Trump's Homeland Security Chief Pledges Help With North Bay Fire Recovery

(TNS) - U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen became the first Cabinet-level official in the Trump administration to tour Northern California’s wildfire devastation, saying Wednesday that the White House would fully back recovery efforts.

Nielsen’s visit to Santa Rosa didn’t come with any new financial commitments, but it marked a show of support for California as the state muscles for a share of billions of dollars in federal aid being earmarked for states and U.S. territories devastated by hurricanes and other disasters in 2017.

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?

Taking to the Air: Drones and Law Enforcement

(TNS) - Only a decade ago, the idea of using flying cameras to solve crimes seemed like something out of a made-for-TV science fiction film.

Today, however, fiction has become a reality, and police agencies across the country increasingly are turning to these miniature aerial platforms to help in their work.

Defined in legal terms as unmanned aerial systems, but more commonly known as drones, they're also helping survey storm damage, checking hard-to-reach areas on bridges and towers, showing off real estate or scouting out possible construction sites.

But it's their use by police and other law enforcement agencies where drones have received the most public attention.


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