The week past has been one to remember from ground to sky. Dominated by a spate of fires throughout the state, along with our Oregon and Idaho neighbors, the earlier warnings of a bad fire year have come true.
This month fires from the Lake Chelan area brought smoke to the valley propelled by southeasterly winds; and from the northwest thanks to a big fire in British Columbia. As the month has progressed, fire and smoke have invaded the valley. You are probably aware that firefighting resources are on the verge of dismal, according to reports on TV and the Internet. Combatants assigned to the blazes are coming from all over the United States, from as far away as New Jersey.
On Saturday (Aug. 15), the power went out early in the evening and remained out until the wee hours of Sunday morning. An email from the Okanogan County Electric Co-op reported that near Okanogan, fire had destroyed a power pole and they hoped to have the juice flowing again by 1 a.m. It was up again when we woke about 6 a.m.
These dates were also being heralded as the best time to view the Perseid meteor showers, regarded as the brightest of any that are visible throughout the year, particularly in the eastern sky after midnight.
We endeavored to watch the show Friday night. Armed with binoculars, we went out on the deck where there was an unobstructed view of the northeast skies.
However, we were thwarted by cloudy skies, with only an occasional very brief vision of individual stars or planets overhead. The next night was quite clear, but sleep won out over astronomical observations. I determined to try again Sunday night. There were few clouds visible to the east, and the pattern of those that came up all week in the afternoon seemed to weaken and dissipate when they got to the Weeman Bridge — a good night to watch the meteors.
Wrong! We were monitoring fires by television and Internet and knew specifically and generally where most of the fires were located. Sometime around 6 to 7 p.m., a wave of thick smoke engulfed us, coming over and then obscuring Virginian Ridge half a mile away, then the neighbors’ place about 350 yards across the highway. Soon Grizzly Mountain, virtually out the back door was, while visible at the base, partially obscured at the uppermost visible level.
All this transpired in less than half an hour, and thoughts of getting out of here came to mind. But where? In last year’s conflagration, a stubborn gully fire was maybe 2 miles away on the flank of the Virginian Ridge. But it was visible. The smoke was so thick this time we had no idea where the blaze was. We subsequently learned that a fire at Black Canyon, well to the south, had blown up and the smoke tsunami had emanated from that.
It cleared off in a couple of hours, but I’d forgotten about meteor showers by then.
Prior to this adventure, in the three days previous there had been rain clouds, with warnings of heavy winds and rain and possible flooding in the deluged areas that got nailed last year. Apparently there was some of that east of here, but a strange thing occurred: One squall had soaked the road from Weeman to the edge of Mazama only. Similarly, Lost River got drenched, Mazama got none. The rain and winds were dancing throughout the upper valley for two or three days, a blustery ballet.
It is now 10 a.m. Monday morning and the sky is clear. Maybe there will be some meteor showers remaining in tonight’s sky.