Thursday, August 27, 2020

Adapting to the "New Normal" During a Pandemic

 The  “New Normal” -- Finding Zen in Abnormal Times

By Cal Orey

It’s time to adapt and embrace the chaos…

Welcome to our new life: Sanitized, socially distanced, stay-at-home if the virus case numbers spike, travel at your own risk, and wash your hands. The thing is, when we are hit with a hurricane or tornado, there is a beginning, middle and end. When a novel virus pays us a visit we are in turbulent waters, we don’t know when it is going to be over so we can get back to our pre-pandemic times, the good old days. And the uncertainty of the smart, novel virus is what is stressful to me, and perhaps you, too.

Social Isolation is Not Normal

As an introverted author for decades, working at home is nothing new to me. However, my favorite getaways are no longer available for now. The pool is closed. The resort spa is shut down. Gambling at the casinos is risky because of tourists from hot zones. And the most challenging takeaway is travel. I cannot go to Canada – the borders are closed. So, I sit in my cabin and think, “Not normal.”

I craved the connected-ness to humanity I get when traveling. I booked a flight to Seattle. The upside: I got my first-class window seat, promised it would be blocked off, too. But when I called the hotel, my favorite suite was top dollar yet the spa, pool, room service (all in plastic) is what is offered. The reservationist told me my go-to spots were still half boarded up like before a storm. Visions of folks in the airport, plane, hotel, and a semi-ghost town spooked me. I cancelled.

Fear of Super Spreaders

I’ve been walking the dog is a safe place with no locals or tourists. This activity makes me feel almost normal. Also, gardening and building a fortress with trees so I don’t have to see vacay people as I try and enjoy a “staycation” at home is working, sort of. 

One day at a local nursery, an elderly woman started to chat with me. We both wore masks. But she continued to walk up to me and get too close. I backed away quickly, again and again. And for grocery shopping? The brother is the forager. After all, he is action oriented and younger than I am. But fear of super spreaders goes beyond home.

Recently, my beloved sibling was lured by temptation. He drove with a friend (he doesn’t believe Covid-19 is real) to Las Vegas – a mega hot zone. Think casinos, motels, hotels, crowds, and socializing with tourists from around the country. Once he returned it was a 14-day quarantine. I will not subject myself (or fur kids) to possibility of contracting the virus. I don’t do sick well. We’re on day 9. The dog misses him as do I. We talk on the phone and email but… It’s the new normal. Self-preservation.

Kids Will Go Back to School, Right?

The plan in our region was to go back to the pre-coronavirus world. However, as kids go back to school, so their parents will go back to work, and businesses will reopen – it’s too soon, as I predicted. Kids are testing positive the day they arrive at school. So, Plan B is to adapt to home schooling via computer and some are trying hybrid schooling. But the virus continues to spread. Read: Another reopening likely followed by another lockdown.

No, I do not like to hear kids playing, screaming when I work at home. On the other hand, I do not want the town to go under lockdown two. It’s a dilemma. I know from talking to some moms that they do not know how to teach their kids. Others want to work and go back to normal times. We all do. And I hear the girls laughing which causes my Australian Shepherd to bark nonstop at the novelty.

Adults Not Working – Layoffs to Closures

Sure, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dished out guidelines for safe back-to-work practices. But what good is it when full capacity is not allowed at an indoor restaurant, hair salon, airplane or ferry.

Because of the new normal, many businesses are suffering from the fallout – some close temporarily and others hope we will embrace the pre-pandemic era in the future. Some folks put there lives in danger. It’s a Catch-22: Do I work to pay bills or stay home to stay healthy. For some jobs – grocery store worker to drivers – they are putting their lives (or family members, especially if they have pre-existing health conditions, are elderly or immune-compromised) in danger each and every day.

Taking Care of Me – Body and Mind

Yep, I did get my hair roots done, teeth cleaned, dog’s teeth cleaned – all with special care and following guidelines. But now, reports are noting that some non-essential activities, like teeth cleanings (due to aerosols since the virus is airborne) can be too risky but there is no proof. And the hair salon? On those risk charts it’s up there, probably right with gambling – if not more.

So, will I do these normal things that make me feel normal? More than likely, especially before another lockdown. There has to be a balance of taking care of your body and mind. If I don’t do these things, anxiety and depression – which is soaring in people of all ages – will rear its ugly head. Yes, being mindful of the smart virus is a must – but living life during abnormal times is a must, too, for balance.

 Finding Normalcy

I recall the film “I Am Legend” and the reason why Will Smith’s isolated existence worked is because he found structure in his life. He watched reruns of the news in the morning, exercised (both him and his dog on the treadmill), played outdoors with his canine, ate healthy foods, worked, and lived a semi-normal life without normal healthy people.

I sort of feel like that. Every day I vow to get on the treadmill…and the dog who I taught to do it. I try to have faith that this virus will be like AIDS – a time in the ‘80s – which I covered as a journalist in San Francisco. We may or may not find a vaccine that is safe. But I do predict we will continue to discover good therapeutics. Also, we will learn how to live our lives with Covid-19. And hopefully, by the late spring of 2021 we will have faced the chaos, embraced gratitude for what we had and we have, and survived.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Can Animals Sense Oncoming Storms, Twisters, and Hurricanes?

