Jun 14, 2022 - Science

33 large wildfires rage across 5 U.S. states

A 10 Tanker DC-10 jet delivers fire retardant as crews continue to battle the Sheep Fire on Monday.
A Tanker DC-10 jet delivers fire retardant as crews battle the Sheep Fire in California on Monday. Photo: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Wildfires driven by a record-setting heat wave and sustained dry, windy conditions triggered mandatory evacuations in Arizona and Southern California on Monday.

By the numbers: More than 33 large fires now burning across five states have razed more than 1 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

  • 20 blazes are burning in Alaska, six in New Mexico, three each in California and Arizona and one in Texas.

What's happening: In California, the fast-moving Sheep Fire in the Angeles National Forest has burned across 990 acres and prompted the evacuation of about 300 people in Wrightwood in San Bernardino County, about 77 miles northeast of Los Angeles, per Inciweb.

The big picture: As the Southwest burned, heavy snow was falling over parts of the Northern Rockies and flooding and severe thunderstorms were threatening the Northern Plains and Midwest overnight, per the NWS.

  • A ground stop was issued for Chicago's O'Hare International Airport because of severe weather that saw winds gusting to 84 mph and a tornado warning in the area, NBC Chicago reports.
  • Flooding in the Yellowstone National Park stranded visitors, triggered evacuations and forced officials to close all entrances Monday.

Meanwhile, the multiday heat wave that began in the Southwest and expanded to the Central and Southern U.S. was forecast to spread from the Great Plains on Tuesday and then into the Mississippi Valley and Southeast through midweek.

  • "Excessive Heat Warnings, Watches and Advisories are in effect for around a third of the country's population as a result," the NWS noted.

Context: The U.S. is facing the threat of more extreme weather events due to climate change, per Axios' Andrew Freedman.

  • Much of the U.S. West and Southwest is in the grip of a long-term drought, and drier conditions contribute to hotter air temperatures, further drying out soils and vegetation to make the landscape more fire-prone, Freedman notes.
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