Connect with us

Politics

Oregon wildfire causes miles-high ‘fire clouds’ as flames grow

oregon-wildfire-causes-miles-high-‘fire-clouds’-as-flames-grow

Smoke and heat from a huge wildfire in south-eastern Oregon are creating giant “fire clouds” over the blaze – dangerous columns of smoke and ash that can reach up to six miles (10km) in the sky and are visible from more than 100 miles (160km) away.

Authorities have put these clouds at the top of the list of the extreme fire behavior they are seeing amid the Bootleg fire, the largest wildfire burning in the US. The inferno grew on Friday to about 75 sq miles (194 sq km), larger than New York City, and was raging through a part of the American west that is enduring a historic drought.

Meteorologists this week also spotted a bigger, more extreme form of fire cloud – ones that can create their own weather, including “fire tornadoes”.

Extreme fire behavior, including the formation of more fire clouds, was expected to persist on Friday and worsen into the weekend. There are currently at least 70 wildfires burning in the western United States and dozens more in Canada.

Devastatingly high temperatures are also expected to bake the west through the weekend, from the central Rockies into southern Canada, as the region braces for the fourth heatwave in five weeks. Forecasts estimate that highs across the region will be 20 to 30F higher than average for this time of year. By Monday, Bozeman, Montana may see temperatures reaching up to 107F (41.6C) – the hottest temperature the city has ever recorded.

The heat will complicate firefighting efforts and increase the threat of new ignitions.

Firefighters were scrambling on Friday to control the raging Bootleg fire, which is spreading miles a day in windy conditions. Authorities have ordered a new round of evacuations amid worries that the inferno, which has already destroyed 21 homes, could merge with another blaze that has also exploded in size.

A pyrocumulus cloud, also known as a fire cloud, is seen over the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon this week.
A pyrocumulus cloud, also known as a fire cloud, is seen over the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon this week. Photograph: AP

Pyrocumulus clouds – literally translated as “fire clouds” – look like giant, dirty-colored thunderheads that sit atop a vast column of smoke coming up from a wildfire. Often the top of the smoke column flattens out to take the shape of an anvil.

In Oregon, fire authorities say the clouds are forming between 3pm and 5pm each day as the sun penetrates the smoke layer and heats the ground below, creating an updraft of hot air. Crews are seeing the biggest and most dangerous clouds over a section of wilderness made up mostly of dead trees, which burn instantly and with a lot of heat.

For four days in a row, the Bootleg fire has generated multiple fire clouds that rise nearly six miles into the atmosphere and are “easily visible from 100 to 120 air miles away”, authorities said on Friday. The conditions that create the clouds were expected to worsen over the weekend.

When a pyrocumulus cloud forms over a fire, meteorologists begin to watch carefully for its big brother, the pyrocumulonimbus cloud. Nasa has called the latter the “fire-breathing dragon of clouds” because it is so hot and big that it creates its own weather.

In a worst-case scenario, fire crews on the ground could see one of the monster clouds spawn a “fire tornado”, generate its own dry lightning and create dangerous hot winds below. The clouds can also send particulate matter from the smoke column up to 10 miles above Earth’s surface.

A firefighter at work in eastern Washington state.
A firefighter at work in eastern Washington state. Photograph: David Ryder/Reuters

So far, most of the clouds on the Bootleg fire have been the less-intense fire clouds, but the National Weather Service on Wednesday spotted a pyrocumulonimbus cloud forming in what it called “terrifying” satellite imagery.

“Please send positive thoughts and well wishes to the firefighters … It’s a tough time for them right now,” the weather service said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, a fire near the northern California town of Paradise, which was largely destroyed in a 2018 wildfire that killed 85 people, worried homeowners who were just starting to return to normal after surviving the deadliest blaze in US history.

And in Washington, a wildfire threatened more than 1,500 homes near Wenatchee, growing to 14 sq miles (36 sq km), and crews had little control over it, the Washington state department of natural resources said.

Extremely dry conditions and heatwaves tied to climate change have swept the American west, making wildfires harder to fight. Climate change has made the region much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Politics

Final victim of Florida condo collapse identified by relative

final-victim-of-florida-condo-collapse-identified-by-relative

The final victim of the condo building collapse in Florida has been identified, a relative said Monday, more than a month after the middle-of-the-night catastrophe that ultimately claimed 98 lives.

Estelle Hedaya, an outgoing 54-year-old with a love of travel, was the last victim identified, ending what her relatives described as a torturous four-week wait.

Her younger brother, Ikey Hedaya, confirmed the identification to the Associated Press. The news comes just days after rescuers officially concluded the painstaking and emotionally heavy task of removing layers of dangerous debris and pulling out dozens of bodies.

“She always mentioned God anytime she was struggling with anything,” he said. “She had reached a different level spiritually, which allowed her to excel in all other areas.”

Her brother said he is drawing strength from God, just as he’d seen his sister do in troubling times. A funeral was scheduled for Tuesday.

