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Federal News

Pollutants Pose Threat to Mekong River Residents

USGS Newsroom - Thu, 02/27/2014 - 11:30
Summary: Portions of the Mekong River Basin contain hotspots of persistent organic pollutants that pose a significant threat to the residents and wildlife of the Mekong Basin, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study

Contact Information:

Gabrielle Bodin ( Phone: 337-266-8655 ); Scott  Wilson ( Phone: 337-266-8644 );



LAFAYETTE, La. – Portions of the Mekong River Basin contain hotspots of persistent organic pollutants that pose a significant threat to the residents and wildlife of the Mekong Basin, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study.

A research team comprised of members from the University Network for Wetland Research and Training in the Mekong Region, the International Crane Foundation and the USGS found that the total loading of persistent organic pollutants in wetland sediments of the Mekong Basin was generally low, but hotspot sites occurred where concentrations exceeded established ecological risk thresholds. Team members from the University Network are providing the results to officials within their own countries so they can determine how to address the issues.

"The overall results of this study provide crucial baseline data that will guide future development and conservation efforts in the Mekong Basin," said Scott Wilson of the USGS National Wetlands Research Center and co-author of the study. "Future work will focus on the classification and distribution of wetlands in the Mekong River Basin, an investigation into heavy metal contamination, and surface elevation monitoring in the coastal area of Southeast Asia."

Persistent organic pollutants are not readily biodegradable and are known to induce a variety of toxic effects in humans and other organisms. In humans, adverse health effects related to reproductive, developmental, behavioral, neurologic, endocrine, and immunologic processes have been linked to exposure. Since persistent organic pollutants do not degrade easily, they can persist in the environment for long periods of time. The pollutants come from agricultural pesticides, industrial pollutants, and other unintentional by-products. This study focused primarily on persistent organic pollutants used in agricultural practices.

The persistent organic pollutants accumulate in the fatty tissue of fish, amphibians, snakes and water birds that make up a large portion of the local population's diet.  Animals tested in some hotspots, such as the Tonle Sap, are known to have high levels of bioaccumulation.

The international team looked at 531 samples from approximately 450 wetlands across five countries in Southeast Asia and analyzed them for 39 persistent organic pollutants -- in this case organochlorines and PCBs.  

"Conducting quality science at this spatial scale requires intimate knowledge of local areas," said Wilson. "This effort could only be completed with the help of local universities, regional organizations like the International Crane Foundation, and the interdisciplinary science program of agencies like USGS."

Results showed that the use of DDT, a known persistent organic pollutant that has been banned in the study countries, has declined in the region, however, some wetland hotspots were found that contain levels of DDT above established risk thresholds and even suggest continued illegal use. The concentration and distribution of endosulfan, a chemical being phased out in the U.S. and other parts of the world, and its metabolites were also studied and represent a serious problem that requires further study and management action in the Mekong River Basin.

The USGS study, "Persistent Organic Pollutants in Wetlands of the Mekong Basin," was initiated by the U.S. Department of State and was prepared in cooperation with the University Network for Wetland Research and Training in the Mekong Region and the International Crane Foundation.

Female Coyotes Can Have Mixed Wolf-Coyote Pups

USGS Newsroom Technical - Wed, 02/26/2014 - 18:25
Summary: Scientists have successfully produced hybrid pups between a male western gray wolf and a female western coyote in captivity.   Is the Eastern Wolf a Valid Species?

Contact Information:

David Mech ( Phone: 651-649-5231 ); Marisa Lubeck ( Phone: 303-202-4765 );



Scientists have successfully produced hybrid pups between a male western gray wolf and a female western coyote in captivity.  

