Heavy snowfall is expected to ease Friday in the US state of Colorado, where fires fueled by high winds destroyed hundreds of homes and forced tens of thousands to flee.
The US Weather Service (NWS) has forecast heavy snowfall in the coming days and has placed part of the mountainous western state on alert for winter storms.
Boulder tweeted to the NWS on Friday morning that “it will be very cold by the time we start the New Year tonight” and “it will be snowing a lot in the (Denver) area at midnight”.
The flakes were supposed to relieve the population and represent a complete contrast to the martial fire that destroyed the area and forced the evacuation of at least 33,000 people on Thursday.
Impressive flames pierce the sky and winds of up to 160 km per hour sometimes wipe out the area, complicating the task of firefighters engaged in fighting against unusually intense fires this season.
Part of the evacuation orders were lifted overnight by local authorities.
However there are still no restrictions on places like Superior with 13,000 inhabitants. “Right now no one has the right to enter the city,” 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. He said there were “only ashes” in the house where he had lived for three decades Denver Post.
In Louisville, 20,000 residents have been ordered to boil tap water or use bottles, while the city uses untreated water to fight fires.
Fifty kilometers from the state capital, Denver, Boulder County, home to 100,000 residents, is home to hotels, shopping centers and more than 650 hectares of smoke.
The fire affected suburbs as well as rural areas as before.
“Nearly 370 houses were destroyed around Sagamore. 210 homes are likely to be destroyed in the Old Town Superior, ”Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said Thursday.
For much of the American West, Colorado, an already arid state, has been battling an unusual drought for many years.
With global warming, the intensity and frequency of drought and heatwave episodes are likely to increase further, creating favorable conditions for forest or bush fires. In recent years, the American West has experienced unprecedented fires, especially in California and Oregon.
For Daniel Swain, a meteorologist at UCLA, it is “hard to believe” that these fires will occur in December, a time when it is not generally favorable for such events to occur in the region.
“Take the record hot and dry autumn this season, however, with only two inches of snow so far this season, and add a gust of wind … and the result is very dangerous, very fast moving fires,” the researcher tweeted.
Beyond the fires, the United States has recently experienced other extreme events, with the Ida Storm 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.