Close encounters of the rain kind to visit the Valley

A circular hole in the ice of Chebarkul Lake where a meteor reportedly struck the lake near Chelyabinsk, about 1500 kilometers (930 miles) east of Moscow, Russia, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor streaked across the sky and exploded over Russia’s Ural Mountains with the power of an atomic bomb Friday, its sonic blasts shattering countless windows and injuring nearly 1,000 people.

A circular hole in the ice of Chebarkul Lake where a meteor reportedly struck the lake near Chelyabinsk, about 1500 kilometers (930 miles) east of Moscow, Russia, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor streaked across the sky and exploded over Russia’s Ural Mountains with the power of an atomic bomb Friday, its sonic blasts shattering countless windows and injuring nearly 1,000 people. AP photo

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Somebody up there doesn’t like us.

That is the only conclusion that can be drawn from several incidents last week involving heavenly objects hurled from above that came hellishly close to wreaking some major havoc here on Earth.

We’d been warned that a 150 foot chunk of rock with the unassuming designation 2012 DA14 was going to cruise by our planet Friday at the brisk clip of more than 4 miles per second at a record close distance of a mere 17,000 miles, barely avoiding a collision that would have resulted in the equivalent of a 2.4 megaton explosion.

But that asteroid was upstaged by a surprise meteorite measuring some 50 feet and weighing an estimated 10,000 tons that exploded in the air above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, shattering thousands of windows injuring more than 1000 people with shards of flying glass. The force of that explosion was calculated at approximately 20 to 30 times the force of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

It was the biggest incident of its kind since the Tunguska meteorite leveled an area about two-thirds the size of Rhode Island in 1908, with the blast felling more than 80 million trees in the Siberian forest.

The same day as the Russian meteorite strike and asteroid flyby, large and brilliant fireballs were reported over Cuba and the San Francisco Bay Area, demonstrating without a doubt that whoever is directing this dangerous game of celestial dodgeball has a serious bone to pick with the commies and their stateside sympathizers.

One local observer opined that just such an explosion and shower of resulting meteorite fragments must surely have caused the decrepit and crumbling condition of most of our local streets, which provide a teeth-jolting ride worthy of even the roughest moonscape in just about every part of town.

Amongst the atmospheric fanfare, the most the Walla Walla Valley could muster was a passing rain shower on Saturday that was over almost before it began.

A cold front had passed through the area overnight, and the cold pool of air aloft behind it destabilized the atmosphere and touched off the very brief, light showers. The frontal passage also dropped afternoon highs by a good 10 or more degrees from Friday’s springlike readings around the 60-degree mark.

In fact, last week was absolutely perfect weather for the application of herbicide in the vineyard that is designed as a two-pronged attack on noxious weeds, dispatching those that are already up and growing and preventing newly germinating weed seedlings from ever seeing the light of day.

This treatment combined with some hand-pulling and hoeing during the growing season should be sufficient to keep most weed growth at bay — thus reducing the competition for water and nutrients in the vineyard.

Looking ahead, our fair weather pattern seems poised to take a wetter turn soon, if the 16-day outlook is at all reliable. The large high pressure system that has kept us dry for the better part of six weeks will likely be replaced by a more inclement pattern featuring semi-regular visits from storm systems born in the Gulf of Alaska and sweeping south and eastward.

Waves of moist low pressure are forecast to traverse the Walla Walla Valley today, Thursday and Friday with periods of showers at lower elevations and the snow level around 2,000 feet. A pattern of troughs looks to continue into the weekend, but the models are in some disagreement regarding the specifics. Afternoon highs should be in the upper 40s with overnight lows in the 30s.

Meanwhile, it might be prudent to keep at least one eye on the sky until this recent spate of astronomic pyrotechnics has come to a conclusion.

A lifelong fan of both the weather and the Baltimore Orioles, Jeff Popick is an instructor at the Enology and Viticulture Center at Walla Walla Community College and manages the school’s teaching vineyard. Send your questions and comments to him at jeffrey.popick@wwcc.edu.

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