“Snowflakes of ash fell so lovelily you were tempted to stretch out your tongue to catch them, taste them. Only, they would have scorched your lips …”
~ Young adult book author Markus Zusak
from The Book Thief
Last week the Crescenta Valley was awash with amber-colored light as an ominous plume of smoke rose in the northwest sky. With ashes falling like snowflakes, visions of a time and place in history came to mind – Pompeii and the 79AD eruption of a volcano, Mt. Vesuvius. As the Sand Fire continued along its seemingly never-ending path, the foothills were soon blanketed in smoke and ash. With memories of the not-too-long-ago Station Fire, a smoke plume quickly gets our attention; as with Pompeii when billows of steam rose from Mt. Vesuvius, few have forgotten the past.
Wildfires and volcanoes seem an odd topic for a weather column. Imagine or take a look at an image of a volcanic eruption then compare it with the photo below. Both illustrate pyrocumulus or “fire clouds.” They form from rising air that results from intense heating of a surface. Wildfires and volcanic eruptions give foundation for this natural phenomenon. A big fire produces strong updrafts carrying water vapor and ash high into the atmosphere. The same is true with an eruption of a volcano. Here’s a dichotomy … if enough water vapor collects it rains!
Friday and over the weekend as a flow of monsoonal moisture moves in a cumulus cloud of a different type is expected to make an appearance. Its conditions are notorious for creating massive thunderheads – cumulonimbus clouds, which may produce thunderstorms. Both L.A. and Ventura counties are slight targets. Unfortunately, lightening strikes can accompany thunderstorms. A real mixed bag here … Good in there is a chance of rain and bad due to an increased fire danger.
I will believe it when I feel it. Early next week as an onshore flow strengthens a cooling trend is in the forecast for our area.
As a good and upstanding citizen of La Crescenta, I claim no responsibility for the weather.
Until next week, be cool and stay safe.
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.