By artificially inseminating a female western coyote with western gray wolf sperm, U.S. Geological Survey scientists and partners from the St. Louis Zoo, University of California, Davis, and Wildlife Science Center recently demonstrated that coyotes are able to bear and nurture healthy hybrid offspring. The results contribute new information to an ongoing question about whether the eastern wolf of southeastern Canada (and formerly of the eastern U.S.) is a unique species that could be protected by the U. S. Endangered Species Act. The findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

"Our study adds one more piece to the ongoing controversy over whether the eastern wolf is a valid species," said David Mech, USGS scientist and the report's lead author.

During the 2012 and 2013 study, the scientists attempted to inseminate nine captive western coyotes with sperm from eight different gray wolves at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center Predator Research Facility in Logan, Utah. Three coyotes became pregnant, and one successfully birthed and nursed six live, healthy pups, currently housed at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn., north of the Twin Cities.

Some geneticists have suggested recognizing the eastern wolf as a new species of wolf, and potentially adding it to the Endangered Species List. This proposal is based on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)—a type of DNA that can only be passed on to offspring by the mother—that has been found in wolves from Manitoba, Canada, through the Great Lakes into southeast Canada. Those wolves could have gotten their coyote-like mtDNA either from hybridization with coyotes or by hybridizing with the eastern wolf.  The latter view is that of the geneticists who claim that the coyote-like mtDNA is from the eastern wolf, which is closely related to the coyote.

Scientists who propose that the coyote-like mtDNA came from female coyotes that bred with male, western wolves long ago believe that the eastern wolf is merely a smaller race of the wolf of the West.

The new USGS study shows that it is at least possible for western wolf sperm to fertilize western coyote eggs and that the mother coyote can bear and raise the hybrids.

"Our findings leave the eastern wolf debate open by adding further merit to the hybrid theory rather than disproving it," Mech said. "However, the findings are applicable to captive animals and are not necessarily true under natural conditions, so the counter-hybrid theory is not disproved either."

For more information on USGS wolf research, please visit the USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center website.

FEMA Awards $1,643,411 Grant to Pearl City: Hazard mitigation funds will be used to acquire and demolish 23 flood prone structures

FEMA Press Releases - Wed, 02/26/2014 - 15:32

CHICAGO – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released $1,643,411 in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds to Pearl City, Ill., for the acquisition and demolition of 19 residential and four commercial structures located in the floodplain of Yellow Creek. <?xml:namespace prefix = o />

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Fire Departments in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas Receive Millions in FEMA Preparedness Grants

FEMA Press Releases - Tue, 02/25/2014 - 16:13

DENTON, Texas — Fire departments in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas have been awarded more than $7.5 million in preparedness grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

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Assessing Nutrient Inputs to the Nation's Estuaries and Great Lakes

USGS Newsroom Technical - Tue, 02/25/2014 - 12:58
Summary: Nutrient enrichment of our nation's streams, lakes, and estuaries is widespread and can contribute to harmful algal blooms, increasing costs for drinking water and causing declines in ecosystem health.

Contact Information:

Ethan Alpern ( Phone: 703-648-4406 ); Steve Preston ( Phone: 302-734-2506 ext 230 );



Nutrient enrichment of our nation's streams, lakes, and estuaries is widespread and can contribute to harmful algal blooms, increasing costs for drinking water and causing declines in ecosystem health.

Maps and tables describing the major sources and watershed inputs of nutrients to the Great Lakes and estuaries along the Atlantic coast, Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific Northwest are now available online. These new maps and the data tables highlight the major sources of nutrients and the areas within a watershed that contribute the largest amounts of nutrients to 115 estuaries along the coastal areas and from 160 watersheds draining into the Great Lakes.

The data can serve further uses. For instance, water resource managers interested in a particular stream or estuary can use the online, interactive decision support tool to estimate how changes in nutrient inputs (source, type, and amount) affect nutrient loads at a downstream location.

A new reporting feature within the tool provides summary information on the amount and source of nutrients from upstream states or major hydrologic regions. For instance, output from the new tool shows the amount of nitrogen contributed from each of the 31 states that drain from the Mississippi River Basin into the Gulf of Mexico.

