River Still Hungry

We had another rainy weekend, this time with 4″ of rain in just 18 hours. Here’s what our cellar and our river looked like at the height of it:

The 2nd half is the view from our upper veranda; under normal river flow conditions we cannot see the water at all at this location.

Yesterday I ventured down the road to check on where the river had taken a large chunk of the road in the flooding a couple of week ago. It turns out that while the river did eat more road, the area is still passable (barely!).

The foreground area is newly-placed-by-DOH material. You can see that it is still settling.

Foreground rocks are new, ones in the background were dropped two weeks ago after the first road-eating flood.

Looking at the far end, notice the round impression and the upper left where a barrel was two weeks ago.

Looking back from the far end you can see the scope of the repair work the DOH-boys are doing. For scale, that’s my F150 in the background.

When they are done with the repairs, it’ll look something like this, a section they repaired several years back. It has held up quite well!

Here are some graphs of data from the USGS Cacapon River gauge downstream of us. This recent flood looks to be our largest since Hurricane Isabel in 2003 (the only time our property has flooded since we moved here in 1998).

The river since we moved here in 1998. (Note that the scale is logarithmic so the peaks are somewhat compressed.)

Isabel in September 2003

The past week; note how much higher the river was at the start of this event that it was for Isabel.

The Relentless River

Last week we had a lot of rain — 1.15″ on Tuesday, 0.78″ Wednesday, 0.97″ Thursday, 0.61″ Friday, and 0.38″ Saturday. Our river — the Cacapon — can handle 2″ or so at a time. More than that and the road floods in a number places. In addition, every so often the river decides to show the road who’s boss — either in the case of a single (post-)tropical storm, or, as in this case, a prolonged series of repeating storms:

The WV Division of Highways quickly moved to put up the cones. They also filled in the drainage ditch on the mountain side to make the remaining roadway wide enough for a single lane. Eventually (Weeks? Months? Who knows!) they will rebuild the river bank with riprap gabions. (Now ain’t that a fancy way to say rock-filled wire cages!)

And, as it turned out, we had to go to town for an appointment on Thursday. On our way out around 9 am there was a little water ponding on the road in one spot near the red barn. It was raining lightly but steadily all the way into town, and all the road-side ditches and streams were flowing robustly. We left town around around 12:30 and upon our return, and, not unexpectedly, a High Water sign was up on Capon River Road. Since the only alternatives (the road on the other side of the river, which has its own flash-flooding issues, or back down to another highway then back up to the south end of our road) would have taken an additional 45 minutes at least, I decided to give our road a shot (besides, that’s one reason I bought the new crossover with its high ground clearance last fall!).

There are 3 places of flooding that can be navigated if it is not too bad (and a 4th that, if it is flooded there then the other parts of the road are one with the river). First: down near the Bad Feng Shui House (our own term for it) we got through just fine, about 4″ I’d guess. Second: farther along the straightaway was worse (maybe 6-7″) but, again, made it just fine. Third: at the sweeping corner before the red barn, it looked deeper, but I made the choice to proceed. It was deeper than I had expected, and we made a quite unexpected, impressive, and disconcerting bow wave! The key is steady speed — any sudden changes and you get back-splash swamping. We made it, but not something I’m likely to repeat. Then, a little further on, there was a tree down across the road! 8″ trunk, but with a 5″ branch that was supporting a nice vehicle-sized triangular passageway beneath.


The Threat of Ices


The latest winter storm brought us about 1.5″ of snow, several hours of sleet, then many hours of (freezing) rain. The result: about an inch of hard frozen slush (on top of the several inches of hard-frozen snow still remaining in places from the last storm). Starting around 2 a.m it started crashing off of the back roof in thunderous reports as it glanced off the veranda railings and then shattered on the frozen snow in the back yard. Now the sun is partially out and melting is happening big-time, so we need to watch the river for flooding.

