Tropical Storm Alex, Droughts, and Wildfires Bring Severe Weather to Many Across the US
TUESDAY, JUNE 7, 2022 AS OF 2:30 PM EDT
Tropical Storm Alex, the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, brought torrential rains and damaging winds to South Florida, Cuba, and Bermuda from Friday, June 3 through Monday, June 6, has been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone located approximately 325 miles northeast of Bermuda moving east/northeast at 31 miles per hour (mph) with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph as of 5:00pm AST, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) final public advisory report. There are currently no hazards affecting land, per NHC officials.
Winds of 40 mph were below the threshold for the system to be classified as a tropical storm when it impacted South Florida over the weekend. However, the high volume of rain caused many disruptions throughout Miami-Dade County, including 310 million gallons of wastewater and rainwater flowing into the County treatment plant, which “inundated the system” according to Jennifer Messemer, a spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department. The storm’s heavy rains and winds produced significant road flooding and unsafe conditions in many areas of southern Florida on Saturday, June 4. According to the NOAA Weather Prediction Center’s (WPC’s) latest Storm Summary, several areas across Southern Florida sustained double-digit rainfall totals, including nearly 15 inches in Hollywood and Margate, nearly 13 inches in Biscayne Park, and approximately 11 inches in Miami and Coral Gables. While there have been no reports of impacts to human life in the United States (US), the Associated Press (AP) reports that Alex was the direct cause of three deaths in Cuba.
Tropical Storm Alex was officially named after strengthening off Florida’s east coast on Sunday, June 5 at 2:00am EDT.According to NPR, Tropical Storm Alex formed partially from the remnants of Hurricane Agatha, a severe storm that hit Mexico’s Pacific Coast last week. Agatha was the strongest storm to make landfall in Mexico this early in the Pacific Hurricane Season and only the third in Mexico’s history in the month of May. Hurricane Agatha resulted in nine fatalities and four people are currently missing as a result of the storm.
6/5 – Here are the *preliminary* rainfall totals for the past 48 hours as #PTC1 (later designated as TS Alex north of the Bahamas) moved across South Florida and brought significant flash flooding to parts of our area. How much rain did you receive? pic.twitter.com/FyCLrw4hx9
— NWS Miami (@NWSMiami) June 5, 2022
Twitter: NWS Miami
While the Southeast deals with heavy rainfall, the West and Southwest regions of the US are still experiencing the worst drought since 800 A.D. According to a study using tree ring data conducted by climate scientists at the University of California, for the past 22 years,the City of Los Angeles, has experienced its driest period in at least 1,200 years, which is how far back the data goes. This same study also confirmed that high temperatures, combined with low precipitation levels, are the driving forces behind this historic drought.
Higher air temperatures, caused in part by the amounts of greenhouse gasses being released into the atmosphere, make drought conditions worse by pulling more water out of things like soil and vegetation. The latest drought map produced by NOAA’s National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC), and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), shows that 28 states are currently experiencing moderate or worse drought conditions with nine states, including California, Texas, Nevada, and New Mexico experiencing Exceptional Drought conditions. According to NOAA’s US Spring Outlook, the drought conditions in most of the West, Southwest, and Great Plains will continue or worsen. Effective June 1, 2022, more than six million Southern California residents have been prohibited to only use outdoor water once per week by the strictest ever water conservation rules in state history.
Drought conditions have impacted Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the two primary reservoirs for the Colorado River, as they have reached their lowest levels on record. The federal government announced in early May that it will delay the release of water from one major reservoir in order to keep more water in Lake Powell. This decision will, along with water conservation efforts, also attempt to protect the Glen Canyon Dam’s ability to supply electricity for about 5.8 million residents. In an effort to further protect the water levels in Lake Powell, additional water will be released over the next year from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir located mostly in Wyoming; however, water levels in this reservoir are also feeling the effects from nearly two decades of drought conditions in the area.
Rising temperatures and drier conditions also increase wildfire risk. As of June 7, 2022, wildland firefighters continue to try and contain eight uncontained large fires in New Mexico, Alaska, Arizona, and Colorado. Of those eight fires, five are located in New Mexico. The Hermits Peak Fire located 30.4 miles East of Sante Fe has become the largest wildfire in recent New Mexico history. Additionally, the Black Fire, located in the Gila National Forest about 30 miles North of Santa Clara, New Mexico, which was started by human causes and discovered on May 14, 2022, officially became the third-largest wildfire in New Mexico history on May 25, 2022.
Protect Yourself and Your Community: US Fire Administration
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encourages individuals to prepare and plan for wildfires. As these events can develop rapidly, it is never too soon to prepare for a potential fire incident. Individuals should follow the guidance of state and local authorities.
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.
- Remember, during a storm, it is important to follow the directions of your state and local officials. Ready.gov provides information on how to prepare for a storm and how to keep you and your family safe.
- Understanding the meaning of hurricane maps – a NY Times Opinion Piece: Those Hurricane Maps Don’t Mean What You Think They Mean
- Ready.gov provides information on how to prepare for wildfires and how to keep you and your family safe, including evacuation planning, preparing a go-bag, and staying up-to-date on warnings and notices.
- FEMA America’s PrepareAthon: How to Prepare for a Wildfire.
- The Los Angeles Times regularly updates tracking of California Wildfires: California Wildfires Map.
- The National Fire Protection Association provides wildfire preparedness tips: link.
- Marin County provides a wildfire evacuation checklist: link.
- FEMA provides an informational video about how to be prepared for wildfires: link.