Monday, November 12, 2018

Why did the Catastrophic Camp Fire Start Where it Did?

The tragic Camp Fire of northern California has killed at least 31 people, destroyed approximately 7000 structures, and basically leveled the retirement community of Paradise, California.

It appears that the fire was initiated by a failing PG&E  power line in the Feather River Canyon just to the north of the town of Pulga (see map with arrow below).  The time of failure was roughly 6:15 AM November 8th, with fire reported 15 minutes later.


A regional terrain map shows the position of the town of Paradise (big star) and the fire initiation (red oval).


But why did the fire start in the specific location northeast of Paradise?    Even more interesting,  the regional winds were blowing, but were not THAT strong--which probably explains why PG&E did not de-energize the power lines.

The map below shows the winds (see barbs, and max gusts over the past hour-red numbers) at 6 AM Nov. 8th, right before the power line failed.  The red oval shows the failure location (click to expand).  Sustained winds of 25 knots at the Jarbo Gap location just to the south of the failure, but mostly less.  Jarbo Gap had a gust to 51 mph, and the other locations were less.  You wouldn't think that such winds would take down big high-tension power lines.


The Jarbo Gap RAWS site is about 5.5 miles to the S-SW of the failure site, and located on a ridge.  Winds were from the northeast there, with gusts around 50 mph for several hours before the power line failed (see below).



So why did the power line fail where it did?  Could there have been much stronger winds there?  Was the location of failure one of particular vulnerability? 

I suspect the answer is yes.   To gain a big clue, lets look at the terrain immediately around the failure location.

As you can see below, the accident location was within a canyon or gap, which was oriented to the northeast--ALONG THE LARGE SCALE WIND DIRECTION-- upstream from the accident site.
Winds would tend to be channeled and strengthened in the Canyon (again the failure site shown by an oval).


But let's zoom in.  The power line failure occurred on the northeast side of a terrain feature, where the canyon narrowed.  The terrain features would have blocked the flow and thus the winds could well have been substantially accelerated at EXACTLY the location of the failure.



If I am correct in my hypothesis about the failure of the PG&E power line, it has some major implications for how PG&E decides to de-energize their lines.

They can never put in enough wind sensors to know the winds everywhere and to sense every wind hot spot.    So they may want to become much more conservative regarding when they shut down regional power lines (e.g., when winds gust above say 40 mph). 

Or they can make use of more sophisticated wind forecasting/analysis technologies, using ultra-high resolution models (e.g. grid spacing of say 50 meters) to determine where the hot spots are and how they relate to the large-scale winds.

The DRI CANSAC model, which only has 2-km grid spacing, was going for quite high winds (sustained winds of roughly 45 mph) in the vicinity of the failure site (see below) and it was not resolving the canyon properly.  So this was a real warning.  Now the model could be overdoing the winds, but PG&E folks have to understand that there can be localized accelerations in vulnerable locations, such as the one where the fire stared.

Modern weather prediction technology provides a powerful tool for making decisions about de-energizing power lines and for warning vulnerable areas.  The loss of life for events such as at Paradise can be reduced greatly with the application of this technology.

And, of course, there is something else....the rapid growth of people living at the vulnerable wildland-urban interface.

And I won't get into the global warming aspects of this event (which I believe are quite minor).  I will talk about this in a future blog.

43 comments:

  1. I think downed power lines provides and interesting argument for more "off-grid" or "micro-grid" power development. It already seems like quite an economic burden to maintain power lines in rural areas which may only serve a small number of customers. With solar and battery technology now (or very soon) reaching grid parity in price, maybe it makes sense to provide grants to rural customers to ditch the grid entirely. Permanently de-energize those lines. Fewer maintenance costs for power lines and fewer fires, all powered by renewable energy seems like a win-win to me....

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  2. Welcome to the new progressivism, Cliff- fascism disguised in a fist covered in velvet. Disagree with your Orwellian overlords and face the loss of your career, the loss of your friends, the loss of your community, the loss of your right to free speech, and possibly the loss of your life. They have no shame, no decency, they are beneath contempt.

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  3. Sorry to learn that you've experienced harassment for attempting to tell the truth, Cliff. I have a new perspective on the risk you take when presenting a perspective that differs, even if only relatively little, from the "progressive" orthodoxy. As the first commenter said: keep it up - and stay safe.

