Flash Floods Hit Hard

Thursday’s rains threw 100 year weather records into a quandary as a sudden deluge gobbled up much of the Southern West Virginia Coalfields. The “flashy” nature of the floods caught many surprise.

 Wet Season off to “Flashy” Start

Quick trivia question. Name the 3 wettest months of the year! If you started with April as in April showers, you are off by 1 month. The wettest season here in Appalachia, defined as the 3 rainiest months of the year, begins in May and ends in July.
One hundred year records show that annually, May and July duke it out for wet weather honors with May winning more often than not. Sandwiched in between, June is also a wet month, on occasion even besting May and July. Those months succeed over April because they produce torrential rains in thunderstorms over April’s bailiwick, the spring shower.
Want pretty flowers? Then plant on April Fool’s day. Want your tomatoes and half runners to grow in the heat of summer? Then take advantage of those May thru July gully washers.
Lost in the shuffle is the windiest month of the year, aka March. Known as the month to fly kites, March has your ticket to a blustery walk on an often chilly late winter-early spring day. Rains and snows fall rather frequently, though usually modestly.
But Thursday’s rains threw all those 100 year records into a quandary as a sudden deluge gobbled up much of the Southern West Virginia Coalfields. The “flashy” nature of the floods caught many, including me by surprise.
Feeding on a supply of warm, moist air left behind from the near 80 degree May-like Wednesday, showers turned into downpours on Thursday morning as the heavens weeped for hours across the Coalfields.
Early morning storms came ready to play. Cannon shots of thunder and blinding rains roared through at first light then seemed to park in the Guyandotte Valley of Lincoln and Logan Counties. By noon a fast and furious 2,3, even 4 inches of rain had accumulated.
Towns like Dingess on the Left Fork of the 12 Pole and Verdunville on the Mud Fork and Griffithsville became sitting ducks for the monsoon. You see not only was the meteorology to blame, but a conspiracy with the geology and botany of the area came into play.
The geological nature of the flood refers to the steep hills of Appalachia which allow for water to pour off hills into streams, ditches and culverts. This means a lot more pooling of water in low lying valleys. Then there is the issue of the dormancy of the forests. While the trees of our forests are slowly emerging from their winter slumber, fact is they are still rather lethargic in their behavior. That means they are not yet awake enough to soak in the season’s rains. Instead all the rain water is running off into our aquifers enhancing the risk of flash flooding.
The final dagger in the hearts of Coalfield towns centered on the repetitive nature of the storms with one downpour after another pounding the same narrow region. This so-called training effect was responsible for round after round (train car after train car) of rain.
Looking ahead to Friday and Saturday, more May-like warmth is on tap with some shower and thunderstorm action but also many dry hours that will be good for outdoor plans. Such is the nature of the rains in spring.
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