Tag Archives: Rainy season in Panama

Grip Broken

It seems as if the grip that the ‘dry season’ has had on the country over the past several months has been broken. At least here in Chiriquí Province. We have had rain every afternoon this week, and it started today about an hour ago, 3:00 EST, and is still coming down in buckets. It will probably continue for another hour.

One thing we like about this kind of weather is that it moderates the heat. Shortly after it started raining the temperature dropped seven or eight degrees almost immediately. Now it’s to the point where I’ve had to put on a tee shirt to be comfortable. Most of the time I run around the house in a pair of shorts and flip flops. There have been times where its chilled off so much that I’ve had to put on a pair of jeans and socks to ward off the chill.

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I Saw It Happen

When Christopher Columbus was on his fourth voyage to the “New World” his small fleet was anchored in a river in Panama when near disaster struck. I wrote about it in my book: http://www.amazon.com/Adversitys-Wake-Calamitous-Christopher-ebook/dp/B007XTYMXW/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1371742365&sr=1-1&keywords=richard+philbrick

“One morning after a night of heavier than usual drenching rains we heard, far up the river, the low, rumbling sound of huge rocks crashing and grinding against each other and of giant trees falling into the water. The noise rapidly rose to a crescendo and everyone stood frozen in terror as a solid wall of water  in the form of a  wave about six feet high swept around the bend in the river and came barreling down upon our hapless fleet. It hit so fast there was no time to prepare for the impact by running a hawser ashore.

“Almost instantly one of our two anchor cables parted with a sound like a cannon shot and our remaining anchor began dragging through the muddy river bottom like a plow tilling a field. In no time at all our ship slammed into the Gallega which lay behind is with such force that her bowsprit ran through the rigging of our Bonaventure mizzen and it came crashing down over the side in a roar of splintering wood. The stout ropes of the rigging snapped as if made of nothing more substantial than darning thread.”

As my regular readers know, I live beside a small river here in Panama. Normally it looks like this:

That big rock is about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.

I don’t have to see the river to know its state. I can generally tell that simply by the way it sounds. Naturally, when there’s been a heavy rain the river rises and even sitting inside the house playing around on the computer I can tell the water level is higher because the noise is louder. And I can also tell when it has been raining harder in the mountains to the north while the rain down here has been relatively light by the noise the river makes. Sometimes the river gets extremely high in a short time but I only know about it after it has happened, alerted by the sound. We’re in the rainy season, now, so the volume of river noise rises and falls daily, sometimes hourly.

Yesterday afternoon (6/19) I was sitting out in the shade of the back porch reading a book on my tablet. Looking up from my chair I have a clear view of the river. It was pretty much like you see in the video above. We’d had some rain, but not a lot here at the house. Thunder, though, rolled down from the mountains for over an hour. Then, like in the book excerpt, I heard a roaring sound approaching, getting louder by the second. When I looked up I saw a wall of water easily six feet high or more coming down the river like a freight train. It didn’t just sound angry, it looked angry. Trees that had been swept off the banks from somewhere way up in the hills rode the crest like lunatic surfers. Roots and branches clawed at the sky as if trying to escape their rush towards the Pacific Ocean below. In seconds that car-sized boulder disappeared. Huge spumes of spray shot skyward as the river swept over the rocks. The water rose so high, so fast, that it overflowed the banks up stream and cut a new path across the field on the other side. The noise was so loud as the river crested that neighbors two blocks away were drawn down to watch.

This is a video from two years ago that gives a pretty good idea of what it was like yesterday:

Here you can see how some of it has overflowed to the field on the other side:

 

 

 

 

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I Wonder…

Ants navigate in their world by following scent trails as they forage away from their underground homes. It’s the only way they can find their way back.

I wonder what happens to the ones that are thrown far away from their scent trails whenever I sweep the front porch. Do they ever find their way home again? Do they get adopted by another colony of nearby ants or are they killed for being an enemy intruder? Or do they simply starve to death far away from home?

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Summer’s End?

Unlike the States or Europe, there are only two seasons in Panama. “Winter” and “Summer.” The “wet” and “dry.” Being that Panama sits nearly on the Equator, my house is 8°30’84″ N, our seasons more closely correspond to those in the Southern Hemisphere than they do in the Northern. Summer, the “dry” season, is roughly from November to the middle of April. It’s when the kids have their longest school recess.

And it gets HOT here in the summer. A dry, searing, heat that turns lawns the color of Cheerios and it crunches like Rice Krispies under foot when you walk across it.

Front Lawn

The river next to my house has been nearly bone dry.

Dry River 3-17-2

A few months ago I wrote about my electric bill only being eight dollars and change. Monday I paid the most recent and it was just a few cents shy of $60. That’s because in the middle of the afternoon it has been like living in an oven and I’d run the air conditioning every day until well after dark when the cool air from the mountains sinks down onto the flat.

