Monday, June 03, 2013

Lightning, Quakes, and Snakes in Costa Rica


Recently, my son Michael and I were talking on Skype. At one point in the conversation, he scoffed in good humor about our seemingly daily hazards of thunderstorms, earthquakes and venomous reptiles that Costa Rica presents. Point taken, but these days I hardly think about that oft-cited troika of reasons not to move to the tropics. 

That is, even after Mother Nature herself gave us a strong shaking in the wee hours last week. It was only a magnitude 5.6 temblor and no damage was done, but it was intense having originated at only a 7 kilometer depth. 

I had an image in my half-awake state of lying inside a Cracker Jacks box being shaken by a small boy trying to figure out what prize it contained. Surprisingly, to me, despite our doorless cupboards, nothing has ever fallen off during any quake in the last five years. Knock on wood.

Thunder is an almost daily occurrence during the rainy season in the tropics. Less often, the lightning gets close enough to trip our all-house surge suppressor, which causes the lights to flicker. Occasionally, however, the lightning passes right overhead. How my antennas have survived to this point, I do not know. Again, knock on wood. 

This image was selected as a picture of the we...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I do not worry about strikes on the house itself, however. The metal roof is tied to a metal frame, which in turn is welded to the metal reinforcing bar in the walls, which is all connected together, including the re-bar mesh in the floor. You really could not ask for a better electrical ground, unless it was all made of copper. 

The most important feature of that metal cage is that it maintains the house at the same electrical potential as the surrounding area, so there is no reason for the Costa Rican lightning to single us out.

Photographer: LA Dawson Animal courtesy of Aus...
Photographer: LA Dawson Animal courtesy of Austin Reptile Service. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The snakes (culebras in Spanish) in Costa Rica are a whole ‘nuther deal. The best you can do with that situation is to keep the ground cover around your home cut short, and remember to wear your calf high rubber boots, when walking around in the brush. It also helps to learn to identify which snakes are poisonous, which are not and what their likely behavior toward you is going to be.

Tercipelos, aka Fer’d’Lance, always get the chop if I happen upon one, which happens maybe twice a year. Coral snakes, whose venom is a neurotoxin, just get tossed from a shovel into the tall brush. I cannot bear to kill them, because they are so docile. Their small teeth could not even penetrate your jeans. In addition, I am never quite sure if the snake in question is not actually a mimic, of which there are more species here than real Coral snakes themselves. 

The next most common venomous snake in our area would be the Mano de Piedra, but I have only seen two of them since we arrived. They have a strong venom, but are extremely laconic. You would be unlikely to be bitten by one unless you stepped right on it. They are also about the ugliest snake I have ever seen.

Neither Tamara nor I were fond of snakes before we came to Costa Rica, and we still are not, really. Nevertheless, we have simply gotten used to them and the idea that they are around. 

You adapt. That is it, in a nutshell, regarding all these so-called hazards. Costa Rica offers up more compensation in its beauty, climate and people to more than make up for what have become only nuisances to us now.



10 comments:

  1. Your last paragraph sums it up nicely! Costa Rica should be a great place to live! Nice post, Casey.

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    1. Thanks Elias. Yes, it certainly is a nice place to live, but definitely different.

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  2. You mentioned your "antennas"... Are you a ham radio operator by chance?

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    1. Yes, I am. I have another blog just for that topic: http://cloud-warmer.blogspot.com

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  3. Cool... I'm AA8HH... My wife and I hope to become neighbors to your south near Ojochal. We expect to break ground toward the end of the year.

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    1. Fantastic! That's a great area. Hope to meet you when you visit next. 73!

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  4. I nominated you for a Liebster Award... to find out more go to http://www.thoughtsonlifeandmoney.com/2013/06/i-am-now-liebster-award-nominee-you.html

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  5. Wonderful blog checkout my latest post at
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    ReplyDelete
  6. http://www.flickr.com/photos/leicamini/9521197968/in/contacts/

    My husband took this picture on the road just past our house near Mt. Chirripó. Do you know what it is?

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    1. I believe it's a terciopelo (Fer d'Lance) or a close relative.

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Thanks so much for your comment! - Casey

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