Fires, floods bring misery across the nation

first_imgNEW YORK – Nature’s fury made life miserable Wednesday from one end of the nation to the other, with people forced out of their homes by wildfires near both coasts and the Canadian border and by major flooding in the Midwest. On the West Coast, in view of many Los Angeles residents, a blaze had covered more than 800 acres in the city’s sprawling Griffith Park behind the iconic Griffith Observatory. The danger to homes south of the park had eased Wednesday and many of the hundreds of residents evacuated overnight were allowed to return. However, fire officials warned that conditions could change. And although the calendar still said spring, the first named storm of the year was whipping up surf on the beaches of the Southeast. Overall, it wasn’t quite a day for the record books. “It’s a major flood,” National Weather Service meteorologist Suzanne Fortin said Wednesday of flooding in Missouri. “It won’t be a record breaker, but it will be in the top three.” However, a three-week-old fire in southern Georgia had become that state’s biggest in five decades after charring 167 square miles of forest and swamp. Smoke-filled air created a burning smell and a dusting of ashes that coated cars and buildings through much of Florida and southeastern Georgia. The haze over most of Florida even closed several highways and sent people with breathing problems indoors. The flooding was produced by the drenching weekend thunderstorms across the Plains states that also devastated Greensburg, Kan. In addition to 11 tornado deaths, two drowning deaths were blamed on the storms, one each in Oklahoma and Kansas. High water had poured over the tops of at least 20 levees along the Missouri River and other streams in the state, authorities said Wednesday. Missouri National Guard troops were helping. And Highway Patrol troopers were working 24-hour shifts near Big Lake, a village town of about 150 permanent residents in the state’s northwest corner, which was inundated by five levee breaks along the Missouri River and four smaller ones on other streams, said patrol Lt. John Hotz. No injuries were reported but the Missouri Water Patrol rescued about 20 people from their flooded homes, including Glenn Burger, who had the patrol return him to his home Wednesday to rescue his two pet cockatiels. “I’ve had them about five years and I hated to lose them,” said Burger, 78, who lived through floods in 1984 and 1993. “This is the last one. I’m through. I’m going to move to town.” In Missouri’s Jackson County, authorities evacuated 300 to 400 residents of Levasy on Wednesday. At least a dozen homes were partially underwater from the Missouri River, a dispatcher said. In the Southeast, a wildfire in northern Florida’s Bradford County had forced the evacuation of about 250 homes, said Annaleasa Winter, a state forestry spokeswoman. That fire had blackened 16,000 to 18,000 acres and was 20 percent contained. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said the state had more than 220 active fires Wednesday that had charred a total of 125 square miles. Officials in southeastern Georgia issued a mandatory evacuation Wednesday for an area including the town of Moniac, saying that by early today it may be in the path of a 107,000-acre blaze in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, the largest recorded blaze since state record-keeping began in 1957. Smoke was spreading across wide areas of Florida as wind circulated around Subtropical Storm Andrea, centered about 100 miles off the Georgia coast with top sustained wind around 45 mph. The National Weather Service forecast that the storm would show little movement and dissipate near the coast in four days. Battling the blazes won’t get much immediate help from rain. Forecasters said no significant downpours were expected over land through at least this morning. The storm’s lightning could also spark off more fires, meteorologists said. Elsewhere, a wildfire near the Canadian border in northeastern Minnesota had covered more than 34 square miles Wednesday, adding more than 8 square miles in one day, authorities said. Since it was spotted over the weekend, it has destroyed 45 buildings, including multimillion-dollar homes, and firefighters said it was just 5 percent contained.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *