Fifth Season

People get used to much, especially to regular phenomena, which occur without failing each year. Flooding is like this. Living with the flowing water has introduced its own way of life. Local people were prepared for the floods and were expecting them like a visit of a rich relative. When the feet splashed water while getting up in the morning, the saying went “Hey! Our guest has arrived!”

ujutatud läti luht blizzardfoto

Spring floods usually last for a couple of weeks, sometimes longer. Young people used to look forward to high water that indicated the start of a two-week-long holiday. Now they had time to go fishing, joy-riding the boats on wide-open water, or meetings on some higher and drier slope to sing and play music. Strange things became possible. For instance, when the water level was extremely high, the boat could be rowed right through the window into the living room. Preparation for the floods also provided extra work each year. Props were thrust against the ceiling to prevent the floor floating up. Grain-bins were lifted up on trestles, or taken to the loft. Special rafts were built for the cattle, sometimes pulling out the boards from the ceiling to give the animals more space. Firewood was tightly roped against fences. Several makes of bread were baked. The ovens had to be dried and repaired after the floods.

The floods in Soomaa are a combined result of the flat relief, small height differences in the lower reaches of the rivers and many small streams discharging their water close together. A tectonic fault further influences the flow of the left-side tributary streams to the Pärnu River. The uplift of the Earth’s crust is therefore faster in northwestern part where the Navesti River flows than in the Halliste River drainage basin. Floods are frequent in the lower reaches of the rivers Navesti, Halliste, Raudna and Lemmjõgi, since drainage is hindered. The neighbourhood of the Riisa village is known as the Riisaküla flood area, which covers more than a hundred square kilometres and is the biggest in Estonia.

The maximum amplitude of the water level change has been measured as 5.5 metres; a couple of metres are common. Floods may last from a few days to one month. Last extensive floodings occurred in the spring of 2010 and 2011 when the water level was 5 metres above the low summer level. The floods recede in late May, or early June. Low water level persists throughout summer, although summer floods may occur. They happened, for instance, in 2004 and 2008. The autumn floods begin in September, but they are less extensive than the springtime ones. Ice-cover on the rivers forms in December.