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Snow expected to save after devastating Colorado fires

Heavy snowfall is expected to bring respite in the U.S. state of Colorado on Friday, where blazes fueled by high winds have destroyed hundreds of homes and forced tens of thousands to flee.

• Read also: IN IMAGES | Hundreds of homes destroyed by fires in Colorado

The US Weather Service (NWS) has placed part of this mountainous western state on winter storm alert, forecasting heavy snowfall in the coming days.

“It will be very cold by the time we mark the start of the New Year tonight” and “snow will fall over most of the (Denver) area at midnight,” the Boulder NWS tweeted Friday morning.

These flakes should bring relief to the population and represent a stark contrast to the Marshall Fire, which ravaged the area and forced the evacuation of at least 33,000 people on Thursday.

Impressive flames tore the sky and gusts of wind sometimes up to 160km / h swept the region, complicating the work of the firefighters engaged against a fire of an unusual intensity for the season.

Part of the evacuation orders were lifted overnight by local authorities.




AFP

But places like Superior, with 13,000 inhabitants, are still off limits. “No one has the right to enter the city at the moment,” the town hall warned on Twitter.

Patrick Kilbride, 72, a town resident, was at work when he was ordered to evacuate, but was only able to save his car and clothes. “There are only ashes”, of the house in which he lived for three decades, he confided to the Denver Post.

In Louisville, all 20,000 residents have been ordered to boil tap water or use bottles, with the city using untreated water to fight fires.

Hotels, shopping centers and more than 650 hectares of smoke went up in smoke in Boulder County, a city of 100,000 inhabitants located about fifty kilometers from Denver, the state capital.




AFP

The fire, unlike the previous ones, affected suburbs and not just rural areas.

“About 370 homes around Sagamore were destroyed. And it’s possible 210 homes were destroyed in Old Town Superior, ”Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said Thursday.

Like much of the American West, Colorado, an already arid state, has struggled with exceptional drought for several years.

With global warming, the intensity and frequency of drought and heatwave episodes are likely to increase further, continuing to create ideal conditions for forest or bush fires. In recent years, the American West has experienced unprecedented fires, particularly in California and Oregon.

For Daniel Swain, a meteorologist at UCLA, it is “hard to believe” that these fires take place in December, a period usually not conducive to this type of event in the region.

“But take an autumn of record heat and drought, only two inches of snow so far this season, and add a storm with extreme downward gusts … and the result is extremely dangerous, very fast moving fires. The researcher tweeted.

Beyond the fires, the United States has experienced other extreme events recently, with Storm Ida passing through New York and New Jersey in September and deadly tornadoes in Kentucky in December. For the latter, the link with global warming is still being studied.

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