The drought situation in the US is getting worse.  Georgia, keeping in mind it got doused recently when Hurricane Matthew grazed it, is in a deep drought.  More than 20% of the state is experiencing an exceptional drought.  Most of the state is in extreme drought.  In related news, tragedy has struck in Tennessee, with several tourists and residents dying in a massive wildfire.  At the time of writing, the death toll is up to 13, and another 85 people have been treated for fire-related injuries.  That fire was the most destructive and deadly one in the Southeast, but it is only one of 19 that in total have scorched more than 15,000 acres (6,070 hectares) so far.  These fires are in the Great Smoky Mountains, which usually sees only two or so fires in a year.  Tennessee and the rest of the southeastern states are a tinderbox due to lingering exceptional drought there.  To make matters worse, the same rain they are counting on to douse the massive blaze is threatening flooding in the region.

In other news, not all heatwaves generate complaints, and not all are swelteringly hot.  While the winter in Calgary is expected to be harsh, it was until very recently conspicuous by its absence. It felt like an extended summer until we got pummelled by unseasonably low temperatures for this time of year, around -30ºC (-22ºF).  It is certainly winter in Kona, Hawaii as well, in particular, near the peaks of the enormous volcanos named Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, which received three feet (91 cm) of snow.  Believe it or not, it usually snows in Hawaii, as it is home to Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, the tallest volcanos from base to summit in the world.  With a maximum elevation of 13,802 ft (4,207 m) above sea level at Mauna Kea, it is hardly surprising that it regularly receives snow, and with Mauna Loa almost matching its height, snow there should not be surprising either.  To convey a sense of scale, higher than about 9,000 feet, (about 3km,) it becomes difficult to breathe due to a lack of oxygen.  At the summit, one may be so hypoxic they feel and move as though drunk, and walking even a short distance feels like intense exercise and leaves one gasping for breath.  At that height, the temperature plummets to near 0ºC (32ºF) in the midst of blazing summer heat at sea level.  With it easily dropping below freezing in the winter months, snow is to be expected, but deep snow, the three feet that fell, however, is rare.  

As if the Southeast wasn’t in dire straits enough, two serious storm systems hit the mainland US.  The storms caused 24 tornados in five southern states including Florida,  with Alabama receiving the brunt of it.  That storm system is blamed for at least nine deaths and innumerable levelled homes.  Elsewhere, much of North America was suddenly plunged into winter, with serious storms causing dangerous driving conditions and severe power outages.  Quebec, for example, lost power to 62,000 homes and businesses across the province in the wet, blustery cold typical of that region.  It is difficult to estimate the extent of the damages in the Southeast, but it seems likely to amount to billions of dollars.

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