Spring in the Appalachian Mountains brings thunder storms. When a heavy rain falls, we talk about the creeks rising. Now, my west coast readers may not appreciate the idea of having too much rain. But, Tuesday, we have five inches in two hours. This becomes a physics problem down hill.
In our region, the clay soils can absorb about one inch of rain in a day. Thus, when any amount of moisture greater than one inch flows down hill. If the ground could have absorbed the first inch of rain that came down, we still had four inches of water collecting.
Add to that, mountains are sloped. Those slopes direct those extra inches of water downhill until they run into another slope. A collection basin here is called a cove. Basically, these act as funnels, directing all those little streams from each small hollow together into a run. Thus multiple those four inches of rain by each of a dozen hollows, and pretty soon you have a flash flood.
The majority of this week’s storm fell while we were at work. We could see the black sheet in the mountains at a distance. By the time we came around the last set of curves, we saw Baker Run rushing with class VI rapids. It was not out of its bank, there, but was probably eight feet above its usual sleepy course.
When we made the last turn onto our lane-and-a-half state road, we saw that the creek was over its banks, across the field and the road. Being in our Honda Civic, we stopped. I waded across the 40 feet of channel to verify that it was only about a foot deep and the road bed was still there. Linda then drove through cautiously. My boots are still drying out.
We watched the creek, cutting 30 to 50 foot wide sections out of various fields as the state road paralleled it for two miles. Then, 100 feet from out entrance, the water coming out of our cove was over the road and washed out the culvert. Half a dozen of us were on one side, and half a dozen neighbors on the other. Several had four-wheelers, which they used to transport us, and what we unpacked from our car (of course, we had grocery shopped on the way home), across and to our cabin.
Our dirt roads were more washed out than the state road, mainly because of the culverts that filled with sticks, leaves, silt and rocks. We spent Wednesday clearing six of those culverts to stop the water from flowing over the road. The state Department of Transportation brought in truck loads of shale and crusher-run gravel to repair the state road. We could at least move our Civic from our neighbor’s yard to our roads… but we will not be getting it up to our cabin any time soon. Guess, the weekenders will be learning what water can do to roads when they come up for their Memorial Day weekends.