WINTER STORM ELLIOTT BRINGS RECORD LOW TEMPERATURES AND SNOWFALL ACROSS THE NATION, IMPACTS CONTINUE ALTHOUGH STORM HAS PASSED

Tuesday, December 27, 2022 as of 2:00 PM ET

On Friday, December 23, the National Weather Service (NWS) reported that over 240 million people faced winter weather warnings or advisories as Winter Storm Elliott plunged temperatures to record lows and caused catastrophic blizzard conditions across the nation. According to the NWS, the storm met the criterion to be considered a bomb cyclone or an area of low pressure that intensifies rapidly. The storm produced strong winds and brutally cold temperatures in the Pacific Northwest before intensifying in the Great Lakes, where strong winds gusts generated whiteout conditions and rare “zero visibility” observations. The storm’s intensity caused thousands of flights to be delayed and canceled and many highways to be shut down. 

Across the nation, many states hit or tied record-low temperatures, with wind chills bringing temperatures even lower. The coldest confirmed wind chill occurred in Elk Park, Montana, where officials clocked a value of minus 75 degrees Fahrenheit. According to NBC News, there have been 63 fatalities attributed to the storm across 12 states, with most occurring in New York State.

 Twitter: Erie County, NY

According to New York state officials, this “once-in-a-generation storm” dropped over 50 inches of snow in some areas, prompting numerous regional driving bans and airport closures. In addition, over six million customers lost power at some point during the storm, according to PowerOutage.us. On Monday, December 26, President Biden approved New York’s emergency declaration, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to begin coordinating the disaster relief efforts in Erie and Genesee Counties.

Twitter: Governor Kathy Hochul

As of Monday, December 26, improved conditions have allowed rescue crews to begin responding to the hundreds of abandoned vehicles along the snow-covered Buffalo, New York highways. Numerous confirmed fatalities have been attributed to Emergency Medical Services (EMS) delay, while others involved prolonged exposure inside stranded vehicles or cardiac arrest. In total, authorities have confirmed 28 casualties in Erie County, New York, as of December 27. Driving bans continue to be in place in Erie County as the county begins to respond and recover from the storm. Individuals at risk are encouraged to remain up-to-date with information from their local NWS office and local government/emergency management office and follow guidance issued by local officials.

When the Snow Falls: Ready.gov

According to FEMA, winter storms can last from several hours to up to several days; disrupt access to heat, power, and communications; pose additional risks for vulnerable populations like older adults, children, those who are ill, and pets; and can “create a higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks from overexertion.” In order to stay safe, it is important to pay close attention to local weather reports, the Emergency Alert System, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio for the latest warnings, watches, and advisories and to seek shelter immediately when instructed to do so.

In Review: The 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2022 AS OF 3:00 PM EST

The 2022 Atlantic hurricane season officially ended on November 30, 2022, after producing 14 named storms, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Storms are named when they reach wind speeds of 39 miles per hour (mph) or greater and become hurricanes when their wind speeds reach 74 mph. This year, the Atlantic basin saw a total of eight hurricanes in 2022.

The 14 named storms and 8 named hurricanes of 2022. Hurricanes are marked by stars: NOAA

Two hurricanes this year, Fiona and Ian, became major hurricanes when they surpassed 111 mph. Hurricane Nicole, which made landfall as a Category 1 Hurricane in Florida on Thursday, November 10, was considered unusual by experts because it arrived so late in the season.

2022 HURRICANES

In May, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC), part of the National Weather Service (NWS), predicted that the Atlantic would see an above-average hurricane season, making 2022 the seventh year in a row to receive the label. Then on May 24, NOAA stated that they anticipated between 14 and 21 named storms, 6 to 10 hurricanes, and 3 to 6 major hurricanes through the 2022 season. On August 4, NOAA released an updated assessment of the season, with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell noting that “although it has been a relatively slow start to hurricane season… [we] cannot afford to let our guard down.” Residents of hurricane-prone areas were advised to stay vigilant and be ready when called upon to evacuate in the event of dangerous winds and storm surge. 

The slow start to the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season gave way in September when two major hurricanes hit the United States (US): Fiona, which made landfall on Wednesday, September 18 in Puerto Rico as a Category 1 and grew to a Category 4 headed for Canada, striking Nova Scotia with 105 mph winds on September 24; and Ian, which hit the Gulf Coast of Florida on September 28 as a Category 4, passing through Florida and making a second landfall in South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane on Friday, September 30. Lee Mayfield, Hagerty’s Director of Response, echoes Administrator Criswell, saying “The 2022 Hurricane Season started off slow, and I think everyone was hoping for below average hurricane activity as we entered September. Ian’s landfall late that month confirmed that just one storm can make it a memorable season. The catastrophic coastal damage from Ian will make the 2022 season go down in history.” 

