Ron Bergeron warns of ecological catastrophe in Florida Everglades

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioner Ron Bergeron said Friday that he is concerned about catastrophic conditions in the Florida Everglades.

After a rainy summer with Hurricane Irma and Tropical Storm Philippe, the flooding has fauna searching for adequate shelter, he said. 

“We are at a water level that has taken the refuge from all the fur-grade animals,” said Bergeron, a Broward County businessman and former alligator wrestler. 

The average rainfall for the four months after June was 7 to 8 inches. This left several wetlands completely under water. According to the FWC the last time the water was this high and many animals died in the Florida Everglades was in 1994. 

Bergeron said after a busy rainy season, Irma and Philippe took “everything to a critical point.”

State authorities were urging the federal government to continue with emergency water releases. Bergeron is among the supporters of an overhaul of the Everglades water management.

“It’s very critical that we continue to work with our federal partners and our state partners and deviate under a state of emergency in the Everglades,” Bergeron said. 

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Tropical Storm Nate forms near Nicaragua, poses threat to Florida’s panhandle

Tropical Storm Nate formed Thursday morning off the coast of Nicaragua and could impact Florida’s panhandle by the weekend.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami are calling for it to strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico before possibly making landfall somewhere along Florida’s panhandle.

Local 10 News hurricane specialist Max Mayfield said the storm could make landfall Sunday morning.

“Right now, it’s too soon to tell a lot about the landfall, but anywhere from southeast Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle into northwest Florida, people need to be watching this one,” he said.    

Be sure to download the Local 10 Hurricane Survival Guide to keep you safe before, during and after a storm. 

Remember to stay up to date on the all the latest storm news by downloading the Max Tracker app for iOS and ANDROID.

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Tropical depression forms in Caribbean, could impact Florida’s panhandle

A tropical depression formed Wednesday morning in the southwestern Caribbean Sea and could impact Florida’s panhandle as early as this weekend.

Tropical Depression No. 16 formed about 25 miles south-southwest of San Andres Island. It was moving northwest at 7 mph with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph.

By 5 p.m., the storm system was 180 miles south southeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios. 

Tropical storm warnings have been issued for parts of Central America.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami are calling for it to become a tropical storm as it interacts with the Gulf of Mexico and strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane before possibly making landfall somewhere along Florida’s panhandle.

The forecast cone stretches from north of Tampa to parts of Mississippi.

Local 10 hurricane specialist Max Mayfield said the storm could make landfall Sunday morning.

“Right now, it’s too soon to tell a lot about the landfall, but anywhere from southeast Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle into northwest Florida, people need to be watching this one,” he said.    

Be sure to download the Local 10 Hurricane Survival Guide to keep you safe before, during and after a storm. 

Remember to stay up to date on the all the latest storm news by downloading the Max Tracker app for iOS and ANDROID.

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Hurricane Maria aims at Puerto Rico after devastating Dominica

Dominica’s leader sent out an emotional plea for help as Hurricane Maria smashed into the Caribbean island and caused “mind-boggling” devastation, but an ominous silence followed as the country lost all communications on Tuesday and the Category 5 hurricane barreled toward Puerto Rico, which looked likely to take a direct hit.

As rain began lashing the U.S. territory on Tuesday afternoon, Puerto Rico’s governor warned that Maria could hit “with a force and violence that we haven’t seen for several generations.”

“We’re going to lose a lot of infrastructure in Puerto Rico,” Gov. Ricardo Rossello said, adding that a likely island-wide power outage and communication blackout could last for days. “We’re going to have to rebuild.”

Authorities warned that people in wooden or flimsy homes should find safe shelter before the storm’s expected arrival on Wednesday.

“You have to evacuate. Otherwise, you’re going to die,” said Hector Pesquera, the island’s public safety commissioner. “I don’t know how to make this any clearer.”

The warnings came after Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit sent out a series of dramatic posts on his Facebook page as the storm blew over that tiny country late Monday — but then stopped suddenly as phone and internet connections with the country were cut.

“The winds are merciless! We shall survive by the grace of God,” Skerrit wrote before communications went down.

A few minutes later, he messaged he could hear the sound of galvanized steel roofing tearing off houses on the small rugged island. He said that even his own roof had blown away.

In the last message before falling silent, he appealed for international aid: “We will need help, my friends, we will need help of all kinds.”

The storm knocked out communications for the entire country, leaving anyone outside Dominica struggling to determine the extent of damage, though it was clearly widespread. “The situation is really grave,” Consul General Barbara Dailey said in a telephone interview from New York.

