Mapping the Post-Wildfire Landslide Risk in California’s Burn Zones

California’s rainy season last year may have replenished reservoirs in most parts of the state after a long, crippling drought, but the precipitation largely bypassed an area northwest of Los Angeles, in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Santa Barbara is now in its seventh year of drought and there are worries that similar conditions will return elsewhere in the Golden State.

Under these difficult circumstances, incoming rain—like the heavy precipitation that’s expected this week in parts of Southern California—would be welcomed as good news. But that’s not necessarily the case in the areas impacted by recent wildfires, including Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, where upwards of 4 inches of rains is predicted through Tuesday evening in some spots.

FEMA OKs Disaster Declaration for California

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has made federal disaster assistance available to California to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by wildfires from Dec. 4, 2017 and continuing.

Federal funding is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work due to wildfires in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, according to FEMA.

Disasters Affected 8% of U.S. Population in 2017, FEMA Notes in Review of Historic Year

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) supported 59 major disaster declarations and 16 emergency declarations in 2017, a year during which unprecedented disasters affected more than 25 million Americans, almost eight percent of the U.S. population.

In its year-end review, FEMA notes it was a record busy year for FEMA employees and for state and local emergency responders across the country, as well for the federal flood insurance program, which FEMA manages. Thousands of emergency workers remain engaged in recovery efforts including in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Impacts, Lessons from Oroville Spillway Crisis

(TNS) — The Lake Oroville spillway crisis and evacuation last February might have only lasted a few days for Yuba-Sutter residents, but the ordeal left many with unanswered questions and a newfound fear of the unknowns of living downstream from an aging water storage facility and system.

Questions about who is to blame for the spillway's failure, how it happened and what can be done to prevent it from happening again continue to resonate with local residents close to a year after the event occurred.

The Appeal-Democrat reached out to community members and officials about the incident to gauge how they were impacted by the event, what the most significant takeaway was for them and what they would like to see changed moving forward.

2017 ‘One of Worst’ for U.S. Weather with 15 Events Costing $1 Billion or More

In the year that President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris accord and downplayed global warming as a security threat, the U.S. received a harsh reminder of the perils of the rise in the planet’s temperature: a destructive rash of hurricanes, fires and floods.

The country recorded 15 weather events costing $1 billion or more each through early October, one short of the record 16 in 2011, according to the federal government’s National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, North Carolina. And the tally doesn’t include the recent wildfires in southern California.

In many cases, weather broke records. In others, it was just downright odd, like the February warm spell that sent temperatures to a record 72 Fahrenheit (22 Celsius) in Burlington, Vermont, and spawned a tornado in Massachusetts.

Did Lack of Training, Familiarization with New Route Cause Train Derailment?

The initial facts of Monday’s train derailment Monday in Washington state are that three people died when the Amtrak train failed to slow to the 30-mph speed reduction and left the track at 80 mph.

But questions abound: Why didn’t the engineer slow the train to the required 30 mph? Did he lose situational awareness? If so, why? Was it a lack of training? And why is it taking so long to deploy positive train control (PTC), which could have prevented this and many other accidents?

“My initial reaction was that it’s completely tragic and never should have happened,” said John Risch, national legislative director of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Transportation Division. “Did the guy know the curve was coming up?

How California and Western States Should Shift Their Fire Prevention Strategy

(TNS) - When the phone rang at 4:50 a.m. Thursday, I woke up on high alert. No one calls that early with good news.

When I saw the caller ID said “CSUN Emergency,” my heart started racing. My youngest son, Cameron, attends California State University-Northridge. High alert shifted to dread.

It turned out the call was just to inform us that CSUN was canceling classes that day due to poor air quality and transportation issues stemming from the massive Southern California wildfires. What a relief. But there was no chance I would go back to sleep without finding out how close the fires were to CSUN’s dorms and what the strategy was for putting the fires out.

Oroville Dam Repairs Concern Calif. Residents

Construction of a new spillway at the Oroville Dam in northern California—the largest dam in the U.S.—is underway and is expected to be completed sometime in 2018, according to the California Department of Water Resources. The dam replaces the previous spillway, which was damaged by heavy flooding in February.

Problems at the Oroville Dam began, when the dam’s main sluice was damaged after a winter season of record rain and snowfall, following five years of drought. Torrential rainfall caused water levels to rise so quickly that large amounts needed to be released to prevent the dam from rupturing and sending a wall of water to the communities below.

Researchers say federal flood risk data ‘severely underestimates’ real risk

Research conducted by a team of U.S-U.K. scientists and engineers shows federal flood maps underestimate at-risk Americans by more than 27 million people.

The group is called Fathom, and they presented their research at the 2017 American Geophysical Union Meeting on Dec. 11 — research they say fills in “vast amounts of missing information” in current federal flood risk assessments.


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