Hurricane Florence, weakened to a Category 2 storm late Wednesday night on its way to the shores of the Carolinas, the National Hurricane Center said. The National Hurricane Center warned that a “life-threatening storm surge and rainfall” to the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic states remains likely with tropical-storm-force winds arriving Thursday. Hurricane and storm surge warnings are in effect from the Santee River in South Carolina to Duck, North Carolina.”Disaster is at the doorstep,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned.
Hurricane Florence weaked a bit late Wednesday night, prompting forecasters to downgrade it to a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of up to 110 mph. The storm is headed for the Carolinas, bringing a risk of life-threatening storm surge and rainfall.
Hurricane Florence’s center is expected to make landfall somewhere near the border between North and South Carolina on Saturday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), though the storm’s intensity will be felt starting Thursday.
“We have to get ready today,” NHC Director Ken Graham said in a Facebook video posted Wednesday afternoon.
The NHC has issued hurricane and storm surge warnings for the coastal areas between the South Santee River in South Carolina and Duck, North Carolina as well as Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds.
Powerful waves and walls of water are expected to rush inland when the storm arrives, bringing catastrophic flooding. North Carolina’s barrier islands, from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout could see the biggest storm surge: between 9 and 13 feet.
“Florence is forecast to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane when it nears the US coast late Thursday and Friday,” the National Hurricane center said on Wednesday afternoon.
Much of the rest of the Carolina coastline, from the Virginia border down to Edisto Beach, South Carolina is under hurricane and storm surge watch. Florence is expected to slow down considerably late Thursday and Friday, according to the NHC, meaning it will likely sit over the Carolinas late into the weekend, pounding the area near the shore with rain.
“If you’ve been asked to leave, get out,” Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said in an Oval Office briefing Tuesday afternoon.
President Donald Trump echoed Long’s concern.
“You have to listen to your local authorities,” Trump said from the Oval Office. “You have to listen and get out. Because once the storm hits, it’s going to be really bad, and almost impossible to get authorities in to help.”
Florence was hovering about 280 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, as of late Wednesday night and 325 miles southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The storm was moving northwest at about 17 mph.
The hurricane could inundate low-lying islands off the coast of North Carolina, like the Outer Banks and other barrier islands, according to the NHC’s “cone of probability” forecast. Heavy rainfall, up to 10 inches, may extend as far inland as Charlotte, North Carolina’s largest city, and Raleigh, its capital.
The NHC also said the storm’s effects — including rain, high winds, rip currents, and tidal surges — would most likely be felt outside the “cone of probability” and could extend hundreds of miles from the storm’s center.
In North Carolina, evacuations have been ordered in Dare County, which includes the Outer Banks, as well as other coastal counties, according to The Observer. The orders affect roughly 250,000 residents.
“Everyone in Dare County is encouraged to evacuate as soon as possible regardless of the established time frames,” the county’s emergency-management agency said Monday.
In a press conference on Wednesday, North Carolina’s governor, Roy Cooper, warned residents: “Disaster is at the doorstep. If you’re on the coast there is still time to get out safely.”
The storm could leave thousands of buildings flooded. Duke Energy, the Carolinas’ major power supplier, said up to 3 million customers could lose power, perhaps for weeks, according to The New York Times.
“This may be a marathon, not a sprint,” Cooper added.
Five states have declared states of emergency ahead of the storm: Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland, along with Washington, DC.
Evacuation orders are in place in one of South Carolina’s four coastal counties. Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam, issued a mandatory evacuation order for residents of the state’s low-lying coastal areas as well.
“This is a serious storm and it’s going to affect the entire state of Virginia,” Northam said on Monday evening, per a local NBC affiliate.
The latest Florence forecast
Florence is currently a Category 2 hurricane, meaning it has maximum wind speeds between 96 and 110 mph.
“This is a life-threatening situation,” the National Hurricane Center said on Wednesday. “There is a danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline, during the next 36 hours.” Those warnings remained in effect overnight Wednesday.
Predicting hurricane paths is a difficult science, and there are still uncertainties about this storm’s track. But if predictions hold, Florence’s center could make landfall in South Carolina on Saturday morning, just south of the border.
The chart below shows the probability that an area that will see winds of at least 39 mph. The area in purple corresponds to a 90% or higher probability of experiencing those gusts.
Heavy rains are expected
Hurricane Florence is predicted to slow over the Carolinas and Virginia, where rainfall totals could reach 40 inches.
Sluggish or stalled hurricanes — like Hurricane Harvey, which flooded swaths of Houston, Texas, and the Gulf Coast last year — can become even more dangerous as they stick around, pouring rain.
These types of slow-moving hurricanes are becoming more frequent. Recent research from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that storms had slowed by an average of 10% over land between 1949 and 2016.
Three other name storms are churning in the Atlantic as well. Here are the numbers on those as of Wednesday night:
- Tropical Storm Isaac is about 220 miles east of Dominica, with sustained wind speeds of about 50 mph. The NHC has issued a tropical storm warning for the islands of Martinique, Dominica, and Guadeloupe.
- Hurricane Helene has wind speeds of 80 mph, but is not close enough to land for any watches or warnings to be in effect.
- Subtropical storm Joyce has sustained wind speeds of 45 mph.
Meanwhile, in the Pacific Ocean, Tropical Storm Olivia is heading toward the Hawaiian island of Lanai, moving West with 45 mph winds. A tropical storm warning is in effect for Oahu and Maui county. Dangerously high surf is expected to last through the night on the main Hawaiian islands, according to the NHC.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.