View from the Veranda

This post will give you a flavor of what our farm looks like from our upper veranda. All of these pictures embiggen when you click ’em (be sure to click on the resultant picture to really embiggen it if your browser has resized it to fit the screen — you’ll need to scroll left and right to see it all.) All of these panoramas were created with drag-n-drop ease using the free Microsoft ICE photo-stitching software.

This picture is a 250-degree view taken today during the first snow of the season.

This is a similar view from back in October. This one goes a bit farther to the left — note the hammock. This blog’s masthead is a version of this image.

And, finally, here’s a slightly narrower vista from March after some fairly torrential Spring rain. The river is up in its banks to where it is clearly visible from the veranda. This is also the height where Cacapon River Road — a part of which you can see on the left — floods several miles downstream. Note, too, how wet several portions of our pasture are.

Goodbye Snow Hello Rain

Well, we’ve had a week of mild weather followed by a couple of days of rain, so the snow is just about all gone. But the river is high. That narrow island in the middle of the river is usually the opposite river bank. Real-time and historical Cacapon River data 30 miles downstream from us is available from the USGS National Water Information System.

The tree is dead. Long live the tree.

Around noon ago I heard a noise out back and then Roy the Collie stared barking furiously. It turned out that a limb on the left hand side of our ancient, dead hickory tree had broken off. Then, about 20 minutes later, I heard a short burst of furious barking then a grand thump and crunch. It’s been stormy today, but mostly rain not a lot of wind — guess it just got too waterlogged and heavy. The tree is dead. Long live the tree. No animals were harmed in the making of the death of this tree. We have for awhile been concerned about goats getting hurt when that tree came down. But upon reflection, it was highly likely that it would come down in a storm, and goats are *never* outside in a storm! The tree is hollow so we cannot count the rings, but it seems likely that this tree was over 100 years old.

Goat Boat

This past November my cousin came for a visit. Being Scandanavian, a visit means you must “help out” in some way. If a task isn’t provided by the host, the visitor feels all at sixes and sevens. The visitor will often desperately look for a way to help, which can often be discomfitting to all — that’s just the way we are.

Fortunately, I had just the task for my intrepid cousin. There was an old aluminum flat-bottomed boat marooned by Isabel across the river near my home. Although retrieving it meant wading in swift moving waist-high water — in the rain — we did it with gusto. A little hosing off and it made the perfect goat-feeding trough. The partitions make it hard for bullies to butt others out of the way for more than their fair share.

Rainy Day Faces

On a rainy day, one can always get some attention by simply walking past the barn. The barn stalls are in pretty rough shape — our plan is to build a loafing shed for the goats across the drive from the barn and convert the barn into a milking parlour but it has been too wet to get started on the new shed.

Hurricane Isabel

For days the media was warning about the arrival of hurricane Isabel on the US East Coast. The predicted path looked to go right over us, so we spent several days making preparations. Here you see our sheep (in white by the shed) and pigs (in reddish brown to the right) that we moved to high ground yesterday.

Hurricane Isabel

Preparations included hauling this stockpile of locust fence posts, plus four truckloads of split firewood, up from the Meadow Paddock.

Hurricane Isabel

Sure enough, the remnants of Isabel pounded us all night last night. This morning we awoke to gray, but clearing, skies. Here’s a hawk surveying the aftermath.

Hurricane Isabel

By 8:30 a.m. the river was about a foot below the bank on our side of the river, and rising. This was the view down Turtle Trail, or should I say Turtle Trail Isthmus. That’s the river to the right, the spring run to the left, and their conjoinance straight ahead. This will be under several feet of water soon.

Hurricane Isabel

By 9:30 a.m. a small stretch of road near our sandstone cliffs was flooded — a first since we moved here in ’98.

Hurricane Isabel

The view from the road; you can see the flooding Meadow Paddock out behind the house.

Hurricane Isabel

Here’s where we had the pigs up until yesterday morning. This water is 4 – 8 feet deep.