floods – Michmutters

Lettuce prices to fall as production lifts in flood-hit growing regions

After months of paying $10 for lettuce, shoppers can expect some relief with Queensland growers getting back on track, three months after they were devastated by flooding.

Prices for the salad staple skyrocketed after flooding in May wiped out millions of dollars worth of vegetables in the Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane.

Mulgowie Yowie Salads director Shannon Moss said he had only started full production about two weeks ago.

“We’ve had nice weather where a lot of growers have got stock coming on,” Mr Moss said.

“I was going through the photos [of the flooding] and I’m thinking how it’s hard to look at it, look at the devastation that was here.

“It is nice to see the paddocks recover and the farm get back into some sort of normality.”

Mr Moss said he was now producing about 30,000 cos lettuces a week for markets in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Rows of lettuce wiped out from floods with the scenery of the lockyer valley in the background
Shannon Moss lost his entire lettuce crop in May when floods ripped through the Lockyer Valley. (Supplied: Shannon Moss)

He said prices had remained high for so long because the season had had to start from scratch.

“You have to remember a seedling in a nursery takes about four to six weeks to grow, then it’s another eight weeks in the ground to grow lettuce.

“So you’re looking at three to four months to grow any kind of lettuce.”

Man in fluro orange shirt stands in front of rows of lettuce.
After the trauma of floods, Mr Moss is happy to get back to normal production. (Rural ABC: Lucy Cooper)

Further price drop expected

Toowoomba-based greengrocer Bevan Betros said prices had halved in recent weeks.

“I think we can afford to eat iceberg lettuce again … they are a good size, they’ve got a bit of weight in them — they’re very good value again,” Mr Betros said.

He said prices would remain stable over the coming weeks.

“I don’t think they’ll get much cheaper just for the next week or two.

“There may be some gaps in the plantings due to the floods and what people were able to do when they could get on and off their property.”

Man stars at camera with shopping shelves behind him
Greengrocer Bevan Betros expects iceberg lettuce to drop to about $2 by September. (ABC News: David Chen)

Mr Betros said he expected prices would continue to fall heading into October.

“They’ll get back down as the warm weather comes on, as we get into spring.

“We should be getting down under $2 again, hopefully in September.”

Iceberg lettuce on shelf in supermarket with a price of $6.20
Iceberg lettuce has fluctuated from $1.50 a head to $12 and is now $6 a head. (ABC News: David Chen)

But don’t get used to it

Despite lettuce production returning to normal, shoppers are being warned not to get used to low prices.

Director of Coastal Hydroponics on the Gold Coast and Growcom chairwoman Belinda Frentz said a price reduction would likely be short term.

“We’ll start seeing the prices of most leafies coming back to what we would expect to be a normal sort of price,” Ms Frentz said.

Woman stands with arms crossed and lettuce growing behind her
Growcom chair Belinda Frentz says production is almost at full capacity. (ABC News: Steve Keen)

“Obviously we’ve got input cost pressures that are having a significant impact on businesses and recouping costs and seeing prices sort of not leveling out — there’s going to be some increases.”

Ms Frentz said farmers were still dealing with high labour, fuel and fertilizer costs.

“Growers are being hit in every pocket that they’ve got.”

Is there a right price?

While prices have dropped, growers want them to remain at levels where their businesses can survive.

“If we get down to $1.50 for retail lettuce that’s not going to be sustainable for too long,” Mr Moss said.

“You know, fuel levies are up 20 to 25 per cent, fertilizer prices are up another 25 to 30 per cent and diesel is up another 30 to 40 per cent, so our product needs to be up around 30 to 40 per cent,” he said.

Hand holds a plastic packaged cos lettuce
Lockyer Valley growers supply the key markets of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.(Rural ABC: Lucy Cooper)

Ms Frentz hoped the severity of the losses endured by farmers during the floods would demonstrate to consumers how exposed the industry was.



Indigenous families still homeless months after the floods, as leaders say First Nations people are being overlooked for rentals

After moving accommodation five times in five months, Nyangbal and Dunghutti woman Teresa Anderson has had enough.

The elder’s Cabbage Tree Island home, nestled on a flood plain of cane fields in northern New South Wales, was deemed uninhabitable after the February floods.

She has been homeless since.

“I’ve been moved around five times,” she told the ABC.

“We were at the Ramada [hotel] then we went to Brisbane. Then we had to go outside of town.

“It’s taken a toll on my health. I couldn’t even cope, I couldn’t go to work. It just got me really emotional.”

Teresa in front of her grandmother's house, which in unsafe for occupancy
Teresa in front of her grandmother’s house, which is unsafe for occupancy.(ABC NewsEmma Rennie )

Teresa Anderson was in good health before the floods.

