Wednesday, December 20, 2017

California Fire Crews, Homeowners Brace For Return Of High Winds, Two Major Volcano Eruptions

California fire crews, homeowners brace for return of winds

After a welcome lull in powerful winds that drove Southern California's massive wildfire, crews and homeowners braced Wednesday for the return of potentially dangerous gusts that could revive the flames.
Some residents are watching from afar at hotels and evacuation centers, while others are waiting in their homes and hoping for the best.
Katy and Bob Zappala have stayed in their home in Santa Barbara, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles, despite a mandatory evacuation order that's been in place since Saturday.
"Our cars are packed, we have all our clothes and jewelry, so we're ready to leave at a moment's notice should we have to," Katy Zappala, 74, said Wednesday. "We're ready to leap in and leave, and we're just keeping a good eye on the sky."
The Zappalas and their cat, Madeline, haven't left home since the evacuation order was issued because authorities wouldn't allow them back in. They're starting to run out of food and are hoping that if they make it through the next wave of winds, the ordeal will be over.
Some 18,000 homes and other buildings remain threatened in Ventura and Santa Barba counties.
The Thomas Fire, which began Dec. 4, is responsible for two deaths, has destroyed at least 750 homes, and has burned about 425 square miles (1,100 square kilometers).
The blaze was 60 percent contained and now the second-largest in California history. Officials said the new winds could cause it to grow into the state's biggest fire ever.
Firefighters used three days of calm conditions to bulldoze containment lines and set controlled fires to clear dry brush ahead of winds expected to whip up Wednesday afternoon.
Forecasts called for winds of 20 mph to 30 mph with gusts of up to 60 mph by early evening.
That would force fire crews to fall back to safe zones rather than risk being trapped by the surging flames.
"When it's being pushed by 60-plus mph winds ... you're not getting in there and extinguishing the fire, you're just trying to get out of its way and clean up its aftermath," said Capt. David Zaniboni of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.
Days and days of such fierce, often erratic gusts combined with extremely dry weather have pushed the blaze with virtually unprecedented speed, blackening more ground in weeks than other fires consumed in a month or more.
It would take an hour to drive from one end of the fire to the other by freeway, Zaniboni said.
"It's burned through downtown Ventura, it burned through the foothills of Montecito ... and it's also burning in the back wilderness up in the mountains," he said. "It's done a little bit of everything. It's massive."
"We're obviously not going to be able to put out every hotspot," Zaniboni said. "We worry about it blowing an ember, sparking a fire over the (containment) line and basically, doing it all over again."
Around his property, even though the flames went through more than two weeks ago, Bromberg said the ground was still smoking and smoldering.
"It's scary," he said. "It's like it never ends."
Those who remain evacuated are watching the blaze from afar, hoping their homes survive another possible onslaught.

Thomas Fire Close To Becoming The Biggest Wildfire In California History

The Thomas Fire burning in Southern California is on the verge of becoming the largest blaze on state record, accomplishing a shocking feat for this time of year. 

The relentless wildfire burning in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties has burned a total of 272,000 acres and remains 60 percent contained as of Wednesday, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal Fire, said in a release.
While the fire’s growth has slowed since igniting on Dec. 4, it’s on track to claim the title of the state’s largest fire on record from the 2003 Cedar Fire, which burned more than 280,000 acres in San Diego County. The data is based on records dating back to 1932. 

While good weather conditions in recent days have allowed firefighters to make progress in fighting the blaze, wind gusts of up to 70 mph are expected to pick up tonight or tomorrow and could challenge firefighters working on the Thomas Fire, Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said in a Wednesday update. 

There is a red flag warning, which indicates high fire danger and urges residents to be extremely cautious, in effect for Santa Barbara County as of Wednesday afternoon, he added.

A major eruption started at Bezymianni volcano, Kamchatka, Russia at 03:41 UTC on December 20, 2017. According to Tokyo VAAC, volcanic ash plume is reaching 15.2 km (50 000 feet) above sea level and drifting NE. In terms of ash cloud height, this is the strongest eruption anywhere on the planet this year.
The activity at the volcano started gradually increasing on Monday, December 18. According to video data by RAS, hot avalanches at the southeastern flank of the lava dome were observed for several hours, probably as a result of the extrusive eruption. 
This activity, accompanied by strong gas-steam activity continued through early December 20 when strong ash explosions started at 03:41 UTC. Ash plume rose to about 8 km (26 000 feet) a.s.l., forcing authorities to raise the Aviation Color Code from Orange to Red.
At 04:09 UTC, ash plume/cloud was extending 20 km (12 miles) NE of the crater. By 04:20 UTC, it was already 85 km (53 miles) NE of the crater.
"Strong ash explosions up to 15 km (49 000 feet) a.s.l. occur at this time," KVERT said 04:47 UTC. "Ongoing activity could affect international and low-flying aircraft," they warned.

The last major explosive eruption at Bezymianny volcano started at 04:53 UTC on Friday, June 16, 2017. By 05:10 UTC, ash plume from the eruption reached an altitude of 12.2 km (40 000 feet) above sea level and a distance of 40 km (25 miles) NE.
Bezymianny is one the most active volcanoes in the world. It started erupting, for the first time in known history, in 1955. After six months, it produced a catastrophic eruption with the total volume of eruptive products over 3 km3.
The lava dome began to grow in the explosive caldera immediately after the catastrophe and still continues. At least 44 Vulcanian-type strong explosive eruptions of Bezymianny occurred between 1965 - 2012.

The Reventador volcano (3562m) is a rarely documented andesitic stratovolcano located in a horseshoe-shaped caldera in the Amazonian highlands of Ecuador.

Its massive explosive eruption of 2002 which was accompanied by pyroclastic flows threatened nearby oil pipelines.

Presently, Reventador is again in an explosive phase, with powerful strombolian eruptions occurring from vents in the summit crater.

This activity was documented from various viewpoints during day and night in early Dec. 2017.
Ejection of copious lava bombs, ash clouds, small pyroclastic flows around the summit and volcanic lightning were all documented.
According to John Search, Reventador volcano is located 90 km west of Quito.
It is a regularly active volcano in western Amazon.
The volcano has produced frequent explosive eruptions and lava flows.

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