Offering asides, recommended links, blogworthy quotations, and more, In Brief is the Northwest Progressive Institute's microblog of world, national, and local politics.

Tag Archives: Disaster Recovery

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Above: Tsunami wave simulation for Washington State from a hypothetical magnitude 9.0 earthquake (L1) scenario on the Cascadia subduction zone. Developed by Washington Geological Survey hazard geologists.

Increasing funding for geologic hazards research is a top NPI legislative priority.

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America has a flooding problem it can’t manage. Vermont’s experience shows a possible way forward.

Nearly ten years ago, Ryan Blitstein wrote an excellent article for Miller-McCune (now The Pacific Standard) looking at America’s problem with flooding. For decades, government at every level has tried to keep floodwaters at bay with levees, but the result has been even worse floods. However, as Blitstein explains, Vermont has come up with some unconventional ideas that have the potential to work a lot better, including designating areas near rivers as floodways where construction is restricted and purchasing river channel management rights from farmers.

Schematic of Amtrak Cascades 501 derailment

“Schematic site overview [of the Cascades derailment site]. Note that one car lies, inverted, under the bridge. The train’s rear vehicle, the locomotive, is top-right. The lead locomotive is in the southbound lanes of Interstate 5.”

Graphic by By MrAurum, reproduced under a Creative Commons license


There will be no food in Puerto Rico… There is no more agriculture in Puerto Rico. And there won’t be any for a year or longer.

— José A. Rivera, a farmer on the southeast coast of Puerto Rico (The New York Times: Puerto Rico’s farms wiped out by Hurricane Maria)

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Via PTZtv: Live footage of Hurricane Irma destroying the camera located at AAA Rent-A-Car in St Maarten. We will rebuild!


Irritated by his own party, Trump makes deal with Democrats to keep government open

This is arguably the first real “deal” Donald Trump has made as President. It comes more than seven months after his regime came into power.

Donald Trump struck a deal with Democratic congressional leaders on Wednesday to increase the debt limit and finance the government until mid-December, undercutting his own Republican allies as he reached across the aisle to resolve a major dispute for the first time since taking office.

The agreement would avert a fiscal showdown later this month without the bloody, partisan battle that many had anticipated by combining a debt ceiling increase and stopgap spending measure with relief aid to Texas and other areas devastated by Hurricane Harvey. But without addressing the fundamental underlying issues, it set up the prospect for an even bigger clash at the end of the year.

Since assuming power, Trump has continuously assailed congressional Democrats as villainous and obstructionist. But his bloviating hasn’t gotten him any victories, partly because of deep fissures in the House and Senate Republican caucus.

Having spent more than half a year fruitlessly demanding that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell ram through destructive legislation, only to watch them squander time with important fiscal deadlines looming, Trump and his inner circle have apparently decided to try something new: doing a deal with the opposition.

During a Four Corners meeting, Trump surprised Ryan and McConnell by backing the Democratic proposal for keeping the federal government open.

Congressional aides said privately that Republicans went into the meeting at the White House proposing an eighteen-month deal on government spending and the debt limit, only to run into resistance from the Democrats.

They then proposed a six-month deal as a compromise, but Democrats insisted on a three-month agreement. Mr. Trump then surprised the Republicans by agreeing to the Democratic formulation.

News of the deal is not likely to be received favorably in right wing circles.

But with wildfires burning in the West, the Texas and Louisiana coast grappling with extremely severe floods, and the biggest hurricane in recorded history headed for Florida, the griping among congressional Republicans could be minimal.

Republicans in Congress would be tying anvils around their collective ankles if they shut down the federal government this autumn on any pretext whatsoever. This deal ensures there won’t be a big showdown over fiscal matters until the holidays. Punting is what Congress usually does to postpone or defer a manufactured fiscal crisis, and so this formulation is par for the course.

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Astonishing overnight time lapse video shows the devastating Eagle Creek fire wreaking havoc on the scenic Columbia River Gorge

Plus, here’s a summary of today’s fire developments with pictures.


Everything that we had hoped wouldn’t happen but was forecasted is happening. We have a catastrophic, life-threatening flood event taking place over southeastern Texas, including the Houston metropolitan area. It’s bad now and it’s getting worse.

Harvey brings catastrophic floods to Houston; at least five reported dead (The New York Times)


5.0 magnitude quake rumbles Oklahoma oil town of Cushing, nearby region

A strong earthquake has caused serious damage in the central Oklahoma oil town of Cushing, which is home to the United States’ largest commercial oil storage hub.

The Oklahoman has an extensive report on the quake which fails to mention that there is research linking quakes in the state to fracking.

The BBC, however, circled back to its earlier reporting on the subject when it carried the news of the Cushing tremblor:

There have been 19 earthquakes in Oklahoma in the past week, according to data provided by the US Geological Survey.

In September, a magnitude 5.6 quake in the state fuelled concerns that seismic activity in the area was connected to energy production.

In 2013, scientists linked the underground injection of oil drilling wastewater to a magnitude-5.7 earthquake that struck Oklahoma in 2011.

An immediate moratorium on fracking ought to be imposed in Oklahoma — and everywhere else — for safety and environmental reasons.

Sadly, in many areas, the right wing controls the government and has no interest in putting people or the planet ahead of oil industry profits.

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Pacific Northwest could see monster windstorm this Saturday, after warmup windstorm tomorrow

A series of storms are headed towards the Pacific Northwest — and one could be a devastating event that will be “long remembered”, the National Weather Service warns.

Hurricane Matthew batters Florida

Hurricane Matthew is seen on the National Weather Service’s composite radar mosaic. (Image: NWS)

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Horrific Fort McMurray fire spreads to 85,000 hectares; thousands stranded to be airlifted

“Authorities prepared to airlift thousands of people stranded in camps north of Fort McMurray as officials warned that the fire engulfing the region will continue to grow amid strong winds,” The Globe and Mail reported Thursday.

Fleeing Fort McMurray

This striking image depicts the evacuation of Fort McMurray, Alberta, a community of more than 80,000 people. The entire municipality was ordered to empty as one of the worst fires in Canadian history threatened to consume the city and its environs. Fleeing residents passed very close to the fire on their way out of danger on Highway 63.

(Photo: Soggydan Benenovitch, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

A Car2Go vehicle lies ruined underneath the remains of a fallen tree (Photo: Soggydan Benenovitch, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

Cadillac Hotel earthquake damage, 2001

On February 28th, 2001, Washington State and the Puget Sound region were rocked by one of the biggest earthquakes in the recorded history of the Pacific Northwest: the Nisqually earthquake, which struck at 10:54:32 Pacific Time. The intraslab quake had a moment magnitude of 6.8 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of VIII (Severe). This photo shows the damage the quake caused to the Cadillac Hotel in downtown Seattle. (Item 113523, Fleets and Facilities Department Imagebank Collection/Record Series 0207-01, Seattle Municipal Archives.)

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The Flooding of America

The New Republic offers a chronology of major floods in America going back to the publication’s founding, complete with stories from its archives chronicling the wake of each.

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The New Yorker takes notice of earthquake science that suggests the Pacific Northwest could be in grave danger

The words Cascadia Subduction Zone may be meaningless to most Americans, but Northwesterners familiar with the most recent earthquake science know that it portends bad news for our region. The New Yorker’s Kathryn Schultz explains that we’re due for a major earthquake that could unleash devastation on our coast and wipe out much of our urban infrastructure.


First U.S. helicopters arrive in Kathmandu to help with Nepal quake relief and recovery

A few days ago, after seeing a BBC story that explained Nepal’s desperate need for helicopters, we posted a short editorial here urging the Obama administration to start sending aircraft and aircrew to the disaster-stricken nation, which is recovering from a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake and aftershocks.

And thankfully, that’s just what the administration is doing.

The Air Force and Marines are working in tandem to bring U.S. air support to Nepal. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transports were able to get into Kathmandu’s congested and quake-damaged airport after a delay, allowing Marines to start unloading UH-1 Iroquois helicopters. (The UH-1, more popularly known as the Huey, is a battle-tested chopper that saw extensive service in Vietnam.)

Their logistical prowess was witnessed by a group of Chinese troops, who took pictures and appeared to be impressed. The Huey, which is a light helicopter, can get in and out of places other choppers can’t, so it is a good choice for this mission.

Not long after, a squadron of V-22 Ospreys showed up. The Osprey is an impressive tiltrotor aircraft with versatile capabilities, including the ability to take off and land vertically. Ospreys are operated both by the Air Force and by the Marine Corps.

Nepal is pretty mountainous country, which makes operating helicopters there challenging, but adapting to unusual and difficult conditions is what our soldiers, sailors, and aircrew train for, after all.

Hopefully, these aircraft will be followed by more. Nepal’s need is great, and the country’s disaster recovery efforts could certainly benefit from our airpower.


Nepal has a serious shortage of helicopters – so why don’t we send some of ours?

According to the BBC, one of the biggest issues hampering Nepal in its efforts to recover from last week’s massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake is a shortage of helicopters. The impoverished, landlocked country doesn’t have many choppers of its own, and with many roads out of services and rural villages completely destroyed, the country has an acute need for more air power.

China is supposedly going to send help, but why isn’t the United States stepping in? We have more helicopters than the rest of the world put together.

Every branch of our military operates helicopters: the Army, the Navy, the Marines, the Coast Guard, and the Air Force.

We even have the ability to transport significant numbers of rotary-wing aircraft in our fixed-wing aircraft. That’s how advanced our military logistics are.

We should put our air power to work helping Nepal in their time of need.

When the Philippines were hit by a typhoon last year, U.S. military helicopters made a huge difference, airlifting supplies into hard-to-reach areas.

Nepal may be harder for us to get equipment to than the Philippines, but that’s no excuse. India is unlikely to have a problem allowing its airspace to be used for access to Nepal, and we have forces already deployed in the Asia-Pacific region that could be put to work with disaster relief and recovery.

How about it, President Obama?

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American-Nepalese team pulls teenager out of the rubble five days after massive quake

To say that Nepal has had a rough week would be the understatement of the year. But even amid all of the death, destruction, and chaos that has afflicted the country, there are stories of survival – none more dramatic than that of fifteen-year old hotel worker Pemba Tamang, who was rescued from the rubble by a joint American-Nepalese team five days after the quake.

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In plain sight: How the Marathassa oil spill took hours to find

A fuel spill in Vancouver’s picturesque English Bay has raised serious questions about the federal government’s ability to respond to a marine oil spill. The Globe and Mail’s Justine Hunter pieces together what happened.