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April 24, 2011

Tornadoes damage hundreds of Missouri homes, force closure of airport

Tornadoes damage hundreds of Missouri homes, force closure of airport

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

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Governor of Missouri Jay Nixon talks to residents of Berkeley, Missouri, while touring affected neighborhoods.
Image: Missouri Department of Public Safety.

The main terminal of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, before tornado damage.
Image: Matthew Hurst.

An EF4 tornado struck near St. Louis, Missouri Friday night, forcing the closure of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and damaging over 2,700 buildings in St. Louis County. The National Weather Service also confirmed that an EF1 tornado touched down in neighboring St. Charles County and an EF2 touched down in Pontoon Beach, Illinois.

The city of Bridgeton, in North St. Louis County, was hit by the EF4 tornado. According to the National Weather Service, it was the most powerful tornado to touch down in the St. Louis region since 1967, with winds ranging from 166 and 200 miles (267 and 322 kilometres) per hour. Aftereffects of that tornado were also reported in Maryland Heights, Missouri.

One official estimated that anywhere from 50 to 200 homes in the Maryland Heights and Bridgeton areas incurred damage, but early numbers released by St. Louis County indicate that over 2,000 buildings in those two cities had suffered “noticeable damage,” which does not include minor damage. Around 30,000 people in the region did not have power Saturday, out of a total of 47,000 affected residents.

Authorities with search and rescue dogs went door-to-door Saturday, looking for possibly trapped residents. Aerial imagery was being used in damage assessment. Area residents unaffected by the tornado were assisting those that lost their homes, reported St. Louis television station KSDK.

The Harmann Estates neighborhood of Bridgeton was heavily damaged during the storm, with many residences losing roofs and siding. Officials have already condemned some of the subdivision’s homes. St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley reported 25 homes in Bridgeton and Berkeley, Missouri as being completely destroyed and an additional 35 as uninhabitable.

Granite City, Illinois was struck by the EF2 tornado, while New Melle, Missouri was hit by the EF1. Fourteen New Melle homes sustained minor damage, while four were heavily damaged.

The storm also caused the temporary shutdown of two major St. Louis highways. Portions of Interstate 70 and Interstate 270 were closed Friday night due to fallen power lines and storm debris. Both blocked sections have since reopened, but officials said it would take a few days to remove all the debris, which they pushed onto the roadsides.

Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, which is immediately west of Berkeley, suffered heavy damage Friday night from the same tornado, and was forced to halt all regular operations Saturday while crews worked to clear the affected terminals. Eight flights had been forced to land in Kansas City, Missouri Friday night due to the tornado. About 500 people were in Lambert Airport when the tornado hit. A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokesperson said other US airports were not affected by Lambert’s shutdown. Lambert is not an airline hub and is significantly less busy than it was ten years ago.

In a Saturday press conference, Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, Lambert’s director, said the airfield and Terminal 2 were “fully functional,” but the main terminal’s Concourse C had been severely impacted by the storm. That terminal, which sustained the heaviest damage, serves Air Tran, American Airlines, Cape Air, and Frontier Airlines. The total cost of repairs at Lambert is expected to be in the millions of dollars, but Hamm-Niebruegge said the airport does not yet have a good estimate.

Cquote1.svg It was like being in a horror movie. Grown men were crying. Cquote2.svg

—Witness at Lambert Airport

One passenger of a waiting plane at Lambert told KSDK that heavy winds pushed the aircraft about 20 feet (6.1 metres) while it was still attached to the gate. Two other planes on the tarmac were unable to return to the airport, so passengers were bused back. Five planes—four operated by American and one by Southwest Airlines—suffered damage, and some will undergo major repairs.

Some travelers inside the airport received medical attention for minor injuries caused by flying glass. A handful of people were transported to a local hospital for additional treatment, but all were later released. “We get to the terminal and lights were out, glass everywhere, blood everywhere from people had been cut,” recalled one witness. Another person at the airport reported, “The ceiling was falling. The glass was hitting us in the face. Hail and rain were coming in. The wind was blowing debris all over the place. It was like being in a horror movie. Grown men were crying.”

On Saturday, it was evident that Concourse C would not be open for some time, said Mayor of St. Louis Francis Slay. A large section of its roof was missing and around half of its windows had been blown out by the high winds. Debris and water from the storm were present inside the airport as crews worked to restore power and assess damage to the terminal. Missing windows had been boarded up, ruined carpet had been removed, and the control tower was functional by Saturday afternoon. The power was back on by 7:40 p.m. CDT (00:40 UTC) that evening.

The airport resumed outgoing flight services Sunday, although several incoming flights landed at Lambert Saturday evening. Slay said the airport will be running at 70 percent capacity until mid-week, depending on the availability of airline crew members and planes. Airlines using Concourse C will have their operations temporarily relocated, he added. On Sunday, Southwest was operating at normal capacity, while AirTran moved to Concourse B and canceled four of its eleven scheduled flights. A spokesperson for American said the airline would have planes ready for normal Monday operations. American had previously canceled all St. Louis flights scheduled for Sunday.

Cquote1.svg It was horrific and for that much damage to been done, to have no loss of life, is truly a blessing Cquote2.svg

—St. Louis, Missouri mayor Francis Slay

On Saturday afternoon, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon arrived at Lambert and visited areas devastated by the tornado. He originally planned to tour Maryland Heights, Bridgeton, and Berkeley, but Nixon was only able to tour Berkeley due to an approaching line of storms. While in St. Louis, the governor said 750 Missouri homes had been damaged by Friday’s tornadoes and that federal assistance was forthcoming. Nixon reported that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was involved in assessing storm damage, as well as that US President Barack Obama had already contacted him, promising relief funds. US Representative Lacy Clay, said Saturday that he would brief Obama on the situation.

The state declared the affected areas of St. Louis County a disaster area. No one has reported serious injuries or deaths as a result of the storm, although some people were treated for minor injuries. “It was horrific and for that much damage to been done, to have no loss of life, is truly a blessing,” Slay said.



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October 1, 2009

Death toll from tsunami in Southeast Asia increases

Death toll from tsunami in Southeast Asia increases

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

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A tsunami that was generated in the South Pacific by a powerful undersea earthquake has killed at least 110 people, according to authorities.

The epicentre of the earthquake

The majority of the fatalities occurred in Samoa, where rescue workers say at least 84 people were killed. Another 24 people are confirmed dead on American Samoa, while at least seven fatalities have been reported in nearby Tonga.

The US Geological Survey says an 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck early Tuesday local time. It generated waves that devastated coastal areas, knocked down buildings and sent cars floating out to sea.

Strong aftershocks followed the initial earthquake, with at least one measuring a magnitude 5.6. Tsunami alerts were issued for the entire South Pacific region but were later canceled. Survivors fled to high ground and stayed there for hours.

