Misinterpreted Conservation Levels of Some Texas Reservoirs May Be the Reason the Experts Won’t Get Us Out of This Drought

I keep wondering if the drought is over for the longterm; there’s no question about the short term.  Despite all the wet, the U.S. Drought Monitor* has kept our area (Harris County) in the moderate and severe drought categories for some time.  This monitor, put out by a number of governmental agencies, uses many factors, such as climate changes, ground moisture, and lake levels, to indicate current and predict  future drought conditions.  With all this in mind, I have started to look at sites that indicate the levels and capacities of lakes across Texas since more rain has come.  (Check here if you too are interested.)

By looking at the charts, one can notice that lakes in the middle part of Texas are quite low, especially Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan.  However, many lakes in southeast Texas, which has had considerably more rain, are at 100% conservation level or nearing conservation capacity.  If the lakes are full and the ground is saturated, why are we still considered as being in a drought zone?

Possibly, some of those making these designations may only be looking at figures on lists and not looking at how some reservoirs function and the amount of water they generally contain.  For example, I live very near

The dike-like Addicks Dam extends for nearly 12 miles.

Addicks Reservoir, which is located west of Beltway 8 and north of I-10 in Harris County.  This reservoir, along with the corresponding Barker Reservoir on the south side of I-10, were built as flood protection for the city of Houston.  But to think of them as high dams with a lake behind would be a mistake.  The Addicks dam is more of a raised dike, L-shaped and running for about 12 miles.  Behind it are rough, wooded areas, some of which are swampy.  Highway 6 and Eldridge Parkway transverse this area from north to south, and Clay Road crosses it from east to west.  Bear Creek Park and Bear Creek Golf Club occupy some of the reservoir area.

An aerial view shows that behind the dam (highlighted in red) are wooded areas, not a water-filled reservoir.

Although there are some lower parts near the long dam that do hold water in the normally wet climate, the reservoir never reaches 214,150 acre-feet, which the Texas Water Development Board says is conservation capacity.  The reservoir’s record capacity was 60,190 acre-feet when nearly a foot of rain fell in the west Houston area.  After a 2009 storm, the exceptional amount of water in the reservoir covered park areas and roads as well as into homes in neighboring sub-divisions.  Even now, with the reservoir at only 3.5% of conservation capacity parts of Bear Creek part are inundated.

Despite the heavy rains that the gulf weather often brings, it would probably take some kind of Noah’s Ark storm to bring Addicks Reservoir up to conservation capacity.  If that were ever to happen, many of the developed areas surrounding it would probably flood too, because the terrain in is generally flat.  Therefore, if the climatologists who are determining the severity of this drought (now I would say so-called drought) are using the conservation capacity of Addicks Reservoir (and other similar reservoirs) as part of their calculations, they should look at them realistically, rather than just as a set of arbitrary numbers.

*A more optimistic view is shown by the Keetch-Byram Drought Index at Texas A&M’s Texas Weather Connection.

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Bright, Sunshiny Days Warm Up the Weekend

A view from one of those "roads less traveled"in Bear Creek Park--backgrounded by an amazingly blue sky. Those green shrubs are the fan palms that grow in many of the woods of southeast Texas.

If by yesterday afternoon, Friday’s icy weather, along with the resulting bad roadways, was hardly worth remembering, today’s 71° was a complete turnaround.  The bright sunlighted warmed the air, and soft, fluffy clouds floated in an amazing blue sky.

Annie and I headed for the dog park on Highway 6 and found many other small dogs and owners were out to enjoy the day.  Usually the large dog side is busier, but today there were so many people and dogs on “our” side that I didn’t pay attention to how many were on the other side.

Going home, I took the “long way” through Bear Creek Park, and just like the dog park, there were many out enjoying the area, especially the golf course.  Bear Creek Park has a lot of picnic areas and the large golf course, but I really like the natural, forested part of the park, which is thick with live oak, pine, and other kinds of trees and brush. 

For those who don’t know, the live oak is one variety of oak tree that grows in abundance here.  In some older parts of Houston, the large live oaks have branches that grow out, paralleling the grown.  The one in my back yard has had its branches trimmed off the bottom part of the trunk as it has grown, but up higher there is a nice canopy of branches that help shade my house from summer of the summer heat.

Another tree that can be found in the wooded area of Bear Creek Park is a type of fan palm, which I believe is a native Texas palm.  On hikes through other parts of southeast Texas, I’ve seen this palm growing down under the tall pines, in both dry and wet terrain.

It’s good to get out after a cold spell and enjoy what nature has to offer.  Unfortunately, the potted plants that have been stashed in the garage still must endure some more days of darkness because the forecast is predicting lows in the lower 20s again mid-weeki.

