Storm damage repair

I just put this thing up! And I’ve already had to repair it twice. You think there may be something wrong with my construction plan?

One thing’s for sure – the flash flood overwhelmed that whole area. Probably due to changes in the riverbed caused by last year’s floods, the target area wasn’t nearly as immune to water as it usually is. The talus slope that used to be behind the paper target stand, which has probably been accumulating for centuries, was almost completely washed away.

Oddly, so were both of the target stand’s rear braces. This is very confusing. Angle iron braces were bolted to the sides of the stand – they’re both gone, and so are the bolts. No bending, no damage suggesting the braces were torn off – they’re just gone.

So the target stand is fixed, though it still needs some straightening. But I’m not confident at all that it’s going to stay fixed now any better than it has before. I think I need a redesign – something with four legs, maybe? Or even six.

I went to visit my dying little cottonwood tree, again in the middle of the flood’s path…

All the debris I cut away from the trunk last year was washed far downstream, of course, and replaced by new debris wrapped around the trunk.

Not as much this time, though. I have to let things dry more before I try cutting it away again.

Then, since my driveway is a mess that won’t be fixed quickly, I turned my attention to the utility road between Ian’s place and the wash.

The wash water that broke over the bank just downstream from Ian’s Cave dropped a whole tree straight across the road, then piled debris against the tree like building a barricade in a Paris riot. Worst case, this was going to take hours of sweating over a saw to get it into small enough pieces to move.

But most of the debris was small and loose enough to move by hand. One big stump and the tree itself, I was able to tow away with the Jeep. I have this one heavy cable with a hook: I don’t use it often, but in situations like this it sure beats trying to wrap my vehicle towing strap around a tree – and then get it unknotted afterward.

Then it was a simple matter of cleanup, and my Plan B road was clear again.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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8 Responses to Storm damage repair

  1. Ben says:

    Would the soil conditions allow screw anchors? I’m starting to think deep screw anchors and guy cables. They would be pretty immune to flowing water , but heavy floating objects could still cause damage.

  2. Cliff says:

    Obviously the braces were removed by Liquid Wrench…

  3. Joel says:

    Would the soil conditions allow screw anchors?

    I’m thinking probably not. I don’t know how far down the sand/silt/ash surface goes, but it doesn’t give anchors anything to grip. The existing supports have flat feet surrounded by wide concrete plugs, and they pull right out of the ground.

    I’m kind of back to thinking about expending a gatepost just to see how far I could drive it into the ground with a fencepost driver and a big hammer. But more likely I’ll just make a new target stand with more legs and a wider stance.

  4. Joel – I get the impression you like that cottonwood and want to see it survive?

    To a point that debris acts as a buttress for the tree. That’s also how islands of higher ground get a start in active washes. Down in N Mexico dirt farmers use similar techniques to expand their fields into adjacent washes. It makes for fertile ground not so unlike that hugelkultur that (iirc) you’d mentioned briefly some years ago.

    It’s also true that the bigger the sail the more energy it can harness. So yes – a big enough flood can use that same buttress to overtopple something. That comes with the territory – literally. Cottonwood in the lowlands is a lot like Aspen in the high country – hard to kill and comes right back up from the ground/roots when you or nature cuts it back. That buttress is the ground it might grow back from after a hard flood – whereas if it has no anchors it might get toppled along with the main root and get washed out entirely.

    As to your efforts to add permanent improvements in an active waterway – good luck with that. You’re not without company in that regard – but ‘nature’ is gonna’ get the last word in – every time.

    Sorry if pedantic… an amateur hobby of mine for years has been the study of waterways and people – particularly ditch/irrigation systems in rural areas. There’s been more blood shed over waterways than fence lines in some areas. And it all starts when one man puts hand to a shovel or axe to ‘improve’ things.

  5. Norman says:

    RE: target stands. I don’t have a solution, but can offer a theory: fight the flood or work with it. It seems when flooding occurs it’s unpredictable, infrequent, and quite forceful. To resist the forces involved seems, based on your experiences so far, futile, unless one brings in heavy equipment to install quite large structural components.

    Angle iron gets used because it’s free and convenient, but it has flat sides. Something round might offer less resistive surface area to water flows, maybe suffering less damage. You’ve mentioned (above) that to find something solid requires going quite deep; perhaps an experiment, using something round and going very deep with it, to make several smaller target stands rather then one large one?

    Or, give up on permanence and go with portable: something to hold targets that is easily disassembled/reassembled, compact in stored form and highly portable, etc. Set up, use, take down.

    Which leaves the distance stake issue to address. Other than sufficiently massive to resist the forces involved, or individual-use portable – a laser range finder * – I don’t have an answer.

    * While 1000-1200 yard laser range finders are easily (but somewhat expensively) available, there are a number of fairly inexpensive laser distance measuring tools that could be employed; I have a Bosch that is rated at 165 feet, but will actually measure reliably to 180 (never tested it beyond that). 150 feet is 50 yards, so measuring twice 180 degrees apart provides 100 yards, assuming a laser-reflective surface at those points. None of these tools, however, are free, all require batteries, and longer distances work better with a tripod, which is an encumberance.

  6. Joel says:

    As to your efforts to add permanent improvements in an active waterway – good luck with that. You’re not without company in that regard – but ‘nature’ is gonna’ get the last word in – every time.

    You’re correct and I don’t disagree in any way, but I’m having to adjust my thinking in this particular case. The corner of the wash where Ian originally set up the target stands was always raised and out of the main – or any, mostly – channel, clearly for a very long time. Last year we had two big back-to-back floods and they completely altered the riverbed, and now I learn to my dismay with this newest flood that the target stand area is no longer immune from the flood.

    Okay, live and learn. If we’re only talking about the paper target stand, building something lightweight and portable makes the most sense and that’s probably what I’ll gradually do. The metallic target stand, which obviously gets the most use and is never going to be easily portable, is a bigger problem. I’ll probably try beefing it up and maybe securing it to something NOT in the flood just in case. (BTW, I lost the new big ammo can I use for fasteners and accessories – again – because I neglected to tie it off to something.)

    This might be the last time I have this problem for ten years. Or it might happen again this afternoon and sweep away all my works. It’s Monsoon. You just have to go with it. I can show you the ruined remnants of half a dozen failed attempts to fence the wash.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Joel, do not clear the debris of roots and branches from the cottonwood: they will proved extra evaporation abatement as well as some nutrition as they decay. And also buttress the base. So if you can, leave he debris. also a nice little home for a rabbit. *<twinkles

  8. Mike says:

    The public/private range I use is in a flood plain, eastern NC is very different than your flash flood wash situation but when it floods its under water for days or weeks. We have enough warning to move some things but the benches are too heavy and too many so we cable them to large trees. At least we don’t have to go miles down river and drag them out of trees. Would a stand built on the surface cabled to something stationary work? Good luck with the new dog.

To the stake with the heretic!