AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

EDM Wednesday Briefing: 5G Rollout Causes Commercial Flight Impacts

Emergency and disaster management briefing for January 19, 2022: Wednesday marks the rollout of 5G cellular towers which may have devastating impacts on commercial flights; the NWS stated that the EF-2 tornado in Fort Myers traveled 7.9 miles; the undersea volcanic eruption near Tonga was reportedly equivalent to more than 600 Hiroshima nuclear bombs; an explosion on Tuesday shut down a key pipeline serving Europe from Iraq; Kilauea’s continued eruption along with a shift in trade winds is now producing volcanic fog in Hilo; a nursing home in Thomasville, NC, is under investigation after a wellness check found only three staff members on duty; two insurance carriers are dropping wildfire coverage for their multi-million-dollar homeowners in California; and officials are set to meet virtually to discuss Kentucky’s Panbowl Dam safety after it was breached during heavy rainfall in March of 2021.

1. The rollout of 5G is concerning airlines, including international airlines, some of which have modified or cancelled their flights to the United States. Domestic carriers are warning that a catastrophic crisis is set to occur, due to the potential interference with critical flight controls, including head-up displays and enhanced flight vision systems. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), 50 airports are said to be surrounded by buffer zones, but that is just a small fraction of the more than 5,000 commercial airports operating across the United States.

2. A tornado that touched down in Florida during heavy storms on Sunday has been rated an EF-2 with wind speeds of about 118 mph. The tornado hit Fort Myers in Lee County, traveled to the northeast and left a path of destruction 7.9 miles long. This path of destruction is longer than the previous estimate from the National Weather Service (NWS) which originally put the tornado at causing 1.8 miles of damage.

3. The undersea volcano that erupted Saturday in Tonga was reportedly equivalent to more than 600 of the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima. According to reports, the blast was around 10 megatons or the force of at least 650 “Little Boy” atomic bombs, the type used to bomb Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945. The massive blast produced tsunamis in various countries, with many of the communities and towns in Tonga suffering massive devastation.

4. An explosion shut down a key oil pipeline from Iraq to Turkey on Tuesday. A power pylon fell on the pipeline, creating an explosion and a fire, which took firefighters hours to extinguish. The pipeline typically carries upwards of 450,000 barrels of oil per day into Europe through the two lines, one of which was damaged. Repairs were made to the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline, which was reportedly brought back online Wednesday.

5. As the eruption of Kilauea continues and trade winds shift, residents in Hilo and the surrounding areas are now encountering vog. Vog, otherwise known as volcanic fog, is a mixture of sulphur dioxide gas and aerosols from the volcano, which can adversely affect air quality. The Hawaii Volcano Observatory (HVO) noted that due to the current pause/erupt cycle of the volcano, the emission level of volcanic gases is varying considerably. Residents can check the Hawaii Interagency Vog Information Dashboard for vog and wind forecasts, along with current air quality levels.

6. A nursing home in Thomasville, North Carolina, is under investigation after two residents were found dead. Police began receiving calls on around 8 p.m. on Sunday evening from family members, who said they were unable to reach staff at the Pine Ridge Health and Rehabilitation Center. A welfare check found only three staff members on duty to care for 98 resident patients, and two residents were found deceased by first responders. Fire and EMS crews remained at the facility until Monday morning to help assess and care for residents, two of whom are in critical condition.

7. California wildfires affect millions of homes each year, some of which are built within the wildland-urban interface (WUI). Home insurance coverage costs have increased, largely due to the heavily regulated insurance industry in California and a failure of mid-priced policyholders to renew their policies. Two companies have announced they are now dropping coverage for multi-million-dollar homes across the state. American International Group, Inc., announced that it will end insurance coverage for at least 9,000 customers in its Private Client Group and has already begun client notification.

8. The Panbowl Lake Dam in Kentucky is the topic of a virtual meeting to be held on January 27 by the state’s transportation cabinet. Historic rainfalls in March compromised the earthen dam, which was created during the construction of Kentucky’s Highway 15. About 1,000 people were ordered to evacuate last March when the dam failed, and the safety of the dam going forward is the issue that will be addressed in the upcoming virtual meeting.

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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