As California continues to struggle with an unprecedented scourge of major fires, Bay Area skies have been darkened and transformed into an apocalyptic red – drawing comparisons to life on Mars or perhaps even hell.
Residents of San Francisco, Oakland, and surrounding communities woke up to ominous pumpkin-orange skies on Wednesday, a result of toxic air overhead and massive plumes of smoking reaching high into the atmosphere, dimming the sunlight and creating an otherworldly ambiance.
— Feroze Ali (@feroze17) September 9, 2020
What would have been a normally bright and sunny morning instead looked like dawn as the sun’s rays struggled to penetrate the smoky haze, reports SFGate.
As a result, many slept in because it remained dark outside, while one father joked to his children that they had been moved overnight to Mars, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
If you woke up this morning and thought you were on Mars instead of the Bay Area, you’re definitely not alone.
— SFGATE (@SFGate) September 9, 2020
“It feels like the end of the world, or like Mordor. But I guess it’s just a weird mix of smog and smoke and haze,” local resident Catherine Geeslin told the Chronicle in between snapping cell phone shots of the blackened sky. “It was alarming to see it’s still dark. And it will be strange to have lunch in the dark. But you still have to get on with your day.”
The smoke is the result of the massive August Complex Fire near Mendocino National Forest, the site of a huge cluster of wildfires in Northern California, as well as similarly unprecedented fires across Washington and Oregon. The wind has pushed the fire southward from as far as the Pacific Northwest U.S. into the Bay Area.
— Mert Can (@sadecemertcan) September 9, 2020
“Extremely dense & tall smoke plumes from numerous large wildfires, some of which have been generating nocturnal pyrocumulunimbus clouds (‘fire thunderstorms), are almost completely blocking out the sun across some portions of Northern California this morning,” UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain wrote on Twitter.
Extremely dense & tall smoke plumes from numerous large wildfires, some of which have been generating nocturnal pyrocumulunimbus clouds ("fire thunderstorms"), are almost completely blocking out the sun across some portions of Northern California this morning. #CAwx #CAfire pic.twitter.com/y9evl4u0eq
— Daniel Swain (@Weather_West) September 9, 2020
In the meantime, a snow-like blanket of ash has also come in from the Bear Fire near Chico, California, which exploded overnight and sent a blizzard of ash into the region’s air.
The ash at Buchanan Field Airport in Concord nearly created sights rarely seen in the Bay, according to National Weather Service forecaster Roger Gass.
— 💾 Aaron Edell 💾 (@aaronedell) September 9, 2020
“They reported a significant amount of ash,” Gass said. “Almost to the point where it looked like moderate to heavy snow.”
However, Bay Area residents are fortunate because while the high-altitude smoke may create a dramatic scene, the toxic air remains hover above the marine layer from the Pacific Ocean, which offers literal breathing room to locals and a respite from the smoky stench of fire season.
Woke up at 10:00 for the same reason. Here it is at 10:30am. pic.twitter.com/apLsxArbQF
— Defund The Police (@chablinos) September 9, 2020
“The marine layer is a stable area of air that does not rise, and so we’re continually pumping in cleaner air from over the ocean,” said ABC7 meteorologist Mike Nicco.
The surreal conditions underscore the bizarre and unnerving nature of 2020, a year that has been characterized by a pandemic, acute social unrest, and a brutal wave of wildfires across the Golden State.
“Pretty much all the customers have the apocalypse on their mind,” barista Leah Lozano said. “It’s a metaphor for our current plight,”