EDM Monday Briefing: Severe Weather, Airline Bomb Threat, Police Officers Suspended
Emergency and disaster management briefing for January 23, 2017: A weekend of severe weather turns deadly in Mississippi and Georgia after tornadoes rip through homes and businesses, a Jet Blue plane makes an emergency landing in Ft. Lauderdale after a bomb threat, record rainfalls in California trigger floods that close freeways in Los Angeles, four Chicago police officers are suspended after findings from investigation into Laquan McDonald shooting, a jewelry store robbery at a mall in San Antonia turns deadly, CDC issues travel alert as Brazil health ministry investigates suspected yellow fever outbreak, first responders in Tuscaloosa, Alabama work together to offer free CERT classes to area residents.
- A weekend of severe and violent weather across the southern United States killed at least 19 people, left hundreds of homes and business damaged and destroyed, downed power lines and trees, and blocked roads. The severe weather system resulted in a tornado in Mississippi that killed four people just before dawn on Saturday. The tornado, churning at 136 mph, cut a 25 mile path through the cities of Petal and Hattiesburg. A city of about 10,000, Petal also experienced a tornado in 2013, but the city's mayor, Hal Marx noted that this one was more intense, damaging over 300 homes and 30 businesses. In nearby Hattiesburg, nearly every building at William Carey University sustained damaged, along with hundreds of business and homes.
- Spawned by the same weather system, another tornado ripped through a Cook County, Georgia mobile home park in the early morning on Sunday, killing seven. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency said that along with the seven killed in Cook County, Berrien and Brooks counties each had two deaths, and Dougherty County deaths total three. Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for seven counties in south central Georgia as a result of the severe weather and tornadoes over the weekend.
- A Jet Blue flight that departed from Newark Liberty International Airport and bound for the Dominican Republic made an emergency landing in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Saturday after a bomb threat. An individual on board flight 893 found a suspicious note in one of bathrooms that held a bomb threat and the plane was diverted "out of an abundance of caution" according to airline officials. After landing at 4:20 p.m., passengers were evacuated then law enforcement and a SWAT combed through the plane. Passengers were re-screened after law enforcement failed to find explosives and authorities cleared the plane for departure to its final destination around 7:15 pm.
- Severe weather was not limited to the southern states over the weekend as the west coast experienced torrential rainfalls that led to downed trees and severe flooding, closing freeways, and setting rainfall records. The latest weather system dropped nearly 4 inches of rain in southern California, with Long Beach Airport getting a record setting 3.87 inches of rain before 5:00 p.m. Evacuation orders were issued by officials for locations below wildfire burn areas due to the increased threat of mudslides in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Farther north, in Mendocino County, a woman was killed while lying in her bed when a 125 foot oak tree toppled onto her apartment building.
- In Chicago, four police officers have been given a one week suspension as a result of dash cam failures during the Laquan McDonald shooting. The suspension was given to the officers on a final recommendation by the Office of Chicago's Inspector General after its investigation into the shooting death of Laquan McDonald for their failure to ensure their squad car dashboard cameras were operating properly. The suspensions were handed out by police superintendent Eddie Johnson in the wake of a recent report that was issued by the Justice Department following their investigation into the Chicago Police Department after the death of Laquan McDonald.
- An attempted robbery at a mall in San Antonio, Texas on Sunday led to the death of one person and the shooting of three others, including one of the suspects. An individual that attempted to stop the two suspects as they robbed a Kay Jewelers in the mall was shot and killed. One of the suspects was shot by an unnamed individual in the mall, and two other people in the mall were shot as the second suspect fled the scene. The shooting victims, whose names have not been released, were taken to the San Antonia Medical Center where their condition is currently unknown. Police later apprehended the suspect who fled the scene after he crashed in a stolen vehicle.
- The Health Ministry in Brazil is currently investigating more than 160 suspected cases of yellow-fever, a mosquito-borne disease that causes fever, chills, pain, severe headaches, nausea and vomiting, according to the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC). The nation has already confirmed 47 cases of the disease and a total of 25 deaths. Officials indicate that the outbreak is centered in the Minas Gerais state in east-central Brazil, where a state of emergency was declared after eight initial deaths were confirmed to be from yellow-fever. To combat the disease outbreak, the government shipped an initial 2 million extra vaccine doses, with another several hundred thousand expected to be delivered to the area and neighboring Esprito Santo this week. The CDC has issued a traveler alert for most areas of Brazil due to the yellow fever risk currently present throughout the nation.
- In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, first responders from multiple agencies are working together to offer a free nine-week course to residents to help them know what to do following natural disasters or other catastrophic and human-caused events. The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program will feature a total of nine classes, two and half hours each that are slated to be held on Tuesday nights at the Alabama Fire College. The lessons will be taught by local law enforcement officers, firefighters, and public health officials, along with others and focus on how to care for family members and neighbors by conducting search and rescue, fire suppression, and other general topics on emergency preparedness. Individuals must be at least 16 years old to register and participate in the classes.
— PilotSAAM ✈️ (@PilotSAAM) January 23, 2017