EDM Monday Briefing: Taiwan Earthquake, Winter Storm Mars, North Korea Rocket Launch
Emergency and disaster management briefing for February 8, 2016: A magnitude 6.4 earthquake strikes Taiwan, the U.S. Northeast braces for Winter Storm Mars, portions of the northern Plains expect more blizzard-like conditions, and the United Nations condemns North Korea's recent rocket launch.
- A magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck Taiwan Saturday, and hopes of finding more survivors are fading. Many of the fatalities occurred in an apartment complex toppled by the quake in the southern city of Tainan. The Tainan City mayor said that the death toll will likely exceed 100.
- The National Weather Service (NWS) issued winter storm warnings yesterday in Massachusetts that impacted more than two million people as Winter Storm Mars is expected to hit the Northeast. Overall, winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories extend from eastern Maine down to New York City as the week begins. New England is expected to get hit the hardest, with wind gusts up to 65 mph likely and blizzard conditions probable.
- The NWS also issued blizzard warnings in some regions of the northern Plains and Upper Midwest into today. The eastern Dakotas and western/southern Minnesota and Iowa are expected to see the most severe weather, with strong winds and near-zero visibility likely in some locations.
- Airlines canceled hundreds of flights today at Boston, Newark and New York City airports ahead of the expected winter storms. As of early this morning, airlines already canceled more than 100 flights each at both Boston Logan Airport and LaGuardia Airport, and flight delays are mounting.
- North Korea launched a long-range rocket this weekend, drawing the ire of the United Nations. The UN Security Council condemned the launch, calling the act a "dangerous and serious" violation of international restrictions. North Korea said the rocket carried a satellite, but critics question whether the country is actually testing technology for a long-range missile.
- The spread of Zika virus in Latin America is showing no signs of a slowdown. An estimated 1.5 million people have been infected with Zika in Brazil, and there are more than 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly in the country. Doctors are actively exploring a possible link between Zika and microcephaly. In Colombia, more than 3,100 pregnant women are reportedly infected with Zika, but there have been no confirmed cases of microcephaly yet.
- There are at least 14 confirmed cases of Zika virus in Florida, and health officials warn that the state's warm climate, year-round mosquitoes and high number international travelers make it especially vulnerable to the virus. Late last week, Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in five Florida counties due to the virus.
- Despite heavy rainfall and snowfall in California so far this winter, both state and federal officials say that the state's drought is still very serious and far from over. New research from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) found that a normal year in the Southwest is now drier than it once was, leading some to question whether droughts in the Southwest could become more frequent.
- President Barack Obama declared 38 counties in Arkansas as federal disaster areas following severe weather from late December 2015 through January 2016. The declaration makes federal assistance available to residents and governmental bodies in the affected areas. The late 2015 / early 2016 storms brought flooding and tornadoes, resulting in damage to hundreds of homes and at least three fatalities.