Saturday, July 24, 2010

What? More Fire Weather Already?

On Friday's Noon News the weatherman on Oakland's KTVU Channel 2 said we're in for a cooling trend starting early next week. In the happy-chat wrap-up segment, the Anchor Woman asked about the effect the cooling would have on the Fire Danger. WeatherDude said the danger is way below warning levels for July.

My curiosity piqued, I remembered Reno's Fire Weather Watch for Sunday, so I clicked on Reno's AFD, and voila:

There's no substitute for being prepared to paraphrase the Boy Scout Motto, however the fuel moisture levels should still be low...closer to early June levels than the more explosive September/October tinderbox levels. I heard the KCRA3 weather woman mention thunderstorms, so I checked the Sacramento AFD. Typical over exuberance from Channel 3's junior wit:

By the time I watched the 6 O'clock newscasts, there was wildfire news from SoCal. I heard a news tease citing a fire near Santa Clarita that could be threatening homes. I searched the net for some local intel, and there were a couple of fires actually...looking to me like arson, as they all broke out about the same time, in the same lightning, no thunderstorms...just clear dry sky.

The KCRA3 News reported a morning grass fire somewhere in the Big Valley, but again it was human caused and controlled.

You may wonder why my intense interest in wildland fire. I live in what insurance underwriters call the "Urban/Wildland Interface", so I stay Fire Aware as a matter of habit. There have been some uncomfortable days, listening to the fire traffic on my police scanner, when I knew the incident to be nearby. Once, when things were happening near my end of town, I called the TV Station to correct some erroneous information they were broadcasting...Their On-Screen Map had a local wildfire burning right through the middle of Truckee...when in reality it was four or better miles west of downtown, and three+ miles west of the DaveCave!

There is a groomer/firefighter connection, too.

Over my career, I've worked with dozens of Wildland Firefighters. They're naturals as groomers go. They are used to long hours, handle high stress levels with aplomb, they baby their equipment, and they need a winter job every year! Another plus is they're usually pretty easy going, too.

*Photo Note*
The top photo is of a Thunderhead, taken from the International Space Station, during Expedition 15 (April 2007-October 2007)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wild and Wooly

A funny thing happened today in France.

I was up before the Sun this morning to watch the pivotal Stage 17 of Le Tour de France...the final day of climbing the High Passes of the Haute Pyrénées. This was to be The Showdown. This was the stage when the Winner would surely be decided by an epic battle on these storied climbs.

My anticipation was off the charts, just before I turned in, I scanned my Twitter Feed and found this one:
@lancearmstrong "Waking up here in Pau to a massive rain storm. Hmmm.. Will be quite the contrast to the heat of previous days.#notcomplainingatall!"

The thought of Schleck and Contador clashing on those mountain the rain, was too if this year's Tour hasn't had enough drama already!

The LIVE coverage began at 0330...I set my alarm to 0600...

While I slept, the racers climbed the first two 1st catagory climbs under overcast skies and drizzle. I woke up, tuned in, and saw the peloton approaching the bottom of the final 18.6km climb, the
hors categorie Col Du Tourmalet. As they climbed, they got closer and closer to the cloud deck, until they were finally in the clouds.

From the bottom of the climb, Contador's Team Astana, and Andy Schleck's Team Saxo Bank set a blistering pace. The tactic is to grind down the rival's team, dropping them one by one, until the rival has no teammates left to help him. That's when the attack is launched in earnest. Mano a Mano time, as the Italians say.

Playing out nearing the top of the Tuormalet, in fog right down on the deck, it was a classic battle between the two leaders. Schleck attacked again and again...Contador answered each time. At last, Contador attacked and Schleck answered instantly. Finally, they neared the finish line at the top side by side...after dropping all the other riders and catching the breakaway, that the two titans passed as if they were standing still. Schleck won the stage, the two shook hands while still riding their bikes.

A fitting day to celebrate the 100th year since Le Tour first visited these mountains.

Further down the climb, the peloton was chasing the leaders, the TV was all coming from motorcycle cameras because the clouds obscured the view of the camera helicopters. Suddenly, the camera's view was shaken as the moto slowed and a flock of sheep poured onto the road that was already filled with climbing racers! Wild evasive actions by riders, motos, and livestock saved the one crashed...a miracle...and another epic moment in the 2010 TdF.

I thought my heart would jump out of my chest...yikes!

Friday's stage is a flat one leading into Bordeaux, that favors the Sprinters. Just as well, the GC Contenders will need to rest up in the peloton...conserving their strength for Saturday's Individual Time Trial. Contador leads Schleck by 8 seconds. The Time Trial is where the overall winner will be decided. Sunday's final stage is another one for the Sprinters...for the GC Winner, it's a Coronation Parade.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What? Fire Weather This Early?

