Tuesday, October 23, 2007

AV: Live from the Hellmouth

As far as I can tell, the world is burning.

(for live video coverage, try

I’m writing this from
my little as-yet-unscorched patch of
San Diego, CA,
where we are gathered by the television and waiting for various friends and family to call with updates.

It’s a huge swath of the county that’s affected – either afire or threatened. Over 250,000 people have been evacuated and more are being notified as I write this.

The most interesting thing about all of this is my realization that I don’t know the neighborhood names as well as I did. Either that, or I’ve seem to have lost my recognition of which highways are which in all the chaos.

The map has become as important as the phone. Thank god we’ve still got power.

The picture at the top of this post is of the evacuation areas. These areas are NOT the fires themselves, but maybe it'll give you an idea.

The latest just now on my cellphone text service: “Voluntary evacs include Chula Vista, Rolling Hills, San Miguel, East Lake Woods, Bella Lago, Solana Beach, Del Mar, Carlsbad” And I’m waiting for more because obviously that message is missing a comma. (Ah, the joys of character-constrained SMS technology.)

The freaking BEACH, fer crissakes! Did you see that part? The BEACH!
This doesn’t include the places that are burning now or that have burned: Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Sante Fe, parts of Escondido, Potrero, Barrett Junction, San Marcos, Harris Canyon, Witch Creek, and other places that I can’t remember now.

It’s goddamn weird here, kids. At least the sky is not raining ash on us as it did four years ago (this weekend, thank you very much) during the Cedar fires – the then “worst fire ever in San Diego county history.” Nope, we’re spared some of that where we are. But still, the sun shines through a sky an unnatural shade of yellow-orange. Odd, but the sky is blue where we are. But the light is strange, almost like if someone stretched an orange diaphanous scarf across a lampshade. You know, that do-it-yourself ambiance enhancer. Only this – this light – it’s just plain wrong.

10:00 pm PDT

Strange, isn’t it? It’s night now. The winds have lulled in some places, and are still gusting at 30+ mph in others.

This is the way it works, in case you haven’t heard of this before:
Santa Ana winds.

High pressure builds up around Southern California and, due to the technicalities of pressure and humidity and topography, the winds reverse from their usual marine-layer-producing onshore winds to offshore, dragging the heat from the deserts through the valleys at high velocity and reducing the humidity to near-or-for-real zero. Add to that the three year drought in the area and it’s perfect for the firestorms we’re experiencing. Oh yes, there’s also some good fuel in these areas: brush, trees, lovely landscaping of the suburban developments in what used to be rural farm and ranchland lo these many years ago.

The affected areas are generally in those neighborhoods, some more recently developed than others. Me, I’m in the metro area which right now isn’t affected. But my god, people, they’re saying the Pacific Ocean is the western border of some voluntary evacuation areas up north from here. Again, you can check out the online coverage.

So many people are affected here. My partner’s family are well, but some have evacuated and others are waiting to see. I’ve opened my apt to a friend and her two dogs, and her friend. We’ve heard from friends and colleagues who left with their possessions in their cars; all we know of others is that their voicemail machines still seem to be working. Many members of my work team are evacuated, including my boss’s wife. He’s in Orlando for an industry convention and this all happened after he left. I’ve sent SMS to his wife to offer her our home. Seems she might be evacuated twice.

I don’t even know what to write here. Everywhere feels as if anything could happen, most of it bad. There are thousands of refugees now at the local football facility: Qualcomm Stadium. Don’t blame me if my first thoughts are of the Superdome.

And outside right now, this very minute?

I can see the stars in the clear ceiling of the sky.

More tomorrow. Or sooner if I can’t sleep.

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