This is what I learned this week. Not only does one not mess with Texas, one does not even joke about it, or else it is Texas that will be doing the messing with you.
Last Friday, what with meeting and greeting old friends, eating tasty tacos, and preparing for the wedding, I wasn’t getting much time in for observating, but it was all good times. At one point, a neighbor mentioned something about the weather radar showing an approaching storm. Over the next few hours, there was some rumbling of distant thunder, a few showers, but nothing too heavy. In the afternoon, I went with some friends to Austin to get dinner and see the bats. On the way, the sky turned ominous and gray (see below), and by the time we got to Austin, we were experiencing intense rainfall, although nothing more than what we’ve been getting almost every day in Virginia.
After dinner, the rain stopped just long enough for us to go to the Congress St. bridge and watch the daily “flying of the bats,” a very cool local tourist attraction in Austin. (http://batcon.org/index.php/get-involved/visit-a-bat-location/congress-avenue-bridge.html). Although they didn’t emerge until a while after sunset, I was still able to take some photos of the bats:
Then the fun began. We drove back to the ranch, and joined the party underway. About 10 in the evening, it began to rain, nothing too intense, but persistent. By the time I crawled into my tent at stupid-o-clock, I noticed that the rain had begun to drip drip its way through the fly. Never mind, I figured I’d have plenty of time to dry things out in the morning.
During the night, the rain grew stronger and more intense. By 9 in the morning, we were starting to experience major mud and some alarming-looking puddles. By 10 in the morning, the puddles started joining into a continuous layer of wet. At that point, I had driven into town in search of hot breakfast and a dry place to sit. The rain was intense, furious, continuous. Just running the 10 feet from the car to the door of the taqueria was a drenching experience. We tried returning to my friend’s ranch, but the driveway was impassable; the roadside ditches had become whitewater streams and the fields had become shallow lakes. I hadn’t expected anything like this– having packed little other than cotton t-shirts and shorts, I started growing hypothermic. Eventually, I had to wade up the driveway, past cars mired up to their axles in mud, to deal with the waterlogged mess that my tent and clothing had become (fortunately, my laptop was inside the house, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this) . There were many local central-Texans at the event, and all of them agreed that this was the most intense rain that they had seen in at least the last 10 years. The wedding was postponed by several hours, as a limited number of high-clearance 4wd vehicles shuttled people out of the “campground,” which was starting to look more like a disaster zone.
I don’t have pictures for this part of the trip, as I was just trying to keep my camera dry, but by the time the storm ended, the area had received well over 10 inches of rain (not a typo) in about 24 hours, and the nearby city of San Antonio and surrounding countryside was experiencing major flooding. CNN article with some pics at: http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/26/us/texas-san-antonio-flooding/index.html.
After the wedding, which, amazingly, had been successfully relocated inside at the last minute, and wound up being a raucous and joyful affair, I went back to the ranch to help a friend pack. By the time I took these photos, it had stopped raining for a few hours; the floodwaters had receded considerably, but you can still get an idea of how bad it was.
The main kitchen/party area was still under several inches of water, which was slowly flowing through the central area.
After breaking down my tent, I took this photo of the sodden clearing where it had been standing. I am quite glad that I’m not camping there anymore.
Although there was no longer continuous standing water over the whole ground, the woods were still semi-flooded, and the places where the water had sunk in were deep with sticky mud.
There was a newly-formed, slow moving creek making its way through the forest
The big wedding afterparty, which was going to take place out at the ranch, also had to be moved on account of several inches of standing water.
In several places, the ground was bubbling, as though the water was boiling. I think that as so many millions of gallons of water was slowly saturating and making its way into the dry hard-packed ground, the air that was being displaced was pushing its way out through these bubbly “air springs.” I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I uploaded a 10-second video to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TFQtxn4Nnc&feature=youtu.be
All around, there were various underground-dwelling bugs evacuating their homes, as the soil became waterlogged.
Although it was a somewhat unnerving experience for animal and human alike, I know that this part of Texas has been experiencing a pretty severe drought, and that getting a foot of rain over the course of a weekend was a boon for the local plants, wildlife, and farmers. And in the end, a fantastic time was had by all, and everything happened the way it was meant to happen. I’m not sure what can be learned from all of this other than: don’t mess with Texas!