The reality for all of us living in the Western US right now is fire and smoke. If you’re not affected by fire, you breathing in the smoke from the fires. Even here in the desert of the Reno area we have air that is listed from hazardous to merely unhealthy. For the first time ever, the county’s Health District has posted a “Stage 2 Air Pollution Warning.”
When we moved here you could look out from our front door and clearly see the hills that are just a couple of miles away and looking across the basin you could see the Eastern Sierra. The last few mornings that view has been of smoke shrouded hills and the Sierra is complete obscured by smoke. Even though the nearest fire is 60 or so miles away, we can smell the smoke. Going outside isn’t something you want to do and it’s started to get into the house.
Most of our time here so far it’s been too hot to go outside for more than just a few hours in the morning. Now that the temperature is reasonable to be outside all day, we have smoke driving us back indoors. We hear from our friends and family in San Jose that the air is worse there and a recent heatwave made things unbearable. Here in the desert we have a good A/C system, but that isn’t the case for many back in San Jose.
This last week was my older brother’s 71st birthday and we decided to make the long drive back for a birthday lunch. It’s about a five hour drive oneway and doing the round trip in one day makes for a long day. While we were in the process of selling our home in San Jose, I did many one day trips so it didn’t seem like a big deal to do it one more time for my brother. I had briefly considered staying in a motel overnight, but with Covid restrictions and fears it seemed safer to have a long day in the car.
That was Wednesday. All of you here in the west coast know what the skies looked like on that day. It was clear and cool as we left Reno and headed over Donner Pass. As we descended down in the California’s Central Valley the air became at first grey, then orange, and then dark. The automatic headlights in my car came on about Fairfield as Heather tried to get pictures of the gloom. I noticed that the streetlights had come on at the off ramps and instead of a sunny 9:30 am morning, it looked more like early evening as the sun was going down.
Heather texted the pictures to our family and our daughter-in-law replied back, “Turn around now! You’re driving into the apocalypse!”
I did consider that, but didn’t want to disappoint my brother and I thought it would get better near the coast.
It did, a little, just from dark to brighter grey. Turned out not to be the best day for a picnic in the park to celebrate a birthday. Still, my brother enjoyed his lunch out although we thought we felt rain from time to time – likely it was just ash, and not water.
Returning home, the smoke because less dense as we started up highway 80 and finally mostly clear when we arrived home. Sadly that didn’t last as the next morning we could see the gray smoke starting to build over the eastern mountains like a slow motion wave crashing into the Reno basin.
It’s gotten worse each day and no real sign of when it will clear. Even the weather forecasters don’t want to guess so we take it day by day.
This thing makes it difficult to be positive and keep up doing creative work. Someday it will be better, but for now we just do what we can and wait for that clear cold wind that will bring clear air.