Hurricane Ian

On Wednesday, September 28, 2022 just after 3:00 p.m. EST, Hurricane Ian made landfall near southwestern Florida’s barrier island of Cayo Costa as a Category 4 hurricane with winds reaching 150 mph, tying Hurricane Ida in 2021 for the fifth strongest hurricane to hit the US in recorded history. 

Hurricane Ian hit the State of Florida after first strengthening from a tropical storm to hurricane in the central Caribbean on Tuesday, September 26. It made landfall in Cuba the same day, with high winds and severe storm surge that knocked out the island’s power grid. After crossing over Florida, Hurricane Ian re-entered the Atlantic Ocean as a tropical storm, then strengthened to a Category 1 Hurricane and made its second US landfall near Georgetown, South Carolina on Friday, September 30. Storm winds reached 85 mph and caused widespread flooding and damage to coastal regions, including storm surges reaching up to seven feet in some areas, power outages, and infrastructure damage to North Myrtle Beach and Pawleys Island piers.

According to NOAA,Hurricane Ian’s rainfall was a 1-in-1,000 year event for the most impacted areas of Florida. Rain totals reached 15 inches over a 12-hour span in Placida, Florida, just north of Cayo Costa. Lake Wales, Florida, located in central Florida east of Tampa, reportedly received almost 17 inches of rain over a 24-hour time period. Additionally, the cities of Winter Park, North Port, and Myakka City experienced 1,000-year flood events based on an estimated 12, 14, and 14 inches of rainfall in 12 hours, respectively. 

Areas just south of the eye of the storm including Fort Myers and Naples were impacted by record breaking storm surge, rising water levels and fast-moving flood waters that can pose the greatest threat to life and property during hurricane events. Preliminary data from flood sensors show that 60 miles of Florida’s southwestern coastline saw a storm surge between one and two stories high.With eyes on the scene, Hagerty’s Lee Mayfield noted, “The surge experienced on Fort Myers Beach, Pine Island, and Sanibel showed how destructive and dangerous storm surge can be. We should continue to educate the public on how real a threat this can be, especially in areas that haven’t experienced it before.” 

As a result of Hurricane Ian, more than four million customers across the state of Florida experienced power outages, including hundreds of thousands for many days after the hurricane passed. At a Thursday, September 29 briefing, Governor Ron DeDantis announced that emergency response crews had rescued more than 700 people to safety. According to Lee Mayfield, mobilizing mutual aid can be critically important to the success of response operations, “From a disaster response perspective, emergency managers supporting each other via mutual aid systems is a key driver of success. In Southwest Florida, professional emergency managers from Florida and across the country deployed to the area and were embedded in local Emergency Operations Centers for over a month. This support system is crucial and Florida’s jurisdictions are recovering faster because of these partnerships.”

Hurricane Ian hovering over Florida and the Caribbean, September 27: NOAA

The impacts of Hurricane Ian are significant. Ian currently ranks as the eighth-costliest US hurricane event since 1980 with over $50 billion in damages and is the fifth-deadliest US hurricane event since 1963, responsible for 145 direct and indirect fatalities (preliminary toll). 

The US Small Business Administration (SBA) has issued $1.2 billion in disaster loans throughout Florida and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has distributed $919 million in claims. In addition, on Monday, November 28, Governor DeSantis announced the launch of Florida’s first-ever state-led sheltering and housing program, providing temporary sheltering options and housing repair assistance to those in need.

As of Monday, December 5, FEMA has issued more than $3.31 billion in federal grants, loans, and insurance payments to Florida, including $792 million to individual households impacted by the storm and nearly $400 million to the State of Florida’s emergency response efforts. 

Hagerty’s Lee Mayfield is hopeful that these funding streams will bring a coordinated approach to lasting resilience in Southwest Florida. In his eyes, “Long-term recovery is complex and will take time, but there will be opportunity for significant investment in communities at all levels. Just like we collaborate and work together during the response phase, these partnerships will be equally as important in recovery.”

 As important as it is for individuals to stay vigilant and be ready to take action to evacuate, emergency managers and response agencies are key to the success of response and recovery activities in times of crisis. Mayfield notes that “Disaster response and recovery is a team sport. No one team or agency can be successful alone. It requires collaboration and partnerships at so many levels, and that was exemplified by the large number of responders who served and continue to remain focused on recovery across Florida.” 

These events serve as opportunities to learn and develop future plans and best practices, Community investments in long-term recovery, including preparedness planning for future storm events, are going to be essential for moving forward and ensuring that communities are able to respond and recover as effectively as possible.

