More Rain Expected Amid Central Texas Flooding

A continued threat of flooding is forecast in parts of Central Texas as more rain is expected in the area and dams along the swollen Colorado River release water downstream, officials said Wednesday.

National Weather Service forecaster Jason Runyen said the already-saturated area was expected to get an additional 1 to 2 inches (3 to 5 centimeters) of rain Thursday and Friday, with some isolated areas getting as much as 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain.

“It’s not going to take hardly anything to cause additional issues with flash flooding and river flooding,” Runyen said.

The bodies of two people were found this week as the area was inundated with rains. As rivers overflowed, a bridge was destroyed, people were forced to evacuate their homes and others had to be rescued.

Llano County Emergency Management Coordinator Ron Anderson said Wednesday that while the Llano River had gone down after cresting on Tuesday, he cautioned that there was still a threat of more rain and other hazards were present after the floods.

“There are roadways that are impassable, some have been washed out. There is debris. Homes that have been evacuated are going to have to be evaluated before we can say that they are safe to re-enter,” Anderson said.

He said that with more rain in the forecast, “we really aren’t sure if this disaster has unfolded.”

In Kingsland, about 20 miles southeast of Llano, video captured a bridge crumbling as it was overrun by floodwaters from the Llano River.

Authorities said a woman’s body was found Tuesday night at a low-water crossing in Llano, located about 75 miles (120 kilometers) northwest of Austin. Earlier Tuesday, a body was found in Lake Lyndon B. Johnson, situated where the Llano River flows into the Colorado River.

The Lower Colorado River Authority has been opening flood gates along the river since Monday. Four floodgates have been opened on Mansfield Dam at Lake Travis, located northwest of Austin. The river authority said they’ll likely need to open four more by midday Thursday for a total of eight — a record number to be open at the dam with 24 gates.

“Lake Travis is more than 100 percent full,” said LCRA general manager Phil Wilson said, adding, “In the last week, we captured more water in Lake Travis than the city of Austin typically uses in four years.”

Wilson said the water being released from Lake Travis “will increase river levels on the entire river from Austin down to Matagorda Bay.”

Last week, four people were washed away when the South Llano River, which becomes the Llano River downstream, overran an RV park in Junction, Texas. Three bodies have been recovered. The search for the fourth has been suspended due to the heavy rain. 

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More Rain Expected Amid Central Texas Flooding

A continued threat of flooding is forecast in parts of Central Texas as more rain is expected in the area and dams along the swollen Colorado River release water downstream, officials said Wednesday.

National Weather Service forecaster Jason Runyen said the already-saturated area was expected to get an additional 1 to 2 inches (3 to 5 centimeters) of rain Thursday and Friday, with some isolated areas getting as much as 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain.

“It’s not going to take hardly anything to cause additional issues with flash flooding and river flooding,” Runyen said.

The bodies of two people were found this week as the area was inundated with rains. As rivers overflowed, a bridge was destroyed, people were forced to evacuate their homes and others had to be rescued.

Llano County Emergency Management Coordinator Ron Anderson said Wednesday that while the Llano River had gone down after cresting on Tuesday, he cautioned that there was still a threat of more rain and other hazards were present after the floods.

“There are roadways that are impassable, some have been washed out. There is debris. Homes that have been evacuated are going to have to be evaluated before we can say that they are safe to re-enter,” Anderson said.

He said that with more rain in the forecast, “we really aren’t sure if this disaster has unfolded.”

In Kingsland, about 20 miles southeast of Llano, video captured a bridge crumbling as it was overrun by floodwaters from the Llano River.

Authorities said a woman’s body was found Tuesday night at a low-water crossing in Llano, located about 75 miles (120 kilometers) northwest of Austin. Earlier Tuesday, a body was found in Lake Lyndon B. Johnson, situated where the Llano River flows into the Colorado River.

The Lower Colorado River Authority has been opening flood gates along the river since Monday. Four floodgates have been opened on Mansfield Dam at Lake Travis, located northwest of Austin. The river authority said they’ll likely need to open four more by midday Thursday for a total of eight — a record number to be open at the dam with 24 gates.

“Lake Travis is more than 100 percent full,” said LCRA general manager Phil Wilson said, adding, “In the last week, we captured more water in Lake Travis than the city of Austin typically uses in four years.”

Wilson said the water being released from Lake Travis “will increase river levels on the entire river from Austin down to Matagorda Bay.”

