Hurricane Florence seen from space carrying winds of up to 209 km/h as it looms off US east coast

Florence exploded into a potentially catastrophic Category 4 hurricane today as it closed in on North and South Carolina, carrying winds up to 209 km/h and water that could wreak havoc over a wide stretch of the eastern United States later this week.

The South Carolina governor ordered the state's entire coastline to be evacuated starting at noon today and predicted that 1 million people would flee.

The storm's first effects were already being seen on barrier islands as dangerous rip currents hit beaches and seawater flowed over a state highway. Communities along a stretch of coastline that is vulnerable to rising sea levels due to climate change prepared to evacuate.

For many people, the challenge could be finding a safe refuge: If Florence slows to a crawl just off the coast, it could bring torrential rains to the Appalachian mountains and as far away as West Virginia, causing flash floods, mudslides and other dangerous conditions.

The storm's potential path also includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous eastern hog farms that store animal waste in massive open-air lagoons.

National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham warned that Florence was forecast to linger over the Carolinas once it reaches shore.

People living well inland should prepare to lose power and endure flooding and other hazards, he warned.

"It's not just the coast," Graham said. "When you stall a system like this and it moves real slow, some of that rainfall can extend well away from the centre."

A warm ocean is the fuel that powers hurricanes, and Florence will be moving over waters where temperatures are peaking near 30 degrees celsius, hurricane specialist Eric Blake wrote. And with little wind shear to pull the storm apart, Florence's hurricane wind field was expected to expand over the coming days, increasing its storm surge and inland wind threats.

Today, Florence was centred about 1,985 kilometres east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, and moving west at 20 km/h. Its centre will move between Bermuda and the Bahamas tomorrow and Thursday and approach the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Friday, the National Hurricane Centre said.

Two other storms were spinning in the Atlantic. Hurricane Isaac was expected to lose strength as it reaches the Caribbean, and Helene, much farther out to sea, may veer northward into the open ocean as the 2018 hurricane season reaches its peak.

In the Pacific, Hurricane Olivia triggered warnings for multiple Hawaiian islands as it blew west toward an arrival over the state as soon as late tomorrow or early Thursday.

Preparations for Florence were intensifying up and down the densely populated coast. Since reliable record-keeping began more than 150 years ago, North Carolina has been hit by only one Category 4 hurricane: Hazel, with 209 km/h winds, in 1954.

The parking lot has been full for three days at the Ace Hardware store in coastal Calabash, North Carolina, where manager Tom Roberts said he sold 150 gas cans in two hours today, along with generators, plywood, rope, manual can openers, sand bags and a plethora of other items.

"I've been doing this since 1983," Roberts said as he completed an order for another 18-wheeler full of supplies. "This is the craziest one."

Many newcomers have moved to the coast in the nearly 19 years since the last strong hurricane — Floyd — threatened the area.

Mr Roberts said he's telling them to get out of town.

"I'm telling them to go inland, but I'm worried about the rain and tornadoes too," Mr Roberts said.

Several meteorologists said Florence could do what Hurricane Harvey did last year over Texas, dumping days of rain, although not quite as bad.

"I think this is very Harvey-esque," said University of Miami hurricane expert Brian McNoldy. "Normally, a landfalling tropical cyclone just keeps on going inland, gradually dissipating and raining itself out. But on rare occasions, the steering patterns can line up such that a storm slips into a dead zone between troughs and ridges."

On North Carolina's Outer Banks, Dawn Farrow Taylor, 50, was gathering photos and important documents and filling prescriptions today before heading inland. She grew up on the island chain, and says this will be only the second time she's evacuated.

"I don't think many of us have ever been through a Category 4. And out here we're so fragile. We're just a strip of land — we're a barrier island," she said.

In the village of Buxton, Liz Browning Fox plans to ride the storm out in her house on top of a ridge. She believes her home, built in 2009, will be secure, but it's hard to foresee all potential hazards.

