A Record Rainfall

Western Washington state had a record rainfall on Friday, December 20, raising river levels and causing flooding.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve pretty much had non-stop rain, including a record rainfall on Friday. It had finally stopped raining Saturday afternoon, and I took the opportunity to head out to River Song on Sunday. I didn’t really fell like it because I had a bit of a migraine, but I wanted to see what the river looked like. And, I knew that getting outside and away from technology would help my headache.

It was raining again in Olympia when I left, but by the time I got out of the city, the rain had turned to fog. The roads were damp and bits of moisture hit my windshield. Rivers and creeks were swollen and had spilled over into pastures and woodlands in places, and ponds appeared where before there had been none.

By the time I got to River Song, the fog had given way to mostly blue skies. I backed into my usual parking spot and climbed out. I could immediately hear a difference. It sounded like wind rushing through the trees, but there was no wind. The trees were motionless. I put on my flannel shirt and work boots, grabbed my backpack of tools and my chainsaw, and headed into the woods.

The river was higher than I’d ever seen it. All of my islands were gone. And, the lowland spit down at the north end was now an island, cut off from the higher bank by a wide channel of rushing water.

I walked around the property, checking for downed trees. Fortunately, I found only one, about six feet off the bank, caught in the arms of a vine maple and another alder. What the heck was I going to do with that? I wondered. I have no idea how to deal with it.

The creek on the south end was full, sending a steady torrent of water cascading over the bank. Sweet! My own waterfall! I tried to catch a glimpse of it, but it was hidden by brush and the curve of the bluff.

The ground was littered with broken branches. I would have to spend some time cleaning it all up. Branches and vines create tripping hazards for me since my left knee doesn’t bend, so I have to keep any paths free of debris.

I rappelled down the steep slope at the north end to get a closer look at the river. The upper bank where the downed cedar was looked untouched; there were still leaves, twigs, and other debris on the ground. Considering Friday had been a record rainfall, this was good news as it meant that upper bank was probably safe from most flood events and a safe place to camp. The lower bank, however, not so much. The river had apparently crested higher as the leaves and debris were now washed away, leaving nothing but mud. In fact, the pile of branches I had planned to burn this week was gone, too.

I grabbed my chainsaw and got to work cutting off branches from the fallen cedar. After closer inspection of the slope under the cedar, I believe it would be possible to build a switchback to the top of the bluff once the branches are out of the way. I spent a couple of hours and removed quite a few branches, enough that I could see the trail above me. But, it was hard work, especially as I had to brace myself or hold onto the rope while working. And, as much as I hate to admit it, I just don’t have the stamina I used to. I have to save energy for the climb up, loaded down with tools.

I got in about four hours of work before it started getting dark. It gets dark early here because the sun is blocked by the high bank and trees on the other side of the river. I was pretty tired by then, so I packed up my gear and headed back. I was happy with the work I’d done. I plan on heading back for a few more hours of work tomorrow. And, hopefully, meet with a tree trimmer to get an estimate on the work I need done.

My little waterfall, seen through the brush from the riverbank.