Two weeks ago, the town and citizens were busy burning the tumbleweeds along the roads, including Shafer and Miller Lanes, where they nearly covered the roads. This week, during the windstorm, Shafer was completely covered with the weeds again, according to people who had to just drive through them to get to their destination. I took some pictures years ago when the tumbleweeds gathered along a fence line on Bailey Lane during a windstorm. They backed up to the point that they completely covered Castle Valley Drive and Bailey Lane before the road personnel removed them.
There is not a long list of things that I really dislike. If I did keep such a list however, up near the top, just under mud, would be wind. This week’s high winds brought that to mind. We didn’t have a lot of wind in California except for once or twice a year when we would get those hot, dry east winds or Santa Ana winds. They blew in from the desert and are responsible for fanning fires into major infernos, which happens at least once a year there.
The winds around here can blow anytime but usually occur in the spring, just after the mud dries up and about the time you want to spray the trees or do other projects that require mild weather. Just after we moved here in 1978, we had a blue plastic wading pool that the younger kids used in the summer and sometimes even for solar baths. It blew away one morning, never to be seen again, but later that afternoon a pink wading pool appeared from somewhere down the valley so we used that one instead.
The winds have caused some damage to homes in the valley. On several occasions, the wind has blown a roof or part of a roof off someone’s home, and several times, storage buildings blew down. One man was framing a building, then left to buy more material and came back to find the building in a large heap. My neighbor returned to the valley from Salt Lake City to continue working on his pump house only to find it was destroyed by the wind while he was away.
Wildfires in the valley during these windy times are really scary, as the wind can change directions without warning and catch firefighters unaware. Several home have been lost during these conditions, also. These tumbleweeds, along with cheat grass and other dry vegetation, will create an interesting fire season this year. I sat in on a meeting with the Bureau of Land Management, State Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands and fire specialists from other agencies who predict an active fire season this year. A climate map of the western United States shows the eastern Utah region as being abnormally dry but not nearly as bad as sections of southern California and western Nevada, where they are in “severe” and “extreme” drought conditions. Major wildfires were already burning uncontrollably in California during the month of December.
A warning to residents is to be mindful of wildfires this year and create a defensible space around your homes and buildings. A defensible space refers to that area between a house and the surrounding wildlands, where the vegetation has been modified to reduce the wildfire threat. Interrupt the layers of vegetation to provide a separation between trees and small groups of shrubs. Remove vegetation that allows fire to move from lower-growing plants to taller ones. Keeping a defensible space effective is a continual process. An effective defensible space can be quickly diminished through neglect. Emergency planning in advance just makes sense. Castle Valley residents should have an escape route and a safety zone, especially for the homes on the rim side of the valley. An escape by the road could be cut off and people should consider a route to a cleared area on their property to be safe from a fire. This is a tactic that is continually drummed into every firefighter as he or she approaches a fire, and is also applicable to homeowners in the valley.
Some things never change. Thirty five years ago this week, Robert Deglas, a board member of the Castle Valley River Ranchos Property Owners Association, asked residents of the valley to slow down while driving along Castle Valley Drive. “The board considered placing some speed limit signs along the route,” this column reported back then.
Well, there are speed limit signs installed now, but 35 years later people are still driving too fast, especially at the lower end of the valley around the area of Castle Creek. One lady said that people are driving too fast and reported a scary incident involving a horse and rider on the side of the road and a car speeding around a curve in the road.