Hurricane Matthew Plots a Course for Florida

As of 8am EDT on October 5th, models for Hurricane Matthew predict a path following the east coast of Florida and up into the Carolinas. The storm initially made made landfall in Haiti on Tuesday as a category 4 hurricane, with top sustained winds near 145 mph. It is is now estimated to be a category 3 storm, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale, with winds topping out at 125 mph, though some slight strengthening is forecast during the next couple of days. Given the storm’s trajectory, the possibility exists for extensive damage along much of the southeastern coast of the US.

Current Storm Behavior

According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Matthew is currently moving north-northwest at roughly 10 mph (17 km/h). This trajectory is expected to continue throughout most of the day Wednesday, however a slight turn to the northwest is expected tonight. If this prediction holds, Matthew will reach the Bahamas on Thursday, with the center of the storm passing directly between Nassau and Andros Island, and then just west of Freeport, Bahamas. Matthew is expected to be very near the east coast of Florida by Thursday evening, sweeping up the coast most of Friday, and potentially reaching Georgia and South Carolina early Saturday morning.

Matthew’s hurricane-force winds over 74 mph extend outward up to 40 miles (65 km) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds over 39 mph extend outward up to 160 miles (260 km). It is the strongest hurricane in the Caribbean since 2007, when Hurricane Felix (category 5) hit Nicaragua with sustained winds of 160 mph and killed more than 130 people. For reference, 2012’s Hurricane Sandy was a category 3 storm, with winds reaching up to 115 mph, while 2005’s Hurricane Katrina reached category 5 status in the Gulf of Mexico, with winds gusting to 175 mph.

Current path of Hurricane Matthew

RedZone’s RZAlert Dashboard shows the storm’s predicted path.

Hurricane Matthew Watches and Warnings

According to the NHC, hurricane warnings remained in effect for all of Haiti and portions of Cuba and the Bahamas as of Wednesday morning. At least nine deaths have been reported in those areas. In Florida, a hurricane watch is in effect from Deerfield Beach, 45 miles north of Miami, to the Volusia/Brevard county line near Orlando, encompassing a roughly 200 mile stretch of coastline. Much of the Florida Keys and southern Florida remain under a tropical storm watch.

Soberanes Fire over 100,000 acres, costs crest $200 million

Soberanes Fire Summary

The Soberanes Fire is eight weeks old today, starting way back on July 22nd. We have been closely monitoring the blaze as it has burned most of the summer. This month, the fire has well surpassed 100,000 acres and is still only 57% contained. Early on, the fire destroyed 57 residences and 11 outbuildings in Palo Colorado Canyon. Currently, there are more than 1,437 firefighters on scene fighting the blaze which is primarily in the rugged Ventana Wilderness of the Los Padres National Forest (LPF). 410 structures remain threatened with evacuation warnings in effect. Full containment is not expected until September 30th. A few highlights on the fire are seen in the eight-week timeline below.

Picture2

Soberanes Fire has been burning for eight weeks and counting


Soberanes Fire Outlook

The fire has been predominantly growing south and east in the Ventana Wilderness of the LPF for the last couple weeks. Due to good work by crews and holding containment lines the fire has stayed east of Big Sur and west of Carmel Valley Road. Yet firing operations on the east side of the fire remain the main objective of late, as fire crews try to further increase containment by connecting indirect line near Chew’s Ridge in Divisions J, K, and L to the completed line north of the Los Padres Dam.  Consequently, a successful effort in the coming days will add both acreage and containment in those divisions. Furthermore, air attack activity will pick up as their resources will assist in keeping fuels adjacent to the indirect fire line from igniting.   Meanwhile, on the southern, coastal side of the fire, crews continue to work hard securing and improving the established containment lines. They have been successful holding the fire east of an established dozer line on the ridge above Big Sur.

