Thursday, October 2, 2014

Holding My Breath As the Wind Blows

Growing up in the desert of Southern California (age 5 - 17), I knew hostile weather as the norm. Winters were cold and short, and sometimes brought more than a few days of rain. Lots of dry. Spring and Fall were warm and windy. Lots of wind. Summers were long (May - October), and hot (90 - 120). Lots of hot. 

August and September sometimes brought more rain than we saw in January, when the Arizona monsoons ventured west with more than just lightning over the mountains.

I saw snow twice, and one of those times it stayed on the ground for a few hours. I saw frozen puddles and dog water bowls left outside overnight. I saw wind that blew over 50 gallon drums full of water. I saw dust storms with zero visibility, worse than any fog I've ever seen. I saw lizards that died on the road because it was so hot they were cooked before they could make it the full distance. I saw sky-to-ground storms travel across the valley, bringing the smell of rain, and the staccato of continuous lightning.

What I didn't see was fire. Hot, dry, windy - no fire. Lightning strikes hitting the brush-thick ground - no fire. Years of dry vegetation - no fire. We had seasons of a sort, but we didn't have fire season.

This is not to say that there is never fire in the desert. Arizona saw devastating fires in desert areas in 2012/2013, including the tragic Yarnell fire that took the lives of 19 young firefighters. But during my desert years there was no fire there.

I live in the suburbs now. Our lawns and trees are green. There's a lot of concrete and asphalt. Our streets have gutters and storm drains to manage rain water.

We are under red flag warning until 7 PM tomorrow. Until they extend it.

Surrounding this healthy suburbia are foothills, valleys, chaparral. Dry, brittle, dense. Lots and lots of it.

Although we enjoyed cooler temps last weekend, the thermometer has been moving up all week, and we are once again in the high 90's. It doesn't cool down much at night. Humidity is low - the air practically sparks from the static.

Today, the winds started. Not gale-force winds. No apparent gusts of tremendous speed.

But as soon as I saw the front yard bushes moving consistently for an hour I thought - uh oh. An hour later the red flag warning showed up on my weather feed. Uh- oh indeed :-(

Different areas in drought-stricken California have been on fire all summer. As early as May, multiple fires were burning in San Diego County. The King fire alone (near Lake Tahoe) has destroyed nearly 100,000 acres since September 13 and is just now 94% contained. As of yesterday 5,062 wildfires have burned at least 629,764 acres in California.

Of all those fires, only three were in Los Angeles County. Only the Colby Fire in June burned near a thousand acres. We have been very, very lucky.

The majority of California fires are started by arsonists and lightning strikes.

There are no storms in the area. No storms in the forecast. But the wind is blowing. Arsonists wait for the wind.

The combination of hot, dry and windy is now so different than the desert of my youth. And so much more critical after years of drought. Now it means use caution, pay attention, and pray for increased humidity, lower temperatures, and for the wind to go away.

It's sad really. I love the wind. The power of it, the energy. Without the hot and dry, without those who are waiting - it's wonderful!

But not today. Not now.

Now, I'm just holding my breath.

 

18 comments:

  1. Hoping no fire your way!

    Maura

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  2. Thanks Maura! Calm this morning, but with the warnings still in place I suspect we may see wind sometime today.

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  3. I'm holding my breath with you. Let's hope all the fires go away and the wind stays calm.

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    1. Amen to that - the whole state remains on high alert :-(

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  4. Fingers and toes are crossed for your safety and No Fires!

    I love the wind as well and actually hoped to experience more weather on the road than I ever got in San Diego...where the weather is perfectly boring and beautiful all year round! Instead we have pretty much followed perfect weather for two years! I guess I should count my blessing though, that's better than hitting tornadoes and hail and big snow...too much weather would not be my preference!

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    1. I don't think that the perfect amount of weather is too much to ask for :-) We do miss having all four seasons here, and I am also hoping to find a bit more variety in our travels. In the absence of the fire danger, I can just stand in the wind and love it for hours!

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  5. Be safe. Praying no fires find you or anyone else. It is just amazing how many wildfires there have been over the past years. The destruction is everywhere we've been.

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    1. Thanks Pam :-) It is sad to see so many beautiful areas ravaged.

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  6. So sad that so many acres have burned and just dumbfounded that anyone would deliberately start a fire. Wait for the wind and start a fire. Makes me furious just to think of it. Sure hope none of it comes your way. We too have been pretty lucky with weather except for the tornado scares and the hail damage in 2011. We now avoid Oklahoma and Arkansas in the spring.

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    1. Those tornadoes are so scary too! We will definitely be giving that area a wide berth as well :-)

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  7. Praying for calm winds or no wind at all. It is not good to be at the mercy of the weather.

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    1. Thank you Nan. They do seem calmer so far, but we will likely see triple digits this afternoon :-(

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  8. Oh I know what you mean. We had a wildfire in Placerville just to the south of us, 5 miles away as we were driving off to begin full timing. Thankfully the King fire finally seems to be ending. It took off just to the north of us. So sad. That area was one of our favorite wild areas to hike and kayak. Just scars now. I sure hope the winds go away and no crazies get any stupid ideas.

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    1. That foothill area has had a tough few years! Even south by Yosemite has seen so much devastation :-) Our clouds look like wind today, but so far we're calm at ground level. Fingers stay crossed!

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  9. That has to be scary! We get heavy winds here in Florida, but living on an island, unless there is a Hurricane on the Radar, it just makes for dry skin and salty lips

    Be safe and put the sprinkler on the roof!

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    1. Although you get some warning, I can't imagine knowing there's a hurricane bearing down on your home! Yep, we're being vigilant :-)

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  10. Hi Jodee! We live in Apple Valley. We are in the class of 2016 for going full-time. Presently getting organized and getting rid of stuff. We are currently installing solar and documenting it on our blog. You can see our progress at

    www.sunrisesandsunsets.us

    Ed@Chasing Sunrises and Sunsets

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  11. Spent a lot of time in Apple Valley as a young child as my aunt and uncle and cousin lived there for years. It sure has grown! Soon you'll be saying "next year" we go full-time - that was a huge milestone for us :-) We plan to have solar so I will definitely check out what you're up to.
    Thanks for stopping by my little blog :-)

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