Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurricane Irene - Record Flooding in Vermont

Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a Tropical Storm before it arrived in Vermont.  However, the downgrade did not prevent the storm from walloping some areas with more rain in one day than for the months of July and August combined.  The mountainous topography funneled 4-9" of precipitation directly down-slope and into small communities that couldn't have been ready for what was coming, no matter the amount of preparation.  In Vermont, four deaths are being blamed on the storm and the cost of rebuilding is estimated to be in excess of $100 million.

The Brewster River @ Edwards Rd (mid-storm), Jeffersonville, VT

In general, Southern Vermont was hit hardest.  In Northern Vermont, Waterbury experienced a flash flood on Monday morning following the storm.  I am currently employed by the State of Vermont in the Water Quality Division.  All offices were closed on Monday due to flooding.  I figured I'd head in on Tuesday to see the damage.  I was blown away by what I saw.

A state vehicle with grass on the antenna was moved 3' by the Winooski River.

Eighteen-wheeler tipped by the Winooski River.

The LaRosa Environmental Laboratory was inundated with 4' of water, just enough to cover the tops of our desks and destroy computers, microscopes and countless pages of important paper documents.

One important document Irene left behind.

The back entrance to the lab, note the high water mark on the wall by the loading dock.

Headed into the lab; lots of muck everywhere.

Water came into the building at approximately 6am.  It had receded by 7:30am.

Most (not all) of the microscopes had been above the water level.

The benches where Aaron and I do much of our work.  Everything has been coated with a fine layer of sediment.

The water moved desks, tipped refrigerators, soaked computers and created a disaster area.

There's my desk.

Once we had some time to assess the damage and document the losses; it was time for clean-up to begin.

Fortunately, some of our gear is designed for use in water, this makes cleaning it a bit easier.

Hard not to be covered in the mud that is everywhere.

The Winooski River at Salmon Hole from the bridge in Winooski on Monday.

Photograph from same location one day later.
The outpouring of support has been tremendous.  Ben & Jerry's dished out free ice cream,  Green Mountain Club workers assisted residents of Waterbury, and Green Mountain Coffee provided free coffees to keep people motivated.  Vermont will rebuild as a community and put this devastating flood in the past.

How you can help:

*Vermont Flooding 2011 on Facebook.

*VT Flood Relief Fund

*Preservation Trust of Vermont

*The Red Cross

Friday, August 26, 2011

Animals of Acadia

 When Jim first shot this photo on his way to camp, he thought he was looking into the eyes of a grey fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus).

 He watched as the small animal chewed on the grass and went about its business.

 After doing a bit of research I found out for sure that it was a red fox (Vulpes vulpes). Although the two animals are similar, the gray fox has a black stripe along the tail that ends with a black tip, while the red fox has a white-tipped tail. The gray fox also lacks the black booties seen on this red fox.

 This handsome warm-blooded mammal is a harbor seal (Phoca vitulina). A group was feeding during high tide when this photo was taken. While at Sand Beach, Jim and I talked with a park ranger who told us they get at least one report a week by park tourists of an injured seal. Sure enough when he arrives at the scene, he sees a passed out seal sunning itself luxuriously on a rock during low tide. No injury, just nap time. 

This thrush eludes me, if only I had been there to hear its song.

Pictured here is a Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia) who spends its winter months in the balmy Gulf Coast. This little bird creeps up and down tree limbs searching for insects under the bark of trees.

 In the shadows of a striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum) sits a tiny female Black-throated Green Warbler, a common bird of softwood forests.

One of the last animals I think I'd see at the beach is a porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum). It came wobbling up from the sandy beach shore and slowly climbed up this balsam fir. The porcupine is one of the most docile creatures I know.  

Female Common Eider ducks (Somateria mollissima) are diving ducks that feed primarily on mollusks. During breeding season the males are hard to miss with their bright black and white display.

River otters (Lutra canadensis) in the ocean? Apparently so. They can swim miles out into the ocean to fish, but head back to the main land freshwater to rinse off and have a family. What are they looking at anyway?

 I don't think the otters have much to worry about, the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) usually feeds on carrion, crippled waterfowl, and primarily fish. Although they will drown the occasional duck for dinner.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Visions of Acadia

Acadia National Park makes photography easy, everywhere you look there is an opportunity to capture something different. The coastal culture plays a part in the beauty of the landscape filled with fishing ports, lighthouses, and lobster boats. Take the time to relax and view these photos, breathe deep, visualize the ocean waves being pulled by the tides, smell the salt on the air, and hear the shore birds sharp calls.

Coming up.......Animals of Acadia.