Home Emergency Management News EDM Friday Briefing: New Issues Emerge Months after Devastating Wildfires
EDM Friday Briefing: New Issues Emerge Months after Devastating Wildfires

EDM Friday Briefing: New Issues Emerge Months after Devastating Wildfires

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for September 6, 2019: The death toll continues to rise after Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas and officials warn thousands remain missing; Hurricane Dorian made landfall Friday morning at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, as a Category 1 storm; water supplies were discovered to contain toxic benzene months after the devastating Camp Fire destroyed Paradise, California, in 2018; homelessness and food insecurity issues are rising following devastating wildfires in California; the governor of Nebraska has issued a disaster declaration as late-summer flooding continues to impact communities in the state; firefighters continue to battle the Tenaja Fire that has forced evacuations and school closures in Southern California; a multi-state salmonella outbreak linked to pig ear treats for dogs has now sickened more than 125 people; and two suspects have been arrested in connection with a brush fire in Eagle Rock, California in August.

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1) The death toll from Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas has risen to 30, and officials have warned that the number will likely rise exponentially as first responders and search and rescue teams continue to sift through debris. Great Abaco Island was nearly decimated by the powerful Category 5 hurricane, with at least 20 percent of the population losing everything in the storm, including their homes. Thousands of people remain missing across Abaco and Grand Bahama Island, many of them children. At least 70,000 people are estimated to be in need of fresh water, as many wells are feared to be contaminated by salt water.

2) Hurricane Dorian continues to churn its way along the Carolinas, with the eye of the storm making landfall over Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, as a Category 1 storm. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecasts Dorian to continue its northeastward trek toward Atlantic Canada over the weekend. The storm's minimum central pressure remains low at 956 mb, or 28.23 inches of mercury, with sustained winds of 90 mph and a forward speed of about 14 mph -- which is forecast to increase as it moves northeastward.

3) A hidden threat is emerging in water supplies of towns that have been ravaged by wildfires. Testing of water supplies to homes still standing after the Camp Fire revealed the presence of toxic benzene -- at 923 times what the state considers a safe amount. Benzene was also found in water supplies after the Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County, California, in 2017, but not in the Carr Fire that hit Shasta and Trinity counties in 2018. One theory posed by officials is that during the Camp and Tubbs Fires, water systems became depressurized, sucking gases and ash into water lines -- something that did not happen during the Carr Fire.

4) Wildfires continue to ravage vast areas and towns, destroying homes and displacing people throughout California and the West Coast, causing new issues to emerge, including homelessness and food insecurity. Nearly 8,000 residents in Butte County and the surrounding area received food assistance from the United States Department of Agriculture after the Camp Fire in 2018. The county has also seen an increase in low-income residents, with expanding food deserts -- areas where food supplies, including food banks and grocery stores -- are not readily accessible, compounding the issue.

5) The governor of Nebraska has issued a disaster declaration to aid communities in response to late-summer flooding caused by heavy rainfalls. Governor Ricketts noted that the severe floods in March had caused river levels and water tables to remain high, prompting the late summer floods. President Trump had extended the initial federal declaration to July 14, but the new declaration by the governor will extend state assistance for communities impacted by flooding from July 15 to the present.

6) A wildfire churning through heavy brush in Southern California forced the closure of schools and the evacuation of homes on Thursday. Fire officials struggled to gain control of the blaze, which began in Riverside County near the town of Murrieta; the blaze may have been started by lightning from area thunderstorms produced by hot, muggy weather on Wednesday. The wildfire, dubbed the Tenaja Fire, erupted on rural, rugged terrain and was quickly fueled by erratic winds that pushed the flames downhill toward homes.

7) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned of a multi-state salmonella outbreak linked to pig ear dog treats. The CDC alleges that 127 people -- including 26 who were hospitalized -- across 33 states have been infected with salmonella after handling the pig ear treats or interacting with their pets after they had eaten them. According to reports, many companies have already recalled the pig ears due to potential salmonella contamination. The CDC is urging people to refrain from purchasing the treats and to throw away any of the pig ears they may still have, being sure to thoroughly wash their hands after touching the treats.

8) Two people have been arrested in connection with a brush fire that began on August 25 in Eagle Rock, California, and prompted evacuations and road closures. The suspects, Daniel Michael Noguiera, 25, and Bryan Antonio Araujocabrera, 25, were arrested on August 31 on suspicion of attempted murder after allegedly setting a fire in a homeless camp intentionally. The fire scorched 45 acres over two days before nearly 200 firefighters, assisted by water-dropping helicopters, were able to gain control of the blaze.

 

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.