Monday, March 5, 2012

Flood Damage - Tributary

Going out to investigate flood damage is never a fun job.  I’ve done it enough times to know what I’ll probably find and I rarely overestimate the damage.  The fastest way to reach the creek is to follow the small tributary that begins behind the house.  Following the storm last Friday, the amount of water flowing behind the house was more than I have ever seen.  I knew I was going to be viewing the effects of a record flood, so I wasn’t surprised to see supportive evidence of that as soon as I started down the trail.  Loose Indian Grass stalks, left on the trail after mowing the adjacent field, were lined up along the edge of the trail to a point where a water stream that escaped the normal channel carried the grass stalks off into the shrubs.

This brush pile is far to the side of the normal tributary channel.  Flood water left debris right at the edge of the pile and cleaned most of the loose material from the ground as it swept along.

The channel is to the right, but most of the water left the channel and went through here.  Water has followed this route before in a stream five or six feet wide.  In this case, the stream was closer to 30 feet wide. 

The stream never made its way back to the tributary.  Instead, the tributary continued to divert excess water into this independent flood stream.  As the water volume increased, the velocity increased and the water stripped the ground clean of anything that would move. 

The result was not a very pretty sight.  Plants left in place all point toward the departing water.  All of the decomposing organic matter, once destined to provide nutrients for the growing plants and the soil ecosystem, has been washed away.  This disruption will be noticeable for at least a year.

The bare ground was once covered by moss, a plant that doesn’t have enough hold on the soil to withstand the force of moving water.  Through the center of the photo is the boundary between moving water on the left and the area of no inundation.  This condition has occurred on a small scale in the past, but never close to the extent resulting from this storm.

The path of destruction follows straight down towards the main creek.  It seems only appropriate that a deer skull should preside over the devastation.  After viewing this, I’m not sure I’m ready to see what happened along the creek itself.

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