High Water In A Shallow Lake

Lake Erie is the shallowest of the five Great Lakes.  This spring, however, the constant rains have raised the level of the Lake by almost three feet.  In some places, like Sandusky, the water levels are the highest that have ever been recorded.

nqgkc7isfve23fnjclhlsjjowmThe high water levels are doing some real damage, too.  Some docks and parts of shorelines have become submerged, and increased erosion caused by the high waters is eating away the Lake Erie coastline.  From the North Coast communities of Mentor to Vermilion to Sandusky, officials are dealing with the impact of high water taking down trees, rendering docks inaccessible, and leaving low-lying areas underwater, and homeowners along the lake also are dealing with flooding issues.   The water levels in Sandusky are so high that the normal outfalls from Sandusky Bay to Lake Erie have been reversed, and water from the lake is now raising the water levels in the bay — causing officials to take drastic actions to try to pump the excess water out.  And the impact of the rain and high water has been compounded by a persistent wind from the north that is pushing the Lake Erie waters against the Ohio coast of the lake, increasing the damage.

The conditions pose special peril for boaters, in ways you might not expect.  The high waters will affect bridge clearances over lagoons and access rivers and is submerging some break walls that would otherwise be visible.  And, with increased erosion and trees collapsing into the lake, there is increased risk of debris messing with motors and propellers — all of which means that boaters had better watch it when they are close to shore.  And any experienced Lake Erie boater will tell you that the lake is legendary for its sudden storms that can appear in the blink of an eye, whip the water into a frenzy, and, in some instances, put boaters at risk of losing their boat — and their life.  The high waters won’t help in that category, either.

One lesson that you learn from reading about the impact of high water levels — there’s not much human beings can do about it, short term.  What the communities around Lake Erie need right now is a break in the constant rains and a period of sunshine and warm temperatures to allow evaporation to play its intended role and reduce lake levels back to normal.  In short, we need Mother Nature to show us a little mercy.

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Focus On The Farmers

It’s pouring in Columbus right now, and the weather forecast is for more of the same — all day, and for that matter all week.

As I sat on my back porch listening to the rain pound the roof this morning, the phrase that popped into my head was: “It’s good for the farmers.” When we were kids, that was Mom’s inevitable response to a rainy summer day. Forlorn kids would be staring out the window, saddened by the fact that a precious day of summer vacation would be lost to thunderstorms, but Mom would try to put a happy spin on the showers. She was a master of the power of positive thinking In the days before spin even had a name.

Here’s to you, Ohio farmers! Let’s hope the rains produce a bumper crop this year.

The Coming Storm

It was clear it was going to rain this morning. Knowing that, you can go inside, shut the door, and watch TV.

Or, you can sit outside on your porch, drinking your morning coffee and listening to the thunderstorm approach from the west. You watch the sky over the neighboring houses grow dark and roiled, illuminated by the occasional flash of distant lightning, and listen to the booms and cracks grow steadily louder.

I prefer the latter course. Thunderstorms make a lot of interesting sounds — ultimately ending in the patter of sheets of rain striking roofs and patio umbrellas and the leaves on overhanging trees. And it’s interesting, too, how the birds respect the storm — they hold their chirps when growling sky puts on its performance, fit a little snippet of song in between the rolls of thunder, and then find a quiet, sheltered spot when the rain ultimately comes.

I find the sounds of thunderstorms comforting. It’s a set of sounds that really hasn’t changed much since I was a kid. To this native Midwesterner, thunderstorms mean . . . Summer is finally here!

Domes Versus Lid

Idaho has a beautiful state capitol building.  Built in the early 20th century, it is an elegant classical structure that anchors one end of downtown Boise.

Like many state capitol buildings in the United States, the Idaho state capitol building has a soaring dome that bears a clear resemblance to the dome of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.  The dome puts the Idaho capitol building into the clear majority of U.S. capitol buildings.  By one count, 38 of the 50 states have a state capitol building with some kind of dome.

Ohio isn’t one of them.  Instead of a dome, Ohio’s state capitol building has a rotunda with a kind of lid on it.  Whereas the domes project lofty, aspirational sentiments, Ohio’s lid has a more practical feel to it.  It’s as if the architects of the building worried that the debates within might some day reach a boiling point, and designed it so that a giant hand could reach down, remove the lid from the top of the kettle, and relieve the pressure.

Idaho’s state capitol is beautiful, as most domed buildings are.  Ohio’s is pretty in its own way, but also has the benefit of being unique.

