Image courtesy of Ventura Country Fire Department PIO
For those who haven't heard, there's a massive devastating wildfire burning right now in Ventura Country, California. I live about 40 minutes downwind of the evacuation zone, so I'm currently hiding inside my house from the cloud of choking smoke and the ashes that are swirling around. Earlier today I had to run some errands, and I captured this photo of the lagoon on the campus of UCSB:
Photo by @biophil
Normally you'd be able to see the ocean out beyond those distant buildings, but there's too much smoke in the air. Enough smoke that I pulled off my undershirt and made an impromptu breathing mask:
Photo by @biophil
Why have the fires been so devastating? It's a phenomenon called the Santa Ana Winds. We get essentially two kinds of wind here: the nice cool ones that blow in from the ocean, and the nasty hot dry ones that blow in from the inland deserts. The nasty ones are the Santa Anas. They're semi-seasonal, and from what I've read it's typical that we get winter rains before the Santa Anas start in earnest, so the ground is nice and wet when the hot dry wind starts to blow and that wet decreases the fire danger.
Unfortunately, we haven't had real rain here in many months, but the Santa Anas have arrived. So that means if a fire starts, the hot dry winds fan it into a horrific, apocalyptic firestorm that spreads without stopping to the ocean. This satellite photo from earlier today shows the prevailing winds coming down from the inland deserts and blowing the smoke out to sea. I'm sitting on that red dot, right in the path of the smoke:
Courtesy of a very cool NASA website that gives daily satellite photo snapshots
There have been tens of thousands of evacuations from the city of Ventura, and every time I check the map, it seems like the evacuation zone has grown. If helping disaster victims is the sort of thing you like to do, Google makes it very easy to donate for this disaster in particular. Just google "thomas fire" and scroll down till you see the button that says "Yes, Donate."
I plan to donate this post's liquid proceeds to help with disaster relief.