Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Largely Unreported Disaster of Sorts

Texas has unimaginable square miles of dry grass and vegetation in the winter. High winds and a single spark can decimate miles and miles in a day or two.

The fires more commonly happen in West Texas and the Panhandle, which are more sparsely populated. The rest of the state also gets the fires, which are more vigorously covered by media when a lot of people in a small area are threatened or affected.

I was surprised when I turned to page 2 in my local paper last Sunday and learned 200,000 people were evacuated in Amarillo on Saturday because of grassfires that totally destroyed 58 homes, damaged others. Live power lines on the ground made it difficult to get emergency aid to the people. One fire burned 45 square miles before it was contained. Lubbock was seriously damaged, too.

The firefighters did well--containing over 75 grass fires in 2-3 days that consumed more than 700,000 acres. One litttle five-year-old girl died in a car crash near Midland when the vehicle she was riding in crashed in the heavy smoke over the highway.

Talking to a woman yesterday, I asked if she knew about the fires. She said she was, primarily because her ears pricked up when fires were mentioned in the Lubbock area and her brother lives there. She said she called and he said he and his were all right. The fire came within five miles, but they were unscathed. Friends on the other side of town, though, had their home burn to the ground. They lost everything.

When something similar happened a few years back, media attention was aroused when the wind continued for several days. Grassland the size of the state of Rhode Island was burned to the ground, including the cattle, sheep and horses therein. Some of the homes destroyed were more than 100 years old.

The winds last week blew for a blessedly short interval. Few Texans paid attention, much less the rest of the country.

Burn bans are now in effect over half the state. Accidental sparks, however, can ignite fires from the most innocuous events. More fires are likely. More high winds are also likely. According to the forecasts, our usual quota of spring rains is unlikely.

I guess, overall, we are still the West. What happens here doesn't get out to the rest of the country necessarily, despite our World Wide Web. It would have been a little dangerous to stand and video the approaching fire and consequent destruction of the family home. Even for a chance to go viral on YouTube. And maybe it wouldn't even have done that.

It makes me wonder what other big events go on that no one knows about, sees, reports or notices. I expect quite a bit, actually.



clairz said...

The opposite holds true, of course, when there is lots of attention from the press on stories that might not necessarily effect the people who live in an area. I recently read a comment from a person looking to move to New Mexico--she was worried about how violence in Juarez, Mexico might have an effect on her safety if she were to choose to live in Las Cruces.

I know Texas is a big place but couldn't help worrying about your safety until "hearing" your voice, Charlotte.

charlotte g said...

Thank you, Clair! All is well. We had some fires in the area, but they were contained.

The woman worried about violence in Las Cruces needs to understand bullets don't travel that far over the Mexican border. At least she seems to understand Las Cruces is in the U.S. Anyone asked you how you like living in a foreign country yet?

clairz said...

Charlotte, when we moved to New Mexico from New England, everyone back home assumed that I would have to speak Spanish when I got here. Nothing has changed over the years--when I moved to British Columbia many decades ago, half my friends though I would be going south [Columbia?] and the other half thought I would have to get sled dogs. Ah, geography!

clairz said...

That should have been "half my friends thought..."

charlotte g said...

:-D The reason I asked was the questions I got in New York City when I visited there. BTW, I found them lovely people, if not exactly geographically oriented. They would walk with me two blocks to show me the way. All I had to do was be genuinely enthused about their home town. I suspect we are all that way.