Weather Continues to Reign

Back in the spring I posted some pictures of Big Bureau Creek following the extensive volume of rain we’d experienced. It was an usually wet spring.

The thing is, I drove by Bureau Creek yesterday and it looked pretty much exactly the same again. Here, set firmly now in autumn as we roll in to the end of December we are again seeing prodigious amounts of rain.

We had a reprieve for a fair amount of the summer, but now it’s like Lady Gaia is making up for lost time.

Portions of this area are absolutely lowlands, and geographically is poorly drained. A fair amount of that is compensated for by tiling done in the fields to drain the water away into a series of ditches and ultimately into the natural waterways (like Bureau Creek). Reading through historical accounts of the region you get the clear impression that much of the travel through the area was challenged by finding routes that could be maintained without ending up caught either in wetlands or, in the winter especially, out on the open prairie where the wind and white out conditions were a risk of life-threatening potentiality.

You can see that history, to a significantly lesser degree, in these heavy rains when they overwhelm the tiling systems. At times it almost seems like Gaia is trying to reassert the old landscape. And it does have the effect of reminding one that, as technologically advanced as we’ve become, the weather has not been conquered.

Big Bureau Creek - High Water

It’s no secret that we’ve had an unusually wet spring here in the Midwest. Out on our part of the prairie we’ve been more fortunate than others - we aren’t positioned near a large water source, and the Homestead itself is on a hill. That’s not a great thing in the middle of winter, when the west wind is beating mercilessly on the front door, but it is decidedly a benefit when it comes to the rain.

As I sit and write this rolling into a new week the weather seems to have shifted towards the drier end of the spectrum, at least for the next couple of days. But this past week, particularly very early Thursday morning, the ground was not just wet, it was saturated. Yes, there was water on the grass from rain the night before, and low areas in the yard held the expected puddles. But walking through the grass everywhere - including higher spots in the yard - found the ground sopping, squishing beneath the feet. It’s like the water table was announcing that she was full-up.

A major waterway here in western Lee County is Big Bureau Creek. Bureau Creek is a meandering affair that winds its way through Lee and Bureau counties until it ultimately empties into the Illinois River. There are areas on the creek that are wide enough to canoe down, given the right season, but up here, for the most part, it’s a smaller (if lovely) affair. This is Bureau Creek last December:

Bureau Creek in December 2018

And this is the Creek a mile downstream very early in the AM this past Thursday:

Bureau Creek swollen

To be clear, the Creek is bit wider at the location of the second picture - naturally so, given that it’s downstream - but not this wide. She’s out of her banks in parts, and the amount of water being moved is, frankly, astonishing. The channel you see to the left in the picture flowing into the main Creek isn’t really a channel. I mean, it was then, but it’s simply, typically not there. It’s water feeding in from the flooded fields alongside. I was able to get a short video of it:

As I said, we’ve been fortunate out our way, relatively speaking. Everything is wet, but we’re not underwater, and my cousin has been able to get the fields around us planted. Others have not been as fortunate. But wherever you are at, if you are in the Midwest, it is wet, and wetter than we’ve seen for quite some time.