Fires, Hurricanes, Dangerous Heat: The US Is Reeling From a String of Disasters

From deadly wildfires to floods, the US is reeling from several natural disasters in quick succession — and more are likely on the way.

(Bloomberg) — From deadly wildfires to floods, the US is reeling from several natural disasters in quick succession — and more are likely on the way. 

Torrential rains from the remnants of Hurricane Hilary are inundating parts of California. Two tropical storms, one post-tropical cyclone and two potential storms are lined up in the Atlantic Ocean. Almost 100 wildfires are burning across 15 states as officials in Hawaii investigate the deadliest US blaze in more than a century. And record heat will test Midwest power grids this week. 

All of this, all at once, is a lot —  and it’s not just bad luck. Climate change has triggered heat waves around the world, leading to ideal fire conditions in forests across the Northwest and Canada. It’s also boosting Atlantic water temperatures, which can intensify storms as the peak of hurricane season approaches. And unusually warm Pacific Ocean waters fueled Hilary, which in turn will contribute to scorching heat in the Midwest. 

“You don’t have record warmth in the Atlantic and Pacific at the same time,” said Ryan Truchelut, chief meteorologist at WeatherTiger LLC. “There’s no historical precedent for this.”

Read more: Maui Fire Lays Bare Utility Missteps Mirrored Across the Country

Hilary is expected to dissipate Monday as it wrings itself out across Southern California and Nevada. But the region has been pummeled with flooding and mudslides after the system made landfall as a tropical storm Sunday. 

The weather patterns that are pushing Hilary are also helping strengthen high pressure across the Midwest that will lead to temperatures exceeding 100F (38C) from South Dakota to Texas, with the worst of the heat centered in Kansas and Oklahoma over the next few days.

“The summer of the heat wave continues,” said Bob Oravec, a senior branch forecaster at the US Weather Prediction Center.

Two tropical storms and one post-tropical cyclone are currently churning across the Atlantic Ocean in a intense start to the most active part of hurricane season. Traditionally, the basin starts to spin up its most powerful storm after August 20, with the statistical peak arriving on September 10.

Storms Emily, Franklin and Gert all formed in the last 24 hours. Franklin is the biggest threat as it will bring heavy rain to Puerto Rico and make a direct hit on Haiti and the Dominican Republic Tuesday into Wednesday. Emily has already broken up and Gert is forecast to do so soon. That makes seven named storms so far this year — in a typical year, the sixth named storm doesn’t usually arrive until Sept. 3.

The last time the Atlantic had three storms was in 2021, when that happened twice, said Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher with Colorado State University.

Another system in the Gulf of Mexico is likely to become Tropical Storm Harold before reaching the Texas coast later in the week, though Truchelut said it’s likely to bring welcome rain to a region that needs it and probably won’t be very destructive. The National Hurricane Center is also monitoring a fifth system near Africa. 

And as all of these patterns converge, Southern California was rocked by a moderate earthquake Sunday afternoon that rattled windows but didn’t lead to significant damage. While there is a lot happening at once, there’s no known connection between weather and earthquakes, said Truchelut.

“That earthquake was just a random event,” he said. 

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