Home Emergency Management News EDM Friday Briefing: Two Major Colorado Wildfires Close to Merging
EDM Friday Briefing: Two Major Colorado Wildfires Close to Merging

EDM Friday Briefing: Two Major Colorado Wildfires Close to Merging

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for October 23, 2020: The NWS forecast shows an Arctic blast will cause temperatures to plummet across much of the western United States this weekend; thousands are under evacuation orders as extreme wildfire activity pushes the East Troublesome and Cameron Peak wildfires within 10 miles of each other; the NHC is monitoring a system of low pressure in the western Caribbean that has a 6o% chance of development; the Volunteer Fire Department of Glen Haven, Colorado, helped protect its community from the Cameron Peak Fire by educating residents to be firewise, but needs help as resources dwindle; Hurricane Epsilon is downgraded from a Category 3 to Category 1 storm but is producing large swells; the majority of Northern California remains under a Red Flag Warning until Friday afternoon; PG&E says PSPS are underway and more are in store for Northern California as the NWS has already issued a Fire Weather Watch beginning Sunday morning; and crude oil shipments via rail pose community hazards, but training is available for first responders to help mitigate impacts from accidents.

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1) The fall season has already displayed a wide variety of weather that has impacted the nation, including heat waves in California and an early record snowfall in Minnesota. According to meteorologists, an Arctic blast that descends deep into the country this weekend, is likely to shatter cold temperature records from Idaho and Montana all the way south to parts of New Mexico, Oklahoma, and even a bit of Texas. Heavy snow is also forecast, with snowfall amounts of up to a foot or more from the eastern ridges of Washington beginning on Friday to northern New Mexico sometime on Monday, with Montana likely seeing the highest snowfall amounts.

2) Thousands have been forced to evacuate as extreme wildfire activity was sparked by high winds in Colorado. The East Troublesome Fire grew another 45,000 acres by mid-afternoon Thursday, prompting additional evacuations in Grand County, including Estes Park and surrounding areas. A map of all evacuation zones is available from Grand County. Roads were closed to inbound traffic, and outbound roadways quickly became clogged with cars as people fled the area that was being shrouded in wildfire smoke.

3) Although hurricane season officially ends on November 1, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) is monitoring another trough of low pressure over the western Caribbean Sea. The system, which has recently become much more organized, is producing thunderstorms near Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Cuba. According to the NHC, the system is likely to develop into a tropical depression over the next several days and has a 60% chance of further development over the next five days as it moves northeastward.

4) The Volunteer Fire Department of Glen Haven, Colorado, has demonstrated the critical importance of being a Firewise Community and how that has helped save homes amid the Cameron Peak Fire, but its resources have dwindled. The town has a small, volunteer fire department, who spent hours of mitigation work, training, and educating homeowners to make their homes fire-ignition resistant. About half of the 400 homes in the town were at risk from the wildfire, but according to local fire officials, the fire left standing those homes that had employed FireWise mitigation efforts, also known as defensible space.

5) Hurricane Epsilon has been downgraded to a Category 1 storm after rapid intensification into a major hurricane occurred on Wednesday as the storm approached Bermuda. Fluctuations in intensity are expected over the next day, but Epsilon is forecast to begin weakening sometime on Saturday as it moves off to the northeast. According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), the storm is producing large swells that will affect Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Greater Antilles, and the Leeward Islands, along with the East Coast of the United States and Atlantic Canada over the next few days. The storm will potentially cause dangerous, life-threatening surf and rip currents.

6) The majority of Northern California remains under a Red Flag Warning until 5 p.m. Pacific Time on Friday, but the reprieve from the wind will be short-lived. A cold front is working its way into the area, and temperatures are expected to drop significantly over the weekend. A new front is set to move in beginning Sunday morning, which will bring another round of high winds and low humidity. The National Weather Service (NWS) has already issued a Fire Weather Watch for critical to extreme fire weather conditions, which are set to begin late Sunday morning, October 25, and continue through Tuesday afternoon, October 27, as another approaching weather front brings extremely strong winds and poor humidity levels.

7) Due to current Red Flag Warnings, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) implemented Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) beginning on Thursday, October 21. Power is expected to be restored to most locations between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Friday, but a new round of PSPS may begin again early Sunday morning, October 25, due to forecast extreme fire weather. According to the PSPS map, PG&E will post information regarding the new potential shutoffs by 8 p.m. on Friday, October 23.

8) The Association of American Railroads stated that in 2019, nearly 400,000 barrels of crude oil were transported around the country each day. Although the majority of those rail transports occur without incident, accidents do happen and local preparedness is critical to mitigating community and environmental impacts from incidents. A training program offering critical information on best practices is available from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The training, Transportation Rail Incident Preparedness and Response (TRIPR) High Hazard Flammable Trains, offers a flexible approach to pre-incident planning and response for first responders and emergency services personnel. The training is meant to help them safely manage an incident response to train accidents involving Hazard Class 3 flammable liquids train cars.

 

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.