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Friday, November 5, 2010

A Sad and Soggy Weather Report

You’ve heard of “Trial by Fire”? Well, this week has been “Trial by Flood” for Costa Rica as the nation has endured an incredible and seemingly endless deluge, partly due to the effect of Tropical Storm Tomas. The rains have literally poured down over most of the country and Atenas was no exception. Fortunately, our town has been spared the worst of the storm’s fury, which triggered deadly mudslides in the San Antonio de Escazu area, on the southwest side of the capital city of San Jose. 
[Photo courtesy of] 

There, according to news reports, at least 20 persons are dead, including several children, and as many as 30 more are missing in a series of devastating landslides that sent mud and rocks into homes below the Pico Blanco hillside in the middle of the night. Now schools are closed all around the country and roads and bridges are washed out, leaving many communities stranded and in need of supplies.

In Quepos, along the central Pacific coast, the hospital is inaccessible and now is having water supply problems. The asphalt highway, which connects Quepos and the popular Parque Nacional Manual Antonio has been undercut by the floodwaters and is impassable, requiring repairs that will take many days. [photo courtesy of]

The entire country is under a “red” alert and President Laura Chinchilla has declared a national emergency. According to news reports, there are 27 emergency shelters in operation, including one here in Atenas, housing up to 1400 people and many residents report homes still full of mud and floodwaters. Even our erstwhile friends, the Nicaraguans, have offered to provide assistance to their neighbors to the south, despite the fact that the San Juan River dispute continues on with the Organization of American States now involved. (See my post on the quarrel with Nicaragua here.)

And this is November already, which usually marks the start of the dry season! No wonder Ticos are almost universally convinced of the growing impact of global warming. They can see first-hand the destructive results of climate change. According to the Costa-Rica-Guide website, Atenas averages a total of only 5-6” of rain in November but, in fact, we had over 6” in just one night this week. A.M. Costa Rica newspaper, quoting a reader, said a location on the central Pacific coast had logged 32.7 inches through 6 a.m. on Thursday. And it’s more now because the rains have continued through today. We trust the downpour will taper off shortly and we sincerely hope those affected by the storm will be able to put their lives back together soon.

Of course, as our landlady Odie often says, it’s the rain that makes things thrive here, as well as the sun, and grow they do! On our recent trip to Turrialba, when we took the butt-bruising excursion by Jeep into the deep jungles where Ginnee and Phil have their huge permaculture, organic farm, Phil pointed out a leafy plant to us, which he said cooked and tasted just like spinach. Well, we love spinach so he broke off a couple of short limbs, instructed us to let the stubs dry a week or so, then just “stick it in the ground.” We must have made an amusing sight, two Gringos toting those branches back with us on the bus, along with another gift, a fruit vine in black plastic, plus our suitcases. But we made it, then promptly forgot about the limbs, leaving them for a couple of weeks laying out on the front porch. Finally, I got around to planting them a week or so ago in the soil just below the porch and lo and behold! they have already sprouted new growth.

An even more amazing example of the fertility of this land is the tree trunk pictured in these two photos, which Odie and Eduardo cut down a couple of months ago because it was blocking the view from their home up the hill from us. It wouldn’t be so surprising that the stump which is still embedded in the ground should sprout new growth but the section cut off, now a tripod on the earth, is also putting out leaves and branches. At this rate, Odie will soon have two trees to cut down!

My veggie seedlings are also doing well but would certainly benefit from some sunshine, as would I. Nevertheless, we have been most fortunate through this soggy season of heavy rains. Our little apartment is probably 50 yards uphill from the small creek that now rages as a rushing brown river below us and the property here seems quite stable. We are comfortable and dry, if slightly stir-crazy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the less fortunate residents across the Central Valley from us in Escazu. Let’s hope their trials are soon over. 

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