Commentary, Environment, News

Report: As climate changes, expect wetter storms

If you’ve been following WRAL’s reporting this week, you’ve likely seen a series of fascinating pieces on climate change.

It’s an appropriate topic these days. North Carolinians on the coast are still assessing the damage after Hurricane Dorian raked the Outer Banks this month.

Researchers tell us that, as the climate changes in the coming decades, the U.S. can expect to see more intense tropical weather, a frightening thoughts to folks in eastern North Carolina who have been absolutely walloped in recent years.

Today’s report from WRAL focuses on a UNC study which emphasizes that North Carolina, in addition to the more intense storms, can expect to see wetter storms as well. Go to WRAL for the full report.

From WRAL:

Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Hurricane Florence in 2018.

All caused significant damage due to flooding, and it’s a trend a recent study from UNC shows could be caused by a changing climate.

“They all had one thing in common, and that is very high rainfall and extensive flooding, so we got interested in that and decided to explore the long-term dataset for North Carolina,” said Hans Paerl, a professor at the UNC-Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City.

The study looked at 120 years of weather data, most collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA.

“We were really struck by that data because 6 out of the 7 wettest storms datasets that have occurred over the 120 years occurred in the last 20 years,” said Paerl.

“So we asked a question, are we just unlucky in North Carolina over the last 20 years or is this a real trend?”

The research team calculated the probability of the flooding happening by chance at 2%.

Paerl says it’s more likely due to a changing climate, warmer oceans leading to more water vapor in the air.

It’s a trend WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze has been noticing more often.

“There are discussions that come out from the weather service every day, and they talk about the chance for storms, but they also talk about the amount of moisture in the atmosphere, and I’ve seen more wording lately where they talk about record amounts of moisture in the atmosphere for this time of the year. So when fronts come along and access that moisture you may have bigger rain events,” Maze said.

He also said it’s a shift he’s been recognizing during his 25 years forecasting weather in North Carolina.

“You can’t help but notice there is a change going on. Is it solely man made? I’m not sure. Is it just a cycle that’s going on? Could be, but there are more pieces of the puzzle that are coming together,” Maze said.

“This is not a predictive study,” Paerl said. “We are not predicting what’s going to be down the line, although given what we now know it’s difficult to assume we are not going to get some more of these high rainfall events.”

Paerl said he was motivated to do this study because he lives near the cost and has experienced many of these storms.

News

N.C. Sen. Paul Lowe apologizes after accosting Policy Watch reporter

Sen Paul Lowe Jr., D-Forsyth

North Carolina state Sen. Paul Lowe has apologized after a Policy Watch reporter said the senator assaulted him and hurled his phone in the hallway of the Legislative Building Wednesday morning.

Joe Killian, investigative reporter for Policy Watch, says he was covering Wednesday’s budget drama at approximately 10:20 a.m. when he heard screaming from behind a closed door, followed by a shout for police assistance.

Afterward, Killian said he saw Lowe — a Forsyth County Democrat — exiting the room, flanked by Democratic senators Floyd McKissick Jr. and Jay Chaudhuri. When he began filming with his phone, Lowe approached Killian.

Killian provided footage of the altercation with Lowe (see below for the video). In it, Lowe can be heard asking, “What are you doing with your camera?” 

“I’m a journalist,” Killian began to reply, before Killian said Lowe grabbed at his hand to snatch his phone.  

After a brief struggle, Killian says the two-term state senator, a pastor at a Winston-Salem church, threw Killian’s phone across the room and stormed away. Killian says he was not injured in the altercation.

“What happened today isn’t just an assault on me,” Killian said in a statement. “It’s an assault on the free press. Any North Carolinian should be able to visit the General Assembly without being assaulted. Working journalists, now more than ever, have to be able to do their jobs there without fear of assault or destruction of their professional equipment. Representatives of the people of North Carolina should understand that.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Lowe apologized, but declined to discuss why he approached Killian in such an aggressive manner, or what was happening behind that closed door.

“I apologize for anything that I’ve done,” Lowe said. “It was an unfortunate circumstance. I apologize for that circumstance. I’d be more than happy to sit down and talk with him.”

Rob Schofield, director of Policy Watch, offered this statement:

“Senator Lowe’s unprovoked actions this morning targeted a working journalist just doing his job. They were outrageous, unacceptable, and sadly indicative of a trend we’ve seen from an alarming number of public officials.”

Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue added this statement: 

“Based on the accounts reported to me, I see Senator Lowe’s actions as wholly unacceptable. I will do everything in my capacity as the leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus to see that it is never repeated.”

Killian said General Assembly Police Chief Martin Brock interviewed him briefly after the incident. Brock did not respond to a phone call Wednesday afternoon. 

The incident occurred in the tense hours after Republican lawmakers held a surprise vote on the state House floor early Wednesday when many Democrats were absent, overriding Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the $24 billion budget. 

Democrats were incensed, claiming GOP leadership said there would be no voting in the chamber Wednesday. But House Speaker Tim Moore denied there was any announcement that no votes would be held in session Wednesday. 

At the time of the incident, lawmakers, including Lowe, were holding closed-door meetings following the vote, which brought Republicans one step closer to ending the budget impasse with Cooper.

Billy Ball is the managing editor of N.C. Policy Watch. 

Commentary, News

The day faith in the N.C. General Assembly’s Republican leadership bottomed out (Video)

N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore

We will remember a lot of things about this day.

We’ll remember how North Carolina’s Democratic state House representation — a large majority of which was missing Wednesday morning, at least one attending a 9/11 memorial — finally disintegrated in fury when Republicans held a stunning vote to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget veto.

We’ll remember the House Democratic Leader, Wake County’s Darren Jackson, repeating his assertion that Republicans told Democrats there would be no votes Wednesday.

We’ll remember how Raleigh’s political media, a chronically jaded group, frantically scrambled to make sense of things.

We’ll remember an apoplectic Deb Butler, one of the few Democrats on the floor, decrying the vote as legislative staffers sought, to no avail, to calm her. “How dare you do this, Mr. Speaker?” Butler shouted at Speaker Tim Moore. “I will not yield!” (See the video at the bottom of this post, taken by Rep. John Autry.)

And we’ll remember Tim Moore and Rep. David Lewis, men who’ve deceived and manipulated North Carolinians before, gas-lighting the minority party.

“There absolutely was no announcement that there would be no vote this morning,” Moore assured us, imploring us to trust him.

Trust is gone. This group does not deserve it. To trust the leadership of the N.C. General Assembly any more is lunacy.

What can be trusted is that, if the opportunity presents itself,

if a hurricane relief session lends sufficient cover to undercut the governor’s authority,

if misleading the courts delays an opportunity for a fair election,

if cracking or packing minority voters or voters of a different ideology speeds an ill-gotten legislative chokehold,

if writing a multi-billion dollar budget in secret quashes dissent,

if a parliamentary maneuver jettisons minority party input altogether,

if unfounded transphobia fuels an omnibus discrimination bill like HB2,

the leaders of the N.C. General Assembly will take that opportunity. These leaders do not just look a gift horse in the mouth, they put their entire head in the beast’s jaws.

Gov. Roy Cooper

With courts wondering whether the actions of an unconstitutionally obtained majority can be constitutional, Wednesday’s vote is more fodder. Indeed, the votes of a false majority should not be considered untouchable, sacred, by the law. This legislature makes the state’s laws today, but it does not make the state’s constitution.

Democrats will seek to hold Cooper’s budget veto on the floor of the Senate, although the margin there is far more narrow than it was in the state House. Meanwhile, Cooper canceled a planned trip to Scotland County to hold a noon press conference on the legislature’s actions.

The vote might deal an almost fatal blow to Cooper’s chances of forcing action from the legislature on Medicaid expansion, an idea that has never had a fair moment in the General Assembly.

Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Durham Democrat, told Policy Watch Wednesday that he believes Cooper’s veto will endure, at least through the day.

That may be, but one thing that will not endure is faith in the legislative leadership, in the prospect that lawmakers like Moore can be counted on to act in a way that any of us would expect our neighbors to act.

Faith was already damaged beyond measure, not simply in North Carolina, but beyond our borders.

It may be hard to find any trace of it after today.

Butler_966 from John Autry on Vimeo.

Commentary, Trump Administration

Former GOP White House staffer: “Donald Trump is not well”

President Donald Trump (Credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)

I am not, nor will I ever be, the sort who likes to make assessment about another person’s mental health. I am not, nor will I ever be, qualified to do so. I’ll leave that to professionals.

