Archive for October, 2007

Friday Morning Fire Update and Other Stuff

October 26, 2007 @ 8:09 am | Filed under: ,

Well, I think the Union-Tribune sums up today’s status nicely with this headline: “No new evacuations, but fires far from out.” They have a very good update (with links) this morning if you’d like today’s top fire stories.

We ventured out of the house yesterday afternoon for the first time since Sunday. Our young friend had a birthday to celebrate, and it would take more than a little particulate matter in the air to thwart such important plans. The air was pretty clear in their neighborhood (though probably still not terribly healthy to breathe—“dangerous air quality” warnings are in effect all over the county. Here at home, our eyes and throats burn when we step outside to water the plants. At least, they did yesterday. I haven’t been outside today.

After spending all week poring over San Diego County fire maps (Click to download a PDF of the county’s latest version), it was a welcome change of pace this morning to visit the Journey South Monarch Butterfly Migration map. (Be sure to change the “Week Ending” date to October 31st for the most recent version of the map.) The monarchs are on their way south to their wintering ground in the little mountain town of Angangueo, Michoacan, Mexico. I have to say it gave me a little thrill to look at all those “monarchs were here” dots on the East Coast and know that some of those might have been “our” butterflies, thanks to Sarah, who made sure our milkweed lived on after our move.

San Diego Fire Update: Thursday Morning

October 25, 2007 @ 8:59 am | Filed under:

Well, it looks like the Santa Anas are indeed dying down. Today is expected to bring winds from the west. Most news sources seem to agree that this will improve the fire situation greatly, but the air quality is going to get worse. A lot of the smoke and ash that was blowing out to sea will now be wafted back over the city. Even in the closed-up house, my throat is dry and burning.

But that’s certainly better than the loss of more homes. So far, 1,470 structures have been burned. Here again is the link to the updated (as of last night) list of homes destroyed in San Diego County.

Speaking of the Santa Anas, if you go to the LA Times website and scroll down a little way below the main picture, you’ll see a link called "Sketchbook: How Santa Ana winds fuel fires." It pops up a series of rough pencil-sketched diagrams demonstrating how the Santa Anas are formed and how they start and feed fires.

The Harris fire is still pretty ugly on its eastern side, threatening more homes there as it eats its way toward the Cleveland National Forest.

The San Diego County Emergency homepage is now posting good news updates, including frequently updated fire maps.

As I mentioned at Bonny Glen this morning, I’m finding the KPBS Twitter feed to be another excellent source of updates. It only gives brief bulletins (that is the nature of Twitter), so for in-depth information you have to dig elsewhere, but it’s a very good and informative starting point.

I missed the morning news briefings, but SignonSanDiego has a recap.

President Bush is arriving in town today.

I was particularly interested in this series of blog posts about deaf evacuees at Qualcomm Stadium and what accomodations have been made for them. Jane and I were pleased to see a sign interpreter next to the podium at all the news briefings we have watched.

Speaking of Qualcomm, I’m seeing conflicting reports of how many people remain sheltered there. Yesterday I read 5,600, then I read 11,000, and this morning KPBS is reporting there are only 800 evacuees left there? I know many evacuated communities have been reopened and people have begun to return to their homes, but that many, in that short a time span? Maybe it’s a typo—8,000 would make more sense.

As for us, we had a more normal day yesterday—normal for an at-home day, that is, but not normal for the busy day of activities it was supposed to have been. We canceled Shakespeare Club, alas, and actually settled down to some lessons in the morning. Jane and I did a big Latin review (I am trying to keep up with her Latin studies, and failing woefully), and everyone did some math. The younger girls have created a whole village of Sculpey creatures—enough to fill a miniature Qualcomm Stadium.

I’m All a-Twitter

October 25, 2007 @ 12:52 am | Filed under:

I confess that when I first heard about Twitter, I rolled my eyes. The concept seemed to me the ultimate in navel-gazing. Sharing our thoughts via blogs and feeds isn’t enough? We need little widgets for zapping out little thought-bulletins so that no writer need wait for the 20-minute chunk of time it takes to write a blog post? Do we really need more undeveloped, spontaneous fragments of one another’s thoughts flitting across our screens?

Then came the wildfires, and I became a Twitter convert, just like that. All week, the KPBS Twitter feed has provided the fastest updates on fire and evacuation news. Whoever is manning that feed is doing the work I don’t have time to do: listening to scanners, sifting through the TV and government-agency reports, compiling all the bits and pieces of information so crucial during an event like this—and getting that info out to the public as fast as it comes in.

