An English teacher's blog about his travels and his digital art.

Tag: weather (Page 1 of 28)

Rain, Rain, Go Away

It’s monsoon season in Laos, when the rainy weather is prevalent from May to the end of September, so wet days are to be expected. However, if I recall correctly, last year I only had to ride my motorbike in the rain for just a few times during the entire season. This year, though, has seen me put on my rain poncho more times than I can count, and it seems that it’s been raining whenever I go to work in the early afternoon and when I ride home around 8:30 at night. During the last four days, including last Saturday, that has been the case, and the rainfall has been very steady all day and night, though only heavy for just a few periods; it’s mostly been moderate or light. Luckily, the front yard hasn’t flooded (yet) like it has in the past. This photo is from August of 2018.

flooded front yard in 2018

The view from our front porch is quite different now. The house in front of us was torn down, and this past January and February a large, warehouse-sized building was constructed, though it hasn’t been rented out yet. Here’s what the view is now.

view from the front porch

Yikes, looks like the grass needs to be cut; I’ll pay the neighbor to do it when it’s a bit drier.

[Edited on Aug. 9] Here’s a shot of the grass that the neighbor cut today.

the grass in my yard has been cut

Then, lo and behold, the sun came out!!! It’s been quite awhile since we’ve had any sunshine. This is looking at the neighbors’ pond to the side of my house. Notice the blue sky.

sunny pond with duck

[End edit]

The rain has stopped for now, but more is forecast for later. This is the last day of the second term this year at Vientiane College so now we get a month-long vacation, and guess what? I won’t be riding my motorbike in the rain for awhile!

Of course, it hasn’t been only Vientiane that has had a lot of rain, and many areas are much worse off than us. Landslides and floods are prevalent throughout Laos, as reported in these Laotian Times articles: Provinces hit, Vietnamese Nationals Stranded and Landslides. Unfortunately, there’s still a ways to go in August, and September is also quite wet. Hopefully, the fatalities, and landslides and floods will stop.

Stormy Weather!

Wow, we had a heckuva storm out my way yesterday afternoon. It started rolling in about 4 p.m, and I was thinking it would be nice to have a breeze and maybe a bit of rain. The clouds looked pretty benign, but the full force of the storm hit around 4:30 and it was anything but “nice.” I swear we had a mini-tornado. The winds were coming from all directions and they were extremely strong. The roof of my house was being lifted a few inches and dropped back down, more than once. The neighbors’ trees, large and strong, were being bent to about a 60 degree angle, debris was flying through the air, and the rain, only about 15 minutes worth, was fierce!

After it was over, about 30 minutes later, I took a walk around. Our house was OK, but the neighbor in front of us had part of his roof blown off, much of the roof of the karaoke across the road was destroyed, and a small pavilion in the rice field behind our house was torn up. Their was sheet metal all over the yard, and I don’t know where it came from. Plus, the power was knocked out for about 3 hours. This was a bad one, and had me a bit scared. Below is a photo of the pavilion and of the neighbor doing repairs to his roof. We’re supposed to get more storms again this afternoon. I certainly hope they’ll be nothing like yesterday’s.

Pavilion after storm

The pavilion behind my house after the storm yesterday.

Neighbor roof repair

My neighbor repairing part of his roof.

Rain!

Yes, rain, glorious rain! We haven’t had any in months, literally. The last few days, though, we’ve had around an inch, I think. It’s been quite a severe drought due to various factors, including climate change and the increasing number of dams on the Mekong River. (Check some of the factors that are screwing over the Mekong, including China, Laos, and Vietnam.)

Any amount of rain is welcome, but it definitely hasn’t been enough to break the back of the drought, which probably won’t happen until the rainy season starts in late May and June. When I went jogging this morning, there was a nice sprinkle that got me moderately wet, but once I got back to my house, the rain came down quite nicely, soaking the ground. It’s finished now, and there isn’t any rain in the forecast for the near future, but we’ll take any that we get.

