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Tragic Loss of Children in Severe US Weather: Flooding, Smoke, and Heat Grips the Nation

by Chloe Baker
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Extreme weather

Authorities in Pennsylvania, supported by a team of 100 individuals, drones, and cadaver dogs, launched an extensive search on Monday for two missing children whose family car was swept away in flash flooding. The devastating weather conditions have struck the East Coast, while other regions across the country grapple with scorching heat and severe air pollution caused by Canadian wildfires.

The search efforts in eastern Pennsylvania were described as a monumental undertaking as rescuers scoured the creek, which empties into the Delaware River, in hopes of finding Matilda Sheils, aged 2, and her 9-month-old brother, Conrad Sheils. The children, visiting relatives and friends from Charleston, South Carolina, became trapped in the flash flood on Saturday.

Jim Sheils, the children’s father, managed to rescue their 4-year-old son, while Katie Seley, the children’s mother, and a grandmother held onto the other children. Tragically, Seley and the grandmother were swept away, and Seley, aged 32, was among the five fatalities caused by the floods.

According to Upper Makefield Township Fire Chief Tim Brewer, the Sheils family was caught off guard by a sudden surge of water. He stated, “A wall of water came to them; they did not go into the water.”

The family is utterly devastated by the loss, as expressed by Scott Ellis, an uncle of the missing children. The community has come together to support them during this difficult time, with Monsignor Michael Picard from St. Andrew Roman Catholic Church offering prayers and solace.

The flash floods in Pennsylvania also claimed the lives of Enzo Depiero, 78, and Linda Depiero, 74, from Newtown, as well as Yuko Love, 64, from Newtown, and Susan Barnhart, 53, from Titusville, New Jersey, according to Bucks County Coroner Meredith Buck. In response to the flooding, the county commissioners declared a state of emergency.

While parts of the saturated Northeast started to dry out on Monday following heavy rains and flash floods in several states, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency due to the severity of the situation.

In Vermont, swift-water rescue teams carried out six additional rescues overnight, and the Vermont Emergency Management agency closely monitored areas prone to landslides.

During a visit to assess the aftermath of the torrential rains, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Vermont Governor Phil Scott acknowledged that Vermont has experienced two storms in just 12 years that are typically referred to as “once-in-a-century” events. Buttigieg emphasized the need to reconsider rebuilding strategies, stating, “We can’t go into the future requiring communities to put everything back exactly the way it was if a 100-year flood is about to become an annual event.”

The extreme weather also wreaked havoc on transportation, with hundreds of flight cancellations and delays at airports in the New York City area. New York Governor Kathy Hochul reported that Suffolk County on Long Island received 5 inches of rain within a two-hour span, resulting in $50 million in damages.

In North Carolina, floodwaters claimed the life of a 49-year-old woman whose car was swept off a road in Alexander County. Fortunately, a man who was with her in the car was rescued.

Simultaneously, large areas of the northern United States experienced unhealthy air quality due to fine particle pollution caused by smoke from Canadian wildfires. The Environmental Protect Agency’s AirNow.gov Smoke and Fire map indicated numerous cities and regions, including Lincoln, Nebraska; Peoria, Illinois; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio; Huntsville, Alabama; Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tennessee; Greensboro, North Carolina; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Syracuse and Utica, New York, with red zone air quality, indicating a health risk for everyone. Advisories urged sensitive groups, such as individuals with heart and lung disease, older adults, children, and pregnant women, to stay indoors.

In Kansas and Missouri, thousands of people remained without power after weekend storms swept through the region. Evergy, Kansas’ largest electric power provider, anticipated it would take several days to restore service to all affected customers. The situation was further compounded by the impending storms and stifling heat expected in the region during the early part of the week.

In the West, a mountain biker lost his life in scorching desert heat near San Diego. The biker had assisted in rescuing four hikers who were without water and subsequently called for help. While two bikers rode back to guide the rescuers, one of them did not reach the trailhead and was found unresponsive. The cause of death has yet to be determined.

Phoenix, Arizona, experienced soaring temperatures, hitting 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 degrees Celsius) on Monday, marking 18 consecutive days of such extreme heat—a record tied with a previous occurrence. Death Valley, situated along the California-Nevada border, reached a sweltering 128 degrees Fahrenheit (53.3 degrees Celsius) on Sunday, and Reno, Nevada, set a record high of 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42.2 degrees Celsius) on the same day.

Contributors to this report include Ron Todt in Philadelphia, David Collins in Hartford, Connecticut, Sarah Brumfield in Silver Spring, Maryland, Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire, Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine, Margery Beck in Omaha, Nebraska, Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada, and Leah Willingham in Charleston, West Virginia, from Big Big News.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Extreme weather

What were the main consequences of the extreme weather in the US described in the text?

The extreme weather in the US resulted in tragic flash floods that claimed the lives of children and several other individuals. Additionally, there were heatwaves in the West and severe air pollution caused by Canadian wildfires, affecting various regions across the country.

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