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EDM Wednesday Briefing: I-40 Bridge Support Beam Repairs Underway

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for June 16, 2021: The NHC continues to monitor a low pressure system that has a 70-90% chance of development over the next 48 hours; TDOT crews are working to complete installation of repair beams on the I-40 bridge in Memphis; officials are urging residents of western states impacted by the current heat wave to ensure they are prepared for both the heat and possible wildfires; continued drought conditions across California could potentially shut down area hydroelectric plants; ERCOT is asking residents across Texas to conserve as much electricity as possible due to power outages at plants; Excessive Heat Warnings are impacting several western states until at least Saturday; Gulf Coast residents are likely to face up to 10 inches of heavy rainfall, flash floods, flooding, and coastal inundation of up to four feet from an approaching system; and more than two dozen earthquakes have occurred in the Brawley Seismic Zone near the Salton Sea since Friday.

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1. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) continues to watch a broad low pressure system that remains nearly stationary in the Bay of Campeche. The system is expected to continue dumping heavy rainfall over parts of Central America and southern Mexico over the next 24-48 hours. Forecasts call for slow northward movement of the system to begin on Thursday or Friday as it moves over the western Gulf of Mexico, likely strengthening into a tropical depression. According to the NHC, its chance of development is 70-90% over the next two days.

2. The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) crews are working hard to install support beams to repair the I-40 bridge over the Mississippi River. Beams were delivered Monday, and TDOT crews are working to complete the installation of the support anchors in an effort to open the bridge as quickly and safely as possible. Traffic in Memphis continues to be rerouted to I-55, which is now flowing more smoothly.

3. As a major heat wave impacts multiple western states, officials are urging residents to be prepared for the extreme high temperatures and possible wildfires. Residents have been warned to be cautious when venturing outdoors during high heat, to stay hydrated, and to use extreme caution with anything that might produce sparks or be an ignition source for a wildfire. Santa Barbara’s fire chief urged everyone to have a plan, including an evacuation route and emergency kits ready in case of a wildfire.

4. Continued drought conditions in California are likely to cause reservoir water levels to dip below normal ranges. Impacts from the low water levels may include the shutdown of hydroelectric plants, such as the one on Lake Oroville. Currently, lake levels are already about 50% lower than normal, and experts believe the lake will dip below 640 feet sometime in August or September, prompting the power plant to shut down.

5. Residents across Texas were asked to conserve as much energy as possible until Friday as temperatures soar into the mid to upper 90s. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) noted that power outages of roughly 12,000 megawatts, or enough to power 2.4 million homes, were ongoing, but it allegedly declined to offer any explanation for the outages. The company did note that they believed rolling blackouts were “unlikely” at this time.

6. The majority of California and large swaths of Arizona, Nevada, and Utah remain under Excessive Heat Warnings, with little overnight relief. In addition, many locations, especially cities, have Air Quality Alerts due to limited air flow. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), temperatures in some desert Southwest locations may reach as high as 127 degrees Fahrenheit, while inland portions of California, along with Las Vegas and its surrounding areas, are forecast to reach temperatures of up to 114 degrees.

7. The tropical system churning in the Bay of Campeche is forecast to move northward toward the northern Gulf Coast beginning Thursday or Friday. Officials are cautioning residents along the coast to be prepared for up to 10 inches of heavy rainfall from Friday through Sunday along with flash floods, flooding, and coastal flooding. Storm surge is likely, with at least two to four feet of water inundation. Residents should begin preparations to protect their homes and families ahead of the approaching storm system.

8. Since Friday, more than two dozen earthquakes have been recorded close to or under the Salton Sea in southern California. The majority of the earthquakes occurred on Monday, including a 3.1 quake that was at a shallow depth of just 7.5 miles. The area is home to the Brawley Seismic Zone, which is where smaller faults connect to the larger Imperial and San Andreas Faults.

  

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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