Honolulu warns residents after storm swells dam water levels
HONOLULU – Honolulu officials said a dam holding 21 million gallons (80 million liters) of water was not in danger of collapsing Thursday, but still warned nearly 10,000 residents downstream that they might need to evacuate after a tropical storm caused water levels to rise in the reservoir.
Water levels in the dam rose 4-to-5 feet (nearly 1.5 meters) overnight as heavy rains from Tropical Storm Olivia dumped 7.3 inches (18 centimeters) of rain in the area. Meteorologists downgraded the storm to a tropical depression as it moved away from the islands, but warned lingering moisture could bring more rain.
The Board of Water Supply, the agency that manages the dam, said plans call for a mandatory evacuation if the water reaches 1 foot (30 centimeters) under the top of the dam.
The water was 5 feet below the top of the dam at midday Thursday. It’s also 18 inches (45 centimeters) below a spillway. Areas downstream would flood if water goes over the spillway, said Ernie Lau, the agency’s chief engineer.
“We want people to know, if you live near a dam and were the dam to fail, these would be areas we would want to evacuate before the failure of the dam,” Lau said. “But we’re nowhere close to that.”
‘Threat becomes reality’: Florence begins days of rain, wind
WILMINGTON, N.C. – The big slosh has begun, and the consequences could be disastrous.
Hurricane Florence’s leading edge battered the Carolina coast Thursday, bending trees and shooting frothy sea water over streets on the Outer Banks, as the hulking storm closed in with 100 mph (155 kph) winds for a drenching siege that could last all weekend. Tens of thousands were without power.
Winds and rain were arriving later in South Carolina, and a few people were still walking on the sand at Myrtle Beach while North Carolina was getting pounded. Heavy rainfall began after dark.
Forecasters said conditions will only get more lethal as the storm smashes ashore early Friday near the North Carolina-South Carolina line and crawls slowly inland. Its surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet (3.4 meters) of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet (0.9 meters) of rain, touching off severe flooding.
Florence’s winds weakened as it drew closer to land, dropping from a peak of 140 mph (225 kph) earlier in the week, and the hurricane was downgraded from a terrifying Category 4 to a 2.
‘It looked like Armageddon:’ Gas explosions destroy homes
LAWRENCE, Mass. – A series of gas explosions one official described as “Armageddon” left at least 10 people injured and ignited fires in at least 39 homes in three communities north of Boston on Thursday, forcing entire neighborhoods to evacuate as crews scrambled to fight the flames and turn off gas and electric lines to prevent further damage.
Massachusetts State Police urged all residents with homes serviced by Columbia Gas in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover to evacuate, snarling traffic and causing widespread confusion as residents and local officials struggled to understand what was happening.
“It looked like Armageddon, it really did,” Andover Fire Chief Michael Mansfield told reporters. “There were billows of smoke coming from Lawrence behind me. I could see pillars of smoke in front of me from the town of Andover.”
Gov. Charlie Baker said state and local authorities are investigating but that it could take days or weeks before they turn up answers.
“This is still very much an active scene,” he said. “There will be plenty of time later tonight, tomorrow morning and into the next day to do some of the work around determining exactly what happened and why.”
Cuomo defeats Nixon in NY gubernatorial primary
ALBANY, N.Y. – Gov. Andrew Cuomo overcame a primary challenge from activist and actress Cynthia Nixon on Thursday, thwarting her attempt to become the latest insurgent liberal to knock off an establishment Democrat.
Cuomo, who always led in the polls and outspent his rival more than 8 to 1, seldom mentioned Nixon by name during an often-nasty campaign, instead touting his experience, achievements in two terms as governor and his work to push back against President Donald Trump.
“You cannot be a progressive if you cannot deliver progress. And a New York progressive is not just a dreamer, but we are doers,” Cuomo said at a campaign rally the night before the vote. “We make things happen.”
With registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans more than 2 to 1 in New York, Cuomo becomes the automatic front-runner in November’s matchup against Republican Marc Molinaro and independent Mayor Stephanie Miner.
Nixon, a longtime education activist and actress best known for her Emmy-winning role as lawyer Miranda Hobbes on HBO’s “Sex and the City,” was counting on a boost from liberals looking to oust establishment politicians. She called herself a democratic socialist and pointed to recent congressional primary victories by New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts’ Ayanna Pressley as evidence that underdog challengers can defy the odds.
Trump turns back to Maria, falsely says Dems inflated toll
WASHINGTON – As Hurricane Florence bore down on the U.S. on Thursday, President Donald Trump angrily churned up the devastating storm of a year earlier, disputing the official death count from Hurricane Maria and falsely accusing Democrats of inflating the Puerto Rican toll to make him “look as bad as possible.”