A Bit of Culture Shock in the Suburbs or “I Want My Barnes & Gay-ble”

From the most recent issue of "The Advocate," contained in an article about some of the young organizers of the National Equality March. (If you're someone who doesn't agree that this about one of the most tender images you've ever seen, you'd probably better click right back to the site you were on before.)

Last night another go at the turkey I had baked over the weekend wasn’t going to be my supper, so after getting home and walking Annie, I decided to head up the road to Stripcenterolandia.

One of the benefits of living in my new (new to me) house is that I’m actually closer to all kinds of shopping than I had when I lived close to downtown.  Before, I had to drive at least 3 miles to the super market and about 10 if I wanted a megastore like Walmart or Home Depot.  Now, even though I live more than 20 miles from downtown, I have, within “spittin’ distance” at the corner of Highway 6 and 529, more shopping opportunities than I really need.  I don’t even have to cross the main intersection to get to both Home Depot and Lowe’s, and if I do decide to wait at the never-changing light to make that journey across all those lanes of traffic, there’s Target and Walmart and almost every other smaller chain retail store that one might think of.  Without crossing the corner, I can get treats for Annie at PetSmart, a new camera at Best Buy, or something to read at Barnes & Noble.

Even with all the great shopping nearby, every time I go out to buy groceries or just check out the other stores, I almost go into culture shock.  Yes, the demographics of 77084 are not the same as those of 77007.  77007 is the land of the singles and couples.  Whether straight or gay, young or old, people either come “one to a package” or at most two.  And while the two might be married, or not, kids are not usually part of the deal, even if they have some.  Most of the time the couples are young, so no kids yet, or older, empty-nesters, with the kids happily off to college or now married with offlings of their own.

Not so in the land of 77084.  Can you say f-a-m-l-i-e-s?  So it’s kids dancing in the canned goods aisles of the HEB, kids punching at Dad outside the McDonald’s, kids begging for something they want anywhere and everywhere.

OK.  It’s not that I didn’t expect that.  I just didn’t expect it in such a big way.  I just miss all my single people and my coupled people, my without-kids people, who had some sense of my existence and my space when waiting in the check-out line, who, even though they may not have spoken a word to me, make me feel that I wasn’t  alone.  (However, I love my house, and living in 77084, I can afford this house.  If this house were in 77007, I couldn’t touch it.  I’m just whining to be whining on a cold night.)

Last night, after polishing off my Angus burger, I decided to hit the strip with PetSmart, Best Buy, and Barnes & Noble.  At least, at PetSmart, there’s a bit of kinship with the other petlovers.  The Best Buy is typical, stocked with all the electronic gadgets.I thought it would be great to have a Barnes & Noble Bookstore down the road.  Finally, I stopped in at Barnes & Noble.

Barnes & Noble has always been a retreat for me, no matter whether it was the store near where I lived or one in a city that I was just passing through.  Last night, I thought I’d buy a 50% calendar with the gift card I had been given for Christmas.  I remembered looking at the selection when everything was full price and hadn’t been tempted by anything, and the reduced price didn’t help with the selection. I browsed through the books, but nothing lured me either.  What does this store have the biggest selections of? All kinds of stuff for home schooling and aisle after aisle of religious stuff.  The gay and lesbian section is housed on two bottom shelves, but as I looked closely there were fewer than ten gay books, the rest were definitely lesbian.  I faired no better in the magazine section.  The really don’t want people to browse the magazines in this store; their selection is all stuffed together on four stands directly at the front of the store, and whoever is in charge of the magazines needs a short course in organization.  I couldn’t find any gay magazines; likewise, there were hardly any of the typical soft-core skin magazines for straight men like other bookstores usually have.  Maybe the person who decides on which magazines this store will stock is the same person who fills half the store with religious materials.  This is beyond culture shock!

My little evening outing reminded me that I still hadn’t changed my address for my Advocate and Out subscriptions.  Today I found out that it’s very hard to do online.  After much searching, I changed tactics and found the numbers in the magazines themselves.  It’s easy to do.  A real person answers the phone, and because they are published by the same company, if you change your address for one, your address is automatically changed for the other (as I found out with my second call).  So for anyone who wants to change your address for The Advocate or Out magazines, call one of these numbers: (800) 792-2760 or (800) 827-0561.

I’ll probably go back to this Barnes & Noble.  Maybe ordering some gay books and picking them up at the store will get them to add to their selection.  Maybe I can shock their culture a little bit.

Sunday Morning Musings: Great Day (Annise To Be Houston’s Next Mayor), Foggy Day (Wet, “English” Weather), Happy Day (House Getting Semblance of Order)

Fresh "calm" paint on the walls. How do you like the dark accent wall? And there's Annie resting on the bed.

During all the house-hunting, house-buying, moving, and now, finally, settling in, I’ve missed writing here and playing with photos because, even though I have added a few posts, I haven’t put a lot of time into them.

