- The Pyrocumulus cloud, which resembled an erupting volcano or a nuclear bomb, was seen above the San Ynez Mountains of western Ventura County in the Los Padres National Forest, near Santa Barbara
- The weather phenomenon, also known as a fire cloud, stretched up almost 30,000 feet high
- Eric Boldt, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, said it's similar to a thunderstorm and could be responsible for helping spread the Thomas Wildfire
- On Sunday, the Calfire grew 50,000 acres to 230,000 acres. It is now the fifth worst fire in Californian history
- Thousands of firefighters were battling the blaze on Monday as it crept relentlessly up the Pacific coast and forced new evacuations
Published: 21:53 EST, 11 December 2017 | Updated: 21:54 EST, 11 December 2017
An ominous mushroom cloud was spotted above California Monday as one of the most destructive wildfires in the state's history crept relentlessly up the Pacific coast.
The weather phenomenon, which resembled an erupting volcano or a nuclear bomb, was seen above the San Ynez Mountains of western Ventura County in the Los Padres National Forest, near Santa Barbara.
The billowing Pyrocumulus cloud, also known as a fire cloud, stretched up almost 30,000 feet high.
Eric Boldt, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Oxnard, told San Francisco Gate that the cloud was created by similar forced to a thunderstorm – and its strong winds could be responsible for helping spread the Thomas Wildfire on Sunday as Calfire grew 50,000 acres to 230,000 acres. It is now the fifth worst fire in Californian history.
An apocalyptic mushroom cloud was spotted above California Monday as one of the most destructive wildfires in the state's history crept relentlessly up the Pacific coast
The huge Pyrocumulus cloud of smoke rose to the north of downtown Ventura as seen Sunday afternoon from the Ventura Pier as the Thomas Fire threatens Carpenteria and Montecito
A helicopter flew over two homes as smoke clouds form in the distance after the wildfire swept through the Shepard Mesa neighborhood in Carpinteria, California
The billowing Pyrocumulus cloud of smoke stretched up almost 30,000 feet high
'When we see these clouds billowing so tall, it's the same mechanisms that are happening with a thunderstorm,' he said.
'You're causing updrafts and air that's pushing the smoke higher. It creates its own wind. If it starts to spin, that's where you can get more wind and fast-moving progression of the fire. It can become a dangerous situation for firefighters.'
Thousands of firefighters were battling the blaze on Monday as it crept relentlessly up the Pacific coast and forced new evacuations.
As a wildfire near Los Angeles was brought under control, fire crews were being redeployed to battle the Thomas Fire northwest of America's second-largest city.
Fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters were assisting nearly 6,400 firefighters trying to keep the Thomas Fire away from beachfront towns south of the historic city of Santa Barbara, the California Fire Department (Cal Fire) said.
A helicopter flies over a massive wildfire in Santa Paula, Calif.ornia Thursday when wind-swept blazes forced tens of thousands of evacuations and destroyed dozens of homes
A firefighter battles a wildfire in Santa Paula, Ventura. The fast moving brush fire has ripped through the state during the past week
Huge smoke clouds rise into the sky at the Thomas fire Saturday. The Thomas Fire has spread to near 150,000 acres
Horses that were evacuated from the Thomas Fire are seen on December 10, 2017 in Ojai
'Gusty northeast winds will cause the fire to threaten areas of the city of Santa Barbara,' which has a population of 91,000, Cal Fire said.
Eric Boldt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Los Angeles, said he did not see any immediate respite to the dry, windy conditions that are fueling the blaze.
'The conditions are very critical,' Boldt said. 'Given that we don't see any precipitation for the next two weeks at minimum, it could become the largest fire in the state's history.'
The Thomas Fire has burned 230,500 acres since it erupted a week ago, Cal Fire said, making it the fifth-largest fire in the state's history. It was only 15 percent contained as of early afternoon Monday.
The blaze spread over the weekend in the mostly uninhabited Los Padres National Forest, and was threatening the coastal towns of Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria.
Mandatory evacuation orders were lifted for the inland cities of Ojai and Santa Paula in Ventura County, which has been the hardest hit by the Thomas Fire.
Comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres was among those fleeing the flames.
'Our house is under threat of being burned,' DeGeneres said on Twitter. 'We just had to evacuate our pets.
