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EDM Friday Briefing: 2020 Was the Most Active Hurricane Season Ever

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for November 20, 2020: The 2020 hurricane season is now on record as the most active hurricane season ever; search and rescue teams in Central America continue to search for victims of flooding and landslides from Hurricane Iota; high winds sparked a new wildfire near Colorado Springs that prompted multiple evacuations; DRC announces the end of its 11th outbreak of Ebola; the FDA adds 10 new hand sanitizers to its recall list; more than a dozen wildfires were sparked in California and Nevada by high winds ahead of a weather front; two years after the deadly Camp Fire, Paradise, California moves into its long-term recovery phase; and severe weather prompted multiple tornadoes in the Sacramento area on Thursday.

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1) The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that with the formation of Subtropical Storm Theta, 2020 officially became the most active hurricane season on record. Theta was the 29th named storm of the season, surpassing the record set in 2005, which was 28 named storms. The season started off early with the formation of Arthur on May 16, blew through all 21 pre-determined hurricane names by September 18, and began using the Greek alphabet — for only the second time in history — when Alpha formed that very same day. Hurricane Iota is the latest storm to be named using the Greek alphabet, and hurricane season does not officially end until November 30.

2) According to reports, nearly 30 people have died from the impact of Hurricane Iota in Central America. Iota brought high winds and heavy rain to an area already saturated by rain just 13 days earlier by Hurricane Eta. The heavy rainfall from Iota prompted flash flooding, flooding, and landslides, which have swept away homes and buried residents. Search and rescue teams continue to search for survivors, but have been hampered by fallen trees and power lines and blocked roadways. Iota was the strongest hurricane on record to hit Nicaragua in November and made landfall just 15 miles from where Eta came ashore.

3) High winds and dry conditions led to a wildfire outbreak near Colorado Springs on Thursday. The fire, which began near Bear Creek Park, was first reported around 11:30 a.m. The first evacuations were ordered about 15 minutes later. Additional evacuations were underway mid-afternoon. During a press conference, responding agencies noted that the fire was 0% contained, but air resources were on scene. As of Thursday night, the Electra Fire was brought to 50% containment as winds had died down a bit in the region.

4) The latest outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been declared over, according to its government. The announcement was made on Wednesday, after 42 consecutive days passed with no new cases occurring. The outbreak, which was announced on June 1, 2020, was the eleventh outbreak of the disease in the DRC. It  occurred in remote areas, some of which were in rain forests that were difficult to access.

5) The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) added 10 more hand sanitizers to its list of recalls. There are now a total of 212 hand sanitizers that the FDA has recalled, the majority of them for containing the deadly toxin methanol or for having low concentrations of ethyl or isopropyl alcohol. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hand sanitizers need to have a minimum content of 60 percent isopropyl alcohol to be effective.

6) High winds ahead of an approaching weather front sparked more than a dozen wildfires out west, including in Nevada and California. The Mountain View Fire began on November 17, already scorching more than 20,800 acres and destroying 80 structures, including homes in Mono County, California. The Pinehaven Fire burning near Reno, Nevada, has destroyed five homes and burned over 500 acres. It is being fought by a unified command between the City of Reno Fire Department and the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District.

7) It’s been just over two years since the swift-moving and deadly Camp Fire swept through Paradise, California. In just six hours, 85 people were killed, 14,000 homes were destroyed and nearly 95% of the town’s buildings were incinerated. The last of the debris cleanup was just completed. The community has now entered its long-term recovery phase, with plans for better rebuilding, including ensuring the town is resilient in the face of future wildfires.

8) Strong storms brought high winds to Butte County, California, on Thursday, including reports of tornadoes in several locations in Sacramento. Students and staff were forced to take shelter at the Spring Valley Elementary School, located between Oroville and Concow, when an apparent tornado was seen near the school. The National Weather Service (NWS) has not yet confirmed that a tornado touched down in that area, but pictures show what appears to be a funnel cloud with a debris field near the school.


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.

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