Samoa

Several villages were destroyed on the southern Samoan coast of Upolu, which is also home to many tourist resorts.

During a flight on from Auckland, New Zealand to Apia, Samoa, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi told reporters he was shocked by the disaster. “So much has gone. So many people are gone. I’m so shocked, so saddened by all the loss.”

“The situation is very bad,” said Marie-Francoise Borel, a spokesperson for the International Red Cross, to the CTV News Channel by telephone. “This massive wave has swept across – it’s destroyed villages, it’s destroyed homes, people are in shock.”

The assistant chief executive of Samoa’s disaster management predicted that the death toll in the country could surpass one hundred, saying that searches for bodies in the region are still ongoing.

“They are still continuing the searches for any missing bodies in the area. Some areas have been flattened and the tsunami had brought a lot of sand onshore, so there have been reports the sand has covered some of the bodies. So we need specialised machines to search for bodies that are buried under the sand,” he said.

The communications head for the International Federation of the Red Cross, Jason Smith, told the Al Jazeera news agency that the Red Cross “[…] is working hard through five evacuation centres to provide people with safe places to stay and access to clean water,” estimating that up to 15,000 people in sixty villages were affected by the tsunami.

American Samoa

At the capital of American Samoa, Pago Pago, the tsunami measured 1.57 meters in height. The superintendent of the National Park of American Samoa Mike Reynolds reported four waves as high as six meters. People who experienced the quake said it was long, lasting from 90 seconds to three minutes.

Cquote1.svg We’re focused on bringing in the assistance for people that have been injured, and for the immediate needs of the tens of thousands of survivors down there. Cquote2.svg

—Craig Fugate, FEMA administrator

Pago Pago city streets were strewn with overturned vehicles, cars, and debris. Some buildings located only slightly above sea level were completely destroyed by the waves, and power in some locations is not expected to be restored for up to a month. FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said that “we’re focused on bringing in the assistance for people that have been injured, and for the immediate needs of the tens of thousands of survivors down there.”

“The first federal team members are currently en route to American Samoa aboard a Coast Guard plane and will be providing on the ground assessments once they arrive on the island,” Fugate said. “FEMA, who has provisions pre-positioned in a distribution center in Hawaii, is also preparing to send supplies as needed to help meet the immediate needs of the survivors.”

Didi Afuafi, 28, who was riding on a bus in American Samoa when the tsunami struck, described her experiences. “I was scared. I was shocked. All the people on the bus were screaming, crying and trying to call their homes. We couldn’t get on cell phones. The phones just died on us. It was just crazy,” she said. “This is going to be talked about for generations.”

US President Barack Obama declared a major disaster in American Samoa, and has sent federal aid to support local recovery efforts in the US territory.

“My deepest sympathies are with the families who lost loved ones and many people who have been affected by the earthquake and the tsunami,” Obama said. He had earlier pledged in a written statement to give a “swift and aggressive” government response to the disaster.

“I am closely monitoring these tragic events, and have declared a major disaster for American Samoa, which will provide the tools necessary for a full, swift and aggressive response,” Obama said.

During a Wednesday appearance near Washington, D.C., the president said the US was ready to help its “friends” in neighboring Samoa and throughout the region.

Tonga

In Tonga, seven people were confirmed dead and another three missing, after waves struck Niuatoputapu, a northern island. Acting prime minister Lord Tuita said in a statement that “according to information gathered from Niuatoputapu so far, seven people are confirmed dead, three missing and four with very serious injuries,” Lord Tuita, the acting prime minister, said in a statement. “It is reported that the tsunami did serious damage to the village of Hihifo, which is like the capital of the island.

“The hospital on the island is reported to have suffered major damage; telephone communication has been cut as a result of damage to equipment and facilities on the island; homes and government buildings have been destroyed,” he said.

An airplane was reportedly chartered by Tongan authorities to determine the amount of damage done to Niuatoputapu, but wasn’t able to land.



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February 21, 2008

Several earthquakes shake Nevada

Several earthquakes shake Nevada – Wikinews, the free news source

Several earthquakes shake Nevada

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wells within Elko County.
Image: Arkyan.

Several small earthquakes have been reported near Wells, Nevada after a large magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck the region at 6:16 a.m. PST (UTC-8).

The 6.0 quake, centered 12 miles (19 kilometers) from Wells had a depth of 5.6 miles (9 km) and caused at least 25 buildings to collapse. Damage to other buildings and windows was also reported, and at least two water mains were ruptured. Several cars were hit by bricks as they fell off buildings. One person was hospitalized for a broken arm, but no other injuries were reported.

At least 30 aftershocks ranging from a magnitude 2.0 to 4.0 have been reported since the early morning quake. The quake could be felt as far away as California, Idaho and Utah.

Officials in Nevada are currently inspecting roads and dams in the region for damage. FEMA is also on their way to the area to help in the inspections.



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November 25, 2007

The Onion: An interview with \’America\’s Finest News Source\’

The Onion: An interview with ‘America’s Finest News Source’

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Onion’s offices in Soho, New York City.
Image: David Shankbone.

Despite the hopes of many University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) students, The Onion was not named after their student center. “People always ask questions about where the name The Onion came from,” said President Sean Mills in an interview with David Shankbone, “and when I recently asked Tim Keck, who was one of the founders, he told me the name—I’ve never heard this story about ‘see you at the un-yun’—he said it was literally that his Uncle said he should call it The Onion when he saw him and Chris Johnson eating an onion sandwich. They had literally just cut up the onion and put it on bread.” According to Editorial Manager Chet Clem, their food budget was so low when they started the paper that they were down to white bread and onions.

Long before The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, Heck and Johnson envisioned a publication that would parody the news—and news reporting—when they were students at UW in 1988. Since its inception, The Onion has become a veritable news parody empire, with a print edition, a website that drew 5,000,000 unique visitors in the month of October, personal ads, a 24 hour news network, podcasts, and a recently launched world atlas called Our Dumb World. Al Gore and General Tommy Franks casually rattle off their favorite headlines (Gore’s was when The Onion reported he and Tipper were having the best sex of their lives after his 2000 Electoral College defeat). Many of their writers have gone on to wield great influence on Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s news parody shows.

And we are sorry to break the news to all you amateur headline writers: your submissions do not even get read.

Below is David Shankbone’s interview with Chet Clem and Sean Mills about the news empire that has become The Onion.

How The Onion writes an issue

Wikinews
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

David Shankbone How do you decide on the stories?

