Sunday, August 13, 2006
After the deluge
For those who don't live in the Southwest, "scattered thunderstorms" means something totally different than it does here. Here, during monsoon season you can have a torrential downpour resulting in 6 inches of rain within the span of a few hours in one spot, and, 10 miles away, nothing. This is why all the guides who lead tourists into slot canyons are so emphatic about not doing it if there's even a hint of rain within 15 miles in any direction: you can have a flash flood there, even though no rain has fallen directly above the canyon, due to such a ferocious rain miles away. Mr. OmegaMom, long ago, planned a business trip to Alaska (this is relevant, I promise!). He carefully scheduled the flight so that it took into account the long drive down to the Big City, and he could get up at a (relatively) normal hour, drive down in a leisurely fashion, and still get there in time for his midday flight. Then the latest terrorist threat struck. Ooops! Rumors of two- to three-hour lines at the security gates led to a change of plan. We reserved a hotel room near the airport in Big City, ditched the local FCC picnic/garage sale, and drove down yesterday afternoon to spend the night, so Mr. OmegaMom could (once again) get up at a relatively normal hour, take the shuttle to the airport, and get there in time for the two- to three-hour security line wait and his flight. It started to rain at our house at around 11. It kept raining, and kept raining, and kept raining. Great big crashes BASH BOOM BANG! rattled our windows, sent the Dawg (great big ferocious creature that he is) scuttling off to our bedroom for safety, and the dotter into my lap with whimpers. This deluge in our neighborhood didn't show up at all on the local precipitation figures; our local figures said we got .5 inches, whereas I'm pretty sure we got 2 inches here. The spot for local precipitation figures is about 4 miles north of us. By the time we left, sunlight was weakly shining down. We drove down the mountain to the Green Valley, watching one particular thunderstorm cell off to the southeast, which was a splotch of sheer solid gray reaching from the bottom of the ominous anvil cloud to the ground. You couldn't see through it...but we dodged around it as the highway snaked around. Then up onto the next little plateau (two thousand feet lower than where we are). Two weeks ago, one of our amazing downpours did, indeed, drop 6 inches of rain within a few hours upon one particular spot on the highway. Five miles north of this spot, the high chapparal was looking sere, with spotty patches of green here and there. When we got to the Ulm Road/Douglas Road exit (out in the middle of just about nowhere), the ground was almost emerald green, with lush grasses sprouting everywhere, incredibly happy datura flowers blooming profusely, and stands of sunflowers thronging the highway median. Then, five miles further south, *poof*, no more emerald green--back to the dry high chapparal. And then we saw the storm ahead of us. And then we drove into it. Very suddenly. One minute, no rain. The next minute, hydroplaning on huge puddles on the highway in the midst of a pelting of raindrops the size of ping-pong balls. With the sun glaring off it all. You could see wakes made by the wheels of the cars and trucks ahead of us (the ones that didn't just pull off the road). Wheeee! What fun! Not. But then, five miles later, *poof*, all gone. And we headed down into the desert, to the Big City, the sky behind us dark, lowering, grim, the sky ahead of us clear, turqoise blue with tiny puffs of clouds dotting it here and there. We made it, OmegaDotter reveled in honest-to-goodness TV, rather than videos, Mr. OmegaMom got off to the airport in plenty of time, the dotter and I frolicked in the tiny hotel swimming pool, and then dotter and I drove back up to the mountains, into the dark, lowering, grim clouds, leaving the blue sky behind.