Blackbirds and the Playa

October morning playa.

As I mentioned last month, this has been a very good year for late-season plants around the playa lake. You can see that the native grasses are even taller, growing rather briskly before they went dormant for the year a few weeks ago. And the sunflowers have all shed their petals. Instead of yellow faces, they now have black, red, and yellow birds in them. Continue reading


Equinoctial Storms

Howdy, Instapundit readers! Thanks for stopping by.

I first encountered the “equinoctial storm” in the first chapters of The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The family has a claim in South Dakota, and a sudden cold snap hits before the farm-house is finished and weather-proofed. Laura’s mother and father call it the equinoctial storm and everyone goes about their business. At the time I blinked, but was far more interested in the story than the terms and so I plowed on and didn’t think about it. Then I met the term, many years later, in a newspaper from the Texas Panhandle. It really was “a thing,” as they say on the Internet. Continue reading

Meadowlarks, Rainbows, and Sandhill Cranes

When the rain falls on the plains, at least in the autumn, it carries on for quite a while. The highest, longest duration, recorded floods on the various streams in this area all happened in autumn, with the “equinoctial storms.” This year seems to be matching that pattern, although we have not had any bridges washed into Oklahoma yet. A road in Hall County washed away, yes, but no railroad bridges.

[Stops typing and taps wood]

So, when I went to work one morning this past week, the air felt wet, with the strongest wind we’ve had for a while. Interestingly, for all the rain, the wind has been almost calm. I’m not certain if I can get used to vertical rain instead of horizontal. All that filled the air that morning was humidity, enough that we had low clouds under a higher deck. For a brief moment the moon was actually visible, but temperature and dew point tapped and here came dark purple-grey scud on the wind. Both cloud layers turned rose in the east, with gold highlights on the higher deck visible through the clumps and wisps of the lower layer. Continue reading

Soil and Water Don’t Mix (Most of the Time)

Dirt matters. A lot.

In comments about my post about the Harris County problem, Luke pointed out that I’d not really looked at the soil profile under Houston and its neighbors and upstream watershed. That’s in part because I wanted to compress a lot of data into a small post, and because I’m just not familiar with all the details of the soils in that part of the state. Sand or clay, loam, caleche, all respond differently based on the physics and chemistry of the soil and its component parts. I’m not a soils expert, and I’m not a construction engineer. So this is a sort of Dirt and Water 101: The quick and dirty version. Continue reading

How Floods Work: Harris County Edition

Welcome, Instapundit readers! Thanks for stopping by, and please be sure to read the comments. There are some excellent updates and additional information and observations from readers.

A lot of hand-wringing and second-guessing now and for the foreseeable future focuses on how a city as big as Houston (and the surrounding areas) could “be allowed” to flood. Setting aside the little problem of humans’ inability to steer storms and rain to or from desired locations, what we’re seeing is a combination of hydrology, urban development, and “excess” precipitation. And it is rather predictable that when you have certain combinations of the above, you get “flooding.” Flooding in this case means water in places where it is not desired, in sufficient quantities to cause damage and to endanger human and animal life. You see, Texas drains into Houston and Brownsville. Continue reading

The Playa Strikes Back

The playa that I drive past to and from the school now has water in it. So does every low spot, ditch, gutter, and grass-stem, as best I can tell. We’re bordering on 20 days in a row with rain or very heavy fog/drizzle. The good news is that it feels more like mid-September than late August. The not so good news is it also feels like July in Houston when you poke your nose out the door or open the window. And with moisture comes . . . mosquitoes. Continue reading

Orion and the Fog

Sunday night Redquarters got just over an inch of rain. Most of that within ten minutes as a massive, oh-my-heavens-paddle-faster squall line slammed into the city. It had already flattened the airport at Dalhart, and the fear was the 80 mph winds would hit Amarillo. With waterlogged ground and big trees… We were lucky. First came the frog-strangler, then the wind. And then the skies cleared. Continue reading