Sep 29, 2022 - Podcasts

Ian confirms the new normal for hurricanes

Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida on Wednesday afternoon as a high-end Category 4 storm. More than a million Floridians have already lost power. Other effects of the storm won’t be clear for days.

  • Plus, low income Americans struggle to afford hurricane prep.
  • And, Russia looks to annex parts of Ukraine.

Guests: Axios' Andrew Freedman and Ayurella Horn-Muller, The Washington Post’s Mary Ilyushina

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Fonda Mwangi, Ben O'Brien and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Thursday, September 29th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: Russia looks to annex parts of Ukraine. Plus, low income Americans struggle to afford hurricane prep.

But first, Ian confirms the new normal for hurricanes. That’s today’s One Big Thing.

NIALA: Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida on Wednesday afternoon as a high end category four storm. Governor Ron DeSantis spoke yesterday afternoon from Tallahassee after more than a million Floridians had already lost power.

RON DESANTIS: You're gonna see more power outages as this storm moves through the center part of our state, and before it exits into the Atlantic, Atlantic coast.

NIALA: Other effects of the storm won't be clear for days according to Kevin Grimsley, a Tampa based hydrologist for the US Geological Survey.

KEVIN GRIMSLEY: Some of the rivers do take a very long time to build up, and they're very slow to then come back down as soon as the hurricane moves on here in the next day or two hopefully, that flooding could continue for, uh, a week or more.

NIALA: Axios Climate and Energy Reporter, Andrew Freedman has been covering the storm. Andrew, What stands out to you about Ian?

ANDREW FREEDMAN: So I think the thing that really made a lot of, uh, meteorologists and reporters sick to our stomachs, on Wednesday morning looking at this, on satellite and on radar was just the rate at which this thing intensified from a category three to the borderline of category five. Putting on this display of 1000 lightning strikes in one hour in the circular ring of thunderstorms that surrounds the eye. Lightning is pretty unusual, especially continuous lightning in that region. It's a sign of property intensification, but it's also a sign of something strange going on.

NIALA: What does this make you think about climate change in hurricanes?

ANDREW: We have a really good understanding of the fact that hurricanes are becoming wetter, raining more due to the warming season, warming air temperatures. And we're seeing this trend towards rapid intensification that is happening more frequently and more frequently. I had a call with a meteorologist a couple days ago when I saw the hurricane center predicting that this would go to a category two shortly before landfall. And I said, what do you make of that? And they said, I don't buy it because that hasn't held true for the past seven years. And I said, well it holds true based on physical science, but it doesn't hold true based on the new normal. And that's really what I've been thinking about it is watching storm after storm after storm just hit the gas pedal right when you don't want it to.

NIALA: Andrew Friedman is Axios Climate and Energy Reporter. Thanks Andrew.

ANDREW: Thanks for having me.

Low income Americans struggle to afford hurricane prep

Many lower income residents in Hurricane Ian’s path have had to make a difficult choice: spend money on daily essentials or on hurricane prep. Preparing for a storm can cost thousands of dollars – think about supplies like plywood, batteries and food and water. Experts recommend stocking up with a gallon of water per person per day - and to be prepared for seven days. And with inflation the cost of food alone has gone up more than 11 percent over the last year.

Axios climate reporter Ayurella Horn-Muller has been reporting on this in the Tampa Bay area, and sent us this dispatch.

AYURELLA HORN-MULLER: This is actually something that's specific to Tampa is a, a major issue within the Hillsborough County population. 42% of people can't afford the basic cost of living. And neighboring Pinellas County, which is where I live, that's 46% of people. And the best hurricane preparedness plans recommend at least a week of food and non-perishable items and water per resident in a household, including pets. And that's just the bare minimum. So there are, when you see a major storm impact an area with a lot of lower income households that don't have the, the right supplies. You do see a, a large impact in worse case scenarios and mortalities. And, and you see families that are kind of stuck in these really tough situations where they have to turn to outside resources to try to get just basic essentials like food and water. I spoke with Feeding Tampa Bay and they're a nonprofit that serve 10 counties in the region. And they serve roughly 1.5 to 1.75 million meals every week. And I spoke with their CEO, Thomas Mantz.

