No ‘return to normal’: Growing threat of fire and floods, as smoke spans a continent.

The smoke from the mountains of California is not going away anytime soon. It’s not just a flicker, it’s a wall of smoke that now stretches across the US, and more than 1,000 firefighters are still battling the dozens of active wildfires that have erupted, with as many as 65 still burning.

The new year brought a return to the kind of weather that makes people get out their umbrellas and start looking around to see what’s in the parking lot. Nowhere was this more evident than in Canada, where a series of wildfires left cities like Calgary, Edmonton, and Saskatoon dealing with a thick layer of smoke as the year begins.

Updates on Extreme Weather and Climate

Updated on July 21, 2021 

2:41 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

2:41 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

The sky in Denver was hazy from wildfires on Tuesday as children cooled down in a fountain.

On Tuesday, youngsters cooled down in a fountain while the sky in Denver was cloudy due to wildfires. Credit… Associated Press/David Zalubowski

Flash floods in the Southeast, catastrophic monsoons in the desert, a crackling-dry fire season throughout the Pacific Northwest, and cloudy clouds on the East Coast blotting out a baleful red sun characterized most of the United States this week.

While the nation’s biggest wildfire continued to rage in southern Oregon, creating its own weather and leading state authorities to warn people that they are in for a long and tough fire season, parts of Montana hit 110 degrees this week, more than 20 degrees above average.

“No part of our state is safe,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown told reporters at an emergency briefing on Tuesday, adding that dangerously big wildfires are “arriving sooner, coming on quicker, and staying longer” as a result of climate change.

Since July 6, the Bootleg Fire has burnt over 400,000 acres in southern Oregon, making it the state’s fourth-largest wildfire since 1900. Officials stated on Wednesday that lightning had started the fire.

The Oregon Department of Forestry’s head of fire prevention, Doug Grafe, blamed the accelerated fire season on a worsening drought and triple-digit temperatures from a late June heat wave that killed hundreds of people throughout the Pacific Northwest. Forests were already as dry in early July as they are in late August, he added.

Chief Grafe said, “This is not going to return to normal any time soon.”

Because of the extreme weather, all property administered by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources east of the Cascades will be closed to the public for the time being beginning Friday.

Smoke from the Bootleg Fire, as well as other wildfires burning throughout the Western United States and Canada, sent an unpleasant cloud into the upper sky that stretched over the continent on Tuesday, contributing to the heavy haze that blanketed New York and other East Coast cities. On search engines, “Why is the sun red?” was a popular query.

According to official media sources, catastrophic floods in central China killed at least 12 people stuck inside a subway in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province. Considerably of the city and surrounding area was flooded, leaving images of devastation that indicated the death toll might be much higher. Flooding is common in China, but it seems to have grown more severe as a result of climate change, according to experts.

Many of this summer’s severe weather events have been attributed to climate change. While little rainfall and high temperatures in the West have accelerated and intensified wildfires, the warmer atmosphere in other areas of the nation retains more moisture, potentially intensifying downpours and floods. A guy died in Minnesota last week when his boat was capsized by heavy rain and high winds.

According to AccuWeather, a private forecasting organization, a series of heavy rain showers and thunderstorms will generate “a more widespread danger in the coming days” of flash flooding over most of the Southeast, including Gulf Coast states. It’s possible that 12 inches of rain may fall in certain places.

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Smoke filled the air as the Bootleg Fire approached rural properties near Paisley, Ore., on Tuesday.

The Bootleg Fire engulfed rural homes in Paisley, Oregon, on Tuesday, filling the air with smoke. Credit… Reuters/David Ryder

CHILOQUIN, OREGON (AP) — Tawan Murray stood in the parking lot of Chiloquin High School on Wednesday, selling concert-style “Bootleg Wildfire 2021” T-shirts while firefighting teams stretched across central Oregon trying to control the nation’s biggest wildfire.

Following the fire, Mr. Murray has been hopping from town to town, acting as a sort of apocalyptic trader. “Business is sluggish but steady,” he added, noting that “so many firemen are cycling in.”

Officials reported on Wednesday that the Bootleg Fire had burnt over 400,000 acres in southern Oregon since it was started by lightning on July 6. It’s now the state’s fourth-largest wildfire since 1900, and it’s been blazing so hot this week that it’s created its own weather, spreading hazardous smoke as far as New York City.

According to the state’s Department of Forestry, at least 2,000 residents in rural Oregon have been told to evacuate or prepare to leave since the fire has burned 67 houses and another 100 buildings. Despite its size and growth, the fire continued to burn mostly on isolated forest property.

The windows of the Cowboy Dinner Tree restaurant, located about 70 miles northeast of Chiloquin on the fringes of Silver Lake, frame miles of desert sagebrush and forest pines beyond. The restaurant gets its name from a nearby juniper tree that has lasted for decades, according to local legend, cattle drivers halted in its shade to dine at a chuck wagon along the outback route.

Jamie and Angel Roscoe, the owners, and their five children had been anticipating the order to evacuate their company and adjacent house, which sits on 80 acres about a mile from the Fremont National Forest, for the last week. Residents in certain areas of Lake County were ordered to evacuate immediately, but the Roscoe family was given a “Level 2 readiness” order, which indicates they should pack their belongings and be ready to leave at any time.

They made plans to transport saddle horses and cattle to nearby farms. They’ve been waiting and watching since then. Mr. Roscoe, 43, measured the wind speed and direction on Wednesday to assess the danger of the Bootleg Fire, which he said was approximately 14.5 miles away “as the crow flies.”

The kids had packed their favorite clothing, souvenirs, and pocketknives into their luggage. Important documents will be kept secure in a fireproof safe. Mr. Roscoe is completely unaware of what his wife has prepared for him. On Wednesday, he remarked, “I don’t care.” “Everything, save my family, is replaceable.”

The Roscoes intended to keep their eatery open for as long as the winds favored them. Mr. Roscoe described the flames as “playing a wild game of leapfrog.” Because of the fire, everyone is in a panic. It’s a really aggressive creature.”

He claimed the heavy smoke was everywhere, even inside. “The interior of my truck smells like a campfire.”

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New York City was enveloped by a cloud of haze on Tuesday. 

On Tuesday, New York City was engulfed in a cloud of smog. Credit… The New York Times’ Bryan Anselm

Wildfire smoke from Canada and the Western United States blanketed North America this week, obscuring the sky with a thick haze, turning the sun a sinister crimson, and prompting health warnings from Toronto to Philadelphia. On Wednesday morning, air quality over most of the East Coast remained poor.

The graphic below depicts how the smoke traveled throughout the nation, based on modeling from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It only includes pollution from wildfires and excludes pollution from other human sources such as power plants and automobiles.



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