"You never know, there could be tree missiles coming from any direction," she said. "There is no way to be completely safe."

In announcing his evacuation order, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said an estimated 1 million people would be fleeing the coast.

Eastbound lanes of Interstate 26 heading into Charleston and U.S. 501 heading into Myrtle Beach will be reversed when the order takes effect.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said his state was "in the bullseye" of the storm and urged people to "get ready now."

The Category 4 hurricane is bearing down on the US states of North and South Carolina. Source: Associated Press



New Zealand girl, 12, believed critically hurt in Queensland shark mauling

A young girl believed to be from New Zealand has been attacked by a shark at the same Queensland island where a Tasmanian mother was mauled less than 24 hours earlier.

The 12-year-old was rescued by helicopter from Cid Harbour in the Whitsunday Islands on Thursday afternoon after being bitten on the upper leg.

The girl, who was holidaying with her father and sister, was flown to the Mackay Base Hospital in a critical condition and will have surgery.

Queensland Ambulance Service operations manager Tracey Eastwick said the girl had lost a significant amount of blood after she was mauled on the thigh.

"It is horrific ... for us as a community of paramedics it is quite confronting to have two similar incidents in the space of less than 24 hours," she told reporters in Mackay.

"In north Queensland, shark attacks are not that common."

The last attack in the area was eight years ago.

The Queensland government will set three drum lines in the Cid Harbour area tomorrow, in a bid to prevent any further attacks.

Fisheries officers and water police are also patrolling the area, while swimmers are being told to stay out of the water at the popular holiday hotspot.

On Wednesday evening, Justine Barwick, 46, was also mauled off the same island, while snorkelling, and is lucky to be alive.

Ms Barwick, a mother of two, was flown to Brisbane on Thursday evening for medical treatment after undergoing surgery at Mackay Base Hospital.

She would likely have bled to death from a severe wound to her left thigh without the quick-thinking actions of people in nearby boats.

A rescue helicopter scrambled to the region was just 15 minutes away from the scene due to an earlier operation.

The hovering chopper drew the attention of John Hadok, an emergency doctor from Mackay Base Hospital, who was sailing nearby and soon joined the effort to save Ms Barwick's life.

Dr Hadok's direction ensured correct first aid was given to Ms Barwick, allowing her to be safely winched into the helicopter.

RACQ CQ Rescue Helicopter crewman Ben McCauley said the doctor and others who gave first aid to Ms Barwick before she was winched aboard had likely saved her life.

"The original first aid was actually really well done," Mr McCauley told reporters on Thursday.

"We actually didn't have to do anything with the leg, it was pretty much tourniqueted up, bandaged up and bleeding had stopped. They'd done a really good job."

Although he didn't see the wound, Mr McCauley was told Ms Barwick had "quite a big chunk of leg taken" and had suffered arterial bleeding.

She also suffered puncture wounds to her calf muscle.

The helicopter then stopped at Proserpine to refuel, allowing blood from a local hospital to be transfused and other medical treatment given.

Emergency services say the young girl lost a lot of blood in the Whitsunday Islands attack. Source: Breakfast

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Maryland suffers another mass shooting, months after newspaper targeted

Three people were killed overnight in a shooting at a distribution centre for a US pharmacy chain, officials said.

A law enforcement official in Maryland with knowledge of the shooting stressed that the number of dead is based on preliminary information. The official wasn't authorized to discuss details by name and spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press.

The incident took place at an aid distribution centre near Baltimore. Source: Breakfast

A suspect was taken into custody and was in critical condition, Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler told a news conference.

It appears there was only one weapon, a handgun, that was used and there were no shots fired by responding law enforcement officers, Mr Gahler said. Mr Gahler also said multiple people had been killed and wounded in the shooting, without giving any other details on casualties.

A Baltimore hospital said it had received four patients with gunshot wounds from the shooting. Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center spokeswoman Monica Stone said in an email today that she was unable to provide details about the patients' conditions.

