Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

Heatwaves and Wildfires Affect Western States as Extreme Rainfall Impacts the Midwest Region


The United States (US) faced weather extremes this week with devastating floods in St. Louis, Missouri, and dangerous wildfires continue to impact California. On Monday, July 25, record rainfall impacted the St. Louis region, leading to severe and widespread flash flooding. Overnight between Monday, July 25 and Tuesday, July 26, several rounds of thunderstorms produced 8.6 inches of rain on the St. Louis metropolitan area in 12 hours, breaking the previous record of 6.85 in the same time period. The previous record was set in the immediate aftermath of the Galveston 1915 Hurricane, 107 years ago. The National Weather Service (NWS) St. Louis office reported that the region received nearly 25 percent of its average annual rainfall in 12 hours, which is starkly different from the 7 percent that the region normally receives in July and August combined.

Twitter: NWS St. Louis

Given the extreme rainfall and flooding throughout the region, Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe of Missouri issued Executive Order 22-05 to declare a state of emergency for Missouri. This order activated the Missouri State Emergency Operations Plan, allowing local, state, and national coordination to bring relief to impacted communities in the St. Louis metropolitan area. The governor’s office reported that the flooding resulted in numerous rescue events, roughly 100 requests to first responder hotlines, and one known fatality

In addition to state-level efforts, the City of St. Louis is coordinating with the St. Louis Fire Department, Metropolitan Police Department, City Emergency Management, and Street Department to deliver updates to impacted residents. With assistance from the American Red Cross, the City of St. Louis has established an evacuation shelter to assist residents who have been displaced by flooding and encourages everyone to check social media and the official City of St. Louis websites for updates.

Twitter: St. Louis Fire Department


Significant wildfires in the Western US are causing hazardous conditions and evacuations for residents and visitors in the area. The Oak Fire began the afternoon of Friday, July 22, in Midpines, California located about 25 miles from Yosemite Valley, and has burned at least 18,715 acres, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) incident report on Wednesday, July 27. While the Oak Fire is far from the scale of some wildfires in California’s recent history, it is by far the largest in the state this calendar year. To date, the fire has caused no fatalities or injuries, however, the Oak Fire has destroyed 61 structures – including 42 homesaccording to the latest Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Watch Center’s Daily Operations Briefing

CAL FIRE, in collaboration with more than 15 cooperating agencies, is currently deploying 66 crews totaling 3,154 personnel, 286 engines, 94 dozers, 68 water tenders, and 22 helicopters to battle the Oak Fire. As of Wednesday, July 27, at 9:36 a.m. CST the Oak Fire was approximately 32 percent contained, a credit to first responders who have been relatively successful at preventing the spread of the blaze this week, as reported in a recent CAL FIRE Status Update Report. However, the exceedingly dry conditions in the area have challenged firefighting efforts, which is partly the reason for the volume of destruction the Oak Fire has caused, according CAL FIRE spokesperson Captain Keith Wade as reported by CNN.

Fires Near Yosemite: NASA Earth Observatory

In response to the Oak Fire, on Saturday, July 23, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for Mariposa County, and earlier in the day announced that California had secured a Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) from FEMA. Over 3,800 residents have evacuated since the fire started, although as crews make progress on the fire, some Evacuation Orders have been lifted to Evacuation Advisements, per CAL FIRE’s situation summary on Tuesday, July 26, at 7:15 p.m. PST.

This latest fire incident is coming on the heels of the nearby Washburn Fire, which started on Thursday, July 7, has burned almost 5,000 acres, and is now 87 percent contained. Some areas of Yosemite National Park remain closed due to impacts of the Washburn Fire and the National Park Service has posted current conditions, road closures, and other cautions for visitors on their website. In addition, there are emerging smoke and air quality impacts in the immediate vicinity of The Oak Fire, and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has issued an air quality advisory through Wednesday, July 27, in anticipation of smoke blowing into the Bay Area. 


The NWS Portland Office has issued Excessive Heat Warnings and Heat Advisories as the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area temperature nears 100 degrees and the nearby Willamette Valley exceeds 100 degrees. Additionally, NWS Seattle/Tacoma reports that Seattle will remain under an Excessive Heat Warning as temperatures continue in the mid-90s from Wednesday, July 27, until Friday, July 29. In the event of Excessive Heat Warnings, the NWS encourages residents to “stay hydrated, seek air-conditioning, avoid unnecessary trips outside in the sun, and ensure loved ones are doing the same.” The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has issued an air quality advisory caused by the heat and smog in the Portland metropolitan area and greater Willamette Valley. On Tuesday, July 26, Oregon Governor Kate Brown declared a state of emergency in 25 Oregon counties through Sunday, July 31, to bring additional resources to emergency responders combating rising temperatures and dangerous air quality.

Storm Damage: FEMA

To stay informed about severe weather events, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) NWS provides the latest alerts in your area. Another way to stay updated is through real-time alerts available via the FEMA Mobile App and other local and national communication systems. FEMA encourages individuals to adhere to the guidance of local authorities in order to stay safe when flooding, wildfire, and heat events impact their communities.

Additionally, FEMA urges individuals living in areas impacted by extreme heat to take necessary safety measures in preparation for and during heat waves. FEMA recommends equipping your residence or business with proper insulation, air conditioners, and coverings and reflectors on windows to keep cool. Many communities stand up free, public cooling centers, the locations of which are shared via local news outlets or can be accessed by contacting your local health department or 2-1-1 resource.

The Hagerty Blog Team will continue providing information and updates on current events and disasters impacting the nation. Visit Disaster Discourse for the latest information.