricans were reported without electricity. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, Gov. Kenneth Mapp said the U.S. military is sending in troops. The primary focus is “making sure people have meals, water and shelter,” Mapp said. About 5,000 tourists were unable to leave the Virgin Islands before the storm.

It is expected to hit the Florida Keys and South Florida by Saturday night.

Hurricane Jose has become a Category 3 hurricane and could threaten some of the same islands already devastated by Irma.

Giant earthquake. Mexico was hit by its strongest earthquake in a century early Friday, which killed at least five people and triggered a series of tsunami waves. The quake, which was felt as far as Mexico City and Guatemala City, was registered off Mexico’s southern coast just as heavy rains from Hurricane Katia lashed the east. The epicenter was in the Pacific Ocean, some 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) southeast of the capital and 74 miles from the Pacific coast. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said the quake was the strongest earthquake Mexico has experienced in 100 years.

Fires. More than 76 fires were burning Thursday in nine Western states. So far this year, wildfires have burned more than 12,500 square miles. In the past decade, only two years were worse at this point in the wildfire season. The U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior have spent more than $2.1 billion so far, about the same as what they spent in all 2015, the most expensive wildfire season on record.

Huge hack. Credit-reporting company Equifax Inc. said Thursday that hackers gained access to some of its systems, potentially compromising the personal information of roughly 143 million U.S. consumers in one of the biggest and most threatening data breaches of recent years. The Equifax breach could prove especially damaging given the gateway role credit-reporting companies play in helping to determine which consumers gain access to financing and how much of it is made available. The attackers in one swoop gained access to several pieces of consumers’ information that could make it easier for the attackers to try to commit fraud.

Grandparents allowed. Grandparents and other extended relatives of people living in the United States are exempt from Trump’s revised travel ban, a federal appeals court panel ruled. So are refugees with formal assurances from resettlement agencies. The 9th Circuit judges wrote that the government had not offered persuasive evidence that grandparents and other extended relatives did not count as “close” family members. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments next month on whether the travel ban is lawful.

Rape culture. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is making college campuses safer for rapists. DeVos is launching a formal review of federal guidelines for handling campus sexual assault. DeVos said aggressive efforts under former President Barack Obama led to “kangaroo courts.” DeVos cited, without using names, “a disturbing case in California.” The University of Southern California expelled Trojans kicker Matt Boermeester after a school investigation found he put his hands around his girlfriend’s neck and pushed her into a wall. A study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 1 in every 5 undergraduate women reported experiencing sexual assault since entering college. The Obama administration made addressing campus sexual assaults a priority.

Featured Photo: The National Hurricane Center’s projected path for Irma, as of 5 a.m. Friday (Sept. 8).

September 8, 2017