Geseënde Kersfees! Merry Christmas!

The drawing is from inside the cover of ‘Die Mooiste Afrikaanse Sprokies/ The Most Beautiful African Fairytales’, published in 1968 by Human & Rousseau.

P.S.  It’s a white Christmas in Seattle, with an inch or two of snow falling overnight in the city.  White Christmases are rare in Seattle, but in 2008 four inches of snow blanketed the city on Christmas Day.

Friday/ sunshine!

Mr Squirrel sunning himself on my garage roof. (Eastern Gray Squirrel, sciurus carolinensis). With the neighbors’ maple tree out, a lot more sunshine is coming into my backyard – but the squirrels no longer have the seeds to forage on.

A series of cloudy and rainy fronts weather is set to roll over Seattle the next several days.

So when the sun came out from under the clouds today, I said to myself: get out of the house now! go get some sun!

Sun, and blue sky! This is early afternoon on 17th Ave in Capitol Hill (temp. 51°F/ 11 °C).

Friday/ first snow, early

Scarf weather is definitely here! The high was only 44 °F/6°C today, with the winter’s first snow on the lawn this morning. Later in the day, big fluffy snowflakes sifted down, some of it sticking to the surface of the deck in my backyard.

Big snowflakes coming down at about 1 pm today at my house. The first measurable in Seattle usually falls in December (and some winters we actually get no snow at all in the city), so it is very early for the first snow of the season.



Monday/ California’s wildfires

Man! Hurricanes, floods (and Las Vegas) have already made 2017 an annus horribilis. Even so, Sunday and Monday brought more disaster : one of the most destructive fire emergencies in California’s history.  Some 15 fast-moving wildfires have now scorched 94,000 acres (146 sq mi) and destroyed 1,500 buildings.  At least 10 people were killed, over 100 were taken to hospitals, and some 20,000 were forced to evacuate.

The main picture from a California Highway Patrol helicopter, shows the total destruction in a Santa Rosa neighborhood. From a video clip frame, I used the street signs & fire hydrant on the After picture, to find the ‘Before’ picture (on Google Street View) of the beautiful houses there, now all burnt to ashes. Santa Rosa is one hour north of San Francisco (map from the New York Times). Most residents were under immediate evacuation orders.

Sunday/ light jacket weather

Here’s a collage of pictures from my random walk around Seattle downtown this afternoon.  It was sunny but only 60°F/ 15°C, so ‘light jacket’ weather. ‘Scarf weather’ is coming, sometime in November.

Clockwise from top left: iconic Pike Place Market sign | Cloudburst microbrewery on Western Ave, with a hole-in-the-wall beer hall downstairs | long-ago furniture store turned into offices | Bladerunner 2049 at the Cinerama (will go see it there next weekend) | construction truck mirror near Denny Way | new billboard for Amazon Web Services off Denny Way | is this a ‘Christmas’ pedestrian crossing? this at c/r of Boren & Howell | yellow & green on Amazon Tower II | monorail from Space Needle, going to downtown.

Tuesday/ my new silver shadows

I am trying again to add greenery to the front of my house, and my gardener recommended astelias (‘silver shadow’).  I have to keep an eye on them and keep them watered, since the rainy season is not yet in full swing here.

The young Astelia (‘silver shadows’) in front of my house.  (The darker ones in between are fillers until the astelia gets bigger. They go by several names, such as coral bells and amethyst). The astelia (sliver shadow) is originally from New Zealand, and an evergreen perennial that forms a clump to 3 feet tall by about 4 feet wide with bold, metallic silvery-green recurved leaves.

Thursday/ last days of summer

Dry flower arrangement from ones trimmed off my potted plants. (The water is just for counterbalance, so that the jar does not tip over easily!).
Almost 3/4 of an inch of rain in one day is a ‘lot’! .. compared to 0.02 for all of July and August.

It’s getting cooler here in the Pacific Northwest, and the first big weather system will move in this weekend, bringing rain to the parched forests on the Olympic Peninsula and lawns in the cities (such as mine).

Meanwhile, the very long road to recovery for the flooded and damaged parts of Texas and Florida, and the devastated islands in the Caribbean has started.

Newspaper USA Today reports that for the first time in 300 years, there is not a single person on the tiny island of Barbuda (pop. 1,800). Every last one was evacuated, after 95% of the structures there, had been destroyed by hurricane Irma.

Sunday/ landfall in Florida

It was a perfect day in Seattle: not too hot, not too cold, blue sunny sky.
Of course: a different story on the other side of the continent down south; a very bad weather day in Florida.  Here is a collage of a few interesting pictures of the hurricane that I ran across on-line.

