It’s an Inferno out West

Although California remains the hardest hit by wildfires, all the Western states are battling blazes. The fires that are raging throughout the West are like nothing I’ve seen here in my lifetime.

(Click on the image above to see a map of the fires in real time.)

As of this morning, red-flag warnings were issued for Northern California, Western Nevada, and half of Oregon. According to  A Red Flag Warning means high temperatures, very low humidity and stronger winds are expected to combine to produce an increased risk of fire danger. “Red Flag Warnings are issued when humidity is low, and winds are strong. These are the two greatest influences in wildfire spread.”

Here’s a detail of the first map showing Santa Clara Valley (I live in Santa Clara). As you can see, we sit between two mountain ranges. On either side of those ranges are wildfires. We are smack dab in the middle. Although nowhere near what those close to the fires are experiencing, the air quality in the Valley has remained consistently Unhealthy. Even with the level of humidity (75% average per year) here in The Valley of Heart’s Delight the sky looks and smells smoky.

It’s muggy, oppressive, and even Ramses is less energetic:

One of the headlines I saw yesterday referenced the CZU Lighning Complex burning in the Santa Cruz Mountains:
Wildfires Hit California’s Redwoods And Condors, But There’s Still Hope

At 3 a.m. on Friday morning, biologist Kelly Sorenson was awake, nervously watching the live webcam feed of a California condor nest on the Big Sur coast. He could see a 5-month-old chick, still unable to fly, as the flames of the Dolan Fire came into view.

“It was just terrifying,” Sorenson said. “Having the live-streaming webcams was both a blessing and a nightmare because we had to watch the fire as it burned through the canyon.”

California’s massive wildfires have burned more than 1,000 homes and buildings over the last week, destroying irreplaceable possessions and memories for some residents. At the same time, the fires are also threatening some of the state’s rare ecosystems and wildlife.

Biologists are watching closely as the blazes encroach on old-growth redwood trees in Northern and Central California, where some giants are more than 1,000 years old and are known by individual names. While some seem to have been spared, Big Basin State Park — the oldest state park in California — saw significant fire damage…

For the endangered California condors, recovery is still tenuous. In 1987, just 27 birds remained. Scientists brought them into captivity to begin a breeding program. Today, there are about 100 condors free-flying on California’s Central Coast. The Ventana Wildlife Society, where Sorenson is executive director, has been carefully tracking and releasing them…

Of the eight condor nests with chicks this year, Sorenson says five are within the fire zone…

CLICK HERE for up-to-the-minute alerts on what’s happening at the Condor Sanctuary in Big Sur and how the fire is affecting them.

Governor Newsom spoke earlier this morning and thanked First Responders, the 10 states that are sending much-needed aid in the form of personnel and equipment, and President Trump for signing a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration for California. In addition, he gratefully thanked the volunteers and organizations who have been busy setting-up evacuation shelters – both for people and their animals. The guidelines we all have to follow in dealing with THE MADNESS have certainly added another layer of complexity for everyone affected.

This time last year I spent California’s peak fire season further North in a rural area. None of the fires in El Dorado County were near where I lived but the whole area was a tinder box. It was a little scary and I’m grateful to be back in the ‘burbs.

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The unfortunate side effect of last weekend’s Lightshow

California is once again under siege. At least 367 known fires are burning around the state – most of which were caused by lightning from last weekend’s thunderstorm. We are also (along with other states here in the West) experiencing a prolonged heat wave that has shattered records. We’ve even had FIRE TORNADOES (‘firenado’) up north.

Feels like last year, only worse. California is in a State of Emergency; and due to the smoke from fires in and around Santa Clara County the air quality here is “Unhealthy”. Indeed.

Although it’s difficult to see in this photo, the sun peering through the haze is giving the sunshine a weird orange cast:

Right now I’m noticing blue skies finally poking through and there’s a nice breeze which should help clear the smoke. I can still smell it, though. The weather-guessers say temps should drop a bit during the next few days. Good news for us although I don’t know about the rest of our poor state. I hope all the firefighters will get some much-needed breaks very soon as they continue to do battle out here.

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A Lightshow – courtesy of Mother Nature

Out here in Northern California we’re having a bit of a heat wave (not terribly unusual this time of year) that’s supposed to last well into next week. PG&E started rolling blackouts on Friday. Lucky for us in that we are linked to Silicon Valley Power. (Yep, Santa Clara has its own utilities. BWAHAHAHAH Helluva lot cheaper too!) It’s also been very muggy which makes the air feel thick. My Mom would’ve called this “earthquake weather”.

Like I said, we usually experience at least one heat wave during the summer, but last night brought something we Californians rarely see:  A summer thunderstorm. Low, growly, rolling thunder woke us (Ramses and me) at 3:00 this morning. This “rolling thunder” was another unique occurrence as I’m used to hearing sharp thunderous claps. Then the lightshow began and went on continuously for two hours. Some bolts were preceded by claps and others by rolling thunder. The lightning that transpired BEHIND the cloud cover looked like strobe lights going off and on. Ramses sat in the open window taking it all in while I lounged in bed amazed by the sight.

There was one point where the lightning was raining down one after another. Down the street I could hear neighbors hooping and hollering at the spectacle. Joyfully celebrating the wonder of Mother Nature (or something similar). I almost thought about putting on some clothes and joining them.

Instead I decided to capture it all on video and this was how it went…If any of you live with a cat (or have lived with a cat) you are probably familiar with their habit of striking a pose – which they hold while you go fetch your camera (or in my case an iPod) – only to move away just as you’re about to capture the shot. (Let me add that Diego was the perfect model and patiently held still while I snapped his picture.) THAT’S how this storm acted. There I was during the height of its activity, holding my iPod with video recording. Waiting. And waiting. Still more waiting. So I stop the recording and BLAM…lightning strikes. DAMN. I try again. Same thing happens. Arrgh. I try again, and again until I finally got a sharp bolt lighting up the night sky:

I’m not fond of the cold and I ABSOLUTELY HATE SNOW, but I don’t mind a temperate shower or two. It smells beautiful and there’s a certain electricity in the air which I adore. I also love thunderstorms. Loved them as a kid. Loved watching them from my candle-lit room (back then thunderstorms = power out). They were magical. Electric. They still are. Magic. Electric.

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