Posts Tagged ‘Hurricane Irene’

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Facing the Storm: Preparing for Increased Extreme Weather

View from Bridge of HopeI attended a recent forum in Albany, Facing the Storm: Preparing for Increased Extreme Weather in Upstate New York, and wanted to pass along some of what I heard, or thought I heard. The event was sponsored by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government.

For a forum concerning the impacts of a changing climate the audience was unusually diverse in terms of backgrounds and professions. As a staff member for Adirondack Wild, I was sitting next to a firefighter from a village in Montgomery County. At the next table were other firefighters and emergency personnel in uniform.  Across from me were several members of the League of Women Voters.  Initially we all wondered if we were in the right meeting. I think by the end we realized what we all have in common. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, April 3, 2014

Ausable Flooding:
Smarter Culvert Designs Benefit Fish And People

Tropical Storm Irene Runoff CulvertMost people don’t think about culverts, the large pipes that carry streams and runoff underneath our roads. Even with their essential role in our transportation infrastructure, culverts tend to be in the spotlight only when they fail. In dramatic ways, Hurricane Irene and other recent storms have put culverts (and bridges) to the test. Unfortunately, the high water from these storms overwhelmed many culverts, washing out roads, causing millions of dollars in damages across the Adirondacks, and disrupting life in many communities. For example, the town of Jay sustained about $400,000 in damage to its culverts and adjacent roads as a result of Irene. Across the Northeast, the story is much the same.

Following Tropical Storm Irene, I was part of a team of conservation professionals to assess the performance of road-stream crossings (i.e., culverts and bridges) in Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest. The peer-reviewed study, published in the current issue of Fisheries, found that damage was largely avoided at crossings with a stream simulation design, an ecologically-based approach that creates a dynamic channel through the structure that is similar in dimensions and characteristics to the adjacent, natural channel. On the other hand, damages were extensive, costly, and inconvenient at sites with stream crossings following more traditional designs. » Continue Reading.



Monday, January 13, 2014

DEC Plans To Dismantle Marcy Dam

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen Tropical Storm Irene damaged Marcy Dam, draining most of the pond behind it, hikers debated passionately whether the dam should be rebuilt to restore an iconic vista enjoyed by tens of thousands of visitors over the years.

It looks like it won’t be.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation recently decided to dismantle the wooden dam in stages over the next five years.

DEC spokesman David Winchell said the cost of rebuilding the dam to modern standards would have been too costly and may have conflicted with the management principles for the High Peaks Wilderness Area. Those principles seek to minimize the presence of man-made structures. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, September 19, 2013

Johns Brook Stream Restoration Begins

Johns Brook Restorian 2013 - Photo by Corrie MillerWork has began this week on a stream and habitat restoration project at Johns Brook in Keene Valley. This first phase of restoration, addressing the lower third of the impacted reach, should be complete by the end of this month and is intended to speed the stream’s return to pre-Irene character and function, reduce bank erosion and improve wildlife habitat.

In the wake of Tropical Storm Irene in August of 2011, nearly half a mile of Johns Brook was dramatically altered by local officials from its natural state – from the Route 73 bridge upstream. The work was done in the spirit of public safety to remove stream blockages and protect property. Unfortunately, flattening (removing cascades and filling in pools) and straightening the stream channel reduced its ability to dissipate the water’s energy and the faster moving water causes additional flooding and erosion problems. Furthermore, the stream’s trout habitat was drastically diminished. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Slide Climbing: Dix Mountain’s Buttress Slide

Upper Dihedral of the Buttress SlideA spectacular white scar snakes 900 vertical feet down into the rugged defile of Hunters Pass on the west side of Dix Mountain. The Buttress Slide, triggered in 2011 by Tropical Storm Irene, adds to the multitude of slides already decorating the High Peaks. This diverse backcountry challenge begins just below the crest of Dix’s southwest buttress and wishbones into dual tracks about halfway down to the pass. The debris reaches with a few hundred feet of the marked trail.

I dare say it is one of the Adirondack’s most adventurous and difficult slides, one that bridges the gap between scrambling and fifth class climbing. If you’re comfortable with rock climbing, enjoy bushwhacking and are drawn to remote locations, perhaps this slide is for you. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Volunteer Now For “I Love My Park Day” on May 4th

ILoveMyPark_HPSlideVolunteers can now sign up for the second annual “I Love My Park Day” on May 4th – a statewide effort to help clean up and beautify New York’s state parks and historical sites. At last year’s event, thousands of New Yorkers pitched in to paint, plant, clean, build, and make repairs across the state.

