Big Rain Day

Roots of the willow
And how they helped tame a mighty river

The problem was as complex …

and exasperating as they come for a home owner.

Each spring, especially the wet ones, our basement “took in moisture.” Fortunately my father had a solution: He would plant weeping willows in the back yard, by the fence line – five to be exact. That would solve the problem.

Never a student of botany (to be honest, I’m not sure how his theories took root), my father’s faith in the weeping willow was to him as clear a fact as there ever was or would be in the world.

At the dinner table, on his way out the door to work, or to anyone who would listen, he would tout the divine powers of this miracle tree and its prodigious powers to suck wet earth dry and underground rivers barren.

I was a grade schooler at the time, so I had no reason to question his selection of tree, or doubt his declarations of its moisture wicking properties … but it certainly laid the seeds for future doubts.

The flooding in the basement never abated, but – as my father would tell it – that was only because “the trees need to grow bigger before you see the full effect.”

As proof he would point to the middle willow, which sprouted taller and fuller than the rest: “That’s because its roots tapped into a main channel of the underground river,” he would explain.

Years later, when confronted with mounting evidence of omnipresent spring moisture, he held firmly to his original vision of botanological victory:

“Just think how worse it would be if I hadn’t planted those trees.”

You see, my father was not a man whose mind could be changed easily … if at all, and in that regard his faith in the weeping willow never dimmed.

Instead, his awe in the underground stream only deepened and widened … “wherever it is and however it flows.”

It was more powerful than the weeping willow.

In my Dad’s way of seeing things, that was one mighty river.

animation switch short

Looking back on Eta
Last year's game changer

Today (or is it tomorrow) …

Marks the one-year anniversary of Eta.

Playlist of videos (i.e. plural) I took during Eta

You know it’s a Big Rain Day (BRD) if you pause a year later (even two, or three) to think back and reflect on its size and extent. Eta was a big as it was unexpected. All signs were pointing to an early and deep descent into winter drought. Not only did Eta give the swamp an extra boost, its bounty from Eta fell just as the regional evapotranspiration machine was shutting down. That gave the water staying power, too. Or rather, slow-flowing power. Where does water go when you get that much water in the swamp? Answer: Nowhere fast.

The storm reminded me of Hurricane Mitch back in 1998. It too instantly reset the swamp clock to peak sheet flow time. Actually, Mitch may have been the bigger of the two. But they are more similar than different and should go down as the twin November game-changing storms of note.

Swamp gets soaked
Third BRD of year sweeps through south Florida

It was our third of the water year (i.e. since January 2021) …

And second of the wet season.

History of Big Rain Days (BRDs) in south Florida

What is a Big Rain Day (BRD)?

It’s any day when south Florida averages an inch or more of rain across the entire peninsula.

We have 3 BRDs so far this year

On average, south Florida gets about 5 BRDs per year. Flood years we typically get more (i.e. 10 in 2005, the year of Wilma) and drought years get less (i.e. 2 in the 2011, the year of the Jarhead Wildfire).

What months do BRDs strike most?

Almost 20 percent of them occur in June. But the take-home lesson from the table below is that practically every month has at least a 1 in 30 chance of getting a BRD. And that’s all it takes. A single day of rain can change the outlook for the whole month, or longer.

BRDs are surprisingly rare in July and August

Tuesday’s BRD wasn’t gargantuan …

But it did set the stage for the high-water heart of the wet season ahead.

Water typically peaks in September and October in the swamp.

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big weather

Well-timed BRD
Also known as a Big Rain Day

It was our sixth of the water year (i.e. since May 2020) …

And first of the calendar year.

History of Big Rain Days (BRDs) in south Florida

What is a Big Rain Day (BRD)?

It’s any day when south Florida averages an inch or more of rain across the entire peninsula.

Number of rain days per year, 1990 to present

On average, south Florida gets about 5 BRDs per year. Flood years we typically get more (i.e. 10 in 2005, the year of Wilma) and drought years get less (i.e. 2 in the 2011, the year of the Jarhead Wildfire).

What months do BRDs strike most?

Read more