But she believes a series of new health issues have been a direct result of the grief and stress of being displaced.

“YOI’m struggling,” she said.

As floods devastated Lismore and surrounding towns earlier this year, a sludge of sewage-contaminated water raged down the Richmond River, destroying every home in the Aboriginal community.

a man cleaning up inside a house after floodwater damage
Floodwater damage at Cabbage Tree Island. (ABC News: Rani Hayman)

There are 23 homes on the island — with some housing up to 12 people — and at the time every single resident of the 180-strong community was left homeless.

Today, every house is still uninhabitable.

According to the Jali Local Aboriginal Land Council, today, almost six months after the disaster, about 500 of the 1,296 northern New South Wales residents who are still homeless are First Nations people.

“That tells me clearly that we’re disproportionate again in relation to the numbers of people who are homeless,” Widjabul man and Jali Land Council chief executive Chris Binge told the ABC.

a man wearing a cap standing out the front
Mr Binge said a disproportionate number of the Indigenous community remains homeless.(ABC News: Rani Hayman)

According to Ms Anderson, Indigenous flood victims have been pushed to the back of the line when it came to finding permanent accommodation.

“They are homeless and staying in tents in front of their homes,” she said.

“It’s hard for us to try to get accommodation like rental houses, because once they know it’s an Aboriginal family, they just say, ‘no, I’m sorry, it’s not available.”

Temporary housing plan

The NSW Department of Communities and Justice, the organization responsible for helping flood victims into emergency accommodation, told the ABC in a statement it did not collect data on Indigenous status.



Afghan man charged in killings of Muslims in New Mexico

The ambush killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico, shook the community but inspired a flood of information, including a tip that led to the arrest of a local Muslim man originally from Afghanistan who knew the victims, authorities said.

Muhammad Syed, 51, was arrested on Monday after a traffic stop more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) away from his home in Albuquerque. He was charged with killing two victims and was identified as the prime suspect in the other two slayings, authorities announced Tuesday.

The Muslim community is breathing “an incredible sigh of relief,” said Ahmad Assed, president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico. “Lives have been turned upside down.”

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Syed had an attorney to speak on his behalf.

The first killing last November was followed by three more between July 26 and Aug. 5.

Police Chief Harold Medina said it was not clear yet whether the deaths should be classified as hate crimes or serial killings or both.

Syed was from Afghanistan and had lived in the United States for about five years, police said.

“The offender knew the victims to some extent, and an interpersonal conflict may have led to the shootings,” a police statement said, although investigators were still working to identify how they had crossed paths.

When asked specifically if Syed, a Sunni Muslim, was angry that his daughter married a Shiite Muslim, Deputy Police Cmdr. Kyle Hartsock did not respond directly. He said “motives are still being explored fully to understand what they are.”

Assed acknowledged that “there was a marriage,” but he cautioned against coming to any conclusions about the motivation of Syed, who occasionally attended the center’s mosque.

Police said Syed gave them a statement but didn’t disclose details.

The slayings drew the attention of President Joe Biden, who said such attacks “have no place in America.” They also sent a shudder through Muslim communities across the US Some people questioned their safety and limited their movements.

“There is no justification for this evil. There is no justification to take an innocent life,” Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American–Islamic Relations, said at a Tuesday news conference in Washington, DC

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He called the killings “deranged behavior.”

The earliest case involves the November killing of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, from Afghanistan.

Naeem Hussain, a 25-year-old man from Pakistan, was killed Friday night. His death from him came just days after those of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussein, 41, who were also from Pakistan and members of the same mosque.

Ehsan Chahalmi, the brother-in-law of Naeem Hussain, said he was “a generous, kind, giving, forgiving and loving soul that has been taken away from us forever.”

For now, Syed is charged in the killings of Aftab Hussein and Muhammad Afzaal Hussain because bullet casings found at the crime scenes were linked to a gun found at his home, authorities said.

Investigators consider Syed to be the primary suspect in the deaths of Naeem Hussain and Ahmadi but have not yet filed charges in those cases.

The announcement that the shootings appeared to be linked produced more than 200 tips, including one from the Muslim community that police credited with leading them to the Syed family.

Police said they were about to search Syed’s Albuquerque home on Monday when they saw him drive away in a Volkswagen Jetta that investigators believe was used in at least one of the slayings.

Officers followed him to Santa Rosa, about 110 miles (177 kilometers) east of Albuquerque, where they pulled him over. Multiple firearms were recovered from his home and car, police said.

Syed’s sons were questioned and released, according to authorities.

Prosecutors expect to file murder charges in state court and are considering adding a federal case, authorities said.

