UncategorizedWarnings Issued as Henri Threatens Hurricane-Strength Winds From Long Island to Nantucket

Warnings Issued as Henri Threatens Hurricane-Strength Winds From Long Island to Nantucket


Extreme Weather and Climate Updates

Aug. 21, 2021, 4:13 a.m. ET

Aug. 21, 2021, 4:13 a.m. ET

Henri could become the first hurricane to land in New England in 30 years.
Credit…NOAA

Tropical Storm Henri is expected to become a hurricane by Saturday and could make landfall in southern New England by Sunday, according to meteorologists.

A hurricane warning was issued Friday evening for parts of Long Island and the Connecticut coast. A storm surge warning, which is issued when there is a danger of life-threatening flooding from rising water, was also in effect for parts of Long Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts, including Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, the National Hurricane Center said.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for areas from Manasquan, N.J., to west of East Rockaway, N.Y., including New York City, the hurricane center said.

On Friday evening, Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut declared a state of emergency to provide the state with federal assistance needed for storm response.

Hurricane-strength winds in Northeastern states like Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts would be unusual, should they arrive. The last time a hurricane made landfall in New England was 30 years ago.

By Friday night, Henri was “almost a hurricane,” according to the hurricane center, with maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour. The storm is expected to be at or near hurricane strength when it makes landfall on Sunday.

Henri was moving north at nine miles per hour late Friday night and was expected to accelerate in that direction through early Sunday, the hurricane center said.

As of late Friday night, Henri was 230 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C.

Of three storms that recently formed in the Atlantic Ocean, Henri, which developed on Monday off the East Coast of the United States, formed most recently. Most of the attention early this week was on Tropical Depression Fred, which made landfall in the Florida Panhandle on Monday afternoon as a tropical storm, and Hurricane Grace, which came ashore in Haiti as a tropical depression before making landfall as a hurricane on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico on Thursday. It is now approaching the east coast of Mexico’s mainland.

Henri is expected to dump up to six inches of rain over New England on Sunday and Monday, with isolated totals near 10 inches. Heavy rainfall across the area could bring some flooding. Some coastal areas could experience storm surges as high as five feet.

The National Hurricane Center said on Friday night that “heavy rainfall may lead to considerable flash, urban and small stream flooding” over portions of Long Island and New England on Sunday and Monday.

The National Weather Service in New York said that in Long Island and Connecticut, destructive winds, life-threatening storm surges and heavy rainfall were all likely.

In New York City and parts of New Jersey, there is a chance of winds of 30 to 40 miles per hour on Sunday, according to the weather service.

“The most likely arrival time of tropical storm force winds across the Tri-State area is early Sunday morning,” the weather service said in a Friday night briefing. “However, the region could see tropical storm force winds as early as Saturday night.”

When Hurricane Bob hit New England in 1991, it killed at least a dozen people, brought down power lines and wrecked houses as neighborhoods flooded.

Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts said on Friday that residents and vacationers in Cape Cod should leave the area before the storm reached full force on Sunday. He said he was prepared to deploy up to 1,000 National Guard troops to help with evacuations if necessary.


How to Decode Hurricane Season Terms

Karen Zraick
Christina Caron

Karen Zraick and Christina CaronReporting on the weather 🌬️

How to Decode Hurricane Season Terms

Karen Zraick
Christina Caron

Karen Zraick and Christina CaronReporting on the weather 🌬️

Emily Kask for The New York Times

What is “landfall”? And what are you truly facing when you’re in the eye of the storm?

During hurricane season, news coverage and forecasts can include a host of confusing terms. Let’s take a look at what they mean

Item 1 of 6

While it is not uncommon for several weather systems to be active at once during hurricane season, forecasters with the National Hurricane Center said, it is somewhat unusual for there to be three at the same time that have prompted tropical storm watches or warnings for land areas.

“It’s a busy period here,” Michael Brennan, the branch chief of the center’s hurricane specialist unit, said on Monday.

The links between hurricanes and climate change are becoming more apparent. A warming planet can expect stronger hurricanes over time, and more of the most powerful storms — though the overall number of storms could drop, because factors like stronger wind shear could keep weaker storms from forming.

Hurricanes are also becoming wetter because there is more water vapor in the warmer atmosphere; scientists have suggested that storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 produced far more rain than they would have without the human effects on climate. Rising sea levels are also contributing to higher storm surges, the most destructive element of tropical cyclones.

