The Roller Coaster

The thing I have learned today is that when you live close enough to the open brush areas in California and the conditions are right, you’re going to spend a few days on a roller coaster of emotion and adrenaline. If you think you know what’s going to happen, you’re wrong.

First of all, the winds that had been predicted to kick back up overnight had failed to do so. It was calm as could be when I got up at 07:00. It was fairly clear, not nearly as much smoke in the air as on the previous couple of mornings. Looking out at Castle Peak it was interesting to see some grey-ish areas that almost looked like some sort of ground fog or giant spider webs clinging to the side of the mountain – I realized it was just the slightest traces of smoke from smoldering hot spots.

But it was so nice out. Most of the smell of smoke was gone. I figured that we would be able to unpack the cars and get back to normal. I sort of planned on doing it after the Chiefs’ game.

I was wrong.

We went out to our usual Sunday morning breakfast and while there I noticed the winds picking up. And then they were blowing fairly hard. When we were done with breakfast we went across the street to do our weekly grocery shopping.

From two miles away, this is what we saw. Our house would be right about under that tallest column of smoke. Needless to say, we burned our way through the grocery list and hustled our way back home.

That flare up was a bit north of us, on the north side of Bell Canyon Drive, up by Roscoe, a mile or so away. By the time we got home there were several large aircraft called in to make repeated passes dropping Phos-Chek, the fire retardant with the red coloring which they use so the pilots can see where they’ve already sprayed on earlier passes. It was interesting to watch it live on television from the TV helicopter’s point of view from 6,000 feet while also watching them roar north up Valley Circle outside our front window. It’s also bizarre to see your house on television when they’re showing a disaster in progress.

After an hour or so that hot spot was out and I figured the excitement was over. They had hit it pretty hard and that Phos-Chek will last for a while.

I was wrong.

An hour later I started to hear helicopters again, low and fast. We had another flare up, this time over behind the baseball fields.

An hour later there was another flare up, this time with some pretty significant (i.e., “freakin’ huge!”) flames shooting up over one of the lower ridges down in Bell Canyon.

At least then the wind started dying down. We’re done, right?

I was wrong.

While we were okay for the moment, back to the south along the Calabasas western border and down to the ocean in Malibu things were getting extremely hot again. In between the two trees on the left you can see a dot which is a water-dropping DC-10 heading that way. (That’s an impressively HUGE plane to be getting down among them in the canyons while that heavy, that slow, and in that kind of turbulence!!)

So much for unpacking the cars. I was tired of being wrong. All of the areas on the west side of Valley Circle, which is less than a quarter mile away as the crow flies, are still shut off and evacuated with no one allowed back in. Until that evacuation that close to us gets lifted, we’re going to stay ready to bug out. Cars packed, face out of the driveway for a quick exit.

This evening the wind was still blowing (you can see the palm trees bending to the left) but it was again calm and smoke-free.

For now.

We’ll see how early tonight or tomorrow morning I’m proven wrong again.

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Filed under Disasters, Photography, Weather

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