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Current U. S. Drought Monitor

NOTE: To view regional drought conditions, click on map. State maps can be accessed from regional maps.

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Averting Bridge Disasters: New Sensors Could Save Hundreds of Lives

submitted by Samuel Bendett

Homeland Security Newswire - August 1, 2011


Sensor mounted to bridge member // Source:

One of every four U.S. highway bridges has known structural problems or exceeded its intended life-span. Most only get inspected once every one or two years; University of Maryland researcher has developed a new sensor that measures indicators of a bridge's structural health, such as strain, vibration, flexibility, and development of metal cracks; the sensors are expected to last more than a decade, with each costing about $20

Millions of U.S. drivers cross faulty or obsolete bridges every day, highway statistics show, but it is too costly to fix all these spans or adequately monitor their safety, says a University of Maryland researcher who has developed a new, affordable early warning system.

This wireless technology could avert the kind of bridge collapse that killed thirteen and injured 145 along Minneapolis’ I-35W on 1 August 2007, he says — and do so at one-one-hundredth the cost of current wired systems.

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As Heat Soars, New Yorkers Warned to Stay Out of Rivers - July 22, 2011

A warning by the Hudson River near West 90th Street on Thursday. Millions of gallons of untreated waste spilled into the river - Monika Graff for The New York Times

New Yorkers have been warned to stay out of the Hudson and Harlem Rivers on one of the hottest weekends of the year after millions of gallons of untreated sewage discharged from Manhattan into the waterways because of a four-alarm fire that shut down one of the city’s largest sewage treatment plants.

The city's drinking water has not been impacted, officials said, but people have been cautioned not to swim or kayak on the waterways through at least Monday.

The New York City health department also declared large parts of the East River and the Kill Van Kull unfit for swimming through the weekend.

Local authorities did not expect any beaches in the area to be closed because of the spill.

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Software Uses Twitter To Track Dengue Outbreaks In Brazil

submitted by Mary Suzanne Kivlighan

Kaiser Family Foundation - July 19, 2011

The New Scientist reports on a software program that is being used "to identify a high correlation between the time and place where people tweet they have dengue and the official statistics for where the disease appears each season."

Researchers at two Brazilian National Institutes of Science and Technology worked together to create the software, which filters tweets containing the word "dengue" and user location details. "Dengue outbreaks occur every year in Brazil, but exactly where varies every season. It can take weeks for medical notifications to be centrally analyzed, creating a headache for health authorities planning where to concentrate resources," the publication notes. Using Twitter could speed up response time, according to Wagner Meira, a computer scientist at the Federal University of Minus Gerais who led the study (Corbyn, 7/18).

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Communicating With the Public During Emergencies: An Update on Federal Alert & Warning Efforts

submitted by Mike Kraft


Testimony of Damon Penn, Assistant Administrator, National Continuity Programs, Before the House Committee on Homeland Security, "Communicating With the Public During Emergencies: An Update on Federal Alert & Warning Efforts" - Release Date: July 8, 2011 - Washington, D.C.


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Upper Midwest Braces for Dangerous and Long Heat Wave

Reuters - July 15, 2011

(Reuters) - A heat wave hovering in the central and southern states is expanding north to states not accustomed to intense and prolonged heat.

"This is going to be especially bad in the upper Midwest," said Chris Vaccaro, a spokesman for the National Weather Service.

Temperatures will be in the 90's and possibly hit 100 degrees in some places. When humidity is factored in, the heat index could reach 115 degrees.

These soaring mercury levels are unusual for states like North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, Vaccaro said, which makes this heat wave particularly dangerous in those places. In Minneapolis alone highs could reach 15 degrees above normal.

The heat was apparently to blame for the death of a 72-year-old man in South Memphis, Tennessee.

The man died Wednesday, according to the Shelby County Health Department.

The air conditioning in his home was malfunctioning and blowing hot air. And while a fan was in use, the windows were closed, the agency reported.

Traces of Radiation Found in 2 Whales Off Japan

submitted by Luis Kun

by Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press - June 15, 2011

In this Monday, June 13, 2011 photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Co., a machine collects radioactive substances in the air for sampling at the Unit 3 of the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.) EDITORIAL USE ONLY

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese whalers caught two animals along the northern coast that had traces of radiation, presumably from leaks at a damaged nuclear power plant, officials said Wednesday.

Two of 17 minke whales caught off the Pacific coast of Hokkaido showed traces of radioactive cesium, both about one-twentieth of the legal limit, fisheries officials said.

They are the first whales thought to have been affected by radiation leaked from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant since it was hit by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

"The levels are far below the limit, and the meat from the catch is safe for consumption," Fisheries Agency official Kosei Takekoshi said.

Chicago Announces $40 Million Building Retrofit Program

Green Roof on Chicago's City Hall - July 13, 2011

After the monthly board meeting of the Public Buildings Commission of Chicago, the city's mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the launch of the Guaranteed Energy Performance Contracting program, a new energy efficiency initiative.

The program plans to retrofit as many as 100 of the city's public buildings through upgrades in lighting, mechanical retrofits, and inserting better water conservation technology. 

Cumulatively, the initiative will retrofit 6.5 million square feet of office space; as a result, the program is expected to create almost 375 direct jobs and 1,100 manufacturing and related jobs.  Once complete, the energy retrofits will save tax payers an estimated $4 million to $5.7 million annually.

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David Alberts on the Agility Imperative

Agility and the Collective

21st Century Imperatives

Dr. David S. Alberts

June 2011




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