Who Sows Wind Harvests Storm

There is a saying ‘ Who sows wind harvests storm ‘ and right now Thailand’s rice farmers could do with the wind blowing real hard and a heavy storm sweeping its way across the country’s rural areas. This year Thailand’s rainy season is late and many farmers having already planted their rice crops are now in grave danger of losing them as a severe drought takes its grip on the country.

Prolonged rainfall has its dangers and Thailand suffers flooding in many regions each year. Mudslides have also taken too many lives over the years, and they are more liable to happen when a region has suffered a period of drought followed by constant heavy downpours.

Heavy rainwater floods down mountains and hillsides soaking the dry loosened earth and eventually a huge mudslide occurs, uprooting trees and vegetation as it cascades down steep slopes onto villages below. Its damage and destruction is not hard to imagine. Northern Thailand is especially vulnerable to flash floods which trigger mudslides.

In Udon Thani Province at this time of year you often see high winds bending treetops to acute angles and you can almost smell the rain coming. A distant crack of thunder is near confirmation of a pending cloudburst. There’s no guarantee, but that rumble of thunder is a signal to head for shelter. When it rains hard in Thailand its an awesome sight but not one you want to be caught out in. Over the course of these last few months Udon Thani has had rain but its intervals have been filled with long hot dry spells. The rain will come soon but the strong gusts that accompany it can often cause a lot of damage too.

I took the above photograph on the outskirts of Ban Dung, a small town about 70 kilometres from Udon Thani city. The scene was shot towards the end of May and shows the kind of devastation wind can wreak. The flattened construction was a wood built, thatched garden centre which had collapsed after taking a bad beating from hostile weather conditions. With typical Thai characteristics, the owners carried on business as usual selling what had not been damaged.

I thought I’d share these pictures with you to show the kind of pillage and plunder the rain will eventually bring. Soon many cities, towns and small villages will witness this kind of scene.

Thailand desperately needs rainfall but it can do without the flash floods it can provoke and the devastating winds which seems to precede then chaperon the storms. Who sows wind harvests storm.

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I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

19 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    Hi Martyn, its strange but immediately before we get rain here there is a very strong wind for a few minutes, this stops as soon as the rain starts.

    Not the best time to be in the coconut grove:-)

    We have had some rain in the last few days but not really significant and we are still on water rationing.

    Duen is on a “pilgrimage” to lower Issan this weekend staying at a temple and she says its raining really hard there(not sure of city).

    I have rarely seen any storm damage locally-apart from some of those crazy advertising boards.

  2. Hoo Don says:

    Mike thanks for your comment and it got me reading the post again. Your mention of…. “I have rarely seen any storm damage locally-apart from some of those crazy advertising boards”……had me thinking.

    Most of the damage caused by high winds is on timber structures and wood built houses. The termite infested wood or plain rotten wood can’t stand up to the winds power and it also whips under the corrugated roofs as well. The more modern brick built houses found on the new estates stand up to the wind no problem.

    I’ve changed the line “Every city, town and village….” to ” Soon many cities, towns….”

    Thanks, it reads a lot truer now.

  3. malcolm says:

    Martyn, the rains have finally come to Wang Pho , and all our farmers are very happy , we don’t have any (maybe a few) rice growers here mostly casava and suger cane and corn , the corn was already planted and they were pumping water from the river , which by the way is sooo low you can walk across it waist deep in many places in the village , the lack of the normal start of rain delayed the planting of some crops as they wait for rain to plant , the plowed fields waiting to be planted had almost gotten rock hard , But thank god the rains came just in time , hope they get some good rainfalls up North soon and hope they button down the hatches and ride out the winds without any loss of life , but then again it happens every year and nothing changes as far as better buildings or moving to a different location , so “sit tight” ,”pray hard” is their moto. Ciejay said they rebuilt her childhood home on the banks of the river every other year or so because of floods , when ask why did’nt they move , she replyed , “to where” “that was our home” , and “the river was our life support”, and sooo is life up north . I have learned something living here in the LOS , “life goes on and waits for noone”. well thats my thought for today .
    Good pictures and a informative post and they will have the hit in the pictures repaired in no time and ready for business as usual . Malcolm

  4. Hoo Don says:

    Malcolm I spoke to Wilai yesterday (Saturday) and they’d had a bit of rain but nothing much. They need the wind to blow real hard.

    Our own house has no problems with the gales (touch wood) but Wi’s precious garden takes a battering from time to time.

    Ciejay’s story about her childhood is a sad one but a story which is probably true of many Thai people living by the waters edge. Living by the river has wonderful advantages but massive drawbacks as well. Ciejay’s story would make an excellent post.

    I’ll check out the garden centre when I’m passing by next time.

  5. Talen says:

    Martyn, great pics and very interesting read. I know Nakhon Phanom and Mukdahan are hurting right now…even if they do get rains they have lost easily half of their crops.