'I'm praying for everyone in our community and thankful to all the incredible firefighters.'
US forest fire crews fight fire with fire as they set off huge backfires to cut off the northern flank of the Thomas fire near Rose Valley recreation area Saturday. The Thomas Fire has spread to near 150,000 acres Southern California
Santa Barbara PIO Mike Eliason watches as a home between Via Baja and Foothill goes up in flames Tuesday midday after a fast-moving, wind-fueled wildfire swept into Ventura destroying many homes early Tuesday
Firefighting helicopters try to save a house from the Thomas wildfire in Carpinteria, California on December 10
Firefighting helicopters try to save a house from the Thomas wildfire in Carpinteria, California on December 10
Members of the Reinhardt family sort through the remains of their family home after the Thomas wildfire swept through Ventura, California
'Praying for my town,' actor Rob Lowe, a Santa Barbara County resident, wrote on Twitter. Fires closing in. Firefighters making brave stands. Could go either way. Packing to evacuate now.'
May Osher, a 66-year-old retired schoolteacher in Carpinteria, told the Los Angeles Times she had put photo albums and pet supplies in her car and was ready to evacuate if told to do so.
'I'm staying until it's time to go,' Osher told the newspaper.
Cal Fire said 800 buildings have been destroyed by the fire, which is being fueled by tinder dry brush and strong and unpredictable Santa Ana winds.
Despite the intensity of the fires stretching from north of Los Angeles down to San Diego, authorities have reported only one fatality – a 70-year-old woman who died in a car crash while fleeing a blaze.
California Governor Jerry Brown has warned that climate change meant the state was becoming increasingly vulnerable and wildfires were becoming the 'new normal.'
'The fire season used to be a few months in the summer,' Brown said. 'Now it's almost year-long.'
Brown has been one of the most vocal critics of President Donald Trump's decision to pull the United States out of the Paris accord on global warming, and he renewed his attacks on the administration over its attitude toward climate change.
'Nature is not a political game. Nature is the ground on which we stand, it's the air which we breathe,' he said.
'The truth of the case is that there's too much carbon being emitted, that heat-trapping gasses are building up, the planet is warming and all hell is breaking loose.'
This has been California's deadliest year ever for wildfires. More than 40 people died in October when fires swept through the state's wine-producing counties north of San Francisco.
Trump has issued a state of emergency for California, authorizing the release of federal funds.
The White House said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue briefed the president and Vice President Mike Pence on the response to the wildfires and prevention efforts.
Actor Billy Baldwin shared shocking photos from outside his house showing dust clouding over the sky.
'Smoke from the #ThomasFire blocks out the sun… San Ynez, CA North Santa Barbara County #ThankYouFirefighters!!!,' Baldwin wrote in the picture post.
#Thomas Fire now: 173,000 acres, 4,500 firefighters, 710 structures and 15% contained,# he said this morning.
Crews with help from a fleet water-dropping planes and helicopters saved homes as unpredictable gusts sent the blaze deeper into residential foothill areas northwest of Los Angeles that haven't burned in decades.
'The winds are kind of squirrely right now,' said county fire spokesman Mike Eliason.
'Some places the smoke is going straight up in the air, and others it's blowing sideways. Depends on what canyon we're in.'
The department posted a photo of one residence engulfed in flames. It's unclear whether other structures burned.
Thousands of homes and businesses in the county were without power.
The air thick with acrid smoke, even residents of areas not under evacuation orders took the opportunity to leave, fearing another shutdown of U.S. 101, a key coastal highway that was closed intermittently last week.
Officials handed out masks to residents who stayed behind in Montecito, the wealthy hillside enclave that's home to celebrities such as Lowe, Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bridges.
A few miles to the west, Santa Barbara Zoo was closed to the public and its 500 animals confined to their night quarters all day.
The zoo was just outside the evacuation area, but smoke and ash blew through the 30-acre property.
Firefighters made significant progress Saturday on other fronts of the enormous fire that started Dec. 4 in neighboring Ventura County.
As containment increased on other major blazes in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego counties, resources from those fires were diverted to the Santa Barbara foothills.
Forecasters said Santa Ana winds that whipped fires across the region last week would continue in some areas at least through Monday.
Strong Santa Ana winds have been feeding major wildfires all week, destroying hundreds of houses and forcing tens of thousands of people to stay away from their homes
Firefighters watch after setting a backfire at night to make progress against the Thomas Fire before the winds return with the daylight near Lake Casitas on December 9, 2017 near Ojai, California
A fire whirl, also called a fire devil, forms as firefighters use drip torches to set a backfire at night in an effort to make progress against the Thomas Fire before the winds return with the daylight near Lake Casitas on December 9 near Ojai
A lack of rain has officials on edge statewide because of parched conditions and no end in sight to the typical fire season.
'This is the new normal,' Gov. Jerry Brown warned Saturday after surveying damage from the deadly Ventura fire.
'We're about ready to have firefighting at Christmas. This is very odd and unusual.'
High fire risk is expected to last into January and the governor and experts said climate change is making it a year-round threat.
Overall, the fires have destroyed about 800 homes and other buildings, killed dozens of horses and forced more than 200,000 people to flee flames that have burned over 270 square miles (700 square kilometers) since Dec. 4.
One death, so far, a 70-year-old woman who crashed her car on an evacuation route, is attributed to the fire in Santa Paula, a small city where the fire began.
The Ventura County blaze also continued to burn into rugged mountains in the Los Padres National Forest near the little town of Ojai and toward a preserve established for endangered California condors.
Ojai experienced hazardous levels of smoke at times and officials warned of unhealthy air for large swaths of the region.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District urged residents to stay indoors if possible and avoid vigorous outdoor activities.
As fires burned in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, firefighters were already in place north of San Diego on Thursday when a major fire erupted and rapidly spread in the Fallbrook area, known for its avocado groves and horse stables in the rolling hills.
The fire swept through the San Luis Rey Training Facility, where it killed more than 40 elite thoroughbreds and destroyed more than 100 homes — most of them in a retirement community.
Three people were burned trying to escape the fire that continued to smolder Sunday.
Most of last week's fires were in places that burned in the past, including one in the ritzy Los Angeles neighborhood of Bel-Air that burned six homes and another in the city's rugged foothills above the community of Sylmar and in Santa Paula.
Meanwhile, the Lilac Fire #reached a peak of 1,409 Sunday and officials at the central command center say they're likely to begin releasing crews from duty now that the fire has reached 60 percent containment,' according to Fox 5 San Diego.
Crews worked through Sunday to strengthen containment lines and put out hot spots, the news station said.
'The fire's looking really good, despite the wind,' said Cal Fire public information officer and Battalion Chief, Henry Herrera.
'If we can get through today I think we'll be in pretty good shape for the remainder of this incident.'
The post Apocalyptic mushroom cloud spotted above California appeared first on News Wire Now.
Australia: Scott Morrison saga casts scrutiny on Queen’s representative
In the past fortnight, Australia has been gripped by revelations that former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison secretly appointed himself to several additional ministries.
The move has been labelled a “power grab” by his successor as prime minister, and Mr Morrison has been scolded by many – even his own colleagues.
But the scandal has also dragged Australia’s governor-general into the fray – sparking one of the biggest controversies involving the Queen’s representative in Australia in 50 years.
So does Governor-General David Hurley have questions to answer, or is he just collateral damage?
Governors-general have fulfilled the practical duties as Australia’s head of state since the country’s 1901 federation.
Candidates for the role were initially chosen by the monarch but are now recommended by the Australian government.
The job is largely ceremonial – a governor-general in almost every circumstance must act on the advice of the government of the day. But conventions allow them the right to “encourage” and “warn” politicians.
Key duties include signing bills into law, issuing writs for elections, and swearing in ministers.
Mr Hurley has run into trouble on the latter. At Mr Morrison’s request, he swore the prime minister in as joint minister for health in March 2020, in case the existing minister became incapacitated by Covid.
Over the next 14 months, he also signed off Mr Morrison as an additional minister in the finance, treasury, home affairs and resources portfolios.
Mr Morrison already had ministerial powers, so Mr Hurley was basically just giving him authority over extra departments.
It’s a request the governor-general “would not have any kind of power to override or reject”, constitutional law professor Anne Twomey tells the BBC.
“This wasn’t even a meeting between the prime minister and the governor-general, it was just paperwork.”
But Mr Morrison’s appointments were not publicly announced, disclosed to the parliament, or even communicated to most of the ministers he was job-sharing with.
