California wildfires


Emergency and disaster management briefing for December 16, 2020: Fiji is bracing for a hit from Tropical Cyclone Yasa; the governor of North Carolina has signed a disaster declaration for five counties after damage from remnants of Tropical Storm Eta; Britain sees widespread flooding and predicts an even wetter New Year; CDOT warns of the closure of a section of Interstate 70 this weekend; Santa Barbara will release a new map that pinpoints communities at risk from flooding and debris flows from burn scars; the State Emergency Services (SES) in Australia is cautioning residents to remain vigilant amid widespread flooding across the region; deviations from Plan 2014 may help prevent onshore flooding around Lake Ontario this winter; and two Colorado firefighters were found dead in their home from carbon monoxide poisoning.

1) Fiji is bracing for the very strong Tropical Cyclone Yasa, which is forecast to hit in the center of the island group sometime on Thursday. Wind speeds are currently averaging 102 mph and gusting up to 142 mph, with heavy rainfall that is likely to cause widespread river flooding, along with low-lying area flooding and landslides. Weather officials are cautioning residents about rough surf and waves that may reach up to 19 feet high, likely to inundate coastal areas and increase the risk for storm surge.  

2) North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed a disaster declaration for five counties impacted by the remnants of Tropical Storm Eta. The disaster declaration, signed on December 15, named Alexander County as the primary disaster area, with four contiguous counties also being eligible for disaster aid, including Caldwell, Catawba, Iredell and Wilkes. Remnants from Eta caused widespread and deadly flooding that killed at least 12 people, washed out roads and led to widespread power outages.

3) Heavy rainfall along with gale winds caused flooding across Britain that resulted in underwater roads and cancelled trains. The Met Office issued 108 warnings and alerts regarding flooding across the nation, much of which could impact travel, including roadways and also routes operated by Great Western Railway, who has already warned of travel interruptions. South Wales and West Country are likely to see the worst impacts of the continued rain into tomorrow, and weather officials noted that the flooding is likely to persist through the New Year which is forecast to be wetter than normal.

4) A section of Interstate 70 that passes through Denver, Colorado, will be closed for an entire weekend. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) noted that the weekend-long closure is set to begin at 10:00 p.m., Friday, December 18, and last until Monday, December 21, at about 5:00 a.m. A detour map has been provided, and CDOT noted that the weekend long closure will allow demolition of the old Colorado Boulevard bridge over Interstate 70.

5) Santa Barbara, California, will be releasing an updated map that pinpoints potential areas that may be at risk of debris flows or flooding this winter due to wildfire burn scars. The map will detail habitable properties in Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria that are most at risk from the hazards, allowing local emergency managers to use the information to plan evacuations that may be required.  Appropriate protective actions will follow any determination of a threat based on specific criteria, including rainfall quantity and duration, watershed status, creek channels, debris-catching nets and debris basins.

6) State Emergency Services (SES) in New South Wales, Australia, is cautioning its residents to stay vigilant and monitor ongoing weather conditions amid widespread flooding in the region. A trough of low pressure has been generating widespread showers and thunderstorms for the past four days, which prompted 2,073 calls for help from rising water. Evacuation orders have been lifted; however, the SES is asking residents to avoid creeks and stormwater drains, and to avoid driving through flooding areas.  

7) Deviations from Plan 2014 were approved by the International Joint Commission (IJC) which may help prevent flooding along the shores of Lake Ontario this winter. The upper Great Lakes are already full, and while lake levels are currently not a concern, flows from the Ottawa River are unknown. If the river flows become high, it could lead to high water levels occurring in Lake Ontario, prompting widespread onshore flooding. Deviations in water management outflows from Plan 2014 could reduce flood risks; however. impacts to shipping, ice formation and downstream impacts must also be considered.  

8) Two firefighters were found dead in their homes in Colorado last Friday. The two firefighters, a married couple that included Lieutenant Cody Allen, 29, and his wife, Shelby Allen, 27, a volunteer firefighter, both worked for the Central City Fire Department. According to the coroner’s office, the married couple died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in their home, where they were discovered Friday morning.