 By Cal Orey

ESP, Superior Senses, and Feline Intuition

Whether it’s ESP, superior senses, feline intuition or a change in routine, your cat may sense danger, and you should know about it.

            At noon on a stormy spring day in Austin, Texas, several household cats started acting strangely. “I was in bed watching the weather channel on TV,” recalls cat owner Janet Shon. “My cats wanted to hide underneath the covers.” The heavy rains and howling winds continued, causing panic in her house full of pets. Eventually, she put them into carriers to calm them, and took cover under the stairwell. “Usually, my cats don’t mind being in the crates during bad weather,” she says, “but this time, they were chatting nonstop and wanted to be next to me.”

            Several hours later, on May 27, 1997, an extremely rare and dangerous tornado (classified as an F-5), with winds measuring over 260 mph, touched down 40 miles to the North of Shon in Jarrell, Texas. Twenty-seven people died in Jarrell. Multiple tornadoes also ripped through the Austin area, killing two people. “It took the roof off the Albertsons’ store,” says Shon with awe. She and her cats survived without a scratch.

            What made Shon’s cats react in such a way? Some say it’s ESP (extra sensory perception), or a sixth sense. Others claim cats aren’t gifted, just blessed with well-developed or heightened senses—scent, sound and sight, that are far superior to our own.

            However you see it, cats have earned their supernatural reputation throughout history. In ancient Egypt, felines were worshipped as gods, and killing a cat was a crime punishable by death. Even modern society gives credence to the idea that cats “know” things. During World War 11, “British families found that their cats were the best warning system for impending danger,” notes Dale Koppel, author of Amazing But True Cat Facts. “They showed unmistakable signs that something was about to happen even before the air sirens were sounded. Their hair would stand on end, or they’d spit or wail. Some would head straight for the nearest shelter.”

            Many people who live through terrible disasters—hurricanes, tornadoes, fires or earthquakes—believe their cats knew something before these disasters struck. But whether or not cats really predict danger is still an open debate. So, what will you do the next time Felix starts acting strange? Will you roll your eyes, or head for high ground? Read on and decide for yourself.



            “Cats have an extraordinary ability to sense imminent earthquakes, usually ten to fifteen minutes before they occur,” explains Ed Lucaire, author of The Cat Lover’s Book of Facts: A Felicitous Look At Felines. “They exhibit nervous behavior such as pawing or scratching at doors and windows, and above-average concern with the safety of kittens.”

            In fact, California Geologist Jim Berkland has turned to cats (and dogs) to predict other big earthquakes, such as the infamous 7.1 Loma Prieta, California earthquake of October 17, 1989, which rumbled through the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 seconds and shook Candlestick Park in the middle of the World Series. Sixty-seven people died and more than 600 people were injured. He believes some cats hold mysterious psychic powers as well.  



             So, what about hurricane warnings?  While scientists use wind patterns, barometric pressure, sea surface temperatures and other climate factors to predict hurricanes, fishermen watch their cats. In fact, cats have long been considered good luck on ships for their ability to ward off storms, sea monsters and ghosts. Europeans of the past centuries believed cats “knew” the way home and would reveal the direction by sleeping on the side of the ship that was closest to port.

            Gail Beecher, a veteran cat breeder from Needville, Texas, got a special warning before Tropical Storm Frances hit the Texas coast on September 9, 1998. Some of Beecher’s pregnant cats began to go into early labor. “When the barometer shifts during bad weather my cats always go into labor early,” she says. “I knew the storm was coming this way.” Wind speeds reached a maximum of 65 mph, and one person died due to the intense flooding of the Gulf Coast.

            “All cats are extraordinary sensitive to even the smallest changes in the weather,” writes Koppel who claims, “you can throw away your thermometers and stop watching weather forecasts on TV.” A resident of Kansas City, Missouri agrees, “I have noticed before a tornado (during thunder, wind, hail and lightning) animals do lie close to the ground and pant. The bigger and fatter the dog and cat, the more it seems to affect them. Also, they sometimes put their head on the floor.”

            According to Koppel, French fishermen watch their cats’ body language to get a weather report. “They watch their cats closely to predict weather changes,” he says. “Rain? Watch for your cat to pass her paw behind the ear during grooming. Windy? Your cat will clean her nose. Low tide? Wide pupils, of course. When will the bad weather end? When your cat twists and turns.”

            Sound silly? Perhaps not, says John C. Wright, PhD, certified animal behaviorist from Macon, Georgia, and author of Is Your Cat Crazy: Solutions from the Casebook of a Cat Therapist, who’s fascinated by it all. However, to be certain that this is a reliable weather source, Wright says, a group of cats and their body positions should be examined carefully in a weather study for conclusive scientific evidence. In other words, scientific studies are needed.

                                                           A CAT’S GOOD SENSE


Neil Tenzer, DVM, of Miami, Florida recalls that his five cats felt Hurricane Andrew’s fury before it arrived on August 25, 1992, with winds of up to 150 mph. Amid the chaos of his family putting shutters on the windows and gathering canned food and candles, explains Tenzer, his cats grew curious and upset about the change in their environment. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this category 4 hurricane caused 58 deaths and approximately $27 billion in damage. “It’s not that they predicted the hurricane—but they certainly sensed it was on its way,” Tenzer says.

