Tag Archives: disaster

This Bay is on Fire

Local families have been checking the news daily for evacuation orders since fires broke out in Northern California over two weeks ago, on August 15th. With over 1.4 million acres burned in two weeks, fire containment was barely in the 10% range for the first few days, with Evacuation Orders and Warnings given to many Bay Area counties.  

Krishna Parthasarathy drove to Fairfield to check his in-law’s home, as they were out of town. “There were cops all around,” he said. “We had to say we had to evacuate the cat. This is not the first time this has happened.” 

Mr. Parthasarathy tried to think about what his in-laws would want him to take. He cleared out the puja room. Every single thing, including the mandap, hand-stitched Bhagavad Gita paintings, and photos of the acharyas.

Face masks and sanitation supplies were the top two items on evacuation packing lists found online. With California reaching­ over 700,000 COVID cases this was a stark reminder that families concerned about the survival of their homes must also take precautions with their physical health. 

Padma Srinivasan of Fremont could not see down the street from her home, which was in an evacuation warning zone. “What happened was one day, it got so bad. The road going from our house is a little narrow. So, we left,” said Ms.  Srinivasan. “I took some essential things. Some things that are sentimental and some things that are valuable.”

After the fires started, the Air Quality Index for many districts went past 170, well into the Unhealthy range. Yaamini Rao, who lives up the Peninsula, was woken up by the lighting that first Sunday. Since then she has been staying indoors. “You can see the haze all over. It smells like an endless campfire,” said Ms. Rao.

CAL FIRE lifted the Evacuation Orders and Warnings for Alameda and  San Joaquin counties as of August 31st regarding the SCU Lightning Complex fires, which is at 60% containmentSanta Clara County continues to have warnings in place but many are in the process of being lifted.  Santa Cruz County has begun Phase 4 repopulation where fire containment is at 39%. The LNU Lightning Complex fires are at 66% containment. “The firemen are doing a fantastic job,” said Ms. Srinivasan. “We owe a lot to them.” 

This experience has prompted many to reflect on what is valuable and important and essential. “We have so many possessions and they can become a burden. We don’t need that much to live, you know?,” said Ms. Srinivasan. “When we go to Yama, Yama does not let us bring a suitcase. We go empty-handed,” said Mr. Parthasarathy.

Here are some resources to check on the fires if you’re in an affected region: CAL FIRE, CalTopo (California Topographical Maps), WildFire Information, Cal Fire SCU Twitter, Cal Fire CZU Twitter, Cal Fire LNU Twitter, Air Quality, Evacuation List.

Check out the previous India Currents’ article on disaster preparedness!


Sree Sripathy is a photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Earthquakes Hit Southern California: Are You Prepared?

With the earthquakes rocking Southern California, we Californians are again reminded of the dark shadow of the possibility of a ‘big one.’ In the middle of lazy summer days filled with backyard picnics and vacations, who is in the mood to be earthquake ready? No one really. But, we ignore this basic safety exercise at our own peril. Here are simple ways to get you started. 

Before An Earthquake 

  1. Prepare now by keeping an earthquake preparedness kit. The CDC provides a comprehensive list of what you may want to put in your earthquake kit. 

https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/earthquakes/supplies.html 

During An Earthquake 

  1. If an earthquake hits, do not stand under a doorway. This common misconception may lead to serious injury. An easy phrase to remember what to do is ‘Drop, Cover, Then Hold On.’ 

After An Earthquake 

  1. To be safe after an earthquake, be prepared for aftershocks. Make sure that you are not injured and others around you are uninjured. 
  2. Save phone calls for emergencies only, and monitor local news reports for emergency information and instructions. 

For a comprehensive and detailed list of what to do before, during, and after an earthquake read this article: https://www.ready.gov/earthquakes 

The best way to stay safe is by knowing what to do if an earthquake hits, so take your time to explore these valuable resources and stay prepared.

Shalika Oza is a summer intern at India Currents magazine.