Furthermore, I’m wary of anyone who presents evidence of mental illness as disqualifying for office.

But a longtime GOP White House staffer — who served in the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush administrations — isn’t so shy about his analysis of the president of the United States.

Peter Wehner offered this blistering take on Donald Trump at The Atlantic Monday, arguing that it’s time for Americans to acknowledge the symptoms of mental illness in the president.

I don’t know about that, but he clearly is a wretched leader.

Read below though for Wehner’s fascinating argument:

From The Atlantic:

During the 2016 campaign, I received a phone call from an influential political journalist and author, who was soliciting my thoughts on Donald Trump. Trump’s rise in the Republican Party was still something of a shock, and he wanted to know the things I felt he should keep in mind as he went about the task of covering Trump.

At the top of my list: Talk to psychologists and psychiatrists about the state of Trump’s mental health, since I considered that to be the most important thing when it came to understanding him. It was Trump’s Rosetta stone.I wasn’t shy about making the same case publicly. During a July 14, 2016, appearance on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, for example, I responded to a pro-Trump caller who was upset that I opposed Trump despite my having been a Republican for my entire adult life and having served in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations and the George W. Bush White House.

“I don’t oppose Mr. Trump because I think he’s going to lose to Hillary Clinton,” I told Ben from Purcellville, Virginia. “I think he will, but as I said, he may well win. My opposition to him is based on something completely different, which is, first, I think he is temperamentally unfit to be president. I think he’s erratic, I think he’s unprincipled, I think he’s unstable, and I think that he has a personality disorder; I think he’s obsessive. And at the end of the day, having served in the White House for seven years in three administrations and worked for three presidents, one closely, and read a lot of history, I think the main requirement for president of the United States … is temperament, and disposition … whether you have wisdom and judgment and prudence.”

That statement has been validated. Read more

Commentary, Education, News

Teacher: Amid IStation controversy, reading assessments “descended into confusion” across N.C.

A long, messy story keeps getting longer and messier.

Readers of this site and the Charlotte teacher/advocate Justin Parmenter — an occasional Policy Watch contributor — are well aware of the ongoing IStation controversy. The contracting process for a K-3 literacy assessment tool has been thrown into turmoil amid claims that it was mishandled by North Carolina officials like Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson.

Parmenter’s been busy on this one, and so has Policy Watch’s Greg Childress, who reported two weeks ago that the company will be offering the tool to teachers for free until the legal questions surrounding the award of their $8.3 million contract are settled.

But Parmenter offered an up-close perspective in a commentary for The Charlotte Observer Monday, contending that, amid the fiasco, literacy testing in the early grades has “descended into confusion” in North Carolina.

Johnson fired shots at the N.C. Department of Information Technology (DIT) in recent weeks, arguing that the state agency’s stay on the contract was “improper,” but Parmenter says the mess is harming teachers across the state.

From Monday’s commentary:

Istation may be providing its product for free, but it’s free in the sense that a puppy is free. Use of a brand new assessment tool requires a significant investment of time and energy by school personnel. Those things aren’t free.

With the state superintendent indicating that schools should keep using an assessment that another agency put on hold, the vitally important work of assessing our youngest readers has descended into confusion all over the state. Some districts, including Wake and Cabarrus, have contracted directly with Amplify to use the mClass tool on their own dime, and some are using other tools to track student reading progress. But a considerable number of districts are following Johnson’s lead and proceeding as if Istation’s contract will be upheld, training teachers on how to use Istation and assessing students on the tool. The mClass application has been removed from the state’s electronic platform and replaced with Istation. With Johnson’s blessing, Istation assessments are now collecting data on North Carolina students, despite the fact that the company’s contract has been put on hold.

While Johnson can disagree with DIT’s decision, he should know better than to run roughshod over due process. After all, as Johnson reminded everyone last month, he’s not just superintendent, he’s also a lawyer. Personally endorsing and advocating for a product that hasn’t gone through proper procurement to operate in North Carolina — as the free offering of Istation has not — appears to be a deliberate attempt to subvert the decision of a governing authority. North Carolina’s public school families deserve better than this poor leadership and the chaos that surrounds the important work of evaluating our children’s reading abilities.