Uncontained wildfire burning on US- Canada border as alert goes out to “Be Ready to Evacuate”

Important Takeaways:

  • Explosive wildfire crossed US-Canada border, forcing evacuations
  • An out-of-control blaze burning in northern Washington State exploded in size, crossed the Canadian border and set off a cascade of evacuations over the weekend.
  • The so-called Eagle Bluff Fire has burned thousands of acres on both sides of the border and forced hundreds to evacuate their homes since it ignited Saturday in Washington’s Okanogan County.
  • Evacuations were ordered on Saturday for more than 700 properties in the Canadian town of Osoyoos, British Columbia, after the fire crossed the border. By Monday, that number fell to 192 properties after firefighters made progress fighting the fire, with an additional 2,635 properties in the area under an evacuation alert to be ready to evacuate should conditions change.
  • There are no active evacuation orders for the Eagle Pass Fire in the US, but at least three structures had burned in Okanogan County, Washington, and portions of the county were under a Level 2 evacuation notice – “Be Ready to Evacuate” – according to fire officials.
  • The fire exploded in size due to dry, warm and breezy conditions and has burned through more than 10,000 acres. At least 3,500 acres have burned in Canada alone. The fire remains completely uncontained in both countries, according to Washington and Canadian fire officials.

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Washington state in drought emergency


Matthew 24:7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.

Important Takeaways:

  • Washington state declares drought emergencies in a dozen counties
  • Ecology spokesperson Jimmy Norris told The Bellingham Herald that about 350 water customers in that area are affected.
  • “This drought is already harming Washington communities, businesses and farms, and it’s another sign of the damage that climate change is causing to our state,” Ecology Director Laura Watson said in the statement, adding that the state needs to prepare for a drier future.
  • In addition to Whatcom County, the declaration covers portions of Benton, Clallam, Columbia, Jefferson, Kittitas, Klickitat, Okanogan, Skagit, Snohomish, Walla Walla and Yakima counties.
  • The rest of the state, including the Seattle metropolitan area, is considered to be under a drought advisory.

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A crash course in the United States on tracking, trapping and killing ‘murder hornets’

By Tim Exton

BLAINE, Wash. (Reuters) – The first Asian giant hornet nest of the year has been found in Washington state, and plans are being developed to eradicate it, likely next week, the state’s agriculture department said on Thursday.

The so-called stinging “murder hornets,” the world’s largest hornets, can grow to two inches (5 cm) in length and prey on native bee and wasp populations, consuming honeybee hives and threatening agriculture.

“Any time you get any organism that is not native to an area move in, the consequences are really immeasurable,” said Sven Spichiger, the department’s managing entomologist.

A day before the nest was located, Washington and Oregon state Department of Agriculture employees gathered in an open-air classroom just south of the Canadian border to learn how to trap, track and eradicate the invasive species.

The employees donned protective suits, complete with black boots and blue gloves, and practiced using telemetry systems to find the hornets, tag them and then destroy their nests.

Thousands of traps baited with orange juice or jam are hung in trees along likely hornet flight paths. Once spotted, the hornet must be tracked to its nest, so its queen and other hornets can be destroyed, ideally before reproducing.

When a hornet is captured, it is fitted with a radio transmitter and released, in the hope it can be followed back to its nest.

Once a nest of Asian giant hornets is confirmed by thermal imaging to be in a tree, the tree is wrapped in plastic wrap to prevent escape while its trunk is hit with a piece of wood to get the hornets out so they can be vacuumed up and eradicated.

“My biggest fear for this year is that there will be lots of nests out in our county and we just don’t know where they are, that’s the biggest problem, is nests going undetected. So that’s why it’s so important for the public to continue telling us when they think they see one,” Looney said.

(Reporting by Tim Exton; Editing by Jane Ross and Karishma Singh)

Avista warns of more power outages in Washington state due to heatwave

(Reuters) – Washington state energy company Avista Corp told customers to prepare for more heat-related outages on Tuesday after some lost power Monday evening, as homes and businesses cranked up their air conditioners to escape a brutal heatwave.

The company said outages planned for Tuesday “are a protective measure intended to minimize the customer impact, alleviate strain on the electric system and prevent extensive damage to the system that could result in prolonged outages.”

