October 21st, 2007

The wrong kind of Halloween scare

My mom lives about a half-hour north of me, in Santa Clarita. I went up to visit her today, about 11 a.m. The drive there was surreal - traffic on the 14 freeway slowed to 50 m.p.h. as we made our way through sandstorms and gusts, hearing pebbles pelt the windshield, grappling with the wheel as the high winds shook the car, and swerving to avoid tumbleweeds.

I managed to get there, though. We went out to eat, then came back to work on setting up a new stereo system. We needed something, opened the front door - and gaped at the wall of smoke confronting us.

Just driving a short distance, to Best Buys, was tough, since various roads we're blocked off. By the time we got there, the smoke billowing overhead was so thick it started to look like night; the sun looked like a maraschino cherry, and the smoke overhead had strange tints of orange and white spread throughout the black. People stood around, staring up, pointing cameras to the sky, just gaping.

We got our parts, left and returned home. The smell of smoke was intense. I worked on the stereo for a while, then left about 2:30.

At about 4 p.m., mom called and in a shaky voice told me they'd just been ordered to evacuate.

Now it's 8:30. Mom, her partner Ed, and one cat (they couldn't get the other out of the house) are in the gymnasium of Saugus High School. She said they were given so little time to evacuate they didn't have time to grab anything else. They have no idea where to go (many of the roads around there are blocked), how long they'll be there, or what will be left come tomorrow. Now I'm watching the news, and houses are burning maybe a quarter-mile from hers.

I was already tired today, but I'll probably be up most of the night watching the news, and keeping my fingers crossed.