Arizona’s 2023 monsoon leaves us wanting more. Why some of us got rain and others didn’t

AZ Central – The Arizona Republic

Arizona’s 2023 monsoon leaves us wanting more. Why some of us got rain and others didn’t

Kye Graves, Arizona Republic – September 29, 2023

Arizona’s 2023 monsoon season left a lot to be desired, from below-average rainfall numbers across the state to record-setting heat streaks, and the spectacle that often provides widespread relief to the region was sorely missed.

The scope of the season’s impact, while minimal, was exacerbated by the scalding summer conditions and multiple heat records in a slew of categories.

Thunderstorms were hard to come by this year. Rainfall totals for the monsoon season, which ends Sept. 30, will likely result in the driest-ever summer season at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, where the National Weather Service records the official figure. The rain gauge there posted just 0.15 of an inch, less than half the total of 1924, previously the driest with 0.35 of an inch.

Some areas did fare better, primarily in the East Valley and Cave Creek, where some gauges snagged upward of 4 inches, but the spotty season will still place Maricopa County on the infamous dry list behind 2020’s “Nonsoon.”

Ultimately, this lack of storms helped fuel the full effect of triple-digit temperatures and the sweltering sun to be felt across the state.

In fact, each of the three branches of the National Weather Service — Flagstaff, Phoenix and Tucson — recorded Julys that surpassed the month in years prior, posting their hottest-ever totals.

The sun silhouettes the air traffic control tower at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix on Sept. 6, 2023. An excessive heat watch for this weekend was issued by the National Weather Service.
Flagstaff sees hottest monsoon season on record; Tucson and Phoenix hottest-ever Julys

Climate summary data from the weather service’s website highlights the month’s ferocity. In the Phoenix area, for example, average high temperatures for July were 114.7 degrees, more than eight degrees above the recorded norm between the years 1991-2020.

The average mean temperature was 102.7 degrees, about seven degrees higher than the recorded norm. The most revealing stat was for warm-lows, as nights in Phoenix averaged 90.8 degrees, more than six degrees north of the month’s typical mean.

For Tucson and Flagstaff, climate reports echo a similar song. Tucson posted its hottest July, with an average monthly temperature of 94.2, six degrees hotter than normal. Flagstaff witnessed its warmest July, with a 4.7-degree temperature spike above its typical mark, bringing the overall average figure for the month to 71.4 degrees.

Flagstaff is on pace for its warmest monsoon season on record by just 0.2 degrees, surpassing the number one spot set in 1980.

Rainfall totals shallow compared to recent years

Total precipitation for 2023’s monsoon, recorded at Phoenix Sky Harbor, Flagstaff Pulliam and Tucson International airports, varied across the board:

  • Flagstaff: 4.24 inches
  • Tucson: 4.73 inches
  • Phoenix: 0.15 of an inch

As a whole, the deviation from the norm for Tucson is not that negative.

A typical season usually produces around 5.7 inches of rain for Tucson’s airport, coming mainly in July and August. This was mirrored in 2023, as the prime months brought 2 and 2.39 inches, respectively, making up for a zero in the June column and a lackluster September

Tucson held close to its 2022 mark as well, coming just 0.20 of an inch from eclipsing that year’s total.

In Flagstaff and Phoenix, things get a lot less pretty.

At the high country’s airport, 2023’s accumulation of 4.24 inches puts it well below its average of 7.68. The year was also dwarfed in comparison to 2022 (10.63 inches) and 2021 (10.90 inches).

In Phoenix, Sky Harbor caught an abysmal 0.15 of an inch of rain this season, easily placing it as the driest on record, pushing out 1924 at 0.35 of an inch. Usually, Sky Harbor gets around 2.43 inches of rain during the season.

When compared even to 2020’s “Nonsoon,” a total that both Tucson and Flagstaff handily exceeded, Phoenix’s 2023 comes nowhere close. Sky Harbor got exactly 1 inch of rain that year, according to NWS statistics.

Overall for Arizona, precipitation in 2023 was more in line with typical seasons than that of 2020 and 2021.

“I would say as far as precipitation patterns, it was more typical because of the variability,” NOAA Warning Coordination Meteorologist Kenneth Drozd told The Arizona Republic. “(In) 2022, there were more places that were above normal than below normal, but it was still pretty mixed. Kind of like this year, there are more places that are below normal than above normal, but it still varies quite a bit depending on where you’re at.”

In 2020 and 2021, Drozd said, conditions were “unique” because of their widespread consistencies, with 2020 being so dry and 2021 being much wetter.

Maricopa County on pace to be wetter than 2020

While Sky Habor couldn’t catch a break, Arizona’s most populous county as a whole is set to end the monsoon season in a better position.

According to data from the Maricopa County Flood Control District, the county posted wetter numbers than it did in 2020, in large part due to healthier amounts falling in Cave Creek, Wickenburg, Apache Junction and portions of the East Valley.

Throughout Maricopa County, totals from data stretching back 108 days from the season’s Saturday endpoint bounce around from lows in central Phoenix at 0.39 of an inch to upward of four inches in parts of Cave Creek.

A notable area that performed the best in the county was near rural Crown King north of the Valley, where there were spots receiving nearly eight inches during the storm span.

“In general, the closer to the mountains you are, the more rain you’re going to receive during monsoon because the storms form over them,” National Weather Service Phoenix office meteorologist Mark O’Malley told The Republic. “That just became exacerbated this year where the areas of south Phoenix through Laveen, down through Avondale and Goodyear, some areas didn’t even receive a tenth of an inch.”

According to O’Malley, the lack of storms this season was primarily due to the weather pattern setting up with strong high pressure over southern Arizona, bringing hotter temperatures and lackluster storms.

“The weather pattern was set up to where it favored the heat and the storms were more removed from the area, more frequently,” O’Malley said.

SRP: 3 monsoons touched down in the Valley in 2023

According to data from Salt River Project, three major monsoon storms hit metro Phoenix in 2023: on July 26Aug. 31 and Sept. 12.

These storms left their marks, too, with SRP reporting estimated outage numbers at the height of each storm:

  • July 26: 50,000 customers out of power
  • Aug. 31: 71,000 customers out of power
  • Sept. 12: 39,000 customers out of power

APS customers were affected as well, with the company reporting approximate outages during peak storm hours:

  • July 26: 7,750 customers without power
  • Aug. 31: 18,000 customers without power
  • Sept. 12: 11,000 customers without power

Each event brought its own force, bringing down power lines, overturning planes, destroying mobile homes and uprooting trees. While par for the course during the season, rainfall totals certainly weren’t.

The Maricopa County Flood Control District’s point rainfall data paints a clear picture of how dry the year was.

For July 26, chunks of the storm covered the greater Phoenix area into Scottsdale and swaths of the East Valley, with downtown Phoenix only registering 0.04 of an inch of rain. Paradise Valley and Apache Junction received as much as one full inch during the duration of the storm.

On Aug. 31, more portions of Maricopa County got involved but with far less rain. Only two areas throughout the metro saw upward of a half inch. Much of the rain that fell did so in the Cave Creek and New River areas, ranging from 1.45 to 3 inches through the course of the storm.

A storm on Sept. 12 produced the best results for the Valley, with multiple areas getting over the half-inch hump. Again, much of the wealth ended up in Cave Creek, with various areas tabulating over 1.5 inches.

That time of the year! How To Get Rid of Mice — Easy Home Remedies as Inexpensive as They Are Effective:

Woman’s World

How To Get Rid of Mice — Easy Home Remedies as Inexpensive as They Are Effective: Pest Pro Reveals

Lindsey Bosslett – September 28, 2023

Ahh, we love the nip in the air that means fall is finally here. Unfortunately, the dip in outdoor temperatures means mice will be looking to take up residence in warmer surroundings, namely your home. If all through your house a creature is stirring, don’t worry — it’s easier than you think to banish mice. And it’s important to know: Not only are mice a nuisance, they can also import other pests, like ticks and mites, into your home. In fact, according to Discovery Wildlife, 42% of homeowners with an unwanted “mouse guest” will experience damage to their home’s structure and furnishings; 31% to food supplies; and 9% to insulation and wiring. And since a single mouse can give birth to 50 or more babies a year! We’ve tapped pest pros to give us the best way to get rid of mice without having to call…a pest pro!

