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Friday, Saturday, Sunday and most of yesterday,the noonday hour here in Orange County, CA was deceptively like a normal day’s six o’clock in an evening.

The air outside was thick with falling ash, the plants outside were covered in fallen ash, and on Sunday, the air outside was barely breathable. But, at least, it was better than Satuday, when it wasn’t breathable at all.

Fortunate me, what with central air conditioning and HEPA air filters throughout the house — no gloating here — so that I wasn’t outside except to test the atmosphere and would not have known just how bad the air quality actually was had I not been curious about the oddly darkened midday hours, on each day, and on each day, assuming things would change, but on the next day when they didn’t, again venturing outside and by Sunday, remembering why I am fascinated with Herculaneum.

Because it looked like volcanic ash was strewn about and streaming down, here in Orange County, positioned just north of San Diego, South of Long Beach, CA and exactly downwind from the worst of the fires in Southern CA, the “Old Fire” upland in San Bernardino. All of the burned land and housing blew straight overhead where I live, what with the Santa Ana winds blowing down from San Bernardino, out to sea, and my house on the coastal area directly underneath all of it as it was blown here and eventually will blow out to sea if the Santa Anas continue (if they don’t, it’ll all linger here longer and then blow inland, to the East).

I didn’t take photographs. It was spooky, worth having a visual record of. It was unnerving to see such little sunlight at noon, and what light was visible, was browned, yellowed, ashen grey.

I washed the plants down in the middle of last night and then washed away a black swelling from the front walkway, mindful not to waste the water, but mindful, also, of getting much of the smudgy debri away from the house and off the plants. Today, I’ve remained indoors again, but saw my first patch of blue outside.

Now, the brief, blue sky is gone. By four this afternoon, the air again resembled late evening, what sunlight was earlier visible, now gone, and that yellow, thick atmosphere has returned. And, tonight at midnight, us Pacific Coasters are due to receive the effects of one of the most severe solar flares of recent times (“S3” rating).

So, it’s not over yet.

At least the winds have changed direction — the hot, dry, Santa Ana winds that originate in the inland desert and blow West, Southwest, toward and then off the coast toward the Pacific Ocean, have finally subsided, and the normal, inland colder and more damp ocean air that blows off the Pacific, toward and over the state have returned. The pollutants from the fires in the local atmosphere are at least now being blown away and/or dispersed from the concentrated areas of the past four days.

Tomorrow should be better, but, perhaps, it’s best to not forget Herculaneum any time soon.

Here’s a reprint of an Associated Press Graphic, found in The San Francisco Chronicle, that illustrates the general intensity of the Southern California, area-wide fires with my notes explaining my graphic notes afterward:


(1.) red arrow lines are the direction of the smoke flow from the most intense of the fires, other than those in the San Diego area to the south of me, and,

(2.) green area indicates vicinity in which I’m located, to emphasize the intensity of the air pollution and fire threat where I am (because by Sunday, even the pollution from the San Diego area fires had migrated to my area to the north of there).

And, within the last hour, more sirens can be heard in the area, the sky’s now much darker and white smoke is visible outside the windows.

I’m at home, waiting for the clear, remembering Herculaneum.

C O M M E N T S : now closed