A major United Nations climate report released this month warned that nations have delayed curbing their fossil-fuel emissions for so long that they can no longer stop global warming from intensifying over the next 30 years, leading to more frequent life-threatening heat waves and severe droughts. Tropical cyclones have probably become more intense over the past 40 years, the report said, a shift that cannot be explained by natural variability alone.

Ana became the first named storm of the season on May 23, making this the seventh year in a row that a named storm developed in the Atlantic before the official start of the season on June 1.

In May, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast that there would be 13 to 20 named storms this year, six to 10 of which would be hurricanes, and three to five major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher in the Atlantic. In early August, in a midseason update to the forecast, they continued to warn that this year’s hurricane season would be an above-average one, suggesting a busy end to the season.

Matthew Rosencrans, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that an updated forecast suggested that there would be 15 to 21 named storms, including seven to 10 hurricanes, by the end of the season on Nov. 30. Henri is the eighth named storm of 2021.

Last year, there were 30 named storms, including six major hurricanes, causing meteorologists to exhaust the alphabet for a second time and move to using Greek letters.

It was the highest number of storms on record, exceeding the 28 in 2005, and included the second-highest number of hurricanes on record.

Derrick Bryson Taylor, Neil Vigdor, Jesus Jiménez, Jacey Fortin and Eduardo Medina contributed reporting.

Video

transcript

transcript

Massachusetts Governor Urges Caution Ahead of Possible Hurricane

Gov. Charlie Baker warned that Tropical Storm Henri, which was forecast to become the first hurricane to make landfall in New England in 30 years, could bring strong winds and significant storm surge along the coast.

We and everybody else, for the past couple of days, has been tracking Tropical Storm Henri and the latest forecast now calls for the storm to become a hurricane and to make landfall around Cape Cod and the South Coast. That means we will probably see hurricane force winds and significant storm surge around three to five feet in many of our coastal communities. And that brings with it, obviously, the possibility of some minor and significant coastal flooding. Given all of the rain we’ve seen recently, we all need to take this storm extremely seriously.

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Gov. Charlie Baker warned that Tropical Storm Henri, which was forecast to become the first hurricane to make landfall in New England in 30 years, could bring strong winds and significant storm surge along the coast.CreditCredit…Cj Gunther/EPA, via Shutterstock

Massachusetts residents can expect a three- to five-foot storm surge along the coast, tropical storm-force winds and loss of power to as many as 300,000 homes over the weekend, Gov. Charlie Baker warned on Friday, as the state braced for what is forecast to be the first hurricane to make landfall in New England in 30 years.

Governor Baker said he had activated as many as 1,000 members of the state’s National Guard to assist in high-water rescues and in clearing debris. He did not call for evacuations, but advised drivers to put off travel to Cape Cod that they had planned for Saturday, and to avoid being on the roads during the brunt of the storm, called Henri, on Sunday and Monday.

“We all need to take this storm extremely seriously,” the governor said at a news conference. “The simple point here is, we really would like everybody to be off the road at the height of this storm.”

In Connecticut, where three southern counties are under a hurricane watch, Gov. Ned Lamont said he was declaring a state of emergency. Two hundred members of the Connecticut National Guard would be called to duty to help prepare for potential search and rescue, road clearing and other storm-related recovery efforts.

The storm is forecast to make landfall in southern New England on Sunday as a strong tropical storm or possibly as a Category 1 hurricane if its sustained winds exceed 74 miles an hour. But its track is still uncertain, and it could also hit Long Island or swerve out to sea.

Connecticut officials were preparing for flooding across the state and utility companies said they were preparing for possible power issues. The state struggled last year with extensive and long-lasting outages after Tropical Storm Isaias.

“It’s a good idea for everyone to be prepared and expect to shelter in place by Sunday afternoon through at least Monday morning,” Mr. Lamont said in a statement.

A Friday evening update from the National Hurricane Center warned of “life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the coastline” in an area stretching from Long Island to Cape Cod, and said there would be “large and dangerous waves” along the coast.

Flooding was expected in Boston, where officials said they were building barriers around the city’s most vulnerable subway station and would suspend some transit services on Sunday.

Massachusetts saw heavy rains on Thursday that quickly inundated roads, requiring emergency workers to retrieve people from cars caught in high water. Governor Baker offered a pointed warning to motorists not to take a chance by driving into water.

