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EDM Wednesday Briefing: USGS Study Targets Debris Flow Mitigation

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for March 3, 2021: Texas’ Attorney General announced it is suing an electricity provider to the state, Griddy, in the wake of February’s winter storm; Hanging Lake is set to reopen in May after the Grizzly Creek Fire; California authorities are launching an investigation into human trafficking after a deadly crash allegedly involved illegal immigrants; 49 counties in Kentucky have declared disasters after historic flooding inundated homes and businesses; nearly 525,000 tires were recalled for alleged improper manufacturing processes that may cause sidewall cracks or bulges; J&J Distributing announces additional food recalls due to possible listeria contamination; high winds and strong gusts left thousands without power in New York and other states; and a new study by the USGS may help Southern California mitigate post-wildfire debris flows.

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1. The Attorney General in Texas has announced he is suing one of the state’s providers of electricity — Griddy. The announcement comes in the wake of massive bills from last month’s storm that the company passed to consumers. The lawsuit also follows just days after Griddy’s access to the state’s electricity market was revoked by the state’s electrical grid manager.

2. The popular tourist destination in Colorado, Hanging Lake, is slated to reopen this May. Located near Glenwood Springs, the area was threatened last fall by the Grizzly Creek Fire, which scorched 51 square miles in the White River National Forest. The wildfire began on August 10, burned in the Glenwood Canyon area and caused multiple major road closures for extended time periods. It was finally declared fully contained on December 18.

3. Authorities in California launched an investigation into human trafficking after a fatal crash saw the deaths of at least 13 people. The incident occurred in Imperial County on Tuesday between a large rig and a sport utility vehicle. The SUV carried 25 people, several of whom were ejected from the vehicle. The accident occurred just 11 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, and 10 of those who died were Mexican nationals.

4. Floodwaters inundated homes and businesses across a large swath of Kentucky after the state received anywhere from four to seven inches of rain over several days. At least 49 counties issued disaster declarations, evacuations were ordered, and infrastructure — including roads and bridges — suffered moderate to severe damage. Erosion on a dam along Panbowl Lake prompted a nursing home evacuation as water pushed into neighborhoods. However, state dam officials do not expect the dam to fail.

5. Nearly 525,000 tires are being recalled by manufacturers due to their alleged failure potential. Continental Tire of the Americas is recalling three of its brands — Continental, General and Barum tires — which may have been over-cured during the manufacturing process, causing the tires to develop a sidewall break. Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is also recalling several of its brands due to their potential to develop sidewall bulges.

6. J&J Distributing, owned by New Harvest Foods, announced another recall for additional products that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. On Monday, the company recalled a variety of products including party platters, taco trays, sandwiches and taco dip. Listeria infection may cause miscarriages and stillbirths, or it may lead to fatal infections in small children or the elderly.

7. High winds and strong gusts knocked out power to thousands of residents across New York and on Long Island. On Tuesday, 90 active outages kept nearly 1,000 people without power as crews from PSEG worked diligently to restore service. Wind advisories across the region were in place from Monday until late early Wednesday morning, as wind gusts were expected to reach up to 50 mph or more.

8. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a new study meant to assist with the frequency and magnitude forecasts of post-wildfire debris flows in Southern California. In order to map the expected frequency and magnitude of post-wildfire debris flows, the study used historical distributions of fire, along with the frequency of precipitation, in conjunction with empirical models of post debris flow hazards, including likelihood and volume. The data revealed that increases in precipitation intensity have a more direct impact on debris flows, likely increasing them. Fire frequency and severity increases carried less influence for debris flows, their volume, and frequency.


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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