Irma was battering the Tampa Bay area late Sunday night; Storm surges flooded downtown Miami and the winds left 2 million households without power (pictures: New York Times); Manatee stranded in Tampa Bay after 4 ft of water drawn out of the bay by the hurricane; the manatee was later helped to the deep water by 5 people (picture by Tony Foradini-Campos on Facebook); flamingos at the Tampa Bay Zoo marched to a protected enclosure (picture by NBC News); a pair of parrots sheltering against a high-rise window (picture by ABC News); Check it out! No air traffic whatsoever, over the entire Florida (diagram from FlightAware).


Saturday/ almost here

Graphic from the New York Times, showing Irma’s position at 2 am on Sunday.

The wait is almost over (for Irma’s landfall in Florida) .. the latest tracking has hurricane Irma has Key West in the cross hairs, pass on the east of Ft Myers and Naples, and then hit St Petersburg and Tampa.

Florida Governor Rick Scott urged people on the coast all day Thursday and Friday to get out, and hundreds of thousands did, but many still stayed in their homes. The big problem is the storm surge that will surely flood thousands of homes on the Keys, and those on right on the Gulf of Mexico.

Friday/ Irma update

Check out the Washington Post’s free updates for Hurricane Irma, here.  Late Friday night the storm system was brushing by the north of Cuba. (It devastated Barbuda, St Martin and the Turks & Caicos Islands).   It is expected to make landfall on Sunday morning in Florida (but storm conditions will start to appear on Saturday).  The latest modeling has shifted its landfall slightly to the west — but all of Florida will feel the effects of the hurricane.  

Thursday/ bracing for Irma

Nevermind that Donald Trump Jr. testified before a Senate committee today (about his admitted meeting with Russians in June 2016), or that President Trump made an agreement with the Democrats on Wednesday*, blindsiding the leadership of the Republican Party.  It’s all about the Category 5 monster hurricane Irma coming for Florida.   There are gas shortages and the interstate freeways are clogged, as some 500,000 residents were told to evacuate to safer areas up north.  Hotel and motel rooms as far away as Atlanta are said to be sold out. There were long lines at Miami, and other airports with people trying to get out before the airports close down on Friday.

*To raise the debt ceiling until December, and to provide $15 billion of funding for hurricane Harvey

NOAA’s cone for Irma’s path as of Thursday night, looking terrible for the Florida Keys, and for Florida.  This storm is larger and stronger than 1992’s hurricane Andrew, the most destructive hurricane to hit Florida to date ($26 billion damage in 1992 dollars).  The Florida panhandle is only 140 mi wide, and the storm system’s diameter exceeds 300 miles!
I took this picture of the Turks & Caicos National Museum in 2006 (it was a stop on a Caribbean cruise). It must have sustained some damage from hurricane Irma today, since the eye of the hurricane passed over the islands. The hurricane caused extensive damage to buildings in St Maarten and the island of Barbuda (90% of buildings damaged or completely destroyed in Barbuda).


Wednesday/ fire and ash

I swept fine ash from the wildfires off my deck and front porch on Wednesday. The smoky, hazy sky hung around, but on-shore breezes on Thursday should start to take care of some of the smoke.  But to help the firefighters, it really needs to start raining here in the Pacific Northwest.

What a frightening scene – can anything to stop this mountainside wildfire?  This Monday photo provided by KATU-TV shows a wildfire as seen from near Stevenson Wash., across the Columbia River. The fire is burning in the Columbia River Gorge above Cascade Locks, Ore. (Tristan Fortsch/KATU-TV via AP).
The Eagle Creek wildfire covers 30,000 acres : about 46 square miles. As of Wednesday, the fire was contained at only 5% or so.   The location of the town of Stevemson in the previous picture, is just a little further up along the Columbia river, on the Washington State side. 

Monday/ go away, summer

Hurricane Irma’s position as of Tuesday morning.


Monday was Labor Day in the United States: the unofficial end of summer. By this time the traditional three week fellesferie (public holiday) in Norway and elsewhere in Europe, and the bouwvak (builders’ vacation) in the Netherlands, are long gone.  I see the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant notes that it was not really a pleasant ‘topsomer’ kind of a summer in Europe, with the extreme heat there.  I don’t think we can declare 2017 a great summer for North America either, with hurricane Harvey (and another one called Irma – now a Category 5! – churning towards Florida).  In California and the Pacific Northwest firefighters are still battling very large wildfires.  The smoke is blanketing the entire state, and we are looking to on-shore winds to bring some relief on Wednesday.