Shiites make up the second largest branch in Islam after Sunnis.

Aneela Abad, general secretary at the Islamic center, said the two Muslim communities in New Mexico enjoy warm ties.

“Our Shiite community has always been there for us and we, Sunnis, have always been there for them,” she said.

Muhammad Afzaal Hussain had worked as a field organizer for Democratic Rep. Melanie Stansbury’s campaign.

“Muhammad was kind, hopeful, optimistic,” she said, describing him as a city planner “who believed in democracy and social change, and who believed that we could, in fact, build a brighter future for our communities and for our world. ”


Dazio reported from Los Angeles and Fam from Winter Park, Florida. Associated Press writer Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.



Bureau of Meterology rejects suggestions it was unprepared for Northern Rivers NSW flood event

Australia’s national weather agency has issued a staunch defense of its handling of deadly flooding in New South Wales earlier this year, after a parliamentary report found it did not comprehend the scale of the threat.

Five people died in the first flood event in the Northern Rivers on February 28, with evacuation orders for towns such as Lismore issued through the night as flood waters tore through the region.

A NSW parliamentary committee found the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) was not prepared, that information used to make decisions was “incorrect and out of date”, and recommended it review its data processes.

The bureau declined to be interviewed by the ABC but in a statement a spokesperson said the agency “strongly refutes” the committee’s findings.

The statement outlined how the BOM warned governments, including national cabinet, and the community in 2021 of a likely La Niña event and above-average flooding risk across Australia’s north and east.

Specifically in relation to flooding in northern NSW, it said it told the State Emergency Service (SES) five days before the first event of “the potential for life-threatening flash-flooding over the NSW north coast” and that it issued flood watches and warnings “many days in advance”.

“The bureau also explicitly identified the risk for intense localized rain events, life threatening flash flooding and the potential for rapid river rises,” it said.

Aerial photo of Lismore in flood in 2017
The Northern Rivers flood event was the region’s worst on record.(ABC North Coast: Ruby Cornish)

The statement also addressed the report findings that some agencies treated it “as a nine-to-five business operation”, arguing it was instead a “365 days a year, 24/7 operation”.

The bureau said that for this event, a specialized meteorologist and a hydrologist were embedded with the SES at the Wollongong headquarters, and that the bureau supplied area-specific briefings to agencies.

It also noted that engagement with the parliamentary committee had been “limited”, and that a separate independent flood inquiry, which has handed its report to the government but was not yet public, was much more proactive with asking for information.

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Probe finds lead emergency agencies failed in flood response(Bruce MacKenzie)

‘more of the same’

Kyogle Shire Council general manager Graham Kennett said the report was missing recommendations to improve telecommunications, which were crucial for monitoring levels to make decisions.

“If we know what’s going on in this catchment and in that catchment, then we have warning times and we can predict flood levels to a degree of accuracy that is good enough to make informed decisions about when people need to leave,” he said.

“It takes 45 minutes to an hour for the data to get online and in some cases that is too long for a decision-making process.”

In Lismore, a group of residents said the 37 recommendations did not go far enough, and wanted locals to be given the power to make decisions in future flood events

The parliamentary committee slammed the response of the SES during the flood crisis, accusing it of “issuing out of date, inaccurate and confusing messages”.

It has recommended that a restructure of the SES be conducted to harness local knowledge and increase the number of salaried staff and volunteers.

Man and woman sit at a long table in front of microphones
Beth Trevan (left) believes the recommendations do not afford local people enough autonomy.(ABC North Coast: Bruce MacKenzie)

Lismore Citizens Flood Review group coordinator Beth Trevan said while the inquiry findings mirrored the group’s submission, the recommendations were “disappointing” as they appeared to be “more of the same”.

Ms Trevan wants local people on the ground to have the power to make decisions.

“In the past we’ve had long term local people, who had been here for 30 or 40 years and were in senior positions at a regional level … and the knowledge of the entire area and the knowledge of all the agencies and the people who ran them was at their fingertips,” she said.

“By the time it gets transferred from here to Sydney and they have a chat with the bureau, the time is wasted, and we don’t have time.”

Catherine Cusack wearing a gray jacket and sitting in a park.
Catherine Cusack left parliament in protest of her party’s handling of the flood crisis.(abcnews)

Catherine Cusack represented the Liberal Party on the parliamentary committee, but no longer sits in parliament after letting her membership lapse in protest at her party’s handling of the crisis.

She fell short of backing the notion that local people should be making decisions but said they should be “more front and centre”.

“Of all the data that flows into them, there’s just no capacity for locals to say ‘I don’t know what it is in your gauges … but all I can tell you is the water is meters high up here in an unprecedented way’ ,” she said.

