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Rain Bombs Away 04/08/2016

Posted by zoidion in Climate, Event, herbalism, homesteading, Long Emergency, Photography.
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Twin City ephemera: The first rumbles of distant thunder, as darkness yielded to gray, stirred me from an uneasy muggy night.

Another day — actually, another hour or so — another two inches plus of rain. Frankly, I was amazed — it didn’t seem to be coming down quite that hard and fast. And I didn’t notice any ponding along the border between lawn-land next door and garden-land over here, as I did during and after the bigger 5 July storm.

But more and more often, rainfalls — at least in this part of the world, and even more in this country’s northeast quadrant — happen as deluges.

Anyway, relief is already in the air: relief from tropical-style dew points.

Yesterday, first thing, I was smart enough to get going on this year’s batch of immunity-boosting tonic. It’s elderberry season just now, and the first related project was drying a quart of berries in the dehydrator, for tea through the rest of the year. (I’m still using last year’s.) 

Making the tonic is a bit more involving: shopping for the other ingredients at an herb shop, simmering everything for an hour-and-a-half (what I recall from the workshop I went to), letting it sit for a while through an extended chat with my astro-buddy, straining out the liquid and decanting into several quart-size jars, adding just a bit of honey.

The ingredients: twelve cups water, three cups elderberries, one cup astragalus, one-quarter cup ginger, one cup echinacea, one cup lycii (goji) berries. (This time, I omitted the half-cup of burdock root.)

I would have preferred to do that cooking outside, on the rocket stove, but I couldn’t get it going. No doubt it didn’t help that there was a little pile of wet ashes in the firing chamber, left over from last time I used it. Guess I better find a way to keep it better covered.

Through much of the process of picking the elderberries, a medium-sized gray bird — species unknown — served as overseer. It would perch on one of the inner branches, keeping quite still as I clipped the sagging, deep-purple clusters of berries. Often it would repeatedly open and close its beak, making a slight exhalation sound. Sometimes it would be on the ground, hopping along, endangered by the cat that occasionally prowls here.

Was it sick? During one of those very muggy days, I found it in the half-full water can, seemingly fully bathed but unable to get out. A bit later and it would have been exhausted and drowned. I poured the bird out onto the ground.

One more backyard drama — less entertaining, no doubt, than the sight and sound of me discovering, squeezing and pounding the Japanese beetles. They seem to find the leaves of the raspberry and fireweed plants, and one of the hazelnut bushes, especially tasty and nutritious.

When I checked the transits — the positions of Sun, Moon and planets — for the time (just about seven a.m.) that this latest downpour arrived, in relation to the chart for the season, well, it’s a classic.  It doesn’t always happen quite so neatly, but it does illustrate a basic rule of astrometeorology: When the Moon crosses the horizon or meridian of the season chart, a significant change in the weather is indicated.

In this case, the Moon at that moment was exactly crossing the upper meridian, moving through the zodiac in counter-clockwise direction.


See the crescent-Moon symbol in the outer ring: the transit ring? It’s in exactly the same degree as the circle-with-the-vertical-line symbol, indicating the upper meridian, in the inner ring: the season chart.


The Moon’s having passed Venus in the previous hours showed plenty of moisture available as the frontal boundary of a different air mass passed this way.

The lower meridian of the season chart is the prime indicator for relative moisture: With the zoidion Pisces and planet Neptune there, an overall wet summer marked by likely deluges was the expectation.

The season chart for Ellicott City, Maryland — sixteen degrees of longitude to the east — also shows Pisces and Neptune at the lower meridian, but with Saturn (indicating greater storminess) close to the Ascendant.


There, less than a week ago, a small, historic valley town was devastated by a “rain bomb” storm: a “thousand-year” flood for the second time in this decade.

Meteorologists these days refer to “training”: intense rain-producing storms that form one after another and move, analogous to a series of railroad cars, across the same small area, in a timeframe of several or more hours. They produce impressive rainfall totals and often catastrophic flash floods.

Here’s one scene of the aftermath in Ellicott City.


(Photo from Washington Post.)

Robert Scribbler has one story. And the Baltimore Sun has another.

One distinction to make re: astrometeorology: At the time of the storm, the Moon was not crossing horizon or meridian in Ellicott City’s season chart, reflecting the fact that the meteorological situation was not that of a front separating air masses passing through.

It was an atmospheric situation fed by summer heat and vast amounts of moisture coming off super-heated offshore waters.

Still, there was a combination of clear warning signs for that region in the lunation chart cast for the fourth-quarter Moon: the Moon (a tide of atmospheric moisture) one degree from the lower meridian, and Pluto (catastrophic destruction) on the horizon.


Ellicott City, pretty and historic as it is, is in a vulnerable location, in an era when rain bombs are becoming more frequent. There is discussion about making valley buildings more flood-resilient, some of them with basements retrofitted to allow flood waters to flow through them rather than accumulate. Another idea: parking-ramp-size tanks to capture flood waters for gradual release later.

It will be interesting and revealing to follow the course of Ellicott City’s adaptation in the years to come. How much can be preserved? How much must be abandoned?




1. Mary Louise Turner - 05/08/2016

I loved your story on making the elderberry tonic. I smiled when you mentioned you left out the burdock. If I remember right, that burdock will really clean you out. Depending on your bowel habbits, it can be a Godsend or just plan wicked. Thanks for reporting on Ellicott City. I sure feel for that community. I find it interesting that this community is not looking at what happened as a once in a lifetime fluke, and are considering ways for future preparation. I find that unusual, but maybe it’s really not. I hope Ellicott City survives and heals.

2. zoidion - 05/08/2016

Actually, I didn’t react noticeably to the burdock in last year’s batch, but then I didn’t brew that batch myself — it was a bonus at the end of the workshop. I would’ve included burdock this time, but I’d already pulled out too much from inconvenient spots around the yard: With its deep roots, I figure it adds some good minerals to the compost.

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