            A former North Carolina resident agrees. She was in the path of Hugo as the hurricane headed toward Charlotte in 1989. Hurricane Hugo passed directly over Charleston, South Carolina, on September 21, as a category 5 storm with wind speeds in excess of 135 mph and a storm surge of nearly 20 feet. Hugo caused 57 deaths on the U.S. mainland (mostly in North and South Carolina) and 29 deaths in the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to NOAA records. Total damage: $9 billion. “I had indoor cats and barn cats there,” she recalls. Apparently, her cats share the same reaction to all severe storms. “Barn cats always seem to find shelter well ahead of a storm.” 

            Some argue that extrasensory perception is really just super senses. In the case of earthquakes, for example, cats may be sensitive to the earth’s vibrations and sound waves right before an earthquake hits, says geophysicist Bruce Presgrave, from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in Golden, Colorado. Other people suggest that cats are able to detect minute shifts in the earth’s magnetic field or in the earth’s magnetic field or in the earth’s static electricity, which occur before a jolt.




            Smell may play a role in why felines are often good fire detectors.  “For some reason or another, cats may be able to sense a fire or [perhaps notice] something different in the air before humans do,” says Lieutenant Edward Campbell, public information officer for the San Francisco Fire Department. “And that can contribute to why cats are able to get out of harm’s way before firefighters come to the rescue.”

            Indeed, cats have an acute sense of smell—60 to 80 million olfactory cells, whereas, humans have five to 20 million. Keen hearing plays a role in fire detection, too. A crackling fire can ignite a cat’s fight-or-flight response. Many indoor/outdoor cats fled for their lives to escapes the raging inferno, as the black clouds of smoke hung overhead on October 20, 1991, during the Oakland-Berkeley Hills fire. Twenty-five people were killed in the six-alarm blaze that ran wild for almost two days before it was contained.

            Ray and Carol Steiner of Bowling Green, Ohio, have their red tabby Manx’s good sense to thank. On an August morning in 1995, Carol’s three-year-old male cat, Ringo, acted as though he wanted to go outside, twice—but didn’t go out. Then, he made a “high-pitched meow,” says Carol that she interpreted as “follow me.” Ringo led Carol to the side of the house where there was a large bed of lava rock. Without hesitation, the cat began digging into the sharp rocks until his paws began to bleed. At last, Carol smelled the odor of gas and quickly sought help. When the gas department inspector arrived, he found the deadly natural gas leak under the rocks—a flame could have sent the neighborhood into a devastating conflagration.

            How did Ringo sense the impending disaster? “He noticed the difference in our behavior,” says Carol Steiner, who thinks the cat showed extrasensory powers. Both Ray and Carol had fallen victim to a host of ill health effects, such as high blood pressure and slurred speech—methane poisoning, according to their doctor’s diagnosis. Odorless natural gas is laced with a tracer, says Carol, which Ringo must have detected. “We were sleeping 19 hours a day,” she says. “Somehow he was able to detect that gas was the culprit.” So, was it ESP? or an excellent sense of smell?


                                                   REACTING TO CHANGE 


            Most people recognize that cats don’t like change too much. Perhaps felines don’t “sense” danger, but are instead reacting to change in routine or environment. “It may be novelty of those particular cues, rather than the cat knows that this is danger,” says Wright. And often, it’s fear of the unknown. “Fear motivates cats to act out,” he adds. “When they can’t cope with the stimulus they go emotional on us. Sometimes these emotional responses lead cats to run over and over their escape routes or make some noise to get out.”

            Deputy Director Gary Grice of the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, relies on complex scientific theories and computers to forecast powerful twisters. However, “there is a possibility that animals react to the significant pressure changes of the atmosphere before a tornado hits,” he concedes. So can feline barometers detect the difference between an impending hurricane or tornado? “Since there are similar weather phenomena associate with tornadoes and hurricanes, you’re likely to get the same reaction out of cats because they are reacting to the same kinds of things,” explains Wright.

            “Although there’s research that’s ongoing in different areas, when your life is on the line and you have to depend on something so you get out of harm’s way, the clear answer now is to heed the warnings that are issued by the National Weather Service and do what they say,” says Grice. He goes on to say that “scientists do not have a 100 percent track record for predicting disasters.” As for cats, Grice believes that are not perfect predictors either since it’s not known if they are responding to disaster precursors or if they are behaving strangely for other reasons. “Our success rate is much, much higher than what you’re getting from animals,” he says.

            Meanwhile, Shon wonders about her cats’ behavior before the deadly Texas tornado. Did they sense the nearby funnel clouds on the day of destruction? Was there a change in smell or pressure, or did Shon’s own behavior affect the cats? We’ll never really know. But at least some disaster experts are now realizing that some cats can sense impending gloom and doom. The question of whether cats can predict a cataclysm hours or days in advance requires more research.

            But since scientists admit they aren’t able to reliably predict earthquakes, fires, hurricanes and tornadoes, is it really so far-fetched to monitor cats?

