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Woodside, Portola Valley brace for wildfire season

Original post made on Jul 18, 2021

Last 2020, Rita Comes and her daughter watched the "surreal lightning" storm in Portola Valley, then began packing. The CZU Lightning Complex wildfires spared the town, but Midpeninsula officials aren't counting on more lucky breaks.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, July 15, 2021, 2:46 PM

Comments (2)

Posted by Phil Barth
a resident of Portola Valley: Woodside Highlands
on Jul 18, 2021 at 2:08 pm

Phil Barth is a registered user.

Portola Valley is not as fire-risky as Paradise, California. I'm going to re-post here a comment made by Rick Moen, [email protected], to the story
Web Link

Paradise, CA suffered a truly catastrophic combination of risks that cannot possibly be matched in the Bay Area's Santa Cruz Mountains foothills. To see how unique its threats were, see the eye-opening LA Times piece 'Here’s how Paradise ignored warnings and became a deathtrap', Web Link . For starters, Paradise's location just downhill from a low saddle in the Sierra Nevada (Jarbo Gap, where CA Route 70 crosses) put it in harm's way of gale-force dry canyon winds blowing through the gap, in a place radically drier than our area's short distance from the coast and the Bay. The culpable obliviousness of town authorities, for years, to well-known evacuation and notification problems, and making those problems worse by deliberately narrowing the main road out of town (even though experts warned them this could cause mass fire deaths), set the town up for catastrophe.

How bad was the known risk just from canyon winds? Quoting the article: 'Meteorological records show 36 days since 2003 with gusts of 100 mph or more, and as high as 200 mph. Paradise sat in the path.'

Although they have significant problems (particularly Portola Valley's evacuation chokepoints), Woodside and Portola Valley are not even remotely in the same category. In that particular, reporter Rick Radin says: 'Imagine [...] gale-force winds blowing in the San Mateo County hills.'

(continued below because the Alanc has a 750-character limit for comments)


Posted by Phil Barth
a resident of Portola Valley: Woodside Highlands
on Jul 18, 2021 at 2:09 pm

Phil Barth is a registered user.

(Part 2 of previous comment quoting Rick Moen)

Sure, Mr. Radin, we can imagine lots of things, but tell us: When and why have we ever had gale-force winds blowing in the San Mateo County hills? We have nothing even remotely like the Jarbo Gap topological situation. The Santa Cruz Mountains slope down gradually towards San Francisco with a small dip at CA-92, and the only thing that blows through that is coast-side fog, and never at gale force.

Also, as a general observation, with due respect to the work of the Arizona Republic and USA Today reporters, I'd have greater confidence in the claims of primary authorities such as, say, CalFire. (I note with approval that CalFire was consulted for The Almanac's version of this story, though.)

Rick Moen
[email protected]


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