Extreme Rainfall in Australia Forces Evacuations, Could Flood 20,000 Homes
A once-in-a-century flooding disaster in northeast Queensland, Australia forced authorities in the city of Townsville to fully open the floodgates of the Ross River dam on Sunday night, causing nearly 2,000 cubic meters (approximately 70,629 cubic feet) of water to pour out of the dam every second from 9 p.m., News.com.au reported.
"We've never seen anything like this before," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told Today, according to News.com.au. "In Queensland, of course, we're used to seeing natural disasters, but Townsville has never seen the likes of this."
URGENT UPDT- RISK TO LIFE & PROPERTY IN TOWNSVILLE Ross River dam spillway gates have now fully opened. Dangerous &… https://t.co/BtWpkR24XL— Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland (@Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland)1549190771.0
Nearly 1,000 people in Townsville have sought refuge in relocation shelters, Australia's ABC News reported. Queensland Fire and Emergency Services said Monday it had carried out 18 rescues from swift water and 1,100 relocations in the past 24 hours. So far, around 500 homes in Townsville have been flooded, News.com.au reported, but that number could increase.
"It could move up to the 10,000, 20,000 [mark]," district disaster coordinator Steve Munro said, according to News.com.au. "That's the worst case scenario we're looking at if things keep going pear-shaped. We don't want to get to that stage."
To download a high-resolution PDF of Townsville City Council's map of properties that could potentially be inundate… https://t.co/IusrnJfaaU— Queensland Police (@Queensland Police)1549182423.0
Townsville has received more than 20 times its average rainfall for late January / early February at around 3.3 feet in the past week. This breaks the record previously set by the Night of Noah flood in 1998, BBC News reported. Climate change is expected to increase extreme rainfall events across Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology's (BOM) State of the Climate 2018 found.
BOM meteorologists have said water spouts and tornadoes could form along parts of the Queensland coast, but the rain should move further south of Townsville, ABC News reported. However, another half-a-meter to meter (approximately 1.6 to 3.2 feet) of rain could fall in north and central Queensland in the next few days, according to News.com.au.
"We don't know when this event will end," Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said, according to News.com.au. "We cannot give you any certainty about what we are going to need to do into the future."
Rainfall ☔ figures overnight in the 24 hours to 9am tell a grim story with 300-400mm in the Ross River catchment an… https://t.co/MyqiFQ66iw— Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland (@Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland)1549239487.0
The onrush of rain and flood water has been a dramatic experience for residents.
"I've never seen anything like this," Townsville resident Chris Brookehouse told ABC, according to News.com.au. "The volume of water is just incredible. Downstairs is gone, the fridge and freezer are floating. Another five or six steps and upstairs is gone too."
Two policemen evacuating residents in a Townsville suburb were stranded themselves when the dam floodgates opened. Water swept their car away and they had to cling to trees for half an hour before being rescued themselves.
However, the rain hasn't been a disaster for all of Queensland. In the west, it has helped counteract a drought.
"It is a welcome relief, especially in our western communities, to not only get the rain but also to fill up their dams," Palaszczuk said Sunday, as News.com.au reported.
In #Australia where it's the middle of summer, temperatures for the month of January were the hottest on record. https://t.co/g7fG47r1rE— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1549113371.0
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By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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