Friday, May 30, 2014

Rain Results

So, following the healthy rains we recently received, how much have our area reservoirs improved?

First, San Angelo's main water source is lake O.H. Ivie, which is located about 50 or more miles east of Angelo. O.H. Ivie is fed by the Colorado River and the Concho River. Since the three Concho Rivers converge in San Angelo where they become the Concho, that means that much of the water from the Concho that pours into O.H. Ivie comes first through San Angelo.

Map showing area lakes. O.C. Fisher is to the northwest, Lake Nasworthy to the southwest, and Twin Buttes just west of Nasworthy. To the east is the largest of our area lakes, O.H. Ivie.
We also get water from a group of lakes on the western edge of the city: O.C. Fisher, Twin Buttes, and Nasworthy. O.C. Fisher is fed primarily by the North Concho River, although there are some small wet weather creeks that feed runoff into the reservoir. Twin Buttes actually has two "pools." The north pool is fed by the Middle Concho River, Dove Creek, and Spring Creek. The south pool is fed by the South Concho River. The two pools are connected by a channel. Just to the east of the long dam forming Twin Buttes is spider-shaped Lake Naswrothy, which is fed by the Middle Concho and the South Concho Rivers as well as Pecan Creek. Actually, water is released from Twin Buttes into Lake Nasworthy, making this smaller lake a constant level lake except in times of extreme drought, such as we have recently experienced. Normally, Nasworthy hovers about 90% capacity. However, since Twin Buttes recently dried up, it was no longer able to pump water into Nasworthy, and the latter lake's capacity had dropped to about 50%. In fact, just prior to the recent rains, all but 2 of the lake's boat ramps had been closed. Over the years, Nasworthy has made San Angelo the "oasis of West Texas" and has attracted water enthusiasts from all over West Texas and even eastern New Mexico. The drought has certainly been affecting our economics.

From last Friday through Monday nights, I recorded right at 8 inches of rain at my house. Mathis Field, our regional airport located just east of Lake Nasworthy, recorded 7.42 inches during the same period. We had a good few days of rain.

By now, most of the rain has found it's way to the lake where it will end up. Here are the results of our rains. Note the chart shows the level of each lake both before AND after the recent rains so you can see just how significant the increase has been for us. These rains will buy us several months of life.


You can see that Ivie almost doubled both in capacity and acre-feet, and I expect that it will increase just a bit more in the next day or so. The other lakes should not change much. At one point following the rains, Nasworthy was actually at 102% capacity, but water was released down river to Ivie.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Happy Anniversary

Yesterday was our anniversary. Me and the old lady done been married for 37 long, long years, but I guess I'm a gonna keep the old gal a little bit longer. I reckon I have to; no one else could put up with her. Goodness, where has the time gone? It seems like such a short time ago that we were walking down that church aisle after saying "I do."

I wanted to do something nice for Donna on our anniversary, so I took her out to the state park for a hike. You can't say I don't know how to treat a lady. It was good to see water in O. C. Fisher after our recent rains, and we saw lots of little critters, too: a prairie dog, 2 lizards, an armadillo, and numerous birds. The yellow prickly pear roses were blooming, too, and we always enjoy seeing them this time of year.

After our hike, we decided to drive around Lake Nasworthy. The low-water crossing over Pecan Creek was closed due to debris on the roadway (tree stumps and limbs, for example), but it was nice to see Nasworthy full again. We also drove atop the dam for Twin Buttes and saw that there was some water once again in both pools as well as the connecting channel.

After sufficient time to allow water to settle, I'll post the total results of our rains and how our lakes have been affected.This was not a drought-breaking rain, but it surely was a welcome rain.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Rain, Precious Rain

My apologies. I thought I posted this Saturday (I'm writing this on Monday), so please read this as if it had already been up for 2 full days.

It's been pretty dry here, as I've stated in many entries prior to this. Since early December, a period of about 6 months, we had received only .85 inch of rain. We are in Level 2 of our water contingency plan, which means we can water outside only once every 2 weeks. We are nearing Level 3, which will tighten restrictions even more and even affect businesses, such as car washes. With Level 3, there is no outside watering allowed, among other things. Most people have already turned off the sprinkler systems completely, and yards are pretty brown. We understand that we would rather have water for cooking and bathing rather than for green lawns. Our daily water usage totals have been coming down steadily the past few months. The city council is constantly looking at other options, from recycling waste water to damming the local Red Arroyo which would collect some additional water for local use.

