Home Emergency Management News EDM Friday Briefing: Chemical Plant Explosion, Montana Mobilizes National Guard

EDM Friday Briefing: Chemical Plant Explosion, Montana Mobilizes National Guard

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By Kimberly Arsenault
Contributor, EDM Digest

Emergency and disaster management briefing for September 1, 2017: Floodwaters produced by Harvey are being blamed for a chemical plant explosion in Texas, officials are warning of scams in the wake of Harvey, after 15 months-the Fort McMurray fire is finally confirmed to be out, Hurricane Irma becomes a major Category 3 storm, Tropical Storm Lidia pounds Baja California's resort areas with high winds and heavy rains, video footage from a body camera shows a nurse being arrested for doing her job at a Salt Lake City hospital, Mississippi suffers two tornadoes spawned by strong storms associated with Harvey, and Montana mobilizes its National Guard to help fight raging wildfires across the state.

    1. Floodwaters inundating a chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, about 25 miles northeast of Houston, resulted in two chemical explosions at the facility and prompted an area evacuation on Thursday. 15 deputies from the Harris County Sheriff's Department were taken to the hospital after inhaling fumes from the explosion and subsequent fire. The plant owners, Arkema SA, a French based company, have indicated that more fires will occur because flooding cut power to the facility, shutting off refrigeration units which are needed to keep the organic peroxides cooled.
    2. Officials are warning residents of Texas and Louisiana and those donating money to charities to be aware of scams in the wake of Harvey. Some of the many scams already occurring include robocalls asking residents to pay overdue flood insurance premiums, phone calls from individuals from fake charity organizations asking for donations, and phishing scams via email that seek to grab personally identifiable information such as logins, bank accounts, and credit card numbers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has created a charity checklist to help residents and consumers determine if the organization is legitimate and the FTC also asks that anyone who suspects a scam to report it to their organization. Officials also warn against giving money to anyone who calls asking for it, since most legitimate organizations, including insurance companies, do not operate in this manner.
    3. Fire officials have determined that the Fort McMurray Wildfire that started in Alberta, Canada on May 1, 2016 and forced the rapid and unprecedented evacuation of an entire area of at least 80,000 people is now officially out--after more than 15 months. The now historic Fort McMurray Wildfire, dubbed the Beast, destroyed over 2,400 buildings on its rampage and eventually crossed into the Saskatchewan province. The fire was so fierce and unpredictable that firefighters had a difficult time containing the blaze amid drought conditions in the area. Before the blaze was extinguished, the wildfire consumed over 1.48 million acres, or at least 2,316 square miles, and caused an estimated $3.8 billion in insured damages alone, making it the costliest disaster in Canadian history.  
    4. As Harvey moves on, another major hurricane is now churning in the Atlantic Ocean, about 1,600 miles east of the Leeward Islands. Hurricane Irma rapidly intensified to a Category 3 hurricane Thursday with sustained winds of 115 mph and a central pressure of 967 mb, with a westward movement of about 12 mph. Weather officials indicate that it could approach the Leeward Islands by early next week, however its too soon to determine its potential impact to the United States because the storm is still so far away.
    5. Tropical Storm Lidia is slamming southern Baja California and its resort areas, including Cabo San Lucas, with heavy rains, flooding, strong winds, and high surf as it moves northward along the coast for several days before turning out to sea. Heavy rainfall from the storm has also impacted Mexico's mainland as far inland as Mexico City, where flooding caused a sinkhole of about 30 feet in diameter downtown and briefly closed the city's airport. Rainfall amounts are predicted to be anywhere from 8 to 12 inches, increasing the risk of life-threatening flash flooding and landslides across the impacted areas.

    1. An incident involving an officer who allegedly assaulted a nurse at a hospital in Salt Lake City is under investigation after he arrested her when she refused to allow him to draw blood on a patient. According to hospital policy, state law, and Constitutional rights, the officer had no legal right to draw blood on the unconscious patient without a warrant or the patient's consent. The nurse recently released the video of police officer's body camera which captured the incident that occurred on July 26, and the video was referred to as "very alarming" by Mike Brown, Salt Lake City's police chief.

    1. Two tornadoes spawned by remnants of Harvey touched down in Mississippi on Tuesday, one in Pascagoula and another in Ocean Springs, causing moderate damage in the impacted areas. Strong storms moving through the area prompted the tornadoes which caused damages to area homes and buildings including roof and siding damage, along with the destruction of fences and outbuildings. Other impacts from the strong storms that hit the area included heavy winds which downed trees, and rainfall amounts of about six inches that resulted in flash flooding and prompted the need for people to be rescued from the rising waters.
    2. Montana is approaching one of its most devastating wildfire seasons as more than 40 additional fires began Wednesday as a result of lighting strikes, with three of them becoming major blazes. The Montana National Guard has now been mobilized to assist with fighting the fires, which to date, have cost the state $46.6 million dollars to fight--a burn rate of $700,000 per day. A total of 721,000 acres has already been scorched in the Northern Rockies, and currently, 4,000 personnel, 400 engines, 125 aircraft, and 250 National Guard troops have been assigned to help fight fires, 34 of which are considered large--100 acres of timber and 300 acres of grass.

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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.