AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

EDM Friday Briefing: Lava Flows Increasing at Fagradalsfjall Volcano

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for May 14, 2021: California faces its most intense drought since 2014; the eruption of the Kilauea volcano may be coming to an end; FEMA released a research report to help emergency managers improve public messaging efforts; Colonial Pipeline announced Thursday that its entire system is again fully operational; lava flows are increasing significantly at Iceland’s Fagradalsfjall volcano; supply chains may be disrupted indefinitely after the closure of the I-40 bridge over the Mississippi River; blackouts may threaten much of the Western United States this summer; and CISA released guidance on addressing threats from DarkSide ransomware attacks.

1. The entire state of California is facing drought conditions, anywhere from D1 (moderate) to D4 (exceptional) levels. At least 14% of the state is at the D4 level, a 5% jump from last week. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, extreme fire risks exist for California and much of the western states due to the ongoing, intense drought.

2. The eruption may be coming to an end for the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island. New data shows that the lava lake continues crusting (hardening) and has now divided into an upper and lower lava lake due to the crusting. The gas emissions have also dropped to 150 tonnes a day, with low levels present during non-eruptive periods.

3. As hurricane season approaches, cities and states work to ensure preparedness efforts, including evacuation notifications. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has released a research report to help emergency managers improve their public messaging to better identify risks and increase evacuation and shelter-in-place compliance. The study also addresses key steps emergency managers can take to address barriers to public action, easily inform and identify evacuation zones for residents and tourists, and keep the public informed through the use of frequent, descriptive messages.

4. Colonial Pipeline announced it has safely restarted its entire pipeline system and was fully operational by Thursday evening. Supplies may take several days to return to normal levels within the supply chain. Reports suggest that to hasten the restart, Colonial may have paid a ransom of up to $5 million in cryptocurrency to hackers to regain control of their system.

5. Lava flows have increased at the Fagradalsfjall volcano in Iceland over the past two weeks. Lava fountaining episodes every 7 to 10 minutes are occurring, with lava flow rates of 8 to 13 cubic meters per second. The lava flows are moving into and filling the Meradalir Valley, with a total of approximately 30 million cubic meters of lava spilled since the eruption began in March.

6. Supply chain disruptions occurred after a cracked steel beam on the I-40 Hernando de Soto Bridge spanning the Mississippi River shut down the bridge indefinitely. Barge traffic on the river has also been halted due to the danger of a potential bridge collapse. Engineers found a major fracture in a support beam crucial to the bridge’s support structure. Engineers are estimating that it will be at least two months before the bridge can be reopened due to the location of the crack.

7. Blackouts may threaten much of the Western United States this summer. A number of factors are driving the potential blackouts, including heat waves, drought conditions that fuel wildfire threats, the loss of hydropower due to low lake levels from the drought, and a transition to renewable energy sources. Wildfires threatening power transmission lines could also lead to blackouts, further compounding the situation.

8. Multiple ransomware attacks in recent months have struck key targets throughout the United States. To help businesses prevent service disruptions, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released an advisory, DarkSide Ransomware: Best Practices for Preventing Business Disruption from Ransomware Attacks. The cybersecurity advisory provides technical details on DarkSide actors, some of their known tactics and preferred targets.


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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