This year’s volunteer effort is especially important as many parks are still recovering from damage caused by Hurricanes Sandy and Irene. New York’s parks are one of our state’s most treasured assets, and this event helps ensure that New Yorkers and visitors to our state can continue to enjoy and appreciate New York’s natural beauty.

To find an event near you and sign up, click here.



Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Peter Bauer: A Quick Update on Climate Change

WhatsAtStake-Climate-ActionWith a late spring snowfall, at least by the standards of the past few years, and with the nation focused on the showdown over President Obama’s looming decision on whether to greenlight the Keystone XL pipeline, this seems like a good time for a climate change update.

For starters here’s a cool graphic that shows the amount of carbon dioxide that has been released into the atmosphere to date, shows annual releases, and amounts that could be released that are currently stored in existing fossil fuel reserves. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, December 6, 2012

More Than A Year After Irene Some Trails Remain Closed

Adirondak Loj Road closed after Tropical Storm IreneMore than a year after Tropical Storm Irene wreaked havoc in the Adirondacks, two trails in the High Peaks Wilderness remain closed and several bridges are still out. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has no immediate plans to reopen the trails, but hikers can continue using them at their own risk, according to DEC spokesman David Winchell.

The trails in question are the Southside Trail along Johns Brook and the Cold Brook Pass Trail between Lake Colden and Indian Pass. Neither was ever especially well traveled.

“We’re not looking at doing anything with them right now,” Winchell said. “They’re on the back burner.” He added that DEC has not decided whether to permanently abandon the trails.
» Continue Reading.



Monday, October 29, 2012

Tracking Hurricane Sandy Into The Adirondacks

Hurricane Sandy is heading our way and is forecast to bring high wind and some heavy rain, especially to the southern half of the Adirondacks beginning this afternoon. Although summer camps are mostly buttoned-up and boats hauled for storage, year-round Adirondackers are preparing for power outages and the possibility for high water.

If history serves as a guide, this storm may change our landscape with downed trees, and maybe some new channels for rivers and streams, and a few landslides. Much of what happens depends on where the storm tracks and how long it remains overhead.  Here are a some of the best links to follow the storm as it rolls over the Adirondacks: » Continue Reading.



Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lake George West Brook Restoration Project Slated

This fall the Lake George Association will begin a project to stabilize a long section of streambank in the village of Lake George, on West Brook, which was severely eroded during last August’s Tropical Storm Irene. A $10,000 grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program is making the project possible. The project will also restore some of natural sinuosity of the stream to protect the streambanks in that section of the brook. Once complete, the project is expected to keep exposed sediment from further eroding into West Brook, and ultimately into Lake George.

“Because West Brook is one of the major tributaries to Lake George,” said LGA Project Manager Randy Rath, “it is a very high priority for us. In the last 30 plus years, the delta in Lake George at the end of West Brook is estimated to have grown to over 7000 square meters. We would like to limit as much additional growth as possible,” he continued. » Continue Reading.



Monday, March 26, 2012

Experts to Discuss Climate Change Responses

The Wild Center will host climate experts and authors of a recent New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) report on the State’s adaptation recommendations regarding “Responding to Climate Change in New York State” or “ClimAID” on Thursday, March 29, 2012.

Scientists will highlight pertinent findings of the ClimAID report and then Adirondack region scientists and members of the Adirondack Climate and Energy Action Plan (ADKCAP) network will discuss local efforts to prepare for and slow the changing climate.

The event coincides with the Association of Science and Technology Center’s (ASTC) participation in the international “Planet under Pressure” conference in London, where The Wild Center’s Executive Director, Stephanie Ratcliffe, a member of the ASTC board, will join the ClimAID event by Skype or phone to share the international perspective. The event will be streamed live on the Internet and light refreshments will be provided by The Wild Center.

NYSERDA’s new ClimAID report on responding to climate change in New York State says we’re likely to see more intense rainstorms that could flood roads and wastewater treatment plants, cause power outages, and disrupt telecommunications, inflicting the kinds of severe damage that Irene did last year. Repairs could be costly. So could business interruptions.

