Home Emergency Management News EDM Friday Briefing: Prolonged Flooding Impacts Critical Infrastructure, National Economy
EDM Friday Briefing: Prolonged Flooding Impacts Critical Infrastructure, National Economy

EDM Friday Briefing: Prolonged Flooding Impacts Critical Infrastructure, National Economy

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for June 7, 2019: A wildfire in Washington has scorched more than 18,000 acres and prompted multiple evacuations; the U.S. Forest Service is working diligently to prioritize wildfire reduction activities amid the likely new year-round fire season; CalFire has identified the likely cause of the 2018 Ranch Fire that was California's largest wildland fire by acreage; Mississippi River flooding is the longest since the Great Flood of 1927; widespread and prolonged flooding across the Midwest is disrupting goods and services, impacting critical infrastructure, and the national economy; authorities are investigating a blast in a southern town in Sweden that injured 25 on Friday; a likely attack on Times Square was thwarted by a joint task force after they arrested a suspect on Thursday; authorities in Budapest stated that all but nine of the bodies have been recovered after a collision between two vessels on the Danube River in Hungary.

1) A wildfire that began Monday in Grant County, Washington, spread rapidly and prompted multiple evacuations for the surrounding area. Local officials ordered a Level 3 evacuation for Smyrna on Tuesday, noting that a Level 3 evacuation meant immediate danger. Families and pets were instructed to leave the area immediately. The blaze, which had spread to over 20,000 acres by late Thursday, was fueled by warm and dry weather. Gusty winds -- along with hilly and rugged terrain -- led to swirling winds, conditions which cause the fire to spread rapidly and hampered firefighting efforts. The wildfire was about 65 percent contained as of late Thursday, and officials were hoping to have it fully contained by the end of Friday if weather conditions hold.

2) The chief of the U.S. Forest Service recently warned that the suppression of wildfires, the changing climate and rampant home development in high-risk locations are hazardous factors that now impact the billions of acres of land that are now at high risk of catastrophic wildfires. This land includes lands across multiple federal, state, and local jurisdictions, along with private lands, that now face an almost year-round threat of wildfires, making the term "fire season" nearly obsolete. In the face of this risk, the agency is working diligently to prioritize fire-reduction treatments, such as the prescribed burning of 80 million acres of land, brush clearing, and thinning, while being mindful of watershed protection and continuing restoration efforts.

3) CalFire has stated that the probable cause of the Ranch Fire in California last year that scorched more than 410,000 acres across four counties, was likely caused by a hot flake from a property owner hammering a metal stake into the ground. The blaze started in the Upper Lake community in Mendocino County, and it was fueled by tinder-dry vegetation, strong winds, and high temperatures. The wildfire, which was part of the larger, Mendocino Complex Fire, caused the death of one firefighter and damaged or destroyed more than 280 structures. It became the largest wildfire by acreage in California history.

4) The current flooding along the Mississippi River is the longest-lasting flood -- since the Great Flood of 1927 -- in multiple locations. Flood gauges in Baton Rouge rose above the flood stage on January 5th -- and have remained there ever since -- with the river likely remaining above flood level stage until at least June 18. That was before more rainfall events, combined with melting snowpack to the north, have further swollen rivers and taxed multiple levees across various states in the Midwest. In addition, floodwaters  caused the Mississippi River to crest at a near-record height of 46 feet in St. Louis on Thursday.

5) The recent and continued flooding across the Midwest has taken its toll on farmers and cropland, where more than $1.7 billion in damages has been estimated in Nebraska alone. The ongoing flooding disaster has much stronger implications and a far wider reach, including its effect on critical infrastructure and the impact on the nation's economy. Flooding has prompted the shutdown of major inland waterways, halting barge traffic and causing the suspension of rail service in some locations, including areas where tracks were washed out from floodwaters. The suspension of service interrupts the delivery of goods to consumers and causes job losses, increasing the cost of goods and delivery.

6) An explosion on Friday in the southern town of Linkoping, Sweden, has injured 25 people and damaged buildings. Reports indicate that several blocks were cordoned off. The blast caused damage to a five-story residential building, blew out windows in other buildings nearby and caused minor injuries to about 25 people. Police were called to the scene and may be investigating the incident as a bombing, although they do not believe that the explosion has any ties to terrorism.

7) An attack at Times Square was likely thwarted after a Joint Terrorism Task Force, which included members from the New York City Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), uncovered a plan by an individual to throw explosives at people. The suspect, whose identity was not revealed, was arrested on Thursday after the Task Force learned the suspect was inquiring about buying grenades. Authorities noted that they do not believe the suspect, who was scheduled to appear in court on Friday, was linked to any larger attacks against the city.

8) Authorities in Budapest have stated that all but nine of the bodies have been found from the deadly collision between a river cruise ship and a pleasure boat carrying 33 South Koreans on the Danube River in Hungary on May 29. A total of seven Koreans were saved and the bodies of 19 people have been recovered, including three bodies that were located by dogs along the banks. Recovery efforts have been hampered by floodwaters, strong currents and zero visibility in the water. The incident marks the worst accident in more than half a century on Europe's longest river. The accident occurred when a pleasure boat, the Mermaid, capsized after it was struck from behind by a large river cruise ship as both boats passed under a bridge in the center of Budapest.

 

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.