The SES said it is reviewing the report and will provide a response to parliament.



As floodwaters hurtled towards Lismore, several rain and river gauges stopped working

Residents living upstream from Lismore say faults in the rain and river gauge network deprived them of potentially life-saving data as a catastrophic flood hit the New South Wales Northern Rivers in February.

There are 27 rainfall and 19 stream level gauges in the Wilsons River catchment that provide data to the Bureau of Meteorology to help predict flood heights and develop forecasts.

Residents also monitor the data directly via the bureau’s website.

When the February flood hit, one rain gauge was already broken and a further two rain gauges and six stream gauges stopped transmitting data during the event.

ABC’s 7.30 can reveal that crucial equipment failed because it was poorly located, while key rainfall data was missed or distorted due to a lack of maintenance.

A green pole with an antenna attached.
When the February floods hit the Northern Rivers, one rain gauge was already broken and two more stopped transmitting data.(abcnews)

The revelations follow the release of a NSW parliamentary report examining the flood response, which found information from the Bureau of Meteorology was “incorrect and out of date”, and called for the bureau to review its rain data infrastructure to ensure rain and flood gauges were appropriately placed, maintained and updated.

Local resident Annie Kia says the failures of the gauge network caused “much distress” among her upstream neighbours, who were among the first to witness the scale of the disaster firsthand.

“The upstream people knew that a catastrophe was hurtling toward Lismore in the night, and felt very frustrated that they could not get their message across,” she said.

‘People downstream really need to know’

A woman stands outside wearing a blue jacket.
The gauges near Nan Nicholson’s home stopped working as floodwaters rose.(ABC News: Ella Archibald-Binge)

Nan Nicholson’s property is nestled in the hinterland north of the town, flanked by two creeks that feed into the Wilsons River catchment.

“If it’s torrential rain up above, we know that Lismore is going to really cop it,” she said.

As a low pressure system moved south on the night of February 27, she was keeping a close eye on the local rain and stream gauge data, which she and her neighbors rely on for real-time information to decide when to evacuate.

The stream gauge said the nearby creek was “steady.”

However, that was in stark contrast to what was unfolding in her backyard: The creek was rapidly closing in on her home, and the hammering rain showed no signs of easing.

She could see the flood was shaping up to be far worse than initial predictions of a peak around the 2017 height of 11.59 meters.

Water flows over rocks.
Rocky Creek, one of the feeder creeks upstream from Lismore.(ABC News: Ella Archibald-Binge)

“You could watch it within the minute rising very, very rapidly, so I just didn’t believe [the data]and that really filled me with dread,” she said.

“I thought, ‘People downstream really, really need to know this, and they’re not getting that information’.”

Ms Nicholson and her husband made a narrow escape in the night.

By the time they left, the nearby river gauge was not transmitting any data at all.

The rain gauge failed a short time later.

“Because of our knowledge of the area, we felt prepared to some degree, but it would have helped a great deal to know that that river gauge … was telling the truth,” she said.

“It’s a basic government responsibility to deliver us the data that we need to make decisions about our survival.”

‘Whole network needs to be reassessed’

A man standing outside wearing a cap, a blue top and a black padded vest.
Duncan Dey says rainfall modeling “only works if you’ve got good data”.(ABC News: Ella Archibald-Binge)

Duncan Dey is a flood hydrologist and Byron Shire councilor who used to install and maintain rain and stream gauges.

I have identified key flaws in the gauging station near Ms Nicholson’s property.

He said a shed housing equipment that sends data to the weather bureau should have been located on higher ground.

“We know that the shed went underwater, and I’m stunned, actually, because it went underwater by three or four meters, which means that it was wrongly located in the first place,” he said.

“The whole network needs to be reassessed for whether the machinery shed is high enough above the flood levels.”

A man and woman stand next to a rain gauge which looks like a green shed.
Duncan Dey and Annie Kia inspect a rain gauge. Mr Dey was surprised to find a tree growing over the top.(abcnews)

Mr Dey said he was also “shocked” to see a tree overhanging the top of the rain gauge.

“So it’s not actually measuring the right amount of rain. It’s completely non-standard,” he said.

“We now have computer modeling that works really well on taking rainfall, putting it into a catchment and working out what happens downstream — the modeling is fantastic, but it only works if you’ve got good data.”

A BOM spokesperson said the outages did not impact the bureau’s forecasts and warnings during the February flood, and that redundancy has been built into the observation system.

However, the bureau is reviewing its infrastructure across the catchment.

Council requests more gauges

man in tweed jacket
Lismore City Council general manager John Walker says the gauges are maintained every three months, or more often if a fault occurs. (ABC North Coast: Bruce MacKenzie)

The state gauge network is jointly managed by local, state and federal governments, along with some private agencies.

