What We Know

Everything you need to know right now about the climate fires raging in several states and Hurricane Zeta.

The Big Picture

Climate disasters are real. Since Trump was elected, major disasters linked to climate change like hurricanes, floods, and wildfires have taken at least 3,649 lives and cost more than $478 billion in damages.

In May of 2020, the NOAA predicted an “above normal” Atlantic hurricane season, expecting 13-19 named storms, including 3-6 major hurricanes. By the middle of September, those predictions had already been exceeded with Hurricane Sally flooding the Alabama and Florida gulf coast only a month after Louisiana and Texas were struck by Category 4 Hurricane Laura, which set off a chemical fire near Lake Charles, LA.

This year’s western wildfire season has been particularly devastating with over 7 million acres burned and dramatic scenes of smoke-filled skies that seemed out of a sci-fi movie. The amount of smoke in the atmosphere has been so severe that it caused an upsurge in fatal heart attacks and hospitalizations for people with asthma — and it might also make people more vulnerable to COVID-19.

In the midwest, heavy rains in Michigan caused two dams to burst earlier this spring, forcing evacuations for thousands of Midland County residents. In a region still recovering from devastating floods in 2019 that left 19.4 million acres unplanted, a derecho swept across Iowa in August, wiping out crops.

Key Facts Of the Day

Last updated: Tuesday, October 27 at 9 AM EST.

  • Zeta made landfall in the Yucatán Peninsula north of Tulum, Mexico, as a Category 1 hurricane Monday night, bringing heavy rains and possible storm surge to the region.
  •  Zeta weakened slightly to a tropical storm but is expected to strengthen back into a hurricane over the Gulf of Mexico before reaching the US coast Wednesday.
    • Hurricane conditions could reach the Gulf Coast by Wednesday evening, with tropical storm conditions starting on Wednesday afternoon.
  • Zeta will be the eighth storm to make landfall along the Gulf Coast this season, with the highest concentration in Louisiana.
  • As of Tuesday morning,  Zeta was located about 540 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River and was moving northwest at 14 mph.
  • Hurricane warnings extend from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Mississippi/Alabama border, including Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and metropolitan New Orleans.
  • A storm surge warning and tropical storm warning have been issued for Cozumel and Punta Allen to Progreso, Mexico as well as the border of Mississippi and Alabama and the border to Okaloosa and Walton County Line, Florida.
  • Zeta could bring 4 to 6 feet of storm surge from Port Fourchon, La., to Alabama’s Dauphin Island, with 2 to 4 feet expected elsewhere along the coast, including the rest of the Alabama coast and Mobile Bay.
  • In New Orleans, voluntary evacuations have been issued for areas outside their levee system, including Irish Bayou, Venetian Isles, and Lake Catherine, starting Tuesday evening.
  • The New Orleans metro area is bracing for tropical-storm-force winds, heavy rain, and coastal flooding of four to six feet as a result of Hurricane Zeta.
  • On Monday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards issued an emergency declaration ahead of Zeta’s arrival.
  • If Zeta reaches Louisiana as a hurricane, it will set the record for most named storms in the state in one season.
    • Zeta would be the fifth, following Cristobal, Laura, Marco and Delta. Zeta would also bring Louisiana to tie with Florida in 2005 with the most landfalls in any state in one season.
  • In the Atlantic Ocean, the chance that any given storm will reach major hurricane intensity (Category 3, 4, or 5) is now twice as likely than it was in the 1980s, showing just how influential warmer ocean waters can be.
  • Two firefighters were critically injured while battling the Silverado Fire in Irvine.
  • The Silverado Fire quadrupled in size Monday. It.had burned 7,200 acres and was 0% contained as of Monday afternoon.
  • The Silverado Fire began about 6:45 a.m. PDT Monday in the Santiago Canyon. The fire may have been caused by a Southern California Edison Company electric conductor.
  • More than 90,000 people in 22,000 homes in the city of Irvine were under a mandatory evacuation order.
  • Another fire, the Blue Ridge Fire, began as two fires about 1 p.m. PDT Monday. It is unclear what caused the fires.
  • More than 5,000 homes in the nearby cities of Yorba Linda, Hidden Hills and Chino Hills were also told to flee after another blaze, the Blue Ridge fire, broke out Monday.
  • The Blue Ridge Fire grew to 6,600 acres just after 11 p.m. on Monday, more than doubling from 3,000 acres by 8:30 p.m., and from around 1,100 acres at 4:30 p.m.
  • At least two homes sustained heavy damage from the Blue Ridge Fire.
  • There are over 700 firefighters battling both the Blue Ridge and the Silverado Fires.
  • Wind gusts of 40 to 45 mph drove the flames of both fires as California faced the most extreme fire conditions of the season.
  • On Sunday, firefighters battled 27 new wildfires, only two new fires in Shasta County were not yet fully contained as of Monday evening.
  • An additional Red Flag Warning has been issued through Tuesday night for the Southern Sierra, Kern County Mountains, Inyo, and the Mojave Desert.
  • Colorado’s Cameron Peak fire has burned 208,663 acres and is 64% contained. The East Troublesome has burned 192,560 acres and is 15% contained.
  • Both wildfires, hit Sunday and overnight by snow and cold weather, resulted in no fire growth on Monday.
  • Monday snowfall reports included 24 inches for Red Feather Lakes, 21 inches for Cameron Pass, 15 to 21 inches for parts of the East Troublesome Fire, and around half that much at lower elevations of the fire.
  • Despite snowfall and cold weather, officials warned fire activity may increase again as another drying trend with moderate temperatures and no predicted precipitation is in the extended forecast.
  • In Arizona, the Trail Fire burning 5 miles north of Black Canyon is now considered by the NIFC to be a large fire. The fire has burned through 1,674 acres and is 30% contained.
  • There are currently 42 large wildfires burning across CA, WA, OR, ID, CO, and AZ. Nationally, 8,542,022 acres have burned this year.

