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