Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Video of the Ipswich River Flood 2010

Again, as promised, here's a video of the flooding at the EBSCO/Sylvania dam in downtown Ipswich, MA. The first half is from the west bank and the second is from the east bank looking right back at where I shot the first half. The photos I put up yesterday are OK, but to really feel the power of nearly 4,000 cubic feet per second of water rushing past you really need to see, and hear, the river in motion:

For those of you not familiar with this spot, the Ipswich River is usually a peaceful river winding through the North Shore at about 200-400 cfs. This dam is a drop of at least six feet if not more and at late summer low-flow I've seen kids actually walking across it. Not something you'd want to attempt right now.

According to the USGS gauge the water seems to have crested about 6 AM this morning, which is good. A lot of my neighbors in the "alley" are pumping out their basements, but we seem to have been spared :)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ipswich River Flood 2010 Photos

As promised in last night's post, I took a walk around town today and can now bring you some photos of the flooding. According to the USGS gauge at 6 PM this evening the river was at 9.85 feet and running at 3,840 cubic feet per second. That's a lot of water. "Normal" stream flow for March is 300 cfs. Click any photo to enlarge.

For comparison purposes, the photo to the left is of the herring ladder right at the EBSCO dam. It was taken last March 18th at "normal" flow. The photo to the right was taken today. I just hope the water recedes before herring counts start on April 1st! Notice the approximate six feet of clearance from the water surface to the bottom of the foot bridge at the top of the photo on the left, and the lack of clearance on the right.

Looking towards EBCSO Publishing right at the dam. The dam starts at the end of the causeway on the left.

Standing on the footbridge looking right at the dam, there should be a significant drop where now there's just a wave.

Standing on the Choate Bridge

Standing on the west bank looking downstream at the footbridge.

The parking lot behind Zumi's. The river's normal channel runs at least 20 feet behind that shed.

Playing in the flooded parking lot

Another one of EBSCO's buildings just before the dam, the water isn't usually right up to the bricks.

I shot some great videos which I'll download later tonight and get up for you. You can't really feel the power of the river until you see if in motion and hear the sound. Luckily our basement is still dry even though we're only 100 feet from the river. The last time our house got soggy the water level went over 10 feet, hopefully we'll just squeak by with this flood....

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ipswich River Flood Stage

In May of 2006 the Ipswich River north of Boston, MA, reached a flow of 4520 cubic feet per second, higher than any gauge reading since records have been kept. Most of downtown Ipswich went underwater, including our basement. It was a unique situation where an already saturated water table was then hit with a week of solid rain.

In this photo, taken by my husband during the 2006 flood, there should be a dam with a significant drop. You can see the "bump" to the left where the water is going over the dam. The EBSCO publishing building in the background had about five feet of water in it and old copies of periodicals floating all around.

A similar scenario happened again this past weekend. Anyone living in New England went through a massive nor'easter at the end of February. Winds topped 80 miles and hour and damage was comparable to a category two hurricane. There was a lot of rain but rivers stayed within their banks, although the Ipswich River did hit its seven foot flood stage, topping off at 7.09 feet (you can see the peak from February 28th/29th to the right, click graph for the most recent USGS data).

Then this past Saturday it started to rain, again. More than four inches were predicted. This morning I heard on New England Cable News that Topsfield, MA, (one town upstream from mine) received ten inches of rain in the past two days. TEN INCHES! There was no way the Ipswich River was not going to flood.

I'm headed off to bed in a minute with my sump pump plugged in, float switch ready to trigger it on if needed. The sump pit is full of water but the gravel floor is dry...for now. The river is at 8.5 feet, you can see it in the graph above updated by the US Geologic Survey at 6 PM tonight. The river went over ten feet in the 2006 floods, so we'll see what morning brings.

On the bright side, the sun is supposed to come out tomorrow and all this rain gave Lizzie and me an excuse to wear our matching ladybug boots. A big promise to bring you all photos of the flooding tomorrow, hopefully the sun will be out and the light will be good...and we'll still be high enough and dry.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lizzie's chickadee nest box

When I moved up to Ipswich, MA, four years ago there was a bird nest box already hanging from the neighbor's Eastern Red Cedar. My husband can't quite remember who put it there, possibly his old roommate, but either way the box hung on our side of the fence and I have adopted it.

In the four springs I've lived here I've never bothered to clean it out, which I know is an important thing to do if you want to have healthy birds nesting in it. Last year was the first year I really paid attention to the box and I caught an adult chickadee exiting it many times. I knew someone must be using it, but I never looked inside, not wanting to disturb a potential nest.

A few days ago my toddler and I were doing a yard clean up (well, I was raking and she was sprawled on her stomach, completely covered in dirt, digging in my veggie raised bed with her bare hands, she totally takes after me) and I noticed the box had fallen in the wind storm the New England coast went through a few weeks ago. Meteorologists say we had winds up to 80 miles an hour and damage equivalent to a category two hurricane.

I picked up the box, located the chain buried in last year's leaves and carefully pulled off the bottom sliding piece of wood. Inside was a wondrous site, click to enlarge:

The old nest fell out in two pieces. The bottom half was soft sphagnum moss most likely collected from a few houses away where my neighbor has a patch of it along the river. The moss layer was an inch thick. Did it start as a tiny piece and grow in there? Four years of not cleaning it out could I suppose grow moss that thick.