Well, yes and no...
I was knockin' about on the net, looking for some weather stations for San Francisco Bay fishing intel gathering, and for the potential CorduroyPlanet PWS Toolbox. Clicking through some of my weather links, I noticed a "Red Flag" Warning had been issued for the Truckee-Tahoe Area for Monday night.

I clicked onto the Reno AFD, and the Fire Weather was cited in the discussion's first paragraph. Warm temps, low humidity, and afternoon winds tripped the Warning. No thunderstorms were forecast, so it's just erring on the side of caution.

I don't have the opportunity to listen to the CDF CalFire Morning Reports when I'm away from the DaveCave. When I'm at home and there's thunderstorm activity forecast, I fire up my Police Scanner and listen in. The Morning Report from the Grass Valley HQ includes a very detailed Fire Weather Forecast , right down to the Fuel Moisture figures. In some ways, listening to the report is richer than just reading the data...often the officer giving the report will add little asides as he delivers his spiel, highlighting things that aren't obvious, or are unique to his situational know-how.

Even though the High Sierra has been warm...which is to say near seasonal temps for the last few weeks, I gotta believe the forest is still "Springtime Fresh"...that is to say still a long ways from Sept/Oct fuel moisture levels. This week I noticed many ski resort webcam images were free of snow for the first time since November.

Wednesday Afternoon
It's quite a bit cooler today here in the Inland Valley. It's only 63F at 2PM, and the Marine Layer really hung on this morning. The cloud cover didn't really clear off until after noon.

I've been keeping tabs on the Delta Winds since our halibut fishing blowout Monday. Mark Finan, KCRA3's Senior Weatherman has been tweeting delta wind updates several times a day since Sunday. Finan's a fellow WeatherGeek, so the data he's been tweeting has been really fun to follow.

This one from Monday evening was interesting: @MarkFinan "It's interesting to watch the Delta breeze work. It's warmer in the foothills now than it is in Stockton"

From Saturday 9:40PM @MarkFinan "
The delta breeze.... Auburn is 90. Sac is 83 and Fairfield is 70."

Last night on KCRA's 11 O'clock News they featured a video of a Fairfield Auto Dealer's Lot, with several of those tall flags flapping in the wind, as their lead-in to the Weather Segment. Those flags were really looked like hat chasing wind.

Wednesday Night
I looked at Reno's AFD during the 7th inning of the Giants/Dodgers game. No thunderstorms in the mountains for a few days anyway. But hey careful up there...don't play with matches! Dads, be careful with those mowers and chainsaws...and carry that fire extinguisher!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Weekend Wondering 2

I've been enjoying a longish, low key weekend...watching some motorsports, a couple of baseball games, and some Tour de France stages.

I went halibut fishing with SturgeUrge, and came face to face with the weather. Nothing serious, but we didn't catch any halibut.

We nearly went on another Bay Area Boat Ramp Tour Monday as we found "sheep in the meadow" when we pulled up to the Richmond shoreline. Surprised for the second time in as many trips, I made a "Note To Self": Find an online weather station for the Richmond Harbor area.

We launched into steady 15mph winds. Still under the protection of the breakwall, we were taking some spray over the gunnels and the bow. We nursed our coffee cups as we ducked spray and surveyed the bay proper as it hove into view. Cap'n Urge said: "Lets just motor over to Paradise" "Good plan", I agreed.

We bumped across the Bay and took in the splendid vistas. To our South, a big finger of fog was streaming in through the Golden Gate, wrapping the top of Angel Island, and obscuring the Bay Bridge, before it turned North above Berkeley to crawl over the East Bay Hills east of El Cerrito.

The Southernly Winds had blown up some semi-serious waves that were keeping things animated. I'd packed a lunch of mostly finger foods, plus some potato salad. It's a little rough wrapping cantaloupe pieces with thin-sliced Black Forest Ham in a washing machine...not to mention pouring French Roast into travel cups from the thermos! Seemingly, the halibut were paying little attention to the luncheon we were serving at their table either.

We had a couple of raked baits, but in the churning conditions, the subtle take of a halibut was effectively invisible. We saw a dozen or so other boats fishing halibut in the area...but we didn't see any nets flying or bent rods.

Mother Nature won Monday. We bailed out early and were back in the Inland Valley before 5PM. We cleaned up the boat and tow vehicle and had a cold beer. We both claimed to be grateful that there weren't any slimy fish to butcher!

Back at the Ancestral Digs, I noshed on the boat lunch for dinner and watched the bike race replay. The Yellow Jersey changed riders in the Pyrénées. Some controversy arose around the matter in which the Jersey changed hands 3km from the summit of Sunday's final big climb, the hors categorie Port de Balèsthe.

Leader Andy Schleck's chain came off his front chainring just as he launched his attack. Arch rival, Alberto Contador answered the attack instantly, passing Schleck to his left as Schleck's bike came to a halt, and Contador was seen to look back several times over the 3kms to the top. Schleck fixed his chain and chased furiously, but was unable to catch the Contador Group as they flew down the big mountain towards the finish.

