Tag Archives: flood

Spilling Terminus Dam


Road closures everywhere, San Joaquin Valley flooded, haven’t left Dry Creek Rd. for a week. Glad we’re on higher ground.  3.5″ more forecast Sunday thru Friday next week.

I am reminded of Christmas Eve, 1955.  Much to my father’s chagrin and contrary to his good judgement, we celebrated with my mother’s parents, Dorothy and Floyd Cutler in Green Acres, Visalia.  Mill Creek ran beside the home and we all took turns watching it rise on the concrete steps leading up from their garage.  When it was time to leave, my Dad carried us three kids and Christmas presents through 3 feet of water to the car, then got the ’53 Buick stuck.  My grandfather hooked on to it with his Studebaker pickup and we drove back to Exeter through the swamps (Lovers Lane to Anderson Road) on the two-lane highway in two plus feet of water (Kaweah River before the Terminus Dam), wincing every time we met another vehicle’s wake in the headlights.  




The creek-flood bears no malice

as it carves its way to a flatland war

unearthing trees and buried cobbles


of past centuries—laying waste

to man’s old and new improvements.

It cares no more than the clouds and rain


that feed its energy, its violence

and its thunderous roar.  Nor does it

bestow charity to soothe our minds


and flesh—it has no agenda, no noble

purpose nor dishonorable motives.

It just is what it always has been.




I still call it “the Swamp”

where thirsty Valley Oaks

centuries-old shed their limbs

among barkless skeletons,

bleached bones like flesh

waiting to fall into the next life.


Half-mile across on Christmas Eve,

1955, the Kaweah flowed to the doors

of our ’53 Buick—headlights

diving into oncoming wakes

like Captain Nemo’s submarine.


Not free to run when it wants,

we have held the river up

in the hills for sixty winters,

only to let it run all at once

across the Valley to irrigate

orchards and summer crops—

no kids fishing from shady banks

a lazy river recharging wells.


We can’t fill the dams we have,

yet cotton trailer billboards suggest

that dams can make more water

without looking to the sky.




Dark theater, gentle applause
spreads from roof to balcony
beginning the Gig of the Decade

                    Janis Joplin at the Shrine,
                    all-electric, deafening wails
                    of agony and fury released

to storm the canyon, swell the creek
with memories: every rig hip-deep
in a frappé of clay, a daisy chain
of pickups and winches leapfrogging,
churning chocolate pudding
to the asphalt, warm woodstove
and loud whiskey replays
of how we learned the hard way.

                    Big Brother’s tuning-up
                    behind the black curtain,
                    yellow and green stage left
                    on the radar as we wait.


YouTube: ‘Maybe’


Rain & Flood Advisory




With ample warnings from various sources, we’ve been preparing for more rain. Wednesday and Thursday brought 1.5” here on Dry Creek which peaked @ 233 cfs Wednesday night—all quite tame—so far. The ground was saturated after 5” of rain in December, a third of our average annual rainfall, and most all of what may be coming our way will end up as runoff.

The byword all week has been ‘atmospheric river’ with various amounts of rain forecast for the next ten days that range from 5-15”. Low snow levels in our Sierra Nevada mountains down to 4,000’ from the last storm, now await a large warm storm slated to arrive tomorrow morning and last through Monday with rain up to an elevation of 9,000’, bringing the real risk of some downstream flooding.

Though the high-end rainfall projections may be hearsay from the local doughnut shop, they spark memories of past years when we weren’t able to cross Dry Creek for weeks. Speculating beyond that is unnecessary, but the beekeeper who parks his hives along the creek for the winter moved them all to higher ground last night.

What we do know is that the Dry Creek channel is laden with deadfall since the last four years of drought, with many dead-standing oaks and sycamores along its banks. The last channel-cleaning was in 1997 when Dry Creek peaked near 7,000 cfs and tipped the brush catchers over across from the house. We can be sure that every barbwire watergap between neighbors and pastures will be gone, cattle free to graze the canyon from Badger to Lemon Cove and points beyond.

This morning we’ll be cleaning gutters and culverts, testing the backup generator, and ensuring that our cows and calves, that have yet to be branded, won’t be trapped on the wrong side of the creek. It may be one of those years when the calves are big and help from the neighbors hard to come by, but we’re all in the same boat—launching tomorrow.