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We’ve had two whopper storms to kick off the winter rainy season.

The first, October 25, brought sheeting rain, unbelievable wind and waves. The Port of Port Orford, which we visited in the morning, had, by afternoon, sustained heavy damage, in the end estimated at over $1 million.

The Port 10/25 courtesy of Melissa Campbell

The Port 10/25
courtesy of Melissa Campbell

No people or fishing vessels were lost but a fish processing building went over the edge taking numerous fish storage tanks along, the Port office had 18” of water, waves topped the rock jetty damaging it, and one side of Griff’s, a seafood restaurant on the dock, was pushed out.

Griff's, two days later

Griff’s, two days later

Port, 10/28

Port, 10/28

The surf was amazing, totally covering the port beach and the wind was so strong our 10-year-old grandson had to run to stay in place at the overlook. The pelicans and seagulls came onshore en masse and hunkered down to wait it out on the headlands.

pelicans

pelicans

Gulls and Pelicans

Gulls and Pelicans

The second storm, which hit Port Orford Friday managed to tip over half a trailer home on Highway 101 just where it enters Port Orford from the south. (I guess those high profile vehicle warnings on the weather went unheard or were ignored. They were predicting 70 mph gusts!) The wind and rain was hard enough to wake me up Friday night but by Saturday all was just a passing memory.

Today, the sun is shining. And the streets are dry. No one can say the weather around here isn’t dramatic.

blown over trailer house

blown over trailer house

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In mid-September an early autumn storm loaded with copious moisture from a Pacific typhoon roared over the Oregon Coast. Rain was heavy, five to ten inches, with 70 mph winds on the capes, dangerous seas worthy of Winslow Homer, and 23′ breakers.

Often the most impressive displays of oceanic fury follow shortly after Pacific storms move eastward. As the cold front passed, we headed for Shore Acres State Park, near Coos Bay. Shore Acres is the place for storm watchers on the south and central Oregon Coast, and that is our destination, our pilgrimage to see the salty essence of oceanic power.

At the park, a trail leads through sitka spruce towards the grassy cliff and to numerous viewing angles. We first hear the bombardment, water thundering shoreward before reaching the cliff. A few steps further, and we see a great plume of water climbing 50′ vertically, rising almost to the cliff top in a powerful crescendo, until gravity brings down a  frothy white plume that splashes the roiling surf below and coats my camera lens with salt spray.

The surf  for a few moments is quiet. A momentary lull. But a new wave of big breakers then rolls in from the deep ocean, breaking near shore or against the cliffs, one after another, five or ten in a row, roaring like a cannonade, reverberating across the headlands, only finally muffled by the silence of the deep forest.

My photographs taken that day give only a few dimensions of the reality. The camera clicked and clicked, slowing as the computer tried to process so much intense light. Many wave pictures are now taken with a slow shutter, thus blurring and smoothing what is really wild and chaotic action. The fast shutter of these pictures emphasizes that wildness and chaos. But it’s the viewer who must anticipate the almost terrifying audible dimension of crashing water, the taste of salt spray, the smell of brine and damp forest, in fact all the senses and emotions when confronting such spellbinding nature as a Pacific storm. A photograph can only suggest.  SRE

SHORE ACRES STATE PARK

AFTER THE STORM

all images © SR Euston

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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Last Saturday here in Port Orford we had the first winter storm of the year…on September 28 and 29.

With hazardous sea and high surf warnings (up to 24 foot breakers) we brought in the plastic lawn chairs and checked the windows and gutters. Sheltered behind the hill to our south, we watched the windswept pines flail and the rain come down in sheets.

Port Orford hoist courtesy of enjoyportorford.com

Port Orford hoist
courtesy of enjoyportorford.com

On Sunday afternoon  we decided to venture out to the port overlook to take a look. There next to the “dolly dock” (where giant hoists lift and lower boats in and out of the water, one of only two in the US) the big story of the first storm was unfolding.