            Cat experts advise cat owners to do just that. “The cat’s first instinct is survival, and cats are the best survival machines Mother Nature has ever developed,” concludes Eric Swanson, author of Hero Cats: True Stories of Daring Feline Deeds. Whether cats are gifted with some kind of sight, or not—felines continue to inspire a spiritual nature that cat-lovers respond to. What they actually see, and what we see in their eyes is impossible to say.

            Consider what the late Jeane Dixon wrote in her book Do Cats Have ESP? “In the dark, [cats’ mysterious eyes] seem to hover alone, disembodied and shining brightly on the darkest of nights. Ancient people believed the cat had captured a piece of the sun which it called up at will to see in the dark.”

Saturday, August 22, 2020

The Oakland Firestorm...Angora Fire, Author's Recollections

 By Cal 

A Cat’s Eye View Of… The Oakland Fire

(California is Burning, August 2020)

On Sunday afternoon, October 20, 1991—just two years after the Loma Prieta earthquake rumbled the California San Francisco Bay Area—a devastating conflagration created a Stephen King-type of nightmare for East Bay pet owners and their pets. 

            The Oakland fire was not only a human tragedy—affecting the human-animal bond—but a never-ending feline disaster. Cats and their owners were separated during the terrifying chaos. As the wildfire spread through the Oakland/Berkeley hills, wildlife and companion animals fled for their lives.

            Many East Bay residents who tried to rescue their pets in the beginning of the commotion recalled that their cats were scurrying up and over their shoulders because they were in such a panic state. Some pet owners were able to roll a towel around their cats and escape. When owners of pets were forced to evacuate their homes while the huge black clouds of smoke hung overhead, many indoor-outdoor cats were out of sight.

            Unlike the earthquake of ’89, the odds were against cats in the immediate fire area. As the temperature soared to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, cats didn’t have a safe refuge. The East Bay Fire—one of the worst in the United States—was out of control for 69 hours as the warm Santa Ana-type winds intensified the natural disaster.

            San Francisco’s Pets Unlimited Veterinary Hospital manager, Linda Drake said, “There are people that said ‘Cats stay low to the ground’ and ‘Smoke overcomes people and they topple over.’ But maybe a cat could keep under the smoke barrier and could somehow make it through.” No one knew for sure.




            Before the fire was under control, the plight grew worse for many upper-middle class residents in the neighborhoods like Broadway Terrace and Hiller Highlands. Cat owners were hit with a double-whammy: Already grief-stricken about their burning homes, they had to cope with the fact that their pets were still missing in the fire area, and coined as fire victims, too.

            Reports from the animal shelters were bleak and frightening. “It’s far worse than the earthquake. We understand there are still several cats hiding up in the fire area. They’re hiding underneath the rubble,” said official Rhonda Rose of the Berkeley-East Humane Society.

            Immediately, Oakland Animal Control set up a team of animal control officers and other animal agencies to do search and rescue in the fire area. “Monday was not a good day because the fire was still burning,” explained Jim Parr, director of the Oakland Animal Control. Still, cats were being brought in by their owners because the owner had been displaced and needed a place temporarily to keep their animal.

            On Tuesday several animal control groups went up into the area of ashes and devastation. “We have rescued a few cats, we’re not finding many,” reported Marilyn Estes, senior animal control officer for the Oakland City Animal Shelter. “They’re still hiding. Today we intend to set traps as soon as we get up there with food and we’re hoping the animals will get up there and eat and then we’ll be retrieving the traps.”

            News reports continued: “Wildlife wandering through the ashes…Animals in need of rescue,” and “One lady lost seven cats which have no idea how to survive in this devastated environment.” Yet animal agency posters were more positive: “Don’t give up—animals will run miles, hide weeks. Search holes, storm drains.”

            Some cats were found alive. Some were found, but ended up at the shelter with either “Owner Unknown” tags on their metal cages. Others, according to the calls incoming to the shelters, were still missing. The belief was that many cats had not escaped the ravaging fire.





            As expected, the cats were disoriented, frightened, shell shocked and reverting to wild animals. “They’re hiding in and under the burned out rubble. A news crew found a cat that was under some smoldering material from a house,” recalled Estes who rescued the blue-eyed feisty Siamese-mix. “She was quite traumatized and not an easy cat to handle. She was singed and paws were burned some, but that cat was a lucky one.”

            Like the Siamese, many of the cats that came in from the fire area shared similar physical symptoms: singed whiskers, eyelashes, burned paws and pads. Most of the fire victims suffered from second degree burns, according to Pam Rohrich, DVM, of the Oakland SPCA, who tended at least 20 survivors. Ironically, smoke inhalation wasn’t a major dilemma, she said, since X-rays proved their lungs were clear.

            “We’ve had some loss of ear tips in the cats so they’re always going to have funny, short ears but that’s OK—they can do with that. We’ve had some mild ulcerations, but again it’s been superficial. Basically, the things were reasonably superficial or they died,” said Dr. Rohich.

            She also noted that treating fire survivors, as you’d expect, is a stressful ordeal.  “They don’t like it. It’s uncomfortable. Burns are extremely painful. It’s not fun to have to subject these animals to discomfort every day.”




