Today in Pittsburgh it's raining again and it's not going to stop until Sunday. The rivers are rising and so is something else. The water table!
Whenever it rains some of the water runs into creeks, streams and storm sewers while the rest soaks into the ground. With an extra 3.22 inches of rain so far this month the ground is saturated (February 1-21). The excess will double in the next few days as 3 more inches fall.
If you've ever dug a hole in wet ground you know it fills with water once it's below the water table.
What is a basement but a hole in the ground?
In Pittsburgh we have basements and many of them are damp right now. The video shows why.
So here's the total precipitation forecast for Thursday Feb 22 through Sunday Feb 25.
Yesterday we put on our summer clothes and this honeysuckle bush put out new leaves. It was summer in February.
At 78 degrees F the high temperature broke two Pittsburgh records: a new high for February 20 (formerly 68 degrees in 1891) and a new high for the entire month of February. It was 37 degrees above normal.
When you look at yesterday's map you can see how it happened. The jet stream dipped across the Northern Rockies and Plains, then abruptly turned north over the Texas Panhandle. It was only 3 degrees F in western Nebraska while we were nearly 80. The narrow temperature gradient -- that yellow line across the Midwest -- continues to produce heavy rain.
Interesting as this is, there's not room in my brain to keep up with it. eBird will do it for me if I enter all my sightings. I'll have to backload my birding history to keep up with splitting scrub jays.
(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the images to see the originals)
This winter has been great for seeing snowy owls in the northeastern U.S. as lots of them have come down from the Arctic for a visit. Lauri Shaffer photographed these two at Plum Island, Massachusetts near Boston early this month.
When an owl chooses Boston's Logan Airport, Norman Smith (director at Blue Hills Trailside Museum) is called in to capture and relocate the owl for the safety of the bird and the planes. In this video from Massachusetts Audubon, he releases Snowy Owl #26 at Duxbury Beach on January 29. See the story of this owl at Massachusetts Audubon's blog post, Releasing Snowy Owl #26.
Norman is one of the founders of Project SNOWSTORM, a project that fits snowy owls with transmitters to track their movements. It's been such a productive winter that the project is now tracking 24 owls! Watch their movements online at the Project SNOWSTORM website.
Even though our weather may be crazy hot and cold, it's been a "snowy" winter.
SCROLL DOWN TO SEE UPDATES.
This week in the space of 40 hours -- Feb 14, 4:30pm to Feb 16, 9:50am -- the Pittsburgh region received 2.5+ inches of rain. At first it flooded creeks and streams. Now it's in the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers.
Since I live near the Mon River I went down to Duck Hollow to see what it looked like. In video below from Friday morning 16 Feb, the island of treetops in Thursday's photo had disappeared.
Today (Saturday) the rivers are even higher and I don't have to visit them to find out. The PennDOT traffic cams tell the story.
In Downtown Pittsburgh there's a stretch of I-376 westbound called "The Bathtub" that dips into the Mon River flood zone. Last month it was the site of exciting river rescues when two people drove their vehicles into it as the water was rising. Click here to see a Live Video of the rescues.
This morning The Bathtub is full, as shown in before-and-after photos from the PennDOT traffic cam: Yesterday (Feb 16) on the left, today (Feb 17) on the right, both at 7:20am.
The Allegheny is flooding, too, at the 10th Street Bypass.
All of this is "Minor" flooding in Pittsburgh per the National Weather Service. (Flooding on the Youghiogheny River in Sutersville nearly reached the "Major" stage last night. It's receding now.)
Later this morning I'll go down to Duck Hollow and see what's up. The water's up for sure!
UPDATES: Saturday Feb 17 & Sunday Feb 18.
The Monongahela River crested around mid morning on Sat. February 17 and started to go down a little by noon. 17 Feb 2018, 9:30am: I saw small fish swimming in the parking lot! Two Canada geese float by beyond the guardrail.
No parking today!
17 Feb 2018, 12:11pm: The water has started to recede, though not by much.
18 Feb 2018, 6:00am: The Bathtub on I-376 and the 10th Street Bypass are still closed due to flooding. The water is about 1/3 to 1/2 gone.
Even before the buds burst and the flowers bloom, birds give us a hint that spring is coming. Some of them turn yellow.
* White-throated sparrows have boring faces in the winter but their lores turn bright yellow ahead of the breeding season. They'll leave in March or early April for their breeding grounds in the northern U.S. and Canada.
* American goldfinches were brownish all winter but molt into yellow feathers in late winter. Even the females turn a subdued yellow as seen in the female on the left in Marcy's photo.
* At this time of year European starlings become glossy and their beaks turn yellow. The starling below is male because the base of his beak is blue (near his face).
There are other birds whose yellow facial skin becomes brighter in the spring. Can you think of who that might be? ...
Yellow is a sign of spring.
(photos from Wikimedia Commons, Marcy Cunkelman and Chuck Tague. See credits in the captions)