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Fires and Drought Ravage the United States

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Fires once again roared through Southern California, this time charring more than 2,000 acres in Orange County. As of Monday, only a couple of dwellings had been damaged, but hundreds of residents had been forced to flee the oncoming flames.

While a third of the fire had been brought under control, county Battalion Chief Ed Fleming said it would take another night of cooler temperatures to bring the situation under control. The condition has been exacerbated by a “red-flag” status, indicating an increased likelihood of wildfires due to Southern California’s continued severe drought. “The bad news is the red flag warning remains in effect,” Mr. Fleming said early Monday. “We expect the temperatures to increase, the winds to increase and the relative humidity to decrease” (AP).

NBC reported that Captain Stephen Miller of the Orange County Fire Authority said the torching of a stolen car—likely an attempt to destroy criminal evidence—had started the fire.

In the bigger picture, as the Northern Hemisphere emerges from the winter season, severe to exceptional drought remains in five significant regions. Drought continues in a key agricultural region in Southern California, with the Los Angeles area having only received 2.4 inches of rain since July 1, 2006; normal rainfall for this time period is 11.4 inches. In addition, temperatures remain high, breaking records in several areas on March 11, including an astonishing 97°F reading in Fullerton, far surpassing the 1959 record of 84°F.

Extreme to exceptional drought is affecting much of Wyoming, a primary hydrological area, and stretches east into Nebraska and South Dakota. Northern Minnesota and northern Michigan also continue to experience the same severity of drought, despite recent major snowfalls, with annual precipitations still below 50% of normal. A large part of Texas is classified as experiencing severe to exceptional drought, also affecting hydrological resources. Both Austin and San Antonio recorded their sixth-driest February on record.


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