EDM Wednesday Briefing: Hurricane Season Begins, Texas Flooding, TSA, DC Metro, Nuclear Power
Emergency and disaster management briefing for June 1, 2016: Hurricane Season begins today, major flooding impacts areas of Texas, authorities release new information regarding the mass shooting in Houston, reports have TSA security line wait times reasonable over the holiday weekend, the Washington, D.C. Metro suffers delays due to another track issue, and nuclear power is getting renewed interest for its green benefits.
- Today marks the beginning of hurricane season for the nation, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicating that there is a 45 percent chance of a normal season. El Nino conditions have weakened, however, which usually means La Nina patterns will begin to influence weather and could produce conditions more favorable for hurricane development, such as reduced wind shear over the Atlantic. The recent absence of any major hurricanes making landfall has officials concerned that people have become complacent, so they are asking communities and residents to be prepared.
- Major flooding in Houston continues, as more rain is due to fall today and should continue through the rest of the week until Friday. The Brazos river rose to 54.37 feet overnight, but has still not reached its crest. Authorities in Fort Bend County rescued at least 40 people due to the flooding, and more than 100 people took advantage of 15 area shelters. The floodwaters pushed ants, snakes, and debris into communities and area businesses and stranded farm animals and livestock. Emergency management officials warn that it will take time for waters to recede from the flooding and people should use caution. Just two years ago, the Brazos River had been impacted by an area drought, causing it to run dry in some areas.
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- San Antonio experienced yet another sewage spill after its recent bout with area rains. A total of six spills in about the last ten days have been attributed to the recent rains and the underground pipe infrastructure that is too small to carry the increased water flow. The pipe is three miles long and four feet high and the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) says the project to replace the pipe with a 6.5-foot tall pipe will not begin until 2017.
- New information was released regarding the mass shooting in Houston on Sunday, where Dionisio Garza III reportedly fired 212 rounds, killing one person and injuring six others. Some of the shots pierced the Houston Police Department helicopter and hit a line at a gas station, igniting a fire. Police say no terrorism was involved; the incident was instead a military individual suffering from a mental health crisis. Garza arrived from California and was visiting friends on Saturday when he broke into a tire shop, turned off his phone, and disappeared. Sunday, he emerged from the building and began shooting, killing one individual. The suspect was shot and killed by an HPD sniper who fired four rounds.
- Wait times at the nation's airports over the holiday weekend were reportedly only 10-30 minutes, with just one airport, in Kansas City, MO, reporting a longer wait time -- of about 75 minutes. After being placed under increased scrutiny by Congress following the airline crashes overseas, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) took criticism regarding its extremely long lines that were causing thousands of passengers to miss flights. Procedural changes, including the use of airline employees for non-security related positions, and the shifting of personnel to some of the nation's largest airports, by TSA Administrator, Peter Neffenger, has reduced wait times at most airports.
- Delays were once again reported on the Metro's Red Line in Washington, D.C. due to a track problem near the Medical Center station. In recent years, the Metro has been plagued with safety issues, including fires and electrical problems that have caused injuries and one death just over a year ago due to a fire. Increasing issues have resulted in several closures that have severely snarled commuter traffic in the greater DC area. The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has previously warned that the entire system needs serious attention and failure to begin addressing the issues would result in its being shut down. Just last Tuesday, May 24, there was yet another arcing insulator and power cable in the same location as today's issue, near the Medical Center station, causing significant delays and extremely crowded trains while repairs were made to the line.
- Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz suggests that nuclear power plants may be revitalized to assist the U.S. in its near and midterm goals for meeting cleaner and greener energy production. Nearly 60 percent of the nations carbon-free power is produced by nuclear power, which is a steady and reliable source that can operate at 90 percent of its capacity, and the fuel is stored on sight, something other sources are unable to do. As part of the nations critical infrastructure, the concern is that majority of the nation's 99 nuclear power plants were built more than 30 years ago, and are currently in need of capital upgrades. Current wholesale prices have been driven down due to the abundance of natural gas from fracking so funds are often not available for the needed improvements. Environmentalists are some of the individuals lending strong new support to these plants, indicating that despite the risk, when everything from mining and coal and gas extraction is taken into account, nuclear energy is by far the better choice.
- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson William Spindler said in a press release on Tuesday that the number of crossings on the Mediterranean Sea has dramatically increased this year. Nearly 204,000 migrants and refugees have made the journey to either Greece or Italy, and the higher number of crossings is leading to more deaths. The route from North Africa to Italy is significantly more dangerous, resulting in a nearly one in 23 death toll ratio.
- Four people died in a subway construction site collapse in South Korea and 10 others were injured on Wednesday. The collapse occurred in a city east of Seoul, in Namyangju at around 7:20 a.m. Some of the injuries included severe burns and victims were taken to a local hospital for treatment. The collapse appears to have been caused by the explosion of an oxygen tank, when workers were welding about 15 meters underground.
- Extensive flooding has impacted the European nations of Belgium, Germany, and France. More than 4,500 calls were handled by emergency services across the entire nation of France as a result of the flooding, and hundreds of evacuations were conducted. Schools in Seine-et-Marne, France have been closed after significant flooding, the River Seine in Paris has overflowed its banks, and torrential rains and flooding left four dead and several injured in the southern region of Germany.