Friday, February 10, 2006
Hunh? Whazzat? ask OmegaMom's readers. WTF is "PoP: 0%"? Maybe I should subtitle this post, "Fire!", in the hopes that it will at least get people humming along with Bruce Springsteen. "PoP" is "probability of precipitation". And that "0%"? It's been hanging around far too long. Living in the dry southwestern woods, one becomes very aware of the coming and going of precipitation. In OmegaMom's area, winter is the precipitation bringer. Tony Hillerman's books deftly portray the Navajo outlook on rains: Summer rains are "male" rains--quick, loud, brash, bringing lots of water that runs off quickly; winter rains are "female" rains--quiet, long, soothing, nourishing. Summer storms gather each day, focus in specific areas--you wake in the morning, and there's a puff, a wisp of a cloud, hanging in the sky over one spot. As the day goes on, you can watch the puff growing, gathering moisture, until the puff becomes a looming thunderhead with a forboding deep gray bottom and lightning zig-zagging from the lower reaches down to the ground and back. And then, kablooey!, all hell breaks loose for about 2 hours--hail, raindrops an inch across, water gathering in the streets and rushing down the culverts. Then, by four in the afternoon, the thunderheads diminish, break apart, and become separate little clouds again, so that, by sunset, you have enough clouds in the sky to grab the setting sun and dazzle with vivid oranges, reds, pinks and purples. Winter storms are different. There's no puff that starts things out--instead, there's a horizon-to-horizon cover of leaden grey, with equally leaden temperatures. You look out over the landscape and see veils of snow leaking downward here and there, and, soon, the snow starts to fall. And it keeps on falling. In a normal year. This year, we have had 1.6 inches of snow since last September. Last year, we had had 101 inches by now. In a normal year, we would have had at least 59 inches of snow. Snow. It lingers. It melts slowly. The water soaks in, slowly. The earth gathers the moisture to its bosom, and in springtime, all that moisture makes the wildflowers riot and the trees spring forth with new needles, all fresh and green and lovely. Unfortunately, our whopping 1.6 inches of snow ain't gonna moisturize nuttin'. And already the fires have begun. Oh, small ones, itty bitty ones. But southern California has already had some big ones down by L.A. (In February?!?! This is not fire season in California. September is. October is. But February?!?!. Shout out to Kate--I was worried there for a while with that Sierra Fire.) There was a fire near OmegaMom's workplace on Wednesday, a teeny-tiny five-acre fire started by an abandoned campfire. They put it out quickly. But we shouldn't be having fires yet--fire season isn't supposed to start here until late April, early May. And every day, OmegaMom looks at the weather forecast, and the dire "PoP: 0%" shows up for another week to come. Not good. Last year was the first in years that OmegaMom didn't go around with a subliminal fear-o'-fire; this year, it seems, the fear-o'-fire is going to be more than subliminal.