Last week, four people were washed away when the South Llano River, which becomes the Llano River downstream, overran an RV park in Junction, Texas. Three bodies have been recovered. The search for the fourth has been suspended due to the heavy rain. 

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Trump Criticizes California Wildfire Work, Threatens Funding

U.S. President Donald Trump Wednesday rekindled his criticism of California’s wildfire prevention steps and threatened to withhold billions of dollars of federal funding amid one of the most destructive fire seasons on record.

“It’s hurting our budget, it’s hurting our country and they better get their act together,” Trump said at a Cabinet meeting about California’s forestry management. He did not specify the type of funding that could be withheld.

The Republican president’s comments, which followed his criticism in August of California’s wildfire prevention efforts, were aimed at Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, whom he has frequently criticized over immigration and other policies.

With wildfires having charred nearly 2.8 million acres (1.1 million hectares) over the past two years in California, Trump said the state should do more to remove rotten trees and other debris that fuel fires.

Brown’s press secretary, Evan Westrup, cited several fire prevention steps the governor had taken, including last month’s law requiring utilities to have fire prevention plans, and an order doubling to 500,000 acres (202,340 hectares) the land open to vegetation thinning.

“The president’s comments are about as credible as his self-proclaimed ‘natural instinct for science,’” Westrup said in an email, referring to Trump’s self-assessment in an Associated Press interview this week.

Six years of drought

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CalFire, noted that in the past two years of intense wildfires, the amount of federally managed forest land in California burned exceeded the amount of charred state forest land by 1.49 million acres (603,000 hectares) to 1.13 million acres (457,000 hectares). 

A six-year drought is mainly blamed for killing an estimated 129 million trees in state forests and CalFire has crews of 60 workers clearing debris every day, spokesman Scott McLean said by telephone.

This week, California’s largest public utility cut off power to about 60,000 customers for up to two days in a fire prevention move when high winds threatened to topple trees and power lines.

Plenty of water

In August, Trump tweeted that unspecified water diversions to the Pacific Ocean were making California wildfires harder to fight.

California had plenty of water to fight the blazes and the fires are primarily fought by crews hacking away at dry brush with hand tools and bulldozers, not with water, McLean said at the time.

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Trump Criticizes California Wildfire Work, Threatens Funding

U.S. President Donald Trump Wednesday rekindled his criticism of California’s wildfire prevention steps and threatened to withhold billions of dollars of federal funding amid one of the most destructive fire seasons on record.

“It’s hurting our budget, it’s hurting our country and they better get their act together,” Trump said at a Cabinet meeting about California’s forestry management. He did not specify the type of funding that could be withheld.

The Republican president’s comments, which followed his criticism in August of California’s wildfire prevention efforts, were aimed at Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, whom he has frequently criticized over immigration and other policies.

With wildfires having charred nearly 2.8 million acres (1.1 million hectares) over the past two years in California, Trump said the state should do more to remove rotten trees and other debris that fuel fires.

Brown’s press secretary, Evan Westrup, cited several fire prevention steps the governor had taken, including last month’s law requiring utilities to have fire prevention plans, and an order doubling to 500,000 acres (202,340 hectares) the land open to vegetation thinning.

“The president’s comments are about as credible as his self-proclaimed ‘natural instinct for science,’” Westrup said in an email, referring to Trump’s self-assessment in an Associated Press interview this week.

Six years of drought

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CalFire, noted that in the past two years of intense wildfires, the amount of federally managed forest land in California burned exceeded the amount of charred state forest land by 1.49 million acres (603,000 hectares) to 1.13 million acres (457,000 hectares). 

A six-year drought is mainly blamed for killing an estimated 129 million trees in state forests and CalFire has crews of 60 workers clearing debris every day, spokesman Scott McLean said by telephone.

This week, California’s largest public utility cut off power to about 60,000 customers for up to two days in a fire prevention move when high winds threatened to topple trees and power lines.

Plenty of water

In August, Trump tweeted that unspecified water diversions to the Pacific Ocean were making California wildfires harder to fight.

California had plenty of water to fight the blazes and the fires are primarily fought by crews hacking away at dry brush with hand tools and bulldozers, not with water, McLean said at the time.

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Email: Political Appointee to Lead Interior Department Watchdog

The Trump administration is moving to reassign a political appointee at the Department of Housing and Urban Development to lead an internal watchdog agency at the Interior Department.

