Friday, July 4, 2014



Monsoon season in Arizona starts around the 4th of July and ends around the middle of September.  Last night we had our first one.  Don't confuse desert monsoons with those out in Southeast Asia.  Those monsoons can leave 20 inches of water in a single day.  By contrast our monsoons in Arizona normally last for two or three hours, then go away as quickly as it came.

Each year our first monsoon is such a drama queen.  It occurs after several weeks of intense plus 110 degree heat.  Then that heat hovering over the desert begins to meet moisture moving in from the West and the Gulf of Mexico and begins to stir things up.  The first thing we usually see is a huge, mile-high wall of dust and winds that come scooting across the desert floor.  Depending on where you live in the Valley of The Sun you may have to endure that dust storm before the coming gully washers of rain begins to knock the dust down.    We also have some of the most violent and spectacular thunder and lightning storms one is likely to see.  

Last night's first monsoon was no different.  In the late afternoon we could already see a wall of storm clouds encircling the valley.  Distant rumbles could be heard from outlying areas.  Then, about 8PM last night those things that go bump in the night began to appear.  Anything not secured begins swirling around the back yard, the ground shakes and the rumble of thunder makes its presence known.  

My two doggies noticed it first.  They began to bark at the noisy intrusion of the gathering winds.  I put them to bed early and opened up the front door watched bits of flotsam sailing down the street that runs past my house.  Then the skies opened up and poured a million buckets of rain onto parched desert.  Because the monsoon always overpowers a drainage system build for 10 inch annual rainfall, our streets become rivers within a couple of minutes or so.

The weather folks, (who were 24 hours late in projecting any kind of rain, and projected the chance of showers at less than ten percent) reported the winds topped out at 56 miles per hour.  Trees were uprooted and power lines fell and left some 25,000 folks without power.  

I always, unwisely in lightning storms,  grab a bar of soap and go out, stark, into the backyard and take my first monsoon shower of the year.  Those rains that pound the dust down are pure and wondrous and leaves your hair squeakily clean and shiny and tingling.  Then, once the most powerful winds have died down a bit, I open up my doors and windows and allow the cool breezes, sweetened by the desert creosote waft throughout the house.  After a time I button up the doors and windows and go to bed, refreshed and ready for sleep.

Our first monsoon of the year is always something of a miracle.  Those hundred plus degree temperatures drop by 20 degrees or so, humidity goes from 20 percent to 75 percent within minutes and, for a time, we are tropical.  I have driven into desert monsoons.  I inevitably have to pull off the road and wait for the storm to subside.  As hard as it is to believe, I have actually seen fields of desert flowers pop up within an hour after a desert storm.  They seem to have been hovering, immeasurably thirsty, just millimeters beneath the ground, only to burst forth with the first drink of rain.

The weather folks say we must expect rains throughout the day this 4th of July.  That's okay, we had our fireworks last night and life is good.


  1. Happy 4th! That is an amazing and ominous looking cloud in the photo, almost alien to my Oregon eyes! My first thought, of course, before I saved the house or looked after my dog would be to protect my tomatoes! I'm sure it is spectacular and beautiful to see the flowers after all that rain. One shower a year? Really? Is that necessary?
    Sounds fun though, maybe making it a neighborhood tradition?

  2. Happy 4th to you as well, Jerry. Re showers, no I always take one with every, depending on how many we get, I get quite a few showers over the summer! From what I've heard, there are quite a few folks around here that take those stark naked showers..that's how I got the idea. Of course the neighbors are less frightened now that i've put up a six foot fence!