Emergency and disaster management briefing for June 24, 2020: A strong earthquake struck near near Oaxaca, Mexico and killed at least five people; Arizona continues to battle wildfires across the state; Tropical Storm Dolly, which formed off the northeast coast of the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday, has already been downgraded to a tropical depression; Gwinnett County becomes the first Georgia county to receive national accreditation for its disaster preparedness and response systems capabilities; firefighters in California have a fast, new high-tech tool to help fight wildfires; the Saharan Air Layer, a larger and thicker than normal dust plume, is set to impact the United States as early as this weekend; evacuations have been lifted for residents near the River Fire in California; and Cass County, Minnesota is seeking public input for its Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan.

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1) A strong and deadly earthquake hit near Oaxaca, Mexico, on Tuesday, killing five people, injuring others and causing widespread damage. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) noted that the 7.4 magnitude quake struck at 10:29 a.m.at a depth of about 16 miles, with its epicenter 7.4 miles from Santa Maria, Zapotitlán. The earthquake collapsed buildings and homes, damaged bridges and highways, cut power, and sparked fires. It also prompted at least 140 aftershocks, many of them very strong.

2) Arizona is still battling multiple wildfires across the state with the largest blaze, the Bush Fire, now 73 percent contained. The wildfire has scorched nearly 187,000 acres north of Phoenix, while another large blaze, the Bighorn Fire, continues to burn just north of Tucson. That fire remains highly active, burning in uphill runs through short grasses and brush amid dry conditions, higher than normal temperatures, and low humidity.

3) Tropical Storm Dolly formed in the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday well off the northeastern coast of the United States. The storm, a rare June D-named storm, was churning about 370 miles south of Nova Scotia with sustained winds of about 45 mph. The storm posed no threat to land and was short-lived since it quickly approached cooler waters, with the National Hurricane Center (NHC) downgrading the storm early Wednesday morning to a tropical depression

4) The Gwinnett County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has received national accreditation for its disaster preparedness and response systems capabilities. The agency’s program had to meet stringent requirements of the Emergency Management Accreditation Program’s Emergency Management Standard. The ultimate goal was to bring together personnel, resources, and communications among multiple agencies and organizations in preparation and response to any type of disaster. Gwinnett County OEM was the first county agency in Georgia to achieve that goal.

5) Firefighters across California now have a new tool with which to fight wildfires — a helicopter. The Fire Hawk is a state-of-the-art chopper capable of flying 150 miles per hour. It can carry 12 firefighters and 9,000 pounds. CalFire ordered 12 choppers, some of which have already been delivered. Once they are all in place, the choppers will allow firefighters to be over a fire anywhere in the state in just 20 minutes.

6) A larger than normal Saharan dust plume is set to reach the mainland United States by this weekend. The dust plume, known as the Saharan Air Layer (SAL), forms each year, but it typically fizzles out over the Caribbean. This year, the plume is much larger and thicker than usual and traveling farther than normal; it is currently causing very hazy conditions with reduced air quality levels over the Caribbean. While the dust plume reduces air quality levels, it also decreases tropical activity and often creates vivid sunrises and sunsets.

7) The River Fire, burning in Paso Robles, California, has now been contained and evacuation orders have been lifted. The wildfire, which was relatively small and burned just 15 acres, began Monday in the Salinas Riverbed. It prompted evacuation orders, destroyed two homes and caused significant damage to at least nine others. Street closures are still in effect. Also, residents will be required to show identification when entering neighborhoods, as fire crews are still assessing damage and mopping up from the fire, the cause of which remains under investigation.

8) Cass County, Minnesota, is seeking public input from residents and businesses for its Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan meant to help minimize damages from natural disasters. Hazard mitigation efforts include, but are not limited to, road and culvert improvements meant to help minimize flooding. Other mitigation efforts include the construction of safe rooms at campgrounds, schools, mobile home parks, and public parks for public safety during tornadoes or high wind events and the burying of power lines to protect critical infrastructure from failing during natural disaster events. Multiple opportunities will be available for public input and Cass County Emergency Management says it wants to know what the public thinks are the greatest natural hazard risks to the county, what concerns exist, and what projects or mitigation actions would provide the most protection for the most locations.