I'm an admitted weather geek. I love following the weather and trying to figure out what is next. Weather makes good headlines, but many times the headlines have a whole lot more behind them than we might expect.
Perhaps my fascination comes with several decades of living in places where it is possible to see some interesting extremes. In the winter of 1974 when we moved to our farm twenty miles north of Fredericton, NB, I kept track of the snowfall. That winter we got twenty-three feet of snow. At times there were over six feet of snow in our pastures.
When you get that much snow, and it eventually melts, the runoff can cause some problems with flooding being the most likely challenge. Other things can happen. I had a culvert three feet in diameter and twenty-four feet long buried in our road out to the back of our farm. It drained a small pond. One winter the snow melted so quickly that the pressure of the water trying to get through the culvert blew it out of the ground and fifty feet into the woods.
It always seems like we either have too much moisture or not enough. The Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina where I spend much of my time is just working its way out of a drought that has spanned nearly three years. The early summer of 2011 was especially brutal. We only got 1.85 inches of rain in the three months from May through July. In 2012 we have received almost 11 inches of rain with nearly two weeks left to go in July. The extra rain has made a huge difference for farmers.
Just as the Crystal Coast of North Carolina is pulling out of a drought, Southwest Virginia seems to be slipping into one. Our yard in Roanoke County is almost as dry as it was in 2007 when a text book publisher asked to use a photo of our yard as an example of drought.
Many of us here in the Roanoke Valley remember the Drought of 2002 when Carvin's Cove almost disappeared as the water level there dropped over 34 feet. A 2007 article from the Roanoke Times in 2007 talks about the extraordinary drought of 2002.
I checked the water levels of the Roanoke area reservoirs this morning. They're in great shape currently. Certainly there is plenty of water if I should choose to start dumping water on my yard. With the rest of summer's heat to come, I'll likely let my bluegrass go dormant. It is very hard to water enough to keep a yard alive.
The Roanoke area was just coming out of a major drought when we moved here in the summer of 1989. As they were trying to finish our house, the rains just wouldn't stop. Those rains broke the back of that drought.
Of course the Roanoke Valley can also be very wet. The picture at the top of the post was taken on July 18, 2012, at the Salem Rotary park. It shows a very low Roanoke River. I have taken pictures in the same area when the river was at flood stage. The Roanoke Valley is no stranger to floods. I can remember a couple of back to back weekends one year when tropical moisture made it the slopes of the mountains. The rain caused serious flooding.
Of course, living on the North Carolina coast, we have seen our share of heavy rains. The big difference on the coast where we live is that our river, the White Oak is wide and tidal. At the end of September 2010, we managed to have a rainstorm that gave us 20.25 inches of rain in less than twenty-four hours. It was actually a lot more rain than we got from Hurricane Irene. In both cases the flood was minor because it came when the tides were going out and the winds were not pushing water into the river.
With the weather we take what we get whether it is twenty inches of rain or twenty-three feet of snow. The one thing about living in the land of hurricanes is that they can bring enough rain to break the back of a drought. No one wants to see the devastation of a hurricane, but the rains that they bring are an important part of keeping the moisture in the Southeast at a "normal level."
If you are interested in local weather information in the Roanoke area, Kevin Myatt's blog is the best source of information. I often send him information about what is going on along the North Carolina coast like the recent tornado that brushed our area.
For a broader perspective of weather and climate, I often visit Watts Up With That.