Life in California: not fun at the moment

This has been one of the roughest years I can remember living here. We’ve had two massive wind storms (one of which damaged my Stevenson Screens used for the paint test), and lightning induced fires on a massive scale.

Life has become miserable here, the smoke is oppressive, it’s been this way for two weeks now. Here is the view outside my home just a few minutes ago, about 6:30PM PST

Compare that to this view on a clear day:

And this view out my front door, we don’t need a solar filter anymore to look at the sun:

Here is the view from space, via NOAA 1KM resolution visible light satellite imagery. Note that the entire Sacramento Valley is choked with smoke as is much of the Sierra Nevada and Western Nevada:

Smoke is everywhere, and to escape it, I either have to go to Oregon or to Southern California. Los Angeles has better air quality right now. I’m considering leaving town and taking my familiy there to stay with relatives for awhile. This smoke has been giving all of us headaches and breathing issues.

I was heartened today to find that firefighters from Canada, Australia and New Zealand are on their way to California.

My sincere thank you to all of them and to their families. We really need help here. La Nina has kicked us hard and we are losing the battle.

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50 thoughts on “Life in California: not fun at the moment

  1. Anthony, the air over here in the Bay area has been pretty clear. A little haze due to the humidity, but no smoke at the moment. And we should be getting more of an onshore flow the next couple of days. Head over to Santa Cruz :)

    According to the Cal Fire page they are making progress. From a total of 1781 fires at the peak, they are down to “only” 322 active fires today.

    And I am with you on thanking those who are on their way or already here to lend a hand.

  2. Anthony, I think it’s best if you and your family escape the smoke for awhile to clear your heads and lungs. We had some monsoonal thundershowers that put out the big fire south of Prescott. May the rains come to you soon. We saw some New Mexico hotshots today probably on their way back home (or to California). One of our heavy tankers left for California a few days ago. Thanks to ALL the firefighters. Take care.

  3. Well, I’m glad I could help with that thing yesterday. Let me know if there’s anything else I can do.

  4. Just a recommendation -

    “Get out of Dodge” if you have any risk of asthma in your family. And recommend everyone else with a similar history to do so, too.

    I almost lost my wife to asthma. While she was in an asthma-response coma, an 18-year old asthmatic boy was admitted to the ER and died. The nurse taking care of my wife had lost her 16-year old son to asthma – that’s why she was in that pulminary ICU.

    What looked to me and doctors as a manageable health problem morphed into a nightmare. And it happened fast.

    Just a thought. That friggin’ smoke – not good. Prayers to your family.

  5. Anthony,
    Some of my family is trying to escape to the coast this weekend for some relief from the smoke. I wish all my daughters and their children in Roseville could do the same. Ellen and I are in Cody Wyoming, and according to the locals the haze here is from the California fires. Who knows for sure.

    We are delaying our return to California a few more days in the hope that smoke will clear some. I hope you and your family find a save haven in LA, especially for the children.

  6. If you can’t get out of town, might try locating one of those precipitator type air filters. The kind you’d find in a lounge or bar to filter cigarette smoke.

  7. Sounds very similar to Colorado in 2002. Heat, gigantic fires, drought, endless smoke – I was convinced that global warming had destroyed the state. Then in April, 2003 we had the biggest snowstorm in history. The last two winters have been exceptionally cold, and we just had one of the best ski seasons on record. We haven’t had any large fires for years.

  8. Anthony

    I here you. Living in the OC we get some pretty nasty brush fires. I remember in the early 90′s I was coming home on the 405S and the fire literally circled the south cities of Laguna Beach, Mission Viejo, Lake Forest and Laguna Hills. The ashed just piled on our cars and coated everything outside. I smelled smoke for like a month after the fires where out. Keep safe.

  9. On a lighter note;

    This blows the Governators AGW plans for this year. LOL Sorry Anthony just had to.

  10. As usual, the pictures tell the story. And those paint a pretty bleak picture of the situation out there.

    I’m reading right now that the National Guard has been called in as well.

    Whatever you decide, I hope things take a turn for the better in the near future. Thoughts & prayers to you & everyone else in CA. I can’t imagine going through anything like this.

