LIVE: Biden, Harris Meet With Governors on Wildfires, Heat Wave Response

Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “LIVE: Biden, Harris Meet With Governors on Wildfires, Heat Wave Response” – below is their description.

(June 30) As intense, record heat seizes the U.S. Pacific Northwest, President Joe Biden will meet Wednesday with governors from Western states already anxious over the prospect of another summer of unquenchable wildfires, drought and massive power failures.

Biden along with Vice President Kamala Harris and other administration officials will discuss preparations for wildfire emergencies and electrical failures, according to an administration official. That would include marshaling technology, including satellite systems, apps and social media to detect blazes as early as possible and sending information rapidly to people in affected areas.

The Democratic governors of California, Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado, Washington and Nevada have been invited as have the Republican governors of Utah and Wyoming. The governors will participate virtually.

White House officials declined to say why the Republican governors of three other Western states, Idaho, Montana and Arizona, were not invited, but said the ones who are attending the meeting bring varied perspectives that will best inform the discussion.

The president, one of the officials said, will encourage the governors to apply for disaster mitigation grants, if necessary.

They may well be needed.

A sprawling and historic drought is gripping the West. Nearly 98% of land across 11 Western states is abnormally dry, and more than 90% is covered by some category of drought. Reservoirs are at near-historic lows. Shrinking rivers are sparking conflicts over water rights. Millions of acres of forest and scrub land are so parched that officials are predicting a grim cavalcade of wildfires.

Since 2015, the country has had, on average, about 100 more large wildfires every year than the year before, and this wildfire season is already outpacing last season, the official said.

Heat waves have been smothering the region since even before summer officially began. The latest one has turned normally cool and cloudy regions in Washington and Oregon into saunas. Portland hit 116 degrees Fahrenheit (47 Celsius) on Monday. Seattle reached an all-time high of 108.

The extreme weather has pummeled infrastructure. Highway pavement buckled in Seattle. Streetcar service in Portland was suspended after wires melted. Avista Corp., an energy company that serves nearly 340,000 homes and businesses in eastern Washington, Idaho and Oregon, instituted rolling blackouts for the first time in company history as heat overloaded its equipment.

Earlier this month, California narrowly escaped blackouts of its own during a heat wave that sent temperatures in Sacramento soaring to 110 degrees, swamping the power grid with demand.

Biden said Tuesday that the Northwest heat shows why better power networks are needed as climate change induces more frequent and extreme weather events.

“We need to make investments to build a more resilient grid,” Biden said in a speech in Wisconsin, citing an unusual winter storm in Texas that caused that state’s power grid to nearly collapse. “That’s why we have to act,” he said.

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