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I work at the Monterey Business Center in Yucca Valley, California, which is about 250,000 square feet of flat roofs and cement parking lot. I’d been wondering what all that would look like in a rain event and on August 29, 2013 I found out.

Monterey Business Center arial from Google Maps

Monterey Business Center arial from Google Maps

Jackie is not as excited about the rain as I am.

Roof water pours onto the sidewalk and into the parking lot

The parking lots have channels to direct water to the street

Onto the street

Down the street

Off the end of the street

Into a gully. (The blue-topped pipe in the gully says “water” on it. I thought that was hilarious.)

Down the gully

Flash flood in Yucca Valley on Make A Gif

And through the desert

pkvKsi on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs

Until it hits the berm of a road

Until it breaks through onto the road

And starts to flow down the road

This is where it ran out of steam. The water puddled up here and then mostly evaporated, “To rain again on someone else, east of us,” as Buck from Transition JT says. If there had been more water, it would have poured down this road and into a slightly more intentional gully at the end of it:

It would eventually hit the big wash in front of those mountains in the distance and flow east to the dry lake bed that is just west of Copper Mountain, maybe 18 miles away. That’s the lowest point in our watershed.

dry lake

Copper Mountain, Sunfair lake bed in front.

[animated gifs made at MakeAGif]
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I listened to a lot of TED Talks as I’ve been renovating my trailer. I tend to like them and I’ve learned a lot–what a great resource! I’ve also noticed that listening to most of them is fine–no viewing necessary. Not with this one. It’s my favorite TED Talk of the 50+ I’ve been through so far.

Reanna and I have just about finished re-sealing our 1962 Kenskill travel trailer. Everything that was screwed into the corrugated aluminum that covers the outside of the trailer had to be resealed: access hatches, tail lights, door, windows. It turns out that this is hard work and takes a long time. We did not anticipate this, mostly because the instructions for the process are very simple: 1) unscrew the window or vent or whatever, 2) remove the old putty tape, 3) apply new putty tape, and 4) screw the part back in. No problem!

Reanna vs. Butyl Putty

These instructions leave several questions unanswered, foremost of which is how much of the old putty tape needs to come off for the new putty tape to seal well? Old butyl putty is sometimes impossible to completely remove with a putty knife, short of scraping all of the paint off the aluminum. No one mentions solvents in removing this stuff, but that is the only way I can imagine getting it all. Even the non-butyl putty, which gets crumbly and easy to scrape off in its old age, hides in the tiny crevices created by staples and folds in the aluminum and takes almost forever to remove completely.

Another question is how important is it to leave the paint on the aluminum intact. I found that I could speed up the process of chipping and scraping the five or six layers of rubbery and/or rock hard sealants on the roof vents using my putty knife at a sharp angle and hitting it with a hammer. Uncovering a vent could take two hours to uncover, pre-hammer technique, and now takes only just over an hour. Unfortunately, it is an unsubtle technique which inevitably gauges the paint and the aluminum underneath. Is this a problem? Even if we are going to cover everything in sealant?

Also, is there any advantage to using non-butyl putty tape? Our extremely reticent local RV repair guy would say only that he used butyl for roofs and non-butyl for walls and that butyl was stickier. People who talk about it online mostly seemed to use butyl. We found the butyl to be much easier to work with and stopped buying the non-butyl after a couple of rolls. Half of the wall-mounted stuff like windows are sealed with butyl now. Will that be a problem?

I’d like to share the several techniques I invented during this job, but I have no idea what the results will be during the next rain, much less in a couple of years. There are only three things that I know I wish I had known beforehand:

1) Don’t go to the putty knife too quickly when removing the remnants of non-butyl putty. You can get a lot of it off by rubbing hard with a wet rag for a while. It is not easy to do for hours, but quicker than going after each speck of putty with the corner of a blade.

2) You will probably have to throw away almost all of the screws you pull out, so you will spend a lot of money on new ones. And while you are correct in your initial assessment that the trailer is put together almost entirely of #8×3/4″ and #10×1″ screws, you will need a large assortment of other sizes because of water damage. I now have 3/4″ screws in #8, #10, #12, and #14, 1″ screws in #10, #12, and #14, and 1 1/2″ screws in #10 and #12. And several of those kinds of screws meant another trip to the hardware store to get them.

3) Sealing up the trailer will take a lot longer than a week if you have anything else you like to do with your life. More like three weeks. (Actually, I’m not sure I would have been better off knowing that one…)

And finally, here is the only video we found, after considerable searching, of someone actually applying putty tape. (Thanks, Canned Ham Trailers!)

I wrote this up and in the meantime, Gabriel won the state-level yoga asana competition for a second time! I don’t have video of him winning, but here’s a photo, and see the footage from his last win below.

Gabriel, Winning Oregon

Posting the video of my brother Damian playing with Eric Burdon reminded me of a video clip of my brother Gabriel that I’m super proud of. This is Gabriel competing (and winning) in Bikram Choudhury’s Oregon state hatha yoga championship two years ago. I wish I had footage of him competing in the nationals, too, but sadly I do not.

My brother Damian recently played bass and sang backup for Eric Burdon on Google Music, doing Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody.” They shot at Rimrock Ranch in Pioneertown, a cool spot that Reanna and I had been looking at for a wedding venue. The rest of the band is Eric McFadden on guitar and Wally Ingram on drums. Here it is:

Yesterday I woke up to a violent wind storm. I walked up to the house for breakfast and found Grandpa Bob had been blown over in the driveway and he was struggling to get up. A gust had blown him straight over backwards. He was embarrassed but not injured at all. (I hope to be able to take a fall like that at 93!)

Growing up in the desert, wind was my least favorite weather. I’ve been blown into a ditch on my bike and had countless teenage hairstyles ruined by wind. It is kind of exciting to see something so powerful, though. We had gusts at 66 miles per hour, making it a “violent storm” on the Beaufort scale (see below), just between a gale and a hurricane. In the Pacific northwest, and especially in cities, this intensity of wind blows trees into houses and causes pretty radical damage. Stuff around here is built for wind. You might lose your roof and you will definitely lose anything that isn’t “nailed down hard,” as we say, but the plants and other structures will be fine.

Here are a couple of very short videos I took. Turn the sound down–they are loud. Can you see the sandstorm about a half mile away in the first one?

The Beaufort Wind Force Scale, according to Wikipedia:

Calm > 1 mph

Light air 1-3 mph

Light breeze 4-7 mph

Gentle breeze 8-12 mph

Moderate breeze 14-17 mph

Fresh breeze 18-24 mph

Strong breeze 25–30 mph

High wind 31–38 mph

Gale 39–46 mph

Strong gale 47-54 mph

Storm 55-63 mph

Violent storm 64-72 mph

Hurricane  ≥ 73 mph

I saw this on All confirmation bias, all the time, a collaboration between the band OK Go and the dance company Pilobolus. It is great:

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