Chet Clem, Editorial Manager: We do everything backwards here. We start with the headline and then flesh out the story, as opposed to The New York Times, which writes the issue and then has a headline editor to make it snappy. We start with a joke. We read about six hundred to eight hundred headline ideas on a Monday coming from our staff and a small group of writers outside—a contributing core. We whittle that down on a Monday to about a hundred, come in Tuesday and pick an issue and brainstorm with the whole editorial staff; all fifteen of us. Then we assign a headline to a specific writer to execute. We go through a number of drafts and then have the editors pick it up and assign the photojournalism aspect of it to our graphic design team, who adds the visual aspect to it. The editors punch it up over the last couple of days and then it goes out over the Internet and into the print edition.

DS: So you don’t have writers coming up with a story and headline, but you will instead have a team of writers choosing the best headlines and then assign it to a particular writer who was not necessarily involved?

Chet: Writers will occasionally write their own headlines, but we come up with a list of 15 or 20 headline ideas, what we think will make a good story and then we assign it based upon what people’s writing strengths are. We have some people who are great at politics; some people we give all the war stuff to; someone who is in charge of the Britney Spears story of the week—the entertainment stories.

The headlines

Editorial Manager Chet Clem and President Sean Mills.
Image: David Shankbone.

DS: It seems like some publications, like AM New York, always have a Britney Spears story; is there anything similar with The Onion where they continually revisit a topic or person?

Chet: No, not necessarily. We are a little less reactionary. We tend to target the zeitgeist more than anything. We’ll hit the mainstream media’s portrayal of the entertainment world as much as we’ll hit characters in the entertainment world. We’ll attack People Magazine’s coverage of Britney as much as Britney.

DS: In an interview with Terry Gross, Stephen Colbert said of his time at Second City that they had decided on not doing political humor and, in particular, hackneyed political humor such as Ted Kennedy drinking jokes. They felt it was overdone, mean-spirited and not funny. Do your writers have similar rules of thumb?

Chet: We don’t have any rules or known lines we won’t cross. We have an understanding based upon having the same writers in the back room for years, and those writers training the new writers as they come in. There is an understanding in the room. If it makes the room laugh, it probably ends up in the paper. One example is we ran an article a couple of years back that was, “No Jennifer Lopez News Today.” That was our reaction to all of the J-Lo stuff. We weren’t going to touch on her dress, or who she was dating. Just the fact that those were the lead stories for so many days, in everything from US Weekly to Time Magazine.
Sean Mills, President: I think it’s important we have an original take on those things. I think it’s similar to what Colbert said to Terry Gross. We don’t want to just traffic in the same 24 hour news cycle. There’s a 24 hour comedy news cycle that exists on all the late night talk shows. The Onion has a different creative process where we are not trying to hit everything in the 24 hours and on the same notes. We want an original take. If we choose to do something on J-Lo, it’s going to be something like that, something less obvious.

DS: When you are going through the headlines, is it just you guys sitting around trying to crack each other up?

Chet: It’s the least amount of fun possible. Nah, I’m kidding. It’s actually more businesslike than you’d imagine. It’s very much like you are trying to make the room laugh, but the room has been a sort of captive audience for many many years now, so it takes a lot to make the room laugh.
Sean: The best analogy I’ve heard is when Rob Siegel, former editor-in-chief, likened it to wine tasting. It’s this quiet experience where you are trying to soak in what the joke is, have we done anything like this, is it a unique take, what are other people doing. It’s sort of like, “Hmmm…that’s hilarious. That’s really really funny” rather than people falling off their chairs. It’s more subdued than I think what most people would expect.

DS: It’s more analytical and clinical?

Sean: Not all the time, but it can’t be a laugh a minute.
Chet: Yeah, what you see on Studio 60 and 30 Rock, those are scripted writers rooms. Everything is funny there. There’s a lot of unfunny jokes that are told in a back room, that’s why they stay and die in that back room and don’t go out in The Onion.

DS: If someone is continually telling unfunny jokes, do you eventually fire them?

Chet: That’s why we are on the 10th floor to make sure they die when they get kicked out. It can be a real mess on Broadway.
Sean: By the time you get to be a writer for The Onion, though, the odds are you are going to succeed because we make it pretty challenging. You go through quite a bit. You will already have demonstrated a pretty long successful record of writing stuff for us before you will be in that room on a daily basis. But if somebody wakes up one morning and suddenly no longer is funny, then yeah, head first, out the door as quickly as possible, and as sadistically as possible.

The features and the columnists

DS: Who are the people on the street, the “American Voices”?

Sean: Each one of them has their own magnificent story, but they are mainly people from back in the early days of Madison where The Onion started. One guy’s a UPS driver who came by the office; another one was someone they randomly pulled off the street. But they go way back in The Onion. Chet might know more.
Chet: Way back to the Madison days and they were literally six people on the street that one day, and we have used them ever since.

DS: They are such a perfect representation of a broad spectrum of people, that it’s funny that you found them all randomly in just one day.

Chet: I wasn’t there at the time, but they were people around the office or around downtown Madison. The UPS driver, for instance, was a guy who always made deliveries to the office, and he happened to come by right when they were shooting and agreed to do the photo. He still works for UPS and still lives in Madison and was the subject of a feature in the UPS Teamsters magazine about that face in The Onion…our UPS guy, still at UPS and still in Madison.

DS: Have you heard if it has affected their lives?

Sean: There have been a few pieces that I’ve read that people have done research and talked to a lot of them, and most of them are pretty delighted about it and they hear about it all the time. There are six takes on it, but most of it is pretty positive.

Columnist Herbert Kornfeld was murdered in an episode of white-on-white violence. “There was almost a Notorious B.I.G.-like upset [amongst readers],” according to Chet Clem.
Image source: The Onion.

DS: Are there certain columnists who are reader favorites? Are there columnists where you receive consistently positive or consistently negative responses to?

Sean: From what I have seen, it’s pretty consistently positive for all of them. The only negative reaction we have gotten is one of our columnists was unfortunately killed this year, tragically, so a lot of people—
Chet: Herbert Kornfeld was killed this past summer.

DS: How did he die?

Chet: He was killed in an episode of white-on-white violence.
Sean: He was accounts receivable and he was pretty hardcore.
Chet: He died at work at Midstate Office Supply. He was struck down, leaving us with a hole in our editorial staff.

DS: You had a big reaction from the readers upset that Herbert Kornfeld was dead?

Sean: Yeah, people get pretty attached. A lot of these columnists have been writing for us ten plus years.
Chet: Some of them have a huge following, there was almost a Notorious B.I.G.-like upset. They really responded to his death. A lot of calls of condolence, there were movements across the country. A lot of flowers.
Sean: A lot of people wearing “Mourn Ya Til I Join Ya” t-shirts. His memory will be alive forever at The Onion.

DS: So there is no columnist that people write in and say that they aren’t funny, or that they are boring—

Sean: We have an editorial cartoon we have introduced in the last year that tends to get a lot of heat—

DS: Kelly?

Sean: That is Kelly. He has a very unique take on what is going on in the world, and it does tend to upset some people, but that’s the job of an editorial cartoonist, to be a provocateur.
Chet: That’s right.

DS: Kelly is actually Ward Sutton, correct?

Sean: It might be…I don’t know…
Chet: It’s Kelly. As a newspaper, it’s our responsibility to give equal voice to everyone, so we don’t shut out one viewpoint just because he is controversial.

DS: For a long time, that cartoon confused me, which perhaps speaks to the humor of it. I thought it was a real right-wing Christian Zionist syndicated cartoonist who truly exists and that you all were putting it in The Onion out of a sense of irony.

Sean: We do have one cartoon that runs in the paper called The Leftersons, which is a syndicated cartoon from a right wing guy who writes about this lefty family and all the trouble they get in for being so far to the left. But no, Kelly is unique to The Onion.

The photojournalism

The Onion’s photojournalists: “They are wizards.”
Image source: The Onion.

DS: How does your graphics department find the people for news stories and come up with the images?

Sean: We’ve always had a two person graphics team and it has always been about—depending on the graphic—going out and finding the right person or creating the right situation. Sometimes taking an original image to a little Photoshop photojournalism to create the right photo and using the photos that are out there.

DS: Are the images created using professional models or people on the street?

Sean: Always people on the street and never professional models. There’s always that element of reality to it.

DS: How do you approach people? Do you ask them if they want to be in an Onion article?

Chet: Everyone in this office and our other Onion office in the city has been in the paper at least once. Most of their roommates, siblings, loved ones, neighbors, will always end up in there some time. We usually pull them from friends and family of The Onion. A lot of our Op-Ed headshots are people who have come to The Onion. Our photographers will grab them and ask them to pose for some headshots and tell them they’ll end up in The Onion some day. We don’t really use any professional network. It’s casual—people who like The Onion and know us.

DS: One of my favorites is of a troubled teen whose parents are always arguing and it shows them shooting the double bird. So your graphics department will set up the scene and direct them to do that?

Sean: It could be that, or it could be that they take her pictures and juxtapose it in the photo. It’s directed, though, to get the right effect.
Chet: Or it could be an image of a girl who we have had on file, and she’ll be perfect so then we’ll just get someone in the office to shoot the double bird and Photoshop those hands in. They are wizards; I just enjoy watching our crack photojournalism squad work.

What The Onion will not publish

DS: How do you decide when going through the headlines what will be fleshed out as a full story and what goes into the “News in Headlines” section?

Chet: Just general writers room feel, what people think needs a full-length story to cover it, and what’s just a one-off funny headline with a photo of a person. There are no real set guidelines of what makes a top story for us, and what makes a neb, it’s just the general support of the staff behind it.
File:Furby.JPG
The Furby will never make it into The Onion.
Image: DO’Neil.

DS: What are some topics you have come across that people almost always say, “Oohh, let’s not do that, that’s going into territory we don’t want to go into”?

Chet: Well, we do have a list of no-no words of things that just keep coming up that we refuse to print anything about. There are always some areas where there is a line you don’t want to cross. We definitely push that line hard and continuously.

DS: What are some of those?

Chet: There will always be the big item controversial issues: gay rights, abortion, the war in Iraq, pedophilia. As long as the joke lands on the right person, then we are okay with it.

DS: What are your no-no words?

Chet: It’s a written, top-secret list. I’m afraid I can’t share it with you.

DS: Can you give us two?

Chet: “Thesis” and “Furby” are both on there.

DS: Why would Furby be on there?

Chet: Again, top secret list. It’s just one of the no-no words.
Sean: It’s not like ‘fuck’, ‘shit’, ‘cunnilingus.’ This is a totally different type of no-no that has a logic and algorithm all to its own.
Chet: We can’t say ‘Fuck’ in a front page headline. We’ve been told that by the U.S. Postal Service.

Reactions to Onion stories

DS: When your stories are taken as real—such as your story about the child who, after reading Harry Potter, decided to practice magic since she found out the Bible is just a bunch of ‘boring lies’—

The Onion’s satirical story about children turning to Satanism after reading Harry Potter books was forwarded around the Internet by some Christians as a real story.
Image source: The Onion.

Chet: “Congress threatens to leave DC unless new capitol is built” was run verbatim by a Chinese news agency. With the picture and everything, literally with our illustration.

DS: Do you do anything about that or do you think it’s just hysterical?

Chet: We’re happy to have our content syndicated by real newspapers in that manner. I want to say it was a newspaper in Beijing. Somebody pointed it out to them and their response was not to print a correction, but just to say that some newspapers in America make money by printing lies.

DS: Is there any one group that does not like The Onion? Evangelicals? Gays? Any particular subculture?

Chet: I think we’re equal-opportunity offenders. We aren’t going to target one group because we don’t want people picketing outside the office. We target everyone.

DS: Do you ever receive hate mail?

Chet: Every now and then. We’re generally not bombarded by it.

DS: What is generally the theme of those letters?

Sean: Do you know what I think it is? It’s whatever affects that person. So it’s like, “I love it when you make a joke about murder or rape, but if you talk about cancer, well my brother has cancer and that’s not funny to me.” Or someone else can say, “Cancer’s hilarious, but don’t talk about rape because my cousin got raped.” I’m using extreme examples, but whatever it is, if it affects somebody personally they tend to be more sensitive about it. But because we are equal opportunity, we can’t stop doing that. The best is we wrote a story—did you ever see the Police Academy when the officer gets thrown off his motorcycle after he brakes really hard and his head goes up a horse’s ass, and he died? We wrote an Op-Ed about that scene that was, “That’s not funny, my brother died that way.” That was sort of speaking to how people are offended by things that touch them personally somehow.
Chet: Almost every piece of hate mail starts with the line, “Usually I love The Onion, but this time you’ve gone too far…” We responded to that with, “Normally I love your pornographic website, but this time you’ve gone too far…” Someone will always be offended by something.

DS: Do you get any reaction from public figures and politicians?

Chet: They are always in the public sphere so they are usually used to worse things being written about them all the time.
Sean: We get a lot of positive feedback from politicians who seem to get and enjoy the comedy. In some ways, if they show up in The Onion it’s kind of a badge of honor. We had a meeting with Al Gore maybe about a year ago or so, and he was reeling off his favorite Onion headlines that were written about Al Gore. I think his favorite was, after he lost the election we wrote a story about how Al and Tipper Gore were having the best sex of their lives. He referenced it and he said he gets all the headlines sent from people.

DS: Did he say that story was spot on?

Sean: He didn’t get into too much detail, which was fortunate. After the Iraq War we had a story about Tommy Franks leaves the army to focus on solo bombing projects, and he quoted to The Washington Post and others that it was his favorite news coverage ever about him.
Chet: We just launched a print edition in DC this year, and the launch party was co-hosted by Grover Norquist and Russ Feingold. So if there is ever a better example of our bipartisan appeal I can’t think of it.

