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John Oyler: Spring storm that hit Bridgeville area was 'gully washer'

| Friday, May 25, 2018, 10:39 p.m.

“Gully Washer” was my father's term for the abrupt, heavy rainstorm that immediately forces small streams to overflow and temporary streams to suddenly appear in every crevice running downhill. We had one late in the evening recently; severe enough that I was eager to inspect its aftereffects on my morning walk in the woods the next day. It was also severe enough to make the morning news — the Bridge­ville Fire Department had to a rescue a motorist stuck in 2 feet of water on Baldwin Street.

In honor of Earth Day, well-meaning folks had trucked in reclaimed asphalt chunks and compacted them with a Bobcat so volunteers could spread loads of wood chips on a steep path and produce an ecologically friendly environment for school children and nature lovers.

Once this was complete, the “Gully Wash” scheduler chuckled and allowed it to survive three weeks before washing it all down the hill and into the creek. I was not surprised to see the storm had carved out a gully a foot deep that will survive and grow until Earth Day 2019.

About 200 yards west of this path is another, equally steep, path that leads from the school to a permanent bridge over the creek. Several years ago it was the subject of an Eagle Scout project to eliminate the perennial gully that runoff carves through it.

The solution was the installation of a series of transverse landscape timbers to interrupt the runoff. Where the gully crossed the path they installed a makeshift catch basin feeding a buried pipe, with a piece of hardware cloth across the opening to turn away debris. It quickly plugged and was covered over.

This spring I saw a man digging out the catch basin, and shook my head in disbelief. The recent storm deposited several bushels of wood chips, sand and debris over the catch basin once again; the gully has reappeared.

A neat byproduct of a heavy storm, especially one accompanied by thunder and lightning, is the reinforcement of our humility. No matter how badly we mangle our natural environment, once we are gone, it won't take nature very long to erase all the evidence of our existence.

One of my favorite popular songs from my youth is “Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year.” When Sarah Vaughn sang it, she blamed it on a lost love; today we blame such things on climate change. When spring finally came this year, she came in a hurry.

A golden blanket of celandines appeared in mid-April. Our trillium bloomed by the first of May, several nice clumps of white and painted varieties. By mid-May the mayflowers had finally bloomed. The little meadow that contains the tulip tree we planted in memory of my wife is a sea of buttercups; she would have liked that. The tree appears to be prospering; we planted forget-me-nots and marigolds around its base.

What a blessing it is to have these wonderful woods to explore! They are a haven of sanity in a world that is difficult to understand.

John Oyler is a Tribune-Review contributing writer. He can be reached at 412-343-1652 or Read more from him at

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