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    Florida facing its 'most catastrophic' storm ever, as Irma arrives


    ‘Leave now,’ governor warns, with hurricane bearing down on Keys after killing 25 in wave of Caribbean devastation

    A street in Villa Clara, Cuba Hurricane Irma hit. Irma approaches Florida where many areas are under mandatory evacuation orders. Photograph: Alejandro Ernesto/EPA.

     Florida faces the “most catastrophic” storm in its history as Hurricane Irma prepares to unleash devastating force on the state, including 120mph winds, life-threatening sea surges that could submerge buildings and an advance battery of tornadoes.


    Live Hurricane Irma: superstorm races towards Florida Keys as residents told to 'hunker down'– live.

     ‘Life-threatening’ storm surge expected in Florida Keys, 200kmh winds in Cuba and sheriff asks people not to shoot at Irma


    “You need to leave – not tonight, not in an hour, right now,” Governor Rick Scott commanded in a press conference, 12 hours before the cyclone was expected to make landfall on Sunday morning. “This is the most catastrophic storm the state has ever seen.”

     The US national hurricane centre said in its 8pm Saturday update on Irma that “heavy squalls with embedded tornadoes” were already sweeping across south Florida. The US National Weather Service later said the first hurricane-force wind gust had been recorded in the Florida Keys, a low-lying island chain off the state’s southern coast.


    Irma's destruction: island by island.

     The category five hurricane has ripped through the Caribbean, leaving flattened landscapes, flash floods and loss of life

     Irma dropped to a category three hurricane but could regain its category four intensity as the bathtub-warm seawater of nearly 32C (90F) will enable the storm to build strength.

     It was forecast to hit the Keys first, then again near Cape Coral or Fort Myers, and then a third time near Tampa Bay on its path up Florida’s west coast. Weather stations in Marathon, a city in the Keys, reported sustained winds of 51mph (81kmh) with a gust to 71mph (115kmh) on Saturday night.


    In Florida’s south-west, officials expected sea surges as high as 15ft (4.5 metres), which can rapidly rise and fall.

     “Fifteen feet is devastating and will cover your house,” Scott said. “Do not think the storm is over when the wind slows down. The storm surge will rush in and it could kill you.”

     He said at least 76,000 people were without power as the 350 miles (560km) wide storm unleashes winds and rain on the state. Officials said the window for people in evacuation zones was shutting, with gas stations closing and bridges blocked off.

     More than seven million people were ordered to flee their homes in several states, including nearly a third of Florida’s population. Around 50,000 people were in 300 shelters around the state, counties enacted curfews and power providers have already begun to struggle with demand.

     In Miami, Guardian reporter Richard Luscombe was sheltering with his family in a 5ft x 5ft interior closet with no windows, away from exterior walls and doors.

     “My mobile phone has been screaming its high-pitched alarm every 10 minutes over the last hour or so with dire warnings from the National Weather Service to take cover NOW because of tornadic thunderstorms in the area,” he said.

     “The threat of tornados comes from thunderstorms in Hurricane Irma’s violent outer bands, which have been circling over Miami-Dade and Broward counties for most of the day as the storm moves ever closer.


    Survivors of Irma beg for aid and face armed looters as they brace for Jose.

     Panic grows in Florida as extent of devastation across Caribbean emerges, with buildings flattened and 20 dead

     Donald Trump was monitoring the progress of the storm from the presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland where he held a cabinet meeting.

     In Palm Beach, Trump’s waterfront Mar-a-Lago estate was under evacuation order.
    “This is a storm of enormous destructive power, and I ask everyone in the storm*s path to heed ALL instructions from government officials,” Trump said on Twitter.

     Forecasters said the tropical cyclone would maintain hurricane strength well into Georgia on Monday.

     It leaves behind a trail of devastation in the Caribbean, with 25 confirmed killed, including 11 people on French St Martin and St Barts, four in the US Virgin Islands, three on Puerto Rico, two on Dutch St Maarten, one person in Anguilla and a two-year-old in Barbuda.

     Its most recent victim, Cuba, experienced 125mph (200kmh) winds on Saturday that damaged hotels in the island’s best-known beach resorts and forced evacuations as far along the coast as low-lying areas of the capital Havana.

     Power was out and mobile phone service was spotty in many regions as Irma, the first category five storm to make landfall on the island since 1932, passed over. The island’s communist government ordered the evacuation of more than a million people from its path.

     In the fishing town of Cariberian, streets were carpeted with fresh green seaweed as the water receded, people said it was the strongest cyclone ever to hit the town.

     Irma’s turn northward was expected to occur around 150 miles (240km) east of the capital. Nevertheless, authorities shut off power in large parts of the city and evacuated around 10,000 people from central Havana near the Malecon seawall because of fears of flooding from the storm surge.

     By Saturday evening, the sea had penetrated two blocks over parts of the city’s historic seafront boulevard, and the waters were expected to advance further as the surge grew. Restaurants on the seaside drive pulled down their shutters and stacked sandbags.

     The Caribbean islands will barely have time to take stock before category four Hurricane Jose threatens landfall, complicating relief efforts for islands that have only just emerged from Irma’s winds.

     Jose spared Barbuda, where the prime minister estimated 90% of buildings were destroyed by Irma a few days earlier.

     Although Jose is weaker and moving away from the Islands, high winds are likely to hit Puerto Rico and possibly Dominican Republic as soon as Sunday morning local time.

