Category Archives: Disasters

That Moment, November 10th Version

That moment when it’s been another frantic looooooooong day and there’s no end in sight and you’re absolutely on your last nerve and all of a sudden your phone just starts screeching with one of those “EMERGENCY ALERT!!!” notices…

…so your gut starts going “PANIC! PANIC!” while your brain says “Bye Bye!” to reality and all you can think of as you teeter on the verge of hysteria is:

And now, back to our regularly scheduled FY21-22 budget marathon.


Filed under Deep Thoughts, Disasters, Paul

The Great Crisis Before Us

Not the election.

Not COVID, although it’s probably related.

Not an incoming asteroid to destroy all life.

Nope, the great crisis before us is…

There are no Diet Cokes in our store for three weeks in a row.

There was some rumor that this might be coming, and there have been shortages of other soda brands. But I’m selfish and self-centered (isn’t that repetitious?) and I don’t care about them.

Now it affects ***ME***!

Because there had been rumors I had stocked up, so I’m not in actual desperation mode for another four weeks or so. And this week they at least had some in the big, two-liter bottles (I prefer it in cans) so it seems to be an issue with the availability of aluminum cans, not the soda itself.

But I’m a little fragile and worn thin at this point with *waves hands vaguely at everything* and if this situation craters it most certainly has the potential to be the straw that breaks my back.

The camel’s on his own.

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Filed under Disasters, Photography

My Circus, My Monkeys

There’s an old Polish proverb that goes, “Not my circus, not my monkeys!”

I wanted to think that today, between the deadlines and work piling up and then tonight’s “Presidential” “debate.” (Yeah, read the Twitter feed on the right if you’re still in the dark about where I stand on that Charlie Foxtrot situation. This is the sorta clean, I’m-trying-by-best-to-keep-it-mostly-family-friendly site – I place no such limitations on my Twitter feed and I’m pretty much on my last nerve there about 24/7/365.)

But in verifying the origin and exact wording of that circus/monkeys thing I got a half-dozen ads for coffee mugs that say, “That awful moment when you realize that this is your circus and those are your monkeys!”

First of all, I probably need one of those mugs.

Secondly, it’s true. Being one of the grown-ups in the room, with a sense of responsibility along with certain PTSD issues about quitting and giving up, this really *IS* my circus and those really *ARE* my monkeys.


Well, that probably explains the trouble sleeping and the stomach pains…

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Filed under Disasters, Politics

Bobcat Still Burning

After last night, when some defensive backfires were set on the east side of the Mount Wilson Observatory, which looked scary but were actually controlled and to prevent worse, we were hoping that Mount Wilson was out of danger from the Bobcat Fire.

Not so fast.

This afternoon another flare up occurred on the north side of the mountain. You can see it start just after 12:30 (time stamps in the upper left) in the 12:00 to 15:00 time-lapse video, then blow up in the 15:00 to 18:00 video, and continue to spread to the north in the 18:00 to 21:00 video. (All videos and images from the HPWREN webcam system unless otherwise noted.)

Here’s where we are now:

The good news is that all of this new fire growth is pushing away from the Observatory grounds. This is all about a mile to the north on the next ridge over, pushing up toward Highway 2.

(Image from Google Maps – incredibly professional graphics from yours truly.)

There have been a LOT of water and Phos-Chek drops today. At one point someone monitoring the radios tweeted that all air tankers had been diverted to Mount Wilson to make a stand there. It obviously worked.

These are the TV and radio transmission towers on the ridge just west of the ridge where the observatory is. You can clearly see them in the HPWREN pictures I shared on Thursday. But as I said, the flare up isn’t super close to the observatory – just close, not super close.

Also, while I’m obviously invested in the Mount Wilson Observatory site being protected, this fire continues to grow almost out of control for the fifth day with thousands of homes being threatened on the south side of the mountains where the San Gabriel Valley is and on the north side where the Antelope Valley lies.

Up in the Antelope Valley, they were using our pair of Canadian Super Scoopers, refilling them on the fly from Lake Palmdale. Since that lake is a recreational site and at least the shore facilities aren’t closed off, it’s drawing crowds to watch.

