Home Emergency Management News EDM Wednesday Briefing: FAA Temporarily Closes Airspace above Area 51
EDM Wednesday Briefing: FAA Temporarily Closes Airspace above Area 51

EDM Wednesday Briefing: FAA Temporarily Closes Airspace above Area 51


Emergency and disaster management briefing for September 18, 2019: An explosion occurred at a former Soviet biological weapons lab that now stores deadly viruses; the peak of hurricane season is under way, with multiple named storms in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans; the criminal probe into Vale, SA, owners of two tailings dams that collapsed, has been widened; Tropical Depression Imelda is poised to dump up to 12 inches of rain on eastern Texas; a rare train derailment in Hong Kong injures eight people; Tropical Storm Jerry churns in the Atlantic Ocean; the FAA has temporarily closed the airspace above Area 51 in two separate bans; and all evacuation orders have been lifted for California's largest wildfire this season, the Walker Fire, that is now nearly 100 percent contained.

1) One employee was injured when an explosion rocked Vector, the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology in Kolstsovo, Russia, one of two known locations where samples of Ebola and smallpox are held. According to reports, the explosion occurred in a building where no biological material handling occurred and was caused by a gas tank explosion. During the Soviet era, Vector was a Siberian biological weapons lab, but has now reportedly been developing tools for diagnosing and treating infectious diseases with a focus on vaccines.

2) The peak of hurricane season is under way. There are currently three named storms in the Pacific Ocean, along with two named storms in the Atlantic, as well as a tropical disturbance that is being monitored. Tropical Storm Lorena, in the eastern Pacific Ocean, is forecast to impact portions of Mexico over the next few days. Tropical storm conditions are expected along the southwestern coast of Mexico by late Wednesday. In the Atlantic, a hurricane warning is in effect for Bermuda as Hurricane Humberto approaches the island as a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph.

3) The criminal probe into Vale, SA -- the mining company that had two tailings dam collapses in four years that killed at least 240 people -- has widened. Reports indicate that Vale, owner of 141 of the 770 tailings dams in Brazil, misled the public on what the company had done to shut down its riskiest dams. A review of the list by mining experts showed that none of the 10 dams the company has slated to close are of the dangerous, upstream dam types, such as the one that collapsed in Brumadinho earlier this year.

4) Tropical Storm Imelda made landfall in Freeport, Texas, on Tuesday, and now threatens the Houston area with 50 mph winds and heavy rainfall. Imelda was downgraded to a tropical depression early Wednesday and is located 25 miles north-northwest of Houston. Multiple schools across the Houston and Galveston areas cancelled classes for Wednesday, as anywhere from 5 to 12 inches of rain is expected.

5) A train derailment in Hong Kong injured eight people and suspended rail service between the Mong Kok East and Hung Hom stations on Tuesday. The train derailed as it left a station in the Kowloon area, and five of those injured were taken to the hospital. It is the first derailment the service has had in many years, and the cause of the incident remains under investigation.

6) Tropical Depression Ten formed in the Atlantic Ocean and quickly became Tropical Storm Jerry, the tenth named storm of the season, on Tuesday. The storm is expected to be upgraded to a hurricane later this week, and forecasters continue to more closely determine the track for Jerry. Early Wednesday morning, the storm was moving west-northwestward at 13 mph, with a minimum central pressure of 1004 mbs and maximum sustained winds of 45 mph. Interests in the Leeward Islands are being urged to stay alert for potential impacts from this storm.

7) The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has closed the airspace above Area 51 in rural Nevada as a precaution from Wednesday through Monday. The closure comes as a precaution ahead of the Storm Area 51 event, although canceled, may still result in swarms of people descending upon the rural location. The major scheduled events in Rachel, the town closest to Area 51, were allegedly moved to Las Vegas due to infrastructure and security concerns. But according to town residents, tourists are still planning on coming to the area.

8) The largest wildfire so far this year in California, the Walker Fire -- burning in Plumas National Forest -- is now nearly 100 percent contained and all evacuation orders in Plumas and Lassen counties have now been lifted. The Walker Fire began just before 1:00 p.m. on September 4 in the Plumas National Forest, an area about 11 miles east of Taylorsville, California. Incident costs to date total approximately $28.9 million, with more than 1,520 personnel assigned to fight the fire, which destroyed nine structures and scorched more than 54,510 acres.


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.