Home Emergency Management News EDM Wednesday Briefing: Severe Weather, DC Metro, Fort McMurray, Solomon Islands, Climate Change

EDM Wednesday Briefing: Severe Weather, DC Metro, Fort McMurray, Solomon Islands, Climate Change

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for May 11, 2016: Severe weather impacts multiple states, spawns tornadoes and dumps large hail, scientists attribute the Fort McMurray wildfire to climate change impacts, a knife-wielding man causes issues in Taunton, MA, recent fires on the Washington, D.C. Metro prompt a strong statement from the DOT, five Solomon Islands have disappeared, Germany is on alert, the FTC and FCC have concerns over delays in security fixes for mobile devices, and the USAID says long-term planning is the key to ending Ethiopian drought.

  1. Severe weather moved through several states on Tuesday and into Tuesday night, including Nebraska, Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma and Kentucky. The system reportedly spawned 23 tornadoes and the storms resulted in at least 90 reports of hail across the region. Two people are confirmed dead in Oklahoma, and homes were completely destroyed in multiple locations across the state. Two of the tornadoes have been confirmed as EF3 -- one southwest of Wynnewood, OK, and the other just north of Sulphur, OK, which reportedly reached a mile wide at times. Softball-sized hail accompanied the system in some locations, with some of the largest hail falling near Lincoln, NE. This same weather system produced torrential rainfall in parts of Texas on Monday, causing localized flooding.
  2. At least three tornadoes were confirmed to have touched down in Kentucky Tuesday evening. At least 10 people were injured in the town of Mayfield in Graves County when a large tornado touched down. The same tornado also damaged homes and businesses in the area. The two other confirmed tornadoes touched down in Muhlenberg County, south of Greenville, and in Union County, west of Morganfield.
  3. In Taunton, MA, authorities report that Arthur DaRosa was involved in a killing spree that ended at a local mall. After being involved in a vehicle crash, the suspect left his vehicle and gained access to a home nearby on the same street. Once inside, he stabbed two people, both women, one of whom later died. After stabbing the women, DaRosa then reportedly drove a car to a local mall and crashed it into the Macy's entrance. After assaulting several people in the store, the man went into Bertucci's Italian restaurant inside the Silver City Galleria mall where he stabbed two more people, killing one of them. He was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer. The police are investigating the motives behind the attack, but currently it does not appear linked to terrorism.
  4. Scientists are suggesting that the boreal wildfires in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada are a result of climate change and its impacts.  El Niño has also kept warmer air flowing into the area, with temperatures in the Fort McMurray area higher than normal - sometimes nearly 30 degrees - in the weeks leading up to the fire.  Earlier snow melt due to rising temperatures is causing a drying of trees, increasing the chances for wildfires.  They also noted the 2015 fire season in Alaska as being one of the worst on record - the second largest ever - involving 768 fires and over five million acres burned.
  5. Yet another fire and switch problem moved trains to a single track on Monday on the Washington, DC Metro, delaying commuters for at least the second time in less than a week.  According to reports, no alerts or notifications were given by the Metro Authority regarding the delays, resulting in a barrage of Twitter posts by frustrated passengers.
  6. The Washington, DC Metro had suffered a fire last Thursday that prompted the U.S. Transportation Department to seriously contemplate shutting down the system. Citing major lapses in the system's control center and a lacking safety culture, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said on Saturday that he is not afraid to use his authority to shut the system down. The secretary also noted that access was denied to federal safety inspectors last week when control center employees refused to shut off power, allowing trains to continue to move through the section they were inspecting.  Carrying approximately 700,000 passengers a day, the Washington, DC Metro is the second busiest in the nation and is currently under federal watch due to its ongoing safety issues.
  7. Rising sea levels and erosion have caused five of the Solomon Islands to disappear into the Pacific Ocean. An average 0.4 inch rise annually has caused the disappearance of uninhabited islands ranging in size anywhere from 2.5 to 12.4 acres and washed away chunks of land on six other islands. The loss of land on the other islands has forced entire villages to relocate, and since 2011, half of the habitable area of one island, Nuatambu, has been lost, including 11 houses. Researchers in Australia are noting that these losses signify some of the first climate change impacts to the Pacific region, its coastlines, and its people.
  8. A man allegedly with political motivations attacked people with a knife at a train station in the Munich, Germany suburb of Grafton on Tuesday.  Several commuters were stabbed, one was fatally wounded.  Although it is being considered a lone wolf attack, fears are rising that terrorism attacks are soon going to impact the country.  Currently, the German domestic intelligence agency watches 90 mosques where Islamist extremism is known to exist, but the agency urges that more resources are necessary for law enforcement to combat the growing threat to the nation.
  9. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are joining forces to scrutinize how security updates ultimately make their way to mobile devices in the U.S.  While both agencies want to study the entire processes that tech companies use to review and then release security updates to mobile users, of particular concern from both the FTC and FCC is the timing of security updates. i.e. Why are there often delays to get security updates and patches out to users of various mobile devices?  Along with the timing concerns, the two agencies also wish to gain a better understanding of collective policies regarding how companies choose which vulnerabilities to patch, and how they prioritize different issues that arise across different devices.
  10. Ethiopia has been hit hard for the last two years by a severe drought that is affecting millions of people by causing food and water insecurity. Many of the nation's citizens are completely dependent on outside aid for food in order to eat and feed their families.  The overwhelming number of people in need of food assistance in the area is a staggering 10 million, which, according to USAID Director of Food For Peace, Dina Esposito, is three times higher than last year's numbers.  More workers are needed to help distribute food and seed, but Esposito strongly advise that long-term planning to help families diversify income and become self-reliant is the key to resilience.

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.