looking for advice on going to Healdsburg Oct 22. What is the air quality like and is there fire issues
It is hard to know what the situation will be on Oct 22 in Healdsburg, but I believe the schools all around area are closed through Oct 20th.
After six days of fires, there is no possibility of saying that they will all be out or that new ones will not emerge, which has been happening. Healdsburg is immediately North of Santa Rosa and shares a common community in many ways with Santa Rosa.
The main issue is that there is now a lack of housing in area due to almost 6,000 homes burning down, so people are very much in need of extra space and hotels, and that may be for quite some time; there are estimated to be 80,000+ people currently evacuated in Sonoma County, and it's expected to take a long time to rebuild. We are currently in a disaster mode, so it's hard to imagine that in eight days, things will be better.
There are evacuations today, even this morning, in Santa Rosa, of 9,000 people. This has been every day since Sunday night.
The air quality is poor. That could improve, but the main problem is the lack of housing and hotels. This includes for first responders from out of area, who number in the thousands, and around 20,000 residents who have no place to live due to housing loss.
I cannot say with assurance what it will be like in eight days for the two questions you have asked about either air quality or fire, I wish I could, but I can say that the community all around is very short on places to stay and that some areas seem "normal" but then others seem decimated, and it can vary by a few blocks.
I do not personally think I would travel here on the 22nd unless you have friends to already stay with. However, six days some areas have been without power, and fires are still ongoing nearby, with Tubbs Fire only 40% contained and otherwise blazing, so even then, I'd give it longer and see what shape the area is in once all the fires have been assessed along with damages and victims.
All my best to you.Edited: 15 October 2017, 02:47
Aquiste, great information and thanks for the response.
We also planned on visiting Healdsburg for two days, starting October 22nd. We were very excited to see what we've heard is a beautiful town, rent some bikes, and bike around the local wineries.
It sounds like air quality may an issue, and regardless, we'd feel too guilty taking a hotel room that could go to someone in need.
Do you have any recommendations for a different place to visit between October 22-24? We are starting in San Francisco. Are there any similarly bike-able wine towns nearby? Or even just a place to visit with some nature? We also considered Yosemite, but the 4 hour drive each way might be a bit much for only 1 full day in the park.
We are scheduled to stay in Healdsburg starting the 29th. I've been in communication with our VRBO host as we prepaid with no refunds. He says currently everything is fine there and is looking forward to hosting us. However, he did say he would let us know if anything changed.
We are scheduled to visit Healdsburg Nov. 5th-8th. We spoke to our hotel yesterday and were encouraged to still come. I know they do have a vested interest in people continuing to visit and support tourism in the town but it’s difficult to know whether to cancel or not. We are making separate arrangements in Monterey/Carmel just in case but I’m unclear on what to do.
Tonyplush, thank you for your consideration, and I would go check out Santa Cruz and perhaps Monterey/Carmel, and another beautiful day trip from San Francisco is, of course, the Marin Headlands and Muir Woods. Also, Point Reyes is gorgeous and one of my favorite spots in all of California State, and it's clean and lovely traveling either up or down Highway 1 right now. So you have an embarrassment of riches from San Francisco for alternate trips with nature, wine, and gorgeous views just a hop and a skip and a jump away.
I am also a huge fan of Angel Island for its history and lovely hiking trails, and the ferry ride from SF is not far. It's not too bitterly cold there yet to not enjoy it, generally. Check into that too.
There are wineries down in the Lodi area, but I don't find them quite to my taste, but check out the wineries towards Carmel area and also Santa Cruz -- they are outrageously charming and a favorite with my other friends who live in Sonoma County. In fact, during all of the evacuations, those who could here, many went there.
Again, thank you for your consideration, and I have no doubt you will have an amazing trip!
Folks heading to Healdsburg, I spoke with my friend, who is very close to of the fire chief in that town, and she also lives there: she thought by the time you go, it would be safe, although it might not be as fun as usual due to the community working to rebuild. She was sorry VRBO was holding you to your contract and also said it's still unclear how safe it is since it has come and gone (the fires are NOT contained yet, they are still on fire just North of Healdsburg, but the town itself is okay). We hope for the best. She's going to speak specifically to her brother and more since I let her know that others are having a lot of questions about this. My recommendation is:
1.) Sign up for what is known as Nixle (text your number to 888777, or if this does not work, check into it via Google). This is our official emergency alert system.
2.) Keep your eye on the Pressdemocrat, the area paper.
3.) Watch the air quality ratings. I like Weatherbug for this.
4.) Contact VRBO if you feel unsafe and explain that we are a FEMA Disaster Zone with 40,000 (one in ten) residents in county still evacuated and one in twenty now without living places. Explain your situation.
5.) If you don't want to come and need alternate plans, see my above recommendations! These are great places, and there are many more within California.
6.) Pay it forward if you travel here in the next month but let your friends in your area know about our very serious needs for assistance, financially, to rebuild, and let them know how to donate to the fundraising in area (I don't think I am allowed to post that here, but you should be able to Google -- these are through large, local, credible banks which disperse funds to people without any place to stay or who have lost everything very quickly).
While we had few deaths, the evacuations were 1/4 the size of Hurricane Katrina, to explain that last point.
I might check with wineries I wanted to see, specifically, to ensure they are open as well and ask them for their recommendations.
Finally, the CalFires map online is clear about where the fires are and has updates about other issues in the community.
I hope that this helps very much and wish you a wonderful trip!
West Sonoma County was not so much affected. North/East were much worse. But we are all dealing with a lot of evacuees and their immediate needs. I would plan my trip no earlier than late October -- we still have power outs and people unable to return home for now nine days in East Santa Rosa and parts of Sonoma, with some major road closures through Highway 12 and some backroads, including to Kenwood; Larkfield residents returned today, but Mark West Springs have not (Google map will give you a good perspective on how near that is to your Healdsburg locales) -- I recommend planning to check out the beach out towards Jenner, North of the evacuation camps in Bodega Bay beaches, as well as Forestville, Sebastopol where there are nice wineries, and those near to downtown Healdsburg and Guerneville. Basically, for the moment, keep West of Highway 101 wherever possible, except of course in North Santa Rosa. Sonoma/Napa are not as clear yet. Avoid all areas near Kenwood and Glen Ellen still. I am unsure about Calistoga. Petaluma is a nice, historic city always worth a visit for its gorgeous downtown architecture, and it was spared.
Transit has been overwhelmed since people lost cars, so be sure to try if possible to rent OUT of area, like at SFO, perhaps. Public transit is kind of poor right now.
I will update with other opinions if I read any more. These come from just one friend who is an absolute expert for Healdsburg, combined with the reports I have been watching non-stop for nine-days.
I hope this is helpful, and feel free to ask me any questions; if I don't know the answer, I will ask elsewhere.
An acquaintance from Healdsburg writes, in response to my asking what they would tell travelers coming to visit at this time: "Even without the pollution & such, the overall tone is sad & depressing. We all need to heal."
Wow! I haven't gotten that vibe of "sad and depressing" at all from the folks I've heard from. I've gotten more of exhausted by all the work, stress, and evacuations, but optimistic that things are getting better.
We intend to visit the area in a couple of weeks. They need our business for sure.