"This innovative combination of national maps and an online decision support tool provides unparalleled access to water-quality modeling information," said Jerad Bales, USGS acting associate director for Water. "It can be used to improve nutrient reduction strategies and inform nutrient policies across the nation."

These maps and data tables were produced using the USGS Spatially Referenced Regressions On Watershed attributes (SPARROW) nutrient models to explain spatial patterns in stream nutrient loads in relation to human nutrient inputs and natural processes and sources.

Successful management of our nation's waters requires an integrated approach that includes both monitoring and modeling to understand the affect, source type, input amounts, and performance of management activities on nutrients in local streams and ultimately in our Nation’s estuaries

Additional information on USGS nutrient monitoring and modeling activities by the National Water-Quality Assessment Program is available online.

Snow Now Means Water Later: Are You Ready?

FEMA Press Releases - Mon, 02/24/2014 - 12:54

CHICAGO – Just a few inches of water can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage to your home. A flood insurance policy could protect you from the devastating out-of-pocket expenses caused by flooding.  

Don’t wait until it’s too late. A policy takes 30 days from application and payment to go into effect. And a typical homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover floods.

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Categories: Federal News

FEMA Awards $2,576,475 Grant to Village of Hinsdale: Hazard mitigation funds will be used to floodproof Graue Mill Condominium Complex

FEMA Press Releases - Mon, 02/24/2014 - 12:46

CHICAGO – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released $2,576,475 in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds to the Village of Hinsdale, Ill., for the proposed Graue Mill Condominium Complex stormwater improvement project. <?xml:namespace prefix = o />

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Barred Owls Ousting Spotted Owls in the Pacific Northwest

USGS Newsroom - Mon, 02/24/2014 - 11:25
Summary: An increase in the barred owl population is contributing to the decline of threatened Northern spotted owls, according to models developed by U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Forest Service scientists

Contact Information:

Charles Yackulic ( Phone: 928-556-7379 ); Hannah Hamilton ( Phone: 703-648-4356 );



FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – An increase in the barred owl population is contributing to the decline of threatened Northern spotted owls, according to models developed by U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Forest Service scientists.

The larger barred owl is considered to be a more aggressive competitor, with higher reproductive capacity as well as a more diverse diet and use of habitat. In the face of increasing barred owl populations and declining habitat, the medium size Northern spotted owl, which lives in old growth forests of northern California and the Pacific Northwest of the United States, is declining.

Using 22 years of detection data from a 1000 square kilometer site in Oregon, researchers found that both species are more likely to abandon an area when the other species is present.

"While both species feel the effects of competition, spotted owls are far more sensitive," said Charles Yackulic, a USGS research statistician and lead author of the study. "As a result, spotted owls at this site, and in many other areas, are declining while barred owl numbers steadily increase."

The authors simulated future population dynamics and found that barred owls are likely to drive down spotted owls to low numbers over the next few decades.

"Scientists in other parts of the Pacific northwest have suggested that differences in the habitat preferences of the barred owl and spotted owl might allow them to coexist. While the two species showed different habitat preferences in this study site, there is still substantial overlap in habitat use," said Yackulic.  "As a result, in recent years, barred owls have frequently excluded spotted owls from habitat that they would otherwise prefer."

Some of the spotted owls forced to leave a territory in response to barred owl invasions may establish territories in another area. However, the areas that are available for colonization often contain less suitable habitat and this may lead to a lowered probability of successfully producing young, further contributing to population decline. While habitat differences in this site are unlikely to allow for coexistence, it is unknown whether habitat preferences of barred and spotted owls at sites elsewhere in the spotted owl range are sufficiently different for barred owls and spotted owls to coexist.

"The results of the model show that should the barred owl population be reduced to about a quarter of its current size through management actions, it would minimize the costs associated with managing barred owl populations indefinitely, while also providing substantial benefits to the spotted owl population," said Yackulic. 

