TIME natural disaster

Wildfire at Glacier National Park Sends Campers Fleeing

Smoke from the the Reynolds Creek wildfire rises above the landscape at St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Mont. on Smoke from the the Reynolds Creek wildfire rises above the landscape at St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Mont. on July 21, 2015. The fast-moving wildfire torched a car and forced tourists to abandon their vehicles on the Montana park's most popular roadway while officials evacuated hotels, campgrounds and homes on July 23, 2015.
Erin Conwell—AP Smoke from the the Reynolds Creek wildfire rises above the landscape at St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Mont. on Smoke from the the Reynolds Creek wildfire rises above the landscape at St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Mont. on July 21, 2015. The fast-moving wildfire torched a car and forced tourists to abandon their vehicles on the Montana park's most popular roadway while officials evacuated hotels, campgrounds and homes on July 23, 2015.

Officials say the fire was likely caused by people

(HELENA, Mont.) — A wildfire driven by gusting winds swept down Glacier National Park’s most popular roadway toward a small community at the park’s eastern entrance, sending visitors packing and residents scrambling to protect their homes and businesses.

Officials evacuated the small community of St. Mary and homes along nearby St. Mary Lake on Wednesday afternoon as a precaution against the approaching fire.

“We’re kind of in the direct line right now,” said Susan Brooke, who owns the St. Mary Glacier Park KOA. “It’s raging down the ridge toward St. Mary.”

Brooke said 688 people were in the campground when the fire ignited Tuesday afternoon about 6 miles east of Logan Pass. Word of the fire began to circulate as people returned from the pass and others checked the Internet, and soon the plume of smoke could be seen in the distance.

“People started to panic and started leaving immediately,” she said.

Nearly all of the campers cleared out by midafternoon Wednesday, only to be replaced by fire officials and law enforcement using the grounds as a staging area with the fire just over the ridge a few miles away.

By Wednesday evening, the fire had burned more than 6 square miles. It also destroyed the Baring Creek Cabin, a historic backcountry structure.

Park officials previously had evacuated the Rising Sun Motor Inn and two campgrounds. Later Wednesday, Glacier County and Blackfeet tribal authorities began the evacuations in St. Mary. The National Park Service also evacuated the St. Mary Visitor Center and administrative offices.

The scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road, which is the main alpine roadway that bisects the park, was closed for 21 of its 50 miles. On Tuesday, visitors had to leave their vehicles along the park’s most popular corridor as officials shuttled them to safety. One car left behind burned.

Peak tourist season is underway, and 95 percent of park visitors travel some length of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which bisects the park and hugs the mountainsides to cross the Continental Divide.

The dangerous fire weather extended to Washington state, which is also struggling with drought. About 600 firefighters on the ground and in the air attacked a wildfire that has burned one home and nearly 6 square miles of land in the southeastern part of the state near Walla Walla. It was likely human-caused, officials said.

Further south, a fast-moving wildfire grew by another thousand acres overnight and has now scorched nearly 8 square miles of countryside near Lake Berryessa, about 30 miles north of Napa.

Some 200 homes were threatened Thursday morning and the communities of Quail Ridge and Golden Bear are under evacuation orders.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said there was no immediate word on the total number of evacuees. Calfire said early Thursday morning that it had no reports of injuries or damage.

In central Montana, Helena National Forest officials say a separate blaze has burned about 4 square miles since Tuesday and threatens homes in a rural area about 15 miles east of Townsend.

In the Glacier blaze, one family from Missouri nearly found themselves trapped when they briefly stopped to record video of the fire.

“It was smoldering and smoking just like a normal fire,” Lakota Duncan said. “As soon as we started driving, it just exploded. That’s the best I can say.”

Duncan’s father began driving at high speed as the flames drew nearer, while Duncan yelled, “Go, Dad, Go,” from the back seat and continued to record as they made their escape.

TIME Kentucky

2 Dead and 6 Missing as Deadly Flooding Hits Kentucky

Heavy rain has hampered rescue efforts

(FLAT GAP, Ky.) — Kevin Johnson last saw his son Scott wading through the rushing water with his 74-year-old grandmother on his back.

Scott Johnson had already saved his father, his uncle and sister as a flash flood ravaged the rural town of Flat Gap. He returned to their cluster of trailers for his grandmother and teenage nephew and started to carry them to higher ground. As the flood raged out of control, he wedged his nephew safely into a high tree before the water washed Johnson and the grandmother away.

The grandmother, Willa Mae Pennington, was found dead Tuesday among debris from the family’s shattered mobile homes, Johnson County Coroner J.R. Frisby confirmed. Scott Johnson, 34, is one of six people still unaccounted for after the raging Monday afternoon flood.

