A burned tree near Hemet , California
The western United States continued to suffocate in extreme temperatures on Wednesday, with the risk of power outages in California, whose power grid bends in the face of the heat wave that has been hitting the region for a week.
California, as well as parts of Nevada and Arizona, are facing scorching temperatures, approaching 45°C in some places, due to a heat dome over the area. Mercury is yet to reach such extremes on Wednesday and Thursday, according to the US weather service, the NWS.
In this stifling atmosphere, several large fires are ravaging the region and two of them have already proved fatal.
In northern California, the Mill Fire killed two people, destroyed more than 100 buildings, and devastated more than 4,000 acres in Siskiyou County.
The Fairview Fire, which killed two people southeast of Los Angeles, continues to grow and outpace our efforts, according to a local fire chief. Josh Jansen. The fire continues to threaten several populated areas, he added. Since Monday, the flames have ravaged more than 2800 hectares.
The mercury is expected to drop again from Friday thanks to the arrival of a cold air front from Canada, meteorologists say. But this phenomenon brings with it the risk of strong winds capable of multiplying the flames in the western United States.
This cold air front will also generate gusts over the American West, the NWS said in a statement. Coupled with relatively low humidity, this will likely fuel the risk of new fire starts and existing fires at risk of spreading out of control.
In Montana, gusts could reach 95 km/h, according to the Storm Prediction Center.
More than 10,000 California residents were ordered to evacuate their homes to protect themselves from the Fairview Fire, but many ignored the alert, police say of Riverside County, which sent its agents door to door to try to convince the recalcitrant.
People should take it more seriously, given the rate of spread, and that's why we're expanding the evacuation zone so much, because with the changes in wind, the weather is unpredictable, and the fire is growing fast, local sheriff spokeswoman Brandi Swan told the Los Angeles Times.
A firefighter fighting a fire near a road near Hemet, California
Hit for more than 20 years by drought, the American West is particularly vulnerable to fires, which have intensified in recent years.
Global warming is also accentuating the extreme phenomena according to scientists: heat waves are more frequent and intense, and storms are more violent and unpredictable, with sometimes torrential rains.
The chaining of these extreme episodes is also becoming more common according to climatologists, and the weekend could provide another example.
In the Southwest of the United States, the forecast promises torrential rains just after the fall of the mercury on Friday. A hurricane is looming off Mexico and could bring up to 6 inches of precipitation to parts of Arizona and California.
This amount of rain is likely to cause flash floods here and there, especially in areas already destroyed by fire, the NWS warned.
Meanwhile, the heat wave continues to put pressure on the power grid in California, due to record air conditioning demand.
The network regulator, California ISO, narrowly avoided the use of rotating power cuts (controlled and distributed over different areas) on Tuesday. It renewed its alert on Wednesday to urge consumers to lower evening demand.
A plane spraying retardant over a residential area near Hemet, California
Californians are asked to avoid charging their electric vehicles between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m., not to set the air conditioning below 25.5 ° C and to avoid turning on lights unnecessarily.
The state and most of the West are suffering from a historic heat wave in both duration and temperatures, putting the network under pressure with heavy electricity usage, the regulator insisted.
During the day, all solar panels typically supply one-third of California's electricity. However, when the sun sets, the supply of photovoltaic energy is suddenly interrupted, and the other sources of electricity are currently struggling to meet the demand for air conditioning.