Autumn/Winter 2022 Recap - Weeding, or River of Atmosphere - Long

I was going to tell you I am so behind in weeding, that my hellebores this year are blooming, rather well, in amongst last year's weeds. 
I was going to tell you in addition to my getting slower and achier and inefficient-er in the garden, I have a foot/boot problem. Last summer, I noticed the nail on the second toe on my left foot had turned black. I didn't remember banging or dropping something on it, so I waited until autumn for the white bits to reappear, but it didn't. Over time the second toe became too tender to ignore, so I started wearing Crocs while weeding, (comfy but not as suitable for slopes;) and had my GP take a look. She told me it's slow trauma, that my left boot was too small and gardening in it put a lot of stress on my left second toe over time.

I always knew one foot was one Japanese size (0.5cm) bigger than the other, and I bought shoes with that in mind, but I could seldom remember which was bigger, and it never mattered to this degree. I don't know if my left second toe grew, or my leather gardening boot/s shrunk, (they do get wet from time to time,) and luckily I don't have problems with any other shoes. Anyway, I need new gardening footwear, and until then, I'll operate in my yellow Crocs, waddling up and down the steps and slopes. (Oh, the white bits are finally reappearing.)

I was going to tell you we had a lot of rain this winter; not so much cats-dogs-and-monkeys kind, but half a day here, few hours there, every-day-for-a-week-or-two kind. Plus the occasional misty, quiet rain for hours on end. In fact, this past July was the wettest July in Nelson since 1941, while a lot of other regions rewrote records. I think August was also the wettest since 1941 in Nelson, if I remember correctly. 
Then came August 17. We had been told to expect much rain, so we prepared. From memory, more dire rain warning was issued for the West Coast, (urrr, to the west of us,) and wind warning for Marlborough, (to the east of us,) but once again, as for the last couple of years but certainly all winter, Nelson was to get away with rain and wind "watches" but no worse.

That Wednesday Ben had the day off, and the weather being ugly we both read books and screens but not social media. Mid-afternoon, he was startled to see a news item pop up of some homes being flooded near his work and some friends, and people being evacuated. Social Media was the only place the information could be found; flooded areas grew by the hour, followed by landslides. Not only our major streets, but roads east out of town were blocked, houses were being damaged and folks were being evacuated day and night. Evacuation Center, Information Hub, social media groups were set up quickly, I think thanks to the bush fire in February of 2019. 
One unoccupied house slid off the hill not too far from us, and another house was evacuated at 4AM. Hearing that, we packed a small suitcase with some change of clothes, and loaded it, sleeping bags, and our earthquake evac pack on the four-wheel drive. Ben recharged the battery of the car, because we hadn't used it in such a long time. We weren't sure if our house was eminently in danger, but knew there was a possibility, and being Japanese, disaster preparation is ingrained in us from a very early age, so we just acted on what we thought best. 

I thought about my family after the big quake/Fukushima in 2011. About a week afterwards, they evacuated to the southern city of Okayama for a short break to observe/regroup/be together. I asked them to carry their passports just in case, and prepped our home. My brother had recently moved into his family dream home, one that took years to plan; while packing for the trip, he said he contemplated not being able to return to it. Remembering that, I went around our house and took pictures in all its messy glory, because heaven forbid if it slips or gets red-stickered, we won't be able to come back, that decision would be taken away from us. A walkway nearby had trees toppling and closed. It was only the second time in my life I felt better to prepare for the worst; the first being the longest/biggest quake we were in, the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake at midnight here on my sister's birthday over there.
From our house, if we look to the east, we are roughly a third of a way up a hill, and above us are older roads and homes, but not so many. If we look to our south, we are perhaps a fifth to the top; there's a longish shared driveway to the road, a very steep incline with some homes, some trees, a walkway connected to the one that slipped, and a whole new subdivision further up with big newer homes. I tend to worry about new suburbs, but reading updates, I learned landslides may be harder to predict than flood, old and new suburbs were affected, and even plants said to keep soil intact were uplifted with so much rain and soil moving. Someone described it as pouring yogurt on the hill.   

Among the things we were told to observe which I can remember are: new or growing cracks on the house inside or outside; warped door and window frames; sudden appearance of puddles, or dirt piles. We spotted two cracks growing but couldn't tell whether it was in the past few days or years; some of our doors and windows frames have always been warped; after so much rain, puddles didn't help; but we didn't find dirt piles. 

Rain kept coming down, flooded areas ever expanded, hills slid in this suburb, and then in that other one. Some suburbs had to boil water, and these kept changing, while flood water was contaminated due to sewer damages. The bigger of the two pipes supplying water to Nelson City was destroyed (?) under a landslide, so everybody had to conserve water. This last one is expected to be a long-term problem with or without a drought in the coming warmer months.
Rain stopped sometime on the weekend, the sun came out, temperatures shot up around the country rewriting more records. The media told us we had something called Atmospheric River. Folks started cleaning up or helping others. I felt so guilty nothing had happened to us, I couldn't even say we were unaffected; I also felt terrible not volunteering, but I'm old, feeble, don't have proper footwear as it happens, and don't have skills useful in helping flood victims, so I stayed home, kept quiet, and conserved water. 

Ben told me about something called Tahunanui Slump; there is apparently an area in our suburb, but much closer to town, where there have been landslides since prehistoric times. Seriously, that's what the Internet said. But we are far enough removed that at least the Slump is unlikely to push us off. 

Road cleanup progressed at an amazing speed; in a week or eight days, by last Thursday our main road to town reopened in one direction, albeit with speed restrictions; by Friday afternoon, in both directions. Road to Marlborough reopened on August 31. Other city roads have been cleaned up, and last week a Black Hawk helicopter helped remove debris, (huge trees!) from hard-to-access suburbs. As far as has been covered in the (social) media, there have been no injuries or casualties. 
Golden Bay to the north(west) of us was flooded once again, and the road from Nelson was closed for a while. West Coast got wet, but not as badly as in the last two years. Marlborough was behind us by a day or two days, and similar flooding and road closures. They have a lot of small communities which become completely cut off by road from their main city of Blenheim, which is when private boats and water taxis come out. 

We were expecting more rain on the weekend, but we had scarcely enough to wet the pavement. I missed out on a beach cleanup, something I might have been useful at, because I expected rain and didn't check cleanup activities carefully. And though temperatures have cooled down this week, spring is definitely here.

If you are interested, you can search "Nelson, New Zealand, Flood". 
And last but not least, I would never undermine the worries and fears of folks who were affected, here or elsewhere in New Zealand, Northland in particular. At the same time, I'm ever mindful it's nothing like Pakistan. Or the drought in China. Or Ukraine/Palestine/Afghanistan/insert-other-places. And in that respect, we have been lucky.

1 comment:

Meg said...

These miniature Irises were so cute and pretty, but they lasted like a minute and a half. I prefer the slow brewing of tulips, and even slower wait of hellebores these days.