Drought Over? Not so fast

Not long after my previous post, it started raining. It turned out that a tropical storm/depression, Wipha, was possibly heading our way, after hanging out around Hong Kong, bringing several inches of rain with it. We had a lot of rain last night, but when I woke up this morning and checked the forecast, it turned out that Wipha was turning in a more northerly direction, toward southern China. The forecast had changed also, with rainfall predictions quite a bit less than previously forecast. Right now, Thursday morning at 10 o’clock, it’s sunny with partly cloudy skies here in Vientiane. Oh, well, any amount is better than none. Will keep you posted.

Bigtime Drought

Although it’s raining heavily this morning, Laos and the rest of Southeast Asia are in the middle of a terrible drought, with the Mekong River in some places at its lowest level in a century. Not only is the lack of rain during the monsoon season affecting the level of the Mekong, but some are also blaming the upstream dams in China and in Laos itself.

Whatever and whoever is to blame, the water level in Vientiane is near record lows and farmers and fisheries are suffering. Here’s a chart of the current level on the Mekong River Commission website. Let’s hope this much-needed rain continues.

High Water in Vientiane

I went into Vientiane a few days ago to see how far the Mekong was from topping the embankment (levee?) that was constructed after the big 2008 flood. It has quite a way to go before it gets that high, but it is flowing through some sluice gates and other channels to flood the park that’s on the city side of the road that runs along the top of the levee. I watched a video of the effort to pump water out of the area, and you can watch it on Facebook here.

Though it’s not going over the embankment, the river has flooded the new addition to the night market in that area. Here are the new vendor stalls that sit, usually, right above the river. Someone who did the planning must have thought that the river would never get this high again. Tell that to all the sellers who had to move their goods to higher ground.

flood

Night market vendor stalls under water

flood

More night market stalls under water.

We had no rain yesterday and there’s none in the forecast for today or tomorrow, but the water level is forecast to keep rising for the next few days, according to the Mekong River Commission daily bulletin. (If you click on their link, check out the Nongkhai report–it’s only a few miles downstream from the old place where I used to live and is much more relevant than the Vientiane report.)

The river has crept nearer to the old place, but it’s still safely below the houses. However, if the water does get higher over the next few days, that situation could change. Thankfully, many of the houses are built on stilts or on foundations that are several feet above the ground. More later.

Flooding on the Farm

So, I did make it out to the old place where I used to live, out on The Farm, to see what the extent of the flooding is. It’s not nearly as bad as in 2008; the water has quite a way to go before it reaches the houses, and, unless we get a region wide typhoon, I expect the river level to begin falling. (Update: I just talked to Nai and he told me that China is releasing a lot of water from their upstream dams due to heavy rain farther north. I’d forgotten about that factor, so the threat of further, heavier flooding looms.)

We had a lot of rain a few days ago, but none yesterday or today. Today is joyful–it’s been nicely sunny all day for the first time in a long time. We’ve had a few bouts of sunshine, but only for a couple of hours at a time. Maybe things will start to finally dry out. Here are a few photos of the flooding.

normal crop land

This was taken in January, 2015, during the dry season, and it shows what the crop land usually looks like in a view from Nai’s sister’s house.

flooded field

This is what the field looked like a few days ago. Not as bad as in 2008, but the crops of chili peppers and marigolds (used in the Buddhist temples by worshipers) were wiped out.

drainage channel

Just up the road is this drainage channel from the rice fields. This was taken during the rainy season in July, 2016. There is normally much less water flowing through here during the dry season.

drainage channel

Here’s the channel a few days ago, engorged by the river.

This is our front yard during the heavy rain we had this past Thursday. All the sun we’ve had today is starting to dry it out, making for easier navigation for motorbikes.

muddy front yard

The front yard was a soggy mess after heavy rain on Thursday, Aug. 30. It’s starting to dry out. I’m glad I didn’t have to ride through the muck–the school is still on break. Back to work on Sep. 13th.

