AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

EDM Wednesday Briefing: Santa Ana Winds and Critical Fire Weather

Emergency and disaster management briefing for September 22, 2021: The decommissioning of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant is reportedly ahead of schedule; a new program was launched by TTI to help reduce cargo dwell times at L.A. ports; fall means the arrival of Santa Ana winds and an increase in critical fire weather; the FDA announced a recall of kale for possible listeria monocytogenes contamination; the United States has lifted all restrictions on Japanese imports following the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant disaster in 2011; the domain registrar and web services provider, Epik, experienced a data breach; officials and residents contend that “fast trip” technology meant to prevent wildfires is an overcorrection by PG&E; and South Africa moves ahead with its plans to build a 2.5 MW nuclear power plant.

1. Vermont closed its only nuclear power-generating station in 2014, but decommissioning did not begin until 2019. The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant was bought in January 2019 by Northstar, who expedited the decommissioning process while allegedly remaining on budget and ahead of schedule. According to reports, the cooling towers and smokestack have been already taken down, and the space will likely be a green field by 2024. The 58 spent fuel storage containers will remain on the property indefinitely for long-term storage.

2. As ship backlogs grow off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Total Terminals International (TTI) introduced a new program to allow 24-hour cargo pickup. The program will make it easier for trucks to access the facility and load cargo overnight, hopefully working towards relieving dwell time for cargo. The pilot program also incorporates overnight, two-way and prearranged truck appointments, which allow trucks to both drop off and pick up cargo containers in one trip to increase efficiency.

3. The arrival of fall also means the arrival of the Santa Ana winds in Southern California. The first critical fire weather warning, partly due to Santa Ana winds, was issued for parts of Southern California for Wednesday. The hot, dry winds that race down the mountains and accelerate through the valleys can down trees and power lines, potentially sparking fires that are spread rapidly.

4. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a recall of kale products due to potential listeria monocytogenes contamination. The kale, produced by Baker Farms, was distributed to The Kroger Company and to SEG Grocers stores across 11 states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New York, and Virginia. Anyone who purchased kale in a one-pound plastic bag should check the UPC code and sale-by date against published information from the FDA and Kroger.

5. Japanese import restrictions, imposed after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, were recently lifted by the United States. The restrictions were originally placed on 100 agricultural products that were produced across 14 prefectures in Japan, including rice, bamboo shoots and shiitake mushrooms. The import restrictions were implemented by 55 countries and regions in 2011 after a major 9.0 earthquake occurred, triggering a tsunami that inundated the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and caused reactors to melt down.

6. Domain registrar and web services provider Epik recently suffered a data breach. The hacker(s) was able to capture email addresses, names, phone numbers, physical addresses, and passwords, which were stored in various formats. According to reports, the data breach was initiated by the hacker group Anonymous and allegedly involved over 180 gigabytes of information.

7. Repeated power outages in the Santa Cruz, California, area – some of which have lasted for several days – has officials calling for answers from Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). Local leaders want a virtual community meeting on Thursday to address concerns about the new technology designed to prevent wildfires. Area residents allegedly believe that the new technology, known as a “fast trip,” is an overcorrection, because even a squirrel can cause the system to trip, triggering a power outage.

8. South Africa is moving ahead with its plans to building a 2.5-gigawatt nuclear power plant in an effort to increase the nation’s energy security. Although there is no completion date for the project, the goal is to complete procurement by 2024. The nuclear plant will help support South Africa’s electrical supply, which experiences regular blackouts due to erratic power supplies, while also reducing its dependence on coal-fired plants.

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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