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Heat wave, wildfires, power outages, drought & pandemic: The price we pay living in paradise
rim fire
Photo courtesy US Forest Service The 2013 Rim Fore that burned 250,000 acres near Yosemite National Park. The fire started seven years ago this past Monday (Aug. 17, 2013).

They’re right, you now.

There is not really much difference between 105 and 110 degrees.

The five degrees are not what makes it miserable. It is how you react to it.

That said there are things than can make you uncomfortable.

Among them are humidity and wildfire.

Mother Nature gave the South County both Sunday as light rain and a rare summer thunderstorm that brought lightning strikes started four wildfires in the Diablo Range.

The biggest is the Canyon Fire in Del Puerto Canyon 30 miles southwest of Manteca near Patterson that as of 7 p.m. Monday was at zero containment and had burned 10,000 acres.

If you did not see the billowing smoke rising from the hills and spreading across the sky heading a across the valley toward Merced on Sunday you definitely smelled it in the wee hours of Monday as the wind shifted direction and the smell of soot and smoked jarred the senses of those awaken from a summer slumber that had their windows open and air conditioners silent.

The temperature at 1 a.m. was 84 degrees. It was supposed to bottom out at 75 degrees by 6 a.m. but the smoke served as a “hot” cloud cover trapping heat the earth had absorbed during the day as Mother Nature tried in vain to drop lows down into the 70s.

If that bothered you, try to imagine what it was like at 1 a.m. Monday in Death Valley when the temperature was 103 degrees. That came 10 hours after the National Weather Service recorded an air temperature of 130 degrees at aptly named Furnace Creek. That’s the highest reading on earth since 1913 when a temperature of 131 degrees was recorded in Death Valley as well.

That’s only part of the story. The highest recorded ground temperature in Death Valley is 201 degrees.

The California Independent System Operator that controls the state’s power grid has warned that electricity demand means there is a strong chance of more rolling power blackouts through at least Wednesday. It’s not helping that cloud cover — and wildfire smoke — is undermining solar power production.

The lightning caused wildfires also are adding to the precarious power situation as it could force planned outages to keep a dangerous situation from getting worse.

A prolonged heat wave. Wildfires. Rolling power outages. A pandemic. Drought conditions. The only thing to make it the quintessential experience of hell in paradise is an earthquake.

It is difficult to see any joy in this until you understand it is part of the cycle of life in California.

This is not an attempt to take a Pollyanna view of reality.

It is reality.

Regardless of where you stand on climate change the world — and especially the terrain we marked as California — has always been about fire and ice.

Volcanoes that created hellish conditions that make what we are experiencing now seem like a cold snap as well as massive glaciers over at least three distinctive periods consisting of tens of thousands of years each shaped the state we live into today. There are often hundreds of quakes each week almost all so small you can’t feel them. We have six active volcanoes as defined by geological yardsticks including one of the world’s largest super volcanoes in the Long Valley Caldera that Highway 120 skirts the northern edge of as it passes Highway 395 east of Yosemite National Park.

Harsh cycles of floods and drought were commonplace long before the term “climate change” was coined. Two scientific disciplines — carbon dating and dendrochronology which is the study of tree rings — underscore the assertion of hydrologists that the last 200 or so years have been abnormally wet in California and the rest of the Western United States. Climate change activists or not, drought is the norm for California.

Wildfires are nature’s way of renewing forests and wild lands. Infernos caused by countless lightning strikes such as the one now raging in the Diablo Range southwest of Manteca depending upon the time of year they start would rage for months before the return on the wet season would finally stop them.

Today with many of California’s 40 million residents living in opportune places for wildfires to consume with little regard to establishing fire perimeters has led to the practice of fire suppression that has only sharpened the destruction of wildfires that plague us.

And while we’ve patted ourselves on the back for the ingenuity that allows water to be transferred hundreds of miles out of natural water basins to fuel the growth of world-class urban centers on the arid coast and transform the San Joaquin Valley into the most productive farm region the world has ever known, it has also set us up for periods of devastation when we enter drought cycles.

The rolling blackouts are a none-too-subtle reminder that we live in relative comfort in what can often be hostile terrain thanks to technology that relies on energy to power. Ironically if we lived even as people did just 80 years ago relying on fans, summer porches, plenty of trees in yards picked so then provide massive shade canopies, and not rely on powered devices to make everything in our lives less labor intensive right down to brushing our teeth we might not face sweltering without the help of modern meanings of cooling in the middle of a relentless heat wave.

Conspiracy theories aside, the pandemic is just another one of many tricks nature has up its sleeve to manage this planet that we as mankind snuggly believe we can master.

Just like other living things whether it is trees such as elms being ravaged by disease or deer herds being thinned by contagious bugs, mankind is no different.

While we have the ability to modify or bend nature for a while, we are arrogant to act as if we are the masters.

All of the doomsday gloom that is riddling social media today is way off base.

The world is not going to hell.

We are simply paying the price of living in paradise.