“The electric system experienced a new peak demand, and the strain of the high temperatures impacted the system in a way that required us to proactively turn off power for some customers,” Avista CEO Dennis Vermillion said in a news release.

The Pacific Northwest has been gripped by an intense heatwave that has shut down much of daily life for residents.

High temperatures in Seattle, the biggest city in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, will reach 92 degrees Fahrenheit (33 Celsius) on Tuesday, down from a record 104 F on Monday, according to forecasts by AccuWeather. That compares with a normal high of just 73 F at this time of year.

Power prices in the Pacific Northwest for Tuesday eased with the Mid Columbia (Mid C) hub in Washington state down to $146 per megawatt hour (MWh) from a record $334 for Monday.

That compares with an average of $30 per MWh at the Mid C over the past five years (2016-2020).

Avista urged all 400,000 of its power customers in Washington, Idaho and Oregon to conserve energy and warned that many of the roughly 8,000 homes and businesses that experienced outages on Monday could have the same thing happen on Tuesday.

The company said the outages will be targeted during the hours of 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. local time and are expected to last one hour.

Some customers may experience more than one outage with no less than one hour in between outages.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Paul Simao)

Three more die in Seattle area from coronavirus as U.S. promises 1 million test kits

By Steve Gorman and Hilary Russ

(Reuters) – The number of people with the new coronavirus in the United States climbed on Tuesday with Washington state reporting three more deaths, as authorities worked on preventing its spread and the central bank acted on Tuesday to protect the economy from the impact of the global outbreak.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Washington state rose to 27, including nine deaths, up from 18 cases and six deaths a day earlier, the state Department of Health reported.

Eight of those who died from the respiratory illness were in King County and one was in neighboring Snohomish County, officials said. All 27 confirmed cases are clustered in those two counties in the greater Seattle area, making it the largest concentration detected to date in the United States.

Several of those who died had been residents of a long-term nursing care facility in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland called LifeCare, according to the Seattle & King County Public Health agency.

North Carolina reported its first presumptive positive case on Tuesday, in a person who had traveled to the same nursing home.

The number of cases in the United States was at least 108. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier posted 108 cases on its website: 60 in 12 U.S. states, including presumed cases reported by public health laboratories, and 48 who were repatriated from abroad.

U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters his administration may cut off travel from the United States to areas with high rates of coronavirus, but said officials were not weighing any restrictions on domestic travel.

In New York, a man in his 50s who lives in a New York City suburb and works at a Manhattan law firm tested positive for the virus, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the state to two, New York officials said.

He has severe pneumonia and is hospitalized, officials said. The patient had not traveled to countries hardest hit in the coronavirus outbreak, which began in China in December and is now present in nearly 80 countries and territories, killing more than 3,000 people.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the confirmation of the case was made by the city’s public health laboratory on its first day of testing.


Previously, all testing was conducted by the CDC, which created a delay of several days before the result was known. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn told Congress that testing kits should be available by the end of the week that would give labs the capacity to perform about 1 million coronavirus tests.

The U.S. House of Representatives is aiming for Wednesday to debate a multibillion-dollar bill providing emergency funds. Republican Trump said his administration was working with Congress to pass an emergency spending measure, adding that he expects lawmakers to authorize about $8.5 billion.

Senate Democrats said a dispute with Republicans over the affordability of coronavirus tests and vaccinations were holding up agreement on a funding bill.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the government’s coronavirus task force, was unable to answer “vital questions” about the availability of tests during a 45-minute meeting.

“They didn’t have as many answers as we needed. They didn’t have the answers we needed. The biggest question, testing: when and where? They could not answer how soon people would be able to get the tests,” Schumer told reporters.

A House Republican aide, asked to elaborate on leadership claims that Democrats are trying to attach other measures to the coronavirus legislation, said, “Democrats attempted to include price controls both for government purchases and in the commercial market for drugs that haven’t even been developed yet.”

The aide cited experts in the administration and private industry as saying that would “slow down both development of new vaccines and therapies, and their procurement.”

Amid concerns about disruptions to supply chains, airlines and other business impacts of the coronavirus, the U.S. Federal Reserve on Tuesday cut interest rates in an emergency move designed to shield the world’s largest economy. The Fed said it was cutting rates by a half percentage point to a target range of 1.00% to 1.25%.