Australia’s solicitor-general found Mr Morrison’s actions were not illegal but had “fundamentally undermined” responsible government.
But the governor-general had done the right thing, the solicitor-general said in his advice this week.
It would have been “a clear breach” for him to refuse the prime minister, regardless of whether he knew the appointments would be kept secret, Stephen Donaghue said.
Critics push for investigation
Ultimately, Mr Hurley had to sign off on Mr Morrison’s requests, but critics say he could have counselled him against it and he could have publicised it himself.
But representatives for the governor-general say these types of appointments – giving ministers the right to administer other departments – are not unusual.
And it falls to the government of the day to decide if they should be announced to the public. They often opt not to.
Mr Hurley himself announcing the appointments would be unprecedented. He had “no reason to believe that appointments would not be communicated”, his spokesperson said.
Emeritus professor Jenny Hocking finds the suggestion Mr Hurley didn’t know the ministries had been kept secret “ridiculous”.
“The last of these bizarre, duplicated ministry appointments… were made more than a year after the first, so clearly by then the governor-general did know that they weren’t being made public,” she says.
“I don’t agree for a moment that the governor-general has a lot of things on his plate and might not have noticed.”
The historian says it’s one of the biggest controversies surrounding a governor-general since John Kerr caused a constitutional crisis by sacking Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975.
Prof Hocking famously fought for transparency around that matter – waging a lengthy and costly legal battle that culminated in the release of Mr Kerr’s correspondence with the Queen.
And she says the same transparency is needed here.
The Australian public need to know whether Mr Hurley counselled the prime minister against the moves, and why he didn’t disclose them
The government has already announced an inquiry into Mr Morrison’s actions, but she wants it to look at the governor-general and his office too.
“If the inquiry is to find out what happened in order to fix what happened, it would be extremely problematic to leave out a key part of that equation.”
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – Mr Morrison’s predecessor – has also voiced support for an inquiry.
“Something has gone seriously wrong at Government House,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“It is the passive compliance along the chain… that did undermine our constitution and our democracy… that troubles me the most. This is how tyranny gets under way.”
PM defends governor-general
Prof Twomey says the criticism of Mr Hurley is unfair – there’s was no “conspiracy” on his part to keep things secret.
“I don’t think it’s reasonable for anyone to expect that he could have guessed that the prime minister was keeping things secret from his own ministers, for example.
“Nobody really thought that was a possibility until about two weeks ago.”
Even if he had taken the unprecedented step to publicise the appointments or to reject Mr Morrison’s request, he’d have been criticised, she says.
“There’d be even more people saying ‘how outrageous!'” she says. “The role of governor-general is awkward because people are going to attack you either way.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has also defended Mr Hurley, saying he was just doing his job.
“I have no intention of undertaking any criticism of [him].”
A role fit for purpose?
Prof Hocking says it’s a timely moment to look at the role of the governor-general more broadly.
She points out it’s possible the Queen may have been informed about Mr Morrison’s extra ministries when Australia’s parliament and people were not.
“It does raise questions about whether this is fit for purpose, as we have for decades been a fully independent nation, but we still have… ‘the relics of colonialism’ alive and well.”
Momentum for a fresh referendum on an Australian republic has been growing and advocates have seized on the controversy.
“The idea that the Queen and her representative can be relied upon to uphold our system of government has been debunked once and for all,” the Australian Republic Movement’s Sandy Biar says.
“It’s time we had an Australian head of state, chosen by Australians and accountable to them to safeguard and uphold Australia’s constitution.”
But Prof Twomey says republicans are “clutching at straws” – under their proposals, the head of state would also have been bound to follow the prime minister’s advice.
“It wouldn’t result in any changes that would have made one iota of difference.”
Australia election: PM Morrison’s security team in car crash in Tasmania
A car carrying the Australian prime minister’s security team has crashed in Tasmania during an election campaign visit.
Four police officers were taken to hospital with “non-life threatening injuries” after the car and another vehicle collided, authorities said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was not in the car, but the accident prompted him to cancel the rest of his campaign events on Thursday.
The other driver involved was not hurt.
Tasmania Police said initial investigations suggested the second car had “collided with the rear of the police vehicle, while attempting to merge”. It caused the unmarked security vehicle to roll off the road.
