A Pandemic, Flashes Of Light And Then An Inferno

Aug 21, 2020

Welcome to KAZU's weekly news roundup where you'll find the top local stories of the week and a few select national stories from NPR.

It just doesn’t stop. For six months, a deadly virus has swept through California killing more than 11,800 souls. Then, early Sunday morning, a freak lightning storm lit up the state like paparazzi’s cameras at the Oscars. And as the last flash faded, California slowly realized it was on fire. 

By Friday afternoon, fires scorched more than 100,000 acres in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties. White ash fell from the sky like snow and orange-colored smoke made the landscape look like photographs of Mars. 

The smoke is more than an eye sore. Michelle Loxton reported on the effect of the smoke on air quality and how people can protect themselves. She covered how long the smoke may hang in the air and what people with underlying conditions should do.

The fires have forced tens of thousands to leave their homes, about 45,000 people displaced in Santa Cruz County alone. Jason Hoppin, the county’s communications manager, said that's close to one in five residents. And not just people are being evacuated. Erika Mahoney told the story of the courage and teamwork it took to protect 44 horses from the so-called River Fire near Salinas.

Even as the fires rage on, the COVID-19 virus continued its deadly march. More than 644,000 Californians are infected. 

Santa Cruz County Cases (as of Friday): 1,605 total, 8 deaths

Monterey County Cases (as of Friday): 6,964 total, 51 deaths

There was some good news this week. Santa Cruz County was taken off the state’s COVID-19 watch list on Friday, August 14. This means that the infection rate has dropped below the state’s threshold. If that holds for 14 consecutive days, some businesses may be able to reopen at the end of the month. 

Democrats held their first virtual convention. And, if that wasn't historic enough, they nominated the country’s first Asian American and Black woman to run on a major party ticket. Republicans will hold their virtual convention next week.

The US Postmaster General testified before Congress on Friday amid allegations that mail processing is being slowed in order to disrupt the November election.

Singer and part-time philosopher Bob Marley once said, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” During these hard times, here are some people and institutions showing their strength:

Second Harvest Food Bank held its weekly food distribution this Friday despite the smoky skies. Second Harvest said now more than ever, evacuated residents and people affected by the wildfires need support.

SPCA Monterey County is sheltering nearly 500 rescued pets, including dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, a bearded dragon, and chinchillas. They are also sheltering large animals like alpaca, emus and sheep. If you are forced to evacuate, they advise you to take your pets with you. If you need help, please call the SPCA at 831-373-2631 during the day or 831-264-5455 at night.  

Churches in Santa Cruz County have opened their parking lots to evacuees as the county works quickly to increase shelter capacity. 

The City of Monterey is offering rental assistance for residents who have been laid off. 

Here are a just a few helpful resources:

KAZU’s Wildfire Updates/Resources Page  

Santa Cruz County Wildfire Page

Monterey County Wildfire Page

A tough few weeks are in front of us. NOAA has issued a fire weather watch for Sunday through Tuesday. A chance of dry thunderstorms is in the forecast, capable of producing gusty and erratic winds. The alert added, “Any dry lightning could start additional fires.” Please stay with KAZU for News Updates.

Until then, 

KAZU News