Monday, June 27, 2011

Unexpected Travel....

Albuquerque, NM, June 27, 2011

Cumulus smoke rising.
My son and I evacuated our home in Los Alamos, NM,  last night. A wall of fire could be seen to the south, about 3 miles long. By 10:30 pm the winds had changed direction and the smoke was being blown towards the south, revealing the glowing forest punctuated by tall flames as groups of trees exploded like matchsticks.

We have done this before. When he was 9, on May 10th, 2000, we evacuated our home along with ten thousand other people, as police cars cruised by, loudspeakers blaring "Evacuate, Evacuate". This time, the authorities were suggesting people evacuate on a voluntary basis. My friend Rheta had packed her bags and was dashing back and forth to her car, eager to meet a friend in Pojoaque and go on to Taos to stay at her aunt's cabin. I said I didn't think it would come into town overnight, but she said "How can you be so sure?". On the way back to my condo, a block away, I could see flames on the ridge. All day long there was only heavy smoke billowing up like a cumulus rain cloud, now there were flames. I went into my condo and said to my son "We're leaving." It took about an hour to gather up the most important things: photo albums, the oil paintings, jewelry, the book containing the trust and all important papers. He packed a typewriter someone had given him recently. I objected for a second, but remembered how the last time I had told him to leave the Nintendo and games behind, only to discover later, after we lost everything, that one of the games had memory, so if we bought a new one, he'd have to play it for weeks to get back to the same 'place' he'd been before. It had broken his little 9 year old heart, so this time, I bit my tongue and told him to take whatever he thought was most important.

The cloud over the condo complex.

I'd removed the back seats (4) from the van weeks ago when I was camping in it, so we had lots of room and weren't even crowded. Binky did not appreciate the car ride and howled inside her cat carrier. As speed increased, so did the frequency of her howling.

Across the canyon: the labs and the glow.
We stopped at the trail head, just east of town to look back at the fire. The condo complex is right on the edge of the canyon between the Los Alamos National Labs and the townsite. All we could see from our condo was an immense column of smoke with flames at the bottom. By 10:30 pm, the wind had shifted and from the trailhead we could see the red glow, the flashes of shooting flames.....the extent of the fire was a swath about 2 miles wide. If the wind holds and the fire is blown back on itself, and IF the rains that are predicted for today materialize, the town should be in fine shape.

Lab buildings and a major flare. Scary stuff!!

So the plan for today is to stay in Albuquerque. I've called friends who stayed in town overnight. The wind is quiet. The labs, most businesses, and county offices are closed. Unless the winds start up again, and blow from the SW as they are usually prone to do, the town should be OK. On the other hand, should the wind shift and increase violently, the town could be in such immediate danger most people might have trouble evacuating. We are staying put.

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