Weakened Irma Barrels Up Florida
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Weakened Irma Barrels Up Florida

The Keys and South Florida Hit Hard, but Tampa Bay Area Spared the Worst of the Storm

Landfall. Disaster mortuary teams are expected in the Florida Keys. The center of Irma’s eye crossed Cudjoe Key, a mostly residential island about 20 miles east of Key West. Monroe County Emergency Management Director Martin Senterfitt called destruction a “humanitarian crisis.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said that for those who have evacuated “it’s going to take some time” before people can return to their homes. “This is where people make mistakes,” Scott said. “They go around downed power lines. They go where it’s unsafe.” In Jacksonville, search and rescue teams were deployed to save people trapped in floods. At least four people have been killed in Florida. Irma has been downgraded to a tropical storm.

The Keys have been closed for re-entry until further notice. The hurricane was the most powerful storm to strike the Keys in more than half a century.

“Everything is under water,” said Larry Kahn, editor of the Keynoter, who was in Marathon, Fla. Melbourne,  southeast of Orlando, received the most rain in the state, 14.5 inches. More than 6.5 million Florida residents had been ordered to leave their homes. The Florida tourism bureau urged tourists to postpone their trips.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is expected to investigate the collapse of parts of three cranes in Miami during the hurricane. All three arms stayed attached to the upright towers of the cranes and did not collapse in the streets. The arms of construction cranes are designed to spin around like weather vanes in heavy winds and generally sustain winds of up to 145 miles per hour. The crane industry sued to block a 2008 Miami-Dade County ordinance that required cranes to be able to sustain 140 mph winds. A federal appeals court sided with the construction industry, dismissing the county’s public safety concerns.

More than 3 million Florida homes and business were without power Sunday evening, and more outages were expected. Elaine Duke, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said she expects power could be out for weeks.

Elections. The Federal Election Commission will soon have only four commissioners because of Trump’s nomination of Republican Matthew Petersen for a federal judgeship. If any of the remaining commissioners resign, the FEC won’t have a quorum or enough commissioners to conduct business such as punishing candidates and committees that break campaign laws. The FEC also won’t be able to finish new investigations or issue new rules and opinions about raising and spending campaign dollars. Trump could nominate new commissioners. Each of the commissioners’ six-year terms has expired.

Challenge. Trump’s closest allies are planning to support challengers in the primaries against Republican senators. Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, is coordinating the efforts with hedge fund manager Robert Mercer. Republicans have a four-seat majority in the Senate, and the internecine squabbling could harm the party. Bannon is targeting Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)

Going nuclear. Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review, which he created by executive order his first week in office, is looking at small nukes which could make actual use of nuclear force more likely. Former President Barack Obama prohibited any new nuclear weapons or military capabilities. Any new nuclear weapons would have to be paid for by Congress. Explosive nuclear tests have been banned for 25 years. “If the U.S. moves now to develop a new nuclear weapon, it will send exactly the wrong signal at a time when international efforts to discourage the spread of nuclear weapons are under severe challenge,” said Steven Andreasen, a former State Department official.

September 11, 2017