Sunday, October 22, 2017

On lack of services in the midst of (and following) a natural disaster

The Los Angeles Times reports this morning on the Redwood Valley fire, in Mendocino County,, California (population 87,841) which claimed eight lives earlier this month.  One focus of the story is on the lack of services--the lack of warning in this case--as the fire bore down on the valley.  Joe Mozingo writes:
The escape from Redwood Valley began with no evacuation orders, no reverse-911 alerts, no warning whatsoever from authorities. Residents were left on their own to flee for their lives. 
A mechanic trapped by fire on the ground climbed a tree until it passed. An elderly woman raced out in her underwear. A mother and her four children hiked through the brush of a steep mountain ravine to safety. 
Most who survived had to thread a narrow road with trees ablaze on both sides. Burning debris rained down on them as they drove over fallen limbs in the smoke.
And I can't resist including Mozingo's description of Redwood Valley, population 1,729, which is just north of the county seat of Ukiah. He calls it "bucolic" and then continues:
The braided West Fork of the Russian River wends through it from the north as the valley opens from a narrow canyon to a flat bottom-land of vineyards, pastures, modest new homes and old farmhouses.
As for who live(d) in the valley, Mozingo writes of "teachers, firefighters, mechanics, shop owners, contractors, at least one pot grower and several retirees. They had swimming pools, ATVs and backyard work shops."  The story is also chock-full of tales of local, neighborly heroism, just like you would expect in a rural community like this one.

One family hit by the Redwood Valley fire has been the subject of quite a bit of media coverage because they lost their 14-year-old son Kai, the youngest victim of the California fires.  His 17-year-old sister lost both of her legs to amputation below the knees because she was so badly burned in the fire, and the parents are in hospitals in Sacramento and San Francisco with burns over about half of their bodies.  As the family headed down their narrow driveway, their cars caught fire and they scattered on foot.  Read more hereThis story reports that Napa and Sonoma Counties also did not issue Amber alert-style warnings.

And here's a story from last week about a struggle to get relief aid to the more remote parts of Puerto Rico following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria.

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