Next week, the Soberanes fire will reach its ninth week (and on the 23rd, enter its third month). The fire has burned 65% on federal lands and 35% on state lands. Suppression costs for the entirety have soared to over $200 million with an average of $3.58 million spent each day. If the fire were fully contained today, the feds would be on the hook for over $130 million and CALFIRE for the other $70+ million. At that rate, if firefighters were to reach full containment on September 30th, the suppression cost would eclipse $250 million (not including costs from damages incurred). If they can’t connect containment lines in the near future, likely the fire will continue to burn until fall weather, rains, or cooler temperatures stall its activity.

Soberanes Fire near Big Sur, CA is now over 100,000 acres and still growing

Soberanes Fire Progression: Continues burning near Big Sur, CA and is now over 100,000 acres and growing


Soberanes Fire Facts (9/16)

  • Started: July 22nd, 2016
  • Location: Ventana Wilderness, Big Sur, CA
  • Size: 108,031 acres (70,285 acres CA-LPF; 37,194 acres CALFIRE)
  • Containment: 57%
  • Fire Behavior: Slow fire spread through timber, chaparral, and tall grass in steep, rugged terrain.
  • Structures Threatened: 410 (reported)
  • Structures Destroyed: 68 (57 primary, 11 outbuildings)
  • Evacuations: Warnings remain in place
  • Cost to Date: $200.4 million
  • Incident Page: Inciweb
  • News Article: Big Sur News

Sources:

  • Big Sur Kate
  • Inciweb
  • NIFC

Human-Induced Earthquakes in the Central US

Residents of California are all too familiar with the uneasy feeling of unstable ground under foot.  California, however, is not alone.  The Central United States has seen a dramatic increase in human-induced earthquakes activity in recent years.

In 2015, the central United States experienced over a thousand earthquakes measuring 3.0 or larger on the Richter Scale.  This record setting amount of earthquakes was 42 times more then the average number of yearly quakes experienced between 1973 to 2008.  Oklahoma actually had more earthquakes in 2015 than the historically shaky California.

What is the Cause of all this Increased Earthquake Activity?

Human-induced earthquakes are to blame for the increased seismic activity threatening more than 7 million people in the central and eastern portions of the United States. Human-induced earthquakes are commonly linked with the controversial practice of fracking.  Fracking is a process in which water pressure is used to force oil out of previously untapped deposits.  The majority of the induced earthquakes, however, are actually the result of the relatively recent industrial process of disposing of contaminated water by injecting the fluids into the ground. The contaminated water is a by-product of all oil and gas extraction and not unique to fracking. The injected wastewater elevates the in-ground fluid pressure increasing the likelihood of fault slippage. 

 Earthquakes since 1980 and Human-Induced Earthquakes

Faults can occur in areas where they haven’t historically been recorded.  Normally tectonic stress will hold the faults together, but the injected waste water can essentially push the plates apart.

The increased risk of damaging earthquakes prompted the USGS to include human-induced earthquakes in their hazard forecasts for the first time.

Human-Induced Earthquakes and a Potential for Disaster

Most of the earthquakes are minor but a recent 5.6 magnitude earthquake recently rocked the region near Pawnee, Oklahoma. The earthquake was felt across 6 additional states and is the largest magnitude quake recorded in Oklahoma since 2011. The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that a similar sized event hitting a metropolitan area, like the Dallas metroplex, could devastate the city leading to substantial damage, economic loss and potential loss of life.

The 2016 USGS study suggests that the central United States will face a 5-12% chance of damage from additional earthquakes in 2016.

Sources

https://www2.usgs.gov/blogs/features/usgs_top_story/induced-earthquakes-raise-chances-of-damaging-shaking-in-2016/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2016/03/28/new-seismic-hazard-map-includes-fracking-related-quakes-for-the-first-time/

https://www2.usgs.gov/blogs/features/usgs_top_story/6-facts-about-human-caused-earthquakes/

http://money.cnn.com/2016/03/29/investing/earthquakes-fracking-usgs-oil-gas/

http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/03/us/oklahoma-earthquake/

