Wildfires Scorch the West as Rain Visits the Drought Stricken Midwest

Sep 11, 2020  | 2 min  | Ep4604

More than a dozen people have died so far. Damage totals across Oregon, Washington and California have quickly risen into the billions as crews keep fighting.

John Torpy has more on the challenges of dry conditions across the country.

Any progress in the west to contain existing wildfires received a setback this week, as several mostly contained blazes were reignited and new fires joined the fray. 
The August Complex Fire, the largest in California history, sprang to life in mid-August after the forest was hammered by thousands of lightning strikes. The blaze has consumed nearly 736 square miles due in part to dry winds blowing across an area north of San Francisco. 
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The newcomer to the Golden State’s worst wildfire season is the Creek Fire, which in only five days has charred 175,000 acres just east of Fresno, California. So far this year, wildfires have burned almost 5,000 square miles.
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Officials in Oregon and Washington are using the word “unprecedented” to describe the numerous wildfires burning in those states. Over 1,400 square miles in Oregon have burned and more than half a million people were forced to evacuate to safety.
The U.S. Forest Service reports they are currently battling 85 uncontained large fires in the western United States.
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Rainy, humid conditions brought relief to some drought stricken parts of the country. According to the National Weather Service, the Corn Belt received anywhere from two to eight inches of rain over the past week, easing ground moisture deficits in many areas.   The U.S. Drought Monitor reveals extremely dry conditions have eased slightly in the Midwest and the Rockies. 
But the rain’s timing is too little, too late to help drought damaged crops. Officials with Iowa State University say the moisture could promote plant diseases and mold growth in drought dormant crops, while the rainy conditions may put a damper on harvest. 
For Market to Market, I’m John Torpy.

Producer Contact torpy@pbs.org

Twitter -- @TVTorpy

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