October 6, 2010

They said there was a chance we’d get thunderstorms today, as the heat remaining from our Arizona summer clashed with a cold front moving towards us from California, but no one expected the likes of this. The day started muggy (at least for Arizona) with a heavy atmosphere. When I went out for lunch the day and the skies just had that kind of feel and look that you knew was ripe for storms.

When I heard thunder an hour later, I went out front and didn’t think much of it – the sky was ominous, but not dark dark like you’d expect for severe weather – in fact, it looked like just another dust storm rolling through:

storm1

I had a call scheduled with a client so I went back inside. I was just finishing up the call when all of I sudden I heard a loud “Wham!” hit against the back of the house, so I went out to the livingroom and to find we’re getting slammed with heavy wind, rain, and hail the size of golf balls. The hail was smashing against the screens so hard I was afraid the windows were going to break. So what would any rational guy do? I opened the back door and got this picture – it’s hard to see, but the with the hail falling the pool looked like fish were jumping all across the surface…

storm4

…and our sandy beach where the tiki hut sat quickly went under water and ice…

storm5

I turned to head towards the front door to see what was going on out there when there was a very bright flash of lightning followed by the loudest crash of thunder I think I’d ever heard and a “Whoosh!” that made me think every tree in the world was coming down. I couldn’t see anything outside, everything was a wall of water and hail, and all I could think of was that this is what a tornado must be like. (I came to find out later that the “wham” and “whoosh” were the first two of four microbursts that hit right on top of our area of Gilbert.)

I headed towards the front door and caught these two pictures of the hail and rain. What was weird was that the sky never really got all that dark. I heard another blast of wind hit the back of the house (all the wind was coming from the south), and with it the sound of things flying around. Here are a couple of pics from the front as it was happening:

storm2

storm3

The hail and rain lasted for a good twenty minutes, leaving the ground looking like we had had a dusting of snow. The storm soon barreled north, so I finally got a chance to walk outside. The air was unusually cool – before the storm it was 85, now my outside thermometer had dropped a whopping 28 degrees to 57!, the sounds of police and fire sirens were everywhere, and the smell of downed branches and leaves down reminded me of the aftermath of Hurricane Gloria back in 1985.

I took stock of the damage in our yard: the hail had shredded my gas grill cover, creating gaping holes in it, all our oriental grasses and lantanas had been flattened, and the east-facing yard was a quagmire of rain and ice…

storm6

…but fortunately our trees all came through intact. I thanked God we had decided to have the arborist thin out our mesquite tree a liitle over a week ago; otherwise, we might very well have lost it (and with it part of our house) with the heavy winds that had come through. I went back in and checked Accuweather.com and saw something I had never seen before: the radar of the past hour showed not yellow, not red, not brown, not even chartreuse, but a square of lavender (indicating the most severe storm intensity) right over Gilbert. The storm had been intensifying rapidly as it moved north and appeared to have “bombed” right on top of us.

I went back outside and saw our neighbor across the street also checking things over; one of her windows had been smashed by the hail but otherwise she had made it through OK. I said to her, “some storm, huh?” She replied, “I’ve lived here in Arizona for twenty years and that was like nothing I’ve ever seen, and don’t want to again.”

Half an hour later we got another storm with nickel-sized hail and more heavy rain but without the wind, but by that time the atmosphere felt worn out and exhausted, as if it were just going through the motions to prop up some dying severe thunderstorms that had done significant damage to our south. And after that, two smaller thunderstorms with additional rain that caused me to issue a flash flood warning for my back patio and yard, which by then had been turned into a huge lake full of branches, leaves and beach sand. A mess for sure, but it could have been a lot worse.

One thing for sure: all that ice falling from the sky today not only left my swimming pool covered in debris, but knocked the pool season right out of business in one fell swoop.

What a day to remember.

Pool temp: 76 degrees

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:16 | Comment (1)
1 Comment »
  1. Had a feeling you’d be running around like some crazed weather papparazzi when I heard the weather for Phoenix and surrounding areas…you are such a storm chaser wannabe…maybe you should hang out with storm chasers some time.

    Glad there was no damage and the pics are awesome.

    Comment by Jana — October 6, 2010 @ 9:01 am


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