Voices from the Future | Greg Kochanowski
The Event: On November 8, 2018, a small fire started in the Santa Susana Mountains’ Woolsey Canyon, near Simi Valley California. But then the Santa Ana winds gusted, and the next day, the fire had crossed the Ventura Highway and was heading south toward Malibu. By the time it was done raging, the Woolsey Fire would burn 96,949 acres in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, along with 1,643 structures. Nearly 300,000 people were evacuated, and for two weeks, they were told not to return to their homes. If their homes remained.
Greg Kochanowski knew that wildfires posed a serious danger to his Los Angeles community. He had lived in the L.A. area for over two decades, worked as an architect and taught about landscape design sustainability. But did he believe that he would ever face them?
Voices from the Future | Sylvia Watchman
The Dry Land
The Event: Since 2017, extreme draught has ravaged Canyon de Chelly, on the Navajo Nation in Northeastern Arizona. In normal years, the area receives an average of 12 inches of rain. That’s not the case recently. What’s more, the draught became worse when, in early 2019, the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife declined to release water from a 5,500 acre-foot reservoir thus making traditional farming in Canyon de Chelly even more difficult. The agency’s reasons are still unknown — and unexplained to farmers in Canyon de Chelly.
Sylvia Watchman is a farmer and Navajo woman from Chinle, Arizona, a town of fewer than 5,000 inhabitants on the outskirts of Canyon de Chelly, where Watchman has lived all her life. Chinle is a Navajo word meaning “flowing through,” a phrase that once referred to the water that cruised down from the mountains to fertilize the valley.
Voices From the Future | Sandee Babcock
Dark Clouds Over Paradise
The Event: In November 2018, the Camp Fire erupted in Butte County, California. The deadliest fire in the state’s history began as a brush fire, fueled by hot and dry breezes in extremely dry weather conditions. Ultimately, 85 people lost their lives, and total of 18,804 structures — homes, barns, churches, schools and a hospital — were destroyed.
Wildfires are nothing new to the residents of the tightly knit community of Paradise, California. Nestled in the foothills and canyons of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the town has long been prone to small seasonal brush and forest fires.
Voices from the Future | Max Broderick
The Event: On May 20, 2013, a category EF-5 tornado — the highest rating on the Fujita scale —ravaged Moore, Oklahoma, with 210-mile-per-hour winds. Twenty-four people died, including seven children, who perished under a collapsed school wall. Twelve hundred homes, schools, businesses and a hospital were damaged or destroyed, amounting to $2 billion dollars in property loss in the area, which lies outside of Oklahoma City.
For Max Broderick, the weather forecast in Moore didn’t look good that day. A large, potentially violent tornado was on its way to his hometown.
Voices from the Future | Matt Russell
The Event: When weather patterns change from one extreme to another, such as during the 2012-2013 droughts and the 2019 spring floods in Iowa — when 100,000 acres of Iowa farmland was under water — not every farmer is impacted the same way. Some have it harder during seeding, some during growing season and some during harvesting. Still some have difficulty taking care of the cattle. But the farmers do have at least one thing in common: Planning and timing has become harder for every farmer.
Matt Russell, a fifth-generation Iowa farmer, was concerned about his cattle’s survival during the 2012 and 2013 Iowa drought.
Voices from the Future | Lisa Trank
After the Flood
The Event: In 2013, a deluge caused massive floods in Colorado’s Southern Rockies. As rivers and creeks swelled across the state’s 24 counties, roads, bridges and houses were washed away. Ten residents lost their lives, and property damages were estimated at $4 billion dollars, the largest amount in the state’s history.
Lisa Trank is a writer, educator, environmentalist and longtime resident of Longmont, Colorado. During the 2013 floods there, she found herself in a surprising role as part of an emergency response team.
Voices from the Future | Larry Baimbridge
Swallowed by Water
The Event: In 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Texas, with sustained 130 mph winds, torrential rains and flooding. Thirty percent of Harris County, which has a population of 2.3 million people, was flooded. Eighty-two people lost their lives.
Police captain Larry Baimbridge and his wife, police officer Wendy Baimbridge, were at work when Hurricane Harvey hit on August 27. “I knew our house was flooding and our two dogs were home,” he says. “Luckily, our neighbors rescued the dogs that had stayed on the bed, when the water started to come inside. We were on a 24-hour shift and couldn’t leave.”
Voices from the Future | Kolby Skidmore
The Hurricane Florence
The Event: Hurricane Matthew was considered a 500-year flood, which means it had a 0.2% chance of happening in any given year. Hurricane Florence was deemed a 1,000-year flood and broke rainfall records set by Hurricane Matthew. Many residents of coastal North Carolina were still rebuilding from Matthew when Florence hit in September 2018, dumping more than 30 inches of water on some parts of the state and killing 53 people.
When the floodwater receded, it left behind scores of fish — not just on streets, but also in people’s homes. They were everywhere, and they reeked.
Voices from the Future | Henry Red Cloud
The 100-Year Flood
The Event: In March 2019, overflowing creeks and raging riverbeds flooded the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Caused by a sudden, unusual blizzard that created snow piles as much as 5 feet high. Two days later, that snow melted, causing a 100-year flood. The water destroyed structures, homes, roadways and bridges, and the flooding stranded thousands of the reservation’s 20,000 residents in their homes and shelters for two weeks. Two lives were lost.
In early March, Lakota Sioux tribe elder Henry Red Cloud and his family returned home to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation after five days in an emergency shelter. He was sure the annual flooding season had passed — after all, the muddy waters had risen only knee high — and that it would be safe to return to his compound, which is comprised of five houses occupied by his and his children’s families. But this time, Red Cloud was wrong.