Fires Devastate Tiny Portuguese Island of Madeira

Madeira Fire Summary

Last week, multiple destructive wildfires scorched the steep mountainsides of Portugal’s famous Madeira Island. Madeira is the largest of an archipelago of four islands (an autonomous region of Portugal), located off the northwest coast of Africa. The fires ignited after weeks of hot and dry weather and quickly spread with strong winds up the steep terrain of the island, forcing hundreds to evacuate in two heavily populated areas. The firefight was complicated by the fact that Madeira has no firefighting aircraft.  Neighboring countries hundreds of miles across the Atlantic lent spare helicopters and a water-scooping aircraft, but those assets took precious time to arrive, and allowed the fires to rage uncontrolled under only a ground attack.

Hasty Evacuations

As the flames bore down late Tuesday (8/9) residents and visitors in areas in the outskirts of Madeira’s capital city, Funchal, fled their homes and hotels in order to escape. Portuguese media had footage of a elderly facility being evacuated in the middle of the night (Tuesday), some with no shoes or in their wheelchairs. Others looked on helplessly as the flames engulfed their homes. Tragically, three elderly residents at that facility were not able to evacuate in time and one other was seriously injured.

Madeira Fire Locations

Estimated Fire Perimeters near Calheta to the west and Funchal to the east


Madeira Fire Aftermath

Many evacuated residents have returned in the past week to find their homes damaged or even destroyed. A reported assessment of the impact found 300 residences affected by the incident with 177 of them completely wiped out. More than just residences were lost, as a well-known hotel–the Choupana Hills–was also one of the casualties. NASA’s infrared images of the fire helped RedZone estimate the acreage at over 18,000 acres (around 7400 hectares).

Long-term Effects

The Madeira fires have impacted the island’s infrastructure and may damage the appeal to the roughly one million tourists who visit the island each year. Cruise ships have had to cancel activities this week in Funchal due to the fire’s impact. Madeira officials have estimated that the fires will cost the island around €61 million ($69 million USD) in repairs in Funchal alone. Cristiano Ronaldo, a native of Funchal and national hero, was devastated by the news and has pledged financial support to his home island in the wake of the devastation.

Madeira Fire Facts

  • Started: Monday, August 8th, 2016
  • Location: Madeira, Portugal
  • Size: 18,822 acres (Estimated using NASA Imagery)
  • Structures Affected: 300
  • Structures Destroyed: 177
  • Evacuations: Hundreds were evacuated
  • News Article: Portugal News


Sources: Portugal News, Wildfire Today, NASA

Soberanes Fire Update: now over 50% contained

Soberanes Fire Summary

The Soberanes Fire started as the result of an illegal campfire that was left unattended on July 22nd within the Garrapata State Park to the south of Monterey. The fire is now over 70,000 acres and is 55% contained. Currently, there are more than 5,300 firefighters on scene fighting the blaze. Damage assessments remain unchanged with 57 residences and 11 outbuildings destroyed, along with 3 structures and 2 outbuildings damaged, mostly in Palo Colorado, 15 miles south of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Full containment is not expected until August 31st.

Soberanes Fire Perimeter (8/12)

Soberanes Fire Location (8/12), between Big Sur and Carmel Highlands south of Monterey


Soberanes Fire Outlook

The fire had minimal growth in lower elevations again Thursday night as the marine layer kept the fire in check. Yesterday’s firing operation on the north part of Coast Ridge continued to be hot overnight with new MODIS heat detections picking up where an island of unburned fuel burned off near Dani Ridge. Morning reports had the high elevation areas near Ventana Double Cone as having actively burned yesterday and overnight as well. The majority of fire activity has been limited to the area of Uncle Sam Mountain and Coast Ridge, exhibiting mostly backing, creeping, and smoldering along with a few sustained uphill runs.

As mentioned, firing operations took place yesterday (8/11) along Coast Ridge and are being planned–dependent on weather–for the coming days to strengthen containment lines in the Big Sur area. This could close Highway 1 periodically over the next few days. Specifically, fire managers are trying to prevent the fire from crossing the Big Sur River Gorge where it could make a hard uphill run, and aiming to keep the fire out of the inhabited coastal canyons above Nepenthe, Pfeiffer Falls, and Big Sur Lodge.

