Published on September 21, 2021

The View from my Seat

And now, for the weather, as told by friends and family

By Ernie Williamson / The Bulletin

It seems like almost all parts of the country under the weather.

The Washington Post reports that nearly 1 in 3 Americans live in a county hit by a weather disaster this summer, and 64 percent live in places that experienced a multi-day heat wave.

With all this bad weather around the country, and now right here, I decided to check in with friends and family to see how the weather was impacting their lives.

Jim, my nephew in Seattle, reported that the usually wet city had no rain for 59 straight days, the longest streak in 13 years.

Across country, Jon, my college roommate, says Boston has had so much rain that Ida was merely the “tip of the iceberg.”

Jane reports from Montana that skies aren’t blue in Big Sky Country due to the haze from fires in California and elsewhere. She says records were broken as temperatures climbed above 100 degrees on several days.

My brother, Duane, reports from Ojai in Ventura County, Calif. that the average rainfall is supposed to be 18-20 inches. “We have reached that figure once in 10 years,” he wrote. “This year we have had 4 inches.”

He says each property has an allocation of water, and you pay significantly more if you are above your allocation. Lake Casitas, where Ojai gets water, is 33 percent full.

Then there is Andy, my English- teaching nephew who writes terrific descriptions of life in suburban Los Angeles.

He writes about sitting in his backyard in the San Fernando Valley watching the hills ablaze.

"This night, we packed up the 3 kids, 2 dogs, 2 cars and the tortoise as the fire approached the neighborhood from its feeding frenzy of the dry, lifeless hills.

“Surrounded by the lights of fire trucks, the noise of water drops and helicopter blades, and the thick smell of smoke, we pulled away from our home.

“Taking one last look out of the rearview mirror, we simply hoped our home would remain as the glowing flames lit up the night sky.

"It did. But some of the homes closer to the hills didn’t make it. My son’s signage at his local Little League field proudly displaying ‘West Hills Baseball’ was charred, a constant reminder only a half- mile away of just how hot it is and just how little water we have to combat it.”

On the heat and rolling blackouts:

“It is not a surprise to go to sleep in 104 degree heat with no power in the summer. Rolling blackouts are a common practice as the heat becomes excessive and the power grid can’t keep up with its demand. Multiple times we have slept with ice bags and wet rags on our heads while trying to keep food fresh in a cooler with ice.”

On the impact of the weather on his school:

“Whether it’s a direct threat of flames, or the lesser but ironically more long-term concern of air quality, ‘fire days’ are as calendared as winter break. Forget snow days out here, we stay indoors to avoid the smoke.”

On what’s missing:

“Water. It just doesn’t come. We never have a chance to grow vegetation beyond kindle and dry brush. We are at the mercy of a lit cigarette flicked carelessly out of a car window, burning trash or the dreaded lightning strike.

“I can’t remember the last time it rained. I take that back; we had a sprinkle 6 days ago. It was almost a tease like, ‘Well, this is it, nothing left. Good luck.”

I know these events pale in comparison to the death and destruction caused by Ida in Louisiana and the East Coast.

But they are scary in their own way: Is this the new normal?

In conclusion, Andy writes:

“Make no mistake, we are privileged. This is just our story of what we have experienced as the heat gets longer and the water becomes scarce. I can’t imagine the amount of people who lack the comforts we take for granted. The pain, the hardships, the loss of life.”

(Ernie Williamson welcomes reader input. Please contact Ernie at williamsonernie@gmail.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)