Protecting key features of the environment that contribute to flood control can help build resilience to future floods.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

You can learn more about how climate change may affect our region at The Wild Center’s March 29 ClimAID presentation on Thursday, March 29, 2012 from 10:00 am to noon and other upcoming ADKCAP/NYSERDA ClimAID discussions.

The ClimAID presentation will be held in the Flammer Theater, The Wild Center, 45 Museum Drive, in Tupper Lake.

The presentation will be streamed live here.



Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Funding Restored for 18 Champlain Basin Streamgages

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have announced that they have secured funding to prevent the imminent shutdown of 18 United States Geological Survey (USGS) river and lake gauges in the Lake Champlain basin. Those gauges – nine in Vermont and nine in New York – were seen as vital to communities impacted by last year’s spring floods and during Tropical Storm Irene. The funding has been secured through the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC).

Even before the storms of 2011, however, the USGS gauging network in New York was threatened under earlier rounds of budget cuts. These 18 gauges, plus several more around New York and Vermont, were to be shut down in less than two months, on March 1.

For years Leahy, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has secured year-to-year funding for the 18 Champlain Basin gauges, but budget cuts this year closed the traditional funding stream. Last month the Leahy and Schumer wrote to the GLFC and to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar requesting the funding. In a prepared statement the senators said the influx will keep these gauges operating while buying time to work on long-term funding solutions for the monitoring network. Leahy chairs the Appropriations Committee panel that oversees the GLFC budget and previously fought to have Lake Champlain come under the purview of the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission.

The gauges are considered important for ongoing water quality control monitoring and improvements, recreational boaters and paddlers, and as lifesaving tools when flooding threatens. Half of the gauges slated for shut-down have been identified by the National Weather Service as important for their flood forecasting work. Some streamgages have been operational since the early 1900s; the gauge just upstream from the Route 22 bridge over the Boquet, for instance, has been recording since 1923.

In New York, the gauges that will benefit from the funding are:

Clinton County

· Great Chazy River at Perry Mills

· Little Chazy River near Chazy

· Salmon River at South Plattsburgh

· Little Ausable River near Valcour

· Ausable River near AuSable Forks

Essex County

· Bouquet River at Willsboro

· Putnam Creek east of Crown Point Center

Washington County

· Lake Champlain north of Whitehall

· Mettawee River near Middle Granville



Monday, January 9, 2012

Phil Brown: Do Dams Belong in Wilderness Areas?

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has decided against rebuilding the dam at Duck Hole, but the future of Marcy Dam in the High Peaks Wilderness remains up in the air.

The decision won’t be made until after engineers inspect the dam, and it will be based in part on the condition of the dam and how much it would cost to fix it.

Aside from these practical considerations, there is a philosophical question: do dams belong in Wilderness Areas at all?

In the January/February issue of the Adirondack Explorer, I report that there are at least four other dams in Wilderness Areas: at Lake Colden and Henderson Lake in the High Peaks Wilderness, at Cedar Lakes in the West Canada Lake Wilderness, and at Pharaoh Lake in the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness. That was based on DEC’s inventory of dams in the Forest Preserve, but there may be more. For example, someone e-mailed me recently that there is a dam at Moose Pond in the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness.

The Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan defines a Wilderness Area as a region “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man.” The document forbids the construction of new dams but does permit existing dams to be rebuilt with natural materials.

A DEC policy manual seems to take a stronger position against dams in Wilderness Areas, asserting that in most cases they should be removed when they become unsafe or need to be replaced or reconstructed. Nevertheless, policy provides several loopholes for keeping a dam, such as maintaining a fishery, preserving a view, or providing recreation.

The view of the surrounding mountains from Marcy Dam is one of the iconic vistas in the Adirondacks. Clearly, DEC could justify rebuilding the dam under its policy. But should it?

Christopher Amato, who until recently had been DEC’s assistant commissioner for natural resources, contends that no dams should be rebuilt in Wilderness Areas.

“Either you be true to the definition of Wilderness and not rebuild the dam or if the dam is that important you reclassify the area as something else,” Amato told the Adirondack Explorer.

But Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, told the Explorer that he thinks Marcy Dam should be repaired. “For many New Yorkers, that classic beauty at Marcy Dam is their Adirondacks,” he said. “It serves so many New Yorkers that I feel it is justified.”

Regardless of whether DEC rebuilds Marcy Dam, it does intend to build a bridge across Marcy Brook, either at the dam or another location.

