An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

September 26, 2008

Great Glorious Gobs of Rain

For the past week the weather has been building for a classic Nor'easter, and yesterday the crescendo crested. We finally got the rain we needed, which has been absent since Topical Storm Hanna came through and left us with barely an inch. The rain fell gently at first for several hours, letting the ground get good and soaked - then the deluge came in successive waves. The wind was gusting to 60 mph and much of the rain was horizontal. Gardeners in the area were rejoicing, as were the water boards. The local TV weather crews and the Weather Channel were also rejoicing as they got yet another opportunity to put on hip-waders for live shots. Do we really need to see reporters risk electrocution, standing in water, to see how severe the flooding is?

Nor'easters are not an uncommon event for us, and we typically get more flooding, more frequently from these storms than we get from more powerful hurricanes. The geology of this place at the south end and mouth of the Chesapeake makes these events a particular problem. When storm winds blow from the northeast over a period of several days, the bay and local rivers can't empty as they normally would and at each high tide, salt water flooding occurs. When this happens in conjunction with torrents of rain on pancake-flat terrain, it can be a real mess here and you have to plan your routes accordingly. Experienced citizens know which areas and which streets to avoid. Unfortunately new drivers and new residents often get flooded.

Many parts of this area (including parts of my neighborhood) were built atop of filled-in wetlands, and during these Nor'easters, the old waterways reassert themselves. You can see this in a few pictures from around the neighborhood. The community mascot almost got to use those fins of hers.

This event and these pictures remind me of how lucky we are compared to the people around Galveston Bay. That story has all but disappeared from the national mindset as we contemplate bailouts and who is and isn't going to debate. Let's not forget about Texas.


  1. Wow, that's a lot of flooding. I don't live in a flood area, but just 3 blocks from my house is a different story. I was grateful for the rain after a long period of drought.

  2. Wow, Les--I was wondering what kind of weather you'd had. We got 4-5 inches--our neighborhood is on the York river, but we walk downhill to get to it so we're quite safe from flooding--and the winds were milder here, no damage (knock wood). I think the storms are still coming through--hope you (and you, too, Racquel and Jeff) stay secure.

  3. Wow, you guys did get rain. We were on the 'other' side of the storm, and got less, but a few much appreciated inches nonetheless. When I see Galveston I cringe. I can't imagine. I moved to Charleston after Hugo, and where I live (near Awendaw) had a 21' storm surge. Sometimes I sit on my deck, elevated to ~13 feet, and think about what all of that water must have been like. Supposedly some people who stayed, who were lucky enough to live, were rescued from branches of live oak trees.

  4. I guess you live in a flood area?
    Nice blog...still viewing.

  5. PGL,
    The flooding might seem more extreme than it really is. This happens here at least once a year, sometimes more. Just the same many people are caught unawares.

    We got close to the same amount of rain here, and fortunately no wind damage.

    I moved from Charleston right after Hugo and many of the stories were harrowing. I lived on Seabrook at the time and evacuation was mandatory. Fortunately I had little damage beyond mold and mildew and I was only renting. I had a good friend in Anendaw who was not so lucky.

    We live about 2 blocks from the water in the highest part of the neighborhood and have never had the tide come up that far. We have had a small flood in the basement during a previous Nor'easter. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I browsed through yours and you have great photos. I look forward to a return visit.

  6. My goodness, I'm so glad you are OK. Does it leave the ground more fertile after the water goes back down?

  7. Anna,
    No it does not leave the ground more fertile. Being salt water, it will actually kill plants. However, certain plants will be able to tolerate the occasional intrusion. Left alone these marginal areas would quickly become homes to wax myrtle, salt bush, grasses and the invasive phragmites.