WESTERN WILDFIRES

Last updated: Tuesday, October 27 at 9 AM EST.

Acres burned to date this wildfire season:

National: 8,542,022 acres
CA: 4,100,000 acres
OR: 307757.62 acres
WA: 487069.29 acres
ID: 314,909 acres
CO: 447,106 acres (currently burning acreage)
AZ: 49,800 acres (currently burning acreage)

CALIFORNIA
Number of active fires: 17
Acres burned (cumulative year-to-date): more than 4,100,000
Source: CalFire Daily Report (Oct. 25)

  • Two firefighters were critically injured while battling the Silverado Fire in Irvine.
  • The Silverado Fire quadrupled in size Monday. It.had burned 7,200 acres and was 0% contained as of Monday afternoon.
  • The Silverado Fire began about 6:45 a.m. PDT Monday in the Santiago Canyon. The fire may have been caused by a Southern California Edison Company electric conductor.
  • More than 90,000 people in 22,000 homes in the city of Irvine were under a mandatory evacuation order.
  • Another fire, the Blue Ridge Fire, began as two fires about 1 p.m. PDT Monday. It is unclear what caused the fires.
  • More than 5,000 homes in the nearby cities of Yorba Linda, Hidden Hills, and Chino Hills were also told to flee after another blaze, the Blue Ridge fire, broke out Monday.
  • The Blue Ridge Fire grew to 6,600 acres just after 11 p.m. on Monday, more than doubling from 3,000 acres by 8:30 p.m., and from around 1,100 acres at 4:30 p.m.
  • At least two homes sustained heavy damage from the Blue Ridge Fire.
  • There are over 700 firefighters battling both the Blue Ridge and the Silverado Fires.
  • Wind gusts of 40 to 45 mph drove the flames of both fires as California faced the most extreme fire conditions of the season.
  • On Sunday, firefighters battled 27 new wildfires, only two new fires in Shasta County were not yet fully contained as of Monday evening.
  • An additional Red Flag Warning has been issued through Tuesday night for the Southern Sierra, Kern County Mountains, Inyo, and the Mojave Desert.

