AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

EDM Wednesday Briefing: West Virginia Port Development Moves Forward

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for August 4, 2021: The NHC states that there is a 20% chance or less of development for two tropical waves in the Atlantic Ocean; nearly 300,000 pounds of raw beef has been recalled due to potential E. coli contamination; firefighters continue to gain ground on the wildfire burning on Hawaii’s Big Island; the NWS has issued Red Flag Warnings for portions of northern California; severe weather disrupted flights in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area from Sunday into Monday, resulting in thousands of stranded passengers; a new demurrage charge on private railcars is proposed by four rail shipper associations; development of the new Port of West Virginia continues to move forward; and the Dixie Fire jumped control lines amid Red Flag weather that is predicted to continue through Thursday evening.

1. The National Hurricane Center shows a zero to 20% chance of development of two separate tropical waves in the eastern Atlantic. Though there is little chance for development, the systems are producing disorganized showers and thunderstorms, and some heavy rainfall and gusty winds will accompany the disturbance near the Cabo Verde Islands. The Lesser Antilles could see some impacts from the southernmost system as early as Sunday.

2. Great Omaha Packing is recalling nearly 300,000 pounds of beef products due to potential E. coli contamination. Four states – Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Nebraska – received the raw beef for processing. The meat was produced on July 13 and has the number EST. 960A inside the USDA inspection stamp.

3. Firefighters continue to gain ground against the wildfire burning on Hawaii’s Big Island. The more than 40,000 acre wildfire is burning in South Kohala and prompted evacuation orders for several communities at its outset. Officials noted that the historic Parker Ranch has seen the greatest impact, with at least 32,000 acres of ranch land being burned.

4. The National Weather Service (NWS) issued Red Flag Warnings for parts of Northern California due to forecasted weather conditions. Conditions in the northern Sierra will include gusty winds, very low humidity levels and extremely dry fuels. The Red Flag Warning goes into effect at 1 p.m. on Wednesday and will extend through Thursday until 8 p.m. It includes parts of Plumas and Shasta counties, along with Lassen National Park and the northeast foothills.

5. Severe weather that rolled through the Dallas/Ft. Worth area on Sunday disrupted travel for thousands of passengers on American Airlines and other airlines. American Airlines diverted about 80 flights to other airports, delayed more than 2,000 flights and cancelled at least 850 flights through Monday due to the severe weather, which impacted their system through Tuesday. The airline is also reportedly struggling to ensure it remains fully staffed after encouraging employees to take early retirements, buyouts, and leaves of absences to cut labor costs in 2020.

6. Nearly 73% of freight railcars are privately owned or leased, including 100% of rail tank cars, 100% of railcars that transport dried distillers grain, 90% of coal hoppers, and about 85% of processed grain hoppers. Railroads operate the privately owned and leased railcars. Currently, four shipper associations want to leverage demurrage charges against railroads to ensure they engage in the efficient movement of the railcars through their systems.

7. The development of a new port on the Ohio River is moving forward. The Port of West Virginia is to include a multifunctional, transmodal and inland port terminal in Follansbee, West Virginia. The company developing the port, Empire Diversified Energy, indicated that the 1,000-acre public port would have five miles of rail – along with at least 8,000 contiguous feet of river frontage – and could be a Midwest-shipped goods hub.

8. The Dixie Fire reportedly jumped containment lines and grew to the north due to Red Flag weather conditions on Tuesday. Steep terrain, abundant fuels and wind within canyons is hindering firefighter efforts to control the wildfire. Ongoing Red Flag weather conditions are lending to active uphill runs, flanking and single tree torching. Active fire behavior is likely to continue due to strong and gusty winds forecast through Thursday evening. Due to the likely increase in fire behavior and spread, area officials have ordered additional evacuations and warnings in the Lake Almanor and Chester areas.

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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