How to tell if you have mice
Mouse eating through a piece of bread
Jose A. Bernat Bacete/Getty images

“Mice are primarily nocturnal, so the chances you’ll actually see one are low unless you’re a night owl,” explains Nicole Carpenter, pest control specialist with Black Pest. Signs you have one or more living among you include:

  • Holes chewed into boxes of food, pet food and litter
  • Holes chewed into furniture, blankets or pillows with stuffing disturbed
  • Cylindrical, pointy-ended droppings about 6 mm long
  • The smell of ammonia, which is caused by their urine
  • Hearing scurrying, squeaking or gnawing sounds in your walls, vents or ceiling
  • Seeing tooth marks in furniture, walls or wires
  • Dirty-looking smears along walls or floors, which is caused by the grease on their fur
Why mice can be hazardous to your health

Mice can carry several diseases that can be transferred to their human roommates, including hantavirusleptospirosislymphocytic choriomeningitis, typhus and even the bubonic plague, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And though it’s rare to get sick from the rodents, it’s important to throw away any food they may have gotten into to ensure you stay disease-free.

How to get rid of mice: the best no-trap deterrent home remedies

If you’ve found signs that little critters have set up shop in your home, try the following simple home remedies to create a mouse-free zone without needing to trap and kill them:

1. The smell of peppermint
a bunch of fresh picked mint, home remedy to get rid of mice
Jenny Dettrick/Getty Images

Mint is one of the best all-natural mice deterrents there is. “Mice really hate the smell and will go out of their way — even leave their cozy nests behind —to avoid it,” Carpenter reveals. “Just take some cotton balls, soak them in peppermint essential oil and leave them near spots you think the mice are active in your home.”

2. The smell of mothballs
Moth balls over the sackcloth (How to Get Rid of Mice Home Remedies)

May as well call them miceballs, mothballs contain naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene — as these chemicals break down, they produce an odorous gas that creates that signature “mothball” scent. Mice not only find the smell unpleasant, the gas is also unhealthy for them, so they’ll take off for clearer air elsewhere. “Simply place mothballs near where you think the mice are nesting,” says Thomas.

3. The smell of white vinegar

Another scent mice won’t want to be around is white vinegar. Carpenter says there are two ways to put it to work: “First, you can soak cotton balls in white vinegar and put them where you suspect mice might be. Change these every few days to keep the vinegar smell strong. Or you can mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spritz it along baseboards, corners and entry points. Repeat this as needed.”

How to get rid of mice: humane trap home remedies

Humane traps let you capture mice, then release them unharmed away from your home. Experts recommend driving at least two miles away, otherwise the mice will often try to return. A few to try: Wanqueen Humane Trap 4-pack, (Buy from Amazon, $12.99) or Harris Catch and Release Humane Mouse Trap 2-pack, (Buy from Home Depot, $14.39).

If you are considering using traps that kill mice, the best choice is a spring trap, which can be found at your local supermarket or dollar store and are the least likely to cause the mouse any suffering.

Most pest experts recommend staying away from glue traps due to cruelty, and from poisons, as these not only cause an unpleasant death for the mouse, but they can wind up perishing inside your walls or vents and be difficult to remove. Plus, if the bait or poisoned mouse is eaten by pets or other wildlife, they can wind up being poisoned, as well.

Can a cat help rid my home of mice?

Not all cats are interested in hunting, and even those who do like to stalk prey typically cannot tackle a true infestation. Bottom line: Kitties are great pets, but generally not a reliable form of mouse control.

How to keep mice from ever darkening your door

To avoid even needing to know how to get rid of mice using home remedies, the first line of defense is to keep mice out of your home in the first place, says Sean Thomas, owner of DIY pest control blog Conquer Critters. His easy how-tos:

1. Tweak your pantry

Food is one of the top reasons mice enter homes, according to Thomas, and they can detect scents up to 10 miles away — which means they can sniff out crumbs left on your counters and floors, as well as food left in paper or cardboard containers, which includes pantry staples like rice, cereal, oats, sugar and pasta. Give your kitchen a quick daily sweep to stay on top of crumbs, Thomas advises. “And store food in airtight, mouse-proof packaging.” Look for hard plastic food storage bins at the dollar store. Or you can buy entire sets, like the Mibote 28-piece airtight storage container set (Buy at Walmart, $49.99). Not only are they mouse-proof, they also keep your food fresher longer and can transform your pantry from cluttered to a beautifully curated space.

2. Plug sneaky leaks
Pipe leaking water
LoveTheWind/Getty Images

Like every other creature, mice need water to live. “So if there are any leaking pipes or standing water, that can draw them in too,” Carpenter explains. Just do a quick check under sink cabinets and near drains in basements to make sure there are no water issues you need to address — in addition to mice, these can also cause mold and mildew problems that may impact your health. (Click through to learn more about how to get rid of mold in your bathroom.)

3. Bar common entry points

Shelter is the other top reason mice enter homes — most people believe they only invade in winter while looking for warmth, but they will also seek the cool, dry comfort of your house to escape the summer heat and rain.

“Shoring up your house from shelter-seeking mice takes a bit of a sharp eye,” says Thomas. “Mice have collapsible rib cages, which means they can flatten their bodies to fit in a tiny gap between, say, the bottom of your garage door and the floor, or a hole as small as 2 cm. They are also adept climbers, so the entryways don’t need to be ground-level.”

Where to check for mice

When looking for mouse entryways, grab a flashlight and check these areas key inside your home:

  • Around doors and windows
  • Inside cabinets, particularly the kitchen and bathrooms
  • Along baseboards and near vent openings
  • Behind appliances
  • Around pipes and floor drains
  • Along basement walls and crawl spaces

Then head outside and inspect these spots:

  • The foundation
  • Around pipes, gas lines or electrical wiring
  • The garage door and walls
  • Around any weather stripping
  • Any outdoor vents and airways
  • Attic windows

See holes and gaps? A home remedy that works: Use copper or steel wool to fill in holes, as mice typically won’t put in the effort to chew through it.

Or, you can fill them in using expandable mouse-proof foam insultation, such as DAP Mouse Foam Sealant, (Buy from Amazon, $18.62) or Smart Dispenser 12 oz. Pestblock Insulating Spray Foam Sealant, (Buy from Home Depot, $9.97)

Whether You Prefer to Snap, Zap, or Catch and Release Them

Popular Mechanics

These Are the Best Mouse Traps, Whether You Prefer to Snap, Zap, or Catch and Release Them

Kevin Cortez, Alex Rennie – September 27, 2023

victor mouse trap
The Best Mouse Traps for Getting Rid of RodentsVictor

“Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through these links.”

Whether you think mice are pests to be eliminated by any means necessary or simply cute and cuddly guests to be relocated, one thing is true: They need to be removed. And you should know how to get rid of mice. Although serious infestations will require a professional pest control expert, there’s still a lot you can do to mitigate your rodent problem by employing mouse traps. These are designed to be easy to use, and since they’re available in a variety of types and sizes, you can choose exactly how you’d like to deal with captured mice.

Looking for more pest control solutions? Check out our guides for the best insect repellentstick repellents, and bug zappers.

The Best Mouse Traps
What to Consider
Catch and Release (No-Kill), Snap Traps (Kill), or Glue (Either/Or)

The most important thing to remember when choosing a mouse trap is whether or not you want to kill your mice or keep them alive after they’re caught. If you’d prefer not to kill the unwanted houseguests, choose a “catch and release” trap. These contraptions usually feature a mechanism that allows the mouse to enter then quarantines them inside until you can transport them to wherever you plan to release them. They’re also typically reusable and come in various sizes, from catching one mouse to up to 10. Catch and release is considered, naturally, a humane pest control tactic. When releasing, just be careful not to make contact with any urine or droppings to prevent exposure to hantaviruses.