Lismore City Council owns the gauges that malfunctioned in February.

General manager John Walker said all but two of the gauges have been fixed, with parts on order from overseas, while one was broken prior to the flood because a technician could not get access to the site due to ground conditions.

Mr Walker said all existing gauges were located above the 1974 flood levels and the equipment that had been repaired has been relocated to higher ground, above the 2022 flood height.

He said the gauges were maintained every three months, or more often if a fault occurs.

The council’s request for more gauges, he said, was being assessed by the NSW Planning and Environment Department, after it was initially rejected in February.

A spokesperson for the department said it was awaiting completion of the council’s flood plain management plan before it could review the funding application.

Resident Annie Kia is among many — including local councils and MPs — calling for a single agency to own and maintain the gauge network.

“It’s clear to me that the system is not fit for purpose,” she said.

“We need to have some government system that manages these creek and rain gauges, and it seems to me it would be better if it was one agency — as long as it’s one, competent agency.”

Watch this story on 7.30 on ABC TV and ABC iview.



Biden surveys flood damage in Kentucky, pledges more US help

LOST CREEK, Ky. (AP) — President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden on Monday witnessed the damage from deadly and devastating storms that have resulted in the worst flooding in Kentucky’s history, as they visited the state to meet with families and first responders.

At least 37 people have died since last month’s deluge, which dropped 8 to 10-1/2 inches of rain in only 48 hours. Gov. Andy Beshear told Biden that authorities expect to add at least one other death to the total. The National Weather Service said Sunday that flooding remains a threatwarning of more thunderstorms through Thursday.

The president said the nation has an obligation to help all its people, declaring the federal government would provide support until residents were back on their feet. Behind him as he spoke was a single-story house that the storm had dislodged and then left littered on the ground, tilted sideways.

“We have the capacity to do this — it’s not like it’s beyond our control,” Biden said. “We’re staying until everybody’s back to where they were.”

In the summer heat and humidity, Biden’s button-down shirt was covered in sweat. Pacing with a microphone in his hand, he eschewed formal remarks as he pledged to return once the community was rebuilt.

“The bad news for you is I’m coming back, because I want to see it,” the president said.

The Bidens were greeted warmly by Beshear and his wife, Britainy, when they arrived in eastern Kentucky. They immediately drove to see devastation from the storms in Breathitt County, stopping at the site of where a school bus, carried by floodwaters, was crashed into a partially collapsed building.

Beshear said the flooding was “unlike anything we’ve ever seen” in the state and credited Biden with swiftly approving federal assistance.

He praised responders who “have moved heaven and earth to get where we are, what, about nine days from when this hit,” he said.

Attending a briefing on the flooding’s impact with first responders and recovery specialists at Marie Roberts Elementary School in Lost Creek, Biden told a delegation of Kentucky leaders that he would do whatever was necessary to help.

“I promise you, if it’s legal, we’ll do it,” he said. “And if it’s not legal, we’ll figure out how to change the law.”

The president emphasized that politics have no place in disaster response, noting his frequent political battles with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “We battle all the times on issues,” Biden said, but in helping Kentuckians rebuild, “we’re all one team.”

Monday’s trip is Biden’s second to the state since taking office last year. I have previously visited in December after tornadoes whipped through Kentucky, killing 77 people and leaving a trail of destruction.

“I wish I could tell you why we keep getting hit here in Kentucky,” Beshear said recently. “I wish I could tell you why areas where people may not have much continue to get hit and lose everything. I can’t give you the why, but I know what we do in response to it. And the answer is everything we can. These are our people. Let’s make sure we help them out.”

Biden has expanded federal disaster assistance to Kentucky, ensuring the federal government will cover the full cost of debris removal and other emergency measures.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has provided more than $3.1 million in relief funds, and hundreds of rescue personnel have been deployed to help.

“The floods in Kentucky and extreme weather all around the country are yet another reminder of the intensifying and accelerating impacts of climate change and the urgent need to invest in making our communities more resilient to it,” she said.

The flooding came just one month after Kentucky’s governor visited Mayfield to celebrate the completion of the first houses to be fully constructed since a tornado nearly wiped out the town. Three families were handed keys to their new homes that day, and the governor in his remarks heard him back to a visit he had made in the immediate aftermath.

Now more disasters are testing the state. Beshear has been to eastern Kentucky as many times as weather permitted since the flooding began. He’s had daily news conferences that stretched to an hour in order to provide details and a full range of assistance for victims.

A Democrat, Beshear narrowly defeated a Republican incumbent in 2019, and he’s seeking a second term in 2023.

