Home Emergency Management News EDM Friday Briefing: Bees Swarm Schoolchildren; California Wildfire Death Toll Rises

EDM Friday Briefing: Bees Swarm Schoolchildren; California Wildfire Death Toll Rises

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for October 13, 2017: The death toll rises in California amid devastation by raging wildfires, at least 30 students were stung by bees while walking to school in Maryland, air quality alerts abound in California as wildfires produce thick smoke, an attempted prison break in North Carolina kills two and leaves 10 hospitalized, officials in Puerto Rico are being investigated by the FBI over misappropriation and handling of FEMA supplies, President Trump announces his nominations for two key department heads, a New Orleans police officer was shot and killed overnight, and Hurricane Ophelia is set to brush the Azores before impacting Ireland and the United Kingdom.

  1. The death toll in California's deadly wildfires has grown to 31, with hundreds still missing. Thursday marked the first time that searchers and cadaver dogs were able to begin sifting through debris, and officials believe the death toll is likely to rise. Santa Rosa, California has been especially hard hit with wildfires destroying the city's newest fire station and approximately 2,834 homes, along with an estimated 400,000 square feet of commercial space. Officials noted that the deaths occurred across four counties--Sonoma, Mendocino, Yuba, and Napa--with Sonoma County having the highest number of deaths at 17 victims.  
  2. Students walking to their high school in Gaithersburg, Maryland on Thursday morning were stung by bees on a path frequented by area students. More than 30 students were stung as they traveled the path to Quince Orchard High School just after 8:00 a.m. It is not clear where the bees came from, and crews were searching the area for the hive. Majority of the students were treated at the scene, however three students were transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. 
  3. As the wildfires rage in California, thousands of acres are being consumed, prompting mass evacuations, while air quality levels hit dangerous levels in many areas affected by the wildfires. Nearly the entire state is under a moderate air quality alert, while San Francisco and the surrounding region, including Napa and the Napa Valley are at unhealthy levels. In addition to the moderate and unhealthy alerts, sensitive individuals are being alerted to unhealthy air quality levels in specific regions that might otherwise be considered moderate.
  4. An attempted prison break at a North Carolina high-security prison has left two dead and 10 people injured, including several prison employees. A fire was set in the prison sewing plant, and the two people killed were reported to be prison employees. The incident occurred at the Pasquotank Correctional Institute located in Elizabeth City, and schools in the surrounding area were placed on lockdown at the advice of local emergency management officials. 
  5.  As Puerto Rico begins the slow process of recovery after Hurricane Maria, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is responding to reports from across the island that corrupt government officials are withholding or mishandling critical supplies from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The reports have been made via phone calls and across social media, including allegations that political party members, mayors, and other public officials are being given special treatment and some goods are not being made available to members of the public. The FBI has launched an investigation into the many claims, and officials state that anyone caught mishandling FEMA supplies could face anywhere from five to 20 years in prison.
  6. President Trump formally announced his nomination for secretary of the Department of Homeland Security in a press conference on Thursday, Kirstjen Nielsen, the current White House deputy chief of staff. Nielsen replaces former DHS secretary, John Kelly, who now serves as the White House chief of staff. President Trump also nominated Barry Myers, CEO of AccuWeather, a private weather forecasting company, on Wednesday to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 
  7. A police officer in New Orleans was killed overnight Thursday after a gunman opened fire on a group of four officers who had exited their vehicles to investigate something suspicious. The officer was hit multiple times by the alleged gunman, who then ran into a nearby apartment building. The officer collapsed at the scene and later died from the gunshot wounds he sustained during the incident. Names of the officer and the alleged suspect, who later surrendered to SWAT, have not yet been released.
  8. Tropical Storm Ophelia officially became a hurricane on Thursday, making it the 10th named storm in a row to achieve hurricane intensity. The hurricane is a bit unusual as it is tracking northeast, toward Europe, with a projected path that will brush the Azores before possibly impacting Ireland and the United Kingdom. Forecasters indicate that while Hurricane Ophelia is likely to lack the intensity of the storms that struck the United States due to its path over cooler waters, it is still likely to maintain hurricane-force winds.

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.