The Presidential Seal

DS: Speaking of federal issues, what is the status on the use of the Presidential Seal?

Chet: The U.S. Postal Service is actually the only federal authority that governs us. We have actually been allowed to use the Presidential Seal since [it was raised as an issue]. Our response was that we felt the federal government had much bigger issues on their hands that the President’s counsel should be focused on.

DS: But you actually did ask formal approval to use the seal. Did that come through or did it just die in the water?

Chet: We did ask for formal approval; we fundamentally weren’t aware of it at the time it was pointed out to us, but we did go back and get approval for it.

DS: So you actually received approval?

Sean: You know, I think, uh, that they were trying to put together on the spot a Federal Emergency Management Agency that week, and that might have gotten in the way. And then was it that Scooter Libby got indicted? Yeah, so I think it’s probably on the bottom of some pile in Washington, but no.

DS: You have always asserted that you don’t need formal approval to use it in parody; that you were only asking for approval as a courtesy?

Sean: Well, I don’t know about the legal side of it, but parody is generally covered and protected by the First Amendment and it is clear what our editorial mission is to our readers, so we did not feel it conflicted with that in any way, so we felt the First Amendment protected us to use it.
Chet: And whoever was in charge of filing that paperwork has probably since resigned from the White House, so…

The Onion’s readership

DS: What is your readership? Since you are a free weekly without hard subscribers, and then you have the Internet site and podcasts, how do you determine your readership?

Sean: Our website has never been more popular. Just on The Onion’s website in October we had over five million unique users as measured by Omniture, which is our in-house measurement system. The AV Club, which is an entertainment site owned by The Onion, had over a million for the first time. So our readership has never been stronger. In print we put out 720,000 newspapers every week, and that readership is much harder to manage. Generally speaking, it is assumed that at least three people read each issue on average, so it’s over 2,000,000 there, conservatively. Every joke that gets written in The Onion—sorry, every news story—is probably read by 7,000,000 people, somewhere around there.

DS: Similar to The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, your readership has to be informed to be in on the jokes. How do you feel about being seen as a real news source?

Sean: First of all, we enjoy being the most important newspaper in the world and being a trusted news source like that. But I do think we have a really smart readership, so if we can help them learn about the world, that’s a beautiful thing. It’s not necessarily the mission we set out to do, but if that happens in the process that’s a wonderful thing.
Chet: We are able to bring some pretty horrific things into the light in a manner that opens it up for millions of people, whereas they may otherwise shy away from it.

Future features

DS: You guys are always coming out with new features, whether it is a podcast, a newscast, a sports section. Is there anything under development right now?

Sean: Yeah, we’re going to soon launch our world atlas on-line. We just debuted Our Dumb World, our new book, and it will then be brought to life on the web and you can access a lot of that content through Google Maps and Google Earth, so that will be cool. In January we will be launching our election coverage for 2008, called War for the White House. That’s pretty exciting.
Chet: We’re really branching out. We’ve covered local and national news for a long time, so we have now branched out to the world with this book. It will give us a chance to bring trusted, non-biased journalism to every nation in the world. I know in Zimbabwe, for example, most of their media is controlled by the government, so they are really looking for a solid newspaper they can trust.

Handling national tragedies

DS: When things like the September 11 attacks happen, how do you gauge when is the time to start addressing it through parody?

Chet: It’s too soon to answer that question, even! It’s before my time, so I’m hesitant to answer that.

DS: I mean anything that is a national horror, like Hurricane Katrina.

Chet: The issue with Katrina is that it was Mother Nature’s fault, but it was the administration’s failure, which was as damaging as the hurricane. So quite quickly government failure and stupidity came to light that needed to be reported upon. We’re going to have a much faster response time to something like that, than something that is like a terrorist attack that catches us out of the blue.
Sean: We can talk about issues that are sensitive in a way that aren’t—you have to look at what you are talking about. When you are talking about Katrina, you are talking about the government’s reaction. When you are talking about September 11, if you read our September 11 issues you see, “Bush urges calm and restraint amongst nation’s ballad singers,” or “Woman doesn’t know what to do so she bakes an American flag.” There was a lot of art to it. With a lot of creative stuff and comedy it’s just gut. It’s the instincts of a really smart and creative editorial staff who have to know both what the take is and how and when to approach it. September 11 was unique. Generally, there’s not a lot of hesitation to approach things. It’s more do we have a take that is consistent with what The Onion does, and once that comes to light we publish it.

DS: It’s more of an instinctual process that you all go through?

Chet: Yeah, it is in some way a responsibility to respond to some of this stuff. Fox News is not going to go dark after a big national tragedy and just wait it out until they feel it’s “okay” to respond and report on it. There is going to be a little more of a delay because we are obviously a weekly newspaper—daily online—we’re not part of the 24 hour news cycle, but it’s just instinct. Trust your gut to know when is the right time, when is too soon, and is the joke on the right target.
Sean: And if other fake news sources, like Fox News, are going after it then we have to respond. It’s just the responsibility we have.

The Onion movie and Onion News Network

DS: What is the status of The Onion movie?

Sean: Here’s the scoop on that, because I think there is actually a lot of misinformation about it on Wikipedia. There was a movie that was made seven years ago, it was shot, it was a sketch comedy film. One of the producers was David Zucker and it was made with Fox New Regency and Fox Searchlight; they were partners in on it, with some first time directors. The movie was shot and the original film was viewed and it was determined by the studio and everyone involved that the material just wasn’t working. They wanted to go out and shoot more, but they needed more money and wanted to start it over. We worked with them to help make that happen, and it became an on-and-off-again project for years and years. Basically, it’s a dead project; however the studio might at some point might try to put something out on DVD to try to recoup what happened. So if it ever comes out, it would come out on home video—

DS: And quietly—

Sean: Yeah, probably quietly. Those are the facts of it. There were lots of creative people involved and lots of different opinions on what worked and what didn’t work, and how to proceed, but rising above that fray: basically, the movie was shot, they didn’t want to redo it, it never got re-shot. So it has been sitting on a shelf for over six years. It may or may not make financial sense for the studio, which has the right to put it out on DVD. They may do it, they may not.
Chet: We have since redirected our focus from The Onion video world to The Onion News Network that launched this past year and has been a great success for us, and expanded The Onion news empire.
Sean: That was a major launch for us this year with The Onion News Network. It has been a huge hit. We get over a million downloads a week, which makes it one of the more successful produced-for-the-Internet videos. If we’re not the most successful, we’re one of the most. It is a 24 hour news network. We have a new show that is part of the platform, but we also have a Sunday morning talk show that’s called “In The Know” and we just launched a morning show this last week called “Today Now.” It has been really exciting; we’ll have some new shows, show some archive footage and do some more in sports over the next year.

