Home Emergency Management News EDM Wednesday Briefing: Severe Storms, Tornadoes, Portland School District, Snohomish County, Chicago TSA

EDM Wednesday Briefing: Severe Storms, Tornadoes, Portland School District, Snohomish County, Chicago TSA

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for May 25, 2016: Severe Storms and tornadoes hit the plains, the Portland Public School District is under fire for a resolution regarding teaching climate change, Snohomish Public Utilities hire hackers to test their systems, the NOAA indicates that the West and Northeast could face a hot summer, and a Chevron Executive rebukes climate change activists.

  1. A strong weather system ripped through the plains on Tuesday, spawning a possible 26 tornadoes across 5 states, according the the National Weather Service (NWS). A tornado that touched down in Dodge City, KS critically injured two people and caused significant damage. The tornado barely missed the downtown area, contained large hail and at one point had twin funnel clouds. Two other tornadoes touched down in the state, one northwest of Wichita, approximately 50 miles away, and another in a rural area of Scott County.
  2. The NWS also indicated that tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma, near Bristow, damaging structures and downing trees, and in Akron, CO, and Marquette, MI. The line of storms produced hail with sizes ranging from smaller than a nickel to baseball-sized hail in areas of Texas. More storms are predicted in the region all week, and reports indicated that flooding is a risk for areas of the Mississippi Valley and the Great Plains.
  3. The storms also produced heavy rains in Jonesboro, AR, where two to five inches of rain fell in just two and a half hours, between 3:00 and 5:30 p.m. One teen, a 13 year old boy, was swept away by the flooding when he was sucked into a drainage pipe, but was later found safe, according to authorities. Officials closed roads due to the flash flooding, and urged residents to stay off the streets.
  4. A unanimous resolution adopted by the Portland Public School District in Oregon has come under fire. The resolution, meant to help prepare students to better fight climate change, includes a statement indicating that any textbooks expressing doubt about climate change or its human-induced activities will no longer be used. This statement sparked public outrage and concerns that books are going to be banned. Most cite concerns that instead of teaching scientific methodology, students will be indoctrinated on the subject by presenting climate change science as truth and skeptics as being wrong. The measure was spearheaded by an environmental activist Bill Bigelow who hopes that all textbooks that cast doubt on climate change will soon be removed from schools nationwide.
  5. Snohomish County Public Utility District, just outside of Seattle, WA, has become increasingly concerned about cyber security. To test their system and reveal any vulnerabilities, they sought the help of a specialized unit considered to be the best in the nation and one that is part of the Washington Air National Guard. The unit was able to hack into the system, which alarmed the utility, but the wake-up call prompted the utility to strengthen its cyber defenses to protect the county, its residents, and their employees. Utility officials noted that cyber attacks can be dangerous because they can create blackouts, place customer information at risk, and possibly fatally injure employees working on lines and equipment. The utility also saw the value in sharing the outcomes of the test to heighten awareness of the risk for cyber attacks among other public utility companies in the nation, urging them to take action now before it is too late.
  6. Wait times at security checkpoints at Chicago's O'Hare Airport have been reduced significantly thanks to recent changes in management and the addition of staff and canine units by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). At least 450 people missed flights on May 14th due to excessively long wait times at the airport's security checkpoints, prompting officials to make the changes. A new TSA management team was brought in, along with four new canine units, and 100 part-time employees were moved to full-time status to help increase efficiency. TSA will reportedly be adding another 58 officers over the next month to staff at the Chicago area airports.
  7. A recent NOAA report indicates that much of the United States could face a hotter summer, with the West and the Northeast having the greatest odds for warmer temperatures. The entire West Coast -- Washington, Oregon, and California -- has high odds to experience summer temperatures that are significantly above average, as does the far Northeast -- Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts. Neither El Niño nor La Niña should significantly impact summer temperatures across the U.S., the NOAA noted.
  8. Chevron's Chief Executive, John Watson balks climate activists and the public by claiming that fossil fuels are not going to go away.  His statement is in response to a share-holder proposal campaign that seeks to detail the risks of climate change to Chevron.  Watson believes that a top-down government mandate or solution will not help curb climate change, and while the Paris Agreement is a move forward, he fails to see from where the trillions of dollars needed to implement the changes will materialize.  He believes only a major technological breakthrough can have that affect, and notes that his views represent realism.  Watson argues that modern life in the nation and around the world relies too heavily on fossil fuels and most people do not want to see their costs increased for energy consumption.

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.