Rescue crews combing the hilly Appalachian terrain Tuesday were hampered by more heavy rains, swarming mosquitoes, soupy humidity and knee-deep mud.

“It just wears your legs out to walk,” said Gary McClure, the local emergency management director. “You walk from here to there in that mud and you’re ready to sit down. It just pulls you down.”

Authorities called off the search around 8 p.m. Tuesday, but resumed Wednesday morning after a convoy of National Guard vehicles and heavy equipment, including excavators and dump trucks, traveled down the road toward the hardest hit area.

“They will be going back over the same areas again and starting new searches that we haven’t gone over so far. Every inch of all this debris has not been searched through yet,” Frisby said Wednesday. “Just haven’t had time.”

On Tuesday, emergency personnel went door-to-door in the hardest-hit neighborhoods, searching for those who might be trapped in their homes, Kentucky State Police Trooper Steven Mounts said. Like Scott Johnson’s nephew, some were rescued from trees, Price said.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear declared a state of emergency to give local officials immediate access to state resources to assist in recovery efforts.

The search area stretches more than 8 miles, from the town of Flat Gap south to Staffordsville — an area with 500 homes and 1,200 residents about 120 miles east of Lexington, police told a news conference. Authorities estimate more than 150 homes were destroyed.

Hebert Hayden, 78, left home with his wife for a doctor’s appointment. While they were away, their mobile home was swept from its foundation and crashed nearby. They lost everything.

“All I can say is God was on our side,” he said. “If we would have been here, we would have drowned.”

The roads now are lined with empty foundations, where trailers or homes once stood. Cars are flipped upside down and trees uprooted. Fifteen people were treated at a local hospital and released.

Frisby identified the second known casualty as Herman Eddie May Sr., 65. May was driving alone in a sport-utility vehicle when floodwaters from the Patterson Creek started to sweep him away. He drowned after he got out and was swallowed by the rising water, Frisby said.

Doris Hardin watched the water rise from the window of her mobile home. Her lights flickered off then her neighbor banged on the door, shouting for her to flee. She and her neighbors had seconds to react. Hardin sprinted up a hill, as utility poles crashed down around her.

The water swept up Hardin’s trailer, her two cats still inside, and jammed it into a growing heap of mangled debris: other mobile homes, wrecked cars, snapped trees and downed power lines.

Hardin, now staying with her father, had still not found her cats Tuesday afternoon, and feared she never would.

“I don’t think anything else is going to be salvageable,” she said.

Authorities worried that the muddy, rushing creek, still swollen Tuesday afternoon, had not finished its destruction.

A strong thunderstorm was passing through the area Tuesday evening, dumping heavy rain and lashing the area with high winds.

Buddy Rogers, spokesman for Kentucky Emergency Management, said the ground is thoroughly saturated from the overnight rains and heavy storms of the past several weeks. More water will have nowhere to go but into roads, yards and homes, he suspects. Many of the same areas are likely to be underwater again. The water-logged ground also threatens to topple more power lines, trees and utility poles in high winds.

“Any more rain at all is going to be detrimental. It will hurt us,” said Bobby Moore, a Johnson County 911 dispatcher. Moore said the flood washed away a number of rural roads and left others clogged with fallen trees and debris, forcing rescuers to turn to all-terrain vehicles to reach homes and search for residents.

A helicopter hovered overhead to aid in the search, which included more than 100 rescuers from local departments, the state police, the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Guard.

Authorities were trying to keep as many people off the roads and out of the area as possible. Rogers recommended that people who live in flood-prone areas find an alternative place to stay until the storms pass.

Homes there have no power or phone service, and many have been severely damaged by floodwaters. A shelter was opened at the Paintsville recreation center, though only a handful of people were there Tuesday afternoon. Most displaced residents were staying at hotels or with family, Moore said.

____

Associated Press writers Claire Galofaro and Rebecca Reynolds Yonker in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report.

TIME natural disaster

See the Devastation of Washington State’s Wildfire From Above

The worst fire of the season devastated entire neighborhoods, as the state struggles with an ongoing drought

TIME natural disaster

See the Biggest California Wildfire This Year

The 11,000-acre 'Lake Fire' continues to ravage the San Bernardino National Forest

A wildfire that sparked Wednesday afternoon near Big Bear Lake, Calif. had grown to 11,000 acres as of Friday morning, according to a government website.

The fire is the worst of the year, the Los Angeles Times reported. Wind and the dry undergrowth due to drought conditions in the area have contributed to the blaze’s rapid spread through sections of the San Bernardino National Forest. The fire is currently 10% contained, with fire engines, helicopters, air tankers and more than 500 respondents combating the spreading flames.

