Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Drought Over

Not a figurative one, the literal one. It has been a very dry summer, on top of a winter last year where it barely snowed, and for a few months, those that are paid to monitor these sort of things were starting to become a little concerned about how dry it was around here. In the last few weeks, though, it has rained several times, and it has more or less rained constantly since about Friday afternoon here, with the forecast for the week ahead filled with "showers," "rain/snow," and "overcast." I think we are safely out of whatever concerns we might have been harboring.
Which is a relief. I do think about this sort of thing, a lot. Much of the country is dealing with drought in one form or another, and water is one of the few things that is an absolute necessity, not a luxury or a perceived necessity. And while it is fashionable for those that have left the area to find all sorts of reasons to not like upstate New York, one good thing about living here is that drought, for the length of my lifetime, has never been a concern here. Even long, hot, relatively dry summers in the past have never seriously impacted the quality of daily life here. I cannot recall there ever being any kind of restrictions on water usage here.
We have a relatively major river running through this city, fed by one of its primary tributaries as well. And even as dry as this past year has been, the level of both rivers never got to the point where any of its usual channel shrank. For much of the summer, you could see the bottom of the riverbed from the Court Street and Route 201 bridges, meaning the depth was around a foot or eighteen inches, and there was a sandbar exposed in the Susquehanna downtown near the Exchange Street Bridge. But there were never any calls for conservation, never any restrictions placed for water usage or anything. I watered my plants every day, and those that are so inclined watered their lawns, and no one said boo or needed to. Compared to the endemic and major problems in other areas of the country, it's an unheralded but very real blessing of living in this area.
The drought was a little more noticeable in surrounding areas. Ithaca, less than a hour away, is noted for a couple of waterfalls, and one of them slowed to a trickle this summer, leading to some angst in the tourist-driven community. But it's back to normal, and there was never any serious danger of major consequences. Agriculture was more or less normal all year; certainly all the produce I regularly eat was available and abundant, except for sugar plums, which are not a staple and are a bit of luxury/specialty item in the best of times. And my own garden was historically productive this year; I got cucumbers through September, summer squash into October, cherry tomato and strawberry growth bordering on pestilence, and am still getting wax beans and bell peppers late in October. Brussels sprouts are just coming into season, and while the actual sprouts are a little small, the plants themselves are huge...I work hard at maintaining my garden, so it's not all a function of weather. But it wouldn't have been a banner year if it had been super dry.
And while it was somewhat dry, it wasn't hell-hot here a lot, either. There were a few 90-plus degree days, but I don't think we ever approached triple digits this summer, a welcome change from past years. And I'm liking snow in the forecast, too. While snow is a bit of a pain in the ass to shovel, a snow pack in the hills and mountains is essential for both normal agriculture and, I am becoming increasingly convinced, for moderating temperatures in the spring. And this is the last year that I will have a child in school, and I hope she gets a few snow days to enjoy. I've fixed my garden box and the city repaved the entire street this year, so a lot of snow isn't going to be the hassle that it has been in past winters, too.
But even if it doesn't snow a lot, we're back to normal in the water table around here. If only the rest of the country could say the same.

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