Choose a snap-style or glue trap if you plan to kill your mice. Snapping traps do just that: snap their jaws onto the mouse once the animal steps on the trigger. These are usually disposable as, once a mouse has been killed in it, other mice will tend to avoid it.

Glue traps are another lethal option and use a strong adhesive to trap and immobilize the mouse when it steps on it, eventually killing it. Although we have been able to use glue traps without killing the mice they caught (we used olive oil to free them successfully), you should consider these traps lethal. Rats often get stuck and will rip off their skin and fur when trying to escape them, so be mindful of this if you consider the glue trap. All glue traps are made with nontoxic adhesive, so if a small child or pet accidentally touches one, they won’t be exposed to harmful chemicals or poisons. However, the CDC does not recommend glue traps as they can scare mice and rats, causing them to urinate, which can increase risk of rodent-related illnesses.

We don’t recommend using poisons. These baits and pellets cause rats and mice to die slowly over time, resulting in dead bodies scattered around the house—maybe inside your walls or in other hard-to-reach areas. That can also create an odor that’s difficult to locate and, therefore, clean up. Poisons also cause rodent bodies to become poisonous, thus poisoning any animal that may eat a carcass—pets included.


Regardless of what kind of trap you choose, you’ll need bait. Some traps include gel baits that attract mice to their scent, while others require you to use something that you may already have to invite mice, like food. Pest control companies often recommend loading traps with small bits of cheese, nut butter, chocolate, or seeds. Be careful not to overload a trap, as mice may easily be able to grab pieces without setting them off. Too much bait also risks attracting other pests like roaches and ants.

How We Selected

We’ve used nearly every mouse trap and took that experience, as well as several hours of research, to determine which are the best. We considered advice, guides, and explainers from various pest control services and publications to find what makes a mouse trap effective, and, importantly, only chose lures with nontoxic additives. No poisonous baits were considered, as they’re too dangerous for homes with animals and children. We did our best to include a range of trap sizes, so whether you’re in a studio apartment with minimal room or need help controlling an outdoor infestation, you’ll find a trap that best suits your living space. Because there isn’t much variation among traps of a certain type between brands, we selected only six as the best: two catch-and-release, two snap, and and one glue trap, plus an electric option for the quickest kill possible.

Press ’N Set Mouse Trap

This snap trap served us well during a particularly aggressive mouse infestation. It’s extremely simple to set up, so there’s minimal risk of pinched fingers. You just press the rear tab, the jaw opens, and the trap is ready to go.

Best of all, the top jaw has a handy cutout, so you can bait the trigger before you even expose the teeth. Despite this simple operation, the trap is stronger than you might think, and ours was even able to catch three mice in a single snap. Its white plastic body is also easier on the eyes than black or metal traps, which was a nice perk.

<p><a href=
Shop NowPress ’N Set Mouse$36.86More
M154 Mouse Trap

If you’re looking to trap several mice but don’t have the budget for more expensive disposable traps, this classic Victor snap trap is a great fit—given you’re okay with kill traps. You get a dozen with each purchase, making it ideal for placing along a runway or area that rodents frequently use, increasing chances of success.

This old-school, prototypical mouse trap isn’t as easy to set as newer traps—it has more tension when setting them. Relatedly, users find the trigger less sensitive than on other traps, and featherweight or younger mice may not be heavy enough to set it off. Others say it’s fragile and, while labeled reusable, is likely not. Still, most users say this classic trap is the way to go, as it instantly kills mice, thus, limiting exposure to potential rodent-related diseases via droppings or urine—no wait, and minor cleanup.

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M250S No Touch, No See Mouse Trap

This lethal trap features a unique system to destroy the mice it captures—using an electric current to quickly electrocute any rodents that walk inside its “kill chamber.”

The chamber is detachable, so it’s easy to empty and clean out and allows you to re-bait it before reattaching. A green indicator light also lets you know as soon as a mouse is caught and will stay lit for up to a week so that you won’t miss it.

Replacing batteries in any tool can be inconvenient, but since this model can kill 100 mice per charge, you won’t need to switch them out often.

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Shop NowM250S No Touch, No See Mouse$78.23More
Heavy Duty Glue Mouse Trap

This Catchmaster glue trap covers a large surface area—10 by 5 inches—which increases your chances of trapping your furry intruders. They’re simple to use—just pull the two boards apart and place them on the ground—and should last for up to a year under normal circumstances.

Plus, the integrated floor anchors (tabs of putty at each corner of the trap) keep them in place, even if your mouse tries to pull them away. The large size of these traps might not make them the most practical choice for heavy traffic areas like your kitchen, where pets or kids might accidentally get stuck.

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Shop NowHeavy Duty Glue Mouse$21.98More
Flip N Slide Mouse Trap

This RinneTrap bucket trap is designed to humanely capture multiple mice, making it well-suited for barns, warehouses, or anywhere else with large mice populations that need removing.

A simple ramp and tipping lid means no poisons or chemicals on your property. You simply attach this device to a standard 5- or 20-gallon bucket, load it with bait, check the trap, and release the rodents if full. It doesn’t include the required bucket, though you should be able to find one at your local hardware store. RinneTraps are quite pricey when compared to other traps here, however.

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M310SSR Tin Cat Multi-Catch Live Mouse Trap

The Victor Tin Cat mouse trap is large enough to catch up to 30 mice before reaching capacity, but its 1.9-inch height still makes it compact enough to use in your home without taking up too much space. Its cutout window lets you know when a mouse is inside, and the lid is simple to open, so you can quickly release them whenever ready.

Its metal construction ensures a mouse can’t simply open its list and slip out, plus it makes cleaning bait, like peanut butter and cheeses, off its surface. This trap is safe for kids and animals and can be reused or disposed of when finished.

Some users say it’s ineffective for catching small and baby mice, as they can slip through the trap’s openings. Others note that it works well when used outdoors and can withstand mild weather like rain and snow.

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Shop NowM310SSR Tin Cat Multi-Catch Live Mouse

Judge Rules That Donald Trump Committed Fraud While Building Real Estate Empire


Judge Rules That Donald Trump Committed Fraud While Building Real Estate Empire

Virginia Chamlee – September 27, 2023

The ruling allows a civil trial against Trump and his adult sons to move forward next week, and orders that some of the former president’s companies be dissolved

James Devaney/GC Images Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower in Manhattan on March 9, 2021
James Devaney/GC Images Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower in Manhattan on March 9, 2021

A New York judge ruled on Tuesday that Donald Trump lied on financial statements about the value of the properties in his real estate portfolio and was therefore able to secure favorable loan terms and lower insurance premiums.

In a 35-page ruling, Judge Arthur Engoron said that Trump and his organization had overvalued several of it’s properties, including the members-only Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.

In court filings, Trump has pegged the property’s worth at between $426.5 million and $612.1 million. But Engoron cited a Palm Beach County assessor who appraised Mar-a-Lago’s market value to be between $18 million and $27.6 million — at least 2,300 percent less than what the former president has claimed.

In the ruling, the judge adds that some of the former president’s defenses — such as arguing that square footage is “subjective” — are “absurd.” The ruling further sanctions Trump’s attorneys $7,500 each for continuing to make legal arguments that had already been rejected in court twice, and requires that some LLCs associated with Trump be dissolved.

Tuesday’s ruling allows a civil trial into the outstanding claims (to be decided by the judge, with no jury) to begin next week.

©Trump Hotels Eric, Donald Jr., Donald, and Ivanka Trump at the ground-breaking ceremony for Trump Hotel Washington, D.C.
©Trump Hotels Eric, Donald Jr., Donald, and Ivanka Trump at the ground-breaking ceremony for Trump Hotel Washington, D.C.

The ruling came as part of a fraud case brought against the former president, his adult sons Eric Trump and  Donald Trump Jr., and their company the Trump Organization, by New York State Attorney General Letitia James.

