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Sketching the Northside While Chevron Refinery Burned

Northside Sketch - U.C. Berkeley University Library, ink & watercolor 8x5"
Northside Sketch – U.C. Berkeley University Library, ink & watercolor 8×5″

Last week Gail Wong, Urban Sketcher from Seattle was in the Bay Area visiting and we had the privilege of sketching with her. You can see Gail’s sketch, story and the photo she took of us that evening on the Seattle Urban Sketchers blog here. I loved getting to see her amazing work and it was fun sharing sketchbooks all around even though I was a bit distracted all evening, because….

As soon as I sat down to sketch I got an emergency auto-dial call on my cellphone from the county with this terse warning: “There is an emergency situation at the Chevron Refinery! Shelter in place. Close all doors and windows and turn off heaters and air conditioners. Do not go outside until further notice.”

There was a huge fire at the Chevron refinery and while I thought it was at least 20 miles away, my house is actually only 5.5 miles south (I checked Google maps). The air was clear where we were so I decided to worry about it later. Friends seeing the smoke or the news kept texting and phoning to make sure I was OK. The smoke could be seen from all over the Bay Area, but not where we were.

Fortunately, when I arrived home the air was clean with the usual fresh sea breeze and everything was fine. The smoke stayed very close to the refinery which was really fortunate (except for those living close by and people who buy gas since the price is going up for the West Coast area supplied by the now damaged refinery).

The county called me back at 1:30 a.m. and again at 2:30 a.m. to let me know it was now safe to open windows or go outside. Gee thanks, county! I would have rather slept through the night!