Smoke from wildfires rises into the sky north of Denver on Thursday, December 30, 2021. Photo: Peter Orsi (AP)
A series of rare wildfires in December coupled with raging winds in excess of 105 mph (169 kph) forced the evacuation of thousands across northern Colorado on Thursday. It’s the latest weather disaster that is unleashing chaos in a bizarre junk-filled December.
Authorities with the Boulder Office of Emergency Management told about 13,000 inhabitants of the city Better and 21,000 in the city of Louisville — both near Denver — to evacuate in recent hours due to the deadly threat of the Middle Fork Fire and the Marshall Fire. The office of Colorado Governor Jared Polis said the grass fires were caused by high winds over the Front Range, which has had a dry and mild fall and winter, and said the governor had declared a state of emergency.
According to the Associated Press, downed power lines may have started some fires in what a increasingly common about the West. (Just not normal in December.)
“Boulder OEM gets a lot of calls about residents seeing fire. IF YOU SEE FIRE, EVACUATE. Go east, go north, but leave immediately,” Boulder OEM wrote on her website at 12 noon local time.
However, this does not mean that residents should wait to evacuate until they see flames, the National Weather Service in Boulder noted, and urges people in the affected areas to get outside immediately.
Boulder OEM added in a later warning that some residents were out of power and unable to evacuate because they couldn’t get their cars out of the garage, which sounds like a very stressful problem to have in such a dangerous situation.
“All garages INSIDE have a red lever that allows you to manually open your garage. Pull the lever to open your garage door,” said Boulder OEM.
A video by a local KMGH-TV reporter at a Home Depot in Louisville looked like a scene from another world. Smoke covered the area like a thick blanket as the wind growled and shook trees. Other imagery shows numerous structures burned to the ground as the wind whips through the trees. While these scenes have become commonplace in summer as the climate crisis prompts the West to burn, the intensity and location of these fires burning in December on what’s known as the wilderness-urban borderland is profound in a whole new way. disturbing.
“Prayers for thousands of families evacuating from the fires in Superior and Boulder County. High-speed winds quickly spread flames and all planes are grounded,” said Governor Polis Twitter.
The wildfires join a parade of dangerous weather that ravaged the US in December. Among them are freak heat in the eastern third of the country, while the Northern Rockies went into the freezer; unprecedented heat for each winter month in Alaska; monster snow storms in California; deadly tornadoes in the south; and a wind and dust storm followed by a derecho.
This is also Colorado’s second strange fire outbreak in as many months. In mid-November, forest fires started in the mountains near the Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, a place normally used to snow rather than flames at this time of year.
The cause of so much wild weather is a jet stream that has taken bizarre twists and turns, allowing cold air to fall from the Arctic and warm air from the tropics to surge up in strange places. The split in temperature gradient contributed to some of the strange weather. Climate change also increases the chances of wildfires, of course, because a little extra heat makes fires spread faster.
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