State Pride Grillework

I saw this car in the parking lobby of the hobby shop down the block and thought it was pretty cool.  At first, I thought the Jeep Corporation had manufactured some Ohio-specific models and wondered how the company had managed to keep the center parts of the “Os” in place.  Upon closer inspection, however, I saw that the “Ohio” grille was the creation of the car’s owner, who strategically placed a few strips of black duct tape on parts of the standard Jeep grille — which features six vertical lines — to create a message that indisputably identifies the driver as a proud Buckeye.

Duct tape — is there anything it can’t do?

Weeds And Wishes

The Ohio Lottery Commission has put up a new billboard on the path of my walk home from work.  It features a line drawing of dandelions gone to seed and dandelion seeds wafting in the air, with the saying “Why see a weed when you could see a wish?”  The billboard refers to inspiredoh.org and has the Ohio Lottery logo.

“Inspired Ohio” is a website sponsored by the Ohio Lottery.  The home page of the website reads:  “To many in the outside world we’re simply ‘Midwesterners.’  But we know better.  We are selfless neighbors, and decorated servicemen.  We are soup-kitchen-altruists and wheelchaired-iron-men.  We are inspired Ohioans.  And these are our stories.”  The home page has links to videos of three Ohioans who apparently “tell their stories.”  One of the links at present has the title “Always bet on yourself.”

The obvious message of the billboard is that it is all about perception.  Why see something as a negative that you could see, instead, as a dreamy positive?  But what is supposed to be the weed, exactly?  Is it Ohio, and have the “inspired Ohioans” used their positive viewpoints to turn our state into a place where dreams come true?  Or is the Ohio Lottery just trading on positive stories about Ohioans who are doing good to try to shift the perception of the Lottery itself?  Do they hope that people who now view the Lottery as a merciless way of extracting money from people who will never beat the overwhelming odds and really can’t afford the lottery tickets they buy every week will see it instead as a harmless way for people to dream about how they might have a better future?

Either way, the billboard message doesn’t work for me.  The fact that, for a brief period every summer, little children might blow the seeds off dandelion puffballs doesn’t make the dandelion any less an invasive, destructive, ugly weed.  It’s interesting, and telling, that the Ohio Lottery has chosen to associate itself with a weed.

 

Highway Hilarity

One of the local news stations carried an article today that set me over the edge, so brace yourself for an unwanted Codger Rant.

The article, headlined “Ohio transportation officials use highway sign humor for safety,” was all about how the Ohio Department of Transportation (“ODOT”) is using those intrusive, programmable, ever looming electronic highways signs “to encourage drivers to stay safe and to smile.”  How?  Through messages like these dismal chestnuts — “Turkey says buckle buckle,” or “Drive egg-cellent some bunny needs you,” or “Santa sees you when you’re speeding.”  And if those knee-slappers aren’t leaving you in stitches, how about that favorite subject of stand-up hacks from the ’60s — namely, a little in-law humor?  Like:  “Visiting in-laws? Slow down, get there late.”

2551307_stillIt’s a laugh riot, for sure.  An ODOT official quoted in the article says:  “We are a government agency, but we are a government agency with a sense of humor.”

Hey, ODOT?  Uh, we’ll be the judge of that.

Here’s what’s interesting.  Those signs obviously cost a lot of money.  They were initially presented to taxpayers as something that could be used in emergencies, like “amber alerts” when an adult supposedly goes missing.  Of course, the amber alert rationale made no sense, unless drivers navigating the highways are somehow supposed to act on identified license plate numbers and car makes and models.  But how are drivers supposed to take down the information?  Keep a pen and notepad handy and scribble down the information while they’re manning the steering wheel?  Use forbidden cell phones to take photos of the sign?  And even if drivers could assimilate that information, are we really supposed to pay attention to the makes and models and license plates of other cars on the road, rather than our driving?

But, as inevitably seems to be the case, the use of the signs has now gone beyond their initial stated purpose.  Now would-be comedians in state government are using the signs to try out lame jokes that even a self-respecting Dad wouldn’t touch.  Is this really part of somebody’s job description?  And as for those of us who wonder whether the signs aren’t an unnecessary distraction, the article reports that the ODOT points out that “there’s no indication the signs have been blamed for any crashes.”  Gee, that doesn’t seem like a very high standard to meet, does it?

I’m sick to death of spending money on stuff that seems affirmatively counterproductive and unhelpful.  When it comes to electronic highway signs, I’m not laughing.