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November 16, 2016

TEMA Update on Tennessee Drought Conditions & Wildfires, 11-16-16, 2 p.m., Central


HIGHLIGHTS

• Code Red (East TN) and Code Orange (Middle TN) air quality alerts in place today.

• Check air quality information at: https://tn.gov/environment/article/apc-tennessee-air-quality-forecasting-program

• Tennessee arson hotline is 1-800-762-3017 and is answered 24 hours a day. Report arson activity also to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Crime Unit at 1-844-AGCRIME (1-844-242-7463). Callers may remain anonymous.

• Check drought conditions for your zip code: https://www.drought.gov/drought/drought-my-backyard

• Level 3 – State of Emergency remains in place due to ongoing drought conditions and wildfire threats.


CURRENT SITUATION


The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), and the National Weather Service (NWS) are informing East and Middle Tennesseans about the impact of the wildfire smoke in on the general population, and especially on at-risk populations – those with health and lung conditions, and older and younger populations.


TDEC has a Code Red air quality alert in place today for the Chattanooga, Knoxville, Great Smoky Mountains, and Tri-Cities areas of Tennessee. Code Red means the air quality is in the unhealthy range where the general population may experience health effects and more sensitive groups to air quality may have more serious impacts.


A Code Orange alert is in place for the Nashville which means special populations – those with lung disease, older adults, and children – are at a greater risk of health impacts from the quality of the air.


The National Weather Service also issued a Special Weather Statement today for almost 30 East Tennessee counties advising residents that the smoke from the wildfires in Tennessee (and surrounding states) will remain over the area today.


NWS Special Weather Statement http://forecast.weather.gov/wwamap/wwatxtget.php?cwa=mrx&wwa=special+weather+statement


The NWS’s statement advises residents and visitors to remain indoors or limit time outside to avoid excessive exposure to the smoke, and says those with breathing conditions should remain inside, make sure their windows are closed, and air intake systems are shut down.


Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam issued a proclamation on Nov. 14 declaring a regional ban on burning in 51 counties in response to the ongoing drought and destructive wildfires throughout Middle and East Tennessee.


Residents in these areas of Tennessee where the smoky haze and smell is present do not need call 9-1-1 unless they see smoke actually rising from the ground.


The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) activated the Tennessee Emergency Management Plan and set in place a Level 3 – State of Emergency, effective at 7 p.m., Central, on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016.


The State of Emergency allows multi-jurisdictional engagement of local, state, and federal personnel and resources to be sure Tennessee is positioned to respond effectively and quickly to protect lives and property from what is emerging as a prolonged drought and wildfire threat in the state.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also granted Tennessee two fire assistance grants to reimburse the state for costs associated with fighting the Smith Mountain wildfire in Sequatchie, Hamilton and Bledsoe County, and the Flippers Bend fire in Hamilton County.


Approximately 302 of Tennessee’s 480 water systems are experiencing some level of drought impact, ranging from moderate to exceptional. At least three counties have requested water for residents whose wells have run completely dry of water.


Relief from the drought and wildfire threat is not imminent as weather forecasts are not showing any significant precipitation in Tennessee through the remainder of 2016.


WILDFIRES


There have been 9 NEW fires in the previous 24 hours in Tennessee impacting 90 acres.


Active Fires (fought in the past 24 hours)

FIRES: 67 | ACRES BURNED: 17,493

Year to Date

TOTAL NUMBER OF FIRES: 1,238 | TOTAL ACRES BURNED: 36,865


Major Fires

• Neddy Mt (Cocke) 1,007 acres, 85% containment; evacuations lifted
• White Oak Circle (Morgan) 1,888 acres/100% contained
• Flippers Bend (Hamilton) 1000 acres, 95% contained
• Poe Rd. (Hamilton) 686 acres, 60% contained
• Mowbray (Hamilton) 830 acres, 70% contained
• Hobbstown (Sequatchie) 65 acres/100%
• Sunshine (Sequatchie) 65 acres/100%
• Bench Bluff (Bledsoe) 1,400 acres, 100% contained


Air Quality

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has a Code Red Air Quality Alert in place today (11/16/16) for the following MSAs:

• Chattanooga
• Knoxville
• Great Smoky Mountains
• Tri-Cities


A Code Orange alert is in place today for the Nashville area.


Burn Bans
Gov. Haslam’s regional burn ban covers the following 51 counties: Anderson, Bledsoe, Blount, Bradley, Campbell, Cannon, Carter, Claiborne, Clay, Cocke, Coffee, Cumberland, Dekalb, Fentress, Franklin, Grainger, Greene, Grundy, Hamblen, Hamilton, Hancock, Hawkins, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Loudon, Macon, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Overton, Pickett, Polk, Putnam, Rhea, Roane, Scott, Sequatchie, Sevier, Smith, Sullivan, Trousdale, Unicoi, Union, Van Buren, Warren, Washington, and White.


More details at: http://www.tn.gov/news/46739 .


Effective immediately, residents in the counties covered by the regional ban are not permitted to conduct any open-air burning. The ban includes campfires, and burning of brush, vegetation, household waste or construction debris. The ban will remain in effect until December 15.


