Weather, Weather and more Weather...
As 2011 comes to a close, we reflect on the significant weather related events that continue to shape and refine our emergency response procedures and practices. Our reflection begins with spring 2011 that may well go down in the weather history books as the most extreme weather related events on record. From the massive April tornado swarm, to record Mississippi river levels, to extreme drought and wildfires in the Southwest, weather extremes were both violent and relentless, taking a terrible toll on human life and the economy.
We saw 314 deaths from the tornado outbreak on April 27 which is the fourth most on record in a single day. Tornados continued causing death and destruction through the spring to culminate with the Joplin, MO tornado on May 22. This tornado took 151 lives making it the seventh deadliest single tornado on record. Spring also brought immense precipitation to the United States creating record-setting crests along the Mississippi River to include Caruthersville, MO, Birds Point, MO, Vicksburg, MS, Natchez, MS, Red River Landing, LA as well as historic levels in many other locations including Memphis.
Extensive flooding was experienced by many Americans when 6.8 million acres flooded in Lower Mississippi River Valley. In this area, 3.5 million acres of farmland was flooded to include one million acres of farmland flooded in Arkansas and 900,000 acres of farmland flooded in Mississippi which was 10 percent of the farmland in this state.
Conversely, Texas experienced their driest March, April and May on record. Records continued to be set by the most wildfire activity on record in April with almost 1.8 million acres burned. The extreme drought caused Texas ranchers to lose $1.2 billion because pastures did not green and livestock losses are expected to exceed $1 billion due to lack of water and feed for cattle.
The tumultuous weather continued in August when Hurricane Irene struck the eastern seaboard. It made landfall over Eastern North Carolina's Outer Banks on the morning of August 27 as a Category 1 hurricane and Irene continued to move north striking the Coney Island area of Brooklyn, NY on August 28 as she was downgraded to a tropical storm. Considerable damage occurred in eastern upstate New York and Vermont, which suffered from the worst flooding in centuries. Irene caused widespread destruction and at least the death of 56 individuals. Damage estimates from Irene throughout the United States range from $10 to $15 billion.
Weather induced disasters allow emergency responders to utilize the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and hone their skills to provide the best response possible for the citizens of their communities. “Based upon emergency management and incident response practices, NIMS represents a core set of doctrine, concepts, principles, terminology, and organizational processes that enables effective, efficient, and collaborative incident management. The institutionalization of these elements nationwide through training helps to mitigate risk by achieving greater preparedness” according to the Department of Homeland Security. Many of the communities affected by these weather events were ready to respond to the disasters using NIMS while others attempted but missed the mark providing a disservice to their communities.The Blue Cell, LLC continues its mission to provide the tools, ideas, training and real world application of the Incident Command System Planning concepts to ensure emergency responders do not miss the mark in future weather related disasters. The Blue Cell is thankful for our success in 2011 and we look forward to providing professional and progressive training, consulting and deployment services in 2012.
Consulting Services Group Lead
The Blue Cell, LLC
Fort Worth, Texas Office