Mr Gahler said the call about shots fired came in from the Rite Aid distribution centre at about 9.06am (local time) and deputies and other officers were on the scene in just over five minutes.

"We are so preliminary in this investigation," Mr Gahler said. "It's so important that we deal in facts." He said authorities don't want to "make it worse" for the families involved by giving out incorrect information.

At a nearby fire station, family members were waiting to be reunited with loved ones. Police blocked off the road outside but were waving in cars driven by people who said they were there to meet up with people who were at the distribution centre.

The attack came nearly three months after a man armed with a shotgun attacked a newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland, killing five staff members. Authorities accused Jarrod W. Ramos of attacking The Capital Gazette because of a longstanding grudge against the paper.

The FBI described the Aberdeen incident as an "active shooter situation" and said its Baltimore field office was assisting.
In a tweet, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said his office is monitoring the situation in Aberdeen and that the state stands ready to offer any support.

Susan Henderson, spokesman for Rite Aid, said the shooting happened on the campus of a company distribution centre in Aberdeen. She described it as a support facility adjacent to a larger building.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said that unfortunately, incidents like this are "becoming a too-often occurrence not only in Harford County but in the country".

Shirley Pollack, of Perryville, Md. reacts to what authorities have called a shooting with multiple victims in Perryman, Md. on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. Authorities say multiple people have been shot in northeast Maryland in what the FBI is describing as an "active shooter situation."   Pollack,was concerned about her son  who worked near the scene of the shooting.  (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)
Concerned mum Shirley Pollack waits for word of her son, who works near the site of a mass shooting in Maryland. Source: Associated Press

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WWE wrestler turned Tennessee mayor to return to the ring in Australia

A new mayor of a US town who's also a semi-retired pro wrestler will once again don his "Kane" gear to participate in the WWE Super Show-Down pay-per-view event in Australia.

The Knoxville (Tennessee) News Sentinel reports Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs said Wednesday the Oct. 7 event is what he and WWE CEO Vince McMahon agreed to when Mr Jacobs' election became likely. While campaigning, Mr Jacobs said he wanted to focus on running the county, but wouldn't rule out a special appearance.

The Melbourne event is billed as the largest collection of WWE superstars and legends to appear in Australia.

FILE - In this Aug. 2, 2018 file photo, Republican Glenn Jacobs waits for early results to come in for the mayoral race in Knoxville, Tenn.  The Tennessee mayor will once again don his “Kane” gear to participate in the WWE Super Show-Down pay-per-view event in Australia. Jacobs said Wednesday, Sept. 20,  the Oct. 6 event is what he and WWE CEO Vince McMahon agreed to when it became likely Jacobs would be elected. (Caitie McMekin/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP, File )
Republican Glenn Jacobs, otherwise known as WWE wrestler Kane, waits for early election night results to come in during the 2 Aug. 2918 mayoral race in Knoxville, Tenn. Source: Associated Press

Mr Jacobs also announced WWE will donate NZ $150,000 to the Knoxville Public Safety Foundation "in appreciation for making a series of appearances for WWE this fall". It's unclear how many other events Mr Jacobs might do.

KANE / FINLAY - 25.09.2009 - WWE Smackdown et ECW Live Tour - Palais Nikaia de Nice,    (Photo : Icon Sport via Getty Images)
WWE wrestler Kane (centre), otherwise known as Glenn Jacobs, performs in France in 2009. Source: Getty


World Anti-Doping Agency reinstates Russia

The World Anti-Doping Agency declared Russia's scandal-ridden drug-fighting operation back in business Thursday, a decision designed to bring a close to one of sports' most notorious doping scandals but one bitterly disputed by hundreds of athletes and described as "treachery" by the lawyer for the man who exposed the corruption.

On a 9-2 vote, the executive committee took the advice of the agency's compliance review panel and declared RUSADA as having satisfied conditions of reinstatement that were gradually softened over the summer.

