State / Local

  • Disaster sheltersFew Oklahoma schools have safe room or shelters for weather emergencies

    Almost two years after a tornado destroyed Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma, fewer than half of the state’s 1,773 schools have a safe room, shelter, or basement where students and school staff can take cover in a weather emergency.More than 681,000 students currently attend Oklahoma schools; as many as 500,000 teachers and students are without shelter or a safe room at schools.“I’m afraid more schools are going to be hit and more students are going to be at risk. I’m deeply troubled that two years later we don’t have a plan,” says one expert.

  • WaterSan Diego to build largest ocean desalination plant in Western Hemisphere

    San Diego County, California will soon become home to a $1 billion desalination plant which would supply drinking water to residents currently having to cut their water consumption by as much as 25 percent in response to the state’s current drought. Small ocean desalination plants already operate throughout the state, but the facility being built in San Diego will be the largest ocean desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere, producing roughly fifty million gallons of drinking water a day.

  • EpidemicsEpidemiologist warns Maine is unprepared to deal with disease outbreaks

    Last year, when Kaci Hickox, a nurse who returned to her home state of Maine from West Africa, she was quarantined despite showing no signs of the disease. The way she was treated led the CDC to warn that in the absence of detailed preparations, public hysteria and paranoia often accompany, and complicate response to, an outbreak. Since then, Maine officials have been debating whether or not state agencies are prepared to tackle an outbreak.

     

  • WaterAs the drought worsens, California’s conservation measures fall short

    As the drought worsens, California is doing a poor job of conserving water. Water use has declined by only 2.8 percent in February compared with the same time in 2013. Some Southern Californians are actually increasing their water use. “These are sobering statistics — disheartening statistics, considering how hard we have been working on this,” said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of California’s water control board, which reported the findings. “We are very concern about these numbers. They highlight the need for further action.”

  • WaterCalif. business leaders: State’s worsening water situation threatens economic havoc

    California’s drought outlook is alarming to the point that Governor Jerry Brown recently announced the first-ever mandatory restrictions on water usage, aimed at reducing the state’s urban water use by 25 percent. For much of its history, California has measured up to its challenges while maintaining a healthy economy. Business leaders in the state say that the time has come for California once again to take bold actions to ensure a sustainable future. “We have a choice between protecting our economy by protecting our environment — or allowing environmental havoc to create economic havoc,” said former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who now co-chairs the Risky Business Project.Driscoll’s CEO Miles Reiter agrees: “The state of California has to deal with groundwater, or we’re going to ruin this state,” he said.

  • Coastal infrastructureN.C. scientific panel completes sea-level rise forecast draft

    In January, the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission advisory science panel completed its draft copy of sea-level rise forecasts for five regions along the North Carolina coast over the next thirty years. That draft copy has now been released for a public comment period that will last through 31 December, before being finalized in early 2016 and delivered to the state’s General Assembly by 1 March 2016.According to the 43-page draft report, by 2045, the seas will rise between 6.5 and 12.1 inches at Duck, between 4.8 and 11.6 inches at the Oregon Inlet Marina, between 4.9 and 9.3 inches at Beaufort, between 4.1 and 8.5 inches at Wilmington, and between 4.0 and 8.5 inches at Southport.

  • Coastal infrastructure$500 million, 5-year plan to help Miami Beach withstand sea-level rise

    Miami Beach is investing up to $500 million in a new five-year plan to fortify its coastline against flooding caused by sea-level rise. Between seventy to eighty pumps that will be installed to drain the streets of water as it comes in. Additionally, the city is planning to raise roadways and sidewalks by 1.5 to 2 feet along the western side, which faces the Biscayne Bay. Florida is already seen as one of the most vulnerable states to climate change. Over the past 100 years, sea levels along the coast have risen 8 to 9 inches and are expected to rise by between three and seven inches within the next fifteen years, according to federal government projections.

  • WaterCalifornia imposes first mandatory water restrictions in state history

    Standing on a patch of brown grass in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which is usually covered with several feet of snow at this time of the year, California governor Jerry Brown announced the first mandatory water restrictions in state history. “Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow,” Brown said yesterday. “It’s a different world… we have to act differently.”About 30 percent of California’s water supply comes from the Sierra Nevada snowpack, so less snow means less snowmelt, which means less water.

  • Infrastructure protectionStates seek to protect grid from solar flare damage

    Citing warnings from scientists about the threat of major solar storms — or EMPs, intense bursts of radiation from the sun — and their potential to disrupt the nation’s electrical grid, many state lawmakers are introducing legislation that seeks to protect their region’s infrastructure. Congress has commissioned reports and held hearings about the dangers of solar storm events, but little action has been taken, prompting many state legislators to take matters in their own hands.

  • HazmatLiving near railroad tracks? Prepare for crude-oil-train accidents, spills

    The Minnesota Department of Transportation(MnDOT) reports that 326,170 Minnesotans live within a half mile of railroad tracks used by trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region. An area covering a half mile on each side of the tracks, public safety officials say, is the area from which residents are likely to be evacuated in the event of an oil train incident or explosion. The department urges all residents living near an oil train track to be prepared for a train accident.

  • Coastal infrastructureRising seas bring heavy burden to Florida coastal economy. Can it adapt?

    By Karl Havens

    Florida is a coastal state. Nearly 80 percent of its twenty million residents live near the coast on land just a few feet above sea level, and over a hundred million tourists visit the beaches and stay in beach-front hotels every year. The coastal economy in Florida is estimated to account for 79 percent of the state’s gross domestic product, a measure of direct revenue into the economy. It now is widely accepted that climate change is causing an unprecedented rise in sea levels around the world, and that locations such as Florida, where huge infrastructure and large populations live right on the coast, are especially vulnerable. An important reality is that sea-level rise is not a future phenomenon. It has been happening slowly over the past decades, at about one inch every ten years. That’s a half foot since the 1960s and already it is taking a toll.

  • Border securityTexas lawmakers propose bills to bolster border security

    On Monday, more than thirty Texas State House members joined local officials of border towns at the state Capitol to present their solutions to enhancing safety along the Texas border with Mexico. Three bills now being debated would add state police to the border, create a “DPS Officer Reserve Corps” using retired state troopers to assist police work like background investigations, toughen penalties for smugglers, build southbound checkpoints, and create a border protection unit.

  • Real IDIllinois scrambles to meet Real ID deadline

    State officials in Illinois are working to make driver’s licenses and identification cards comply with the Real ID Act of 2005before commercial air travel restrictions are implemented in 2016. Illinois identification cards do not meet minimum standards mandated by Congress in 2005. The Real ID Act requires states to verify personal information of applicants including birth certificates. The information is then electronically scanned and stored in a federal database, and data can be shared among states and the federal government.

  • Seismic early warningEarthquake early-warning system to be deployed in Washington, Oregon

    California has been testing ShakeAlert, an earthquake early-warning system. Emergency officials and first responders in Washington and Oregon have been working with their counterparts in California to design a similar system specifically for the Pacific Northwest. The project, estimated to cost roughly $16 million a year, has received $6 million from a private foundation, $5 million from Congress for the coming year, and the White House’s new budget calls for another $5 million.

  • Public healthMeasles outbreak sparks bid to strengthen California vaccine law

    By Jenny Gold

    State lawmakers in California introduced legislation Wednesday that would require children to be fully vaccinated before going to school, a response to a measles outbreak that started in Southern California and has reached 107 cases in fourteen states. California is one of nineteen states that allow parents to enroll their children in school unvaccinated through a “personal belief exemption” to public health laws. The outbreak of measles that began in December in Anaheim’s Disneyland amusement park has spread more quickly in communities where many parents claim the exemption.