Additionally, Robertson and Sumner counties in Middle Tennessee are under an Agriculture Commissioner ban on burning.


The Governor’s regional burn ban applies to open-air burning near woodlands and includes a prohibition of campfires, and burning of brush, vegetation, and construction debris. Generally, the burn ban does NOT apply to cooking grills and other similar lighted devices that are well established in a confined, protected area away from woodlands.


However, as a precaution, the disposal of hot grill ashes can be a fire hazard. Grill ashes should be allowed to completely cool or wetted before disposal in all cases. The burning of household waste is never allowed under state air quality laws. More information is available at: https://tn.gov/environment/article/apc-open-burning.


DROUGHT


The area of extreme to exception drought in Tennessee is expanding. Approximately 107 water systems are experiencing extreme to exceptional drought conditions. Another 195 water systems are in the severe drought category.


Counties in the exceptional drought category include: Bradley, Hamilton, Marion, Meigs, McMinn, Monroe, Poke, Rhea, and Sequatchie.


Drought Resources

• County Ag extension agents are primary source of assistance for farmers.

• Hay availability website: http://picktnproducts.org

• The Farm Services Agency (FSA) has several of USDA’s disaster relief programs: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/disaster-assistance-program/index

• Agriculture Drought Information: https://extension.tennessee.edu/Pages/ANR-CED-Drought.aspx

• FSA has the Livestock Forage Program and Emergency Loans available to producers due to drought. In Tennessee if more information is needed about the Livestock Forage Program Ron Eldridge can be contacted at ron.eldridge@tn.usda.gov or 615-277-2620. For Emergency Loans contact James Welborn at James.welborn@tn.usda.gov or 615-277-2627.

• TDEC’s Division of Water Resources webpage for listing of water systems in varying stages of drought response: http://tn.gov/environment/topic/wr-drought-planning


RESPONSE ACTIVITIES


Since Sun., Nov. 6, the Tennessee Army National Guard (TNARG) has conducted 511 water air drop missions in support of wildfire fighting efforts in east Tennessee.


American Red Cross and TEMA are providing meals and water to Division of Forestry crews engaged in wildfire fight.


The State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Nashville is staffed and TEMA coordination is ongoing through the SEOC with state and local partners involved in the wildfire response and drought monitoring. These partners include: the Tennessee departments of Agriculture and its Division of Forestry; Commerce and Insurance and the State Fire Marshal, Correction, Environment and Conservation, Health, Human Services, Military, and Transportation, and Tennessee State Parks, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Tennessee Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters, and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.


TEMA is assisting with water deliveries last week to residents in Bledsoe and Carter counties who are experience shortages.


Tennessee State Parks has officially issued burn bans for the following state parks:

• Pickett State Park/Pogue Creek Canyon
• South Cumberland State Park
• Cumberland Mountain State Park
• Fall Creek Falls State Park
• Norris Dam State Park
• Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park


WEATHER FORECAST

• Above average temperatures and low relative humidities expected over through early Friday.

• A cold front will pass through the state Friday afternoon and night bringing increased precipitation.

• Best chances of precipitation continue to be west Tennessee that could see anywhere from 0.3 to 1.0 inches of rain. Middle Tennessee may see 0.25 inches. The eastern region of the state also has a chance of receiving some precipitation from this system.

• Smoke-induced poor air quality and reduced visibilities from wildfires will continue through at least Thursday.


KEY MESSAGES

• Stay abreast of wildfire danger levels and heed warnings and bans on outdoor burning in your area.
• Remember, from October 15 through May 15, anyone starting an open-air fire in Tennessee within 500 feet of a forest, grassland, or woodland must secure a burning permit from the Division of Forestry. The free permit can be obtained by phone or on online at www.BurnSafeTN.org. Local jurisdictions may have other ordinances and permitting systems in place for open-air burning.
• Avoid burning on windy, dry days. When conditions are windy or dry, it is easy for open burning to spread out of control.
Closely supervise all outdoor fires. Make sure the fire is completely out before leaving.
• Have an adult present at all times when a bonfire, chiminea, fire pit, or outdoor fireplace is burning.
• A grill should be placed well away from buildings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches. If using a charcoal grill, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.
• Establish wide control lines down to bare mineral soil at least five feet wide around any burn barrels and even wider around brush piles and other piled debris to be burned.
• If you burn in a burn barrel or other trash container, be sure it is equipped with a ½” mesh screen or metal grid to keep burning material contained.
• Avoid throwing lit cigarettes out of vehicles. This type of litter can quickly start grass fires that can lead to dangerous traffic situations, such as low visibility and congestion.
• Never park a vehicle over a pile of leaves. The heat from the vehicle’s catalytic converter or exhaust system could ignite the leaves below.
• Keep water and hand tools ready in case your fire should attempt to spread.
• In the unfortunate event that a fire does get out of control, call 911 immediately and wait in a safe place for the arrival of the local fire department.


About the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency: TEMA’s mission is to coordinate preparedness, response and recovery from man-made, natural and technological hazards in a professional and efficient manner in concert with our stakeholders. Follow TEMA on Facebook, TNDisasterInfo, on Twitter, @T_E_M_A, and at www.tnema.org.