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Monsoon in Arizona and New Mexico causes deadly flooding

Monsoon rains in the Southwest have caused deadly floods
in parts of Arizona and New Mexico.

Staff Video, USA TODAY

  • Thunderstorms in many areas could bring welcome rainfall, the storms could also cause flash flooding.
  • California’s Dixie Fire covered nearly 388 square miles in mountains where 42 homes and other buildings have been destroyed.
  • Wildfires emit huge volumes of microscopic smoke particles that researchers say can be harmful.

The Bootleg Fire in Oregon was up to 84% containment early Monday as firefighters made progress over the weekend battling the blaze, which is the nation’s largest at 646 square miles. 

Elsewhere, authorities canceled evacuation orders near the Dixie Fire in Northern California and another on Hawaii’s Big Island.

Despite the good news, authorities warned that with unpredictable winds and extremely dry fuels across the West, the risk of flare-ups remained high. In addition, while predicted thunderstorms in many areas could bring welcome rainfall, the storms could also cause flash flooding. 

Spots left barren of vegetation by the rash of wildfires throughout the West are especially prone to flash flooding when pelted by heavy rainfall. 

Flash flood watches were in effect for mountainous areas of seven western states, from Montana to New Mexico, the National Weather Service said. 

Nearly 22,000 firefighters and support personnel were battling 91 large, active wildfires covering 2,813 square miles in mostly western states, the National Interagency Fire Center said.

Mixed blessing: Southwest monsoon rain bringing drought relief — but also dangerous flooding

California’s Dixie Fire covered nearly 388 square miles in mountains where 42 homes and other buildings have been destroyed. The fire was 35% contained Monday morning, and evacuation orders and warnings had earlier been lifted for several areas. 

Dry conditions and powerful winds made for dangerous fire conditions in Hawaii. A wind advisory had been issued Sunday for portions of Lanai, Maui and the Big Island.

A fast-moving wildfire on Hawaii’s Big Island grew to 62.5 square miles, prompting mandatory evacuation orders that forced thousands of residents out of their homes. Those orders were lifted Sunday evening; however, authorities told residents to remain alert.

Meanwhile, air quality alerts remained in effect Monday for portions of the interior Northwest, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming and the upper Midwest due to smoke, the National Weather Service said.

Wildfires emit huge volumes of microscopic smoke particles that researchers say can be harmful if breathed in and lead to both immediate and long-term health impacts. Children, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions are particularly at risk.

Contributing: Jorge Ortiz, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

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