Riding the Atmospheric River

It has certainly been an interesting week in Corvallis weather-wise.  I often complain how boring the weather is here relative to Minnesota, but we do occasionally see extremes.

Last Sunday Liz and I drove 85 miles on icy/snowy roads to Breitenbush Hot Springs, where we spent a most relaxing day in the natural hot pools.  There is perhaps no better weather than snow showers for sitting in 105-degree water.

Corvallis got about two inches of snow Sunday night, creating the beautiful scene that appears on average once a year here.

1-16-11, two inches of snow in Corvallis

Bees in the snow. They are alive under there, albeit in a small cluster.

We went hiking at Finley south of town to celebrate the snow.  I was amazed to find a flock of golden- and ruby-crowned kinglets flitting about.  They spend the winter here and must find enough insects to eat.

Hiking at Finley Wildlife Refuge south of town

Fun in the snow...

On Tuesday a stationary front formed along the Columbia River.  To the north Seattle had heavy snow and ice.  Portland saw light to moderate rain.  Corvallis was stuck in the center of the “atmospheric river” – moisture pouring onshore south of the front accompanied on Wednesday by high winds – up to 110 mph on the coast though we didn’t get much over 25 mph here.  It rained for 60 hours – 2 1/2 days – without stopping, totaling 5.5 inches here and over 12 inches in parts of the coastal mountains.

All that rain added to 2-3 inches of water locked in snowpack created an epic flood on rivers draining the coast range.  The Marys River crested at 21.5 feet, five inches above the old record though in some areas with a narrow channel it was more like two feet higher.  Our friend Lisa (source of our delicious local milk) lives right on the river.  The water flowed through the barn and shop but stopped about 10 inches below the floor of the house.  Plenty of mess but relatively little damage, thankfully.

Marys River at record flood stage flowing across Bellfountain Road. 1-19-11

Lisa and Rachel moving 1000 chickens to higher ground

Our chicken yard after 5.5 inches of rain

Bee Creek on our property

On Friday, with the water low enough for me to drive through, I spent the morning at Lisa’s place washing out the shop building that flooded.

1-20-11, driving down Bellfountain, water five inches down from crest

Looking north on 13th Street from Lisa's place. I didn't come that way...

Lisa and the flood

Farm reappearing, water about 12 inches down from the crest here.

Looking south on 13th St./Fern Road. Rachel (with the 1000 chickens) facing the camera, Lisa looking away.

Heading home via Grange Hall Road, water about 8" deep but not moving fast here.

Our friends Eva and Jesse have a homestead in a valley out near Alsea.  The road to their place was closed until Saturday morning by landslides and fallen trees.  When we couldn’t reach them, we decided to go check on their place.  We were amazed that the house, only 4-5 feet above Honey Grove Creek, didn’t flood, but the raging water did wash out the roots of a 18″ diameter alder tree that then fell on their roof.  As we didn’t know if they were in the area or away traveling, we cut the tree where it was resting on the roof, found a tarp to cover it with, and dried things out a bit inside.

Tree partially removed, damage revealed.

Top half of the fallen alder.

Ceiling pushed down inside.

As it turned out, they were in Portland but hadn’t checked their voicemail for a few days and weren’t aware of the storm down here.  Jesse came through on Sunday and I helped him remove the rest of the tree and get the roof somewhat more permanently repaired.

Jesse working on the trunk, standing on the roof of their lean-to/wood storage area.

Broken roof truss inside

Truss repaired

Roof repaired, just needs shingles

We returned to a delicious pesto-roasted home-grown chicken prepared by Elizabeth and hot tub heated by John.  Not a bad way to end a rainy day of chainsawing…

The atmospheric river is forecast to return this Tuesday-Thursday, so there could be more flooding.  At present it is expected to be nowhere near as bad as last week.

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