Sandbagging 101

Spring is late in coming to the Salt Lake Valley and Wasatch Front; in fact the mountains are predicted to get another 2 feet of snow today!  Our forecast also threatened flurries.  Come on!  It’s almost May!!!!!

Today’s mountain snow will add to an already impressive and extra-high winter snowpack (160% over normal) and it has folks concerned.  Just think of it as a frozen lake hanging on the mountain sides; if it warms up rapidly, it will melt too fast and some areas will brace themselves for potential flooding.  It has happened before.

In fact, high Weber River water levels broke through levees just last Wednesday, flooding farmlands about 8-10 miles north of us in Plain City and Farr West; and that was caused by the unusually heavy rains we’ve gotten this spring.  The snowpack hasn’t begun to melt in earnest yet.

Back in 1983, the Great Salt Lake level rose due to similar snowpack conditions and the causeway out to Antelope Island not only was covered by flood waters, but literally washed out.  Pumps on the western side of the lake, where there are no towns, were installed to prevent that situation from happening again; excess water from the lake can now be pumped into the desert on that side.

However, just in case, last week’s paper included an article giving instructions and tips for filling sandbags and stacking them to create a more water-tight wall (Just think, the folks in Fargo, ND fill and stack over 3 million sandbags when the Red River threatens to overflow!):

  1. The bags: Not sure where to get them or if our town would supply them, but they are woven polypropylene and are 14″ x 2′ deep.  Filled properly they will each weigh about 35 lbs. when filled with sand or clay (and who supplies this?).
  2. Filling the bags: It takes 2 people, a shovel, and a sand funnel helps.  They are filled about halfway to three-quarters full and if you’re in a hurry, they don’t need to be tied.
  3. Site prep: If a bulldozer is handy (don’t we all have one!?), create a shallow trench to help keep the bags in place, otherwise, I guess you dig it by hand.
  4. The levee: Levees are usually built at least a foot higher than the predicted flood crest.
  5. Construction ratios: The US Army Corps. of Engineers recommends a sandbag levee have a base 3 times wider than high.  When stacking, bags are staggered like bricks in a wall.
  6. Watertight: The weight of the flood water will compress the bags, keeping the bags in place and making the levee fairly watertight.  Plastic sheets can also be wrapped over and under the bags during construction to prevent seepage.

This is hard work, and the amount of sandbags a town or floodplain would need is staggering!  It’s especially worrisome if you don’t have a lot of time.

Back-breaking work.

So far, we’re safe and dry, and actually, our house sits on a small rise above street level.  It would have to be a sudden melt-off (like a week of 80+ degree days at the higher elevations) to put us in danger.  (In any given year, remnants of snow remain on the mountain tops well into summer.)  Our grass is super green, due to all the rain and snow showers we’ve had recently and its been cut twice already!  I’m sure if downtown Salt Lake City experiences flooding (it’s been discussed as a possibility) it will make the national news.

I’ll alert you when we’re putting on hip boots and stacking bags!

Published in: on April 26, 2011 at 7:25 pm  Comments (2)  

Back in Utah

I’m back in Utah from my emergency trip east.  Blog will return next week.  I’m mentally tapped out from the family crisis just passed with Mom and I’m busy at church with Easter weekend duties with the several services.

Happy Easter all!

Published in: on April 22, 2011 at 3:41 pm  Comments (1)  

Unplanned Trip

Forgive my silence this week.  Unexpectedly, I had to fly to Pennsylvania as my mom wasn’t doing well.  So inside a week I was coast to coast: California to the East Coast.

Anyway, these blogs are not about me, so I hope to return next week or the week after with my usual fare.  Mom is responding to modern medicine and is out of the hospital and the deep woods, for the moment.

I should be–barring another crisis–returning to Utah on Wednesday to pick up the threads of my transplanted life.  I just thought an explanation for the unusual silence would be helpful.

Thanks for all your continued thoughts and prayers.

Published in: on April 15, 2011 at 6:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

California Dreamin’

Came back Tuesday evening from a long weekend visit to family in Los Angeles, hence the delayed post for this week.  I flew out on April Fool’s Day to palm tree and warmer weather than gave way by Monday and Tuesday to pleasant heat and sunshine.

Son, Ben, and his wife, April, live in North Hollywood in a cute starter home with a cat and two black lab mix dogs.  For southern California, they have a large back yard, complete with a grapefruit and a lemon tree.

They love life in southern California, but I’d have to get used to it: the traffic, especially on the freeways is challenging and patience is required; most things are more expensive–take gas at $4.23 per gal. for regular; and parking is a real game of musical vehicles.  But on the whole, the mountains are lovely and it’s amazing to see the houses built to cling to the sides of steep hills and wooded canyons (the ones that burn during fire season).

Besides a lovely visit with family, we got to Venice Beach (strange mix of street performers, hippies somehow left over from the 70s, and now medical marijuana storefronts: “The doctor is in; come in for an evaluation!”). 

Street musician

Dispensery is open!

It goes without saying that the air is laced with that high, sweet aroma of pot.  A few streets east of the ocean are the canals of the town that give it their name; it’s quite picturesque.  No gondolas, but the canals are serene and the backyards of the houses there look out on the waterways. 

Venice Beach canal

We also drove for a stretch up past Malibu along the Pacific Coast Highway, despite the clouds and fog that was starting to close in.

I also got to the Los Angeles Zoo (puts me in mind of the Philadelphia Zoo) and the J. Paul Getty Center, which besides several foundations, houses an wonderful art gallery.  The building is amazing–very modern–as are the views, as it sits perched high above Los Angeles.  You park well below it and take a tram up to the top of the hill to the Getty.  Lots of outdoor sculpture, reflecting pools and hidden garden terraces add to the charm.

I came back to rainy, cold weather.  Don’t think old man winter is quite done with us yet.  Today we had some hale, cold rain and, now, some thunder as I’m writing this post.  Will be back on schedule next week.  See ya then!

Published in: on April 7, 2011 at 6:38 pm  Leave a Comment