Monday, July 25, 2011

Fires died down in New Mexico, drought may turn into desert, 7/25/2011

The fires around most of New Mexico have died down. A feeble monsoon brought apparently just enough water to the mountains to douse the flames of the "Las Conchas" fire which consumed 160.000 acres but only 'licked' the laboratory and didn't enter the town of Los Alamos.

The"Cerro Grande" fire, which did devastate about 300 houses in Los Alamos in the year 2000 and lit up the South West corner of the laboratory (Tech Area 16), turned out in many ways the prescribed fire it was meant to be --in the sense that it prevented the 2011 Las Conchas fire from being much more destructive.

Around Santa Fe it stopped raining around the middle of January and by the end of June had only received just over 1/2 inch of rain for the year. Someone remarked that there is a point where you no longer talk about drought....instead you speak of desert and that is really where the whole SouthWest of the US is going rapidly. From Las Vegas to Phoenix, from Santa Fe to Albuquerque and El Paso, there is no longer any available water; the Sonoran desert is spreading.
a feeble intermittent monsoon....where? oh where? is Avanyu, the water guardian deity of this area....

In the beginning of July finally some rain arived in New Mexico --but plentiful it is not. Even 15 minutes of rain seems to be a blessing, but what this land really needs is a good dousing of rain. Of course after the Las Conchas fire, we may run into all kinds of problems even with a little rain: ashes, landslides, pollution they may all come down the Los Alamos arroyos rapidly, causing erosion and water filtration problems.  In the Santa Clara pueblo, people are continuously sand bagging to prevent the expected deluge to flood their village.

The mountains themselves will never be the same: the heat of the flames has even 'burned the roots' as one of the elders of the San Ildefonso pueblo recently proclaimed.
Some (fundamentalist) people in Los Alamos think that the fact that Los Alamos was mostly spared in these last fires, is a sign of God's grace and endorsement of its mission. I too bow to the grace, but I take the omnipotent message a little differently:
Cerro Grande was the first and Las Conchas is the second warning....... three strikes and you are out.

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