            Many of the burned-out East Bay residents did not just endure a tragic fire and lose personal belongings. “It’s at the point where they’ve lost their homes and a couple of days after they suddenly realize they’ve lost their pets, too,” said San Francisco’s Pets Unlimited Veterinary Hospital manager, Linda Drake.

            The first few days after the fire, shelters quickly learned it was hectic for pet owners to try and reunite their cats. “So far hundreds of people have called in about their lost pets. The majority of them are cats. Unfortunately the majority of cats do not have tags,” said Beverly Scottland, development director at the Oakland SPCA.

            Pets Unlimited was swamped, too. “Every other minute we’re getting a phone call. Eighty-five percent are for cats. Everybody who is calling is giving us a description and where they are and describing what the cat had, a collar, etc.,” said Drake.

            Like after the earthquake, Bay Area people supported one another and united at a grassroots level. There was no time for red tape. No time. So people at shelters, veterinarian practices and other animal agencies, quickly offered free medical care, temporary shelter and other needed animal services.

            To help simplify the procedure and reunited cats with their owners, a lost-pet hotline (computer data base matching lost pet reports and animals in shelters) was created.

Two weeks after the fire, the data base had a listing of more than 200 cats found alive, according to Dr. Rene Gandolfi, chairman of the disaster preparedness committee for the Alameda County Veterinary Medical Association.

            Hotline statistics prove fire refugee’s tragedy and triumph:

41 dead cats found in the fire area.

75 cats reunited with their owners.

As of November 6th, 17 kittens and 110 adult cats had been rescued and are either at a shelter, under foster care or have not yet been claimed by their owners.



            After the Oakland Fire, some cats returned home without the hotline. One homeowner who went up to his house, and his totally singed cat was there on the front stoop waiting for him.

            Other cats needed coaxing from humans. On Thursday night, four days after the fire, cat owner Stacy Hofmann and her family returned to their burned lot. They had lost five cats.

            “We called first for any of the cats,” recalled 27-year-old Stacy. “We whistled for them. We were whistling for five or 10 minutes, then we heard a little meow coming from down the street below us. There’s no vegetation anymore so you can hear things real well. We had a flashlight and we’re shining it around and saw shining. At first, we thought it was it was metal, but we kept calling and whistling.” So the Hoffmans followed the meows.

            Stacy explained further. “It led us down in between our neighbor’s house and we saw what looked like eyes or shiny metal but they weren’t moving. Pretty soon the eyes started coming towards us and at that point we still didn’t know if it was our kitty, so we just kept on—‘Kitty, Kitty.’”

            Another 15 minutes passed before the Hofmanns knew it was an animal. Then, by luring the crying creature toward them, the family saw a cat. It was their kitty!  They had found their 7-year-old tabby, Cindy. She had survived.

            “It was overwhelming to finally find a piece of our past and one of our cats. She was purring and happy to see us, kneading and meowing. She smelled like a little smokepot,” explained Stacy.

            In spite of the happy ending, the Hoffman’s other four cats are still missing. “We’re still looking,” said Stacy. “I go every day to all of the shelters.” Meanwhile, Cindy’s name has been changed to Cinder, said Stacy, adding that the cat “wasn’t singed at all. She had no visible damages to her whatsoever. She’s the happiest kitty. She just purrs and purrs.”

            Stacy’s friend, Kathleen Edwards, also was greeted by a fire spooked cat. On the day after Halloween, the 30-year-old secretary/student, found a stray cat on the rooftop at work. “She jumped up on my window and jumped up on my desk. She then jumped on my lap. She sat there for a minute, and a sonic boom scared her so she jumped back out the window.”

            For a while, the domestic white cat with black spots sat on the corner of the rooftop. “She stuck her head in the window,” said Stacy, “and I noticed her whiskers were burned.” Kathleen took the cat to a veterinarian. Its disposition was good and it was okay.

            If no one claims Kathleen’s cat on the hot tin roof, via the pet hotline or ads she placed in a local newspaper, “Blaze” is already guaranteed a new home. The real-life tale was just another of the Fire of 91’s bittersweet endings. 

 Evacuate Now!  Getting Safe for You & Your Pet’s Sake

 On September 3, 2005, at least 40,000 people evacuated from New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina. And during this past summer of 2007, earthquakes in Japan floods, in Texas, and wildfires in Utah, Nevada, and California forced countless people to flee their homes.

It’s normal for people (and pets) to be scared by the threat of manmade disasters and Mother Nature’s wrath. However, when a catastrophe hits, how do you know when to evacuate?

Your Body: When danger ignites, stressors can cause high anxiety. Simply put, stress is triggered by the sensitivity of our sympathetic system, which jump-starts the fight-or-flight syndrome, identified by Dr. Hans Selye. So when the pressure is on, up go our pulse rate, respiration, and muscle tension. In other words, physical danger can be stressful. It can lead to pondering, “Will my neighborhood be next?” Some folks won’t evacuate because they believe roads would be two crowded and fleeing too dangerous. On the flip side, some people become complacent or are in denial (i.e., they continues to work and play as if everything is normal) if they are not immediately threatened.

When Reality Hits You & Your Pets: It’s not uncommon for authorities such as the Fire Department or police officers to come door-to-door and force you to evacuate. Or, you may receive a recorded message from the Sheriff advising you of a voluntary evacuation—to get out of harm’s way.

