Siege Fatigue

Wallbridge Fire sunset, Aug 21, 2020
Walbridge Fire sunset, Aug 21, 2020 (courtesy the author)

The year 2020 is getting more interesting by the day, and Bay Area residents know this better than most.

As Californians we’re no stranger to calamity, as those of us in the Bay Area who lived through the Loma Prieta Earthquake can attest. And over the past several years those of us living in the North Bay have firestorm survival stories to tell as well.

But this year raises the bar considerably.

Family and friends from other parts of the country may not fully appreciate our current anxiety, so I’ll sum it up for them.

Our current daily routine starts with a full round of incident reports that goes something like this:

  • Check the National Weather Service website to see if today will be above or below 100°F.
  • Check the California Independent System Operator website to see if rolling blackouts are in today’s forecast due to demand overload.
  • Check the National Weather Service website again to see if a Red Flag Warning has been issued and high winds are expected soon.
  • Check the PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff website to see if there’s a planned power outage for today.
  • Check the National Weather Service website once more to see if thunderstorms are in the forecast and which direction the wind is blowing.
  • Check the CalFire website to see how close the nearest Lightning Complex wildfire has gotten and whether or not we’ll need to evacuate soon.
  • Check the Bay Area Air Quality Management District website to see if it’s safe to open our windows with all the falling ash and lingering smoke.
  • Check the 511 website for road closures due to wildfire evacuation orders, to see what detours to take to get where we’re going.

Of course with our go-go-go schedule we can’t take that much time throughout the day to check for updates. Fortunately, we have cellphone alerts. Anyone can sign up for custom alerts and get critical information delivered to us when we need it most.

Unfortunately, just so we won’t miss anything important, all those Wireless Emergency Alerts are sent to us accompanied by grating high-pitched sounds that make you want to scream. And since we’re politically correct, they arrive .

Oh, I forgot to mention coronavirus “shelter-in-place”.

Whew! New normal?

Edvard Munch, 1893, The Scream (public domain)

Living out the remaining days of my life on the only habitable planet I’ll ever know.

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