Emergency and disaster management briefing for August 14, 2020: Tropical Storm Josephine is expected to stay north of land masses as it moves to the north-northeast; Arizona wildfires in 2020 have now scorched more than 700,000 acres; the FDA announced it found another dangerous toxin in several hand sanitizers; the NWS has issued Excessive Heat Watches and Warnings for most of California, prompting a Flex Alert; Firehawks are being used to help fight the swift moving Ranch Fire in Azusa; the new Raman spectroscopy system could speed up the decommissioning of nuclear power plants; multiple road closures remain in place in Colorado as firefighters battle the Grizzly Fire; and residents of Hood River County were without power due to the Mosier Creek Fire burning in the Columbia River Gorge.

  1. Tropical Storm Josephine formed in the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday, however, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), the storm remains somewhat disorganized and ragged looking. The [link url=”” title=”opportunity for strengthening is quickly diminishing”] as the fast forward speed of the system will move it into an environment that contains increasing vertical shear. The system is forecast to stay north of land masses as it tracks to the north, then northeast, and it is forecast to weaken back into a [link url=”” title=”tropical depression early Tuesday morning”].
  2. Wildfires in Arizona have now scorched more than 700,000 acres across the state–more than in 2018 and 2019 combined. According to the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, [link url=”” title=”of the 1,669 fires, nearly 90 percent of them have been human-caused”]. Higher moisture levels over the past two years has also increased the amount of foliage growth, and intense heat has dried out that foliage, increasing the fire risk.
  3. The Food and Drug Administration announced it found [link url=”” title=”a new toxin in several brands of hand sanitizers”]. The toxin, 1-propanol, can depress the central nervous system, making it especially dangerous for children who may ingest the products. The [link url=”” title=”products have now been added to the FDAs list of do-not-use hand sanitizers”], which includes the more than 100 hand sanitizers that contain the dangerous toxin methanol.
  4. [link url=”” title=”Excessive heat watches and warnings have been issued for a large swath of California beginning Friday and continuing through Wednesday”]. Prolonged periods of high daytime temperatures, along with warmer nighttime temperatures, and an increased demand for electricity, primarily due to cooling, has [link url=”” title=”prompted the issuance of a Flex Alert for the entire state”]. The Flex Alert asks residents to [link url=”″ title=”voluntarily conserve electricity between the hours of 3:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., and to set thermostats to 78 degrees or higher”], in an effort to reduce demand on the electrical grid to prevent power outages.
  5. A brush fire erupted in Azusa, California on Thursday, and [link url=”″ title=”forced the evacuation of residents in the community of Mountain Cove”]. Named the Ranch Fire, the blaze quickly scorched almost 3,000 acres, and was burning uphill in steep, rugged terrain that was difficult to access. Several helicopters, including [link url=”” title=”Firehawks”], and air tankers were assigned to assist ground crews, as firefighters worked to protect homes and structures [link url=”” title=”amid 90 degree temperatures and 10 mph winds”].
  6. The [link url=”” title=”new Raman spectroscopy system can now be used to remotely detect the presence of hazardous materials and other highly dangerous chemicals in high radiation facilities, i.e., nuclear power plants undergoing decommissioning”]. The system now works with the use of a probe that is mounted onto a robot arm or a remotely operated vehicle, firing a laser at the target to measure the resulting molecular vibrations-identifying the compound. The probes position enables it to be placed within 6.5 feet of the target, which then sends a signal–via an optic cable–to the main Raman system positioned at a safe distance away. The new system is likely to decrease the time needed to decommission aging nuclear plants.
  7. The [link url=”” title=”Grizzly Fire continues to criss-cross the Colorado River and has forced new evacuations to the east of Glenwood Canyon”]. According to Incident Command, fire behavior is extreme, with Red Flag Warnings in effect for much of the area due to high winds and low humidity levels. Overnight Thursday to Friday, the wildfire nearly doubled in size, and I-70 remains closed between Glenwood Springs and Gypsum, along with the Cottonwood Pass, and the narrow Independence Pass due to semi-trucks illegally accessing the roadway and becoming stuck. Fire and transportation officials urge vehicle traffic to [link url=”” title=”take alternate routes to the south of the area, via connecting highways to U.S. 50 or north to U.S. 40″].
  8. A fire that broke out in the Columbia River Gorge, quickly spread and [link url=”” title=”prompted multiple evacuations in the area”], including about 564 homes. The [link url=”” title=”Mosier Creek Fire”] rapidly consumed 971 acres, and ground crews are being assisted by helicopters and air tankers. The wind-driven blaze has destroyed at least four structures, including one home along Mosier Creek, and [link url=”” title=”power is out for most of Hood River County due to the wildfire”].