For probably 24 hours or more, now, it has rained, and at times rained hard, here at the beach. A slate grey sky has hung low over our barrier island, and from the appearance of the National Weather Service radar, it looks as if the entire ocean has been picked up into the clouds and is being deposited on our heads.
I love this kind of weather.
It’s not a storm, in the classic sense. There is only the very occasional rumble of thunder embedded in the clouds. It’s windy, but not the kind of howling gale that will accompany the tropical storms that are inevitable later this summer.
No, this is just a soaking rain. Seemingly endless, though we all know that the system producing it offshore will eventually pull to the north and leave us with our far more typical summer pattern of sultry heat and afternoon thunderstorms that chase the tourists off the beach and back to their hotels.
So far, my fence repairs made after a strong thunderstorm earlier this spring have held. The mobile sign warning people of construction where Florida Boulevard ends and Mayport Road begins had weathervaned around to face my house again. Who ever is responsible for the sign has since come out and replaced the one that swings in the wind with something a little more appropriate for the road. Smaller, and non-pivoting. All last night, if I looked out from my back porch, I was warned about lane closures on Mayport Road. Not that I don’t appreciate it, but it’s probably better to let people know who are driving. I’m already aware. Update: Nope, same old sign, just shortened to present less surface to the wind. When I got up this (Wednesday) morning, it was facing my back porch again. Oh Well …
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service is calling for a 100% chance of heavy rain tonight, Wednesday, Wednesday night, and Thursday.
Of course, this kind of storm is not without its consequences. The wind is strong and persistent out of the east and northeast (hence the name “nor’easter”), and we’ll soon be hearing stories about houses built on the dunes down in South Ponte Vedra in St. Johns County about to be washed out to sea because of beach erosion. There are several oceanfront homes between here and St. Augustine that are losing the battle to the shifting sands. Last year hundreds of thousands of tax dollars were spent to shore up their bulkheads and try to prevent them from slipping into the ocean. In fairness, the homeowners put up a great deal of money themselves to try to save their homes, but barrier islands move, and eventually Mother Ocean will have her due. Meanwhile, between St. Augustine and Daytona, A1A sits precariously near the ocean’s edge, and after a storm such as this one, there is almost always road repair to be done. The sand underneath the roadbed simply washes out to sea, and with nothing to support it, the asphalt crumbles.
This is normally the time of year that we’re far more concerned about wildfires than flooding, so in that respect, the rain is welcome. A good, soaking rain will lessen the possibility that we’ll wake up one morning to a pall of smoke hanging over the beach. It will also give our irrigation systems a good rest, depending on how long the rain gauge stays full. Normally the pump here would kick on about 0400 tomorrow, but that’s not going to happen this week. And the grass and plants and such always seem to thrive on natural rain. Even the groundwater from the well doesn’t seem to nourish things as well as a soaking rain.
It’s all part of living near the continent’s edge. Soon enough, the sun will break through the clouds, and the wind will begin to lie down. It will be gusty and cool at first, but then summer will push her way back over Florida, and we’ll retreat back to our air conditioned lives. The little spin in the atmosphere down around Cuba seems to have dissipated, though that low pressure is certainly contributing to this weeks’ monsoon. In a way, this nor’easter is something of a reminder to check our plans, put the hurricane kit together, and check on the homeowners and federal flood insurance. Because at some point every summer the weather turns really ugly, and we could wind up wishing fervently for just 4 days of heavy rain.