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Know the West

It may be the apocalypse. . .


2012? Whatever.

Clearly the apocalypse is nigh-er than that. First, there's the weather to consider. Wave after wave of Pacific storms have left Southern California's beaches a creepy Mad-Maxian mess of shopping carts, plastic toys and other manmade flotsam that's washed down from various megalopoli. It's been the worst series of storms in five years, reports Reuters, unleashing torrents of rain that have spurred evacuations in mudslide-prone communities outside of Los Angeles, as well as

heavy hail, snow, gale-force winds and even tornadoes, flooding streets, closing highways, canceling airline flights at several airports and pounding beaches with waves as high as two-story buildings. The storms were blamed for at least two deaths, including a 21-year-old man who was crushed by a falling tree.

Tornadoes?! In California?! Indeed. At least one touched down in Ventura County, according to the LA Times, leaving a mile-long path of destruction:

“It picked a Chrysler Sebring off the ground, it hovered for second and spun it around," (said Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jack Richards). “It hit a tree and blew out the rear and side windows.” He said it also uprooted some trees. “It plucked them right out of the ground like a eyebrow,” Richards said. “It also tore the roofs off some sheds.”

Those same Pacific storms also swept over the Southwest, spinning tornadoes out of the sky in Arizona (weird!!), and spurring flash flooding that forced evacuations and swept a child to his death in the southern half of the state, according to the Mohave Daily News:

Pools of water, muddied streets, and damaged homes and businesses remained in Wenden after a wash that runs through the community 90 miles west of Phoenix flooded this week. Residents who were evacuated Thursday by tractor, bus and boat were allowed back home Saturday afternoon ...

(To the North,) ... residents in Flagstaff headed out yet again to clear snow from driveways and sidewalks that forecasters said was the third-highest on record for a five-day snowfall at 41/2 feet ...

On the Navajo Nation, the emergency operations center was fielding calls about roof collapses and from residents stranded in the snow who needed food or fuel to keep warm. Authorities were stockpiling wood and coal, food and hay to air-drop if necessary and bracing for the muddy mess to come as the snow melts.

Meanwhile, the search for a 6-year-old boy who was swept away by floodwaters near rural Mayer continued. (His body has since been recovered.)

If the weirdly severe weather isn't enough to convince you that we're all doomed, there's always the Yellowstone Super Volcano to consider. The park is currently having one of its most intense earthquake swarms in recorded history, according to the National Park Service:

The largest earthquake in the swarm as of 9 AM MST, January 25, 2010 has been a magnitude 3.8. There have been 1,271 located earthquakes in the swarm of magnitude 0.5 to 3.8. This includes 11 events of magnitude larger than 3, with 97 events of magnitude 2 to 3, and 1,163 events of magnitude less than 2.

The park overlies a massive, restless caldera which last erupted about 640,000 years ago, spewing 240 cubic miles of magma and debris, covering nine Western states and much of the Midwest in ash, and chilling the global climate for several years with airborne ash and gas. Geologists say the most recent swarm is likely the result of faults releasing tension, not a sign of impending eruption, but, well, when you're confronted with the prospect of death by pyroclastic flow, it's hard to look on the bright side.

Cheer up, though: The skiing's probably epic enough to be worthy of a pre-apocalypse last hurrah. Those same Pacific storms that flooded the Southwest have also blanketed the Rockies and Sierras in feet and feet of snow: Silverton Mountain in Colorado got 66 inches last week; Mammoth Mountain in California reported nearly 100 inches.