Heat wave shifts to New York and the I-95 corridor as search for more victims in the deadly New Mexico wildfires continues

Extreme summer weather continues to impact much of the US on Friday and into the weekend with a dangerous heat wave ratcheting up in New York and the I-95 corridor, deadly and destructive wildfires still burning in New Mexico and potential tropical threats. Here’s the latest:

• Heat escalates this weekend: More than 100 million Americans, including those in the highly populated I-95 corridor, are under heat alerts through the weekend. A heat emergency was in effect for Washington, DC, where upper 90s and even triple-digit temperatures for the first time since 2016 will be possible.

• Search for “more loss of life” in New Mexico fires: In New Mexico, authorities reported that at least two people died, 1,400 structures were destroyed and and more than 8,000 residents were evacuated as a result of wildfires. The mayor of hard-hit Ruidoso, New Mexico, said they were preparing for more fatalities in the fires and bringing in dogs to help the search for “more loss of life.” The South Fork and Salt fires have together burned an estimated 24,000 acres and were still 0% contained as of Friday. Evacuations are still in effect for Village of Ruidoso and City of Ruidoso Downs residents and additional evacuation orders have been issued in at least seven more areas.

• Flood threat in fire zone: A flash flood warning was issued for Ruidoso and other New Mexico areas burned by the South Fork Fire after 0.5 inches of rain fell in the morning. More rain was expected into the late afternoon hours. Rain earlier in the week created a flash flood emergency with water rescues as a torrent of mud and water rushed from burned areas. Ground charred by fire, also known as a burn scar, loses its ability to effectively absorb water and more easily floods.

• Tropical threats brewing: The National Hurricane Center is monitoring two areas with a medium chance of tropical development in the next 48 hours. One could become a tropical depression off the North Florida and Georgia coasts Friday. The other could take a nearly identical track to Tropical Storm Alberto.

• FBI investigating origins of New Mexico fires: FBI special agents have joined the investigation into the cause of wildfires in New Mexico, the agency said Thursday. “I can confirm that the FBI is assisting our local, state, federal and tribal partners in the ongoing investigation of the fires in Ruidoso NM,” said a spokesperson with the bureau’s Albuquerque field office. President Joe Biden is “closely monitoring” wildfires in New Mexico, the White House said Thursday. The administration has also approved an expedited major disaster declaration from New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, “unlocking further federal support and FEMA assistance to the impacted communities.”

California firefighters brace for 100-degree heat: California is heating up Friday, with triple-digit temperatures expected in some areas. Heat alerts span parts of southern and central California, including in Colusa County, where firefighters are working to rein in the Sites Fire spanning over 19,100 acres. High temperatures between 100 and 106 are expected and could hinder firefighting efforts. California is seeing an active early fire year, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Since the start of the year, 89,784 acres have burned, compared to 5,747 acres during the same period last year.

Early-season heat wave intensifies this weekend

More record daily high temperatures are possible through the weekend as heat expands into new areas and intensifies in others.

A stagnant heat dome over the eastern US is fueling some of the most unusually intense heat over portions of the Ohio Valley and the mid-Atlantic. Heat will build in Washington, DC, Friday and threaten triple-digits Saturday and Sunday.

The extreme heat and humidity will combine to push the heat index – or how hot it feels – to 100 to 105 degrees over a widespread area, with 110 degrees possible in the southern mid-Atlantic. Record overnight low temperatures will increase health risks by reducing the ability for people to cool down at night.

The heat wave’s prolonged nature is another serious concern. New York City could experience 90-degree temperatures or higher for seven days straight into week. The stretch would be the longest ever in June in the city.

Heat is also returning in full force in the West following a brief break. Heat alerts are already in place for portions of California, Arizona and Utah. Temperatures are expected to jump back up to 10 to 15 degrees above normal for Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Sacramento and Bakersfield, California, through the weekend.

Hurricane season heating up, too

Two tropical systems could develop quick on the heels of Alberto. The first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season made landfall as sprawling tropical storm in Mexico, but brought heavy rain and storm surge to much of the western Gulf of Mexico.

A system with a medium chance of tropical development could mimic Alberto’s track through the southwestern Gulf of Mexico and into northeastern Mexico this weekend.

CNN Weather
CNN Weather

A broad area of low pressure near the Yucatan Peninsula is forecast to strengthen as it moves into the southwest Gulf of Mexico this weekend. This system has a medium chance of developing into a tropical system. in the next several days and will also bring more rain chances to South Texas.

While this system is not expected to be as large as Alberto, it would bring more rain chances to South Texas and trigger new flooding concerns there and along the Gulf Coast.

Texas isn’t the only area watching for a potential tropical system. Those in Florida and Georgia should also watch closely as a tropical depression could develop Friday with little time before it makes landfall Friday night.

The National Hurricane Center on Friday morning increased the odds of the storm system developing after finding signs it was organizing. It has a medium chance of a last-gasp development, according to the NHC.

The designation would largely be ceremonial as some heavy rain, high surf and gusty winds are expected regardless of the system’s final form.

CNN’s Eric Zerkel, Brandon Miller, Taylor Ward, Sara Tonks, Taylor Galgano, Andy Rose and Josh Campbell contributed to this report.

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