DS: What’s the idea behind the Onion News Network?

Sean: The Onion is a media empire. We have newspapers and a website, so a 24 hour news network makes a lot of sense. Creatively, it is very different from other things that are out there. There are former Onion writers and editors that have gone on to have big influence on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report; the Onion News Network is straight, it’s serious. Those other shows are more like sketch comedy, in a way. They have a host who is a performer. There’s a live studio audience. Everybody is on the joke, there’s voices, there’s faces…it’s very similar to a late-night talk show. Like a Johnny Carson experience. The Onion News Network is 24 hour news. You’re watching what looks like Fox News, CNN and all of our other competitors.

DS: How much do the writers and editors on the print side inform the news network side?

Sean: The primary writers are separate, but there’s a lot of cross-over and creative influence. The Onion News Network came out of the proud tradition of The Onion and it has been influenced by that. Our editor-in-chief, Scott Dikkers, is the creative force behind both. Some of the actual writers on the paper and the Internet site trade off and go over and submit scripts to the News Network; the News Network writers aren’t really writing for the paper. But there are a lot of people getting in the same room.
Chet: We have former Onion editor-in-chief Carol Kolb, who left The Onion a few years back, who has since returned to become head writer of The Onion News Network. So there’s a lot of Onion history there as well.

Relationship with other satirical news programs

DS: Many of the writers for The Onion have gone on to Daily Show and Colbert. Is there any collusion that you guys ever do, or a relationship that is fostered?

Chet: There has not been, but I think it will be interesting to see how it will evolve the way you see mainstream media has evolved with people crossing the lines there. Brian Williams on SNL, for example. A lot of cross-over between the different mediums. Who knows what the future holds there. I think as we go between the different satirical news mediums, there might be something fun in the future.

DS: Is there ever a story that has divided the staff, something the writers look back on and say, “Remember ‘Old Soul Goes to Cobbler’ and that whole issue?!” Something where half of the people thought it should never have been done and the other half thought it was really great?

Chet: We are a team, there are almost 15 of us and you are almost never going to get all fifteen people on board behind a joke. Someone is not going to be too hot on it. There are some cases—again, I wasn’t here—but I know the September 11 issue was an obviously very large challenge to approach. Do we even put out an issue? What is funny at this time in American history? Where are the jokes? Do people want jokes right now? Is the nation ready to laugh again? Who knows. There will always be some level of division in the back room. It’s also what keeps us on our toes.

DS: Do you think your writers are more optimistic or pessimistic about American culture?

Chet: It’s hard to apply the word optimistic to any of our writers. I don’t know if I could classify it like that.
Sean: They are great lovers of American culture. I find really enthusiastic support for certain artists, but I don’t know if they sit around thinking about the culture at large, and whether they are optimistic or pessimistic. There are good things every year that come out, and there are bad things that are part of the culture.
Chet: Yeah, everyone has their favorite writers, their favorite artists; what they really hate are stupidity and mediocrity. They are really sick of people getting away with repackaged drivel, so they are not going to hesitate to call people out on that. If it’s just another big box sitcom, then yeah we’re going to take a shot at it because it’s not different than every other “Two guys and a child, or a horse, or a donkey, or a monkey, in a two bedroom apartment in New York or Chicago or San Francisco.” Those sort of Madlibs pitches on sitcoms.

Unsolicited material

Rory Covey: I was curious about how much unsolicited material you guys get bombarded with?

Chet: We have a long history of an editorial policy that we at The Onion are a one-way conduit of information, so the readership exists to be told what is news, and we don’t really accept their opinions.

DS: Do you have a top ten list of the worst solicited ideas? Does anyone keep track of the really bad stuff that is submitted?

Chet: Anything really terrible does get passed around. I will admit that. But no, we don’t keep track of anything like that.
Sean: Unsolicited stuff doesn’t really get read, so it’s hard to make a list.

DS: Is there anyone who has been famous at The Onion for submitting over and over again their unsolicited material?

Chet: Anyone who continually tells you how funny they are, probably isn’t that funny or we would have recognized it. If they keep pitching over and over, and we’re not taking it, you’re probably just not an Onion writer.

DS: Have you ever taken an unsolicited idea?

Chet: Not that I know of, I don’t think so.
Sean: You’re getting ready to pitch something, aren’t you? Let’s hear it…let’s hear it.

DS: Could you imagine if I pulled out an illustrated journal full of brilliant ideas right now?

Chet: “What if I had this friend who had this really funny idea about Velcro, and he wanted me to tell you about that headline. Could I do that?”

DS: “DO YOU HAPPEN TO REMEMBER A CERTAIN BOB GOURSE AND HIS 347 SUBMISSIONS? THAT WAS ME, ASSHOLES! I’M FUNNY! LOOK AT ME NOW IN THE FACE AND TELL ME I’M NOT!


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October 26, 2007

FEMA employees pose as fake reporters during press conference

FEMA employees pose as fake reporters during press conference

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Correction — September 10, 2013
 
The headline should not contain the word fake: the employees posed as reporters; they didn’t pose as fake reporters, on the contrary they were fake reporters posing as real reporters. We aopologize for the error.
 

Friday, October 26, 2007

FEMA Deputy Administrator Harvey Johnson speaking about the California wildfires at the news briefing on Tuesday.

The United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is under fire after the agency held a fake press conference with fake news reporters in regards to individuals affected by the California wildfires and the assistance they could receive.

The agency called a press conference on Tuesday, giving the press only 15 minutes to show up. When many did not, FEMA brought in agency officials to pose as fake reporters and ask questions. The option for reporters to call into the conference was also available, but the ones who did call in only got to listen to the press conference, and could not ask questions. No reporters were actually present during the conference, parts of which were carried live on Fox News and MSNBC.

During the briefing, FEMA employees asked Deputy Administrator Harvey Johnson a series of what The New York Times called “decidedly friendly questions” such as “What type of commodities are you pledging to California?”, “What lessons learned from Katrina have been applied?” and “Are you happy with FEMA’s response so far?”. The briefing followed the format of a press conference, with FEMA’s press secretary at one point cautioning that he would allow just “two more questions”, then calling later for a “last question”. Officials who posed as fake reporters included the deputy director of public affairs Cindy Taylor and Director of External Affairs John “Pat” Philbin.

White House officials said that they do not condone FEMA’s actions and also state that they had no idea that the conference was taking place.

“FEMA has issued an apology, saying that they had an error in judgment when they were attempting to get out a lot of information to reporters, who were asking for answers to a variety of questions in regard to the wildfires in California. It’s not something I would have condoned. And they — I’m sure — will not do it again,” said Dana Perino, the White House’s press secretary in a statement.

FEMA apologizes for the mishap and says that their intentions were only to get the information to the citizens of California.