Polling has shown him consistently with strong approval ratings from Kentuckians. But several prominent Republicans have entered the governor’s race, taking turns pounding the governor for his aggressive pandemic response and trying to tie him to Biden and rising inflation.

Beshear comments frequently about the toll surging inflation is taking in eating at Kentuckians’ budgets. He has avoided blaming the president, instead pointing to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and supply chain bottlenecks as contributors to rising consumer costs.


Schreiner reported from Frankfort, Kentucky and Megerian reported from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.



In wake of floods, typical barbs at Kentucky political event

FANCY FARM, Ky. (AP) — While Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear was consoling families displaced by historic flooding in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, Republicans at the state’s premier political event on the other side of the state were campaigning to oust him from office in 2023.

GOP candidates speaking at the Fancy Farm picnic in western Kentucky bashed the Democratic governor’s record earlier in this term, especially his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. But they also offered support for recovery efforts that Beshear is leading in the wake of historic flooding and tornadoes.

While his challengers aimed zingers at him, Beshear spent the day meeting with families displaced by flash flooding that swamped the Appalachian region more than a week ago, killing 37. Beshear visited two state parks where some of the suddenly homeless took refuge.

“Today I’m at our state parks, spending time with our eastern Kentucky families who have been displaced from the catastrophic flooding,” Beshear posted on social media. “These Kentuckians have been through the unimaginable. My priority is being there for them.”

Last December, deadly tornadoes tore through parts of western Kentucky. The political speaking at the annual Fancy Farm picnic — the traditional start of the fall campaign in Kentucky — took place about 10 miles (16 km) from Mayfield, which took a direct hit from a tornado.

Living up to the event’s reputation for edgy attacks, Republicans wanting to unseat Beshear took aim at restrictions that the governor imposed on businesses and gatherings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor has said his actions of him saved lives at a perilous time when vaccines were not available. The state’s GOP-dominated legislature reined in the governor’s virus policymaking power in a case settled by the state’s Supreme Court.

GOP gubernatorial hopeful Ryan Quarles referred to Beshear as the “shutdown governor.”

“He shut down our economy,” said Quarles, the state’s agriculture commissioner. “I’ve shut down our ‘mom and pop’ stores. He killed countless jobs and kept the big box stores open.

“Folks, just because we lived through a global pandemic doesn’t mean that our rights, our freedoms and liberties should be tossed out the window,” he added.

In his speech, Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Colmon Elridge came to the defense of Beshear, who consistently receives strong approval ratings from Kentuckians in polls. Elridge praised Beshear’s efforts in leading recovery efforts in tornado-ravaged western Kentucky and said he’ll do the same for flood victims in the state’s Appalachian region.

“Once again, our governor is showing through his actions how we show up in moments of devastation and embrace our fellow Kentuckian, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Kentuckians,” Elridge said.

The governor is highlighting his management of the state’s economy in asking voters for a second term. Kentucky has posted records for job creation and investments during his term and recently posted its lowest-ever unemployment rates.

Beshear was already a committed no-show for the state’s premiere political event. The governor initially planned a visit to Israel that coincided with the Fancy Farm picnic. I canceled that trip after the massive flooding hit eastern Kentucky.

The Fancy Farm stage was dominated by Republican officeholders — reflecting the GOP’s electoral dominance. The event is a rite of passage for statewide candidates, who are tested in stump-style speeches in the August heat while facing taunts and shouts from partisans from the other party.

The political attacks were punctuated by calls for continued public support for people rebuilding from tornadoes and facing the same daunting task in flood-ravaged areas.

“We might be sharing a few laughs today, but whether we’re Republican or Democrat, know that we are with you,” said GOP gubernatorial hopeful Daniel Cameron. “When natural disasters strike, we take off our partisan hats and we root for each other. We help repair and we help rebuild.”

Cameron then shifted into promoting his candidacy. I have touted his endorsement from former President Donald Trump and his work from him as the state’s attorney general in defending Kentucky’s anti-abortion laws and fighting Biden administration policies in court.

“I am the best candidate and the only candidate that can beat Andy Beshear next fall,” Cameron said.

Two other GOP gubernatorial candidates also made pitches to the crowd and a statewide television audience that watched — state Auditor Mike Harmon and state Rep. Savannah Maddox.

The still-emerging 2023 governor’s race is already overshadowing the state’s top-of-the-ticket race this year — the contest between Republican US Sen. Rand Paul and Democratic challenger Charles Booker. Paul was unable to attend the picnic because of Senate duties.

Also missing from the political speaking Saturday was Kentucky’s most powerful Republican, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell. A picnic mainstay for decades, McConnell relishes the verbal combat but also missed the event because of Senate duties. In a Senate speech Saturday, McConnell said the federal role in the long recovery for flood-damaged areas in his home state will grow once the rebuilding begins.