Stocks on Wall Street initially rose more than 2% on the Fed’s surprise statement. But the Dow, Nasdaq and S&P 500 later all fell at or near 3% by the end of the session.[.N]

International travel to the United States will fall 6% over the next three months, the U.S. Travel Association, an industry group, forecast. [L1N2AW1IJ]

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Jonathan Allen, Laila Kearney, Hilary Russ in New York; Richard Cowan, David Morgan, Lisa Lambert and Ted Hesson in Washington and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; writing by Grant McCool; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Jonathan Oatis)

Washington state confirms second U.S. coronavirus death; New York reports first case

By Brad Brooks and David Shepardson

(Reuters) – Health officials in Washington state said late Sunday that a nursing home resident had died after contracting coronavirus, while New York’s governor confirmed his state’s first positive case, as the virus moved out of its West Coast foothold.

The coronavirus, which emerged in China late last year, has decimated global markets as it quickly moves around the world. It appeared poised for a spike in the United States, in part because of more testing to confirm cases.

Florida late Sunday declared a public health emergency as it confirmed its first two cases.

Trump administration officials worked Sunday to soothe nerves and calm fears that a global recession was looming, arguing that the public and media were over-reacting and saying that stocks would bounce back because the American economy was fundamentally strong.

The total number of confirmed cases in the United States is more than 75 with two reported deaths, both in Washington state. Globally there have been more than 87,000 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths in 60 countries, according to the World Health Organization.

In the United States, a cluster of cases is centered on a nursing home near Seattle.

The Seattle and King County public health department confirmed late Sunday that a man in his 70s who was a resident of the LifeCare long-term care facility in Kirkland and had coronavirus had died the day before.

A sign at the entrance to Life Care Center of Kirkland, the long-term care facility linked to the two of three confirmed coronavirus cases in the state, is pictured in Kirkland, Washington, U.S. March 1, 2020. REUTERS/David Ryder

On Saturday, the department had reported the first death of a coronavirus patient in the United States, a man in his 50s who was living in Kirkland – the same city where the nursing home is located. Six of the 10 confirmed coronavirus cases in Washington state have been residents or workers at LifeCare.

State officials said an additional 27 residents of the nursing home and 25 staff members were reporting symptoms of the virus, which can be similar to that of the common flu.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed on Twitter his state’s first coronavirus case, a woman in her 30s who caught the virus during a recent trip to Iran and was now in home quarantine.

Cuomo did not say where the woman lived, but the New York Times reported she was in the Manhattan borough of New York City, citing state officials.

“The patient has respiratory symptoms, but is not in serious condition and has been in a controlled situation since arriving in New York,” Cuomo said.

Stock markets plunged last week, with an index of global stocks setting its largest weekly fall since the 2008 financial crisis, and more than $5 trillion wiped off the value of stocks worldwide.

A key energy conference in Houston that brings together oil ministers and energy firms was canceled on Sunday with the organizers of CERAWeek noting that border health checks were becoming more restrictive and companies had begun barring non-essential travel to protect workers.

A world economy conference with Pope Francis due to take place in Italy later this month was also canceled.


Trump said on Sunday that travelers to the United States from countries at high risk of coronavirus would be screened before boarding and on arrival, without specifying which countries.

Delta Air Lines Inc said on Sunday it was suspending until May flights to Milan in northern Italy, where most of that country’s coronavirus cases have been reported. Flights will continue to Rome. American Airlines Group Inc announced a similar move late on Saturday.

The United States has 75,000 test kits for coronavirus and will expand that number “radically” in coming weeks, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.

Vice President Mike Pence, appointed last week to run the White House’s coronavirus response, said the government had contracted 3M Co to produce an extra 35 million respiratory masks a month. He urged Americans not to buy the masks, which he said were only needed by healthcare workers. Honeywell International Inc is the other major U.S. mask producer.

He also told Fox News that clinical trials of a coronavirus vaccine would start in six weeks but that a vaccine would likely not be available this season.

Democrats, who will challenge Trump for the presidency in the Nov. 3 election, have criticized his administration for downplaying the crisis and not preparing for the disease to spread in the United States.

Pence said Americans should brace for more cases but that the “vast majority” of those who contracted the disease would recover.

“Other than in areas where there are individuals that have been infected with the coronavirus, people need to understand that for the average American, the risk does remain low. We’re ready,” Pence told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas; David Shepardson and Andrea Shalal in Washington; and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Daniel Wallis and Peter Cooney)

First coronavirus death in U.S. reported in Washington state

First coronavirus death in U.S. reported in Washington state
By Gabriella Borter and Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – Washington state health officials reported the first patient death from coronavirus in the United States on Saturday, according to a news release, as federal and local health officials scramble to contain the rapidly spreading disease.

Health officials in King County, Washington said they would provide an update on the patient who died at 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time (2100 GMT), and that the patient was among one of the state’s new cases of the disease.

“Health officials will be providing the latest updates regarding novel coronavirus cases in King County, including new people identified with the infection, one of whom died,” the news release said.

The report of the first coronavirus death in the United States capped a week of stock market upheaval and escalating concern among state and federal health officials about the spread of the disease, which has infected more than 60 people in the United States and spread across 46 countries.

Most of the U.S. cases have occurred in travelers from China, where the virus originated.

But public health officials have also identified four “presumptive” coronavirus cases believed to have emerged from community transmission of the infection, signaling a turning point in strategies needed to contain the disease in the United States.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a statement late on Friday citing three cases of unknown origin newly diagnosed by state public health authorities – one each in California, Oregon and Washington state.

If confirmed by the CDC, along with a similar case of unknown origin announced on Wednesday in California, that would bring to four the number of diagnosed individuals in the United States with no history of travel to a country where the virus is circulating and no close contact with an infected person.

Taken together, the four cases are a sign the virus is now spreading within at least four separate locations on the U.S. West Coast spanning nearly 900 miles (1,448 km), from California’s Silicon Valley region in Santa Clara County north to the Puget Sound near Seattle.

U.S. health authorities say it means the respiratory disease that has infected nearly 80,000 people and killed more than 2,800 in China is no longer an imported phenomenon but has taken up residence in the United States.

“What we know now is that the virus is here, present at some level, but we still don’t know to what degree,” said Dr. Sara Cody, chief public health officer for Santa Clara County, speaking of the newly diagnosed case there, the latest of three in her county and the 10th detected in California.

“This case does signal to us that it is now time to shift how we respond,” she told a news conference on Friday.

Local media reported that the illness of two of the patients – a school employee in Oregon and an elementary school student in Washington – have already led to their respective schools being closed temporarily.

The three latest patients – and a fourth new case believed to be travel-related in Washington state – were diagnosed based on results obtained in their respective states from CDC-supplied test kits and are considered “presumptive positive” cases pending CDC confirmatory testing, the U.S. agency said.

Even as confirmation was pending there, local authorities were already working to trace close contacts the patients had with others in a bid to curb transmission.

Reuters graphics on the new coronavirus: https://graphics.reuters.com/CHINA-HEALTH-GRAPHICS/0100B5CD3DP/index.html


Until this week, the CDC had counted just 15 confirmed cases in six states as having been detected through the U.S. public health system since Jan. 21. Most were contracted by individuals while traveling in China. Only two person-to-person transmissions were documented among them, both between married couples.

A swab to be used for testing novel coronavirus is seen in the supplies of Harborview Medical Center’s home assessment team during preparations to visit the home of a person potentially exposed to novel coronavirus at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, U.S. February 29, 2020. REUTERS/David Ryder

An additional 47 cases have been confirmed among people recently repatriated, either from the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Japan or from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the supposed epicenter of the outbreak, according to the CDC.

Health officials said the advent of locally transmitted infections means authorities need to expand their focus from detecting a relatively limited number of cases, identifying close contacts and isolating them, to one that also emphasizes greater prevention among the public at large.

In particular, individuals should be more vigilant about basic hygiene measures, such as washing hands often, avoiding touching their faces, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home from school or work whenever ill, Cody said.

She said schools should plan for increased absenteeism and explore options for expanding learning at home, while businesses likewise allow more work-from-home arrangements, revise their sick leave policies and replace in-person meetings with video or telephone conferences whenever possible.

“I do understand that this whole situation may feel overwhelming and it’s difficult to think about the possible disruption to our everyday lives, especially when we’re still uncertain about what this may look like,” Cody said. “But we do need everyone to start thinking about what actions we can take now so we can be prepared for the possibility for further spread of the virus.”

