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EDM Friday Briefing: NOAA Upgrades GFS Weather Model

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for April 23, 2021: Better hurricane forecasting is likely in store after NOAA announced new upgrades to its GFS weather model; PFAS contamination is impacting water supplies along with soils and air; public awareness was cited as the biggest hurdle in Move Over Laws that address first responder safety during roadside emergencies; officials cite a study and dredging work as factors in the delayed reopening of the Pohoiki Boat Ramp in Hawaii after the 2018 eruption of Kilauea; snowfall that led to icy highways and multiple major vehicle crashes prompted I-70 road closures; the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a recall for Brompton Electric bicycles due to continued acceleration; hackers targeted a software flaw that impacted the U.S. defense industry; and officials raise concerns after record low levels in two of the West’s largest water reservoirs.

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1. New upgrades were announced recently by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to the Global Forecast System (GFS) weather model. The new upgrades will lengthen the time frame of forecasts, along with their accuracy, up to 16 days. Upgrades will allow greater accuracy with heavy rainfalls, hurricane forecasting, and snowfall locations, due to higher resolutions with better representation of clouds and geography.

2. A request was made to use part of the funding from the American Rescue Plan to address PFAS or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances contamination in order to improve critical infrastructure. PFAS are found in nonstick coatings, are used to make fabric stain-resistant and water-repellent, and are also found in the foam used by firefighters to extinguish some blazes. Since the dangerous chemicals easily move through the air, water, and ground, contamination is widespread and difficult to address, with the majority of water supplies having some level of PFAS contamination.

3. In the first week of April, multiple first responders were struck by vehicles during roadway emergencies. Two of those struck were killed and a report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in December of 2020 noted that public awareness is likely the biggest hurdle in enforcing Move Over Laws. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides funding to states for public awareness activities regarding Move Over Laws or for enforcement initiatives for first responder safety.

4. The eruption at Kilauea continues, but issues remain from the previous eruption of the volcano in 2018. Lava flows crossed roadways and made them impassable or caused their permanent closure, and lava also blocked the Pohoiki Boat Ramp and channel to the Pacific Ocean. According to officials, it will be at least another two years until the lava is removed and the channel reopened. Officials cited an environmental study and dredging of the channel — with each having a completion time of nine months — as the major projects. The total estimated cost for the project is $3.5 million.

5. Roadways reopened Thursday in Colorado after they became dangerous due to snowfall, which led to icy road conditions and multiple crashes on Wednesday. Interstate 70 was closed Wednesday evening as Evergreen Fire Rescue responded to multiple crashes between the Floyd Hill and Eisenhower/Johnson tunnels. The snowfall impacted the greater Denver area with about one to three inches of snow and brought anywhere from three to six inches of snow in the mountains.

6. A recall has been issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission for Brompton Electric bicycles due to continued acceleration assistance. According to the recall, Brompton Electric bicycles may continue accelerating or providing assistance even after a rider stops pedaling. The company believes it is likely a firmware issue and is offering a free software upgrade to address the issue.

7. Hackers targeted a flaw in U.S. virtual private networking devices that enabled them to spy on the U.S. defense industry. According to FireEye, one hacking group is allegedly backed by the Chinese government, although at least two threat groups exploited the security flaw. The cyberattack impacted the Pule Connect Secure suite at Ivanti, and the company allegedly stated the hack had affected a limited number of customers.

8. Falling water levels at two of the West’s largest reservoirs are sparking concern among area officials. Lake Meade and Lake Powell water levels may trigger water restrictions in Nevada and Arizona, impacting farmers and agriculture. Although the West is known to cycle through drought periods, the ongoing mega-drought has lasted 20 years and is more intense due to increased temperatures and lower water levels in the Colorado River.


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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