“Today, a judge ruled in our favor and found that Donald Trump and the Trump Organization engaged in years of financial fraud,” James said in a statement. “We look forward to presenting the rest of our case at trial.”

James has accused the Trumps and their company of fraudulently inflating the former president’s fortune by as much as $2.2 billion since 2011. The lawsuit aims to have Trump banned from doing business in New York and pay $250 million.

Engoron’s ruling alleges that the inflation of Mar-a-Lago’s worth is akin to fraud. From the ruling: “A discrepancy of this order of magnitude, by a real estate developer sizing up his own living space of decades, can only be considered fraud.”

Related: Donald Trump Has Overstated His Fortune by as Much as $2.2B, Says New York Attorney General in Court Filing

Joe Raedle/Getty Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida
Joe Raedle/Getty Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida

An earlier court filing alleges that “correcting for these and other blatant and obvious deceptive practices engaged in by Defendants reduces Mr. Trump’s net worth by between 17-39% in each year, or between $812 million to $2.2 billion, depending on the year.”

The filing accused Trump of valuing several of his properties “at amounts that significantly exceeded professional appraisals of which his employees were aware and chose to ignore.” In one alleged instance, he valued his leased property on Wall Street at more than twice the amount of the appraised value.

Trump and his sons have both fired back at the recent ruling regarding the worth of Mar-a-Lago, with Eric claiming on Twitter: “Mar-a-Lago is speculated to be worth we’ll [sic] over a billion dollars.”

Trump himself also disputed the ruling, writing an angry missive on his social media site Truth Social in which he accused the judge of being “a Deranged, Trump Hating Judge, who RAILROADED this FAKE CASE through a NYS Court at a speed never seen before, refusing to let it go to the Commercial Division, where it belongs, denying me everything, No Trial, No Jury.”

Related: The Cases Against Trump: What to Know About the Various Investigations Surrounding the 45th U.S. President

Trump added that Mar-a-Lago is “WORTH POSSIBLY 100 TIMES” what Engoron cited in his ruling, adding: “My actual Net Worth is MUCH GREATER than the number shown on the Financial Statements, a BIG SURPRISE to him & the Racist A.G., Letitia James, who campaigned for office on a get Trump Platform.”

Since leaving office in January 2021, Trump’s post-White House prestige has been overshadowed by intensifying investigations on various fronts, including into his political conduct and business affairs.

So far, four of those investigations have led to indictments — the first one making him the only U.S. president to face criminal charges, and the next two further distinguishing him as the only president to face federal charges.

Florida’s coastal homes may lose value as climate-fueled storms intensify insurance risk

USA Today

Florida’s coastal homes may lose value as climate-fueled storms intensify insurance risk

Kate Cimini, USA TODAY- Florida – September 25, 2023

Climate-fueled disasters like Hurricane Ian are wreaking havoc on home values across the nation, but Florida’s messy insurance market makes it one of the most stressed, new research out of a nonprofit climate modeling group indicates.

High insurance premiums and a state-backed requirement that homeowners covered by the state-backed insurer of last resort enroll in the National Flood Insurance Program over the next three years could drop home values up to 40% in Florida in the next 30 years, data provided by First Street Foundation shows. And climate and insurance experts say that may further gentrify Florida’s coastal regions and barrier islands.

Using what First Street representatives described as a typical institutional-investing calculation, First Street Foundation found some homes, adjusting for 2023 insurance costs, have already lost up to 19% of their value.

The News-Press reported earlier this month on middle-class families being forced off Fort Myers Beach due to the rising costs associated with living on a barrier island in a time of stronger storms, including more stringent, expensive building requirements and a high demand for Beach property.

Experts say this trend will likely continue in coastal communities as high-income buyers who can afford to go without insurance rebuild and repair out of pocket. They say it will take a concerted effort among state and federal officials, as well as insurance and reinsurance companies to avoid climate-spurred migration and subsequent gentrification of Florida’s coast.

Do property values go down after a hurricane in Florida?

Geographer Zac Taylor, a professor with the Delft University of Technology in Norway, studies the connection between climate change and the insurance industry in Florida. Taylor uses they/them pronouns.

They urged caution in reassessing home values but agreed that this was a possible outcome based on current climate models.

Some of Florida’s more vulnerable coastline may even see corporations purchasing homes with the intent to rent them out, Taylor said, though real estate investor purchases of single-family homes dropped 45% in the second quarter of 2023, compared to a year ago, per realty company Redfin.

Soon, “only wealthy people will be able to afford to remain in coastal areas,” said Taylor.

Graphic shows increases by percentage and number of state-created insurer Citizens Property Insurance Corporation's policies in force (PIF) between 2016 and 2023. Monroe and Collier counties had the largest increase in numbers while the percentage of households that turned to Citizens for homeowner's insurance grew the most in inland counties Seminole, Orange and Osceola.
What areas are being gentrified in Florida?

Gentrification of Florida’s coastline may have already begun in areas hardest-hit by Ian.

This is likely to continue as a number of factors drive up the costs associated with living along the Sunshine State’s coast thanks to sea level rise, a 2022 study out of Florida State University predicted.

“Eventually, people are likely to start moving inland from coastal areas as the costs of staying become too great,” the report reads. “Those that are further inland are more likely to be displaced by higher income residents who eventually move inland in the process of relocating to higher ground.”

On Pine Island, a community whose year-round residents are largely working-class, people are cutting back their monthly budgets and searching desperately for cheaper insurance after rates rose in response to Hurricane Ian’s devastation of the barrier island. Some are leaving the island after too many problems with insurance, said nonprofit civic group Matlacha Hookers president Joanne Correia.

Guylinda DeMyers and her husband have lived in Pine Island’s St. James City for 20 years, she estimates, but after this most recent hurricane, she said they plan to sell their home and leave for safer climes − once their insurance company pays their claim.

They’ve yet to see a penny of their claim from People’s Trust, she said, even though it’s been almost a year. In fact, it’s been so long, their policy has expired. They haven’t pursued a new one because “there’s nothing to insure,” DeMeyers said. “It’s broken.”

Nearly six months after Hurricane Ian devastated Southwest Florida, parts of Matlacha remain damaged. Photographed Monday, March 20, 2023.

She doesn’t think they’ll get what the home was worth before the storm, but says her realtor has told her the property itself – an ocean-front lot ‒ is valuable enough by itself.

But DeMeyers is determined to see her claim through – if not for her, then for her husband, who has Alzheimer’s. She’s lived through three major hurricanes and subsequent rising insurance costs.

“It’s not safe here anymore,” DeMeyers said.  “We need a stable place.”

On Fort Myers Beach, another one of Florida’s vulnerable barrier islands, coastal gentrification is already underway. Renters and low-income homeowners are finding there’s nothing in their budget on the island anymore. The island is home to just 5,700 residents year-round, and the loss of even a few is significant.

“I feel like I’ve lost my community,” former Fort Myers Beach resident Cheri Warren told Chad Gillis of The News-Press in early September. Warren’s one-story home was destroyed during Hurricane Ian; now, she and her husband found it was too costly to repair it and have left the barrier island for the mainland. They plan to sell their lot at a later date, when the market has stabilized.

Has home insurance gone up in Florida?

For its new study, released in September, First Street Foundation founder and CEO Matthew Eby said the nonprofit, like institutional investors, calculated home values by dividing the amount of what a property would rent for over the course of a year, minus operating costs (which includes insurance costs), by 5%, an average risk amount.

While most homeowners look at the prices their neighbors homes are selling for in order to figure out how much theirs could be worth, this approach can take a while to show fluctuations in real home value, said First Street Foundation’s head of climate implications Jeremy Porter. Institutional investors use a standard calculation that First Street Foundation employed to “take the uncertainty out of the equation,” he said.

But with the cost of insurance rising due to both inflation and natural disasters like hurricanes and fires, risks increase as well. That means that operating costs have increased, particularly for Floridians who have no option for insurance other than state-created nonprofit Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. Citizens was created to insure homes that all other carriers refused to insure − the riskiest properties.