“Soon I’ll visit the region myself to meet with flood victims and listen to their concerns,” McConnell said. “Then I’ll take what I hear from my constituents back to Washington and ensure we stand by their side as we rebuild bigger and better than before.”

Biden declared a federal disaster to direct relief money to hard-hit Kentucky counties.



Tribe: California wildfire near Oregon causes fish deaths

HAPPY CAMP, Calif. — A wildfire burning in a remote area just south of the Oregon border appears to have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Klamath River fish, the Karuk Tribe said Saturday.

The tribe said in a statement that the dead fish of all species were found Friday near Happy Camp, California, along the main stem of the Klamath River.

Tribal fisheries biologists believe a flash flood caused by heavy rains over the burn area caused a massive debris flow that entered the river at or near Humbug Creek and McKinney Creek, said Craig Tucker, a spokesman for the tribe.

The debris entering the river led to oxygen levels in the Klamath River dropping to zero on Wednesday and Thursday nights, according to readings from tribal monitors at a nearby water quality station.

A photo from the Karuk taken about 20 miles (32 kilometers) downstream from the flash flood in the tributary of Seiad Creek showed several dozen dead fish belly up amid sticks and other debris in thick, brown water along the river bank.

The full extent of the damage is still unclear but the tribe said late Saturday it appears the fish found dead 20 miles downstream were swept there after their deaths and that the fish kill isn’t impacting the entire river.

“We think the impact is limited to 10 or 20 miles of river in this reach and the fish we are seeing in Happy Camp and below are floating downstream from the ‘kill zone,’” the tribe said in an updated statement, adding it continues to monitor the situation.

The McKinney Fire, which has burned more than 90 square miles (233 square kilometers) in the Klamath National Forest, this week wiped out the scenic hamlet of Klamath River, where about 200 people lived. The flames killed four people in the tiny community and reduced most of the homes and businesses to ash.

Scientists have said climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the last three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive. Across the American West, a 22-year megadrought deepened so much in 2021 that the region is now in the driest spell in at least 1,200 years.

When it began, the McKinney Fire burned just several hundred acres and firefighters thought they would quickly bring it under control. But thunderstorms came in with ferocious gusts that within hours had pushed it into an unstoppable conflagration.

The blaze was 30% contained on Saturday.

The fish kill was a blow for the Karuk and Yurok tribes, which have been fighting for years to protect fragile populations of salmon in the Klamath River. The salmon are revered by the Karuk Tribe and the Yurok Tribe, California’s second-largest Native American tribe.

The federally endangered fish species has suffered from low flows in the Klamath River in recent years and a parasite that’s deadly to salmon flourished in the warmer, slower-moving water last summer, killing fish in huge numbers.

After years of negotiations, four dams on the lower river that impede the migration of salmon are on track to be removed next year in what would be the largest dam demolition project in US history in an attempt to help the fish recover.


Flaccus reported from Portland, Oregon.



Flash floods strand 1K people in Death Valley National Park

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — Flash flooding at Death Valley National Park triggered by heavy rainfall on Friday buried cars, forced officials to close all roads in and out the park and stranded about 1,000 people, officials said

The park near the California-Nevada state line received at least 1.7 inches (4.3 centimeters) of rain at the Furnace Creek area, which park officials in a statement said represented “nearly an entire year’s worth of rain in one morning.” The park’s average annual rainfall is 1.9 inches (4.8 centimeters).

About 60 vehicles were buried in debris and about 500 visitors and 500 park workers were stranded, park officials said. There were no immediate reports of injuries and the California Department of Transportation estimated it would take four to six hours to open a road that would allow park visitors to leave.

It was the second major flooding event at the park this week. Some roads were closed Monday after they were inundated with mud and debris from flash floods that also hit western Nevada and northern Arizona hard.

The rain started around 2 am, said John Sirlin, a photographer for an Arizona-based adventure company who witnessed the flooding as he perched on a hillside boulder where he was trying to take pictures of lightning as the storm approached.

“It was more extreme than anything I’ve seen there,” said Sirlin, who lives in Chandler, Arizona, and has been visiting the park since 2016. He is the lead guide for Incredible Weather Adventures and said he started chasing storms in Minnesota and the high plains in the 1990s.

“I’ve never seen it to the point where entire trees and boulders were washing down. The noise from some of the rocks coming down the mountain was just incredible,” he said in a phone interview Friday afternoon.

“A lot of washes were flowing several feet deep. There are rocks probably 3 or 4 feet covering the road,” he said.

Sirlin said it took him about 6 hours to drive about 35 miles (56 kilometers) out of the park from near the Inn at Death Valley.

