ST. PETERSBURG — Hurricane Ian left a path of destruction in southwest Florida, trapping people in flooded homes, damaging the roof of a hospital intensive care unit and knocking out power to 2.5 million people before aiming for the Atlantic Coast on Thursday.
One of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the United States churned across the Florida peninsula, threatening catastrophic flooding inland. Ian’s tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 415 miles, and nearly the entire state was getting drenched.
The National Hurricane Center said Ian became a tropical storm over land early Thursday and was expected to regain near-hurricane strength after emerging over Atlantic waters near the Kennedy Space Center later in the day. Flooding rains continued across the state, and a stretch of the Gulf Coast remained inundated by ocean water, pushed ashore by the massive storm.
“Severe and life-threatening storm surge inundation of 8 to 10 feet above ground level along with destructive waves is ongoing along the southwest Florida coastline from Englewood to Bonita Beach, including Charlotte Harbor,” the center said.
SHERIFF: LEE COUNTY DEATH TOLL ‘IN THE HUNDREDS’ … BLAKE HARMS, WLNS: NEW: Lee County Sheriff tells @GMA the death toll there is in the hundreds. Horrendous news likely going to continue coming out of Florida as the sun rises.
SANIBEL ISLAND CUT OFF… WEATHER CHANNEL: Destruction Hampers Rescue Efforts; Flooding Hits Across State
It’s impossible to get to Sanibel island by car this morning.
McGregor Boulevard is “folded up like an accordion, ripped to ribbons by a powerful storm surge,” the Tampa Bay Times reports.
A little farther along, a section of the Sanibel Causeway, where the bridge rises from the mainland to the island, has collapsed. […]
“As you have probably seen, there have been significant levels of Hurricane Ian related damage to Fort Myers Beach,” a Facebook post from the town of Ft. Myers Beach says. “Please do not come back before Saturday to allow emergency responders to address critical assessment issues unimpeded and to ensure your safety upon returning.”
PORT CHARLOTTE EMERGENCY ROOM FLOODED… TAMPA BAY TIMES:
In Port Charlotte, the storm surge flooded a lower-level emergency room in HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital even as fierce winds ripped away part of the roof from its intensive care unit, according to the Associated Press.
Water gushed down onto the ICU, forcing staff to evacuate the hospital’s sickest patients — some of whom were on ventilators — to other floors, said Dr. Birgit Bodine. Staff members used towels and plastic bins to try to mop up the sodden mess.
‘AN OPEN-ENDED WAR WITH RUSSIA’… BIDEN ADMIN TO DELIVER 18 MORE HIMARS TO UKRAINE… WEAPONS WILL TAKE ‘A FEW YEARS’ TO DELIVER… NYT: The Pentagon announces an additional $1.1 billion in long-term aid for Ukraine
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said on Wednesday it would send an additional $1.1 billion in long-term military aid to Ukraine, including 18 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launchers, or HIMARS, one of the most vaunted weapons of the seven-month war with Russia.
But unlike the 16 HIMARS the military rushed to Ukraine from its existing stockpiles over the summer, these new weapons will be ordered from the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, and will take “a few years” to deliver, a senior Defense Department official told reporters.
Shifting the source of Ukrainian military supplies from the Pentagon’s own stockpile, which is large but not limitless, to items newly manufactured by the defense industry indicates that the White House and military leaders are transitioning to a sustainable model Kyiv can depend on for an open-ended war with Russia. […]
The new shipment announced on Wednesday also includes 150 Humvees, 150 vehicles for towing artillery, radars, counter-drone systems and body armor, which the senior Pentagon official said would be delivered from manufacturers in the next six to 24 months. That brings to $16.2 billion in total military aid that the United States has committed to Ukraine since the war started in February.
WHODUNIT? … NYT: Sabotaged Pipelines and a Mystery: Who Did It? (Was It Russia?)
Poland and Ukraine openly blamed Russia, which pointed a finger at the United States, and both Moscow and Washington issued indignant denials. U.S. officials and outside experts also speculated over whether Ukraine or one of the Baltic states, which have long opposed the pipelines, might have had an interest in seeing them disabled — and in sending a message. […]
Some European and American officials cautioned on Wednesday that it would be premature to conclude that Russia was behind the apparent attacks on the Nord Streams, each of which is actually two pipelines. President Vladimir V. Putin likes to show he has his finger on the gas valve, they noted, but wielding that power could mean keeping the pipelines, whose main owner is Russia’s state-controlled energy company, Gazprom, in good working order. […]
Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said that accusing Russia was “predictably stupid and absurd.” He said American natural gas suppliers were reaping “huge profits” from increased sales to Europe, suggesting that the United States was to blame.
“Of course we were not,’’ said Adrienne Watson, the spokeswoman for the White House’s National Security Council, in a rare on-the-record denial. “We all know Russia has a long history of spreading disinformation and is doing it again here.”
PUTIN GRASPS AT UKRAINIAN TERRITORY… WAPO: Putin to sign annexation treaty on Friday; NATO condemns Nord Stream ‘sabotage’
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will sign a treaty annexing four areas of Ukraine on Friday, the Kremlin said, as separatist leaders from Ukraine arrived in Moscow for what they called “a historic decision” to join Russia. Staged referendums — illegal under international law and widely condemned by Western countries — concluded earlier this week, in four occupied regions in Ukraine’s Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
BIDEN DROPS ANOTHER MARBLE… ‘WHERE’S JACKIE?’ … NBC: Biden asks whether deceased congresswoman is at White House event
President Joe Biden on Wednesday mistakenly asked whether the late Rep. Jackie Walorski, who died in a car accident last month, was at a White House event that she helped convene.
