At 8 o’clock when I began work this morning, the sky was overcast. As I stood at the office talking to two of my colleagues, we began getting hit by drops of rain, and after a minute or two the drops became sufficiently annoying to chase us inside. It didn’t occur to me then that those drops would be the beginning of something dramatic.
Over the next two hours, this storm system moved through the area…
(The yellow dot is Laurelville. The radar loop pauses at 8 a.m.)
And we received about 3″ of rain…
And even by 9:30 a.m. or so, I didn’t realize that anything special was going on. But that’s when one of my colleagues saw that the water level of Jacob’s Creek had risen… quickly.
For comparison, this is more than 9 to 12″ higher than the level of the creek during Hurricane Sandy. It’s high! Those of you familiar with this area will realize that there isn’t supposed to be water running in the foreground. That’s the overlook where people usually stand to watch the creek. And there isn’t supposed to be water running in the background, either. The creek jumped its boundaries upstream, was running over the neighbor’s land, and was coming down the bank again, just below the waterfall.
Here are some more photos from the morning…
(Upstream, the water comes over the wall onto the patio of Metzler Cabin.)
(At Metzler Cabin, the water rushes over the patio.)
(Jacob’s Creek flows in front of the Office. It isn’t supposed to do that.)
(The creek runs through the playground. It’s not supposed to do that, either.)
To conclude my little report, here are three videos from the day. In the first one, watch for the tree washing over the waterfall.
I thought about sleeping in the Laurelville office last night. I figured if anything exciting developed as a result of Hurricane Sandy, I would be close by. Certainly, everyone seems to gravitate to the waterfall behind the office any time we have interesting weather. But in the end, it was too dark to really see anything well, and I decided to sleep in the comfort of my own bed.
But I was awake before sunrise so that I could get out in the earliest morning light!
Here was the sight from our bedroom balcony this morning…
You can see that Sandy left us some snow. We’ve continued to get a rain/snow mix throughout the day, but there hasn’t been any snow accumulation.
As soon as I was dressed, I set out for the main part of camp. Just beyond the basement door, our little unnamed creek (dry during the summer) was pressing in on our foundation…
And once on the road to camp, it was clear Jacob’s Creek was running high…
For the first time I can remember, I heard low booming sounds as large rocks tumbled down the creek and smashed against one another.
When I arrived at the office, I found out just how powerful the creek could be. It had eroded away the bank below the waterfall, eventually creating a three-foot-wide sinkhole right in one of the most frequently visited spots on the campus. Thankfully, no one has been hurt, and the area is now taped off.
Other Laurelville staff had gathered on the terrace and were fighting a mixture of caution and curiosity. Should we stay away (not knowing how soft the remaining ground might be) or should we investigate (drawn by the irresistible desire to see what was at the bottom)? It turns out that the sight of water sloshing in the bottom of the hole was scary enough to make most of us back off.
The wall (above, on the right) by Metzler cabin was the only thing holding back the creek. Otherwise, the office (and downstream parts of the camp) would have received some flooding.
What is it about water that fascinates us? I spent a long time watching…
Throughout the last two days, we’ve been closely measuring the creek height on the gauge on the far bank. Here’s what we’ve observed (with apologies for the 12-hour gap overnight).
The water was nearly two feet higher this morning than it was at the same time yesterday morning – a dramatic rise resulting from over four inches of rain total, including two overnight. But with the rain tapering off, the level started to come back down just as quickly. (As I write, the total precipitation from the storm stands at 4.3″.)
Before setting out to tour the rest of the camp, I created a panorama of the scene at “Waterfall Terrace”. (Click for a larger image.)
As I strolled around camp this morning, all the Sandy-derived excitement seemed to have been water-related. (Interestingly, we never did get the predicted winds.) This was the view where Jacob’s Creek goes under the bridge near the end of Laurelville Lane:
Everywhere else, you might just guess that it was a cold, wet fall day…
The day’s final excursion was a hike to Pine Run. The Ordinary Family bundled up and slogged up the trail to one of Jacob’s Creek’s tributaries. Generally, one can jump from rock to rock to get to the other side (and then hike to the farthest reaches of Laurelville’s property, where Pittsburgh is visible on a clear day). Today, crossing Pine Run was out of the question…
In many places, the water had left its usual course and was just flowing down the mountainside wherever it pleased.
It’s time to bring this massive report to a close. I see that as of 5 pm, the low pressure center of what was once Sandy is sitting right over us. Nevertheless, the rain and snow have really died down. We might get another three-quarters of an inch of precipitation, which would bring our storm total to about five inches. However, it will be spread out over the rest of the week and shouldn’t cause any additional water problems. Wind speeds are now predicted to remain low – around 10 mph.
And so, it appears that the Sandy saga is drawing to a close. Just in time to welcome 400 junior-high students to Laurelville this weekend for mud games!
(Another special treat – Oldest Daughter’s thoughts on Superstorm Sandy, recorded in her journal during school today.)
They say it’s going to snow!
Now it says it’s going to rain!
They say now that it’s going to snow on Tuesday night!