Voices from the Future | Heikki Ketola
The Event: On November 8, 2018, a small fire burned in the Santa Susana Mountains’ Woolsey Canyon, near Simi Valley California. But then the Santa Ana winds gusted, and the next day, the fire had crossed the Ventura Highway and was heading south toward Malibu. By the time it was done raging, the Woolsey Fire would burn 96,949 acres in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, along with 1,643 structures. Nearly 300,000 people were evacuated, and for two weeks, they were told not to return to their homes. If their homes remained.
In Heikki Ketola’s mind, the memory of that November morning is still very vivid. Around 5 a.m., the phone rang in his Malibu home, disturbing his sleep. He answered and heard his neighbor, a retired fireman, on the line.
Voices from the Future | Glorynel Ojeda Matos
The Event: Maria began as a tropical wave. But by September 16, 2017, she had gathered steam, swirling into a tropical storm east of the Lesser Antilles. From there, she roared. On September 20, Maria screamed over Puerto Rico with winds that reached 155 miles per hour, making her a category four hurricane, and one that would nearly decimate the island.
Glorynel Ojeda Matos is a scholar. A researcher. A student of sustainability. She’s also Puerto Rican. And when hurricanes ravaged her island home in the fall of 2017, she knew it would never be the same.
Voices from the Future | Dave Mackey
In the Eye of the Hurricane
The Event: Hurricane Dorian slammed into Grand Bahama Island on September 1, 2019, with 200 mph winds. The storm and its torrential rains stalled over the island for more than 40 hours and wreaked havoc across residential areas as water levels rose 18 to 23 feet above normal. Seventy people lost their lives, and property damages were estimated at about $8.28 billion.
From where he sat in his two-story home on the tropical island of Grand Bahama, Dave Mackey, the president and visual producer of an online news site, was well prepared for the storm. So from there, he recorded the category-five hurricane as it pounded his home island, battering homes and trees and tossing around objects, like shipping containers, as though they were little toys.
Voices from the Future | Colin Hatzman
The Dallas Tornado
The Event: In late October 2019, a series of tornados — 10 all together — hit the city of Dallas, Texas. The strongest one battered suburban north Dallas with 140 mph winds, and tore a path across the Earth about 15 miles long. The tornados destroyed more than 700 structures in the Dallas area.
The alarm system went off at 9:05 p.m. on a Sunday night. “I was on my computer playing video games,” says Colin Hatzman, a local entrepreneur. “It peeped, and the panel read: Take shelter immediately. We did. My wife Isabelle and our two dogs hid immediately in our bedroom closet.”
Voices from the Future | KerryAnn Laufer
The Furious Fire
The Event: The Kincade Fire sparked in late October 2019. It spread from a power plant area in northern Sonoma County, California, to homes and businesses in other parts of Sonoma, mainly to the towns of Windsor and Healdsburg, and to the northeast part of Santa Rosa. It burned 77,758 acres of land and destroyed 374 buildings. The fire prompted the largest mass evacuation — 200,000 people — in county history.
The alert to evacuate came around 10:30 a.m. KerryAnn Laufer didn’t have long. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh, I’ve got five and half hours,’” says the locally known textile and pottery artist. She made some tough choices: two suitcases; some documents; her two, 40-year-old Amazon parrots; and her 14-year-old cat. “I wish now, that I took some pictures, too.”
Voices from the Future | Ronnie Scott
The Thousand-Year Flood
The Event: The 2016 West Virginia flood— considered a 1,000-year natural event with a 0.1 percent probability of happening in any given year — ravaged Greenbrier Valley residents on June 23. Torrential rain and thunder, rising 10 to 12 inches in 12 hours, turned quiet creeks into flash floods that ran down steep hills, alleyways and streets washing away roads, houses and entire neighborhoods. Twenty- three people lost their lives, including a 14-year-old girl.
Ronnie Scott returned home from high a school basketball game in White Sulphur Springs, part of Greenbrier Valley, to the house he built by hand for his family.
Voices From the Future | Tom and Lynda Ciano
When Irma Knocked
The Event:A tropical wave was born somewhere over west Africa on August 26, 2017. In the coming days, it gathered strength from the warm Atlantic waters. The wave eventually became a hurricane, hurricane Irma. Irma grew into an expansive category 5 storm with sustained winds of 185 miles per hour at its peak. It slammed into Cudjoe Key, Florida, on the morning of September 10, as a category 4.
For Lynda and Tom Ciano, Irma’s full-throated arrival at their home in central Florida was unexpected. Forecasters predicted the storm would hug the state’s west coast. But the storm shifted track. Continue reading
Voices from the Future | Peter Bigfoot Busnack
The Event: On June 8, 2019, a wildfire erupted a few miles northwest of Superior, Arizona. It came to be known as the Woodbury fire, and it would consume nearly 113,000 acres of land in the Superstition Mountains before being extinguished. Fueled by tall grass, brush and chaparral, the Woodbury fire ranks as the sixth largest in the state’s history. The cause is unknown, but human origin is suspected.
A week after the fire erupted, Peter “Bigfoot” Busnack was visiting his son in North Carolina. Busnack’s partner telephoned him to say that the Woodbury fire was coming closer to their home in the Superstitions, where they run the Reevis Mountain School of Self Reliance. Authorities urged her to evacuate the area. Continue reading
Voices from the Future | Wink Crigler
The Rancher and the Wallow Fire
The Event: On May 29, 2011, two men left a campfire unattended in the Bear Wallow Wilderness of Eastern Arizona. Driven by heavy winds, embers flew into the forest, igniting a blaze that eventually claimed 539,049 acres in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests of Arizona, as well as 15,407 acres in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest. Firefighters achieved 100 percent containment at 6 p.m. on July 8, 2011.
Wink Crigler wasn’t afraid when the Wallow Fire came within 200 feet of her back door. Continue reading