Home Emergency Management News EDM Friday Briefing: Major Infrastructure Damage Impacts Grain Supplies
EDM Friday Briefing: Major Infrastructure Damage Impacts Grain Supplies

EDM Friday Briefing: Major Infrastructure Damage Impacts Grain Supplies

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for March 22, 2019: An explosion at a Chinese chemical plant caused widespread damage and killed at least 47; national forecasters indicate that 2019 could be an unprecedented year for flooding; Boeing is set to make an optional cockpit light a standard safety feature following back to back crashes of 737 MAX 8 jets; Missouri declares a state of emergency as towns evacuate ahead of devastating floodwaters; the death tolls rise in Africa following Cyclone Idai; the intensifying and dangerous Cyclone Trevor is poised to make landfall along the Gulf of Carpentaria in Australia; investigators are beginning their probe into the days long petrochemical fire in Houston; and the impacts are yet to be determined as damage to critical infrastructure from unprecedented flooding in the Midwest inhibits agricultural movements.

1. An explosion at a chemical plant in an industrial park in Yancheng, China on Thursday killed at least 47 people and injured dozens more. Many victims suffered severe injuries and are in critical condition. The blast ignited fires at several nearby factories, caused roofs to collapse and knocked down buildings, trapping people inside. Firefighters were brought in from across the province to help fight the fire, which was finally brought under control more than 12 hours later.

2. Officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicate that 2019 is potentially shaping up to be an unprecedented flood season, with historic flooding predicted along the Mississippi River in the South. According to the National Weather Service's (NWS) Weather Prediction Center, temperatures in the Midwest are already 10 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, which is causing faster snowmelt. As a result, rivers and streams are swelling to unprecedented levels and carrying a high degree of ice and debris downstream, threatening low-lying communities, including farmland and livestock.

3. Amid the grounding of Boeing's 737 MAX 8 aircraft, the company has made a previously optional cockpit safety light a standard requirement on all its future planes, along with its new software upgrade. The company also stated that it will retrofit existing MAX airplanes with the new hardware and software, but the revision requires regulator approval and completion could take weeks or months. Regulators in Canada and Europe will also have to conduct reviews and approve any changes or revisions to software and hardware.

4. The governor of Missouri issued a state of emergency ahead of predicted flooding that is making its way downstream after it caused at least $1.5 billion in damages in Nebraska and caused the Spencer Dam to collapse. The dangerous floodwater has already forced the evacuation of several small farm communities, including St. Joseph, and is threatening critical infrastructure, such as levees and water treatment plants. Officials do not believe the flooding will be as devastating or widespread as in Nebraska and Iowa. However, that could change should there be unexpected rainfall amounts or heavy storms before floodwaters are able to dissipate.

5. A desperate search for victims continues in the Coppa Rusitu Valley in Zimbabwe's Chimanimani township after a landslide caused by torrential rainfall from Cyclone Idai flattened hundreds of homes, burying unsuspecting residents in the night. Cyclone Idai is responsible for the deaths of 242 people in Mozambique, along with another 259 in Zimbabwe, but officials believe those numbers will continue to rise as rescue teams search through massive amounts of debris and rubble. The cyclone also damaged Beira's docking ports for fuel supplies -- but not the pipeline -- leading to critically low fuel levels, especially for diesel fuel. Food-related security incidents have been increasing due to scarce supplies of food and clean water.

6. As the extremely dangerous Cyclone Trevor, an intensifying Category 3 storm, threatens to make landfall in Australia's remote Northern Territory on Saturday. Massive evacuations are underway, with entire towns completely emptying ahead of the cyclone. The massive storm is packing winds of up to 171 mph, with even higher gusts. The entire system, which is nearly 124 miles wide, is expected to dump anywhere from 9-12 inches or more of rain along its path. Weather forecasters indicate that the system is set to make landfall along the Gulf of Carpentaria, likely as a Category 4 storm, but they are not ruling out the possibility of a Category 5 storm from the powerful -- and rapidly intensifying -- system.

7. Investigators have begun their probe into the massive, days-long fire at a petrochemical plant in Houston that began Sunday. It took firefighters until Wednesday to extinguish the massive blaze, which destroyed 11 tanks of gasoline and other fuels. The cause of the fire has yet to be determined. Air quality officials noted that the fire, which took place at the Mitsui unit Intercontinental Terminals Co. (ITC), in Deer Park, Texas -- a company with previous air quality violations -- released 6.2 million pounds of carbon monoxide and thousands of pounds of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and toluene into the air on its first day.

8. Damage to Midwest farmers has reached at least $1 billion for one state, after devastating floodwaters destroyed stored crops and killed livestock across three states, including Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Farmers stood by helpless, watching as floodwaters covered their fields. The water consumed their stockpiles of grain -- their main source of income -- and their feed for livestock. Damages to critical infrastructure, including rural roads, bridges, and rail lines, has compounded the issue, as movement of available grains to processing plants and shipping hubs has been largely interrupted or even halted. The full extent of the damage caused by the disaster and the impact it will have on the nation has yet to be determined as residents and farmers wait for floodwaters to recede.


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.