Air quality in the Big Sur area will be poor again today at the lower elevations. The warming and drying trend that began yesterday will continue today as high pressure builds. Areas removed from the marine layer will see their hottest conditions since last week. Overnight humidity recoveries will be poor over the upper slopes and ridges. The warming trend will bring slightly more intense fire conditions above the marine layer, with areas below it continuing the low intensity and minimal spread.

Soberanes Fire Facts (8/12)

  • Started: July 22nd, 2016
  • Location: Big Sur, CA
  • Size: 70,615 acres
  • Containment: 55%
  • Fire Behavior: Slow fire spread through timber, chaparral, and tall grass in steep, rugged terrain.
  • Structures Threatened: 410 (reported)
  • Structures Destroyed: 68 (57 primary, 11 outbuildings)
  • Evacuations: Are in place
  • Incident Page: CALFIRE Information
  • News Article: KSBW News

 

Soberanes Fire Burns 45,000 Acres, Forces Evacuations

Soberanes Fire Forces Evacuations

The Soberanes Fire started burning the morning of July 22nd within the Garrapata State Park to the south of Monterey. As of August 3rd, it had grown to over 45,800 acres forcing some 350 residents to evacuate. Damage assessments report 57 residences and 11 outbuildings burned, along with 3 structures and 2 outbuildings damaged (mostly in Palo Colorado).

Tragically, one fatality has occurred as the result of the fire. Robert Oliver Reagan III, 35, of Friant in Fresno County was killed when his bulldozer overturned while helping to battle the fire in the remote southeast region of the fire.

Firefighters On Scene

Currently, there are more than 5,300 firefighters on scene fighting the blaze in remote and rugged terrain. Crews have established five fire lines around the valley, and in the last few days have lit several backfires on the south end of the fire perimeter to slow the spread.  Six power outages have been reported since the fire’s inception and flames continue to threaten infrastructure.  Pacific Gas and Electric crews have begun the task of repairing powerlines and hope to return service to the areas affected as quickly as possible.

CalFire reports that full containment is not expected until August 31st, and the final burn scar could potentially reach 165,000 acres.  RedZone will continue to closely monitor the fire’s growth to the south and east in the coming days and weeks.

 

Soberanes Fire Perimeter

Soberanes Fire Facts As of 08/03/2016:

  • Location: Carmel, CA
  • Size: 45,800 acres
  • Containment: 25%
  • Fire Behavior: Fire spread through steep, rugged and inaccessible terrain.
  • Structures Threatened: 2,000
  • Structures Destroyed: 57 homes, 11 outbuildings
  • Incident Page: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4888/#

Cliff Creek Fire Burns 11,000 Acres Near Jackson, WY

The Cliff Creek Fire was first discovered on July 17th approximately 5 miles north of the town of Bondurant, Wyoming. The lightning-caused fire quickly spread in thick, contiguous timber. It burned across and subsequently closed highway 191/89 which connects Bondurant to Jackson in Teton County.

Cliff Creek Fire near Bondurant, WY

Cliff Creek Fire near Bondurant, WY

Great Basin Incident Management Team 7 has command of the fire as of July 22, 2016. Since it originated, the Cliff Creek Fire has burned across Hwy 191/89, up Game Hill, and NE towards Granite and Shoal Creek, burning from 5 acres to now well over 10,000. The fire initially prompted evacuations of campgrounds, residences in Dell and Jack Creeks, then Granite Creek homes, and closed both roads and recreation areas nearby. Structure protection groups took over many of those areas, prepping the 50 threatened structures and homes and reducing hazards near them. Direct attack from ground and air has kept the fire out of Granite Creek and other populated areas so far, but a future threat remains.

