Wednesday, January 20, 2010

El Nino Temper Tantrums

Storm Watch is more than what Southern California TV stations call Breaking News when it begins to drizzle in Ventura. Every 4-5 years we actually have major storms. Then they switch their coverage to 24/7.

I am always flummoxed to understand why the weather gods feel they have to make up for four-plus years of way-below-average rainfall in one week. But, this is the week that was. It is somewhat akin to planes in the landing pattern for LAX, storms lined up offshore waiting for their turn to make land and wreck havoc.

As of this morning, though still in the first half, the score is Storms 2, Sun 1.

Storms are problematic for our household. I dust off the sump pump and retrench one side of the house. We live in a cul de sac on a hillside (no mudslide worries). The property’s drainage system flows down our driveway to a run-off line in the cul de sac, and not via the shortest route, down the hillside twelve yards from the back of our house.

The root system from the bushes lining our thirty-yard's long driveway invaded our drainage system requiring me (during major storms) to sink a sump pump into the backyard drain culvert and extend a garden hose to the head of the driveway. Replacing that drainage system is currently #6 on a long list of expensive repairs and upgrades. After this week it may climb up the chart to #2.

The east side of the house is a bigger issue, mostly because our living room floor is the only part of the house below ground level. The property next door sits on a slightly higher elevation and is separated by a five-foot brick wall. The land between that wall and our house slopes down to a narrow passageway that is not paved but has stepping-stones.

Five years ago while on vacation in Europe (during the time of the tsunami) we had another El Nino outburst. There was so much rainfall over a short period that the water sat stagnant beside our house for several days. Upon returning home our living room rug was sopping. Cha-ching.

Now I trench every fall. Plus I piled dirt against the outside wall so that any water flows down, and away in the trench.

Bride PJ has a PhD in worrying. Watching the water flowing past the outside wall isn’t enough. She has determined that we need sandbags, something on the magnitude of what beachfront homes erect to fend off crashing waves during El Nino-like storms. Finding sandbags is pretty easy. The City of Anaheim offers each homeowner ten free ones. Finding sand isn’t as simple. I’m pretty sure local law enforcement frowns on pilfering sand from the beaches.

Police officer, “Excuse me, sir, but what are you doing?

Me, “My civic duty and piling up sand bags to prevent beach erosion.”

Police officer, “Okay, as you were.”

Just to rub it in, once a year PJ reminds me that on family camping trips in waterlogged Oregon her dad dutifully got up at night in middle of downpours to trench all around the tent so that his charges could stay all snugly cozy. How chivalrous.

Brain fart time. This morning (not last night) I spread six large trashcan liners over the dirt piled against the house. No rest for domestic engineer guys. Now even more water will flow away. The ground under the bags may not soon resemble a desert but no El Nino temper tantrums will seep inside the house. I think.

PJ will probably still insist on sand bags. But when I tell her I’d have to buy a Ford F-150 just to truck them in, I think she’ll back off. I’d borrow the neighbor’s truck but they only drive theirs for the image. I have never seen them actually put anything in the truck bed.

Paving the side of the house, with a culvert, and building a retaining wall at the base of the eroding slope also moves up the to-do list—maybe to #1. Cha-ching.

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