Hundreds in the area have been evacuated, but government website InciWeb stated that no structures had been destroyed as of Friday. The fire is currently spreading further inland to the south and east.

The fire’s cause remains under investigation.

TIME natural disaster

Thousands Evacuated in Indonesia After Volcano Starts Spewing Ash and Toxic Gas

More people expected to flee in the coming days

Thousands of people living in the vicinity of a volcano on Indonesia’s island of Sumatra have been evacuated from their homes after it began erupting.

Mount Sinabung started to flare up over the weekend, sending hot ash and gas — known as pyroclastic flows — gushing down its slopes, reports the BBC. No injuries have been reported.

Authorities raised the alert level on June 2 after detecting a sharp increase in activity at Sinabung. In the past month, at least 3,000 villagers, including 1,200 on Monday, have been ordered from their homes and officials expect thousands more people will need to be evacuated in the coming days.

The volcano had been dormant for more than four centuries but roused back to life in 2010 and has been highly active since. In February 2014, at least 14 people were killed as pyroclastic flows engulfed nearby villages.

[BBC]

TIME animals

Texas Grandmother Reunited With Poodle Trapped at Home During Floods

Lena Givens was unable to get to her house where "Tinkerbell" was locked in a kennel

Lena Givens, 84, was at a Houston Rockets game Monday night when the skies opened, submerging multiple counties in record-breaking rains.

The resulting flood that has killed at least 18 in Texas and Oklahoma left the grandmother stranded and unable to get to her house where her poodle Tinkerbell was locked in a kennel.

Just before the end of game, a message flashed on the scoreboard warning fans to stay put due to severe weather outside, NBC News reports.

“I stayed in the lobby of the hotel for at least probably three or four hours,” she told Houston’s KRPC.

When she was able to call a car to get home, she found the road to her neighborhood was impassable. Givens worried about her beloved pet that had been trapped in her flooded house for over 12 hours.

Her grandson Brian Gardner was able to borrow a friend’s boat to reach Givens’s home and look for Tinkerbell.

After hours of worrying, Givens finally got the good news she was hoping for – her dog was safe.

“[Tinkerbell”] was floating on a chair in the living area. She got out of the kennel somehow and she was floating in a chair,” she told the news station.

Watch video of Givens and Tinkerbell reunion below.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME natural disaster

Texas Woman Rescues 7 People from Flood

"Fear wasn't going to serve anyone in that moment"

Malaika Muhammad was home alone on Monday night when the flood that killed at least three people struck her neighborhood of South Houston, Texas.

“I was looking outside at the weather in astonishment,” she says, when she noticed a car stopped on the freeway exit ramp near her home.

“When I looked back again the car was flashing its lights and that’s when I realized there was somebody in it,” she tells PEOPLE. As Muhammad watched the water level around the car rise, she noticed someone in the car waving. Then, she says, “I could tell this is someone who really needs help.”

Read the rest at at People.com

TIME natural disaster

Witness the Aftermath of Severe Floods in Texas

Texas expanded its state of disaster declaration on Monday following unprecedented torrential rains over the weekend. On Tuesday, more than 30 million Americans were warned to brace for extreme weather, including flooding, hail and tornadoes

TIME natural disaster

7 States at Risk as Unprecedented Floods Hit Texas

More than 80,000 people were without power in Houston

Flash-flood watches and warnings were issued across seven states early Tuesday as an unprecedented downpour of torrential rain triggered “extremely dangerous and potentially life-threatening” conditions in Houston.

More than 30 million Americans were told to brace for dangerous thunderstorms — including flooding, hail and possible tornadoes — as meteorologists warned the weather that has centered on Texas and Oklahoma since Saturday could expand to other areas.

In Houston, more than 80,000 people were without power and the flood waters closed roads including Interstate 10 and Interstate 45. Houston was among 24 counties where Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster on Monday…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME natural disaster

Homecoming Queen Dies in Texas Floods on Way Home From Prom

Alyssa Ramirez's parents went to search for her but to no avail

A homecoming queen on her way home from from her prom was killed by floodwaters in Devine, Texas, about 35 miles southwest of San Antonio.

Alyssa Ramirez, who was also a cheerleader who played tennis and volleyball, spent Saturday night at her prom and was driving home Sunday when floodwaters swept her car off the road, according to NBC affiliate WOAI and a funeral home.

There were no barricades on the road and Ramirez’s car stalled out in the high water a few miles from her home, Roberta Ramirez, Alyssa’s aunt, told the station…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

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