Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Monsoon adventures

After months on end without more than a few drops of rain, the heavens opened. With a fury. Sheets of water beating the ground. Hail clattering on the roof. Relentless, sustained pounding in a climax of the Southwest’s seasonal monsoon storms.

Unfortunately, at the time I was stuck in the Home Depot parking lot due to long delays at the paint counter, worrying about getting home in time to make dinner for the guests we were expecting and shivering from a dash through the icy bucket loads. But there was no dashing home. Central Blvd was a river at least a foot deep, and so I waited with all the other stranded drivers on the Home Depot high ground, awestruck at the sustained torrent of rain. 

Meanwhile, back at Wild Oak, Luke was running out into the sheets in crazy bursts of courage, Eleanor was crying with her hands over her ears in protest of the raucous volume, and Erik was taking photos. Then, for a brief time, our home turned waterfront.

An arroyo crosses through the edge of our property, nature’s watershed path for the looming mountains behind us. But in the year we’ve been here, we’d never seen even a trickle of water run through.

But that afternoon the arroyo surged to a rushing flow, certainly too fast and deep for a child to walk across. If its size was gauged by Albuquerque’s Rio Grande, this would definitely be a Rio Pequeno. Erik missed getting a pic of the wild flow since he didn’t want to bring the camera out in the rain, but here it’s still trickling.

All summer the cacti had been drying up and dying from the miniscule precipitation we’d been receiving. So when our rain gauge recorded 1.5 inches in just over an hour of the storm, we were all elated.

Then, unbelievably, the mega-monsoon repeated itself two weeks later, but with even more fury of wind and rain. We only heard about that storm, as we were in New Hampshire at the time, but what a sweet repeat for our thirsty landscape. Since then occasional storms have continued to frequent Albuquerque, in happy downpours or soft showers. The climatologists say that the extra rain hasn’t brought an end to our region’s drought but it certainly has helped to save the fading flora and fauna. And it’s been our first true monsoon season in our time here, as the drought had obscured the typical month of drenching afternoon storms in late summer.

This year, we’ve driven through the hail to rescue Erik, mid-bike-commute home. We’ve splashed in puddles and waded in gentle arroyo flows. I’ve been home for many of those and cherish the drama and the deluge – the extra-pungent rain smells from the dusty desert ground, the thick clouds rolling down the mountains, and the rush of rain out the canals on a flat adobe roof. Here’s hoping for many more drenching monsoon seasons to come!

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