Not only is Citizens often more expensive than other carriers, as state law allows them to charge an actuarially-sound amount, but Florida legislators recently passed a law requiring homeowners who get their insurance through Citizens also enroll their homes in the National Flood Insurance Program, a federal insurance program.

That increases a homeowner’s operating costs even further.

“When … you don’t have anywhere else to go and you are beholden to whatever increase in prices that they just decide to put on you, there’s no way out,” Eby said.

Since 2017, Citizens’ number of policies have increased 168%, while the average premium has also increased from roughly $2,000 to more than $3,000 annually.

Citizens spokesman Michael Peltier said Citizens is held to a policy premium increase of 12% annually, and increases are subject to state approval.

Although California and Louisiana are facing rocketing insurance costs as well, according to First Street Foundation’s data, Eby said, “Florida has the biggest problem.”

The nonprofit examined the number of policies Citizens holds in Florida going back to 2017, when Citizens held roughly 500,000 policies. Eby noted that increased over time, and dramatically grew in 2021 as private insurance companies began to pull out of the state. After Ian, it shot up once again.

Citizens currently holds 1.5 million policies in force, and, Peltier said, expects that to increase to 1.7 million by the end of 2023.

“The major insurance companies have all been pulling out of Florida, leaving Citizens the largest insurer in the state,” said Eby. “The insurance company of last resort, the very last one that you want to go to for your insurance, is now the insurer for the entire state.”

CountyCitizens Policies in Force (07/2023)Citizens Average Premium (07/2023)Average Homeowners Insurance Across County
Palm Beach132,811$851.61$1,514

‘Not all doom and gloom’: How this Florida Gen Z homebuyer bought in an uncertain market

Insurance and natural disasters: How billion-dollar hurricanes, other disasters are starting to reshape your insurance bill

Are Florida property values going up?
This photo taken Sept. 30, 2022 shows the heavy damage Hurricane Ian caused on Pine Island and Matlacha.

Rising homeowners’ insurance bill have yet to translate that to loss of equity, Porter said.

“When you go to sell it, that’s when the property devaluation becomes realized – at the closing table,” Porter said. But even those who hang on to their homes may feel it the next time Florida gets hit by another major weather event like Ian, he cautioned.

Then, he said, taxpayers will be the ones hurting.

“At some point, the amount of exposure on Citizens is too much, relative to its premiums,” said Porter. “If it’s not accounted for properly there has to be some kind of a subsidy from Florida taxpayers one way or another.”

Eventually, Porter predicted, “the state of Florida is going to have to ask the federal government for a bailout if they if they end up getting hit by a disaster that empties the coffers.”

According to Peltier, Citizens has a number of backstops to keep itself solvent. First, he said, if the state-created nonprofit goes through its premium-driven surplus, like all other insurers in the state it has access to the Florida hurricane catastrophe fund. It also purchases reinsurance to cover the possibility that the catastrophe fund is exhausted. Finally, Peltier said, Citizens is required by law to levy assessments on policyholders to make up any deficits.

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Florida home insurance risk intensified by climate-fueled storms

Another dust advisory starts tonight for Coachella Valley. What to know

The Desert Sun

Another dust advisory starts tonight for Coachella Valley. What to know

City News Service – September 25, 2023

A dust advisory will go into effect Monday and is expected to last until Wednesday for parts of Riverside County, mostly in the Coachella Valley.

The advisory will begin at 6 p.m. Monday and is expected to be in place until 8 a.m. Wednesday, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Forecasted gusty winds in the Coachella Valley, which can lift dust and soil, can result in air quality index levels that are unhealthy or worse, SCAQMD officials said. The highest levels are expected overnight when winds are expected to be the strongest.

“Elevated levels are resulting from much lower windspeeds than in the past,” SCAQMD officials wrote. “The public is encouraged to pay close attention to the current conditions reported.”

In areas directly impacted by high levels of windblown dust, people were advised to limit their exposure by remaining indoors with windows and doors closed, avoid vigorous physical activity, run their air conditioner or air purifier, and avoid using whole house fans or swamp coolers that bring in outside air.

Officials added that serious health problems can occur as a result of exposure to high-particle pollution levels.

The desert has been plagued with unusually dusty conditions since August when Tropical Storm Hilary caused major flooding that left residual dirt and dust cross the valley.

More information about air quality in the area can be found at

Floridians stunned by Citizens Insurance ‘depopulation’ letters

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Floridians stunned by Citizens Insurance ‘depopulation’ letters

Ron Hurtibise – September 25, 2023

Tens of thousands of customers of Florida’s state-owned Citizens Property Insurance Corp. are getting a stunning surprise in their mailboxes.

It’s a letter from Citizens’ “Depopulation Unit” stating their policies have been assumed by a private-market company.

Cause for celebration? Not if the private company’s estimated annual premium is higher than what the policyholder is paying Citizens.

Delores Smerkers, a Davie retiree, said her Citizens policy renewed in July for $5,523 — $650 more that what she paid last year. Less than two months later, in late August, she received a letter saying her coverage was being assumed by Safepoint Insurance Co.

The letter stated that her estimated cost to renew her Safepoint policy will be $6,650 — an increase of $1,127.

That’s a substantial price hike, but because it’s less than 20% above her Citizens premium, she is ineligible to reject the offer and stay with Citizens.

Smerkers says she doesn’t know how many more insurance price hikes she and her disabled husband can endure as they try to live out the remainder of their lives in the modest 1,750-square-foot villa they bought new in 1978.

“It’s a shame,” she said. “People on fixed incomes are hurting the most. We’re not rich. We worked like dogs all our lives. Now look at where we are at.”

More than 300,000 Citizens policyholders are getting letters stating that their policies have been selected for removal in October by one or more of five private-market companies.

Targeted policyholders are ineligible to remain with Citizens if their letter identifies a private company’s “estimated renewal premium” that’s less than 20% over Citizens’ estimated renewal premium for comparable coverage.

But if all estimated renewal premiums exceed 20% of Citizens’, the policyholder can opt to remain with Citizens by logging onto the company’s website or asking their insurance agent to make the selection for them.

Removal is automatic for those who don’t take action

October marks the first of two depopulation efforts. Another is scheduled in November.

Five companies have been approved to take 184,000 policies from Citizens in October: Florida Peninsula (up to 19,000 policies), Monarch (10,000), Safepoint (30,000), Slide (100,000) and Southern Oak (25,000).

Letters sent to selected policyholders state that the transfer will take place on Oct. 17 unless the policyholder selects another option by Oct. 5. But the Oct. 5 deadline was moved to Oct. 10 after a vendor handling the mail-outs fell behind, leaving some recipients with only a couple weeks to act.

Of 311,250 policyholders informed that they’ve been selected for takeout in October, 99,500 have so far elected to remain with Citizens, according to data provided by Citizens spokesman Michael Peltier. Just 9% — 28,750 — have selected a private company. And the majority, 183,000, have not yet registered a selection.

Anyone who fails to make a selection will automatically be transferred on Oct. 17 to the private company identified in their letter with the lowest premium, Peltier said.

Targeted policyholders don’t have to pay more now

Some policyholders who have received a depopulation letter say they were confused about the estimated renewal premiums identified in the letter.

The premiums are just estimates of the following year’s insurance costs and don’t have to be paid right away. Even if a policyholder accepts the transfer, the coverage remains in place at the current Citizens rate until the policy expires.

In Smerkers’ case, she won’t owe the new $6,650 premium until her Citizens policy is set to expire in July.

Deerfield Beach resident Jeff Torrey said it took a phone call to his agent to clarify that he didn’t owe more money immediately.

He received a letter in mid-September saying Slide was assuming his policy on Oct. 17 and that he was ineligible for Citizens because Slide’s estimated renewal premium was nearly $1,000 more but $185 under the 20% threshold.

“I thought come Oct. 17, I was going to have to pay more,” Tolley said in an interview. The agent told him “the letter is not very clear. It’s confusing.”

