Best of the West: Smoke blanketing region, drought damage in North Dakota and Montana, Amazon’s new headquarters

Wildfires, The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting September 4, 2017, that you don't want to miss.

Wildfires in Oregon, Washington, California, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Colorado and California have swept across more than a million acres and are spreading a thick haze of ash and smoke across the West.

The largest active fire as of Thursday (Sept. 7) is burning in Oregon, where the Eagle Creek fire has displaced more than 1,800 people and is only 5% contained. In California, the largest fire by acreage in Los Angeles history was recorded, prompting evacuations and shutting down major freeways.

Abundant snow and rain in the West this winter suggested a mild fire season, but all that precipitation led to an increase in vegetation growth and fuel for the flames. Adding to the challenge, billions of dead beetle-killed trees are posing a threat to firefighters

High Plains Drought: Extreme drought continues in North Dakota and Montana, and farmers and ranchers are struggling with decimated crops and feeding their livestock during the driest conditions in nearly 30 years. Above-normal temperatures and little rain in North Dakota has left 66 percent of the state in some stage of drought. In Montana, a third-generation rancher called it “the worst drought we’ve ever had.”

Amazon’s Next Outpost: Seattle-based Amazon is exploring other North American cities for a second HQ location. The company plans to invest $5 billion in construction, and will employ 50,000 full-time workers. Although the Washington tech giant hasn’t released specific locations under consideration, it has announced ideal criteria, such as workforce training programs, which could help boost western states’ chances.

Harvey’s Aftershock: Texas continues to grapple with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, where 14,417 homes were destroyed statewide. Gov. Greg Abbott has estimated that cleanup could cost $180 billion and signed a proclamation creating the Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas. View a photo slideshow of the damage and visit last week’s edition of Best of the West for information on how you can help.

To learn how you can support victims of Hurricane Irma in the eastern U.S., click here. 

Volatile Yellowstone: NASA researchers are developing a contingency plan for the slim chance that a supervolcano in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming could erupt in the immediate future. Although the odds of an explosion any time soon are low, scientists are laying the groundwork for future generations to mitigate the outcomes. 

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