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EDM Wednesday Briefing: City Evacuated After Wastewater Treatment Plant Failure

Emergency and disaster management briefing for November 17, 2021: A Pineapple Express caused record rainfall in Western Washington; TEPCO officials are set to meet with team members from the IAEA about the treated radioactive water release from Fukushima; a severe weather event Saturday spawned a historic 6 tornadoes that touched down on Long Island; evacuations were ordered for residents in Estes Park near the Kruger Rock Fire; an Aeroméxico plane was forced to make an emergency landing after a bird strike on takeoff; an intensification of the volcanic eruption on La Palma island was observed on Tuesday; rail service to the Port of Vancouver was disrupted by flooding and landslides; heavy rainfall and the failure of the wastewater treatment plant in Merritt, BC, prompted an evacuation of the entire city.

Record rainfall in Washington State, courtesy of a Pineapple Express, led to more than 50 water rescues. Rain fell for three days across Whatcom County in Western Washington and swelled creeks and rivers, including the Nooksack River, all of which flooded streets and forced school cancellations across the county on Monday, and into Tuesday. High, gusty winds also cut power to various areas in the county, and officials noted that water levels were forecast to remain high at least through Wednesday.

Japanese officials are set to meet this week with a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding the release of water into the ocean from the now-defunct Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The plant owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), plans to begin releasing treated radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean beginning in the spring of 2023. The treated radioactive water release is being vehemently protested by fishermen, local residents, and neighboring countries, including China and South Korea.

In a historic weather event on Saturday, a whopping six tornadoes touched down on Long Island, New York. The National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed that a total of six tornadoes, ranging from EF-0 to EF-1, struck the area, and caused severe damage to multiple towns. They were the first tornadoes ever recorded on Long Island in the month of November.

A wildfire that sparked in Larimer County, Colorado, prompted mandatory evacuation orders for area residents. The Kruger Rock Fire sparked on Tuesday morning near Estes Park, where it is burning in steep, rugged terrain, amid gusty winds and extremely dry conditions. The wildfire is burning near Rocky Mountain National Park, has already consumed over 1,100 acres, and is currently being fought by at least 150 firefighters.

An airplane departing Sacramento International Airport (SMF) reported a bird strike on take-off which forced the aircraft to make an emergency landing. The aircraft, a Boeing 737 NextGen 8, operated by Aeroméxico, was destined for Guadalajara from Sacramento when the incident occurred. The plane was heavy with fuel and circled about 25 miles south of the airport for more than an hour before it landed back at SMF without incident.

The eruption of La Cumbra Vieja volcano on La Palma in the Canary Islands once again intensified on Tuesday. An ash plume of about 8,000 feet was observed on Tuesday morning, and moderate ash emissions and small lava fountaining were also recorded. The ash plume drifted to the east coast of the island and forced the temporary closure of the airport for safety reasons.

Heavy rainfall impacted the Pacific Northwest, including British Columbia, disrupting rail service to the Port of Vancouver. Both CN and Canadian Pacific operations at ports have been disrupted after significant portions of their rail lines that service the port were shut down from the heavy rainfall which led to flooding and landslides. There were a reported 32 vessels at anchor for the Port of Vancouver, and officials are working to address the rail transportation disruption.

Heavy rainfall that began Friday in the Pacific Northwest, triggered flooding and landslides, forced the closure of roadways, caused power outages, and prompted evacuations. A failure of its municipal wastewater treatment plant prompted an evacuation of the entire city of Merritt, and flooding prompted a helicopter rescue of at least 275 stranded motorists. Schools across the area were also closed, and on Monday, driving to Vancouver from the rest of Canada was not possible due to floods, landslides, and roadway washouts.

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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