Historic Winter Storm in Western New York Brings Record Snowfall

Tuesday, November 22, 2022 AS OF 4:00 PM EST

A multi-day lake effect snow event occurred in and around Buffalo, New York, from the night of Wednesday, November 16, to Sunday, November 20. The National Weather Service (NWS) of Buffalo lists unofficial snowfall totaling as high as 81.2 inches in Hamburg, New York. NPR reported snowfall rates as high as three inches per hour due to the Lake Ontario effect. According to CNN, Erie County received the largest amount of snowfall the County had ever received within a 24-hour period on Saturday, November 19. Wind gusts up to 45 miles per hour (mph) accompanied the snowfall and created “blowing snow” even after the snowfall stopped, according to NWS of Buffalo. The event was recorded as the third-highest three-day total of snowfall in New York State.

Twitter: Erie County, NY

As the intense snowfall created hazardous driving conditions, officials issued travel bans in 18 communities on Thursday, November 17, and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) deployed over 500 snowplows to clear roadways. By Friday, November 19, the storm had caused numerous canceled flights at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and the emergency closure of Amtrak stations in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Depew. According to Erie County officials, the storm has resulted in three confirmed fatalities.

President Biden approved New York’s emergency declaration on Monday, November 21, ordering federal aid be sent to 11 counties impacted by the severe winter storm and snowstorm. This declaration authorizes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to begin coordinating disaster relief efforts, including identifying and mobilizing necessary resources.

As of Sunday, November 20, CNN reported that winter weather alerts had been issued for “over five million people from Michigan to New York,” as forecasters predict additional snowfall over the holiday weekend potentially creating hazardous travel conditions for many.

When the Snow Falls: Ready.gov

According to FEMA, winter storms can last from several hours to up to several days; disrupt access to heat, power, and communications; pose additional risks for vulnerable populations like older adults, children, those who are ill, and pets; and can “create a higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks from overexertion.” To stay safe, it is important to pay close attention to local weather reports, the Emergency Alert System, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio for the latest warnings, watches, and advisories and to seek shelter immediately when instructed to do so.

Hurricane Ian Strengthens Back Into A Category 1 Hurricane Heading For The Carolinas, Florida Left Reeling In Its Wake

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2022 AS OF 9:30 AM EST

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Hurricane Center (NHC), Hurricane Ian has again intensified into a Category (Cat) 1 hurricane after moving into the Atlantic Ocean off the eastern coast of Florida. As of 8:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), Hurricane Ian has a maximum sustained wind speed of 85 miles per hour (mph). The storm is currently located 105 miles south-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina, and 185 miles south-southwest of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving north at 9 mph. A hurricane warning is in effect for Savannah River, South Carolina, to Cape Fear, North Carolina and a hurricane watch is in effect for east of Cape Fear to Surf City, North Carolina. Hurricane-force winds currently extend up to 70 miles from the center of Hurricane Ian. Major river flooding is predicted to continue across Central Florida through next week, and storm surge warnings are in effect for parts of Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Governor DeSantis said Hurricane Ian caused “historic” damage in Florida, “We’ve never seen a storm surge of this magnitude,” he continued.

Hurricane Ian- GeoColor: NOAA

As of Thursday evening, September 29, emergency response teams have conducted more than 700 rescues in Florida, with the majority of efforts concentrated in the Fort Myers and Sanibel Island areas. The Florida Hospital Association (FHA) announced that more than 1,200 patients are being evacuated from a large health system in Fort Myers on September 29 due to the facility’s lack of water supply. State officials say these evacuations and rescues include efforts via air, sea, and high water vehicles, as some roads and bridges remain impassable. In Southwest Florida, at least five sections of the Sanibel Causeway collapsed as a result of the storm, leaving the island’s population of 6,400 without access to the mainland. Officials have confirmed at least 17 fatalities so far due to Hurricane Ian.

Twitter: NWS Tampa Bay

In a briefing released on September 29, Governor DeSantis reported that eight United States Army Reserve (USAR) staffed with 800 team members had been activated to perform search and rescue initiatives across impacted areas. DeSantis also announced that 42,000 linemen are actively responding to the more than two million power outage reports throughout Florida. 

In addition, President Biden approved South Carolina’s emergency declaration on Thursday, September 29, activating the state’s emergency operations plan and enabling preparations for Hurricane Ian’s landfall. As the NHC predicts “life-threatening storm surge and hurricane conditions” in the state by Friday afternoon, September 30, officials have agreed to dispatch federal assistance to supplement local emergency response efforts across impacted areas.

