Are you traveling to San Francisco, Napa Valley or Sonoma - Read this!
On Monday morning I walked my first born to school again. Looking out from the window the weather look nice, but when we started walking the cold breeze made us turn back to grab our jackets. I could clearly smell some smoke in the air and I could barely see the Californian golden hills which are close to our house. What is going on? Clearly I had not been following the news that day. I had heard that there is a wild fire somewhere up north, but fires are part of our everyday life in California. In reality, because of the wind, this fire had spread to multiple places fast, and both Napa Valley and Sonoma were burning.
The situation got worse really fast. New fires started and there just wasn't enough fire fighters to battle them all. In Santa Rosa two neighborhoods burned down. Many people literally had only a few minutes time to run from their homes so they had to leave everything behind; furniture, clothes, cars, pets, even their shoes. So far as many as 29 people have died and the amount continues to rise. There is 0% contained of most of these fires. Over 3000 homes have been lost, and two hotels were left to burn since there were not enough fire fighters to extinguish them. Their main task has been evacuating people from their homes. The fire has been said to spread faster than people can run.
Yesterday we saw news pictures of people who returned to the ruins of their houses. A daughter who was looking for her old mother, a man searching for his cat, a young man trying to find his grandfather's dog tags and a lady crying in happiness after finding her wedding ring in the ashes. Many lost all of their possessions; some lost their loved ones or pets. The pictures were heart breaking. The whole place looks like a war zone. People are looking for their friends and family in evacuation centers and hospitals. A lonely mail truck was driving around in a destroyed area still delivering mail to those whose mail box was still up. There has been news of vineyards that were destroyed, and no one really knows how many vines have been lost. Some of the grapes were still not harvested since it is the harvest month. Some say that the heat or smoke can damage the vines, but some of the grapes might survive and take on a smoke flavour. But a sure thing is, that this will hit both the wine and travel industry hard.
Some of the devastation in Santa Rosa:
Yesterday here in the San Francisco East Bay, it was really grey. Somewhere in the smoky sky you could see the sun peak out. Some of my friends told me that is was raining ash where they live. Some cities have closed the schools due to bad air quality. In our city, schools are still open, but the kids are staying inside for recess. People have been advised to stay inside and keep the windows closed. Especially exercising outside is not a good idea. Also San Francisco has unhealthy air quality. This morning I was happy that the sun was visible and I could see the hills again. My throat has started to hurt and my husband is coughing. It is time to plan a weekend trip somewhere.
Today they have ordered new areas for a mandatory evacuation, and no one knows when this will end. The forecast for the weekend predict gusty winds which will be a problem. Winds can change direction quickly and that will affect the fires as well as the air quality. The situation is horrible for everyone here! And the worst is saved of course for those up in wine country. People are collecting donations for the evacuees; food, clothes, diapers, pet food and everything else possible. They also need volunteers to help with the rescued animals.
At this moment there are 22 fires around California. A drought which has lasted years has made a match box. If you have planned a trip to these areas, you should consider a plan B. Most of the businesses at wine areas are closed, destroyed or evacuated, some are without power. In San Francisco, Silicon Valley and other areas near by the air quality is unhealthy or dangerous. Some said that it is same as in Beijing on their normal day. You can check the list of closed wineries in Napa from here, and in Sonoma from here. A list of damaged or destroyed wineries can be found from here.
We are expecting some light rain for next Thursday. Right now, that might be the salvation for California.