U.S. disasters: California storm, Hawaii and Washington fires

by ian

Even as recovery efforts continue for the deadly Maui wildfires, storms and natural disasters are impacting other areas of the United States.

California was in the pathway of Hurricane Hilary, which was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone prior to making landfall.

The storm crossed into Southern California on Sunday evening lashing the Los Angeles County area with new rainfall records and marking the first direct hit of the region by a tropical storm since 1997. California has since been under a state of emergency.

Forecasters warned of strong winds and “life-threatening” flooding in areas that typically see sparse precipitation. Some areas have even seen as much as 6 and 7 inches of rain.

Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo also declared a state of emergency and Arizona issued evacuation orders for certain areas since the storm is likely to move further across the Southwestern U.S., possibly causing more flooding.

Shifting back to the tragedy in Hawaii, officials have reported that about 85% of the disaster area in Lahaina has been searched. The fatality count stands at 114 while around 1,000 people are said to still be missing or unaccounted for.

As of Monday, the Lahaina fire was 90% contained, and another fire in Kula was 85% contained. Officials are on watch as post-tropical cyclone Fernanda approaches the state, bringing rain along with the possibility of flooding.

President Joe Biden and the First Lady visited Maui to assess the situation, although the trip was too little too late for some.

Conservatives, and even a Hawaiian Democrat, have criticized Biden for his “no comment” on the Maui situation while on vacation. Other American citizens interviewed by Fox News lambasted Biden’s late response to the Hawaii disaster and apparent lack of empathy for those affected.

However, the White House maintains that Biden did not want to impede any rescue efforts and instead utilized other aspects of the government to deal with the crisis.

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell on Sunday told CNN’s “State of the Union” that Biden’s visit would look to instill hope in the Hawaiian people and that the federal government is there to support them.

Another wildfire has erupted in eastern Washington state. On Saturday, authorities said the blaze outside of Spokane destroyed 185 structures and took the life of at least one person. Evacuations were ordered in the town as the fire was said to have been 10% contained as of Sunday.