Hafner Vineyard

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Rain...and then some!

It’s no secret we are suffering from a severe drought that has been mounting for three years. Luckily, wine grape vineyards are not heavily irrigated in comparison to other crops. We irrigate from mid-July until the end of October and use minimal water, 75% less than most crops.

2012 and 2013 were dry years with less than half of an average year’s rainfall. From April 2013 through January 2014, we received just one inch of rain. A normal year would likely see 18 inches in that time. Finally, rain arrived! November brought us five inches. Light precipitation continued in December. Then came the forecast of a major storm on December 11, 2014. 

The rain started about 2:30 pm on December 10th. Throughout the night, I woke up to the rain coming down really hard. About 4:00 am, I got up to check the drains around the winery. I noticed that across the vineyard Parke was pulling out of his driveway, heading for the winery. Darn, he was beating me to it! I checked my rain gauge, we’d received about 4.5” over the past 14 hours.

The different levels of Sausal Creek during our flood on December 11, 2014.

When I got to the winery Parke was drenched. He had jumped right in and he wasn’t dressed for it. Now I was feeling a little sheepish in my full rain suit but late to the party. I took over and got to work.

We have a drainage ditch that comes off of the hillside. Debris collects in two places, so there I was bouncing back and forth, trying to keep the water flowing. When the rain let up and the ditch was draining, I drove around the neighborhood. Everywhere I went the drains, culverts and creeks were overwhelmed. Sausal Creek that flows along our property line had swelled to a river.

When I arrived back at the winery, the rain started to come down harder than I’ve ever seen. Debris started to back up again, and it became obvious that I was not keeping up with it. No matter how fast I worked, the branches, sticks and leaves continued to gather. At one point a surge carried in so much debris, the water rose two feet in less than two minutes.

As the sun camp up, I was shocked to see Sausal Creek rushing across the entrance to Hafner Vineyard. 

Sausal Creek overflows, rushing across the entrance to Hafner Vineyard.

Soon the waters began to recede around the winery. The worst was over. Nearby the Russian River had flooded both the Alexander Valley and Geyserville bridges.

Alexander Valley was submerged in water and the bridge was closed on December 11, 2014.

Healdsburg made National News with kayakers paddling around the local Safeway parking lot, but my favorite part of the day was seeing so many people pitch in to help.

When the last of the showers finally tapered off 48 hours since the rains started, I had collected nine inches of rain. It wasn’t a solution to the drought but despite the deluge, it was welcome. 

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