The site of the 24 June collapse at the oceanside Champlain Towers South has been mostly swept flat, the rubble moved to a Miami warehouse. Although forensic scientists are still at work, including examining the debris at the warehouse, authorities said there are no more bodies to be found where the building once stood.

In the end, crews found no evidence that anyone who was found dead had survived the initial collapse, fire chief Alan Cominsky has said.

Search teams spent weeks battling the hazards of the rubble, including an unstable portion of the building that teetered above, a recurring fire and Florida’s stifling summer heat and thunderstorms. They went through more than 14,000 tons of broken concrete and rebar before finally declaring the mission complete.

Miami-Dade fire rescue’s urban search-and-rescue team pulled away from the site Friday in a convoy of firetrucks and other vehicles, slowly driving to their headquarters. The fire chief saluted their bravery, saying they had worked 12-hour shifts while camping out at the site and also dealing with the heavy emotional burden.

Estelle Hedaya.
Estelle Hedaya. Photograph: AP

Linda March, a 58 year-old attorney and fellow former New Yorker, was close friends with Hedaya. Oddly the two were among the last three victims to be identified, along with 24-year-old Anastasia Gromova of Canada.

Leah Sutton, who knew Hedaya since birth and considered herself a second mother to her, said she and March were both “forces to be reckoned with”.

“My two beautiful amazing fearless friends saved for last, have to believe there was a reason for them to be last,” she said Monday. “Estelle’s love of God was unbelievable and unwavering.”

The dead included members of the area’s large Orthodox Jewish community, the sister of Paraguay’s first lady, her family and their nanny, along with an entire family of four that included a local salesman, his wife and their two young daughters, four and 11, who were buried in the same coffin.

Meanwhile, it’s unclear what will happen at the collapse site. A judge presiding over several lawsuits filed in the collapse aftermath wants the property sold at market rates, which would bring in an estimated $100m or more. Some condo owners want to rebuild, and others say a memorial should be erected to remember the dead.

Continue Reading

Politics

California and New York City to mandate vaccine for government workers

california-and-new-york-city-to-mandate-vaccine-for-government-workers

California and New York City announced Monday that they would require all government employees to get the coronavirus vaccine or face weekly Covid-19 testing, and the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first major federal agency to require healthcare workers to receive the shot.

Meanwhile, in a possible sign that increasingly dire health warnings are getting through to more Americans, vaccination rates began to creep up again, offering hope that people who have previously been reluctant to receive the shot may finally be getting inoculated.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all municipal workers – including teachers and police officers – will be required to get vaccinated by mid-September or face weekly Covid-19 testing, making the city one of the largest employers in the US to take such action.

“Let’s be clear about why this is so important: this is about our recovery,” de Blasio said.

California said it will similarly require proof of vaccination or weekly testing for all state workers and healthcare employees starting next month.

The move comes amid a surge in cases in California, which have risen 218% over the last two weeks, while hospitalizations are up 62%, according to New York Times data. In the month since California lifted all Covid safety restrictions for its “grand reopening”, the state capitol has reinstated a mask requirement after several aides contracted Covid-19, and Los Angeles county is again requiring mask-wearing indoors, even for people who are fully vaccinated. The San Francisco Bar Alliance, which represents almost 500 bars, is recommending that members require guests to show proof of vaccination to enter the establishments.

California saw a 16% increase in vaccinations over last week and is one of the country’s most vaccinated states with 77% of adults having received at least one vaccine dose, but there are still plenty of unprotected people to transmit the virus, experts say.

“Primarily, we’re seeing infections in the unvaccinated,” said George Rutherford, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco.

The VA’s move came on a day when nearly 60 leading medical and healthcare organizations issued a call through the American Medical Association for health care facilities to require their workers to get vaccinated.

“I am doing this because it’s the best way to keep our veterans safe, full stop,” Veterans affairs secretary Denis McDonough told the New York Times.

The mayor of New York City has announced all municipal workers will be required to get vaccinated or face weekly testing.
The mayor of New York City has announced all municipal workers will be required to get vaccinated or face weekly testing. Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

Elsewhere, St Louis became the second major city to mandate that face masks be worn indoors, regardless of vaccination status, joining Los Angeles in re-imposing the orders.

“For those who are vaccinated, this may feel like punishment, punishment for doing the right thing,” St Louis county executive Sam Page, a Democrat, said Monday. “I’ve heard that, and I feel that frustration.”

Dr Leana Wen, a former Baltimore health commissioner, applauded the moves but called on President Joe Biden to “lead by example” and impose similar mandates on federal employees and in public venues where the government has jurisdiction, like on planes, trains and government buildings.

She also said all hospitals and nursing homes need to require all employees get vaccinated.

“We need vaccine mandates and vaccine verification,” Wen said. “We’re well past the time for the Biden administration to get on board with this. What we’re doing is not working. Doing more of the same is not the answer here.”

The White House has so far deferred to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on masking guidance, which recommends that those who are unvaccinated wear masks indoors. But officials acknowledged over the weekend that they are considering changing that guidance and recommending that the vaccinated also wear masks indoors.

