Pacifica (autumnwinds) wrote,

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I meant to post about this earlier!

So, two days before Tyler and I left Taylor, we needed to finish a big job. NOAA has a big solar array down by Big Creek that they use to power their stream antennas. However, the battery bank that the solar array charges had worn out, and we needed to replace the batteries. The trick is that they're the size of car batteries and weigh 80 lbs each, and there were a dozen of them. So, getting them down there was a task in itself.

In order to replace the batteries, we had to lug the batteries down to the stream edge, open the battery casings, unscrew the network of wiring setting up the batteries in two parallel circuits, and then swap them out and do them all up again.

However, before we started, one of the NOAA engineers had asked us to test the antennas first. They lie flat in the streambed, and their job is to detect and record the passage of any fish with a PIT tag. NOAA had given us a fake fish with a PIT tag, hung on a fishing rod, that we could use to pass over the antenna to log the test.

This was very easy to do because the temperature had been down in the single digits for well over a week, causing a lot of the stream to freeze up. We're near the end of the Big Creek drainage, so quite a bit of water was locked up in ice upstream, and we weren't getting much. The margins of the riverbed were quite high and dry, as far as 20 feet in places, and I could have easily walked across the river and only gotten wet to my shins.

Holly and I were fiddling with the battery cables while Tyler stood out in the middle of the stream with the fake fish, to test the antenna. And I kept hearing this faint thumping sound. Sort of soft and crunchy, but definitely a thumping. I told Holly and laughed a little, and we looked out to the stream. What we saw was rising water, and it was rising VERY fast.


Tyler couldn't hear us, but he saw our frantic gesturing and got back to shore quick. We spent the next half hour staring at the river, as the breakage of an ice dam somewhere upstream turned our brook-like river into an icy torrent in under a minute. All the ice that had washed up on the gravel shore was swept away, and I had to jump back a few times to keep my feet dry. Huge ice floes, entire trees, tons of sediment...and then finally just a long, continuous surge of slush that lasted until dark.

Wanna see some video? :D

Watch all three, in order. You'll see how quickly the stream changes, even though I didn't start recording until after the initial surge. Select for "watch in high quality" if you can.


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