** Last updated at 5:20 p.m. ** For fresh updates from Tuesday see post above.
San Diego is burning. The entire county is covered in an eerie brown haze that is irritating eyes, noses, and nerves. Sirens are wailing everywhere. The smell of smoke chokes the sky from Escondido to Tijuana.
All of Southern California is under siege by flames and smoke.
In San Diego, where I'm at, one person has died, 17 have been injured, including four firefighters, and hundreds of thousands of people and animals are being evacuated as the fires rage on, fueled by the merciless howls of the dry Santa Ana winds. All schools in the county will be closed Tuesday. Hundreds of homes have burned.
Authorities, their resources overwhelmed, say some of the fires burning in the county's rugged eastern canyons and mesas may burn all the way to the ocean before dying out. The only thing standing in their way are the cities. "We have more houses burning than we have people and engine companies to fight them," San Diego Fire Captain Lisa Blake told the AP.
Let me try to contextualize how scary this is: The north and east regions of the county are largely suburban, rural, and very arid and mountainous, while San Diego city itself is concentrated in the urban southwestern corner of the county against the border and the Pacific, in a much smaller area overall. Well, imagine trying to evacuate much of the major towns in the inhabited North County and much of the inhabited East County. That's an unprecedented displacement of humans for a major American city. In many cases, people had only a few minutes notice before fleeing their homes. The TV right now is calling it a "mass migration" the likes of which the state has never before seen. People are pouring into Qualcomm Stadium.
Some are refusing to leave. "My husband stayed at home," a woman who fled the Witch Creek Fire told a local TV news reporter late Sunday. The reporter asked at what point her husband may be convinced to abandon their house. "I don't know about their husbands, but my husband won't. He's just stubborn, he grew up there."
By then the reporters in the field had donned masks and goggles and struggled to maintain their balance against the wind blasts.
As late as 1 a.m. last night the same anchors who delivered the early evening news were still in their seats, dictating the latest school closure and evacuation updates. KUSI ran exclusive footage of a surreal parade of headlights inching west on both sides of highway 94 as the Harris Fire marched onward behind them.
This afternoon, there are reports of more fires sprouting up all over the place, including in Chula Vista. Reporters on TV right now (3:45 p.m.) in front of burning homes are trying to contain the fear and awe in their voices, when they're not coughing. So far my family is safe but we're a bit worried as smoke is visible now near Spring Valley, near to where my brother lives, and cousins and relatives are leaving their houses in San Ysidro as fire appears in the South Bay.
* They're saying it's already worse than the disastrous Cedar Fire of 2003.
* Updates all day.
** Image on top of a home burning in Rancho Bernardo by AP. Reporter in Ramona above is an original image.