For the last couple of weeks nature has been toying with us. There have been a few sprinkles here and there. Not much, but enough to stimulate what passes for grass, here, to sprout. While the lawn looks forlorn, all of this stuff is indigenous to the area and adapted to the yearly cycles of wet and dry. Just add water. Some days, of late, thunder could be heard up in the hills in the afternoons and at night the southern sky would light up as lightning flashed out over the Pacific Ocean. But it was just a tease. There was no rain accompaniment.

On Monday, April Fool’s Day, I had an afternoon doctor’s appointment for a physical which is required for me to get a motorcycle endorsement added to my driver’s license since I’m over 70. While in the office the skies opened up and it rained so hard and so loud for about 15 minutes that it nearly masked the doctor’s questions. But it only lasted a few minutes and then it was hot all over again.

But this afternoon (April 4th) it changed. Around three o’clock, as is usual in the “rainy” season it started to pour. It was like the entire barrio was sitting under a water fall. Puddles formed in the low areas of the yard and thunder and lightning assaulted the area. It lasted for nearly two hours. That’s how it is, here, in the “winter.” The mornings are glorious. Blue skies. Cotton ball clouds. In the early afternoon it starts to cloud up and we get a couple of hours of rain. So, in the “winter” you get up, get what needs to be done, done. Get your laundry up on the line to dry before noon, do your grocery shopping and then settle back for the inevitable rain.

For the most part, people here like the rain. It moderates the temperature and makes living comfortable. I don’t need to turn on the a/c. A fan will do. And for the first time in months, when I step out onto the front porch, I can once hear the river running over the stones again.

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Tropical Storm Sandy

The weather here in Panama, the last couple of days, has been really lousy. While we are in that part of the “rainy season” when our rainfall is greatest what we’re been going through now is unusual. Just to recap what I’ve said about the “rainy season” before…It doesn’t normally rain 31 (that’s 24/7). Most mornings are glorious. Blue skies, puffy white clouds until early afternoon. Then things start to cloud up and just before early evening the sky dumps several inches of water in a couple of hours. Yesterday morning (Wed. Oct. 24), was one of those very rare days when I woke up to rain. I can’t remember more than three or four mornings like that in the two and a half years I’ve been living here. Worse than that, it rained all day long. Not the usual downpours we’ve all come to know and love, but a light, steady rain that just didn’t stop. And it’s still raining this morning and probably will all day long.

Why? Believe it or not, Tropical Storm Sandy which is hovering over Cuba as I write this. We don’t get hurricanes here in Panama. It’s too far south, but that doesn’t mean the storms don’t effect us. They do! Hurricanes are giant weather factories with far-reaching consequences. If you remember your high school science lessons you know that hurricanes, cyclonic disturbances, rotate in a counter-clockwise direction, and that’s what’s changed our weather pattern here.

Look at this NOAA photo of Sandy.

That’s Panama just under and to the left of that huge patch of red. As you can see, the storm is drawing its strength from water vapor all the way into the Pacific Ocean and dragging the bad weather across the isthmus. We’re only about 50 miles or so between the Pacific and the Caribbean here. And it’s causing big problems.

In Tonosi, at the foot of the Azuero Peninsula about 300 houses have been affected by flooding when the Tonosí river overflowed its banks.

(Photo from Panama Guide.com)

Here in Chiriquí Province the river in Puerto Armuelles (about an hour and a half away by bus from my home) over on the Pacific side on the border with Costa Rica, has been threatening to overflow its banks. People in Nuevo Chorrillo, in the district of Arraiján, near Panama City, are living under the threat of landslides from the super-saturated hills above their homes.

While other rivers are threatening homes the river a mere 25 yards or so from my house is doing fine. I’ve written about, and posted videos, about how fast the river can rise to frightening levels in a matter of a few minutes. Right now it’s what I would categorize as “high normal.” Most of the huge boulders as still well above the water level. Since the rain has been light but steady the watershed isn’t being overwhelmed and there’s little to worry about right now.

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“If God’s Willing And The Creek Don’t Rise”

The followers of my series of barely spell checked first drafts know that I’ve mentioned that it seems as though summer is nearly over and the rainy season is starting to kick in. I’ve shown the state of the river recently…

There was nothing special about the afternoon. It was a bit overcast but the sky gave but a slim hope of rain though thunder continuously rolled down from the mountains to the north, west and east. It was around 5:30. I was sitting out on the front porch reading when I heard a strange noise coming from the area of the river some 30 yards or so to my right. I looked up and saw some cows moving across the dry, rocky bottom from one pasture to another. Two young Indian lads stood on the near bank.

The noise rose in volume and intensity and then a solid wall of water about four feet high came crashing and rolling around the bend. My neighbors from up the road came running down as I went inside to grab my camera. In the few seconds it took me to get the camera and return outside nearly everyone in the neighborhood had gathered to watch the muddy, debris-strewn water rise.

