AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

EDM Wednesday Briefing: New Technology May Help Detect Sinkholes

Emergency and disaster management briefing for January 26, 2022: CalFire says wind-driven embers from a burn pile ignited the Colorado Fire; a power outage disrupted infrastructure across several countries in Central Asia; Montgomery purchased a parcel of land that will be used as a container terminal; ice jams on the St. Clair River are causing cargo ships to become stuck; special radar satellite technology may help with advance warning for sinkholes; coolant leaking from storage tanks is impacting the ice wall at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant; the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is cautioning that the electrical grid may be a target for extremists; and a major winter storm may be impacting New England this weekend with snow accumulations of 12+ inches.

1. CalFire announced that the Colorado Fire was started when high winds took embers from a burn pile into nearby vegetation. The wildfire, which is burning along the Big Sur coastline, has burned about 700 acres and is 50% contained. Nearly 200 firefighters from units throughout the state are battling the blaze, with only one yurt and one fire engine partially damaged by the fire.

2. A shared power line was disconnected due to a power surge on Tuesday morning, cutting power to cities in three countries across Central Asia. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan suffered traffic jams, public transportation disruptions, and airport delays when regions of those countries were impacted by the loss of power from the 1970s-era Russian power grid. The outage also interrupted infrastructure services, including tap water, heating, gas pumps, and the internet until early evening.

3. A parcel of land in Montgomery, Alabama, has been approved for a container terminal. The 272-acre parcel is next to the Hyundai plant and is part of a major plan to improve the state’s ports and intermodal container shipping connections. The port has abundant rail connections, and the new purchase will vastly improve containerized rail service to industrial centers across Alabama.

4. Cargo ships are getting stuck on the St. Clair River in Michigan due to ice jams. The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a flood advisory due to the ice blockage, which causes flooding in areas along the river. The U.S. Coast Guard is sending ships to begin ice-cutting operations, and it is unknown how long the operation will take.

5. Special radar satellite technology may help pinpoint the exact locations where sinkholes are occurring. The technology allows researchers to detect changes, such as subsidence rates, that are warning signs of sinkhole activity. Monitoring of large areas for sinkhole activity may help provide advance warning, which may help protect lives, homes, businesses and infrastructure.

6. An ice wall used to prevent groundwater from seeping into the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant may be leaking again. This month, two storage tanks leaked about four tons of the coolant solution used to keep the ice wall frozen, risking the seepage of radioactive water flowing into the Pacific Ocean. This is not the first time the ice wall has been compromised; the most recent melting of the ice wall occurred last November.

7. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security reports that extremists are potentially targeting the U.S. electrical grid in order to disrupt the nation. There are more than 6,400 power plants with 450,000 miles of high-voltage power lines that traverse the country; these power plants may be vulnerable to an attack. The report did note, however, that it is highly unlikely an attack would impact the entire U.S., due to its decentralized power grid.

8. The potential for a major winter storm to hit New England this weekend is rapidly increasing. Conditions are becoming even more favorable for a nor’easter to move north, hitting to the southeast of Nantucket and likely producing a blizzard. Snow accumulation totals are forecast to reach between nine and 12+ inches, with high winds, flooding, and potential power outages.

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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