It’s Spring!

This week is spring break for me. And spring weather came just in time!

Here in the middle of the country, we’re enjoying sixty degree weather, and drying out after all our snow melted and a couple of days of steady, soaking, puddle-making rain. I went for a long walk around Cape Girardeau yesterday and noticed that lawns are soaked, park areas are muddy, and our creeks and rivers are leaving their banks. Indeed, according to a post on the US Army Corps of Engineers Memphis District Facebook page, the Mississippi should crest later this week (on the 19th at Cairo at 47 feet, and on the 20th at New Madrid at 35 feet).

Warm and dry sounds good to me.

There’s a few things happening out there in the world worth noting:

Cycle Pam Hits Vanuatu

Those of you watching the news the last several days know that a major cyclone has hit the island nation Vanuatu in the South Pacific. The BBC has some coverage of the damage here. Cyclone Pam was a Category 5 storm, and the worst tropical cyclone in the South Pacific since 2002. The Economist explains some of the characteristics of Pam that made it “out of the ordinary”. Relief efforts have begun, with various organizations beginning work in the area, including Australia’s Red Cross and financial assistance from Australia, New Zealand, Britain. When I have more information concerning relief efforts, I will post it.

New Madrid Quake Potential

The US Geological Survey released an update to their National Seismic Hazards Map in February. The NMSZ includes southeast Missouri, northeastern Arkansas, western Tennessee, western Kentucky, and southern Illinois. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources says that it is the most active seismic zone east of the Rockies. The new USGS hazard map is an update from their 2008 map. In line with some recent scientific studies, they’ve elevated the potential for a serious earthquake in southeast Missouri. I blogged about some of that research several months ago. The Southeast Missourian summarized the report and discussed the possible ramifications for the region here. For my readers interested Emergency Management and FEMA’s recent work to prepare communities for various hazards, the predictions and findings of this work is especially important. For the more technically minded, the USGS’s Earthquake Hazard Program  provides further information.

Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association

People who are interested in FEMA, Emergency Management and administrative procedure (including those of you who, on occasion, participate in Notice and Comment and attend public hearings on various administrative/regulatory issues) should be interested in hearing that the US Supreme Court ruled recently in Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association that administrative agencies no longer have to provide notice and comment when they change an interpretive rule. So, first, what is an interpretive rule? It is an interpretation of a regulation or law, designed to clarify the law/regulation. Here’s a more detailed explanation. Under the Administrative Procedure Act, there is no requirement that interpretive (or interpretative) rules go through Notice and Comment, but past Supreme Court precedent maintained that when an agency had provided a ‘definitive interpretation’ that then, at a later date, they decide to change, they should go through Notice and Comment to provide those affected with an opportunity to receive advance notice of the change and provide public comment. In Perez, however, after citing another famous administrative law case, Vermont Yankee, the Court says that Notice and Comment for interpretive rules is not required. An agency can simply change the rule without advance notice and public comment.

Commentators around the Internet have voiced concerns about the significance of this ruling for its impact on the process to change administrative policy. Some of those concerns include pragmatic political concerns: while it may make changing administrative policies faster and make administration more flexible, a new administration will be able to reverse or change policy much more quickly as well. Along with that, changes that do not bring advance notice strike me as being problematic for stakeholders in general (because it could destabilize expectations concerning what the policy is and whether it will change suddenly); and in regulatory areas such as land use and environmental concerns, where administrative agencies must coordinate with one another as well as state and local officials, lack of advance notice — even just the potential of a lack of advance notice — is likely to create both political and legal difficulties. For a discussion of some of these issues as well as some of the other matters that seem to be looming on the Court’s horizon, see Brian Wolfman and Bradley Girard’s excellent discussion at Scotusblog. Leland Beck also provided some interesting insights here.

(And for those readers interested in administrative law issues, Beck’s blog, Federal Regulations Advisor, is an excellent resource!)

Reading Around the Internet: October 20, 2014

Last week was fall break at Southeast Missouri State. I had a lovely, relaxing long weekend but went back to work today… Here’s some reading I was doing over the weekend to catch up on happenings in the world of disasters, property and politics:


So a couple of things about Ebola: first, unless you come into contact with bodily fluids when that person is symptomatic, you’re not going to “catch” Ebola…   And, stories and images about the disease that spread false information — and even ones that don’t — can make a crisis situation worse. See Laura Seay and Kim Yi Dionne’s great piece on this in the Washington Post. In fact, keep an eye out for Laura Seay and Kim Yi Dionne’s coverage on this. They are very knowledgeable about African politics in general, and have been doing a great job analyzing this situation. And the disease is certainly being politicized, making it important to pay attention not just to how the disease spreads but what politicians are doing with it (especially as we get closer to the election here n the US).

Here’s the thing, though — there are real people suffering a true calamity, and help can be had. To learn more about Ebola and see past the terrifying voices that are out in the world scaring us, to see the reality of the disease and understand better the situation as it plays out in everyday life, take a look at Ebola Diaries. It will wrench your heart, but you will have a better understanding of this disease and the challenges it poses.


In the Pacific, Hawai’i is being hit again with heavy rain and high surf thanks to Hurricane Ana. Meanwhile, in the Atlantic Hurricane Gonzalo made its way to Bermuda. Though hurricane season has been a fairly slow and low intensity this year so far (with Hawai’i seeing more than it usually does of this activity), we should expect more storms. For the rest of us, forecasters say that we should expect an unusually wet winter this year.

Colorado Flood Recovery

A couple of weeks ago, Governor Hickenlooper issued a flood recovery report in Colorado. Here’s a summary, and here’s a link to the website where you can review the report itself.

Disaster Mitigation: Floodplains

My emergency management students have been learning about mitigation the last couple of weeks. It occurs to me that there are readers out there who may want to know more about FEMA’s floodplain (in particular) mitigation program since there’s been a lot of discussion of mitigation in coastal and river/lakefront areas. Here’s a link to their website.  You may find this page interesting and worth looking around. It can provide you with a broader sense of the goals and aspirations of the National Prevention Framework, which I think deserves more attention than it’s gotten — and will get some attention here sometime during the winter.