Two opposing Thought Camps have risen in the wake of this pass.

One camp says that Contador's move into the maillot jaune wasn't "sporting", that the Gentleman's Agreement in cycle racing says the race must be settled mano a mano, not by mechanical misfortune, and that Contador clearly knew he was dishonoring this unwritten law.

The opposing camps says: "That's racing" to quote NASCAR's evergreen cliche. There were boos heard as Contadore donned the Yellow Jersey Monday after the Stage, and again after Tuesday's Stage.

This year's Tour de France celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the Tour's first visit to the high passes of the Pyrénées. The 2010 TdF will be remembered for it's heat waves, and the three weeks of high drama among the Contenders. Wednesday is the second rest day of the Tour, and the ultimate winner will most likely be decided Thursday, the final mountain stage of the Tour.

As befits the Tour's Centennial in the Pyrénées, the Organizers have the riders traversing three huge passes, the first catagory Col de Marie-Blanc and Col du Souler, before finishing atop the hors categorie Col Du Tourmalet.

39 seconds separate Schleck and Contador. The first stage after a rest day is always a crap shoot...the body sometimes reacts in unexpected ways to a low effort "Rest Day". Not uncertain is the fact that Thursday's Drama-O-Rama, Stage 17 will be worthy of a Centennial Celebration.

While I watched the coverage from the Pyrénées Monday I remembered my "Note To Self", and then remembered that the Weather Underground forecast pages have added a Weather Station Link List at the bottom of the Forecast Homepage. I looked around Weather Underground until found the Richmond buoy on the Richmond,CA forecast page. The links include Official, Academic, Commercial, and Personal Weather Stations (PWS)

Another wonder of the Internet, the PWS's are going to make the World smaller and more convenient for internet users everywhere. Personal Weather Stations have fascinated me since they first entered my consciousness, some twenty+ years ago. Simple battery powered PWS's can be had for a pittance. The more elaborate, internet-connected Stations start upwards of $800, so many thanks are in order to the magnanimous weather geeks who put theirs online for the rest of us! Several instrument makers offer PWS's that connect to the internet without involving any other computers, conserving the resources of your Home Network! You access your PWS on the web, like the rest of the world.

Like everything else electronic, eventually the economies of scale and the law of supply and demand will kick in and millions of PWS's will cover Our World. I'll be keeping my ear to the PWS Rail...I'm thinking there may be yet another CorduroyPlanet Toolbox trying to be born here.

I'll keep my eyes open and decide in plenty of time to build and install the CP PWS Toolbox by the time the chairlifts start turning on My Mountain.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Waddya Know?

I managed to raise sloth to a performance art Saturday. Oh, I ran some errands, and picked up my tools at the SturgeUrge job site, before spending a lovely evening watching my SF Giants playing good "Small Ball" and beating the NY Mets. After my quick afternoon stop at the grocery store, I was all set for dinner and the game.

I made stir fried asparagus with garlic over steamed rice for an early dinner before tuning in the game. I looked at the SF Giants' website to peruse Buster Posey's stats, and caught up with the correct schedule for the hated LA Dodgers. That series starts Monday.

When the baseball game ended, I watched the Prime Time Tour de France telecast of Stage 13, and when looking for something for desert, I had a "Glass Half Full" moment.

There is a real upside to this infernal, lingering SpringThing that's masquerading as our Summer.

For lovers of fresh, sweet Bing Cherries things couldn't be any better! I had some Washington State Bings in the refrigerator that I picked up a couple of days ago. These were perfect peak season mid July! Sweet and rich, they made a perfect dessert/snack.

I must say I'm just a little confused by the good choices in the produce aisle this summer, late Spring Bings OK, but the stone fruit and melons seem like they ripened in long, even hot temps!

I've been getting a cantaloupe a week for the past three or four weeks, and every one has been sweet, ripe and flavorful. At the church luncheon this week, the watermelon was August Sweet too!

While I was relaxing, I went looking for a Tide Table App for my iPod. It couldn't be any more handy to have a real-time tide predictor in my pocket when I'm halibut fishing on San Francisco Bay. Happily, the App Store had a nice, free tide app. I fiddled with it, and stored some favorite tide stations...SF Bay at the Golden Gate...our local benchmark. Richmond's Inner Harbor...where we launch, and Benicia...the nearest tide station to the Mare Island Straights (our last ditch sturgeon spot when the wind is really blowing)

I'm a little concerned by the dearth of Halibut Reports so far this season, but there's some albacore tuna offshore this week, and lots of guys are still trying to find the it's understandable. The season has been even windier than usual, further suppressing fishing efforts, so I'm not exactly surprised...

They say any day fishing is a day added to your lifespan...I'm all for it.