Saturday, 17 December 2011

Joachim breezes past

'Twas a dark and stormy night on Thursday. The weather service Météociel was forecasting winds gusting up to 125 kph and at least five centimetres of rain in twelve hours, and the following day La Nouvelle République advised us that an official tempest, named Joachim, has just happened. The wind speed meter on our weather station is broken, but the audible wind noise was considerable. As for the rainfall meter, it indicated that we had 247.5 millimetres of rain in 24 hours. That's a quarter of a metre all but, and totally out of proportion. It looks like the wind was affecting it, so we don't know exactly how much we got. Sandaysoft confirms that strong wind is a known problem with our weather station, and points us to a forum entry discussing baffles that could make it a bit more accurate.

On Thursday afternoon we watched in some anxiety as the bief rose from its normal tinkling brook to a roaring stream the colour of milky tea. Tim went down in the night to check on the water level and to close a shutter that had come unhitched. The following morning the rain continued to fall and the water continued to rise. The muskrat and the moorhen coped well with the force of the flow, crossing bravely sideways from one side to the other and finding slack water where they could make good progress under the bank.

Our water meadow.... the strip of water from lower left to top right is one of the mown paths... and the pond the other side!

At the peak, the buildings were still a good metre above the water level, as the watermeadows along the valley did their job. A "route inondée" sign near the junction to Favier indicates that the bief had burst its banks there, but water only partially covered the road and we were never cut off from the village. The worst damage we took was to the stable door, which was in a bad state to begin with and just got torn open. Our neighbour Richard evacuated his sheep from their home on the edge of his étang, carrying them by the feet upside down (rigweltered, as they say in Yorkshire) and docile, from their little shack to his trailer. We don't know where Jerry the outdoor cat was during the storm, but he turned up unconcerned on Saturday morning!
Heavy rain will drive earthworms out of the ground, and we saw several bird species taking advantage of this along the edge of the floodwater - lapwings, blackheaded gulls, crows and herons among them. A male sparrowhawk came to sit in our cherry tree, turning obligingly through 180° so we could admire him properly and take photographs.

Looking from the longere to the 'dry' bridge...

...and the view the other way.
La Forge is on the left with Bezuard behind, Moulin de Favier is in the middle and Favier is the next toward the right.
The bief was coping well with the right angle bend at the moulin!!

On our way to the Christmas Market at La Celle Guénand, we passed numerous washes of gravel and mud and one minor landslip on the road where rainwater had streamed off the fields. At Le Moulin Neuf, a big old poplar had come down, leaving a great plate of earth and roots projecting over the Aigronne. The commune had been quick to cut off projecting branches and clear the lane, but the main electricity cable was still hanging to the ground where the tree had pulled it down. Fortunately the cable still appeared to be in one piece.

The Aigronne and its watermeadows at Gatault
[Click on the photo to view full size]


GaynorB said...

Looking at the aftermath it must have been quite a storm!
Glad you are both OK and in a position to tell the tale ...

Tim said...

Thanks Gaynor... has anyone checked up on yours? If not, we can swing by and look round at the roof, etc. and report back.