Home Emergency Management News EDM Wednesday Briefing: Sierra Leone Tragedy, New Orleans Flooding

EDM Wednesday Briefing: Sierra Leone Tragedy, New Orleans Flooding

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for August 16, 2017: Immigrants were found locked in a tractor-trailer at a West Texas border crossing, Sierra Leone issues an urgent plea for help as the nation fears hundreds are dead following heavy flooding and mudslides, multiple raging wildfires have prompted the closure of several wilderness areas in Oregon, a New Orleans pump station undergoing repair is the site of a diesel fuel leak, Portugal struggles to contain its 150 wildfires amid hostile weather conditions, fleas test positive for Plague bacteria in Arizona, Wyoming is still tallying damages from flooding caused by melting record snowpack, and tropical waves in the Atlantic Ocean pose a medium chance of development.

  1. Border patrol agents at a checkpoint outside of El Paso, Texas found 20 immigrants locked in a tractor-trailer. The 20 immigrants were found at the Interstate 10 Sierra Blanca checkpoint and are suspected of entering the country illegally, but officials stated that they all appeared in good condition. The driver was arrested and booked into jail on a federal alien smuggling charge. The incident occurred just one day after police were alerted to 16 immigrants locked inside an 18-wheeler parked at a service station in Edinburg, Texas. 
  2. Following heavy rains, mudslides, flooding, and flash floods have killed hundreds of people in and near the capital city of Freetown in Sierra Leone. According to reports, bridges and other infrastructure were also submerged, damaged, and/or destroyed, and many homes remain under water. Over 100 homes were also lost and hundreds more are feared dead from a mudslide that occurred after a hillside collapsed in the town of Regent, near the capital, which prompted the nation's president to send out an urgent plea for help. 
  3. Lightning strikes on Thursday and Friday of last week sparked numerous fires in Oregon, including 11 fires currently burning that have prompted officials to close nearly 267,000 acres in the Three Sisters Wilderness for safety reasons. The closures include some roads, Sisters Mirror Lake, and portions of the Pacific Crest Trail. Just over 117,000 acres have also been closed in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness, and other wilderness areas have also been deemed off limits as a result of wildfires burning in those areas. These recent fires are the latest in a string of blazes that have impacted the state amid hot, dry, and windy conditions that have helped fuel Oregon's many burning wildfires.  
  4. In Jefferson Parish in New Orleans late Tuesday night, firefighters and Hazmat crews were called to the 17th Street Canal pumping station in Old Metairie for a possible diesel fuel leak. The crews placed booms in the water to contain the diesel fuel and began searching for the source of the leak Wednesday morning. The leak may be a result of repairs at the 17th Street pumping station that have been going on around-the-clock after 6 of the 15 pumps located at the station have been inoperable amid flooding that impacted Jefferson Parrish this month.
  5. Amid persistent hot and dry weather that is fueling fires in Portugal, about 3,000 firefighters struggled to contain the more than 150 wildfires raging across the nation on Tuesday with the support of firefighting aircraft. The fires have forced dozens to evacuate and official reports indicate that since August 9, at least 55 individuals have been injured by the wildfires, including four individuals whose injuries were serious. The Civil Protection Agency in Portugal has determined that 90 percent of the fires were started by people--either intentionally or accidentally
  6. Fleas in Arizona's Navajo County have tested positive for Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes Plague. The fleas were collected on private property in the town of Taylor and tests were conducted by the Center for Pathogen and Microbiome Institute at Northern Arizona University. Plague is often transmitted to humans from flea bites, so health officials are urging residents to reduce their risk of exposure by avoiding rodent burrows and the handling of sick or dead animals, while also encouraging the use insect repellent and the protection and treatment of dogs to prevent flea infestations.
  7. Wyoming is still tallying the cost of damages it sustained from floods and landslides caused by overflowing rivers and streams that occurred earlier this year. The melting water from record mountain snowpack cascaded down rivers and streams, washed out roads and bridges, damaged irrigation canals, and destroyed campsites, footbridges, trails, and roads in various parks and recreation areas, including the Grand Teton National Park. The melting snowpack also caused several landslides that blocked roads and officials indicate that clean up and repairs will extend into at least 2018.  
  8. Although Hurricane Gert posed no threat to U.S. land, three other tropical waves bear watching in the Atlantic Ocean. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has identified 91L and 92L, positioned to the east of the Lesser Antilles and the Cabo Verde Islands, as two areas of investigation for potential development as the systems move eastward, including a 40 percent chance (medium) of development over the next five days. One additional wave, located near the west coast of Africa, also has a medium chance (40%) of developing into a tropical system over the coming five day period. 

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.