Heavy snow in U.S. West and Midwest could disrupt post-Thanksgiving travel

(Reuters) – A major winter storm will lumber across the United States over the weekend, dumping snow as it moves east from the U.S. West and threatening to disrupt millions of people traveling home after celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday.

Over a foot of snow is forecast in mountainous parts of Colorado, Utah and Arizona on Friday before the storm system slips toward the upper Midwest, the National Weather Service said.

Freezing rain will likely turn to snowy blizzards in parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan beginning on Friday night, with more than 18 inches of snowfall possible in some mountainous areas, the service said.

Some snow could appear in the Northeast by Sunday morning, the service said. New York City and other places further down the Atlantic Coast can expect a wintry mix of precipitation on Sunday.

More than 4 million Americans were expected to fly and another 49 million expected to drive at least 50 miles or more this week for Thanksgiving, according to the American Automobile Association.

Wintry weather disrupted travel this week ahead of Thursday’s Thanksgiving celebrations, with airports in Minneapolis and Chicago reporting hundreds of delayed or canceled flights.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Calmer winds bring hope in battle against deadly California blaze

Jul 30, 2018; Redding, CA, USA; Firefighters monitor fire movement as it crosses Highway 299 just west of Buckhorn Summit near the Trinity County line. Firefighters made progress on the fire which is now at 20 percent containment. Kelly Jordan via USA TODAY NETWORK

By Bob Strong

REDDING, Calif. (Reuters) – Some 3,600 firefighters struggling against one of the most destructive wildfires in California’s history hoped calmer winds on Tuesday would allow them to make more progress in carving out buffers to contain the blaze.

Six people have been confirmed killed and seven others have been missing since last Thursday. More than 800 homes and 300 other buildings have been reduced to ash and 37,000 people forced to evacuate as the Carr fire consumed 104,000 acres (42,000 hectares) in and around the town of Redding.

Jul 30, 2018; Redding, CA, USA; Todd Abercrombie, of Cal Fire watches the fire behavior as firefighters monitor fire movement as it crosses Highway 299 just west of Buckhorn Summit near the Trinity County line. Firefighters made progress on the fire which is now at 20 percent containment. Kelly Jordan via USA TODAY NETWORK

Jul 30, 2018; Redding, CA, USA; Todd Abercrombie, of Cal Fire watches the fire behavior as firefighters monitor fire movement as it crosses Highway 299 just west of Buckhorn Summit near the Trinity County line. Firefighters made progress on the fire which is now at 20 percent containment. Kelly Jordan via USA TODAY NETWORK

The firefighters reported some progress on Monday, having carved buffer lines around 23 percent of the fire’s perimeter, up from just 5 percent during much of the past week, thanks to calmer winds expected to remain in the area for two days.

The blaze, so far the seventh most destructive in Californian history, roared without warning into Redding and adjacent communities last week after being whipped by gale-force winds into a firestorm that jumped the Sacramento River.

It is the biggest of 17 wildfires now raging across the state, fueled by drought-parched vegetation, triple-digit temperatures, and unpredictable winds.

Two firefighters and at least four civilians were killed, including two young children and their great-grandmother who perished while huddled under a wet blanket.

Whole neighborhoods, including the town of Keswick on the outskirts of Redding, were laid to waste as residents fled for their lives in a chaotic evacuation. On Monday authorities began allowing some to return home, though an estimated 37,000 people still remained under mandatory evacuation orders.

Jul 30, 2018; Redding, CA, USA; Firefighters monitor fire movement as it crosses Highway 299 just west of Buckhorn Summit near the Trinity County line. Firefighters made progress on the fire which is now at 20 percent containment. Kelly Jordan via USA TODAY NETWORK

Jul 30, 2018; Redding, CA, USA; Firefighters monitor fire movement as it crosses Highway 299 just west of Buckhorn Summit near the Trinity County line. Firefighters made progress on the fire which is now at 20 percent containment. Kelly Jordan via USA TODAY NETWORK

To the southwest, the River and Ranch wildfires, known as the 23,000-acre Mendocino Complex, has forced thousands to evacuate as it has threatened 10,000 homes. About 2,000 firefighters are battling the blazes about 150 miles (240 km)north of San Francisco, where it has destroyed seven homes since it began on Friday, fire officials said.

Collectively, wildfires that have burned mostly in the U.S. West have scorched 4.6 million acres so far this year, 24 percent more than the average of burned landscape tallied for the same period over the past decade, according to federal data.

Authorities in California have reported levels of fire intensity and unpredictability they have seldom seen before. Statewide, wildfires have charred nearly 410,000 acres since January, the highest year-to-date total for the end of July in a decade, according to CalFire.

 

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Prime wildfire weather is sweeping across western U.S.

The Sierra Hotshots, from the Sierra National Forest, are responding on the front lines of the Ferguson Fire in Yosemite in this US Forest Service photo from California, U.S. released on social media on July 22, 2018. Courtesy USDA/US Forest Service, Sierrra Hotshots/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Brutally hot temperatures, fierce winds and arid conditions will sweep across the U.S. West on Wednesday, and the weather may contribute to an already deadly wildfire season.

Temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 C), winds gusting up to 50 miles (80 km) per hour and humidity levels in the teens are in the forecast for many parts of Oregon, California, Arizona and Nevada on Wednesday and into Thursday, the National Weather Service said in a series of advisories.

The service warned that the weather could lead to more of the fires in the region, which have killed nine firefighters and destroyed more than 2,500 homes.

One of the largest, the Ferguson Fire, forced the Yosemite Valley and other parts of Yosemite National Park to close on Wednesday as smoke filled the air in the popular tourist destination.

The Ferguson Fire, which has been burning since July 13 and has claimed the life of one firefighter, had charred about 37,795 acres (15,295 hectares) to the south and west of the park. It was 26 percent contained as of Tuesday night, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The park’s Yosemite Valley, Wawona and Mariposa Grove are to be closed at least through Sunday by the fire operations, the National Park Service said.

More than 3,400 personnel using 16 helicopters and 59 bulldozers have been battling the blaze, which has caused six injuries and led to evacuations in parts of the region.

In all, 73 major wildfires are burning in the United States in an area of about 700,000 acres. Most are in western states, with blazes also in central Texas and Wisconsin, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center.

As of July 24, wildfires had burned through 3.94 million acres this year, above the 10-year average for the same calendar period of 3.54 million acres, it said.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, editing by Larry King)