By our cabin, there is a wide slate plate that leads off the hillside and into the lake. It is usually dry, but when it rains, water drains off the farmland and roads and rushes into the lake using dry beds and culverts like this one all around the lake. When we came back from Quebec, it was running brown with farm silt and fertilizer but looked mostly like this. It’s a very sedate little drainage system. Until today.
The rain began a little after 10 am or so. Gray, constant Seattle type rain, but warm and humid, probably because the humidity was obviously at 100%. We scrapped a bike ride, grumbled a lot at the windows and dug in to read a little, write a little and clean a little. By mid-afternoon, the rain had yet to let up and over the drone of our fans reared a louder roar.
You’ll have to take my word for it that this is the same stretch of land. The plume is the result of a boulder in the center of the channel. The small green bushes on the far side were originally in the center channel as well and I watched as they were ripped from their root and cast aside by the water. What sounded like thunder rolled through the chasm, the sounds of fist sized rocks being picked up by the current and roots groaning against the water.
I left my better camera back in Seattle and was unable to capture a crisp picture of the water, but perhaps the blur better implies its power.
This is still within yards of the cabin in which we are staying. In fact, as we watched, the culverts higher up overflowed and began carving into the gravel road. In a panic, we moved the car to higher ground and by the time we returned, the waters were carving channels into the driveway. And it was still raining.
I felt I had chosen a secure spot for my boat, but gave in and moved it as the water overflowed its creek bed and began forging pathways onto the beach.
The brown tarp to the left had been covering the boat.
Neighbors began spilling out, to check on each other and to watch in human fascination what could not be controlled. The stories began spilling out as well. The road currently being eroded had just been replaced last year, after they widened the culverts. One man had lost his driveway to floods like this five times last year and had already resigned it to this little uprising. The past five years, they said, it has been like this. Water, water, water. Too much of it.
Though on the opposite coast, the story is eerily familiar. Last fall, the floods along the Snoqalmie river were worse in Carnation than I ever remember. The ground, already saturated by the time began to rain, sluiced off water like plastic, in god-like stampedes that ripped out foundations, over topped levees and rerouted the river bed. The hint that I get from talking to those who have watched their land for twenty or thirty years – regardless of the coast – is that there is something going on here. Something is shifting. Something is not quite the way it used to be.
We were thankful that the rain tapered off and most of the water crept back into the proper channels leaving a perfectly graveled driveway rutted and pushing a plume of sediment and fertilizer out into the lake. We’ve checked the weather and more storms are due in on Tuesday or Wednesday. It’s a good thing I know how to swim.
Driveway with ruts from the flooding
Sediment plume pushing out into Lake Champlain