Saturday, January 15, 2011

Surf's Up

If you’ve poked around here much you probably know that Porter is a little ‘place’ that really isn’t much of a place, but it’s important in our lives because it happens to be the NWS flood monitoring station just a few miles downriver from us which I pay attention to.  Checking the NWS Advanced Prediction Service website yesterday morning (1/14) I found this chart for the Porter station, predicting a crest of 20.44 feet.  Flood stage is 21 feet at Porter.

I’m dissapointed but not entirely suprized. Like most anywhere, the ups and downs of the thermometer are fodder for conversations, blog posts, and facebook threads. I’m as likely as anyone to go on and on about the ‘epic’ ride I had in freezing temps. What really gets my attention though is when the peaks and valleys on the temp line coincide with dramatic swings on the precip line.

Last week we closed out a little stretch of cold weather. Here anything at or below freezing is cold. Along came a blustery, moisture laden front off the north pacific which warmed things up and delivered precip; cold rain, and then a dump of snow, from the ocean beaches all the way to the crest of the Cascades. So far so what? It’s the ensuing few hours or days that draw the attention of that invisble third eye in my forehead over which I have no control. If the temps continue to rise, particularly at higher elevations I get a little antsy. Antsy turns to antacids if the rise in temp is accompanied by continued precipitation.

You’ve heard me use the phrase ‘rain on snow event’ before, but long story short, it often results in a flush of runoff and a dramatic rise in river volume. At higher elevations this produces those flashy, beige colored cascading water falls or the ‘powerful fury of the mighty rapids!' Down here in the lowlands, there are no deep canyons or channels cut through rock walls to contain the deluge, just miles and miles of pastures and fields into which the overflow can …..flood.

Our little village of Oakville is mostly safe by a couple feet from flood waters, but those of us on the edge of town sometimes get our toes wet. This from 2007, the worst flood on record:
Our house is in the beige colored part of town.

The chart above gives me concern, partly for what it shows and partly because weather forecasting has a lot in common with economic forcasting, or fortune telling for that matter. There is enough science involved to lend credence to the notion that there will be some flooding. But there is also enough of natures unpredictability to allow for either less flooding than predicted, or, worse flooding than predicted.

Unfortunately upon checked the forecast this morning things have taken a turn for the worse. The river is predicted to hit flood stage (21 feet @Porter) sometime Monday morning and contine to rise, reaching 21.4 feet sometime in the wee hours of Tuesday.  That is as far as the forecast goes so at this point we don't know if the river will continue to rise or begin to fall.

We know it's going to be bad, but we just don't know how bad. If you look at this post you will get an idea of what nearly 23 feet looks like from our front porch.  Since we raised the house in 2007 we are not at much risk of getting water in the house.  The crawl space will get water but we should expect no flood damage other than the mess that flooding leaves in it's wake.

 The fish in the pond are another matter.  They should be OK at 21 feet. but somewhere around 22 feet or above the pond floods which would be our own little disaster.  I have the Q tank set up and ready to receive fish so I will be watching the forecast today and tomorrow and if things get worse as opposed to better we may be making a transfer.  I hate to do it because it stresses the fish and in their current condition they don't need any more stress.  They have not eaten since early November and the pond water temp was in the mid to low thirties during that cold snap.

The wild card in this deck is the prediction through Monday.  This from the NWS weather warning site  this morning:

THROUGH MONDAY AFTERNOON

* ANOTHER WET WEATHER SYSTEM WILL BRING 3 TO 6 INCHES OF RAIN TO THE CASCADES AND OLYMPIC MOUNTAINS LATER TODAY THROUGH SUNDAY... WITH THE SNOW LEVEL 8000 TO 9000 FEET. RIVERS ARE ALREADY RUNNING HIGH AND SOILS ARE SATURATED DUE TO HEAVY RAIN THAT HAS FALLEN OVER THE AREA SINCE WEDNESDAY...WHICH WILL WORSEN THE POTENTIAL FOR FLOODING.

It's frustrating, right now I look out the window upon a peaceful, dead calm morning; a light fog lays upon the land and the fish are finning languidly in the pond.



We had a little scare about this time last month and the flooding eventually turened out to be much less severe than the prediction.  Now as then, it could have been worse by a couple feet.

So we’ll prepare, and we’ll watch and wait. Waiting it out, after you have done the little bit you can to prepare is the hard part for me. I’d rather be sandbagging, actively fighting this thing, or pushing back against the deluge in some other way. But of course after you’ve done what you can, there’s nothing else beyond beseeching your God of choice for mercy.

I’m not a patient person by nature, I come by it honestly. My Mom taught me by example, and if shear force of will could turn the tide I’m sure I (and all who fell in her favor) would be living the life of milk and honey and who knows, perhaps the world is a better place thanks to the unknown benefits that accrued from her incredibly stubborn McCubbin nature.

Oh by the way;

Do not forget to set aside a little time this weekend to contemplate Dr Martin Luther King, I will and I know in so doing I will gain a measure of perspective about the ‘Epic flood, of January, 2011”.

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