Anticipating Hurricane Matthew, 4 States Declare Emergency

Rebounding to Category 4 hurricane classification, Matthew now has winds up to 140 miles per hour and has caused at least 28 deaths in three Caribbean countries. It is heading for the southeastern U.S., where four states—Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina—have issued a state of emergency and evacuation orders in coastal regions.

Matthew was a Category 4 hurricane through Tuesday, was downgraded to a Category 3 early on Wednesday, and has now returned to Category 4 strength today, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued a warning on Thursday urging those in evacuation zones to leave immediately. “Based on the current forecast, the heights of storm surge will be above ground. Waves will be crashing on roofs. Homes will be destroyed,” he tweeted in both English and Spanish on Thursday morning.

“Time is up, Hurricane Matthew is approaching Florida. If you are in an evacuation zone, leave now,” he said in a statement. “To everyone on Florida’s east coast, if you are reluctant to evacuate, just think of all the people the hurricane has already killed.  You and your family could be among these numbers if you don’t take this seriously.”

Scott said that so far more than 4,000 National Guard members have been activated to help with evacuations and sheltering. He tweeted that as of 6:00 a.m., more than 3,000 people were in about 60 shelters. The state offers a mobile app to help those in flood-prone areas find the nearest shelter and also avoid traffic congestion.

A state of emergency has been declared by Georgia’s governor for 13 coastal counties. South Carolina’s governor declared a state of emergency and has begun coastal evacuations that may affect up to 1 million people. Because of heavy traffic, lane reversals on some highways are in effect, and schools and government offices in 25 South Carolina counties are closed today. North Carolina’s governor has declared a state of emergency for more than 50 counties and issued a mandatory evacuation order for Ocracoke Island, AIR Worldwide reported.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has sent personnel and supplies to all four states, and President Obama is meeting with FEMA officials coordinating the response to Hurricane Matthew at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

According to CoreLogic, a Category 3 storm hitting Miami could potentially damage 176,000 homes at a reconstruction cost value (RCV) of about $3.8 billion.

CoreLogic’s Storm Surge Risk Report estimates that more than 6.8 million homes located along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts are at risk of storm surge damage, with a total RCV of about $1.5 trillion.The length of coastline, coastal elevation and density of residential development all contribute to the risk of storm surge flooding.

According to CoreLogic, the total number and total value of residential properties for the four states currently bracing for Hurricane Matthew are:

Total Number and Total Value of Residential Properties by State

Breakfast in Crisis

The massive flooding that hit the Atlanta area last September has led to an unexpected consequence for breakfast lovers everywhere — a shortage of Eggo waffles. According to the Kellogg Co., the flooding forced the closing of their Atlanta waffle factory and coupled with equipment problems in their largest waffle factory in Rossville, Tennessee, this means that there will be few Eggos to leggo until sometime next year.

According to an Eggo FAQ on Kellogg’s website:

Eggo is working around the clock to bring everyone’s favorite waffles back to store shelves as quickly as possible. We hope to regain full distribution of Eggo products by the middle of 2010. This is a top priority for Kellogg Company.

This is not the first time this year that a factory disaster was thought to be responsible for a shortage of tasty treats. Back in June, the New York Post reported that an explosion at ConAgra Foods plant in North Carolina would lead to a scarcity of Slim Jims. Panic was averted, however, when the reports proved to be unfounded and the company was able to keep Slim Jims on store shelves.

The Return of the Copper Thieves

Back in the spring of 2008, with copper prices hovering around $4 a pound, copper thefts became a worldwide epidemic. And when prices fell to close to $1 a pound by the end of the year, thefts fell off as well. But now, as copper prices near $3 a pound, copper theft seems to be making a comeback.

In the past week alone, multiple thefts have been reported with thieves stealing wiring for highway lights in Reno, Nevada, AT&T phone lines in Atlanta and grounding wire for a hydro-electric sub-station in Canada. Thieves even took an entire bus station roof in Virginia.

While the thefts seem to yield only a few hundred dollars at a time, authorities are concerned because they can cause thousands of dollars worth of damages in the process. For instance, Reno authorities have had to struggle to repair the lights in darkened highways while AT&T has been so disrupted by phone line thefts that it has instituted a $3,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of copper thieves. And economic damages are not the only problem. Many thieves are not the most sophisticated and are willing to cut wires with little regard for the current running through them, risking severe burns and even death.

Although it seems somewhat mundane, copper theft has been a big problem for a while now. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International’s 2008 Copper Theft Baseline Survey of Utilities:

  • 81.4% of utility companies were concerned about copper theft;
  • 95.1% had experienced copper theft in the past year;
  • 86.6% had a process in place to track incidences of copper theft;
  • Over the previous 12-month period, an estimated 50,193 incidences of copper theft occurred;
  • 7,919 of those incidences involved energized equipment;
  • The value of copper material stolen in the 12-month period was an estimated $20,167,738; (including the value of copper material, the impact of the copper thefts from utilities nationwide cost $60,397,818);
  • The number of outages due to copper theft was an estimated 456,210 minutes; 52 injuries nationwide; and 35 deaths.
  • According to the ESFI, at least 26 states have considered legislative action, such as the Copper Theft Prevention Act of 2008, that would would impose stricter penalties and regulations on metal recyclers and dealers who engage in copper transactions. 

    Major Cyber Attacks Hit Government Agencies

    American and South Korean government agency websites have been attacked by, what some may call, cyberterrorists. The sites have been mostly inoperable since the attacks began during the July 4th holiday weekend.

    Access to at least 11 major Web sites in South Korea — including those of the presidential Blue House, the Defense Ministry, the National Assembly, Shinhan Bank, the mass-circulation daily newspaper Chosun Ilbo and the top Internet portal — have crashed or slowed down to a crawl since Tuesday evening, according to the government’s Korea Information Security Agency.

    Major U.S. websites were also targeted, including those of the White House, Pentagon and the New York Stock Exchange. The National Intelligence Service feels confident that the attacks were executed not by an individual, but by a “specific organization or on a state level.

    The South Korean news agency, Yonhap, has reported that the National Intelligence Service believes North Korea or pro-North Korean groups are responsible.

    This high-level attack is reminiscent of the cyber warfare reportedly enacted by Russia towards Georgia just one year ago. Corresponding with Russia’s ground war, the country also launched attacks on websites of Georgia’s president, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense, adding to the country’s chaos.

    The attacks will be difficult to trace, said Professor Peter Sommer, an expert on cyberterrorism at the London School of Economics. “Even if you are right about the fact of being attacked, initial diagnoses are often wrong,” he said Wednesday.

    The fact that cyber attacks are so difficult to trace gives attackers the confidence to continue their crimes of cyber warfare on a prolific level — all at the expense of confidential personal information and even classified government records.

    Will the Obama Administration’s multi-billion dollar cyber security project be strong enough to stop such sophisticated hackers?