Friday, October 26, 2007

from one dead space to another

I haven't really posted in the last few weeks thanks to an incredible busy weeklong stretch of work to prepare for.... more online absence! Katy and I are taking off two weeks to visit Normandy, Paris, and New York. I'm sure there will be thousands of pictures to follow in mid-November. But for now, all you get is quick ruminations on the lovely wildfires we've had here in Southern California.

1: It has only recently become clear to me that weather conditions exist that can spontaneously start and sustain immense fires. The wind and fire are not independent of one another; this is literally fire weather. If you have 70mph winds, 3% relative humidity and a dew point of negative 25 degrees, it's fire weather. Fire weather starts, without fail, every week before Halloween. It's a season, not a disaster.

2: It is facile to compare natural disasters. Much has been made of the national response to the San Diego wildfires vs. Katrina. Leaving aside the obvious differences in income demographics, car ownership and urban structure, a fire is not a flood. Fires destroy series of homes, at random, along specific routes. If you get caught in a house, you die, but you usually have a day's warning. Floods destroy every house for blocks, can have only a few hours warning, and can be survivable if caught. The only thing these incidents have in common is that FEMA is involved.

3: To continue in the spirit of #1, fires make me even more aware that Southern California has an intricate overlaid geography of wind patterns. Smog and the marine layer are one thing, but you don't know that Long Beach gets blanketed in dense smoke and ash from any fire within a 60 mile radius until it happens. A lot of where you live here is in the air above you-- on any random summer day it's 100 degrees with blue skies in one place, with 75 and cloudy 10 miles away. This is a product not only of the mountains, which channel every tiny breeze, but the fact that SoCal is bracketed by ocean on one side, desert on the other. It's like a giant game of wind pachinko, or some kind of Bernoulli Test Landscape. Oh, and there are lots of jets here. Screw Wyoming. Big Sky Country is in LA.

1 comment:

David said...

Bernoulli Test Landscape - the newest exhibit at the museum of jurassic technology.