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It’s pitch dark now. Everyone has long gone home, but the sound of the river, so long silent is background music once more.

 

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Life Renewing Rain

The rainy season seems to have come a few weeks early to Panama. According to the books, the dry season, summer here, isn’t suppose to come for about another month. But we’ve been getting rain nearly every afternoon for the last two weeks and it has brought the dormant plants back to life.

This morning I noticed an area of the yard covered with mushrooms.

One patch of ground that was completely brown and crunched under foot two weeks ago now sports these tiny white gems…

And a tree at the side of the house that seemed to be a hopeless case with only a dozen or so leaves has sprung back to life. Well, it IS Easter morning so renewal is the theme for the day.

I’m afraid the poor, brown tree in the back yard is beyond hope of salvation. There’s been absolutely no change in it at all. Avocados are appearing in the markets now. Perhaps I’ll try and plant one of those seeds.

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Rain In The Dry Season

According to all the books the “rainy” season isn’t supposed to start for another month or so. There have been some practice sessions the last couple of weeks, though. Heavy cloud cover in the afternoons. Thunder has rattled around bouncing from one mountain to another as I think I mentioned in a post recently. But yesterday afternoon, shortly after returning from my weekly meeting with some other gringos who get together to work on our Spanish and a shopping trip where I bought a cheap still camera, the sky turned dark gray, a cannon shot of thunder shook the windows and Mother Nature let loose.

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It rained like that from about three o’clock in the afternoon until I went to bed around 11:00.

Recently I posted some pictures of the trees in the back yard, one of which looked to have succumbed to the drought in spite of frequent watering. The good news, though, is that one of the lime trees is going to have a lot of fruit this year. The fragrance of the blossoms wafts all the way to the front porch.

Rum here in Panama is excellent and inexpensive. I guess I’ll have to buy a blender for the house so I can make daiquiris when all those flowers turn to fruit.

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The Greening of Panama

I’ve written quite a bit, with videos, about the rainy season in Panama. The “dry” season in Panama runs roughly from the end of November through April and does not lend itself to good video opportunities. Sort of on a par with taking an action picture of a rock.

It’s hard to say if this has been a typical dry season or not since I haven’t lived here long enough to have developed a meteorological memory bank. The river that runs past the house has been little more than a winding rock pile for months.

We’ve been  several months without a drop of rain. Full-blown drought conditions. Diary farmers in the district of Macaracas are experiencing serious difficulties. This dry season has resulted in a 25% decline in production. The most critical areas are the districts of El Cedro and Corozal, where 80% of surface water sources have dried up and the grass is low. Serious, large-scale brush fires have been reported throughout the country as a result of the tinder-dry conditions.

When I’d leave the house to go catch a bus into David I’d crunch across the straw-colored front yard. Here and there were tiny tufts of green but easily 90% was as dry as dust. But the yards around here aren’t sodded plots. They’re covered by indigenous plant life. Stuff that has survived these conditions for millennia. So not everything is brown.

The trees have remained green, but look at the ground beneath them. (Sorry, the color of the pictures is horrible. I think I damaged my still camera when I was documenting the final sunrises in Potrerillos Arriba and I’m now using my video camera’s still photo mode.)

April is fast approaching and the weather pattern here in Chiriquí Province has been changing. It started about a month ago. I woke up one morning to find it raining quite hard and it continued into the early afternoon. This was unusual because during the rainy season the wet stuff generally comes in the middle of the afternoon. It’s rare to find it raining in the mornings. But that was just a tease. We didn’t get any more rain for days afterwards. Clouds would build up in the afternoon and it looked like it was about to rain but nothing came of it. Then it started last Thursday and we’ve had rain every afternoon since then. Right now it’s quite gloomy and I can hear thunder from all points of the compass.

The newly arrived rains haven’t changed the river yet as you can see from the photo above. The ground’s too dry for that. La tierra is thirsty and drinking up the rain as it falls. In a couple of months, when the ground is thouroughly saturated it will run off and the rivers will rise again.

The rain, though, has had a profound effect on the grasses. With just a couple of successive days of rain green patches are springing up where it had been brown.

There are four treelings? Treelets? Saplings? in the back yard. I watered them nearly every day, but one seems to have succumbed.

I have no idea what kind of a tree it is supposed to be. The leaves seem to be that of a mango. But the mangoes in the neighborhood are thriving and loaded with an abundance of green fruits now. I’ve not given up hope. The leaves, while they are a dreadful brown, have remained supple and pliant. Hopefully it’s simply resting and not like this…

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Dry Season In Panama

Well, January is just about over and we’re definitely in the middle of the dry season. So far this month we probably haven’t even had an inch of rain. One afternoon it rained very gently for about an hour and that’s it.

You may remember this video I shot a couple of months ago when we were getting a lot of rain every day…

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Well, here’s the same stretch of river this morning…

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