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  4. @Jay Freeborne, the recent fire activity is not even especially high by comparison with the pre-suppression era that began in the early 1900s. You and the rest of your cult scare pretty easily.

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  5. @Unknown, it's always fun to hear from yet another "progressive" who spouts the latest buzzwords he's seen on what, Mother Jones or Grist? I live in one of those rural areas, and I actually know how much solar and battery technology costs. In fact, I'll forget more than you will ever bother to learn, because once you do dare to learn you will see just how foolish your "solution" is.

    The short version: Solar panels at our place would have cost about $40K. Batteries to store the excess would have cost $600K. Yep, and here's why: You must not only shift from day to night, but you must also shift from summer to the rest of the year. Batteries cost ~$400/kW, plus installation. Oh by the way, the warranty runs only 10 years, vs. 25 years on solar panels.

    So it's not really $400/kW but $1,000/kW if you're going to match the longevity of panels. So you are advocating that I spend, over the next 25 years, $1.5 million on batteries. Perhaps now you realize why those of us who actually do our homework have so little regard for the lazy "progressives" of Seattle who think they are intelligent but are very much the reverse.

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    1. @placeholder

      Everything you say about the high cost of off-grid power is absolutely right. Building and maintaining sufficient storage is not cheap!

      I don't understand why you feel the need to pull politics into it though - you're assuming a lot about the person you're replying to, and using it to further a partisan point of view that has absolutely nothing to do with anything anyone is discussing.

      -Nick, one of those Seattle liberal progressives.

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  6. Yes, Eric people don't seem to be tolerant to free speech when it goes against their opinion or bottom line dollar.

    I was kicked off of a website called turns all year and all my posts were deleted for the approximately 6 years I was a member there, so around 1000 posts.

    The website allowed personal attacks directed towards me for expressing my opinion based on facts.

    I exposed the illegal cutting activities of our local Helicopter Company when they got caught Buy Local Backcountry skiers cutting down whitebark pine trees in order to create unauthorized Landing zones. That company was less than truthful on the extent of the cutting when first questioned by the Forest Service and the whole thing got pinned on a helicopter pilot who was new to the area.

    I started posting about Nwac and their ties to the commercial Mountain guides. It seems nwac was not accurately reporting non injury near Miss Avalanche incidents when it concerned commercial guides and their clients.

    Nwac has no problem employing guides to investigate and Report near-miss and fatal Avalanche incidents when it concerns members of the non-commercial public.

    I posted the facts and they didn't like it.

    The members of nwac put pressure on that site to have me removed and they did just that.

    I appreciate the fact that Cliff lets us express our opinions here and I know exactly how he feels when the haters come to town.



    Chris H.
    Heli-free North Cascades

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  7. I agree that for PGE to have wind sensors on all their transmission towers would be impractical, but I think having them at locations where winds can be exceptional is a feasible start, and people in this area of expertise would be highly valuable identifying critical places.

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  8. Cliff - Thanks for the meteorological observations. Your desire to stay clear of the climate change effect debate makes sense. It is important and significant, but not the entire story.

    As a land use planner, I have noticed that the media has significantly avoided the implications of building homes in fire-prone areas or of fire-wise property development. I am NOT blaming the victim, but the destroyed or threatened homes are in incredibly vulnerable location. It is not a discussion we are willing to have as a society.

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  9. Chris H - interesting commentary on the politics of Heli ski operators in your neck of the woods. You think it's bad south of the 49 parallel just imagine how the loaded dice rolls in BC where they operate right in class A parks with impunity (and much backroom protection from the government)

    BTW. Despite your optimism, the absence of your experience of censorship here may be only because so far you haven't provided anything deemed worthy of censorship.

    Thats the thing about censorship. There is no evidence of it to the general observer to whom you are now appealing, only abundantly evident to the censor and the censored. But then thats just how it rolls when any person can create a blog and control it as he/she sees fit. Just do what i do - roll with the punches and rephrase it all to soothe the ruffled feathers of the censor. If they can't handle that then they are likely not worth your time anyway.

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  10. Cliff, I listened to you on the radio, and read your blog, for years while lived in Seattle. 5 months ago I relocated to Paradise, and am of course regretting that now, as I have probably lost everything.

    They haven't let anyone back up to the town yet, so most are completely in the dark as to the fate of our properties and belongings.