Coronavirus is spread primarily through tiny droplets coughed or sneezed directly from an infected person into the face of someone nearby, as opposed to the more contagious “airborne” transmission of a virus like measles, which can remain suspended in enclosed spaces and be breathed in hours after being exhaled by sick individuals, experts say.

Coronavirus can also survive on surfaces, such as handrails and door knobs, for “a very long period of time,” and be picked up by hand that way, though the virus is “very susceptible” to cleaning products, Dr. Christopher Braden, deputy director of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, said on Friday in Santa Clara County.

Still, “It’s mostly a person-to-person transmission that we are concerned about for our communities,” he added.

For the online coverage of the coronavirus outbreak click, https://www.reuters.com/live-events/coronavirus-6-id2921484

(Reporting by Steve Gorman and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Paul Simao)

Amtrak train on new route derails in Washington state, killing several

An Amtrak passenger train derailment over interstate highway (I-5) is seen in this Washington State Patrol image moved on social media in DuPont, Washington, U.S., December 18, 2017.

(Reuters) – An Amtrak passenger train derailed on Monday during its inaugural run along a faster route through Washington state, sending part of the train crashing down onto a major highway and killing an unknown number of passengers, authorities said.

The derailment caused “multiple fatalities,” Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the local sheriff’s office, told reporters at the scene, though he did not offer a specific number. The train struck several cars on the highway, he added, causing injuries but no additional deaths.

Seventy-seven people were transported to hospitals in Pierce and Thurston counties, the Tacoma-based CHI Franciscan Health healthcare network said in a statement. Four of them were considered “level red” patients with the most severe injuries.

Approximately 78 passengers and five crew members were aboard the train, Amtrak said in a statement.

People escaped the derailed train by kicking out windows, passenger Chris Karnes told local news outlet KIRO 7.

“All of a sudden, we felt this rocking and creaking noise, and it felt like we were heading down a hill,” Karnes said. “The next thing we know, we’re being slammed into the front of our seats, windows are breaking, we stop, and there’s water gushing out of the train. People were screaming.”

First responders are seen at the scene of an Amtrak passenger train derailment on interstate highway (I-5) in this Washington State Patrol image moved on social media in DuPont, Washington, U.S., December 18, 2017. Courtesy

First responders are seen at the scene of an Amtrak passenger train derailment on interstate highway (I-5) in this Washington State Patrol image moved on social media in DuPont, Washington, U.S., December 18, 2017. Courtesy Brooke Bova/Washington State Patrol/Handout via REUTERS

The derailment occurred on the first day Amtrak trains began using a new inland route between the cities of Tacoma and Olympia, part of a project to reduce travel time, according to an October news release from the state’s transportation department.

The rerouting takes trains along Interstate 5, eliminating a major choke point for passenger trains in Tacoma and allowing trains to reach speeds of 79 miles per hour (127 km per hour), the department has said.

Monday’s train, which had been scheduled to depart Seattle at 6 a.m. (1400 GMT) for Portland, Oregon, was the first to run along the new route, which uses tracks owned by a local commuter line.

It was not immediately clear whether the derailment, which came during a busy travel time one week before the Christmas holiday, was connected to the rerouting.

The train derailed around 7:30 a.m. (1530 GMT) in DuPont. A photograph posted by a Washington State Police spokeswoman showed an upside-down train car partially crushed on the highway, with a second car dangling off the overpass.

Authorities warned drivers to avoid the area, and southbound lanes remained closed.

The National Transportation Safety Board was sending a team of investigators to the site, the federal agency said on Twitter.

“Thank you to the first responders on the scene,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee wrote in a Twitter message. “We’re praying for everyone on board the train, and ask everyone to hold them in your thoughts.”

An Amtrak passenger train is seen derailed on a bridge over interstate highway I-5

An Amtrak passenger train is seen derailed on a bridge over interstate highway I-5. Courtesy WSDOT/via REUTERS

The mayor of one of the towns through which the rerouted trains travel warned earlier this month that the high-speed trains were dangerously close to cars and pedestrians.

“Come back when there is that accident, and try to justify not putting in those safety enhancements, or you can go back now and advocate for the money to do it, because this project was never needed and endangers our citizens,” Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson told transportation officials in early December, according to Seattle’s KOMO News.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen and Gina Cherelus in New York; Writing by Joseph Ax; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)