AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

EDM Friday Briefing: Germany Devastated by Floodwaters

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for July 16, 2021: The death toll rises to 80 as receding floodwaters reveal damage across parts of Europe; AVO raises the Semisopochnoi Volcano Alert Level to Orange; Hurricane Felicia is a tiny but strong Category 3 storm churning in the Pacific Ocean; a recent UT-Austin report reveals natural gas companies were paid to shut off power during the winter snowstorm in Texas; the Bootleg Fire is now the largest wildfire burning in the nation; UP halts inbound West Coast container shipments into its Global IV facility in Chicago for one week; the NIFC reveals more than 80% of wildland firefighter resources are already committed to more than 70 active wildfires; and J&J recalls five spray sunscreens contaminated with cancer-causing benzene.

1. Torrential rainfall on Wednesday swelled rivers in Germany and Belgium, which overflowed and sent torrents of water and mud into towns and villages across the region. Receding floodwaters now reveal the massive extent of damage caused by the recent flooding. Authorities are reporting that at least 80 people have died; dozens more are missing and many other victims had to be rescued from rooftops.

2. The Volcanic Alert Level for the Semisopochnoi Volcano in the Aleutian Islands was raised to Alert Level Orange. Seismic activity elevated ash emissions – currently visible on satellite imagery – prompted the alert level change. Ash emissions were detected up to about 5,000 feet ASL (Above Sea Level). The Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) will continue to monitor activity at the volcano and adjust alert levels accordingly.

3. A tiny but strong Hurricane Felicia is churning in the Pacific Ocean. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) noted that the Category 3 storm has winds of approximately 115 mph with gusts up to 145 mph, although the winds only extend out about 50 nautical miles (57 miles). The hurricane is not expected to hit land and is likely to weaken into a tropical storm sometime early next week.

4. A recently released report by the University of Texas-Austin reveals that natural gas companies were paid to cut off power during the February storm in Texas. According to reports, 67 sites, the majority of which were natural gas facilities, received payment from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) for voluntarily signing up for an emergency response program. At least five of those sites later identified their systems as part of the critical infrastructure needed to maintain power production within ERCOT.

5. The Bootleg Fire, currently the largest fire burning in the nation, continues its explosive growth in the Fremont-Winema National Forest. The fire’s extreme behavior – crowning, running, spotting and robust fire spreads amid unstable air conditions and extremely dry fuels – has forced additional evacuations. In just ten days, the fire has scorched more than 227,200 acres and is only seven percent contained.

6. Inbound international container shipments into the Union Pacific (UP) terminal in Chicago, Illinois, are being suspended for one week by the railroad. The embargo begins on Saturday evening and is forecast to create massive container backlogs in West Coast ports. The railroad halted the inbound shipments from the West Coast to address its backlog of containers that has maxed out capacity at its Global IV facility.

7. The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reports that the nation is now at a Preparedness Level 5, the country’s highest level of fire activity. According to the NIFC, more than 1.06 million acres has already burned this season. There are currently 70 active fires, including two new large fires. The NIFC also noted that more than 80% of the country’s wildland firefighting and incident management teams are also currently committed to active wildfires.

8. A recall issued by Johnson & Johnson reveals low levels of carcinogens present in five of the company’s sunscreen products. Affected products contain trace amounts of benzene, to which repeated exposure can cause cancer. Products involved in the recall are Aveeno Protect Refresh spray sunscreen and four Neutrogena spray sunscreens, including Invisible Daily Defense and Beach Defense.

Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.

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