Tropical Storm Irene damaged the dams at the Duck Hole and Marcy Dam Pond and forced DEC to confront these questions now. But the same questions eventually will arise when other dams in Wilderness Areas fall into disrepair. Indeed, the questions can be raised about dams in Wild Forest Areas as well. After all, the state constitution requires that the entire Preserve “shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.” Altogether, there are about fifty dams on the Forest Preserve, according to DEC’s inventory.

Click here to read the full story on dams in the Preserve. Then let us know what you think: should Marcy Dam be repaired? What should be done with other dams in the Forest Preserve?

Incidentally, the photo above is from the 1930s. It shows what Duck Hole looked like before the dam was built and presumably what it might look like again in a few years.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine and writes its Outtakes blog.



Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011: Recalling A Year Of Adirondack Weather

It’s been quite a year for Adirondack weather. As we head into winter proper with recent warm temperatures and little snow on the ground, it’s worth looking back on this year’s weather highlights. A good place to start is with the Almanack‘s resident naturalist Tom Kalinowski’s predictions for what kind of winter he thought we’d have. Turns out, Tom was more correct in his prediction than the National Weather Service, both Farmers Almanacs, whooly bears, and wasps. When it comes to predicting this winter’s weather, so far, so good Tom.

Last year, after a somewhat dry early start, winter deep snows beginning in mid-January and February proved a boon for mice, and a struggle for whitetail deer.

For a while in late March, it seemed the snow might last through summer. Phil Brown climbed the Colden Trap Dike in still deep snow and Dan Crane was musing about the arrival of mud season, when the spring floods arrived.

At the time, we counted ourselves lucky that a string of warm weather had meant that most river ice had gone out, ending the threat of ice jams. But waters were already high and the ground saturated when heavy rains and even warmer weather arrived in late April. The resulting devastating floods forced all the region’s major rivers and eventually Lake Champlain above flood stage. More than 75 roads were closed due to roads and bridge collapses and major flooding forced evacuations along the Hudson, Schroon, Ausable, Bouquet, Saranac, and Raquette Rivers, and along Mill Brook in Moriah, which was particularly hard hit.

The floods were followed by a generally wet summer that had Dan Crane proclaiming “The Year of the Mosquito“, but the summer wore on with two minor earthquakes and rains that contributed to what was already the state’s largest land slide on record in Keene>. The worst weather of the year was yet to arrive.

In late August when the Department of Environment Conservation (DEC) closed the region’s campgrounds and warned that the approaching Hurricane Irene had the potential to cause massive damage and warned people to stay out of the woods, some were skeptical. That warning proved correct, however, as Irene reached the eastern High Peaks. The Almanack reported on the approaching storm (1, 2), and the by now well-recounted results (1, 2).

Irene left behind a changed landscape, isolated communities, disastrous flash flooding and historic damage to local infrastructure, homes, businesses, roads, bridges, and trails. In the backcountry, dozens of new slides were created or extended, and Duck Hole Dam (1, 2) and Marcy Dam were breached.

Thankfully, we had a quiet fall of clean-up. And although the warm start to winter has extended the opportunity to rebuild, repair, and rest, it has been a tough year for local businesses that rely on snow, particularly the region’s ski facilities.

Of course, the big question on the minds of many is whether or not climate change is to blame for the dramatic weather we’ve been seeing. This past weekend the New York Times reported that scientists are struggling to answer that question definitively, in part thanks to Republican climate change deniers. Even without coordinated and funded federal studies however, the evidence is beginning to mount.

“For instance, scientists have long expected that a warming atmosphere would result in fewer extremes of low temperature and more extremes of high temperature,” the Times reported. “In fact, research shows that about two record highs are being set in the United States for every record low, and similar trends can be detected in other parts of the world.” The paper also noted an increase in atmospheric moisture leading to heavier storms, and more snowfall and rain.

So as we await the heart of the winter season, my eyes are on Tom Kalinowski’s prediction for what’s to come: “minimal amounts of snowfall into mid January. Normal to slightly above normal temperatures for the rest of the winter with above normal amounts of snowfall.”

What do you think?

Photo: A snowmobile sits in flood waters on the Schroon River in Chestertown in early May, 2011. Photo by John Warren.



Thursday, December 15, 2011

ACT Taking New Applications for Flood Relief

The Special and Urgent Needs (SUN) Fund at the Adirondack Community Trust (ACT) is now offering grants of up to $2,500 to nonprofit organizations serving the needs of victims of Tropical Storm Irene.