Survival Tip: Before chaos, panic, and physical danger sets in, make your exit cool, calm, and collected.

Your Mind: It’s time to get a move on with an emergency evacuation checklist. It includes:  Family members and pets; (for three to seven days).

When Reality Hits: It’s smart to have a prepared disaster kit for both of you and your companion animals so if you evacuate, you don’t have to think when you are under pressure… Once you arrive at your destination, keep abreast of the latest news. Most likely, the event will be covered on TV, radio, and online newspapers and publications.

Survival Tip: Keep your sanity. Fear of the unknown is scary. But, you’ll be safer—so you’ll have peace of mind.

 Your Spirit: Beware that this can be a stressful time and wreak havoc on your soul and well-being. After all, you (and your pet(s)) are away from your creature comforts and in a strange environment (i.e., shelter, hotel, etc.). Reports will be confusing. Are there more aftershocks? Will the water rise? Will the winds increase?

When Reality Hits:  Some news reports may be sensationalized. Other accounts may be misleading to prevent panic. Stay connected and centered. Don’t be too quick to return home. Log onto local and national news websites.

Survival Tip:  Take a break from the disaster updates. Prayers and meditation can work wonders.


Too Close to Home: The Angora Fire

Author Cal Orey Recalls the Out-of-Control Blaze 

The Angora fire was the largest fire in the Lake Tahoe Basin in one hundred years. It destroyed 3,100 acres and more than 250 homes. On June 26, early Tuesday afternoon, due to the strong winds the South Tahoe blaze jumped the containment line and forced hundreds of people and their companion animals to flee their homes…

            The sound of helicopters and sirens were amid me and my two dogs and one cat who had alerted me by their barking and restless behavior indoors. Mushroom clouds of smoke from the raging fire filled the background of my neighborhood, Bijou Pines, a few miles from Tahoe Keys and Tahoe Island—spots that were under voluntary evacuation. Several automated evacuation calls invaded my peace of mind and threat of the out of control wildfire was creeping closer and closer. Dense smoke and falling ash was making me nauseated and anxious. Reports of chaos and panic nearby scared me. The Fire Department didn’t answer their phone. Neighbors were hosing down their rooftops or pacing our street, while trying to decide if they should stay or go.

            Flashbacks of covering the Oakland Firestorm story of 1991 haunted me. Fire experts know we live in the Lake Tahoe Basin and there’s potential for a catastrophic firestorm. I chose to flee for my (and my family’s) body, mind, and spirit. Thirty minutes later: My brother (whom left to get a secure cat crate), two excited Brittanys, on crated cat, litter pan, pet food, important documents, and my purse were in the car. We avoided potential gridlock and drove to a pet-friendly hotel in Reno, NV. Three days later, I came home to a calmer and intact house. And yes, I’d do it again for our safety’s sake.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Smoky Skies, Wildfires Ravage California


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Northern California Fire Fallout
By Cal Orey

In the August issue of Oracle 20-20, my article “Western Wildfires…on the Rise” forecast came true. I sensed my town of Lake Tahoe could be next in line—and in a round-about way—it was affected. In mid-August, the sierras were surrounded by wildfires (more than one) burning out of control in Northern California. Here, is my up close and personal first-person account of what it’s like to cope with the fallout of being in the middle of multiple wildfires and surviving the eerie fallout.
The Rim Fire, Burning by Yosemite National Park
The wildfire ignited August 17 (caused by man), and spread to more than 180,000 acres. Smoke rising from the Rim Fire, had moved into the Lake Tahoe basin and surrounding regions, causing air quality to go south—affecting the health of people and pets of all ages.
Worse, as time passed, the Lake Tahoe area was tagged by authorities including NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the El Dorado County Air Quality Management “unhealthy for sensitive groups” to “unhealthy”! What’s more, areas in Nevada, including Carson City and Reno were facing “unhealthy” and “very unhealthy” conditions.  It was a time of uncertainty, a time of caution.
Smoke Ups Health Risks
As each hour and day passed, I watched in disbelief and past wildfire images hit my mind. This was like the 2007 Angora Fire—which I evacuated to Reno, fleeing the drama of helicopters, evacuation phone calls, dark skies, and falling ash. This time around, the gray air was spreading throughout Northern California and Northern Nevada. There was nowhere to run and hide.
I found myself scrutinizing reports of South Lake Tahoe’s Barton Memorial Hospital. It was unsettling. Officials were getting flooded with respiratory complaints and numbers of emergency-room patients soared.  We were told by NOAA warning advisories for people and pets to stay indoors, shut the windows, cease physical activities, and drink water to prevent hydration.
At first, I was affected by not being able to enjoy keeping my windows open (it was the warm summer), and taking my two active dogs for long walks. The pool where I swim was closed due to the unsafe air quality. People were wearing masks at stores—it made me think of SARS in Asia and the film “Contagion”.  In fact, one night I couldn’t sleep—I was busy plotting my evacuation. But note, I’d have to drive as far as Half Moon Bay on the coast to be able to get genuine fresh air like our mountains usually has plenty of for locals and tourists.
Sure, I am a senior, but I am healthy. I do not have heart disease, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. But being advised to stay indoors was making me feel anxious, isolated, and trapped. Looking up at the sky at dusk to see a reddish sun with ash falling down on our trees, vehicles and to see a red moon late at night without stars was like a freaky nightmare—like the aftermath of a nuclear war.
By late August, some physical symptoms hit me. I was coughing, sneezing, endured a headache, and developed a sore throat. The cable guy told me every afternoon he was feeling lightheaded and ill. And, I received phone calls from my sibling on the Nevada side that the smoke quality looked worse than on the south shore of Lake Tahoe. He sent me chilling, eye-opening pictures via e-mail that were surreal looking. But that’s not all…

