Steady rain turned into a downpour early Sunday evening and didn’t let up for another fifteen hours. And just like that, we had a flood. In the same way that you get flash floods after hard rains in the dry West, here in the winter when the ground is frozen hard and the trees are leafless and dormant, there’s little to keep the water from running into the nearest ravine. We lost hundreds of dollars worth of quarry stone from the Plummer’s Hollow Road in just a few hours.
It would take a solid week of hard rain to get this kind of flood on a forested landscape in the summer. If these rare winter floods serve any purpose, it may be to remind us what would happen — what has happened here in the past — in the absence of forests: every hard rain turns into a flood.
At the bottom of the hollow, the Little Juniata River wasn’t so little anymore. It roared just a couple feet below the deck of our access bridge, which shook as floating logs and tires thudded against the pier. The riverbanks became instant swamps.
Nor was the flooding restricted to low places; the ephemeral ponds at the very top of the Plummer’s Hollow watershed grew and merged briefly into one big pond. Then the temperature dropped and everything froze.
By the time I got up there to take pictures yesterday afternoon, the water level had fallen by half a foot, leaving a sagging ice ceiling with little underneath it and nothing but scattered tree trunks to hold it up — an ephemeral architecture, like some boom town gone bust.
Don’t forget to submit tree-related blog posts to the Festival of the Trees blog carnival. The deadline for the next edition, at the UK-based treeblog, is January 30 — see the call for submissions for details on how to submit.
Also, be sure not to miss the interview with Pablo, Jade and me at the Nature Blog Network. We talk all about the Festival of the Trees: how it got started, why we do it, how it’s not really some kind of freaky tree cult, and why you should join us.