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Hot Shots: Wildfires, floods, lucky landing and more

Highlighting images in transportation, trucking and weather

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Every Friday, FreightWaves takes a look at the past week or so in social media, highlighting trucking, transportation and weather. This week features huge Western wildfires, devastating floods in Colorado, a successful emergency airplane landing and more.

Wicked wildfires

Dozens of large wildfires are still burning in 13 states, most of them in the West. As of Thursday, these fires had burned almost 1.5 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The fires have been producing a lot of smoke, drifting as far as the eastern U.S.

The largest is the Bootleg fire, which has been burning in southern Oregon since July 6. As of Thursday, it covered about 400,000 acres. This is almost as big as Oklahoma City, the eighth-biggest U.S. city by area. Fire officials said lightning likely started the fire, which is 38% contained.

Fierce floods

Flash floods killed at least one person Tuesday night in northern Colorado. As of Wednesday, authorities were still searching for three people they believe were swept away. The rain fell so hard and fast that it caused mudslides and debris flows from nearby wildfire burn scars. Most of the damage was in Larimer County along the Cache la Poudre River, where the sheriff ordered evacuations.

Southern Colorado, as well many other areas of the Desert Southwest, will be under the gun for potential flash floods Friday and Saturday as monsoonal moisture increases. This includes the Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona; Las Vegas; and Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico, metropolitan areas.

Lucky landing

An 18-year-old banner plane pilot made a successful emergency landing Monday amid traffic on a New Jersey bridge. Landon Lucas was flying the plane when he began having engine trouble near Atlantic City. The young pilot released his banner into the ocean and attempted to return to Ocean City Municipal Airport, according to WCAU-TV in Philadelphia.

En route, he noticed a gap in traffic on a bridge near the Jersey Shore. Running out of options, Lucas decided to land the plane on the bridge. He didn’t damage the plane, nor did he hurt anyone.

“He did a perfect landing,” Rose Savastano, who works at the nearby Ocean City Welcome Center and saw Lucas get out of the plane, told The Press of Atlantic City.

The Wall That Heals

A national memorial made a four-day stop in Nahant, Massachusetts, last week, honoring many of America’s fallen soldiers. Volunteers helped assemble The Wall That Heals, a three-quarter-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.

The wall, consisting of more than 140 panels weighing 80 pounds each, is in its 26th season of traveling the country in a 53-foot trailer. Part of the Nahant display included a mobile education center where young people could learn about the Massachusetts men and women who served.

“This is an opportunity for us to look forward but not to forget the past,” veteran and volunteer Clarke Orzalli told WCVB-TV in Boston.

The Wall That Heals was scheduled to arrive Thursday in Tonawanda, New York. Click here for the rest of the 2021 schedule.

Chain reaction

A series of collisions caused by a burning 18-wheeler caused major traffic backups and claimed one life on Interstate 635 in Mesquite, Texas, Thursday morning. The Texas Department of Transportation said the initial call came in at 8:45 a.m. and at least two big rigs were involved, with possibly a car between them.

One of the rigs was carrying hazardous materials and caught fire after it collided with a FedEx truck. That in turn caused multiple other collisions. According to a KTVT-TV report, the two truck drivers were taken to the hospital and were expected to be OK. A driver in another vehicle was pronounced dead at the scene.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.