Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Evacuation Story

Sunday afternoon Ben took the boys out for a geo-cache hike around Poway. They came home about 1:30 and I was out getting Saturday's mail. As we walked back inside I looked to the East and saw haze in the sky and I remarked to Ben that it looked like smoke from a fire. We came inside and turned on the tv to check what was going on. At that point they said there were 2 brush fires. One large 400 acre fire South of us, and one small 100 acre fire to the East of us about 30 miles. Since neither fire was larger than normal we weren't too worried. But we kind of kept an eye on the news. As the day went on it became obvious that these were not "normal" brush fires. The Santa Ana winds were blowing and the fire was moving quickly. Around 6p the fire was hitting the town of Ramona and was growing by the minute. The county assigned Poway High School as an evacuation sight. The water dropping helicopters that could fly couldn't see through the heavy smoke to drop any water. I knew at this point that it was going to be a long night of watching the television. At about 11p the county evacuated the Poway High School evacuation sight and I started getting a little nervous. By this time the fire was about 10 miles East/Northeast. I packed up some clothes and photo albums and bank statements/checks. Then I went back to watching the television. I stayed up most of the night watching television, only dozing now and then. At about 4am, the fire was to the East and North of us. The fire was moving Southwest and neighborhoods within 5 miles of our home were being evacuated and the fire was raging. At 5am Northeast Poway was under Mandatory evacuation. At this point I woke Ben up and told him he needed to be ready to head out if we got the notice to go. I watched and waited some more. About noon the sky around Poway was clear and blue so I thought we would be safe. I sent an email to my parents and sister letting them know that I was safe and probably wouldn't need to evacuate. I then went and started some mac and cheese for Peter and Liam and just as I was stirring in the cheese one of my neightbors knocked on the door and told us that he had just gotten a reverse 911 call to evacuate. We had not received a call, so I called 211 which had a live person to talk to. When I spoke to the woman I asked her if I was supposed to evacuate and she told me that all of Poway was now under mandatory evacuation. I put the mac and cheese in bowls. Ben helped the boys get their shoes on and grabbed a couple of other things. Then we loaded up in the car and ash was blowing all around us. We started calling friends to make sure they were evacuating too. Then we went about trying to figure out where we were going to stay for the night. One of the men that Ben works with offered to let us stay at his home, so we headed to his house and spent the night there. Around 11am on Tuesday we heard that Poway residents could return home, so we packed up and headed home. About halfway home we heard that Poway was NOT open after all, but we decided to try to go home anyway. As we pulled into our parking lot we got the official notice that our address in Poway was clear to come back to. It is pretty smoky around here, but safe. Last night Ben and I went outside and looked towards Mt. Woodson and we could see large flames burning on the mountain. Fire crews were on the mountain and so we weren't very concerned. As long as there are fires anywhere in SanDiego I will be aware of what is going on and ready to evacuate. In another post I am going to post about deciding what to take in an evacuation.

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