“We’re going in the wrong direction,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday.

Wen, who is also an emergency physician and public professor at George Washington University, said public health experts have been worrying for months about this very scenario.

“We were worried the honor system would not work, the unvaccinated would be behaving as if they’re vaccinated and people would think the pandemic is over,” she said. “That’s precisely what has happened, and it’s incredibly frustrating.”

Dr Albert Ko, an infectious disease specialist Yale’s School of Public Health, said the U.S. should not have been caught off guard after watching the Delta variant ravage India in May and then land in the United Kingdom, Israel and other highly vaccinated nations with force last month.

“We have learned multiple times to not take anything for granted with CovidO,” he said.

The US is around 67% immune from Covid-19 when prior infections are factored, but it will need to get closer to 85% to crush the resurgent virus, said Dr Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health.

“So we need a lot more vaccinations. Or a lot more infections,” he tweeted Sunday.

Jha said the nation has to brace for another rough few months. The disease has killed almost 611,000 people in the US since the pandemic started last year.

Vaccinations ticked up over the weekend, with about 657,000 vaccines reported administered Saturday and nearly 780,000 on Sunday, according to CDC data. The seven-day rolling average on Sunday was about 583,000 vaccinations a day, up from about 525,000 a week prior.

A mobile vaccine clinic in Los Angeles, California.
A mobile vaccine clinic in Los Angeles, California. Photograph: Étienne Laurent/EPA

Public health experts on Monday said the uptick in vaccinations is encouraging but warned that it’s far too early to say if the numbers mean that millions of unvaccinated people are finally beginning to overcome their reticence.

The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the country shot up over the past two weeks, from more than 19,000 on 11 July to nearly 52,000 on 25 July , according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Some prominent conservative and Republican voices that have spent months casting doubt on the vaccination effort have recently started sounding a different tune.

House minority whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, was among the members of the GOP Doctors Caucus who held a press conference at the Capitol late last week imploring their constituents to lay lingering doubts aside.

A week ago, on 19 July, Fox News host Sean Hannity declared: “It absolutely makes sense for many Americans to get vaccinated. I believe in science. I believe in the science of vaccinations.”

And in Tennessee, the brother of a popular local conservative radio host who had been a vaccine skeptic urged listeners to get vaccinated as his brother was in critical care in the hospital battling Covid-19.

“For those listening, I know if he were able to tell you this, he would tell you, ‘Go get vaccinated. Quit worrying about the politics. Quit worrying about all the conspiracy theories,’” Mark Valentine said of his brother, Phil Valentine, Thursday on WWTN-FM in Nashville.

Associated Press contributed to this report

Continue Reading

Politics

Arizona secretary of state tells Trump before election lie rally: get over it

arizona-secretary-of-state-tells-trump-before-election-lie-rally:-get-over-it

Arizona’s secretary of state had a message for Donald Trump before he appeared in Phoenix on Saturday: “Take your loss and accept it and move on.”

Trump was set to speak at an event organised by Turning Point Action, a conservative group, and called the “Rally to Save Our Elections!”

Republicans in the most populous county in Arizona continue to pursue a controversial audit of ballots in an attempt to prove Trump’s claim that his loss to Joe Biden in the state, and nationally, was caused by widespread voter fraud. It was not.

Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, spoke to CNN on Friday. Asked what she wanted to tell Trump, she said: “Well, I mean, like most grownups, take your loss and accept it and move on … Nothing that’s going on here is going to change the outcome, and, really, this is nothing more than being a sore loser.”

Hobbs also said Trump’s appearance – like support for his lies from local Republican officials, office holders and congressional hopefuls lining up to speak at Saturday’s event – was dangerous.

“The bottom line is it doesn’t matter what he says or does,” she said. “Nothing is going to change the outcome of the 2020 election. But it also doesn’t change how dangerous this is.”

Trump’s lie about electoral fraud stoked the deadly attack on the US Capitol in Washington on 6 January this year. He retains power in the Republican party, which has swung behind him in seeking to obstruct investigations of the assault.

“The bottom line is that Arizonians are tired of being led by conspiracy theorists,” Hobbs said. “They don’t support this fake audit, and they’re ready for leaders who are going to put those partisan games aside and deal with real issues.”

Hobbs is hoping to become governor of Arizona. Midterm elections will also see a key Arizona Senate seat up for grabs again. Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and a prominent campaigner for gun control reform, won the seat on Biden’s coattails last year. But that was to complete a term and he must run again to secure a full six years in the seat.

On Friday, the former president blasted “Rinos”, or “Republicans in Name Only” whom he regards as insufficiently loyal. One GOP Arizona state senator offered a pithy reply.

“If he hadn’t started an insurrection in DC and gotten kicked off here,” Paul Boyer wrote on Twitter, “I could’ve responded directly to him. So there’s that.”

Trump said his remarks would be broadcast by networks including Newsmax and One America News, upstart rightwing operations which have sought to challenge Fox News on the right of the political spectrum.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending

Copyright © 2016-2021 2Fast2Serious magazine.