Flood Warning ….. Again!

Repeat. Do-over. Redux. The past month has seen a variety of spring weather. It’s been very warm with temperatures in the high 20’s or below normal cold, and more rain than I’ve ever seen. Since I wrote my Spring Flood blog post (here) on April 9th, we’ve had an additional 107.8 mm (4.24 inches) of rain in April PLUS another 125.1 mm (almost 5 inches) of rain in the first week of May alone! That’s a month’s worth of rain in a week! It’s been raining now for 4 days straight prompting another Flood Warning for the second time in a month. This is the first time in my 36 years living here that a flood warning has been issued twice in the spring.

May8,2017WM

 
The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, who manages the watershed, has been releasing statements regularly – I subscribe to email alerts and updates. The last one said that the rain will taper off tonight or tomorrow although we might get freezing rain or snow flurries:  “Flows in the Rideau system are now not expected to reach flows experienced in the spring freshet (flood). The rate of rise in the Rideau and its tributaries is slowing …….. Levels on the Long Reach will decline through the coming week.” The “Long Reach” is the area along the Rideau River where I live.

I’m grateful that my house is safe from the flood waters at this time unlike other poor souls who are experiencing devastating and complete loss of their homes. Most of these areas are along the Ottawa River and the Gatineau River. The Rideau River empties into the Ottawa River along with countless other rivers and small tributaries.   Almost 1,000 people have had to evacuate their homes. 😦   Many area have declared a State of Emergency.  It’s heartbreaking.

pond April WM

My pond on April 8th

pond May WM

My pond the way it should look in May

 

It will still be a few days before the flood level peaks. The military has now been called in to help in the flooded areas – much needed (and maybe a little belated) by exhausted homeowners. Federal government offices are closed in Gatineau, elective surgeries have now been cancelled at Gatineau Hospitals, schools closed, community centers closed, and libraries shut down on Monday because of the flooding

My house is set back about 300 feet from the river and up on a 3 foot ‘berm’ of earth. I’m glad that 40 years after this house began construction that it still holds the test of time thanks to Mr. Jones (original owner) and our old neighbour Mr. Mitchell who advised Mr. Jones to built the house a bit higher. Thank you gentlemen!

Lettuce

Lettuce in my raised Kitchen Garden bed

 

Luckily, I only planted my spring garden a few weeks ago in my ‘kitchen garden’ area in the raised beds up by the house. I planted spinach, peas, carrots, and lettuce. The garlic in the main garden, which is saturated with water, was up and had healthy 6″ greens. It occurred to me today that the mole/vole problem I had in the lawn down by the river last year might be ‘remedied’ by the floods this year. The grass is growing too fast with all this rain but it will be a week, at the very least, before the water has dissipated and the ground isn’t soaking wet like a sponge. Only after it’s all dried up, I can cut the grass – and the grass will continue to grow in the meantime. Oh well, more mulch for my garden!

Now that I’ve finished writing this post, the rain has finally stopped! For now?  And a beaver is swimming around my fire pit down by the river …….  But now it’s snowing!

Summer BackyardWM

Looking forward to summer in my backyard

Spring Flood

It’s that time of year when the Rideau River’s ice is melting – it begins in the channel with a sliver of water peaking through. I always notice the melted ice in the channel first down by the bridge to town. Over the next few days, it slowly makes it’s way up to our place and beyond. Then usually the ice at the edge of the riverbank begins to melt and leaves a small ribbon of water. Huge ice flows shift from one side of the river to the other depending on which way the wind is blowing them.

My dock begins to rise with the water and bob in eager anticipation!

1 2017

2017

This year, it became cold and winter-like after spring ice break-up commenced and the whole river froze over again. We’ve had a bit more than the average total snowfall this winter (around 235 cms). It didn’t take long, though, for the thin ice in the middle channel to begin to thaw and water flowed once again.

