From: Bruce Sterling []
Sent: Tuesday, May 23, 2000 12:20 PM
To: Viridian List
Subject: Viridian Note 00160: Los Alamos Flood Threat

Key concepts: Los Alamos, Viridian disasters, atomic
forest fires

Attention Conservation Notice: The farsighted inhabitants of Los Alamos, still smoldering, now contemplate the dire likelihood of mudslides.

Entries in the Greenhouse Disaster Symbol contest: This contest expires May 31, 2000.

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Source: Reuters,, May 22, 02000

"Los Alamos now faces flood threat

"LOS ALAMOS, N.M., May 22 == Scourged by fire, the town that gave birth to the atomic bomb now faces a threat from water. New Mexico╣s worst wildfire left the mountains around Los Alamos prone to flash floods ahead of the rainy season.

"Emergency officials warned the wildfire had created a new danger == summer flash floods in late June or July, when heavy rains usually fall on northern New Mexico. (...)

"The wildfire burned much of the forest underbrush that normally slows water running off the mountainsides and glazed the top layer of soil into a surface that sheds water, said Ken Palmrose, spokesman for a multi-agency Burned Area Emergency Recovery team surveying the damage.

"As a result, the summer rains could send powerful torrents down the canyons and arroyos that cut through Los Alamos, potentially flooding roads, undermining bridges and carving new watercourses through property.

"Los Alamos county has warned fire-weary residents of the flood danger and urged people to keep a three-day survival kit at home in case their neighborhoods are cut off.

(...) "The burn recovery team was mapping the expected danger spots and would draw up recommendations as early as this week for preventing floods, including erecting barriers of hay bales or mesh and crisscrossing fallen trees on the mountainsides to slow the rush of rainwater. (...)

"The clouds were part of a cool front with spotty showers over the weekend that helped firefighters make progress in the final stage of containing the blaze, which has consumed 47,650 acres == and 200 homes == since it started." (((Note that this is a mere 200 homes burned, as opposed to earlier reports of 400.)))

"'We're all just kind of numb. The reality is just sinking in,' Los Alamos resident Pat Minor said as he picked up cleaning supplies and snacks from a Red Cross emergency station. Minor's house suffered smoke damage but the one next door was burnt to the ground.

"The fire is 90 percent contained. The final front is
expected to be hemmed in by Wednesday, although it will continue smoking and burning in spots within the perimeter until the summer rains fall.

"On Sunday, smoke rose from behind one of the peaks over Los Alamos as people in the worst-hit neighborhoods that abut the mountains drove by a Red Cross emergency truck to pick up free lunches and gloves, goggles, buckets and brooms for clearing away smoke and fire damage.

"'Nobody has time to worry about the rains,' said Rosemary O╣Connor, who has lived in Los Alamos since 1947. Her one-story brick house escaped damaged on a street where others were charred, but she was collecting cleaning supplies anyway because everything in her refrigerator and freezer had gone bad after days without power.

"Her neighborhood was spotted with big signs in front yards thanking firefighters for saving the homes they could. People around town wore green ribbons or flew them from their cars and trucks as a sign of thanks to all emergency workers." (((Look at that, folks. Post- enviro-disaster "green ribbons." Get used to them: American pop culture is one of the most supple and adaptive in the world. One minor caveat here. Do you suppose it's possible to trigger mudslides by attempting to prevent them? This is, after all, Los Alamos, where people prepare to incinerate civilization in order to save it.)))

(((Meanwhile, in the parched forests of the other nuclear superpower:)))

Source: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty REF/RL List:

"FOREST FIRES IN SIBERIA COMES CLOSE TO RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS. A forest fire in Irkutsk Oblast approached a nuclear storage facility, NTV reported on 20 May. According to the station, the fire came near the Radon company, which stores radioactive substances in special concrete bunkers. The station reported that there is a shortage of personnel and equipment, particularly telecommunications equipment, to fight the forest fires. Authorities reported earlier in the month that the situation was critical in eastern Irkutsk, where the number of fires doubled in one week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May 2000)."

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