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EDM Briefing: Hurricane Harvey Wreaks Havoc on Texas

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for August 28, 2017: Hurricane Harvey slams into Texas as a major Category 4 storm, unprecedented rainfall amounts inundate the Houston metro area as thousands are rescued from rising floodwaters, emergency management officials in British Columbia lift some evacuation orders for area residents in Kelowna impacted by a fast moving wildfire, Hong Kong, Macau, and China's southern province slammed with a second tropical cyclone in less than a week, a new report reveals major concerns about Canada's Site C Dam project, the bodies of all ten missing sailors from the USS John S. McCain have been recovered, President Trump declares a state of emergency for Louisiana as the state braces for impacts from Tropical Storm Harvey, and the National Hurricane Center is monitoring Tropical Depression 10 off the Southeast coast of the United States for likely development.

  1. Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a major Category 4 hurricane late Friday near Rockport, Texas, causing massive destruction and devastation as wind speeds of over 130 mph slammed into the state. The major storm toppled trees and signs, snapped power lines, collapsed buildings, and caused other catastrophic damage to homes and businesses, including major damage to the high school in Rockport. At least 50-60 percent of area residents placed themselves at risk when they defied evacuation orders, and were injured when walls and ceilings fell, and rising waters trapped them in their homes and apartments. One person was killed in a house fire that was sparked during the storm, while 10 people suffered minor storm related injuries.
  2. Secondary impacts from Harvey include unprecedented and catastrophic rainfall amounts in the southeastern portions of Texas, including over the Houston metro area with anywhere from 25 to 35 inches of rain have fallen over the past 24 hours. Catastrophic flooding and flash floods have already resulted in the need for thousands of residents to be rescued from rising water levels and more rain is forecast in the area through Friday. Forecasts for the area indicate that up to 50 inches of rain is possible for some areas in Texas, and officials urge residents to monitor local watches and warnings to stay informed about rising waters and flooding to ensure their safety. 
  3. Evacuation orders were lifted at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday for about half of the residents of Kelowna, British Columbia who were forced to leave their homes as an out of control wildfire threatened properties. Around 1,100 residents were forced to evacuate the dangerous wildfire as it rapidly approached properties, although to date, no structures have been damaged by the blaze. The wildfire has consumed 1,149 acres and is only 20 percent contained as firefighters were challenged by hot and dry weather conditions over the weekend.
  4. Southern China faced its second typhoon within a week as Tropical Cyclone Pakhar made landfall on Saturday in the Guangdong Province, just past Hong Kong in Taishan City. Tropical storm force winds hit much of Hong Kong, while Lantau Island, the location of the international airport, saw hurricane force winds that resulted in the delay or cancellation of nearly 300 flights. Typhoon Hato brushed Hong Kong and struck neighboring Macau last Wednesday, killing eight people and injuring 240 people and causing widespread major damage across the area. Water supplies are still disrupted in some areas of Macau. 
  5. Canada's Marc Eliesen is calling for a halt to the construction of the Site C Dam, a huge $8.8 billion hydroelectric project in northeastern British Columbia, calling the project "reckless" and "illusionary." A recent report regarding impacts of the dam revealed major concerns, including its economic viability, negative environmental impacts, and financial burden to taxpayers. The report also revealed the lack of need for such a project and highlighted the devastating damage that will directly affect nearly 63 miles of river valley bottoms that negatively impact First Nations under the Treaty 8 Territory, who have also not given their consent for the project.
  6. All ten missing sailors from the USS John. S. McCain involved in the pre-dawn collision last week with the Alnic MC tanker in waters off Singapore have now been recovered. The victims remains were found in sealed sections of the damaged hull of the warship allowing the search and rescue operation to end. Search and rescue teams from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the United States were involved in the search operation that encompassed an area of about 2,124 around the crash site. An investigation into the incident is ongoing. 
  7. Early Monday morning, President Trump declared a state of emergency for Louisiana to allow coordination efforts to be established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and prompt the flow of federal aid to assist the state with impacts from Tropical Storm Harvey. The National Weather Service is forecasting additional rainfall amounts of anywhere from 5-25 inches across southwestern and south-central Louisiana from this intense storm. Current forecasts put the projected storm path closer to Louisiana and according to officials, heavy rainfall that triggers life threatening flooding is possible for south-central and southern portions of the state over the next 24-48 hours.
  8. The National Hurricane Center is monitoring an area of low pressure off the Southeast coast of the United States for its potential to develop into a tropical storm over the next several days. The chance of formation into a tropical storm in the next 48 hours is at 90 percent and tropical storm watches have been issued for portions of the southeastern coast, including from the South Santee River to Duck, Albemarle Sound, and Pamlico Sound. The system is nearly stationary, with current maximum sustained winds of 35 mph and a central pressure of 1007 mb, or 29.74 inches. 

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.