A few weeks ago, it looked like this spring would be an average melt considering we had a very slow warm-up and the snow was melting a bit every day. Then the rain started. And it rained for several days. One day alone, we had 36 mm of rain added to the 30+ mm we had the day before (2.5+ inches).

The trouble with so much rain here on the river, is that the ground is still frozen and the river still has ice along the shoreline this year. When we get that much rain in the region, it all flows to the rivers and creeks. These waterways have no choice but to overflow. The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority issued a Flood Warning for our area a few days ago. The river is 2 meters (6.5+ feet) above normal level.

The other day when I woke up, the river’s banks had overflowed about 15 feet and the river was considerably higher – I could see my dock floating way above winter levels. My riverside flagpole and flag were gone, likely knocked over by the sheet of ice. The next day, the water had come a third of the way up my yard. A few hours later, it crept halfway up. It ended up 3/4 of the way up my yard.

We’ve always been spared from any river flood damage because our house was built on a one meter (3 feet) pad of earth. During the great 100 year flood of 1976, all the roads around our place were under water and our place stood out like an island (this was before we moved here in 1981). One old timer said Reeve Craig Road used to be called ‘Puddle Alley’ for obvious reasons.

2 2008

2008

In 2008, we had another ‘hundred year flood’ after a record-breaking winter snowfall – they might want to correct that phrase to reflect the fact that these floods are happening way more often than every 100 years. In 2014, it happened again. My grandkids thought it was great to canoe ‘on the grass’ in Gramma’s backyard!

My sump pump has been working overtime! What the heck is a sump pump you ask? Well, it’s a water pump inside a 3 foot pit in my basement where the ground water around my house flows into a perforated tube buried around the perimeter and drains into the sump pit. My basement has always been dry other than the time the sump pump failed to turn on…….

3 heron

Great Blue Heron on dock

The water has finally started to recede now! This is monumental in ‘flood warning’ mode. All the ice seems to be gone from ‘the long reach’, which is the term given to my neck of the woods (it’s the longest stretch between locks – read more here). This morning, I was treated to one of my top 5 sights: my ‘lake of shining waters’ where the water sparkles like a million diamonds in the sun. Oh, I just LOVE seeing this! (I wrote about it here) I watched a beaver sitting on a small ice flow as it made it’s way down the river; several Great Blue Herons flying along the shoreline likely looking for a nesting place; and lots of ducks.

4 Lake of Shining Waters

My Lake of Shining Waters

Spring has literally sprung!

Spring Flood

 

I live on an island! Well actually, I didn’t win a lottery and go out and buy a tropical island. The great spring thaw happened and MADE my house appear to be on an island surrounded by water! Last week, we had two feet of snow on the ground and even more if you add the 3+ feet drifts in some spots. Then the temperatures began to rise above zero celsius (32F) ……… way above normal. And within 2 days, most of the snow has melted! That translates into flooding. Everywhere. Our area has been issued a Flood Warning (ya, no kidding). Snow pack from forests, ice on rivers, and rainfall have combined together to suddenly create flooding in Eastern Canada. It’s not just in my area – many places are under Flood Warnings as rivers, creeks, and lakes overflow their banks. Here, the river ‘bank’ is now 30 feet from my house instead of 200+ feet. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning. The weather forecast is for heavy rains for the next few days. We have been warned (again) to brace for further flooding and prepare for the worse.  This is worse than the 2nd Hundred Year Flood in 2008.

April 12, 2014 Backyard Flood

April 12, 2014 Backyard Flood

Yesterday was quite calm and the water looked like glass. By the middle of the day, I could see the still-frozen ice on the river begin to move away from the shoreline. A pair of Mallard Ducks were swimming in backyard and a Great Blue Heron stood guard on top of the dock. My grown kids decided to go canoeing after the long (way too long) winter of frozen river. Thankfully, they didn’t have to walk down to the beach to retrieve the canoe because Taylor dragged it up almost to the house last fall. They only had to use a use a shovel as a paddle to get to the shed down by the water, where the paddles were stored (note to self: bring a paddle up to the garage next fall). Marty and Jeanette paddled down to Private Prop which was a lake in itself. The even watched a beaver playfully swimming on the grass, a.k.a. flooded field. The cement picnic tables were almost under water too. They enjoyed a unique paddle through the surrounding forest where Marty was able to photograph amazing orange ‘fungi’ seemingly ‘growing’ on the ice. Later after supper, Marty and Taylor canoed from the house down through the yard (watch it here) and out to the swamp towards the bridge. They saw several beavers, including the largest beaver Taylor has ever seen. One beaver swam right in front of the canoe so they got a real close encounter.