In addition, those estimates could change prior to the policy renewal date, and that could change policyholders’ eligibility to remain with Citizens.

Policyholders currently ineligible to remain with Citizens are advised to wait until 90 days before their policies are set to renew with the new company and then look at the difference between the actual renewal rates at that time. If the difference falls below 20%, the policyholder will be eligible to return to Citizens.

Steve Rogosin, a Plantation-based insurance agent, said 55 of his clients have received depopulation letters and of those, only half are currently eligible to remain with Citizens.

“I tell them to carefully read the offer, and then on an individual basis, we help them make their decision,” he said.

Most who remain eligible to stay with Citizens are choosing to do so, he said. Other options are available beyond the private companies identified in the letters, but “they’re not cheaper than Citizens,” he said.

Brian Murphy, co-owner of a Brightway Insurance agency in Palm Beach Gardens, said one of his clients who’s currently paying $4,400 for his Citizens policy received a letter estimating the new company would charge him $8,200 when it comes time to renew his policy.

“So he gets to stay in Citizens,” Murphy said.

New law will make more ineligible to stay in Citizens

The current round isn’t like recent depopulation efforts.

What’s new is the 20% threshold. It’s being used to reduce the number of policies held by the state’s “insurer of last resort.”

Citizens’ board of governors and legislators that oversee the program have become anxious in recent years about the company’s renewed growth. As private-market companies stopped writing policies or were driven to bankruptcy, Citizens’ policy count increased from 420,000 in 2019 to 1.4 million currently.

Such a large number of policies sets off alarm bells, because if a major hurricane wipes out Citizens’ ability to pay claims, the company will have to levy surcharges and assessments to make up the shortfall.

Citizens’ policyholders would first face surcharges of up to 45% of their premiums.

If that’s not enough, a special assessment would be imposed to collect 2% of the cost of every homeowner, auto, specialty and surplus lines policy in the state.

And there’s more. If those two levies don’t generate enough, Citizens has the right to impose on all policies — Citizens and private-market — an emergency assessment of up to 10% for each of Citizens’ three accounts.

Until this year, Citizens customers targeted for removal could opt out for any reason.

And that worked for awhile, as a 10-year stretch without a major hurricane making landfall in Florida enabled some private-market companies to offer rates lower than Citizens.

But over the past five years, the private insurance market has hemorrhaged tens of millions of dollars, forcing companies to raise their rates far above Citizens.

Citizens, in turn, was prohibited from keeping pace by raising its rates more than an average 10% each year.

Last year, the state Legislature enacted the 20% threshold and put Citizens on a path to increase rates by increasing the rate cap by a percentage point a year until it reaches 15% in 2026.

More companies signal an improved insurance market

Murphy said his firm has a team of people answering questions from clients about their depopulation letters.

They’ve haven’t heard many complaints, he said, possibly because clients understand that Citizens is “stretched” and has to depopulate.

But he sees the number of companies willing to assume Citizens policies as a good sign that the market is poised to recover.

A big reason companies are reentering the market, experts say, is that reforms enacted by the state Legislature last year remove enticements for repair contractors and plaintiffs attorneys to file lawsuits against insurers.

Removing those enticements reduces potential for losses and should help convince insurers that they’ll again be able to make a profit in the Florida market, they say.

“Other carriers are coming in with some appetite,” Murphy said. “And I believe we’re going to see more in 18 months.”

Meanwhile, depopulation targets who were able to remain in Citizens shouldn’t get too comfortable. They might soon get targeted again.

Agents are gearing up for a fresh round of depopulation offers to start going out in late September.

Six companies, including the four participating in this month’s round, have been approved to remove up to 196,399 Citizens policies on Nov. 21.

According to letters informing policyholders about the Oct. 17 takeouts, “If your policy is not successfully assumed, you may continue receiving future offers from private-market insurance companies interested in removing your policy from Citizens.”

How climate change threatens some of the world’s most coveted real estate


How climate change threatens some of the world’s most coveted real estate

Kathleen Magramo and Chris Lau – September 23, 2023

Until recently, the upscale homes of the Redhill Peninsula seemed like an oasis for rich Hong Kongers aspiring to a tranquil lifestyle in an otherwise notoriously cramped metropolis of 7.5 million.

Its cliffside location and unobstructed views of the South China Sea made for great Feng Shui and offered the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of city life for its gated community of tycoons, expats and celebrities.

But that same pristine location worked against it on September 8, when a storm brought the heaviest rainfall in nearly 140 years to Hong Kong, wreaking havoc across the city.

Two people were killed and more than a hundred injured as more than 600mm (23.6 inches) of rain barreled down on the coastal city, flooding metro stations and turning roads into rivers.

The chaos was not confined to the flooded lowlands. Up on the edge of the cliff separating the Redhill Peninsula from the sea below it chipped away at the soil, leaving three millionaire homes perilously close to the edge and prompting an evacuation.

In a city that had just experienced its hottest summer on record, the unprecedented rainfall – itself the product of the second typhoon to have hit the city in the space of a week – was a potent demonstration of the threat posed by climate change and its associated extreme weather.

But for the residents of the Redhill Peninsula it was also a reminder that climate change is rewriting the rules of what can be considered “safe” construction, and that even the costliest, most well-constructed homes can be vulnerable.

For some it may even be a reminder that such rules exist at all. City authorities say they are investigating whether building code violations in some of the houses contributed to the problem, in a development likely to fuel perceptions that the rich don’t play by the same rules as the poor.

Whatever those investigations find, experts say extreme weather events like that of September 8 will become more frequent and when they do rich and poor alike will suffer the consequences – whichever rulebook they play by – even if the former have far more ability to bounce back from disasters than the latter.

As Benny Chan, the president of Hong Kong Institute of Architects, points out, Hong Kong has long been prone to typhoons and torrential downpours and has “plenty of experience building these kinds of cliffside houses.”

It also has stringent safety standards designed over many years with landslides in mind, he says. So it would have been reasonable – at least until a couple of weeks ago – to expect somewhere like the Redhill Peninsula to be a safe place to be in a storm.

But the old rules, experts say, may no longer apply.

Houses at the Redhill Peninsula, a luxurious residential estate in the Tai Tam area of Hong Kong, on September 13. - Chris Lau/CNN
Houses at the Redhill Peninsula, a luxurious residential estate in the Tai Tam area of Hong Kong, on September 13. – Chris Lau/CNN
A ‘sensitive’ issue

That is likely to be an uncomfortable realization for anyone who has invested in the Redhill Peninsula – one of the most expensive neighborhoods in one of the world’s most expensive property markets.

Properties here have the sort of appeal and cachet of the Malibu coast in Los Angeles. They have a distinctive Mediterranean style, with colors alternating in hues of cream and pink, and many have french windows overlooking the cove of Tai Tam, a scenic spot with a lush hiking trail nearby and ample shelter for luxury yachts to anchor below.

They can go for between $10 million-$20 million for a 2,400-3,600 square foot home (and rent for up to $20,000 a month). Or at least, they could before the recent downpour. Local real estate agents say what effect the storm will have on property prices is a “sensitive” issue for some in the community.

When CNN visited Redhill last week, sports cars and SUVs sporting the logos of Porsche, Land Rover and Ferrari were among the vehicles that cruised past the palm-tree-lined entrance, where a security guard stood like an impenetrable wall preventing the gaggle of assembled journalists from going in.

The real pull of the district, according to a real estate agent with more than two decades of experience selling properties here, is its tight-knit community.

“It has an international school and kids can hang out with one another at home after school,” said the agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. She was referring to the Hong Kong International School, one of the most prestigious in town.

“Almost every house comes with a view of the sea,” she said, adding that while the development is far from the hustle and bustle of the city, it offers a convenient shuttle bus service to ferry residents around.

The three houses most affected by the landslides were between 2,700 and 3,000 square feet in size, each valued at up to $11.5 million, the agent said.

She added that she had noticed a change of mood in recent days and expects anyone trying to sell a property – especially one near to the sea – to lay low for a while.