Janice Reid, U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologist and study coauthor, commented on the importance of long term management. "It is important that long term management plans include protection of currently occupied and reproductively successful spotted owl territories from habitat degradation if we are to have any hope of slowing the spotted owl population decline in the face of the increasing barred owl population."  

"The roles of competition and habit in the dynamics of populations and species distributions" by C.B. Yackulic, J. Reid, J.D. Nichols, J.E. Hines, R. Davis and E. Forsman in the journal Ecology, is available online.

PAH Levels in Runoff from Coal-Tar Sealcoated Pavement Remain Elevated for Months After Application

USGS Newsroom Technical - Fri, 02/21/2014 - 08:00
Summary: Concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in runoff from pavement with coal-tar-based sealcoat remain elevated for months following sealcoat application, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey. 

Contact Information:

Barbara Mahler ( Phone: 512-927-3566 ); Jennifer LaVista ( Phone: 303-202-4764 );



Concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in runoff from pavement with coal-tar-based sealcoat remain elevated for months following sealcoat application, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey. 

PAHs are an environmental health concern because they are toxic to fish and other aquatic life. A 2012 human health-risk analysis found that people living near pavement sealed with coal-tar-based products have an elevated risk of cancer.

USGS scientists evaluated concentrations of PAHs and azaarenes (chemicals similar in structure to PAHs but containing a nitrogen atom in the place of a carbon atom) in runoff from test plots sealed with either coal-tar-based or asphalt-based sealcoat starting five hours after sealcoat application and continuing for as long as three months after application.  The full report, published in the journal Environmental Pollution, is available online.

Concentrations of PAHs and azaarenes in runoff from the coal-tar-sealcoated pavement were about 20 times higher than in runoff from the asphalt-sealcoated pavement, and about 40 times higher than in runoff from unsealed asphalt. Concentrations and assemblages of PAHs indicated that the asphalt-based sealcoat might have contained a small amount (5-10%) of coal-tar-based sealcoat.

Although the total concentration of PAHs varied relatively little over the three months following application, the concentration of high molecular weight (large) PAHs increased and the concentration of low molecular weight (small) PAHs decreased. The low molecular weight PAHs are acutely toxic to aquatic life, but the high molecular weight PAHs are more likely to cause mutations, birth defects, and cancer. The high molecular weight PAHs in the runoff were mostly in the form of particles.

This study is the first to investigate concentrations of azaarenes associated with sealcoat runoff. Sources of azaarenes include coal-tar and oil-shale processing, wood preserving, and chemical manufacturing.  In samples of runoff collected just hours after sealcoat application, concentrations of the azaarene carbazole exceeded those of any other PAH or azaarene measured. Azaarenes have a large range of ecotoxicological effects, including acute toxicity, but have been less well studied than PAHs.

Sealcoat products are widely used in the United States, both commercially and by homeowners. The products are commonly applied to commercial parking lots (including strip malls, schools, churches and shopping centers), residential driveways, apartment complexes and playgrounds.

To learn more, visit the USGS National Water Quality Assessment Program website on PAHs and sealcoat

Media Advisory: USGS to Host Congressional Briefing: Earthquake Science and Remaining Mysteries

USGS Newsroom - Thu, 02/20/2014 - 11:20
Summary: Come learn about the great leaps in research over the last 50 years, and the research still underway to understand the remaining mysteries of earthquake hazards

Contact Information:

Jessica Robertson ( Phone: 703-648-6624 ); Kathleen Gohn ( Phone: 703-648-4242 );



@USGSLive (Twitter account) will be live-tweeting this event

It's 1964 in Alaska. Imagine 4.5 minutes of powerful ground shaking underneath you from a magnitude 9.2 earthquake. You and your loved ones are then faced with resulting landslides and a devastating tsunami. You just experienced the largest earthquake ever recorded in North America. In that moment, scientists did not know how or why it occurred.

