Monday, August 30, 2010

Just another summer day...

Monsoon season in Tucson is a wild wooly ride! It really has to be experienced in person to get the true feeling of violence and the beauty. I love, love, love monsoon season!

In reality, monsoon season supposedly begins when we have three days in a row with a dew point of 54 degrees or higher. This has happened anytime from late May to July. Generally, June to September is considered monsoon season.

Many people believe ‘monsoon’ means a heavy rain. Actually, monsoon is “traditionally defined as a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by seasonal changes in precipitation”. The most prominent examples occur in Africa and southern Asia.

The primary cause of monsoons is the difference between annual temperature trends over land and sea. Seasonal changes in temperature are large over land but small over oceans. A monsoon blows from cold toward warm regions: from sea toward land in summer and from land toward sea in winter. Most summer monsoons produce copious amounts of rain; winter monsoons tend to cause drought.

Hence, here in the southern high desert, our winds reverse from usual north-northeast to blowing off the South Pacific and the Sea of Cortez in the southwest. The winds blow hard, pick up moisture from the oceans and dump it unceremoniously on the unsuspecting!

And, what’s especially nice is that the rains are usually accompanied by an incredible lightning and thunder show, but best is the drop in temperature of up to 30 degrees, which is delightful on a day that has reached 107! Those are the kind of days you see people dancing in the rain!

The weather people have become somewhat better at predicting the downpours, and try to warn us, but Mama Nature still does just what she wants, and often makes liars out of the prognosticators.

A good example – last week, I headed into town for a visit with my lymphedema therapist. The forecast offered a 10% chance of rain. The day was gorgeous, and this is a picture I snapped of an unusual cloud in a beautiful, mostly clear blue sky!

About an hour and a half later, I walked out of the clinic to find a downpour so thick I could hardly see across the driveway to the parking lot. I valet my car because parking at the hospital sucks, so when my car arrived for me, I only had to walk about 20 feet to climb in. I don’t move very fast these days, but I was so completely drenched in that short distance that I was still literally dripping when I got home 45 minutes later!

Now, I know that the whole planet is being slammed by weather this summer, but we of course worry most about our own terrain. I had heard it had only been raining for about 20 minutes when I started home. One of the joys of living in the dry, hard-packed desert is there is no drainage for ‘copious amounts of rain’ – so it flows to the lowest points, flooding streets and underpasses (and after every rain storm, there are news reports of some idiot having to be rescued after driving into a flooded area – usually more than one!).

This is what I found about two blocks from the hospital,

and this tree came down just three cars in front of me on the road. Incredibly, nothing/no one was injured!

A block further on, the road was bone dry!

That’s one of the things we locals love/hate about these storms. You can see the huge downpour, look forward to getting some rain on your parched yard, and watch it pass by just across the street, and you won’t get a single drop!

The winds, in combination with the downpour, are what cause the damage. Trees toppled or broken, power lines down, power poles across the road, low lying shops flooded.

I saw 267 bolts of lightning after I started counting, and at least that many once I was home.

Amazingly, I had run into just a few drizzles and mostly dry roads, but the skies opened up once I was tucked safely in my little home on wheels. I sat with Misha shivering on my lap and watched

the show as the thunder cracked all around us!

This is what the weather map looked like when we snuck out for a quick walk a while later.

We found about a dozen trees down, and plenty damage from run-off from the downpour.

But the air smelled divine, and the trees still standing were sparkling in the sun!

I had taken a picture of the retired fish pond being filled with dirt this morning,

and this evening!

The 'empty' pool by my parking spot was almost deep enough to swim in!

Our resident owls had it rough - spotted two in the palms right by my coach when we returned from our walk - too dark by then for a good picture, of course, but they were REALLY bedraggled, feathers all askew, not looking happy at all!

Still drizzling, and threatening more wind later. Major flooding all over Tucson.

Forgot to mention, I even lost my radio station to a power outage on the drive home. Power was out here when I made it home, and flashed on and off about 10 times before it finally came back on for good.

And, naturally,

satellite signals are lost so it's not possible to check the TV for the weather, and cell phone signals fade to nothing useful in the crashing electric storm!

Another very nice thing about the summer rains is the flowers that pop out!

And spectacular sunsets!!

A lovely summer monsoon day in Tucson!!

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