  11. Anthony,

    If you can swing it, do yourself a favor and bring the family South for a few days. Although we are usually the ones facing one disaster after another, things are calm and pleasant down here with very nice weather. We have only had a few very small fires due to the lack of Santa Ana winds and reasonable humidty levels. It is very fortunate as it has allowed large numbers of So Cal fire companies to help out up North.

    If you head anywhere near the South Bay and are looking for sightseeing tips, let me know. We are in Palos Verdes (near Torrance/Long Beach) and would be happy to play tour guide for an afternoon or at least buy lunch as a small thanks for all your hard work.

  12. I was reading something about your area the other day and the pecularities of the Sacramento valley, can’t remember where now…. But apparently Bushfires were the norm. During pre European times in California vast tracts of land burned from lightening strikes and natives burning off.

    Here in Australia at certain times, smoke overlays vast areas…. Some years are worse than others.

    What needs to happen is cooler burning off, more often….. your fire seasons will shorten then…. You’ll still get smoke, but for not as long…. However no matter what, after long wet seasons with little fire activity you’ll always end up with a season that you are going through now… No point fighting these fires… Let em burn….. Just protect the homes and property.

    …Doesn’t help the feeling of despondence and the sore throat and chest though…. My sympathies…. Perhaps a poem from John O’brian, a poet in our sunburnt country, will cheer you up……

    Said Hanrahan…. “We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
    In accents most forlorn,
    Outside the church, ere Mass began,
    One frosty Sunday morn.

    http://www.middlemiss.org/lit/authors/obrienj/poetry/hanrahan.html

    REPLY: I think you read it here:

    http://wattsupwiththat.wordpress.com/2008/07/08/california-wildfires-not-global-warming-but-business-as-usual-for-nature/

  13. Come to the Swiss Alps in NE Oregon. There is a great Best Western up on the hill with an indoor swimming pool. The weather is cool and clear with nighttime temps way down in the 40′s and daytime temps in the low to upper 80′s. Plus you can ask the oldtimers about the climate change.

  14. If you put a “You Are Here” arrow about two-thirds of the way from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe, that would be me typing under the smoke and very red/orange moon. I live in Roseville (just ENE of Sacramento) and it is terrible here. I’ve lived in the Sacramento and Central Valleys all my life and never seen it this bad. Even when they burn the stubble from the rice fields up here in NorCal, it doesn’t get this bad.

    I want to provide a hearty second to the sentiments and praise for the fire fighters. Whatever they are getting paid is not enough. And special thanks to all those fire fighters coming from all over Canada and the US to help us out. You have our gratitude and appreciation.

    We have a cabin at Lake Tahoe (Homewood) and were going to go up there, but it is not much better so we’re looking to head to the coast for a few days…

  15. Wish I could do something to help. If there are any health issues with you or yours, just get well clear.

    BTW. You did a good one over on CA.

    Good luck and do whatever you need to do.

  16. I sincerely hope you and your family do well. give lots of thanks to the firefighters.

    California is so stupid with their fire suppression tactics, and forestry overall. Every other state shares their firefighters. If you are a wildland firefighter in Idaho you could go as far as Florida to fight fires. You won’t be going to California tho, and if somehow you do then California will not give you back to the national level. If you fight fires in California you will stay in California. They can’t even get private contractor fire fighters, because of all the regulations, down what color of hardhats you must wear.

    I do hope you stay safe, and a big thanks to the firefighters that are there.

  17. I flew from Redding to LA Thursday morning. Once above all the smoke, there was no ground visibility until about Modesto. Even LA was a notably smokey (beyond the usual smog) when I landed there. I then drove to San Diego and finally escaped any trace of smoke — and the heat! Ahhhh! :-) I hope things improve when I go back Sunday night.

  18. Until this moment, I had no idea the smoke would be so pervasive for so long a time — as we have virtually no fires. I too would be quite concerned about smoke over a prolonged period. I guess family has to come first at these times.

  19. Yeah, not to sound callous, but just looking at the sattelite pic there- what would you say the ‘carbon footprint’ of that beast is? I mean really, carbon credit trading and such nonsense is like treating the pimple on the tip of the nose of a monster like that.