(Video credit to Matt Winheim, Executive Director/Superintendent of the Palmdale Aerospace Academy)

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Filed under Astronomy, Disasters, Los Angeles

Panic Not

I tell you this in advance – this is not necessarily a terrible thing. It’s under control, even if it doesn’t seem that way. We’ll get through this and come out stronger and better on the other side.

You and I aren’t the experts. Don’t try this at home.

All images from the HPWREN cameras on Mount Wilson, run by UC San Diego. (I would also note that they put out time-lapse videos for each of the four cameras for every three-hour period, 24 hours a day, and the archive goes back a couple of years. There’s an interesting one on my birthday of it snowing like crazy up there. For those who don’t know how it can snow in Los Angeles County, remember this is at about 5,700 feet. Lots of things are different there. That’s why we have ski resorts just a 90 minute drive from the beach.)

Again, this national treasure is *NOT* burning to the ground tonight – but it sure looked like it if you didn’t get the memo. Just a few minutes after 19:00 local time, looking east, just beyond the line of big domes, there was a puff of smoke:

A half-hour later it was a huge blaze. What we had missed was this:

The “good window of opportunity with favorable conditions” equals cool(er) temperatures, higher humidity, light winds, and most importantly, winds that will push the flames away from the domes and back down the ridge to where it had already burned.

That “existing retardant line?” I think this picture from yesterday explains that:

So the pros saw their chance and took it!

It’s up on top of the ridge where the observatories are and looks like it’s only a few meters from some of the facilities. That’s because it was.

Then it started to die down a bit over there…

…before flaring up over here.

And now it’s all died down and is being put out.

Mount Wilson appears to have been saved from this horror. The fire is less than 20% contained and on the north side, leading into the Antelope Valley, there are more new evacuations tonight. Some of the evacuation areas on the south side around Glendale (where all of those lights are in the right center) have been lifted, but many are still in place for the eighth day. But for now, looking at the weather and the containment lines and defensive burns like tonight’s, it seems that Mount Wilson is safe.

So many thanks to the firefighters who have made this happen. In this hell of a year, we need to grab our victories where we can.

And for those who might think that I’ve slipped into a fugue state and obsessing over Mount Wilson because I can’t face what’s going on in the real world these days – go back and read the first sentence.

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Filed under Astronomy, Disasters, Los Angeles

An Ancient Magik

How was your Monday?

I was busier than god, deadlines for work shooting by me like a biker gang in the slow lane of the 405 Freeway, when I got up to get a soda. When I came into the kitchen…

Why is there water all over the floor? Where’s it coming from? This seems “off nominal.”

Oh, the water runs all the way down to the other end of the kitchen and under the stove. This seems “way, WAY off nominal.”

It turns out that something in the fridge, where the water feed line comes in to supply water to the ice maker and cold water dispenser, had committed suicide and was spraying water all over. Couldn’t find a shutoff, couldn’t move the fridge, but I could hear water running back there, so the short term solution was to turn off the water main to the house.

In the end it got fixed, the water’s back on – but we have no ice maker for a while.

Oh! NO!

Worry not, my friendly readers. I am a practitioner of an ancient Magik, a dark lore handed down from father to son for generation on generation.

I… (insert drum roll!) …can make ice without an ice making machine.

It’s complex, involves incantations and ancient artifacts, relics from an older, gentler age. (The Sixties – work with me here!) The ice will be in a different form than you are used to, a manifestation of my ice making abilities which will leave you in awe.

The cult’s rules forbid me from revealing all, but I can give you a glimpse into the mystic realm…

Use this ancient wisdom carefully and wisely!

(Now, wasn’t reading this drivel better than watching the RNC tonight? You’re welcome!!)


Filed under Disasters, Farce, Photography

Today Was Wednesday – No, Thursday

Getting to the point where a couple times a day I literally have to check my phone or watch to remember.

As we’re discovering, “working from home” can be much more like “living at work.”

The good news is that thanks to some heroic efforts by a couple of San Luis Obispo fire crews last night, while the fires got very, VERY close to the domes at Lick Observatory and did destroy one currently unused dorm building, none of the telescopes or other primary buildings appear to have been damaged.

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Filed under Disasters, Paul

Hazy Here – Infernos In NorCal

Here we had a bit of haze, a bit of smoke, enough to make the sunset orange-ish.

