Showing posts with label flood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label flood. Show all posts

June 15, 2019

They Are Sandbagging La Veta


Along Main Street in the little resort town of La Veta, where sandbags are piled (sometimes) in front of the shops, in case the Cucharas River floods due to run-off from the area burned a year ago in the Spring Fire, west of town.

July 16, 2018

Hummingbirds Co-Existing Peacefully

I was going to relax with some blogging yesterday afternoon (I really was), and then the rain started falling all up and down the Wet Mountains, leading to some stream-flooding, rock slides, and waterfalls appearing in unexpected places.

The fire department was called out, mainly for traffic control — we were shutting roads down left and right, based on radio calls to the effect that "the water is over County Road XX."

All that took up four hours or so, then it was time to go home. This morning, the county Road & Bridge crews and various local residents — especially everyone with an irrigation ditch head gate to maintain — are out moving mud, tree trunks, etc. out of the roads and culverts.

And this afternoon, it might be "lather, rinse, and repeat."

Meanwhile, in the morning sunshine, the hummingbirds are demonstrating how they can live in harmony, which to them means "All against all."

You can see the ultra-aggressive rufous males flashing copper, hear the buzzing broad-tailed males (the females of both species wade right in there too), and slipping through the crowd, there is one male calliope hummingbird, something of a rarity here. The calliope hummingbird is the smallest bird found in the United States.

March 21, 2018

It Gladdens the Hearts of the Villagers . . .

Free wood — and more to come!
. . . when someone says that there is free firewood down at the Community Building. I got a couple of loads in my little trailer. That's a neighbor's bigger trailer on the far side of the pile.

All the wood is coming from private land burnt-over in a forest fire several years ago, hence the black bark.

Men from the SWIFT crew (state inmate firefighters) are felling trees and cutting them into rounds, part of a post-fire clean-up and flood-mitigation effort.  They fall, we haul.

And I have three more to fall as well on my own place. Next year, no more "just in time" firewood inventory. *

* Usage note — even though I am not in the Pacific Northwest.

March 11, 2017

What Keeps Me Awake at Night

How to lay sandbags: the right way, the wrong way, and the Army Corps of Engineers way.
The future seems to have two probable paths.

1.  A dry winter thus far here in the foothills (the high mountains have lots of snow) means extremely high fire danger this spring and summer. Despite Nature's and humans' best efforts, we have not yet burned all the trees around here.

2. Some typical spring snows and rains break the winter drought but also create debris flows and flooding coming off last October's 18,400-acre burn scar, much of it coming past my area and down into town. (Not as big as 2013's floods up north, but potentially devastating on a two-county scale.)

My house is well above any potential flood short of the "End of the Ice Age" melt, but if both of two bridges were slammed by floating logs or otherwise knocked out, I would be back in the foot-travel and dog-travois era. 

A team from the Army Corps of Engineers Albuquerque district office has been here. They are quite excited about studying the burn scar's flood potential from hydrological and other perspectives, but that is all they can do for us short of a federal disaster declaration, which has not happened yet. (A few body bags would speed up the process, one suggested.)

The flood potential may last for years. That's what they want to study. Yay science!

They did conduct sandbag training today, however. I feel so much better. A neighbor and I laid the first few bags today to protect our shared well house, which sits closer to the creek.

All joking aside, isn't it better to do something and also worry instead of just worrying by itself?

February 25, 2017

Colorado Forests Are Changing. Part of Me Likes That.

Pine beetle-killed lodgepole pine in Colorado (University of Colorado).
I spent last weekend camping with friends on the White River National Forest in Summit County, Colorado. The mountain pine beetle worked its magic there some years ago, which means there is lots of firewood in the form of dead trees.

As humans, I think we are hardwired for orgies — not talking about sex here, but more in the sense of "Run all the buffalo over a cliff and eat meat until you fall down!" "Dig all the gold!" "Drink all the beer!" Or in our case, "Build big fires!" Really, it makes our little ape-hearts feel good.

Let's take the long view, if we can. Only what we think is a long view is just childhood for a tree.

According to the Colorado State Forest Service, one in fourteen forest trees in the state is dead, for a total of 834 million standing dead trees. (A projection from sample counts, that has to be.)
Infestations of mountain pine beetles and spruce beetles are the main cause of the die-off, [State Forester Mike] Lester said. Beetles are native to the state but have caused far more damage than normal over the past 20 years, attacking more than 7,900 square miles of forest, or more than 20 percent of total forested land.
Standing dead trees made fighting last summer's 38,000-acre Beaver Creek Fire more difficult, fire  commanders said. Earlier studies about dead trees' effects on fire were more ambiguous, so I wonder if the pendulum will swing.

A big post-fire issue is flooding with associated erosion — I will be writing more about that later this spring.

And then there is Our Friend the Spruce Beetle.
At this point, there’s nothing stopping the spruce beetle. We’re observing it. We’re going to let nature run its course,” said state entomologist Dan West, who helped run aerial surveys with the U.S. Forest Service involving 40 flights over forests.
Some people are saying that the highly visible, highly visited forest along the Front Range will "never look the same."
Limited conifer regeneration following wildfires in dry ponderosa pine forests of the Colorado Front Range, by Fire Ecologist Monica Rother and CU-Boulder Professor of Geography Thomas Veblen, surveyed conifer regeneration at six low-elevation Front Range sites that burned eight to 15 years before. Released in December and published in the journal Ecosphere, it found that "current patterns of post-fire seedling establishment suggest that vegetation composition and structure may differ notably from historic patterns and that lower density stands and even non-forested communities may persist in some areas of these burns long after the fire[.]"
That prospect does not bother me on one level. I find the "start-up phase" of forests to be interesting. The big-game hunting is better too. Now if your house in the woods burned to the ground, you may not feel that way. And if you look at trees just as unharvested timber, you may not agree with me.

