January 25th, 2012

blow me away

Blowin' in the wind

So yesterday, I'm at lunch with my dad, who was staring at his phone for half the meal. And he's moaning and bitching because the radar over the ranch was green and the radar over Round Top (ten miles away) was red. I pointed out that the solid green means rain, and rain is good. He wanted torrential downpour. Red means torrential downpour. Red means some other things, too.

He would have wanted it regardless of the drought. Any person who has any agricultural tendencies in the state of Texas prays for rain on an ongoing basis, because you never know when the next dry spell will come up. As close as six weeks ago, you could walk across to the island in the lake without so much as getting mud on your boots. The boat dock was completely dry (usually has at least six to eight feet of water in it). A few of the stock tanks were completely dry.

The weather people have said that because of La Nina's continuance for another year in a row that the drought was likely to continue until June. So we've been unusually pessimistic of late.

But, we had some steady rain over December, and then we had a pretty amazing storm come through the second week of January. When my mom and I were there the following weekend, we noticed that there's finally water between the "mainland" and the island. And the rest of the tanks seem to be filling up.

And so we went into this week knowing we'd get another series of storms, which started yesterday to the west, and the aforementioned green radar over the ranch.

I got to work this morning, and this e-mail was waiting for me, with a photograph accompanying it:

from: Tom
to: Claudia, Christina, Olivia, Jose
date: Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 8:51 AM
subject: Ledbetter tornado

Barn down , pietsch house ok. David is driving over to see what happened at our house and other buildings

Sent from my iPhone

It appears that there was, in fact, red over the ranch.

I called my mom shortly after getting the e-mail, and she confirmed that it not only took down the barn at the Pietch property (about a mile away from the main house), but it also took down the massive hay barn at the Rhumpton property. These barns are huge structures essentially made out of telephone poles and aluminum siding. I suspect that the wind had no where to go through, so it just pushed them over.

Apparently, though, the houses are OK, except that most of the cedar trees were uprooted near the main house, and the roof of one of the porches was damaged by one of the uprooted trees. I suspect that the corrals were also damaged, since they are right by the barns. We won't really know the extent of the damage until we see it for ourselves.

My mom was ready to drive out immediately, and I pointed out that the storm was still ongoing here in Houston and that perhaps it'd be best to wait for a few hours (perhaps 24 to 48) before embarking on a fact finding mission. If she doesn't leave until tomorrow night, I'll go with her.

The immediate issue is to retrieve and cover the hay that was in those barns. Because of the aforementioned drought, hay is at a premium this year. And if it gets too wet before it can be fed to the cows, it'll rot. I suspect that very large tarps will be purchased in the next few days.

Pretty damned scary, though. I said I was surprised in the 35 plus years of being there that this hasn't happened more often. She said that once or twice it has happened, with trees uprooted and whatnot, but nothing that destroyed buildings before.

I remember as a small child, the sky turned green and my parents made me and my siblings hide in a closet for an hour or so at the Pietch house. Ultimately, that particular tornado passed us by.

Apparently, because it was all one storm, the insurance people have said that it's just one deductible. And it does give us an opportunity to reorient and repair the barns. My mom said that when the Rhumpton barn was built, they made it so it was facing the wrong direction. This gives an opportunity to correct that 30 year old error. One of the barns, the one at the Pietch place, had been the rain contingency for the wedding. I would have liked to use the other, the Rhumpton, because it's much bigger, but there's a TON of mud that accumulates anywhere near that barn when it rains, thereby negating it's usefulness as a dry place for a lot of people to party in. If it has to be rebuilt, then smoothing out ground so water goes somewhere else might be a possibility. I'm not certain, though, that it will be rebuilt before mid-April.

And so the storm has passed here now, with another scheduled for next week. We'll see what the wind brings us the next go round.