Fires, Floods, and Cicadas: Dramatic Photos from a Historic Summer

Dixie Fire Continues To Burn Through Northern California, Forcing Evacuations

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Dixie Fire Continues To Burn Through Northern California, Forcing Evacuations
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Summer Scenes

If last summer was notable for pandemic panic, canceled events, and lockdown measures, then the summer of 2021 has been notable for both the aftermath of that — including the populace dividing itself yet again over vaccination measures — and also much more. We've seen intense heat waves in unlikely places, historic drought, massive wildfires, other life-altering climate events, and much more around the world. Here, take a look at some of the photos taken over the summer that prove just how dramatic one season in a lifetime can be. 

Related: Summer of Social Distancing: 30 Photos That Capture One Strange Season

Heat Dome Over Northwest Brings Record Temperatures To Portland
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Historic Heat

The Pacific Northwest experienced a historic heatwave that brought temperatures well into the triple digits in many areas in late June. Kids in Portland, Oregon, tried to cool off in the city's Salmon Street Springs fountain in Tom McCall Waterfront Park. 

Related: 14 Ways to Keep Cool Without AC

Dixie Fire Continues To Burn Through Northern California, Forcing Evacuations
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Wildfire Devastation

The historic Gold Rush-era town of Greenville in northern California was a haunting landscape after the Dixie Fire ravaged it. The Weather Channel reported that three-quarters of the town had been "reduced to ash and rubble" by Dixie, which has burned nearly 800 square miles since it started on July 13. 

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Brood X Cicadas Emerge After 17 Years Underground
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Insect Invasion

Early summer also marked the first time that countless Brood X cicadas had emerged from the ground in 17 years. Pups like this one in Takoma Park, Maryland, were powerless not to eat some of them. 

Related: 15 Things You Didn't Know About Cicadas

Brood X Cicadas Emerge After 17 Years Underground
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Culinary Cicadas

Dogs weren't the only ones tempted by cicada flavors — lots of humans tried them, too. Here, from left, Tom Agger, Trevor Gibson, and Mike Rothman of Hyattsville, Maryland, hover over a pot of stir-fried insects, which they then ate with a series of progressively spicier hot sauces.

Extreme Heat Settles Over California
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Record Temps

Insanely hot temps plagued many areas of the country, including the always-scorching Death Valley National Park. Here, Margaret Owen photographs George Harris as he displays a 120-degree-plus thermometer in the park's Badwater Basin — aka the lowest point in North America. 

Related: 21 Summer Beers to Cool You Off On a Hot Day

Thousands Gather For Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
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2021 Lollapalooza - Day 1
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Also taking its place among the summer's potential superspreader events was Lollapalooza, which was held at Chicago's Grant Park in late July and welcomed about 385,000 people. Despite fears, however, only around 200 cases were linked to the longtime music festival. 

Related: Iconic Musicians Who Are Back on the Road This Year

Ahr Valley Cleanup Continues Following Catastrophic Flooding
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Flooding in Europe

The U.S. wasn't the only country experiencing severe climate and weather events. The town of Dernau, Germany, and other villages along the Ahr River were subject to catastrophic flash floods in early August. These events came on the tail of more flash flooding in the area in June that left around 170 people dead and more still missing.

Drought Pushes Great Salt Lake To Lowest Levels On Record
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Great Salt Lake Dissipates

People wade in the waters of the Great Salt Lake during an early August sunset. The summer drought left the iconic lake at its lowest levels in recorded history.

Related: Relaxing Lake Resorts for a Summer Escape

Lake Powell At Historic Low Levels In Drought-Stricken West
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Powell Plummets

Also experiencing record low levels is the man-made Lake Powell, which was at about 35% of its capacity when this was shot, showing the drought-induced "bathtub ring" in the lake's Reflection Canyon.

Southwest Faces Worsening Drought Conditions
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American West in Drought

A dock is virtually unusable due to more historically low water levels at Lake Mead, which skirts the Nevada and Arizona borders. According to reports released by the National Integrated Drought Information System, more than half of the U.S. is experiencing "abnormally dry" conditions, while 22.1% and 7.6%, respectively, are in "extreme" or "exceptional" drought status.  

Related: 13 Clever Alternatives to a Grass Lawn That Can Save Time and Money

Crowds Watch Outdoor Movie Shown In L.A.'s Hollywood Forever Cemetery
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A Return to Normal(ish)

Despite many virus restrictions being lifted earlier in the summer, many folks still gathered in safer places outdoors. Here, a crowd of people waits for a screening of "The Wizard of Oz" at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. 

Yellowstone Sees Record Numbers Of Visitors
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Parks Overload

Many national parks saw record numbers of visitors over the summer, including Yellowstone. Crowds are shown here lining up on the walkways of Midway Geyser Basin in mid-July. Glacier, Grand Teton, and Arches national parks also saw a huge number of visitors. 

