Baby it’s wet outside!
February 20, 2019
Normally at this time of year I would be reminding folks to water trees if we haven't had significant precipitation. Watering now would be an exercise in futility. I'm writing this after 24 inches of snow fell at our house, then 3 to 5 inches of rain, followed by another inch of snow, with no end in sight. The good news is our plants are deeply watered. The bad news is I might have to crawl under the house to turn on the sump pump. Worse news would be if the creek overflows with all the runoff.
This is our third heavy rain on deep snow event in a little more than 30 years. One was two years ago and another in 1997. I can't remember the date for the first one. Each one seems to be more intense and all have occurred in January or February. The most recent snowfall at Tahoe left feet of snow during each storm, just like before the previous flood events. Then, the weather warmed up and it rained heavily, not only here in the valley, but also in the mountains. This is also like the previous events. Two years ago, we had 12 to 14 inches of water under the house as did most of our neighbors, because the fields to the west of us poured melting snow and rainwater down the ditches that drain to our creek. The volume of water flowing towards our house almost overwhelmed the creek banks. I'm hoping the creek doesn't rise to dangerous levels this time.
When the ground is saturated, water can't infiltrate, which can cause it to collect under the house or back up into the house and flood the driveway. With the addition of extreme winds to this wet sloppy mix, there's a whole different challenge. Strong winds blow water in through the base of the windows. I have towels in every window and I have to change them every hour or so. I feel like a pioneer sometimes.
At least with the warmer weather, I no longer had to gently lift the snow off my dwarf Alberta spruce, fondly known as "Conehead," to prevent branches breaking. The 6-foot icicles and 2 feet of snow melted from the roof. But now it's snowing again.
All the water should be good for tree health, unless trees stand in water and drown. Are these extreme storms due to climate change? I don't know.
JoAnne Skelly is associate professor and Extension educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.