AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

EDM Monday Briefing: I-70 in Colorado Closed Indefinitely for Mudslides

Emergency and disaster management briefing for August 2, 2021: I-70 in Colorado remains closed indefinitely due to multiple mudslides; as three tropical systems churn in the eastern Pacific Ocean, the Fujiwhara Effect is possible; Hurricane Hilda poses no threat to land as it moves westward across the Pacific Ocean; officials re-opened eastbound lanes of the Hernando DeSoto bridge on I-40; volcanologists are monitoring the Great Sitkin volcano in Alaska for a potential eruption; a wind-driven wildfire forced evacuations and has scorched more than 40,000 acres on Hawaii’s Big Island; a portion of I-75 is shutdown in Michigan due to damages caused by sinkholes; eight people are dead and thousands have evacuated their homes as more than 105 wildfires ravage at least 35 towns in Turkey.

1. Heavy rainfall again doused the Grizzly Creek burn scar that sits above Interstate 70, causing yet another mudslide that covered I-70. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) shut down I-70 on Thursday due to a mudslide. The road remained closed as of Saturday, when the new mudslide occurred. Officials are uncertain when the roadway – which is the main thoroughfare through Colorado – will reopen.

2. Activity in the eastern Pacific is heating up with one hurricane, one tropical storm and another low pressure system that has at least a 50% chance of development. While the storms pose no threat to land, the systems, which are churning very close to each other, could produce the Fujiwhara Effect. The Fujiwhara Effect occurs when two systems traveling in the same direction pass close to each other and begin orbiting around each other. The stronger storm often absorbs the weaker one. If the systems are similar in strength, they spin around each other and then shoot off in different directions, or they merge to create a stronger storm.

3. Hurricane Hilda churning in the Pacific Ocean, is currently moving to the west-northwest at about 8 mph, with sustained winds of about 80 mph. The Category 1 storm has a central pressure of 988 mb or inches of mercury, and it currently does not pose a threat to any land mass. Tropical Storm Ignacio is situated to the northeast of Hurricane Hilda, with a minimum central pressure of 1006 mb and wind speeds of up to 35 mph. Ignacio is moving in the same general direction as Hilda, but is only forecast to be short-lived, returning to a tropical depression by Tuesday morning.

4. The I-40 bridge linking Arkansas and Tennessee over the Mississippi River re-opened on Saturday. The bridge was only opened to traffic traveling eastbound, but the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) noted that the bridge would be fully opened by Friday, August 6. Officials closed the bridge in both directions after a large crack was found in a main structural support beam.

5. A magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck the Alaskan Peninsula last Wednesday, prompting concerns that the Great Sitkin volcano may erupt. The Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) has been closely monitoring the volcano – due to increased activity and rising surface temperatures – since January. A short-lived eruption in May sent an ash cloud 15,000 feet into the air. On Saturday, a moderate earthquake swarm occurred beneath the volcano, but seismic activity has since diminished.

6. Evacuation orders have been lifted for residents nearby a raging brush fire in the South Kohala area of Hawaii’s Big Island. Residents of the Pu’u Kapu Hawaiian Homestead were ordered to evacuate their homes Saturday, as the Waimea wildfire rapidly spread, and evacuation orders were extended to Waikoloa Village residents on Sunday. Due to continued high winds, the wildfire has now scorched more than 40,000 acres, and Old Saddle Road remains closed due to the fire.

7. A section of I-75 in Michigan is to remain closed through Wednesday due to sinkholes. Officials noted that the sinkholes were found on Friday, when crews began digging for a drainage tunnel off the service drive. The sinkholes damaged pavement in the northbound lanes of I-75, and it remains closed for repairs between I-696 and 12 Mile Road.

8. A total of at least 105 wildfires continue to rage in Turkey, forcing thousands to flee their homes over the weekend. A total of eight people have died in the blazes, which have ravaged 35 towns, including Mediterranean coastal resort towns. Several nearby countries are assisting Turkey in fighting the wildfires, with at least 13 planes, 45 helicopters and over 825 firefighting vehicles involved in firefighting efforts.

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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