GOLDEN, CO. (Friday the 13th of September, 2013) -- There's a run on rubber rafts here in Colorado today. We've gone from chronic drought and wildfires to an ongoing deluge. As I write this, the hyperbolic news media are saying the rain has reached biblical proportions. Not yet, but we may be heading there.
The ground, parched by drought for so long, now is so saturated that every drop of rain becomes runoff, and all the runoff becomes floods. Furniture is floating in the living rooms of people unfortunate enough to live in low parts of the mile-high city. Thousands of people have been told to evacuate before their homes become flotsam.
Yesterday's fire victims are vulnerable to becoming mudslide victims today. Boulders the size of cars are rolling down from hillsides and blocking highways. Other roads have been submerged and closed. Debris is surging down streets, riding on the backs of creeks that have jumped their banks and turned into angry rivers. Anthropomorphically speaking, Mother Nature has morphed into the Incredible Hulk, as she seems increasingly prone to do.
This raises some questions. In policy circles, the experts talk about how we all should begin adapting to climate change. But how does a place prepare for bipolar weather? The climate cartographers tell us that one region will be dry while another is wet, and everyplace will be unseasonably something. But in Colorado, it appears we need to prepare for everything and anything all the time. Those of us who believe in a rationale universe are being challenged. What is nature is trying to tell us? Did it give us drought so we'd have enough sand to fill our sandbags?
I don't mean to make this a laughing matter. Three people have died here so far and more than a dozen more are unaccounted for. At least one dam has broken. Just outside the city of Boulder in the hamlet of Eldorado Springs, where one of our U.S. Senators lives, there has been 14 inches of rain in the past week. Mike Seidel of the Weather Channel has been deployed to Boulder to report live in front of what looks like a dirty whitewater ride at Disneyland. When Mike Seidel shows up, you know things are bad.
According to a local meteorologist, we've been hit by a low pressure system that stalled over Nevada last weekend, drawing subtropical moisture from the Mexican mainland over New Mexico and into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, where it has been trapped by a stationary upper-level ridge of the Great Plains and another system over the Great Lakes before it hits the mountains and becomes a "monsoon conveyer belt".
Which is to say, the weather is acting nuts. Lots of weather has been acting nuts all around the world the last few years, leading us to wonder again whether nuts is the new normal. It's not global "warming" we should expect according to my friend Hunter Lovins, who lives on a ranch in one of the communities hardest hit by the rain. It's global weirding.
Here in the United States, we gave up long ago on the idea of switching to metrics. Now, perhaps, we should seriously consider reintroducing cubits into our system of measures.