Monday, 13 February 2017

Nature - it's bigger than we are.

The above is the snowfall accumulation stats for the nearest measuring station to us, in centimetres.

It's a lot of snow.


That stump in the back is on a little rise, making it about waist-height on me (I'm 5'6"). The lump in the snow in the middle of the shot is our birdbath - there it is, gone. In the background, through the trees, you can catch a glimpse of one little channel of our great big frozen river.

That picture was taken several days ago; there's been another 20cm or so of snow since then. The big stump in the back is just about gone now, as is the green chair. I asked Paul to take another picture so you could see just how much there really is out there but he said "No. I'm done with pictures of snow."

Yeah, fair enough. It is getting a little tiresome. And just a teeny bit claustrophobia-inducing, as the snow that slides off the roof is building up around the house, leaving piles so high that they're peeking in at the windows.

So far, at least it's not dangerous. Of course we're a little concerned about what will happen when it all melts.

But this is dangerous. Here are some scary shots of that damaged spillway at the Oroville Dam in California:

Water did that.

No words.

I can (sorta) understand why humans try to collect and control water for farming and power to supply cities but wow, it's risky behaviour. When the weather doesn't "co-operate", when it doesn't stay within "expected parameters" and instead years of drought are followed by torrential rains that wash away the hillsides that have been weakened not only by drought but by human-caused degradation of the natural vegetation, turns out all that clever engineering wasn't such a great idea after all.

It just might cause untold destruction. Not to the Powerful Men in Suits who thought they were able to control nature, who thought they were onto something by creating giant, man made lakes where they didn't belong, but to plain old folks who thought it was safe - were assured it was safe - to live their lives downstream from such monstrous hubris.

The bigger they are the harder they fall.

Here is the Wikipedia entry on the history of the damn. Some interesting 'bits' there, like this one, (my emphasis):

"Oroville Dam was designed to withstand the strongest possible earthquake for the region, and was fitted with hundreds of instruments that serve to measure water pressure and settlement of the earth fill used in its construction, earning it the nickname "the dam that talks back".[18](It is believed that a MW 5.7 earthquake in the Oroville area in 1975 was caused by induced seismicity from the weight of the Oroville Dam and reservoir itself on a local fault line.[19])"

What can I say? I'll just leave you with a little more from Wikipedia:

"On October 17, 2005 three environmental groups filed a motion with the federal government urging federal officials to require that the dam’s emergency spillway be armored with concrete, rather than remain as an earthen spillway. Federal and state officials said it was unnecessary and concerns were overblown.[25][26]

Spillway cracking and inspections

The spillway cracked in 2013. A Senior Civil Engineer with the Department of Water Resources was interviewed by the Sacramento Bee and explained, “It’s common for spillways to develop a void because of the drainage systems under them” and “There were some patches needed and so we made repairs and everything checked out.”[27]

In July 2015, the state Division of Safety of Dams inspected the dam visually "from some distance."[28]"


  1. How do you even open your door to get outside? Or do you not? I saw about the California dam. It is interesting the rhetoric about it you listed. How could we really think it was nature-proof for hundreds of years?

    1. Heehee - we're not trapped, don't worry. The way the house is designed the doors are away from the prevailing winds and the front porch keeps the snow that falls off the roof away from that door. The back porch isn't as well designed, bit of an avalanche risk there, so we don't use it much in winter. Also, my husband is pretty dedicated about shovelling, he goes out several times per snow event. Surely you have lots of snow too?

      That dam is only 60 or so years old now. Scary.

    2. Our snow is melting. We, in this particular area, don't get tons of snow. Cold and wind. But not always tons of snow! But the people here are very obsessive about chipping away ice and shoveling snow. I wait for the storm to stop, and their out their shoveling IN IT!!!! I've been here five years now, and only one snowstorm seemed to leave too much snow to want to open doors.

    3. Right, prairie winters. I grew up in Saskatchewan, but quite far north so we had lots of snow AND those winds.

      Paul goes out and shovels during the snow events now. The snow is so heavy that a foot at a time would just be too much to move.

  2. Even dams can be done right; look at beavers. But I've yet to see any American engineered dam that feels right. There's always some kind of excess and folly involved.

    1. Well sure, beavers don't build it and walk away thinking it will stand 'no matter what', they're constantly tinkering.