“In a storm like this, people should turn around and not drown,” he said. “In other words, don’t drive into the giant puddles that will exist on many roads around the commonwealth.”

In 1991, Hurricane Bob tore its way up the East Coast, making landfall as a Category 2 storm and causing significant damage on Long Island and in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. More than a dozen people died in the storm, and millions more were affected by downed trees, winds of up to 100 miles an hour, power outages and flooding.

Credit…National Weather Service

Adam Sobel is a professor and director of the Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate at Columbia University. He is an atmospheric scientist and host of the “Deep Convection” podcast.

For much of Friday, Tropical Storm Henri appeared on track to strike Massachusetts, Rhode Island or Connecticut as a Category 1 hurricane on Sunday, which would make it the first storm to make landfall at hurricane strength in New England since 1991.

But the forecast has been highly uncertain, and updates issued later on Friday said it was becoming likelier that the storm could hit somewhere on the Long Island coast.

The storm’s intensity will play a significant role in which way it steers, and throughout Friday, Henri was kept from intensifying by substantial vertical shear in the Atlantic Ocean — meaning that different winds at different altitudes were keeping it from standing upright.

But the exact degree of this suppressing effect varied between computer models that project the storm’s path, affecting the forecast.

Models that projected Henri to strengthen more quickly predicted a stronger storm that makes landfall farther west, possibly in New Jersey or New York City. But models that expected Henri to remain weaker projected it to make landfall in New England, or even to remain offshore until reaching Canada.

A weaker storm would be mostly steered by winds in the lower atmosphere, which have been blowing from south to north. A stronger, more vertically stacked storm would feel the upper atmospheric winds to a greater degree, and those have been blowing from east to west.

Before Henri makes landfall, wherever that is, relaxing of the wind shear will probably allow the storm to strengthen into a hurricane over warm subtropical Atlantic waters — which have been made a bit warmer by climate change. But the National Hurricane Center’s intensity forecast never projects it to grow beyond a Category 1.

As aircraft reconnaissance flights pinned down Henri’s intensity and structure, the models have begun to agree a bit more, making landfall in either southern New England or on Long Island look most likely.

A hard left turn — vaguely like Hurricane Sandy made before its landfall in 2012, but less dramatic — is still possible, but even then the storm’s landfall point would probably still be on Long Island. Landfall in New Jersey or New York City, which is under a tropical storm watch, appears unlikely at this point, but is not entirely out of the question.

By Friday evening, as Henri continued to approach the Northeast coast, government forecasters had issued a hurricane warning for areas of Long Island east of Fire Island Inlet and Port Jefferson Harbor, and for Connecticut east of New Haven. A hurricane watch was in effect for Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts, including Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

In addition to coastal impacts, inland flooding poses a major hazard as well. Heavy rains after landfall are predicted in Connecticut, western Massachusetts and southern Vermont and New Hampshire, areas where soils may have little capacity to absorb more water after a rainy July, and the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred just last week.

A house in Staten Island where only the foundation was left after a tidal surge from Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Adam Sobel is a professor and director of the Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate at Columbia University. He is an atmospheric scientist and host of the “Deep Convection” podcast.

There are some striking similarities between Tropical Storm Henri, which is forecast to become a hurricane before making landfall along the Northeast coast this weekend, and Hurricane Sandy, which devastated parts of New York and New Jersey in 2012.

At the same time, there are some very important differences that will probably affect the track and impact of Henri. New York City, in particular, is not at great risk this time, though some forecast models still show Henri turning west and making landfall there.

There’s a reason that hurricanes rarely reach New York or New England, where none has made landfall in the 30 years since Hurricane Bob in 1991. As storms drift north, they get caught up in the prevailing winds at higher latitudes. These winds generally blow from west to east (unlike tropical winds, which generally blow the opposite way), and push hurricanes out to sea, away from the Eastern Seaboard.

Something has to break that pattern before the Northeast can get a direct hit.

What can do that? Either a high-pressure system offshore to the east of the storm, or a low-pressure system approaching from the land to the west, or both, can drive a hurricane northward rather than eastward. When those conditions occur, the south-facing parts of the coast — from Long Island to Cape Cod — become the most likely landfall area, as it is for Henri.

Similar meteorological situations have been responsible for most, if not all, of the hurricane landfalls in the area, like the 1938 “Long Island Express” storm and several hurricanes in the 1950s. Those events prompted the building of storm surge barriers in Stamford, Conn., Providence, R.I., and New Bedford, Mass.

