California’s eerie orange haze

For those who think climate change is a hoax, come to California, where dawn looks like dusk under a thick orange haze blanket.

The sun blocked by a clogged sky of smoke and ash, so intense it obliterates the years I lived in smoggy Los Angeles. Having moved from the Midwest in the 1970s, I had no idea there was such a thing as air pollution sickness until my sinus went haywire. But this is like nothing else!

When I relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area, the region’s natural air-conditioning from the Pacific Ocean only required ceiling fans. Of late, those breezes have been beaten back by winds blowing off the desert and a state under seize from blazing wildfires. Tack on oppressive triple-digit temperatures and the supernatural is upon us.

This eerie glow hanging over the San Francisco Bay Area feels like I’ve been thrown into a remake of Shaun of the Dead. Any minute now I expect grunting Zombies to knock down my backyard fence in search of fresh food.

Fortunately, the oppressive heat has moved on, at least for now. But forest fire containment remains problematic. The last couple of years have been astonishing in magnitude and destruction. This year alone more than three million acres have burned, caused by close to 6,000 fires.

The past three fire seasons in Northern California and throughout the state have been inconceivable. No doubt the level of destruction has been exasperated by housing developments creeping into forested areas.

Alas, such is the beauty and danger of those decisions. People wanting to escape the madness of congested living and unbearable commutes. But mother nature doesn’t care. Lightning strikes and hurricane-force winds remain agnostic.

And, the worst of fire season — similar to hurricane season along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts — happens in the months of September and October.

It’s anyone’s guess what’s still in store for us during this inferno-ridden 2020. Last year it took rain to squelch the fury. But the rainy season in California doesn’t usually happen until October, if we are lucky.

Over the past couple of years, some of the worst fires were caused by our Northern California utility company, Pacific Gas & Electric. Power lines downed by Diablo winds, which can reach hurricane force, ignited the fires. These winds can wallop Northern California in the months of September and October, as do the Santa Ana winds in Southern California.

Up North, PG&E never completed safety upgrades, and communities have been decimated and wiped off the map. The utility’s solution has been to turn off power in areas where forecasters predict dangerous wind storms. A treacherous scenario in triple-digit heat, complicated by homeowners reliant on power for medical equipment and medicines. Unfortunately, neither the state nor PG&E has a Plan B. Everyone stuck with Plan A.

Since all this began, emergency preparedness warnings have become more frequent on television, news broadcasts, and social media. A reminder that should be heeded by Californians or anyone in a state with dangerous weather – hurricanes, fires, flood, and blizzards. Gosh at this point, that’s pretty much anywhere!

Whenever the weather becomes weird and wild in California we often exclaim, “It feels like earthquake weather.” Of course, that’s the last thing we need. The off-the-cuff comment more hair-raising than normal, and not without concern. The odds of a catastrophic earthquake on the San Andreas Fault or closer to home in the Bay Area along the Hayward Fault could happen any day.

A prediction that everyone in California knows is not an if but a when. Another reminder to make sure those emergency kits are filled and ready for anything.

Since I began writing this article the air has gotten heavier and darker. It’s now 2:30 p.m. I look out my window. It’s darker than dusk. I need to turn on the lights in my house. I guess day and night will not change much today.

I can’t see the sun. I doubt it will be any better for a rising moon. Those ocean breezes have a massive job ahead battling that smoke thick with the ashes and souls of ancient redwoods.

As a journalist, curiosity and awareness anchor my writer’s toolbox. Nature lover. Mental health advocate. morytnmilo.com

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