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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

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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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It’s supposed to be cherry blossom time in our nation’s capital. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Japan’s gift to the US of 3020 cherry trees which were planted around Washington’s tidal basin. First Lady Helen Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees at a modest ceremony on March 27, 1912.

This year’s Cherry Blossom Festival is a five week extravaganza, from March 20 through April 27. There are art exhibits, sushi tastings, performances, parades. To celebrate, the US Postal Service issued these glorious commemorative stamps by artist Paul Rogers.

Cherry Blossom Stamps courtesy of the US Postal Service

But there’s a small problem. Usually the peak bloom (when 70% of blossoms are open) is in early April. But this year, it began March 20 and was over March 23. The Park Service projects the whole bloom to be over by March 26. The remaining month of the celebration will occur without the guest of honor—the cherry blossoms—which usually attract over one million visitors annually.

So what gives?

Some other March statistics: International Falls, MN whose average March high temperature is 35°, flagged in at 79° March 18. Quick math: that’s 44° above average, and an amazing 13° above the previous high for March. On March 12 Boston reached 71°, breaking a 110 year record. Flowers are blooming a month early across the Northeast and Midwest. Only we here on the Oregon Coast seem to be about average, US weather-wise.

On March 26, Scientific American posted an article titled, “Global Warming Close to Becoming Irreversible.” Scientists warn we’ve got to do something pretty big by 2020 or we’ll likely go beyond the tipping point. Melting glaciers, dying rain forests, acidified oceans. The whole nine yards. (www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=global-warming-close-to-becoming-ir). Even the New York Times (gasp!) has finally had to admit, in a March 26 article in the Science section, that people just might have something to do with it.

Meanwhile March 29 the Senate presented another side of Japanese culture, the kabuki dance, when they (surprise!) refused to stop oil subsidies to the top five big US oil companies. Nothing like good stewardship of our finances (aren’t they the ones wringing their hands about the deficit?). Much less our planetary future.

Subsidies and Senators courtesy of 350.org

You can share this image by going to: www.350.org.

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I know I’m over a month early but there are too many signs not to recognize that Spring is in the air.

Pacific Tree Frog courtesy of kjfmartin at Wikipedia Commons

The wonderful frogs we call “peepers” (they’re really Pacific Tree Frogs) have begun to hunt for mates, chirruping from the nearby wetland.

Birds have also begun their predawn serenades. The robins and redwing blackbirds are flocking.

Skunk Cabbage Bloom © SR Euston

Last year we noted spring flowers in April. This year, we’ve already seen pussywillows bursting and the first shy woodland yellow violets. Even the skunk cabbage has begun to send out sensuous buttery blooms. Quince have begun to flower.

As our local year turns its back on winter and faces towards the equinox (as does most of the US) in other parts of the world this has been a bruising season.  Europe has had record smashing cold with snow in Rome, and subzero weather in the east. Istanbul has had snow, so too, the mountains in Libya and Algeria. Japan has had blizzards.

Climate scientists aren’t surprised. For them, and most of us sentient beings, these wild gyrations only underscore the urgency of addressing global climate change now. Meanwhile politicians pass state laws requiring the teaching of denier “science” and presidential hopefuls madly scramble to put distance between themselves and climate reality. Of course the federal government, by refusing to address the issue at all, just adds to my pervading sense of frustration and gloom.

Pussywillows © SR Euston

Hal Borland, in his 1957 book Countryman: A Summary of Belief, makes this wry observation: “I used to think that strangers to the open country made so much noise because they feared the silence and the human loneliness. Now I have my doubts. I suspect that they are afraid they may meet themselves coming around the mountain or through the woods. They know how dangerous they are and how little they can be trusted, especially when they are surprised or frightened.”

Still, he reminds me, Spring is coming, and the world does go on regardless of us: “I am, by the simple fact of being alive and sentient, a part of something magnificent and vastly more enduring than the human crowd. I am a participant in Spring.”

Amen to that.

In the Wetland © SR Euston

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After weeks of unusual mostly dry weather, winter rain finally arrived on the Southern Oregon Coast. Storms began to roll in last week and by Tuesday, a day we had to travel north, rain began to fall in earnest.

Thursday, Port © AME

Wednesday weather’s was a nightmare forecast—slashing rain, storm force winds with gusts to 100 mph (!) at Cape Blanco, worst where we would heading—into a south wind down oceanside US 101. Areas of particular concern? Ours: Bandon, Port Orford and Gold Beach. The national weather service’s computerized robovoice warned: Don’t drive, Watch for road debris, Stay off area beaches (high surf, 25+ foot breakers) and jetties. Oh and BTW, surfing and swimming not recommended. (No joke, the computer said that too.)

Flooded Dunes © AME

Taking a chance, we returned. And yes, there were gale force winds on US 101. At Reedsport, we saw half a trailer house in transit, blown over on its side off the road, plastic sheeting waving, tires in the air. By the Sixes River valley the rain was sheeting toward the car as we headed directly into the wind. Cresting the next hill (at the Cape Blanco turnoff) it wasn’t at all hard to imagine 100 mph gusts just six miles west. Entering Port Orford, the Hazardous Winds Next 27 Miles if Flashing sign’s lights were definitely blinking. Stan couldn’t feel his hands for clutching the steering wheel.

Griffs Sandbagged © AME

We headed directly to the port to see if the parking lot was underwater, another of the worst-case predictions. Nope, but all was dark and quiet. Turns out all the dock businesses had sandbagged and left, literally turning off the lights (the electricity had been disconnected) behind them.

Once home, the County Sheriff’s Wednesday morning robomessage phone alert (a first) underscored the storm’s potential. All told we got close to nine inches of rain, over seven of it Wednesday.

Today, we hit the beach to view another high surf event, 25-30 foot breakers. Right now it’s sunny. But we’re just between the acts. We’re supposed to get rain for the next seven days.

It’s beginning to look like winter in Oregon.

Thursday Mists at the Port © AME

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