In most tangible ways, the decision doesn't change much: RUSADA has been up and running for a while, bringing one of the world's largest testing programs back on line with the help of officials from Britain and elsewhere. And Russia's Olympic committee was brought back into the fold after the Pyeongchang Olympics, where athletes who could prove they were clean were able to compete as "Olympic Athletes from Russia."

But RUSADA's reinstatement now clears the country to again bid for major international events — although soccer's World Cup was held there this summer despite that restriction.

It also clears a major hurdle for Russia's track team to be declared compliant by that sport's international governing body, one of the few to take a strong, consistent stand against doping.

Perhaps most importantly, hundreds of athletes and dozens of world anti-doping leaders see it as a stinging rebuke to the ideal of fair play.

"WADA's decision to reinstate Russia represents the greatest treachery against clean athletes in Olympic history," said Jim Walden, the attorney for Grigory Rodchenkov, the former Moscow lab director who exposed much of the Russian scheme.

WADA had been telegraphing the move since Sept. 14, when it released the recommendation of its compliance review committee. Olympic champion Beckie Scott resigned from that committee afterward.

"I'm profoundly disappointed," Scott said to Canadian broadcaster CBC after the decision. "I feel this was an opportunity for WADA, and they have dealt a devastating blow to clean sport. I'm quite dismayed."

Even in Russia, where the news was welcomed, it came with a sense that there's still work to be done.

"These questions will always follow us," said RUSADA CEO Yuri Ganus, whose appointment to the job was part of the housecleaning at the agency that WADA demanded. "These aren't the kind of skeletons which can lie unnoticed in the closet. These are the skeletons which will be banging on the closet door all the time."

The two biggest roadblocks to RUSADA's reinstatement involved the country accepting findings from a report by investigator Richard McLaren that concluded the government had engineered the doping scandal to win medals at the Sochi Olympics. It also involved Russia agreeing to hand over a trove of data and samples that could be used to corroborate potential doping violations that stemmed from the cheating.

Over a summer's worth of correspondence between WADA leaders and Russia's sports minister about how to bridge the gap, a pattern emerged of WADA backing down from its initial requirements and, at one point, essentially asking Russia what it would be willing to say in a letter designed to satisfy the WADA review committee.

"We think that a small addition to the letter, if acceptable to you, could ensure that the letter is well received ... and that a positive recommendation is provided," WADA CEO Olivier Niggli wrote to sports minister Pavel Kolobkov in May in a letter obtained by BBC Sport .

In the end, Russia agreed to accept findings of an IOC-commissioned report that put less onus on the Russian government for the scheme, a move that Rodchenkov said earlier this week was done "for the pure purpose of protecting their top-level apparatchiks who destroyed the Olympic Games in Sochi."

Russia also agreed to hand over the samples and data by Dec. 31. If it does not, RUSADA will again be declared noncompliant.

"Without this pragmatic approach, we would continue with the impasse and the laboratory data could have remained out of our reach indefinitely," WADA president Craig Reedie said after Thursday's executive committee meeting in Seychelles.

Critics said reinstating RUSADA before obtaining the data only amounts to accepting another promise from a country that hasn't kept many over the five-year course of the scandal.

Travis Tygart, the CEO for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, called the decision "bewildering and inexplicable," and urged a full revamping of WADA; Reedie also serves as a member of the IOC, which is one of the many conflicts of interest that bother critics of the agency.

"Let's be clear: Absolutely nothing will be off the table for how we, the anti-doping community, begin the work of reforming WADA," Tygart said.

Reedie said "WADA understands that this decision will not please everybody."

Vladmir Putin is walking a very fine line with his reaction to the downing of the jet, Paul Buchanan says.
Source: Breakfast

"Clean athletes were denied places at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as other major events, and others were cheated of medals," he said. "It is entirely understandable that they should be wary about the supposed rehabilitation of offenders."


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