Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Record Heat And Drought Bring Apocalyptic Fire To Canadian City.

A massive wildfire sweeps into Fort McMurray,
Alberta, Canada on Tuesday.  
You might have seen this on the news, but while you were watching election returns out of Indiana last night, a Canadian city burned up.

Fort McMurray, population about 83,000, was evacuated as a massive wildfire pummeled the city.

After a very, warm, dry winter, strong, very dry winds swept Alberta and surrounding areas amid record heat. Fort McMurray had a record high temperature of 90 degrees, but that was the least of the concern.

This was one of the largest evacuations in Canadian history.

It was certainly the largest evacuation in Alberta history. Whole neighborhoods went up in flames.

Videos are at the bottom of this post.

Highway 63, the main highway in and out of Fort McMurray, was a scene of chaos as traffic came to a standstill amid the panicked evacuations, and flames swept over the road.

The Edmonton Journal reported no fatalities in the fires yet, but the situation is still unfolding, and I fear some people didn't get out in time, based on how scary the scenes looked.

The Edmonton Journal did report people going in and out of homes and fleeing in one mobile home park as a wall of flames swept in, so that doesn't sound good.

Whole neighborhoods are known to be on fire, but firefighters also saved many other neighborhoods. Fires extended to near or even downtown Fort McMurray. News video showed a Super 8 Hotel on fire in the downtown area.

Fire along busy Highway 63, on which people were
evacuating from the blaze, Tuesday in
Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. 
A large area of southwestern Canada remains under very high fire danger today amid the high temperatures, strong winds and dry air.

The wildfire season in North America is off to a terrible start, thanks to a warm, dry winter in many regions.

Huge wildfires swept parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas earlier this spring, causing widespread damage.

What little snow there was melted early in northern areas. The earliest wildfires on record were reported last month in Alaska.

Even here where I am in New England, there were many relatively small brush fires in April because of dry conditions and a premature snow melt. (Rain arrived this week in the Northeast, which is definitely helping.)

El Nino is largely to blame for this situation, since it tends to cause warm dry winters in the northern half of North America.

While I can't specifically tie climate change to the Fort McMurray fire, or any of the wildfires this spring for that matter, the fires are consistent with what climatologists say is a likely consequence of the warming now under way.

By the way, I saw some internet meanness already concerning the Fort McMurray fire. It's in the tar sands area of Alberta, and critics say the oil extraction there is environmentally damaging and contributes to global warming.

Though almost everybody is correctly sympathetic to the people in the fire zone, a few jerks said they deserve it because they're supposedly seeing the consequences of global warming.

By that logic, I guess people deserved to be in car wrecks because they used fossil fuels while driving to work.

Idiotic hostility helps nobody. Let's just hope Fort McMurray recovers well, and I encourage everyone to help them.  Click on this link to the Red Cross to help the city and its fire victims.

California had some drought relief this winter, so it's a question whether the wildfire season there will be as bad as recent years.

But a vast stretch of northern forest from Alaska through much of Canada is dry, so that region is primed for more disasters like the one in Fort McMurray on Tuesday.

This video shows a Global News reporter near the fire as it approaches heavy traffic along Highway 63 in Fort McMurray:

This CBC report with some scary, and sad video is also an eye-opener

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