Home Emergency Management News EDM Wednesday Briefing: Blizzard to Sweep Plains States
EDM Wednesday Briefing: Blizzard to Sweep Plains States

EDM Wednesday Briefing: Blizzard to Sweep Plains States

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for March 13, 2019: Flights were canceled and schools closed ahead of a predicted winter storm that is set to sweep through the Plains states; Pillsbury Unbleached All-Purpose Flour has been recalled due to possible Salmonella contamination; after Ethiopian Airlines crash, at least 41 nations have grounded the aircraft or prohibited flight operations of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft; mumps and other contagious diseases prompt quarantines across the nation; PG&E does not face criminal charges after 2017 wildfires in California's wine country; Los Angeles County health officials warn that travelers through LAX may have been exposed to the measles; the pilot of the doomed Ethiopian Airlines flight requested to return to the airport shortly after take off due to flight control problems; and scientists call for the accelerated study of toxic threats following increased natural disasters.

1) Blizzard and winter storm warnings are in effect across many of the Plains states as heavy snow, hurricane-force wind gusts and whiteout conditions are expected to impact the region Wednesday into Thursday. Travel in some areas will likely be dangerous, if not impossible, with near zero visibility, icy roads and strong winds. Power outages are possible in many of the warning areas. Ahead of the approaching storm, many schools were closed and over 1,000 flights were canceled, the majority of which were at Denver International Airport (DIA), where a blizzard warning is in effect.

2) A voluntary recall has been issued for Pillsbury Unbleached All-Purpose Flour due to the possible salmonella contamination. The recall was issued by Hometown Food Company and affects 12,245 cases of the five-pound bags of the product, which, according to the company, was distributed to limited retailers nationwide. There have been no reported illnesses from the product. Consumers should return the product to the place of purchase or throw it out, then contact the company, who is offering coupons for a replacement product.

3) The recent crash of the Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 jet has prompted at least 41 countries to ground the airplane or prohibit its flight operation in their airspace, after the second crash of this aircraft type in less than six months. The European Union has also suspended flight operations of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 model in question, but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reiterated its standing that there is "no basis to order grounding of the aircraft," as the plane is considered safe. Boeing stated it was working on a software upgrade, changes to flight controls and updated training guidelines in the wake of the Lion Air crash of a 737 MAX 8 in October.

4) Mumps and other contagious diseases have quarantined 2,287 detainees at immigration detention centers around the nation in recent months. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) health officials stated that there were 236 cases of mumps, confirmed or probable, over the past 12 months, with 186 cases at one Texas detention center since October. Larger numbers of people arriving along the southern border has increased concerns over disease exposure, and mumps is easily spread through saliva droplets. Close contact elevates the ease with which the disease is spread.

5) Investigators will not file criminal charges against Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) following the 20 deadly wildfires that swept through Northern California's wine country in 2017. Those fires killed 46 people and left a wake of destruction. An investigation by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) found that twelve of the wildfires that ignited in 2017 were sparked by power lines owned by PG&E. Although no criminal charges will be filed, the company was cited for code violations in eight of the fires and may be liable for billions of dollars in civil damages.

6) Health officials in California are warning that travelers who went through Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on February 21 may have been exposed to the measles. A measles-infected passenger arrived on China Eastern Flight 583 in Terminal B and waited for a connecting Delta Flight in Terminal 3, which exposed other travelers to the disease, according to county health officials. Since January 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) has recorded 228 individual measles cases across 22 states. Six states have had outbreaks after a traveler brought the virus back from other countries.

7) Reports indicate that the pilot of the doomed Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 that crashed on Sunday wanted to return to the airport due to flight-control problems. According to recordings with air traffic controllers, there were no other external problems, such as a bird strike, that were identified by the pilot after Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 took off from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa amid good weather conditions. Flight tracking also showed an unstable vertical airspeed, with the pilots sending out a distress call before losing all contact with controllers six minutes after takeoff. The plane crashed a short time later in the town of Bishoftu, killing all 157 people on board.

8) As natural disasters increase across the nation, assessing the impact's of today's disasters goes beyond visible destruction. According to one scientist, that assessments it needs to include air quality monitoring due to toxic threats. One scientist attempted to collect air quality data from the wildfire that ravaged Paradise, California, which burned thousands of pounds of wiring, plastic pipes, building materials and other toxic materials -- releasing toxic substances into the air -- but was denied access to the area. As disasters have become more frequent and threaten larger portions of the population, scientists say toxic threats continue to grow, increasing the need for accelerated research on the secondary impacts of disasters to humans.


Kimberly Arsenault 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.