Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Monet in the Sky over Lafayette & A Historic Firestorm Rages Out West

We had a gray day yesterday, but nature made it up to us a sunset. As a cold front swept our way, the drier air mixed with left-over altostratus clouds providing one of our finest sunsets of the year. This is what I call nature's version of Monet. It certainly looked like a painting and I was glad I had my camera on me. This fiery lining in the clouds is telling us a nice sunny day is on the way today, but it will not last very long. We are tracking a slow-moving low pressure to our South in a stagnant pattern that will not only keep us cool but unsettled at times, especially by Thursday night. Here is another picture of last night's sunset and notice we went for an orange hue to more of a deep red color as the sun went farther below the horizon. What a sight!

Not even Hawaii's sunset could compare to what we saw last night on the southside of Lafayette. I have taken many pictures, but these two above have to rank right up there with some of the best I have taken. Maybe some of Dena Flanagan, Mary Anne Best, Bill Snyder, and Monty Sloan have finally rubbed off on me. Really nature made it easy on me while making me look really good!

While we were all basking in the glorious sunset last night our thoughts and prayers today certainly go out to those in California. Some estimates have up to a million folks that have had to evacuate. Some Lafayette residents have family they personally know that have had to pack up and move. It is the largest evacuation since Katrina in the U.S. Unofficially, I came up with my own list of largest U.S. evacuations I could find. I have at least 50 almanacs at home and here is the best I could do to give you an idea of how serious the fires out West really are.

It is hard to believe that the California firestorm that started raging on Sunday is fourth on the list. Hurricane Floyd threatened almost the entire East Coast and of course Rita was the fourth strongest hurricane on record in Atlantic Basin history. The firestorm is in some big company because many are now calling it California's worst Santa Ana fire ever. The irony is that this same weather pattern that finally brought us some nice cool autumn weather brought California devastating fires caused by drought conditions, stifling heat, and 120 mph wind gusts. We just happened to be on the cooler side of this big weather system. Check this out!

You can see the nice northwest flow for us being provided by the big ridge of high pressure out west. This shifted our wind to a new northwesterly direction and brought in real autumn weather. But with the clockwise flow around this high pressure it also brought scorching hot desert dry air that raced out of the canyons toward the coast of California. These areas were like a tinderbox and at last check at least 1,400 homes have been destroyed by fire along with 6 deaths and 45 injuries. Smoke is being picked up on satellite pictures extending up to 700 miles off the California coast. This is an epic event and if this is not enough, there are reports of fire tornadoes. I will explain what this is here on the blog by later today. The good news is that the Santa Ana winds or those strong, desert dry winds around this high pressure will continue to die down today hopefully allowing firefighters a chance to try to begin to really fight the 12 fires that have scorched at least 375,000 acres and counting. It certainly gives you something to think about on this Wednesday.

Fire tornadoes- They are funnels of fire caused by hot gases that are whipped by the wind from the side at just the right angle which can cause spin in the atmosphere. Burning embers associated with fire tornadoes have been known to start more fires and have had a deadly history. In 1923, Tokyo, Japan watched in horror as close to 40,000 people were killed by a fire tornado.

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