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 | 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 | 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 | 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 | Carol Duncan
The Australian Bushfires
The Event: Close to 200 bushfires ignited in Australia in early October 2019. They torched nearly 15 million acres of land and destroyed more than 2,000 homes in the Victoria and New South Wales provinces along the country’s eastern seaboard. A total of 24 people lost their lives, and an estimated one billion wild animals perished in the flames.
Carol Duncan wasn’t sure if her father would survive. She was in Newcastle, New South Wales, and her 83-year-old father, John Duncan, lived about six hours north, in the small village of Rappville. Continue reading
Voices from the Future | Faradilla Fajrin Al-Fath
The Jakarta Floods
The Event: On December 31, 2019, torrential rains pounded a swath of Jakarta. More than 400,000 people were affected, and 65,000 were relocated to damp evacuation centers in the greater Jakarta area. The intense rain and flooding killed about 60 people, out of which 17 were swept away by the waters. Landslides buried five people, and five people were electrocuted.
When Faradilla Fajrin Al-Fath left Jakarta to attend Arizona State University in 2018, she thought she could leave her hometown floods behind. But she was wrong. Being in America revealed to her how serious an issue the floods actually are. Continue reading
Voices from the Future | Anjali Ponni Rajkumar
The Chennai Floods
The Event: In 2015, the winter monsoon season brought torrential rains to Chennai, in southern India. Unprecedented floods followed, and some parts of the city of 6 million residents experienced floodwaters as high as 8 feet. About 130,000 people were evacuated to relief shelters, 347 people died, and 3,889 cattle perished in the floodwaters.
The government warning came too late for many Chennai residents. The torrential monsoon rains — the heaviest recorded in more than a century — had overwhelmed the dam. Photographer and artist Anjali Ponni Rajkumar was at home with her family in the affluent Purusawalkam neighborhood when the rains came, but she left immediately to help other residents. Continue reading
Voices from the Future | Ntombi Makuyana
A Devastating Storm
The Event: Tropical storm Idai struck the southeastern Chimanimani and Chipinge districts of Zimbabwe on March 14, 2019. The torrential rains caused massive floods, washed away roads and bridges, submerged around 20,000 houses and completely destroyed 700 homes. An estimated 268 people died, and another 200 people were swept away by floods to neighboring Mozambique and into the Indian Ocean. Those flood victims still haven’t been found.
Ntombi Makuyana, a graduate student at Arizona State University, lives 9,686 miles away from her African grandparents. But she has kept in touch with them and her extended family. Recently, Makuyana’s sense of disconnection grew when her grandparents faced the worst — their house was destroyed and washed away by muddy floodwaters in the small village of Chimanimani, at the southeastern edge of Zimbabwe. Continue reading