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Monday, 27 June 2011

Storm Damage

Did I say something about the creeks not rising?

We had presumed that after Friday’s storm, and Saturday night’s, and Sunday morning’s, the weather would settle down. You could argue that it did - into a pattern. Yesterday we had two more storms, and the morning offering, which hit as we sat in the car outside the ranch house, was the one that did the damage.

We had prepared to leg it up there, and so we had the laptop, camera and phone all wrapped up in a waterproof stuff-bag, inside a back-pack. But before we set off we thought  we’d take a short walk on the tops above here to see what the weather was doing – or what it was likely to be doing, because, to be honest, it’s far harder to ‘read’ a cloud pattern here than it is at home. I think I’ve said this before, that in Britain most of our weather comes in from the Atlantic fully formed. You get a rain area off the coast of Ireland, say, and it sweeps across us, trailing sunny spells and showers in its wake, with the wind backing north-westerly.  Here, on the Plains, they brew their own weather. You’ll see a cloud forming, think little of it, and an hour later it may indeed have melted away; or have grown into something huge and violent. But it is so hard to predict. As Matt said a propos Saturday night’s storm, first the flag was pointing due west, then it turned around due east, and a few minutes later south.

Anyway, as A. and I came down from the tops we ran into Matt, out on his ATV with Cinch the dog. Soon as we mentioned that we were thinking of walking up he pulled his ‘crazy Limey’ face and said we should drive. We were looking at the gouges in the track, but Matt was looking at Mercy. ‘Four-wheel drive?’ he said. ‘Short wheel base?  She’ll go about anywhere. Just follow me.’

And so, as fresh storm-clouds moved in from the west, we set off, straight up the side of the hill, which I would estimate at somewhat steeper than 1:3. Mercy seemed to take it in her stride, but what you need to remember is that we were bouncing over great tussocks of bunch-grass, gopher holes and soapweed roots, and all with no shock absorbers. You might say it was a bumpy ride. But we stuck to Matt’s rear end – and got there, as the clouds gathered.

Up at the ranch we managed to get Sunday’s entry posted before the signal cut, and then sat and watched as this new storm unleashed its violent winds, torrential rain and hail. The noise as the roof was bombarded with stones approaching golf-ball size was almost physically painful. I kept expecting the windscreen to go, but it held, although I think the cracks have grown like tentacles. The yard was a sea of water, complete with white-capped waves, and behind us, when the rain eased enough to allow us to see, two large lakes were forming between us and the road home.

That was now the question, how would we get back to the red house, because we needed to, if only to check on the buckets in the attic. The rain and hail had moved east – at 35 mph according to the radio – and there was clear sky visible towards the western horizon. We told Matt we would walk.

‘What are you, crazy?’ he said. ‘You can drive.’

‘But what about those – those lakes?’ I said.

‘Jest plough through `em. Get a good speed up and go. Then drive on the sod.’

We did as we were told – and sailed through. As to driving on the sod, that required us to take ever wider diversions around huge puddles that stretched to thirty and fifty yards either side of the track. But we made it – at least as far as the top of the slope down to the red house. There we pulled up. We knew we’d best check it on foot first.

Mercy is still there this morning, parked on the grass. We won’t be driving down here until some radical repair work has been done.

I’m not going to talk about the garden. I am still in mourning. There will be no photographs just yet. And I have to say I didn’t feel any better when A. showed me an email from her daughter which included a picture of the strawberry crop gleaned from our allotment back home – along with the joyous tidings that the peas were fat and plentiful and ready to harvest.

However… I have checked the packets of seed that are left over from my spring planting and have calculated that it may just be worth re-sowing even at this late stage.

I make no predictions about what we may or may not do today. We’re busy watching the skies.

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