July Flood 2014
Some of you may remember that we had a flood July of 2013. That flood came out of the western foothills, across the highway, hit our house, and swept across all of our property, filling the irrigation ditch. Yesterday’s flood came from the river (eastern side). Earlier in the day (perhaps around noon) we had a good hard rain. Then in the afternoon, starting at perhaps 4pm, we had more rain. If you’ve ever spent quality time in the desert, then you know we have very limited topsoil, which absorbs the rain. With so much rain in the preceding days, and double rain the day of the flood, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised we had a river that skipped out of it’s banks.
First, all beasties were saved or safe to start with. Second, we lost a few fences and have some work to do on the pond (clearing out debris and silt), the pond fence (pushed out into unusual shapes) and the goose mansion (plenty of debris was trapped inside). We once had a stone meditation circle. That has been turned into a widely dispersed aggregate of rocks. The down stream tributary of the pond has been filled in with desert mulch and will have to be cleared before water can flow in and out of the pond as it likes to do. Our irrigation ditch silted up a bit, but not so much that it isn’t usable. Still, it will have to be shoveled out at some point.
Initially, when the afternoon rains started, I was more concerned that we would have a repeat of last year, with the rain coming from the western hills. Once it became obvious that wasn’t happening, I went out to check on the irrigation ditch – which was overflowing at the gate because it was so full. I tried fro perhaps 20 minutes to pop the gate out to allow the water to flow freely. This is in preference to the water overflowing the ditch banks and eating them away, which would make the ditch unusable until repaired (which would affect all people along the ditch, not just us). Alas, I couldn’t pop the ditch gate out and my hands had gone numb from the chilly water.
So, I turned to something I could do which was let the sodden goats up from the pond paddock to the barn. As I started down, I saw something large floating in the river – and I think it was a bridge. Yep, a bridge. I took one quick photo from afar. I made my way down there and let the goats up but stayed to photo what I thought was quite a bit of water coming from my upstream neighbor’s paddock. Well, that was the initial trickle of the flood. Debris started building along the fence line. I could hear the river roaring and I wanted to get to the bank and take pictures. But I noticed that my exit path was becoming flooded. It happened very quickly. I had to detour my way back to higher ground (still at the pond).
I started to worry about the ducks and geese. Their pond was getting flooded, the water level rising. Mostly, I was concerned that the current would become so strong that they would be slammed about the fencing we have around the pond (the fencing is there to keep the goats and donkeys from eating the pond plants). But the water calmed in the pond, creating a swirling eddy of mud, silt, debris, desert mulch, and several excited aquatic fowl.
I moved along the pond taking pictures. And then I hurt a metallic creaking coming from the downstream fence line. Debris was building long it, straining it. Most of this was occurring long the path were our pond naturally drains into the neighbor’s pond. Eventually, something snapped and the fence flattened. Now we were two fences down.
And I was thigh-high in cold, cold water. I decided to retreat to the house at this point. I needed more batteries for the camera anyway and I hadn’t been able to contact my man as the phones & internet went out with the storm. So I gave him a quick call (since phone was restored but not internet). He dropped what he was doing and headed home. He was perhaps an hour away.
I freshened up my batteries and headed back out. I was still worried about the water birds. There was no way to physically reach them with the water that high and all the fencing surrounding the pond. But I could keep an eye on them. The donkeys interrogated me on the way down, demanding to know when dinner was, and why they had to share their paddock with the smelly goats. But they couldn’t really care about the weather or the flood. That’s donkeys for you.
By now, it had been perhaps 1 hour since the flood had started. Things were already receding. There was still plenty of water, but it looked like the geese and ducks wouldn’t have to worry about being slammed into debris or fences. The pond has had this submerged tree for ages (since before we moved here) and that tree (which turned out to be way larger than we ever thought) was moved to the other side of the pond. The entrance to the goose mansion was choked with debris, so I cleared some of it. Mostly, I snapped photos.
But then I got cold. I was still in soaked clothing. So I headed up to the house, had a hot shower, dry clothes, and made a quick dinner. I heard from my man – the road home was blocked by a raging arroyo (I heard that it was ~6 feet high with water, unverified). So he stopped to help the fire department with the flooded mineral springs. I was on my own for seeing the beasties fed, dry, and safe.
The goats, donkeys, cats, dogs, and chickens were no problem. I was worried that the geese and ducks wouldn’t have any dry land to rest upon for the night and may become fatigued from swimming. After my dinner, I headed back out. There were more sprinkles. I got covered in alfalfa smut feeding the goats and donkeys. They think I smell great.
And I went to the pond paddock once more. Nearly all the water had receded. I was quite amazed. I thought it might take days for it to dry out. As I walked around, I found a few fish that needed rescuing. I tossed them in the pond, but I am not sure that saved them since the pond was so choked with silt it looked like hot cocoa. The geese and ducks were able to get into the goose mansion and I fed them some corn.
The next day, we walked the pond paddock together. Lots and lots of raccoon prints in the mud. I bet they came for the left over corn and the unrescued fish. We weren’t able to open the gate the to the river because the fence wire was resting so tightly upon it. It’s under a lot of tension since part of the fence was laid flat (without any of the fence snapping). But my man did climb the gate and have a quick look for the bridge I saw. No such luck.
We’ve heard that the two neighbors upstream of us lost fences. And we heard that a working farm upstream of us suffered significant damage. That is unverified. But I do wonder if that was their bridge I saw.
It will be a while before our beasties can enjoy the pond paddock. We already have one fence back up (though the posts need to be pounded in). It was fairly easy to rake the desert mulch off of it. We can only hope that the other fences will be as easy to resurrect.
What follows are A LOT of photos. Quite understandably, I am worn out from flood walking for 4 hours yesterday, and tromping through mud to photograph the aftermath today. Sit back and enjoy!