Hello out there. Not surprisingly, it’s been quite a few months since our last blog post. 2014 was an eventful and extremely busy year on our farm, kicked off in May with the birth of our second child. If you are ever considering running a farm and starting a family, let me counsel you to avoid a spring birthday if at all possible… We had no major crises, food was grown, harvested, and delivered in greater volume than ever before, and both our kids are thriving, but let me just say that I’m looking forward to 2015 being a year where we are able to think more than 8 hours ahead at any given moment.
So, that was 2014. What about the start of 2015? Well, we got to start out the new year with one heck of a flood. The Snoqualmie River breached its banks on January 5th after a period of intense rain and high freezing levels. When storms like this fall as snow, all is well, but when this much rain falls high in the mountains of our watershed, flooding is inevitable. As it turned out, this was the 10th largest flood ever recorded at the gauge just upstream from us, and only three feet below the all-time record flood, which occurred in January of 2009.
Our farm is fairly well set up to deal with these large floods. We have a small “farm pad” where we can store some (but not all) of our tractors, vehicles, and other equipment. The area in and around our barns is also pretty high (mind you, 6″ makes a big difference here), but we had never witnessed a flood of this size and were not sure whether we’d see water in the barns or not. Our driveway is lower than the area around our houses and barns, so we get trapped on the farm in even a relatively small flood. This makes it tricky to deal with the vehicles and equipment that won’t fit on our farm pad. Our very wonderful neighbors allow us to store our farmstand and other trailers on their property up out of the floodplain, but to get the trailers there means Jason towing them behind our tractor on a major thoroughfare…. four round trips to get them all out. When we see a forecast for a flood of this size, we have to make a call about whether to haul these things out. Sometimes NOAA forecasts big events a couple days out, but 12 hours later the model corrects and we just get a small flood. Preparing for floods requires a balance between trusting the forecast, but being ready to ramp up the effort if the model adjusts the peak upward…. it’s quite thrilling.
In this particular event, the forecasting model that NOAA uses to predict floods did an outstanding job. Here in our section of the valley, the floodwaters rose exactly as high as we expected, based on the research we have done about past floods of this height. We did decide to pull our trailers up to high ground, so Jason got to add a touch of rural character to some folks’ evening commute… but it turned out that we could have left them in the barns where we had them stored. Our barns stayed high and dry, along with about 1.5 acres immediately around our house. All told, we estimate about 77 of our 80 acres were under water at the height of the flood. In some places the water was probably 8 feet deep. There are some places on our farm where the water flows swiftly as it breaches the river bank and rapidly flows toward low ground, following the path of least resistance. Where these flows occur seem to change with the height of the flood – flow pattern shifts as the river rises higher and finds new channels to travel. Check out the photos below for a farmers-eye view of the flood: