Hurricane Florence is expected to be one of the worst storms to ever hit the mid-Atlantic states. When pressed on Tuesday about the Category 4 hurricane barreling toward the U.S., President Donald Trump said “we are absolutely and totally prepared.”
The statement has, unsurprisingly, raised some eyebrows.
Hurricane Florence is being fueled by unusually warm waters — waters made warm as a result of rising global temperatures from burning fossil fuels. This warm water will add more moisture to the slow-moving storm, characteristics many say echo Hurricane Harvey’s destructive force.
Several states and the District of Columbia have now declared a state of emergency and more than one million people are evacuating to safety. The storm has even prompted the cancellation of two upcoming Trump rallies in Mississippi and Missouri.
These are two states where politicians have been criticized for opposing strong climate action. Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt (R) has opposed the Clean Power Plan while Mississippi’s Sen. Roger Wicker (R) in 2016 was the only person to vote against an amendment declaring that “climate change is real and not a hoax.”
The states are also expected to be critical for Republicans during the November midterms — Trump, who has also said climate change is a hoax, won both comfortably in 2016.
Climate change is basically forcing Trump to cancel his events in states whose lawmakers have typically opposed serious efforts to combat climate change pic.twitter.com/QzGHRNm5SP
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) September 11, 2018
On Tuesday, The Baltimore Sun took the Trump administration to task over announcing its latest set of anti-climate policy changes at the same time states are preparing for a potentially catastrophic storm.
“While one can’t say Hurricane Florence is entirely a product of climate change (severe weather existed long before people started burning fossil fuels), it is safe to say that climate change is a major reason why Florence may be bigger and stronger and why there are likely to be more such monster storms in our future,” the editorial states.
“Meanwhile, it’s also quite safe to say that President Donald Trump and his current set of minions, anonymous or on the record, are exceedingly disinterested in lifting a finger to do something about global warming.”
“We are absolutely and totally prepared,” says Pres Trump, asked if the Federal Government was ready for Hurricane Florence. But he acknowledged it could be a very bad storm. He's to receive another preparedness briefing this afternoon from @DHSgov and @fema. pic.twitter.com/7GIFkmIBHP
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) September 11, 2018
Trump’s “totally prepared” comment also echoes previous statements made about Hurricanes Maria and Irma last year which ultimately resulted in the death of nearly 3,000 people in Puerto Rico. Speaking in the Oval Office on Tuesday about Hurricane Florence, the president once again said the response effort for Puerto Rico was an “unsung success.”
Only one day after the official death toll was published last month, Trump said that the government had done a “fantastic job” with recovery in Puerto Rico. He’s also recently said the response efforts helped to boost the U.S. Coast Guard’s “brand.”
And yet many news reports and studies have shown the government was anything but prepared to deal with Hurricane Maria last year. A recently released report by the Government Accountability Office, for instance, found that “FEMA officials noted that staff shortages, and lack of trained personnel with program expertise led to complications in its response efforts, particularly after Hurricane Maria.”
North Carolina is expected to be the hardest hit by Hurricane Florence. The state’s Outer Banks have for years suffered from coastal erosion — made worse with ever more development and sea level rise.
Ironically, though, the state was made infamous in 2012 for banning policymakers from taking sea level rise into account in city planning decisions. And it has been noted that many flood maps are severely out of date — meaning that many people may live in vulnerable areas and not know it. (This too, was a problem during Hurricane Harvey last year.)
Other worries for the state include coal ash sites and potential hazardous waste from North Carolina’s pork industry. After Hurricane Matthew hit in 2016, thousands of hogs drowned and animal waste contaminated the groundwater.
The state, however, has spent just 1 percent of its nearly $240 million received from Congress to address unmet needs from the storm.
And all of these risks rise to the forefront as a government shutdown looms — a shutdown the president has said he’ll follow through on if Congress doesn’t provide more money for his proposed border wall.