Category Archives: Weather

Calming Clouds

Barring a disaster, I am currently in the process of losing my voice while screaming my lungs out at the LA Coliseum while my beloved Kansas City Chiefs (9-1 on the season) are stomping on and defeating the Los Angeles Rams (9-1 on the season). It should be one hell of a game. Rest assured, I’m not typing this from the stands. But I figure it’s likely that I won’t have much time to post anything Monday night, so I’m setting this up in advance.

When the season’s schedule was first announced I thought it was fantastic that I would have a chance to see the Chiefs in person twice, once when they play the Chargers (they’re in the same division, so this happens every year – there are pictures on this site from the past several years’ visits) and once when they played the Rams in Los Angeles. Then the league announced that the Rams game would be played in Mexico City as part of their international expansion program. I was not going to go to Mexico City to see that game. However, the gods have conspired on my behalf, the field at Azteca Stadium was ripped to shreds by a couple of concerts, heavy rain, and some soccer games, and last week on an emergency basis the NFL moved the game back to Los Angeles.

So I will get to see the Chiefs live against the Rams. But it won’t be just twice this year – you’ll be hearing more about it, but for the holidays we get to see two more games. As shitty as 2018 has been in many ways, seeing the Chiefs live four times, especially considering how well they’re playing, might be one of the few highlights.

Anyway, while I’m screaming myself hoarse, you’re invited to enjoy some calming clouds that were over our construction site on Saturday when we had our Key Ceremony. They were stunning to look at and also kept the temps down to a reasonable level while we handed out the keys and other gifts to the latest veterans moving into our homes in Santa Clarita. (See our website if you want to see more details about that.)

Go Chiefs!


Filed under Homes4Families, KC Chiefs, Photography, Sports, Weather

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

Trial By Fire

It’s been a really, really long day.

For the longest time this afternoon and evening I thought that I might be writing this tonight (if I were able to write anything at all tonight) from a hotel or a Red Cross evacuation center.

I’m still at home and it’s now looking like there won’t be a need to evacuate tonight, but it’s been touch and go for hours. We’re still packed into two cars and ready to go in 60 seconds if we get the word.

I was up a couple hours early for a big, all-day work event – that was cancelled early due to many of the key people either having to evacuate last night out of Westlake Village, Thousand Oaks, or Agoura, or because they were up all night preparing to evacuate if necessary, or because they couldn’t get here either way due to the multiple massive freeway closures caused by the fires.

This was what that fire looked like when I first got up this morning, off in the distance, pyrocumulus clouds billowing up to 8,000 feet or more.

But from the office, the smoke rising up from the fires smoldering near our house was pretty benign.

By the middle of the afternoon, that had started to change. While everyone pretty much thought that the fire near us had died down and was almost done, the right combination of wind and terrain kicked it up and I needed to bail out of the office early and get home.

I couldn’t even get home by the shortest route, so ended up by the old house where for the first time I saw that the fire had crossed the ridge from Ventura County into LA County. This view shows the northern end of the ridge, up by Chatsworth, but it was the same for ten miles, all the way south to Calabasas.

Remember how I said last night that I wouldn’t worry until I saw active flame coming over the ridge at Castle Peak? Here it is.

For the longest time I wasn’t too worried about it. It took a couple hours to burn from the top of the ridge down to here. At that rate it was never going to be a threat. I started loading up the cars with the valuables (photos, hard disks, overnight bags, important documents, etc) but figured it was just to get my exercise, not because we were going anywhere.

Then, about an hour before sunset, all hell broke loose. All along this ten-mile ridge line the fire just exploded.

The wind kicked up, the smoke started rising, and the flames started marching down the east flank of Castle Peak toward the homes at the bottom.

I was betting that the firefighters’ strategy was to let it burn like this as long as it was burning brush and open space. Then, when it gets to the houses, which should all be properly prepared with set back areas from the brush and defensible spaces all around, the fire gets hit hard and stopped in its tracks.

That’s pretty much what happened – here you can see the fire as it got to the base of the hill and the houses there, with a water-dropping helicopter above.