Star of Siam photo provided by Emma Jones

Star of Siam
photo provided by Emma Jones

Bobbing in the port’s open water but jetty-protected harbor, a sail boat appeared to be almost foundering, not quite flipped totally by the successive waves of breakers. Later it was reported the ship was on a run from San Diego to the Columbia River, had run low on fuel, headed into port and decided to weather out the storm there. Although we couldn’t see them, the boat was anchored and, in an attempt to keep it straight, was also attached by ropes to the jetty. The crew of two had left the vessel Saturday night via inflatable raft which was hoisted by crane to safety.

The Star of Siam was not so lucky. Late Saturday night the 36 foot boat had broken its rudder at low tide. The ship managed to stay afloat until 6:00 pm Sunday night when a combination of weather and current changes caused the sailing ship to break its ties and drift toward shore where it went aground on the jetty rocks below the port office.

We got 3.62” of rain according to the gauge near the beach. Wind gusts of 64 mph were reported at Cape Blanco to the north. Many other Oregon locales reported record September rainfall. Most impressive was Astoria’s record-breaker, 10.25 inches, remarkably up from September’s average 2.14 inches and significantly beating out its previous 1906 September record of 8.66 inches.

Star of Siam photo provided by Emma Jones

Star of Siam
photo provided by Emma Jones

Here in Port Orford by Tuesday afternoon all remnants of the Star were gone, hauled away by a local contractor. And the sky and the ocean are again beautiful, calm, serenely blue.

Port of Port Orford circa 1910 courtesy of earth-sea imagery

Port of Port Orford circa 1910
courtesy of earth-sea imagery

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IMG_1819

From the Patio © AME

At dusk last Monday a strange thing happened. It began to snow. For about an hour big stuck-together flakes languidly fell from the darkening desert sky.

Surely not noteworthy in blizzard-battered places like Chicago and Boston.

But for us here in Green Valley this was a very unusual event…so rare in fact that the last measured and recorded snow (according to the Western Regional Weather Center wrcc@dri.edu) was March, 1999 when one inch fell. Prior to that 0.1 inches fell in March,1992. Over the 25 years of records available, these are the only two snow events recorded for our little town. For this Monday’s “Sonoran Desert Blizzard”, NOAA’s official record was one inch.IMG_1818

In our town the population is divided into two types—the year-rounds and the snow birds. At this time of year in the Safeway parking lot you can spot, in almost equal numbers to Arizona’s, license plates from the mid-west— Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, North and South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin—as well as Canada (British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan mostly), Washington, and our own home state of Oregon. We’ve even got a guy in our neighborhood whose motorcycle sports New Brunswick plates.

Out Our Back Door © AME

Out Our Back Door © AME

So you can imagine the mix of groans, exclamations of “oh no!” and jokes around town as night fell. The next morning tee-times and tennis dates were cancelled as fairways and courts remained covered with that white stuff snowbirds had hoped to leave behind. Pools were closed with warnings about ice on their cement aprons. “Drifts” covered chaise lounge pads.

As for me, the snow was just fine. Nothing to shovel, nothing to slide on (although there were reports of accidents on the highway), nothing to detract from the sheer delightfully beautiful crystal frosting on saguaro and palm, mesquite and prickly pear in the gloaming.

By 10:00 am Tuesday morning all the snow had melted away.

Palo Verde in Snow © AME

Palo Verde in Snow © AME

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Saturday it rained—hard, grey sheety rain, coming down on a southeast wind-driven diagonal. Saturday’s rainfall was 0.75 inches, a record for January 26. It rains again this morning, big drops falling from a black smear of cloud. Blustery winds sigh through overhead electrical wires and whistle under doors.

In Port Orford, this rainfall would be considered puny; in fact, probably no one would even comment on it. It’s an every day occurrence in January, where averages flag in at 15 inches or so. But here, south of Tucson, where the monthly average is less than an inch, it is delightfully unexpected.

Canale© AME

Canale
© AME

Here in the Sonoran desert, rains generally come as torrents. It pours off flat roofs and out canales (wooden or clay conduits), and after only a few minutes puddles on pavement and sidewalks. Arroyos fill quickly with braided bands, and if it’s summer, can flood banks and otherwise dusty road crossings.

