May 8th, 2009


Panic Attack

On rare occasions I experience great anxiety during the middle of the night. My mind becomes flooded with thoughts that just won't quit. I will lie awake for an hour or 2 with thoughts racing through my head with no off switch. Finally there will be a break where I can concentrate on something peaceful and/or relaxing. I'll soon be able to drift back to sleep.

Yesterday I was awaken by Kitty having a coughing fit. It sounded like she was coughing up a lung. Realizing that I couldn't get back to sleep, I headed off to the computer. I decided to check on the river that I regulate to see how it was reacting to the unusually hot weather we had been having. My jaw hit the floor when I saw that it was swollen by rapidly melting snow. It had shot up far above what I had thought it would. To make matters worse, the reservoir into which it flows had just hit the full point. I decided to head back to bed, but the damage had already been done. For the next 2 hours my brain was a beehive of images of breaking dams, a flooded monastery (the only inhabited structure below the dam), Congressional hearings of angry senators asking why I didn't do something sooner, and just a basic knowledge that I had been a failure especially since I had been somewhat cocky as of late in saying that I knew what I was doing and that people should trust my expertise.

I finally managed to drift back to sleep, but even that was punctuated by a dream about being killed in an earthquake/terrorist attack at a BART station. Real nice, huh?

This morning things are a little tense in the office. We pretty much decided to just keep going up with our releases and screw the monks. There probably wouldn't be any damage to structures, but their land, including their gardens, could get flooded. I just saw the forecast for flows for the next few months, and it seems incredibly high. I'm not sure where all of this water is coming from, but we really don't have any place to put it. All indications were pointing to us hitting the peak a few days ago. Now it looks like the peak may still be a few days away. There is no break in temperatures forecast, so I'm still shitting a brick. I need the damn river to peak!

All in all my plan was based on good hydrology. Everything was going incredibly smoothly as of a few days ago. I did tend to take the conservative approach in predicting the lower side of the runoff forecast. That was based mainly on a hunch, but my counterpart at the irrigation district was even more conservative than that. I guess I should have been a little more proactive based on the hot weather. *shrugs* We shall see. Hindsight is always 20/20.

Making History

As a continuation to my last post, I increased the release from the dam in hopes of turning things around. After talking a bit with my supervisor, we decided to go up even higher. We agreed that the potential damage flooding might cause downstream was no where near the potential damage that could occur if something happened at the dam. The weather forecast also looked a bit dicey in that there was a slight potential for thunderstorms over the weekend. The greatest floods happen when you get rain falling on snow.

Management finally picked up that this was a critical issue. We all gathered in an office to decide what the next course of action should be. It was suggested to increase the release even more! We didn't want to just stabilize the situation, we needed to turn this thing around ASAP! It was decided that the new increased release should be made. I ran to my computer to gather some facts. I was amazed! A release of this magnitude had not been made since 1941! Only one other time was it even close and that was 1973. So we're in really uncharted territory here. I may get a flight over the river tomorrow to take pics to document the record flows. If nothing else, I plan on taking the new vehicle out for a nice long drive up to the reservoir on Sunday to get some pics. This is really exciting stuff! I'm not so anxious any more that the dam could fail, but rather I'm thrilled to see such historical flows.

I should also add that I did a mea culpa to management and said that we could have possibly avoided this situation if I were more aggressive in increasing my releases a week or 2 earlier. It was pretty much shrugged off. They know I did the best I could with the knowledge that was presented to me at the time. No one really saw the record high temperatures and the results they produced on the snowpack. Hopefully that holds true in the future, or else I could be re-assigned to North Dakota. ;oP