OREGON
Number of active fires: 5
Acres burned (cumulative year-to-date): 307757.62
Source: Oregon Department of Forestry Report (Oct. 27)

WASHINGTON
Number of active fires: 2
Acres burned (cumulative year-to-date): 487069.29
Source: Washington Division of Natural Resources, Intelligence Report (Oct. 26)

IDAHO
Number of active fires: 8
Acres burned (cumulative year-to-date): 314,909
Source: Idaho Bureau of Land Management (Oct. 27)

COLORADO
Number of active fires: 6
Acres burned (currently burning acreage): 447,106  
Source: NIFC

  • The Cameron Peak fire has burned 208,663 acres and it’s 64% contained. The East Troublesome has burned 192,560 acres and is 15% contained.
  • Both wildfires, hit Sunday and overnight by snow and cold weather, resulted in no fire growth on Monday.
  • Monday snowfall reports included 24 inches for Red Feather Lakes, 21 inches for Cameron Pass, 15 to 21 inches for parts of the East Troublesome Fire, and around half that much at lower elevations of the fire.
  • Despite snowfall and cold weather, officials warned fire activity may increase again as another drying trend with moderate temperatures and no predicted precipitation is in the extended forecast.

ARIZONA
Number of active fires: 4
Acres burned (currently burning average): 49,800
Source: NIFC

  • The Trail Fire burning 5 miles north of Black Canyon is now considered by the NIFC to be a large fire. The fire has burned through 1,674 acres and is 30% contained.

HURRICANE ZETA

  • Zeta made landfall in the Yucatán Peninsula north of Tulum, Mexico, as a Category 1 hurricane Monday night, bringing heavy rains and possible storm surge to the region.
  •  Zeta weakened slightly to a tropical storm but is expected to strengthen back into a hurricane over the Gulf of Mexico before reaching the US coast Wednesday.
    • Hurricane conditions could reach the Gulf Coast by Wednesday evening, with tropical storm conditions starting on Wednesday afternoon.
  • Zeta will be the eighth storm to make landfall along the Gulf Coast this season, with the highest concentration in Louisiana.
  • As of Tuesday morning,  Zeta was located about 540 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River and was moving northwest at 14 mph.
  • Hurricane warnings extend from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Mississippi/Alabama border, including Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and metropolitan New Orleans.
  • A storm surge warning and tropical storm warning have been issued for Cozumel and Punta Allen to Progreso, Mexico as well as the border of Mississippi and Alabama and the border to Okaloosa and Walton County Line, Florida.
  • Zeta could bring 4 to 6 feet of storm surge from Port Fourchon, La., to Alabama’s Dauphin Island, with 2 to 4 feet expected elsewhere along the coast, including the rest of the Alabama coast and Mobile Bay.
  • In New Orleans, voluntary evacuations have been issued for areas outside their levee system, including Irish Bayou, Venetian Isles, and Lake Catherine, starting Tuesday evening.
  • The New Orleans metro area is bracing for tropical-storm-force winds, heavy rain, and coastal flooding of four to six feet as a result of Hurricane Zeta.
  • On Monday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards issued an emergency declaration ahead of Zeta’s arrival.
  • If Zeta reaches Louisiana as a hurricane, it will set the record for most named storms in the state in one season.
    • Zeta would be the fifth, following Cristobal, Laura, Marco, and Delta. Zeta would also bring Louisiana to tie with Florida in 2005 with the most landfalls in any state in one season.
  • In the Atlantic Ocean, the chance that any given storm will reach major hurricane intensity (Category 3, 4, or 5) is now twice as likely than it was in the 1980s, showing just how influential warmer ocean waters can be.