Home Emergency Management News EDM Friday Briefing: Florida's East Coast Bracing for Hurricane Isaias
EDM Friday Briefing: Florida's East Coast Bracing for Hurricane Isaias

EDM Friday Briefing: Florida's East Coast Bracing for Hurricane Isaias

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for July 31, 2020: The NHC has upgraded Isaias to a Category 1 hurricane; firefighters have gained control of the Branch Fire in San Luis Obispo County; residents voice concerns over the suspension of the 10-mile emergency response plan and siren testing for the closed Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station; two air tanker pilots fighting the Bishop Fire are dead after a midair collision on Thursday; Colquitt County residents will need to make other plans if evacuations are ordered since Red Cross shelters will not be opening due to COVID-19; Idaho may face an increased risk of wildfires in August; Texas AG says state health officials do not have authority to shut schools; Malibu moves forward with its plan to install emergency warning sirens; and the Florida Division of Emergency Management has temporarily closed all COVID-19 testing stations ahead of Hurricane Isaias threat.

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1) Isaias is now a Category 1 hurricane, moving to the northwest at 17 mph with wind speeds of 80 mph and a minimum central pressure of 990 mb. According to the National Hurricane Center, Isaias is currently impacting Turks and Caicos and the Southeastern Bahamas with strong winds and heavy squalls. On its current path, Hurricane Isaias is expected to continue to move to the northwest, with impacts beginning to be felt in Florida by late Friday evening.

2) The Branch Fire, burning east of Atascadero in San Luis Obispo County, California, has scorched 3,022 acres, but is now 75 percent contained. The wildfire, which began Tuesday, destroyed two structures and 10 outbuildings and prompted evacuation orders that were lifted Thursday evening. The wildfire started burning in the California Valley, and its cause remains under investigation.

3) Residents near the now-closed Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (TMI), have voiced concerns over a recent approval for the plant to remove the 10-mile emergency response plan and to stop siren testing. Exelon, who currently owns the plant, said that no fuel remains in the reactor, and multiple and redundant backups systems are in place to ensure the safety of the spent fuel from Unit 1. In March of 1979, a nuclear incident in the TMI Unit 2 reactor resulted in a partial meltdown, forcing its closure. TMI Unit 1 was officially shut down on September 20, 2019, thereby closing the entire plant.

4) Both pilots are dead after two single-engine air tankers collided midair while fighting the Bishop Fire in Nevada. The air tankers were being used to support ground crews who were building fire lines around the wildfire, which is burning about 17 miles southwest of Caliente. The midair collision occurred around 1:00 p.m. Thursday afternoon near Cliente. The crash is now under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in conjunction with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

5) Residents of Colquitt County, Georgia, who are preparing for Hurricane Isaias will not have access to shelters if they are required to evacuate. County emergency management officials stated that due to COVID-19, shelters normally opened and operated by the Red Cross will not be provided, and residents were urged to prepare now to make other arrangements and plans. Emergency management officials are encouraging residents to have enough supplies to shelter in place for three days, and to ensure they have an alternate location to move to should an evacuation be ordered for their location. Family evacuation planning assistance is available from the Georgia Emergency Management webpage.

6) In an effort to ensure adequate firefighting resources and personnel are available to fight wildfires, National Wildland Fire Preparedness Levels are established across the country. There are five levels, which are assigned based on indicators including available fuel, weather conditions and fire activity. Idaho was raised to a Level 3 in June, and fire officials expect that level may increase in August as conditions deteriorate across the state.

7) The Attorney General of Texas (AG) confirmed that state health officials do not have the authority to close schools or keep them closed as a preventative measure to a potential outbreak of a disease. The statement from the AG came behind a statewide order from health authorities prohibiting in-person classes to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The AG did note that schools were required to follow guidelines from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for reopening.

8) The City of Malibu, California, is moving forward with their plans to install early warning emergency sirens for its community. The sirens, which are designed to help improve communication efforts during disasters such as wildfires, are meant to help address vulnerabilities that were revealed during the Woolsey Fire. The sirens will be used to increase emergency communication capabilities in the event that electricity, cell phone, landline phones, and other communication avenues have been disabled due to power outages, infrastructure damage, or Public Service Power Shutoffs (PSPS).

9) The Florida Division of Emergency Management announced on Thursday that all state-sponsored COVID-19 testing sites are temporarily closed due to Hurricane Isaias. The decision to close the testing sites was out of an abundance of caution, since the testing stations are not permanent structures and tropical storm force winds will place workers and structures at risk. The testing sites are anticipated to remain closed at least until Wednesday, August 5, with locations within the state reopening on a rolling basis as the storm passes and conditions become safe.

 

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.