I don’t know about you, but I’m not all that excited about President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national state of emergency just so he can build a wall on our southern border.
The Mexicans are coming! The Mexicans are coming!
Really? Cool! We could use a few extra hands for cleaning up around here after the back-to-back-to-back disasters we’ve experienced in northern California the past six months.
Did someone say emergency? (Help! Over here!)
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I speak not lightly of the Carr Fire, the Camp Fire and the 50 Year Dump, the subtropical atmospheric river of rain that combined with cold air from the north last Wednesday morning and slapped Shasta County with an 18-inch thick wet blanket of snow that toppled trees and snapped limbs under its weight, taking down power and telephone lines with them.
The not-seen-since-1968 downfall temporarily paralyzed the city of Redding and most of Shasta County, snarling traffic and shutting down businesses. Most of the public schools closed for the remainder of the week as public officials scrambled to provide warming shelters for thousands of people who were without access to power or heat.
Out where I live, in Whitmore, in the foothills 30 miles east of Redding, I woke up Wednesday morning to discover the power was out and three feet of snow had fallen silently overnight. Boughs slumped under the sodden snow, in relief or anguish, it was hard to tell which. I instantly knew the Subaru would not make it up the 250-foot long, very steep driveway.
We were snowbound, at least for the time being.
There are few feelings better in this situation than turning the key on the emergency generator you last tested six months ago and having it fire right up. Without electricity, we can’t run the gas heater, the well pump, the electric stove, the refrigerator, the freezer or log on to the internet.
The generator’s single-cylinder engine runs off of our 500-gallon propane tank and cranks out up to 8000 watts, more than enough to power the house and the well.
The telephone lines were down too, so one of the first things I did was go online to reestablish contact with the outside world. I discovered the winter storm had caused power outages up and down the state and Redding was in the national spotlight as the city hit worst by the storm.
I used my wifi cell phone to call Dad. For once, it actually worked. Although the electricity was out in vast swaths of Shasta County, my parents, who live in Redding, slept through most of the outage and had power restored by Wednesday afternoon.
I knew a quick restoration of services wasn’t likely in our case, since we’re near the end of the line for both PG&E and Frontier. There was no getting up the driveway, so my girlfriend and I settled in for a long wait as the generator throbbed away out in the garage.
The throbbing gets to you. You start to measure your life in pounds of propane per hour of electrical generation. You know there’s probably enough gas in the tank, but cease taking showers and doing the laundry, just to be safe.
At night, you shut the generator down, which cuts off your communication to the outside world. At least the throbbing stops. Lying in the silent darkness, you worry the snow on the driveway won’t melt by Monday, when the propane truck is coming.
Thursday around noon, the generator took on a new roar and I went out to the garage to investigate. I caught a flash of orange out the corner of my eye: My brother, on his small Kubota tractor, carving up the snow in my driveway.
He lives next door. I helped him rebuild the tractor’s engine this past summer, he’s been tinkering with it ever since, and now it’s back in working order.
“Wanna drive?” he asked.
I did, and in the pouring rain, finished the job he started, setting the tractor’s blade at the top of the hill and plowing up 50-foot long slabs of snow that I pushed to the bottom like miniature alpine glaciers.
The more I cut into the three-foot-thick snow blanketing the driveway, the more it melted around me in the rain. The Kubota, with a little help from the 45-degree weather, made short work of it. After two hours of plowing, we were no longer snowbound.
The trees slumped a little less.
With most of my immediate issues taken care of, I returned to my other part-time job, solving the rest of the world’s problems.
I’m sorry to say my efforts to persuade the city of Redding to lighten up on the cruel and unusual punishment have failed. The photo above by local homeless advocate Chris Solberg is just one of many stark, sometimes terrifying images of the local homeless community he posted on his Facebook page the day the storm hit.