An email sent by HUD Secretary Ben Carson to staff says assistant HUD secretary Suzanne Israel Tufts will take over as acting inspector general at Interior. Tufts would replace Mary Kendall, who has served as acting inspector general since 2009.

An administration official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Tufts won’t start her job at Interior until required paperwork is completed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because Tufts’ appointment has not yet been publicly announced.

Carson email

Carson said in the email Friday that he had “mixed emotions” about Tufts’ departure, calling her “an extremely enthusiastic and energetic leader who re-established (HUD’s) Office of Administration, implementing improvements to the agency’s governance and internal controls.”

A spokeswoman for the inspector general’s office said Kendall remains on the job. The agency “has received no official communication or information about any leadership changes,” spokeswoman Nancy DiPaolo said Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement: “The position of the Inspector General has been vacant for about 10 years. This is a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed position, which would be announced by the White House.”

The spokeswoman, Faith Vander Voort, referred questions about Tufts to the White House, which did not immediately respond.

A HUD spokesman declined to comment.

Unusual move

It is unusual for a political appointee to be assigned to another agency, especially an inspector general’s office. Kendall oversees about 265 employees, including 80 investigators, who conduct a wide range of inquires at Interior, which oversees more than 245 million acres (380,000 square miles) of public lands, including 417 units in the national park system.

The change at the inspector general’s office, if it occurs, comes as Zinke is under investigation on a number of fronts, including his involvement in a Montana land deal with the head of an energy services company that does business with the department. Zinke, a Republican, is a former Montana congressman.

The IG’s office also is looking into the department’s scuttling of a casino project in Connecticut proposed by the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes. The decision, which overruled a staff recommendation, came after Zinke and other officials met with lobbyists for a competing group, MGM Resorts International.

Investigators are also probing how Zinke redrew boundaries of Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The sprawling monument is one of two that President Donald Trump has shrunk to reverse what he calls overreach by Democratic presidents to protect federally controlled land.

Liz Hempowicz, director of public policy at the Project on Government Oversight, an independent government watchdog, called the move to install Tufts as acting inspector general “politically suspect.”

The Trump administration “shouldn’t be changing hats right now, when there are numerous investigations left to be completed,” she said.

The AP obtained a copy of Carson’s email, which was first reported by The Hill.

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Email: Political Appointee to Lead Interior Department Watchdog

The Trump administration is moving to reassign a political appointee at the Department of Housing and Urban Development to lead an internal watchdog agency at the Interior Department.

An email sent by HUD Secretary Ben Carson to staff says assistant HUD secretary Suzanne Israel Tufts will take over as acting inspector general at Interior. Tufts would replace Mary Kendall, who has served as acting inspector general since 2009.

An administration official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Tufts won’t start her job at Interior until required paperwork is completed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because Tufts’ appointment has not yet been publicly announced.

Carson email

Carson said in the email Friday that he had “mixed emotions” about Tufts’ departure, calling her “an extremely enthusiastic and energetic leader who re-established (HUD’s) Office of Administration, implementing improvements to the agency’s governance and internal controls.”

A spokeswoman for the inspector general’s office said Kendall remains on the job. The agency “has received no official communication or information about any leadership changes,” spokeswoman Nancy DiPaolo said Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement: “The position of the Inspector General has been vacant for about 10 years. This is a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed position, which would be announced by the White House.”

The spokeswoman, Faith Vander Voort, referred questions about Tufts to the White House, which did not immediately respond.

A HUD spokesman declined to comment.

Unusual move

It is unusual for a political appointee to be assigned to another agency, especially an inspector general’s office. Kendall oversees about 265 employees, including 80 investigators, who conduct a wide range of inquires at Interior, which oversees more than 245 million acres (380,000 square miles) of public lands, including 417 units in the national park system.

The change at the inspector general’s office, if it occurs, comes as Zinke is under investigation on a number of fronts, including his involvement in a Montana land deal with the head of an energy services company that does business with the department. Zinke, a Republican, is a former Montana congressman.

The IG’s office also is looking into the department’s scuttling of a casino project in Connecticut proposed by the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes. The decision, which overruled a staff recommendation, came after Zinke and other officials met with lobbyists for a competing group, MGM Resorts International.

Investigators are also probing how Zinke redrew boundaries of Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The sprawling monument is one of two that President Donald Trump has shrunk to reverse what he calls overreach by Democratic presidents to protect federally controlled land.