Biden made the gaffe as he delivered remarks at the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health, where he publicly acknowledged elected officials like Walorski, R-Ind., who helped organize the gathering.
At one point Biden asked, “Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie?” as he looked out and scanned the audience. He did not correct his remarks.
Walorski, a five-term lawmaker, died in a car crash along with two of her staffers on Aug. 3. She was 58. She had been a co-chair of the House Hunger Caucus, and she was one of four members of Congress who introduced the bipartisan bill that convened Wednesday’s White House conference.
KARINGE ATTEMPTS CLEAN UP, MAKES EVERYTHING WORSE… FOX: White House reporters don’t buy Karine Jean-Pierre’s spin on Biden gaffe asking for deceased congresswoman
CNN senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly sparred with Jean-Pierre over the gaffe. “I’m trying to get my head around the response. The late congresswoman was top of mind for the president and her family was expected to be here and that’s what he was thinking about? Why was he looking for her?” he asked.
Jean-Pierre refused to admit it was a mistake on Biden’s part. She insisted, “I think the American people who watch the briefing from time to time, maybe at this moment will understand when someone is at top of mind.”
CBS News Radio White House correspondent Steven Portnoy asked the press secretary to explain Biden’s “mistake,” asking, “Can you explain where the mistake was made? Did the President–was the president confused? Was something written in the teleprompter that he didn’t recognize? Can you just help us understand what happening?”
Jean-Pierre rebuffed Portnoy, accusing him of “jumping to conclusions.”
MEANWHILE… HARRIS VISITS A BORDER… WHIFFS ON ALLY’S NAME… FOX: Vice President Kamala Harris commends US alliance with ‘Republic of North Korea’ in DMZ speech gaffe
Vice President Kamala Harris made an unfortunate gaffe during her speech at the Korean Peninsula’s Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on Thursday, saying that the United States has a “strong alliance” with “the Republic of North Korea.”
“It is an alliance that is strong and enduring,” she added, intending to refer to the Republic of Korea, which is South Korea’s official name.
The vice president then continued her remarks by professing the U.S.’s support for South Korea’s defense against the increasingly-aggressive North Korean government.
MIDTERMS… GOP LEAD CONTINUES TO GROW… VOTERS FOCUSED ON ‘ECONOMY AND IMMIGRATION’ … NATE COHN, NYT WRITER: Over the last month or so, the issue environment has kept shifting toward the Republicans. Whether that continues — and whether it ultimately yields GOP polling gains — is one of the biggest questions as we head into the final stretch (LINK)
WAPO THROWS BIDEN A BONE… A COLLAPSING ECONOMY IS ‘GOOD FOR YOU,’ ACTUALLY! … WAPO: 7 ways a recession could be good for you financially
1. Housing prices may finally come down to reasonable levels. Yes, mortgage rates are higher, but the upside of that is that sellers in many markets will have to lower their asking prices so that buyers can qualify for the loans.
PA… FETTERMAN FALLING… FOX: Fox News Poll: Pennsylvania Senate race narrows
Democrat John Fetterman tops Republican Mehmet Oz among Pennsylvania voters by 45%-41%, in a Fox News survey released Wednesday. That 4-point edge is within the poll’s margin of sampling error, and down from an 11-point advantage in late July. It is notable neither candidate receives majority support.
Three percent favor independent candidate Everett Stern, and 11% back someone else, are unsure or won’t vote.
OH… RYAN BARELY AHEAD OF VANCE… HILL: Ryan leading Vance by 3 points in Ohio Senate race: poll
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) is leading Republican J.D. Vance by 3 percentage points in Ohio’s closely watched Senate race, according to a new Spectrum News-Siena College poll.
Forty-six percent of likely Ohio voters indicated support for Ryan, compared to 43 percent who said they would vote for Vance, a gap within the poll’s margin of error. Nine percent said they didn’t know or had no opinion.
GA… WARNOCK AHEAD OF WALKER BY 4 WITH DEFINITE VOTERS… FOX: Fox News Poll: Georgia races see split decision, with Warnock and Kemp ahead
With just six weeks until the midterm election, the latest Fox News survey among Georgia registered voters shows Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock maintaining an edge over Republican Herschel Walker, while incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp widens his lead against Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams.
The poll, released Wednesday, finds Warnock up 5 points over Walker (46%-41%), similar to his 4-point edge in July (46-42%). The advantage is within the poll’s margin of error.
Among those rating their likelihood of voting as a 10 on a 10-point scale, meaning they feel certain they will vote, 47% back Warnock vs. 43% Walker.
AZ… KELLY AHEAD OF MASTERS BY 5 WITH DEFINITE VOTERS… HILL: Kelly leads Masters by 10 points in Arizona reelection bid: survey
Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) is leading Republican challenger Blake Masters by 10 points in his bid for reelection, according to the latest Marist Institute for Public Opinion poll.
With the midterm elections just around the corner, 51 percent of registered voters in Arizona say they support Kelly while 41 percent are backing Masters.
Among voters who say they will definitely vote in November, 50 percent say they will vote for Kelly and 45 percent for Masters.