It’s a good thing that it worked. If the houses at the bottom of the hill had gone, a lot of embers and debris would have been thrown up into the air. The high winds would have pushed those embers out downwind into houses blocks away, starting new spot fires, with the pattern just repeating over and over. (Look at what happened last year in Northern California, or two days ago up by Chico, or a couple decades ago in Oakland for examples.) From those houses it’s about three blocks to Valley Circle – once the flames crossed Valley Circle it’s only three blocks up hill to us, and we all know how much flames love to climb up hill with a 45 mph wind pushing it!

So we had our two cars packed, on a hair trigger. Several of our neighbors found the point when their bug-out button gets pushed. I decided to stick it out.

And that’s worked. There are some hot spots out there along the fire lines tonight, but none of them are near us and shouldn’t be a threat. (Yes, I’m being selfish. I mean that it shouldn’t be a threat to my neighborhood. There are still some massive fires burning in Calabasas, Thousand Oaks, and Malibu. In particular, the Pepperdine University campus in Malibu is under a massive threat.)

Now the wicked winds have died down. I knew it even before I stopped noticing the wind – for the first time in this mess I can smell the smoke. Even though it was so close, less than a half mile, I haven’t smelled any smoke at all because of the ways the winds have been blowing . Not now. With no winds, the smoke just sits in the valley at the west end of the San Fernando Valley, starting to choke me.

So tonight I might sleep fully dressed and with one eye open and one ear listening for sirens and someone pounding on the door, but I will be sleeping at home.

And don’t worry, I *WILL* be able to sleep. I thought I was exhausted before this – I had no clue what real exhaustion was.

If you’re interested, you can probably catch live coverage on KTLA 5, CBS LA 2, or any other Los Angeles television station’s website. Or you can watch several Facebook Live posts that I put up today.



Filed under Disasters, Photography, Weather

…Led To The First Sunset Of November

Yesterday I was up much earlier than normal to head off to a meeting and I caught the first sunrise of November. While there’s no guarantee that a glorious sunrise will be followed by an equally colorful sunset, I was delighted to find this outside as I was leaving the office about eleven hours later:

Orange in the morning, purple and pink and orange in the evening.

I imagine I could probably get tired of this and bored by it in, oh, say, a couple thousand years…

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Filed under Photography, Weather

The First Sunrise Of November…

Thanks to an early meeting at an offsite location that’s a bit of a drive, I was up this morning to catch the first sunrise of November. And I thought the yellow, golden, glowy one looked good a few days ago!

And then, about eleven hours later…

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Filed under Photography, Weather

ISS Pass With Lightning!

That was a first!

I hope that some of you in LA got to see the nice ISS pass that I talked about last night. It was bright, it was long, it went almost from horizon to horizon, fairly near the zenith.

It was behind this:

(Image from NOAA Hi-Def Radar app)

But the green stuff hadn’t covered the blue dot yet, so hope springs infernal! Out I went with my tripod & gear!

Much as in the radar, clouds covered most of the sky. But not ALL of it – there was that little slice to the west-northwest where the ISS would be rising. And the lighting wasn’t continuous, nor was it close enough to actually hear the thunder yet, so standing out there in the open on top of the hill next to the trees and telephone poles wasn’t the stupidest thing I had done today!

And there it was!

I tried shooting this in portrait mode this time instead of landscape mode since the ISS was rising pretty much straight up. That part worked. I even remembered to focus! I still need to work on getting a slightly more stable tripod setup, since you can see where there was a slight shift twice.

But given the circumstances, I’m not unhappy with this result. I’ve seen (and photographed, for better or for worse) the ISS three times in two days. (No visible pass tomorrow, but there’s a so-so one on Sunday night, then nothing for a while.) And I didn’t get hit by lightning!

Now it sounds like the storm is here and that big orangish, reddish, angry looking blob is headed right towards us in the next fifteen to twenty minutes, so I’m going to go out on my front porch and enjoy (in safety) a bit of rogue Southern California weather. I might even do another Facebook Live if it gets to hopping and booming!

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Filed under Photography, Space, Weather

The Rain Missed Us

So far this stream of showers coming off the Pacific has missed our side of the LA area. (For those who haven’t been here, “the LA area” covers more square miles than several of the smaller states, so it’s not that uncommon.) That’s unfortunate, but it did leave some cotton candy skies while I was out in the back yard, serving a shift as Pilot In Command of the BBQ.

Low flying humming bird? High flying crow? Klingon bird of prey during orbital re-entry? It’s all a matter of perspective!

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Filed under Photography, Weather