The top layer was the nest, a little cup mostly made of animal hair. The neighbors who own the cedar tree have an enormous, friendly, shaggy, golden retriever named Baker. I have a feeling a lot of that hair is his.

I pointed out all the parts of the nest to my 17-month-old who has far too many words for her own good. As I hung the box back up in the cedar tree she ran around in circles screaming "BIRD NEST BIRD NEST BIRD NEST!!!"

Just this morning over her sippy cup of milk and my mug of coffee, which we always drink in a big chair looking out at our bird feeder and the nest box, we saw a chickadee going into the box. I'm not sure she could see it so I told her a chickadee went in her nest box. An hour later we went outside to play and she ran over and said "Chick-chee bird nest?" "I sure hope so, and you can take care of it" I told her, and she laughed. Having one's own little nature pupil is the best thing in the world.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Where is your milk from?

A friend showed me a very cool website yesterday, For any of you in the US who are trying to purchase more locally produced food, or who are just curious about where the cows who made your milk are from, this website is for you!

It's super easy. All you have to do is find the code on the side of your milk (or yogurt, cheese, cream, ice cream, etc.) container and enter it into the milk box on the website. Most codes are easy to find, they're usually right next to the sell-by date. The one on my box of The Organic Cow milk reads 36-4016. So I entered 36 4016 (no dash) into the site and it spit this factory out at me:

The code for New York, the site tells me, is 36, the first two numbers in the series on the box. I'm a little disappointed since The Organic Cow claims to be "New England's Original Organic Milk" it says so right on the carton. But, last time I checked, Elma, NY, was not in New England. In fact it's about 482 miles away by truck from Ipswich, MA!

My family doesn't follow a strict 100 mile diet but we do like to try to buy food from New England, since it's a pretty small area of the country and is a good limit to focus on.

This doesn't mean I'm going to stop buying the Organic Cow all together, but I'll definitely be entering codes from other organic milk products I can find into to help me make better decisions when I shop. A little code cheat sheet for fellow New Englanders out there:

25 = Massachusetts
23= Maine
44=Rhode Island
33= New Hampshire

I'm going to try to stick with those numbers!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Health care hypocrisy: Sarah Palin went to Canada for treatment

For those of you who have been following this blog for a while you know I have my share of health issues, the biggest of which is Crohn's Disease. Over the years I have spent an insane amount of out-of-pocket money for uncovered expenses like copays, acupuncture and experimental drugs. In 1990 my parents even imported an FDA unapproved drug from Canada at a dollar a pill. They also paid for my COBRA for two years after I got too old for their insurance but didn't have my own yet. COBRA alone was nearly $300 a month alone, the pills...I don't even want to know.

I just opened an email from my husband with a link to the Huffington Post informing me that Sarah Palin, one of the most outspoken opponents to government run health care, and who has openly criticized Canada for its single-payer system, recently admitted she actually went to Canada when she was younger for her health care. Sarah, you should keep your mouth shut.

I'll leave you with reading their article but this quote makes my stomach turn more than usual, "'We used to hustle over the border for health care we received in Canada,' Palin said.... The irony, one guesses, is that Palin now views Canada's health care system as revolting: with its government-run administration and 'death-panel'-like rationing."

So go ahead Sarah and not be ashamed to have used Canada's system where no one goes without coverage and having to worry about how they're going to pay for their medications, treatment and emergency care. But don't let us have any of it. Oh, and that reminds me, I owe Beverly Hospital a $100 copay for the six stitches I received from their ER on New Year's Day after falling on the ice. I'm just glad I have insurance, but still, $100!!? If my family were one of the millions without health coverage in this country I'd probably have slapped a Bandaid on it and have an even worse scar on my forehead. Maybe I should send Sarah Palin the bill....

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Science is cool: Chilean quake moves earth's axis by 3 inches

While most of us last weekend were watching the tragic scene unfold in Chile, or waiting to see if a tsunami was charging towards Hawaii, scientists were discovering that the 8.8 quake in Chile last week not only shifted the earth's axis but it also shortened our day. Yes. Seriously.

According to , “The length of the day should have gotten shorter by 1.26 microseconds (millionths of a second)...” and “The axis about which the Earth’s mass is balanced should have moved by 2.7 milliarcseconds (about 8 centimeters or 3 inches).” And, if you already didn't know, the massive 9.1 Sumatran quake in 2004 "...shortened the day by 6.8 microseconds and shifted the axis by about 2.3 milliarcseconds..." So I guess this happens all the time.

To most of you this tiny three-inch shift in the earth's axis might not seem like a whole lot, but when you think about it from a scientific point of view I'm sure it really throws off a lot of calculations. I can imagine a bunch of physicists and geologists are now doing long, complicated, equations trying to reset clocks and change known data points.

I find this really really cool - what can I say, I'm a science geek. I grew up with a dad (he reads this and will back me up) who instead of reciting us traditional bedtime stories would show us books on plate tectonics and volcanoes. I was probably the only seven-year-old who understood that Hawaii was drifting northwest and a new island was forming way below the ocean surface. My older sister, no surprise, majored in geology.

A mere 1.26 microseconds probably won't change a thing in your daily lives. So don't worry, you were only 1.26 microseconds late for work or school this morning, no one will notice. And there's no need to reset your watch, well, unless of course you're NASA.

For a cool map of the tsunami waves a Chilean quake sends out check out Astray in a Latin World.