(But some of the land that has burned around me was never logged, because it is just too steep and rough. Other areas were logged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but then not managed for timber sales after that because of low productivity.)

"Lower-density stands"? Bring 'em on. Along with a predilection for orgies of food, drink, and firewood, I favor those evolutionary psychologist who think that human inherently like a meadow-and-forest (or savannah-and-trees) environment better than dense forest or grassland.

August 04, 2015

"Where Were You When the Dam Broke?"

Sketch by one of the Pueblo operators in 1921
Click over to Coyote Gulch, the water blog, for a short video and story about the failure of the Castlewood Canyon Dam and the subsequent flood in Denver, eighty years ago yesterday.

As so often happened in such disasters, it was the telephone operators who authorized themselves to make "reverse 911" calls, decades before such systems were invented.

(They still are not perfect. I remember once getting a 4 a.m. telephone call that was just "Ring . . . click." Fortunately, I could see the mountainside on fire from the bedroom window.)

On the evening of August 3, 1933, Elsie Henderson’s urgent voice raced down the Sullivan Telephone Exchange’s wires, outpacing Cherry Creek’s northbound floodwaters. . . . Elsie, one of only two people available to operate the Sullivan switchboard that night, alerted people with one long ring, the universally recognized sound for an emergency. She and fellow Sullivan Exchange employee Ingrid Mosher worked through the night and into the following afternoon, saving lives, livestock, and property
That was back when you rang for the operator and got someone relatively local who could, at times, make decisions and show initiative.

Now we have 911 call centers — although your mobile telephone call does not necessarily go to the right one. For other telephone needs, you get somebody in India who is reading from a script.

The sketch was drawn by Wilma Cary, one of the Pueblo telephone operators who stayed on the job during the big flood of 1921.

July 31, 2014

Memories of Floods Past

1933 flood waters at Union Station, Denver (Colorado Historical Society).
At the end of a rainy week, let's remember some famous Colorado floods —not the only ones, and not just last year's.

Today is the anniversary of the 1976 Big Thompson Canyon flood, which killed 143 people, including a state trooper who was racing ahead of it, trying to warn people. (That canyon flooded again, less destructively, last September.)

Sunday will be the anniversary of a flood that I was unaware of: the 1933 Castlewood Dam disaster, August 3, 1933, when a dam on Cherry Creek burst in what is now Castlewood Canyon State Park, sending flood waters clear into downtown Denver. 

It is being commemorated at the park on Saturday with "Dam Day" educational and fun activities:  
Kids can build candy dams mortared with frosting (a word to the wise — do not follow the design of Castlewood Dam, it lasted only 43 years). There will be a model of the canyon and dam. They can also fill the Castlewood Reservoir with water and see the effects rushing water can have on the canyon.
Cherry Creek and nearby Plum Creek struck again in June 1965a month of flooding both in the South Platte and Arkansas river drainages.

On June 16, 1965, fourteen inches of rain fell near Castle Rock, sending flood waters north into Littleton and Denver.

Many homes were lost, but there were only 21 deaths.

My mother had taken me to Pueblo to visit my grandmother, and now we were trapped — there was no way to travel north from Colorado Springs toward Fort Collins, where we then lived. Interstate 25 was washed out at Castle Rock and (I assume in retrospect) state highways 105 and 83 were closed or washed out too.

One of the 1921 Pueblo operators drew this sketch.
She was told that the only to go north was to go a mountain route (Woodland Park-Deckers-US 285) or the plains route (Colorado Springs-Limon-Denver). She chose the latter.

I remember rain lashing down and water running across US 24 between Colorado Springs and Limon up to the hubcaps of her 1963 Chevrolet Corvair. The prairie seemed like a succession of little rivers. But we made it.

Cherry Creek Reservoir was built to prevent another episode: see an aerial photo.

Southern Colorado, however, remembers also June 3, 1921, when Pueblo flooded. There was this new technology called the telephone, and the operators in their downtown building stayed at their switchboards even as the waters rolled in. (They survived.)

Sketch from the site of the Virtual Telecommunications Museum.

June 01, 2014

Surviving the Jamestown Flood

These blog posts by "Roger I." were written in September and October 2013, but I just now discovered them. They describe his and his wife's life in the first month after their mountain community, Jamestown, west of Boulder, was clobbered in last September's northern-Colorado flooding.

There is good stuff here on the psychology of disasters and on who makes it and who does not do so well. And humor: "Using  software engineers as pack animals is always an iffy proposition, but after some training, Nate did great."

He has kinder things to say about FEMA than did many Hurricanes Katrina and Rita survivors —  whether due to the agency learning some lessons or to the smaller scale of the disaster plus a different local culture, you can decide.

(Via Peter Grant.)

October 08, 2013

Colorado Flood Diary

Thoughts on flood survival from a contributor to Survival Blog.
FEMA help is a mixed blessing.   They provide a lot of help, but are pretty nosy. I paid my taxes for 40 years, and getting some back would be soooo nice. FEMA is a road show - they may leave here this week, so coordinating their inspectors with my Jamestown expedition is challenging. 
Hat tip to Peter Grant. And be ready to take care of yourself.

May 09, 2013

How Not to Sand Bag

It's raining now — it has been raining for two hours — and on the west side of Colorado Springs and up Ute Pass, people worry about run-off from the Waldo Canyon Burn.

Some are sand-bagging their property, but they don't have the years of experience — and the vast numbers of sand bags — possessed by residents of Fargo and Grand Forks, North Dakota, for example.

The Gazette's Side Streets blog has some "how not to sand bag" photos and some advice. Really, doing one house here and one house there is not the best approach.