But yesterday the skies opened and rain fell. It is the best rain we've had in months. The rain began falling about 5:00 PM and was still coming down when I went to bed last night. This morning I found a beautiful 3 inches of rain in my gauge. What a blessing!

A rain like this does not break a drought. It probably will have little affect on our reservoirs, for the ground was so dry that much of the rain was soaked up immediately. We would need rain like this off and on over the next several weeks to really end the drought. But a rain like this will revive yards and help grass on ranch lands. Depending on the stage various crops are currently in, it may help them quite a bit as well; likewise, such heavy rain at the wrong time could wash away seed. And for those folks who have water collection systems, they undoubtedly filled up yesterday.

Other areas of the Concho Valley may not have received as much rain as my location did, but I think all areas received some rain.

I'll wait a few days and allow time for water to work its way down our streams and rivers to our reservoirs to see how much additional water they have collected. I'll post that information in about a week. In the meantime, we have a good chance for more rain over the next 3 or 4 days.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Courtney's Baby Shower

We attended Courtney's baby shower last Sunday (Mother's Day). It was held in the home of her mother-in-law. We enjoyed seeing our son-in-law's side of the family again.

Courtney and her family live less than 2 hours north of us in a small community near Big Spring. She lives in what Donna and I call "the compound." Courtney and Michael live in a small house nestled between two of Michael's brothers. The older brother lives in front with his family while the younger brother lives in back with his family. Courtney's mother-in-law lives one house away to the east. I'm glad Courtney is so close to family. The kids will all grow up together.

So, Courtney is expecting in late July. This should be the last grandchild for us. Three children is a big enough family for Court. The new child is a boy, and he will be named Jensen Thomas. The Thomas part of the name is in honor of my father. It's a shame that they didn't give that named to Camden, for that little rascal looks just like my father.

Court and the boys will come down for one more visit just after school is out. Donna is hoping that Camden will let her hold him this trip. He was a real Momma's boy last trip and really wasn't too impressed with his grandmother. Babies and animals usually take to Donna, so I'm sure he'll come around.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wacky Weather

In my mind, since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August of 2005, weather has been different. It seems like there have been more extremes to weather systems. Katrina, of course, was a powerful and extremely damaging storm. It was followed about a month later by another powerful storm, Hurricane Rita. 3 years later, Texas was hit by another hurricane, Ike. We experienced high winds and rain as far inland as Kilgore, where Donna and I watched the storm from our patio.

Since then, we've seen extreme drought across the western half of the US, heavy floods across the eastern seaboard as well as the Gulf Coast (remember Superstorm Sandy in October 2012), wildfires all over the West, and other weather oddities.

This morning, we recorded a low of 37 degrees in San Angelo. This is May 14th, a time when our lows should be in the 60s, and we are just 5 degrees above freezing. What is going on? And our measurable rainfall for 2014 so far is .75 inch. At this rate we will get less than 2 inches of rain this year.

I know there are naysayers out there, but weather patterns are changing. The facts are there to back this up. To me, the question is whether the cause of such changes is man made or merely a natural shift occurring over time. After all, there have been such changes in the past.

I'm not a scientist, so I don't engage in such debates. But I do know that humans need to be ready to adapt to weather changes. And we don't seem to be very good at that, especially in the good ole US of A. After all, consider our arrogance. We march into the desert to an area that receives about 4 inches of rain and build a city of over half a million people called Las Vegas. When neighboring Henderson and other nearby communities are thrown in, that population swells to almost 1 million people. Over the years, they have been pretty free with water use out there.

We've done the same thing in Texas and other areas as well. On the High Plains, we farm extensively using water from underground aquifers, most notably the Ogallala Aquifer. How long can it last? In my area, San Angelo, we get 17 inches of annual rainfall, yet people have traditionally planted yards, often with water intensive grasses such as St. Augustine, and have watered as much as necessary to keep those lawns lush and green.

Yeah, it takes a while for us humans to change the way we do things. It's difficult to give up practices we've held for years and years and make those adjustments. It really is a change in lifestyle. I love a green, lush lawn, but I really don't expect to have another one on an ongoing basis for the rest of my life, at least if I continue to live in areas with reduced rainfall. But I see this as a challenge, an opportunity to find a new way of doing things, a more efficient way. Were I to build a new home, I would equip it with a system to recycle grey water to water the lawn. I would install large rain water collection containers, as much as 3,000 or 4,000 gallons, and use that water for surface plants, such as trees and a garden. I might even plumb that water through a filtering system into the house for limited uses there.