Liz Hempowicz, director of public policy at the Project on Government Oversight, an independent government watchdog, called the move to install Tufts as acting inspector general “politically suspect.”

The Trump administration “shouldn’t be changing hats right now, when there are numerous investigations left to be completed,” she said.

The AP obtained a copy of Carson’s email, which was first reported by The Hill.

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Jubilant Customers Light Up as Marijuana Sales Begin in Canada

Jubilant customers stood in long lines for hours then lit up and celebrated on sidewalks Wednesday as Canada became the world’s largest legal marijuana marketplace.

In Toronto, people smoked joints as soon as they rolled out of bed in a big “wake and bake” celebration. In Alberta, a government website that sells pot crashed when too many people tried to place orders.

And in Montreal, Graeme Campbell welcomed the day he could easily buy all the pot he wanted. 

“It’s hard to find people to sell to me because I look like a cop,” the clean-cut, 43-year-old computer programmer said outside a newly opened pot store.

He and his friend Alex Lacrosse were smoking a joint when two police officers walked by. “I passed you a joint right in front of them and they didn’t even bat an eye,” Lacrosse told his friend.

Festivities erupted throughout the nation as Canada became the largest country on the planet with legal marijuana sales. At least 111 pot shops were expected to open Wednesday across the nation of 37 million people, with many more to come, according to an Associated Press survey of the provinces. Uruguay was the first country to legalize marijuana.

Ian Power was first in line at a store in St. John’s, but didn’t plan to smoke the one gram he bought after midnight.

“I am going to frame it and hang it on my wall,” the 46-year-old Power said. “I’m going to save it forever.”

Tom Clarke, an illegal pot dealer for three decades, opened a pot store in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland, and made his first sale to his dad. He was cheered by the crowd waiting in line.

“This is awesome. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this,” Clarke said. “I am so happy to be living in Canada right now instead of south of the border.”

Promise of pardons

The start of legal sales wasn’t the only good news for pot aficionados: Canada said it intends to pardon everyone with convictions for possessing up to 30 grams of marijuana, the newly legal threshold.

“I don’t need to be a criminal anymore, and that’s a great feeling,” Canadian singer Ashley MacIsaac said outside a government-run shop in Nova Scotia. “And my new dealer is the prime minister!”

Medical marijuana has been legal since 2001 in Canada, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has spent the past two years working toward legalizing recreational pot to better reflect society’s changing opinion about marijuana and bring black-market operators into a regulated system.

Corey Stone and a friend got to one of the 12 stores that opened in Quebec at 3:45 a.m. to be among the first to buy pot. Hundreds later lined up.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing — you’re never ever going to be one of the first people able to buy legal recreational cannabis in Canada ever again,” said Stone, a 32-year restaurant and bar manager.

Shop in stores, online

The stores have a sterile look, like a modern clinic, with a security desk to check identification. The products are displayed in plastic or cardboard packages behind counters. Buyers can’t touch or smell the products before they buy. A small team of employees answer questions but don’t make recommendations.

“It’s a candy store, I like the experience,” said Vincent Desjardins, a 20-year-old-student who plans to apply for a job at the Montreal shop.

Canadians can also order marijuana products through websites run by provinces or private retailers and have it delivered to their home by mail.

At 12:07 a.m., the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission tweeted: “You like us! Our website is experiencing some heavy traffic. We are working hard to get it up and running.”

Alberta and Quebec have set the minimum age for purchase at 18, while other provinces have made it 19.

No stores will open in Ontario, which includes Toronto. The nation’s most populous province is working on its regulations and doesn’t expect stores to operate until spring.

A patchwork of regulations has spread in Canada as each province takes its own approach within the framework established by the federal government. Some provinces have government-run stores, others allow private retailers, and some have both.

Canada’s national approach allows unfettered banking for the pot industry, inter-province shipments of cannabis and billions of dollars in investment — a sharp contrast with prohibitions in the United States, where nine states have legalized recreational sales of pot and more than 30 have approved medical marijuana.

Bruce Linton, CEO of marijuana producer and retailer Canopy Growth, claims he made the first sale in Canada — less than a second after midnight in Newfoundland.

“It was extremely emotional,” he said. “Several people who work for us have been working on this for their entire adult life and several of them were in tears.”

Linton is proud that Canada is now at the forefront of the burgeoning industry.

