Oh what an exciting life we lead!
Here in Northern Texas we have been in a sustained drought for 9 years. None seemed as bad as 2005-2006 when we had 105 to 110 degree heat daily for 110 days continuous days, in addition to 45 to 55 MPH Southwest winds. That year more land burned in Texas than the acreage of New Hampshire and Rhode Island combined . Two percent of the land in Texas burned to a crisp and the wind velocity was such that there was no way to stop the fires. Fire stops, where the land is scraped bare of all things burnable for three quarters of a mile wide, were jumped as if they were not even there.
For the past three years more and more towns and cities, who depend on lakes for their water supply, have simply ran out of water and resorted to treating and drinking their own sewer water. For instance; The city of Wichita Falls with four lakes had only 19% of their total water supply.
But things in Texas can change in a second!
For three weeks we have been deluged with rain. For three weeks we have lived under threat of tornadoes.
In this area, we have had 32 tornadoes in the past 9 days.
Those are only the ones inspected and designated ‘tornado’ by the National Weather Bureau. ‘Spotters’ who risk life and limb and are out nightly have reported far more than that, but the Weather Bureau can’t get around to examining all these sites.
On Wednesday (May 19th) we went to Weatherford, Texas (75 miles SW) to a doctor. On the way there we passed through the town of Mineral Wells, a city of 18,000 souls made famous for its curative water. As we entered town that morning there was evidence that a wind burst, probably from a collapsing thunderstorm, had damaged and completely destroyed a few building on the west side.
However after existing Mineral Wells on the east side we dropped down a hill and there where there had been a giant pecan orchid. We were distressed to see trees as tall as 150 feet uprooted with their root systems as tall as the roof on our house lying on their sides. Others were twisted and torn with limbs broken and blown onto the highway.
On our return, late in the day, after we passed though Mineral Wells, I told my wife, “Look at those clouds over Mineral Wells. They are lowering.” ‘Lowering clouds’ are a sign that tornadic activity is dropping down from the clouds. In other words, they have fingers dropping downward that are spinning.
She turned the radio on to our home town radio station and found there was a tornado spotted eight miles NW of Graham, where we live. (62 miles south of Wichita Falls, Texas, 100 miles west of Fort Worth.) We were watching that storm as we drove. When we got home and turned the TV we discovered that Mineral Wells’ downtown had just been hit by a tornado!
(Now, if I were the author of ‘PowerPlantMen’ I would have these pages full of colored maps for you to better visualize this. Unfortunately I am not as good as he is.) See: http://powerplantmen.wordpress.com
That night, as all other nights for the past three weeks, we had rain with tornadoes all around but fortunately none closer than eight miles. Unknown to us the storm we heard about on the radio had passed north of us and passed over State Highway 16 N. as well as Memorial Highway 281.
The next morning (Thursday) I had to go to Wichita Falls (62 miles North.) to see yet another doctor. As I left town it started raining on me.
Seventeen miles north of town I came to Markley, a place that was once a town, but now is only a deserted service station. I should have been alerted when there was weeds and trash out on the highway. What was strange about that is the fact that Markley is on top of a hill! Weeds and trash on the highway on TOP of a hill?
Since it was raining I was concentrated on my driving and never gave it a second thought. That is–until I got a quarter-mile north of Markley. This is the drainage of the Trinity River that meanders through Ft. Worth and Dallas. There the borrow ditches that are deep and wide were full of water and as I looked to the West, there was water as far as I could see that covered all pastures and cultivated land. As I approached the bridge the water was up to the bridge and when it came out on the East side of the bridge it jumped up about three feet in the air and made a fountain as long as the bridge, topped with white foam!
About a quarter-mile farther I came to two more Trinity bridges and not only could they not handle the vast amount of water that was trying, but couldn’t quite get under them, it was up onto the highway! That answered the question: “Why is there no traffic coming towards me?” This water came from the storm we heard about on the radio the previous night that went north of Graham sprinkling us with only .9 of rain.
I wasn’t scared but I was pretty anxious about this because the area TV stations have been blurting out about every 15 minutes; “Water as deep as 4 inches will sweep your car away–Turn Around, Don’t Drown!”
And this has proven to be literally true! A soldier from Ft. Sill in Oklahoma was crossing a low-water crossing in Wichita Falls flour days ago and was swept away. The television stations are still showing a shadow of the automobile top as the water flows over it. No one knows where the soldier is. Is he still in the car? Did he escape? If so, where is he? The water is too swift for firemen to get into the water and see if there is a body in the car.
Back on Memorial Highway 281 with no traffic and the rain falling in a deluge, I was able to get to the crown of the highway and negotiate through the torrents of water.
Next I came to the dairy-farming community of Windthorst that lies 45 miles south of Wichita Falls, TX. There the yards and lawns were standing in water. The dairy farmers had already gave up on the wheat and had bailed it. For miles in every direction I could see round-bails standing in about a foot of water.
Passing on through this community I came to the township of Scotland that is 21 miles south of Wichita Falls, It was there I came into the watershed of the Wichita River.
This was worse than the Trinity! The fields as far as I could see to the on either side were submerged. The lower end of Lake Arrowhead, that was previously empty was about 400 feet from the highway. All roads were blocked off with sheriffs deputies standing guard.
On the north side of Scotland the water was up on the highway and the bridge was spouting up on the east side. The reason for this was that Lake Kickapoo upstream had run over its spillway and was trying it’s best to get down the Wichita River without enough room to do so.
As I write this vast portions of Wichita Falls are flooded. The Red Cross has set up facilities in numerous places to provide shelter for those who are flooded out. Hotels and motels were filled Thursday at noon.
Meanwhile trucks have brought in load after load of sand to eight different locations. Volunteers are not only bagging the sand 24/7, but are delivering and placing it around homes. Well. After all this is TEXAS! What else could you expect?
We are entertained minute by minute as we watch Texas Game Wardens in ‘quad boats’ rescue folks in their pickups and cars as they float down the creeks and drainage canals that look like white water rapids.
How many have drowned? No one knows at this time and may not know for weeks or months.
The Wichita Falls Emergency Rescue, Fire Department, the Police Department as well as the County Sheriff’s office have mapped out a perimeter of where they think the water could rise and have stopped all people from entering those areas. To determine this they used flood maps dating back 100 years.
Just now NOAA called the Emergency Rescue and told them that the perimeters were not correct, and there would be more water pouring in than they expected, and they would have to move them back higher!
It has rained every day for three weeks and the prediction is for six to eight more inches of rain to fall before Monday. This entire area has been in a Flood Watch for a week and it has been extended to Next Tuesday, May 26th.
Is the drought broken? Who knows! It was 90 degrees in January, so it might well snow.
Warning! Don’t read this unless you are planning on moving. Go to http://www.grahamtxchamber.com and watch the pictures as they turn from black and white to color. You simply can’t miss moving here.