There are still three major fires in Southern California and a handful of smaller ones. The closest and biggest is about fifty miles to our northeast. All of them are still less than 20% contained, but burning off into some extremely steep, rugged, and empty terrain with few structures, homes, or power lines which would need protecting. Given how thinly stretched the air resources and ground troops and equipment are, they may just have to burn for a few days or few weeks.

Up north, in the Bay Area and over toward Davis and Sacramento, a series of large storms went through a few days ago with thousands upon thousands of lightning strikes into tinder dry terrain. It seems like everything is burning up there. The only county anywhere from San Jose to San Francisco to Oakland to Sacramento to Reno that doesn’t have out of control brush fires is San Francisco County, because it’s about 99% urban.

Elsewhere there are tens of thousands of people evacuated, and it might be 100,000+ by now. Nearer and dearer to my heart, tonight we’ve been watching the webcam (here) that looks over the Lick Observatory. It’s not looking good.

(Image: University of California Observatories / Lick Observatory)

The big dome’s the 3-meter telescope, with five others scattered around the peak near it. While the original observatory was build in 1888, the first observatory built on a mountain top, the current telescopes are still in use constantly.

Given all of the homes and lives threatened, I don’t know how many resources CalFire can put into defending Lick. Let’s pray that it’s enough.

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Filed under Astronomy, Disasters, Photography, Weather

What’s In Your Bug Out Bag?

The start of brush fire season, the recent (relatively minor) earthquake, the newly aggressive and expanded hurricane season (I know, Florida, East Coast, Hawaii, all a long way away from here, but hey, 2020 in case you haven’t noticed!!), and the potential for an actual alien invasion of lizard folks who like think humans are tasty (again, first of all, 2020, and secondly, I would like to point out to our new reptilian overlords how well we have treated the lizards in the yard!) all have reminded me that it’s time to rotate out the supplies in our “bug out bags.”

These are the five backpacks (one for each family member, even though the kids don’t live here any more, and we used to have a sixth for the pets, but they’re gone, but maybe we should put that sixth one back for the SIL just in case, because, you know, 2020, reptilian overlords, etc) which we keep stocked with emergency food and water as well as flashlights, first aid kits, gloves, toilet paper, duct tape (don’t get the TP and DT mixed up!), masks, and so on.

The stuff coming out should still be good (especially the chocolate, which as we all know NEVER goes bad) so it will get eaten, while the supplies will be replenished with fresh replacements and we’ll be good for another year.

Should we put in some Purina Lizard Chow, just to be safe?

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Filed under Disasters, Photography

July Can Take A Hike

As in, take a long hike off a short pier. Preferably into deep water with an anvil in your underwear. (Not a euphemism.)

As every month in the past four years or so has gotten steadily worse with only occasional bright spots (surgeries survived, great new job, fun trip in late 2018, Super Bowl champs, comet!) it’s gotten almost ridiculous how events come up some days and your only reaction is, “Really? REALLY??!! Where did THAT plot twist come from? That’s not believable, even Lot didn’t have that many bad things happening in such a short period!”

Yesterday we got the little earthquake to remind us to check our emergency bags. Today I was reminded why as much as I love flying things, I sort of hate hearing multiple helicopters and sirens. It might be a car chase or some other police activity, but you get to know the difference in sound between police sirens and fire truck sirens, and the helicopters sound different too, so at some point fairly quickly your subconscious says, “Maybe you should stick your head out the front door?”

Never good. Maybe it’s just a house or a car or something small…

Or, not. Good thing that it’s only 104°F out there and 14% humidity…

Fortunately Ventura and LA County Fire Departments are jumping on these little brush fires really fast and hitting them hard. This one was about two miles from us and even in this second picture which is only about a half hour after the fire started, you can already see the big fire-fighting bombers circling and dropping Phos-chek.

It was out in a couple of hours and it only burned 27 acres with no homes lost, so that’s a win.

But it’s time to review our evacuation plans and our 30-second, 5-minute, 15-minute, and 60-minute checklists.

It’s going to be a long summer. On top of COVID, fascism, and *waves hands vaguely* everything.


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Filed under Disasters, Photography, Video