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 | 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 | 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 | 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
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 | Rezza Aji Pratama
>The Event: On December 31, 2019, torrential rains pounded a swath of Jakarta. More than 400,000 people fled their homes, 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, five were buried by landslides and five were electrocuted.
The river runs 650 feet behind Rezza Aji Pratama’s house in the greater Jakarta Depok neighborhood. It is a comfortable, middle-class area with single houses lining the streets. On New Year’s Eve, Pratama and his wife invited people over to celebrate the new decade. 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 | Reija Nykvist
The Event: In early March 2019, a tropical disturbance was building over the Indian Ocean, close to the southeast coast of Africa. As it traveled, the mild storm grew, and by March 5, it reached its full power as a tropical depression with winds as high as 35 miles per hour. The storm moved inland, pummeling Malawi and producing heavy rains that spawned deadly floods in the southern part of the country. The rains and rapidly rising floodwaters affected more than 45,312 Malawian households, and 226,560 people were displaced, according to the spokesperson for Malawi’s Department of Disaster Management. The country lost 28 people, and 124 people were injured.
“The heavy rains started on Monday,” Reija Nykvist explains. Her family lives in a suburb about 4.5 miles outside Malawi’s second biggest city, Blantyre. The heavy rain was increasing as the days went on, but she thought that was normal. “But there was no mentioning in the news that something unusual was going on.” Continue reading