New fires, however, have sprung up recently in Virginia, North Carolina and Florida and other southern states representing a new phase in this year’s fire season. Scientists say increasingly intense and frequent wildfires are likely to result from an increasingly warmer climate, and that the fires we’ve seen in recent years may well be an early consequence of global warming. Why? Less mountain snowfall results in drier valley conditions, and more intense heat waves and prolonged drought set the stage for tinder-dry forests that can ignite with any spark.
This year, 62,220 fires in the U.S. have burned 6,309,979 acres — mostly in the Western United States, according to the latest statistics from the National Interagency Fire Center. This map shows most large wildfires now burning in the United States. California is having more than their share too.
So far heat waves in the South East and Midwest have killed 49. Two more persons in Memphis, Tennessee, were killed by the two-week heat wave, bringing the number of heat wave victims in Southeast and Midwest of the United Sates to at least 49, according to media reports Monday.
In Memphis, Tennessee, the heat-related death toll in nine days has reached to 12. Most victims were elderly and living in homes without air-conditioning. Health officials in Alabama reported on Friday that eight people there had died of heat-related factors in two weeks. In addition to the deaths in Tennessee and Alabama, nine have been confirmed in Missouri, four in Arkansas, four in Georgia , three in Illinois, two in South Carolina and one in Mississippi.
Last summer, a heat wave killed at least 50 people in the Midwest and East of the United States. California officially reported a death toll of 143, but authorities last month acknowledged the number may have been far higher. A 1995 heat wave in Chicago was blamed for 700 deaths.
Meanwhile 13 deaths have been reported across the Midwest. Six deaths were reported in southeastern Minnesota and one man was missing Monday, authorities said, after relentless thunderstorms dropped up to a foot of rain on parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin. The severe rains set off mudslides and caused flooding Sunday that forced evacuations of entire towns. Separately, the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin caused more flooding on the southern Plains, killing at least six people during the weekend in Oklahoma and one in Texas. Parts of Oklahoma got up to 9 inches of rain Sunday from remnants of tropical storm Erin.
Florida is dealing with excessive heat and a lack of rain. Even with powerful Hurricane Dean days away and its path uncertain, officials in sodden south Texas left little to chance Sunday, readying planes, gasoline and hundreds of buses to get residents out in a hurry. Authorities passed out sandbags, evacuated inmates and opened emergency operations centers in a region still soaked from the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin, which along with other systems caused severe flooding Sunday and at least 13 deaths from Texas to Minnesota.
"We're preparing for Hurricane Dean just as if it is going to be a direct hit," said Johnny Cavazos, the chief emergency director for Cameron County at the state's southernmost tip.