Time we all started thinking out of the box regarding how we live.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Port Aransas: Where We Ate

While in Port Aransas, we needed to eat out only once each day since we had a good complimentary breakfast at the hotel each morning (see previous post, "Port Aransas: Where We Stayed"). Since we were on the coast, we certainly wanted to eat seafood, and that was our first meal after arriving on the island.

After checking into the hotel the first day, we went to Castaways for our first seafood meal. For a long time, we had been dreaming about eating some sort of seafood boil, so after reviewing their menu, we opted for the Treasure Boil, which includes snow crab legs, shrimp, potatoes, sausage, and corn. The boil was enough to feed us both, and the cost was $21.99. Donna had a good time. She loves boiled crab and shrimp. When I was young, I enjoyed shrimp of all types, but I can take it or leave it these days. So I concentrated on the sausage and potatoes while Donna polished off the crab and shrimp. I'm not a seafood connoisseur, so I can't comment on the quality, though personally I found the entire meal a bit bland.

On our second day, we ate at San Juan Restaurant, a local Mexican restaurant recommended by the clerk at the hotel. This was my favorite meal of the trip. I had cheese enchiladas while Donna tried the carne al pastor, I believe. I liked my enchiladas. I'm not a fan of New Mexican red chile sauce, and it seems that many restaurants are going that way these days. I prefer a chile carne sauce on my enchiladas, and that is the way San Juan prepares them. They also had a thick layer of cheese atop them. The beans and rice were also good. The salsa was darker than what I'm accustomed to, and it had a stronger flavor, but we both enjoyed it. Service was attentive and pleasant. I'd go back to this place.

On our last day in Port Aransas, we ate at a small place called Oceans of Seafood (no website available). We had noticed this place as we drove around town. It is a combination market and restaurant, sort of a "hole in the wall" place. Some of our best meals over the years have been at such places, so we decided to try Oceans of Seafood. We weren't very hungry, so we opted for their poor boy sandwiches. Donna got oyster while I got shrimp. They were really very good. The bun was great: it was lightly toasted, very light, and had something of a sweet taste. The shrimp were fried nicely and were somewhat flattened so that they would sit on the sandwich easily. In all honesty, I much preferred that shrimp poor boy to the seafood boil we had two days earlier.

On our return home, we decided to try the Cooper's BBQ in Junction. I've been eating at Cooper's for about 20 years now, and one thing I've learned is that each Cooper's location is different. My favorite is the location in Llano. We were hoping for something of that quality at the Junction location. We were disappointed. As always at a BBQ joint, we ordered only meat: a ½ pound of brisket, a ½ pound of sausage, and a ½ pound of ribs. We really didn't care for any of it. It was all dry and really lacked any kind of smoked taste. Even the service was lackluster with the employees more or less arrogantly acting as if they were doing us a favor by being open. And on top of everything else, the prices are too high. Next time we're in Junction and want BBQ, we'll go to Lum's. (Side note: I was unable to find a website for the Cooper's BBQ in Junction. The main Cooper's site at http://www.coopersbbq.com/ does not even mention the Junction location or link to it, though it does mention the locations in Llano, Ft. Worth, Austin, and New Braunfels. This makes me wonder if the Junction location is even affiliated at all.)

This is the last entry on our trip to Port Aransas.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Port Aransas: Where We Stayed

There are all sorts of places to stay in Port Aransas, including B&Bs, cottages, condos, and hotels. We opted for the Holiday Inn Express on 11th Street, which is really within walking distance of the beach. Total cost, including taxes, approached $120 per night. The hotel is relatively new, and facilities are nice. They include pool with hot tub, exercise room, business center, and free wireless.

I like a hotel that provides a good breakfast. Donna and I don't eat much. At home, we have only a light breakfast, perhaps a piece of toast, bowl of cereal, or a smoothie. Our big meal is lunch. At night, we snack. When traveling, our routine changes. If the hotel has a good breakfast, we fill up since it's included in the price. Then we eat our other meal of the day about mid-afternoon. That's all we need.

The Holiday Inn in Port Aransas had a good breakfast each of the 3 mornings we were there. Each day, there were biscuits and gravy, one of my favorite breakfast selections. On mornings 1 and 3, there were scrambled eggs, while on the second morning there were eggs folded over with cheese. On mornings 1 and 3, there were sausages while on the second morning there was bacon. Each day there was also cereal, cinnamon rolls, bagels, muffins, and other goodies. The coffee was good and included decaf, which Donna and I both drink. There was also milk and various juices.