“[The purpose was] to get information out as soon as possible, and in trying to do so we made an error in judgment. Our intent was to provide useful information and be responsive to the many questions we have received. We can and must do better,” said Harvey E. Johnson, the agency’s vice administrator. “The real story — how well the response and recovery elements are working in this disaster — should not be lost because of how we tried to meet the needs of the media in distributing facts,” a FEMA statement said.

FEMA is currently deciding whether or not any officials should face punishment for the incident. One of the officials responsible, Pat Philbin, is going on to be the new head of public relations for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

This is not the first time that the Bush administration has come under fire for planting reporters at press conferences. In February of 2005, White House reporter Jeff Gannon was accused of being planted to ask softball questions to President Bush. FEMA itself had earlier undergone criticism during Hurricane Katrina for using disaster workers for public relations in 2005.



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July 2, 2007

Neola North wildfire in Utah blamed for three deaths

Neola North wildfire in Utah blamed for three deaths

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Monday, July 2, 2007

Whiterocks, Utah

A wildfire in the Ashley National Forest has been blamed for three deaths and has led to the evacuation of about 500 residents of the communities of Whiterocks, Farm Creek, Paradise and Tridell in eastern Utah.

The fire broke out on Friday, June 29 at around 9:00 a.m. local time in Duschene county, north of Neola by state route 121, and proceeded to spread westward into Uintah county.

To date, the cause of the wildfire is unknown. An early report by public safety officials claimed it was caused by a faulty power line or transformer. However, a later announcement by Moon Lake Electric Association CEO Grant Earl disputed this.

By Saturday morning, the fire had spread across approximately 46 square miles of land and been blamed for three fatalities: George Houston, his son Tracy Houston, and Roger Roberson, all from Farm Creek. Eleven year old Duane Houston, George’s grandson, was able to escape the fire with only minor injuries.

The communities of Whiterocks, Farm Creek, Paradise and Tridell, consisting of approximately 500 local residents, were evacuated by Sunday, and at least five homes are known to have been destroyed. Those without family or friends to provide lodging have been relocated to the Ute Indian Tribe’s auditorium in Fort Duchesne and Union High School in Roosevelt.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency became involved in the management of fire fighting efforts on Sunday, and a specialized regional wildland fire team, the Rocky Mountain Type One Management Team, had begun to converge on the Uinta Basin to assist with the firefighting, along with about 100 members of the Utah National Guard.

Reports that same day claimed the fire was 5% contained, but that it had split into at least two separate smaller fires. Authorities declared their intention to prevent the fire from moving eastwards into Dry Fork Canyon and the town of Tridell.

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March 2, 2006

Bush\’s Katrina statement contradicted by emerging evidence

Bush’s Katrina statement contradicted by emerging evidence

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Thursday, March 2, 2006

Recently emerging evidence seems to contradict a statement by United States President George W. Bush during Hurricane Katrina. He stated in an interview with ABC on September 1st that, “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees”.

One of the first items to emerge, a video obtained by the Associated Press, shows footage of Bush during a video-conference received at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, on August 29, 2005, 19 hours before landfall of Hurricane Katrina. During the briefing, Director of the National Hurricane Center Max Mayfield warned, “I don’t think anyone can tell you with any confidence right now whether levees will be topped or not, but there is obviously a very, very great concern”.

In addition, Michael D. Brown, then director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), reported that he had spoken with President Bush twice in the morning and that the president was asking about reports that the levees had been breached.

Brown would state later on CNN that, “There’s no question in my mind he probably had those reports (about breaches in the levees), because we were feeding in the Homeland Security Operations Center, into the White House sit room, all of the information that we were getting. So he had to have had that information. Plus, I think the president knew from our earlier conversations that that was one of my concerns, that the levees could actually breach”.[1]

In July 2004, the Federal Emergency Management Agency completed an exercise called “Hurricane Pam”, which, dealt with the scenario of a direct hit on New Orleans by a hurricane with 120 mph winds (a Category 3). It resulted in “10 to 20 feet of water within the City of New Orleans,” according to January 24 congressional testimony by the president of the company that designed the Hurricane Pam exercise.[2]

A report FEMA sent to the White House Situation Room on August 29th, they cited death and destruction anticipated by the “Hurricane Pam” exercise and warned that Katrina was likely to be worse. “Exercise projection is exceeded by Hurricane Katrina real-life impacts,” they stated. Furthermore, “The potential for severe storm surge to overwhelm Lake Pontchartrain levees is the greatest concern for New Orleans. Any storm rated Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson (hurricane) scale will likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching. This could leave the New Orleans metro area submerged for weeks or months”.[3]

When the report was released, Hurricane Katrina was thought to be a Category 4 as of landfall (though after analysis, it’s power at landfall would be downgraded to a Category 3).[4]

White House officials previously clarified Bush’s earlier comment, saying that the president was referring to the hours after Katrina swept through and news reports as of August 30th suggested the city had “dodged a bullet”, which led to surprise when reports reached them of the levee breaches.[5][6] Contrasting this was the August 30th broadcast of NBC’s Today, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams reported at 7:05 a.m. ET, “There has been a huge development overnight … the historic French Quarter, dry last night and it is now filling with water. This is water from nearby Lake Pontchartrain; the levees failed overnight.”[7]

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the hurricane preparedness of, as well as the effect on New Orleans on Wikipedia.

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January 4, 2006

Wildfires still burn in Oklahoma, Texas

Wildfires still burn in Oklahoma, Texas – Wikinews, the free news source

Wildfires still burn in Oklahoma, Texas

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Wednesday, January 4, 2006

NORMAN, Okla. – National Weather Service officials are warning of continued fire dangers throughout Oklahoma and Texas due to serious drought conditions.

More than 220 homes and businesses have been destroyed by fire in Oklahoma since Nov. 1, according to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management. Wildfires in 29 of the state’s 77 counties have claimed more than 360,000 acres. Meanwhile, officials in Texas say 238 homes and 254,555 acres have been lost to wildfires in that state since Dec. 26.

Unseasonably warm weather and wind gusts of up to 40 mph have combined to make an already dangerous situation worse across the Southern Plains, which also include parts of Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico, said Jason Levit of the National Storm Prediction Center in Norman.

“The region also continues to remain in a severe to extreme drought situation,” Levit said. “Dry surface vegetation will continue to serve as an excellent fuel for any fires that develop.”

Some dry areas, such as the Rocky Mountains and Great Lakes, may soon see some much-needed rain. Levit says the already fire-ravaged Southern Plains will have no such luck, however, and people should be aware of the severe danger that will continue to threaten the region.

In Oklahoma, state authorities and the National Guard have established a command post in Shawnee, about 40 miles east of Oklahoma City, where they have been joined by officials from the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the National Weather Service.

