The Flood of the Decade on the Guadalupe River

19 Dec

We were barely halfway through December when the weather service declared it our wettest in 60 years. I wasn’t surprised. After two weeks of near-daily rain I don’t bother checking the weather forecast anymore. On my way out the door I put on my full-coverage raincoat and rain boots, double bagged my laptop and stow it in my hardiest Dutch panniers along with heels and a second pair of tights. Is this what it’s like to live in Portland?

While 7.43 inches in a month may not sound exceptional, in our semi-arid climate it’s about half our yearly total of 15 inches, and almost twice the meager 3.8 inches we got during last year’s drought. In a normal year, the Guadalupe’s trickle is more creek than river, but last week the Guadalupe lived up to its river name. Add a few bateaux or pirogues and it would look like a respectable bayou back home in Louisiana.

Airport Blvd Bridge

When the “storm of the decade” was forecast for last Thursday with 35 mph winds and heavy rain, there was a brief moment when I considered working from home or driving to work instead. Curiosity got the better of me, though, and I’m glad I went for it. The tailwind was 20 mph at best, the rain was steady, but not blinding, and I got to see the river go from normal to flooded to normal again within 24 hours. It was worth getting a little wet.

What’s your bad weather limit on the bike? At what point do you decide it’s not worth it and drive or take transit instead? How heavy a rain, how low a temperature or how much snow on the ground does it take?

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Posted by on December 19, 2014 in Around Town


16 responses to “The Flood of the Decade on the Guadalupe River

  1. Russ

    December 19, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    Hi Janet. I rode Monday, Tuesday and Thursday this week. On Thursday I was embarrassed to have the constant soiun d of a dry chain pestering my. It seems that all the rain on the first two days of the week washed all the lube off my chain. Russ.

    • ladyfleur

      December 19, 2014 at 8:13 pm

      I think I have rust on my rain bike’s chain. 😦 And my pinch hitter bike is close behind. Maybe we should switch to a thicker lube for winter.

  2. fossilcyclist

    December 20, 2014 at 1:27 am

    My limit seems to be a mental one rather than physical. Some days I’ll just head out regardless, others I just don’t seem to get it together.

    • ladyfleur

      December 20, 2014 at 8:18 am

      Having a good raincoat and boots definitely helps me get over the mental aspect of going out into bad weather.

      • fossilcyclist

        December 21, 2014 at 12:07 am

        Got the gear, not always the willpower.

  3. Lizzie

    December 22, 2014 at 4:47 am

    My limit turned out to be the edge of a hurricane in N. Florida. When rain hits you sideways and winds are a little too strong, your pedals get too slippery and you get wetter than expected. Also I worried about being visible to drivers. That kind of weather goes on for a day or two. There are always some power outages and debris. We’ve lost rooftops in some areas. BTW, send rain this way. We are still in drought mode, no matter what the weather forecast. Right now those predicted thunder storms are light drizzle. I’ll ride if its light enough.

    • ladyfleur

      December 22, 2014 at 6:20 am

      I would worry about being visible to drivers too, but my route is low traffic and/or bike trail. Because of the flooding in the evening I had to cross busy streets at the surface which meant fairly long waits. And for the freeway crossing I had to go around and use the sidewalk because he edge of the roadway was flooded

      • Lizzie

        December 29, 2014 at 4:07 am

        Yes, I’ve had to use sidewalks, depending on traffic, narrow roads. I usually won’t ride my bike if visibility is poor. The time I rode when the hurricane edge was passing through was out of desperation. I went from Whataburger back to get my car that was being worked on – not very far, but still dangerous in that weather. Never again. After I posted this we got 7.5 to 13 inches of rain in N. FL., depending on the area. Some flooding and big trees down on 2 SUVs in the city.

  4. roza

    December 23, 2014 at 9:05 am

    I admit the day of 30+mph winds and rain in the morning I didn’t ride. In the evening it’s a tail wind so it doesn’t stop me. The only issue I have is I only have rain shoes. I can’t find a rainboot to fit my 19 inch calf unless they are just sloppy huge. Even the ankle high ones are too tight. Any ideas, anyone?

    • Meredith

      January 5, 2015 at 3:45 pm

      I have 19 inch calves as well. I have some Bogs rain boots that are shorter and some cheap “leather” boots in extra-wide calf from Payless.

  5. roza

    December 23, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Oh, I have had to relube my chain too. I have never had that happen and couldn’t figure out why it was squeaking. Guess you can tell I am a native.

  6. Jean

    December 29, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Ok: Bad weather limit:

    If it’s 4 degrees C and driving, hard rain: no cycling. It is deeply cold rain that I dislike.
    Colder than -24 degrees C in winter.
    Heat: above 35 degrees C in summer. If it’s 100% humidity it is tough. Dry air is better, only abit.

  7. lem

    December 31, 2014 at 2:51 am

    Thank you for all your interesting posts.
    Wishing you and yours a very good Year 2015.

  8. Cycleverse

    December 31, 2014 at 9:23 am

    Nothing better than riding and in the rain not being alone. You have photos too!! Great storms, great friends, great stories.

  9. Ampyali

    January 3, 2015 at 11:32 am

    No…Portland isn’t like that. We have some rain off-and-on most days October through July, but it rarely rains hard for longer than a few minutes, and the sun frequently breaks through the clouds. I commute from a suburb into downtown PDX for work. My situation is unusual in that I’m a medical professional, but a contractor with a home office, and I make visits to patients where they live. I have to dress for work before I leave home and need to keep sweat- and rain-free to arrival presentable. I’ve developed a system that allows me to be comfortable and adjust for whatever weather I may encounter along the way. On a typical day, I wear a merino camisole under a stretchy cotton or merino dress with an a-line skirt, merino leggings with bike shorts underneath, and merino socks under waterproof dress boots. My outer layer is a loose fitting waterproof-breathable parka length shell with a hood big enough to fit over my bike helmet. For light rain, the above works just fine to keep most of my clothing dry. If it should start to pour, I pull on a light pair of rain pants and fold the skirt of my dress up into my coat. I’m weatherproof and ready to return to the bike lane in under 2 minutes. When I arrive at my destination, I can simply find a quiet spot (complete privacy not necessary), drop the skirt of my dress back down, and modestly pull the rain pants off. This system has worked well for me for 4 years now and I find I can ride in all kinds of conditions except ice and deep snow.

    • ladyfleur

      January 4, 2015 at 9:14 am

      It sounds like you have a great system for handling rain. Our “storm of the decade” wasn’t a hard rain, just consistent medium to light. I went to Louisiana for Christmas and was treated to a real storm. The rain came down so hard that you would have been soaked without rain gear in 20 feet. I grew up there and it still surprises me how much rain can come down so fast.


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