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Rural News

A week after Hurricane Michael, rural residents feel stranded

Washington Post | Posted on October 19, 2018

Chance, was in her Toyota Tundra following the arrows when she thought, “Thank God for the community.” “You think the government would have come out to help us country folk,” she said. “But we are still struggling.”In the week after the catastrophic Hurricane Michael, residents have watched supply trucks and federal emergency officials come through the rural town of Alford, population 400. But most of them did not stop here, where the power is still out, few have clean water and people have been sleeping outside.There are small towns facing similar fates along Michael’s destructive trail. Neighbors and churches are providing food, shelter and supplies, trying to tide them over, hoping that more government help will come.“We are starting to see some federal help, but it’s mostly church groups and more church groups that are helping,” said Mayor George Gay.  Alford is in south-central Jackson County, a sprawling rural area more than three-quarters the size of Rhode Island. The county was now nearly 1,000 square miles of blown-over cotton fields and peanut farms, where random scraps of metal littered roads and forests were filled with rows of trees dismembered from their roots.On those rural roads, power lines slumped down like the bottom of jump ropes. Some houses were reduced to rubble and bricks. Gay estimated three-quarters of homes in Alford were “completely destroyed.” Others were blanketed by blue tarps. 70 percent of the rural roads and dirt roads were still obstructed by trees. It had been eight days. And residents found themselves fearing the worst.Just down the street from Chance, a man died after getting stuck under a fallen tree. It took police days to find the man, whom Chance simply knew as “Old School.” She wondered how many more lay beneath the debris. Chance followed the arrows to the Alford Community Center, where she was told residents could receive three hot meals a day from a religious group that travels from disaster to disaster to provide support. It was a stroke of luck that the group, International Gospel Outreach First Responders, was in Alford at all, volunteers said.They were heading to Marianna, a larger city 15 miles away where FEMA officials are assisting residents with disaster relief claims, when local leaders told them that a smaller town was desperate for help. If the group hadn’t come with hamburgers and spaghetti, residents here wondered whether they would have eventually gone hungry.




World Heritage Sites threatened by rising sea levels

| Posted on October 18, 2018

In the Mediterranean region, there are numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites in low-lying coastal areas. In the course of the 21st century, these sites will increasingly be at risk by storm surges and increasing coastal erosion due to sea-level rise.

Kansas Forest Service, fire officials say state’s wildfire suppression capabilities inadequate

High Plains Journal | Posted on October 17, 2018

An audit of state agency responses to two recent wildfires in Kansas showed that the state’s wildfire suppression training and mitigation programs do not sufficiently prepare the state for wildfire response, according to Kansas State Forester, Larry Biles and Fire Management Officer, Mark Neely. They spoke before the state’s legislative budget committee on Oct. 3 in Topeka. “We are encouraged to see the legislature focus on what is the state’s most rapidly growing hazards – wildfires,” said Biles. Biles and Neely provided a review of the opinion from the Kansas Forest Service and KFS Advisory Council on the Legislative Post Audit on wildfire suppression in the state. 

Florida Governor issues ultimatum to Verizon: Give me a plan to restore service, and treat customers fairly

Tampa Bay Times | Posted on October 17, 2018

Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued another rebuke of Verizon today, telling the cell provider in a terse press release that he expects the company to give him a plan today to restore service to the areas hit by Hurricane Michael, and that all cell providers should waive bills for October. The press release was addressed to all cell phone providers, but it singled out Verizon, which has struggled to restore service in Bay County, where Michael made landfall.

How Fentanyl Changes the Opioid Equation

Pew Trust | Posted on October 17, 2018

More than a decade into the opioid epidemic, illicit fentanyl and related synthetic drugs are now driving the nation’s spiraling overdose death toll. Involved in nearly half of the roughly 200 U.S. drug overdose deaths every day, fentanyl appears to be here to stay. “Even if we do a really good job at the border and start making a serious dent in shipments from China and Mexico, we need to anticipate that people will simply start cooking it here. It’s already happening,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection operations manager Stephen McConachie said in an interview.As governors in the hardest-hit New England, Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states call for intensified law enforcement efforts and stiffer penalties for fentanyl dealers, public health officials are saying this latest drug scourge underscores the urgent need to get more people into treatment, particularly those who use heroin.With lethal amounts of fentanyl showing up in heroin and other drug supplies throughout the country, active drug users are at a greater risk of dying than ever before

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease detected in Minnesota deer for first time

Outdoor News | Posted on October 17, 2018

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health has confirmed the first cases of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in Minnesota deer. Six of seven animals in a small herd of captive white-tailed deer in Goodhue County died of the disease earlier this month. The remaining buck appears healthy at this time and is showing no clinical signs associated with this disease.This is the first detection of this disease in a Minnesota deer, yet it is widespread across North America. It has previously been detected in two Minnesota cattle in Brown County (2012) and Murray County (2013).“This virus is transmitted between deer by biting midges, or gnats, which are most active in the fall before they are killed by the first frost of the season,” said Board of Animal Health Senior Veterinarian, Dr. Mackenzie Reberg. “These bugs can’t travel far on their own and we’re concerned by this detection because the herd owner hasn’t moved deer onto the property for several years.”The quick and suspicious deaths of the animals earlier this month alarmed the owner, who worked with their veterinarian to submit tissues from the carcasses to the Iowa State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory to determine the cause of death. EHD was confirmed by the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory.

