Wednesday, September 7, 2011

There's Something in the Air

You know that smell that belongs solely to autumn? The crisp, cool scent spiced with just a hint of smoke wafting from the first cozy fires of the season?
Well, that’s not what’s in the air here. It’s the acrid scent of wildfires. And it’s coming in waves.
At first it smells like the scent a faulty electrical appliance gives off when the connection starts burning. My first reaction is to check the computer then inspect the rest of the house, trying to sniff out where the fire smell is coming from. Once I’ve convinced myself nothing in the house is burning, I step outside. That’s when I know my house isn’t in imminent danger. That it’s a way-off burning, but not so far off as to not still be worrisome.
This year has been the hottest on record in North Texas. Couple that with it being among the driest on record and the wildfire danger escalates dramatically. I started to saw a piece of sheet metal in two last evening to make some repairs to the goat shed and stopped when I saw the sparks it was giving off.
While much of the South and East has been contending with tropical storms and hurricanes, we’ve received about 15% of our normal amount of rainfall for the summer – and that amount came early in the season. Our next chance of rain (and it’s not looking like a good one) isn’t until the middle of next week.
We broke an all-time record with 62 days of 100+ (F) temperatures (37.8 C). Lake levels are at their lowest. Two of the three ponds on my property are completely dry and the third isn’t looking well. What this means is that there isn’t much hay being harvested locally. That will drive prices up – waaay up – for the winter, and that means economically stressed ranchers will be forced to sell their cows and goats this fall rather than overwinter them and non-food horses will be left to starve in pastures that are nothing but dirt. Rescues are already taking place. We have grim times ahead.
It isn’t just the smell of smoke that hangs heavy in the air today. It’s the smell of great sadness looming just beyond the horizon.


Sarah Laurenson said...

We're used to having the four seasons of earthquake, fire, flood and landslide here in Southern CA. It's hard to watch the rest of the country go through it now.

We choose to live where this craziness happens (and pay well for the privilege to boot), but we also get the beautiful summers that generally are not too hot and the mild winters that are not too cold.

Plus we do not deal with hurricanes or major tornadoes (we do have little twisters from time to time). Our humidity level has been around 15 lately. That's low even for us, but we're not much higher than that year round.

And all that is why I chose to buy a house in a well settled suburban area that is flat and not near a hill or canyon. It's also old enough to have weathered many earthquakes and still be standing. I'm lucky in that I found a job with a decent commute. And DW has a 2 mile commute to the train station with a 9 minute ride.

We can see the smoke lately. Sometimes the fires get close enough to drop some ash. Have gotten that at work, but not at home yet.

Beckah-Rah said...

I feel ya. The grass in my backyard is more like cactus needles than leaves. I've tried to do my part; I water only once a week and my lawn is a tinderbox. It makes me mad when I see lush green lawns and sprinklers running for two hours a night. Ridiculous.

I drive over lake Lewisville on my way to work everyday, and you know what? It's a field right now. I kid you not. A nice green field with some puddles all around, where once it was a LAKE.

vkw said...

Smoke. I live at the base of a mountain and the wind blows more days than it is calm.

We have no smog here because of it.

But when it is calm the smoke from burning forest fires settle over us. It feels heavy. I feel it in my lungs. I feel like I can't see. It's like my world has grown smaller. Like I live in a dome. . .

I think of the people who live in congested areas and promise I'll never curse the wind again.

Then the wind comes - 14 mph steady, 30 mph gusts, my screendoor goes flying, my dogs go squirrely because they can't hear or smell, (they are partially blind) and I curse the wind. . . .

I feel for you Phoenix.

Jo-Ann said...

As we had the worst wildfires in the State's history about 2 and 1/2 years, ago I feel jittery on your behalf, Phoenix. are the balzes under control yet?

Following similar conditions that you are experiencing, (ie, years of drought cumulating in a scorching summer of record breaking heat and low rainfall) a large portion of the state went up in a blaze one day now referred to as Black Saturday, in which 174 people were killed (google the term, if you want grim reading).

I personally know people who lost their homes. One couple stayed and pumped thousands of gallons of water over their roof and put out spot-fires and saved their home. SO they went to help others. Then a change of wind direction meant the fire front turned around - and burnt their home when they were not there to defend it.

But at least they lived to tell the tale, not all were as lucky. Fire is a treacherous dangerous beast.

But take heart! This too, passed. We have had two summers since then. The one just gone was unseasonally cool, and we had record breaking rainfall - flooding, actually! Nature's the boss.

Here's hoping that you and yours are ok.