Long-Term Dangers of Wildfire Ash
Experts said ash falling into the lake can cause problems but we will not know until next year of the entire damage. Some wildlife is affected, too but the long-term effects on humans and their pets are unknown. 
In a poll created by the Tahoe Daily Tribune, residents showed more concern for their family’s health than not being able to play outdoors.This fact, in itself, made me feel like I was hardly alone—I was one of countless people concerned about the fallout that surrounded us from the fires that burned and affected our environment and health.
I dished reports via social networking, from my own experience. In one post I wrote: “It's like we're in off season. The store was dead tonight!  I crave swimming, long dog walks, clean air, and open windows.” And yes, the surreal nature of smoky skies brought back memories of the Oakland Firestorm—a horrific event where people and their pets died because there was only one road out and firefighters could not get in to rescue victims.
On September 1, the Rim Fire was more than one third contained. The day before, while tourists were less than more for the Labor Day Weekend, at times I could see the mountains across the Lake, I took the dogs for a longer walk, and I saw kids swimming in the water and adults on bicycles. But then, in the morning hazy skies returned. The NOAA advisories noted there would be waxing and waning of the air quality until the fire was contained, estimated September 20.
Fallen Leaf Lake...I can see clearly the fall.
So, this fire, one of the largest in California history, will not be forgotten, nor the last one. As global warming continues, the air remains dry and we get less precipitation, wildfires, say experts, may burn longer and may be worse in the years to come. But as I cope with the fallout from this wildfire of 2013, I will never take fresh air for granted.  It’s a precious thing that we need to survive.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Tomatoes are an End-of-Season Superfood

 By Cal Orey

End-of-Season Fried Green Tomatoes --Superfood

The movie Fried Green Tomatoes introduced me to this tomato dish, which I’ve grown to love. As a dish for an afternoon snack or warm summer night, these tomatoes are delicious. It may not be the Whistle Stop CafĂ© appetizers like in the film but they do the job here on the south shore.

Several years ago, a friend of mine moved from the Bay Area to Sacramento, the tomato capital of the world. He boasted about his home-grown tomatoes on a vine. “Today, I watered my plants,” he shared via our phone conversation. I was envious but thought, “Raccoons or coyotes will eat them if I get a plant at our nursery.” So, I passed on growing my own tomatoes – green or red.

It’s the red vine-ripened tomatoes – the popular “go-to slices” – that I know from being a kid and growing up in a semi-farming region. But this week I bought small green tomatoes at our friendly Safeway. So, I went to my recipe collection and changed up the ingredients a bit for my own new 2020 spin of fried green tomatoes.

Callie’s Fried Green Tomatoes

1 large brown egg

¾ cup reduced fat buttermilk

4 green tomatoes (you can use red tomatoes, too)

2 tablespoons European style butter or olive oil

1 cup seasoned bread crumbs

Cayenne pepper and paprika (to taste)

Italian seasoning (optional)

4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, shredded

Marinara sauce or Ranch dressing (optional for dipping)

In a bowl, whisk egg and buttermilk. Set aside. On a cutting board slice washed tomatoes and cut about ¼ inch thick. (Tip: Sprinkle with sea salt and let rest for about 20 minutes, blot, to make the treat crispier.)  In a deep-frying pan, turn on to medium heat. Melt oil and butter.  Then, dredge tomatoes into milk and egg mix. Dip each one into bread crumbs and spices. Repeat. Put tomatoes into frying pan until golden brown on one side, turn over so the tomatoes are crispy on both sides. Top with cheese and cook until melted. Dip in sauce or dressing if preferred. I ate a few of the crispy tomatoes as finger food but a fork Is preferred. Serves 2-4 depending on size of tomatoes. Pairs well with a green salad.

These pampered and dressed up tomatoes will wow your family, friends, or you like I recall in the unforgettable movie. Enjoy each and every crispy, juicy bite. No, it’s not fried green tomatoes from the Deep South or SAC – but savoring these treats outdoors on the deck (when the vacay folks are AWOL) at Tahoe is more than doable. It’s super comforting.

-- Cal Orey, M.A. Is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, Tea, Superfoods, Essential Oils, Herbs and Spices) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is

Thursday, August 13, 2020

2020 Earth Changes Forecasts

 Tuesday, December 31, 2019

December 9 Anchorage, AK was
in the 50s--not since 1952. Hurricane-
force winds, no snow.
As predicted, 2019 Earth changes were super life-changing in different regions around America and the world. We're talking about the Southern California major earthquake, newsworthy winter snowstorms in California, and two hurricanes that slammed the Gulf States and The Bahamas. The Southeast states faced snow while Anchorage, Alaska fought summer wildfires, a sizzling summer, and the temperature hit a historical high in December.
As we enter a New Year, quakes, storms, and heat will continue to be sobering—most likely linked to climate change, say scientists.  Read on—and digest predictions with consequences for the planet. Yep, wild happenings may affect humans, wildlife, and nature’s circle of life. It’s a brand-new decade and new earth challenges are coming to you.

         Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Waves
West Coast: Californians dodged a bullet when a major earthquake hit Ridgecrest (a remote area in Southern California) not Greater Los Angeles. The populated region with many faults may rock with an epicenter there or near the Salton Sea on the San Andreas. It’s locked and ready as the experts say knowing we’re overdue. It’s not “if” but “when”; 70 percent probability a 7.8 plus will hit Los Angeles (likely epis: Malibu, Long Beach, Northridge) this year.
A major earthquake offshore Northern California, the San Francisco Bay Area (East Bay on the Hayward Fault or South on the San Andreas). 

Not to forget Anchorage, Alaska which rocked with a 7.0. Aftershocks will continue to occur for months, however, I predict there is the chance a great earthquake (8.0 plus) could happen near the region, whereas if it’s shallow there will be more damage to the infrastructure and a tsunami which didn’t happen. Redoubt Volcano may continue to be active; not to forget west in the Pacific Ocean...The Big Island may be affected by an aggressive earthquake swarm as well as more newsworthy volcanic activity.

Europe: The Mediterranean countries may be challenged again by major earthquakes, including Italy and Greece (the deadly Albania earthquake in 2019 was felt. At least one shaker will be shallow, in a major city, perhaps Rome, and likely a powerful 8.0.

Asia: Japan may rock and a tsunami is a possibility, similar to 2011. Also, Indonesia is not immune and a major earthquake with a big wave is also a challenge that could happen like on Boxing Day back in 2004.

Rain and Snow
The West Coast will get some rain and flooding in the entire state. However, a drought in the Golden State is likely. Land erosion and mudslides will continue due to warm winter from north to Alaska down to Southern California.
Italy, Spain, and France may experience heavy rainfall and flooding (as forecasted last year;
Venice was under water in the fall).
The Northeast and Midwest will get epic snowfall in the winter of 2020. Flooding in the springtime is likely the outcome. The balance of snow regarding the West and East will be noticeable to people who live in each region. Also, inconveniences will come with the severe weather, from affecting travel, mail, to health issues and life-threatening issue.


Storms, Storms, Storms
 Hurricanes may be more severe in 2020. The Gulf States, including Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi will be more likely to endure hurricanes than the Carolinas.  But the Northeast from New Jersey to Maine may also be in the line of water, so to speak. At least two Category 5 hurricanes will occur—with both making landfall and storm surges will be record breaking.
Twisters will likely accompany some these hurricanes. Also, rare twisters in California and other unlikely regions may happen. Monsoon season in the Southwest and wind storms in Nevada and the Midwest may make news for the record breaking events.

Wildfires are likely to continue year-round, due to both man-made or natural causes like lightning. The Southwest, Southern California, Northwest, including Alaska (again) are in the line of fire as well as the Northwest including Western Canada.  

       Strange Happenings
As we deal with tremors on the West Coast (including offshore Oregon, Northern California, and Seattle) other Earth challenges will keep us on guard.  Ongoing fracking will continue to make the Earth rock in Oklahoma—and may indeed affect the New Madrid Zone with a major earthquake. Also, more volcanic activity in the U.S.—especially Yellowstone, and Hawaii--creating alerts...and more.
A computer error will cause an alert for a natural disaster. It may cause panic and chaos but the end result will be a world collective sigh of relief. The region may be in the United States, the West Coast affecting many states.
 In 2020, homelessness due to wild climate will continue to soar and people will be affected by erratic temperatures—hot and cold. Due to extreme weather challenges, regions in the world and United States will feel nature’s wrath when it comes to fresh food resources. Farmers will be challenged, prices for some staple will spike.

People in all states and countries will learn to be more self-reliant, be more prepared by growing gardens to eating plant-based diets. Survival foods and first aid kits will not be only for the doomsday folks—it will be for people everywhere. Living in 2020 will be more challenging for commuting to work (more congestion and air pollution); traveling (more rough air and delayed flights); and play (more power outages). We will deal with the new normal of Earth changes and prevail.

* In the summer, on July 6, Southern California shook. A 7.1 shallow widespread shaker was reported felt throughout the state.
 Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane made landfall in the Bahamas; the Caribbean region was part of the forecast for the year. It affected the East Coast of the United States; Hurricane Barry, a Category 1 affected the Gulf States with flooding.
* More than 11,000 aftershocks happened after the 7.1 Anchorage, Alaska earthquake that moved the Earth on November 30, 2019. Four hours after I left Anchorage on December 10, a 3.7 hit Anchorage, another aftershock, said scientists.
* A 6.0 rocked Greece on November 27, a day after the Albania earthquake. Both quakes could be foreshocks for a great quake in 2020.
* On October 15 a widely felt 4.5 earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay Area.
* A few significant snowstorms did hit California and did make worldwide news.