Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Watching and Worrying

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-- by Sara

OK, this is the most intelligent use of the Web I've seen this week.

KPBS in San Diego has built a Google Maps mash-up showing, in real time, the current emergency status of the entire San Diego area -- burned areas, evacuation zones, which roads are open and closed, where the evacuation centers are, all of it. (The map above is live; click through to get the full-sized page.)

If there's someone in the area you're worried about, all you need is a street address. (Don't try to enter it on the mash-up page; the search function is disabled. Open a separate regular Google Maps page, and enter the address of the place you want to check on. Then, when you've found it, switch back to the mashup page, and locate it by eye to see what's happening there.) Click on any of the map icons to get details about what's going on at that location.

I found my sister's house this way. It's OK -- just a few blocks outside the edge of a yellow zone. Unfortunately, it's also downwind of the biggest part of the biggest fire. She's not going home tonight, but at least she's still got a home to go to...for now, anyway.

The number of evacuees has now topped half a million and is still growing, which makes this (according to the San Francisco Chronicle) the second biggest evacuation in American history after Katrina. As you can see on the mashup, a lot of the evacuation centers are now simply full. Schools were closed today, and will be for a while.

The good news? The Chronicle quoted a local fire spokesman saying that the fire could be under control "as soon as November 1."

It's going to be a very, very long week.

Unfortunately, there aren't similar maps (yet) for the Orange County or northern LA County fires. I'll be watching for one -- my mom's in the path of the Malibu fire -- but if you find it first, let me know.

Update -- more maps

US Forest Service California statewide fire map
Google Map mashup showing all of Southern California (fire locations only)
Another San Diego Google Map showing burned structures, with links to video

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