  6. Hoo Don says:

    Talen the photos aren’t too bad considering I cropped them from a larger picture, not too much but I trimmed bits out.

    Many parts of Thailand need rain now and hopefully as I write this it has come. Farmers and crop workers depend on the rain for income and food, this year is going to be a bad one for them and for many a good year isn’t that great. Nonetheless village life will tick over much the same as ever.

  7. Erich says:

    We just had three days of rain here in Sakon, but the canals are still dry and dusty. About half of the rice fields have yet to be plowed which tells me it might be too late.

  8. Hoo Don says:

    Erich it’s good to read you’ve had 3 days of rain but a lot more is needed. I was reading somewhere that many farmers are delaying their crop sowing until next month due to the expected late rainfall. I’m due out to Thailand in September and I reckon I could get one hell of a soaking.

  9. Catherine says:

    Martyn, Thailand has some of the scariest wind storms I’ve ever experienced. On one early road trip I came across the results of a storm that had just come along the highway minutes before I did.

    Cars were blown off the road, heavy trucks as well. Trees were down and limbs and bits were scattered everywhere. People just got out of their vehicles with what they had (saws included) and started chopping and moving debris out of the way.

    Another storm hit that night as I slept in a guest house at a coal mine. Doors and windows were screaming all through the night. And again, trees and limbs were felled, potted plants spread out and around.

    It was scary, and totally delicious.

    I love noisy storms. It’s the wimpy, drizzly rains of the UK that could use a talking to 😉

  10. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine you have sure seen some scary weather. The worst I saw was a couple of years back when Wilai and I were driving back to our village home from Udon Thani. The heavens opened and it absolutely chucked it down. We couldn’t see past the car bonnet but luckily we were next to the highway turning onto the quieter country road. We pulled over once we got on the country road and within a couple of minutes the rain had thankfully eased off a bit.

    What were you doing at a coal mine?…..that’s unusual.

  11. Catherine says:

    Martyn, the open coal mines of Thailand are where the geology of the land can be readily seen. Problem is, when done, the mine operators fill them in so it’s a matter of timing.

    One coal mine trip in Thailand was quite fun because we were driven around in a limo. There we were in the hot Thailand sun, bouncing along the gouged out earth, in a long black car.

  12. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine I didn’t know Thailand had coal mines, stupidly I only associated them with cold places. A black limo wouldn’t show up the coal dust too much, what a stylish way to travel. The workers must have thought you were one very rich lady.

    Thanks for the info.

  13. tom yam says:

    We have had some storms in nakon sawan but not the sustained rainfall that we desperately need. Looks like it comes with a price in your area!!

  14. Hoo Don says:

    Tom, welcome to The Juice. The rain will hit Udon shortly, its been threatening for a while but has only come in short bursts, they need a lot more than that.

    I had a look at your blog, keep it up as I saw you have only just started it. The key is to get around the many Thai blog sites and join in the community. Good luck although you shouldn’t need it as you’re writing will take care of that.

  15. Catherine says:

    Martyn, Thai coal mines are handy places to find fossils – http://www.bangkokpost.com/070708_Outlook/07Jul2008_out49.php

    The open cast mine she found that one in, Mae Mo, is one of the few still operating (and the largest). Many of the others I knew have been abandoned these past 20 years. Some were closed in, others filled up naturally with water. Water and mozzies.

  16. tom yam says:

    thanks for the encouragement…….

  17. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine I read the Bangkok Post report about finding the new species of primate at the Mae Mo locality. The monkey was reckoned to weigh between 500 and 700g, that’s one small ape. The work must be very interesting but also time consuming as well. Thanks again for the education.

  18. Jungle Girl says:

    Hi Martyn, good post as always. Here on the islands we have also had an unprecedented dry period – normally we get a “mini monsoon” in may which provides water after super-dry april, before the “real” monsoon in November.

    The last couple of years the proper monsoon has been totally absent, and this year the mini monsoon didn’t appear either. We were climbing higher and higher up the mountain every y to find water, and eventually buying it in at 600B a day. When we did have dribbles of water it was stinking, muddy and foul, making for lovely showers.

    It is now showering a little bit, which is great for water supplies, but I am so nervous for the heavy rains to come too. In two years, having not had proper monsoon there has been so much construction, road construction, deforestation and alteration of the landscape if torrential rains hit us it will be a mudslide of epic and dangerous proportions.

    It seems we always have our fingers crossed, for not too much water, and not too little water!!

  19. Hoo Don says:

    Jungle Jill, I hope you got a bloody big bucketful of water for 600 baht. A muddy shower would be good for the skin but mmmm maybe not.

    Udon is getting the odd shower but they are still waiting for the big one, it’ll come.

    I hope the mudslides don’t come but dry hills and heavy rains are the making of them.

    I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you too.

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