Many Residents in California’s Wine Country Didn’t Get Alerts as Wildfires Approached

Flames from the LNU Lightning Complex fires jump Butts Canyon Rd. on Aug. 23, 2020, as firefighters work to contain the blaze in unincorporated Lake County.

Flames from the LNU Lightning Complex fires jump Butts Canyon Rd. on Aug. 23, 2020, as firefighters work to contain the blaze in unincorporated Lake County. AP Photo/Noah Berger


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STATE AND LOCAL NEWS ROUNDUP | After Hurricane Laura destroyed water systems and power grids, many in southwest Louisiana without electricity and water … Jacob Blake’s family marches with thousands in Kenosha … Homeless shelter in Anchorage, Alaska experiences Covid outbreak, forces testing changes.

Some residents of California’s wine country didn’t get alerts on approaching wildfires earlier this month, saying the cell phone alert systems employed by state and local governments needs to become more comprehensive. Capt. Rustin Banks with the Solano County Sheriff’s Department said that deputies used all kinds of strategies to inform people about a huge blaze north of San Francisco that has so far killed five people, including going door to door, sirens and alerts. “When the dust settles on this, we’re going to do an after-action report. And notifications will be part of that,” he said. In nearby Yolo County, emergency services manager Dana Carey said that officials are looking into whether some alerts may have been rejected by phones that considered them to be robocalls. As the LNU Lightning Complex fire rapidly grew from August 18 through 19, officials in Napa County wanted to send out a warning like an Amber Alert, but had to abandon that plan because the coding got screwed up. [Associated Press; Los Angeles Times]   

LOUISIANA INFRASTRUCTURE | Gov. John Bel Edwards told President Trump this weekend that the state will need help rebuilding water systems that suffered massive damage in Hurricane Laura, leaving more than 180,000 people without reliable running water. The power grid will also need extensive work and many people are relying on generators. As of Sunday morning, the state reported 14 people had died in relation to the storm, including eight killed by carbon monoxide poisoning related to generator use. Lake Charles Mayor Nic Turner said almost the entire city of 80,000 people is without electricity and predicted that could last for weeks. The Calcasieu Parish schools, which includes Lake Charles, will be closed indefinitely, as 97% of sites suffered substantial damage. [; KPLC; New York Times; American Press]

KENOSHA MARCH | Thousands of people joined Jacob Blake’s family on a march Saturday through the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin and then packing into a downtown park for a rally. “We are heartbroken and enraged, but we are steadfast in our demand for justice,” Tanya Mclean, a Blake family friend said, emphasizing that now is the time for “transformational change” of the police department and a dismantling of systemic racism. Family members also talked about Blake, who is now paralyzed at a hospital. “He said, ’Daddy, why’d they shoot me so many times?’” said his father, Jacob Blake Sr. “What gave them the right to attempted murder on my child? What gave them the right to treat my son like an animal?” Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot seven times in the back at close range by white Kenosha Officer Rusten Sheskey a week ago on Sunday, a shooting that was captured by bystanders on cell phone videos. The rally on Saturday attracted people from nearby cities, including many new activists who joined the Black Lives Matter cause because of their outrage over the shooting, the New York Times reported. On Friday, an attorney with the Kenosha Professional Police Association released a statement about the officers’ perspectives on the shooting, saying police saw Blake holding a knife and had previously scuffled with him. Blake was also stunned twice with a Taser, according to Brendan Matthews, a police union attorney. Officers, who the state Department of Justice have said were responding to a call of a woman complaining her boyfriend was present but wasn’t supposed to be, also knew that Blake had a warrant for sexual assault, he said. The Wisconsin Justice Department, which is investigating the shooting, has said there was a knife found in the SUV Blake was trying to enter and Blake admitted to having a knife, but has declined to answer more detailed questions. Attorneys for Blake’s family have noted that witnesses say he wasn’t carrying a knife. [Chicago Tribune; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Associated Press

PORTLAND SHOOTING | A man was shot and killed Saturday night after hundreds of trucks driven by supporters of President Trump caravaned into Portland, Oregon and clashed with counter protesters. The Trump supporters shot paintball guns from the back of their trucks and counter protesters threw objects back at them. The victim was wearing a hat with the logo of the Patriot Prayer group, which has far-right views. The group’s leader said the man was a “friend and supporter” of the organization. This was the third weekend of clashes in Portland between right-wing and left-wing demonstrators after months of demonstrations by Black Lives Matter protesters who began agitating for changes after the George Floyd killing in May. [New York Times;

ALASKA HOMELESS SHELTER | Sixty-one people at a homeless shelter in Anchorage, Alaska have tested positive for the coronavirus, with the city now expanding testing at shelters to help curb outbreaks. Officials said they also plan to test people in homeless camps. “It is likely that this outbreak extends beyond the residents in this one shelter and widespread testing of persons experiencing homelessness and their care providers is needed,” said Dr. Bruce Chandler, the Anchorage Health Department’s chief medical officer. Five people who got sick as part of the outbreak have needed to be hospitalized. [Alaska Public Media; Anchorage Daily News]  

BALLOTING BATTLE | The Texas secretary of state office is threatening Harris County with a lawsuit if officials send out applications for mail-in ballots to two million registered voters. The office said in a letter that the county, which includes Houston, has until Monday to drop the plan. The state argues sending out ballots will confuse voters who actually aren’t eligible to vote by mail in Texas and clog the system. In response, Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins said, "providing more information and resources to voters is a good thing, not a bad thing.” [Texas Tribune]

Laura Maggi is the managing editor of Route Fifty.

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