Public health experts have estimated that nearly 3,000 perished because of the effects of Maria. But Trump, whose efforts to help the island territory recover have been persistently criticized, was having none of that. He said just six to 18 people had been reported dead when he visited two weeks after the storm and suggested that many had been added later “if a person died for any reason, like old age.”
Trump’s jarring comments, coming as the East Coast braced for a massive storm, offered fresh evidence of his resistance to criticism and his insistence on viewing large and small events through the prism of his own success or failure.
Offering up a fresh conspiracy theory, he said of the Puerto Rico count, “This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico.”
Even some Republicans suggested the president had gone too far.
Smart outraged by planned release of 1 of her kidnappers
SALT LAKE CITY – Elizabeth Smart said Thursday the news that one of her kidnappers will be released from prison next week was “a big shock,” and she hopes there is a way the woman can be committed to a treatment facility since there is no legal recourse to keep her behind bars.
Wanda Barzee is expected to be freed next week after 15 years in custody, following a surprise announcement that Utah authorities had miscalculated the amount of time the 72-year-old woman should serve.
Standing on the steps of the Utah state capitol, Smart, now 30, recalled some of the horrors she experienced when she was snatched from her home in 2002.
“She is a woman who had six children yet could co-conspire to kidnap a 14-year-old girl, and not only sit next to her while being raped but encourage her husband to continue to rape me,” Smart said. “So do I believe she’s dangerous? Yes.”
She said Barzee “saw me as her slave. She called me her handmaiden. She never hesitated to let her displeasure with me be known.”
Could Trump meet Kim in New York this month? AP takes a look
SEOUL, South Korea – Get ready for Trump-Kim Part Two.
In recent weeks it’s become clear that Donald Trump wants to meet with Kim Jong Un again, and the North Korean leader has told the White House he’d like more face-to-face talks with the American president.
Could that meeting happen, as some in Seoul have pushed for, on the sidelines of a U.N. gathering of world leaders in New York later this month?
Getting Kim, the brutal, authoritarian leader of the most sanctioned country on the planet, to the home of the Yankees might seem a fantastic fever-dream. But it’s useful to remember that no analysts predicted that Trump’s surprise June summit with Kim in Singapore would be possible – until suddenly it was.
Amid worries that Washington and Pyongyang are sinking further into a standoff over the sincerity of North Korea’s nuclear disarmament intentions, Trump may believe that another high-profile summit, on his home turf and as political scandal swirls in Washington, is just the thing.
Senator gives federal investigators information on Kavanaugh
WASHINGTON – Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Thursday she has notified federal investigators about information she received – and won’t disclose publicly – concerning Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
The California Democrat said in a statement that she “received information from an individual concerning the nomination.” She said the person “strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision.”
The FBI confirmed that it received the information Wednesday evening and included it in Kavanaugh’s background file, which is maintained as part of his nomination. The agency said that is its standard process.
A Senate Democratic aide and another person familiar with the matter said it referred to an incident that occurred while Kavanaugh was high-school age. The two spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter.
The details of the alleged incident and the identity of the person who provided the information were unclear.
Pope OKs probe into US bishop as he meets with US delegation
VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis accepted the resignation of a U.S. bishop Thursday and authorized an investigation into allegations he sexually harassed adults, adding awkward drama to an audience with U.S. church leaders over the abuse and cover-up scandal roiling the Catholic Church.
The resignation of West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield was announced just as the four-member U.S. delegation was sitting down with Francis in his private study in the Apostolic Palace. Among the four was Bransfield’s cousin, Monsignor Brian Bransfield, secretary-general of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The bishop had been investigated for an alleged groping incident in 2007 and was implicated in court testimony in 2012 in an infamous Philadelphia priestly sex abuse case. He strongly denied ever abusing anyone and the diocese said it had disproved the claims. He continued with his ministry until he offered to retire, as required, when he turned 75 last week.
The Vatican said Francis accepted his resignation Thursday and appointed Baltimore Archbishop William Lori to take over Bransfield’s Wheeling-Charleston diocese temporarily. Lori said in a statement that Francis had also instructed him to “conduct an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment of adults against Bishop Bransfield.”
No details of the allegations were revealed and his diocese said it had “no idea” where Bransfield was after the Vatican ordered him to live outside the diocese.
New York Democrats decide governor, attorney general races
NEW YORK – Democrats across New York are choosing their candidates for governor, attorney general and the state Legislature in the nation’s last primary election of 2018.
The most-watched race is a fiercely fought contest between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and activist actress Cynthia Nixon.
She’s a high-profile example of an insurgent left-wing trying to oust establishment incumbents.
President Donald Trump might want to keep an eye on the attorney general primary.
Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and former Hillary Clinton adviser Leecia Eve have all vowed to be a legal thorn in the Republican president’s side.