She said she lost contact with the island around 4 a.m. At that point, officials had learned that 70 percent of homes had lost their roofs, including her own.

“I lost everything,” she said, adding there had been no word on casualties. “As a Category 5 it would be naive not to expect any (injuries) but I don’t know how many,” she said.

The island’s broadcast service was also down on Tuesday and Akamai Technologies, a company that tracks the status of the internet around the world, said most of Dominica’s internet service appeared to have been lost by midday. The Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica reported a widespread loss of communication on the island, and relatives of students posted messages on its Facebook page saying they had been unable to talk to their loved ones since late Monday evening as the storm approached.

Dominica is particularly vulnerable to flooding because of its steep mountains, cut through with rivers that rage even after a heavy rain. It was still recovering from Tropical Storm Erika, which killed 30 people and destroyed more than 370 homes in August 2015.

Officials on the neighboring French island of Guadeloupe reported at least one death: a person hit by a falling tree. They said two other people were reported missing after their boat sank off La Desirade island, just east of Guadeloupe.

About 40 percent of the island — 80,000 homes — were without power and flooding was reported in several communities.

Next in the storm’s path was St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the storm was expected to hit late Tuesday. The island was largely spared the widespread damage caused by Hurricane Irma on the chain’s St. Thomas and St. John islands just two weeks ago.

In the Puerto Rican capital, San Juan, normally crowded streets and beaches were empty by Tuesday afternoon as families heading to safe shelter packed up their cars and pets or secured windows and doors around their home to prepare for severe winds expected to lash the island for 12 to 24 hours. Nearly 2,800 people were in shelters across Puerto Rico, along with 105 pets, officials said.

“We’re definitely afraid,” said Erica Huber, a 33-year-old teacher from Venice, Florida, who moved to Puerto Rico a month ago with her 12-year-old daughter.

“I’m more worried about the aftermath. Is there going to be enough food and water?” she said.

In shops across the island, shelves were bare after people filled shopping carts with the limited amount of water, batteries, baby formula, milk and other items they could find.

Iris Tosado, a 64-year-old widowed housewife, scanned the nearly empty shelves before heading back home. She and her disabled son planned to spend the storm with relatives because their home is made of wood, and she prayed that it would not be destroyed.

“God, it’s the only thing I have,’” she said. “This is not looking good.”

Maria had maximum sustained winds of 160 mph (260 kph) late Monday when it slammed into Dominica as a Category 5 hurricane.

By late Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Maria’s winds had intensified to 165 mph (265 kph), and that some additional strengthening was possible Tuesday evening. At 5 p.m., Maria was centered about 175 miles (280 kilometers) southeast of San Juan and was moving west-northwest at 10 mph (16 kph).

Hurricane center forecasters said it “now appears likely” that Maria will still be at Category 5 intensity when it moves over the U.S. Virgin Islands Tuesday night and Puerto Rico on Wednesday, bringing with it “life-threatening” flooding from rain and storm surge.

Forecasters said the storm surge could raise water levels by 6 to 9 feet (1.8 to 2.7 meters) near the storm’s center. The storm was predicted to bring 10 to 15 inches (25 to 38 centimeters) of rain across the islands, with more in isolated areas.

To the north, Hurricane Jose stirred up dangerous surf and rip currents along the U.S. East Coast, though forecasters said the storm was unlikely to make landfall. Big waves caused by Jose swept five people off a coastal jetty in Rhode Island and they were hospitalized after being rescued.

A tropical storm warning was posted for coastal areas in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and tropical storm watches were up for parts of New York’s Long Island and Connecticut.

____

Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Associated Press writers Ben Fox in Miami and Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.

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Hurricane Maria aims at Puerto Rico after devastating Dominica

Dominica’s leader sent out an emotional plea for help as Hurricane Maria smashed into the Caribbean island and caused “mind-boggling” devastation, but an ominous silence followed as the country lost all communications on Tuesday and the Category 5 hurricane barreled toward Puerto Rico, which looked likely to take a direct hit.

As rain began lashing the U.S. territory on Tuesday afternoon, Puerto Rico’s governor warned that Maria could hit “with a force and violence that we haven’t seen for several generations.”

“We’re going to lose a lot of infrastructure in Puerto Rico,” Gov. Ricardo Rossello said, adding that a likely island-wide power outage and communication blackout could last for days. “We’re going to have to rebuild.”

Authorities warned that people in wooden or flimsy homes should find safe shelter before the storm’s expected arrival on Wednesday.