Early Morning Showers

Another day, another morning rain shower. Much of the rain during the monsoon season falls at night and continues into the early morning. So, my attempt at staying in some semblance of shape by jogging has suffered. I usually do a couple of miles around 7 or 7:30 a.m.; any later and it’s just too hot, and the traffic on the road picks up as people start heading to work in Vientiane.

There’s still a lot of rain ahead of us, but I think we’re over the hump, past the mid-point of the monsoon season. Hopefully. The Mekong has slipped over its banks in some areas near Vientiane, including at Nai’s sister’s house, where I used to live. The river has flooded the family’s crop lands, but, luckily, it hasn’t reached the houses yet. It’s not nearly as bad as in 2008 (see my previous blog entry), though I haven’t been to the old place to check it out. Right now, blue sky seems to be breaking out, so if it stays nice, I’ll try to get out there to take a few photos. In fact, our usual rain shower was pretty short, so it looks like I might be able to take a jog this morning after all. Better get going.

P.S. The schools’s on break until Sept. 13th, so I’ve got all this time on my hands. Just got back from a short stay in Bangkok. Not much to say about the trip, but maybe I’ll write up a short post about it later.

Waterlogged Laos

“ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when.” Living here in waterlogged Laos, I’m reminded of this line from Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues. Virtually every day since the cave rescue near Chiang Rai, Thailand, it’s been raining–not heavily, mind you, but steadily. There have been a few heavy downpours, but mostly it’s been a steady drizzle or moderate rainfall.

The recent disaster near Attapeu, Laos, has been followed by reports of numerous rivers in the country nearing or above flood stage. Unfortunately, the Vientiane Times stories are behind a paywall, but here’s another view from The Nation, a Thailand newspaper.

The mighty Mekong is near flood stage in some low-lying villages near Vientiane, including Sithanthai village, where I used to live. Nai told me the river is getting near his sister’s house in the village, and I asked him to take some photos today when he goes there. If he gets any good ones, I’ll try to post them. I’m a bit worried about one of his other sisters, who has a house very near the river. I assume she and her family have evacuated. I don’t think the situation is as bad as it was back in 2008, yet. Here are a few photos from back then that I took.

Nai surveying flood

Nai surveying the flood waters at his house in Laos.

Children playing in flood waters

Children having fun in the flood of 2008 at Nai’s house.

And this one is from Nongkhai, Thailand, just across the border.

The Weather Underground forecast for Vientiane is calling for 1/4″ to 1/2″ of rain daily through next week. The forecasts are highly unreliable, though, so we could get more rain than that, or, hopefully, less. There was a steady drizzle overnight, but right now the rain has stopped. We live a few miles from the Mekong, so it’s highly unlikely that the river would reach us here.

Like I wrote, I’ll post some photos here if Nai gets any, and if the situation is still bad this weekend, I’ll try to ride out to the village to see what’s going on and to get some photos of my own. Stay tuned.

Winter in Laos

Ahh, it’s the best time of the year in Laos, and in most of South East Asia, I suppose. The winter months give us almost perfect weather–highs mostly in the mid- to low-eighties and lows in the fifties to high-forties. Those low temperatures can seem quite chilly if you’re used to much higher temperatures. If you spend winter in more northerly climes, like Montana, they might feel balmy by comparison.

Overcast, rainy weather is usually not a problem (it hasn’t rained since October) and the haze-free skies are a delight. That will end in February when the farmers start burning the stubble from their fields, here and in many areas of S.E. Asia.

If you ever get the urge to visit Laos, now is the time to come if you want to enjoy the country under optimal weather conditions. Here are a couple of photos from recent mornings, my favorite time of day.

morning light in Laos

If we have a decently-colored sunrise, the trees and the neighbors’ houses take on a beautiful color. This view is looking out my living room window towards the west.

morning fog near Vientiane, Laos

This shot is looking out the kitchen window towards the north. We don’t get a lot of heavy fog since we’re not near the river, but it’s not unusual to get some. It burns off quite quickly.

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