    Sure, Mr. Gore, we can control the climate.

  20. Anthony – we’re praying for all you folks out in California. Not enough praise can be given to the personnel fighting the fires. Hope it gets better soon.

  21. A very close friend of mine from central Wisconsin flew out last Sunday and has been on the front lines since. Our prayers are with him and all fighters/residents endangered or adversely impacted by the fires.

  22. I’m very sorry to hear of your troubles. If you ever get tired of California, Michigan is… well I was going to say Michigan is nice. But that might be an exaggeration. Our winters really suck. This summer has been nice with comfortable temperatures, abundant rainfall and no flooding. Housing is cheap here too. And it would be great to get some intelligent folks moving in.

  23. Firefighting is a lousy job. Immediate danger, long term health issues, little pay or recognition. And when they finish, charred earth. The only reward is knowing they’ve done a good job.

    They are true heroes.

    Anthony, get the family out for a few days or weeks. Some place with no smoke. North, south, whatever. If you needs funds, say so. We’ll all chip in.

  24. We live in the Shenandoah Valley, an hours drive SE of Sacramento. Living in the foothills one realizes that it is not a matter of “if” you will ever have one of these fires at your place, but “when”.
    Our plan, and recommendation for you, is to head north to Vancouver BC. Not only is it a beautiful place, the number and variety of restaurants is wonderful, especially the Chinese ones.

  25. Here is a poem I wrote running away from a fire , somewhere in Greece a few years ago. We get regular and terrible fires here, too.

    More power to you and your family.

    —————-

    Inferno

    Gripping the wheel,
    at midnight
    I drive up the road
    where the firestorm broke the barriers
    and jumped across the canyon
    to run down the hill to the sea
    in a great joyful
    all consuming roar,
    of the pine tree’s orgasmic
    moment of reproduction,
    releasing a menacing
    mushroom of a black cloud
    over our heads
    darkening the noon sun.

    Left and right
    the stumps of pines
    outlined black
    some still standing
    as if whole
    dried up in shock,

    The whole mountain side
    glows,
    like a distant city,
    lighted up
    by the reluctant
    olive trees
    their core slowly
    eaten away by embers.

    The pines were old,
    their sides gouged out
    dripping resin tears
    into tin catchers,
    nailed to their trunks,
    no young pines growing
    in their stifling shade.
    They reproduce by fire.

    The old olive trees
    have often been gutted by fire
    maybe even before,
    the first historic
    persian invasions.
    You can see them in the groves
    the great great grandfathers of all,
    with thick hollow
    convoluted trunks.
    The burned out stumps,
    grow new shoots
    in the spring
    even the roots
    throw out tender leaves,
    claiming
    eternal life.

    It is to me
    human transient
    scampering away
    in the small timescales
    of my life
    that the ecological disaster
    seems complete,
    as I drive through,
    a walker on glowing embers
    of the inferno.

  26. Dang Anthony,
    We went through that here in Alabama last year with the fires in south Georgia and north Florida. For a couple of months we were very bad and the drought kept the fires going. I had to advise my relatives in central Florida to stay home that year as the smoke was so bad.

    If there are any health problems get better ac filters and keeeeeeeeep in side or head out to a better clime. Take care of the kiddies for sure.

    Best of luck and
    God bless,

    Bill Derryberry

  27. I disagree with the comment at the top, there is still quite a bit of smoke over not only the Bay Area but essentially the northern half to two thirds of California. It mixed out momentarily last night, but in the early AM after the wind stopped, it settled right back into a more orderly layer. Also, note that vintners are increasingly worried. First (and as noted some time ago by Anthony) there was the “endless winter” which resulted in a very late leaf out and bloom. And now, due to a combination of the sleepy sun, and since the Solstice, the smoke, fruit is not maturing rapidly enough to be on track. If insolation does not pick up soon, 2008 may be a disastrous vintage.

  28. Also related …. I was at a Longs Drugs a couple days ago. They shelves were bare of all 12 hour allergy OTC meds (including the Longs house brand) and 24 hour ones were getting very low. Due to smoke, and, very late blooming of certain flora.

