A strong El Nino was predicted for December 2015 through April 2016 in Peru, and the government made funds available for disaster prevention. The season passed with barely a rain shower and the ocean only warmed slightly. Disaster averted. This year, no El Nino was forecast when the rains began. Up and down the coast of Peru from south of Lima to the border with Ecuador, rain began to fall in areas where there has been no measurable rain since 1998-99, the last notable El Nino event. After flooding began, recent events were called a slight El Nino along the coast. Let me say right now, this is an all-out El Nino complete with pouring rain and terrible flooding.

El ano pasado prognosticaron un Nino fuerte y el gobierno peruano hiso precauciones extensos. Paso la temporada con poca lluvia y la temperatura del mar poco elevado. Nada de desastre. Este ano con ningun El Nino en la vision meterologico, llego las lluvias. Desde mucho al sur de Lima hasta la frontera con Ecuador, ll lluvia cayo en areas sin lluvia desde la ultima fenomeno del Nino fuerte 1998-99. Cuando las inundaciones empezaron, declararon un leve el Nino por la costa. Te digo, esto es un El Nino total con lluvia torencial y inundaciones desastrosos.

Many places in the world are accustomed to rain. It rolls off roofs and into gutters and storm drains, recharges the ground water and waters the crops. The coast of Peru is accustomed to no rain at all. The effects of this El Nino are therefore devastating. Think about deferred maintenance–regular repairs are put off because the fix doesn’t seem to be needed. In California, the secondary spillway of the Oroville Dam wasn’t faced with concrete because it seemed unlikely it would ever be used. Less than 50 years later, two days of use carved out a dangerous amount of soil and people wondered why the concrete was never laid. Who plans for a 50 year storm? It turns out that we probably should do that. Now think about planning for a 100 year storm. We struggle to imagine it.

Muchos lugares en el mundo estan acostumbrado a la lluvia. El agua roda de techos a canales y sistemas de drenaje, recarga la napa freatica y da agua a las cosechas. La costa de Peru esta acostumbrado a ningun gota de lluvia por lo cual los efectos del Nino estan devastadoras. Piensa en el mantenimiento postergado–arreglos que no hacen porque no parecen necesarios. En California, un canal de escape secundaria de la represa Oroville no fue cubierto en concreto porque era poca posibilidad que jamas seria en uso. Menos de 50 anos despues, dos dias de lluvias fuertes lleno el reservorio tanto que el escape perdio mucho de su superficie de tierra. Gente preguntaron porque el concreto nunca fue puesto. Que planifica para una tormenta de 50 anos? Probablemente debemos. Y planificando para un tormenta de  cada 100 anos. Es dificil imaginar.

The news has shown over and over the dramatic video of a woman covered in mud, a ghostly phantom emerging from the middle of a flooding river. Las noticias muestran constantemente el video impresionante del mujer envuelto en lodo, una fantasma grisacio que emerge del centro de un huaico.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7P00xhSYYpA

Lumber from downed structures chokes the flooding rivers. When the water recedes, thick mud is left behind, filling the pipes of water and sewer systems, streets and the floors of houses. Right now, many communities have no water and sewer service, transport lines are cut by collapsing bridges and access to food is diminishing with every day that emergency bridges are not in place. Food prices are rising. Speculation is underway. We saw a woman buying 60 kilos of rice. Is this to feed her family? I doubt it. Is it to hoard and sell at ten times the usual rate? Possibly.

Madera de estructuras botadas por el agua embotella los rios. Cuando retira el agua, un capa de fango queda, llenando la tuberia de sistemas de agua y alcantarillados, carreteras, caminos y casas. Ahora, muchas comunidades no tienen agua ni sistemas sanitarias, redes de transporte estan cortados por puentes colapsados. Aceso a viveres disminuya cada dia que puentes Bailey o alternativas no estan puestos. Los precios estan subiendo incluso especulacion. Vimos una senora comprando 60 kg de arroz en Metro. Esto para alimentar su familia? Lo dudo. Es para vender a diez veces su precio normal? Puede ser.

We are fortunate to be in a place where the rivers don’t threaten to flood us, and the local water system is still working. The ocean has become something of a hazard as it fills with debris being dumped ton after ton from the river mouths. Piles of brush from flooded riverbanks wash up with every tide, and today a coating of foam is coming with it. Chunks of foam break off and roll across the sand like tumbleweeds. The water is murky. I have stopped swimming.

Somos afortunados de vivir en un lugar donde los rios no nos amenaza y el sistema de agua todavia funciona. El mar ha vuelto peligroso, llena de toneladas de escombros de los rios. Ramas, arboles y basura sale con cada marea y hoy una capa de espuma le acompana. Pedazos de espuma rodan atraves de la arena como globos. El agua esta turbida. He dejado bagnar en el mar.

The greatest problem is that no one knows when the weather will change and the rain will stop. We have had only one rainstorm here in Barranca, but everyone knows that the rain can return any day and if it does no one know what will happen. There are channels that have not held water in 50 years, there are channels through archaeological sites that may be from floods 1000 years ago, and depending on the location and intensity of the rain, any day these can fill again and start washing away everything in their path as they make their way to the nearest river, pushing houses, livestock and crops before them.

El mayor problema es que nadia sabe cuando pare la lluvia. En Barranca, hemos sufrido solamente una noche de lluvia, pero todos saben que en cualquier dia la lluvia puede regresar y si esto pasa, nadia sabe que ocurrira. Hay canales y huaicos que tienen 50 anos sin agua. Hay sitios arqueologicos que tienen huaicos de hace mil anos. Depend de la ubicacion y intensidad de la lluvia todos estos pueden llenar de nuevo, empujando todo en su camino hacia los rios; las casas, animales y cosechas.

Birds that are dying come ashore. This pelican’s wing is badly broken.

Today the forecast is for rains up and down the coast continuing for another two weeks, through the first week in April. It might take another two weeks for debris dumping into the ocean from the river mouths to abate to pre-El Nino levels and another two weeks for the bulk of what is going to wash up on shore to do so. By then it will be May and I will be long gone. I wonder what it will be like when we return in November?

Hoy el prognostico es que la lluvia continua por quince dias, hasta la primer semana de abril. Los rios tal vez continuan hechar escombros el el mar otro quince dias despues y otro quincena mas antes de que los escombros dejan de salir con la marea. Sera maio y yo seria en viaje ya un mes. Como va a estar en noviembre cuando regresamos?

 

 

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