“It’s sensitive timing,” she said.

Flooded roads after heavy rains in Hong Kong on September 8. - Tyrone Siu/Reuters
Flooded roads after heavy rains in Hong Kong on September 8. – Tyrone Siu/Reuters
The old rules may not apply

Heavy rain is far from unusual in Hong Kong, especially during the summer months.

Even so, recent weather patterns have been unsettling to many, with two consecutive typhoons sweeping across the region within a space of less than two weeks.

Typhoon Saola, which barreled through Hong Kong on September 1, was the strongest to hit the city in five years. A week later, the remnants of Typhoon Haikui unleashed the rains that caused the problems at Redhill, dozens of landslides and left large swathes of the city underwater.

Scientists say climate change will make such weather events only more frequent and some are urging Hong Kong to rethink its rain mitigation strategy.

Leung Wing-mo, former assistant director of the city’s weather observatory, told public broadcaster RTHK that rainstorms are becoming harder to predict because of climate change.

“In the past few decades, record-breaking events have been occurring much, much more frequently…This is a clear indication that climate change has a role to play. As a matter of fact, climate change is making extreme weather more extreme,” Leung said.

With that in mind, architects and civil engineers are also calling for the city to review standards set decades ago for hillside buildings, including many luxury mansions.

The city experienced some of its worst landslides in the 1970s, including one that knocked down a series of residential buildings in the city’s upscale Mid-Levels district, causing 67 deaths.

The same powerful rain that caused the Mid-Levels landslide in 1972 also triggered a hill in a district of Hong Kong’s Kowloon Peninsula to collapse, decimating a squatter site in Sau Mai Ping causing a further 71 deaths.

Structural engineering professor Ray Su, from the University of Hong Kong, said that the series of catastrophic incidents had prompted the government of the time to reinforce slopes across the city, turning Hong Kong into one of the most resilient places against landslides and floods in the world.

But some engineers fear safety rules that seemed adequate in the past may no longer be enough.

Su noted that some of the city’s low-rise houses were still built on shallow footings.

In extreme rain scenarios, “they will take a big hit when landslides crumble down,” he said.

The Redhill Plaza shopping center in the Tai Tam area of Hong Kong on September 13, 2023. - Chris Lau/CNN
The Redhill Plaza shopping center in the Tai Tam area of Hong Kong on September 13, 2023. – Chris Lau/CNN
‘A ticking time bomb’

Complicating matters in the case of the Redhill Peninsula is the suggestion by authorities that some of properties in danger may not even have been playing by the old rules.

In the wake of the storm, government authorities detected what they suspect may be illegal alterations made to the three Redhill properties – alterations that experts say may have contributed to the disaster.

That suggestion is something of a third rail issue in a city that has a track record of scandals involving wealthy individuals and politicians altering their properties and violating building codes with the sort of illegal extensions skeptics say the less well-off wouldn’t get away with.

Hong Kong’s Buildings Department says among those unauthorized modifications are basements, a swimming pool, and a three-story extension.

So controversial is the issue that even the city’s leader John Lee has stepped in, vowing that the government will investigate and prosecute anyone found to have violated building codes.

“The landslide at Redhill Peninsula has already shown us that part of the estate carries risks, so relevant departments will target the estate for inspections,” he said last week.

Preliminary investigations have shown a retaining wall was demolished in one of the houses.

Chan, from the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, said the modification could destabilize the structure of the cliff below and greatly affect the drainage of the soil underneath, ultimately causing landslides.

“The more the water is trapped, the less the slope can maintain a high steepness,” Chan said.

He said while painful lessons in the past had given rise to high standards on building retaining walls and drainage systems, the old set of requirements is slowly losing relevance.

“These standards were set a long time ago,” he said.

“Can the present standards withstand that much rain? It is time for the government to look at them again,” he added.

Chan Kim-ching, founder of Liber Research Community, a non-government organization that focuses on scrutinizing the authorities on land policies, said the safety problems that arose from illegal modifications went far further than the cases at Redhill.

His group recently compared contracts available on public records and identified at least 173 individual houses across the city suspected of violations on public land.

“We studied it in the past because it involves the fair use of public resources. Never did it strike us that it’s an issue that would threaten public safety,” he said.

“It is like a ticking time bomb,” Chan said.

Saltwater intrusion creates drinking water emergency for southeast Louisiana

Shreveport Times

Saltwater intrusion creates drinking water emergency for southeast Louisiana

Greg LaRose – September 22, 2023

NEW ORLEANS — The historic drought currently baking Louisiana has created an emergency for areas in the southeastern part of the state that depend on the Mississippi River for their drinking water. The flow of saltwater upriver from the Gulf of Mexico is expected to reach New Orleans in exactly a month and has already impacted communities below the city.

Unless rainfall in the upper Mississippi and Ohio River valleys increases dramatically — forecasts say it won’t anytime soon — water systems in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes could have to depend on an emergency bulk water supply to dilute treated saltwater coming from the river.

The influx of saltwater has the potential to affect the drinking water of nearly 900,000 Louisiana residents, based on the most recent U.S. Census estimates.

“Unfortunately, we just haven’t had the relief from dry conditions that we need,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said Friday at a news conference in New Orleans. State and local leaders, emergency management officials and representatives with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers joined the governor for an impromptu Unified Command Group meeting in city.

The corps previously constructed a sill, or an underwater levee, rising from the river bottom to 30 feet below the surface to prevent saltwater intrusion from entering drinking water systems. It used the same method last summer in drought conditions that didn’t persist as long as the current dry weather has.

Col. Cullen Jones, commander of the corps’ New Orleans district, said saltwater topped the sill Wednesday. Its height will be increased to 5 feet below the river’s surface over the next three weeks, which Jones said should delay saltwater moving up the river for 10 to 15 days.

The sill will still have a notch 55 feet deep to accommodate river traffic, the colonel said.

Even with a higher sill in the river, Jones provided a timeline for when areas upriver should expect saltwater to reach the intakes of their drinking water systems, starting with Belle Chasse by Oct. 13.

The city of New Orleans and Jefferson Parish have separate drinking water intakes on each side of the river. Saltwater is forecast to reach the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans intake in Algiers by Oct. 22, and the east bank intake at its Carrollton treatment plant by Oct. 28.

The corps’ timeline calls for saltwater at Jefferson’s intake in Gretna by Oct. 24, one day later at its west bank intake upriver, and Oct. 29 for its east bank intake.

Jones said the corps has already arranged for barges to carry up to 15 million gallons of freshwater by next week for systems that need to dilute the river water they treat for consumption. Ultimately, demand could reach 36 million gallons of freshwater per day to support drinking water plants from Gretna downriver to Boothville in Plaquemines Parish, Jones said.

The emergency freshwater supply will be taken from the river about 10 miles above the advancing saltwater wedge, according to the corps.

Ricky Boyett, a corps spokesman, said it’s not clear at the moment whether the affected water systems will need all 36 million gallons of emergency water supply. The corps’ barge fleet includes new vessels that will be put into use, but Boyett wasn’t able to say how many might be needed to handle the demand.

About 2,000 residents in lower Plaquemine have been provided bottled water in recent weeks because of the saltwater intrusion. Smaller systems there are using reverse osmosis to remove saltwater from their drinking supply.

As for an emergency water supply for intakes in New Orleans and Jefferson above Gretna, Jones said local water systems are pursuing different options. They might include having freshwater piped in from systems upriver, he said.

Rain outlook bleak

Weather forecasts call for a wetter than usual winter, Edwards said, but the short-term outlook precipitation isn’t as promising.

“We do need some rain. We’re not in charge of that,” the governor said, asking residents to pray for relief.

The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center for September called for lower-than-normal precipitation in the upper Mississippi River basin, where Edwards said rain must fall in significant quantities to increase river flow.

The flow needed for the Mississippi River to hold back saltwater is 300,000 cubic square feet per second (cfs), according to Jones. Its current drought-slowed flow rate is 140,000 cfs.

