Thursday, June 12, 2008

A city set on a hill


Iowa's weather-related disasters continue, last evening with a tornado in Harrison County (just northeast of Omaha) in the loess hills that struck the Little Sioux Scout Camp killing four and injuring more than 40. Among all the sorrow there, I suppose, is a reminder of how vulnerable we all are. If I'm counting correctly, 12 Iowans now have died in tornados within a month --- six at Parkersburg, two at New Hartford and now four at the scout camp.

More heavy rain in North Iowa overnight, but thankfully not on Sunday's scale. I happened to be awake when the cloudburst came this time and stopped the flow of water through the east bedroom window --- although I am beginning to think sandbags may be in order. The mighty Hoover, a wonderful machine that sucks water, shampoos carpet, cleans upholstery and bakes a loaf of bread while you're doing all of that (well not really) has restored the floor to its normal dry state.

Those of us who call Chariton home can be grateful for geography when the rain comes down in torrents --- there are advantages to being a city built on a hill.

In a way, Chariton is unique because it sits squarly at the crest of the ridge running northwesterly through parts of southeast and south central Iowa that divides the Mississippi and Missouri River drainages.

For the most part, rain that falls north of the courthouse (above) in Chariton flows north into the Whitebreast Creek, then to the Des Moines (near the red-rock bluffs that gave the former town, now Red Rock dam and lake, their names), then down through southeast Iowa to the Mississippi at Keokuk.

Rain that falls south of the courthouse (where I live) goes directly into the Chariton River, which meanders southeast to Centerville then plunges into Missouri, growing larger and larger as it approaches the Missouri River deep in that state.

Lucas Countyans always have known that the Chariton River can turn mean when heavy rains fall and for the most part have built a respectful distance above it, so while fields and roads may flood, homes rarely do.

That's no reason for complacency, however; and most of us keep a respectful eye on the western sky in spring and summer. Although we're unlikely to wash down the creek, there's not a reason in the world why a mighty wind one day won't decide to blow us right off our hilltop, scattering hopes and dreams and lives as it has so often this year in this land between two rivers.

1 comment:

Ed Abbey said...

Some of the upper Des Moines river basin received four plus inches of rain last night with a few reports of six plus inches in some of the Cedar River basin. I hoping things will get drained down a little before that new glut arrives.