AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

EDM Monday Briefing: New Research May Help Forecast Tornadoes

Emergency and disaster management briefing for September 13, 2021: A new lava flow has been confirmed at the summit crater on Alaska’s Great Sitkin volcano; rain on Friday helped calm the Dixie Fire in California; a hazmat incident has left two North Carolina plant employees dead; Tropical Storm Nicholas is forecast to drop heavy rainfall on Texas and Louisiana; repairs continue on I-70 in Colorado through the Glenwood Canyon; a renewable energy company based in Spain claims to have produced a recyclable wind turbine blade; the NHC is monitoring two systems in the Atlantic basin that are likely to develop over the next five days; and new research identifies a wind phenomenon that may help forecast violent, deadly tornadoes nearly 30 minutes before they strike.

1. Volcanologists confirmed that a new lava flow emerged from the summit crater last week on the Great Sitkin volcano in Alaska. The Great Sitkin is a stratovolcano rising to over 5,700 feet high and is located in the Aleutian Islands. Small earthquake swarms continue beneath the volcano, which last erupted in 1974. The effusive eruption from the current active lava dome has nearly covered the previous dome from the 1974 eruption.

2. Rain that fell on Friday helped calm the Dixie Fire, with the majority of fire activity occurring in Shasta County. Residents across Plumas County need to check the Lassen County Sheriff website at to determine the status of evacuation orders for their communities and/or neighborhoods. The Dixie Fire has scorched a total of 960,335 acres and is now 67% contained, with mop-up and patrol activities dominating the ongoing response.

3. Two employees were found dead at a rendering plant in North Carolina. A hazmat team was called to the scene, and an investigation into the deaths is underway. The plant, Valley Protein, Inc., uses its products in the production of pet food, and employees can be exposed to hydrogen sulfide when working in the plant’s pit. Reportedly, all employees wear H2S monitors to ensure they remain safe from high H2S levels.

4. Tropical Storm Nicholas is skirting along the southern Texas Gulf Coast and is forecast to move to the north-northeast and bring heavy rainfall. Heavy rainfall will impact coastal areas of Texas and Louisiana beginning this afternoon, with the threat of dangerous storm surge from Port Aransas to Sabine Pass. According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), it is possible that Nicholas may strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane just prior to making landfall.

5. Traffic is still down to one lane in both directions on I-70 through a portion of Glenwood Canyon in Colorado, as workers continue to repair damage from the massive mudslide on July 29. The mudslide also took out communication networks and utilities, compounding repair issues. The scenic I-70 route through Glenwood Canyon had to be shut down for several days from the mudslide, and workers are still plagued by smaller slides and weather that have forced the road to be closed at least nine times since the July slide.

6. Wind turbines produce clean energy, but not without causing massive waste. Turbine blades can last as long as 25 years, but they usually end up getting buried in the ground, deposited in landfills or burned. A renewable energy company, Spain-based Siemens Gamesa, announced that it has produced a new resin to make turbine blades, allowing the blades to be recycled. However, the actual cost of recycling the blades is still very cost-prohibitive.

7. The 2021 hurricane season is now at its peak, as Tropical Storm Nicholas churns in the Gulf of Mexico. There have been 13 named storms in 2021, and the National Hurricane Center (NHC) is currently monitoring two more systems for development. One low pressure system near the Bahamas has a 50% chance of development. The other, a tropical wave just off the coast of Africa, has an 80% chance of development over the next five days.

8. New research shows how Above-Anvil Cirrus Plumes (AACP) usually indicate a supercell formation that is likely to produce a violent and damaging tornado. These supercells are powerful enough to push through the lid of the troposphere and move into the stratosphere, where a cloudy plume of ice and water is kicked up by upper-atmosphere winds. Research suggests that descending dry air from the stratosphere mixes with moist air rising from the troposphere, creating downside slope super winds with speeds in excess of 240 mph as they enter back into the troposphere. This movement may create a hydraulic jump that continually changes shape, similar to what occurs when winds travel over mountain peaks. The AACP phenomenon is observable via satellite imagery. When these satellite images are coupled with information regarding the AACP hydraulic jump, that could assist forecasters in determining the likely threat of a violent and deadly tornado, possibly with a 30-minute lead time.

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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