Home Emergency Management News EDM Monday Briefing: Vessel Collision Closes Houston Ship Channel for Second Time in Two Months
EDM Monday Briefing: Vessel Collision Closes Houston Ship Channel for Second Time in Two Months

EDM Monday Briefing: Vessel Collision Closes Houston Ship Channel for Second Time in Two Months


Emergency and disaster management briefing for May 13, 2019: A bout of severe weather that swept through the southeast caused widespread flooding and killed at least two people; a train derailment in Hillsdale, Mississippi, was likely caused by floodwaters that washed out rail lines; residents of Mexico City were cautioned to stay indoors due to poor air quality with a high content of solid particles -- including ash -- from nearby fires; one police officer was shot and killed and another officer was wounded by a burglary suspect in Savannah; a strong earthquake struck the Panama-Costa Rica border and injured at least one person; PG&E reveals plans to shut down power during high winds to reduce wildfire impacts; a Delta flight bound for Atlanta diverted to Knoxville due to a nose gear issue; and a spill caused by a collision between a tanker and two barges closed the Houston Ship Channel for the second time in just two months.

1) A bout of severe weather that swept through the southeast is being blamed for widespread flooding. Flash floods have washed out bridges, closed roadways and contributed to the deaths of at least two people. Rising river levels in Louisiana and Mississippi have prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to open the Bonnet Carre Spillway four days ahead of its planned opening. Evacuations were also issued in Stone and Pearl River counties in Louisiana on Sunday morning as high water threatened homes throughout the area.

2) Floodwaters were also likely to blame for the derailment of a freight train in Hillsdale, Mississippi, on Saturday, after high waters washed out a section of the tracks. The Norfolk Southern freight train, which was traveling from Birmingham, Alabama to New Orleans, Louisiana, had 27 cars -- three of which were carrying steel and 24 that were empty -- when it derailed near Lumberton. Several of the cars could be seen leaking some type of chemical into the surrounding water. However, no hazardous materials were involved, and no injuries were reported due to the derailment according to a company spokesperson.

3) Officials in Mexico City, Mexico, warned residents on Sunday that due to heavy smoke from area fires, including brush and forest fires, they should remain indoors due to very poor outdoor air quality. The local environmental commission warned that the air was full of solid particles, including ash, and prolonged inhalation of these particles could cause respiratory and other illnesses. A high-pressure system has pushed contaminants and smoke from the various fires located throughout the area -- including those in the southern states of Oaxaca and Guerrero and nearby Mexico State -- into the Valley of Mexico, the home of Mexico City exacerbating air quality issues.


4) A police officer in Savannah, Georgia, was killed, and his colleague was wounded by a robbery suspect after the man opened fire on the two officers responding to the burglary call. Police Sgt. Kelvin Ansari, 50, along with Officer Douglas Thomas, arrived on the scene and the suspect, Edward Fuller III, 49, got out of his vehicle and began firing at the officers, striking them both. The suspect then fled and sustained a fatal gunshot wound after pointing a gun at officers, who had converged on the scene and were pursuing him.

5) A magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck along the border of Panama and Costa Rica late Sunday, rattling homes, damaging buildings and injuring at least one person. No fatalities were reported after the quake, which the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) stated was centered 4.9 miles north of Canoas, Costa Rica, at a depth of 23 miles and on its border with Panama. Officials stated that widespread shaking occurred throughout the area. In Puerto Armuelles, a Panama port city, buildings were damaged, and a woman was hurt when the ceiling of her home caved in on her.

6) Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) in California is planning on cutting power on high wind days during the coming wildfire season, which could plunge millions into a darkness that could last for days and affect at-risk populations such as the elderly. The utility company recently revealed that a power line that snapped in windy weather was likely the cause of the deadly Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise and killed 85 people. The plan to cut power comes in the wake of six of the state's most destructive wildfires -- all of which have occurred in the past 18 months. The fires killed a total of 123 people and shut down sections of the electrical grid for days.

7) A Delta flight bound for Atlanta diverted to Knoxville due to a potential mechanical issue with the airplane on Sunday morning. Flight 1417, which departed from the Tribune-Cities Airport in Bristol, landed safely at Knoxville's McGhee Tyson Airport at 9:17 a.m. after the crew declared an emergency due to a nose wheel landing gear issue. The aircraft, a Boeing 737-800, was carrying 129 passengers when it diverted to Knoxville out of an abundance of caution. The incident will be investigated further by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

8) A collision between two vessels forced the closure of the Houston Ship Channel on Saturday by the U.S. Coast Guard, the second closure of the channel in just two months. A tanker collided with a Kirby Inland Marine tug towing two barges, capsizing one barge and severely damaging the other. The collision caused thousands of gallons of a gasoline product called reformate to spill into the waterway, which shut down traffic between Lights 61 and 75 on the channel. The Bayport Channel Collision Response -- an organized group of federal, state, and shipping officials -- is coordinating the clearing of the wreckage, spill response, and cleanup.


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.