Saturday, January 5, 2008

Stormy Weather

Yes, it rained pretty hard here yesterday.

No, it wasn’t a big deal.

However, since the fairly typical just-after-the-solstice storm here in Northern California gathered some national (and even international) news attention (and since Ft. Harrington’s dear friend, Lucile Taber, went looking in this blog for updates), I’ll put up this special edition post about it.

Kings Creek from the Ft. Harrington back deck, Wednesday, January 2nd.

We needed rain pretty badly. Last winter (the usual rainy season here in the Santa Cruz Mountains) was exceptionally dry, and that’s bad news for an isolated community like this that depends on groundwater for all of its water needs – not just for household use, but for emergency agencies, firefighters in particular. The picture above, looking downstream along the creek through the heart of Creepy Hollow, shows how depleted the watershed had become. It was taken a day before the forecast triple-storm was to hit our area.

Thursday, January 3rd, brought a little spritz of a shower… but yesterday, Friday, January 4th, brought the first big rainfall we’ve had in two years. According to the Ft. Harrington rain gauge, we had 6 ½ inches in 24 hours from 5pm Thursday to 5pm Friday, and by mid-afternoon Friday, the creek looked like this:

Kings Creek from the Ft. Harrington back deck, Friday, January 4th.

I estimate that the creek rose about three feet in that 24-hour period, but it wasn’t even close to being a worry for anyone here in the Hollow. Oldtimers hereabouts say that the creek can crest above the red patio at the right of the frame in the above pictures, but we haven’t seen that in our decade here. We have seen the creek significantly higher than it was this week, though:

Kings Creek in the winter of 2005-06.

Creepy Hollow, with Ft. Harrington at its core, is sheltered by high mountain ridges from most winds in winter storms, and it was for this one. While Northern California in general was blasted by sometimes hurricane-speed winds, our air was relatively tranquil during the downpours. We are, however, dependent on the electrical power grid for our distributed electricity, and that grid failed (as it usually does several times each winter.) The Hollow was without electrical power from the grid for most of Friday – but that’s no never-mind, since almost every house in the Hollow has a generator like the Fort does. Loud, is all, not major bad news, since the generators keep the refrigerators, furnaces, and lights going. The worst inconvenience for humans is that cable TV (and internet services) go out when the main power grid does.

When a storm is over, the creeks and rivers exhale mist among the redwoods. These two pictures are from "downtown" Boulder Creek this afternoon. (Click on any image for a bigger version.)

Kelsey and I surveyed the Creek this afternoon (make sure the volume is turned up on your computer and then click the arrowhead):

In this clip, I address Kesley as "Kelsey-the-Dog," which is actually what he's usually called around here. I don't know why, since there's not much doubt about whether he's a dog or not.

All in all, the storm was a blessing for us, not a problem. It was a blessing because it recharged, all in one shot, the groundwater on which this entire community vitally depends. However, it would have been a big problem for me if it hadn’t happened while I was on winter break from school: any highway I might have tried to take from Ft. Harrington to Silicon Valley was closed due to mud/rock/dirt slides or downed trees. But I didn’t have to go anywhere, so Mrs. Fort and I and all the fourfeet snuggled down and napped through most of it. So did the chickens, but in their house, not ours.

Earlier storms have not been as benign. Below are some scenes from previous winters:

Above, Adam and Ryan survey some storm damage on the Fort's main building's roof in 2001.

Things get really bad when the wind does get fierce here in the Hollow: redwood branches can’t take the strain, snap (with a sound like a rifle shot) and fall their hundreds of feet onto whatever happens to be below. Those falling branches are called “widowmakers,” and the one above fell just up the road from the Fort in the winter of ’01- 02.

When a winter storm brings snow, it also brings carloads of folks up from Silicon Valley to revel in it. Above is a group of DeAnza students frolicking at a vista point above our San Lorenzo Valley in the winter of 2004-05.

The San Lorenzo Valley in 2004. Ft. Harrington is somewhere close to the middle of this rainy frame.



Mike said...

A couple of observations, but starting with a question:

You mention the chickens in their own house. Their own original house, or their own new house? How goes the war against the raccoon?

Kelsey seems a lot more spry than I had expected. Good for him!

Fill your feeders, you big meanie!

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Glad the generator didn't keep yall awake! Someday when we build our own fort, i'm inclined to have a small generator for the freezer and to otherwise just read by lantern light and generally do the pioneer thing! For brief periods anyway. 8~)

I'd also like to know what happened to the raccoon -- i'm sure your flock must be safe from it either way, though, or we'd have heard from you.

Sherwood Harrington said...

The situation with the chickens is a little complicated right now. Instead of "their own house," Mike, I should have said "their own houses," since they spend nights in three different places.

Shortly after the Thanksgiving incident, we had a pretty decent rainstorm, during which part of the roof over the old (50+ years, as best as I can tell) part of the chicken run fell in, leaving a hole big enough for a whole family of raccoons to fall through, if they chose to. The roof isn't something I can fix by myself, so it's going to have to wait until I get an acceptable contractor to do it at an acceptable price. And acceptable weather for construction to happen.

Meanwhile, we've hardened two rabbit hutches inside the run as a temporary measure, boxing nine of the ten hens in them. The other one is injured a bit, and is recuperating in the garden house/animal haven.

As concerns the 'coon, there's been no evidence of it in the hollow since a week after Thanksgiving. The Havahart trap was successful, though, in capturing a neighbor's cat. Repeatedly.

Ah, and Kelsey. The good, Mike, is that he is, indeed, spry. The sad is that he is, indeed, of an age at which the use of "spry" isn't incongruous.

Sherwood Harrington said...

Oh, and one other thing: the generator.

You bet it's nice that the reverberating clatter of a Hollowful of generators wasn't going after dark -- but that does happen with fair frequency in the winter.

An off-blog, e-mail commentor remarked to me that "generators are for wimps." Well, fie on that, I say, fie! (That's two Fies for those who are counting.)

Dann said...

How many times need one cry "fie" before one turns into a cartoonist?


ronnie said...

Instead of "their own house," Mike, I should have said "their own houses," since they spend nights in three different places.

Wow, I feel exactly like your chickens.


Sherwood Harrington said...

No, ronniecat, I'm pretty sure you don't.