Separated from her family since Sunday, Kathy Carlson peered anxiously down State Route 67 and the highway patrolman blocking the way to her kids. Her black SUV was poised at the exit of the Barona Station, the only gas station in town.

“I’m so close,” she said. “I’m just hoping, if I wait an hour or so, they’ll let me through.”

Carlson works at the Barona Casino, and had asked to leave work at 4 p.m. Sunday, when news broke of fires near her home in Ramona. But when she called home, her husband said the fires hadn’t neared their home yet. So Carlson decided to stay at work, and didn’t leave until 8 p.m. Sunday. When she tried to drive back into Ramona, she said, “It was pure chaos.” Cars streamed out of the town, and none could drive in.

Her husband, four children, a dog and 13 newborn puppies are safe in San Diego Country Estates, where they telephone her two or three times a day. Meanwhile, Carlson is burning a hole in her wallet buying clothes, food and other necessities to get through the disaster.

“I spent about $300,” she said. “You hear different stories — that it’ll be two days, maybe three. Nothing for sure … My TV’s been on 24 hours a day.”

She squinted at the closed road, sighed, and settled in for the wait.

EMILY ALPERT

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