So we ate hearty each morning and then did not need to eat again until 3 or 4 in the afternoon.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Images of Port Aransas

As I've previously said, I'm not a beach person. I don't like sand getting in everything; I don't like high humidity; I don't like that constant wind; I don't even care that much for seafood.

But I do like Port Aransas. It's easy, very laid-back. I'm sure crowds descend on this tiny community during Spring Break, but whenever we have visited over the years, things have been quite relaxed. I guess there is a bit of that "island time" mentality about the place. On local streets, people seem to take their time and drive the speed limit, though some folks do get in a bit of hurry on 361 south. Lots of folks walk, bicycle, or drive about on various slower-paced vehicles. And it's interesting to drive around the side-streets to see how the locals live.

One of the best places to get a glimpse of island life is from Roberts Point Park, just east of the ferry. The park is actually a small peninsula that forms Turtle Cove, where many of the local boats are docked. There is a fishing pier, observation deck, restrooms, and other facilities. The images below were taken from this park.

4 of the ferries at the loading point on the Aransas Pass side of the waterway.
A pair of dolphins swimming just off the shore.

The Aransas Pass lighthouse, located on Harbor Island a few miles to the north

Donna on a pier with various boats in the background.
This picture of the marina was taken from the top of the observation tower.
The following images were taken from other points in and around Port Aransas.

Horace Caldwell Pier near the north end of the island
One of the ferries making a crossing

This evergreen tree was outside our hotel, and we saw several others around the island. I don't know what it is, but we liked it. I took a close-up, but the picture was bad. (Note: after posting, a reader from Port Aransas wrote to say these are Norfolk Pines.)

This is the type of beach picture you don't normally see. Port-a-potties line the parking area and a maintenance vehicle sits idly by. The dune on the right is typical of this beach area. Most hotels and homes are located behind (west of) the dunes. There are no actual beach-front developments of any type.






Friday, May 2, 2014

Mustang Island State Park

While at Port Aransas, Donna wanted to spend some time on the beach. The beaches within the city limits of Port Aransas require a parking permit, which I believe costs $12. Rather than pay that amount -- I am a cheapskate, after all -- we decided to head south on Texas 361 to Mustang Island State Park, which is nearly 15 miles south of Port Aransas. Since we have an annual parks pass, there would be no charge for us to enter the park.

We visited Mustang Island State Park many years ago, probably about 1992 when our daughter was about 12 years old. At the time, we had a Jayco folding camper (pop-up), and we spent 3 or 4 nights in the park and had a great time. The park really hasn't changed much in all these years.

One of the nice things about the park is that the paved park road extends to the beach to a paved parking area with nearby beach showers to wash away the sand. It's just about the cleanest way to visit the beach. I'm not a beach person. Oh, when I was young, I enjoyed the beach, but I'll take the mountains and forests anytime these days. Donna is the beach bum in the family, emphasis on bum. She still enjoys the beach, and I probably put a damper on her beach exploits.

Fewer than 20 people were using the park section of the beach. The water was cold and the wind was strong. After dipping my feet in the cool water, I found a place to put my lounge chair in the shade of a picnic table, and settled in for a nap. One little girl was flying a kite nearby. A sand crab occasionally popped its head out of a hole not far away, and a little prairie dog tried to make friends with me. It was very relaxing except for the constant cries of the gulls who stayed near hoping for a handout.

Donna looking east over the Gulf of Mexico
A little girl flying her kite
A friendly little prairie dog stopped by for a visit. My camera doesn't have a powerful zoom, so he was very close, almost within touching distance.

Sea gull perched atop a picnic table canopy, hoping for a handout

The camping area at the park. When we camped hear years ago, we were about halfway down on the left side.

Showers on the bottom, restrooms on the top. The bathhouse is located at the entrance to the campground
Following our trip to Mustang Island State Park, we drove a few miles farther south to the intersection of Texas 361 and Texas 358, which crosses the Intracoastal Waterway via the John F. Kennedy Memorial Causeway before entering Corpus Christi. The area there has built up over the years, and we wanted to see what services were available.

By vehicle, there are only 2 ways to reach the island.The first is to use the ferry from Aransas Pass, as we did. The other way is over the causeway from Corpus. Evacuating the island during a storm must be challenging.