Monday, August 29, 2011

8-29-11 Quick Follow Up on Hurricane Irene

As most of you know Hurricane Irene went straight north from New York City into southern and central Vermont and eastern New York via the Poconos. It did not come up the Connecticut River Valley and curve towards the east and Central New Hampshire as anticipated. However, the Mt. Washington Obs reported heavy rains of 6.6 inches during Sunday and a peak gust of 104 miles an hour with a day-long average of 44 miles per hour. Several videos emailed to me show intense flooding in the Pinkham Notch-Jackson, NH area. Youtube has this video, made by Jim Doig of Jackson NH, for viewing:

Flooding throughout the White Mountain National Forest, I imagine, is on the scale shown in this video of the Wild River in Jackson. There were reports that the Ellis River in Pinkham Notch was particularly high and it's logical that the Dry River, the Ammonoosuc, the Peabody, the east and west branches of the Saco River, the Gale River, etc. must have been at those same flood levels. I'll forward any data I get.

8-31-11: Keith Wehmeyer sent some photos this morning of Crawford Notch at height of rain over the Irene weekend. Here's a link to see the pix:

He also reported that the most damage reported was at Guyot Shelter not from the storm but from a bear (an old friend of mine) that ransacked the caretaker's tent. Thanks for the info Keith!

A photo of the Ellis River in Pinkham Notch during above normal, seasonal floods in the fall of 1976. As turbulent as this looks it probably was dwarfed by the volume of water generated by the Hurricane Irene storm system. The river last Sunday (8-28-11) may have had 3 or 4 times more water than this and 8-10 feet higher during peak flows.

The volume of water in the stills and videos provided by Keith and James show rivers and streams turned into monsters. With that kind of force the water can move just about anything. It's safe to say that whether it was careening down an existing channel, or moving in sheets downhill through tracts of forest it will be moving thousands of tons of logs, rocks, whole trees, boulders, gravel, soil, probably animal carcasses, and wiping out anything in its path that isn't tied down. It's rare, with the exception of a tornado, to see anything as destructive as water when paired with gravity. Remember the photos from last year's massive avalanche in Ammonoosuc Ravine? Just think of water volume in the Ammonoosuc River last Sunday with that much water and that much raw power and then think about all those trees the snow shattered on its way down the mountain. I wonder where all those trees are today.

8/31/11 Another email from Keith Weymehr reporting that the damage to roads and the back country is astronomical. Route 302 in Crawford Notch is closed and will be for a while. Route 16 through Pinkham Notch is negotiable but rough in sections. That will probably change during the week. The biggest news he had to report were the number of new landslides that have been seen including a large on on Mt. Bond. Information will get more accurate about slides during the next 10 days, particularly with the three day weekend coming a lots of folks out on the trails. Thanks Keith.

9/4/11. Doug Dodd called this morning. He drove through Pinkham Notch from the south and as far as Pinkham. He then climbed up through Tuckerman's Ravine to Lakes of the Clouds and then down Boott Spur. He said it was amazing to get a sense of the enormous amount of water that was funneled down the trails he was hiking on. All the water bars were filled with gravel and sand, but he said at one point on Sunday afternoon the volume of water must have been a once in a century occurrence. He reported that Rt. 302 is still closed, Rt. 16 in Pinkham Notch has a lot of washed out edges, the Zealand Road is closed, Dolly Copp B road is closed, and the Jefferson Notch Road is also closed. He didn't know about the Base Station Road but we were both wondering what the Ammy looks like from the Cog Station up to the top of the Ravine.

9-8-11 Ellis River Photos

Jim Hamilton sent in these photos showing the Ellis River in Jackson close to peak level during the storm, and, below, for comparison, taken after the water subsided a bit. The difference between them appears to be 15 feet. Jim, thanks. The comparison helps.

The Ellis River from the same spot as above a day after the surge.

9-17-2011-I haven't been North of Northampton for 2 months now. It seems like ages, but I'm churning to get up and look at the ravines around the Presidentials, and Walker Ravine on Lafayette, etc. Updates regarding Hurricane Irene have dropped off but the storm hasn't been forgotten. Even though Hurricane Irene, in its fury, didn't come close to the White Mountains the intense storm system it pushed North will always be associated with the name Irene and considered an epic event in the White Mountains. The amount of "precip" the storm system unleashed was profound. It "flushed" the entire WMNF system of brooks, streams and rivers, pushing these water courses to record (or near-record) hydraulic tolerances. In the process the storm was responsible, probably, for moving millions (and millions) of tons of detritus including logs, sand, gravel and rocks of all sizes miles downstream closer to the ocean. It was a "mass wasting spectacular", you might say, moving the mountains a little closer to the sea.

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