Immediately following the disaster on August 28, generous and caring people from across the country began sending gifts and holding events to raise funds for people in the Adirondacks who suffered damages. Donations to the Keene Flood Recovery Fund and the Jay Irene Flood Relief Fund at ACT have already been transformed into more than 120 grants averaging $3,000 that went directly to people, businesses and nonprofits. The flow of donated funds to people in need continues, especially important as cold weather sets in.

“The SUN Fund expands our ability to help and gives donors a way to contribute more broadly, across the entire Adirondack range of the storm,” said ACT Board Member Nancy Keet. “We hope nonprofits will apply for these funds right away, so we can turn donor contributions into grants that do the work they were meant to do.” The difference between the SUN Fund and the Keene and Jay funds at ACT is that the SUN Fund makes grants to charitable nonprofits and the Keene and Jay funds make grants to individuals. This grant offer from the SUN Fund includes nonprofits in Keene and Jay.

Any 501c3 nonprofit working to address the ongoing needs of people in the areas hit by the storm is encouraged to apply for funds. Applications from nonprofits that suffered damages to their facilities are also welcome. A grant application can be found on ACT’s website, generousact.org, or by emailing info@generousact.org. ACT will respond to an application within three weeks.

“ACT has been able to get funds into the hands of those in need very quickly,” said Cali Brooks, ACT Executive Director. “Dedicated volunteers in Keene and Jay have bhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifeen reviewing individuals’ applications rapidly, so that ACT can move funds toward people without delay. Applications for SUN Fund grants to nonprofits will be reviewed with the same alacrity by the ACT Grants Committee.”

Giving to these flood relief funds continues. Many people are including flood recovery in their holiday and year-end giving plans. Visit generousact.org or call ACT’s office 518-523-9904 for information on how to give.

Image NASA/NOAA GOES project



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Project to Record Keene and Jay Memories of Irene

Burlington College students, under the direction of their instructor, Adirondack Almanack editor John Warren, will conduct Oral History interviews to record the Tropical Storm Irene stories of Jay and Keene residents on Saturday, December 3rd, at the Keene Community Center, (8 Church Street, in Keene), between 10 and 4 pm. The public is invited to share their stories; the resulting oral histories will be added to the collections of the Adirondack Museum.

Participants can schedule a time on December 3, or walk-in anytime between 10 am and 4 pm. It will only be necessary to spend about 15-20 mins at the Community Center where participants will be asked a number of questions about their experiences with Irene and will be provided an opportunity to tell the stories they think are important to remember about the events of this past late-summer.

To schedule your participation contact John Warren via e-mail at jnwarrenjr@gmail.com or call (518) 956-3830. The public is invited. Walk-ins are welcome.



Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Phil Brown: USGS Streamgages Under Threat

One of the more amazing statistics to emerge from Tropical Storm Irene was that the East Branch of the Ausable crested at 18.43 feet in Ausable Forks—three feet higher than the previous record and more than eleven feet above flood stage. The river’s flow peaked at fifty thousand cubic feet per second, a hundred times greater than normal.

Just a few months after the record storm, the U.S. Geological Survey is warning that it will be forced to discontinue most of the streamgages in the Lake Champlain basin on March 1 unless funding can be found to keep them going.

Throughout New York State, the USGS plans to discontinue thirty-one gages, including nine in or near the Adirondack Park. (The USGS uses the spelling “gages” rather than “gauges.”)

The gage that measured the record crest on the East Branch of the Ausable is not on the chopping block, not yet anyway. However, one nearby that is at risk has been in operation for more than eighty years, longer than any of other gages scheduled to be discontinued.

“We’ve got eighty-two years of records at this site. It is important for determining how flows are changing over time,” said Ward Freeman, director of the USGS New York Water Science Center in Troy. The center’s website contains real-time data from rivers throughout the state.

Streamgages measure the height and flow of rivers. Data are used to predict floods, calculate nutrient pollution, assess conditions for paddling, and determine when it’s appropriate to put lampricide in tributaries of Lake Champlain.

John Sheehan, spokesman for the Adirondack Council, warned that without stream data, riverside communities will find it more difficult to protect themselves. “We won’t know what the changes in a river’s height and volume are, and as a result we can’t plan for flooding events,” he said.