Arroyo Next Door© AME

Arroyo Next Door
© AME

Almost immediately after, the sun returns and surfaces steam in the brightness, drying within the hour. Creosote and palo verde gleam with water and fill the desert air with their unique odor. Wet dirt turns dry.

To desert dwellers, Gary Nabhan’s book title “The Desert Smells Like Rain” could not be more evocative or more accurate. Often the scent comes first, telling of rainfall in the distance, possibly heading our way.

For residents of this parched land as well as returning desert lovers like us, that aroma could not be more welcoming.

DESERT RAIN & CLOUDS

© SR Euston

Palms in Rain

Palms in Rain

Arroyo Stream

Arroyo Stream

Stormy Weather

Stormy Weather

After the Storm

After the Storm

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Today is a glorious day…warm and clear. In other places we might call it Indian summer but since the thermometer is topping 70°—an almost unheard of high around here even in August—I’ll just say we’re closing in on summer’s end. We head to the beach to soak up some sun. Folks are out in shorts and tees.  And the summer wind continues to barrel down the shore and US 101 from the north.

Laurie’s Red Onion Bounty © AME

But it’s clear the season is ending in the garden where the tomatoes have finally begun to ripen and the beans have passed from flower to pod. It’s obvious from the dying vines and drying onion tops that autumn has begun. The occasional cool breeze brings us up short, a harbinger of the months ahead.

Wax Beans Ready to Harvest © AME

Another sign: Early this morning was the peak of the harvest moon, the first full moon after the equinox. It’s outstanding because, unlike other times of year, the moon rises earlier after the sunset for a number of days in a row, making it appear as though the full moon lasts multiple nights instead of the standard one or two.

A final sign: Port Orford’s yards are littered with “vote for (fill in the blank)” banners, a sure sign that November is just around the corner. Here in Oregon ballots will begin to be mailed October 16. That’s also the final day to register. Please register if you haven’t and vote. It’s the only voice you’ve got. If you don’t know if you’re registered, need to register, or live in another state, check out this site for last chance dates:

www.longdistancevoter.org/voter_registration_deadlines#.UGji545AsUU

Just Do It! © AME

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This letter was written in response to Eco-Justice Notes: Wacky Weather and Climate (www.eco-justice.org/E-120413.asp) received April 13, 2012 via email:

June 2011 North Dakota Flood Bismark Tribune/Tom Stromme

You cite comments by one scientist based on non-peer reviewed research. Dr. Hoerling is a meteorologist, a field that has been notorious in denying human induced climate change. Also note: in other research, he concedes that the drought being experienced in the Mediterranean area is in fact due substantially to climate change. 

Please read the on-line article in 7 Sept. 2011 Nature “Climate and Weather: Extreme Measures.” www.nature.com/news/2011/110907/full/477148a.html  As you know, Nature is the world’s most respected science publication. The article reports that a network of scientists is now saying “it’s time to look seriously at the connection between CC and extreme events”, and are proposing a research agenda. (This was also reported in the NYT). 

 Of course one or two or several weather events can’t be ascribed to climate change. But when extreme after extreme piles up over a decade or more, it takes a climate contrarian to rule out human induced climate change, as Horeling comes close to doing.

And please, at least indicate that these extremes are in general agreement with models of climate change. That what we are seeing is a taste of the CC future. 

The problem with all of this is that by the time research zeros in on the cause/effect relationship, it will be too late. 

Thanks, I hate to be so critical  —  Stan Euston, Port Orford OR

We received this Eco-Justice Note the same day as one from 350.org calling attention to a short video www.climatedots.org/thingshappen/. It’s a powerful statement and a clarion call to participate in May 5th’s 350.org Day of Action “Connect the Dots” (www.climatedots.org), linking catastrophic weather events and global climate change. Public actions are taking place around the globe. Check out the website for an event near you.

And BTW the Eco-Justice Note did end by urging readers to participate in this May 5th event. Just wish it had wholeheartedly agreed that the dots really should be connected.

April 15 Kansas tornado courtesy of AP:The Hays Daily News, Steven Hausler

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