This is practical information, not commentary or reflection. It’s topical, timely, a sort of 21st-century twist on the old phone tree."
  Tower 23 in Pacific Beach is offering 12 hotel rooms to evacuees for the next 2 nights- call now 858-270-2323," twitters KPBS. If I were looking for a place to stay, this would be just the kind of pertinent, just-the-facts-ma’am information I would need.

Jonathon Mulholland ponders our changing news needs:

We really are approaching a turning point in news dissemination. We
want information quicker than traditional media sources can deliver, we
want it pushed to us at point of the event, and we want to be able to
engage with it as it happens.

I was shocked to realise yesterday that I now consider even
traditional web news outlets to be ‘old’ and slow. I was frustrated
that I was getting quicker/better updates on the fires from Twitter
than from – and I’m of the generation that would rather
look up the news on BBC or CNN than wait till the evening bulletin!

Surely traditional news outlets, and official news suppliers such as
government agencies, fire departments etc will start using new/social
media services as channels for disseminating official information. A
FEMA Twitter account, properly managed, would be a valuable service.
Easy for affected citizens to opt in or out of, and a quick fire method
for sending advice, updates and warnings.

This week’s fire news-watch has me reconsidering my initial dismissal of Twitter’s usefulness. I’m still not interested in the kind of breezy, trivial "right now I’m sitting in a Starbuck’s about to renew my library books online" kind of Twittering I saw when I first visited the home page. (The text-entry box at Twitter invites you to share with the world "what you are doing" right now.) I mean, enjoy your latte, but honestly I could put the three seconds it took to read that to much better use.

But event- or crisis-Twittering, there’s an idea with potential. You can set up your Twitter feed to be public or selected-viewers-only. That means that if there were a family crisis, you could get information out to your loved ones (and only your loved ones) rapidly, easily, instantly.

I’m thinking about other ways this technology could be useful. The "Blogging for a Cure" event, for example. Many of us across the kidlitosphere are posting regular updates with links to each day’s Robert’s Snow posts, and some bloggers have even set up post-schedules in their sidebar. It’s been great, having so much access to the information—but it does mean a lot of us have been duplicating efforts. (And I for one have dropped the ball on many a day.) Is there a way to use Twitter to update with links to each post as it airs? I don’t know; I’m just thinking out loud here.

In any case, Twitter is definitely an application with possibilities for good. The KPBS feed has made that quite clear.

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Take a Book Walk with Cay

October 24, 2007 @ 7:07 pm | Filed under:

Bookwalkmd_2 What’s a Book Walk?

Something fun Cay Gibson is hosting
. Last week she offered a free copy of her book, Literature Alive!, to the 17th person who emailed her.

Tomorrow, she’s doing it again. This time, the lucky winner will receive a copy of her new book, Christmas Mosaic.

Make sure to drop by her blog tomorrow and throw your name into the cake bowl!

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For My Non-Fire-Obsessed Readers: Something a Little Lighter

October 24, 2007 @ 6:57 pm | Filed under:

I’ve had this post sitting in drafts since the sunscreen post. In the comments, responding to my question about what’s worse, sunscreen or sun exposure, Becky offered this very sensible suggestion:


Our eldest first went to the West Indies to visit her grandparents
when she was five months old, and we went with all three to live there
for seven months when our youngest was not quite two. So sunscreens
were pretty much out of the question.

Not to mention that with all that inning and outing with the pool
and the beach, and my husband’s and my sweat making the sunscreen drip
off, you spend more time reapplying than actually protected.

My husband and I each have Tilley hats with broad brims, and the
kids have a collection of baseball caps and also Tilley-style hats. The
key seems to have been starting them out young, so they are used to
having hats on in the sun 🙂

I know you’re right. Alice said the same thing. You are wise women.

I wish I liked hats.

I like them on other people. Just not on me.

Of course, part of the reason is because I’ve been toting a baby in a sling pretty much nonstop for 12 years now, and I’ve never yet known a baby who could resist the delights of whipping a hat off mom’s head over and over and over.

But I’m probably using that as an excuse because I just don’t like wearing hats.

Maybe I’ve just never found the right one.

I do love the look of an old-fashioned wide-brimmed straw hat with a ribbon around it…I guess I never really thought of wearing one myself, but maybe I could pull it off? (Or the baby could…ba dum bum.)

Something like this?


