Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Winter Wet Season

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.
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10 comments:

swamp4me said...

Glad to hear you were spared the tornado activity - scary stuff.
Also glad to hear that you didn't drive into the flowing water - heed your inner, er, woman! [It's okay, I have to seek my inner male on occasion to help me out in some situations ;)]

Blogger has not been letting me post comments on your site (and others) lately -- very frustrating!

Floridacracker said...

Swampy,
Oh yeah, I listen most of the time...not when ladders are involved of course.
Blogger needs to just shut down for a week and fix these stupid problems before we all go insane!

pablo said...

I've heard about this Idaho place, but I'm not altogether convinced that it actually exists.

How is the pond?

Floridacracker said...

Pablo,
The pond is behaving much like Lake M. only not on such a vast scale. The rainfall this week has made a dramatic difference, but it's only dramatic in that now, there is a wet bottom in it, rather than dry dirt. I think the average depth went from 0 feet to about 1 foot. The fish are gone after the great drying and the pond is primed for spring amphibian breeding ... shallow and fishless.

edifice rex said...

I was wondering if you were going to posr much about the storms down there! Glad ya'll are OK. We know alot about tornadoes here too but fortunately I've never experienced one that damaged my property
Oh yeah, I don't mind installing a metal roof but it helps me tremendously (mentally) to be tied off! ;)

Alan said...

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.


Boy, here I was about to give you a good tongue lashing when you went on to say this:

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.

Be pretty embarassing to have to call the folks in that earth sheltered building in Bronson to come look for you! {laughing}

As much as I appreciate the rain IT'S ABOUT TIME FOR SOME SUNSHINE!!! This has been one of the gloomiest winters we've had in years.

.....Alan.

Muard said...

“It was
scary, really scary,

Laura said...

Yes, you made the right decision in turning the jeep around, LOL! We used to get stuck in sand on the beach and I would end up threatening hub not to do it again. He never could resist driving through a "puddle" either.
Puddles that looked like lakes to me!


Hope you'll be adding to the album from time to time. I have never seen a bobcat in the wild here and I've always wanted to see one. They are supposed to live here in Pinellas county also, which always amazes me, given the density of the population.

The Florida Panther, too, is high on my list of animals I'd like to come across, although I doubt you'd ever see a panther photo from me for one reason; my heart would pound so hard, I couldn't take the shot! I follow their tracks on the Fl Panther wildlife site from time to time, good stories there...and sad ones. :(

Ok I can see I'm off on a tangent, sorry! Great album!

SophieMae said...

Good call, turning around. Last time I didn't heed my own better sense, I ended up crawling out the truck window, wading out of a waist-deep pond and walking about 2 miles in the pouring rain to call for a tow. After they pulled my truck out, I checked to make sure it would start and a crawdad blew out of the tailpipe.

Floridacracker said...

ER,
It was messy, but we lucked out. My yard buckets show about 8 inches of rain.
I would wear a harness too if I was roofing.

Alan,
I'm on the CERT team so the dirt covered building would be the last place I'd call for help... I have my pride :)


Muard,
Welcome to Pure Florida!
It must have bee all that and more.

Laura,
Thanks, yes, I'll be adding to it and making some other topic albums. The bobcat in the pic was cropped and zoomed just to get that fuzzy view. Ditto on the panther excitement if we ever were so lucky ... unlucky?
Depends on how hungry he is.

Sophie,
In earlier days, I have been stuck so many times in everything from sand to saltmarsh gumbo so I can relate.