    Keep up the good work. Your posts on the Camp fire have been incredibly helpful in aiding my understanding of happened. Thank you.

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  11. I've lived in California since 1947, and have lived through droughts, floods, high winds, snow where it's very rare, and a goodly number of earthquakes. I've sweated out forest fires, hoping they would not burn my place down. They say that the more things change, the more they remain the same.
    The Ice Age ended before mankind developed his/her industrial environment, or cars, yet there had to be significant warming of the earth to end that age. There have been many massive changes in climate over the eons.
    I'm just not impressed by small changes in average temperature. The sun is a major player in the temperature, but it's not mentioned by the global warming group.
    Life goes on, and it will till the sun starts to die out, or we engage in a tremendous nuclear war.
    Relax, enjoy your time, and be thankful for web pages like this one. It's a great web page!!

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  12. Thanks for your comment Bruce. I recently read a story concerning a ski area cutting down white bark Pine trees in BC, if I remember correctly. It seemed the gov up there took the matter very seriously and was considering levying in some significant fines.

    Here on the east side of the North Cascades, our local Helicopter ski Company got a slap on the wrist and the Forest Service went along with the "pilot did it" cover story.

    One owner of that heli-ski company approached me at my local community center and demanded that I stay out of Mazama 4 times during his very angry verbal assault. I felt threatened and harassed and filed a police report.

    The Forest Service didn't seem to care too much about that incident either. I guess it's okay with them if one of their corporate partners intimidates a witness.

    In the times we live in ethical considerations, environmental habitat destruction and law violations should still outweigh a private corporations privilege to make money off of public land. Sadly that isn't so.

    And Steve you make a good point. At some point though insurance companies are going to stop insuring homes in fire-prone areas just like they do in flood-prone areas.

    And like flood-prone areas or earthquake zones, building codes in wildfire-prone areas should define how buildings should be constructed using fire resistant materials, closed soffits and sited away from heat reflective terrain features, etc.

    Chris H.
    Heli-free North Cascades

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  13. Thanks Cliff.
    I volunteer with Washington Trails Association. For many of us, a favorite day is using crosscut saws to remove blown down trees from our trails.
    The terrain does channel winds. We find a dozen trees in an area, with none up or down trail from the little funnel of a canyon.
    Multiple blowdowns are reported by hikers. Then WTA schedules a "log out."
    And the old saws start singing.

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  14. Free speech in the United States has become a joke. People aren't stupid; the average Joe knows what going on. Keep up the good work, Cliff.

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  15. Never in my life did I think I would live to see climatology politicized and debated. Climatology! Study of past weather, a case of did or didn't.

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  16. Thank you Cliff for bringing up this timely topic. Sadly I believe that this loss of life, property damage and tragic group of fires could have been prevented.

    1.Why did Governor Jerry Brown veto a unanimous bi-partisan bill on California Forestry Management in 2016
    https://canadafreepress.com/article/ca-gov.-jerry-brown-vetoed-2016-wildfire-management-bill-while-ca-burned
    Many states use large herds of goats, yes goats that forage and consume ground based fire fuel sources such as shrubs and tall grasses and weeds, why not California?


    Could it be he wants to create a closed feedback propaganda loop to re-enforce his Globalist global warming, economy killing carbon tax? The Paris accord had America paying trillions to our competitors while they continue massive pollution until 2030.

    2. Most countries to protect their citizens, economies and forests have a comprehensive forest management plan, why not California, thank you Jerry for the parting gift. You ought to be ashamed and charged with multiple counts of manslaughter!

    3. All high voltage transmission power lines have highly accurate ground current leakage trip relays. They need to be calibrated and tested on a regular basis for safety of properties on which the power line towers travel. If the setting are set to prevent nuisance trips and power loss, fire can result. The fire would then burn down that phase wire. There needs to be an investigation to see the frequency of nuisance trips, the existing ground current trip settings on this line and the last time the relays were calibrated. Companies often conveniently reduce routine maintain to safe their profit margins at the cost of the consumer. Remember all of the exploding underground power vaults in Los Angeles a couple of years ago. Lack of maintenance.