The day after the storm hit, the Redding Police Department, with representatives of Good Will Rescue Mission and Country Hill Wellness and Health in tow, began warning homeless campers that it will begin enforcing the city’s revised anti-camping ordinance starting this week.
That means if you’re eligible for a bed at the Mission or one of the even more limited spaces at Hill Country, providing a bed is available, you’ll be cited and your camping gear will be confiscated.
Perhaps some people will see the offer for shelter as a leg up and actually get help. How RPD responds to individuals who have a legitimate reason for not accepting available shelter remains to be seen. My guess is it won’t be pretty.
That this criminalization of the homeless is happening in the wake of multiple real, actual disasters that have left thousands of people in the region homeless and might reflect negatively on a city so desperately seeking to polish its public image, never seems to occur to the people who push for, design and implement such policies.
But, hey, I tried.
Meanwhile, every one who listens to Sean Hannity, including President Trump, knows that the homeless epidemic sweeping the country, exacerbated by ever-increasing income inequality, isn’t something you’d call a national emergency.
Neither is the pressing need to adapt to the onset of anthropogenic climate change, which promises a future of more Carr Fires and 50 Year Dumps.
The opiate crisis? Diverting funds from drug enforcement to build a wall will do little to stop the tide of fentanyl overwhelming our ports of entry, but gosh darn it, this a national emergency!
The Mexicans are coming!
The Mexicans are coming!
Count on First District Rep. Doug LaMalfa to spot a national crisis when he sees one, although this stalwart Trump supporter’s remarks to KRCR News Channel 7 endorsing the President’s emergency declaration to build that wall were somewhat weak tea.
“The border issue is something that I think the vast majority of Americans want a solution to,” he said. “When you put it in terms of a simple barrier like that I think they support it but when you start putting other political scare stories into it then you get less support of it.”
Does LaMalfa mean a “simple barrier” in the appropriate places, which both parties have supported all along, way before last month’s shutdown? Not a 1000-mile long, 50-foot high concrete wall that Mexico is going to pay for promised by Trump?
By “political scare stories,” does he mean Trump and his media enablers’ ongoing fake news invasion of Mexican rapists and murderers? Or the real news political scare stories about legitimate asylum seekers who’ve had their children taken from them by immigration officials?
BTW, shouldn’t national emergencies be kind of scary, Mr. LaMalfa?
Somehow, I get the feeling LaMalfa isn’t all that into Trump’s vanity wall project or his self-proclaimed national emergency. He knows the real emergency is here in northern California, and he made certain to assure constituents that federal disaster relief aid won’t be diverted from Carr and Camp Fire survivors to Trump’s wall.
For once, I’m with him, but that only goes so far.
My girlfriend and I made our first drive to Redding after the storm on Friday, and the nearer we got to town, the more damage that was on display. Ancient oaks toppled over in soggy fields, roots-up. The roof of the occasional barn, shed or outbuilding crushed by a cracked oak limb.
In classic Pineapple Express fashion, the snow was melting rapidly, water pooling in the dips in the fields and turning the Cow Creek watershed’s tributaries into raging, muddy torrents. Trouble downstream, to be sure. That’s a lot of water to dump down the Sacramento River all at once.
We cruised Park Marina Drive and Parkview Avenue, past well known homeless camping spots. It was the day after the RPD’s warning, and there were less tents there than the week before. Very few people were about.
Maxwell’s Eatery in downtown Redding has become our go-to place during local disasters—truth be told, we always went there, it’s just that all these disasters started happening—and Friday afternoon it was filled with people just like us, wearing assorted mismatched rain and snow gear and smelling a little ripe.
I wolfed down a blue cheese-bacon-avocado burger and downed a pair of Racer 5s. I still like beer.
The power came back on Sunday, bringing an end to our temporary state of emergency. Someone should make t-shirts that say, “I survived the 50 Year Dump.”
But it won’t be me. I’ll be busy preparing for the next disaster, which more likely than not around these parts lately, is just around the corner.