The two Tasmania Police officers and two Australian Federal Police officers were conscious when taken to hospital for medical assessment, the prime minister’s office said.
“Family members of the officers have been contacted and are being kept informed of their condition,” a statement said.
“The PM is always extremely grateful for the protection provided by his security team and extends his best wishes for their recovery and to their families.”
Australians go to the polls on 21 May. Mr Morrison – prime minister since 2018 – is hoping to win his conservative coalition’s fourth term in office.
Polls suggest the opposition Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese, is favoured to win. However, Mr Morrison defied similar polling to claim victory at the last election in 2019.
Mr Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition holds 76 seats in the House of Representatives – the minimum needed to retain power.
Political observers say the cost of living, climate change, trust in political leaders, and national security will be among key issues in the campaign.
In recent weeks, the prime minister has faced accusations of being a bully and once sabotaging a rival’s career by suggesting the man’s Lebanese heritage made him less electable. Mr Morrison has denied the allegations.
Mr Albanese stumbled into his own controversy this week when he failed to recall the nation’s unemployment or interest rates.
Sydney airport warns delays could last weeks on third day of travel chaos
Long queues at Sydney airport’s domestic terminals have continued for a third day, with some passengers missing international connections, as the airport warns delays resulting from a surge in travellers and a shortfall in security staff could continue for weeks.
Chaotic scenes were reported in the departure halls as early as 4.30am on Saturday, with some frustrated travellers, many of whom heeded the pleas of airport chiefs to arrive at least two hours before their domestic flight was due to take off, claiming only one security line was operating.
While the queues that formed early on Saturday are understood to have cleared later in the morning, the airport apologised to affected travellers.
“Traffic numbers are picking up and the close contact rules are making it hard to fill shifts and staff the airport. We appreciate your patience,” Sydney airport said on its Twitter account.
A wave of families travelling as the term two school holidays begin this weekend, combined with close contact rules that are understood to be taking out about 20% of security shifts in any given day, are driving the problem.
Certis, the company that Sydney airport contracts for its security operations, is desperately trying to recruit personnel, while the airport has reallocated back office, IT and retail workers to the departure hall to comb queues so they can prioritise passengers at risk of missing their flight.
“We are working around the clock to resolve these issues and have teams in the terminals bringing passengers forward in order of priority,” a Sydney airport spokesperson said.
He added that the airport is “anticipating it will [be] busy right through the school holiday period and peak over the Easter and Anzac Day weekends, in some cases at 90% of pre-Covid passenger levels”.
“We’re deeply grateful to passengers for their ongoing patience and we’re sorry to everyone who has been inconvenienced,” the spokesperson said. “We would also like to thank passengers for getting to the airport early and treating staff and each other with kindness and respect.”
The Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce was forced to clarify comments he made on Friday that passengers were “not match fit” and that those forgetting to remove laptops and aerosols from their bags at the security check contributing to the delays.
“Just to be clear, I’m not ‘blaming’ passengers,” Joyce said. “Of course it’s not their fault,” he said.
Qantas shed thousands of staff during the pandemic, and outsourced ground crews in a decision that was challenged in court.
On Saturday, Qantas also apologised to a Melbourne family left stranded in Sydney, after domestic flight delays caused them to miss an international trip.
Javiera Martinez, her partner Daniel Capurro and their three children were supposed to be flying to Chile on Friday to visit relatives they had not seen in three years.
But after their 8am Qantas flight from Melbourne was delayed by half an hour, baggage handling and airport transfer delays in Sydney meant they couldn’t make their 11.30am LATAM Airlines flight to Santiago.
Martinez said the airline’s procedures at the airport were chaotic.
“We think Qantas didn’t behave appropriately. I got berated by the person at the counter – they never apologised, they never assumed any responsibility at all,” she said. “It was a rude conversation. We have been mistreated badly I would say.”
The PCR tests they need to travel have now expired and they will have to take them again as they wait for seats on the next flight to Santiago from Sunday.
The airline has apologised and paid for a night’s accommodation in Sydney.
“We sincerely apologise that the family missed their connecting flight on another airline due to delays moving through Sydney airport on Friday,” a Qantas spokesperson said.
The family is among many affected by hold ups amid the busiest travel period in two years, with Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airports warning passengers to arrive two hours before domestic flights.
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