Tag Archives: rain

Sunny, But Saturated

I love extreme weather. Lightning, thunder, heavy snowfalls with big, fat flakes. Many of my most vivid memories involve weather. I remember sitting inside the storm door excitedly as a child, counting the seconds between a flash of lightning and the following roll of thunder to yell out how many miles away the lightning struck. I remember the first time I saw snow rollers, a rare meteorological phenomenon where cylindrical snowballs are formed naturally as chunks of snow are blown along the ground by the wind. Daddy said, “you may never see them again in your entire life,” and I have not seen them since.

I remember sitting on the front porch of my grandparent’s cabin in Blue, West Virginia, watching a hailstorm approach from across the field as we strung beans. The roar grew louder and the hayfield flattened in a line that drew closer until the hail pounded and dented the metal roof in a pounding percussion. I remember the night my mother woke me from sleep so we could take a walk around our neighborhood through fresh-fallen snow so crisp that it twinkled like stars beneath the streetlights.

I remember the spring blizzard of 1993, which began the first day of my spring break from college and snowed me in with my parents for eight days, forcibly canceling my plans for a week at the beach. I remember the ice storm of 2003 when our snowy world was covered in a half-inch of ice. I walked through the crunchy fields, listening to the trees on the hillsides creak, groan, and snap under the weight of their encasement.

I remember standing in the garden, totally unprepared when the 2012 derecho hit, how the wind knocked me off balance into the mud, and slammed the lawn chairs against the garden fence. I remember the first time I saw the floodwaters take over the fields here on the farm and watched a round haybale float past me as I waded up our water-covered driveway. I had heard the stories of previous floods but had not been able to conceive how our lazy creeks and trickling streams could expand across acres. I remember hurricanes: Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Irma.

Today, Sunday, is sunny and bright. Perfect fall weather, with the sounds of katydids and crickets in the air. The day is a lovely break between the rains of last week and the passing of remnants of Hurricane Laura, and the rains predicted to arrive perhaps this coming week. After 20 years here, I now know the guessing game of times like this. How saturated is the ground? How high is the creek? How much more rain can fall before it rises beyond its banks? How high will the waters rise?

The answer is a gut feeling. A feeling that comes from knowing the past, from knowing the land, from knowing the local waters. A feeling I had watching the weather predictions on June 22, 2016, a sense of dread when I went to bed. I knew people would die that night. I knew, in the darkness, 8-10 inches of rain on the hills would become roaring deadly waters in the valleys. By morning, 23 West Virginians were dead. Amongst my horror and tears, I was grateful. The storm front lost its strength just east of our Steer Creek watershed, and most of the rain fell just south of central West Virginia. If the storm had reached across a few more miles or if the heavy rain lasted a few more moments, we too could have been devastated.

Human beings often seem surprised by extreme weather. We act as though we didn’t know such damages could happen, as though Mother Nature has freaked out or is punishing us. How quickly we seem to forget the power and pressure of water, the grip of ice, the strength and will of wind. But I am amazed and awed by such things. They imprint in my mind, and I remember.

Floods are one of West Virginia’s most frequent and costly disasters. According to storm data from NOAA, every county in the state reported at least 14 floods between 1991 and 2016. Since 1988, eleven flood events in West Virginia have claimed 20 or more lives. In these eleven floods alone, nearly 400 West Virginians have died. The deadliest, Buffalo Creek (125 dead, 4 missing), was a man-made event, but the remaining are all due to natural weather. Four of those eleven deadliest floods included high levels on the Little Kanawha River.

How well do you know the waterways around you? Can you tell, looking at rising waters and gauging the rainfall, when the time has come to start moving your life to higher ground? When I first moved here, I assumed the flood threats would come with spring rains, but my memory and history tell me that floods come at all times of the year including September (1861), November (1985), January (1937), June (2016).

On average, in floods across the country, about 25% of flood insurance claims are outside the delineated flood plain. Approximately 68% of individual assistance claims from FEMA are for properties outside the flood plain. Every year in West Virginia there is a 1-5% chance we could have a repeat of 2016. Throughout the State of West Virginia, approximately 78,000 residential buildings are in Special Flood Hazard Areas. Only 12% of those structures are covered by flood insurance.

You may not live in the established flood plain, but if you live on low-lying land, or near even a small run of water, you are at risk. Maintain the drainage around your home and develop a plan. Where can you relocate your valuables and family if/when the waters rise? Can you evacuate if the roads are covered or gone?  How quickly do the waters rise during a downpour? How high do they rise when the ground is already saturated, as it is right now,  and more rain is predicted? Those of us who live in the valleys have little choice but to watch and wait when the waters begin to rise. Those who have experienced floods know the nearby waters intimately and have a plan for when future floods come. Even on sunny but saturated days like today, the local creek levels are still in the back of our minds.

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Don’t Tread on Wet, Tilled Soil

Even as early as February, back-yard gardens across the country are being worked. Beds are cleared, disked, tilled. Hot beds are seeded. Fences are mended, turned up rocks are removed, and the garden is set to go.