Sandy was an extreme case. An approaching low-pressure system was strong enough to cause Sandy to revolve around it (and vice versa) as the two systems merged in what is called the Fujiwhara effect. This process strengthened Sandy and slung it westward, resulting in the “left hook” that brought the storm into the New Jersey shore at nearly a right angle. No other storm is known to have done that.

A similar configuration is developing now: An approaching upper-level low-pressure system is predicted to do a Sandy-like dance with Henri. But it doesn’t look as though the Fujiwhara effect will be powerful enough this time to sling Henri as far west as Sandy turned, nor is it likely to give Henri the strength of Sandy, which reached Category 3 at one point. (By the time Sandy came ashore, it was back down to Category 1, which Henri is predicted to be at landfall.)

Beyond that, Sandy was an extremely large storm. Its size and westward track conspired to drive a catastrophic surge of seawater into New York Harbor. With Henri looking less extreme in both respects, a major disaster for New York City and New Jersey is unlikely this time.

There are reasons to hope that Henri won’t actually be disastrous anywhere. It is forecast to slow down and weaken before landfall. But it is too early to say that with confidence.

At this point, preparation and vigilance are very much in order, especially on Long Island and across southeastern New England.

Soldiers patrolled a beach on Thursday after Hurricane Grace struck in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
Credit…Marco Ugarte/Associated Press

Hurricane Grace made landfall on the eastern coast of Mexico’s mainland early Saturday, hours after strengthening into a Category 3 storm as it passed over the Gulf of Mexico.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm made landfall near the resort town of Tecolutla just before 1 a.m., with maximum sustained winds of nearly 125 miles per hour. It was moving west at about 10 m.p.h. and was expected to weaken later Saturday as it continued inland over the mountains.

The National Hurricane Center warned that preparations to protect life and property should be rushed in the hurricane warning area, which included the coast of mainland Mexico from Puerto Veracruz to Cabo Rojo. A tropical storm warning was in effect north of Cabo Rojo to Barra del Tordo.

“We have to be very careful,” Laura Velazquez, the head of Mexico’s civil protection authority, said at a news conference on Friday. “We ask the population to be very alert.”

The storm thrashed the Yucatán Peninsula as a hurricane on Thursday, bringing strong winds, heavy rain, power failures and hundreds of evacuations before it weakened to a tropical storm. It became a Category 1 hurricane again early Friday.

Just days earlier, the same storm had brought flooding to Haiti, hurting recovery efforts after a devastating earthquake struck the country on Saturday.

Late Friday night, Grace was about 105 miles north of Veracruz, Mexico, with maximum sustained winds of 120 m.p.h., according to the National Hurricane Center.

“Some additional strengthening is possible until Grace makes landfall, with rapid weakening expected as Grace moves inland over the mountains of central Mexico,” the hurricane center said.

The Yucatán Peninsula is no stranger to storms during hurricane season. Last August, Tropical Storm Marco skimmed the tip of it, and in October, Hurricane Delta and Hurricane Zeta struck the peninsula, knocking out power, felling trees, shattering windows and causing flooding along the Caribbean coast.

Now, the Mexican mainland is preparing for strong winds and pouring rain as the storm moves west.

Parts of central Mexico could get six to 12 inches of rain, with isolated maximum totals of 18 inches, through Sunday, the hurricane center said. That could cause flooding and mudslides. Water levels could rise by as much as six to nine feet along the coast because of the storm surge, which could also produce “large and destructive waves.”

Earlier this week, the storm brought sharp winds and pelting rain to survivors of the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on Saturday and killed more than 2,000 people.

Grace’s arrival there intensified the need for help in recovering from the earthquake. Videos circulating on social media showed heavy rain pummeling towns and villages overnight and on Monday, bringing the risk of flash floods and landslides.

Grace is the seventh named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, following several days of floods and power outages unleashed this week by Fred. That storm made landfall on Monday afternoon in the Florida Panhandle and moved inland across the southeast and Mid-Atlantic.

A third Atlantic storm, Henri, formed on Monday afternoon as a tropical storm off the East Coast of the United States, becoming the eighth named storm of the hurricane season. It was tracking 320 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., on Friday afternoon and was expected to gain hurricane strength before approaching southern New England on Sunday or Monday.