Humanity is ‘cutting down the tree of life’, warn scientists

The Guardian | Posted on October 17, 2018

Humanity’s ongoing annihilation of wildlife is cutting down the tree of life, including the branch we are sitting on, according to a stark new analysis. More than 300 different mammal species have been eradicated by human activities. The new research calculates the total unique evolutionary history that has been lost as a result at a startling 2.5bn years.Furthermore, even if the destruction of wild areas, poaching and pollution were ended within 50 years and extinction rates fell back to natural levels, it would still take 5-7 million years for the natural world to recover.Many scientists think a sixth mass extinction of life on Earth has begun, propelled by human destruction of wildlife, and 83% of wild mammals have already gone. The new work puts this in the context of the evolution and extinction of species that occurred for billions of years before modern humans arrived.

Can a California town move back from the sea?

High Country News | Posted on October 17, 2018

Broadly speaking, though, those practical things are limited. According to the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association, or SPUR, a city can undertake one of several strategies: Build a barrier, armor the coast with levees and seawalls, elevate land, create “living shorelines” to absorb flooding and slow erosion, or retreat. This last strategy, “managed retreat,” SPUR warns, “is a political quagmire. It involves tremendous legal and equity issues, because not all property owners are willing sellers. And in many places, shoreline communities are already disadvantaged and lack the adaptive capacity to relocate.” It is into this quagmire that Dedina has decided to wade.Other cities have proven unwilling to take on the idea of managed retreat, mostly because the very mention of it can tank real estate prices. Besides, there are alternatives. A favorite in California is sand replenishment, where sand is added to a beach as a buffer against rising tides, erosion and other natural forces. Six years ago, Imperial Beach added 300,000 cubic yards of large-grain sand across four miles of beachfront. But the practice has many critics: Waves, tides and currents can wash the sand away, and what remains can damage or destroy ecosystems. Surfers hate it because it alters breaks — and, indeed, Imperial Beach has seen fewer surfers since it added sand. “Sand replenishment is lame,” a surfer named Brian Valdez told me when I caught up with him after a morning session. “But I bet it’ll be impossible to find a California beach without it in the future.” Dedina does not see a future in sand. His city, he believes, will have to do what was once unthinkable: It will have to retreat. Managed retreat represents a planned move away from the coast, allowing the beach to erode for the forces of nature to take over. This, of course, is a gargantuan task. How does a city take all the homes and businesses along its coast and relocate them inland? It has never been done in the Western U.S. before, certainly not on the scale that would be needed — even for a city as small as Imperial Beach.

Ocean temperatures rise, boosting odds of El Nino ahead

Capital Press | Posted on October 17, 2018

Pacific Ocean temperatures are rising along the equator, a signal that winter likely will be warmer than normal in the Northwest.Federal climatologists peg the odds that an El Nino will form in the next couple of months at 70 to 75 percent, a 5 percent increase since mid-September. The warm ocean should influence late winter weather, but El Ninos historically have had little effect on snow accumulation in Washington before Jan. 1, State Climatologist Nick Bond said.“Here’s hoping that holds true to form, and we get reasonably wet and cold weather in the mountains pretty soon,” he said.The Climate Prediction Center revised its El Nino outlook on Oct. 11. The federal agency reported that surface temperatures rose across the Pacific during the previous four weeks and that warmer water spread over a larger area.Winters are generally warm and dry in the northern tier of the U.S. during an El Nino. 

Poll: Rural Americans Rattled By Opioid Epidemic; Many Want Government Help

NPR | Posted on October 17, 2018

Rural Americans are profoundly worried about the opioid crisis and their local economies and many are hoping government can help, according to a new poll from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.One-quarter of rural Americans say opioid and other drug abuse is the biggest problem that faces their local communities. A similar share, 21 percent, say economic concerns are the biggest problems in their areas. No other topic even comes close after that. "People" and "government" are the next biggest problems, both registering at 5 percent.Among rural Americans who say their community will need outside help to solve its major problems, similar proportions of Trump voters (about 6 in 10) and Clinton voters (7 in 10) believe that federal, state or local government will "play the greatest role."The major difference between these groups is the role they see for big business — and even then, the difference is modest. Among those who say their community will need outside help, Trump voters are more likely than Clinton voters (18 percent versus 8 percent) to say they think big businesses will play the greatest role.The opioid problem is not viewed uniformly across all of rural America. Opioids and other drug abuse rate with an especially high share of people in Appalachia — 41 percent of people there said drug addiction and abuse are the biggest problem in their communities, compared with around 1 in 5 in the Midwest, and around one-quarter in the South and rural areas nationally.