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EDM Wednesday Briefing: Nation Moves to National Preparedness Level 4 Amid Multiple Complex Wildfires

Emergency and disaster management briefing for June 23, 2021: The pandemic has exposed a national supply chain vulnerability amid dock worker shortages and equipment failures; firefighters are battling adverse weather conditions as they try to contain the Sylvan Fire; NIFC announces that the nation is at National Preparedness Level 4 for wildfires; NEORSD is set to remove the failing, Class 1, Horseshoe Lake Dam in Northeast Ohio; a meeting of the UN Security Council was called by Sudan over GERD; a tropical wave in the Atlantic Ocean has only a slight chance of development; severe weather swept through Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York on Monday causing widespread power outages and damage; climate activists targeted a new pipeline, known as Line 3–being built to replace and aging pipeline–to stop its construction.

  1. The pandemic exposed the vulnerability of the national supply chain that relied on just-in-time delivery of consumer goods across the nation. Shipping costs have increased exponentially as ports become backlogged with container ships waiting to be offloaded. A container shortage has also led to shipping delays as many containers are now being unloaded onto semi-trailers so the containers can be used again immediately. Full containers are typically loaded onto a train for transport, which reduces the shipping time and its costs. Worker shortages, along with equipment failures, have only added to the backlogs at the nation’s ports, such as in Long Beach, California. 

  2. The Sylvan Fire burning in the White River National Forest continues its explosive growth in Colorado. The wildfire is believed to have been started by lightning, and firefighters are working to keep the fire from burning over Red Table Ridge. Active fire behavior due to hot, dry, and windy weather conditions continues to challenge firefighters’ efforts to contain the blaze, which has scorched an estimated 3,583 acres.

  3. As of June 22, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) announced that due to current wildfire activity, the country is now at National Fire Preparedness Level 4. Level 4 means that firefighters are already competing for resources as more than half of wildland firefighting resources are already committed. Level 4 also indicates that three or more geographic regions are experiencing multiple large wildfires that require Incident Management Teams (IMTs) to manage the incident. This includes wildfires burning in the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, and Utah.

  4. The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) is working out a plan to remove the failing dam from Horsehoe Lake in Shaker Heights. Horseshoe Dam was classified as a Class 1 dam, with likely loss of life downstream should the dam fail, which prompted its draining in recent years. The dam continues to deteriorate, with water seeping into the spillway, cracking the stonework and causing sinkholes. The dam is no longer needed, as the Lower Lake Dam, located below the Horseshoe Dam, will be repaired and upgraded, and the lake dredged, to improve water levels and capacity.

  5. Sudan has requested a meeting of the United Nation’s Security Council regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Ethiopia is building the massive dam on the Blue Nile for power generation and economic development, but the dam impacts water supplies for downstream nations, Sudan and Egypt. The filling and operation of the dam without an agreement between the three countries threatens the safety and security of millions, and impacts regional and international peace and security.

  6. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is watching another disturbance in the Atlantic Ocean east of the Windward Islands. The tropical wave remains disorganized and has little chance of development over the next 5 days. The system is producing showers and thunderstorms, and although development chances are low, some models show this system to possibly be near Cuba by Tuesday.

  7. Several rounds of severe weather swept through Northeast Ohio on Monday, downing trees and power lines, and cutting power to thousands of residents. The severe weather also moved through Pennsylvania and New York, causing widespread power outages and significant damage to several neighborhoods. Many of the residents of Perinton, near Rochester, New York, remained without power on Tuesday, as crews worked to clear downed power lines and trees.

  8. Climate activists have set their sights on stopping a new pipeline that is being built in Minnesota to replace another aging and outdated pipeline. Line 3 will replace an existing, 1,000-mile pipeline that runs from Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wisconsin. The activists damaged equipment and property, much of which belongs to Native American-owned companies, and also damaged environmental safeguards for erosion control. According to reports, the majority of Native Americans in the area largely support the new pipeline, as it is providing at least 5,200 jobs for members of their communities.

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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