Twitter: Readygov

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides guidance to individuals preparing for, experiencing, or being affected by hurricanes. Hurricane Ian brings the potential for life-threatening storm surges to many coastal and urban communities. Individuals should heed the warnings of local authorities, including evacuating in advance if advised and if possible, and prepare for hurricanes and severe weather conditions. It is imperative that individuals seek higher ground and avoid walking or driving in flood waters. Additionally, FEMA encourages individuals to take the necessary precautions and prepare for flash flooding. FEMA suggests several precautionary steps people can take to protect their homes and personal properties from damage by high winds and floods, including reviewing flood insurance coverage.

The Hagerty Blog Team will continue providing information and updates.

STAY UPDATED AND LEARN MORE HERE:

Torrential Rainfall Leads to Catastrophic Flooding across Mississippi

FRIDAY, AUGUST 26, 2022 AS OF 2:00 PM EST

Heavy, torrential rainfall and severe storm weather has led to catastrophic flooding across central Mississippi this week. The flooding began on Wednesday, August 24, after a slow-moving weather system produced record-breaking rainfall in multiple counties. The heavy rain prompted the National Weather Service (NWS) to issue a flash flood emergency for nearly 300,000 people in Jackson, Mississippi, and surrounding communities. As the flooding progressed, high-water rescue vehicles were used to evacuate over 100 children and staff from a daycare facility in Florence, Mississippi, and dozens of nursing home residents in Brandon, Mississippi. As a result of the escalating flood waters, portions of a Newton County highway collapsed, creating a sinkhole into which a truck fell, according to the Mississippi Highway Patrol (MHP). In addition, two pressurized train cars carrying carbon dioxide derailed in Brandon, Mississippi, after heavy rain washed out sections of the underlying track bed. While the location of the derailment is in close proximity to numerous neighborhoods, local authorities have indicated the situation poses no hazards to the community, as officers will be stationed at both ends of the track until the tanks are offloaded.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba declared a flash-flooding local emergency Wednesday afternoon, August 24, as this week’s heavy rain fosters risks of severe flooding from Pearl River. According to the NWS, discharge from the river’s reservoir has increased to 55,000 cubic feet of water per second (cfs), leaving forecasters to expect a crest of 36 feet, eight feet above flood stage, by Tuesday morning, August 30. In a press conference on August 25, the mayor called for voluntary evacuations of numerous neighborhoods in Northeast Jackson in preparation for a Pearl River flood.

Twitter: MHP Meridian

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), weather events producing extreme rainfall have increased across the United States (US) and are projected to continue increasing, bringing community health risks. The volume of extreme precipitation and total rainfall accumulation has contributed to severe flooding, which is the second most fatal weather-related hazard accounting for approximately 98 deaths each year. These intense swings in weather conditions – from severe drought to extreme rainfall and flooding – has been coined “weather whiplash” and is a growing concern impacting communities across the country. At least half of the country has been plagued with drought conditions this summer and many regions are continuing to experience severe, extreme and exceptional drought, according to the US Drought Monitor’s map released on August 25. These extreme dry conditions have been followed by significant and record-breaking rainfall, including in the St. Louis metropolitan area from July 25-26, eastern Kentucky and central Appalachia from July 26-July 30, eastern Illinois on August 2, Death Valley National Park on August 5, and in the Dallas area on August 21.

Twitter: University of Reading

A team of scientists at the World Weather Attribution (WWA) are investigating the relationship between climate change and extreme weather events that are record-breaking, impact at least one million individuals, and cause a significant loss of life. According to WWA official Julie Arrighi, their team has already identified 41 qualifying weather events globally this calendar year – eight floods, three storms, eight droughts, 18 heat waves and four cold waves. Historically the US has experienced extreme rain events in connection with hurricanes or tropical storms, but as recently as this summer the country has seen “an overabundance of non-tropical related extreme rainfall,” according to the NWS Weather Prediction Center (WPC) forecast branch chief Greg Carbin.

FEMA Flood Safety: Source

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encourages individuals to take the necessary precautions and prepare for flash flooding. Flash floods can develop with little to no warning, quickly changing the surrounding area. FEMA suggested individuals seek higher ground, avoid walking or driving in flood waters, and heed the warnings of local authorities. The most important step is to seek shelter away from the water, which may necessitate getting to the highest ground possible, or evacuating the area if directed to do so. Individuals should pay close attention to national emergency alerts or local alerting systems for the most up-to-date instructions. It is imperative that individuals seek higher ground, and to avoid walking or driving in flood waters. 

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.