WHAT IS THIS ALL ABOUT? Good question. On October 30, 2012, the day before Halloween, I woke up and went down the stairs. “Look at this picture,” were my dad’s first words to me. I looked at the picture. It was a picture of our picnic table sprinkled with snow! I looked out; sure enough. The picnic table was sprinkled with snow slush!
As the morning brightened, rain drizzles became more visible. But my dad called from the office and said the waterfall was DUMPING HARD!
So we got in our warm winter jackets and headed outside. When I stepped out, I suddenly became aware of the loud rush of the creek. We hurried over to our little creek* and found it was the most full we had ever seen it!
* Ed. note: We have a little, unnamed creek that runs right outside our back porch. It eventually feeds into Jacob’s Creek – the big creek running past camp. Jacob’s Creek is probably the one Middle Daughter heard, but she investigated the small one first.
Seeing BIG splashes, we hurried over to Jacob’s Creek.There were two enormous logs stuck in the middle of the creek! The creek itself, though, was at least one foot deeper than it usually was; maybe even two feet deeper!
We walked down to the office, but not by the lookout by the waterfall, because there was a huge hole made by water! We went to John’s office** (he wasn’t working) and saw the waterfall DUMPING! Words can’t describe how big it was! Even Brenda**, who has worked here for 16 years, had not ever seen it this full!
** John is Laurelville’s executive director; Brenda is the director of group reservations and guest services.
Then my sisters went to build a snowman out of the patches of snow slush. My mom and I watched them build while we huddled under our umbrellas, hiding from the cold, whipping wind. Their ‘slushman’ (or at least that’s what I call it!) turned out to be more of a snowpecker, so that’s what we called it. After ten minutes or so, we got cold, so we went home.
After lunch, it started SNOWING! Unfortunately, lots of it falls, but none of it sticks. And ever since this afternoon, it’s been falling – even at 3:52 pm on October 30, the time I wrote this period → .
Superstorm Sandy has arrived. We don’t have nearly the concerns that others farther east in Pennsylvania have. For us, it’s just exciting to slog around in our rain gear to witness the effects of all the rain.
Things seemed to start out slow. At midday, the rain was well underway, but the wind seemed non-existent:
At @Laurelville, it's still hard to believe there's a storm coming. Rain has started, but there's almost no wind yet. The leaves are still.
According to the weather station at nearby Mammoth Park, we’ve received 2.9″ of rain as of 10 pm. The pressure has fallen steadily throughout the day from 29.8 to 29.2 inches Hg. Interestingly, the wind hasn’t really strengthened from what I observed mid-afternoon. At this point, we have sustained winds of 5-10 mph, with gusts to about 15 mph. Presumably, some stronger winds are still to come.
And finally, one late-breaking development before I call it a night…
Yes, it’s true. It seems our house has been overrun by stinkbugs. And they do this weird flight thing under our ceiling fan: when it’s turning, they will fly laps around it. Last night, Middle Daughter counted as a bug went around seventeen times nonstop (in the same direction as the fan).
And they’re not just in our house. They seem to be in every building. On Sunday in church, Ordinary Spouse said, “What’s that smell?” Well, according to Wikipedia, a stinkbug has a…
…tendency to eject a foul-smelling glandular substance secreted from pores in the thorax when disturbed; in some species the liquid contains cyanide compounds with a rancid almond scent.
Now you know.
And here is one more important tidbit from the Wikipedia article:
In some areas of Western Pennsylvania, particularly Oakland (Pittsburgh), stink bugs are referred to as “Freds”.
And so, as we continue to make ourselves at home here in the Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania, we will hereafter be on a first name basis with stinkbugs.
(If the radar image isn’t animated, try opening the image in a new tab.)
Laurelville had some really interesting weather today. The overnight “low” temperature was about 75 °F. It turns out that was our high for the day. Shortly before seven, an intense, fast-moving storm went through. Unfortunately, it brought down a tree onto some vehicles in the process.
(This is when a host has to be at his best!)
Just before lunch, a second intense system went through. The winds weren’t quite as powerful, but the rain came down hard.
I think we basically experienced a double derecho. On the radar, you can see two intense lines move through western Pennsylvania. With each one, there was a dramatic drop in temperature, and we totaled about 1″ of rain.
By late afternoon, Jacob’s Creek was really thundering along…
Last night, we had the windows open and fans running, but not tonight. The temperature is down to 57 °F as I type, and it’s falling to the mid-40s.
Husband; dad; cat cohabitator; Christ-follower; Goshen College alum; theological Anabaptist (mostly); cultural Mennonite (umm... suburban Mennonite); once a scientist, now a seminarian; mediocre guitarist and even more mediocre dulcimerist (huh?); devotee of dark chocolate, tapioca pudding, bubble tea, mince meat pie, Lizano salsa, and Starbucks mocha; geocacher; genealogist; piecer of denim blankets; fan of the mountains of western Maryland and Pennsylvania, the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota, and the lakes of Onekama; enjoyer of music by U2, Bon Iver, Carrie Newcomer, and the Indigo Girls (among others); run-of-the-mill blogger.