This picture from NOAA National Weather Service National Hurricane Center, of Hurricane Irma Heading Toward the Leeward Islands. GOES-16 captured this geocolor image of Hurricane Irma the morning of September 5, 2017. Irma is a potentially catastrophic category 5 hurricane and will bring life-threatening wind, storm surge, and rainfall hazards to portions of the northeastern Leeward Islands beginning later today, and the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico beginning tomorrow (9/6). Created by our partners at the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, the experimental geocolor imagery enhancement displays geostationary satellite data in different ways depending on whether it is day or night. This image, captured as daylight moves into the area, offers a blend of both, with nighttime features on the left side of the image and daytime on the right.
Satellite picture from the National Weather Service with the Washington State outline and cities drawn in. The smoke from the wild fires blanket almost the entire State. (I believe the crisp white fluffs on the left and over the ocean, are clouds).

Tuesday/ Harvey breaks rainfall record

It’s official : Tropical Storm Harvey has broken a 1978 rainfall record with some places now measuring over 50 inches since Friday (the numbers on the left are from earlier). So that European weather model’s prediction was not out by much, after all.  It is just mind-boggling .. to think that one or two inches of rain is a ‘lot of rain’, but here we are looking a ten, twenty times that. 

The storm moved out over the gulf, and will make a second landfall Tue night. President Trump and Melania visited Corpus Christie (she in stiletto heels; she did change into sneakers upon arriving). Hair-raising alert regarding a levy breach. The two reservoirs (dams) built 70 years ago in the wake of an epic flood in 1935 are now overflowing and no longer helping to hold back any floodwater.

Sunday/ water, everywhere

It was a tough weekend for Houston’s residents, and for the first responders.  The 911 service received some 50,000 calls.  Houston’s airports were closed, but Southwest Airlines airlifted about 500 people out of Houston Hobby’s lights-out airport before sunset, on five special flights, so that they were not stranded at the airport.  The flood water filled up all the lower-lying areas, and also reached downtown Houston.   Resources are pouring in from everywhere to help; even from Seattle. A responder team of 17 people left today; they will drive 36 hours straight to make it to Houston to also go and lend a hand. Check out the New York Times articles; they took the paywall down so that everyone can access their coverage.

Friday night rain dump, news dump

Harvey became a Cat 4 hurricane just before it made landfall. Luckily, it missed Corpus Christi, sparing the city the worst of the wind damage. But every river or stream from Corpus Christi to Houston is projected to crest at all-time record high levels.

Category 4 landfalls in the United States:

2017 – Harvey
2004 – Charley
1989 – Hugo
1961 – Carla
1960 – Donna
1957 – Audrey
1954 – Hazel

Just before Hurricane Harvey made landfall northeast of Corpus Christi, there was news that 1. President Trump pardoned criminally convicted Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and that 2. Nazi sympathizer and White House staff member/ deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka finally resigned. (Yay). 3. There were new subpoenas issued in the on-going Trump-connections-with-Russia investigations.

Here is Bloomberg’s Noah Feldman explaining why the pardon is so exceptional, and so bad. Others speculate that Trump is flexing his powers-of-the-pardon muscle, and sending a message to the collusion-with-Russia investigators that he can pardon others, as well. (The power to pardon is based on the honor system, and we have a decidedly dishonorable President. Not good).  Pardons can be issued preemptively; President Ford pardoned Nixon even before he was officially charged with a crime.

Thursday/ on Hurricane Harvey watch

There is a powerful hurricane called Harvey, bearing down on the Texas coast. It looks as if it is going to make landfall on Friday night, in Corpus Christi.

The projected rainfall totals in the outlook are astonishing: up to 24 inches, and even more than that in some localized areas.

The danger from a hurricane is not so much the wind, but more than often the huge storm surge from the ocean, and the flooding that it brings.


P.S.  An interactive on-line article titled Hell and High Water says ‘Houston is the fourth-largest city in the country. It’s home to the nation’s largest refining and petrochemical complex, where billions of gallons of oil and dangerous chemicals are stored. And it’s a sitting duck for the next big hurricane. Learn why Texas isn’t ready’.


Update Fri 8/25: Whoah. 60 inches of rain?


Tuesday/ typhoon Hato hits Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Observatory issued a rare No. 10 ‘Severe Typhoon’ signal at 9:10 a.m. local time and said it will remain in force for “a couple of hours”.
Photographer: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images. The tall building in the center of the picture is the International Commerce Center.

I see Typhoon Hato is brushing by the south of Hong Kong, closing the stock market as well as the airport there. Here is a write-up just in from Bloomberg Business Week.

I’m sure it’s a somewhat unsettling day for the occupants of the 102nd – 108th floors in the swank Ritz Carlton, at the top of the International Commerce Centre building in Hong Kong!