About that rain

Yesterday it rained more than 4 inches between 4 and 6PM.

Here in Panama we call such rains aguaceros. The dictionary definition of aguacero is “a sudden, abundant, impetuous rain of short duration.” That sounds about right when you’re in the midst of it, especially the impetuous part, which is often accompanied by thunder and lightning.

At about 5:30 I shot some of the runoff:

There are three viewpoints in this movie:

  1. the drainage ditch alongside the driveway,
  2. entrance to the culvert that goes under the driveway,
  3. exit from the driveway culvert.

By the time I took the dogs out for their evening walk, the runoff had mostly disappeared from these areas, but it was not light enough for photos. This morning, here’s what they looked like:

1) the drainage ditch:

drainage ditch.JPG

2) entrance to the culvert:

culvert upstream.JPG

3) exit from the culvert:

downstream of culvert.JPG

Here the residual runoff is not obscured by grass. It’s not insignificant.

You could say that the runoff clears up pretty quickly, and that’s true. But the ground is saturated. We’ve had extraordinary rains since June:

  • June = 43 inches
  • July = 59 inches
  • August = 63 inches

We’re lucky, actually. The August 63 inches is merely 64% above average. In parts of Guatemala, rainfall was 100% above average and in some parts it was 200% above average. And then they were hit by Tropical Storm Agatha. Austin, Texas, recently received 10-15 inches in a 24-hour period thanks to Tropical Storm Hermine.

So, we’re lucky. But the ground is so saturated that the cats high-foot it across the yard. Each of the dogs reacts differently – the old Lab won’t walk more than a few feet across the swamp, the mixed-breed runs gazelle-like way out and back in as if she could skim over it, and the young Lab splashes joyously in every drainage ditch he can find.

But the plants can’t escape. They’re all getting their feet wet. Some are tolerating it better than others. The ones most likely to rot out are the recently planted food plants. We’ve lost three papayas and a Chinese plantain. This Hawaiian papaya’s trunk collapsed across a concrete Panamanian swan.


We’re lucky because we’re on the side of the mountain. No flooding of our house, just full-to-the-brim drainage ditches. So the water keeps draining off, and draining off….

Then why am I reading a book called Prayers for Rain (Dennis Lehane)?

Why am I reading a poem called Lightning? (Mary Oliver)

Just because they were on the shelf? I must be loco.

About Mary

I spent a few years at sea, and I never came back from a cruise without having learned something new about the ocean or what lived in it. After retiring to Panama, I began to learn something new about the tropical savanna ecosystem nearly every day I stepped outside. I focused on plants, those marvelous signs of life. Now I'm in my second retirement, living in Sicily. I'm leaving my plant studies online for those who have found them useful.
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