Hold your horses, it’s not spring everywhere yet. Winter Storm Ursa is supposed to drop inches of snow on high elevation cities like Denver and Amarillo. Parts of Wyoming have already received up to 2 feet of snow, forcing a few roads and even a highway to shutdown because of blockage and dangerous conditions. Denver is on the move and is mobilizing preparation efforts so that they are better equipped for when Ursa finally hits. Numerous events including a golf championship are expected to be cancelled because of the projected snowfall in Colorado and the Texas Panhandle. It is always interesting to see how towns and cities handle late season snowfall, whether or not they had already shifted to a spring oriented mindset.
This man in Wyoming seems excited about the late season wonderland and appears to have the appropriate vehicles for the occasion to boot.
In the area surrounding the Mississippi Valley there is currently the potential for life-threatening flash and river flooding. The area has already received significant amounts of rain and the land is as saturated as it can get. Slow moving thunderstorms from Wednesday were responsible for this. Roads in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri were shutdown already due to extensive flooding and there has been one recorded water rescue. The weekend promises more storms and much more rain. This is compounded by the fact that the storms themselves are moving so slowly. They are dumping all their water down on already saturated land and not moving on to drier climes in a timely fashion.
The Witch Fire of 2007
I chose this particular hazard because I was actually living San Diego at the time this fire was occurring and got a week off school because the air quality was deemed too poor for the school system to make the students go.
The fire itself lasted from October 21st, 2007 to November 6th, 2007. Figure 1 at the bottom of the document is a map of the area affected by the fire. The effects of the fire are listed below (Cal Fire, 2007):
- Nearly 200,000 thousand acres of land were burned throughout the duration of the wildfire in San Diego County.
- Highway 78 was closed from Ramon to Escondido—both localities within San Diego County—due to damage from the fires.
- Overall, 1,125 residential structures and 509 outbuildings were completely destroyed.
- 77 residential structures and 25 outbuildings were damaged.
- By the culmination of the fire, 224 firefighters were involved in combating it with 25 total engines.
- 40 of these firefighters were injured
- There were only 2 total fatalities, both were civilians
- Responsible for the largest evacuation in the history of San Diego County with more than 500,000 people living in the areas that were evacuated.
- The total cost in damages to the city itself eventually got up to roughly $18 million.
It is important to understand that this wildfire system was not the only one raging in Southern California at the time. The conditions that contributed to the Witch fire, which included periods of extremely high winds that some reported to be up to 100 mph in certain places, also gave rise to at least 21 other blazes throughout Southern California. Because of this, resources had to be distributed throughout the state and the ability to effectively fight fires in any given area was greatly diminished. There was actually another called the Harris Fire in the more southern portion of San Diego County that was significantly smaller than the Witch but ended up being responsible for 5 total deaths. Those who evacuated were initially held in places like Qualcomm Stadium (where the Chargers play) and high schools outside of the dangerous areas. It is difficult to tell how long people remained in places like this, especially if they were among those who had their homes destroyed by fire.
John Gibbins aerial of fire around Scripps Ranch area.
Between Bermuda and the Azores, a low pressure system is churning. It has been dubbed Invest 91L by the National Hurricane Center, which uses this type of naming convention for features that look like they could eventually become a tropical depression or storm. The system is currently producing gale force winds which means 39 mph or greater and seas as high as 40 feet have been reported. There are still a number of things acting against the escalation of this system, however. The seas in the area are not particularly warm (upper 60s).
The official hurricane season goes from June 1st to November 30th. A subtropical cyclone like the one this system could create if the right conditions come together is very rare as early as April, the last one occurring 14 years ago in 2003. Before Ana in 2003, there are no official named tropical storms since the beginning of the records in 1851!
On Tuesday, Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for the state of Florida. According to the Agricultural Commission, this has been the most active wildfire season in Florida since 2011. Since February, 70,000 acres have been scorched due to at least 100 separate fires burning across the state. So far, 19 homes have been lost. In the late spring and winter months, Florida faces its dry season. According to meteorologist Chris Dolce, about 42% of Florida is experiencing drought conditions. With no major rain expected in the foreseeable future, Florida’s fires will continue to rage, with only human efforts to corral them.