    A couple more points that I would like the programmed global warming alarmists/propagandists to be aware of, do you notice the increasing volcanic activity on our earth. Did you know that all of the planets in our solar system presently have the same increases in volcanic activity taking place? Our entire solar system is traveling through space, where changing levels of electromagnetic fields effect our planets magnetic core. Please do some of your own research, and stop believing the globalist propaganda?

    Stop following the lying main stream media, your best interests are not served.

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  17. Hi Cliff
    So sad the conspiracy theorists are back on this forum.
    Here are some other headlines from "Canada Free Press", the origin of "MyTwoCents" reference.

    -- Democrats Did Not Take The House. (Nov 12, 2018)
    -- A NEW LOW FOR CNN’S PRIMA DONNA (Nov 12, 2018)
    -- More Deaths From Cold Weather Than Hot Weather (Nov 10, 2018)

    Cliff, you have managed to keep the discussions, as far as I have seen, apolitical, in as far as one can. Please let's not be distracted by the types of conspiracies of the previous poster.

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  18. for the life of me I have no idea why people are allowed to build with anything other than concrete in these urban interfaces. But hey that would be regulations and infringe upon private property rights which would be the antithesis to freedom, right? Maybe they should pay the bill for the government funded effort to save their oversize houses? Maybe they should not collect the fat check the insurance industry will write them all that we will pay for? I get it, fires happen and using antidotal single incidents is unscientific, but there is plenty of science on global warming at this point. Cliff is just being contrary for the sake of being contrarian. As the record books are being rewritten every day Cliff refuses to call these things what they are, the results of global warming.

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  19. Thank you for your analysis, very interesting look at the winds where the power line failed. What also struck me is that Paradise was built the downward slope of the Sierras, that means any fire that starts uphill can race towards the town. Fire goes faster downslope than up under the same wind and temperature conditions.

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  20. So we are now informed that a wind-damaged PG&E high tension power line has been identified as the initiation source for the Camp Fire. As a consequence of this disaster and their negligence in not doing what they could have done to prevent it, let's assume that PG&E is now in deep legal and financial trouble.

    DISCLOSURE: I sometimes post on WUWT and on Judith Curry's blog as 'Beta Blocker'.

    The advocates of renewable energy technology -- wind and solar backed by grid-scale battery storage -- are claiming that renewable-powered microgrids can avoid the need for routing high-tension power lines through heavily forested areas prone to wildfires.

    As restitution for their mistakes in not shutting down their power lines soon enough to prevent this disastrous fire, consideration should be given to forcing PG&E to use Chico and its surrounding service area in an experiment to determine how best to create an independent microgrid which can be used as a model for other areas of the state.

    My view is that the oncoming small modular reactors such as the 50 Megawatt SMR which NuScale is building might some day be useful for powering a microgrid-based electric power architecture of the kind now being proposed.

    For example, thought has been given to using the SMR's for Puerto Rico's long-term power needs. Unfortunately, general commercial availability of SMR's for these kinds of applications is at least a decade away.

    In its decision to close the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, PG&E said that California can easily achieve 70% renewable electricity by 2030 assuming that appropriate and timely investments can be made in the newest technologies. PG&E sees no further need for nuclear power in California and so would not consider using an SMR for a microgrid even if one could be made available within the next few years.

    If PG&E or its successor corporation -- possibly a publicly owned utility along the lines of Energy Northwest here in Washington State -- if that successor can be tasked with this experiment, then the true costs of maintaining PG&E's Year 2030 mix of 70/30 renewables and non-renewables can be accurately predicted using a large-scale prototype microgrid as the real-world data resource.

    The microgrid PG&E or its successor constructs for the Chico service area would include both wind and solar facilities plus enough energy storage capacity to allow for a 70% renewable, 30% non-renewable energy resource mix, as measured on an annual basis.

    A thorough engineering study can determine how many solar panels, wind turbines, and grid-scale battery storage facilities are needed, including where these facilities are best located to maintain a stable microgrid while ensuring the target 70/30 energy resource mix is achieved.

    The results of the detailed engineering study for the Chico service area, including a detailed cost & schedule estimate for the project, would be very informative in and of itself.

    The baseline estimate for Chico could also be useful for producing a larger-scope detailed engineering study for what it would take to implement a 70/30 renewable/non-renewable energy mix for California as a whole by 2030.