Taylor and Marty canoeing in our backyard

Taylor and Marty canoeing in our backyard

I waded down to the shed in my rubber boots, choosing the path that I knew was the highest in the yard. I wanted to check my lawn tractor and lawn mowers. Predictably, they were in about 4 inches of water. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my cell phone with me because I didn’t want to ruin it if I fell in the water and got a soaker. So I couldn’t call one of my kids up at the house to come help me. I managed to find the hydraulic lift, which was under water, and crank up the front of the lawn tractor to put something underneath to raise it a couple of inches. However, the mower deck was still under water on one side. Then I turned a couple of buckets upside-down and popped a wheelie with the push mowers and got them up on top and out of the water.
Today it’s much more threatening-looking. We had rain overnight. The wind has changed directions and the water, large ice chunks, and debris are now being blown in our direction right up on to the yard (we’ll see if anything interesting floats in like other peoples docks, which happened once, or even a boat – happened too). I can watch the chunky ice float slowly, almost frame-by-frame, down the river towards the city of Ottawa where it will empty into the Ottawa River which will empty into the St. Lawrence River.

Taylor canoeing up his bike

Taylor canoeing up his bike

Now here’s the kicker: the forecast is for heavy rains, even thunderstorms today and tomorrow. The prediction is that the humidex will make it feel like the high 20sC (80sF) but then on Tuesday, a cold front is slated to move in and it will feel like -10C (14F), yes that’s minus 10 celsius. Bizarre. Gee, I wonder if we’ll be able to skate instead of canoe in our yard this week??

In a few short weeks, it will look like this:

My 'Lake of Shining Waters' , Rideau River

Nature at My Doorstep

Yesterday I was reminded how blessed I am to live in such a wonderful place surrounded by wildlife on a daily basis.   My riverfront location lends to the presence of many different species.

Beaver on My Pond

Beaver on my Pond

Last evening I finally spotted the Beaver making his way down the river to the stand of young willows which he likes to ‘nibble’ on.  I swear that he must be 5 feet long!  In 2009, he came up from the river to my frozen pond for ????  (honest, Graham, he really DID!)  Of course, everyone knows that the Beaver is the national symbol of Canada, ever since the time of the fur traders – but did you realize that the beaver is a member of the rodent family?   Poor fella, he was really struggling against the strong current but making progress nonetheless.  I was glad to see him just swim on by and not stop at any of my trees again.  I’ll have to go for another walk to the ‘Private Prop’ swamp to see his home…..

Beaver chewed branch @ River

The Great Blue Heron is absolutely huge in stature!  When he flies over the yard, it looks like a prehistoric Pterodactyl is invading the neighbourhood.  He stands at least a meter tall when he’s at the edge of my pond debating which fish to try to eat.  I’ve installed a ‘Scarecrow’ water device at the edge of my pond, which is supposed to scare off wildlife by a burst of water (and my grandchildren or myself get soaked more!).  But it seems like the heron loves water and this doesn’t faze him one bit.  I’ve also added “Scare ’em” bird tape that I bought at Lee Valley Tools:  12 inch streams tied onto 1 meter bamboo poles, delicately blowing in the wind or long, twisted  lines of it around the pond which shimmer and shake at the slightest breeze.  Nope, my resident Heron isn’t bothered by any of it.  The only recourse I eventually take is to put a net on the water in the pond to protect the fish.  I know that right now the Heron is recently back from his long migratory voyage and is hungry – BUT there’s a whole river to choose from!  Why my puny little pond?

