Home Emergency Management News EDM Monday Briefing: Chemical Leak Closes Houston Shipping Channel
EDM Monday Briefing: Chemical Leak Closes Houston Shipping Channel

EDM Monday Briefing: Chemical Leak Closes Houston Shipping Channel

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for March 25, 2019: Tyson Foods issued a recall for over 69,000 pounds of frozen and ready-to-eat chicken products; a toxic chemical containment wall breach after a petrochemical fire and chemical leak prompts an extended closure of the Houston Shipping Channel; authorities are investigating a fire at a mosque in California as a hate crime after graffiti points to the New Zealand mosque mass shooting; a fire re-ignited at the Mitsui & Co's Intercontinental Terminal on Friday which spiked benzene levels in the air; FEMA reportedly exposed disaster survivors to the risk of identity theft and fraud; Kansas City, Missouri, is preparing to clean up as floodwaters recede; a review session was held between Boeing and major air carriers for the 737 MAX 8 software upgrade; and Australia begins its assessments of widespread damages from twin cyclones that impacted separate regions of the nation over the weekend.

1) In its second recall of the year, Tyson Foods is recalling more than 69,000 pounds of its frozen, ready-to-eat chicken strips due to possible foreign matter contamination. The product being recalled includes three different, fully cooked items, including one with a Spare Time label -- Buffalo Style Chicken Breast Strip Fritters with Rib Meat and Buffalo Sauce, Tyson Crispy Chicken Strips Chicken Breast Strip Fritters with Rib Meat, and Buffalo Style Chicken Breast Strip Fritters with Rib Meat and Buffalo Sauce. The products were shipped to retail locations nationwide and are believed to potentially be contaminated with pieces of metal, after the company received two consumer complaints regarding extraneous material in the product.

2) A six-foot section of a hazardous materials containment wall collapsed early Friday at Mistui & Co.'s Intercontinental Terminals -- the site of a petrochemical fire earlier in the week that damaged 11 tanks. The collapse occurred as workers were pumping pyrolysis gasoline from a damaged tank and sent toxic chemicals into the shipping channel. The spill also prompted a shelter-in-place warning for nearby residents, forced the U.S. Coast Guard to halt vessel traffic from Tucker Bayou to Crystal Bay -- which extended into Saturday -- and created a bottleneck of vessels in the key industrial waterway that connects Houston to the Gulf of Mexico.

3) A fire allegedly caused by arson broke out at a mosque in Escondido, California, early Sunday morning, injuring one person. The fire, which began at around 3:00 a.m., caused minor damage to the building's facade and was extinguished by worshippers staying overnight at the facility. Graffiti was found at the scene of the fire that referenced the mosque attacks in New Zealand. Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime, although what was written has not been revealed.

4) A petrochemical fire in Houston re-ignited on Friday, after being out for two days. It engulfed several of the 11 tanks that burned earlier in the week, but the fire was quickly extinguished and caused no injuries. The tanks -- located at Mitsui & Co.'s Intercontinental Terminals Facility in Deer Park, Texas, east of Houston -- held fuels that are used in the production of gasoline and plastics. The fire broke out as around 100 workers were attempting to fix a containment wall collapse and pump chemicals from previously damaged tanks that were engulfed in fire for three days earlier in the week.

5) The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has stated that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) shared financial records and other sensitive information of disaster survivors to an outside contractor. According to the OIG, FEMA shared the necessary name and birth date information, but also included home addresses and bank account information that placed survivors at an increased risk of identity theft and fraud. A FEMA spokesperson noted that all the extra data had been removed from the contractor's system, and that there had been no data breach of the contractor's computer system over the last 30 days -- which is the length of time the contractor keeps information.

6) Water levels are beginning to recede in Kansas City, Missouri, although officials are asking residents to conserve water to assist utility crews with the aftermath of the floodwaters. In St. Joseph, a city about 35 miles north, rapidly rising water levels threatened to top the three-story-high levee wall on Friday, which prompted the evacuation of about 7,500 people from homes and businesses in the small riverfront town. Flooding in the Midwest was prompted by a bomb cyclone that dumped heavy snow and rain, which was followed by warming temperatures that quickly melted snowpack, overwhelming rivers and streams.

7) Three major U.S. airlines met with Boeing on Saturday in a session that reviewed software changes to its 737 MAX 8 aircraft after two recent crashes grounded the entire fleet of MAX airplanes across the world. American, Southwest and United Airlines attended a review of the proposed software changes, and another meeting is scheduled for multiple carriers from around the world on Wednesday regarding the software upgrade. Boeing plans to unveil the software update in April; however, the changes still require approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The software upgrade addresses the anti-stall system, which is believed to have played a major part in the two recent crashes of the 737 MAX 8 jets by Lion Air and Ethiopian Airways -- both of which killed everyone on board.

8) Cyclone Trevor made landfall in Australia's Northern Territory Saturday as a Category 4 storm, with destructive wind gusts of up to 155 mph that caused widespread damage. Storm surge was recorded at 4.9 feet in Mornington Island, shortly after the storm made landfall at Port McArthur at around 10:00 a.m. There have been no reported injuries or deaths. Cyclone Veronica also made landfall in Western Australia as a Category 3 storm Sunday morning, with winds of up to 102 mph. Veronica was still wreaking havoc across Pilbara as of Monday, which prompted weather officials to warn residents to remain sheltered until the storm passed.


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.