Of course, it’s sort of summery. For cold weather, there’s this little number:


Or one of these?


In for a penny, in for a pound?


San Diego Fire Update: Wednesday Afternoon

October 24, 2007 @ 3:11 pm | Filed under:


A Martin Mars Water Bomber is flying in from Canada to assist SoCal firefighting teams. This flying tanker plane can dump 7500 gallons of water at once, enough to cover a three-acre area.

Some fire updates:

Witch Fire (now merged with Poomacha Fire), 10% contained, 12 firefighters injured, 2 civilians injured, has burned 225,000 acres. The quaint little mountain town of Julian, known for its fall apple-picking opportunities, is in serious danger. It has been evacuated and has lost power, and firefighters are working to redirect the blaze that threatens it.

Scott had actually planned to take yesterday off work and take the family for a drive up to Julian. Does not sound like we’ll be making that trip this fall after all.

The Poomacha fire is burning its way up Palomar Mountain now.

Horno Fire at Camp Pendleton, 10% contained, 800 evacuees, has burned 6000 acres. This one shut down traffic on the I-5 earlier today, but I think it has reopened now.

Harris Fire, the one south/southeast of us, has caused widespread evacuations but seems to have been somewhat redirected away from heavily populated residential areas. It has also burned its way eastward toward the Cleveland National Forest.

Some repopulating is occurring today in scattered communities now deemed to be out of harm’s way. But this is only a small percentage of the evacuees; thousands of people remain in shelters around the county. New evac orders have come through all day today as the fires

Schools are closed, the courts are closed, and people like us in non-threatened zones are laying low, keeping the roads clear and avoiding the smoke. We had to cancel Shakespeare Club today, which crushed the kids. A small sacrifice compared to others’ losses, though! The footage of destroyed homes is devastating.

Up in Orange County, St. Michael’s Abbey had a narrow escape (and is still not entirely out of danger). Fr. John Caronan writes:

"Please keep us in your prayers as the fires around 2pm this
(Tuesday) were just 200-300 yards away. The abbey is completely empty.
We all
evacuated by 4pm. We hope that the abbey will be spared as firetrucks
the abbey as we have about 4-5 fire hydrants. We took refuge at St.
John the Baptist parish in Costa Mesa. We don’t know when we’ll be able
to return to the abbey."

(HT: Michelle Bru of Regina Caeli Academy Independent Study Program.)

This aerial map image from DailyKos shows the smoke of all these fires swirling out over the Pacific. But I think now the winds are blowing mostly east? It’s the west-blowing winds, the Santa Anas, that have created this inferno.


(Click to enlarge.)

Mayor Sanders is trying to decide whether the Chargers will be able to play their Sunday afternoon game at Qualcomm Stadium as scheduled. I’m a little surprised there’s any question about it at all. Over 11,000 people are living at Qualcomm right now. Are they really going to be able to return home by Sunday? I would love to think so, but it seems like these fires are a long way from being under control.

One of the Steele Canyon High evacuees I wrote about this morning has suffered a stroke and was taken to the hospital.

Five people have died in connection with the fires: one in the Harris blaze, and four others during or after evacuation.

Snowing Here, Flaming There

October 24, 2007 @ 2:22 pm | Filed under:

I’ve been doing all my wildfire-blogging over at Lilting House. Somehow I felt too tender about the Robert’s Snow post to pile a bunch of fire gloom on top of it.

Be sure to visit the other snowflake posts for some beautiful artwork and fun illustrator interviews. Here are links to yesterday and today’s posts:

Tuesday, October 23

Wednesday, October 24

I’m not the only member of the kidlitosphere to be affected by the fires…Sondra of Kane/Miller Books had to evacuate. Here’s her post about it. I hope she and all the other Kane/Miller folks are staying safe and don’t suffer any damages in the fires.

UPDATE: The Kane/Miller newsletter hit my in-box today, with this note about how the staff is weathering the firestorm:

As most of you know, Kane/Miller’s main office is located within San
Diego County. Luckily, our office has not been affected by the fires


While the employees of K/M
have been lucky enough to all have homes still standing, the areas in
which we reside are filled with smoke and ash and
the schools which
our children attend have closed for the week as have most businesses to
help conserve resources.





As our books are housed in New York and we have the availability to connect through the internet remotely, we ARE processing orders
although there may be delays in responding to your emails and phone calls. We truly appreciate your patience during this time.

I’m so glad to hear their homes are safe so far!


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