“The last time Canada was this far ahead in anything, Alexander Graham Bell made a phone call,” said Linton, whose company recently received an investment of $4 billion from Constellation Brands, whose holdings include Corona beer and Robert Mondavi wines.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

Jubilant Customers Light Up as Marijuana Sales Begin in Canada

Jubilant customers stood in long lines for hours then lit up and celebrated on sidewalks Wednesday as Canada became the world’s largest legal marijuana marketplace.

In Toronto, people smoked joints as soon as they rolled out of bed in a big “wake and bake” celebration. In Alberta, a government website that sells pot crashed when too many people tried to place orders.

And in Montreal, Graeme Campbell welcomed the day he could easily buy all the pot he wanted. 

“It’s hard to find people to sell to me because I look like a cop,” the clean-cut, 43-year-old computer programmer said outside a newly opened pot store.

He and his friend Alex Lacrosse were smoking a joint when two police officers walked by. “I passed you a joint right in front of them and they didn’t even bat an eye,” Lacrosse told his friend.

Festivities erupted throughout the nation as Canada became the largest country on the planet with legal marijuana sales. At least 111 pot shops were expected to open Wednesday across the nation of 37 million people, with many more to come, according to an Associated Press survey of the provinces. Uruguay was the first country to legalize marijuana.

Ian Power was first in line at a store in St. John’s, but didn’t plan to smoke the one gram he bought after midnight.

“I am going to frame it and hang it on my wall,” the 46-year-old Power said. “I’m going to save it forever.”

Tom Clarke, an illegal pot dealer for three decades, opened a pot store in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland, and made his first sale to his dad. He was cheered by the crowd waiting in line.

“This is awesome. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this,” Clarke said. “I am so happy to be living in Canada right now instead of south of the border.”

Promise of pardons

The start of legal sales wasn’t the only good news for pot aficionados: Canada said it intends to pardon everyone with convictions for possessing up to 30 grams of marijuana, the newly legal threshold.

“I don’t need to be a criminal anymore, and that’s a great feeling,” Canadian singer Ashley MacIsaac said outside a government-run shop in Nova Scotia. “And my new dealer is the prime minister!”

Medical marijuana has been legal since 2001 in Canada, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has spent the past two years working toward legalizing recreational pot to better reflect society’s changing opinion about marijuana and bring black-market operators into a regulated system.

Corey Stone and a friend got to one of the 12 stores that opened in Quebec at 3:45 a.m. to be among the first to buy pot. Hundreds later lined up.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing — you’re never ever going to be one of the first people able to buy legal recreational cannabis in Canada ever again,” said Stone, a 32-year restaurant and bar manager.

Shop in stores, online

The stores have a sterile look, like a modern clinic, with a security desk to check identification. The products are displayed in plastic or cardboard packages behind counters. Buyers can’t touch or smell the products before they buy. A small team of employees answer questions but don’t make recommendations.

“It’s a candy store, I like the experience,” said Vincent Desjardins, a 20-year-old-student who plans to apply for a job at the Montreal shop.

Canadians can also order marijuana products through websites run by provinces or private retailers and have it delivered to their home by mail.

At 12:07 a.m., the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission tweeted: “You like us! Our website is experiencing some heavy traffic. We are working hard to get it up and running.”

Alberta and Quebec have set the minimum age for purchase at 18, while other provinces have made it 19.

No stores will open in Ontario, which includes Toronto. The nation’s most populous province is working on its regulations and doesn’t expect stores to operate until spring.

A patchwork of regulations has spread in Canada as each province takes its own approach within the framework established by the federal government. Some provinces have government-run stores, others allow private retailers, and some have both.

Canada’s national approach allows unfettered banking for the pot industry, inter-province shipments of cannabis and billions of dollars in investment — a sharp contrast with prohibitions in the United States, where nine states have legalized recreational sales of pot and more than 30 have approved medical marijuana.

Bruce Linton, CEO of marijuana producer and retailer Canopy Growth, claims he made the first sale in Canada — less than a second after midnight in Newfoundland.

“It was extremely emotional,” he said. “Several people who work for us have been working on this for their entire adult life and several of them were in tears.”

Linton is proud that Canada is now at the forefront of the burgeoning industry.

“The last time Canada was this far ahead in anything, Alexander Graham Bell made a phone call,” said Linton, whose company recently received an investment of $4 billion from Constellation Brands, whose holdings include Corona beer and Robert Mondavi wines.

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