How to Decode Hurricane Season Terms

Karen Zraick
Christina Caron

Karen Zraick and Christina CaronReporting on the weather 🌬️

How to Decode Hurricane Season Terms

Karen Zraick
Christina Caron

Karen Zraick and Christina CaronReporting on the weather 🌬️

Emily Kask for The New York Times

What is “landfall”? And what are you truly facing when you’re in the eye of the storm?

During hurricane season, news coverage and forecasts can include a host of confusing terms. Let’s take a look at what they mean

Item 1 of 6

The links between hurricanes and climate change are becoming more apparent. A warming planet can expect to experience stronger hurricanes over time, and a higher incidence of the most powerful storms. However, the overall number of storms could drop, because factors like stronger wind shear could keep weaker storms from forming.

Hurricanes are also becoming wetter because of more water vapor in the warmer atmosphere; scientists have suggested storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 produced far more rain than they would have without the human effects on climate. Also, rising sea levels are contributing to higher storm surge — the most destructive element of tropical cyclones.

A major United Nations climate report released this month warned that nations have delayed curbing their fossil-fuel emissions for so long that they can no longer stop global warming from intensifying over the next 30 years, leading to more frequent life-threatening heat waves and severe droughts. Tropical cyclones have become more intense over the past 40 years, the report said, a shift that cannot be explained by natural variability alone.

In May, scientists with NOAA forecast that there would be 13 to 20 named storms this year, six to 10 of which would be hurricanes, and three to five major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher in the Atlantic. This month, in a midseason update to the forecast, they continued to warn that this year’s hurricane season would be above average, suggesting a busy end to the season.

Matthew Rosencrans of NOAA said that an updated forecast suggested there would be 15 to 21 named storms, including seven to 10 hurricanes, by the end of the season on Nov. 30.

Last year, there were 30 named storms, including six major hurricanes, forcing meteorologists to exhaust the alphabet for the second time and move to Greek letters.

It was the highest number of storms on record, surpassing the 28 from 2005, and included the second-highest number of hurricanes on record.

Alyssa Lukpat, Jacey Fortin, Jesus Jiménez, Neil Vigdor, Maria Abi-Habib, Andre Paulte, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Oscar Lopez, Constant Méheut and Eduardo Medina contributed reporting.

Correction: 

An earlier version of this article misidentified the Mexican state where Carlos Joaquín serves as governor. It is Quintana Roo, not Yucatán.

Battling hot spots on the front of the Caldor fire near Pacific, Calif., on Wednesday.
Credit…Max Whittaker for The New York Times

As another day of wildfire fighting began in California on Friday, fire crews were seeing a few glimmers of hope. Smoke from the Caldor fire raging southwest of Lake Tahoe had been helping to choke off the spread of flames, for instance, and the pace of evacuations was easing.

But the state’s battle against summer wildfires is far from over.

Many of the biggest blazes around California were still much less than 50 percent contained as of Friday evening. Fire crews were stretched precariously thin. The air quality around Sacramento and San Francisco, fouled by wildfire smoke, was expected to remain poor. And officials warned that it could be days or weeks before people who fled from the Caldor fire were allowed back into their homes.

That fire, which began over the weekend, has grown to more than 75,000 acres, according to Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting agency. The fire remained completely uncontained even though more than 650 people were fighting it. The Caldor fire has destroyed more than 150 structures and still threatens about 7,000 others.

More than 20,000 people in El Dorado County have been told to leave their homes or to prepare to do so, according to the governor’s office. A Cal Fire official, Dusty Martin, said at a community meeting on Thursday that he expected mandatory evacuation orders for the Caldor fire to “last for a little while — at least a week, maybe upwards of two weeks.”

The nearby Dixie fire, which has burned about 700,000 acres, an area about nine-tenths the size of Rhode Island, also remains a serious threat — even after burning for more than a month. As of Friday evening it was just over one-third contained and still threatened more than 16,000 structures. Three firefighters have been injured while working that blaze, and a local television station reported that 13 of them had tested positive for Covid-19.

In Southern California, a new fire that started on Wednesday in Kern County, north of Los Angeles, quickly consumed more than 3,000 acres and prompted fresh evacuation orders. That blaze, known as the French fire, was only 5 percent contained on Friday afternoon.

The California fires are among dozens that have been stretching emergency agencies across the western United States this month. Even though some fire crews have made significant progress in recent weeks, the prevailing weather conditions in many areas — low humidity, dry ground and high winds — are a recipe for further flames and destruction.

