Sunday, September 15, 2013


Weather: Rain; 13:29 hours of daylight today.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, bird of paradise, silver lace vine, Russian sage, roses of Sharon, zinnias and African marigolds from seed, alfalfa.

Beyond the walls and fences: Trumpet creeper, sweet peas, leather-leafed globe mallow, bindweed, greenleaf five-eyes, yellow evening primrose, Russian thistle, pigweed, ragweed, Hopi tea, Tahoka daisy, gumweed, horseweed, goldenrod, native sunflowers, áñil del muerto, golden hairy and heath asters.

In my yard, looking east: Hosta, coral bells, winecup mallow, Maximilian sunflowers.

Looking south: Rugosa, floribunda and miniature roses.

Looking west: Caryopteris, Johnson Blue geranium, David phlox, catmints, calamintha, sea lavender, lead plant, bachelor buttons from seed, Mönch aster.

Looking north: Golden spur columbine, chocolate flowers, blanket flowers, anthemis, chrysanthemum, dahlias.

In the open, along the drive: Fern bush, Dutch clover, hollyhock, Shirley and California poppies, larkspur, black-eyed Susan, lance-leaf coreopsis, yellow, red and mixed Mexican hats, Sensation and yellow cosmos.

Bedding plants: Wax begonias, snapdragons, sweet alyssum, French marigolds, gazanias.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Hummingbird moths, small bees, hornets, large and small black ants.

Weekly update: You know you’re in trouble when the weather service warns there will be an "impressive late season monsoonal surge for much of the work week."


To a weatherman, who has been sending out warnings for the past month that:

"National Weather service Doppler radar indicated heavy rain north of Los Alamos and over the Santa Clara creek. This will impact the northern Las Conchas burn scar and the area to the east of the burn scar...including but not limited to Santa Clara Canyon."

And went so far as report on September 1:

"Law enforcement officials reported a 6 to 7 foot surge of water moving through the Santa Clara Creek channel at Santa Clara pueblo at state road 30. The storm runoff was within the stream channel and no significant flooding impacts were observed."

Impressive! As they say, batten down the hatches.

It had already been raining. The Río Grande was running rust red. What more can happen?

More rain. Friday the weathermen reported:

"Emergency management reported a mud slide on highway 502 at Totavi gas station and numerous arroyos flowing across highway 30 at bank full." The one’s at the base before the road climbs to Los Alamos, the other’s the road from Española to 502.

Later they indicated there had been "a rock slide on highway 68 between Taos and Española has closed the road."

That did it. It was nearly 1 pm. The rain was letting up for a moment. I got in the car to see what could be seen.

The surges from the heavy rains of the morning had passed. The local arroyos were running, but not fast or high.

Arroyo Seco wasn’t deep, but it seemed faster at the bridge. In both it and the near arroyo, I could see lines of white where the water was cutting its channel.

The bridges were roaring.

They constrict the flow on one side, release it in gushes on the other. The ditches created rapids were they had earlier dropped stones.

The Santa Clara river and arroyos along the road to Los Alamos were receding. Some that may have been running high in the morning were only wet and speckled with black from the fire debris upstream.

A few hours after the banks were full, no sign of crisis.

Like everything else, floods are different here.

Along the Mississippi, they build slowly. It starts to rain in the north, perhaps in early spring when the ground is frozen. It can take weeks for water to disappear and roads reopen.

Snow melts. Water runs down the tributaries. It takes time for waters to reach flood stage in Louisiana.

Floods here happen during the rain, not after.

Usually, the threat begins in late summer, not spring. The ground is dry. If the first rains are heavy, they can slide over the soil and collect fast. Otherwise, water from each storm sinks a bit deeper.

This year’s floods have been caused by fires that baked the soils. The glazed surface cannot absorb much water. Flows are magnified. The floods Friday began in the canyons of the Las Conchas fire, the Los Alamos, Guaje and Santa Clara.

There’s no question floods here can be destructive. Water moves down hill. All the land here is either on a slope or at the base of a slope. It doesn’t need an arroyo. A road will do. Upper side roads flood the main road, they all flood the lower roads. Water runs down drives into garages, houses and wells.

Water falls into empty irrigation ditches. The dirt ones absorb what they can, the concrete ones move it along. It lands in my local arroyos. Banks collapse.

People learn. The closer I got to the village, the less the roads were flooded. Partly, their land is more level. Partly, they avoided the hilly lands, the only ones available for newer homes.

Everyone has heard the mass media warnings about flash floods in arroyos. More, they probably have heard stories from friends about people who died in flipped cars, people who were kin to people they knew. They may still cross a running arroyo, but they consider it first.

The rains continue. Tropical storms exist on both sides of México. The weather service was reporting yesterday, "a significant rise of water on the Rio Grande river" and that a "wave of water will reach a peak in Albuquerque" in the evening.

As I post this, there has been thunder and lightening for more than an hour. Rain sometimes sounds on the metal roof. We’ll see what daylight brings.

Notes: Impressive from weather report of 8 September 2013. Burn scar from 6 August 2013. Surge from 1 September 2013.  Albuquerque warnings from 14 September 2013.

1. Irrigation ditch near Río Grande in Española, 13 September 2013

2. Río Grande in Española, 13 September 2013

3. Close up of Río Grande in Española, 13 September 2013

4. Arroyo flowing between route 30 and Río Grande near Black Mea, 13 September 2013

5. Prairie arroyo, 13 September 2013

6. Island in near arroyo, 13 September 2013; water cut a section of the island edge as I was standing on the bank so wet, my feet were sinking

7. Same arroyo flowing toward bridge under road, 13 September 2013

8. Arroyo Seco at point where an irrigation ditch drops debris when it enters, 13 September 2013

9. Arroyo between route 30 and the badlands, 13 September 2013

10. Side road near village, 13 September 2013

11. Irrigation ditch dumping into near arroyo on the other side of the bridge in # 7 above, September 2013; the brown culvert is carrying the remaining water to the prairie arroyo

12. Arroyo between route 30 and Río Grande, 13 September 2013; the road is probably the old railroad bed that now goes through the arroyo to a house on the other side

13. Río Galisteo near highway on San Domingo land, 14 September 2013

14. Arroyo near San Felipe exit on highway to Albuquerque, 14 September 2013

No comments: