If you happen to be situated along either coast of the US, chances are high you have witnessed extreme weather this week. While the West has been plagued by record-setting heat, fueling numerous, deadly wildfires in drought-striken regions, the East has suffered an onslaught of flooding rains and strong storms.
A widespread 6 to 12 inches of rain has fallen across the Mid-Atlantic region since storms began to form Saturday. Since then, the region has dried out, though another round of potential strong storms will return on Friday. This may worsen the flood situation in some towns.
The “jackpot” totals have been seen in North Carolina, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. At least a foot of rain has been recorded in each of these states since this past weekend, including the top total of 16.55 inches in Dunkirk, Maryland.
Given how dry the start of July was for much of the region, the soil has handled this excessive rainfall, except for a few Pennsylvania towns. Hershey, home of Hersehypark, has been hit hard with flooding. In nearby Harrisburg, 9.38 inches of rain has been reported. Scenes of widespread flooding in Hershey hit the airwaves this week, and its theme park was shut down on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. As the Swatara Creek, responsible for much of the flooding, begins to recede following its second highest crest on record, clean-up will become easier. Portions of Hersehypark will reopen this Friday.
Pennsylvania State Police reported that the body of an 18-year-old man was recovered along a flooded creek in Butler Township on Wednesday after his van became stranded in high water. A 19-year-old woman is missing after being swept away by the same creek on Monday. A 49-year-old, identified as Paul Machettiaman of Poughkeepsie, is also missing in the Hudson River after attempting a rescue.
A few stronger storms associated with the deep plume of tropical moisture that brought these flooding rains also developed. A tornado briefly touched down in Fairfax County, Virginia around sunrise Wednesday morning, damaging Thomas Jefferson High School. As a mesolow moved onshore and into southern New England Wednesday evening, two EF-1 tornadoes were produced in Worcester County, Massachusetts.
Meanwhile out West, the talk of the town has been the heat and wildfires. Millions of people up and down the West Coast are under heat alerts, and many are forecast to experience high temperatures into the 90s, 100s, and 110s through this weekend. Death Valley broke their daily record high on both Tuesday and Wednesday, maxing out at 127 degrees.
The heat combined with the breezy and dry conditions has been fueling wildfires. There are currently 88 large wildfires, including 15 in Oregon, 12 in Idaho, 9 in Nevada, 8 in Colorado, and 6 in California.
One of the recent wildfires — the Cranston Fire — formed in the San Bernardino National Forest on Wednesday, rapidly growing to nearly 5,000 acres within 24 hours. The fire is only 5 percent contained, as of Thursday afternoon. 2,174 homes have been forced to evacuate, displacing 3,200 people. In addition to parts of San Bernardino National Forest being closed, several trails at San Jacinto State Park are also shut down.
The billowing smoke from the fire created a pyrocumulus cloud, producing frequent lightning, both cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground, making conditions even more difficult for the firefighters.
Arson might be to blame for the Cranston Fire and several others in the West. CAL FIRE Law Enforcement Officers arrested Brandon N. McGlover, 32 of Temecula for allegedly setting multiple fires in southwest Riverside County. He is currently being charged with five counts of arson to wildland.
Two deaths have occurred, one from the Ferguson Fire impacting parts of Yosemite National Park and the other from the Substation Fire near The Dalles in Oregon.