• The Publisher’s Notebook •
The Malibu New Year: 2K8 in the Wind
BY ANNE SOBLE
How else would Malibuites have expected the new year to be ushered in? Strong gusts of wind shredded celebratory confetti out of mounds of kinetic leaves and outdid any horns in deafening din as the clock struck twelve. But strong as these winds were—they were clocked in some areas in the low 50s—now veteran local wind watchers who experienced the previous bouts of 75-plus mph blasts took them in stride. With the winds came the red flag alerts and the reassuring presence of additional fire crews, engines, dozers, helicopters and the vigilance—theirs and ours—that is the key to it all when the humidity drops and the fire danger escalates. Routine preoccupation with the weather is no longer optional in Malibu, as we become acolytes of all things meteorological. Three days of wind and unseasonable warmth are slated to give way to a series of storms in the northwest that are headed our way. Those who need flood protection should have sandbags at hand, if not already in place, and then even the local burn areas should be able to appreciate the much needed moisture these storms could bring. Several days of well tempered rain will do more than add to the statistical data bank, as those numbers don’t tell the full story of how dry the wildland patchwork into which we are interwoven actually is. Even as we approach average rainfall figures, many areas—especially those west of Kanan—remain susceptible to wildfire.
Malibu’s vulnerability and dependence on what nature holds in store will continue to be in the spotlight throughout 2008. Just as climate change is the single biggest natural force to be reckoned with on a planetary level, so too is the way Malibu reflects that change with patterns of drought and conflagration susceptibility paramount on the local level. Those who turn to oversimplification and political expediency to avoid grappling with the complexity of the issue do the community a disservice. For Malibu to always react after the fact rather than taking the lead in wildland interface management and enlightened development controls is a lost opportunity. Just as that spotlight shines brightest on Malibu when disaster strikes, it could also light the way to better planning and preparation.