Displaying items by tag: extreme weather
Hurricane Nicole hit Florida on 10 November with 70 mph winds before being downgraded to a tropical storm. States of emergency remain, and evacuation orders are in place, with heavy rain and storm surges forecast. Nicole, which had also lashed Grand Bahama Island, will soon strike Georgia, South Carolina, and possibly other states. Storms of this size so late in the year are extremely rare: since 1853 Florida has only been hit twice. 45 of the state's 67 counties are under a state of emergency, and four counties are under mandatory evacuation orders. Over 100,000 customers are without power. Orlando airport grounded commercial operations.
On 27 September Florida’s governor told millions, ‘You must evacuate now’. By the 29th Hurricane Ian, the worst storm in US history, had devastated Florida with cars submerged, power lines downed, and rivers sweeping away homes. Storm surges of 18 feet are forcing water inland across 250 miles of coastline. At the time of writing a 140-mile wide system is crawling towards Orlando. 24 inches of rainfall is expected in the next 48 hours. The storm surge flooded Port Charlotte’s hospital emergency room, and fierce winds ripped away the intensive care roof. Pray for the evacuated 2.5 million people, the 30,000 search and rescue teams, the ambulance and medical teams, and the 7,000 National Guards ready to help once the weather clears. The hurricane knocked out Cuba’s entire electricity grid before reaching the USA.
On 14 September a tropical depression at the Leeward Islands became Hurricane Fiona, the first Category 4 hurricane of 2022. It triggered widespread flooding and mudslides across Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the Turks and Caicos, reaching Bermuda on the 22nd. Next it will pound Canada with damaging winds, flooding rain, storm surges, and coastal flooding. Serious threats are expected even if Fiona transitions into a non-tropical low: it could be one of the region's strongest storms in modern records. Pray for Puerto Rico, still without power and with over 450,000 still without water on 22 September. Pray for those repairing homes and infrastructure including collapsed highways, mudslides and blocked roads from uprooted trees and pylons. Pray for those preparing and delivering food rations, the injured, and those in mourning. May there be no diseases from standing stagnant water. Pray for farmers whose crops are ruined, and for all the rescue teams.
On 30 August Pakistan and the UN launched a joint appeal for $160 million to help Pakistan recover from monsoon floods that have put 1/3 of the country under water. On 1 September the UK announced a further £15 million for shelter and essential supplies to over 33 million people. Over 1,100 lives have been lost, whilst roads, crops, homes and bridges have been washed away. Pray for the bereaved to be comforted and the isolated to be rescued. Pray for the immediate needs of water, sanitation, shelter and protection to reach the needy quickly. Pray for help to reach families who must repair their homes and maintain their livelihoods. Pray for communities to be free of diseases carried by polluted water. Pray for the nation to find ways of importing vegetables as it faces serious food shortages in the coming months: it could even consider importing from arch-rival India.
Last week's wildfires across London showed lessons learned tackling rural blazes must urgently be applied to built-up areas after grass fires spread to forty houses and shops nearby. Prolonged dry weather parching gardens, verges and green spaces followed by temperatures of 40C sparked blazes normally seen in the countryside. 500 wildfires have been reported so far this year, compared with 237 last year. The group commander for Hereford and Worcester Fire Service said, ‘Everything is bone-dry and services need to recognise the risk they've now got. If they don't, then they're naïve. There are very urban services that think wildfires are low down on the risk list. I understand their need to prioritise resources, but there must be a review.’ A 2021 risk assessment report for the government found that two out of eight fire services made no reference to wildfires in their risk management plans.
It is not too late to avert the climate crisis from becoming even more deadly – but the window is closing. Across western Europe high temperature records are being obliterated; some had been set during the heatwave in 2003 that left tens of thousands dead. Raging wildfires are displacing thousands of people, one of the many compounding impacts of the climate crisis. This heatwave is another reminder that we have already reached unsafe levels of global heating. As our planet warms, heatwaves will become more frequent and more intense. In fact, we may look back on these years as some of the coolest, compared with what will come if we do not act now. Human life will encounter life-threatening impacts with increasing frequency and mounting consequences. Countless scientific reports have been conveying this reality for decades.
On 24 July part of California had to declare another state of emergency and evacuate over 6,000 people as the largest active wildfire in the USA rapidly spread near Yosemite National Park (home to some of the largest and oldest sequoia trees in the world). The Oak Fire started two days earlier but the explosive behaviour of the fire meant firefighters struggled to control it. The state of emergency allows access to federal help. By 27 July the wildfires grew to 18,824 acres with 36% containment, but the northward direction of the wind was taking it into the Sierra National Forest - no longer in the direction of Yosemite. The scale of the blaze marks an ominous start to California's wildfire season. Pray for the families and business owners of 100 destroyed structures and for the safety of the 1,000 structures being threatened.
The Met Office has issued an extreme heat weather warning (Level 3 Alert) for most of England and parts of Wales, with temperatures building, especially from 16 to 19 July when the maximum could reach 38C. There could be a danger to life or potential serious illness; there could be widespread impact on infrastructure, with road closures and cancellations or delays to rail and air travel. Health minister Maria Caulfield said that a heatwave plan is being actioned; also a NHS hot weather plan is in place. Pray for health and social care workers to pay particular attention to the elderly and vulnerable. Pray for councils and boroughs to conduct welfare checks on vulnerable street people and rough sleepers. Pray for parents to watch young children for signs of heat exhaustion. In England, there were 2,500 excess deaths in the summer of 2020 as a result of hot weather.
All week Europe has been battling wildfires fuelled by soaring temperatures in Portugal, France, Turkey and Spain. Pray for 3,500 Portuguese firefighters battling dozens of blazes in record-breaking temperatures. Pray for the 600 people in Leiria who were forced out of their homes, and over 3,000 who were evacuated in Turkey. Pray for devastated people like 77-year-old Adelino, a Portuguese farmer who said, ‘Everything burned. It looked like the end of the world.’ Pray for Spanish farmers who have lost over 70,300 hectares. Pray for 1,000 French firefighters trying to control two major wildfires. 4,000 hectares have already burned in southwest France.
On 4 June an explosion and deadly fire rocked the Bangladeshi port city of Chittagong, with fifty official casualties, but five days later hundreds were still missing. Firefighters responded to the blaze but used water on incorrectly labelled hydrogen peroxide, causing further explosions that killed some firefighters and people in the streets. Debris from the explosion landed a third of a mile away, and the impact shattered windows 1.5 miles away. See In early June Northern Bangladesh saw the worst flooding in two decades, and it is not yet the monsoon season. Millions have been stranded after villages and cities were inundated. Millions more remain without electricity or clean water. The situation might worsen if water-borne illness begins spreading. The deluge has forced 90,000 people into shelters. 270 camps have been set up until the water subsides, but it is still difficult to get to these camps. Four hundred miles of strategic highways are under water, preventing first responders from reaching people.