August 26, 2010

The clouds had been building all afternoon to the south and to the east, and the radar showed some big storms building in both directions and heading towards the west. There was a severe thunderstorm warning up for parts of the valley, including us here in Gilbert, and I could hear the wind chimes on the patio and see the lemon tree outside the bunny room window being pushed around, but the sun was still shining brightly. This warranted an investigation.

I poured myself a cold glass of Pinot Grigio and was just getting ready to head out the back door when all of a sudden there was a loud Whoosh!. The back doors (which obviously hadn’t been closed tightly) were flung open, and one of the phony palm trees held down by a bucket of stones followed through the open doors, it’s top end coming to rest inside the dining area, the stones poured out beneath it. I picked the palm tree back up and set it back in its place, and that’s when I noticed two branches from our palm trees by the pool bent down to the ground. That was quite a blow.

I walked out to the little patio area by the gas grill, pulled up a wicker chair, and sat down. It was incredibly hot and oppressive, and I could practically feel the wine warming in my hand. I couldn’t put the glass down because every surface was broiling hot, even though I was sitting in the shade of the house. The wind was really gusty, but the sun was shining brightly and there was blue sky all above me. Just as I noticed the black clouds lowering beyond my neighbor’s house to the east, I heard the first low rumble of thunder off to the northeast…

[Ed. note: is there a finer sound than the sound of thunder on a hot, late summer afternoon? Maybe, perhaps, the sound of surf on the beach, but in my mind they’re pretty damned close.]

…followed shortly thereafter by a louder and sharper rolling rumble. I couldn’t see anything because of the lemon and lime trees, so this warranted some investigating. I grabbed my Blackberry, then headed back inside and out the front door. Sure enough, we had some action coming towards us:


The wall of rain (showing white above the tree on the left) really wasn’t moving towards us – it was actually sliding east, but there had to have been quite a bit of dust in the air because it starting raining mud. Yuck. Fortunately, that didn’t last too long, but just after this photo was taken the wind really picked up again – not just gusts, but heavy sustained winds. The photo below doesn’t do justice to how hard the wind was blowing at the time, but I was having a difficult time keeping my balance (it was later reported that a roof was blown off of someone’s house several miles away up in Mesa). What was truly amazing was that, while all this is happening, the sun was still out full, creating a beautiful contrast with the colors of the trees and the sky:


Shortly after this picture was taken, it finally started to rain, this time in earnest. It came like a wave – a few drops, a dozen drops, then the deluge, and you could feel the temperature and the humidity drop as it came through. So there I am, getting soaked in the driveway, rejoicing like some crazed Indian (oops, er, native American) at how fresh and clean it all felt. The wind then started to subside, and then the rain, so I went back inside and then out the back door where you could see the rain falling like glistening sheets against the setting sun:


Pretty, huh? A minute later it was all over, save for a few remaining rumbles to the north and west. The pool was covered in all kinds of tree and plant debris, and our smallest palm, the one that has always struggled next to its larger and healthier neighbors, lost a critical branch that may not portend well for its future. I checked the temperature – it had dropped from 112 to 97 in just fifteen minutes – and checked my glass – it was in need of a refill – and began the arduous task of skimming the pool.

The pool was still a season-high 95 degrees when I took a dip around 10 PM, but between the wind, the humidity being sucked out of the atmosphere, the rain, and the night, 24 hours later it had dropped four degrees to 91 degrees – that’s quite a big drop in just a day. My swim tonight was in conditions almost – almost – like early “Arizona winter” – while it was still warm, there was no heat, and the patio beneath my feet was absent its typical heat as well. What a welcome change!

That’s not to say we’re done with summer by any means – we’re still going to be in the low 100s for the rest of the week – and you can bet there’s still some sizzling days to come. But for one afternoon this year’s monsoon season provided a wonderful experience where I could forget about, at least for a brief time, all my cares amidst the unmatched beauty and awesome unpredictability of God’s creation on display. Fantastic.

Pool temp: 91 degrees

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:04 | Comments Off on My Pet Thunderstorm
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