“There were at least two dozen cars that got smashed and stuck in there,” he said, adding that he didn’t see anyone injured “or any high water rescues.”

During Friday’s rainstorms, the “flood waters pushed dumpster containers into parked cars, which caused cars to collide into one another. Additionally, many facilities are flooded including hotel rooms and business offices,” the park statement said.

A water system that provides it for park residents and offices also failed after a line broke that was being repaired, the statement said.

A flash flood warning for the park and surrounding area expired at 12:45 pm, Friday but a flood advisory remained in effect into the evening, the National Weather Service said.



More rain, more bodies in flooded Kentucky mountain towns

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Another round of rainstorms hit flooded Kentucky mountain communities Monday as more bodies emerged from the sodden landscape, and the governor warned that high winds could bring another threat — falling trees and utility poles.

Gov. Andy Beshear said the death toll rose to 37 while hundreds of people remained unaccounted for five days after one of the nation’s poorest regions was swamped by nearly a foot of rain. The water poured down hillsides and into valleys and hollows, engulfing entire towns. Mudslides marooned some people on steep slopes.

Beshear suggested many of the unaccounted for would be located when cellphone service resumes.

“When cell service gets back up, we do see a whole lot of people finding people they love and care about, so looking forward to those stories,” he said.

Radar indicated that up to 4 more inches (10.2 centimeters) of rain fell Sunday, and the National Weather Service warned that slow-moving showers and thunderstorms could provoke more flash flooding through Tuesday morning.

“If things weren’t hard enough on the people of this region, they’re getting rain right now,” Beshear said Monday at the Capitol in Frankfort. “Just as concerning is high winds — think about how saturated the ground has been.” The wind “could knock over poles, it could knock over trees. So people need to be careful.”

An approaching heat wave means “it’s even going to get tougher when the rain stops,” the governor said. “We need to make sure people are ultimately stable by that point.”

Chris Campbell, president of Letcher Funeral Home in Whitesburg, said he’s begun handling burial arrangements for people who died.

“These people, we know most of them. We’re a small community,” he said of the town about 110 miles (177 kilometers) southeast of Lexington. “It affects everyone.”

His funeral home recently buried a 67-year-old woman who had a heart attack while trying to escape her home as the water rose. Campbell knew her boyfriend of her well, he said.

On Monday, he met with the family of a husband and wife in their 70s, people he also knew personally. He said it’s hard to explain the magnitude of the loss.

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“I don’t know how to explain it or what to say, to be completely honest,” he said. “I just can’t imagine what they’re going through. I don’t think there really are words for it.”

Campbell said his 90-year-old grandmother lost the entire home where she’s lived since 1958. She managed to escape to a neighbor’s house with only some photos. Everything else is gone, he said.

More than 12,000 utility customers remained without power. At least 300 people were staying in shelters.

The floods were unleashed last week when 8 to 10 1/2 inches (20 to 27 centimeters) of rain fell in just 48 hours in parts of eastern Kentucky, southern West Virginia and western Virginia.

The disaster was the latest in a string of catastrophic deluges that have pounded parts of the US this summer, including St. Louis. Scientists warn that climate change is making such events more common.

Meanwhile, nighttime curfews were declared in response to reports of looting in two of the devastated communities — Breathitt County and the nearby city of Hindman in Knott County.

Breathitt County declared a countywide curfew from 10 pm to 6 am The only exceptions were for emergency vehicles, first responders, and people traveling for work.

“I hate to have to impose a curfew, but looting will absolutely not be tolerated. Our friends and neighbors have lost so much. We cannot stand by and allow them to lose what they have left,” County Attorney Brendon Miller said in a Facebook post.

Breathitt County Sheriff John Hollan said the curfew decision came after 18 reports of looting. He said people were stealing from private property where homes were damaged. No arrest have been made.

Hindman Mayor Tracy Neice also announced a sunset-to-sunrise curfew because of looting, television station WYMT reported. Both curfews will remain in place until further notice, officials said.

Last week’s flooding extended to parts of West Virginia and Virginia. President Joe Biden declared a federal disaster to direct relief money to flooded counties, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency was helping. Another relief effort came from the University of Kentucky’s men’s basketball team, which planned an open practice Tuesday at Rupp Arena and a charity telethon.

Coach John Calipari said players approached him about the idea.

“The team and I are looking forward to doing what we can,” Calipari said.


Associated Press writers Dylan Lovan in Louisville, Kentucky; Gary B. Graves in Lexington, Kentucky; Mike Pesoli airborne with the National Guard; Leah Willingham in Charleston, West Virginia; and Julie Walker in New York City contributed to this report.