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 Large plumes of smoke are visible over Superior, CO around 2:00 PM MST, as seen from State Highway 128 near Indiana St, looking north. Date	30 December, 2021. Author Tristantech
04 Jan 2022

Devastating wildfire in Colorado, six feet of snow in California, Alaska heat record and ice storm

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Extreme weather continued to plague the north western parts of the United States between the Christmas and New Years holidays. 1000 homes were destroyed in a wildfire i Colorado while Los Angeles experienced enough rain to cause infrastructure damage from mudslides around the Malibu area.

 

Cover photo: (Above) Wikipedia Commons Licence:
Large plumes of smoke are visible over the town of Superior, Colorado around 2:00 PM MST, as seen from State Highway 128 near Indiana St, looking north. Photo taken on December 30th,  2021: Author: Tristantech

December is often a dramatic "weather month" and scientists are not clear on if all the weather related events around the globe in the last month and a half are all due to climate change or not. What most scientists are in agreement on however, is that we are going to see more weather related catastrophes and disruptive events in coming years due to rising global temperatures.   

 

Three missing in Colorado wildfire - 1000 structures destroyed

Hundreds of houses burned down when Colorado was hit by a devastating prairie fire late in December.

At least seven people were injured. On New Year´s eve, all indications pointed to no there being likely casualties in the extensive fires. Colorado Governor Jared Polis called this a "a New Year's miracle", also pointing out that all hospitals and schools in the area had escaped the fires.However, as the head count was completed, three persons were reported missing and are now considered casualties of the fire.

 

Wildfire spread by strong winds
Up to 1,000 homes are feared to have been more or less destroyed by the fire, which is believed to have been sparked by power lines blown down in a storm. The strong winds fanned the fire to spread in the terrain, which was unusually dry after a very dry fall and no real snowfall during December..

In some neighborhoods of Louisville, long rows of detached homes have burned to the ground, however some houses remain among the devastation.

Many roads were closed, however those evacuated have been allowed to walk to their houses to pick up medicines and small personal belongings which they had to carry out in backpacks, reports AP.

The two most affected towns are Superior and Louisville,  located on the prairie at the foot of the Rocky Mountains between the cities of Denver and Boulder.

President Joe Biden has declared the two suburbs, which all together are home to about 34,000 inhabitants, a disaster area with the right to receive federal assistance. 

 

Six feet of snow in 48 hours in California - summer temperatures in Alaska

Huge amounts of snow fell over the northwestern United States just before New Year´s. At a ski resort near Truckee, north of Lake Tahoe, 180 cm  (just under 6 feet)  of snow fell in 48 hours.

 

Most snow since 1970
Several records for high temperatures and precipitation have also been noted in various places.

In Seattle, a cold record was measured on Sunday: -6.7 degrees Celsius. It has not been that cold since 1948, according to the National Weather Service. About 300 kms north, in the Vancouver area, it was minus 15 C near the coast, which is also unusually cold for the area,

So far in December,  4.9 meters (16 feet) of snow fell in the Donner Pass in northern California. Not since 1970 has there been that much snow, according to official stats.

Andrew Schwartz, researcher and station manager for the Sierra Snow Laboratory, told CNN that the snow is much needed after a summer of extreme drought in California - but even more precipitation is needed to compensate for the months of drought. 

 

Ice storm - while the the coast had the highest temperature ever recorded in Alaska for December

It has been unusually hot in Alaska over the holidays, reports Reuters and other international media. On Sunday December 26, several warm record temperatures were measured for December, while at the same time other areas of the state were affected faced by a severe ice storm. 

Power outages and closed roads were a problem through many arts of Alaska. Snow in some parts of Alaska has been followed by large rainfall in other areas, which have led to communities literally being covered with ice. The ice storm has been nicknamed "Icemageddon".

When an ice storm hits, roads can become completely undrivable due to being as slippery as skating rinks, and not even spiked tires are always enough. This can be a big problem for fire services, because not ever´n road service vehicles can drive on the ice. Doors,  windows, even the branches of trees can get covered in thick layers of ice which can cause damage as the ice eventually melts. I time, branches can break off and cause severe injury and even death, as they eventually get weighed down by the the melting ice and additional rain or snow.

 

"Summer" temperatures on the Kodiak archipelago

On Sunday, about 19.4 degrees Celsius  (67,1 F) was recorded on the Kodiak archipelago, according to the The New York Times. The is the highest temperature ever recorded in December in Alaska, according to Rick Thoman, a researcher at the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy.

In an interview with Reuters, he calls the new record "absurd". For at least eight days in December, temperatures were also well above about 10 degrees Celsius in the city of Unalaska. 

According to Rick Thoman, episodes of warm and wet midwinter weather have become more common in Alaska, compared to previous decades. 

 

Torrential downpours in Los Angeles

Although less dramatic, southern California also experienced weather related records over the the course of Mid December and until the day before New Year´s Eve.

Back-to-back storms brought around 7 inches (17,8 cm)  of rain in downtown Los Angeles in December, which is more than triple the month’s normal rainfall of 2.03 inches and placing it amongst  the 10 wettest December months on record, the National Weather Service said.

Pump stations in downtown LA were flooded and mud and rock slides forced the closure of Highway 23 in Malibu on Thursday morning December 30th, 2021. Reportedly, several people had to be rescued after being stuck due to the highway closure.
 

 

Cover photo: (Above) Wikipedia Commons Licence:

Large plumes of smoke are visible over the town of Superior, Colorado around 2:00 PM MST, as seen from State Highway 128 near Indiana St, looking north.

Date: December 30th,  2021: Author: Tristantech