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  21. Mytwocents, I think you're missing the point of the "global warming alarmist" mission.. for me at least, it's not about the temperature. It's all about keeping our home healthy. There are too many people on this planet to act the way the previous generations have. We are going to have to organize and cleanup. Our trajectory as of right now does not point in a good direction .. at least from my perspective.

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  22. California's government won't let PG&E go under. There have already been some initiatives passed to limit PG&E's exposure. Laying the entire responsibility of these events squarely on the feet of one entity is unrealistic at best anyway.

    Besides, litigating PG&E into oblivion is as smart as taxing utilities on carbon. They will just pass the cost along to the consumer. Not to mention the money going to the legal profession that won't be earmarked for repairs and grid maintenance which is the donkey the plaintiffs are hoping to pin the tail onto....

    Yes, this is America and someone has to be held responsible, even if only for the sake of convenience or the ability to single out one large entity with perhaps deeper pockets. There always has to be a patsy or a fall guy that has enough involvement to be low hanging fruit for easy litigation. Which runs in opposition to taking a hard look at the aggregate of how this all came to be and how poor practices related to US development habits of building sprawl on the cheap. From that perspective, there is plenty of blame to pass around but no one will own most of it.

    Building micro-grids and other such ideas still are ridiculous if homes are still being built in known fire zones, or flood plains or anywhere people really should not be putting up homes to start with.

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    1. But for-profit PG&E is not a "fall guy" if, in fact, it is operating unsafely. As for passing along costs to consumers, corporations are getting away with that even when they are not required to clean up after their mistakes: "San Francisco-based PG&E said profits totaled $406 million in the second quarter, a jump of 97.1 percent compared with the year-ago second quarter. ... PG&E's revenue from natural gas operations has climbed steadily amid big increases in recent years for ratepayers' gas bills." Jul 27, 2017, Mercury News

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  23. hey goofballs, just a reminder. cliff mass does indeed believe that humans are contributing to the warming of the planet, and he also believes that "global warming" was a contributing factor to the severity of these current California fires. just thought i'd remind y'all, seems like some of you are gloating/bloviating.

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  24. Building micro-grids and other such ideas still are ridiculous if homes are still being built in known fire zones, or flood plains or anywhere people really should not be putting up homes to start with.

    You can build in "known fire zones" if you do it right. How do I know? Because I just built a house in a "known fire zone." We have a very wide buffer between us and anything flammable, along with a metal roof and a sprinkler system. That's how you do it.

    We fled Seattle last year, seeing the handwriting on the wall. We now live in a county east of the mountains. Among other things, our county has a mixture of public and private forests. Want to guess which ones have burned? You've got it: the public forests. Do any "progressives" seek to learn how private forest managers keep their trees from burning?

    Nope, not at all. See, you can always tell a "progressive," but you can never, ever tell a "progressive" a single thing.

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  25. Joe Mama - Yes, we are all aware of that. Yet the totality of all his communications here does serve to minimize the extent of that contributing factor, in risk terms. You shouldn't be surprised that anyone, Goofballs included, finds that the significantly larger proportion of his messaging to be contradictory to his usual one sentence footnotes at the end of every relevant blog.

    I think what we all find perplexing, considering your observation, is that he devotes next to zero blog space to describing how that present day small contribution can and should be perceived as significant in actual risk terms. The hazard of climate Change is entirely - I repeat, entirely - a forecasting problem, not a now problem. The mitigation of that problem is very much a now problem but the actual hazard will not be realized until later, especially if we fail to mitigate. What he needs to expand upon more is not the criticism of hyperbole that naturally results from a poor response to risk but exactly how these little and seemingly inconsequential contributions are in fact of the utmost significance in terms of forecasting.

    and that is no gloat, just a description of the incongruity in his messaging.

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  26. So if your home burns down are you going to own the decision and the consequences or blame someone else for it?

    There have been wildfires long before there was PG&E or dumb people throwing fireworks or cigarette butts onto dry brush etc. Certain topography and meterological conditions have encouraged these fires for ages. Only it wasn't as big a deal in the past because there were not people living there. Climate change is definately in play, but if you build below sea level in Louisiana or in a canyon that is a natural wind tunnel full of dry brush....well....

    It's not a red or blue thing at that point. It SHOULD be common sense. If you want to defy the power of the natural world than don't be surprised when things don't always go 100% your way and don't claim ignorance while placing blame elsewhere.

