Emergency and disaster management briefing for December 23, 2020: Thousands of residents across Southern California could face Christmas without power; a major disaster declaration was approved by President Trump for 13 counties in Oklahoma; the EPA has announced new lead and copper rules to help protect children and the elderly; Blizzard and Winter Storm Warnings are in effect for portions of South Dakota and Minnesota as of Wednesday morning; Ventura County faces an extended wildfire season as it moves up to a moderate drought designation; a severe winter storm produced winds in excess of 100 mph from Anchorage to Whittier in Alaska; four firefighters were injured in Colorado after their truck rolled down a steep embankment; and Oregon saw nine deaths, nearly one million acres burned, and at least 4,500 structures destroyed in its worst fire season in state history.
1) Residents across Southern California could face Christmas Eve and morning without power. San Diego Gas and Electric, along with Southern California Edison, warned at least 161,000 of their customers about potential Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) that may occur Wednesday afternoon through Friday morning — Christmas Day — due to a Red Flag Warning. The National Weather Service (NWS) stated that the warning will begin at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, and go at least until noon on Thursday, due to strong Santa Ana winds that are forecast throughout San Diego County.
Reminder: Red Flag Warning (#FireWx) starting 8am tomorrow Ventura County, Los Angeles County, and beyond (much of Southern California). Be careful with fire, and pay attention to any fires that break out during this time. https://t.co/xAfIc36UGp— AI6YR (@ai6yrham) December 23, 2020
2) A major disaster declaration was approved by President Donald J. Trump for thirteen counties in Oklahoma following a severe winter storm that hit the region in late October. Damages to facilities will be covered under a cost-sharing basis for emergency work to repair or replace the structures, and the assistance is available to all state, tribal, and eligible local governments in those counties that were impacted by the storm. More counties may be added to the Presidential declaration as damage assessments are still being conducted.
3) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that its new lead and copper rule for water will help protect children and the elderly. The new rule closes loopholes, requires more stringent testing, accelerates notifications to consumers by utilities and speeds pipe replacement, along with ensuring the entire replacement of lead service lines. One of the most significant updates to the regulation may be the required notification time. Utilities must notify customers within 24 hours; prior rules permitted notification to occur within 30 days.
EPA’s new lead and copper rule will require testing at schools and plans to replace lead water lines https://t.co/elm9crGCxL— MLive (@MLive) December 22, 2020
4) A severe winter storm system is set to push across the Plains, with portions of east central South Dakota and southwest Minnesota — including the Twin Cities — under Blizzard and Winter Storm Warnings that began Wednesday morning. The storm is also set to impact the Great Lakes region, with Gale Warnings being posted for Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and Lake Superior — with the potential for waves up to 19 feet — through Thursday morning. The National Weather Service is cautioning residents across the region about the potential for black ice as temperatures plummet to single digit windchill’s overnight Wednesday.
5) A lack of rain in Ventura County, California, so far this season, has bumped the county up into the drought stage of moderate, with at least 95% of the state being in the moderate, severe, or extreme stages of drought. Water levels are below normal in the county. With no rain to temper the strong winds, vegetation moisture levels remain below 59%, which causes them to ignite quickly. The perpetual dryness, coupled with continued strong wind events, means the county, and much of California, remain at an increased risk of wildfires for the foreseeable future.
Current wind gusts for LA/Ventura County. No Red Flag stations yet, but wind's not going to pick up until after 8am, per the National Weather Service. #FireWx #RedFlagWarning pic.twitter.com/EHUNwNoliQ— AI6YR (@ai6yrham) December 23, 2020
6) A strong storm brought rain and snow to south-central Alaska, and winds in excess of 100 mph were reported from Anchorage to Whittier on Tuesday. At least 1,800 people were without power by 11 a.m. and according to meteorologists, garage doors were damaged by the intense winds. The severe weather and winds also damaged homes on the Anchorage Hillside, and weather officials warned area residents to have a winter survival kit with them if they were planning on traveling as road conditions were likely dangerous.
(1/2) Heads up Southcentral! High winds are on the way for Portage Valley, the Turnagain Arm, and the Anchorage Hillside. High Wind Warnings have been issued from 9pm this evening through Tue evening. Winds 40-60 mph with gusts to 90 mph are expected for Portage Valley. #AKwx pic.twitter.com/EvJXeIVRoZ— NWS Anchorage (@NWSAnchorage) December 21, 2020
7) Four firefighters were injured in Routt County, Colorado, on Saturday, when their fire truck went off the road and rolled 200 feet down a steep embankment. According to reports, firefighters from the West Routt Fire Protection District had been called to a fire on Peak View Court, which they extinguished. They were departing the area when the incident occurred. Allegedly, the truck broke loose from the gravel road that was covered in snow and ice, which sent it over the steep embankment. Reports indicate that speed was not a factor, and the firefighters should all make a full recovery.
8) Oregon had one of its most devastating fire seasons in state history this year, with nine deaths and nearly one million acres burned. A total of about 4,500 structures were also destroyed in wildfires across the state, and hundreds of thousands were evacuated as wildfires raged and smoke levels exceeded measurable air quality levels. The fires cost $130 million to fight, and recovery is now underway, but according to local officials, it is likely to take years, as significant swaths of land were destroyed, along with bridges, culverts, and power lines.
An amazing post-fire story map developed by the Oregon State University Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Fire Program team tells the story of the 2020 fire season, and highlights the conditions leading to the 12 largest fires of the year. https://t.co/yFjJKiepIt— OFRI (@ORForests) December 18, 2020