Extreme Flooding Leads to Dozens of Rescues and Infrastructure Damage

TUESDAY, AUGUST 23, 2022 AS OF 1:00 PM EST

Torrential rains caused historic flash flooding across the City of Moab, Utah and surrounding areas on the evening of Saturday, August 20. This was due to almost one inch of rain falling in a 20-minute time span, causing hazard situations throughout the city. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS), a total of 1.66 inches of rain fell between 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm MDT. According to Chuck Williams, a City of Moab engineer, this extreme weather event qualifies as a 100-year flood, as reported by KUTV. In response, the City of Moab and Grand County officials issued emergency declarations, closed several unsafe roads and trails. Cities have made free sheltering and clean drinking water available for impacted homes and businesses in the downtown area.

Twitter: City of Moab, Utah

Elsewhere in Utah, rescuers continue to search for a woman who went missing while hiking at Zion National Park on Friday, August 19. According to reports, the woman did not return to her lodging that evening after visiting The Narrows, one of the most popular areas of the park and also the narrowest section of Zion Canyon. At approximately 2:15 pm MDT on Friday, park officials received a report that several hikers were impacted by a flash flood in the area, although at that time there were no visitors reported missing. Rescuers did transport one other person to an area hospital after finding them injured near the Temple of Sinawava. The National Park Service (NPS) has issued a news release providing updates on park closures and search and rescue efforts.

Twitter: NWS Fort Worth

In addition, severe storms in North Texas have prompted numerous water rescues as rainfall totals in some areas would qualify as a one-in-one-thousand-year flood. According to the NWS, flood warnings began Sunday evening, August 21, as a storm system intensified heavy rains across the Dallas-metropolitan and Fort Worth areas. In the eastern Dallas area, nearly 14 inches of rain was recorded in just 12 hours according to Harris County meteorologist Jeff Lindor. The Fort Worth Fire Department reported over 130 high water calls by midday Monday, August 22, with crews actively responding to 38 different scenes. As rain continued to fall in and around the area, the NWS in Fort Worth  issued warnings for continued risk of dangerous and life-threatening flooding until Monday afternoon, August 22. 

East of Dallas, Shreveport and Monroe, Louisiana, and Nachez, Mississippi, are also bracing for extreme weather conditions as heavy rainfalls move across the Mississippi Valley. A flood watch has been issued until 7pm on Tuesday, August 23, with rainfall totals anticipated to reach between four and six inches in Northern Louisiana. The Southwestern Electric Power Company, which supplies a majority of homes in the region spanning from Dallas, Texas to Nachez, Mississippi, reported at noon on August 22 that over 4,800 customers remained without power due to heavy rain and down trees. The Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) maintains a list of resources for updating residents on changing conditions, including the RAVE Mobile Safety alerts and notifications system to keep the public up-to-date on extreme weather events.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) : Ready Flooded Roads

FEMA encourages individuals to take the necessary precautions and prepare for flash flooding. Flash floods can develop with little to no warning, quickly changing the surrounding area. FEMA suggests individuals seek higher ground, avoid walking or driving in flood waters, and heed the warnings of local authorities. To stay informed about severe weather events, 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 during wildfire events impacting their community.

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.

Multiple Types of Severe Weather Impact Over Half of the United States Last Week

TUESDAY, MAY 17, 2020 AS OF 5:00 PM EST

During the week of May 9, 2022, large portions of the United States (US) experienced severe weather. 

WILDFIRES OUT WEST

As of Tuesday May 17, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reports that there are 11 uncontained large fires that have burned nearly 400,000 acres across the US, with over 4,600 firefighters and other personnel supporting the response efforts. While the US remains at National Wildland Fire Preparedness Level 2, which signifies high to extreme fire danger in several parts of the country, the Southwestern US was elevated to Preparedness Level 4 in late April, the earliest the region has ever entered that level, according to Jake Nuttall of the US Forest Service.

The Southwestern US is currently in Level 4 risk: NIFC

The two most significant fire incidents in the Southwest are located in New Mexico: the Cerro Pelado Fire in Sandoval and the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire in San Miguel. The Cerro Pelado Fire began on Friday, April 22, by an unknown cause and, as of Tuesday, May 17, spans over 45,000 acres. The Incident Information System (InciWeb) reports that the fire is 71 percent contained and is estimated to be fully contained by Saturday, May 21. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Watch Center’s Daily Operations Briefing on Tuesday, May 17, the fire has led to 733 mandatory evacuations, has destroyed 10 structures, and has caused one injury to-date. Officials continue to closely monitor the fire’s path due to its proximity to the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). However, the laboratory’s website announced on Monday, May 16 that its status will return to the “Ready” stage of Ready, Set, Go in accordance with the Wildland Fire Action Guide published by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC).