It would take 10 inches of rain across the entire Mississippi Valley to drastically change the situation downriver, Jones said.

Governor: No need for panic water buying

Edwards urged residents not to rush out and “panic buy” bottled water, adding that a similar recommendation he gave at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic led to toilet paper shortages.

“The more they were told (not to hoard it), the more they said, “I better go get some toilet paper,” the governor said.

A key difference between the saltwater intrusion emergency and the pandemic consumer crunch is that only a small portion of the country is affected by the current situation, the governor said. Retailers will be urged to increase their stock of drinking water, he added.

There are no known impacts to industrial water use from the river, but Edwards spokesperson Eric Holl said local water system officials could potentially ask high-volume customers to cut back their consumption if the saltwater situation worsens.

The most recent experience Louisiana has had with drought conditions impacting drinking water supplies was in 1988, when a saltwater wedge reached the city of Kenner. That emergency lasted just two days, while the current crisis has the potential to last months, Edwards said.

Possible health risks

Dr. Joseph Kanter, the state’s medical officer, said high salinity in the drinking water supply poses a danger to certain patient populations: people with high blood pressure, who are likely to be on low-sodium diets; pregnant people in their third trimester, when they are at higher risk for hypertension; and infants reliant on formula mixed with water.

For these segments and others, there’s little chance they will consume any saltwater because it’s not palatable, Kanter said

“You will stop drinking the water because it doesn’t taste right, well before it becomes a danger to your health,” he said.

Saltwater intrusion into distribution systems could corrode lead and galvanized steel pipes, causing heavy metals to leach into drinking water, Kanter added. Such corrosion is difficult to predict, he said.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who signed a citywide emergency declaration Friday, said the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans will actively monitor its water quality and be transparent with testing results. She acknowledged lead pipes, banned from use in U.S. water systems in 1986, remain in use in New Orleans.

The city, like others around the country, doesn’t have an accurate map of where lead pipes are in use. The Sewerage and Water Board is taking part in a program to identify them ahead of President Joe Biden’s ambitious October 2024 deadline to end all use of lead in drinking water systems.

The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness has added updates on the saltwater intrusion situation to its website, Cantrell urged New Orleans residents to follow, where they can sign up for text message updates.

Kanter said local officials will put out health advisories if salinity levels in the drinking water reach 250 parts per million, a level considered threatening to health.

The Louisiana Illuminator is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization driven by its mission to cast light on how decisions are made in Baton Rouge and how they affect the lives of everyday Louisianians, particularly those who are poor or otherwise marginalized.

Employers lose migrant workers fleeing Florida’s draconian law. Feel better now?

Miami Herald

Employers lose migrant workers fleeing Florida’s draconian law. Feel better now? | Opinion

Fabiola Santiago – September 22, 2023

How are you liking your days without enough immigrant labor, Florida?

The demagoguery of political leaders has consequences — and as draconian state immigration laws take effect and are enforced in the state, employers are learning just how good they had it before Gov. Ron DeSantis anointed himself border czar.

A South Florida no-party-affiliation voter tells me a story that perfectly illustrates business owners’ predicament in a state once a sanctuary for the undocumented, and now imposing one of the strictest anti-immigrant laws in the nation.

He needs to remodel his home’s entire irrigation system, a big job, but the owner of the company he has contracted — a die-hard supporter of brothers-in-prejudice former President Trump and DeSantis — can’t get the job done.

Two reasons for the drama: He has lost almost all of his long-time employers to E-verify, which forces him to send for governmental review the immigration status of his employees — or face punishment that can escalate from a $500 civil fine to jail time for repeat offenders.

Before the Florida Legislature, at DeSantis’ behest, passed the laws that severely punish people who hire, drive or assist undocumented immigrants, the irrigation contractor was simply doing what a lot of agricultural, service and construction businesses do: ignoring the immigration status of his laborers.

Looking the other way. Getting jobs done.

Furious at DeSantis

Now, he and other business owners have lost experienced workers — and they can’t hire any new migrants, either. Not only would many newcomers also fail to pass the status test — but they’re nowhere to be found.

Migrants afraid of being targeted and arrested at workplaces are fleeing Florida for states where they’re better treated and appreciated.

The Republican contractor is furious at DeSantis.

He’s overwhelmed and falling all over himself apologizing for the delays.

And he’s not alone bad-mouthing the governor — and still singing the praises of Trump, who he feels understands him better because he, too, hires foreign workers to operate his resorts, condo towers and golf courses.

What’s playing out in industries all over the state is almost comical, as DeSantis prances around the country grandstanding about crossing into Mexico, if he becomes president, to kill migrant smugglers.

And the bravado isn’t helping him much politically. He’s still badly losing the GOP presidential nomination race, this week losing ground in polls to other contenders.

To be brutally honest, the thought of a smug Republican businessman who voted for Trump and DeSantis sweating it — and now facing the task of himself having to do the hard labor of migrants or lose the job — gives me a jolt of pleasure.

This is what happens when you: 1. ignorantly vote against your own interests; 2. fall for candidates who feed a narrative of fear and loathing for immigrants, thinking it’s not going to affect you because you and your family have status; 3. still believe only a Republican president is going to solve the problems of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua for you and them.

And that vote leaves us with quality-of-life problems in Florida.

READ MORE: This is the America I know and love: Humanity wins. The egg on DeSantis’ face is a plus | Opinion

Hurting families

Worse, bashing hurts migrant families and mixed-status families.

The recent arrest of a migrant van operator drives home the point that a well-to-do business owner has resources, but for a detained worker facing deportation, the harsh treatment amounts to a stolen future.

READ MORE: Florida’s arrest of undocumented van driver escalates Mexico’s tensions with DeSantis

What the Mexican consul in Orlando, Juan Sabines, told the Miami Herald about the arrested driver is true: Immigrants coming to work in Florida aren’t criminals, but people who want a shot at a better tomorrow and are in need of work.

They take on hard jobs Americans find undesirable to feed and house their families back home.

Unfounded loathing

I don’t understand the visceral loathing of humble, hardworking people who’ve proven over and over again that they add value to this country — and that their struggle is inspirational.

Ironically, as DeSantis roams the country demonizing immigration — and boasting about what he’s done in Florida to crush immigrants — filmmakers have brought to film the life of one of the nation’s most inspirational migrant stories.

A tearjerker, “A Million Miles Away” (streaming on Amazon Prime) tells the story of José Moreno Hernández, a Mexican child migrant worker who toiled in the fields of San Joaquin County, California dreaming of reaching for the stars.

Inspired at age 10 by the Apollo 17 flight and astronaut Eugene A. Cernan’s walk on the moon, he put himself through unimaginable hard work and education and, with the support of his family and community, he persevered and became a brilliant engineer.

Despite being turned down by NASA 11 times, he trained as a pilot and scuba diver as well to meet all requirements and made it into the astronaut program. He finally set off to space in 2009 as the flight engineer and one of the astronauts on Space Shuttle mission STS-128 to the International Space Station.

He spent 13 days there — a lot of time to star-gaze to his favorite Mexican song.

Cover of the book by José M. Hernández, the child migrant worker who became a NASA astronaut and inspired the newly released Amazon Prime movie “A Million Miles Away.” Courtesy
Cover of the book by José M. Hernández, the child migrant worker who became a NASA astronaut and inspired the newly released Amazon Prime movie “A Million Miles Away.” Courtesy

“Tenacity is a superpower,” Hernández, played by actor Michael Peña, says in the movie.

“Who better to leave this planet and dive into the unknown than a migrant worker.”

And, as if his space exploration wasn’t enough, the film credits tell us that Hernández helped develop, at the Livermore Laboratory where he worked, the first full-field digital mammography imaging system used to detect breast cancer early.

But we, in Florida, mistreat the Hernándezes of today.

Never underestimate the spirit and energy an immigrant, much less that of one who has toiled in the fields and picked your food.

As I watched the movie, I could only feel sorry for us.

Feel better now?