THOMAS MANTZ: There are far more people who are economically unstable than we've seen in many, many years. I think even some of the reports that we see out about food insecurity, numbers and other things, I still don't think they reflect the current circumstance of the long term impact of two years of and now a recession. And so families don't have the resources to put food in their own pantries, keep things stocked up.

AYURELLA HORN-MULLER: Food banks like Feeding Tampa Bay they start doing extra distributions ahead of major storms, and then as soon as a storm passes and it's safe to go out, they start moving food into the most impacted areas that, that they see on the news. So this is kind of a case where we have households that, can't afford to pay for things that they're told they need to have in order to be best prepared and safe for a storm, but they also can't afford not to do those things.

NIALA: That’s Axios’ Ayurella Horn-Muller.

In a moment – Russia on the brink of annexing four regions in Ukraine.

Russia looks to annex parts of Ukraine

NIALA: Welcome Back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. The US Embassy in Moscow issued a security alert yesterday, warning Americans to leave the country immediately and suggesting dual US-Russian citizens could be drafted into the war effort. Here to catch us so quickly on the latest in the Russia-Ukraine conflict is Mary Ilyushina, Russia reporter for the Washington Post. She's joining us from Latvia. Mary, the US is telling Americans to leave. We know there's been unrest and a mass exodus in reaction to Putin's mobilization efforts. What is the situation in Russia right now?

MARY ILLYUSHINA: So the US I think issued the warning for two reasons. One is that obviously there's a massive exodus of people outside of Russia, mostly of fighting age men, and sometimes their families, cuz they don't wanna be drafted. And that led to most commercial flights essentially sold out, to the very few destinations that are still available for Russia because as we know, Russia's been essentially in isolation over the invasion of Ukraine. And a lot of countries have stopped flights to this country. And the second reason is that there are dual US-Russian citizens and the embassy warned them to leave the country immediately because they fear that they may be drafted.

NIALA: We know that Vladimir Putin has a big speech expected tomorrow, his State of the Union speech. What are we expecting from that declaring victory in these so-called referendums in occupied areas of Ukraine?

MARY: The expectation is that he will use this as a platform to announce that Russia has, you know, annexed these lands or taken these lands. That would mean that they are now part of the Russian Federation. They think this is gonna be a warning to Ukrainians to kind of slow down their counter offensive or maybe halt it, that's their hope, because they will consider any attack on these territories as a direct attack on Russia. Which, the motto here is that Russia has been saying that they're trying to bring, you know, historic Russian lands back and that they're saving Russian-speaking populations in those areas. Although, you know, I think Russians have also noticed that the objective has changed many times, and with this mobilization announcement that came last week, people are really, really unnerved and sort of panicking because it's now kinda hitting home and they need to present them some, some purpose of why this is happening.

NIALA: And what has Ukraine's response been to all of this?

MARY: Ukraine said it doesn't change anything for them and that Kiev will continue to fight. And they have completely slammed these referendums. They said that it's just a propaganda show. And that sort of echos what the West has saying as well, because there's really no international recognition of these votes, even from countries that are more Russia-friendly, like Serbia, for example, and some of the central Asian countries that have been cooperating Russia for a long time, but now they're kind of moving away from that and are not willing to jump and support Moscow in this.

NIALA: And is there anything else you think we need to know to understand this moment in the war?

MARY: I think it's very crucial to see how the Ukrainian counter-offensive is going to develop because there is this sort of, it appears that they're renewing this effort they're now attempting to take the, which at the outskirts of the Donetsk region. So if they do that, which, you know, seems like it may happen quite soon there'll be another big strategic blow for Vladmir Putin. And that also, if it happens, especially on the day of this State of the Union address, that would be, you know, even more in juxtaposition of what he's trying to portray that he's very much succeeding in this war.

NIALA: The Washington Post’s Mary Ilyushina. Thank you Mary.

MARY: Thank you.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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