North Florida is a wet place with over 5 feet of average rainfall. We can get it anytime, but our two wet seasons are winter and summer. In the summer, we have daily thunderstorms, tropical storms, and hurricanes. You already knew that, of course.
In the winter, cold fronts often stall and slowly creep across us dumping sheets of cold rain as they do. That is what happened this past week.
I took the long way home through Devils Hammock Wildlife Management Area Friday so I could see what changes the recent storm had produced. The storms had moved over us Thursday night and dumped wonderful rains. Unfortunately, as the front moved on, it caused the damage you've been seeing on the news.
Living in Florida, with warm ocean on 3 sides is a dangerous proposition. Florida sticks way out, just daring the ocean weather machine to try something. Hurricanes, worst lightning on the planet, tornadoes, ... we've got it. It's part of living here and again, I encourage you to consider moving to Idaho, which I hear only has blizzards and neonazi colonies.
The damage and death a few counties over was dramatic and certainly devastating for those who lost homes and loved ones. Although we had severe winds and flooding rains, our sparsely populated county was unscathed.
Of course, in a natural area like the hammock, a big storm is absorbed and creates more opportunity than destruction.
Jr. and I had driven this same backwoods route a week ago, so I had a good "before the storm" reference to compare with the post storm hammock. On that earlier ride, we barely splashed through any wet spots even though the rock road twists through several swamps that include creek fords. I remember that distinctly, because Mr. Learning To Drive was disappointed he didn't get to do more splashing in the JEEP.
As I entered Devil's Hammock, the change was immediately apparent. Roadside ditches were full and water was rushing through culverts and into wetlands of grass and forest. The unpaved road was pocked with splashy puddles and in many places a shallow sheet flow covered the road as the water crept towards the Waccasassa River and on to the Gulf.
It was late in the afternoon, about 4:30 PM when I started the twisty 11 mile hammock road.
On the previous trip, we had not seen the first gator, but today they were out and about and I saw 4 or 5 either sunning or swimming.
The first, very wide stream ford was nicely splashy and much changed from the few stray puddles that marked it last week. Egrets hunted along it's margins and a gator of about 6 feet cruised a pond that was dry on that earlier trip.
The critters were definitely up and moving with the water.
The frogs were croaking...sounded like a dog clicker.
Every culvert had egrets and herons ambushing minnows and crawfish.
Hawks (maybe your vacationing redshoulder) were perched on pines near flooded clearings.
Even a muddy-footed bobcat was out hunting along a grassy trail.
It was a nice ride. Hunting season is over, the sportsmen/women have left, so I only encountered two other vehicles, both were gator watching. I hope the hunters had a good feral hog season, there's way too much evidence of these destructive, exotic pests in the Hammock.
When I got to the point in the photo, I was astounded by the change. Last week, this creek crossing was a pair of isolated rut puddles with no road overflow ... just two muddy potholes. On this day, the water quickly rose close to door lip as I crawled the JEEP forward. This is a gravelled ford, but a strong current had probably scoured some of that gravel from the thalweg of this crossing.
Normally, I would stop, get out and wade the ford to make sure I wasn't about to drop the JEEP into a bottomless pit. (You SUV haters would love that ... dream on)
I was stymied in my desire to wade since I had come from work and was wearing my best white sneakers ... and I had no desire to walk barefoot on the walnut-sized limerock road gravel.
So, I stowed my testosterone and activated my estrogen just enough for common sense to flood my body ... just enough for that, okay? It took effect immediately, and I put the JEEP in reverse and turned around.
I've started a little web album (see the egret to the right?) about Devil's Hammock.
Check it out for more from this ride.