     However, residents in the British Virgin Islands described a scene of “utter devastation” in the wake of Irma and pleaded for the UK government to send more food, water and shelter.

     Natalie Drury, who lives with her husband in Tortola, said she was in a “state of disbelief” about the destruction left by the storm. Homes and businesses had been destroyed, she said, the streets were strewn with sewage and looters had emptied shops.

     “We desperately need help as soon as possible. Food, water, shelter. I’m extremely concerned about health and safety – there is sewage absolutely everywhere.

     “It’s worse than anyone could have imagined. The country is going to need some serious help. I have no idea how many people have died. We were told yesterday it’s gone up to 10, but obviously that’s all rumours. Nobody knows yet.”



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    Abigail: A Bible Woman with Beauty and Brains.


    Abigail: A Bible Woman with Beauty and Brains.

    Watercolour and ink portrait of Abigail by Sarah Beth Baca.
    Abigail, Nabal, and David.

     Abigail is an interesting woman who we meet in 1 Samuel chapter 25. Like several women in the Old Testament, Abigail is described as beautiful. Unlike most other women in the Old Testament, Abigail is also described as “intelligent” (NAB, NIV, TEV), or “clever” (NRSV), or “of good understanding” (KJV, ASV), etc.[1] Beautiful and clever Abigail was married to a wealthy man, and she may have enjoyed the benefits of an affluent lifestyle, but her rich husband Nabal was foolish, intemperate, and mean.

     Abigail’s namֲe is derived from two Hebrew words, “father” and “happiness”, and means “my father’s happiness”. She may have been the cause of happiness in her father’s house, but Abigail’s marriage cannot have been a happy one.[2] Nabal’s name is a Hebrew word which means “foolish” or “senseless”. As an adjective, nabal is used of people who have no perception of ethical or religious claims. It’s an apt name for Abigail’s husband who typifies such behavior.[3]

     Nabal had not noticed that David and his men had been protecting his shepherds. When his camp started to run out of food, David sent ten messengers to Nabal. The messengers told Nabal about how they had been protecting his shepherds and they asked for provisions, but Nabal refused them.[4] He even screamed at them (1 Sam. 25:14 NLT). Nabal’s actions deeply insulted David, and David responded by preparing for a slaughter (1 Sam. 25:13, 22).


    Abigail’s Actions.

     Abigail was the able mistress of an extensive household.[5] A servant told Abigail how Nabal has insulted David, and informed her of the danger they now faced. Her servants, both male and female, promptly helped Abigail in her decisive plan to placate David.

     Abigail was not just intelligent and beautiful, she was also brave. It would have been no mean feat to confront David and four hundred of his men who had been insulted and were intent on revenge with their swords at the ready. Yet Abigail approached David and, with great diplomacy, humbly offered him a “peace offering”. She gave David and his men plenty of food. Her quick actions saved her household from disaster, and kept David and his men from unnecessary bloodshed.

     Abigail was also brave considering that her actions would be found out by her husband, and then she would have to face his violent temper. The next day, Abigail told Nabal everything that she had done. Thankfully, God spared her from Nabal’s wrath. Nabal immediately had a heart attack and ten days died later from heart failure.

     Nabal did not know who David was, but Abigail knew. She knew that David was an outlaw on the run from King Saul, and she spoke eloquently and prophetically about David and his future reign as king of Israel.[6] Her speech is one of the longest speeches of a woman recorded in the Old Testament. Here is an excerpt:

     “The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.” 1 Samuel 25:28-31 (NIV)

     David did remember Abigail. After Nabal’s death, he seems to have lost no time in asking her to become his wife. It is not clear whether David sought this marriage because of his attraction to Abigail or if it was for political reasons, but he certainly admired her. Abigail became David’s third wife and she bore David’s second son Chileab (2 Sam. 3:3). (Her son is called Daniel in 1 Chronicles 3:1.)


    Abigail’s Submission.

     I remember being so confused about the story of Abigail when I was younger. I had been taught that wives are to submit to their husbands in everything—after all, that’s what Paul says in Ephesians 5:24. Moreover, women were supposed to revere and respect their husbands as the leaders, and certainly not say anything bad about them. But here was a Bible women who went behind her husband’s back and did something she knew he wouldn’t approve of.  And she even announces her husband’s faults to David:

     “My lord should not pay attention to this wicked man Nabal. He simply lives up to his name! His name means ‘fool,’ and he is indeed foolish!” 1 Samuel 25:25 (NIV)

     Despite defying her husband and saying negative things about him, Abigail is commended for her actions. Furthermore, David recognises that Abigail was sent by God.

     David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day . . .” 1 Samuel 25:32-33 (NIV)

     In fact, Abigail is an ideal wife. She didn’t submit to her husband’s stupidity; rather she protected her husband and his interests. She took the initiative when he was unable or unwilling to act, and she even apologised for his rude behaviour.[7]

     I think much of the church has a faulty idea of submission in marriage. Biblical submission is not about blind obedience or subservience. Healthy submission is characterised by loyalty, humility, and consideration, and it seeks the greater good. Ideally it should be mutual and reciprocal, rather than one-sided, with both husband and wife helping and serving each other.

     Abigail was a smart, strong, young woman who helped her husband by going against his wishes. She initiates a potentially dangerous meeting with David, and speaks with great diplomacy and insight. God used Abigail to help David and encourage him with her prophetic words. Abigail was a remarkable woman… (By Marg Mowczko).



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