Heavy snowfall is expected to bring calm to the US state of Colorado, Friday, as fires fanned by high winds destroyed hundreds of homes and forced tens of thousands to flee.
• Read also: Hundreds of homes destroyed by fires in Colorado
The National Weather Service (NWS) has put part of this western mountainous state on alert for a winter storm, and has predicted heavy snowfall in the coming days.
“It’s going to be pretty cold by the time we celebrate the start of the new year tonight,” Boulder NWS tweeted Friday morning, and “it will snow over most of the (Denver) area at midnight.”
These chips should relieve residents and represent a stark contrast to the Marshall Fire, which devastated the area and forced the evacuation of at least 33,000 people on Thursday.
Enormous flames tore through the sky and winds of up to 160 km/h at times, complicating the work of firefighters who battled this season’s unusual fire.
And local authorities lifted part of the eviction orders during the night.
But places like Superior, which has a population of 13,000, are still off-limits. The city council warned on Twitter: “No one has the right to enter the city at this time.”
Townshipman Patrick Kilbride, 72, was at work when he was ordered to evacuate, but was only able to salvage his car and clothes. “There is only ashes”, from the house he lived in for three decades, captivity to Denver Post.
In Louisville, all 20,000 residents have been ordered to boil tap water or use bottles, as the city uses untreated water to fight fires.
Smoke billowed from hotels, shopping centers and more than 650 hectares of smoke in Boulder County, a city of 100,000 people located about fifty kilometers from Denver, the state capital.
The fire, unlike previous fires, affected suburbs and not just rural areas.
About 370 homes around Sagamore were destroyed. It’s possible that 210 homes have been destroyed in Old Town Superior, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Bailey said Thursday.
Like much of the American West, already arid Colorado has experienced exceptional drought for several years.
With global warming, the intensity and frequency of droughts and heat waves are likely to increase, continuing to create ideal conditions for wildfires or bushfires. The American West has experienced unprecedented fires in recent years, particularly in California and Oregon.
For UCLA meteorologist Daniel Swain, “it’s hard to believe” that these fires happen in December, a period not usually conducive to this type of event in the region.
“But take an autumn of record heat and drought, just two inches of snow so far this season, and add a storm with very steep gusts of wind… and the result is very dangerous, very fast-moving fires,” the researcher tweeted.
Aside from the fires, the United States has seen other extreme events recently, with Storm Ida passing New York and New Jersey in September and deadly tornadoes in Kentucky in December. For the latter, the association with global warming is still being studied.