By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.
Oregon’s wildfire crisis has crept up as a surprise to me. No good reason why, as I’ve been keeping on top of the California armageddon, with three close friends who are affected – two who live in San Jose and one who grew up in Atascadero. He no longer lives there, but his mother and two sisters and their families do.
I’ve been checking in with all three frequently. So what’s going on in California is no surprise to me. But not so thus far for the wider catastrophe.
The California crisis intersects with the prison pandemic, and I’ve posted on the topic a couple of times.
Yet I now see that the Oregon crisis is also dire. As the AP reports, Latest: 500,000 people in Oregon forced to flee wildfires:
SALEM, Ore. — Authorities in Oregon now say more than 500,000 people statewide have been forced to evacuate because of wildfires.
The latest figures from Thursday evening come from the Oregon Office of Emergency Management. That’s over 10% of the state’s 4.2 million population.
More than 1,400 square miles (3,625 square kilometers) have burned this week in the state. Authorities say the wildfire activity was particularly acute Thursday afternoon in northwestern Oregon as hot, windy conditions continued.
At a news conference Thursday, Gov. Kate Brown said there have been fatalities but the exact number is not yet known. There have been at least three reported fire deaths in the state.
Oregon also faces its own prison issues.
WILSONVILLE, Ore. — The Oregon Department of Corrections says it is evacuating a prison out of an abundance of caution as two large wildfires in the area appear to be merging.
Authorities said Thursday afternoon they evacuated more than 1,300 adults in custody at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, which houses mostly women.
Officials say those evacuated are being relocated and not released.
Wilsonville is about 16 miles (26 kilometers) south of Portland.
And Washington state also confronts fire concerns. Again according to AP:
MALDEN, Wash. — Wildfires have scorched nearly 937 square miles (2,426 kilometers) in Washington state this week, Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday as he toured the devastated remains of the town of Malden.
“We’ve had this trauma all over Washington,” Inslee said, according to KHQ-TV. “But this is the place where the whole heart of the town was torn out.”
Malden is a farm town set among wheat fields about 35 miles south of Spokane, Washington.
Malden Mayor Chris Ferrell said residents only had minutes to get out of town Monday. No one was killed or seriously injured.
Inslee has declared a state of emergency to free up cash assistance for families in need. More than 80% of the homes in Malden were destroyed by the flames.
Scope of Fire Catastrosphe
The scope of the wildfire catastrophe on the west coast is mind boggling. I confess I can’t get my thinking around it. I’ve lived most of US life on the east coast. But I had spent several years as a ski bum in Whistler, BC. And during those years. in the late 90s and early 2000s. I thought of the Pacific Northwest as a green and verdant land.
Thus. it’s hard to get my mind around the current armageddon conditions.
These no doubt are part of the new global warming reality. Not only a problem for tresidents of the Pacific northwest, but also other parts of the United States, and regions of the rest world that are vulnerable to a warming climate.
I grieve for the residents that have had to flee suddenly for their lives, and are facing the loss of their homes.
NASA Image of Scope of Oregon Wildfires
A larger NASA satellite Image is available if you click on the following link, NASA’s Aqua Satellite Captures Devastating Wildfires in Oregon:
NASA’s Aqua captured this image of a huge number of wildfires that have broken out in Oregon. Some began in August, but the majority started after an unprecedented and historically rare windstorm that swept through the Cascade foothills in the afternoon of Monday Sep. 7 through the morning of Tuesday Sep. 8. Wind gusts up to 65 mph were clocked during the event. The timing of the windstorm was unusual because those strong east winds usually occur in in the dead of winter–not in early September. In addition to the heat, it is another example of the changing weather patterns that are being seen. Some fires in Oregon were already aflame since they began in mid-August, but the size of the conflagrations was small. In fact, the Beachie Creek fire on the morning of Sep. 7 was only 469 acres. After the windstorm began the fire grew overnight to over 131,000 acres driven by high winds and extremely dry fuels. Other fires grew as well, and a large number of fires were started on Sep. 8, most likely from flaming debris or perhaps by lightning strikes. Whatever the cause, the winds overnight drove those fires to expand exponentially and quickly as well.
The smoke from fires is seen cascading off the coast into the Pacific Ocean traveling more than 600 miles just in this image. It is striking how thick and concentrated the smoke is in this image, and many cities and towns up and down the entire West Coast are reporting almost “nightlike” conditions and red-orange skies created by particles in the air blocking out all other colors.
Alas, devastating, destructive wildfires seem to be part of the new normal, both on the west coast, and likely elsewhere as well. Recall that unprecedented lightning storms triggered the most recent California fires. This fire scourge it seems will only continue to get worse. Still, some persist in denying the global climate of the planet is changing.