The Calf Canyon Fire and Hermits Peak Fire, which combined to form one complex incident on Saturday, April 23, is now New Mexico’s largest recorded wildfire in modern history and has burned more acres (nearly 300,000 according to InciWeb) across New Mexico than all of last year. Since the fires began (Hermits Peak on Wednesday, April 6 and Calf Canyon on Tuesday, April 19), the FEMA National Watch Center reports over 298,000 acres burned, more than 600 destroyed structures, and 40 injuries as a result of the fires. A Red Flag Warning is in effect today, Tuesday, May 17 from 1:00 pm to 7:00 pm Mountain Daylight Time (MDT) for the eastern plains due to low humidity, strong winds, and high temperatures. According to InciWeb on Tuesday, May 17, containment is currently at 26 percent and a trend of warm and dry conditions is expected to lead to increased fire activity over the coming days.

Twitter: NWS Albuquerque

EXTREME WEATHER ACROSS THE MIDWEST

As fires raged across the Western US, the Great Plains were hit with heavy winds and extreme dust that culminated in tornadoes and widespread damages, according to the Des Moines Register. The National Weather Service (NWS) of Omaha confirmed that events on May 12 qualified as derecho storms — widespread, long-lived wind storms that are associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms. According to the NWS office in Sioux Falls, multiple lines of thunderstorms were observed traveling northeast from Nebraska up through the Dakotas and Minnesota at speeds up to 100 miles per hour. 

Severe weather reports caused by heavy wind and thunderstorms: NWS Sioux Falls

In addition to thunderstorms, the region experienced a rare weather phenomenon called a haboob, which occurs when wind collects dust ahead of a thunderstorm and creates large clouds of dust across a region. Iowa residents shared photos with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NWS depicting the Thursday, May 12 dust storms and showing clouds rolling through farmland and over homes. 

Haboob settling over homes in Rock Rapids, IA: NWS Sioux Falls

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): Prevent accidental wildfires

WILDFIRE PREPAREDNESS AND SAFETY

As the frequency and magnitude of wildfire activity continues to rise nationwide, FEMA encourages individuals to heed the guidance of local authorities to remain safe during wildfire events impacting their community. Developing weather situations and conditions are constantly being updated on NIFC’s website. The NIFC’s website also includes current wildfire counts, jurisdictions and states affected, and weather reports. To get a breakdown of public advisories by state and county, NOAA’s NWS provides a list of red flag warnings and air quality alerts in decreasing order of severity.

Often, wildfires spread rapidly and without warning, so it is important to know your risk and be prepared. May is National Wildfire Awareness Month, a good time to plan in case one of these dangerous blazes affects your community. Below are several important tips to consider.

SEVERE THUNDERSTORM PREPAREDNESS AND SAFETY

As evidenced by the recent series of severe storms across parts of the Midwest, FEMA warns the public that thunderstorms are highly dangerous and can cause powerful winds, lightning, hail, flash flooding, and tornadoes. FEMA urges individuals to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves against these violent storms. An essential preparedness measure is to sign up in advance for your community’s emergency alerts and warnings and to pay close attention to local weather reports for real-time conditions. Ready.gov provides information on how to prepare for, survive during, and be safe after a thunderstorm.

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.

Western States on Alert as Fires and Droughts Continue

TUESDAY, MAY 10, 2022 AS OF 1:00 PM EST 

Communities across the western United States (US) are battling heat-related disasters and major fire events. In New Mexico, the Cerro Pelado Fire and Cooks Peak Fire continue to threaten areas west and east of Santa Fe, respectively. The Cerro Pelado Fire, first identified on April 22, has only 11 percent containment, according to New Mexico Fire Information. To date, this fire has engaged nearly 900 personnel and damaged 40,958 acres in New Mexico. Conversely, the Cook Fire, which began on April 17, 2022, has roughly 97 percent containment. With high containment for the Cooks Fire, firefighters are working to contain the Cerro Pelado fire, but expect that the fire will slowly progress south along Highway 4.  The US Forest Service (USFS) has issued Stage II Fire Restrictions for the impacted areas, meaning visitors and residents cannot participate in any igniting or burning of materials, including smoking. The order first went into effect on Monday, May 2, and applies to regions buffering the Santa Fe National Forest and Bandelier National Monument.

New Mexico Fire Information: Fire Map of the Cerro Pelado Fire

In addition to ongoing fire efforts to slow the spread of the Cerro Pelado Fire, firefighters in the Zuni Mountains have identified another wildfire, named the Quartz Fire. The fire was first identified on May 9th, but crews feel confident that it will not pose ongoing threats to communities; the fire is already 75 percent contained and there are no plans to evacuate. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) reported California was facing its driest year on record, with January through April precipitation the lowest on record since 1895. The Weather Channel noted the data is concerning, particularly as California is poised to enter its dry season and the state’s snowpack averaged 21 percent as of May 9. The state’s two largest reservoirs have reached critically low levels as California moves into the dry season; with Shasta Lake at 40 percent total capacity as of May 3, while Lake 

Oroville was at 55 percent capacity, according to the US Drought Monitor. The drought additionally affects much of the American West, with the US Drought Monitor also noting Lake Powell and Lake Mead in the Colorado River Basin are only at 24 percent and 31 percent capacity, respectively. New Mexico’s Elephant Butte Reservoir in the Rio Grande Basin is currently 13 percent full. Mary Lee Knecht, public affairs officer for the US Bureau of Reclamation’s California-Great Basin Region, told CNN that the agency anticipates “that in the Sacramento Valley alone, over 350,000 acres of farmland will be fallowed,” in an area that is larger than the City of Los Angeles.