Related: The Most-Visited National Parks During the Pandemic

New York City Under Heat Advisory As Humidity And Temperatures In The Upper 90's Descend On City
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Sweltering Summer

Late June saw New York City under a heat advisory as both humidity and temperatures were in the upper 90s. Lots of people crowded into the waters near Coney Island Beach to cool off. 

Related: The 20 Best Beaches on the East Coast

New York City's summer of joy after the COVID-19 pandemic
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Party in the Streets

Relaxed pandemic measures in June brought people out of their homes more frequently for the first time in months. Here, a block party in Brooklyn entices people to try out their hula-hooping skills.

Summer Begins With Warm Weather In Nation's Capital
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Chilling in the Capital

As June temps also reached into the upper 90s in Washington, D.C., folks sought to cool off at places like the Yards Park splash pad.  

Related: The 20 Best Water Parks Across America

Cruise Industry Prepares To Start Up Again During Summer
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Southwest Faces Worsening Drought Conditions
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Hot and Arid in Arizona

Dogs and horses alike drink from a water trough in drought-stricken Tuba City, Arizona, on July 4. notes that 100% of the state is abnormally dry, while huge swaths are also experiencing record drought levels. 

Americans Celebrate Fourth Of July Across The Nation
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Fourth of July Normalcy

After most Fourth of July events' cancellation in 2020, many Americans were happy to return to community gatherings for the 2021 holiday. Here, a small crowd gathers along Main Street in Sweetwater, Tennessee, to watch fireworks.

Tropical Storm Elsa Makes Landfall In Florida
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Storming in the Keys

While the American West was experiencing historic levels of drought, Tropical Storm Elsa made landfall in Cedar Key, Florida, on July 7. The storm brought heavy rains, high winds, and tornadoes to parts of the East Coast.

Haze From Western Wildfires Visible In New York Skies
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Pervasive Haze

Smoke from the western U.S. wildfires made it all the way to the East Coast, as evidenced by this photo, taken on July 21 in New York City.

Athletics - Olympics: Day 13
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An Olympian Summer

The always historic Olympic Games took place in Tokyo over the summer after being postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic. Here, U.S. shot putter Ryan Crouser holds up a handwritten note to his grandfather after winning a gold medal.

Gymnastics - Artistic - Olympics: Day 4
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Pressure and Poise

Simone Biles advocated for both her mental and physical health at the Olympics by bowing out of several competition finals — prompting larger discussions about mental health in sports. Despite intense scrutiny and criticism, she continued to show up and cheer on her teammates, and eventually won a bronze medal on the balance beam.

Related: 13 Ways to Improve Your Mental Health

People Gather At City Hall To Protest Against Vaccine Mandates In New York City
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Vaccination Dissension

On Aug. 9, anti-mandate signs were set up outside of NYC's City Hall after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that proof of coronavirus vaccination would be required to attend indoor restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues. Enforcement of the mandate begins on Sept. 13.

Missouri Sees One Of Nation's Largest Spikes In Cases Of Covid-19 Delta Variant
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Disregarding Delta

Residents of Rolla, Missouri, gather shoulder to shoulder for a county fair event despite the area experiencing a spike in Covid infections due to the Delta variant. The Missouri state health department's latest numbers note that only a little more than four in 10 Missourians have received the vaccine.

Missouri Sees One Of Nation's Largest Spikes In Cases Of COVID-19 Delta Variant
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Vaccinated Tween and Teens

Twelve-year-old Camora Taylor of Ferguson, Missouri, received the vaccine on Aug. 4 as positive cases began to spike in her state. As of mid-July, 25% of 12- to 15-year-olds were considered fully vaccinated.

San Francisco Bar Group Encourages Members To Require Proof Of Vaccine For Entry
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Inoculation Cover Charge

A doorman at San Francisco's Oasis bar explains to a patron that a vaccination card is required to enter. The San Francisco Bar Owner Alliance, with more than 500 member bars, implemented the new policy in July that requires customers to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of their visit. 

Related: These Companies Are Requiring Employees to Get Vaccinated

Dixie Fire Continues To Burn Through Northern California, Forcing Evacuations
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The Dixie Fire Rages On

A sign thanking firefighters rests against mannequins dressed in firefighting gear in Taylorsville, California on Aug. 11, nearly a month after the widespread Dixie fire began. To date, it has burned more than half a million acres, is the second-largest recorded wildfire in California history, and is only 30% contained. 

Athens Suburb Engulfed In Flames During Heatwave
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Wildfires in Europe

The Parthenon temple on Athens' Acropolis Hill is swathed in smoke due to wildfires that have broken out in the city, prompting evacuations as the flames spread to residential and suburban areas of the city. Temperatures in the area reached nearly 108 degrees in early August. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called it the country's "greatest ecological catastrophe of the last few decades."