In the past, many gages were funded through congressional earmarks, but lawmakers eliminated the earmarks a few years ago to save money, Freeman said. He added that the USGS needs $134,000 to keep the nine North Country gauges operational. (Each gage costs about $15,000 a year to operate and maintain.)

Eight of the gages are on rivers that feed Lake Champlain. Besides the Ausable, they are the Great Chazy, Little Ausable, Salmon, Boquet, Mettawee, and Putnam Creek. The ninth is on a narrow part of Lake Champlain itself near Whitehall.

Gages on another dozen rivers in Vermont that feed Lake Champlain also are scheduled to be shut down. Four others were discontinued in October.

This year, USGS was able to keep the gages on Lake Champlain tributaries running only after obtaining financial assistance from the Lake Champlain Basin Program. Freeman said he hopes the Lake Champlain organization and other interested parties can come up with money again.

“We’re going to do all we can to save these gages,” Freeman said.

Eric Howe, a technical coordinator for the basin program, said the non-profit organization will do everything it can to keep the gages operational, but it’s too early to tell if the group will have enough funds. Last year it spent about $150,000 to keep the gages running.

“The gages were extremely important during Tropical Storm Irene,” Howe said. “They helped us see what the tributaries were doing in the flooding.”

Thanks to a gage on the Winooski River, he said, farmers were able to round up volunteers to harvest crops in advance of floods.

Freeman is asking those willing to contribute funding for the gages to call him or Rob Breault at 518-285-5658 or email dc_ny@usgs.gov.

Click here to read the Adirondack Explorer’s comprehensive coverage of Tropical Storm Irene.

Photo by Ken Aaron: a high-water line near Ausable Forks.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Phil Brown: Quantifying Irene

How much rain fell during Tropical Storm Irene? Seems like an easy question, but it’s not.

The National Weather Service relies on volunteers to collect rainfall, and given the variance in rainfall and the finite number of volunteers, there are bound to be gaps in the data record.

For the current issue of the Adirondack Explorer, Nancy Bernstein created a rainfall map based on the Weather Service’s own maps. It shows that more than seven inches of rain fell in Keene, Jay, and Au Sable Forks. But how much more? The Explorer’s publisher, Tom Woodman, measured eleven inches at his home in Keene.

The map indicates that six to seven inches fell in Keene Valley. But a worker at Johns Brook Lodge, a few miles away, collected thirteen inches in a bucket. Admittedly, a bucket might not be the most accurate rain gauge, but if we assume it provided an overestimate, we must also take into account that the bucket was not deployed for the entirety of the storm.

And there were no rain gauges on top of the High Peaks, where some of the heaviest rain might have fallen.

These uncertainties notwithstanding, we thought it would be interesting to calculate how much water Irene dumped in the Ausable River watershed, where most of the flooding occurred. The number we came up with (it appears in the new issue of the Explorer) was sixty-two billion gallons—enough to fill Stillwater Reservoir one and a half times.

For our calculation, we assumed that an average of seven inches of rain fell in the watershed. Given the data available, that seemed like a reasonable—and conservative—estimate.

The rest is basic arithmetic. Each inch of rain amounts to twenty-seven thousand gallons of water per acre. The Ausable River watershed encompasses 512 square miles, or 327,680 acres. And so we have:

• 27,000 gallons per acre x 7 = 189,000 gallons per acre.

• 189,000 gallons per acre x 327,680 acres = 61,931,520,000 gallons.

As mentioned, sixty-two billion gallons exceeds the capacity of the nine-mile-long Stillwater Reservoir. By way of another comparison, it’s estimated that Lake George, the biggest lake wholly within the Adirondack Park, contains 550 billion gallons of water.

Once all this water funneled down the valleys of the mountains into brooks and then rivers, it created enormous destruction. We’ve all seen the pictures of damaged houses, cratered highways, piles of trees, and fields of mud. Numbers provide another way for understanding the power of moving water unleashed by Irene.

At its peak, the Ausable’s flow rate was at least fifty thousand cubic feet per second, according to Andy Nash, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Burlington. Normally, its flow rate is three hundred to five hundred cubic feet per second. So during Irene, the river’s flow was more than a hundred times greater than normal.

Nash pointed out that the Mississippi River, as it passes St. Louis, has a flow rate of one hundred thousand cubic feet per second. During the peak of Irene, then, the Ausable was equivalent to half the Mississippi.