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  27. OBVIOUSLY USING TECH-ARTEFACTS DRONES, BALLOONS, RELIGIOUS-MISERABLES-RELIGIOUS ARE BURNING THE FORESTS IN THE ENTIRE WORLD

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  28. Climate change is definately in play, but if you build below sea level in Louisiana or in a canyon that is a natural wind tunnel full of dry brush....well...

    Yep, and when Seattle is destroyed by that subduction fault, or maybe by Mt. Rainier erupting, those of us in Eastern Washington will surely gloat at your terminal smugness. Look, you arrogant "progressive," the United States is chock full of severe weather and natural hazards. What makes you people think you are so much better than everyone else, anyway?

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  29. And yet one more "AGW is going to kill us all unless we spend trillions on preventing catastrophic ocean warming" -

    https://judithcurry.com/2018/11/06/a-major-problem-with-the-resplandy-et-al-ocean-heat-uptake-paper/

    If these people had any shame, they would've retired years ago. Hey, remember the screeching about how the polar bears were going extinct in the next few years (I think that was started about six years ago) -

    https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/so-many-bears-draft-plan-says-nunavut-polar-bear-numbers-unsafe-1.4173058?utm_source=CCNet+Newsletter&utm_campaign=c52ac0006d-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_11_13_12_33&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_fe4b2f45ef-c52ac0006d-20154709

    The more things change...

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  30. Eric Blair - You do realize I hope that your above Judith Curry link does nothing to "disprove" the hypothesis of heat sink in the oceans and if it demonstrates anything, only that once again that the system of peer review is alive and well in basic scientific research.

    entirely unlike review amongst your own peers, perhaps?

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  31. Hey Placeholder...

    Take it down a notch.

    That comment of yours can basically be interpreted as:

    "I am going to gloat at the death, destruction, and misfortune of others just because I don't agree with them".

    You want to ask why others might have a perception of being of a better character than you? Just keep it up.

    Yes, there are hazards everywhere. They are all factors to consider when choosing to live somewhere, but some are known and predictable.

    Wildfires are Seasonal with established weather patterns. Hurricanes? Ditto.

    Most floods are Seasonal and occur in areas that frequently flood.

    Even Tornadoes have a geographical area and time frame

    Volcanoes and Earthquakes do not have that level of predictability. All that can be done is to mitigate the risk with building codes and planning. Its an elephant in the room. Besides, this is a weather blog, not a geology blog. It used to not be a politics blog....

    My post is not suggesting the government should step in and tell you where you can or can't build or how you need to build, even though there is some merit to it. Do what you want. Just own the consequences. Don't persist with the logic of it being Army Corps of Engineers or PG&E that is exclusively to blame when it is time to lawyer up after some misfortune. A misfortune that just so happened to be highly predictable.

    If anything there is a suggestion that as science improves and these events are more well understood, than as a SOCIETY we can do better to adapt to them. Some of that adaptation might involve not building in a high risk area at all. Or if you chose to, you build to best suit the area and its risks, instead of just playing the odds and practicing Hope as a Tactic. Bad things happen to the other guy, right? That might come as a rub to the rugged individualists out there who do NOT want anyone telling them what to do.

    Great!

    No one is under any illusion that we are a united, civic minded society in the Good ole' US of A. That ship has sailed long ago so it really IS on the individual to make their choices.

    Again. Just own the consequences, whatever they may be. That is all.


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  32. Hey Placeholder...

    Take it down a notch.

    That comment of yours can basically be interpreted as:

    "I am going to gloat at the death, destruction, and misfortune of others just because I don't agree with them".

    You want to ask why others might have a perception of being of a better character than you? Just keep it up.

    Yes, there are hazards everywhere. They are all factors to consider when choosing to live somewhere, but some are known and predictable.

    Wildfires are Seasonal with established weather patterns. Hurricanes? Ditto.

    Most floods are Seasonal and occur in areas that frequently flood.

    Even Tornadoes have a geographical area and time frame

    Volcanoes and Earthquakes do not have that level of predictability. All that can be done is to mitigate the risk with building codes and planning. Its an elephant in the room. Besides, this is a weather blog, not a geology blog. It used to not be a politics blog....