“You have to evacuate. Otherwise, you’re going to die,” said Hector Pesquera, the island’s public safety commissioner. “I don’t know how to make this any clearer.”

The warnings came after Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit sent out a series of dramatic posts on his Facebook page as the storm blew over that tiny country late Monday — but then stopped suddenly as phone and internet connections with the country were cut.

“The winds are merciless! We shall survive by the grace of God,” Skerrit wrote before communications went down.

A few minutes later, he messaged he could hear the sound of galvanized steel roofing tearing off houses on the small rugged island. He said that even his own roof had blown away.

In the last message before falling silent, he appealed for international aid: “We will need help, my friends, we will need help of all kinds.”

The storm knocked out communications for the entire country, leaving anyone outside Dominica struggling to determine the extent of damage, though it was clearly widespread. “The situation is really grave,” Consul General Barbara Dailey said in a telephone interview from New York.

She said she lost contact with the island around 4 a.m. At that point, officials had learned that 70 percent of homes had lost their roofs, including her own.

“I lost everything,” she said, adding there had been no word on casualties. “As a Category 5 it would be naive not to expect any (injuries) but I don’t know how many,” she said.

The island’s broadcast service was also down on Tuesday and Akamai Technologies, a company that tracks the status of the internet around the world, said most of Dominica’s internet service appeared to have been lost by midday. The Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica reported a widespread loss of communication on the island, and relatives of students posted messages on its Facebook page saying they had been unable to talk to their loved ones since late Monday evening as the storm approached.

Dominica is particularly vulnerable to flooding because of its steep mountains, cut through with rivers that rage even after a heavy rain. It was still recovering from Tropical Storm Erika, which killed 30 people and destroyed more than 370 homes in August 2015.

Officials on the neighboring French island of Guadeloupe reported at least one death: a person hit by a falling tree. They said two other people were reported missing after their boat sank off La Desirade island, just east of Guadeloupe.

About 40 percent of the island — 80,000 homes — were without power and flooding was reported in several communities.

Next in the storm’s path was St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the storm was expected to hit late Tuesday. The island was largely spared the widespread damage caused by Hurricane Irma on the chain’s St. Thomas and St. John islands just two weeks ago.

In the Puerto Rican capital, San Juan, normally crowded streets and beaches were empty by Tuesday afternoon as families heading to safe shelter packed up their cars and pets or secured windows and doors around their home to prepare for severe winds expected to lash the island for 12 to 24 hours. Nearly 2,800 people were in shelters across Puerto Rico, along with 105 pets, officials said.

“We’re definitely afraid,” said Erica Huber, a 33-year-old teacher from Venice, Florida, who moved to Puerto Rico a month ago with her 12-year-old daughter.

“I’m more worried about the aftermath. Is there going to be enough food and water?” she said.

In shops across the island, shelves were bare after people filled shopping carts with the limited amount of water, batteries, baby formula, milk and other items they could find.

Iris Tosado, a 64-year-old widowed housewife, scanned the nearly empty shelves before heading back home. She and her disabled son planned to spend the storm with relatives because their home is made of wood, and she prayed that it would not be destroyed.

“God, it’s the only thing I have,’” she said. “This is not looking good.”

Maria had maximum sustained winds of 160 mph (260 kph) late Monday when it slammed into Dominica as a Category 5 hurricane.

By late Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Maria’s winds had intensified to 165 mph (265 kph), and that some additional strengthening was possible Tuesday evening. At 5 p.m., Maria was centered about 175 miles (280 kilometers) southeast of San Juan and was moving west-northwest at 10 mph (16 kph).

Hurricane center forecasters said it “now appears likely” that Maria will still be at Category 5 intensity when it moves over the U.S. Virgin Islands Tuesday night and Puerto Rico on Wednesday, bringing with it “life-threatening” flooding from rain and storm surge.

Forecasters said the storm surge could raise water levels by 6 to 9 feet (1.8 to 2.7 meters) near the storm’s center. The storm was predicted to bring 10 to 15 inches (25 to 38 centimeters) of rain across the islands, with more in isolated areas.

To the north, Hurricane Jose stirred up dangerous surf and rip currents along the U.S. East Coast, though forecasters said the storm was unlikely to make landfall. Big waves caused by Jose swept five people off a coastal jetty in Rhode Island and they were hospitalized after being rescued.

A tropical storm warning was posted for coastal areas in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and tropical storm watches were up for parts of New York’s Long Island and Connecticut.

____

Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Associated Press writers Ben Fox in Miami and Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.

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