Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Water, Water Everywhere But Not a Drop To Drink

This last week saw the most rainfall in on day ever recorded for Seattle and surrounding area.

That's a lot of rain.

South of here in a town called Chehalis, Interstate 5 was under 8-10 feet of water. Here is an aerial photo to help illustrate the craziness:

Isn't that amazing? The Interstate is actually under the water - the road pieces that you see are the elevated exit ramps. Yikes.

The "God Clouds" lend a 40-days-and-40-nights sort of effect that I really like.

I remember learning from my Dad many things regarding rain and the weather in general while growing up on the ranch in Montana. He is the one that taught me that rain or blustery weather is coming about a day after you see the horsetail clouds high in the sky. I knew almost exactly how much time I had to get back to the house once the thunderclouds rolled over the mountains to the west of us. I knew how much rain it took to fill puddles to a certain level. One-tenth of an inch filled the regular small puddles, one-fifth of an inch overfilled the small puddles and surprising random puddles would show up. At one-half inch or more the possibility of a "gully-washer" loomed and I would excitedly monitor the end of the lane for gushing mini-rivers from the mountain.

He explained the differences in the soil. There was the clay and the sandy loam. They caused the water to behave differently. While flood irrigating (see "Surface Irrigation" in this Wikipedia article for explanation) I was always amazed that he knew the topography of every field and how the soil would accept the water. If you ran the water over one specific area of the field for a specific number of hours you could irrigate a totally different and separate part of the field just by understanding the geology involved in the water table.

Dry fields actually "boil" as water running over the dry ground absorbs into the ground around the alfalfa. The water replaces the air pockets in the ground and if you stand really still and listen you could hear the whispering agricultural hot-tub of bubbles.

I loved flood irrigating.

My Mom called to make sure that I was okay this weekend. I was explaining to her that I don't even need to watch the news anymore to know how much rain has fallen. We have had an inch of rain in 24 hours if I get a large puddle at the end of my driveway. We have had two inches of rain if I get a corresponding puddle in front of the steps.

This rain was different. Yes, first I got the end-of-the-driveway puddle, then the in-front-of-the-steps puddle - but I found out when we get 5+ inches of rain in a 24 hour period my entire driveway fills with about 1-2 inches of standing water.

"Well, now I know how to measure that kind of rain," I told her.

She was really quiet for a few seconds.

"Wow. You sound exactly like your Dad. He was always talking about how much rain filled up what puddles around here. I had forgotten about that," she said.

The above reminiscence would have never happened without her statement. I had forgotten all about it, too. It is amazingly comforting that silly things like rain vs. puddle measurement can be so deftly connected back to him. It assures me to think that in some ways I display something, anything, that was once his.

That is the best Christmas present of all for me.



At 2:05 AM, Blogger rennratt said...

I'm glad that you all are safe and okay.

The little things that remind us of family are amazing, huh?

I'm glad you have this memory.

At 2:43 AM, Blogger Ant said...

Is it geeky of me to find stuff like that fascinating?

A couple of years ago I found myself crossing one of the river estuaries near here with a chap that had been in the merchant navy - he had an amazing ability to gauge the weather and I found his insights so interesting from their accuracy. The bit I love about this piece is that you knew how much time you had...

I really really want to be able to work such stuff out for my hill-walking travails. Your dad couldn't somehow give me a similar christmas present could he? :-)

At 2:56 AM, Blogger Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

That picture is breathtaking.

My housemate is a geotechnical engineer. He loves all this stuff, so I have a passing knowledge by default. 'Tis fascinating.

At 8:32 AM, Blogger Bobo the Wandering Pallbearer said...

Functional definition of mixed feelings:

Flood pictures always fascinate me, until I remind myself that ruined lives lay beneath the gleam.

One of my favorite stories has to do with farmers and hydrolic engineers, but it's a little too long to relate here.

Finally, I am a bit jealous. We haven't had significant rain here in over 5 months.

At 8:44 AM, Blogger tiff said...

Send it here! Send it here!!

It's terrific that you channel your Dad in those small strange ways. It's stuff like that that keeps people alive in our memories. Made me smile!


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