Friday, September 6, 2013

The worst in 15+ years

I'm not a wus.  I'm an outdoorsy / gardening type person and there isn't a day that goes by when I'm not bitten by something... fire ants, midges, mosquitoes, spiders, who knows what else.  So if I'm complaining repeatedly about being bitten, it's a serious situation.

And so it is.  Galveston County officials have said that this is the worst mosquito outbreak in 10 to 15 years.  It's so bad that they almost had to stand down the sprayer airplane because the pilot couldn't see properly through the windshield for the thickness of the mosquitoes. 

This is the worst I've experienced in an urbanized upper Texas coast area ever, and I've been here for most of the last 25 years.
Eight new mosquito bites in three minutes in a skin surface area only 3" x 3" in size.  My child yesterday, just from walking a block from home to the school bus stop.  She was so thoroughly occupied with keeping mosquitoes from biting her arms and face that she forgot about their ability to sting through her shirt beneath the bottom edge of her backpack. 
It got me to thinking... is this the worst outbreak I've ever seen in my half-century of life?

Not even in east Texas swamps have I seen the likes of this.
Turkey Creek Unit (TCU), Big Thicket National Preserve, taken on a backcountry camping trip a few years ago.  Conditions like this are near-optimal for mosquitoes, but they were manageable during this trip because they were intrinsic mosquitoes - they didn't include the kind of far-ranging tidal hatch-outs we're dealing with now.     
I ended up concluding that there was one other occasion which I can declare a tie for severity.  In November 2006, after much of greater Houston had received about ten inches of rain in the few weeks preceding, I went to Lake Houston Park (which I still tend to refer to as Lake Houston State Park) to photograph the mushrooms.  Conditions were utterly ideal for mushrooms and fungi and I had to try a photo shoot.  (Coincidentally, those were some of the same ten inches of rain that also caused the flooding seen in Above the Aether's photo in yesterday's post). 

When I got to the park office, the clerk looked at me like I was utterly crazy for even walking through the door.  She said, "The mosquitoes are bad".

I said, "I know.  I put on lots of repellant before I left my car."

She said, "No.  You're not understanding the gravity of your circumstances.  You don't need to 'put on repellant'.  You need to take the whole can with you."

She was right.  I not only took the whole can with me on that hike, but I emptied the whole can onto myself inside 45 minutes. 

And my resulting photos still sucked.  Even with an entire eight ounces of Off on me, I literally couldn't breathe, couldn't concentrate.  My frames, depths of field, etc. were all screwed up, and most of my photos have blurry splotches in them because of the clouds of mosquitoes hovering in front of the camera lens. 
It would have been a wonderful photo op, if it had been physically survivable. 
But alas, it simply wasn't meant to be. 

This, too, shall pass.  But nobody will be very happy until it does.  

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