That event marked a turning point for earthquake science. Come learn about the great leaps in research over the last 50 years, and the research still underway to understand the remaining mysteries of earthquake hazards.

It is essential to start with science, because we can't plan if we don’t know what we are planning for.

What:

The USGS and the Hazards Caucus Alliance invite you to a congressional briefing on exploring earthquakes, focusing on analysis of the past and essential science still needed to protect lives and property.

When:

 Friday, February 28, 2014
10:00 a.m.

Where:

Rayburn House Office Building
Room 2325
Washington, D.C.

Who:

David Applegate, U.S. Geological Survey
Peter Haeussler, U.S. Geological Survey
Tom Jordan, Seismological Society of America
John Schelling, Washington State Military Department's Emergency Management Division

Hosts:

American Geosciences Institute
American Geophysical Union
Geological Society of America
Seismological Society of America

RSVP:

Please send your RSVP to Jessica Robertson at jrobertson@usgs.gov if you plan to attend.

Refreshments will be provided courtesy of the Seismological Society of America.

FEMA, Arizona Host Leadership Conference to Discuss Emerging Trends in Emergency Management, Collaborate with Public, Private Sector before Next Disaster; Microsoft, Verizon, Facebook to Attend along with Many More

FEMA Press Releases - Wed, 02/19/2014 - 11:58

For Immediate Release:  February 19, 2014

Media Contact:  Mary Simms, mary.simms@fema.dhs.gov

 

FEMA, Arizona Host Leadership Conference to Discuss Emerging Trends in Emergency Management, Collaborate with Public, Private Sector before Next Disaster
Microsoft, Verizon, Facebook to Attend along with Many More

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Categories: Federal News

Linking U.S. and Canadian Border Waters

USGS Newsroom - Wed, 02/19/2014 - 09:00
Summary: Clearer views of waters along the U.S. and Canadian border are now possible with new seamless digital maps. These maps make it easier to solve complex water issues that require a thorough understanding of drainage systems on both sides of the International Boundary Seamless digital maps of surface waters completed along the Canada and United States International Boundary

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Peter Steeves ( Phone: 508-490-5068 ); Katrina  Burke ( Phone: 703-648-5155 );



Clearer views of waters along the U.S. and Canadian border are now possible with new seamless digital maps. These maps make it easier to solve complex water issues that require a thorough understanding of drainage systems on both sides of the International Boundary.

 "In the past, cross-border maps were not always accurate, but now these new digital maps are fully linked across the entire U.S. and Canadian border," said Peter Steeves, physical scientist with the USGS. "This cooperative project allows scientists on either side to look at the water just as nature does, irrespective of the artificial line separating the two nations."

Developed cooperatively by both countries, the digital maps make tackling difficult issues more effective. For example, levels of phosphorous flowing from Lake Champlain in Vermont into Quebec can now be better understood; flooding in the Red River Valley (which flows north from Minnesota and the Dakotas into Manitoba) can be traced; salmon fisheries in the Columbia River Basin in the Pacific Northwest can be efficiently restored; and understanding localized water use and water availability all along the border is now improved.

"The USA/Canada coordinated mapping efforts along the International Border have opened doors to joint scientific analysis that rely on hydrography integration", said David Harvey, National Manager with the Environment Service of Canada. "Water quality and quantity modelling are already being developed on top of this enriched database."

The advent of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) over the past 20 years has allowed for advancements in the analysis potential of digitally mapped water features to a degree hardly imagined when the USGS started mapping in the 19th century.  As technology improves in the years to come, even more progress will be made, such as in the use of lasers to map the earth, new techniques to analyze information, and faster computers to process the data.

For more than 125 years, the USGS has provided accurate maps of the nation's surface waters. During the last two decades this mapping has become digital, using computers and new technologies to provide unprecedented knowledge of water resources. This data is stored in the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) and Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD).

