Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Perfect Firestorm

My buddy Mike called me during his drive down from Oregon last Sunday.
"California is on fire!" he yelled, then the line went dead.
He called back a minute later. "Sorry," he said, "had to find a charger."
His reports were grim--much of the Shoreline Highway was socked in with an unclean-fishtank-shade of brown haze, areas were being evacuated.
Air quality was ten to fifty times worse than normal, dangerous for the sick, old, and young. I, personally, fit into at least two of those categories.

Satellite Photo of Northern California

Now, more than a week later, California is still in a State of Emergency with inestimable damages.
Here's how it went down:
Spring, 2008: dry.
Early June, 2008: hot and dry. Water resources and inland temps resemble August in 'normal' years. The word 'drought' is tossed around. Since we won't get any significant rainfall until late Fall, this is a problem.
Saturday, June 21st: atmospheric instability (usually seen in winter) produces lightning storms of epic (for California) proportions. At dawn's first light on Sunday, the reported 6,000 lightning flashes spark over 1,000 fires from Ukiah to Crescent City.
Farther south, fires in Santa Cruz destroy homes and close highways.
Sunday, June 22nd: news agencies offer hope. Reports abound of fires being '90% contained.' We breathe a sigh of relief, but not too deeply, as we are warned against this.
Monday, June 23rd: smoke fills our quaint little valley up here North of the Bridge. A brown haze settles in, as if we are staring out at life through an old coffee pot. News reports take a turn for the less-than-hopeful: temps are climbing, winds shifting, fires are no longer contained. Governor Schwarzenegger calls in the CA National Guard for assistance.

My Backyard

Tuesday, June 24th to Saturday, June 28th: fires worsen, air quality worsens, the state of firefighting worsens. Helicopters and planes can't drop retardant, as they have no visibility. Firefighters are exhausted after nearly a week of constant struggles. Fire are at an estimated 5% containment. Medical experts warn against doing anything outside, even surfing, as the coast is plagued with the same poor air-quality. Gov. Schwarzenegger declares a State of Emergency. Mendocino county begins evacuating hundreds of citizens.
Even worse, overnight storms are predicted to bring more lightning, fires.

Sunday, June 29th: the storms never materialize. Patches of blue sky appear for the first time in eight days. Temperatures back off, humidity increases, and firefighters intensify their efforts. It is claimed that 20% of the fires in Mendocino County are contained. Over 900 homes are still considered 'at risk.' It appears as if the tides have turned, but we've heard this many times this week as more than 18,000 firefighters continue to battle on.
And, we're just getting underway in a long, hot, dry fire season.
Did I mention how badass firefighters are? They ask for very little, and we owe them very much. Down from Shasta, up from L.A., how can you express gratitude to those willing to put their lives on the line to protect your own?
Much respect.

If you're the praying type, I'm sure many families would appreciate some thoughts sent their way.
As if that's not enough, in a snarky, nose-thumbing gesture, Mother Nature blessed those of us lucky enough to not be fighting fires or evacuating our homes with calm coastal winds and a clean south swell. I snapped exactly two shots in the parking lot this morning--the first was a clean soul turn under glassy conditions, the second was a hawk, perhaps enjoying the increased visibility at a slightly less hazy coast. The connection between the two pictures and the fires seemed clear to me at the time, but escapes me now. Anyone want to take a stab?

Take care out there.


ridgeback said...

one fire engine from my station was sent up to your area with 9 others from l.a. city. when they called home yesterday after 6 days out they expressed gratitude for the way the nice people of your area have treated them. thought you might get a kick knowing these men are all surfers who check in with your blog on occasian.

HeadHighGlassy said...

Thanks, Ridgeback--I just edited the post with an extra shoutout to firefighters. They deserve it, and I'm glad the nice folks up here are finding ways to express gratitude.

Deepism said...

both the bird and the cat are on the high line... that's the connection.

HeadHighGlassy said...

Nicely done.

Deepism said...

Thanks, teach...