Disaster: The Big Heat

The Big Heat

In the West last week, calamity came in the form of high-altitude thunderstorms that raced up the spine of the Sierra Nevada through California into Oregon, Washington and Idaho. During three days, lightning sensors recorded 60,000 thunderbolt strikes on parched forests. Gusty winds fanned the flames until 480,000 acres were engulfed in the worst fires in the region since 1910.

In California's Stanislaus National Forest, the area of destruction from blazes doubled, to 90,000 acres, in less than a day. Four thousand residents of nearby Tuolumne County were forced to flee from the 50-foot walls of flame. In all, some 9,000...

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