Giant Swaths Of California Wine Country Are On Fire
Yet as Of Time Of Publication Of This Newsletter, Trump Has Tweeted This Morning About:
• How “Liddle’ Bob Corker” is a fool.
• How ESPN ratings have “tanked so badly”.
• How he unilaterally will make changes to Obamacare that will allow insurance companies to sell policies that do not comply with current law.
• How Democrats don’t want secure borders.
• How tax laws should be changed to make the NFL suffer since they are “disrespecting our flag”.
• Touting a laudatory book about himself.
And shortly before that:
• In support of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
• In defense of Christopher Columbus.
All the while this is happening:
Once again the President seeming to continue a “tradition” of being slow to respond to people who didn’t vote for him. (While some Northern parts of California are quite “red”, all the parts ablaze right now are politically very “blue”.) Also, keep in mind the fires started Sunday.
Vice President Mike Pence, at a previously scheduled event near Sacramento last night, said “we are with you” and praised first responders. He also said he’d spoken to California’s Governor Jerry Brown. It’s being widely reported that Pence Tweeted on Trump’s behalf. However, we can find no such Tweet on the VP’s feed. (Not that Twitter counts for everything. But unfortunately, in this Administration, it counts for a lot.)
Pence didn’t make it explicitly clear if his spoken words of support mean the Trump Administration will grant Governor Brown’s request for emergency federal disaster aid. Late yesterday, the California Governor made a written request to President Trump.
The Fires Burning So Hot And Intense They Are Visible From Outer Space And Brighter Than The Lights Of San Francisco At Night
Wildfires and earthquakes are to the West Coast what hurricanes are to the East, and California is not being spared the calamitous string of deadly weather related catastrophes ripping through the U.S. this year.
Dozens of separate giant fires sweep through wine country North of San Francisco, leaving at least 10 people dead. In addition, more than 100 missing persons reports have been filed.
Overnight and early this morning, existing fires grew, and new ones cropped up. Evacuation areas are being expanded.
It could be the most destructive firestorm since the Oakland/Berkeley hills fires more than 25 years ago: potentially less damaging only because it’s in a more sparsely populated area. More than 20,000 have been evacuated from their homes. At least 2,000 buildings have been destroyed, and upwards of 73,000 acres continues to burn. Sonoma County’s Sheriff says “zero percent” of the fires are contained.
The severity of the blazes partly because the fires are being fanned by “Diablo”, or devil winds, which are the same as Southern California’s Santa Ana winds: blowing down from mountains in Nevada and Utah. The National Weather Service is reporting gusts peaking in Sonoma County at close to 80 miles per hour.
Although it’s the lead story for many major news organizations this morning, the fires started Sunday, so we continue to be puzzled by why so many were slow on the uptake. Is it fatigue over climate disasters? Is it Trump not Tweeting about it?
SFGate is providing continuous live updates which you can read here.
Some photos from the LA Times, Washington Post, and The Guardian:
Personal Take: Watching In Horror As Fires Destroy Our Former Home
One Chaos Report editor woke up to the realization that the wildfires were burning up our former home in central Sonoma County — small towns clustered around Santa Rosa (pop. 175,000). We were terrified by fires in 2015, but those were mostly in the mountains. These are in densely populated areas.
We texted our friends and they are safe. Two were evacuated at 3:50am. Evacuation is complicated by the fact that there are simply very few roads. Cell, electricity and internet services were down across the North Bay. One family farm further north in Healdsburg took in evacuees, and hoped the fires wouldn’t spread there. Another family farmer wetted her fields in Windsor, just two houses south of one blaze.
Winds drove one fire across California’s famed Highway 101, smack into a residential and commercial area.
Try fighting fires in winds like these (video):
Entire neighborhoods look like war zones, with barely a house left standing (video).
It’s Too Early To Talk About The Impact On The Wine Business, Except That It Really Affects Peoples’ Lives
While everyone is most concerned about human and animal life, remember that Northern California is the capital of America’s wine industry. It employs 46,000 people in Napa. More than 3-million annual visitors bring in $80.3 million in tax revenues to the county, according to SFGate. Tourists spend nearly $2 billion in Sonoma County each year, a large part of it right now, during harvest season.
In Napa County’s Atlas Peak 30 workers were airlifted by CHiPs — Signorello Estate and several other wineries were destroyed, Mead Ranch may also have burned, and William Hill Estate’s sign was burned — but its owners say the winery is intact.
In Sonoma County, “pretty much the entire eastern mountain range from Santa Rosa to Glen Ellen looked like it was burning,” one winemaker told SFGate. The Paradise Ridge Winery burned to the ground. Nicholson Ranch and Chateau St. Jean appear to have been destroyed. Behler Vineyard and Scribe Winery are threatened on all sides. At Carlisle Winery in Santa Rosa’s Bennett Valley, SFGate reports that workers kept picking in the smoke, until they were evacuated at 5am.
Many industrial winemakers in the city of Santa Rosa have evacuated, so it’ll probably be days before we know the damage.
Further north in Mendocino County, Frey Vineyards has burned.
We may be looking at a grape shortage. So-called “smoke taint” from fires could render grapes still in the fields unusable. Burned vineyards can take 3–5 years to bear fruit again. Plus, wineries generally store a lot of wine, and this could have been burned or tainted.
EPA Chief Picks Exact Spot With Highest Lung Cancer Rate In The U.S. To Announce He’ll Allow Plants To Pollute More
Scott Pruitt says that today he’ll order a soup-to-nuts repeal of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. That plan aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 1/3 by 2030. “The war on coal is over” Pruitt crowed.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, while making the announcement in Hazard, Kentucky, Pruitt was standing in pretty much the exact spot where the highest incidence of lung cancer occurs in the entire U.S.
For many proud coal miners in the area, the risk of lung cancer just goes with the job. Obama’s vision would’ve required construction of huge new wind and solar farms in order to help reach his plan’s stated goal, so presumably cleaner, safer jobs would’ve been created in those industries. But maybe not fast enough.
So from an economic perspective, what the Trump Administration is trying to do is kind of like “Making America Like The Final Failing Days Of Soviet Russia Again”, where archaic industries and production methods are propped up just to avoid the implications of having a lot of angry people out of work, and to support wealthy friends in the business.
We talked a lot yesterday about Senator Bob Corker and what’s becoming a knock-down, drag-out fight with President Trump. Particularly noteworthy because Corker once praised Trump’s approach to foreign policy, so he’s gone a long way from there to saying the President is setting the country “on the path to World War III”.
James Fallows in The Atlantic has an interesting piece about immediate actions Corker can and should take vs. simply Tweeting back at the President. At its core: if Corker truly believes Trump is unfit for command, he should use his position as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to hold hearings on whether Trump’s behavior is truly perilous. He cites as precedent hearings held by a previous Foreign Relations chair, J. William Fulbright, who convened what he called “educational” hearings about President Johnson’s role in the Vietnam War. While the Fulbright hearings did not have an direct impact, they did help shift public opinion against U.S. involvement in Vietnam.