Mallard Ducks @ Pond

I’ve woken up a couple of times this week to find a pair of wild Mallard Ducks swimming in my pond.  This ‘couple’ have been springtime residents of our neighbourhood for a few years now.  They arrive in early April from their southern home and visit everyone’s property, nest somewhere, raise their young, then go off for another year.  The other day, Mr. Duckie was strolling down the road without a care in the world when I attempted to drive by.  I slowed way down to a crawl until he annoyingly moved slightly over so I could pass.  Thanks.  It reminds me of the time that we had 6 wild ‘pet’ ducks who we started to feed breadcrumbs and scraps to,  at the river – they would even waddle right up to the house if we were tardy!  They stayed till hunting season……

Last winter I had a new visitor to my yard:  a Red Tail Fox.  Actually there were a pair of them I would see on my walks throughout the winter, but I’ve yet to see their kits/babies this spring or them for that matter.  I think that the low snow fall amounts enabled them to venture further out this winter.

Fox at Front Steps

A few years ago there was a yearling Black Bear in the neighbourhood.  He was just curious about the new ‘city’ neighbour’s bird feeder I think (welcome to the neighbourhood!).   Then about 5 years ago, my son excitedly claimed that him and his friends saw a bear while bike riding.  “Riiiiight” I said skeptically.  Then that very evening on our walk, we saw the young bear run across the road right in front of us, headed towards the river for a drink perhaps.  Exciting!  Then on our way back, he skittered back across the road into the forest on ‘Geoff’s farm’.   But the most exciting bear sighting was the one about 20 years ago in our own backyard:  it was around 8 pm and the kids had just come inside from playing out back all day long when I looked out and saw a 3 year old bear saunter across the yard.  I phoned the neighbours immediately just in case they had their dogs tied outside.  This bear actually climbed up my neighbour’s stairs to their patio doors!  Then afterwards he just leisurely strolled back through our property and into the forest……….

'Sentry' Tree Frog

This time of year, the frogs are ‘waking up’ from a long winter’s nap.  I’ve already heard Spring Peepers which I love listening to after dark.  And of course there are a kazillion Leopard Frogs everywhere!  There are many Bullfrogs who inhabit my pond too.  I think they come up from the river bringing with them ‘river’ fish eggs which hatch in my pond because I’m forever catching them and returning those minnows to the river.  These huge bullfrogs love to sun themselves on the rocks surrounding the pond.  Other frogs which I often see are the Grey Tree Frog and the Wood Frog – who knew there were so many types of frogs!   And lets not forget the Toads.  I have alot of toads especially in my garden ever since I stopped rototilling it every spring.  I’ve also seen a few Blue Spotted Salamanders.

Mourning Doves on Clothesline

Of course, we have a huge variety of birds in the area: Heron, Seagull, Bluejay, Cardinal, Oriole, Scarlet Tananger, Chickadee, Goldfinch, Nuthatch, Mourning Dove,  Downey Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Piliated Woodpecker, Crows, Starlings, Kingfisher, Quail, Turkey, Osprey, Red-tail Hawks, Sparrows, Swallows, Ruby Throated Hummingbird, etc.  There are several birds that seemed to have disappeared from my area like the Evening Grosbeak…..  I love filling my birdfeeders  with  ‘black oiled’ sunflower seeds and putting beef fat in my suet feeders all winter long.   I don’t feed them in the summer since it attracts ‘unwanted’ wildlife.  I only fill my hummingbird feeders with sugar and water all summer long.

Occasionally, White Tail Deer come out of the woods and onto the property to snack on my hostas and ‘windfall’ apples on the ground.  I usually don’t have a problem with them helping themselves to my vegetable garden unlike some of the neighbours……’touch wood’.  I have seen wild rabbits too.

Deer on Front Lawn

My former neighbour “the Ronster” always claimed that the only wildlife around here were my 7 children…….lol

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