  29. I live near Boulder, CO, and we are even getting some haze from your fires the last couple days! I hope conditions improve soon, they certainly can’t get much worse than what you’ve seen the past couple weeks.

  30. I worked in Sierras during some pretty bad fire seasons. I hate to say it but this will not end until this Fall or maybe Sep if its a cold year. You can always hope for a rare TS.

    Getting away just for a few days was ALWAYS worth it!!

  31. Anthony, it’s weird, I spent last weekend working with the B.C. Provincial Fire Control Officer rounding up personnel for California and now I’m reading about it on your wonderful blog. I couldn’t send anyone from the Prine George Fire Centre because we were dealing with a lightning fire bust that started around 100 fires. There were a lot of disappointed people up here. Everyone was willing to go. By the way the Martin Mars bomber has been in California for about a month working out of Lake Shasta. If you get the chance have a look at it, it’s the only one of it’s type left in the world. Good luck and glad we can help.

  32. I live on the east side of the 500,000+ acre fire in SE Georgia/NE Florida from last year (which was just one of several that were burning). Y’all gonna be in smoky conditions for awhile.

  33. I know we have three crews there from MN. 50-60 fighters, maybe more. The threat is very low here, so we are helping you guys out there.

    Getting away for awhile is a good idea. Very unhealthy air around there.

  34. Ric (14:42) I think they call that a “coastal eddy”. We sometimes get that here and usually means southerly onshore low clouds and wind.

    I am in norther San Diego county and the weather here is a bit tropical; high, tropical looking clouds and very little wind (sw @3mph). No smoke at all here, but then we had enough last October.

    Tony, when the smoke finally clears, and it will clear quickly with a weather change, the residue will be with you for months. The streets will be dirty from ash, and you should change your car’s airfilter several times over the next few months. Wear a breathing mask (the fancy double-paper ones from the hardware stores… if any are left) anytime you are outside regardless of whether you have asthma.

    Good luck and hopefully no more homes will burn.

  35. JZ no offense but tropical in SD if 79 in tropical we are closer than that in the OC but you are right that the southern coast is very comfortable right now only 81 today not like the valleys and the inland empire at 100+. Anthony if I can halp in some way there let me know.

  36. This is what happens when environ-mentalists block creation and maintenance of fireroads. Block the use of LARGE (see Russian water buffalo) water drops. Block the use of LARGE dozers in many areas. Fight small fires every year until the fuel load creates a firestorm that can’t be put out!!

    http://www.fire.uni-freiburg.de/iffn/tech/tech_2.htm

    http://www.ussr-airspace.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=28_39_38_101&products_id=2225

    Either we need to let the fires burn themselves out all the time or invest in something like the above Russian tanker to have the capability to suppress the big ones!! Seeing firefighters and civilians dying because of mis-management is outrageous!!

    NOTE: Homes and structures only should be protected if the burns are to be allowed for a return to a somewhat natural cycle. A lot more effort in fire resistant materials and clearings around structures must also be enforced. Many areas clearing is NOT ALLOWED because of eco regulations!!

    Sitting in San Francisco enjoying the on-shore breeze and the marine layer (fog).

  37. Smoke and haze from CA fires reported in Aspen CO today. Previously smoke has reportedly traveled as far as B.C and S. Dakota.

    Willamette Valley clear today. Family welcome here, computer for your use. ~9 hr drive from Chico. Must pass through thermal trough sitting on S. Oregon, N. Calif to get here, though.

    Local inversions trapping smoke, damping fires. Frequently the inversion lifts in afternoon, releasing smoke and fanning fires. Some of the larger fires are making their own weather with plume events, cyclones. Interesting phenomena from a safe distance. Somewhat horrific close up.

    More thunderstorms predicted for western US. Abundance of dry lightning this year, minimal rain associated. Any idea why that might be? Persistant La Nina?

  38. By the way, I have just been listening to the news.

    I want to personally apologize to California for the criminal destruction of your economy (probably worse than this fire) by a the senior senator from my state.

    I am ashamed to be a New Yorker, today.

  39. You have Clinton and Schumer as Senators, and it took you this long to be ashamed?

    ;)

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