I haven’t really had the motivation to write much about politics.  One thing, being involved in something as wonderful, and, almost, all-consuming, as buying and moving into the first house I’ve ever owned, the emotional ride hasn’t left much room to get angry about the political defeats in Maine and New York or to worry about whether the healthcare system is going to be better or worse after the dust clears in Washington.

However, on the local scene, I’m pretty tickled that Annise Parker has been elected the new mayor of Houston.  (I’m not going to re-hash this topic.  Click onto my homepage to read more about the election.)

Looking from the bedroom into my bathroom. The copper wall decorations I brought back from Greece almost 35 years ago look just as great as they did when I bought them. Probably couldn't afford them now. Yep, and there's Annie posing.

Mostly everything that I’ve been doing has been “house, house, house”.  In a couple of days, I will have been actually living in the house for a month.  People have asked for pictures, and I will add more as time goes by (just to keep up the interest–heh, heh.)  I’d say the house from the front has a Georgian-style look to it.  Hence, the appropriateness of the weather we’ve been having lately.  This morning and the past couple of mornings, the area has had quite a bit of fog; then spells of rain come.  The ground is soggy, quite a difference from spring and most of the summer, when there was a scarcity of precipitation, and there were cracks in the ground.  It’s a great to be in my own house, somehow feeling all protected and cozy, when it’s raining outside.  I suppose that will wear off, but it’s something I never experienced living in an apartment.

Yes, writing here has had to be put a little on the back burner, because with the house come a lot of other “hobbies”.  Mind you, I was aware and looking forward to them.  Even with just the moving in, there have been other projects.  Physically, the house is in pretty good condition, so I haven’t had to do much.  Though I plan to paint all of the rooms sometime, I can stand most of the colors for awhile.  I couldn’t take the “pumpkin” color (some would call it terra cotta) in my bedroom, so even though I had started painting it something more cool and calm, I didn’t get it completely finished until last weekend.  Now it’s done, and I’ve even got the blinds put back up.

(There are so many new things to learn when you get a house, like valance clips.  Not only had I never thought about valance clips before, I would never have imagined that there are so many different kinds of them, and, that when you need to find replacements, that even though the blinds themselves are sold in the fourth largest city in the U.S., it is impossible to find the clips for those blinds locally!)

Foggy morning from my back yard (if you can see the fog). Yep, I have a fountain. And a dead tree that needs to come down.

I need tools.  It’s a good thing that Home Depot and Lowe’s are both less than a mile away, conveniently next to each other, and located before what I would call the slowest and busiest intersection in Harris County–the corner of 529 and Highway 6.  Yes, I live in the county now–definitely “the burbs”.  I had some tools–the typical ones, hammer, screwdrivers, and wrenches.  Now, though, I need yard tools.  So far, I got a saw.  I needed to cut back some of the limbs from the bottle brush trees (yeah, they’re trees not bushes) that were rubbing against the front of the house.)  And hedge clippers.  I don’t have a hedge but there was a huge clump of decorative grass that was spewing way over onto the driveway intertwined with the most devilish rose bush.  After a lot of whacking, the grass appears to have gotten a marine haircut and the rose bush, for want of a better word, has been circumcised.

Oh, yeah, I need some heavy gloves too.

After boxing up and moving so much stuff, especially stuff I’ve collected, I shouldn’t need or want more, but there are things I do need to help me furnish my house–that I didn’t have or need in an apartment.  I guess partly because of my taste and also the style of the house itself, I’ve started looking for pieces at antique stores.  Quite a few years back, antiqueing was one of my hobbies, but when the space ran out, perusing through antique malls and country festivals came to an end.  However, after looking at all the badly-made, somewhat pricey items which come from countries I’d rather not support if I don’t have to, I once again started looking at antique and second-hand stores.  It’s fun, and it’s possible to find something nice and well-made.  And, hey, every bit of the money that I spend at the antique store stays in the U.S.  Yes, so?  What if I’m a liberal and an isolationist?  We need to learn to use what we have and not send our money out of the country when we don’t have to.

"Stilllife--Hopalong Cassidy Cup and Other Kitchen Items". And I like the glass cooktop better than sliced bread!

OK, there my diatribe.  Anyway, yesterday I went to one of the antique malls here in Houston.  (There’s a nice new one in my new area.  Check them out if your anywhere near the northwest part of the beltway–Antiques on 8.)  I really was looking for a side table or some kind of chair to put in my bedroom, but what did I find?  A Hopalong Cassidy cup–just like the one we had when I was a kid.  I had been on the lookout for one of those for a long time.  I’ve even written about that cup before on here. (Check out “Coffee Milk and Hopalong Cassidy”.)  But there it was.  I probably paid a little too much for it, but, really, when it comes something like that, I guess I’m paying for the sentiment and memories as much as anything.

Dang!  I’d better stop musing and get some lunch made.  It looks like the morning’s over!