The fire potential in most of California’s mountains and foothills is forecast to be higher than normal through September, and through October in areas prone to offshore winds, the National Interagency Fire Center said last week.

The United States Forest Service said on Thursday that it would close nine national forests in California to the public for two weeks, starting next week, to help protect residents and fire crews working in the area. Some of the backcountry around Lake Tahoe was also closed on Thursday for at least a month.

A closure earlier this week of the Eldorado National Forest, where the Caldor fire has been burning, “was not taken very lightly,” said Jeff Marsolais, the forest supervisor there.

“It was about trying to keep you out of the way from this spreading fire,” he told the community meeting on Thursday night. “It’s about evacuations, it’s about stretched resources and our inability to keep pace with the fire that was, at the time, growing 40,000 to 45,000 acres in a single burning period.”

Evacuees from the Caldor fire in Placerville, Calif., on Thursday.
Credit…Ethan Swope/Associated Press

CAMERON PARK, Calif. — The Caldor fire was just a few miles from Kathy Elliot and John Niebuhr’s house in Pleasant Valley on Tuesday when the authorities came up their driveway and told them it was time to get out.

“We could see the flames,” Mr. Niebuhr, 66, said on Friday as he sat outside an evacuation shelter in Cameron Park, 32 miles east of Sacramento, along with Ms. Elliot and their black German shepherd, Schatzi.

Ms. Elliot, 73, said they only had time to gather essentials and a few documents, not photographs or keepsakes, before they left. “When you’ve got an hour or two,” she added, “it goes by so fast.”

The couple, who have been sleeping in their car outside the shelter, are among more than 20,000 people subject to evacuation orders and warnings in El Dorado County, which is being thrashed by a fire that had consumed more than 73,000 acres of mainly forested terrain by Friday evening and was zero percent contained.

Many evacuees are staying with friends or relatives and anxiously awaiting news. Others are camped out on neighbors’ properties, in parking lots, or outside emergency shelters, some of which are filling rapidly.

“They’re all over,” said Tami Martin, a county liaison with the Red Cross at the Cameron Park shelter, a community center that was filled to capacity. Ms. Martin said there were about 70 evacuees there in all.

Inside, cots stood in lines in the center of the room, and donated clothing and other supplies were stacked to one side. The parking lot was packed with vehicles. Part of the neighboring street has been transformed into a makeshift campsite. Local residents visit the site to offer evacuees the use of a washing machine for laundry, or a cup of coffee.

“Most people are really upbeat, and just hanging in there,” said the Rev. Debra Sabino, an Episcopal priest from Placerville, about 15 miles east of Cameron Park, who has been taking grocery orders from evacuees camped outside the shelter.

Ms. Sabino and others said that political divisions ran deep in the county — a largely conservative former Gold Rush region — but that the fire had appeared to bridge them.

“I was kind of feeling like there are no good people left on the world, and this has changed my mind,” said Olivia Byron-Cooper, who evacuated from Pleasant Valley on Tuesday with seven horses and two dogs, and was staying at a nearby fairground in a trailer.

Ms. Byron-Cooper, who is also the director of public health for El Dorado County, said the greatest challenge was ensuring the safety of those sheltering in close quarters from becoming sick with Covid-19.

Some people arriving at evacuation centers had tested positive for the coronavirus, she added. “The last thing you want is to have an outbreak in an evacuation center.”

Others at the fairground — which has been set up to accommodate those with large animals — said that after experiencing previous fires in California, they had decided to leave even before the authorities ordered them to.

“Maybe four to five hours, that’s all you have,” said Bob Stucky, who together with his wife, Mary Beth Stucky, evacuated their three St. Bernards, two horses, two donkeys and a rabbit named Miracle that survived the region’s 2014 King Fire.

The couple said that after that fire, they decided to buy a trailer and gates for their animals to ensure they were always ready to evacuate. “We decided we needed to be safe,” Ms. Stucky said.

Some residents not yet affected by the fire said that while they were assisting evacuees, they were conscious that, if the fire continued to spread, a similar fate could soon await them.

“We’re prepared,” said Michelle Soto of Cameron Park.

Officials have warned that it could be days or weeks before evacuees are allowed to return home, and some residents say they have even begun to question living in a state that an ever-longer fire season is making increasingly uninhabitable.

“The thought has crossed my mind: ‘Maybe I should just go buy a condo,’” said Ms. Byron-Cooper, the public health director. But, she added, “it’s a fleeting thought.”





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