Statewide Precipitation Ranks: NCEI

The Six P’s: CAL FIRE

As the threat of new and more frequent wildfires continues to rise, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encourages individuals to heed the guidance of local authorities to remain safe during wildfire events impacting their community. Developing weather situations and conditions are constantly being updated on the National Interagency Fire Center’s (NIFC’s) website. Current wildfire counts, jurisdictions and states affected, and weather reports are all available for the most up-to-date information. 

Individuals play a large role in community preparedness. NIFC recommends that members of communities impacted by wildfires can do their part by ensuring roadways are clear for emergency vehicles and flammable vegetation is kept away from structures. FEMA also recommends downloading their mobile application and text messaging system for instant notifications. To get a breakdown by State and County of public advisories, NOAA’s NWS has provided a list of red flag warnings and air quality alerts in decreasing order of severity.

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.

 

Multiple Wildfires Spread Across Western States, Resulting in Evacuation Orders and Destruction of Property

MONDAY, APRIL 25, 2022 AS OF 1:30 PM EST

Over the past week, the western half of the United States (US) has experienced severe weather. 

Wind-driven wildfires were reported in 14 counties across western and central Nebraska beginning on Friday, April 22nd. The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has been activated in order to coordinate a statewide response. Fires have reportedly destroyed 130,000 acres, although state officials have yet to disclose the official total burned area amounts or number of structures destroyed. The wildfires have claimed the life of one retired fire chief who was working as a spotter in Red Willow County when smoke and dust led to poor visibility, forcing his vehicle off the road; at least 15 firefighters have sustained injuries. On April 23rd the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region VII approved the state’s request for a Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) to provide emergency financial support for costs incurred by the State, according to NEMA. While as of April 24th all evacuation orders had been lifted and most fires had been extinguished or contained as of that afternoon, a Fire Weather Watch remains in effect for several areas across the state with an expected expiration of Tuesday, April 26 at 8:00pm CST.

Twitter: Nebraska Forest Service

Warm weather, high winds, and low humidity are also continuing to fuel a half-dozen wildfires across Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. The Tunnel Fire located approximately 14 miles northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona along US Highway 89 was reported on Sunday, April 17 and is currently 15 percent contained. The original cause of the fire is not currently known, and strong winds, including gusts of up to 50 miles per hour (mph), led to rapid expansion of the blaze forcing nearby residents to scramble to evacuate. An estimated 700 homes fell under evacuation orders, and according to Coconino County officials 766 homes and 1,000 animals were evacuated. What began as a small blaze, quickly grew to reach across nearly 21,100 acres. Erratic winds are also now creating additional difficulties with containing the fire as air resources were grounded. According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) this year has already had above average fire activity. 

Due to the growing Tunnel Fire, following the Sheriff’s Office announcement of the evacuation of several neighborhoods on Tuesday, April 19, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency in Coconino County to assist first responders in their efforts to bring residents to safety on Thursday, April 21. This directed $200,000 in emergency funds to the response effort and ensures the Arizona Division of Emergency Management (DEMA) can coordinate across the state. The Coconino County Board of Supervisors held a community meeting on Saturday, April 23, to provide updates to residents and ensure a whole community response to this event. Despite high winds on Saturday evening, the fire was weakened by humidity in the region, allowing firefighters to assess fire containment efforts. As of Sunday morning, evacuation orders changed from “go” to “set” (Ready, Set, Go), indicating that the community should be ready to mobilize when needed but are not being asked to evacuate presently.

Twitter: Northwest Interagency Coordination Center

North of the Tunnel Fire, Denver and Boulder, Colorado were put under a Red Flag warning on Friday, April 22, to alert residents of extreme fire weather conditions. These include “very warm, dry, and windy weather (that) will make any new wildfire extremely difficult, if not impossible, to control,” according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) in Boulder. Despite snow in the forecast for parts of northwestern Colorado, the north and northeastern parts of the state will remain under warning until an upper level system brings rain on Sunday. In the meantime, residents of Denver, Boulder, and Larimer County are encouraged to sign up for the Larimer Emergency Telephone Authority’s Emergency Alerts to learn more about potential evacuations or fire conditions.

