Home Emergency Management News EDM Wednesday Briefing: Severe Weather, Baton Rouge Protests, General Mills, Infrastructure, Climate Change, Power Grid

EDM Wednesday Briefing: Severe Weather, Baton Rouge Protests, General Mills, Infrastructure, Climate Change, Power Grid

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for July 6, 2016: Severe weather hits Minneapolis, protests occur in Baton Rouge after a police shooting, General Mills expands flour recall lots, the Arlington Memorial Bridge receives federal grant money, LA water fountains help combat heat waves, FEMA announces aid for West Virginia, and power grids are at an increasing risk.

  1. Strong storms moved through Minneapolis and St. Paul on Tuesday causing flash flooding and widespread damage, including downing trees and power lines, after about three to five inches of rain fell across the area. Xcel Energy reported that approximately 137,000 customers were without power as of 11 p.m. Tuesday night. The Ramsey County Sheriff's Office helped rescue victims from vehicles caught in flash floods in the Roseville area, and the strong storms, with winds in excess of 70 mph, temporarily delayed public train transportation and flights at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport.
  2. Protests erupted following an early Tuesday morning shooting by police in Baton Rouge, LA. Police allegedly shot and killed a man who was selling CD's outside a store after receiving a 911 call about a man with a gun. The 911 caller indicated that Alton Sterling, 37, who reportedly had the gun for protection, had pointed it at the caller during an argument. Sterling was shot multiple times in the chest and back, according to the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's Office. Sterling, a convicted felon, was on parole after recently being released from prison and it is unclear how and where he obtained a weapon. A recent cell phone video has emerged on social media that shows the shooting, prompting additional outrage. The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave pending investigation.
  3. General Mills expanded the lots of its May 31 voluntary flour recall due to the possible contamination of its products with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC O121). The products included in the recall include Gold Medal Flour, Signature Kitchens Flour, and Gold Medal Wondra Flour. An investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is ongoing, and the Food and Drug Administration warns that people should not consume raw cookie or other dough that contains flour or allow children to play with raw dough to prevent ingestion of the bacteria. According to the CDC, a total of 42 people in 21 states have been infected and 11 have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported.
  4. The iconic Arlington Memorial Bridge is set to receive much needed federal grant money to help pay for a major overhaul that is critical to its safe operation and use. The bridge is part of the National Park System's federal transportation system - a system that is in desperate need of repairs, with a total of more than $6 billion needed to fix its highways and bridges across the nation. It is also one of the more than 66,000 bridges across the nation that have been classified as "structurally deficient." Issues with the bridge include massive corrosion from road salt and water, asbestos, flaking metal, and lead. In 2015, structural engineers determined that steel beams meant to help hold up the deck were no longer viable to meet load-bearing standards. This prompted partial lane shut downs and vehicle weight restrictions on the bridge at the end of May in 2015. The $90 million dollar grant will certainly help with the much needed and critical repairs to bridge, but it will not cover the entire cost, which is approximately $250 million dollars. Matching funds of $36 million must also be raised to receive the $90 million in grant funding, and could come from other federal grant monies or local jurisdictions.
  5. As glaciers begin to melt in Alaska, landslides are being triggered, including the most recent one on June 28th on the Lamplugh Glacier. The slide caused seismic tremors that reached 2.9, and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory estimates that more than 165 million tons of material was involved in the slide from a peak on the west side of the glacier. Scientists believe that the slides are likely to continue as climate change causes warming temperatures that continue to  melt the glacial ice, which acts as a support for the slopes, which then fail due to erosion or earthquakes.
  6. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has installed temporary water fountains in areas throughout its city that have large numbers of homeless populations in an effort to help them maintain hydration through the summer heat waves. Drinking fountains are available in the many parks across the city, but once closed, homeless people lose access to a fresh drinking water source. In total, seven newly installed temporary drinking fountains are located on sidewalks and will be accessible 24/7 to anyone who needs water.
  7. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced the approval of more than $10.4 million in federal aid for regions of West Virginia hit hard by severe flooding in June. President Barack Obama issued a major disaster declaration for West Virginia on June 25 after a series of severe storms hit the state on June 22 and resulted in flooding, landslides and mudslides.
  8. A recent report from the Manhattan Institute, an independent research and educational organization, warned that power grids in the U.S. could increasingly be targeted in the near future, putting much at risk. Not only could frequency of attacks increase, but the nature of the attacks could also transform in a complex way. According to the report, cyber attacks overall have been increasing 60 percent annually for the last six years, and, at the same time, utility companies have found themselves the target of these attacks more frequently.

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.