The state was granted access to relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Dec. 28, said Gov. Brad Henry. The Governor requested fire management grants to help cover expenses related to the wildfires that began the previous day. FEMA’s approval means funds are now available to local governments and volunteer fire departments that responded to the blazes in Hughes and Seminole counties. Requests involving nine other counties were approved in the days that followed.

Fires hit the northeastern part of Oklahoma City, the state’s capital and largest city, on Sunday. Fires were said to have destroyed 20 homes over the weekend.

A National Guard helicopter and firefighters from North Carolina were sent to battle a blaze near the town of Davis, in south-central Oklahoma, on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the BIA sent two airplanes to help fight a fire near Eufaula, in eastern Oklahoma. Three other BIA aircraft aided crews fighting fires near Wewoka, in central Oklahoma, and additional fires were reported near Knowles, Oklahoma City, Ponca City and Tishmingo.

Authorities said additional National Guard helicopters and Forest Service planes are available to battle other fires as they break out. In addition to teams from North Carolina, other firefighters from Alabama, Florida, and Tennessee have arrived and are being stationed throughout the state.

The Oklahoma State Medical Examiner’s Office said one man has died from injuries sustained from recent wildfires. A 68-year-old Hughes County man died Dec. 28 from thermal burns and smoke inhalation. The death is in addition to that of a 68-year-old Carter County woman who died last month while trying to use a garden hose to save her home from being consumed by flames.

The governor’s office said the state continues to await word on a request for a federal disaster declaration made Friday. A disaster declaration by President George W. Bush would qualify Oklahoma for federal funds to place firefighters ahead of where blazes are burning, and would provide temporary housing assistance and low-interest loans for those whose homes or businesses have been destroyed.

Texas authorities say they have 92 aircraft and 650 state workers working to fight fires, and have been joined by crews from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. The U.S. Forest Service is also helping the state to handle the emergency.

Despite efforts, wildfires on Monday claimed nearly the entire town of Ringgold, destroying 45 buildings that comprised about 80 percent of the town.

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October 23, 2005

Florida Governor Jeb Bush gives speech on Hurricane Wilma

Florida Governor Jeb Bush gives speech on Hurricane Wilma

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Hurricanes – 2005

Related stories
  • Bush’s Katrina statement contradicted by emerging evidence
  • Record-breaking 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season officially ends
  • Tropical Storm Zeta becomes second cross-season tropical storm in history
  • Tropical Storm Epsilon forms as 2005 Atlantic hurricane season comes to an end
  • Lingering Ophelia lashes at U.S. Carolinas coast
  • Hurricane Beta makes landfall in Nicaragua
Recent hurricanes in 2005
  • Hurricane Epsilon
  • Hurricane Beta
  • Hurricane Philippe
  • Hurricane Vince
  • Hurricane Stan
  • Hurricane Rita
Hurricane Rita

Hurricane

External/Inter-wiki links
  • 2005 Atlantic hurricane season
  • 2005 Pacific hurricane season
  • List of notable tropical cyclones
  • Wikipedia’s entry on Hurricanes
  • Wiktionary’s definition of a hurricane
  • Blog from New Orleans
  • NOLA hurricane wiki
Hurricane Wilma Information
Current Article
Category 5
Winds:160
Movement:WNW 7mph
Position:17.9N, 83.9W
270 miles SE of Cozumel
Pressure:892 MB
Live Stream (WFOR)
Sunday, October 23, 2005

At 1 p.m. EDT, Florida governor Jeb Bush, as well as others, held a press conference relating to the preparedness of the upcoming Hurricane Wilma. “There is no cause for a New Orleans-like concern,” says Governor Bush. He also says that this category 2 hurricane will affect southern Florida, including Lake Okeechobee. Georgia, Texas, Mississippi, and New York are helping Florida prepare. Mandatory and voluntary evacuations, he says, are currently underway.

For those who are unable to evacuate, shelters are to open up. There are 23 shelters opened at the moment, and more shelters, including shelters for the elderly, will open. The pets of Floridians also will be able to stay at a pet shelter. Over 80,000 MREs, as well as 200 truckloads of ice, are available for those who must take up shelter. This does not include the aid that will come from FEMA, which is expected to double the amount made available by Florida.

As of 10 a.m., over 200 million gallons of fuel, particularly gasoline and diesel, were at Florida ports. These ports are either to be closed, or currently closed at the moment. In addition, tolls for Florida turnpikes were suspended, and traffic is current flowing smoothly. However, as it was said by Director of Florida Emergency Management Craig Fullgate, “You need to pay attention to your local officials.”

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September 22, 2005

Houston mayor urges evacuations as Hurricane Rita moves closer to shore

Houston mayor urges evacuations as Hurricane Rita moves closer to shore

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

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Traffic is bumper to bumper on Houston interstate highways as citizens try to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Rita. Houston Mayor Bill White urged citizens in low areas of the city to “begin making their evacuation plans” in preparation for what is currently the 3rd strongest hurricane to ever form in the Atlantic Ocean and the worst to enter the Gulf of Mexico.

Acting U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director David Paulison was quoted saying “I strongly, strongly urge Gulf Coast residents to pay close attention to this storm. It’s already a Category 4, a huge storm, it’s in warm waters and there’s a potential for it to increase more,” at a briefing in Washington DC. The storm was upgraded to a category 5 hurricane on Thursday, the strongest category of storm. Recently, Rita has lost intensity since entering cooler waters and facing wind shear from an opposing weather front, and is now a Category 4 storm.

3 Day Forecast for Hurricane Rita

Houston, Texas lies 50 feet above sea-level on average, but the area is still prone to flooding as the region is very flat and supported by multiple bayous. In 2001, following Tropical Storm Allison, large areas of Houston remained flooded after receiving 10 inches (250 mm) of rain, causing over $US 5 billion in damage. Meteorologists fear that Rita could cause similar, if not worse damage.

Located 50 miles away from the inland city of Houston, and situated on the Gulf’s coastline, lies Galveston, Texas at a mere 8 feet above sea level. The island city, with a population of nearly 60,000, built a 10-mile-long, 17-foot-high solid granite barrier next to the sea as a defense against hurricanes.

The National Hurricane Center currently predicts a storm surge from Rita in the 15 to 20 feet range, along with strong battering waves. The city manager of Galveston, Steve LeBlanc said, “Galveston is going to suffer. And we are going to need to get it back in order as quickly as possible. I would say that we probably have 90 percent of our residents have left the island. It feels like a ghost town to me, and that’s a good thing.”

Rita is expected to slow down and linger after making landfall in the region. That could possibly mean even more damage from heavy rainfall accumulations. The governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, said the rain is a threat to New Orleans. Anywhere from 2 to 4 inches of rainfall are expected there, when earlier predictions estimated that 3 inches of rainfall would be enough to cause more flooding in the city.

Sources

Wikipedia
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2005 Atlantic hurricane season
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