The principle agencies involved in this effort are the USGS and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), with oversight by the International Joint Commission (IJC).  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Agricultural Foods Canada, Environment Canada along with many provincial and in-state partners participated throughout the process.  

Additional information on the NHD and WBD can be found at http://nhd.usgs.gov/.

Digital Surface Watersheds along the U.S. and Candian International Boundary.  (Larger image) U.S. and Canadian harmonized international sub-basins displaying Canadian 5-digit and U.S. 8-digit hydrologic unit codes; now available within the Watershed Boundary Dataset.  (Larger image, 6.7 MB)

FEMA Awards $1.1 Million to Arkansas for 2012 Christmas Day Storm

FEMA Press Releases - Tue, 02/18/2014 - 12:52

DENTON, Texas – More than $1.1 million is being awarded to the state of Arkansas by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reimburse Saline County for debris removal costs from a 2012 Christmas Day winter storm.

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FEMA Seeks Applicants for National Advisory Council

FEMA Press Releases - Tue, 02/18/2014 - 12:18

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is requesting individuals who are interested in serving on the National Advisory Council (NAC) to apply for appointment.  The NAC is an advisory council established to ensure effective and ongoing coordination of federal preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation for natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters.

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New York University, NYU Langone Medical Center, SUS-Mental Health receive FEMA grants

FEMA Press Releases - Fri, 02/14/2014 - 13:56

NEW YORK – The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved Public Assistance grants to New York University, NYU Langone Medical Center and Services for the UnderServed (SUS)-Mental Health Program to reimburse costs for damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

New York University has been awarded more than $1 million in funding. The grant covered a variety of needs including ensuring students’ safety, protection of campus data, temporary generators and a fuel oil tank.

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$2.4 billion in FEMA Public Assistance grants for Hurricane Sandy recovery

FEMA Press Releases - Fri, 02/14/2014 - 13:48

NEW YORK — Since Hurricane Sandy struck New York, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved more than $2.4 billion in Public Assistance grants to reimburse local, state and tribal governments and eligible private nonprofits for costs associated with emergency response, debris removal and repairing or rebuilding public facilities.

Recently approved grants include:

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FEMA supports recovery efforts in Evans

FEMA Press Releases - Fri, 02/14/2014 - 10:53

DENVER – Since the September 2013 floods, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has provided nearly $6.6 million in Individual Assistance to Evans residents and obligated more than $1.4 million in Public Assistance to the City of Evans. At the same time, the U.S. Small Business Administration has provided more than $3.6 million in low-interest loans to 46 Evans homeowners and nine business owners.

As a part of its outreach to the citizens of Evans, FEMA Individual Assistance has provided:

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FEMA Federal Regional Center Marks 50 Years of History

FEMA Press Releases - Fri, 02/14/2014 - 10:22

    

DENTON, Texas –Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14 marks the 50th anniversary of what began as an underground facility designed to survive a nuclear war and provide for the continuity of U.S. government operations. The Federal Regional Center (FRC) was constructed between 1961 and late 1963 on 20 acres in Denton.

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FEMA Awards $351,066 Grant to Villa Grove: Hazard mitigation funds will be used to acquire and demolish nine flood prone structures

FEMA Press Releases - Thu, 02/13/2014 - 14:20

CHICAGO -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has released $351,066 in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds to Villa Grove, Ill., for the acquisition and demolition of eight residential structures and one public building located in the floodplains of the West Ditch and Embarras River. <?xml:namespace prefix = o />

 

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Car Preparedness Critical During Winter Months

FEMA Press Releases - Thu, 02/13/2014 - 13:18

LINCROFT, N.J. – The recent winter storm in Atlanta wreaked havoc on traffic and left motorists and vehicles stranded on the city’s highways for days. Many people were forced to stay in their cars overnight, while others abandoned their vehicles to escape the gridlock.

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