This post was supposed to be “Of Slugs III” in my little series within my series on classroom and education events. However, this region is in the middle of an interruption of an interruption of life as we would have it, thus Hunkering Down within Hunkering Down.
Please do not, DO NOT, take this as a plea for sympathy or a woe is me (us) statement. All too many around us are suffering as we only hunker down within a hunker down.
Those of us who live in this region know fire in the forests isn’t unusual this time of the year. But high wind, not normal for this time of the year, came upon us. Wind and fire in the same area is very bad or worse. California has its Santa Anna winds quite often, but the same phenomenon in the Pacific Northwest is almost as rare as a salmon eating a sea lion.
We got the high wind warning and battened down the hatches. The wind came to the urban, suburban, and the forest areas. Even where there was no fire, trees went down, and power went out. Some trees falling over power lines started new fires. Dry timber fire, even when there is little wind, can move at speeds not often believed by those who haven’t experienced it. Pushed at 40 mph and higher winds, nothing stops or slows it except cessation of the wind. Tremendous human effort cannot slow it. Continuous rain is better, but in the PNW that comes later in the year.
Three evacuation levels associated with uncontrollable fire – one, get set; two, get ready; and three, go now. Many leave their homes at level two, because fire does not honor man’s boundaries on the map.
Most have heard the expression, where there is smoke there is fire. The opposite is also true, where there is fire there is smoke. The volume of smoke generated by hundreds of thousands of acres of burning timber was blown west and as satellite maps showed even miles into the Pacific. Air quality level went from good to hazardous in minutes.
Cloth face coverings already used for Covid-19 by most are as helpful for blocking wood smoke as none at all. Research shows 90% of wood smoke particles are less than one micron in diameter – bacteria averages 2 microns – talcum powder 10 microns. Short of gas masks, N95 masks are the most efficient at keeping microns from the lungs. But they and face shields do nothing for eye comfort or damage.
Campers know even a whiff of campfire smoke causes discomfort and coughing. Consider the thickest campfire smoke you’ve experienced surrounding you by 100 miles and two or three miles above you. No one can socially distance from smoke.
So, the wind stopped or nearly so. Fire advances became driven only or mostly by their own weather generation and smoke from the slowed fire advance went up for the prevailing jet stream to distribute.
So, the wind stopped or nearly so. Those micron size smoke particles blocked from rising and joining the jet stream by low level atmospheric inversion did two things. They continued to float in the air or settle to the surface.
Either way this has been far less fun for us safe from the fires than hunkering down for Covid-19 reasons. However, we know our having to hunker down a few days to stay out of the poor to hazardous air quality will end with a wind shift and some rain. Covid-19 hunkering down becomes less restrictive as we learn more, but it is still hunkering down.
Only God knows how long that will last.
We are thankful that family and friends are not in fire level 3, go now, evacuation situation, but some are in level 2 and level 1.
Remember the eruption of Mt. St. Helens? Sort of the same thing. And here we are still!
This rant is over!
Next post1I think
Of Slugs III”