Even as polluter-powered politicians have been obstructing climate legislation, the United States has been suffering devastating climate disasters, fueled by global warming. Deadly storms swept across the nation’s heartland last week, killing eight with high winds and flash floods, destroying and damaging thousands of homes, and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of customers.
Floods caused by a rapid spring thaw in Alaska have destroyed an entire village and forced evacuations along the length of the Yukon River. Wildfires are burning in drought-ravaged California and Florida. The governors of Alaska, Missouri, West Virginia, Illinois, Kentucky, Arkansas have declared states of emergency or made disaster declarations for their ravaged states. The National Guard is being deployed in Alaska, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
A tornado caused damage across two counties in north Alabama last Wednesday, causing “a path of destruction nearly 11 miles long that was up to 75 yards wide in places.”
A record flood of the Yukon River caused by an unusually warm spring thaw “totally destroyed” the village of Eagle. Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) declared a state of emergency on May 6. The “Weather Service still had flooding warnings in place for Stevens Village, Rampart, Tanana and Ruby as of yesterday afternoon.” Alaska Guard personnel “are being dispatched for at least 14 days with trucks carrying clean, potable water for residents in need.”
Governor Mike Beebe (D-AR) “has declared 32 Arkansas counties disaster areas from heavy rains and flooding that have hit the state over the past two weeks.” Beebe’s declaration “also authorizes $200,000 in individual assistance from the Governor’s Disaster Fund for flood victims in Clark, Dallas, Jefferson, Garland, Lonoke, Miller, Monroe, Phillips, Poinsett and Saline counties.”
30,000 people were ordered to flee a raging Santa Barbara fire that consumed 8,700 acres, “destroyed 78 homes and damaged 22 others.” Costs totaled “more than $12.2 million.” “Global warming and other factors have led to longer fire seasons that now stretch well beyond mid-May to November.”
“This year alone Florida has already had more than 2,000 wildfires that burned about 56,000 acres.” “A Martin County sheriff’s deputy was injured as wildfires burned more than 1,400 acres near Indiantown, Fla., emergency officials said.”
68,000 customers of Ameren Corp. lost power in Friday’s storm in southern Illinois. Gov. Pat Quinn (D-IL) designated six southern Illinois counties “state disaster areas after last week’s deadly storms.” “Eighty-seven-year-old George Arbeiter died after a limb crashed onto his Murphysboro home and hit him on the back of his head, sending him down a flight of stairs.”
Gov. Steve Beshear (D-KY) declared an emergency in central and southeastern sections of his state Saturday. On Friday, a tornado killed two people and damaged dozens of homes and structures in the Kirksville community of Richmond in Madison County. “42-year-old Glenda Charbonnel and 35-year old Mike Yarber, died when the trailer they were in was blown into a pond.” A Gilbert firefighter “had a heart attack while providing aid to flood victims.” “More than 100 Kentucky Guard members are helping more than 10,000 citizens left without power” in seven counties.
“Homes and businesses in 18 counties received damage from the weekend severe weather that brought strong winds, heavy rains and flash flood warnings to much of the state,” including “about 48 homes and a dozen businesses” in Adams County.
Friday’s “severe storms across southern Missouri” prompted Governor Jay Nixon (D-MO) to declare a state of emergency. “Four deaths and 12 injuries” are blamed on the storm. “Ted Agee, 61, of rural Dallas County was killed when his house was destroyed by high winds. Two other deaths happened in Poplar Bluff, when a tree fell on a car.” 150,000 utility customers lost power.
Some “50,000 North Carolina residents were without power Sunday” as crews cleaned up after quick-moving thunderstorms blew through the region. “Straight-line winds as strong as 125 mph snapped trees from Scotland County to Columbus County. Damage appeared heaviest in Robeson County, where at least two homes were destroyed and seven others were damaged ” The extent of the damage “was similar to an EF-2 tornado and winds of a Category 3 hurricane.” A tornado that hit Johnston County last Tuesday “destroyed one home and damaged 18 others,” leaving behind about $1.65 million in damage.
“Heavy rain and flooding Friday and Saturday” prompted Gov. Joe Manchin III (D-WV) “to declare a state of emergency in six West Virginia counties and to call up 330 members of the National Guard.” Guard members of the 111th Engineering Brigade “are helping in two of those counties — Mingo and Wyoming – where a steady rainfall combined with a recent thunderstorm has caused mudslides and flooded homes and roads,” destroying at least 300 buildings. Nearly 10,000 Appalachian Power customers in southern West Virginia were without electric service Saturday.
The Wonk Room asked Sen. McCaskill’s (D-MO) office if these deadly storms affect her sense of urgency in passing strong climate legislation. A McCaskill spokesman responded, but avoided the relationship between climate and extreme weather:
The scientific community has concluded that global warming is real and caused by humans, and Senator McCaskill agrees with them. When cap and trade legislation is drafted, Senator McCaskill will urge quick action on legislation that will curb greenhouse gas emissions and provide help for energy consumers in coal-dependent markets like Missouri.