Ian: 41 confirmed dead in FL, hundreds unaccounted for; hurricane headed to Charleston, SC. Congress approves stopgap funding bill. Ukraine applies to NATO after Putin annexes territories.
**Updated 10/1/2022 to reflect new information on deaths in Lee Co. Florida**
Ian: 41 confirmed dead in FL, hundreds unaccounted for; hurricane headed to Charleston, SC
Since Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida on Wednesday, authorities have so far confirmed 41 deaths. Lee County, which took the brunt of the storm, accounts for 21 deaths alone. That number is expected to rise over the coming days. Reports on the ground suggest hundreds of people in Lee County from the barrier islands of Sanibel, Pine Island and Ft. Myers Beach remain unaccounted for. However, communication in the area is limited as cell service and power are down. Some of the missing may yet check in.
Images from Ft. Myers Beach and Pine Island show that the overwhelming storm surge left few if any of the older, single-story buildings standing. In their place, only bare foundations are visible. Larger and newer structures seem to have fared somewhat better.
As of this morning, 1.9 million people in southwest Florida were still without power. On Wednesday, more than 2.7 million had lost power.
Ian heads for Charleston as resurgent hurricane
Having renewed its strength over warm Atlantic waters, Ian is now bearing down on Charleston, SC, as a Category 1 hurricane. The eye of the hurricane is not due to land for hours. But the outer bands of the storm are already pouring torrential rain over the city. Sea surges are also pushing inland, bolstered by the midday high tide. Local authorities expect at least 7 ft. of storm surge.
Downtown Charleston is particularly vulnerable to flooding. A 2020 report found that 90% of residential properties in the city were vulnerable to storm surge flooding. The city has opened two shelters and has a third on standby. However authorities warn it is now too late for people to leave their homes. Officials urge residents to shelter in place and stay off the roads.
House sends stopgap funding bill to Biden’s desk
Yesterday, the Senate approved a stopgap bill to fund the federal government until December 16. The bill also includes $20 million in emergency funds to address the water crisis in Jackson, MS, as well as $12.3 billion in aid for Ukraine. Earlier this week, there was concern the bill wouldn’t pass in time to avoid a partial shutdown of the federal government at midnight tonight. Several progressive lawmakers, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), had promised to vote against the bill if it included a provision from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to speed-up permits for US oil and gas projects.
Surprisingly, Republican senators, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also opposed that deal. This was in retaliation for what McConnell called a “betrayal” by Manchin when the latter backed a recent climate and tax reform bill. Manchin finally asked Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to withdraw the permitting language from the funding bill, avoiding the impasse.
Today, the House has approved the bill and sent it to President Biden’s desk for his signature.
Ukraine applies to NATO after Putin annexes territory
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced today that his country has officially applying to join NATO. The announcement came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin officially annexed four Ukrainian territories following sham referenda.
It is unlikely that NATO would seriously consider Ukraine’s application to join the alliance while they are at war with their nuclear-armed neighbor. By admitting Ukraine, NATO would be compelled to offer military assistance in the form of equipment and boots on the ground. So far, NATO countries have offered every conceivable form of military assistance that would not constitute direct involvement in the conflict. In addition to billions in funds and weapons, the US and other NATO countries are sharing intelligence with Ukraine and even training Ukrainian commandos outside the country.
At the onset of the Russian invasion, Zelenskiy admitted that Ukraine’s ambition to join NATO was “a dream”. Zelenskiy surely knows that the annexation of territory has not improved the odds of acceptance. However, Zelenskiy has proven a shrewd political operator. His application is a way of shaming NATO members into offering every assistance short of admission to the alliance.
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