I’m just returned from Norway and a tour of its spectacular fjords. Yet I was mesmerized by the drama of Rock Creek rapids on Saturday morning.
Forecasters told us the rainstorm that drenched DC on Friday, July 28th and into early morning hours of Saturday, July 29th would be unusual – an Nor’easter in July, declared the Capital Weather Gang. The storm dropped three to four inches of rain in the District, and the rain totals approached six inches in the Maryland suburbs to the north. The flow of stormwater into Rock Creek must have been dramatic. I had to set out to see for myself.
At the Joyce Road bridge, my attention was drawn to two official-looking guys wearing vests with USGS printed on them. I guessed they were with the U.S. Geological Service. I struck up a conversation with Paul (below left, holding the laptop) as his partner Mitch held a rope attached to an instrument measuring water flow under the bridge.
Paul explained that the volume of the creek at that time, around 10 a.m., was about half that of the early morning hours. So imagine this – multiplied by two:
The data Paul and Mitch were collecting would be loaded to the USGS web site. The Joyce Road data site includes this graph, which shows the sudden surge in water rushing through this spot on Friday, July 28th.
Suddenly, Paul yelled to Mitch, “Boats coming!” And Mitch moved the instrument to the side as two kayakers rode through on the rushing rapids. That is when I truly noticed how quickly and powerfully the water was running through the area. I could barely get a photo of the kayakers before they disappeared around a bend.
I did wonder how the kayakers avoided all the rocks that created such turbulence. Once past the rocky area, the water settled down to a swollen, rapidly-flowing stream.
Debris from the receding water lined the trail – mostly small branches and plastic water bottles.
When I got to Broad Branch Creek, it appeared to be flowing as usual. Where Soapstone Creek meets Rock Creek, it looked like the water had at one point jumped the culvert. The telltale sign was the branches lodged against the guard rail on the northbound side of the roadway.
On the other side of the culvert one broken off limb lay against the opening but did not block it.
The overgrown vegetation near the Soapstone trailhead lay undisturbed, unlike other times I have observed when the culvert was blocked by debris.
The three stepping stone pathways across Soapstone Creek were undisturbed and easy to navigate. I found only one tree limb down across the path and it did not present much of an obstacle.
Here are more views of Rock Creek Friday, from Twitter:
The same kayakers?
Just some kayakers on a Saturday morning trip on Rock Creek in DC pic.twitter.com/Wrdq5vI0Td
— Andrew Metcalf (@AJwatchMD) July 29, 2017
— Bruce Leshan (@BruceLeshan) July 28, 2017
Rock Creek on Saturday, by Tilden Street at Peirce Mill. pic.twitter.com/0xFPNnntgX
— Tenleytown & Around (@Tenleytown411) July 30, 2017
And it’s not Rock Creek, but the storm’s remnants gave us a gorgeous sunset Saturday night:
— kaymo (@magathy) July 30, 2017