The National Guard has been called up to assist with “historic” and lethal flooding in eastern Kentucky that has so far killed at least 15 people as emergencies loom across half a dozen counties, according to Gov. Andy Beshear. (Review an active flood warning map, here.) West Virginia has activated elements of its National Guard, too, including two UH-60M Blackhawks and two UH-72 Lakota aircraft and more than a dozen soldiers.
What happened: Almost a foot of rain fell over two days, ending Thursday. Some of the worst devastation appears to follow the winding Kentucky River as it snakes across Perry County, e.g. The river’s surging depths broke records in at least two places (Whitesburg and Jackson). Review drone footage of the flooding via West Virginia’s local WSAZ news, here.
Beshear called it “one of the worst, most devastating flooding events in Kentucky’s history” during a press conference on Thursday. “What we are going to see coming out of this is massive property damage. We expect the loss of life. Hundreds will lose their homes,” he said. Nearly 23,000 Kentuckians woke up without power on Friday; and three state parks have been opened—Jenny Wiley State Resort Park, Buckhorn and Pine Mountain State Resort Parks—to house displaced families, the numbers of which are expected to grow over the weekend as more detailed damage assessments follow the heavy rains.
Regional flood damage also stretched across the border into parts of western Virginia and southern West Virginia; about 10,000 people in those two states are also without power, the Associated Press reported Friday from Jackson, Ky. Read more at Louisville’s WDRB news, here.
And over on the east coast, 10 U.S. Navy helicopters were damaged in a heavy storm that passed through the Norfolk, Va., area on Tuesday, local WAVY news reported that evening. According to Navy officials, “The helicopters damaged were five MH-60S Knight Hawks, one MH-60R Sea Hawk and four MH-53E Sea Dragon mine countermeasures helicopters,” Sam Lagrone of U.S. Naval Institute News reported Thursday.
That storm came with a quickness, and hit just 12 minutes after the initial alert from the National Weather Service. “When given enough warning, aircraft in the path of bad weather are taken into their hangars or tied down,” Lagrone writes. “However, the storm came at a time when aviation maintainers are usually in the midst of a shift change.” Read on, here.
If you or someone you know needs help in these floods, you can reach the Red Cross at 1-800-733-2767.
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Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. And check out other Defense One newsletters here. On this day in 1958, POTUS34 Dwight Eisenhower created NASA when he signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act.
The U.S. Air Force just grounded some of its F-35 fleet, citing possible safety problems with its ejection seat system. Aviation Week alluded to a grounding order in its reporting Thursday; Breaking Defense amplified the grounding order in their own Friday reporting, here.
What seems to be going on: U.S. military officials recently found issues with the explosive cartridges used to propel a pilot’s ejection seat out of the fighter jet. Last week, the Air Force ordered inspections of all the F-35’s ejection seats within the next 90 days, Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reports.
“Out of an abundance of caution, [Air Combat Command] units will execute a stand-down on July 29 to expedite the inspection process,” Alexi Worley, a service spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement. “Based on data gathered from those inspections, ACC will make a determination to resume operations.”
Caveat: It’s unclear if Air Force F-35s based outside of the continental United States are also grounded, as they are not overseen by Air Combat Command. Follow Marcus Weisgerber on Twitter for the latest; and stay tuned to Defense One for more.
Also: F-35s could be headed to Berlin. On Thursday, the U.S. State Department approved the potential sale of 35 F-35s to Germany, along with 37 engines and hundreds of missiles and bombs, for a total estimated cost of $8.4 billion. The Germans plan to use the next-gen fighters to replace their Tornados, which they have been flying since the 1980s, Reuters reported in March.
This week we learned: America’s busiest shipping port is hit with an average of 40 million cyber attacks each month. That’s according to the BBC, whose headline Thursday belies that wider onslaught, noting simply that “Cyber-attacks on [the] Port of Los Angeles have doubled since [the] pandemic” began.
Why it matters: LA is also the busiest port in the western hemisphere, pulling in more than $250 billion in cargo annually. The attacks include “daily ransomware, malware, spear phishing, and credential harvesting attacks, with the aim of causing as much disruption as possible and slowing down economies,” the BBC reports.
The origin of these attacks? “Our intelligence shows the threats are coming from Russia and parts of Europe,” the port’s executive director told the BBC, and added, “We have to stay steps ahead of those who want to hurt international commerce.” Read more, here.
This week we also learned that Savannah, Ga., is the “fourth-largest U.S. gateway for seaborne container imports,” according to the Wall Street Journal. And this is particularly noteworthy because around 40 container ships are bottlenecked around Savannah, waiting to unload. There are also backlogs popping up at New York and New Jersey’s ports “as shippers have sought to find alternative routes into U.S. markets,” the Journal reported Wednesday. The west coast, by contrast, is looking better—with an average backlog of between 17 and 24 vessels at the LA and Long Beach ports. Read more, here.
Fans of the outdoors, rejoice: Poisonous snake bites might soon become a thing of the past. That’s because of a possible “breakthrough” in research that could wrap up this summer thanks to nearly $14 million in Pentagon funding.
What’s going on: Researchers at California-based Ophirex Inc., are looking into varespladib, an element of an already available treatment for snake venom made by Eli Lilly. But this one is available as a pill and doesn’t need to be refrigerated—unlike more common antivenom treatments, Joseph Ditzler of Stars and Stripes reported Thursday.
Said Ophirex co-founder, Jerry Harrison: “We are really on the brink of a major revolution of how people think about this.” The clinical trials are currently underway in both the U.S. and India. “The drug neutralizes venom in test tubes and stops or reverses its effects in laboratory animals,” Stripes reports.
By the way: Jerry Harrison is not only “a tech financier,” but he’s also an original member of the band Talking Heads, Ditzler writes. And that got us thinking about how you only come upon a discovery like this Once in a Lifetime, and that This Must Be the Place for a new attitude toward outdoor activity. It seems to be a breakthrough that really could Take Me to the River, too. Psycho Killer snakes, be warned: your power may be lost. And if this new research truly does work out, it’ll sure be nice to not have to go Burnin’ Down the House every time we stumble on a nest of snakes beneath the porch. Ok, enough of all that. Read more at Stars and Stripes, here.
Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!