And then spring rains come.

Just about the time those seeds you planted too early start sprouting, you can’t step foot in the garden. That fertile soil that we just tilled at 8-12 inches deep is now a layer of mud of the same thickness. One step inside the fence, and you’re likely to loose your rubber boots. (Kiss those garden clogs goodbye.)

So, while it rains, we stand at the eastern windows and peek out at the garden, waiting. Waiting for the rain to stop, waiting for Spring to get here, waiting for a harvest that’s weeks or months away.

When the rain breaks, we walk around the outside of the fence, peeking at tiny sprouts breaking through, marking each puddle within the boundaries as low spots in the garden.

Even after the rain stops, the waiting continues. The ground is saturated and sticky, and until it dries, anything that comes in contact with it will compact it hard as a rock, or carry it out of the garden, across the yard, into the tool shed, into the house.

Things are growing out there; in the garden, in the rain. Things I want to see, watch, nurture and talk to. (Things I want to eat.) But a garden, more than most projects, teaches patience. You cannot make the rain stop, the ground dry, the seed germinate and grow.

And so, on this rainy day, we stand at the eastern windows and wait.

Today’s Game: How High Will It Get?

When we step of the bottom stair and step into water, it only means one thing. The water running off the hills behind us can’t get to the creek fast enough.

This was our condition at 5:30 a.m. this morning.

By 7 a.m., all farm equipment had been moved to higher ground, and the horses were set free to run into the hills and be rounded up later.

By 8:45, the road became impassable in both directions, with the water still rising inches in minutes.

At 9:24, we wait.

You see, the rain could stop now, and the creek will keep rising. The hills are flowing over with water, white lines cutting through the dark leaf covered hillsides.

And in today’s case, it’s still raining.

We know it won’t be the worse we’ve seen, and we’ve experienced this enough times to minimize damage —

to a certain water level.

So now, it’s watch and wait. How high will it actually get?

Finally, Rain.

In my opinion, it took Fay a long time to get here. All that water she dumped on Florida? Boy, we sure needed it here.

Leaves on the trees were beginning to turn, and flowers began to take on that “yellow” look. Plants in pots that I forgot to water? They’re nearly dead, if not dead already.

The rain came in about 3 a.m. this morning. I know, because I was having one of those nights when I don’t sleep. Not an “I’m not tired yet and not ready to go to bed” nights, but one of those “I’ve been in bed twice and just can’t fall asleep” nights.

The first time I got up, I sat and read the Avon reference guide, which I thought might lull my mind. But, it didn’t. The second time I got up, I just started working on editing and layout of the October issue — before the September issue is even all distributed.

I’ve been known to paint or hyper-clean an entire room on these nights, but last night, I wanted to really just stay near the bed, just in case my brain decided to switch off.

The minute the rain started, I was dog tired and ready to sleep.

This morning, the rain still falls, and I have chosen today as the delivery week day I stay home by myself while Frank makes a delivery run. This is the day I clean off my desk, run the sweeper, do some laundry and do the month’s backed up book keeping.

But this morning, I’m going to start the day with coffee, on the back porch, overlooking the lake, watching it rain.

When it rains. . .

This morning, the day of my 39th birthday, my husband woke me at 5 a.m. to say, “I love you, Happy Birthday,” before taking his father to the hospital two hours away to be prepared for surgery.

Two hours later, he called collect to say that the transmission on the truck went out on the interstate, the calling card was out of minutes, and they were waiting on a taxi to transport them the rest of the way.

I’m afraid to read my horoscope for the day….

In my life, every year ending in six has been terrible, tragic, extremely rough. I was worried when 2006 started that something really bad would happen.

But I was wrong.

This year has been a year like Chinese water torture – nothing extremely bad has happened, however little mishaps and episodes of bad luck have plagued us all year.

A minor car wreck – drip.

A dog needed surgery – drip.

Frank’s hernia – drip.

Transmission blows – drip.

An encounter with a nasty police officer – drip.

Father-in-law needs surgery – drip.

Idiots harassing us on the Internet and phone – drip.

Hitting a deer – drip.

A hole in a brand new tire – drip.

I shouldn’t wallow in it, I know. There have been some wonderful developments as well. The wonderful camping trips, the $500 shopping spree at Coleman’s, the writing assignments from magazines, a new puppy.

It has been a real roller coaster this year.

Up, down, up, down.

Stop the world, I want to get off.

They say the trick in life is to learn to adapt to whatever development comes. To take the cards you are dealt, and play them as best you can.

So, you keep playing the game, never folding, always waiting  for that trump card – or at least a pair of nines.
If life was strip poker, I’d have been naked since May.

But still, you keep playing, because you have no choice, and half your winnings have been tossed back into the till, and for me, at least I have a partial flush.

I have a wonderful husband, a home I love, a job I mostly enjoy, and a talent for bluffing.

So, I’ll see that bet, and raise you a belly button ring.

Because today, it seems only fitting that I should be wearing my birthday suit.