The latest Explorer includes thirteen pages devoted to Irene. The following stories are available online:

The Big Rain is an overview of the storm.

Shaking off the storm is about the resilience of businesses and residents who were hit hardest by Irene.

New slide guide describes hikes up five of the slides created by Irene.

In the wake of the flood is Tom Woodman’s poignant account of the damage to the library in Upper Jay.

Rainfall map by Nancy Bernstein.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Adirondack Backcountry Skiing Season Preview

“More monster snowstorms in the Northeast?”

So asks the headline on AccuWeather’s website. And the answer appears to be yes.

AccuWeather says the La Nina effect means the Midwest and much of the Northeast can expect a cold and snowy winter. Paul Pastelok, a meteorologist with the weather-forecasting service, predicts that arctic air blowing across the Great Lakes will generate above-normal lake-effect snowfalls.

“Overall, precipitation is expected to be above normal throughout most of the Northeast from January into February,” according to AccuWeather. “With the exception of northern parts of New York and New England, temperatures are forecast to average near normal for the winter season.”

So if you put any stock in long-range forecasts, this could be a great winter for backcountry skiing.

Even if they don’t believe the weatherman, backcountry skiers have something to look forward to this winter: new terrain.

In August, Tropical Storm Irene created or lengthened more than a dozen slides in the High Peaks, many of which should provide exciting skiing for those with the requisite skills and gear.

A big caveat: slides can and do avalanche. In 2000, a skier died in an avalanche on a slide on Wright Peak. Avalanches have occurred elsewhere in the Adirondacks as well, usually triggered by skiers, snowshoers, or ice climbers. Slide skiers should carry a beacon, probe, and shovel and know how to use them. And they should know how to gauge avalanche potential.

So far, I have climbed only five of the new slides, those on Wright, Cascade, Saddleback, Little Colden, and Colden. Click here to read about them in the new issue of the Adirondack Explorer.

Two slides that are likely to get skied a lot are on Wright Peak and Lower Wolf Jaw.

The one on Wright scoured a streambed that can be followed to a steep headwall. The streambed also will facilitate access to the nearby Angel Slides, where the skier died in 2000. Skiers will be able to bag the Angel Slides and the new slide in one outing. The streambed is reached by a short bushwhack from Marcy Dam. The new slide is a mile long.

Bennies Brook Slide on Lower Wolf Jaw has long been a popular ski destination. In the past, skiers followed a path through the woods to reach the slide. Irene extended the slide all the way to the Southside Trail and Johns Brook. With the easier access and additional terrain, Bennies will be more popular than ever.

Irene also has affected some popular trails used by backcountry skiers. Most noteworthy is that floods caused by the storm washed away the bridge at Marcy Dam.Skiers who started at Adirondak Loj used the bridge en route to Mount Marcy or Avalanche Lake. Thanks to Irene, they will have to cross the frozen pond (now largely a mudflat) or approach the dam via the Marcy Dam Truck Trail instead of the trail from the Loj.

The bridge at the start of the Klondike Notch Trail also was washed away. Skiers can still reach the trail by skiing up the Marcy Dam Truck Trail and turning left onto the Mr. Van Trail.

The Adirondack Ski Touring Council reports that Irene did minimal damage to the Jackrabbit and other ski trails maintained by the council. Repairs are scheduled to be made this fall.

Photo of Bennies Brook Slide by Carl Heilman II.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.



Saturday, October 8, 2011

Ausable River Restoration Walk and Talk

Carl Schwartz, US Fish and Wildlife Service and John Braico, NYS Trout Unlimited will lead a walk of the Ausable River on October 24 focused on rebuilding and repairing streams effected by flooding. Funds recently secured by the Ausable River Association (AsRA) for restoring tributaries damaged during Irene flooding are being considered for allocation.

Both Schwartz and Braico have worked extensively throughout New York to repair rivers and restore aquatic habitat. Schwartz works actively on river restoration projects and operates an excavator to build natural channels.

The Ausable River Association and the Essex County Soil and Water Conservation District are inviting and encouraging Citizens, Town Council members, Town DPWs, County DPW, DOT, DEC, and NonGovernmental Organizations to attend.

Date: October 24, 10 AM; Meet at the mouth of John’s Brook at the Rt. 73 bridge in Keene Valley; 2 PM Meet at the Gazebo in Ausable Forks.

For more information, contact the Ausable River Association.



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