Emergency and disaster management briefing for April 6, 2016: Wildland fires rage in Oklahoma, Cyclone Zena sets its sights on Fiji, Southern California electrical interruptions are possible from the Aliso Canyon shutdown, and New York City postpones the completion of a third water tunnel.
- Residents of Freedom, OK were urged to evacuate late Tuesday night by authorities as wildfires began burning again close to the Kansas border. Shifting winds and gusts of near 40 mph are making it difficult to contain. The fire stalled just west of Freedom, at the Cimarron River, but authorities are concerned it could jump the river, posing a significant threat to the town. Winds are said to likely shift in early morning, coming from the north, which could cause the fire to burn back to south.
- The fire, which started in Woodward County, OK, has already scorched 27,500 acres and is said to be burning out of control. The fire is estimated to be 15 miles long and 3 miles wide, has consumed numerous structures, and its path has already prompted the evacuation of a dozen homes.
- Fiji is bracing for Cyclone Zena, while also trying to deal with more than 12 inches of rainfall from an unnamed tropical disturbance that caused major flash flooding in parts of the nation on Monday and Tuesday. Fiji's third largest city, Nadi, on the most populated island of Viti Levu, was inundated with floodwaters from the Nadi River, prompting the closing of roads. In preparation for the approaching cyclone, international flights have been canceled and schools have been closed. The storm is expected to make landfall overnight from Wednesday to Thursday.
- Cyclone Zena comes just six weeks after Cyclone Winston, one of the most powerful southern hemisphere storms ever recorded, caused widespread destruction and killed at least 44 people in Fiji. The storm was the first category 5 to hit Fiji, with winds peaking at an estimated 185mph.
- People in Southern California are likely to face almost two weeks of interrupted electricity this summer during high-demand days, with a total of 22 to 32 days of electrical interruptions. Officials indicated that Aliso Canyon is to blame. State officials noted in a report that the leak at the Aliso Canyon natural gas field above Porter Ranch that lasted for months and prompted its shutdown will have a major impact on energy reliability in the area.
- The facility has 114 natural gas storage wells, which due to the leak and facility shutdown are only at one-fifth of capacity. These wells typically supply 17 gas-fired power plants and nearly 11 million customers, making its gas supply critical to the area. Officials have prohibited the Southern California Gas Co. from injecting new natural gas into the wells until strict testing and inspections finds them safe. The leak required the temporary relocation of thousands of people from their homes and emitted massive amounts of methane into the air. SoCal Gas paid for the relocations and capped the leak on February 18.
- A third tunnel set to carry water to New York's boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn, home to nearly 5 million people, has been postponed by the city's mayor, Bill de Blasio. Citing concerns over rising consumer water/sewer costs, the de Blasio administration moved funds that had already been allocated for the project to other areas. A major portion of the project is already complete, with Manhattan and the Bronx already receiving water through the third tunnel. This last segment of the project is nearly complete, and only needs two deep shafts to be built. The third water tunnel is critical to these areas in the city because the two tunnels that currently supply the city's water are nearly 80 years old. The third tunnel would also prevent interruptions should one of the aging tunnels fail or be forced to shut down.
335 pm: Wildfire continues moving north. Woods Co. Emergency Management recommends people in Freedom OK evacuate now pic.twitter.com/CNPw6vyDzi
— NWS Norman (@NWSNorman) April 5, 2016
Through the streets in Fiji as flooding continues. Category 3 cyclone Zena hits them later tonight. pic.twitter.com/2RZ4uxerqR
— Tima (@timanodrayaca) April 6, 2016