    My post is not suggesting the government should step in and tell you where you can or can't build or how you need to build, even though there is some merit to it. Do what you want. Just own the consequences. Don't persist with the logic of it being Army Corps of Engineers or PG&E that is exclusively to blame when it is time to lawyer up after some misfortune. A misfortune that just so happened to be highly predictable.

    If anything there is a suggestion that as science improves and these events are more well understood, than as a SOCIETY we can do better to adapt to them. Some of that adaptation might involve not building in a high risk area at all. Or if you chose to, you build to best suit the area and its risks, instead of just playing the odds and practicing Hope as a Tactic. Bad things happen to the other guy, right? That might come as a rub to the rugged individualists out there who do NOT want anyone telling them what to do.

    Great!

    No one is under any illusion that we are a united, civic minded society in the Good ole' US of A. That ship has sailed long ago so it really IS on the individual to make their choices.

    Again. Just own the consequences, whatever they may be. That is all.


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  33. Interesting post. But I am waiting for a discussion of why we are having such dry weather in November. What will happen over the next couple of months?

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  34. Jet Stream is still to our north, wrapped around that never ending high pressure....

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  35. Steve Oulman, Rarely is a tragedy the result of only one factor. Be it a car accident or house fire or whatever. To your point I am reminded of the coastal homeowner who builds her house on the beach and then is devastated when her house is blown into the sea by a hurricane. If one builds their house in a area prone to disasters, then one should have a disaster plan in place.

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  36. Just one other observation on Cliff's analysis. I went to Google Maps and looked closely at the site indicated by Cliff as the origin of the fire. Although the resolution isn't great, that spot is exactly where the power lines cross a small canyon through which Dogwood creek flows. Again, difficult to see for sure but it looks like the lines are allowed to sag fairly significantly... perhaps more that runs over more "level" terrain. If so, somewhat higher tensile force on the high tension lines and also in an area of localized high wind due to the canyon.

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  37. Placeholder: Gloat all you want. When Seattle experiences the "Big One," we, in Eastern Washington, will suffer immensely. There WILL be infrastructure damage here also. The power system will be crippled. The food and goods supply will be cut off. Floods of refugees will spill over the mountains. The whole Pacific Northwest will be severely impacted.

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  38. A real tragedy. But this shows that earth is a hostile place. Despite motherly imagery and juvenile personification from the green activists, earth is not a loving mother, and is in fact often trying to kill us. In order to survive earth’s violent threats we need sensible engineering leadership and not attorneys turned politicians who peddle in emotion and sign up for the latest fad in urban planning or “consensus” politicized science.

    Note that in Paradise, CA in 2014, town leaders put together a “road diet” traffic calming plan that took the Skyway arterial through Paradise from four lanes to two with a turn lane. Of note is the same “road diet” mentality here in Seattle with overzealous bicycle lane encroachment (even bike activists at the Cascade Bicycle Cllub admit that ridership is a tiny percentage of what it would need to be to have any meaningful impact on traffic) and major new arteries like the Alaskan way bypass tunnel with no exits to the city center. Every weekday is near gridlock downtown and that is normal traffic. Can you imagine the mayhem if there was a major volcanic disaster or earthquake?

    When leaders put future doomsday scenarios ahead of real and immediate safety and efficiency, huge tragedies can and do occur.

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  39. For the life of me I do not understand why the US isn't doing more underground power cable lines (e.g. like Canada). ESPECIALLY in harsh weather environments (like California?) Anyone have an explanation other than significant costs upstream but significant savings downstream. This is the perfect public-private infrastructure investment that the current administrations - BOTH at the state and federal should be promoting..................................................... JJ Washington state.

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  40. @JeffB

    You make some good points however life on this planet is well adapted to the conditions on this planet.

    I often see animals in my winter time human powered mountain travel, that is that is unless heli-skiers are nearby, and marvel at how well adapted they are to their habitat.

    After a long day on the trail, I go home to modern-day adminities. Those animals I encounter are home and I wouldn't survive very long stripped of those modern-day amenities.

    Humans kill more humans then Mother Nature does and humans kill and displace more animals than mother nature does. So let's not pin it on mother nature.

    You are correct about planning deficiencies. Often planning favors development dollars over sensible development that favors Public Health and well being.

    This tragedy, like many, are entirely the result of human negligence, in planning, in how we value our planet and how we and value each other.


    Chris H
    Heli-free North Cascades

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