Cliff Creek Fire Outlook

Contingency lines, structure protection, and containment line construction remain the main goals of the command team. The Great Basin Coordination Center has now assigned a Type 1 Team as the full containment effort will require a significant boost in resource commitment to ensure success. The fire continues to move to the north and east and is expected to increase in activity due to critical fire weather conditions in the area and the fire falling in alignment with creeks and drainages.  In total, 619 firefighters and personnel are on scene to suppress the blaze.

Cliff Creek Fire Facts:

  • Location: 5 Miles north of Bondurant, Wyoming
  • Size: 11,534 acres
  • Containment: 10%
  • Fire Behavior: Rapid fire spread with increased fire behavior to the east. Fire activity expected to intensify with Red Flag Warnings and a Haines Index of 6 in the area.
  • Structures Threatened: 50
  • Structures Destroyed: 1
  • Inciweb Page: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4865/
  • Cliff Creek Updates also at: Teton County Emergency Management

Cold Springs Fire: Nederland, CO

The Cold Springs Fire was first reported on July 9th at 1345 MDT approximately 2 miles northeast of Nederland, Colorado. The fire quickly spread amongst the Lodgepole, Ponderosa Pine, and Douglas Fur trees in the area. Residents nearby were evacuated, and eight homes worth a total of $2.43 million dollars, along with seven outbuildings were destroyed in the fire.

Over the next several days, ground crews and air assets were able to hold the fire to 528 acres and by July 14th the fire was 100% contained. At 2000 MDT on July 14th all evacuation orders were lifted and residents were allowed to return to their homes. Firefighters will continue to mop up the area and secure fire lines for the next several days.

Fire officials say the 528-acre fire, which burned primarily on private land, was sparked by an out-of-control campfire. The Boulder Sheriff’s Office determined the fire spread from a campsite near the Peak-to-Peak Highway and Cold Springs Road. Authorities, have arrested and charged Jimmy Andrew Suggs, 28, and Zackary Ryan Kuykendall, 26, both of Alabama, in connection with the fire. They say the two failed to properly extinguish their campfire. Both men have been charged with arson in the fourth degree, a felony charge that carries a maximum penalty of 12 years in prison.

Cold Springs Fire

Erskine Fire Scorches Neighborhoods in Kern County

Erskine Fire Summary

The Erskine fire started the afternoon of June 23rd along Erskine Creek Road in Lake Isabella and quickly spread up-slope and to the east toward several residential areas near South Lake, CA. Public safety officials quickly scrambled to evacuate the closest neighborhoods of Yankee Canyon, Mountain Mesa, and Squirrel Valley. As the fire rapidly spread east, skirting the mountains and neighborhoods above the lake, it destroyed homes and forced further evacuations of South Lake, Bella Vista, Onyx, Weldon, and Lakeland Estates.

Fueled by relative humidity (RH) in the single digits and gusty evening winds, the fire quickly spread ten and half miles over a matter of hours in the time from Thursday evening to early Friday morning. As of midday Friday (6/24) the Erskine Fire was 19,034 acres and 0% contained. Fire officials are reporting 100 structures are estimated as lost and 1,500 others are threatened. A damage assessment team will survey the extent of the fire’s destruction in the coming days.

Erskine Fire Outlook

A type-1 incident management team is already en route to the area to take over command of the fire. The Erskine Fire exhibited extreme fire behavior across steep, rugged terrain fanned by gusty afternoon winds. Fire officials are worried about this afternoon’s (6/24) weather forecast, which may mimic yesterday’s destructive conditions. There are six air tankers, seven helicopters, and 800 firefighters on scene, with hundreds more on the way.


Erskine Fire Facts:

  • Location: Lake Isabella, CA
  • Size: 19,034 acres
  • Containment: 0%
  • Fire Behavior: Rapid fire spread through tall grass and brush in steep, rugged terrain.
  • Structures Threatened: 1500 (reported)
  • Structures Destroyed: 100 (estimated)
  • Incident Page: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4806/
  • News Article: LA Times

Map: Erskine Fire perimeter (as of 6/24, 1300 hrs).


NOTE: 

Fire perimeter was provided by NIFC and was created by hand and helo flight GPS.