Twitter: Ready.gov

FEMA urges individuals to plan ahead for wildfire events that can strike a community on short notice and spread quickly. FEMA encourages individuals to stay on top of the latest alerts in their area, including monitoring of the NOAA NWS “Red Flag Warnings,” which indicate when critical fire weather conditions are occurring or will occur shortly; and taking advantage of real-time alerts available via the FEMA Mobile App and other local and national communication systems. It is also critical that households dedicate time together well in advance of a wildfire to create a wildfire action plan; inclusive of emergency meeting locations and evacuation routes, a communication plan, and an emergency supply kit. FEMA implores individuals to heed the warnings of local authorities and immediately adhere to evacuation orders in order to stay safe during a wildfire.

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.

RELATED STORIES

  • Remember, Ready.gov provides information on how to prepare for Wildfire and how to keep you and your family safe.
  • FEMA’s America’s PrepareAthon: How to Prepare for a Wildfire
  • The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides wildfire preparedness tips: link
  • Marin County provides a wildfire evacuation checklist: link
  • FEMA provides an information video about how to be prepared for wildfires: link

Extreme Weather Brings Tornadoes and Storms to Southern States

TUESDAY, MARCH 22, 2022 AS OF 3:00 PM EDT

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) has predicted heavy to excessive rainfall, combined with severe thunderstorms throughout the Deep South on Tuesday before moving into the Southeast United States (US) on Wednesday. The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) noted an enhanced to moderate risk for severe weather throughout approximately the same area, with storms capable of creating strong tornadoes, damaging winds, and large hail. Rainfall from the same system is expected to move into the Midwest and middle/upper Mississippi Valley on Tuesday, with wintry precipitation a potential risk across northern regions of the country. The NWS Storm Prediction Center additionally tweeted that a tornado watch (with the likelihood of large hail) is in effect for southeastern Louisiana and southern and central Mississippi until 7pm Central Daylight Time (CDT) Tuesday. A tornado watch is also in effect for New Orleans until 7pm CDT, according to NOLA Ready

Twitter: Jesus Jimenez, KXAN in Austin

On Monday March 21, The AP News reported numerous tornadoes spread across portions of Texas and Oklahoma. The storms caused widespread damage and injuries along the Interstate 35 corridor in Texas.The worst damage was seen in the Austin suburbs of Round Rock and Elgin and the west-northwest portion of Dallas-Fort Worth. Officials reported at least four individuals were injured on Monday as a result of the storms. Jacksboro, Texas officials stated that high winds from a storm had ripped the wall and roof from portions of Jacksboro High School, according to AP News. The NOAA NWS issued a tornado watch that lasted in Central Texas counties until 1 am CDT on Monday, with Fox-affiliated 7 Austin recording that Gillespie County, Hays County, Bastrop County, Caldwell County, Lee County, Blanco County, Travis County, Llano County, Burnet County, Williamson County, Fayette County, Bell County, Milam County and Lampasas County all fell under the tornado watch.

Twitter: Ready.gov

Tornado preparedness

While tornadoes are most likely to occur in the US Midwest and Southeast regions, it is important that everyone be prepared for severe storms and weather. Knowing your risk and making a plan are the first steps in preparing for severe weather. 

Regardless of the hazards you may face, one essential preparedness measure it to sign up for emergency alerts and warnings and pay attention to local weather forecasts. Making a plan for severe weather and tornadoes includes identifying the safest place for you and your family, including any pets you might have. Safe rooms and storm shelters built to the International Code Council (ICC) 500 Standards, which define the “minimum requirements to safeguard the public health, safety, and general welfare relative to the design, construction, and installation of storm shelters”, are the safest option. However, if those are not available, the next best option is to shelter in a small, interior, windowless room or basement on the lowest level of a sturdily built building. Have an emergency kit ready that includes enough supplies like food and medicine.

During

If your area is under a severe weather or tornado warning, plan to take shelter immediately. However, you should never try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle. If you are in a car or outside and cannot get to shelter, the best thing to do is to lay flat on the ground, preferably in a ditch or ravine, and cover yourself as best you can, especially your neck and head. Pay close attention to local alert systems for current emergency information and updates, and don’t leave your shelter until it is safe to do so.

After

While the immediate danger may have passed, there are still safety considerations to remember once the storms are over. Continue to pay attention to local alerts and seek medical attention if you are sick or injured. Once you are able to leave shelter, stay clear of fallen power lines or other broken utilities and be very careful when navigating debris. Wear long pants and sleeves, work gloves, and heavy-soled shoes when clearing debris and follow the appropriate guidelines for staging debris and cleaning your home.

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.