Rob's Blog Archive

July 12, 2015

Timing Is Everything










June, normally our wettest month, was desert dry.  Even worse, the only substantial rain we did get came during the first few days.  Everybody who lives in the forest holds his breath when summer starts dry, particularly after a dry spring.  We had begun holding ours.

June ended with a little rain, maybe a tenth or two of an inch, but not near enough to make any difference.  July started with some teases as well.  The first couple of days were quite hot, but as the Fourth of July rolled through, a cooling trend and rain was predicted.  The high on the fourth was 95 F.  The high on the fifth was 71 F.  However, we got no rain.  And so, when the next mid-week prediction showed heavy rain on Friday and Saturday, I had hope, but nothing more.

The rain was predicted to peak Friday afternoon and evening.  By midnight, Friday, we had had a few drops, but nothing measurable and I began chalking it up to another missed prediction.  Huge air masses moving across the earth’s surface cause big temperature changes like the one that took place on the weekend of the Fourth of July.  These are relatively easy to predict.  The amount of precipitation, however, depends on lots of fine details.  Occasionally, forecasters can be sure, but most of the time precipitation amounts are a crap shoot.  Missing the precipitation prediction once more didn’t surprise me.

What they did get right was the change on Friday from a clear cool morning to overcast.  With the cloud cover, the night didn’t cool near as much as it had recently.  We had had a couple of nights with lows in the thirties.  With the overcast sky, it was warm enough that I kept the window just above the head of my bed open all night. 

I’m a pretty light sleeper and with the window open I heard the rain start.  Half asleep, I really couldn’t tell how hard it was.  When I did get up that morning, it was obvious that the rain had been steady and moderate.  It hadn’t been a thunderstorm downpour, which even this far from the ocean can dump an inch or two an hour, but a rain of a tenth of an inch an hour.  And it kept going. 

Midday, I put on raingear and went out into the yard.  Some dogs came out, others didn’t.  After doing rounds of hugs and kisses, I hauled my shit sled over to its dumping grounds and relieved it of its contents and dragged it back.  All the time, it rained.  Raingear, particularly, is a quantum leap ahead of when I started getting outside, and with a modern parka and rain pants, I lingered in the storm.

Part of the joy and challenge of living here is that even in a house that boasts internet and Wifi, the environment affects my day to day life.  In 2007, the driest summer since I’ve been in Seeley, a fire that burned within two miles of my home forced me to evacuate myself and my dogs.  I was sitting next to another musher as the fire crew explained how and when the fire had burned through the area around her house.  We all learned a day later that the fire had moved so fast that even in the areas it passed through, few homes had more than a bit of smoke damage and her house was among those that did survive.  There are, however, no guarantees.  My mentor was one of the mushers in Willow, Alaska, who recently lost his house to the fire there.  Rain means a lot more to me than whether or not I get to water my lawn and flowers. 

There are people who speculate that a key problem we have as a society is the degree to which many of us live at least most of our lives removed from the environment.  I believe that along with the stress of being subject to what the world around me is doing, there’s a comfort in it as well.  Perhaps it’s the certainty that these fears and their being calmed are grounded in reality rather than interpretations of reports of reports.   

In total, we received about 0.8” of rain.  Unlike the norm for July, it came in a soaking storm rather than a few hot very intense thunderstorms.  And, the weather pattern looks to be cooler than it had been in June, too.  With this, and the fact that July is half over---timing is everything---we’re looking to be okay, at least for a few more weeks.  If the cooler temperatures hold for that long, even if the rain doesn’t come, we will make it through one more fire season. 

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