The House and Senate has passed and the President has signed legislation ensuring that furloughed federal workers or those working without pay during the partial government shutdown will receive pay.
The White House announced Wednesday that the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019 “requires the compensation of government employees for wages lost, work performed, or leave used during a lapse in appropriations that begins on or after December 22, 2018, and entitles excepted employees to use leave during a lapse in appropriations.”
Employees, who began last week or this week receiving pay stubs showing zero dollars paid, will still not be reimbursed until the shutdown is over. This provides some light at the end of the tunnel, but until then many who live paycheck to paycheck will still have serious financial difficulties in the meantime.
Until today I have never heard of a bicycle igniting a vegetation fire. You would think that a road bike being used on a highway would be one of the modes of transportation least likely to start a wildfire.
It turns out, if that bike is modified with an after market wheel hub using a battery-powered electric motor all bets are off.
On Monday 79-year old Gary Ryan was riding his Pinarello Dogma F8 retrofitted with an electric hub motor when the device caught fire on Corkscrew Road in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia (map). (The device may have been similar to this one.) After receiving a slight burn on his leg he got off the bike and watched as flames reported to be 10-feet high shot out of the battery. The fire partially melted the bike’s frame and spread into the vegetation along the highway. Mr. Ryan and other riders backed away as CO² cartridges exploded that he carried on the bike for inflating tires.
Firefighters that happened to be working on a fire nearby responded quickly and knocked the blaze down after it spread for about 100-feet.
Residents and emergency crews in Australia have been on edge for the last four days as they deal with record heat approaching 50C (122F) in some areas.
Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Hyundai displayed a scale model of a concept for an outlandish vehicle that they think could be useful for emergency responders and search and rescue organizations.
It truly looks like something out of a science fiction movie. And for now, anyway, it is just an idea since it hasn’t been manufactured.
Their “Elevate” vehicle has four rubber tires and can travel down a road much like a regular car. Each wheel is driven by individual electric motors and is attached at the end of a “leg” that has three or four joints, or knees. The legs are folded unless the driver needs to navigate over rough, rocky terrain, or has to step over a five-foot wall, in which case the legs extend and can begin walking.
There have been a number of wildfires that come to mind (in the U.S., Australia, Greece, and Portugal) in which residents fleeing by car became trapped on roads blocked by a fallen tree or traffic jams. Rescuers in an “elevated” vehicle might be able to quickly access the area, stepping over the trees or going off-road to bypass the obstacle. It could also be used as an all-terrain ambulance that could transport wildland firefighters out of terrain that is moderately steep and rocky.
Hyundai admits that the Elevate is a pretty wild concept and has no plans to manufacture the vehicle, but is using the project to explore ideas and technologies that could be useful down the road.
In the video below a representative from Hyundai describes some of the features of the Elevate.
A Mississippi State University civil engineering faculty member who researches resilience against extreme events and natural hazards is responding to lessons learned from California’s deadly Camp Fire by outlining how to utilize the power of data to improve disaster response and minimize economic loss and human harm in similar events.
In a letter published January 10, 2019 in Science Magazine, Farshid Vahedifard writes that in the aftermath of the Camp Fire in Northern California, it is critical to examine how decision makers and first-responders can “prevent an extreme hazard like the Camp Fire from turning into a massive human disaster.”
Vahedifard is an MSU Bagley College of Engineering associate professor who also holds the Civil and Environmental Advisory Board Endowed Professorship. He penned the Science letter with MSU colleague Alireza Ermagun, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering; Kimia Mortezaei, an MSU engineering postdoctoral associate with the university’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems; and Amir AghaKouchak, a University of California-Irvine associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.
With reports pointing to shortcomings in disseminating critical information to warn residents before and during the November fire that killed 85 people, scorched more than 153,336 acres and destroyed more than 18,800 structures, the authors point out that a “lack of an integrated framework for circulating information among decision-makers and passing it to residents exacerbated the devastating impact of the wildfire.”
They assert that investment in an integrated system for identifying, harnessing, synthesizing, and communicating pertinent data would “enable decision-makers and communities to better anticipate, prepare for, respond to and recover from extreme events such as the Camp Fire.”
They continue, “We must identify relevant stakeholders, examine the required data, collect public and relevant private data efficiently, and develop platforms for processing datasets such as weather data, cell phone GPS data as proxy for people, social media feeds, and traffic cameras and sensors. We then need strategies to convert data sets into usable information by using artificial intelligence technologies for decision-support systems. To communicate the resulting information effectively, we need a reliable data infrastructure for real-time analysis that could alert residents by email, phone messages, text warning, television, radio, and ‘reverse 911.’”
The company may have $30 billion in potential liability costs related to their role in starting wildfires
Pacific Gas and Electric has announced that it will file for Chapter 11 protection before the end of the month as it faces $30 billion in potential liability costs related to their role in starting wildfires. The company already carries a heavy debt load of more than $18 billion.
A dozen of the fires that started in Northern California around October 8, 2017 have been blamed on PG&E’s electrical equipment, according to CAL FIRE investigators, who also are looking into power line equipment failures that may have caused the Camp Fire on November 8, 2018. Over 40 people died in the Northern California fires, and 86 perished in the Camp Fire which also destroyed more than 14,000 homes.
The bankruptcy process would put a halt to more than 750 civil suits brought by thousands of homeowners and insurance companies over the wildfires allegedly caused by PG&E’s equipment, some of it 100 years old. The suits would then be resolved in a bankruptcy proceeding.
PG&E supplies power and natural gas to approximately 5.2 million households in the northern three-fourths of California. The company also declared bankruptcy in 2001 which lasted until 2004.
State law requires the corporation to notify employees at least 15 days before any bankruptcy filing. Chief Executive Geisha Williams has stepped down after serving for less than two years, the company said on Sunday.
In a brief submitted to a federal court in December, the California Attorney General said PG&E could be prosecuted for murder, manslaughter, or lesser criminal charges if investigators determine that “reckless operation” of its power equipment caused any of the wildfires in which people were killed during the previous 15 months.
Three to four thousand residents in areas below the footprints of three recent fires in Southern California’s Santa Barbara County have been ordered to evacuate as a winter storm approaches which could lead to debris flows below the Sherpa, Whittier, and Thomas fires burn areas. The evacuation order is in effect beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday January 15.
Santa Barbara County has more information about the evacuation, including a map. A Red Cross shelter will be open at 10 a.m. at Goleta Valley Community Center, 5679 Hollister Ave., Goleta. Two schools are closed and three are holding classes at alternative sites.
The National Weather Service is predicting 1.5 to 3 inches of rain in the Santa Barbara area with up to 4.5 inches locally on south-facing slopes. Peak hourly rainfall rates could reach 0.75 to 1.25 inches. The heavy rain should taper off Tuesday night, followed by showers on Wednesday which will increase to heavy rain again Wednesday night.